To the illusion of separation, to the “I,” the world of duality is assumed to be all there is. In a dualistic reality of right/wrong, good/bad, suffering/liberation, I must strive to be the right, good, liberated person. Anyone who is paying attention knows the futility of engaging in this struggle.
Two concepts that students of Buddhism learn early on are that desire/wanting is to be overcome and non-attachment is what we’re working toward. We learn this, accept it, know it, and believe it—which is part of the problem. Dualism raises its head in the world of spirituality when we try to overcome attachment and desire while amassing the right information and beliefs. (I am showing great restraint here because pretty much every word I’m writing “should” be in quotation marks.)
The difficulty is that “overcoming” and “amassing” require an “I” to do them. The “I” must divide life up into thises and thats in order to determine what is a good thing and what is a bad thing, and the whole world of suffering is created and the illusion of a self separate from life is maintained.
There is nothing to overcome and nothing to amass, nothing to believe and nothing to know, nothing to resist or avoid. And, most important of all, there is no one to do any of that. (If you heard a voice in you head say something along the lines of, “Oh, yeah, I know that,” that’s the “I” I’m talking about!)
Life is quite relaxing when we stay with attention/awareness, here/now, and let life do its part—everything else! But when egocentric karmic conditioning gets hold of the teachings, the dharma, it can try to turn them against us, causing not only suffering but much confusion.