Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Awakening
Appropriating the Capacities of True Nature
Thinking that realization happens because “I am stepping aside” is the same thing as thinking that realization happens because “I am meditating.” Both positions take awakening and illumination to be a result of something we are doing. This becomes problematic because it prevents reality from revealing the fact that true nature is always the illuminator. It is the light that illuminates. It is the awareness that discerns. It is the knowledge that knows. The self or the individual or the practitioner doesn’t have these powers, doesn’t have these capacities. And when we use the ordinary style of language—where the subject doing the action is always an “I” or a self—we are appropriating the capacities of true nature. As I said, from the nonhierarchical view, we see that reality does appear this way sometimes, but if we assume that this is the only way that reality is, we limit our experience of reality and miss all kinds of freedom and fun.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 92
Awakening is the Self-Illumination of True Nature
When we see that awakening is the self-illumination of true nature, this doesn’t mean that we should stop practicing. It doesn’t mean that we get a free pass and can be lazy and simply rely on true nature to do the job. It means that in our practice, what we have faith in is not the mind or the heart or the body but true nature and its truth and love and power. This trust is similar to how the monotheistic traditions talk about faith in God, except here it is not faith in an other. True nature is not something outside of us or other than us. We completely trust the truth of true nature, and we have unwavering faith in its loving and illuminating and liberating power. The only thing left for us to do in the light of this kind of faith is to stay oriented toward true nature. We continue whatever practice we are doing without believing that we are making any illuminations happen, without believing that our practice or our capacities are what make awakening occur.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 93
Awakening of the Enlightenment Drive
As we recognize the truth of this drive, we learn to work on the instinctual drives and harmonize them into the enlightenment drive. True nature, our inherent beingness, has its own dynamic force. As the soul matures, this dynamic force appears as the drive within us to go toward greater actualization of that nature, to bring that nature forward and display it in full consciousness, in full awareness. True nature has inherent in it the drive to reveal itself in our experience. We call that dynamic force the enlightenment drive—the drive toward enlightenment, toward freedom, toward liberation, toward awakening, toward reality, toward truth, toward the genuineness and authenticity that is the truth of Being. This is a natural drive that we all have that can wake up at some point. For many people, it hasn’t awakened. Mostly, it functions unconsciously insofar as everybody wants to be happy and everybody wants to improve their life. When this drive toward freedom functions consciously, it appears as the recognition that what is at stake in our lives is the quality of our inner experience, the realization of our inherent beingness, the awakening of our spiritual nature. When we recognize this truth, the enlightenment drive has awakened. The true motivation for practice is the direct expression of this drive.
Runaway Realization, pg. 28
Awakening to the Realization of the Purity that is at the Heart of Reality
When I talk about awakening, I mean waking up: recognizing the purity that is at the heart of reality—the purity that is true nature. I call true nature the heart of reality because I want to leave it a little ambiguous. If I call it the source of reality or the nature of reality, I introduce inaccuracies. True nature is so mysterious that it is nothing in particular and, at the same time, it is the purity at the heart of reality that makes realization and spiritual experience possible. Spirit is so mysterious that we can’t even say that it exists or does not exist; and yet, it manifests itself as existence and nonexistence and all sorts of other possibilities too. Awakening to the realization of the purity that is at the heart of reality means recognizing that this is what we are, and when I say this is what we are, I don’t mean that the usual self is true nature. I mean that the usual self is set aside or dissolved and what remains is true nature that has self-recognition. Awakening can be more or less complete depending on our readiness, on the way that true nature is manifesting itself, and on the magic of the philosophers’ stone. We recognize that there are many kinds of realization because there are many ways that true nature manifests itself.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 130
Awakening to the Sense of Inferiority
The soul informed by the ego is asleep. This is why enlightenment is called awakening -- your soul wakes up to what is really here. Many people believe that this awakening happens automatically the moment you have an experience of Being. Some parts of your soul may wake up, but the soul is very deeply imprinted by the egoic sense of inferiority, and this depth of the soul does not awaken easily or rapidly. When your awakening does approach this level, the first thing you wake up to is this sense of inferiority. The most evident manifestation of the soul being asleep is one's unshakable conviction in conventional or consensus reality, and in the content of one's overall social conditioning. Regardless of what profound experiences of Being you may have had and how objectively you may have seen reality, when you get up off your meditation cushion or leave a meeting with your teacher, you act, feel, and behave as if reality is the world you learned from your mother. When you do this, you are expressing the asleepness of your soul.
Facets of Unity, pg. 222
Being the State of Awakeness
That is what Brilliancy does when it explodes in the brain. When it explodes in the perceptual centers, it is a sense of waking up in Essence. We’ve seen Brilliancy in many ways—as intelligence, as synthesis, as completeness, and so on—but now we are seeing it in terms of actual enlightenment. You are awake not only because you have an insight about something, but also by the fact of being the state of awakeness. You feel as if you were a light bulb. You are actually awake, and everything is awake. All your senses are bright and open and clear. You are an awakeness that is awake to everything. This awakeness is also you, your very beingness, the very substance of your soul.
Brilliancy, pg. 339
It is Preciousness that Wakes You Up
What do you become clear and awakened to? Your nature, to what is you. You become a light, but the light—by becoming light—becomes awakened to itself as a light. You become a light unto yourself. What you awaken to, which is a specific effect of the brilliant drink, is that your nature itself is pure preciousness itself, the utmost preciousness that there can be. So you realize that your nature is not only luminous and brilliant intelligence, but that it is precious. You see and appreciate now the sense of preciousness of Being, your essence, the substance of your consciousness. It is this preciousness that awakens, it is this preciousness that wakes you up, and it is this preciousness that you awake to. This is the preciousness of Being, of Essence, and the preciousness of what a human being is.
Brilliancy, pg. 339
Psychological and Phenomenological Awakening
This experience of awakening operates on two dimensions simultaneously. First is the psychological one. To be awake means you are literally awake—like having awakened from long sleep, or from illusions, from dreams, from all the sufferings of ignorance. This is the psychological awakening: Now you see the truth and wake up from the lies and the ignorance that you have been living in. It also means you wake up to your true nature: You now see what and who you are, instead of what you thought you were. The second sense of awakening is phenomenological. It is the sense of being awake, clear, and bright, as if you just woke up. Suddenly your head is above the clouds and you start seeing. So this awakening is not only a matter of awakening to some truth; it is a certain state of Being. It is being awake—you actually and literally experience yourself as a bright and brilliant presence. You have not only awakened, but you are the awakeness, you are the awake and brilliant presence.
Brilliancy, pg. 338
The Simple Recognition that You Can’t do Anything
If we read about the lives of enlightened masters or mystics, we see that often their enlightenment or realization happens when they hit bottom, when they get to the point of being completely helpless and hopeless and incapable. They throw in the towel and completely and truly give up. You can’t fake this; it really has to happen. You have to exhaust all your capacities and truly give up, not out of cynicism or despair but out of the simple recognition that you can’t do anything. When this truly happens, satori is possible and awakening can erupt as true nature manifests with its blazing light. True nature wakes up by revealing to itself the delusion that it is this little self that is trying to practice and get somewhere. And when it sees this, it does not put its energy into the functioning of that little self. It doesn’t put its intelligence and its will into the action of that little self, because that little self can impede the whole process of true nature awakening to itself. It’s not that the little self has the independent power to impede awakening, but because true nature still hasn’t woken up to itself, it is putting all its power into the activity of the little self. So when the little self feels that it can’t do anything, that it is poor in capacity, it is in fact recognizing the power of true nature.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 94
Waking Up to Pure Being
The manifestation of Pure Being is the experience of awakening. One merely wakes up and realizes one's pure nature. It is as if one is usually dreaming, but is taking the dream to be reality. Then he wakes up and spontaneously realizes the true state of affairs... There is no sense of discontinuity of experience in awakening. It is not that something that was not there is now manifest. It is more like becoming cognizant of the presence of something that has always been there, and known to be there, but ignored.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 446
When We Awaken to What We are We are Experiencing Realization
“Awakening,” as we have seen in our exploration of necessary and primary awakening, the expressions I’m using to convey some of the factors that are useful for essential activation, means recognizing true nature. In necessary awakening, we are awakening to true nature or spirit or truth in a way that shows how radically different it is from ordinary egoic experience. When we awaken to what we are, when we recognize what we are in its essential nature, in its true nature, we are experiencing realization. For me, realization equates with being: We are not only aware of true nature, but we are aware that true nature is what we are. Awakening is the simple awareness of true nature, without our necessarily experiencing true nature as what we are.