I am trying to grasp the concepts of dualism and non-dualism in spirituality. What is non-dualism? Why do things have to be either dualistic or non-dualistic? Dualism means there are not one of something, that there is an either or. Non-dualism hints at there being a one, a sameness or likeness, or could it also be defined as there being a plural three of something [such as the trinity] – no either ors. Does non-dualism hint as specifically non-pluralism? Each perspective will have their opinion.
There is no such thing as duality, yet it exists! Duality is distinction. This or that. These dichotomies mostly exist in the worldly realm, yet beyond the visible realm, in the spiritual or hidden realm these things are much more connected to each other.
What happens when people leave an urban area and let nature return? The urban area, gradually, becomes “nature” again. It was nature, all the while, as it was urban. We could say that it was returning to what it always was: nature.
Zen philosophy grasps the concept of non-dualism and might take it even further, or more literally, than most religions. “The Sutra says ‘Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.’ If you attach to those words, you might be involved in dualistic ideas: here is you, form, and here is emptiness, which you are trying to realize through your form. So ‘form is emptiness, and emptiness is form’ is still dualistic. Our teaching goes on to say ‘Form is form and emptiness is emptiness.’ Here there is no dualism.”
While some Christian based dualism might say that something is good and something else is bad, the mystics look beyond the surface and would agree that something “is”. The dichotomies are not absolute, they are living and fluid. There is possibly some good and some bad, though more importantly, there “is” and because there is an “is”, they are one and the same. The “is” is a form of being.
The yin-yang illustrates such a concept. So does Eckhart Tolle: “Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are always positive. To be more precise: they are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in a complete acceptance of what is — which is the only sane way to live — there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in your life anymore. There is only a higher good — which includes the ‘bad’.”
Deepak Chopra touches on non-dualism where he says “Yoga is union”, and of course union is a non-dualistic concept. “The essential purpose of yoga is the integration of all the layers of life… The word yoga is derived from Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to unite”. It is related to the word yoke. A farmer yoking two oxen to pull his plow is performing an action that hints at the essence of a spiritual experience. At it’s core, yoga means union, the union of body, mind, and soul; the union of the ego and the spirit; the union of the mundane and the divine.”
We see that Zen philosophy’s non-dualism is similar to non-attachment. To not attach to ideas is an essential practice to Zazen and also Buddhism. Each part is distinct from the other and this is what makes something not dualistic. I believe that is also what Tolle is trying to convey when he says “They are as they are.”
What do I think about this? Sometimes I prefer simplicity. Somethings are good, and then somethings are bad. Yet what a broad, dynamic perspective someone has to have to know, or to even fathom that things are sometimes connected and united as one… even though they might, on the surface, seem like opposites!