You’ll often hear me talk of that odd and much-misunderstood method of encountering the world called ‘Dualism’. It’s odd because when you see how it works, it’s pretty loco. And it’s misunderstood, because most of us are under the mistaken assumption that it’s the only way to encounter the world.
Of course, there is another way, which is what this site is all about. For lack of a more colorful word, I often call it non-dualism.
Most of us, when we venture out on a spiritual path, realize that enlightenment (non-dualism) is the holy grail we’re seeking. So we set off in search of it, and soon find that it’s a near-impossible quest. That’s because seeking non-dualism is fruitless – the very act of seeking requires us to use the dualistic method of encountering the world!
We can hear this, but we don’t listen. We just keep on inventing new ideas about what ‘enlightenment’ is, and trying to slowly build up to enlightenment by cultivating those ideas. We think that enlightenment is a quiet mind, so we spend our time meditating to try to quiet our minds. We think enlightenment is placid emotions, so we spend our time trying to calm our moods. We think enlightenment is perfect peace, so we try to eradicate all aggression and violence from our lives.
These things are all fine. They can even give us the impression that life, or the world, is a little better because of our efforts. But in reality, they are all methods of self-violence which continue to create a conflict-based world all around us. These are very subtle brands of violence, but they are still based on the idea that we must divide the world up into parts, and then attack some parts and promote others.
The key to finding true peace is not to create an idea of enlightenment and then go chase after it. The key is to see things as they are. We can start by paying attention to our usual method of encountering the world, and seeing how it works.
Perhaps we should re-name Dualism into ‘Duelism’. And if we’re practicing duelism, let’s call ourselves duelists. The reason? This aptly describes how dualism creates our world-view.
Duelism breaks the world up into parts. No matter that if we examine closely and honestly enough, we can’t find any real divisions! We create all these different parts, and then we have to have relationships between the parts. Already the conflict has begun! Sometimes our parts will get along, and sometimes they won’t. As this idea is expanded, we find ourselves in the midst of the world-view it creates. We find ourselves constantly trying to make life more happy than sad. To get more security than insecurity. To cultivate all the things we think are good in life (peace, money, friends, good meals at restaurants), and to reduce or get rid of all the things we think are bad in life (yucky people, war, self-loathing, cheaters, and cheap chocolate).
We take our divisions to truly crazy levels. And because we believe our divisions are real, we find ourselves in the position of true insanity – we insist that our imaginary ideas are realities, even though they are only in our imaginations.
For instance, most of us believe that we have dual natures. We feel that we have urges and desires, and that we must resist these temptations. We will even give these different sections names (Id/Ego, Angel/Devil, Animal Me/Civilized Me, Self/Higher Self). With this division in place, and with our belief in its reality, we find ourselves constantly trying to exercise discipline. We want certain things, but we know they aren’t good for us, so we resist as best we can. We fight our impulses, battle with our weight, struggle to stay healthy, try to tame our monkey-mind, and wrestle with our emotions.
If we look clearly, we find that there is only one ‘me’. But in our imagination, we create two or more ‘me’s', and then those different parts must battle for supremacy.
Not only do we think this is sane and normal, but we think it is inevitable. And when we step down a spiritual path, we tend to neglect anything spiritual and instead just make new parts that we can have battles with (balancing our chakras, aligning with our higher selves, or clearing our auras). Same old insane game. We’re just using new game-pieces. Creating divisions where no divisions exist, and then trying to resolve the relationship between those divisions.
We don’t have to be duelists. It’s a purely optional way of living. Almost everybody else is doing it, so it seems normal (or even inevitable), but it isn’t. In fact, this way of thinking is the sole creator of every human problem that exists in this world, and if we are practicing duelism, we are active contributors to the world’s conflict, even if we’re pretending that we stand for peace. We think the world has problems, and that we have to solve them. But the truth is that the world is just fine, except that we are all actively creating problems every moment of our lives.
Non-dualism gives a simple solution. It asks us to see the world as it is, without applying all our imaginary ideas to break it up and put it into conflict. When we see the world as it is, we see right through the strange ideas we held before, and we cease to become a conflict-creator. Thus we find that the key to peace isn’t to protest and direct our frustration or outrage at others, but rather to discover for ourselves what peace truly is. Then we will understand our own role in creating the world, and will also understand how others are creating their worlds.
Religions, gurus, and even this site offer many tools for re-discovering this ability to see things just as they are. Often, though, they will create an idea of enlightenment for you, and lead you on a wild chase to capture something that can’t be caught.
One of the best things you can do is simply to examine your own mind, and see how it creates your world-view. With careful observation, you’ll begin to see that the whole idea of ‘encountering the world’ doesn’t make any sense at all. You’ll begin to sense your active role in creating your world as you go along. With enough raw observation, things will begin to come clear – you’ll begin to see your mind’s activity with more and more clarity, until you finally see what you mean by ‘your mind’s activity’. It’s when we encounter this – our idea of Selfhood and self-control – that we finally open the door to seeing the world just as it is. Duelism is part of the world, and we also see what dualism is really about. In fact, all of our questions are answered, and we’re left with no doubt, no ideas, and no more confusion regarding life.
Sometimes this path toward non-dualism is called ‘simple’, because it requires no effort on our parts at all. Sometimes it is called ‘nearly impossible’, because we don’t understand what is meant by ‘no effort’, and either find ourselves working really hard to attain ‘no effort’, or dismissing it as a suggestion that we should just be lazy and sit around to wait for it to happen.
I can’t tell you what no effort means, because it’s impossible to explain. But you can examine your own ideas about it, and within those ideas you’ll find the blocks that are putting barriers in your own meditation practice, your search for enlightenment, or your quest for personal peace.
Search, practice, play, explore. Within that, see if you can simply be aware of how your mind dances with each of your actions. Awareness is the key. And though we can even experience conflict as we fight to be aware, in the end we discover the marvelous truth – Awareness is what we’re all up to all the time. It’s the only thing we’re really good at, and the only thing we can actually ever be doing. It is automatic, effortless, and ever-present.
Now, in true duelistic fashion, let’s put on our armor, draw our swords, and go searching for Awareness!