Nonduality, a concept deeply rooted in various spiritual and philosophical traditions, challenges the very foundation of how we perceive reality. It invites us to look beyond the apparent multiplicity of the world and recognize a fundamental Oneness that underlies all existence. It invites us into a realm where the boundaries that define our usual understanding of the world dissolve. It presents a perspective where the apparent dichotomies of self and other, subject and object, creator and creation, are seen as expressions of a singular, all-encompassing reality.

Drawing upon the rich tapestry of wisdom from various faith traditions, we see that nonduality is not just a philosophical concept but a living experience, a transformative realization that reshapes our identity and our perception of the world. In this journey, we move from the intellectual grasp of nonduality to its embodiment, where we no longer just know about Oneness, but we live as it, in every moment, with every breath. Resting in/as nondual awareness involves a transformative journey from understanding nondual awareness to embodying it as our true identity.

The Basic Idea of Nonduality

At its core, nonduality posits that the distinctions we perceive in the world are not ultimate. It suggests that the manifold forms and phenomena we encounter are manifestations of a single, underlying reality. This concept is reflected in the Hindu Advaita philosophy, where the ultimate reality, Brahman, is seen as both the material and the efficient cause of the universe. In this view, the separation between the observer and the observed, the self and the other, is an illusion, a product of maya or cosmic illusion.

Similarly, in Buddhism, the doctrine of emptiness (śūnyatā) proposes that all phenomena (including our sense of a separate self) are devoid of an intrinsic, independent existence. This is not a nihilistic view but an affirmation that everything is interconnected and interdependent, with no standalone entity.

In mystical Christianity, Meister Eckhart spoke of the soul’s union with the divine, where the individual self merges into the Godhead, illustrating nonduality through the Christian lens. Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism, with its emphasis on Ein Sof (the Infinite), also echoes this idea of a reality beyond perceived differentiation.

The Experience of Nondual Awareness

Experiencing nondual awareness involves transcending the usual subject-object dichotomy that characterizes normal consciousness. In this state, the distinction between the self and the universe dissolves, leading to a profound sense of unity with all that is. Mystics across various traditions have strived to articulate this experience, often resorting to paradoxes or poetry, as mere words often fall short.

For instance, Sufi mysticism in Islam, through poets like Rumi, uses the metaphor of the lover and the beloved to describe the melting away of individual identity into the divine essence. In Zen Buddhism, the concept of satori or kensho refers to a direct, intuitive insight into the nondual nature of reality, often captured in enigmatic koans or short stories.

The Play Between Oneness and Multiplicity

A pivotal aspect of nonduality is the recognition that the One and the many are not mutually exclusive. The world of multiplicity, with its diverse forms and phenomena, is not denied but seen as the dynamic expression of the One. This is beautifully illustrated in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, where Lord Krishna reveals his cosmic form, showing that all the multifarious forms are contained within his singular being.

In the Christian tradition, the concept of the Holy Trinity can be interpreted as a metaphor for nonduality – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being distinct yet one. Similarly, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life represents how the singular source manifests in the varied aspects of existence.

Resting in Nondual Awareness

Resting or abiding in nondual awareness implies living with the continuous recognition of the underlying unity amidst the diversity of life. It involves a shift from intellectual understanding to a steady, lived experience where one’s actions, thoughts, and perceptions are infused with this awareness.

Buddhist mindfulness and meditation practices aim at cultivating this sustained awareness, where one observes the play of phenomena without attachment, recognizing their transient nature. In Christian contemplative practices, this is akin to living in constant communion with God, seeing Christ in all.

Resting as Nondual Awareness: A Shift in Identity

Perhaps the most profound aspect of nonduality is the shift in identity it entails – from resting in awareness to being awareness. This is not merely a semantic difference but a radical transformation in the sense of self. Here, one does not just experience nonduality; one realizes oneself to be the nondual reality.

This shift echoes the Islamic concept of fana, where the self is annihilated in the love of God, and one lives as an expression of divine will. In the Advaita Vedanta tradition, this is the realization of the self (Atman) as Brahman. In the Christian tradition this akin to the process of kenosis, self-emptying, leading to a non-personal identification with God.