Can you really speak about nondualism? Isn’t that duality?

In speaking about nonduality, you can only point at it using words.  Words are inherently dualistic.  Chair only has meaning because there are things that are not chairs.  But when I say “nonduality”, I mean that which does not have an other.

Now, you can logically and linguistically say there is duality and nonduality – as if they are opposed and that it is dualistic.  Quite right.  But that use of the term “nonduality” would not really be nonduality.  That would be pointing at something with an other or opposing view.  If you focus too much on the words and take them literally, then you will not understand what is being pointed to.

For example, some will call it Oneness.  This too is a figurative way of pointing at nonduality.  Some will call it Nothingness.  If you are fixated on the words, then you are stuck because how could it be both “1” and “0”.  Or maybe nonduality is neither, as both overlook the vast multiplicity and possible differentiation.  This is the trap of these concepts.

Nonduality is not two…nor one, nor nothing, nor any combination, nor all of these, nor none of these.  Taoism says it in a different way.  The Tao begot one. One begot two. Two begot three. And three begot the ten thousand things.  But at the same time Taoism also says, the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Words can only be used figuratively…as pointers.  In Zen, they say it is like a finger pointing at the moon.  People focus on the finger instead of looking at the moon.  Depending on where you are and the time you are, the finger could be pointing in different directions.  So the pointer itself is not the truth.  There is no truth in the words themselves.

If you are not attached to the words and get what is behind the words, then speaking about nondualism using dualistic words is not a problem.  This is also why so many teachers (myself included) have no problem saying the exact opposite thing from what we just said (at times).  I will talk about the Self (like in Advaita) some days, and other days my focus is on that there is no-self (like in Buddhism).  To many, this sounds at odds and contradictory.  My understanding is that they are not really opposed.

Sometimes people are attached to form and so I may point to emptiness.  Others might be attached to emptiness and so I may point to form.  So the answer given often depends upon the asker.  The answer given to one person may not be the right answer for another – even through they might have the very same question (i.e. using the same words).  A different person could ask the same question and a different answer might be given (the exact opposite answer even).

For example, one might ask, “who are you”…and I might say “nothing”.  Another might have heard and ask again, “who you are”…and I might say “everything.”  A third listening to all this might ask, “who are you really”…and I might say “don’t know.”  The words themselves are not all that important…it is what it is pointing to.

You can speak about nondualism in many ways.  You could use words in a special way…like the term “nonduality” to mean that which has no other or opposing…instead of dualistically like dualism versus nondualism.  You could speak about nondualism by bringing opposites together…for example – not the same, not different.  Again, this can only point at nondualism (at best).  You can’t take the words for reality.

The words are only a finger pointing at the moon.  Where are you focusing when trying to understand?

Published by


Modern-day house-holder yogi and lover of what-is; living in peace, contentment, and joy.