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Non-Dual Love

heart writing

by Sundari

Non-Dual Love Is Who You Are

“Non-dual love” as it relates to relationships is not a common term in the spiritual world. We have been asked if we “invented” it, and in a way we did. I had never heard it used before, nor had James. We coined the term when we came together in love in 2011, in what we called “rising in love.” We did not see our coming together as “falling in love,” which is the common term used to express relationship love, because anything you fall into you will fall out of. There is no falling out of non-dual love, because it is who you are, whether you are in a relationship or not.

Non-dual love is not a modern concept, although most people are undoubtedly unfamiliar with it. The term is a translation of a Sanskrit word, parabhakti. In fact, if everything is awareness as Vedanta proclaims, everything is non-dual love – love that never involves another. It is the self, loving itself, in all forms. When two free people come together in a relationship, whether it is sexual or familial, the love will automatically be non-dual because they will see themselves as non-different from each other. The relationship is in you – love/awareness – you are not in it. It chooses you, you don’t choose it.

Non-dual love is the pinnacle of the expression of love for an individual, a jiva. It is little understood and sought by everyone knowingly or unknowingly because the self knows itself as non-dual love. Ignorance of who we are turns the mind outwards towards objects in a futile attempt to gain love, instead of inwards towards the self. As much as we all want love, to love from a non-dual perspective does not come easy, as ignorance is hardwired. It is not something we can wish into existence. To love freely, we must be free. You cannot jump into a non-dual relationship or “make it happen.” There is no magic bullet or mantra to chant. It comes as a gift of grace when you get to a certain stage of growth.

We Don’t Seek Relationships for Freedom

The impediments to non-dual love, especially in sexual relationships, are many – not the least of which is the belief that if I know I am the self, I am “beyond” desire and love relationships. It is unavoidably true that if I am seeking moksa, which is liberation from dependence on objects for happiness, I will not seek a relationship, because we don’t seek relationships for freedom. We seek them for attachment to another. But knowing that I am ever-free consciousness does not imply that there is anything spiritually wrong with the human part of me that has various needs. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, appearing in the world as a human being and speaking as the self, says, “I am the desire that is not opposed to dharma.” This is a very interesting statement because it says that desire operating in the dharma field that respects and is not in conflict with the psychological and moral laws operating in the field is awareness. But I, ever-free awareness, am free of desire. 

Freedom and Desire Are Not Incompatible

The implication of this statement is not always appreciated by spiritual and worldly types, who deny love and are often afraid of human love for any number of reasons. It simply means that there is nothing inherently wrong with desire. You get to be the person you are, feel what you feel, do what you do and think what you think, as long as you follow dharma – meaning you are mindful of the non-dual basis of life’s rules and laws. In terms of human love, it means that if I play by the rules of love, I am quite within my rights to love another human being as a human being, as a manifestation of the divine or for any other reason, whether I am “enlightened” or not.

The Desire That Is Opposed to Dharma Is Also Awareness

But then desire that is opposed to dharma is also awareness. It could only be that way if reality is non-dual, which it is. Although we can say that dharma is another word that points to the self, there is no dharma for the self, because the self is not in the world. The world and its laws are in awareness. For the world, or apparent reality, to function, both dharma and adharma must be possible. Dharma only applies to the person living in the world, never to the self. The question is always, what are my main motivations and which serve my highest purpose? If I want peace of mind and a happy life, I need to align my desires with what produces peace of mind and freedom from limitation, therefore my desires must be dharmic. If non-dual love is my goal, I need to resolve what stands in the way of expressing unconditional love, my true nature. What stand in the way are adharmic desires, beliefs and actions when I do not follow my nature or break life’s fundamental laws. In other words, ignorance of my true nature stands in the way – the belief that I am incomplete or lacking in some way and must find the right object to make me whole and complete. When I know what love is, I automatically and unfailingly follow dharma. In the spiritual game, it is often considered a great prize to find a “spiritual mate,” someone who is somehow better than us, on whom we project our idea of perfection. The fallacy of the spiritual seduction is as old as time and a big obstacle to both freedom and non-dual relationships. 

When Non-Dual Love Is Known, We Don’t Seek It

Anyone who says he or she is not interested in love is a liar. Love is the very essence of life and the nature of every being. We pursue it in innumerable ways because the desire to know love is what drives us, whether it is known that the quest for love is behind everything we do or not. When you know what love is, you no longer pursue it. You see it, you enjoy it, you are it. You experience it in everyone and in everything, and you graciously give and receive it. Experiencing non-dual love is always a rediscovery because love is the essence of every experience, and those moments of joy and peace that come frequently – or infrequently, as the case may be – are always moments of self-love.

Where to Begin?

New to Vedanta?
Resources for those who may be encountering Vedanta for the first time and might be wondering what it’s all about.

Foundation Course
The Vedanta Foundation Course will give you— in plain and modern English— everything you need to become familiar with Vedanta, and prepare you to study the scriptures in depth.

Advanced Course
Once you have developed a firm understanding of Vedanta by completing the Beginners Course, you are ready to undertake a systematic study of the Vedantic scriptures themselves.

Take a one hour video pilgrimage around Arunachala as James unfolds the meaning of this sacred symbol of the Self.