The Dual/Non-Dual Illusion

Today I’m speaking about the illusion of the dual and the non-dual awareness. We have different levels of reality that we consciously and unconsciously operate within. We have the gross duality of good and evil, right and wrong. We have another level of duality that says, “Whatever God does is for the best”, which is a part of right and wrong but beyond the gross reality. We have another reality that says, “It doesn’t matter what God has to say, there is nothing separate from God.” This is spoken in the sense that it’s all one; that there’s no right and wrong; and that we are all one, and everything is simply That. It is part of the teaching of “I am That” – That being “everything”. That may appear simplistic, but helps to clarify the non-dual understanding discussion.

There is also another deeper level of reality that isn’t talked about that much. It occurs when the Oneness dissolves into the Nothing, and the Nothing disappears, and there is no you or I amness left. Even the “I am That” disappears. This direct experience which is prior to experience, is prior to the duality/non-duality discussion. These are different perspectives on different levels of reality. It is the “dying into the Nothing” awareness in which you, the I amness disappears. Everything disappears. There isn’t even a Nothing or a void. From this experiential perspective, even the non-dual perception is an illusion.

When we understand the levels, we begin to get a feeling of a multi-level experience or perception. If you separate them, each one seems to be different and better than the other but they actually are part of a holistic unbroken reality. In India, we have the dual path, with those who think that the dual path is the correct perception. There’s the non-dual path, which we get from the approach of Advaita Vedanta. The other level of “dying into the Nothing” isn’t exactly written about but is occasionally mentioned in the great scriptures and wisdom literature. In my experience, enlightenment begins with the non-dual subjective perception. Non-dual apperception is a full experience and not just an intellectual statement which can be made by a pundit or a philosopher.

That being said, one steps back and asks, “How does this liberation apperception happen?” From ancient times the liberated spiritual teachers have had a particular teaching. This is that one just does not become liberated – i.e. “just get it”. The liberation awareness generally comes after you’ve done sadhana or spiritual practices with the concomitant awareness development and have matured enough to hold the energy. This is the traditional Advaita teaching from the 6th Century forward. Shankarcharya and Janeswar Maharaj, Rama Krishna and Ramana Maharshi and other liberated beings have taught it for thousands of years. One does sadhana to prepare to hold the energy. The basic sadhana process includes developing certain qualities and character maturation. Part of these qualities involves creating a strong mind. These are qualities that must be mastered before one is ready to fully hold the higher teachings. The original Advaita Vedanta taught that until one has attained a certain perspective it was not time to teach the higher awareness. This is the same maturation approach that Kabbalah teaches. These four qualities are as follows:

Viveka is the ability to distinguish between the temporal and the absolute reality. There are subtleties to this including the ability to identify the appearances that come out of the Nothing.  They appear to be something, and then they go back into the Nothing. So it appears and disappears in a constant paradox. It is also known in Hebrew as Koach ha mei de mah.

Vairagya, which is equal vision. It is the ultimate humility because one sees the Divine in all people equally.

The third quality is the intense earnestness and desire for the Divine. It is the drive for God and liberation within you. It is called Mumukshutva.

The fourth quality is the Samadhi-Shakta-Sampatti – the six qualities of the mind. 1) Sama – to be in control of your mental processes. 2) Dama – to be in control of your sensory processes and organs. 3) Uparama – to be content through dharma or virtue that helps one rise above opposites such hot/cold, good/bad, and joy/grief. 4) Titiksha – perseverance in the face of seemingly adverse and adharmic events. 5) Shraddha – faith in the supreme Self. 6) Samadhana – single-pointed concentration on the Divine.

Mastering and becoming the four qualities of viveka, vairagya, mumukshutva, and samadhi-shakta-sampatti is considered prerequisite for the higher liberation awareness. These are within the classic teachings of Advaita Vedanta.

The qualities also include character development, morals, and ethics. From a spiritually immature non-dual point of view, morals and ethics are often considered irrelevant, but the great masters didn’t see people as ready for the higher teachings until they had developed these qualities. At the point of awareness when these are how we naturally live, then paradoxically they are seemingly “irrelevant” as the foundation already exists to awaken to the higher Wisdom/Truth. There is also spiritual courage in order to die into the Nothing and spiritual honor (holding the morals and ethics and acting honorably in all situations). We have spiritual responsibility, which means making enough money to support your spiritual life and being responsible in life’s situations. We also have holding the Dharma of all the morals and ethics and one’s particular mission.

So why are these prerequisites important? Do you remember hearing about Charles Manson? In high school, he got turned on to Advaita Vedanta. His spiritually ignorant position was that because we are all one, so it doesn’t really matter what one does. From his interpretation he didn’t really kill anybody, because when you are all one, you can’t kill anyone, that would be the world of duality. This is actually what he said. Does that clarify the misuse and the misunderstanding of the teaching that we are all one? He had a undeveloped and misapplied intellectual understanding rather than a multi-leveled, sophisticated, spiritual understanding. When you really get what’s going on, it is so powerful that if you don’t have the character and the morals and ethics, one is often not ready to handle the energy of awareness. The Charles Manson story makes the point as clear as possible. This is why the enlightened Advaita Vedanta masters insisted that people develop their spiritual qualities, their moral character, and their mental control. These are consistent teachings over the ages.

After Swami Prakashananda acknowledged me as enlightened/liberated, he took me away for a day and he taught me one on one. I particularly remember him saying that wherever you are, you must live the Dharma of that society or spiritual context. “While we know the social thought-forms are unreal, that doesn’t matter; one must hold the Dharma.” What he was doing was condensing the whole of Advaita Vedanta into one statement. Without these understandings and this character development, acting from a delusional egocentric position is very tempting because “nothing is real”. Adharmic actions by the spiritual teacher can disorganize the whole spiritual microcosm and even the society at large.

Ultimately the relative truth that whatever God does is for the best isn’t real; it doesn’t matter because nothing is happening anyway and nothing has ever happened if you’re only talking from the plane of God-merging. There is a paradox in this. It is precisely the paradox of liberation where a lot of people get confused. Charles Manson was not liberated; he was morbidly confused. Without the character development, he did what he did by using the philosophy of oneness to justify his degenerate actions.

There was an Indian holy person who was very strongly Advaita Vedanta (“It’s all One”), so the gods thought they would teach him a lesson. They gave him a very severe case of diarrhea, which is very easy to get in India. It was unrelenting diarrhea. He didn’t know what else to do so decided that he would drown himself. But when he went into the water, the water split. He kept going further and the water kept splitting. Then said, “Ok, I acknowledge the power of duality and of the Shakti.” At which point, the diarrhea stopped. He was able to come out, and the waters came back together. The power of God in nature was teaching him a lesson that duality exists as well. At which point, he became a devotee of the Divine. This Indian story demonstrates the hard way to learn about duality.

Another story on this topic comes from the West. Rabbi Akiva, a very high liberated being, ascended with three other rabbis, who seemed to be ready for the deep paradise of liberation, to Gan Eden.

First was Shimon ben Azzai, who was super holy. He was completely etheric, never had a family; and all he ever did was study. He had an experience of the Divine, and he left his body before his time was up. This was because he wasn’t grounded enough in everyday life and relationship.

Second was Shimon ben Zoma. He was just the opposite. He was a very high being, well studied and also very grounded. When he experienced the Divine, he went crazy because he couldn’t handle the paradox. He wasn’t sufficiently developed in all of the levels we are talking about. This requires deep inner development. Although these were two great sages of the time, they weren’t ready.

Third was Rabbi Elisha ben Acher. He was able to hold the enlightened awareness, but he got stuck in what we call the world of the Absolute, the world of the Now. Everything to him became irrelevant and an illusion. There was nothing more to life, but to be in this world of the Absolute. He deemed the mitzvot (good deeds) needless and felt that one needn’t be devoted to the Divine, that none of that was important. He was not able to integrate it, so he began doing everything backwards (such as riding on a horse backwards). He got that it is all an illusion and was playing it out. Rabbi Elisha ben Acher only had one disciple left at the end of his life, and that disciple was able to help him to come to a fully integrated paradoxical awareness before he left his body. Only Rabbi Akiva walked out integrated and liberated.

The point of this story is that even at a very high level of awareness, these people weren’t ready. We have to be very respectful of the path. Anybody can mouth the words; that’s easy. Or we can get stuck like Rabbi Elisha ben Acher, who got it on one level but couldn’t integrate it into all the levels.

We are multi-dimensional beings. The flow has to be unbroken from the highest level to the lowest level of duality. We have idealized some people like Ramana Maharshi, but how many people know that he read the newspaper every day and listened to the radio? Why do you think he was doing that? This is because he actually cared what was going on in the plane of duality. He actually cared about people. He had tremendous compassion and he worked on that level too. He also lived in the physical plane level, where you see the separation. Even though he understood at the non-dual level, he also got it on the dual level. He understood that whatever God does is for the best, while simultaneously holding the understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, as did all these great teachers I’m talking about. They all insisted on the importance of morals and ethics for spiritual development, in order to hold the energy.

Obviously, Charles Manson is a dramatically bad example of what not to do. The other point is that until you can operate in a multi-dimensional way, and understand there is both separation and no separation then one is in danger of undermining the path of realization.

Until you’ve developed the internal qualities of viveka, vairagya, mumukshutva, and samadhi-shakta-sampatti, you are vulnerable to losing your way. It is also important to have a liberated spiritual teacher as part of this. There are many dead bodies along the way of the spiritual path. This wisdom I’m sharing helps protect you from not becoming one. The reason I dwell so often on the basics of living the spiritual life is because if you don’t master those basics, even though you may have an intellectual understanding or impressive inner experiences, you may not be able to handle the fact that we are truly multi-dimensional beings; and that is really what these great masters were about. Sai Baba of Shirdi is one such example of one who was aware of his multi-dimensional beingness. He was constantly being involved in the everyday life of the local world of his disciples. Another example of that is Ramana Maharshi who ran his kitchen at his ashram. It is not like these masters were completely separated in a cave.

The process of liberation that I am revealing is one that can take you from the place of duality in the illusionary world to literally dying into the nothing, where your self-awareness of your “I am” existence disappears; that doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by fructifying on all of these different levels. May everybody be blessed with a deeper understanding of the importance of the focus on a multi-dimensional sadhana in the overall liberation process.