While the awakened have seen through the idea of others (as separate individuals), I will say there is a caring. It is a misunderstanding to think that the awakened don’t recognize others at all. It is a misunderstanding to think that the awakened don’t care about others.
Nonduality does not mean there is no recognition of differentiation. For example, how one wave on the ocean is different from another wave of the ocean. The key point is that the awakened realize there is only water and the waves are not separate entities (existing only as mental constructs). The awakened know it is a fiction of the mind created for the conventions of speech and thought…in order to compare and talk about it. The awakened can recognize “others”, but they have seen through the illusion of separation (i.e. otherness).
Nonduality sometimes gets rather dry and mechanical…unfeeling. At times, nonduality-folks get disengaged…or rather separate, aloof, or above it all. This is a trap. The awakened can care about others, but really it is a caring about all. There is no way to escape or disengage…there is no other and no separation.
For example, yesterday when I went to the grocery store to grab some lunch at the deli counter…I encountered other shoppers. Upon seeing them, there was a feeling of caring about them. If someone suddenly tripped and fell, I would have helped them up. Why – because I care.
Feeling and thinking you don’t care about yourself or don’t care about others is one of the things that closes the heart. It kind of shuts yourself off…disengaged. This results in dryness…the juice of life is missing.
Feeling and thinking you only care about some people and not others is one of the ways the illusion of separation and illusory “me” continues. To care about some and not others is separation when no separation really exists. To care…in a nondual sense…is to care about every one and every thing, because there is no other. It is all Self caring for itself.
You can care about someone without the requirement that he or she continues to be in your life…or to reciprocate the feelings…etc. It is unconditional-caring. This is doing what you can for everyone…constantly looking for win-win situations. To be in harmony with the flow of life and those around you…conflict is an early sign of disharmony and lack of caring for the other (or at least caring for yourself more than the other).
Please do not get some idea of you are constantly thinking about everyone on the planet or trying to care for everyone on the planet. It is more localized than that. It is more in terms of caring for those before you in the moment. If they are not before you right now, there isn’t too much you can do for them right now. It is the moment to moment seeing a person and caring for him or her. Don’t try to make it into some global or cosmic thing, which tends to be more mental than experiential/kinesthetic. I am also not talking about constant self-sacrifice…because this would not be caring about yourself. Balance is key.
For the awakened, caring for others does not result in suffering (through attachment, identification, etc.). For example, if someone you care about is having a personal tragedy in his or her life (so he or she is suffering)…this does not mean you feel bad for them. No need to create suffering for yourself, because another suffers. Please don’t confuse caring with attachment or identification or projection. The awakened do not suffer. They have seen through those illusions and dispelled that ignorance.
This is a very simple thing I am talking about. As I said, I go to the grocery and see others and feel a caring for them. When they leave…I don’t see them…I don’t know them…and there is no thought about them. I would not say there is still a feeling of caring when they are absent. This caring I speak of is in the present moment…in the direct experience. Of course, if I think of someone…the feeling of caring for that person returns. But usually the mind is silent…so they have to be present in order to feel caring.
Let me end this blog post with sharing a post I made on Facebook earlier this week,
As of late, I have been practicing two things…appreciation and caring. Appreciation for whatever is experienced in the moment. Sunny day…warm house…etc. Caring for whomever I encounter in the moment. Fellow shoppers while I get lunch at the deli…fellow travelers on the highways…etc. I recommend practicing appreciation and caring, and you may find (like me) that it leads to more joy, kindness, and love in daily life.