“It is not the wind that moves, it is not the flag that moves,
it is your mind which moves.” – Hui Neng
What is non-dual awareness? Ok, think of something… Got it? Ok, that’s not it.
Unfortunately, that probably did not remove all of your eternal suffering! If not, you can meditate on that for a few thousand hours and it might. If you want to skip right to the end, this is the end: “All Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists,” –Huang Po. So let’s take this literally, scientifically. All matter, thoughts, bodies, concepts and everything that exists is essentially Mind, and because it is all one substance, like an ocean full of water, it can said to be ‘One Mind.’ But what does this mean and how can we understand this simply and use it right now?
If everything is of one substance called Mind then the mental divisions between things that we put up are ultimately false. This includes such things as me and other, inside and outside, hard and soft, wood and stone, good and evil, etc. All of these things are ultimately “not two” because, again, everything can be broken down and revealed to be only Mind. Now you can see that this really does not help individual ‘you’ one bit, just as promised by everyone who has ever spoken on the subject of enlightenment. Dukkha, suffering, or unsatisfactoriness still remains but now we understand why it doesn’t have to, at least in theory.
So what we have now to contend with is the creature which is us or which we believe to be us. Why are our very bodies designed to experience duality, when it is this duality which creates suffering? Could the One Mind have played a more cruel trick? Why are there different people and ideas all opposing and conflicting with each other? Why are our bodies so soft when everything outside of us is so hard? Why does this body and mind constantly crave that which can never satisfy it and need to consume other beings in order to survive? Can there be anything but temporary pleasures, fears and suffering for such an incomplete entity? Why is the universe so cruel? Maybe God does not want us to know or we must suffer to know him.
Here’s the trick – YOU are the one doing it, not the universe. The universe is only your mind. You are the one who dreams of names, not God. OK, this sounds way off the reservation now. Why does this sound way off the reservation? Because everything you have been told since you were born is a lie. Everything. What’s outside, what’s inside, what you are, what your name is, what the world is, birth and death, what God is and what ‘common sense’ is – the whole thing, one big fantasy. Here’s the trick again, just in case – people can say whatever they want, YOU are the one who chooses whether to believe it. And, by the way, the more fear it puts in you the more you tend to “believe” it. All of these things that you choose to believe have one thing in common – they instantly imply a dream universe of duality. Non-dual awareness is what you originally are, and what you become when you see through this game of consciousness. It isn’t about gaining knowledge, it is about seeing clearly.
The process of enlightenment begins when we attempt to separate consciousness from its contents and see how far we can take it, how deeply we can see into our true nature. We can start with what Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teacher told him “You are not what you think you are,” and what we truly are will swallow us whole. Rope and snake, death and resurrection, expansion and contraction, yin and yang – these are all analogies for how we can learn about God or our true nature through first hand experience. In the beginning, we don’t see because we don’t want to see and we pretend to seek because we do not really wish to find. We fantasize about souls, reincarnation and ‘paths’ like they are some cosmic bank account for our ego and even when we hear truth plainly stated we are not ready to accept it. We can insist that we exist, Mind sees that we do not. But if we choose to pursue uncomfortable truths, enlightenment can be learning to play with existence within the container of One Mind, both to dissolve and collapse the universe as well as to manifest consciously. Even this is only an interpretation which we can make after seeing that the “end is in the beginning” of everything apparently manifested within consciousness.
Of course, practice makes perfect. We can struggle endlessly with the thoughts, emotions and impressions inside (understanding Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the ‘pain body‘ helps) but following them will never lead to liberation because they play only their same song and reinforce only their message of duality endlessly. Waking up from them just means acquiring the perspective to see them for what they are – One Mind, Mind, Your Mind. Remembrance, mantra, meditation, contemplation, locking yourself in a room until you get it – it all can work. Practice is difficult because duality is entangled throughout our body, mind and emotions but all of it only amounts to one self-reinforcing story of duality, and its root is fear. So maybe just forget the whole thing and go for a walk. But if you’re going to forget the whole thing, try to forget the whole thing!