Does Nonduality mean ‘Not Duality’? – The Metaphor of the Wave and the Ocean
Many people believe that the ‘individual self’ is what they really are, and they ignore the space, the openness, the vast ocean of Being in which the ‘individual’ arises. They identify exclusively as a ‘separate person’ and never stop to ask if that is what they truly are.
You have taken yourself to be a separate wave in a vast ocean. You see yourself as a little person in a vast ocean full of other people. You see yourself as an individual in a world which is fundamentally separate from you.
But of course, the ‘separate wave’ in the ocean is not really ‘separate’ from the ocean at all. The ‘separate wave’ is really just the ocean appearing temporarily as a wave. The wave is actually one-hundred percent water, and so in essence, it’s the same as the ocean.
And so really there is no ‘separate wave’ at all. There only appears to be a separate wave. The wave is in appearance only. It is a temporary appearance of the ocean.
You – what you take yourself to be – the person, the character, the ‘me’, only has existence as an appearance, a story appearing now in boundless Being, a story which is ultimately not separate from Being.
Now, some nonduality teachings make it sound like the appearance of the separate person is a problem and we should get rid of it.
But who is going to get rid of the wave in the ocean? The wave? How can the wave get rid of itself?
This is one of the traps that people fall into when they identify themselves as being ‘spiritual seekers’. They think that they need to get rid of the wave in order to reach the ocean, and there seem to be a lot of spiritual teachers and gurus out there who believe the same thing. Some spiritual teachers implore you to ‘kill the ego!’ or ‘destroy the mind!’ or ‘get rid of the self!’ and miss the fact that the attempt to kill the ego is that very ego, and the effort to destroy the mind is the mind, and so on…
The point is, the wave is already fully ocean. Any attempt to get rid of the wave is the wave attempting to get rid of itself.
Years ago, when I was a very serious and intense spiritual seeker, I tried desperately to get rid of Jeff, the character, the person. But this attempt ultimately ended in failure and frustration, because I was trying to get rid of something that wasn’t actually there! I was fighting an illusion, and when you fight an illusion, you are assuming that the illusion is real. What you fight, you give life to. What you resist, persists, as they say.
You don’t need to get rid of an illusion. To expose the illusion as an illusion (literally, to enlighten the illusion) is enough. To expose an illusion is to end it.
And so the attempt to destroy the ego, transcend the mind, kill the self, get rid of the ‘me’ – in other words, the spiritual search – is really just a war with life. It’s water fighting water.
Luckily, my spiritual seeking failed. And in that failure, this other possibility shone through – a possibility that went beyond seeking and finding, beyond ‘me’ getting what ‘I’ wanted, beyond my personal desire to become an enlightened non-person. Beyond the seeker and the sought, there was – and is – only unconditional love…
Nonduality does not mean ‘not-duality’ – that would be completely dualistic! In reality, nonduality includes (the appearance of) duality, because it is everything. It is nothing – no-thing – and it is everything.
Ultimately, nonduality appears as duality. They are one and the same. Then you can’t even speak of ‘nonduality’.
In other words, the appearance of the separate wave is not a problem for the Ocean. The appearance of your life story is itself a perfect expression of Being. In this unconditional love, nothing is denied.
And so it was never about getting rid of Jeff. It was always about falling in love with Jeff, and through him, everything…
This is beyond comprehension, and yet it is as simple as breathing, right now.
And these words fall back into the ocean….