In my previous post What is Non-Duality? I attempted to define what is meant in Buddhism by the terms duality and non-duality. In this post I would like to talk about the ways in which Buddhist practice helps us to realise the non-dual nature of existence.
In the previous post I said a little about how, when we meditate, we are letting go of our involvement with dualistic thinking. Basically our mind sees its job as keeping us safe, working out strategies to get the things we think are good for us and avoid the things we don’t want. The trouble is that our thoughts run in well-worn grooves, often on auto-pilot and not necessarily taking account of the full effect of our actions on ourself and others. So long as this state of affairs continues we are firmly planted in the world of duality.
So, to set up the conditions for the realisation of non-duality we first need to become aware of the workings of our mind, to see how we are driven by selfish desire, aversion and ignorance and how this causes suffering for ourself and others. This can be seen both on and off the meditation cushion. Plenty has been written about meditation and the cultivation of awareness in daily life so I won’t go into it here.
This naturally gives rise to the next step, which is the wish to do something about it i.e. to learn to let go of the attachment to desire, aversion and ignorance. Notice that it is the attachment to these that is the problem. There will always be things we like and things we don’t like, and that’s fine, and we need to see that we always have a choice how to respond, and the consequences of that choice are often far-reaching.
I think the attachment to desire and aversion is easily comprehended, but what is the attachment to ignorance? I understand it to mean the holding on to our own perceptions, concepts, views and opinions and the like, the unwillingness to admit that things might be different to what we think. We need to learn to hold our mental constructs, for that is what they are, more lightly, perhaps thinking of them as work-in-progress, or the best working model we have at the moment, and being willing to change and update them whenever a better or clearer understanding presents itself.
Holding our view of the world of duality more lightly, and cultivating awareness and letting go, will help us to set up the conditions for the realisation of the realm of the non-dual to arise, but it shouldn’t be seen as a goal to achieve. Keeping our focus on this moment and bringing all our care and attention to it is the best way to transform both ourself and our view of the world.