“Dualism versus Non-Dualism”

by Kelvin Chin
Life After Life Expert & Meditation Teacher

Why do spiritual teachers preach non-dualism? Why do they continually seek out and need to justify theories of "oneness" with — the universe, God, the absolute, or other ideas? Why do they warn us to not be "confused" by dualism? Why do they fear dualism? 

I think dualism only confuses us because we don't have a full enough experience of our own minds. 

People immediately jump to the conclusion that it must be "something other than myself" or to "divine beings" when they can't explain their experiences. But as we grow in our comfort and familiarity with our own minds, and how expansive it is and how diverse its experiences can be, we realize that duality is not a bad thing. That we do exist separate and distinct from others and that does not dilute or negate our interconnectedness with each other. 

I would argue that it reinforces it. 

Because I always say, "As compared to what?" And if we truly see and appreciate those differences, then we can appreciate the connection that much more. 

And connection does not mean oneness.

Seeing similarities and feeling familiarities is not "sameness," which is what oneness implies. It is a conflation and confusion of terms when people describe their feeling of interconnection as "oneness."

I think that desire to describe it as oneness comes from at least a couple of different sources.

I think it comes from a loneliness that people often feel within themselves. And so that "separateness" which is inherent in living life as a unique mind or soul, as each of us is, feels like a burden when we are less connected within ourselves, and therefore we feel less confident, and less secure and centered inside. So, the default is to look outside of ourselves and look for this feeling of oneness with others because we don't feel a oneness within ourselves.

This is a natural phenomenon, a natural reaction. We should not beat ourselves up about it. 

But it is important for us to recognize it when it happens, and why it happens. It is important because I think it ultimately leads to our own suffering which is not the objective of life — the pursuit of happiness. Because when we don't experience that oneness, we are disappointed because our expectation is not met, and it causes us to suffer. Unnecessarily.

The other source of this conflation and confusion is more institutional. It comes from many many thousands of years of teachings from spiritual teachers who have thought until recently that the goal of human life was to "merge with the oneness” — in all its various forms, depending on the spiritual tradition. This has given rise to all sorts of negative side effects. 

For example, the denigration of living in physical form, the thinking that the body is lesser than the soul and therefore unimportant, the view that life on Earth is not really important and that the ‘afterlife’ is more important — Heaven, Nirvana, Enlightenment, or pick some other nomenclature from the many dozens of cultures or spiritual paths.

But, if the spiritual teacher is being candid — and many are increasingly choosing to be more transparent — they will tell you that there is no "merging with the oneness," no dropping of their individuality that any of them has experienced after dying. Even in their self described "highly evolved" states of consciousness. Not so far anyway.

So the thinking has begun to change.

The thinking is that the mind is in fact eternal and it eternally continues its individuality, its own self-awareness in its own way. And that Free Will continues to operate unabated. That retaining our individuality is not only a gift, a good thing — since we can exercise our Free Will and make choices to experience life in the myriad of ways that it offers — but also because it is reality. And it is reality until experience tells us otherwise.

This is the new paradigm.

Dualism is not a bad thing. Dualism is reality. 

The non-dualistic thinking was a theory that was experimented with, and it was decided to be discarded as a theory because the negative side effects of that theory were deemed to be too great, and after closer analysis of the theory, it was deemed to be inaccurate.

Said another way, it was decided that promoting ‘escapism’ — escaping from physical reality and all that implies — which is what non-dualistic theories promote — was not promoting the truth, nor was it promoting what is best for humanity. 

It promotes not living in the present, not living life fully in the now. And hoping for something in the future that is complete and fulfilling — something that never happens.

It never happens because our ‘imagination horizon’ is always just that — a horizon. It is always just beyond our thinking, our imagination. And since there is always something ‘just beyond,’ by definition we never reach it. So, by inculcating this notion of "oneness," this supposed non-dualistic reality, that exists ‘just beyond our imagination horizon,’ we have inadvertently created a cycle of suffering that lasts for eternity. 

Not very appealing, right?

Instead, what is in the best interests of all minds is to promote the understanding of their independence and their interdependence. So that minds are encouraged to make their choices living fully in the continual present, and, at the same time, reminded to appreciate their connectedness — without confusing that with sameness or oneness.

To promote being fully engaged in one's life in the moment. Not looking for a way out. Not looking to escape to some "higher plane of existence" or to anywhere else. 

Instead, to actually walk the talk, and live life and enjoy it fully now

Wherever we may be.


Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within Meditation and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.TurningWithin.org.