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Sat, February 1, 2014
Duality and Non-Duality: Not Opposites
What is the description that comes to mind when you imagine an enlightened mind?  Perhaps quiet, loving, joyful, non-reactive.  Whatever adjective or concept comes to mind has an opposite: quiet and noisy, loving and hateful, joy and sorrow. 
 
We have a perception of reality that is based upon what we think something is and also what it isn’t. We know an apple is an apple partly because we believe it not to be a peach.  This is the mental construct of duality. The mind sees the world in terms of comparison, boundary, and contrast.
 
The painting “Polar Bear in a Snowstorm” is a pure white canvas.  However, one cannot discern the bear! In order to truly see a bear, there needs to be a contrast – a line, a shadow, a different shade.  A contrast is necessary in order for an object to be perceived.  The object is dependent on the contrast; each defines the other.  This statement may be easy to dismiss as obvious yet there is value in exploring it more deeply to viscerally understand its validity.
 
Put a space in a wall and you have created a window - a wall with a view.  One does not exist without the other. A bowl is comprised of clay and the curved space within.  Both are essential for there to be a bowl.  Similarly, to know right, there needs to be a left.  Implying one automatically implies the other.
 
Consider the yin/yang symbol, a circle half white separated with a swirl from a black half.  White needs black for the symbol to exist.  Remove black and you have a white circle.  By creating one, you create the other.  Negative implies positive.  Winning implies losing.  More implies less.  For the human mind, there cannot be one concept without the other.
 
If the entire world were blind, the concept of “sighted” would not exist.  Neither would the concept of blind.  The physical reality would have no awareness of color, shade, etc. Being blind however would not be known.  There would be nothing with which to compare the concept of blind.
 
The same is true for love and hate, peace and war, joyful and sad.  Each pair is interdependent.  One cannot be known without the other.  The mind frequently clings to one side and desires to ignore or eliminate the other.
 
This is duality.  It is the world which the mind constructs.  To know one thing, the contrast or opposite concept is implied. The two make a whole.
 
Love and hate are one whole; they arise together; they exist together.  How can something be both loving and hating at the same time?  The mind holds onto one side and cannot see the whole.  The Gestalt figure of a vase formed by two faces demonstrates the mind’s inability to hold both sides.  At one time, it can see either the faces or the vase.  Yet both are necessary, complementary to each other, for the figure to exist.
 
Everything known to the mind has both sides of the contrast.  Since the mind can only see things in terms of duality, non-duality cannot be understood by the mind.  Non-duality transcends the mind.  Non-duality is both/and.
 
The mind believes that non-duality means that the mind becomes perfect, that it is quiet, loving, happy, non-reactive.  However, non-duality contains everything, both perfection and non-perfection. 
 
The idea of Non-duality represents Ultimate Reality. Over the centuries mystics have referred to this truth as Freedom, Mokshu, Tao, God, Buddha-nature, Ground of Being, the Divine and so forth.  It has no contrasts; it is absolute. 
 
Imagine being able to hold, forgive, and accept the contradictions within yourself, within your own mind, without attachment to either side of duality.  Imagine being content with who you are.  If you can do it with yourself, it’s easier to do it everywhere else.  When there is that acceptance, then a consciousness of non-duality may arise which does not divide duality but opens to everything. 
 
When non-duality is directly realized, the limitations of seeing the world dualistically become clear.  The play of opposites is accepted with gratitude and reverence: joy cannot be known without sorrow, pleasure without pain.  The flow of Life is seen as whole and complete just as it is.

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