Seeking the best books on non-duality?
Well, your search is over.
In this article, we look at works examining the illusion of separateness that pervades much of modern thinking.
If you want to grow your spiritual practice, these books are a great starting point, so let’s dive in.
But first, what is non-duality?
What is non-duality?
Non-duality means “non-separation” or “not two”. It’s derived from Advaita Vedanta, a school of Hinduism.
However, it’s also a philosophy which is contained within many other teachings and beliefs, such as Dzogchen Buddhism.
Popularised in the West by Douglas Harding and The Headless Way, non-duality allows us to perceive reality in a more profound way.
As humans, we’re used to language and culture. By its nature, language emphasises contrast in the world around us.
We have left, right, up, down, above, below. All of these imaginary boundaries help to distinguish between concepts that we use to navigate society.
As a natural byproduct of the labels we apply to our outer world, we also demarcate our inner world, creating a separate self or ego within our head, containing our identity and personality.
However, non-duality focuses on the fact that these labels are simply creations of the mind.
From an experiential standpoint, there’s no difference between that which we consider separate.
As a matter of experience, all we have is consciousness, which in non-duality, is sometimes referred to the source, or the infinite, or God.
Consciousness is that which is aware of experience. Consciousness is that which knows what it is like to feel something, like happiness or the taste of chocolate.
Everything which we consider to be separate, like the contents of our visual field, from this perspective, is an extension of consciousness.
From such a realisation, there’s no gap between the seer and the seen, let alone a separate self in the head controlling events.
All of these feelings are just more mind-made events.
Non-duality is the process by which consciousness becomes aware of itself. It’s the practice of turning our attention back in on itself.
Here’s a quick video as a visual explainer:
Effects of the practice
The realisation that all we have is consciousness and it’s contents often results in the dissolution of the self to leave an integrated whole.
Rather than a separate ego housed in our heads calling the shots, this form of practice reveals that the ego is just another product of consciousness.
If you’ve ever heard spiritual gurus saying that everything is one, you’ll no doubt already have experienced the philosophy.
Indeed, when enlightened masters teach, they often refer to the realisation that we’re not separate from the world at all.
Much like the waves aren’t separate from the ocean, everything we experience or perceive is part of consciousness.
This is important to realise because as humans, it’s our feelings of separateness that cause a host of issues.
Considering yourself an autonomous entity instantly creates an feeling of opposition to other people and the world at large.
As soon as we create a unique identity through the feeling of “I” and the ego, anything that threatens our individuality must be defended at all costs.
Not only does this lead to petty arguments, but on a societal level, an array of political schisms we see forming every day.
Conversely, when we realise the interconnectedness of existence and see through arbitrary mind-made categories, it becomes impossible to defend our self -created identity.
While techniques like mindfulness reveal that, just like the transient thoughts and feelings we experience aren’t real, non-dual practices allow us to perceive more closely the subject or source of attention, i.e consciousness itself.
Many people have a hard time wrapping their head around this esoteric concept, as it’s really something to be experienced rather than deduced logically.
Any attempt to think about the process simply strengthens the ego.
Often it’s a slippery problem and one that, rather than forceful effort, requires gentle surrender and turning attention back in on itself.
We become more understanding and compassionate towards others, and less reactive to events in the real world.
After all, if everything is one, there’s nothing personal and stake and therefore no longer anything to defend.
In addition, we discover the spaciousness of consciousness, a realisation that can bring a renewed level of peace and joy to daily life, not as an aim in itself, but as a natural byproduct of this deeper realisation.
Meditation is a broad term and the various traditions and practices can become confusing when starting out.
However. non-dual techniques can be incorporated alongside other types of meditation, allowing us to explore the spiritual path more effectively.
Hopefully, these books provide a unique insight into this ultimate realisation.
Best books on non-duality
Be As You Are (Sri Ramana Maharshi)
One of the Godfathers of spirituality whose teachings have penetrated the West, Sri Ramana Maharshi was famed as an Indian mystic and enlightened being. This is a collection of teachings providing clear instruction into the nature of self-enquiry. The book requires a basic understanding of the ego and “I” and it’s a title that has to be approached methodically. However, serious spiritual practitioners will likely create space for this on the bookshelf and dip into it repeatedly.
I Am That (Sri Nisargadatta)
One of the classics on non-duality that many modern authors reference. A simple man, having been a shopkeeper in Bombay, Nisargadatta was renowned for his teachings as one of the great Indian sages and gathered a loyal cadre of international devotees. The book follows a question and answer format that can help some readers foster a feeling of individual instruction from the master himself. Whilst many other books on the subject can appear academic, this comes off as simple and direct.
The Transparency of Things (Rupert Spira)
Perhaps one of the best books on non-duality from a vocal advocate of the philosophy. A very simple and yet profound piece of work, which may be better suited to those possessing a basic understanding of the concept. It’s advisable to start with Spira’s videos and then consult the book for more if needed. The topic is covered from various angles, which some readers may find repetitive.
Living Nonduality (Robert Wolfe)
Wolfe talks about non-duality from his own personal experience of awakening to what is. It’s extremely well-written with clear pointing, comprising a collection of essays and insights into the nature of Advaita. The best thing? Wolfe provides a free pdf version of the book on his website.
These are the best books on non-duality to deepen your spiritual practice and understanding of existence as you know it. If you have any other good resources, please share them on my contact page. Otherwise, you can browse a selection of other top titles by category here.