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One and Many, Advaita in Everyday Experience

| Nirmala | Awareness

One and Many, Advaita in Everyday Experience

Published on
06 December 2009

Someone wrote a follow up question to the blog post entitled, Is the Brain the Source of Consciousness?

But how can there only be one experiencer if there are multiple experiences? Surely there must be multiple experiencers for there to be multiple simultaneous experiences happening in tandem, otherwise who is experiencing the other person's experience? I know I'm not - I'm only experiencing this human experience centred around one human being's sense perceptions and cognative faculties. I have never witnessed another person's experience - so how can we be One and the same?

The idea of the universe being One all-inclusive Consciousness suggests maybe we're all like different leaves on one tree - seemingly separate forms that come and go, yet only one living being. But then wouldn't the tree would be the experiencer? The leaves wouldn't have separate experiences, since they aren't separate, there's only one tree. But humans and all living forms have separate experiences.

If we are all one, wouldn't it be like there was a multiplayer game where all the different characters in the game were played by one player all at once? Surely there would only be one player - one expeiencer - who was simultaneously aware of every separate character's separate experience in the game, one person looking at all the screens at once?

And here is my reply:

Once again you ask good questions.  And it is one of the deepest mysteries: How can one thing also be many things? It would appear that these apparent individual selves are here for a purpose, maybe just to have individual experiences. Imagine what it would be like if you as an individual was experiencing everything that exists and that has ever existed. That would tend to get in the way of your ability to have and focus on an individual experience.

And yet you as an individual may still essentially have the potential to experience yourself as everything, since ultimately that is what you are. A candle has the potential to shine in all directions, but sometimes for our own purposes we put it in a reflecting holder and aim the light in one direction. But the candle has not lost its potential to once again shine in all directions.

As to how consciousness possibly manages to be one and many at the same time, I would invite you to listen to a fairy tale about Being on this video. It suggests that we are all duplicates or clones if you will of the infinite Self. And since infinite Being is made of pure space, all these infinite infinities can fit in the same space when they are one space. And yet any one of the many infinite Beings (that are really one Being) can also contract into a smaller experience of itself within that infinite space just for the joy and wonder of the experiences that provides.

So from one perspective we could experience it all, and then from another perspective we could experience just an individual reality. And yet we have always had and will always have the potential to shift from one perspective to another.  And it is not an all or nothing proposition; we also may at times have a bigger or smaller range of experience. Have you ever sensed what another person was thinking or feeling? What was the boundary of your awareness in that experience?

It turns out it is not better to have an expanded experience of awareness, it is just different. And since this infinite aware Being that you are is also eternal, it has a lot of time to fill. So it loves to try different perspectives and experiences, and is even willing to try on perspectives that last a lifetime or many lifetimes. It has nothing to lose since it cannot lose the capacity or potential to once again expand into a more limitless perspective.

The truth is not limited to our ability to understand and conceptualize it. So two seemingly opposite things can both be true. Perhaps an individual expression of infinite Being experiences a limited range of awareness and yet at the same time, there is a greater dimension of the same Being that is experiencing all of it. And both are true, and both perspectives are always here and available in every moment, along with an infinite variety of perspectives in between these two extremes. There is not a right perspective or a wrong perspective for awareness to take. It seems to want to try them all.

Hope this helps, and there is another article called "What is Advaita or Nonduality?" that explores oneness experientially.