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Always-Only-One: A Dialogue with the Essence of Nondual India Paperback – March 24, 2013
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In deep non-dream sleep, we are in this kind of state where there are no distinctions, e.g., between self and not-self, and yet we are still present. This is nonduality. The default state of waking life, on the other hand, is dualistic because thought is inherently divisive. However, with the realization of some fundamental facts, nondual awareness can arise and permeate daily life. Furthermore, with it comes a dissolution of self-centered concerns, a re-channelling of the energy previously required to maintain the ego into creative action, and the cessation of inner and outer conflict. This whole series of affairs -nonduality as it is known in modern Western spirituality- is the topic both of Wolfe's present and previous works.
Nonduality is difficult to communicate via language. For one, when reading spiritual texts, there is usually no easy way to identify whether any particular sentence is being spoken from the perspective of the dualistic relative self or the nondualistic Absolute Self; it may switch back and forth frequently. Wolfe notes for instance that in the Ashtavakra Gita, the two main characters use "me" or "I" but because they are both realized, this refers to the Absolute. Such clarifications shine a light onto the Gita for those who are unfamiliar with these pitfalls and want to read the original text without getting unnecessarily confused.
Second, language, being inherently dualistic, can never be sufficient to express nonduality anyway. If duality arises in the realm of thought (and hence, language), reality as experienced prior to thought should be "the truth of actuality" where "nothing exists as `objects'." Why, then, if this ultimate reality is formless is it often described as "one" (as in the title of the book)? Wolfe provides brief but lucid and potent clarifications here: This is "one, without a second." "Always Only One" is a short book (the main body is about 60 pages) focused mainly on the Gita. I cannot help but recommend "Living Nonduality," another book (indeed, a masterpiece) by Robert Wolfe, in which he demonstrates more of his special gift of talking about nonduality while avoiding much of the complications that arise through thought and language.
As Wolfe continues to talk about these and other intricacies of nonduality (e.g., the consequences of nondual awareness), he gives specific references to the Gita, down to which chapter and verse one can find the relevant material, and provides exemplary quotes, relying on Nityaswarupananda's translation.
In later sections of the book, Wolfe touches upon a couple of ancient texts that are similar to the Gita -the Mandukya Upanishad and the Diamond Sutra. Then, arriving at the present era, he introduces Ramana Maharshi, a 20th century Indian sage. The final section is compiled from "Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi." The quotes are well-chosen and they read "as if Ramana were... Ashtavakra replying to Janaka's initial question," with one brief clarification inserted by Wolfe. Upon finishing the book, it is easy (and reassuring) to notice the consistent nature of nondual teachings across these ancient and modern sources. The Self-realized speak the same clear (notwithstanding the potential for confusion inevitably introduced by the dualistic nature of language), coherent, direct, and simple language. Robert Wolfe himself bears the same torch of nonduality and masterfully continues this tradition in the Western world today. "Always Only One" reads wonderfully as a serious yet brief and uncomplicated introduction to nonduality and to the command Wolfe has over the topic as an author himself. For the reader who is more familiar with nonduality, the book is just as valuable as an elegantly written affirmation of the fact that "There is always only one, and that is the Self."