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Waking Up

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Waking Up

As Ignorance Dissolves, Insight and Self-Knowledge Arise

This brings us to the necessity of examining the primary root of the ego, of all ego life, which is ignorance. Just as we need to be aware of the specific manifestations that make it difficult for us to be real, to be ourselves, we need to see the contribution of our ignorance to this situation. When we discover how ignorance underlies all these inner activities and related attitudes, we realize that it is the fundamental impediment to being where we are. Without ignorance, it would be difficult to continue these activities. That’s because as ignorance dissolves, insight and self-knowledge arise. We need to be clear about how our ignorance operates so that as it transforms, we can understand how it becomes insight, clarity, knowledge, and the recognition of the truth of a situation. Enlightenment means waking up to reality, recognizing it as it really is and being there with it as it is. That is why enlightenment is usually understood as self-knowledge, self-realization, illumination, clarity. In prior chapters, we have worked with the fact that we have all kinds of beliefs, ideas, positions, identifications, and structures that we take ourselves to be. And we have seen that these are not who and what we are. We’ve also worked on our unconsciousness and its issues and how what arises in our experience is associated with these unconscious parts of ourselves, making it difficult to know the truth of our experience. So, although you may not have realized it, much of the inquiry we have already done has actually been inquiry into ignorance as it manifests in these different ways. Let’s look more deeply, then, into the situation of ignorance. 

Committed to Understanding Reality, Living Being is Waking up in Our Location

At the same time, it is a good idea to recognize the situation and do our utmost to understand and to harmonize with reality. We do this not as a moral thing but as a practical thing. This doesn’t mean that we have an independent existence, by virtue of which we can decide to do one thing or another. The situation simply is. When we are actually committed to understanding reality, it means that Living Being is waking up in our location. As we work on realizing the aspects, dimensions, and vehicles of this teaching—each of which brings precise and detailed understanding of experience, of mind, of heart, of reality and how things happen—we see that it is necessary to recognize the obstacles and obscurations that impede the way toward that realization. We usually refer to this as “working with issues.” These issues can be self-images and object relations; they can be ego structures, the soul child, or the animal soul. Issues include all kinds of structural and psychodynamic patterns, involving the various conflicts and conditioning of our personal history. These obstacles also include existential dilemmas that we experience during the transitions in our life, difficulties that we are not mature enough or evolved enough to deal with appropriately at the time. And eventually, cognitive and epistemological issues arise, such that we begin to see the ways in which reification and conceptualization affect our experience. 

Discovering that Knowingness is Not Final, that Consciousness is Not Final

So, little by little, the concepts go away. The concept of being the body, the concept of being an individual, the concept of past, present, and future, the concept of space—all dissolve. The last concept to go is existence, the notion that something is there. Awareness of existence is called consciousness. We are attached to the sense that there is beingness. And even when the sense of beingness goes, there can remain a sense of consciousness. If the sense of presence or existence goes, there will be just consciousness. Pure consciousness is awareness without content. In Zen, this is often called fundamental reality. There is no sense of existence, there is just awareness. There is knowingness, but not knowingness of anything in particular. Nothing can be said about it. But even this open knowingness has to go at some point. It doesn’t go and never come back, but we discover that knowingness is not final, that consciousness is not final. As the sense of knowingness and consciousness dissolves, the soul is in cessation; it has no sense of being or existence. We call this the Absolute. You realize your final nature is not that cosmic existence, but the source of cosmic existence. You discover that the nature of the human being you have taken yourself to be is ultimately the source of everything. This is the deepest mystery, unknowable by mind or by consciousness. You realize that the universe is simply a robe that you wear. When you take it off is when you go to sleep. The Absolute is like the sleep of the cosmic existence; the cosmic existence is like the waking up of the Absolute. The cosmic existence is the day; the Absolute, the night. 

Merely Waking Up

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. It is the only aspect of Being that is never lost, and when one experiences it, one realizes it was never lost, and cannot be lost. One merely wakes up to the fact that “Oh, that’s it.” There is no beginning of experience and no end of experiencing here. It is waking up to the fact that this is one’s nature, it always has been, and one has always known that, but did not pay it notice. As Pure Being, one realizes: 

“Nothing can exist without me, not just because I am the very nature of everything; for I am everything. There is no separation here between appearance and Essence of nature. I am both and beyond.

I am the nature of thought. The moment the mind turns towards me it disappears. It becomes me, and there is then only me, Pure Being, as I have always been. Mind disappears as mind and appears as Being.

There is no Essence and personality, no Being and ego, for me; for I am both. I am the nature and being of both. Only in me, Pure Being, does the differentiation between personality and Essence dissolve.

I am unknowable, in the sense that there is no differentiated quality to be discerned. I am merely being, without reflecting on Being.”  

On the Boundless Level, Essence, the Nature of the Soul, is Superseded by Being, the Nature of All Reality

Love, faith, and hope can develop and deepen because they are qualities of the transforming soul, and transformation is a dynamic process—not just an experience. Faith helps the soul to go deeper into experience, as the soul learns that it has a true, good, and intelligent nature or Essence, that its interiority is Essence. At the beginning of waking up, the soul can feel supported by the fact that there is true Essence within—that keeps you going. At deeper levels, as the soul develops and experiences deeper dimensions, especially the boundless dimensions of Being, we can no longer accurately speak of Essence as the soul’s inner nature. This is because, on the boundless level, we are experiencing the inner nature of everything, and all of reality is experienced as one thing. At this level, Essence, the nature of the soul, is superseded by Being, the nature of all of reality. Being is then experienced as the ground of the soul which makes it feel held and supported. This ground that gives rise to the soul is also seen as the ground of everything, the nature of everything. Faith, then, is the reflection of the certainty that there is a real ground for the soul to stand on and experience its reality and life. Our faith, of course, increases when we recognize Essence in its boundless dimensions, since we see that it is not just the nature of our soul, but the nature of everything, which enables us to have faith in all of nature, all of reality, all of existence. 

Facets of Unity, pg. 249

Our Ignorance Holds in Place the Limited View of What We Are and What Reality Is

In waking up to our true nature, we need to see through, work through, and become free from two kinds of ignorance about reality. Our ignorance holds in place the limited view of what we are and what reality is. Learned ignorance has to do with our previous experience, the accumulated knowledge and impressions and influences from past experiences. We can understand and work through learned ignorance, which includes the beliefs and ideas we have accumulated from having lived. Our past experiences influence us in all sorts of ways. Much of what people work on, in terms of the content of issues, conflicts, and obstacles, is the accumulated ideas, beliefs, and knowledge from our past. It is easy to think that our limitations are caused by difficult things that have happened to us in the past; but actually the simple fact that we have had past experience creates obstacles. The mind solidifies our experience into notions of what we are and what the world is in such a way that we see reality through the veil of the past. This veil is penetrated as we awaken to our true nature. The second kind of ignorance is called innate, or basic. This primordial ignorance is something we are born with, something inherent to the soul that isn’t mature. So, waking up is seeing through not only learned ignorance but also innate ignorance, the unclarity or the lack of understanding of what reality is. Innate ignorance has two sides: one to do with recognizing the ground of reality, the other with understanding the relationship of particulars to this ground. 

Perpetuating Further Lies

The maturation of the soul appears at some point as the stirring of the enlightenment drive. And we interpret this stirring of the enlightenment drive as the interest and love and desire that motivate us to engage the spiritual path. But it is actually true nature stirring within the consciousness of the soul to reveal itself, as if to say, “Hey, you, it’s me. Where are you looking? You are looking in the wrong place! Look here!” But because we don’t yet recognize this revelation, we feel that this interest and excitement, this love, this longing, this yearning, is ours. We feel all sorts of discontent and existential angst and suffering. We want God, we want enlightenment, we crave the truth and, basically, we are full of delusions. And the whole time, we believe we are waking up. We are waking up in a sense, but as we are waking up, we are also perpetuating further lies. Fundamentally, we are misinterpreting the situation. This delusion of being motivated to practice and to seek the truth is instigated by reality itself stirring within us. Although it is a better delusion, a lighter or less obstructive delusion than that of the conventional self, it is nonetheless a delusion—it is simply not true. If we have some contact with, some in-touchness with, some realization of true nature—of its immensity or spaciousness or vastness or luminosity or love—then when we live our realization, that naturally expresses itself as practicing, as the engagement with life from the perspective of reality. Realization expresses itself in life. I am not suggesting that there is no love and no compassion, or that love and compassion and service are not true. They are true, and they are not yours. You have not developed love and compassion and service; you are not their source.  

Psychological and Phenomenological Experiences of Awakening

This experience of awakening operates on two dimensions simultaneously: the psychological and the phenomenological. Psychologically, 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 particular 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. 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. 296

The Mystery of Reality has More Angles than We Can Imagine

So even though the experience of aspects and dimensions of reality is instrumental to waking up, even though we cannot bypass the journeys of ascent and descent with their different kinds of nonduality, there is still more to explore about reality, more to live and to find out. The mystery of reality has more angles than we can imagine. And we soon find that by looking at reality from these new angles, we can more easily and readily learn the various aspects of the teaching. So the view of totality makes more available and accessible to experience and to understanding the usual progression of the teaching, both of this particular path and also of many of the nondual approaches, whether gradual or sudden. 

The Primary Awakening is Usually an Awakening to the Fact that there is Something Beyond Our Individual Consciousness

The more we learn, the more maturation and the more freedom there is. Freedom is one of those things that is difficult to define, and there is no practice or method to achieve freedom. You cannot strategize it; you cannot plan for it. You cannot evoke freedom, because freedom is not a particular state of true nature. It’s not an aspect, dimension, or condition of realization. Freedom has to do with many things. It includes the realization of true nature because freedom is implicit in true nature no matter how true nature is presenting itself. When we talk about waking up, the primary awakening is usually an awakening to the fact that there is something beyond our individual consciousness, something beyond that is the source of all capacity. Discovering what that is requires an endless journey because each realization is simply a further approximation of reality. It is not like there will be an eruption one of these days of nonduality or the divine essence or Dharmakaya, and then we will be liberated. Although these realizations do liberate us in some sense, the truth of the matter is that they are only the beginning of the life of liberation. So freedom includes understanding the true nature of reality—realizing it, being able to be it and to recognize it as more of what we are than the usual way we conceive ourselves. And freedom is not only freedom to—to be true nature; it is also freedom from—from the structures of the soul and from the delusions of the mind; and it is also freedom for—for living as fully and completely and authentically as possible. And yet all this taken together still does not encompass freedom. Freedom ceaselessly reveals itself in new ways.  

Waking Up to the Truth of Reality is Not a Matter of Having Certain Experiences or Resolving Certain Issues

Inner work is much more complex, much more vast than we usually imagine it to be. Waking up to the truth of reality is not a matter of having certain experiences or resolving certain issues. Although those experiences are important, actualizing the true human life involves much more of an objective knowledge. It’s unlikely that one of these days we’re going to have one experience and then become free and live as a complete human being. Many schools and teachings emphasize generating spiritual experiences, which for us is an easy part of inner work. For a work system like ours, the generation of spiritual experiences is not the be-all and end-all of our path; it’s only one aspect of the path and has to be understood in relationship to the whole. 

We Need to Question Our Assumptions About Inside and Outside

Your own soul, your consciousness, is the organ of truth, the window to reality, and that’s why you look inside. This does not mean that the truth of reality is inside; but for a long time the way we experience it is through the reality that’s inside. We tend to believe that that’s how things are—that essence is inside, spirit is inside, truth is inside. At some point, we need to begin to see things more objectively. We need to question our assumptions about inside and outside. We need to wake up at a more fundamental level. We need to stop running after the illusion that truth is inside, and start waking up to the objective truth that is everywhere. For a long time, for many levels and dimensions, the Work of the truth has to do with experiencing things within you—Essence, essential aspects, spiritual experiences that are transforming, exciting, intriguing, and fulfilling. These experiences can bring a lot of excitement and joy into your life, which is very good. If we allow this process to continue, and if we are truly interested in the truth, whatever the truth is, it won’t stop there. Unfoldment won’t just stop at any realization that remains internal, because internal experiences are limited. They take place within the mind, as part of your knowledge. Thus your experience remains governed by the perspective of personal mind, rather than by the perspective of the truth. So even though our inner experience might become more full and rich, without the perspective we are working on now, the world we look upon, our reality, will remain plain, ordinary, drab. We look around and see people, the sky, the trees, the cars, the street, and we feel, “I’ve known this for years and years. This is not the spiritual world. This is not what I want.”  

What We Think We Know, We do Not Really Know

So today we learned something about knowing. What we call our knowledge is nothing but a recognition based on concepts taken from the past. It is labeling things. I mean not just rugs, but things like divine light, angels, love. All these things are concepts too. They are just as conceptual as a rug or a tree. They’re not more spiritual. They are the same thing, ultimately. They are created by your mind in the sense that they are concepts too. We’re not saying concepts are bad, we’re simply saying they are concepts. We have to see what the knowledge of the mind is, what true perception is. One of the most powerful ways of waking up is to see that what we think we know, we do not really know. To acknowledge our profound ignorance, our deep, fundamental, unchangeable ignorance. And that ignorance really, that profound ignorance, is ultimately our salvation rather than our deficiency. That ignorance is the entry, the door to the wonder, and the mystery. 

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