“When you wake up from a dream, do you go about searching for the characters in that dream, to awaken them?”
We often encounter passionate voices in the alternative media seeking through various means to “raise consciousness” and “shake people awake”. Contrary to the popular sentiment in that field however, not everyone is here, incarnating in this realm, to “awaken”. In fact, true Awakening has always been the provenance of the very few, who have chosen that steep route for their own evolutionary purposes. In any particular generation, out of the billions of human incarnations, only a handful thus embodied will awaken in the true sense — that is, break through the dreamy amnesia that characterizes our temporary earthly state into the direct realization of our true nature and primordial (Divine) identity.
Rather, for most of us, the purpose in assuming these particular forms is more along the lines of finding out what the range of human experience entails, in much the same way we might immerse ourselves in a flight simulator to discover what flying is all about. Of course, if we knew it was just a simulation, we would not be able to get the full experience, and so we “forget” that it is just a virtual reality, in order to enjoy the full impact of living the animal existence that is human, for the brief duration of the bio-vehicle’s appearance.
Once we are fused with the human container that we are temporarily occupying, we accumulate memories and experiences of our time as humans, and use them as fuel for our ongoing self-discovery. One of the primary tools is “ego”, which allows us to explore all the nooks and crannies of the psyche to see what we are really made of. We use this ego (which is an activity, not an entity) to learn how to behave, how to do the right thing in each situation presented to us by virtue of our human experience, and also to learn the consequences of failure to do the right thing. In that respect, it serves a kind of navigational function in our quest for experience.
When we become entranced into identification with the activity, however, and imagine it to represent who and what we are, we turn the verb into a noun, an ambivalent noun which we must somehow deal with, or if we have been conditioned by certain spiritual propaganda, we might come to believe it is a noun which we must make every effort to eliminate, as if it was an evil mask which we had better remove before we scare off all of our relations.
In reality, if we see that idea for what it is — a mental fabrication, or fictional story which we have inadvertently granted a reality to — ego begins to lose its power to disturb us, and so reverts to its natural function as an integral part of human embodiment.
In any case, what most in the “alternative” field tend to believe constitutes “awakening” may involve seeing through the propaganda dished out by the arbiters of consensus reality and discovering the mechanisms by which this realm actually operates. For that, it might include peeling back the curtain on hidden government manipulations, on the war economies maintained by the Powers That Be, on media lies, on secret agendas of climate control and food and water poisoning, on alien contact, or on any or all of the various deceptions that constitute this world’s charades and fraudulence.
On the more positive side, it may involve becoming aware of alternative fuels and sustainability strategies, on the marriage of art and science in developing new programs dedicated to the evolutionary advancement of the species, or on any number of new (or ancient) techniques and methods that can be employed to make life more fulfilling and transformative, or serve us in recognizing our essential interdependence.
In any case, as compelling and provocative as those issues might be, or as hopeful and encouraging, they all still belong in the category of impermanence, and so fundamentally represent modifications of consciousness. Such modifications are endless, but of no lasting significance, any more than clouds in the sky. Real Awakening, on the other hand, is the direct recognition of That which does not change, and is not modified by events or circumstances that appear and disappear in and as consciousness. It reveals our original nature, prior to consciousness itself.
Just so, trying to get others to awaken (in the sense generally implied in the alternative arena) is more a matter of transfer of certain data, and any data transfer is dependent on both the transfer vehicle and the receptor. If the receptor has the capacity, it will receive, but remember, we are only talking about modifying consciousness, not getting to its root (which again is what real Awakening is all about).
In other words, when we discuss awakening others, what we are usually talking about is changing someone’s beliefs, but not undermining their whole belief structure altogether, revealing that the person they have taken themselves to be is nothing other than a conceptual designation, a fictitious story, empty of any solidity. Indeed, describing their home and true identity to an amnesiac really doesn’t accomplish much, due to their chronic memory blockage.
In any case, what right do we have to force our views on others? The notion of “shaking others awake” is actually a form of aggression. As a matter of fact, most folks who are led down the “rabbit hole” of conspiracy theories or urged into crusades for this or that cause are often better off left alone to fulfill their term here, focusing instead on just enjoying the human experience in whatever way their light leads them.
However, if some are moved to try to “save the world”, let them – they’ll find out in their own time that the world itself is as unreal as the one who dreams of saving it. This is why the principle of non-interference universally applies — the “prime directive”. If we really wish to be of service in this matter, we might take Niu Tou Fa Jong’s words to heart when he wrote in his classic “Song of Mind”: “Don’t destroy the myths of common people; only teach the cessation of thoughts.”
Moreover, our efforts to awaken others to our notion of what reality is all about can often prove to be merely an additional impediment to both their as well as our true awakening. As the sage Siddharameshwar Maharaj noted: “What you are thinking of as ‘awake’ — some intense new passion for a worthy cause or a deep feeling of love for all existence — is actually the deepest of deep sleep, much deeper than a feeling of boredom or indifference. Yours is an intense association with the Illusion. The bored and the indifferent are on the verge of leaving the lure of the temptress Maya behind, no longer swayed by her shiny attractions. They are on the verge of waking.”
In any event, having gotten some inkling of what’s going on in this realm “behind the curtain”, most people would rather forget what they have seen. For those conditioned by the consensus descriptions of reality, discovering what’s really lurking behind the lies that they have been told can be deeply disturbing as well as disorienting. As Winston Churchill noted: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”
When it comes right down to it, it’s clear that humans are the least qualified to judge each other, mostly because we are operating with insufficient data. The best policy is to always turn the spotlight back on oneself, particularly when we think we see something lacking in others, or presume that we have some special knowledge which they should have. Again, Nisargadatta spoke wisely when he cautioned: “When you deceive yourself that you work for the good of all, it makes matters worse, for you should not be guided by your own ideas of what is good for others. A man who claims to know what is good for others, is dangerous.”
Remember, we are not here to fix samsara – that can’t be done. In fact, this realm itself is nothing more than a stage with ever-changing props, offering us an opportunity to discover what we are really made of. The best service we can offer others is to be a demonstration of what real awakening consists of, and for that, we ourselves need to not only awaken, but also to embody real awakening in our own behavior.
One of the principle lessons in Zen training is about letting go of the desire for some particular outcome. In other words, relinquishing all gaining ideas, all fantasies, hopes, and wishes for some special attainment. This principle is universally applicable. As long as we have in mind some desire to “defeat the evil systems of the Powers That Be”, for example, we will continue to be a slave to those very systems. On the other hand, if one wants to be free, they must stand without desire or fear, relinquishing all concepts of personal control.
There is a universal power at work, but we do not trust that, even though we are its very source. Such distrust is a grave mistake, and one that will cause us endless suffering. On the other hand, if we are able to recognize that we ourselves are being lived by that very power, and conversely, that it is our own expression, then the sense of separation, of frustration and dismay will evaporate, and paradoxically, that is when we will finally be eligible to be of some real service in our life and relations, as the impediments to genuine awakening fall away in the light of recognition.
Q: I may remove my causes of sorrow, but others will be left to suffer.
Nisargadatta Maharaj: To understand suffering, you must go beyond pain and pleasure. Your own desires and fears prevent you from understanding and thereby helping others. In reality there are no others, and by helping yourself you help everybody else. If you are serious about the sufferings of mankind, you must perfect the only means of help you have – yourself.