What Is Non-Duality?

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advaita (non-dualism)

Non-Duality Definition

Non-duality, often referred to as “advaita” in Sanskrit, is a philosophical concept that emphasizes the fundamental oneness and interconnectedness of all existence.

It challenges the conventional perception of separation and duality, asserting that beneath the surface differences, everything is interconnected and arises from a singular source.

Non-duality invites individuals to transcend the limitations of dualistic thinking and experience a deeper awareness of the unity that underlies all aspects of reality.

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Non-Duality Deep Dive

The core principles of non-duality revolve around the idea of fundamental unity and interconnectedness. These principles challenge the dualistic perception of reality and emphasize a deeper understanding of the oneness that underlies existence:

Unity of All Existence

Non-duality asserts that all phenomena, beings, and elements in the universe are interconnected and originate from a singular source. It recognizes that the perceived boundaries and separations are illusory, and everything is an expression of the same underlying reality.

Beyond Dualistic Thinking

Non-duality transcends binary thinking that categorizes the world into opposites. It encourages a shift from perceiving the world in terms of good and bad, right and wrong, to recognizing the underlying unity that encompasses all polarities.

Transcending the Ego

The concept challenges the ego’s perception of individuality and separateness. It invites individuals to move beyond the confines of the egoic self and recognize their interconnectedness with all beings and aspects of existence.

a man inflating a green balloon that says ego

Direct Experience

Non-duality is not merely a theoretical concept but an experiential realization. It is often attained through practices like meditation, self-inquiry, and contemplation, where individuals directly glimpse the unity beyond conceptual understanding.

Illusion of Duality

Non-duality introduces the notion that the perceived diversity and separateness of the world are products of an illusory force often referred to as “maya.” This illusion creates the appearance of division and obscures the underlying unity.

Transcendent Awareness

Non-duality emphasizes a state of awareness that transcends subject-object duality. It’s a form of consciousness that goes beyond conventional perception and experiences the interconnectedness of all phenomena.


The practice of non-duality often leads to self-realization, where individuals recognize their true nature beyond the egoic identity. This realization involves understanding that the individual self (Atman) is ultimately identical to the universal reality (Brahman).

Interplay of Unity and Diversity

Non-duality acknowledges the dance between unity and diversity. While recognizing the underlying oneness, it celebrates the diverse expressions and manifestations that arise from this unity.

Harmony with Nature

Non-duality fosters an awareness of the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world. It encourages a sense of reverence and respect for all life forms and ecosystems.

trees and a blue sky

Beyond Language and Concepts

The teachings of non-duality often point to the limitations of language and concepts in describing the ultimate reality. They emphasize the ineffable nature of this reality that transcends intellectual understanding.

Advaita Vedanta and Non-Duality

Advaita Vedanta is a philosophical and spiritual school of thought originating from Hinduism. It centers on the principle of non-duality, or “advaita” in Sanskrit. This concept emphasizes unity and oneness, positing that the ultimate reality is indivisible and without distinction.

Adi Shankaracharya, an influential philosopher of the 8th century CE, is associated with Advaita Vedanta. He drew from the Upanishads, ancient texts that explore fundamental truths about reality and the self.

At its core, Advaita Vedanta teaches that everything in the manifested world is an expression of a singular ultimate reality known as Brahman. This ultimate reality is beyond duality, existing as the only truth, while the perception of separateness arises due to the concept of “maya,” an illusory force.

a non-duality psychedelic portal in a field with a man standing in front of it

One of the key notions within Advaita Vedanta is that the individual self (Atman) is not distinct from Brahman. This unity is often concealed by ignorance (avidya) and the illusion of separation. The goal is to realize this non-dual nature through self-inquiry, meditation, and a deep understanding of the teachings.

While Advaita Vedanta provides a specific framework for understanding non-duality, the concept of non-duality itself extends beyond this tradition. It’s a foundational idea in various spiritual paths, transcending dualistic perceptions and emphasizing the interconnectedness of all existence. This understanding carries profound implications for personal growth, philosophy, and spirituality across different cultures and traditions.

In summary, the understanding of non-duality challenges conventional perceptions of reality. It invites individuals to move beyond dualistic thinking, ego-bound identity, and separateness, and to experience a sense of unity and interconnectedness with all existence. It’s a realization that can lead to spiritual insight and transformation.

Non-Duality In Your Life

Integrating the understanding of non-duality into everyday life can transform your perspective and how you engage with the world. Below are 13 practical suggestions for yoga practitioners to embody and apply the concept of non-duality in their daily lives:

1. Awareness of Oneness

Develop a keen awareness that beneath surface appearances, everything is intricately connected. When you take a walk through the park, observe the trees, animals, and people around you.

Remind yourself that you’re part of the same cosmic tapestry, each thread interwoven with the others.

someone meditating in front of a lake at sunrise

2. Witnessing Thoughts

Practice being the observer of your thoughts rather than getting entangled in them. Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing through the sky of your mind.

By cultivating this detachment, you recognize that thoughts arise from the conditioned mind, but they don’t define the core of your being.

3. Non-Judgmental Perception

Approach situations and experiences without immediate judgment. When you encounter challenges or moments of joy, withhold the impulse to label them as good or bad. Instead, view them as integral parts of life’s intricate dance, contributing to your growth.

4. Empathy and Compassion

Embrace the interconnectedness of humanity by practicing empathy and compassion. As you interact with others, remind yourself that their experiences, emotions, and struggles resonate on a universal level.

Compassion naturally arises when you acknowledge the shared human journey.

5. Breaking Down Boundaries

Engage in conversations with the intention to find common ground rather than focusing on differences. Delve into discussions that highlight shared values and experiences, breaking down the mental barriers that perpetuate a sense of separateness.

6. Mindful Presence

Immerse yourself fully in the present moment, letting go of distractions. In this state of mindful presence, you align with the eternal now, where past, present, and future merge. This experience reflects the non-dual nature of reality, where time is transcended.

a woman with curly hair with her eyes closed and head tilted up

7. Service and Selflessness

Engage in acts of service without seeking personal gain or recognition. By acting selflessly, you acknowledge that your actions ripple through the interconnected web of life, affecting others and the world as a whole.

8. Gratitude for Diversity

Embrace the diversity that enriches existence. Instead of categorizing people based on differences, celebrate the various expressions of life. Each individual is a unique manifestation of the universal consciousness.

9. Letting Go of Attachments

Reflect on attachments that reinforce the illusion of separateness. Detach from clinging to material possessions, titles, and roles that define your identity. This liberation from attachments aligns with the non-dual truth.

10. Meditation and Contemplation

Engage in meditation practices that allow you to glimpse the non-dual state. During deep meditation, the boundaries between self and world may blur, offering insights into the interconnected nature of all things.

11. Loving-Kindness

Cultivate metta, or loving-kindness, through meditation. This practice helps you develop boundless love and goodwill toward all beings, expanding your heart’s capacity to connect deeply with others.

12. Mind-Body Unity

In your yoga practice, focus on the union of mind and body. Recognize that the integration of these aspects mirrors the non-dual nature of reality, where different elements harmonize to create a holistic experience.

13. Embrace Impermanence

Embrace the impermanent nature of all things. Reflect on the cycles of birth, growth, decay, and transformation. This awareness aligns with non-duality by acknowledging the interconnected rhythms of existence.

Through consistent practice of these approaches, you can gradually begin to internalize the understanding of non-duality. As you do so, you may start to experience a deeper sense of unity, interconnectedness, and inner peace that transcends the illusion of separation.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Amy is a yoga teacher and practitioner based in Brighton.

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