The teachings of nonduality are very popular in the West these days. One of the reasons I feel many people are attracted to these teachings is because they assume the teachings circumvent or do away with the idea of ‘God.’ I mean if there is only one thing here, one thing that truly exists, that does way with the troublesome God concept, right?
The word God itself is used and defined so variously these days as perhaps to be rendered useless anyway. However, when one examines the dual world of experience, there is one thing that cannot be denied. It seems to be put together and functioning in an intelligent manner.
We have various disciplines of science which seek to unravel the workings of the universe. We have various disciplines of science which seek to unravel the workings of the human psyche. We have all sorts of disciplines which seek to unravel and explain the workings of those things that we see around us. So what is all of that about?
When the fact that duality appears to function intelligently is pointed out to some who subscribe to the teachings of nonduality, with a wave of a hand, they may dismiss the entire world of name and form as ‘an illusion,’ and therefore not real or worthy of consideration.
And while it is true that in a certain sense it is ‘not real,’ still duality is the world in which we live and operate, and therefore I feel it is highly worthy not only of consideration, but also respect, and if appreciated, veneration.
Some of the ideas and beliefs offered by Judaism and Christianity, the religions in which we were raised and whose ideas pervade our society, are very often difficult and damaging ideas when embodied in the human psyche.
The idea that we are born bad, that we are sinners from the get go and have to be redeemed, the idea that there is a separate and punishing God living in some other local, that there is an intrinsic evil called the Devil who is out to get us, and a place called Hell which we may never get out of, are all very negative and damaging ideas, and are in fact contrary to the very nature of our being, which is ever free and ever perfect as it is.
Thus we live in a culture many of whose ideas are in direct opposition to our actual true nature, and this can make us psychologically ill as individuals and as a society in general. It is no wonder then when some intelligent people hear there is such a thing as a nondual reality, they grab onto that idea because there is no uncomfortable God figure to deal with, ‘…nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
But going for that idea, and negating or discounting the world of name and form is in itself a type of spiritual bypassing, and without bringing in the world of name and form and making our peace with it, the idea of a nondual reality will never really provide satisfaction for we will always be protecting ourselves from the discomforts that duality presents.
So how to deal with duality in a way that is comfortable, that allows for peace and relaxation, and also accommodates the understanding that in the end, the being and reality of all things is nondual?
One way is just to look around and examine the intelligence that is manifest everywhere in the world of name and form. Rather than saying as some nondualists do, ‘It isn’t real, and it doesn’t matter that it appears to be functioning intelligently,’ honor the intelligence that is evident everywhere.
In honoring that all pervading evident intelligence we may begin to honor ourselves, and appreciate that we are not separate or apart from it. Our very bodies, our very minds, our very emotions and the ways they are functioning are part and parcel of that intelligent display.
If we begin to appreciate this, we may begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin. We don’t need to keep the world at bay. We may rather go out into it and enjoy and appreciate it.
Duality isn’t always nice. We may not always like what is happening, but by understanding that it is functioning intelligently we may start to relax into that appreciation, and begin to ‘let go, let God.’ And here we can bring in the ‘God’ word, and use it to label duality and the infinite intelligent display. And God includes us. This appreciation does not negate the truth of nonduality. It does not negate the understanding that the being of all things is one alone, but rather it enhances that understanding, as now nothing, not even a speck, is left out.
“Ashcarvat! What a wonder!” declare the Upanisads, the original scriptures which point to the nondual nature of all things.
What a wonder! Nonduality is a wonder! Duality is a wonder! God is a wonder! The teachings are a wonder! The teacher is a wonder! Indeed it is all a wonder, an infinite intelligent wonder! And wonder of wonders, you are that!