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Non-duality is not oneness
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मैवाभूद्विजानतः। तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥ ७ ॥

yasminsarvāṇi bhūtānyātmaivābhūdvijānataḥ | tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvamanupaśyataḥ || 7 ||

When to the man of realization all beings become the very Self, then what delusion and what sorrow can there be for that seer of oneness? (Or-- In the Self, of the man of realization, in which all beings become the Self, what delusion and what sorrow can remain for that seer of oneness?) -Ishavasya Upanishad

Acharya Prashant: To begin with oneness in the absolute sense cannot be seen. Remember here, as we have said multiple times tonight, that the objective of the verses is to educate the mind. So, when the word 'oneness' is being used, it is being used in a sense that will be beneficial to the mind.

The mind cannot experience absolute oneness because the mind operates in duality. All experience requires the experienced object to carry a background of its opposite. On a white wall, you will perceive nothing if it is marked with white. You cannot write with a white marker on a whiteboard.

Experience necessitates two, for one to be perceived, the second has to keep lurking in the background. Absolute oneness means the object of perception, and its background, and the perceiver, have all become one. Now how can there be any experience?

So absolute oneness is not being talked of when the verse is saying, "How can there be delusion or grieve when he sees oneness?"

Then which oneness is being referred to here? At the level of the constitution of mind, at the level of the outer body of the mind as well as the inner body, the gross and the subtle bodies, that’s where we all are one. That’s the oneness being referred to, Ekatva.

Truth is not Ekatva , Truth is Advaita . There is a great difference. Oneness means unity, Advaita means non-duality. In non-duality surely two are not there, even one is not there. So nonduality is not only the absence of duality; it is also the absence of unity. Advaita is not Ekatva .

But there can be unity in this world when you start seeing the various things as not really separate. When you find that the boundary separating them is all quite small and feeble. There is you, there is the other person. How separate are the two of you? In your own mind, in your own opinion, the two of you can be hugely separate, so separate that you two might be bitter enemies. Or you and the other one might be so separate that the other one becomes an object of your obsessed desire.

Whether you turn somebody into an enemy, staunch enemy, or whether you turn somebody into an admirable beloved, in both the cases you are actually treating the other as hugely separated from you. Were the other not so very distant from you, how could you have hated him and how could you have desired him? But how meaningful are these differences really?

We take birth, we grow, we die, we desire. Is there anything else that any person does in his lifetime? Body takes birth, body grows physically, body dies and all this while the mind keeps desiring. Anything else? Please try to add to it.

Mind keeps desiring even as the body is hurtling towards death. How separate is one person from the other? It's only when you go into the micro details, that you start believing in the delusion of separateness. And what are those details? “Yes, yes, yes we all desire, but he desires to have a black shirt and he desires to have a blue shirt. So, therefore these two are separate.” That’s it.

You take birth, you grow physically and then you die. And in all this duration, when this process of growth and decline is happening, the mind is occupied with just one thing, ‘desire’. This is what human being is so much about. Now tell me how will you hate and how will you love? The one you are hating is not different from you and it's impossible to hate oneself.

And you are an incomplete person, you do not really like yourself so much, therefore, you are attracted to the other. If you are attracted to the other, you find that the other is just the same as you. How will you maintain your attraction? The attraction will fall. “But he is just like me, can neither love him nor hate him, just as incomplete as I am. He can’t add anything to me, what’s the point of being so attracted towards that person? And yes, he is incomplete. I can't hate him either, because if his incompleteness is so worthy of hate then I will have to hate myself first.”

Now you are free of Saṃsāra , having seen this oneness. And this is the only way to perceive what you call as oneness. I will repeat what I said in the beginning. Whenever you hear of oneness remember it is not about the Truth. Truth is non-dual, the fundamental Prakṛtik tendency ‘ aham-vritti * ’ is one, and * Saṃsāra is one thousand.

These three have to be remembered when it comes to numbers. Truth is not even one, not even zero, no number can be applied to it. Though the application of zero to Truth appears quite alluring, but don't try even that. Not two, not even one, and not even zero. Fundamental Prakṛtik tendency one, ‘ aham-vritti * ’ is the same in everybody and then the * Saṃsāra that emerges from Prakṛtik is one thousand. Clear?

Moving into oneness, realizing oneness is the maximum, that you, the ego can do. After that what happens, just happens, after that you don’t do things because you have realized that you are just the same as anybody else. And all action is always against something opposite. Can you move without friction? Unless you have something resisting you, action cannot happen. Unless you have resistance against you, action is impossible.

Once you have realized oneness, then there is no scope left for resistance. The other is just like you, how can there be resistance? Therefore, all your doership ceases the moment you realize oneness, after that nothing will be done by you because the doer has become incapable, the doer is gone. So, the movement into nonduality is not caused or directed or done by you, it just happens.

The mind’s task is to go into the world, that’s the rightful domain of the mind’s investigation. If the mind wants to know, it must know itself and it must know its world. If the mind tries instead to know the Truth, it is just a grand display of its fruitless vanity.

Don’t ask what is the Truth, see who you are and when you look at yourself you will not find the Truth, you will find that which stands against the Truth. That which stands as a screen against the Truth. That is the process of the Upanishads .

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