Advaita (a+dvaita = non-duality) simply means that the Source, by whatever name known - Primal Energy, Consciousness, Awareness, Plenitude, God - is Unicity, Oneness, Non-duality. The manifestation that arises or emerges from the Source is based on duality, the inevitable existence of interconnected opposites: male and female, beauty and ugliness, good and evil. At any moment there are bound to be interconnected opposites. The sage accepts the duality that is the basis of life and is anchored in peace and tranquillity while facing the pleasures and pains of life exactly like the ordinary person. The ordinary person does not accept the duality, the existence of interconnected opposites at any moment of life, chooses between them and is unhappy. The sage accepts the 'duality' of life; the ordinary person chooses between the interconnected opposites, and lives in the unhappiness of 'dualism'.
The man of understanding certainly sees preferences being made in daily living between the polaric opposites, but is totally aware of the fact that the preferences happen according to the individual programming in each case, and are not made by any individual person doing the preference. The man of understanding is, therefore, always in tune with the Source. When the final flash of total understanding happens, it is not at all unlikely for the individual to realize the unbroken wholeness of the universe and to clearly see the whole range of polaric opposites as a great illusion or a play of a feigned quarrel between lovers. The result can be an uncontrollable fit of huge laughter or intense weeping.
If only one would realize it, one's daily living is never more than a continuous choosing, comparing and judging, blaming and praising - hardly ever mere witnessing and accepting. How can there ever be peace and harmony in our daily living?...
In day-to-day living, one faces problems that have an astonishing range of apparent reasons and possible consequences. The interesting question, therefore, is whether there is a basic common cause that could be isolated and dealt with. Indeed, the basic cause of human conflict and unhappiness is 'dualism', as distinct from 'duality'. The core of this difference needs to be thoroughly analyzed and clearly understood. In fact, such a clear understanding could itself be the solution of human unhappiness because it would relieve the human being from the double-bind in which he finds himself in his relentless pursuit of unalloyed happiness.
The fact of the matter is that 'duality' is polaric, interrelated and, therefore, not really separate, whereas 'dualism' is opposition, separation, and, therefore, conflict. Phenomenal manifestation is a process of objectivization that basically requires a dichotomy into two elements: a subject that perceives and an object that is perceived. This is the process that is known as 'duality': all phenomena that are sensorially perceivable are the correlation of a subject (object-cognizer) and the object (the object cognized). This process of duality makes it evidently clear that without such a process there cannot exist any phenomena, and that neither of the two phenomenal objects (neither the cognizer subject nor the cognized object) has any independent existence of its own: the existence of one depends on the existence of the other.
When the basis of duality is clearly apperceived, there is no question of either any samsara (phenomenal day-to-day living) or any bondage for any conceptual individual for the simple reason that the 'individual' concerned is merely the psychosomatic apparatus, the instrument through which the process of perceiving and cognizing takes place. Our unhappiness, our conflict, our bondage arises as the effect of the identification of What-We-Are (Consciousness) with the object-cognizer element in the dichotomy of the whole-mind (Consciousness) into subject and object in the process of duality.
This identification or entitification as a separate independent entity (as the pseudo-subject) is the 'dualism' - the maya - which results as the practical application in day-to-day living of the original principle of duality, that is polaric, interrelated and, therefore, not separate. It is this illusory entitification that causes all the conflict, all the suffering, all the unhappiness that is collectively termed 'bondage'. The instantaneous apperception of this very fact of the illusoriness of the pseudo-subject as an independent doer-entity means the freedom from the bondage.
Excerpted from 'Advaita: The Teaching' - Chapter 6 of Peace & Harmony in Daily Living by Ramesh Balsekar ( Yogi Impressions)