Spiritual Awakening: Embracing the Paradoxes of Duality and Non-Duality

Consciousness is often described as the awareness or perception of something or someone, where a subject is aware of an object. However, in the state of non-dual consciousness, the duality of a subject perceiving an object is overcome. It is in this transcendent state that the true nature of compassion awakens.

“Consciousness is the ground and substrate of all reality,” as it moves through various states and manifestations. Thoughts and feelings dissolve into consciousness, allowing us to perceive the flow of the different states of consciousness. Life becomes an experiential journey through the transparent flow of conscious states and modes.

This profound vision of reality transforms our experience of life, liberating us from the confines of rigid beliefs that seek to define and limit our existence. By embracing the fluid nature of consciousness, we discover inner freedom and cultivate a mindful connection with life as it unfolds.

While some may experience enlightenment spontaneously, it is important to acknowledge that a certain amount of psychological development is often necessary for such realization to occur. Egoic consciousness must cultivate a capacity for integration and paradox before it can truly comprehend non-duality. We must learn to navigate and embrace the paradoxes of duality before we can transcend them.

In the enlightening texts of the Upanishads, written by rishis who possessed a profound understanding of non-dual consciousness, we find hymns that play with the inherent paradoxes from conceptual duality to states of non-duality. These sacred hymns serve as a playground for the mind, intuitively uniting dualistic concepts that are assumed to be in opposition. Through this integration, our consciousness evolves towards more unified and integrated states.

“The whole thought of the Upanishad teaches the reconciliation, by the perception of essential Unity, of the apparently incompatible opposites,” Sri Aurobindo eloquently expressed. These hymns reconcile opposing concepts such as God and the World, Renunciation and Enjoyment, Action and internal Freedom, the One and the Many, Being and its Becomings, the passive divine Impersonality and the active divine Personality, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, the Becoming and the Not-Becoming, Life on earth and beyond, and the supreme Immortality. In this way, the Upanishads guide us towards the integration of diverse aspects of consciousness and the transcendence of dualistic limitations.

Duality, defined as the opposition or contrast between two concepts or aspects, often creates beliefs that foster a sense of inherent conflict. However, in the sacred texts, dualistic concepts are unified through an intuitive and paradoxical understanding that transcends opposition. This paradoxical knowing expands our capacity to tolerate the inherent tensions in duality and encourages the integration of diverse states of consciousness. Through this integration, we unlock the potential for non-dual awareness.

One of the most significant oppositions in the human mind is that of ‘Self’ and ‘God’. We perceive ourselves as separate from God, viewing ourselves as the subject and God as the object of our devotion. However, the Isha Upanishad provides insights to help us understand the sacred nature of consciousness and dissolve this apparent duality.

In this ancient Sanskrit hymn, a small section from Mantra 1 of the Isha Upanishad stands out:

“Isha vāsyam idam sarvam.”

Here, ‘Isha’ is translated as ‘God’ or Supreme Consciousness, while ‘vāsyam’ conveys the ideas of ‘dwelling in,’ ‘covered by,’ ‘enveloping,’ or ‘inhabiting.’ ‘Idam sarvam’ refers to ‘all this’ or ‘the world.’

‘Isha’ derives from the root ‘is,’ which means ‘to rule or have power.’ As the supreme Consciousness, Isha represents the inner ruler or inner power of all life. The philosopher Adi Shankara elucidates this understanding, stating that Isha is the Paramesvara (Supreme Being) and the Paramatman (Primordial Consciousness) of all. Isha governs everything as the Atman (inner Consciousness) within all.

Shankara’s words point us towards the True Nature of the Self, beyond the limitations of egoic consciousness. It is a transcendental consciousness, where we experience the deepest, most sacred level of Being. In this experience, we unite with the God Consciousness, the Paramesvara or Supreme Consciousness that gives rise to all of Life.

Understanding this profound concept requires a capacity for paradox and prepares us for the realization of non-duality. Through meditation on the True Nature of the Self, we transcend duality and awaken to the lived experience of a shared identity with Supreme Consciousness. This unity with God Consciousness is the quintessential experience of mystics across cultures.

In conclusion, the path of compassion requires us to embrace the paradoxes of duality and non-duality. As we integrate diverse aspects of consciousness and transcend the limitations of dualistic thinking, we awaken to the profound interconnectedness of all beings and the sacred nature of consciousness. The Upanishads, with their poetic hymns and profound insights, serve as guides on this transformative journey, inviting us to awaken compassion and embody the union of duality and non-duality within our hearts and actions.


  • Eight Upanishads, with the Commentary of Sankaracarya, Vol. I by Swami Gambhirananda, 1957
  • Isha Upanishad, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, V. 17 (The Isha Upanishad was translated by Sri Aurobindo in “Arya” August 1914)
  • The Upanishads and Sri Sankara’s commentary by Sitarama Sastri, S, 1898


I invite you to share your comments and insights on the possibility of compassionate awakening. Your feedback is valuable and helps me gain a deeper understanding of your perspective. Together, we are embarking on a journey towards compassion. Please keep in mind that although I read and appreciate all comments, I am unable to respond individually. Nevertheless, your input plays a vital role in shaping the conversation and fostering a meaningful dialogue. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Let’s awaken into compassion together!

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