Non-Dualism and Nirvana


I was on my way to the health club I was listening to a fragment of one of  Professor Eckel’s lectures.  A comment he made struck me. He said (I paraphrase), “In Mahayana Buddhism, non-duality means that Nirvana is attainable by every one of us in this life.” Intrigued, I googled “Buddhism non-duality” when I got home. It appears that “non-duality” means that nothing is separate, everything is connected and one. And if that’s the case, by extension, samsara and nirvana are indistinguishable.

If I start from my meditations and analyze this I come up with the following explanation: When I meditate, the substance of my being falls away. Why? Because “who I am” in the non-meditative state is that person that’s defined by fictional stories I’ve created of my past and future.

I have a memory of the smell of cement in the home that was built for my family in Africa when I was 5 years old. Did that really happen? I don’t know for sure, I only know that my mind has created this scene of wandering through the halls of that house with the smell of freshly laid cement. The same goes for every single other memory from my past. Can I ever remember anything 100% accurately, even from the very next moment?

I am a 57-year-old retiree with very little hope of ever working again. I spend my days doing my tai chi, meditating, playing my video games, and doing this blogging. Is this characterization really me, or is it fiction?

So all of these things define the material, dualistic me — the me that is a separate and unique entity in this world. As I sit here, I can reach over and pinch myself, “yep, still here. Me.”

But in my meditative state, all of this falls away. My past and present fall away and all that remains is this state of emptiness — a state of void, where my mind gently rests just as a leaf falls from the tree and gently and peacefully settles onto the ground. This is the me that is left after I’ve stripped away all of the thoughts that created the fictional identity of who I am.

Now, if I take this concept and extend it to the rest of the world, I can justify an argument that says that the rest of the world only has truth in its state of emptiness, so that the materialistic fictional world I’ve created in my head doesn’t really exist.

So if the world doesn’t really exist, then neither do nirvana and samsara, which means nirvana and samsara must be the same thing because everything is one and the same in this fundamental state of emptiness.

A part of me wonders why I’m caring about all of this. I think I care because I need to find my own truths. If I sit back passively and have other people’s truths handed to me, I’ll never truly understand, and I’ll never really know where my own path lies.

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Non-Dualism and Nirvana

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