Consciousness Is Non-dual

symmetryThere are several meanings to the term non-duality. I’ve already covered one of them in my four part series refuting the external world – Consciousness is all there is. Another aspect of the term is that our experience is non-dual. This means that the triad of perceiver, act of perception and object perceived isn’t part of our direct experience. It is a product of thought. A mind superimposition, not only giving rise to the sense of the world being independent of me, but the sense of me as the perceiver of that world, and thus the separation between us.

In my articles on refuting the external world, I speak of consciousness as it were a thing, a perceiver that creates and witness experience. This duality is introduced as a conceptual model to help the reader understand the main point of the writing – to realize that there is no external world beyond perceptions. Once the penny drops, the model has done its job and can now be deconstructed.

Consciousness is not a thing. It would be more accurate to think of it as a verb. Consciousness is not the perceiving of phenomena, but it is the phenomena itself. Or rather, there is actually no phenomena, but only perceiving. Perceiving is what consciousness is. Confusing? Read further.

No separation

What is seeing? Our usual understanding of seeing includes three aspects. There’s the seer of course, which is me, then there’s the act of seeing, which is a faculty of myself, and finally there’s the object seen, which has independent existence of me. But upon close examination, we realize that what’s actually given in the direct experience is nothing but patterns of color. There are never any objects seen, nor is there a perceiver given in direct experience.

The visual objects of our experience aren’t actually objects until we think of them as such. An ever-changing field of patterns of color is divided by thought into a multitude of objects. We think that objects are given in direct experience, but all that we are really seeing are colors.

But what is color? There is actually no separation between the seeing and the colors, but to realize this we need to examine the notion of color (which we think of as “the seen”) and the notion of seeing.

What we mean by color is the presence of color in our experience. But that happens to be the same definition that we use to describe “seeing”. So both the words “color” and “seeing” refer to the same thing, namely the presence of color in our experience. By thinking, we have divided our experience into “seeing” and “seen” where there is only seeing. This conceptual split, this objectifying of seeing gives rise to the felt sense of separation. Furthermore, in objectifying pure subjectivity – when making seeing into ‘objects seen’ – we are necessarily conjuring up an imaginary subject to which these imaginary objects appear. It is the counterpart in the subject/object duality where the presence of an object always require a perceiving subject. Cease to objectify phenomena and the imaginary subject vanishes – leaving only non-dual consciousness.

There is no perceiver. There is only seeing. A seer, a subject “behind” the seeing is never given but only inferred. We imagine a perceiver behind the scenes, but where could such a perceiver be located? There is no backstage. Since there is nothing beyond experiencing, there is no space in which a perceiver could be located. There is only seeing – no seer and nothing seen.

There is only hearing – no hearer, nothing heard.

There is only touching – no toucher, nothing touched.

There is only thinking – no thinker, no thought.

There is only perceiving – no perceiver and nothing perceived. This is consciousness.

Further reading:

10 Responses to Consciousness Is Non-dual

  1. This is good stuff. I have been looking for this kind of exposition. This is well-written. I am a Theosophist from the Philippines. More power to you Goran!

  2. Santhosh Palathinkal says:

    This is excellent and considered to be the valuable scriptures, it spreads light to the seekers of Truth. Evolve to become a Buddha.

  3. Pingback: Unified Discussion Scientists take on Consciousness



  5. Winston Anderson says:

    “There is only seeing”! Wow!!!

  6. Neerav says:

    I would have to disagree with the premise in terms of the last part, as it would then indicate that seeing, hearing, etc… exists inherently, since it is not dependent on the seer, hearer, etc… as well as the object being seen or heard, and the circumstances and conditions by which they all come together.

    I base my statements on the teachings of Madhyamika (Middle Way) Buddhism of the Buddha, and later, his predecessors, Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. Here is my stanzas in that light with respect to the perceiving subject and perceived object within a duality to reflect Madhyamika Buddhism.

    Subject & Object within A Duality

    By: Neerav B. Trivedi
    11th January 2014

    Without a subject perceiving, there is no object being perceived.
    Without an object, there is no perception for the subject.
    A nonexistent subject cannot perceive an existing object.
    An existing subject cannot perceive a nonexistent object.

    A nonexistent subject cannot perceive a nonexistent object,
    And a nonexistent object cannot be perceived by a nonexistent subject.
    Therefore, both the perceiving subject and the perceived object,
    Are therefore empty and dependently arisen.

    Hence, it can be verily established then that
    Neither the subject that perceives,
    Nor the object that is being perceived,
    Are either existent or nonexistent.

    If you cannot have one without the other,
    How can one exist without the other,
    Since they both arise together,
    And they both fall together?

    • Göran Backlund says:

      There’s no sense in which anything can be dependently arisen – unless there’s an objective reality of time and space in which all of these causes and conditions can exist. There’s not.

    • Neerav Trivedi says:

      If that was the case, Goran then the teachings of the Middle Path or Middle Way of the Enlightened Buddha, and his later predecessors, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti and Aryadeva, would then be wrong based on what amounts to a belief or idea that you have read and that your mind agrees with. Fortunately (and thankfully), Goran, such is not the case, nor is it the reality of things. The objective world DOES indeed exist, and the Buddhist teachings on the Middle Way, with their doctrines of emptiness (shunyata) and dependent arising/origination (pratityasamutpada) describe properly how everything in the world is interconnected, interrelated and dependent upon everything else to exist without any fixed, permanent, uncaused and unchanging self-nature or essence (svabhava), and thereby helps eliminate grasping (i.e., wants, needs, hopes, expectations and desires), and hence, both suffering and samsara, which also lead to Enlightenment/Liberation.

      Indeed, the objective/external world neither exists inherently as self-standing or self-existent, nor does it not exist (i.e., non-existent), which would then fall into the dualistic extremes of eternalism/essentialism and nihilism, respectively, which the Buddha and his latter predecessors such as Nagarjuna, looked to avoid, in order to overcome samsara and more importantly, suffering.

      To the point that you make and insist on repeatedly in your essays:
      1) The external/objective world exists
      2) The external/objective world does not exist.
      3) The external/objective world both exists and does not exist.
      4) The external/objective word neither exists nor does it not exist.

      This is the “tetralemma” of Nagarjuna in Madhyamika (Middle Way) Buddhism, which speaks of all possibilities. However, according to Nagarjuna, all of these views or positions mentioned above are to be ultimately and eventually negated such that:

      5) Neither does the external/objective world exists,
      6) Nor does the external/objective world does not exist,
      7) Nor does the external/objective world both exists and does not exist, and,
      8) Nor does the external/objective word neither exists nor does it not exist.

      As you can see, all four of the previous views or positions (i.e., numbers 1 to 4) with respect to the external/objective world have now been negated (i.e., number 5 to 8), which leaves you with no view or position whatsoever with respect to the external/objective world. Instead, the external/objective world simply just “is”, as they say in Zen Buddhism. So not only is your view/position that the external/objective world does not exist (i.e., is nonexistent) is refuted, but the other views that the objective/external world exists, that it both exists and does not exist, and that it neither exists nor does it not exist, have also been refuted, such that no view or position whatsoever with respect to the external/objective (and everyone and everything in it, including your own self) can be made and taken.

      This is what the deconstructive methods/techniques in many of the traditions both East and West, including Madhyamika Buddhism, does, essentially.

      You, Goran, unfortunately fall into the dualistics extreme of both nihilism and eternalism/essentialism, respectively, and grasp at these views or positions consistently in almost all of your essays that you have posted here on your website and in your book that you recently published, and so, you will have no choice but to continue to suffer and remain in samsara. And this is despite your realization of Oneness, which, unfortunately, cannot then said to be Oneness in the truest sense of the term. What you present is still very much dualistic in nature, and hence, one-sided and limited in scope.

      You say that “seeing”, “hearing” and “experiencing”, etc… exist on its own without either the person who is seeing/hearing/experiencing/etc…, the object being seen/heard/experienced, as well as the causes and conditions that not only bring them about, but to bring them all together. Hence, seeing, hearing, experiencing, etc… are then said to have “own existence” and hence an essence (svabhava), by which they can then be said to be inherently existent. This would then be falling into the dualistic extreme of essentialism/eternalism by which you will remain in the realm of suffering and samsara.

      Likewise, you also say that nothing at all exists, including the objective/external world, and both the subject (including one’s self) and the object, the universe, trees, skies, other people, etc… and even yourself, thereby falling into the other dualistic extreme of nihilism, by which, you will also remain in the realm of suffering and samsara.

      Unless you relinquish all of your views about anything and everything, and cease grasping at things such as various views and positions, including with respect to yourself, then you will never be free…….never experience Enlightenment, Awakening or Liberation. Again, this is the essence of the deconstructive method/technique in many of the spiritual traditions of the East, and maybe of the West too, such as the ancient Greeks. As long as you (or rather, your mind) holds onto a certain view or views about something, instead of not only being free of all views and positions, but free from all views and positions, your suffering will never cease. You may have realized Oneness/non-duality, but you still grasp and reify views or positions that are dualistic, many times, to an extreme nature, that are philosophically tenable and spiritually dangerous, more so the ones that fall into the extreme of nihilism (i.e., Nothingness or nonexistence).

      Let this be a warning to you, Goran, that you need to cease with any view or position of your mind that is one-sided, limited and dualistic, and relinquish these and all other views, “IF” you want Enlightenment/Liberation. I wish you all the best in your spiritual journey. Namaste!

  7. don salmon says:


    Nagarjuna’s is one way of stating things. I think you’re falling into the error that many fall into when approaching Indian philosophy – that the philosophers are presenting arguments about what is “right” or “wrong”.

    The yogacarins present a way of seeing that is similar to what goran presents. Many have thought they are contradicting Nagarjuna, but if you look more closely, they’re not.

    Start with word definitions. The “external world” that Goran is talking about is not contained within the tetra lemma. it’s a means to seeing, not a logical argument (though it is perfectly logical within the context Goran is using it)

    • Neerav says:

      This is what I responded to:

      “There’s no sense in which anything can be dependently arisen – unless there’s an objective reality of time and space in which all of these causes and conditions can exist. There’s not.”

      Here, he is falling into the dualistic extreme of nihilism by denying the external world and for that matter, himself…….a DANGEROUS move, spiritually.

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