Engagement does involve duality. I do not deny the appearance of duality and I do not say that duality ceases after Awakening. Nonduality is not some separate state where there is no other only and duality ceases to exist. That would just be another form of duality.
Let us say that one night while you are sleeping, you have a dream in which you realize you are dreaming. This is known as lucid dreaming. The entire dream comes from your own mind, so you are ultimately the creator of the dream. So when you realize you are dreaming, you also realize it is not real…it is an illusion. Also, everyone in the dream…including the dream character you are controlling…was created by you and is an illusion. This does not mean the dream stops. The dream can continue and as a lucid dreamer you can really enjoy the dream.
So when asked, who is engaged…I answer that character in the dream that doesn’t disappear just because now there is lucid dreaming. Knowing it is all just a dream and therefore a temporary illusion does not make the dream end. The dream is just recognized for what it is.
Likewise, when there is Awakening and nonduality is realized, the ego is not destroyed (diminished – yes)…it is simply seen through for what it is (like a mirage). Afterwards, there is still a character in the world to play with. It just no longer causes confusion and suffering.
The proof that the ego is not destroyed is that without an ego one would not answer to any name called. If I called the name of anyone who is Awake, he or she would still answer the call.
Some might respond that this is just a habit, but it is not a habit.
Once, about 1995, I went to bed and the next morning woke up and had no idea who I was or where I was. That content of the mind for a time was missing. Someone could have called “Eric” and I would have wondered who was being spoken to. Shortly thereafter, I remembered my name and where I was.
Answering to a name is based on mental data…which we identify with or at least know to identify with this body-mind (as a label)…it is not a habit.
As further proof, people who are Awake could be given nicknames by people or they could even take on new names completely…and yet they would know to answer to the new name. If it was habit, they should only answer to the old name.
The body-mind does not disappear after Awakening and there is a continued awareness of what happens to the body-mind. Identification with the body-mind ends. But denying there is still this character (i.e. a body-mind) to play with and experience (i.e. be aware of) is a strange form of duality…not nonduality.
Nonduality does not mean the appearance of duality (i.e. a world of many things) ceases. While the appearance still continues, nothing says that the character couldn’t engage with others and the world and have fun.
I like video games, maybe you do too. When you play these games, you know the character that you are able to control is not really who you are. Yet, you experience (although removed, less removed in VR) what happens to that character. I’m under fire…duck…duck! Ooooh, I died.
Nonduality is realizing it is a game and yet there is a character that is able to be controlled…and there is an experiencing of what happens to that character. I don’t say that the game just plays out automatically…by habit. I also don’t say there is just a witnessing of the game only…while it somehow plays itself. I don’t say that there is no choice and nothing is done. You can know full well it is a game and yet choose where to go in the game. If you did absolutely nothing but witness the game, the character would not move within the game.
I know some others might say it is an impulse that comes from Within (i.e. Self), but again this is a strange form of duality. If there is an impulse…it came from you…and there is nothing other than the Self. If who we really are is the Self and there is no other (i.e. nonduality), then we too are the impulse, the habit, and the body-mind. The impulse could come from the body-mind and it would still be all the Self. Put another way, the Self wants what we want. How could we ever have done other than what the Self wants? So if we decided to change a habit (even after Awakening), then it is the Self that wants to change a habit.
Some might say only the Self remains and there are no distinctions and nothing going one.
It is true that only the Self remains upon Awakening…but that includes all appearances that there is still an awareness of (i.e. experience). There is clearly a distinction (at least in experience)…as there is the experience of what happens in only the one body-mind instead of all body-minds simultaneously (or no experience/awareness of anything at all).
Nothing going on…this question was asked and an answer given and you are reading this….those are the appearances that are going on. It may be illusion and temporary, but not nothing. Again, one could say it is habit or an impulse from Within/Spirit…and no one is doing anything…but that is simply denying the appearance of duality (the world and a body-mind within it) and your part in it (in experiencing only one specific body-mind). This denial is a form of duality in and of itself.
In nonduality, there is nothing other than the Self…the body-mind, the impulses, the habits, the rest of the world, etc, etc…are all the Self. The Self can be engaged with Itself within Itself…knowing full well it is a game played with Itself and by Itself.