“Ignorance can be compared to a dark room in which you sleep. No matter how long the room has been dark, an hour or a million years, the moment the lamp of awareness is lit the entire room becomes luminous. You are that luminosity. You are that clear light.”
~ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Imagine what a “game-changer” it would be to suddenly realize that nothing we can see, feel, think, or know is actually real. From the revelatory angle of vision coincident with awake awareness, there’s neither birth nor death, appearance nor disappearance, creation nor destruction, bondage nor liberation, you or I. Those are all conceptual designations, empty of any inherent and independent existence other than that which mind bestows upon them. The wisest sages know that there’s neither unity nor plurality – the world is neither one nor many. Existence itself more like a virtual reality game, and we have taken our places here in these game bodies to test ourselves, to see what we are really made of deep down at the core, and to enjoy the infinite Mystery in all of its permutations.
Hearing that, some might imagine that there is something to “get”, some special state or permanent position to possess and make one’s own. However, wisdom reveals that we are not here to acquire some enlightenment that is not already true of us, progressing through various stages until we arrive at some exalted destination. We ourselves are the destination — we go nowhere. There’s never been a human being in need of salvation, redemption, protection, or freedom. Such concepts are merely props and stage sets for the game, the play of consciousness, the dream we call “our life”.
In fact, the external world has no existence independent of the consciousness which perceives it. This is not only the testimony of sages and mystics, but is now a cornerstone of quantum physics. Mere perception and practical utility cannot prove the reality of the world, for even in dreams there is perception and practical utility – water in a dream can quench the dream thirst as much as real water can quench real thirst. The waking state is on par with the dream state, and both are real within their own order — that’s important to recognize. But from the ultimate standpoint, both are unreal.
Reality is beyond human conception. It transcends the trinity of the knower, known and knowledge. Timeless and motionless, it’s “where” all the categories of the intellect are merged. All phenomena, subjective as well as objective, are by their nature serene from the beginning, unborn and merged in Source. They are nothing other than imaginative expressions of Source itself, figments of Source — an infinitely stable, self-luminous, conscious force perpetually and joyously manifesting its own awareness in the forms of everything and everyone.
The presumption of Duality is the product of the intellect, but when the intellect is transcended and all conditional mental and emotional fabrications are seen through and discarded, the trick of duality disappears. What’s left is pure aware spaciousness, devoid of all thought determinations and imagination. It is the serene eternal Light behind the mind. It is incomprehensible bliss, which transcends happiness and misery.
The Absolute is indescribable, unborn, changeless and non-dual. Although many names are devised by human wisdom systems to describe it, fundamentally, it’s You! As Kalu Rinpoche so clearly put it, “We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”
That being the case, how is it that we still seem to persist in ignorance of such a critical truth, and how can we awaken from such a trance? Well, we can begin by recognizing that the only thing we are ever trying to assert, protect, and defend is some conditional and conditioned image we have of ourselves – an ongoing story of a separate and independent “me” that serves as the perceptual matrix for our attitudes and experience.
Just so, rather than attempting to reify, justify, or eliminate that one, we can instead simply examine our assumption that such a one actually exists. In fact, maybe we have dreamed the whole story up in the first place, causing ourselves untold confusion and stress in the process! In that light, awakening is simply letting go of what we never actually had. Going even further, we realize that nobody actually lets go of anything. The illusion of a separate and independent self simply drops away in the light of Recognition. It happens, and yet only to the extent that anything happens in a dream or movie. In reality, there has never been anything other than the “True Self”, playing hide and seek with Itself.
Upon thorough inspection, we can begin to notice that there is something so simple about our own nature that it is routinely by-passed and even stubbornly avoided. It is an affront to the physical persona which fixates on the sense of its own individualized existence as a defense against the death timed into it. It is an affront to the emotional persona which seeks through feeling to grasp that in which feeling arises. It is an affront to the intellectual persona which relies on comparative mind for distraction and knowing as a defense against the unknown and unknowable. It is an affront to the spiritual persona which clings to “higher” states dependent on manipulative strategies fabricated to escape from that root contraction of embodiment clenching at the heart.
Omnipresent Spirit manifests an infinite display of personas, also known as the infinite masks of God, based on an immense curiosity to experience every possible projection of Itself. What is called “the soul” is a temporary embodiment of consciousness that Spirit wears in order to experience different vibrational frequencies. However, when the soul identifies exclusively with any of these arbitrary masks and forgets its immortal source, it becomes “confused” and starts looking for itself. To “return home”, it imagines all sorts of ways and means, from “love me” dreams, to yogic schemes at ashram scenes, or maybe just addictive sessions with Mr. Jim Beam.
The chronic belief that we have to jump through various socially or religiously prescribed hoops to arrive at what we actually Are is one of the confused mind’s classic ways of obstructing, or postponing, its own dethronement. There is the suspicion that, if the truth of our own original nature and identity as Spirit is allowed in, then there will be something that will not survive, and that is correct. What does not survive is the exclusivity of the independent self-sense — the complex structure of the separate and alienated ego/mind, assembled over many years and perpetually reinforced by conditioning-in-the-moment, and all based upon an innocent notion of mistaken identity.
We have come to assume that we are a separate and enduring “somebody”, divided from life and love, and in the hellish position of having to manipulate circumstance in order to carve out some little piece of fleeting happiness, when in fact we are Happiness Itself. Despairing of this, we imagine, we hope, that there must be some heaven elsewhere to which we might be transported from this “vale of tears”, once we have served our sentence of embodiment in the prison of wounded flesh and compounded suffering.
Religious “authorities”, who themselves secretly doubt the revelation of Loving Truth upon which their traditions are based, maintain their power and influence by blithely leading little children out of the wonder of their own pristine innocence and into the snake pit of guilt and shame with the indoctrination of the Lie — the lie that we are separated from the Great One, that we are tainted and diseased by sin or karma, and that their church, method, yoga, dharma, prayer, or practice is the cure.
When we begin to awaken from this nightmare, by the graceful power of divine Remembrance and Recognition, we can discover something very liberating: there is no cure, because this terrible malady and affliction is nothing but an imaginary disease. It does not exist! The truth is, we swim, unfettered, in a vast ocean of Spirit. Indeed, Spirit is our own true identity, functioning in time and space as Love Supreme. Everyone “knows” this in their own heart, everyone intuits the YES of all-embracing Divinity.
All we need do is Be it, rather than indulging in fantasy stories and pretending to be anything other than our own original nature. Nisargadatta Maharaj put it perfectly when he said: “You are the Supreme Reality beyond the world and its creator, beyond consciousness and its witness, beyond all assertions and denials. Remember it, think of it, act on it. Abandon all sense of separation, see yourself in all and act accordingly.”
Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is suffering and stress, boredom, doubt, and discomfort, spawning the motive and motion to alleviate it. Everything is seeking. Life and death are mere blips on the screen of seeking. Seeking is all about the sense we have of being a separate and vulnerable individual, and this sense manifests as the feelings of desire, conflict, and resistance, the endless loop of attraction and aversion, hope and fear, which dominates consciousness and reinforces the sense of self, the perpetual story of “me”.
The first step to breaking that cycle is learning to live in genuine humility, since without humility, all one’s efforts are worthless. The internal conflict, based on the struggle to have things be other than they are, melts away when acceptance and surrender become genuine. Somehow, the heart must be turned to the intuition of what waits, softly breathing, at the deepest core of its own yearning, pierced by the recognition of and utter submission to that which is prior to the fabricated sense of self and all its conflicted modifications.
In such surrender, the struggle of life force and consciousness is given up, laid down, like flowers at the feet of the Beloved. This is the true end of the “personal” life, and it is indeed not unlike a death. The artfulness of it resides in the obliteration of our egoic willfulness, which leads in turn to the restoration of the primal innocence, our true face before life and death commence their dance. This original face is radiant with loving compassion for all that appears, changes, and vanishes. How then can we not love life, with all its tender weaknesses?
At last comes a difficult chasm to cross: the breakthrough recognition that all of it — the whole story of “me and mine” — is simply a beaming projection of one’s own mind. To then turn around and plunge directly into the source of that mind — that’s what takes tremendous courage. It is most rare, most excellent.
It’s a huge leap — to relinquish the pretense of being a knower, to let go of that motive to maintain the defining thread of independence (even if that story is conceptually recognized as an illusion of control). Such a gesture is the essence of a living poetry, the sublime art of life. It awaits all of us, should we be willing to let go of the whole carefully-constructed narrative of “me and mine”, and lose ourselves to find our Self.
“[You must] discard all your experiences, your knowledge, and all the things and ideas that you think are the most reliable, most magnificent, and most real, even including your hope [to get free]. It is as if you were entering a sacred building. Before you do so, the guard tells you that you must not carry any weapon, that you must take off all your clothes, and that not only must you be completely naked you also have to leave your body and soul behind. Then you can enter.”