“A view that honors and appreciates the full range of human experience, then, must include three dimensions. First of all, there is samsara, the pre-human realm of conditioned existence, characterized by survival concerns and dualistic alienation. The dualism of the egoic mind sets up a strict divide between self and other, resulting in endless suffering and conflict. Then there is nirvana, trans-human liberation, characterized by a pure, open field of awareness that is not divided into subject and object. This awareness of nonduality is unconditioned, for it is not produced by any cause or condition. It does not arise and cease; it is always there, ready to reveal itself to the mind that knows how to tune into it. Nondual awareness is the doorway to liberation by revealing absolute truth: There is no separate self and no separate other, and thus dualistic alienation and conflict cease.

Thirdly, there is the human domain proper, which comes to full measure through bringing the complete openness of supra-personal awareness into personal responsiveness and vital engagement with the situations and people we encounter. On the human plane, our lives evolve and unfold through the relative play of duality — otherwise known as relationship. Indeed the central, defining feature of the human realm is relationship— the network of interactions with others that supports our life from the cradle to the grave.

Relationship only happens when there are two— who engage in a dance that continually moves back and forth between twoness and oneness. In this way, the human realm serves as a bridge linking samsara— the experience of separateness— and nirvana— non separateness. This is why being human is a living paradox, and also a field in which a vast range of feeling— from unbearable sorrow to unthinkable joy— is possible.

Because human existence is a bridge spanning two worlds— absolute and relative, freedom and limitation, indestructibility and vulnerability — it requires a capacity for double vision, where we recognize how opposite truths can both be true at the same time. In the light of absolute truth, the play of duality is illusory because self and other are not truly separate. Even though two waves appear to be separate and distinct, they are but transient pulses of one and the same ocean. This is transcendent truth. Yet from the relative perspective, each wave is distinct, with its own unique characteristics. This is immanent truth. It is the perspective of a surfer out on the waves who must attend and respond to the particular quality of each wave if he is to ride it skilfully and not endanger his life.”

From: Double Vision: Duality and Non-Duality in Human Experience, John Welwood (2003).

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