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Article in Vida natural magazine, January 2007

 

Represantación de Sankara
Sri Sankaracharya, who introduced the use of the term Non-duality and summarised his ideas in the Advaita Vedanta system. Even though he only lived to 33, he was the main exponent of the ancient teachings contained in the Upanishads.

Non-duality

The concept of Non-duality is a term which was initially used by oriental tradition, specifically by the Advaita Vedanta metaphysical system1, its essential purpose to give a name to the special type of relationship between object-subject that operates in the deep states of cognition related to Concentration 2 and Meditation 3 .

East and West

From the western point of view, cognition is only studied in association with two states of consciousness, respectively called dream state 4 and thought state 5. Both science and the diverse arts which have been developed in the west, are only based on  these two states of consciousness. Since the organised birth of thought (studied in the West by Thales of Miletus n the later stages of Greek tradition) up until these days, the inner and outer universes have been reduced to the play and interrelationship of object and subject, their essential characteristics being the difference between them, the internal duality that blooms between the “knower” and the “known”.

Realism, a philosophic system which sustains all western scientific thought, backed up by the fact that recognised objects exist independently from the person who observes them; which goes to say that, both, observer and observed are essentially different. This dualism which is unfolded in our western culture has become undermined by new discoveries in quantum physics, where interaction between the two is considered. Such interaction modifies our knowledge, for one  reason only, that is, the observer intervenes in perception

On the contrary to the dual epistemologic system that western culture maintains, eastern tradition values the existence of two additional states of cognition, where the object- subject relationship gives rise to a new exotic condition

It is Sankarachayra 6, proclaimer of the Advaita Vedanta system, to whom it is acredited as being the creator of the term non-duality. Sankarachayra stated that, beyond ordinary everyday dual perception of the human being where the universe is investigated through thought and dream states, a new and exceptional perception can be sought in which it is possible to experience the absence of difference (or we could say, non-difference) between subject and object. Such non-dual perceptive quality leads to superior states of consciousness called  Concentration, Meditation and Samadhi.7

Meditation practice

The essence of Meditation consists in making way for the absence of difference between the “perceptor” and “percieved”. To enable this it is necessary to eradicate one's sense of “I” or self.

The “I” or “selfness”, that in the west constitutes the basis of existence, must be eradicated from all cognition. “Selfness”, or the experience/feeling of “I”, refers to one's sense of possession, of belonging, of self-definition which is applied to all thoughts. In this way one's sense of “mine”, one's experience of “my personal history” and all conjugations of any action that would refer to the first person pronoun, that is, “I”, is avoided, giving way to a peculiar form of cognition where conscious action prevails but where the sense of selfness no longer persists.

In the East the “I” is considered a momentary and virtual agent that can relate to thoughts and identify itself with them. To state “I am  Louis, Peter or Maria” implies identifying oneself with one's own personal history. However, knowing yourself by using your history, but without identifying it by the use of an agent in constant evolution throughout time, leads to reorganising cognition in such a way that whoever “knows” does not feel any different from what is “known”.

This unique and peculiar form of cognition is not considered in the West's analysis of behaviour, as it can only be experienced when one's attention is uninterruptedly given to what is usually called “the present”, or you could say “here and now” or “what is now happening”.

When attention is given to the present without there being any self-identification, or sense of possession and belonging, through action or thought, it is then that cognition makes the “leap” to another state of consciousness known as  Concentation 8. When attention is maintained anew in an uninterrupted mode in this state of concentration, one immediately  attains the state of meditation, which establishes an intense and essential experience within the practitioner in which  the  essential nature of human existence and of the universe can be recognised - being aware of both in a simultaneous and omnipresent manner.

Conclusion

Non-duality is the essence of oriental metaphysical thought. Its description fosters knowledge of the transcendental nature in the human being. Through its analysis we gain a clear, concise understanding of what the true order in nature really is.

Non-duality is an exquisite notion which can be related to science, art, religion and philosophy. It is one of these strange but fundamental ideas with which true investigators discover on plunging deeply into their own vast ocean of inner consciousness.


1 The Sanskrit translation of this term is a little open ended, and means “the end/purpose of Non-dual consciousness”, or “final non-dual philosophy”.  
2 In Sanskrit, Dharana is a concept coined by Patanjali to define the prime or fundamental state in non-duality.
3 In Sanskrit, Dhyana, also concieved by Patanjali to define the final or stable state in Non-duality.
4 Here we are referring to the dream state of consciousness, a special type of cognition in which subjects and objects arise in a similar way to when we are awake. 
5 A special type of cognition to which we usually refer, when defining the habitual form of cognition that operates between subject and object while we are awake during the course of everyday life.
6 Indian philosopher from the 7th century, considered to be the greatest thinker of all time. His lifespan of thirty-three years gave him enough time to restructure the essence of Eastern knowledge contained in the Upanishads and the Vedas. 
7 Samadhi is a peculiar form of cognition in which all potential existing and knowable objects are experienced simultaneously, that is, they can be simultaneously known and located by a single knower who is non-different to the very universe that he/she knows.
8 Due to the lack of space and the simple range of this article, we will not go deeply into the states of cognition associated to non-dual perception. However, for those readers who wish to enhance their knowledge on the subject, our advice is to read and study any of Sesha's books carefully.

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