So, what is non-duality? Instead of approaching it from the usual perspective, let’s begin with an understanding of duality. Duality is an inherent illusion of the mind that never truly existed. It’s comparable to observing the waves in an ocean or a lake.
Due to the limitations of language and thought, we describe and discuss the waves—how they move, their speed, and other characteristics. However, in reality, the waves are not separate entities in themselves. They are simply the ocean.
They have always been part of the ocean. It is through our minds and the conventions of speech that we create a division, labeling certain patterns as waves and distinguishing one from another. This process generates the illusion of duality, where separate entities appear to exist, without recognizing the underlying unity.
Another example often cited is the Pando in Utah, a vast aspen forest. If one were to look at it and count the number of trees, they might say, “I see hundreds, if not thousands of trees; it’s a forest.”
However, scientific research reveals that it is, in fact, a single organism—an interconnected system of clones stemming from a single root structure. Conceptually, it can be visualized as a tree lying on its side with branches sprouting all around.
Although we perceive numerous individual trees with varying health conditions and external factors such as insects affecting their leaves, what is often missed is that they are all fundamentally one. They have always been one. It is only due to the limitations of language, the illusions of the mind, and our inherent ignorance that we perceive duality and the existence of separate entities. Thus, duality is nothing more than a fiction of the mind.
Non-duality, on the other hand, is the actual state of existence. It is what has always been and what we have always lived in. The experience of non-duality is not separate from our present reality.
When we discuss realization, it is not about suddenly attaining a non-dual experience of reality. Although experiences may come and go, providing glimpses of non-separation and unity with everything, such as when I once meditated in a college courtyard and felt at one with my surroundings, it does not refer to that transient state.
True realization occurs when we genuinely perceive the absence of a separate self, recognizing that there is no distinct “me.” This understanding represents a fundamental shift in our comprehension and being, rather than a mere change in perception. The world itself will continue to appear as it always has.
We will still possess this localized body-mind with localized actions and a localized sense of awareness. However, the understanding arises that we are not truly separate from anything else. We are part of the continuous fabric of existence.
As Alan Watts suggested, we are not just an isolated entity emerging after the Big Bang in the vast expanse of space and time. In reality, we are the entire unfolding of the universe, inseparable from it. We are not some insignificant fragment detached from the whole. Therefore, non-duality reveals that there is no “otherness” or inherent separateness.
Unfortunately, when non-duality is often discussed, it is sometimes hinted that it is distinct from what already exists. However, what already exists is inherently non-dual. Duality itself is the illusion, the mirage created within our own minds. Once we see through the veils of the mind and dispel ignorance, we deeply and undeniably realize that there is no separation.
There is no individual “me.” There is only what-is. Non-duality encompasses everything and nothing simultaneously. It is neither this nor that, making it challenging to describe, but it represents the fundamental truth of non-otherness and non-separation.