Radical Non-Duality: In a Nutshell

Midjourney’s take on cats and peace, because… well, because there’s a cat. My own prompt.

Recently, Indrajit Samarajiva wrote a post about the illusion of the self and the absurdity of the ‘self-help’ industry. In it he said:

The whole self-help industry is founded around the concept of the self, which is completely unfounded. I have studied western philosophy and there is no coherent definition of the self in there, just a bunch of thought experiments that all fail. I’ve studied neuroscience and you can’t see it. You can look at the self with microscopes or MRIs or books or any which way. However you look at it, there’s no there there. It’s like the border between India and Pakistan. Definitely something to fight and die over, but if you walk right up to it and look it’s just the same old trees and plants and a bunch of apes acting agitated about nothing. It’s just an idea, and, given all the fighting and dying, not an especially good one.

Indrajit’s idea of what exists in the absence of self is warmer and more humanistic than mine. It’s about relationship, community, belonging to something larger than self.

Nevertheless, his article inspired me to write him a note about radical non-duality, just because… well, I don’t really know. Perhaps just to get clear about the distinction between his way of seeing not-self and mine.

After I wrote it, I realized it was probably the most succinct and, in a way, the most personal and least bloodless summarizing of the admittedly rather bloodless message of radical non-duality that I’d come up with.

So here, for no reason, is what I wrote:

Lovely writing, Indrajit — thanks.

I have in recent years been drawn to the message of so-called radical non-duality, that goes even further and asserts that not only is there not-self, but there is no one, nothing separate, that everything is just an appearance out of nothing. It is a hopeless message, and not at all a ‘teaching’, a theory, a belief, or an -ism of any kind. There is no ‘path’ to seeing it — ‘I’ will never ‘get’ it, and there is nothing ‘I’ can do.

Nevertheless, when I hear this message, it intuitively and intellectually resonates in a way I can’t explain. I can’t help feeling it is correct. Those speakers who have inexplicably lost their sense of self, report that it was immediately obvious (but to ‘no one’) that there never was anyone or anything separate.

For seven years I have been quietly arguing to myself that believing this is absurd, but still, I have found nothing that seems a more plausible description of reality, of what is and is not, and of what is happening and is not happening — apparently. There have been ‘glimpses’ here, when suddenly ‘I’ disappeared and it was briefly obvious that there was only ‘this’ everything.

Perhaps it’s a crutch because I can’t bear to face the brutality of the reality I have been conditioned to think of as real. ‘I’ will never know. Until/unless there is no longer a ‘me’, in which case, of course, there will be no ‘me’ to know it. I can only hope, even though there is no point in hoping.


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