Duality is the experience of subject and object. Nonduality is both a truth and an experience. The term nondual indicates that subject-object are inseparable, thus there is not subject reviewing an object or an object divorced from the experiencer/subject. Any measure or variety of this second experience is felt as nondual. Conjoined is another word for this; as is non-two. The object is not being particularly distinguished by the subject. Said otherwise, the subjectivity of an object – which is personal to the subject/experiencer/perceiver – is temporarily not engaged. This potentially happens within any shamatha session when
- letting be,
- or objects arising in the mind and let to float through,
- or of non-attention to what is on the visual screen if open-eyed sitting, walking, washing dishes, and such are the session. Underneath what the practitioner thinks is being cultivated (mindfulness, non-distraction) is the substructure of presence-impartiality.
Shamatha is profound! Its layers and levels are limitless. Shamatha is nirvana (not the rock band or the perfume). Nirvana is a state of equanimity, impartial Awareness, freed of clinging and reactivity. Nirvana also has many levels, but it should not be misunderstood as a final escaped state. That is not so, and maha beings including the Buddha have stated this. The training for nondual awareness, tranquility and its clarity, insight arising, and of nirvana begins with the impartiality of shamatha and is exemplified by its simplicity and clarity.
Neutrality is spacious and allowing. Due to the repetition of practicing neutrality on and off the cushion, the immediacy of clutching a thought or desire, craving, or disappointment, etc. is rendered less potent therefore is subconsciously felt as less demanding. This neutrality in the moment, this ease within one’s self, is nirvana. That it is fleeting – well, that’s Path! As spaciousness and impartiality work their magic on habits of react/reify/respond to everything, then nirvana is being “cultivated.” The auto-pilot of reactivity, thus ups and downs, and the aggressive response to the weather or a mosquito or to the tick of time is consistently less engaged, less energized. These habits and the autonomic ways of response/react are the causes of distraction and the hamster wheel of life (samsara). Ah, three cheers for neutrality!
Add to all of this, we don’t understand that it is the vibrancy of life’s experiences that elicits our attention. It is this – vibrancy/intensity – that we become habituated to through immediate response. Colors or shadows from the corner of our eye, the intensity of a smell or memory or of pain, sorrow, or joy are all vivid, strong, and seem unmistakable. They are loud or call out through their subtlety. We become habituated to “oh”, “oooh”, “ah,” “ouch.” But, a contemplation or a meditation practice provides direct access to the “oooh” that is inside, the “oh” or “ah” of clarity, the “ouch” of empathy and telepathy as well as their merging and support. Neutrality? Not in the beginning! The classic metaphor is that in the beginning, meditation practice is like a waterfall: uncontrollable, rushing, restless, multiple parts all moving at the same time. But, with the gift of diligence to ourself, we sit or walk or do dishes present to the current moment, undistracted. We are doing the thing with impartiality.
Subject and object is how the world goes ’round. It is commerce, relationships, creates art, and has written this post. But, the object of these words and the thoughts behind them are an invitation to your subjectivity, rather than you as a subject: a reader. Neutrality is subjective. Impartiality is subjective. Tranquility, luminosity, clarity, peace, spaciousness and so forth are subjective. My overture is to your subjectivity because nondual is a subjective experience, too.