There 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.
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.