(Non)Dualism — Day 5

The following is from my daily newsletter, The Pocket Philosopher. Each week we explore a theme, looking at that theme through the lens of a different philosophy each day.


Welcome to Friday!

Today, we’re going to wrap up our week on Dualism with a short reflection from Zen Buddhism.

Specifically, we’ll be taking a look at the teachings of a man named Thich Naht Hanh. He is a Vietnamese Zen master and peace activist who founded an international center for peace in France, and worked on countless campaigns over the years including the American Civil Rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King.

Hanh tends to refer to dualism using the word discrimination. He’s referring to the action of ranking, comparing, and separating that our minds perform if we are not aware of our thoughts. It’s that natural tendency to judge and impose our value perspectives on people and things. To see things like this or that, me and you.

He says,

We have the complex of superiority as human beings and we think we have that kind of intelligence, that kind of consciousness that other living beings do not have. But I’m not very proud of that kind of mind that we are using in daily life: the mind of discrimination caught by many notions, the foundation of all kind of suffering. We discriminate against this and that, and that creates complexes of superiority, inferiority, and equality. 1

He then observes of a plant nearby,

This plant has intelligence, this plant has knowledge, this plant has a will to live. This plant knows how to fabricate flowers and fruit and how to continue to live in the best way it can. And it seems to me that this plant is creating less suffering than we human beings. I am not very proud of my mind of discrimination. Therefore I am free from the complex of ‘superiority of a human being’. I know that I can do better. 2

I find this fascinating.

To step back and see the world filled with all types of things of equal value. The plant is not less than me, and from this perspective is doing an immense amount of good without creating any suffering!

I also love seeing myself not as a special individual, but another emanating part of nature, specially configured for my time and suited for my work-but no better or worse than any other aspect of the universe. No more or less intelligent than other aspect.

I believe that this line of thought is truly the core of non-dual thinking.

It’s the ability to see the world as one big organism of which we are a part. It’s the ability to suspend our desire for judgement, value, and rank. It’s a capacity to see all things as inherently valuable and beautiful. It’s the talent of recognizing one’s own place in nature and living harmlessly and effortlessly like Hanh’s plant analogy.

And so I’ll leave you with this simple idea this morning. Together, let’s commit to practicing non-dual awareness, in which we accept things the way they are and embrace the present moment as a gift-not something we must impose our will upon. And most importantly let’s consider the future with expectation, not with control and anxiety.

I hope this find you well friends and you enjoyed surveying the global history of (non)dualism this week.

Until next time,





West Point Graduate. Former Army Officer. Conscientious Objector. Home for Regenerative Spirituality and The Inclusive Orthodoxy. New Book: repairinghope.com

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Matt Malcom

Matt Malcom

West Point Graduate. Former Army Officer. Conscientious Objector. Home for Regenerative Spirituality and The Inclusive Orthodoxy. New Book: repairinghope.com

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