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The Goodness at Our Core

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Another question came to me from the contact form on here:

Thank you for your writings.  I have enjoyed your books but I am troubled by them as well.  Non-duality seems to be a repudiation of free will.  I am not  doing anything.  The divine acts through me. But what of the man who murders a child, or genocidal wars?  It seems the world would often be better if people acted differently.  Can you help me understand this?

And here is what I wrote in response:

Thank you for your question. It is one of the most common concerns raised about the teachings of non-duality.

While there is just one reality or one Being here, the manifestations and movements of that one Being are as diverse as can be. Oneness seems to love to appear and dance as many. And there are also many levels of truth that operate within this amazing dance of life.

So your question about murder and war can be answered at different levels, and all of the answers would have some relevance. At the most relative level, there is the definite appearance of free will. It is important what we do, and if people made better choices, this would be wonderful for the world.

If we shift to a more absolute perspective, we can see that all action is purely an illusion created by our consciousness. No action has ever harmed consciousness, and so the appearances of murder and war are just that: an appearance.

But to be complete, we also can experience how both of these perspectives are true, and also experience a perspective that is in between these two extremes. It turns out that when someone directly experiences their true nature as empty spacious presence, this does not necessarily lead to a disinterest in the appearances and illusions of this world. In fact, the recognition that there is no one here and no individual doing anything most often leads to the experience and expression of a deep love for this world and all of the illusions in it. If it is just an illusion, then why bother with murder or war? If you and your actions are just an illusion, then the pain and fears of the illusory ego simply do not matter anymore. If we see through the illusions of our personal story, then there are no longer any motivations that would lead to murder or war.

In the absence of a personal self, we are not left with nothing. There are many deeper qualities of true nature that are revealed as the ego loosens it's grip on us. And it is perhaps a surprise to find out that they are all positive qualities like love, joy, peace, clarity, strength, and wisdom. I say it is perhaps a surprise because of the psychological view that our unconscious is filled with all kinds of repressed negative emotions that must be contained. And while there is also some truth to this perspective, the missing piece in much of psychology is that underneath even our darkest unconscious emotions are these essential qualities of our Being. It turns out that at the core, we are loving, joyful and divine. This is not something that you can grasp intellectually, but it is something that you can experience as your sense of self is weakened or dissolved by direct inquiry.

It is possible to have a purely intellectual grasp of the concept that there is no individual doer, and that the world is just an illusion. And like any belief or concept, it can just be believed and identified with and lead to all kinds of distortions and justifications for terrible actions. For examples, just examine the history of religious fundamentalism where teachings about peace and love have been used to justify hatred, murder and war. Even a belief in there being no doer can lead to this kind of fundamentalism if it is just a belief. But in the actual experience of the dissolving of an egoic sense of self, there is an opening to the deeper realities of our essential Being, and beyond that to the mystery at the core of Being which can not be described or defined.

The positive qualities at the core of our Being are strangely found to be nondual also. At that depth of experience, it is seen that there is only goodness and that there is no opposite thing called badness. This is the important discovery that counterbalances any tendency of the ego to form a belief about nonduality that denies the importance or value of the world and its beautiful illusions. It is this essential core of goodness that loves the world and everything in it, and so makes it extremely unlikely that someone resting in their deepest essence would ever act to harm another. In fact there is a natural arising of a compassion and appreciation for all of life.

The concept of nonduality is just that: a concept. As such it can be distorted and co-opted by the ego and the mind to justify anything. But the reality of our nondual nature is not a concept, and the direct experience of it is filled with peace, love and joy beyond anything we could have imagined. But do not take my word for any of this. See what you find when you inquire deeply into this question of who it is that acts in this world. Do you find a complete lack of any love and concern for the world when you experience a more open and complete sense of your true nature, or do you find that there is no limit to the love and compassion that can be found within the empty spaces of your soul?

I hope this helps.


Less Than Half Isn't Nothing

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I often get questions about the contradictions in various spiritual teachings and even within a particular spiritual teaching, not to mention the contradictions in life itself! These seeming contradictions can be very confusing to the mind, as the mind has a hard time with opposite things both being true. However, life doesn’t limit itself to what the mind can understand, and so life is perfectly fine with two opposite things both having some truth.

Whenever anyone writes or speaks (even spiritual teachers), they are at best speaking half of the truth. This is due to the limitation inherent in words. Much of the time, what we say contains much less than half of the truth. So when you read words that seem contradictory from different spiritual teachers or even from the same spiritual teacher, this is because it’s often necessary to contradict yourself to fully express the truth. There are many levels, dimensions, and perspectives within consciousness, and they are all valid.

The real gift of any teaching is when it points out the part of the truth that hasn’t been seen or is being overlooked. When someone discovers the part of the truth that they hadn’t previously seen, they naturally want to hang onto it and even deny or reject the opposite truth. However, as challenging as this may be to accept, dualistic teachings are correct, teachings of pure nonduality are correct, and everything else is also correct to a greater or lesser degree. Just to be clear, some things are true, but not very true. So although very narrow, bigoted perspectives may have a tiny piece of truth, that doesn’t make them important or very helpful or worthwhile. An example of something that is true but not very true is a lottery ticket: It’s true that you can win if you buy a lottery ticket, but it’s not very true. In fact, it is a ridiculously small truth!

What really matters is whether someone’s words expand your own experience of the truth or not. Anything that adds to or expands your experience of truth opens and softens your Heart, quiets your mind, and expands your sense of yourself. So when words do this, you can savor them and ponder them to fully absorb what they are pointing to. If anyone’s words (even a spiritual teacher’s) have the opposite effect and contract your Heart, make your mind busy, and make you feel small or inadequate, then you know those words are not important for you. You don’t need to reject them or make them wrong, just let the idea be there and move onto something that is truer for you.

The Ego Is a Pimp

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Q: After destroying one’s ego how do we transact in this world? Can you please clear this up?

A: The ego has always been just a thought, so it has never really done anything. I sometimes say the ego is like a pimp: It stands around and takes a lot of credit for doing nothing. Something else called Being is living your life. Being is very good at living your life, whether egoic thoughts arise or not.

Being creates your experiences through the filter of the egoic thoughts when they are present, since Being itself has no preference for what happens or what it experiences. This filtering of Being’s actions makes it appear that the ego is doing something, since the ego’s thoughts are having an effect. But the creative force that is actually acting is still Being.

Once the egoic thoughts are dissolved or even just loosened, the same creative process generates lots of experiences and actions without those actions being filtered through the ego’s beliefs. Being has always been beating your heart, growing your hair, and getting you up in the morning and off to work or whatever you do. It can and will continue to breathe and work and play and love and all of the rest once the ego is out of the way.
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Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self by Nirmala.

Nothing Personal leads you to the experience of your true nature and helps you explore its depth. Through exposition, questions and dialogues, it brings you to a place of realization of the Truth: you are the spacious Awareness in which everything appears.

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