3 Levels of Non-Dual Reality

3 Levels of Non-Dual Reality

One of the things I harp on here and in a few other forums is stages of enlightenment. Like all other human development including puberty, it is a process marked with distinct stages. There are quite a few voices who discount such stages, either because their teacher discouraged concepts of stages (like Gangaji) as a barrier to living them. Or because they’ve not yet experienced such themselves. I fully agree that concepts of stages are not reality so should be held lightly. But not understanding the unfolding can cause other issues.

With spiritual awakening or Self Realization, the personal seeker falls away and there can be a sense of being “done”. Some drop practices then. However, this is a little premature. While the “me” does indeed fall away, it does not mean the growth is done. In fact, I would describe Self Realization as the kindergarten of enlightenment.

There have also developed several erroneous concepts around this. Like thinking inner non-duality with a separate outer illusory world is THE non-duality described by Vedanta. However, it most certainly is not.

Last fall, several people I know spoke on a panel discussion at the SAND conference (Science and Non-Duality) on this subject. By discounting stages, several points of confusion arise. People confuse recognition with awakening or awakening with being done. In the discussion, they make the following points:

1) Don’t mistake understanding for Realization
After some deep study, a profound understanding can grow. But it remains an understanding or set of concepts, not a lived experience. If there is a sense of rigidity or belief to it, you’re in the realm of concepts, not realization.

If some experiences are driving the understanding, the memory of those experiences can drive a seeker. If it changes them enough, they may consider it a realization. In one sense, that’s true. But neither a memory nor a concept are a living experience.

2) Don’t mistake realization for Liberation
Deep enough and we discover the truth of our being. That we really are an eternal Self. But a discovery, however profound, is not liberation. As long as the personal me remains as who you are, it is not Self Realization. Is the Self there 24/7, even in deep sleep?

(In the conversation, they use witnessing deep sleep as a marker for Self Realization or CC. But there are a few (like myself) who gained the witness prior to awakening. Is there still a me?)

3) Don’t mistake liberation for Enlightenment.
We continue our work and practice as the journey is not over even when the seeking individual falls away. Mark describes how when the person falls away, nature takes over. The process is no longer your personal job.

The non-duality of Vedanta is a Unity that encompasses both the inner Self and the outer world in oneness. If we’re experiencing the world as a separate illusion, this is duality, not full non-duality. We’re confusing an inner non-duality with a complete one. Holding on to the “world as illusion” and “experiences are maya” is another way to let concepts be a barrier.

It can be noted that renunciates may continue with a “world as illusion” model as a means of renunciation. The same rule should not be applied to householders who need to act in the world. I discuss that here.

They also note that some teachers become awakened without knowing how they got there. People then try to mimic their experience as a technique. But “description is not a prescription.”

Although the piece is titled the 3 Levels of Non-Dual Reality, they don’t explicitly state the 3 levels. They describe them and note points of confusion. To help understand what they’re speaking of, here is a brief review:

The first is inner non-duality, what is commonly called Self Realization or Cosmic Consciousness.
The second is with the awakening heart and refining perception, discovering Divinity  in the world. (while not technically a non-dual stage, it leads to the next)
The third is when the world and the Self are recognized to be one and the same and the observer and observed become one, leaving only seeing. This is the dawn of full non-duality, though it usually develops in stages of integration of all values of experience.

The second finds it’s fullness after the third in God Realization. Then we transcend Atman into Brahman, a stage they didn’t get into.

The Upanishads describe this as I am That, Thou art That, All This is That, That alone Is.

Here’s the 45 min panel conversation with about 10 min of Q&A on Fora.tv.

Last Updated on April 10, 2014 by

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  1. Pingback: The World Is As You See It | In 2 Deep

  2. Pat

    …”they use witnessing deep sleep as a marker for Self Realization or CC. But there are a few (like myself) who gained the witness prior to awakening. Is there still a me?…”
    Please say more!! There is stil a me that reacts and all that. But the witness and gap and separation along with vastness/awareness.
    This is not awakening, not CC. It is not a very comfortable place to be stuck!
    Do you have suggestions on how to move on from here?
    may thanks,
    Pat B

  3. Davidya

    Hi Pat
    It’s a big subject and I’m working on an article about the gradations of the shift. In the Kundalini Vidya tradition (discussed more in the Understanding Shakti series), there are 3 key points in the kundalini rise. The first is the witness point, just below the 3rd eye. When the kundalini reaches there (conscious of or not), we begin witnessing. But kundalini is still rising and falling, so it comes and goes. The next point is Makara, just above the 3rd eye. When kundalini reaches there, some experience an all absorbing flash of white light. Kundalini becomes stable and with it, the witness. As the distance from here to the crown and awakening is short, people often move on to awakening a short time later. But some of us don’t. I suspect its a combination of not being ready and/or not having the skills. The ones I know were all young at the time. Also, with the 3rd eye opening, there’s often a lot of experiences that may distract from the goal.

    Now, a description like yours can be one of two things. While many describe a subjective experience of “ego death” or similar with awakening, it’s not always the case. Awakening is a shift in identity from the ego to the cosmic. The ego actually does continue after awakening but as an aspect of the person, not as the me or centre anymore. There can be a sense of both a person and the vastness of awareness both. If the shift is less clear, the awareness is not yet dominant. The boundlessness is present but maybe the silence is a little overshadowed and the bliss more so. As Adyashanti describes, its common for the mind to come up for awhile again after the shift, more so if its been less clear. This is known as a shallow or dry waking.

    For this, it’s about attention. Notice the mind and allow it to tell its stories but not believing or resisting them. Favour the vastness and sense of being the detached observer. Remember that resisting keeps it active, allowing lets them resolve and leave.

    The other thing, which you suggest and I experienced for some time is what some call soul awakening. You’ve reached Makara and the witness is stable. You’re fully aware of cosmic being or Self. But the surrender is not yet deep enough for awareness to become aware of itself. We can say there’s a witness, but not a witness or awareness of the witness. (awareness aware of awareness aware of itself (laughs)) Deeper clarity and surrender is needed.

    For that, the instructions are the same as above. In A New Earth, Tolle has a bunch of techniques for culturing awareness but doesn’t recognize they’re for people who have a witness, not people who don’t yet. Some inquiry techniques are similar.

    Keep in mind that awakening is not something you do. People describe it arising as grace. Essentially, it is Brahman, moving within itself. You have no control here. But you can help prepare the way so it’s clearer and smoother. Effortless meditation, gentle yoga, and a good lifestyle can help keep you clear. Allowing and enjoying are also very good.

    And it is your discomfort that will drive you to change and see you through this transition. It’s more than worth it. In either case, you sit at the door to a profound unfolding. It will happen. You’re very close. 😉

    Theres a direct link on the About page if you’d prefer a private conversation.

  4. Pingback: Gradations of Awakening | In 2 Deep

  5. Pat Bralley

    Thank you David for this thoughtful reply. I am going to sit with it for a bit and then get back with you. I know you’ve written much on this before – the comparison with Rose Rosetree first caught my eye last week. Thanks again, Pat

  6. Davidya

    You’re welcome, Pat.
    This morning, I was reminded of a further point. While the above instructions are useful for culturing the observer/ wakefulness, for awakening itself, we have no experiential examples. Thus, it can be considerably aided by spending time with the awake, darshan in Sanskrit.

    The vast majority of people I know shifted either on or around a satsang or retreat. Or they shifted there from unclear to clear. A living example makes a difference.

    1. pat bralley

      David, I am at work just now. My day consists of being with these words of yours, doing molecular genetics in a lab, and being something of a stunned bunny as this… all the knots (ha, ha – not ALL) – but “its” all unwinding. Darshan in deed. It’s rather intense and the timer on the desk says 28 seconds are left before I must return to the experiment on my bench. – in deep gratitude! Pat

  7. Davidya

    Yes, sometimes it can take some just being with it, allowing, letting it filter in. Thats a good approach, past old habits of reactivity. It allows noticing what arises and the inner response to arise…

  8. Quoting the most salient point for me, I thank you for your words of wisdom as they enable Truth to move more clearly into the driver seat.

    “For this, it’s about attention. Notice the mind and allow it to tell its stories but not believing or resisting them. Favour the vastness and sense of being the detached observer. Remember that resisting keeps it active, allowing lets them resolve and leave.”

    with loving kindness,

  9. Davidya

    Hi Savita
    Thanks for the feedback and glad that resonated. It’s one of the values of sharing in a forum like this. The writing is not to a specific person but rather who we are as a whole. Thus, it may land for many.
    See you soon!

  10. On the 3 Levels, one may also describe them as Self Realization, Unity, and Brahman. I noted that God Consciousness is not non-dual.

    However, Brahman isn’t exactly non-dual either. It’s beyond such description. Non-duality is oneness. Brahman is post-oneness, post-isness, post consciousness.

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