What is Nonduality?
Nonduality (aka Advaita or Nondualism) is the ultimate underlying reality of everyone and everything. The word Nondual means “not-two” indicating that there is no other reality apart from the Nondual Reality. Every living being and non-living thing is none other than the Nondual Reality manifesting in different ways. This is the highest Truth you arrive at through a process of self-enquiry by analyzing your own direct experience, which brings about the realization that you are not a limited body-mind complex but something beyond all limitations of time, space and objects — the Nondual Reality. This Self-realization liberates you from the sorrows and sufferings of life, as most of them are born out of a wrong identification with the body-mind complex and attachment to things associated with it. It does not mean that suddenly all problems of life are solved, rather the problems get dissolved and lose their grip leaving you in a state of supreme peace and joy.
Nonduality employs a well-structured and logically-consistent process to take you from your mistaken self (what you think you are) to the actual Self (what you actually are) step-by-step, with each step being completely verifiable within your own experience. There is no need to believe anything without validation, making Nonduality highly favorable to the modern scientific mind.
The earliest exposition of the Nondual Truth pertaining to what we really are and the ultimate reality of the universe can be found in one of the most ancient scriptures on this planet, namely the Upanishads, which are the portions of highest knowledge in the Vedas (dated many thousands of years ago). A summary of the Upanishads can be found in the Bhagavad Gita and a philosophical analysis in the Brahma Sutras. Since Upanishads are a compilation of revelations of hundreds of sages and saints, they are very comprehensive, so much so that almost everything any spiritual tradition across the world has ever spoken of is already covered. It’s not surprising as the highest truth is one but different sages talk about the same reality in different ways, so a compilation of many sages developed over a long period of time is bound to be most comprehensive.
Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras have been explained in various ways through the ages as they are very compact/terse and full of subtle truths and up for many different types of interpretations. The highest explanation is called Advaita (Nondual) Vedanta. Even though what Advaita Vedanta talks about has been around since the Upanishads themselves, it was formulated into a full-fledged philosophy by Maharshi Vyasa and later by Adi Shankaracharya (~1500 years ago) and revived in the modern times by Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda (~150 years ago). Swami Vivekananda was the first Indian monk to bring these teachings to the west which marked the beginning of the rise of eastern spirituality in the west that continues to flourish till date and going strong. There are also other Nondual traditions like Kashmiri Shaivism, Sufism and Madhyamaka Buddhism along with their own scriptures.
The best way to learn about the ultimate reality is to study the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras from the standpoint of Nonduality. But since the topic is so subtle, it’s very important to study it systematically with a qualified teacher. Moreover, it’s best to start with few introductory/explanatory texts (Prakarana Granthas) that clarify concepts and lay the foundation for higher study. It’s like studying any sophisticated subject such as science, math, etc. It’s also helpful to read and listen to the enlightened masters. Along with the study, one should contemplate on the subject in order to resolve all doubts and arrive at a conviction about the Nondual Truth, as well as deeply assimilate it and make it a living reality. Accompanying practices like meditation, devotion and service are also very helpful throughout the process.
There are many renowned teachers who are currently spreading the message of Nonduality across the world. They come from various traditions and organizations, such as (in alphabetical order) Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Chinmaya Mission, Ramakrishna Math and Mission (Vedanta Society), Ramanashramam, and more. There are also a few independent enlightened masters. We hope to welcome many of these teachers to our retreats and programs to get a holistic view and understanding of the Truth and how to manifest it in our daily lives.