What is non-duality?
Non-duality, also known as Advaita Vedanta, is a philosophical and spiritual concept that originated in ancient India. Non-Duality means there is ultimately no fundamental separation between the self (Atman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman) or between any other entities or phenomena in existence. Non-duality asserts that the true nature of reality is a single, undivided, and indivisible whole.
The Upanishads collectively offer deep philosophical and spiritual insights into non-duality.
What is Advaita Vedanta?
Advaita Vedanta is a philosophical and spiritual tradition rooted in the ancient scriptures of India, particularly the Upanishads, which are considered the culmination of Vedic wisdom. “Advaita” translates to “non-duality” or “not-two” and “Vedanta” means “the culmination of knowledge.”
Pioneer of Advaita Vedanta
The primary figure considered as the pioneer of Advaita Vedanta is Adi Shankaracharya, a philosopher and spiritual leader who lived in India during the 8th century CE. Shankaracharya is credited with reviving and systematizing the Advaita Vedanta tradition, consolidating its teachings and establishing Mathas (monastic centres) to preserve and propagate its principles.
Non-duality holds significant importance in human beings:
In non-dual philosophy, the ultimate reality, often referred to as Brahman, is considered to be infinite, timeless, and transcendent. It is beyond the grasp of ordinary perception and conceptualization. The self, or Atman, which is often associated with individual consciousness, is understood to be identical to Brahman. From this perspective, the individual self is not separate from the ultimate reality; it is an expression or manifestation of it.
There are a few figures who have explored the relationship between science and non-duality:
Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist who made significant contributions to the development of quantum mechanics. He was also deeply interested in Eastern philosophies, particularly Vedanta, which influenced his scientific thinking. Schrödinger saw parallels between the non-dual concepts of Vedanta and the fundamental principles of quantum physics. His book “What Is Life?” explores the relationship between physics and consciousness.
Capra is an Austrian-born physicist and systems theorist. In his book “The Tao of Physics,” he explores the parallels between Eastern mysticism, particularly Taoism and Buddhism, and modern physics, including quantum mechanics. Capra suggests that both Eastern mysticism and quantum physics challenge the prevailing Cartesian-Newtonian worldview and point towards a more holistic and interconnected understanding of reality.
Goswami is a theoretical physicist and author who has written extensively on the relationship between science and spirituality. In his book “The Self-Aware Universe,” he explores the implications of quantum physics for consciousness and proposes a framework that integrates non-dual spiritual concepts with scientific understanding.
Spira is a contemporary British philosopher and teacher of non-duality. Although not a scientist himself, he often engages with scientific ideas and draws upon scientific findings, particularly in the fields of neuroscience and quantum physics, to support and elucidate the non-dual understanding of reality.
Bohm was a prominent theoretical physicist who made significant contributions to quantum mechanics and the philosophy of physics. He explored the implications of quantum physics for understanding consciousness and the nature of reality. Bohm’s book “Wholeness and the Implicate Order” presents his holistic worldview, drawing parallels between non-dual concepts and the interconnectedness revealed in quantum theory.
Jung, a renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, explored the realms of the unconscious mind and collective consciousness. He recognized the importance of mystical experiences and spiritual insights in psychological development. Jung’s concepts of the collective unconscious and synchronicity, which involve a transcendent interconnectedness, resonate with non-dual perspectives.
Non-duality is a profound philosophical and spiritual concept, it can be challenging to fully grasp through intellectual understanding alone. It often requires a direct experiential realization that goes beyond conceptual knowledge. Advaita Vedanta posits that the world of multiplicity and diversity is an apparent reality, a product of ignorance (avidya). The ultimate truth is the non-dual, all-pervading consciousness, which is beyond any conceptual or empirical understanding.
“This Atman (Self) cannot be attained through study of the Vedas, nor through intelligence, nor through much learning. He who chooses Atman—by him alone is Atman attained. It is Atman that reveals to the seeker Its true nature.” [from Katha Upanishad: 1.2.23.]