Holistic nonduality is a life-affirming, full spectrum understanding of Oneness, awakening and enlightenment. It means awakening to life, through life, rather than from life. It does not transcend the world, rather it transcends the division within us and this is what the adage to be in the world but not of it really means. This more balanced understanding of nonduality and awakening is an almost lost perennial wisdom. Thankfully, it is currently experiencing a spiritual renaissance as part of the shift in global consciousness that is happening right now.
Holistic nonduality is the recognition that nonduality is never separate from duality. Simply put, they are not two because nonduality devoid of duality is itself dualistic...right? In Tantra, holistically nondual love unites the physical and spiritual through a life-affirming understanding of what it is to be spiritual beings having human experiences. Being is not superior to living. Being is living minus the stories about life we mistake for life. This means we wake up to life and the world, not from them.
“Love says ‘I am everything.’
Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’
Between these two my life flows.”
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
In Zen calligraphy, holistic nonduality is alluded to by leaving the circular stroke that represents Oneness open; this points to the deeper understanding that non-duality is never a transcendental realm beyond the imperfect, dualistic world. Holistic nonduality is Oneness with room for separateness. It represents a paradigm shift towards a genuinely holistic understanding of enlightenment and of life itself.
“Oneness does not appear as anything, it is every that appears.”
– Jeff Foster
“Wake up to Oneness, but celebrate separateness.”
– Tim Freke
This approach may be new to those with a grounding in certain Eastern wisdom traditions, but it is actually the most ancient and perennial understanding of enlightenment. Traditionally, both approaches are called nonduality, but to prevent confusion I have coined the term holistic nonduality to distinguish them. So, it is not a New Age concept, it is just a more informative name for this perennial wisdom.
For some, the balanced approach of holistic nonduality feels right intuitively, but for others it seems counterintuitive to the absoluteness of nonduality without duality.... and that is okay. Although holistic nonduality is the more balanced, it is no higher because of this than absolute nonduality is higher because it is pure. The debate over whether nonduality is ultimately inclusive or exclusive is an ancient one and I have no interest in furthering such dualistic thinking since, a part from being deeply ironic, such opposing views of nonduality merely reinforce the division in the world rather than heal it.
The answer to difference is to respect it.
– John Hume
Therefore, I would like to expand the idea of holistic nonduality such that it accommodates both views of nonduality, since each serves as a counterbalance or devil’s advocate to the extremes of the other. The heart of the issue is polarity, not nonduality, and commonsense tells us that one-sidedness is never nondual.... whatever it means to you. Holistic nonduality has room for duality, absolute nonduality and holistic nonduality. And if you really get that, you’ll know why it could never be otherwise.
Holistic nonduality is currently undergoing a renaissance thanks to the pioneering work of people like Chogyam Trungpa, Osho, Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, Don Miguel Ruiz, Tim Freke, Scott Kiloby, Eric Gross, Jason Shulman and others.
Its re-emergence at this time is no accident as it is also a cornerstone of the dawning new world age since it allows us to be equally at home in both the physical and spiritual dimensions of existence. And as the momentous shift in global consciousness continues, this will allow humanity as a whole to evolve into homo-luminous, the prophesized next stage of humanity that will be the pinnacle of the new World Age.