Is Non-Duality simply a belief?
Only if we choose to believe it is without verifying it for ourself. Everything that non-duality teaches can be verified directly through contemplation. No external source is needed to reach this conclusion, although non-duality teachers can prove helpful in clarifying certain points.
Many people appear to be locked into the '5 sense reality' and all that this implies. Whilst they may believe that they are 'free' to make their own choices and decisions, these are often based on the level of programmed perception to which they are aligned and they have little or no knowledge of anything that lies beyond their experience.
The essence of Non-Duality is the understanding that experience is not divided into a perceiving subject - an entity known as ‘I’, and a perceived object, world or other. The apparent separate entity and the apparent separate, independent world or other are understood to be concepts that are superimposed onto the reality of experience.
If we seek this reality, for the essential ingredient in every experience of the mind, body and world, we find consciousness or awareness - a knowing presence that we intimately and directly know to be our own being, and that is experienced simply as ‘I am’. This non-conceptual or experiential reality or ‘knowingness’, although always present and embedded in all experience, is veiled in most cases by the mind and in particular by beliefs.
We are taught that consciousness arises out of matter and is based within the brain or body, but this is a fundamental error. Rather, it is that the mind arises within consciousness, as does everything that is experienced or known.
The usual argument against non-duality is that we appear to experience objects, the world or other ‘outside’ of ourselves, as though being separate and apart from us. In addition, all ‘matter’ appears to exist in three-dimensional space and time, giving rise to the illusions of spaciousness/distance and also of past, present and future. Although this is a common experience, it is also an illusion created by the mind to facilitate, amongst other things, a world of apparent cause and effect with the consequences thereof.
Knowledge of The Direct Path (which isn’t really a ‘path’ as such) reveals that consciousness is both the witness and the substance of all experience and ‘reality’ and taking one’s stance by being rooted in this understanding is not something to be ‘attained’ or a goal towards which one aspires; rather, it is a state that emerges, sometimes spontaneously, from understanding. Self-Realisation on the other hand, is a process towards which one moves.
As a simple guide, it could be said that:
Sensations can only be known by the body
The body can only be known by the mind
The mind can only be known by consciousness
Consciousness can only be known by awareness
Awareness can only be known by itself.
Abiding in the ever-present awareness of being, reveals a deep inner peace and stillness that is forever unsullied by ‘events’ (there are no actual ‘events’) and is not arrived at through any intellectual process or by appearing to make ‘progress’ through ‘linear time and space’ but is available to all as the ever-present nature of being residing in the placeless-place – distant and yet close, detached and yet totally intimate, passive and yet vital, nowhere and yet everywhere.