oneness in duality

This text appears in Oneness in Duality, a book of poems by Erika Dias illustrated by Pierre Wittmann, published by Wisdom Gift Publications in 1993.


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566 Oneness in Duality

oneness in duality

Oneness in Duality on the Path of Painting

by Pierre Wittmann

What is duality? Literally duality is the coexistence of two things of different nature, but actually it is the process of differentiation. From the differentiation of two things, the ten thousand things are born, variety and diversity develop, and the universe expands, with its incalculable number of particles, atoms, molecules, cells, living beings, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, seas, continents, planets, stars, galaxies… all separate from each other, and separate from their creator, the mind that observes them. Separation creates duality of subject and object. From duality of subject and object comparison arises, with all pairs of opposites: big and small, near and far, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, pleasant and unpleasant… Pairs of opposites breed judgements, judgements produce concepts, and concepts make up the world. In the world, the relationships between subjects and objects create the feelings of likes and dislikes, and all kinds of emotions: attachment, hatred, pride, desire, fear, joy, love, compassion, equanimity… As even the purest of these emotions arise from duality and are impermanent, they cannot bring us complete freedom and fulfilment, and the world of duality is always beset with difficulties.

Now what is oneness? It is obviously the opposite of duality. Oneness is the situation in which there are not two things, but only one thing, there is no differentiation, but identification. In oneness there is no diversity, no separation, no subject and object, no comparisons, no pairs of opposites, no judgements, no concepts, no relationships, no feelings and no emotions. This situation seems very different from the world we see around us, and very unlikely to ever occur to us. If we want to understand how oneness can occur, we must first discover the primordial cause of duality, and if we can suppress this cause, oneness will remain. The primordial cause of duality is very simple, it is time. Time allows us to perceive different and separate things, and to compare them. Two different things must be separate, either in time or in space. If two things are separate in time, even if they happen at the same place, one is happening before the other, and we need to live in time, to wait, to perceive them both. If two things are separate in space, are located in two different places, we need time to go from one place to the other. Even if they are close to each other, our mind, which cannot perceive two different things at the same time, needs time to go from one thing to the other, or to go from itself, the subject, to the object.

What does it mean to suppress time? First, on the level of physics, it means that the whole process of the universe, – where everything, from particles to living beings and to galaxies, is impermanent and constantly moving –, will stop, and everything will become permanent and perfectly still. But, as the nature and localisation of things are conditioned by previous causes and by temporal interrelations, it would be impossible, without time, to know the actual nature and localisation of things, because the past information that should define them would not be available. But it does not mean, however, that things have disappeared and don't exist. To use a simile, the situation would look like the projection of all possible phenomena on the surface of a sphere. The surface of a sphere is a good representation of oneness, because, though it is finite, it has no beginning and end, and though it abides in space, none of its points can be differentiated from another. The projected phenomena would not manifest in perceptible forms, but would all be contained in the blank surface of the sphere. A bright clear light would radiate from the sphere, produced by the superposition of the light images of all the projected phenomena. If we take out the projected images of the infinite array of potential phenomena except one, this one will manifest in its precise perceptible form. The bright clear light of oneness, even if it seems empty of any sign or form, contains them all, it is the melting pot of all phenomena, and the womb of omniscience.

Now, on the human level, how can we approach the situation of oneness? Of course, with our physical body, we cannot live in a world without time, neither as a mere projection of light on a sphere. What we can do, however, is to live in the present moment, only in the present moment, in one present moment after another, with constant mindfulness of every successive flash of consciousness, without distraction. Distraction is jumping in the past – in memories –, or in the future – in imaginations, desires, fears, expectations, plans –, and then, comparing and judging the present on the base of the past or the future. These travels in time are the primordial causes for the arising of duality in the mind. The present moment is oneness, it is permanent, eternal, and completely still, and it contains infinite potentialities. In oneness, we are never separate from the present moment, we are the present moment, we are infinite potentialities, we are omniscience, and we radiate love and peace. But as soon as distraction arises, we fall again in time and in duality, and lose sight of the infinite potentialities of oneness. We fall again in ignorance, and forget that we are omniscient. Our love and peace dim, the stillness of eternity vanishes, and we are compelled to struggle again in the restlessness of the world. But hopefully, the experience of oneness will not forget us…

The experience of oneness can manifest at different levels. The pure experience of the blank clear light only happens in meditative states, it is not perceptible by our physical senses, but only by the mind. As it is formless, it cannot be represented by a painting, as it is non-conceptual, it cannot be expressed by language. At the level of our physical senses functioning in the world, we cannot completely suppress time, and even the present moment, the shortest flashes of sense consciousness that we can perceive, have a duration in time, and the appearance of oneness is no more a blank clear light, because colors and forms have time to arise in these very short moments. Nevertheless the duration of one moment of consciousness is too short for the formation of precise figurative concepts. The colors and forms that arise are what the artist sees, when his vision transcends time and the duality of the figurative perception of the world. These abstract patterns may seem random and chaotic, but they may well be the web of primordial reality arising from the clear light of oneness. In his timeless play with the infinite potentialities of colors and forms, even in a world of duality, the artist can always pick the bloom of oneness!