Personal or Impersonal?
The titles non-dual and Advaita attempt to describe the principle of wholeness, unicity or that which is already at one.
During the last decade there seems to have been a growing interest in what is known as “Advaita” or “non-dual” communication about enlightenment. The recent “Conscious TV” interviews and the beautifully crafted DVD “Who’s Driving the Dreambus” represent a fair cross-section of people of so-called “non-dual” persuasion but whose perceptions seem to vary considerably.
There are millions of books published on the same subject with wildly differing views. These days the term “non-dual” is being used for all kinds of seeking activities. You can go to non-dual conferences or indulge in a “12-month course on non-dual enlightenment”. Non-dual therapy is available, and there is even an on-line “non-dual” speak club which “no-one” can join!
For anyone interested or newly investigating this subject, it can all be very confusing.
However, the perception here is that there are two distinctly different kinds of communication about the nature of enlightenment. One is personal and the other is impersonal.
The first offers the seeking “person” help and direction to find something called enlightenment. The second offers the “person” nothing.
The first comes in many forms and has a wide following because it seems to respond to the “person’s” needs. The second is unfamiliar and energetically confronting.
The personal message is based on the belief that there is something called a separate seeker that can attain something else called enlightenment.
The impersonal sees the embodied sense of seeming to be separate and unfulfilled as an illusory state which drives the apparent seeker to search for another illusion called personal enlightenment.
Any communication that supports and encourages the seeker’s belief or idea that it can find something it feels it has lost is only reinforcing and perpetuating a dualistic illusion. It’s not right or wrong . . . it’s what apparently happens.
The impersonal perception is that all concepts, ideas, beliefs or thoughts about separation or enlightenment can only ever be a reflection of their opposite, and so they are only ever pointers towards, or away from, that which cannot be expressed or known.
Apparent separation is seen essentially as an embodied contracted energy which can simply and suddenly release into that boundless aliveness which is unknowable and impersonal. The circumstances are totally irrelevant. No amount of clear or confused concepts can ever touch or influence that energetically held sense of being apart.
A deeply felt “spiritual experience” can, to some people, seem to be an event of personal enlightenment. There can arise a wish to help or teach other people to have a similar experience. That communication can sometimes seem to be “non-dual” when the teacher describes the nature of oneness, but it contradicts itself by recommending a process which can help the seeker attain that oneness through self-enquiry, meditation or purification, etc. There can be the encouragement to “live in the moment” or “be here now” or “embrace the fear” in order that the person can find “their own true nature”. These kind of personal prescriptions are often accompanied by a repetition of inspiring but only ever positive ideals which can lift the seeker’s feelings and give them renewed hope and purpose. It seems that this kind of exchange between two people is, by its very nature, happening within the story in time, and so its influence is transitory. It fulfils a need . . . for a while.
An impersonal communication recognises and illuminates the apparent dilemma for the seeker of seeming to be imprisoned in the embodied experience of separation. It will inadequately describe the nature of unbounded aliveness and the feeling of dissatisfaction and longing that can arise out of seeming to be apart from that. It will also expose, without any kind of compromise, the absolute inevitability and hopelessness of seeking and the gift of freedom that is hidden within that hopelessness.
No-one can claim ownership of this impersonal message and so there would be no motivation to sing it's praises. Neither would there be any personal agenda to please, help or change the “person”. There is nothing here for the “person” except the awful possibility that everything that they dream is themselves could be lost.
Whenever the personal identity, its seeking, its hopes and dreams seem threatened, there can be a rejection of this message and a return to that which seems to serve and support the uniquely human illusion of self-autonomy leading to self-fulfilment. The impersonal message can then be seen as judgemental or nihilistic and may even be felt to be “unloving” because it leaves the “person” with nothing.
Certainly there can be something personally confronting about the singular constancy that arises only out of that unconditional compassion which reveals the illusion of personal imprisonment. Out of that revelation, can arise a resonance which is no-ones.
How can the “person” hear the impersonal?
How can there be a knowing of the unknowable?
How is it possible for a “person” to “confront their own absence”?
How can the seeker grasp that which is already everything?
It isn’t difficult . . . it’s impossible . . . and wonderfully irrelevant because there is nothing separate to grasp. Wholeness is already all there is! It is the unbounded, impersonal, unconditional freedom which is complete . . . nothing is needed by that which is everything!
However, and this is the paradox, wholeness, being everything, can also appear as anything:
Wholeness can appear as the story of self on a meaningful journey.
Wholeness can appear as a separate person with free will and choice.
Wholeness can appear as a person who seems to be enlightened and helps other people to become enlightened. Wholeness can appear as a communication which divides and calls itself non-dual.
So, in the play of appearance, wholeness can pretend to be something apart which is rushing around all over the place looking for that which already is. It is an amazing and unfulfilling dream-like story which is uniquely human and is also sublimely without purpose. For the apparent seeker, however, the pain and longing of separation seems very real.
So, should the seeker climb the spiritual mountain or simply let go and surrender to life? . . . is that the question? Or is it possible that there is no question and no answer.
Maybe what is sought is all there is. Perhaps the beloved that is longed for is already constantly happening . . . it never went away . . . the seeker did, to look for it.
Perhaps, when the seeking dream dissolves into that unbounded energy, which sees no separation and has no agenda or expectation, then suddenly that longing is embraced in that unconditional love that is no-ones.