There is no "here". There is no "now".

The concept of now is predicated on the idea of time stretching out into the past and future. Given this line of time, "now" marks the point on the line where I am, with the past behind and the future ahead. When do we ever experience the past or future? Only "now". Memories arise... now. Anticipations arise... now. But "now" only has meaning as being distinct from past and future. Once it is seen that the line of time itself is imaginary, what happens to "now"?

The concept of here is predicated on the idea of space stretching out in all directions. Given this concept of space, "here" marks the point in space where I am, with space before, behind, above, below, to the left, and to the right. Where do we ever experience another place, a "there"? Only "here". Ideas of other places arise... here. But "here" only has meaning as being distinct from other places. Once it is seen that the idea of space itself is imaginary, just an idea, what happens to "here"?

What words shall we use to replace the "here" and "now" that we can now see don't exist? And what will we do when we realize that those new words are just more words that don't really tell us anything?


Happiness: the feeling that everything is okay, just as it is. Nowhere you need to be, nothing you need to do. Peace.
Less resistance, less pain.
The effort to avoid suffering leads to great suffering.


How do we know what we know?

There are essentially two ways of obtaining information: testimony and direct experience.

Information about historical events is available only through testimony. If an event occurs while I'm present, I may experience it directly at the time. From that point on, I know it only through the testimony of memory. Other kinds of information in this category include cultural knowledge, identity, political ideas, political boundaries, and so forth.

What can be known through direct experience are ideas like two plus two equals four. If I hold up two fingers on my left hand and two fingers on my right hand and count the total number of fingers I'm holding up, I always get four. This kind of information reflects universal aspects of reality that are always available to be observed. The structure of experience is observable in this way. As long as consciousness is present, the structure of experience is available to be examined.

All I can do with information received through testimony is believe it or disbelieve it. I may doubt it or take it on faith, but there's generally no way for me to verify testimonial information in my own experience.

On the other hand, since information from direct experience is universal and always available for examination, it can be known directly, without need for belief, doubt, or faith. If I wonder whether two plus two still equals four, I can always perform the finger experiment described above to check for myself. So I don't have to wonder whether non-duality's claims about reality are "true" or not. The structure of experience is always available for examination.

So nothing said here should be taken on faith. If anything said here disagrees with your experience, go with your experience.

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So which point of view is "true"?

Is physical reality fundamental, with awareness arising from it as an epiphenomenon?

Or is Cartesian dualism, with its equal but separate physical and mental realms how things "really" are?

Or is awareness fundamental, with apparent physical reality appearing within awareness?

Our training in science and logic tends to make us think that one of these points of view must be "true" while the others must be "wrong".

However, there are plenty of areas of life in which different "truths" are operative in different contexts. Merchants in the US generally won't accept Indonesian currency in a financial transaction. Merchants in Indonesia generally want Indonesian currency. Indonesian currency is "true" in Indonesia while US currency is "true" in the US.

In the US, "truth" is that traffic moves on the right side of the road. In Britain, "truth" is that traffic moves on the left side of the road.

In designing and conducting scientific experiments, reductionism is useful in isolating variables so they can be manipulated and studied individually. In nutrition, reductionism doesn't seem to work -- vitamin supplements have been shown to be much less effective than whole, unrefined plant foods.

Similarly, the different philosophical perspectives are useful in different contexts for different purposes. The physical assumption is useful for understanding how physical reality behaves (science). The Cartesian duality assumption can be useful in understanding psychological and religious concepts. The non-duality assumption is useful for cultivating peace of mind.

Our mental habits encourage us to see a conflict among the different perspectives. Seeing through those habits can help us see how each perspective can be useful in different contexts.

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Non-duality points at the unitary structure of experience.

Most of us focus on the content of experience most of the time. We are trained to do this as children. Focusing on the content of experience is not bad, or a problem, it's a necessary part of functioning in the world.

It can also be useful to "step back" and look at the structure of experience. When we do this, we can notice a number of aspects of experience that aren't evident from the content alone.
  • We can notice that we only ever access what is not part of immediate experience through imagination. For example, sitting here with a computer in front of me, I have no experiential evidence that New York City exists. From the point of view of this experience here and now, New York City is only available through imagination -- it's imaginary. So is anything else I can think of that isn't immediately present to me.
  • We can notice that as soon as something enters experience through imagination, it is no longer outside of experience, but part of it. With the thought of New York City, that thought becomes part of the ongoing experience.
  • We can notice that we never experience objects directly. We only experience qualities of objects -- shape, color, weight, smell, sound, taste. We wouldn't say that the qualities are the objects, but looking closely, we notice that the qualities are all we ever actually experience.
  • We can notice that experience is always here and now. From the perspective of this experience here and now, events that are distant in time or space are in the same category as New York City -- imaginary.
  • We can notice that there is no separation in the fabric of experience. Awareness includes everything that is part of experience. Examining the nature of perceptions, we can notice that they are not different or separate from the awareness doing the perceiving.
  • We can notice that thoughts are composed of "virtual" or imaginary sensations. Expository thoughts are spoken by a voice in imagination. Picture thoughts are seen in imagination. We can use imagination to simulate smells and tastes and kinesthetic sensations. Emotions are usually composed of a thought (a virtual sensation) combined with a sensation somewhere in the body. All mental activity seems to be based on simulated sensation.
These are things we can notice about experience by looking at it directly. When we focus on experience directly, these aspects of it gradually become obvious, but most humans never pause to examine experience in this way.

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The physical assumption is that fundamental reality, the foundation of reality, is physical. The physical assumption leads us to see ourselves as physical bodies in a world of separate physical objects.

Cartesian dualism, the philosophical stance of Christianity and most western cultures, assumes that the mental world is analogous to, but different from, the physical world. That assumption leads to the idea that we are souls (mental or spiritual objects or entities) in a world of mental/spiritual objects. Under this assumption, God is another, separate spiritual object or entity, the one that created all the other objects.

The important thing to notice about these philosophical viewpoints is that they are assumptions.

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