Hello, this topic arose because I have had discussions with various advisors and non-dual individuals over the years, and many of them believe that there is no room or overlap within non-duality for devotion, prayer, faith, and surrender. They argue that since there is no other, to whom or what are you surrendering? Who or what are you praying to? Who is engaging in devotion or surrender? While this perspective holds some truth, it also contains a hidden fallacy. It doesn’t mean that these aspects are mutually exclusive or excluded.
Take, for example, Ramana Maharshi, a renowned teacher of non-duality. He focused on realizing and abiding in the self, yet he was devoted to Arunachala, which he saw as Shiva or God. Devotion, rituals, and acts of surrender were performed at his ashram. Some people speculate that he did this for those who couldn’t grasp non-duality, but I don’t think that’s the case. In my experience since my own awakening many years ago, I have found that devotion and surrender have actually become more alive over time.
However, there is a slight difference in the understanding within non-duality. In most devotional practices, such as Bhakti Yoga, the focus is on God. In non-duality, there is only the self. Therefore, the term “self” can replace or be interchanged with the word “God.” When you surrender, it becomes self-surrender—surrendering to the self, surrendering to the world that is inseparable from the self. Faith, which is often associated with faith in God in the Western context, becomes faith in the self within non-duality. It is a trust, a belief that the world is unfolding as the self desires.
Now, let’s explore the concept of prayer. In the Western context, prayer often involves talking to God and making requests for oneself or others. However, at its core, prayer is communion. It is more about listening than talking. By abiding in the self, simply being present and listening, you are engaged in prayer—a communion with the self. There are times when it’s beneficial to sit in silence and consciously abide as the self, even though you are always abiding as the self, whether consciously or unconsciously. This conscious abiding can be considered a form of prayer.
Devotion, in general, is a dedication to the self, recognizing that the world is not separate from the self. When you engage in acts of devotion or service, you are serving the world as an expression of devotion to the self. There is no conflict or contradiction between non-duality and these practices. Once the illusion is seen through and you realize that there is only the self, there is nothing stopping you from consciously surrendering, being devoted to the self, and serving the self as a body-mind. These aspects can coexist and overlap within non-duality.