About Nondual Inquiry
The Spectator View
The conventional view, (often called the spectator view) says, “Of course there are physical objects! What a dumb thing to question!”
The spectator view is based on several interlocking parts:
- The part referring to you: according to the spectator view, you are a kind of spectator inside your body.
- The part referring to the objects: according to the spectator view, objects such as trees and cars are separate, independent chunks of material substance that reside mainly outside the scope of awareness, but which might come into the scope of awareness for brief periods of time.
- The part referring to the process: according to the spectator view, here’s how we become aware of objects. We all learn it in school. Namely, trees, cars and other objects are out there, and you are in here. These external objects initiate a chain of events. This causal chain, which includes light or sound waves bouncing off the objects, might intersect with your body’s senses. If so, this causal chain will send signals and information through your sensory and perceptual channels. The result will be your awareness of the outside object.
Questioning the Spectator View
Nondual inquiry examines each of these assumptions. Each assumption turns out to be unwarranted. In spite of this, the assumptions all contribute to our feeling cut-off, helpless and powerless. But do these assumptions warrant belief? For example, if I am a spectator, what is the evidence for this? Is the brain the spectator? What is it that knows and establishes this? Do I see observe the brain observing? Is there another brain observing the first brain (this would need to be repeated ad infinitum…) Or perhaps my spectator-self is not the brain, but a tiny point of sentience inside the body? Where would that be? Behind the forehead? Can pure sentience have a physical location? If objects Out There are unobserved, what is the evidence for this, other than observation itself?
But Isn’t the Spectator View True?
This is precisely what the inquiry is examining! Nondual inquiry isn’t for the faint of heart. It helps to have some degree of courage to put yourself wholly into it without holding back, and to follow the inquiry wherever it leads. Some confidence helps as well, in this David and Goliath situation where you challenge long-held and popular beliefs and models.
So what’s the alternative? Freedom!
The goal of this inquiry is not to come up with an alternate, more sensible model. Rather, the goal is to see that all models are limiting. Models and structures are useful in building skyscrapers and flying airplanes, but they are excess baggage when it comes to following your own experience to investigate the nature of things. Seeing through these beliefs frees you from them and their limitations.
And you won’t run into walls either! The belief that you are an internal spectator separated by a gap from the world is not necessary for life to be lived. The belief in physical objects is not what prevents you from getting hit by a car while crossing the street. In fact, the entirety of your experience becomes infused with an amazing smoothness. You will actually find it easier to keep the body safe and healthy. Life becomes light and free, an amazing dance, a spontaneous celebration.