Awakening is not a movement from one “state” to another, such as to a “higher” state.
When you awaken from sleep in the morning, you are not moving to a “higher state”: you are merely continuing your existent life in a different form; more actively. Thus, a “spiritual awakening” is a continuation of the present life—in a different form.
What is on the other side of the coin of awakening is not a “higher (or lower) state” but “a different way of living”: living from the perspective where the ego self is no longer the center of the relational universe.
In a sense, this represents the abandonment of the illusionary world, as waking represents the discontinuation of a fascinating dream. In this way, it could be said to be the ending of self-deception, similar to the way that the dream self was an illusion. In this case, the waking self is realized to be similarly an illusion, and our “belief” in this self—as a “separate entity”—a deception.
That this awakening—the ending of “self”-centered deception— has occurred for some and not for others appears to be related to how deeply one aspires to abandon the saccharine dream for the glaring reality of “awakened” life. If realization of the true nature of the self is not at the top of one’s list of priorities, the egoic self “fulfillment” will ever take precedence.
But for awakening to be the number one priority, it must be acknowledged that the pilgrim will have to be willing to confront fears of “annihilation” of the self-created person-ality, the person-al image. It is this fear of the disappearance of “self” identity which stands as a barrier, even for those for whom awakening is their fundamental priority.
What is discovered is that there is no “individual” self to be annihilated, neither in life nor in death. The self that “dies” is nothing more than an illusion that dissipates. With the dissolution of the self, goes the dis-appearance of the self’s fears —including the fear of “nothingness” or “the void”. To the question, “Why is this fearful (or blissful) experience occurring (or not occurring) for me?”, the answer is finally evident: “It’s not.” Are the experiences that “occur” for the imagined figure, in a dream, real or imaginary? In deep sleep, when the imagined figures and their activities are absent, what can be said to be the present condition—except for nothingness, or the void?
We cannot even say what this nothingness or void is “like”, as an experience. If we could come away from this condition as a knowledgeable “experiencer”, it would not truly be the condition of nothingness. So we need not fear the condition of nothingness, because there is no identifiable experiencer of it. If there is any residue—any thing at all—in (or as a part of) the “void”, it’s not the void.
Thus, all we can say about it is that there can’t be more than one actuality that could be represented as nothingness. And because it is the one thing of which there can be no “parts” or fragments, it is that which has been characterized as “oneness”, the all-encompassing essence, or Absolute.
From this nothingness, or void, arises the dream; and from the dream, awakening. And if we trace anything—whether waking occurrences or dream occurrences—back to the source, we inevitably arrive at the actuality, or presence, of the one, ineffable formlessness.
So, it is from this formless source that consciousness arises, and thus self-consciousness, or the “I-thought”. And it is to this insubstantial “I” to which all “other” appears; the embodied “seer” and the “seen” world and universe, manifestations of the same, one source—the formless, through form, seeing “its self”; embracing itself, as the all-embracing.
The formless, as the all-embracing actuality, knows nothing of exclusion. All manifested forms, whether material or immaterial, arise from—rather, as—the same essential presence. You are that, and anything that you would rid yourself of—or become—is that. You are already that which any “higher state”—which any conceivable form—could possibly be.
So, realization is not about going from one form or condition to another—both already being a manifestation of the same, one thing. It is not about moving from one form (“me” as the body) to another form of the formless (me as “pure consciousness”). Therefore, realization is not what most people think it is.
It is not about having some particular experience.
It is not about getting to be a “better” person.
It is not about making anything (such as the world) better.
It is not about maintaining a spiritual “practice”.
It is not about an entity (“me”) becoming some other entity (Buddha).
It is not about something that can be objectified, since it is formless, and thus inseparable, in essence.
It is not about something which appears (or is present) in a particular time or place, since time and space are dependent manifestations of this source.
It is not about something of which there is any subject apart from it (such as “me”), since the formless essence cannot be fragmented.
It is not about something that can be associated with any special experience, state or phenomenon, since all conditions are equally in its embrace.
What is referred to as awakening is the realization that there is no actual I apart from the formless essence; it is about the dissolution of self identification; the egoic mind’s relinquishment of the hold on its projected image; the conscious erasure of the line between “observer” and “observed”. And it’s about living life from the continual reference point of this profound realization. As the sages have assured us, it is possible to live a fulfilling life without the persistent condition of a self image.
For everyone, there is at least the occasional experience, during the day, when one does not exist as a separate entity—to one’s own consciousness; when one is so deeply engrossed, in what one’s attention is focused on, that there is no sense of “self”-awareness. And yet we do not cease to function bodily, even though we are free of the image of our identity, in these moments.
To be spiritually “re-born” is thus to again abstain from self image, as if we were a baby: to be, without the brackets of “was” or “will be”, without “did” or “will do”; the individual that would “be something” or “do something” gone, with only that which is aware and present remaining. This is the relaxation of tension, so that one is in attendance to “what is”—just as it is.
If one were to coin a phrase for the awakened perspective, it might be “proscient awareness”: that is, a “knowing before” in the sense of an operative intelligence which continually directs one’s behavior. It is merely a generally unrecognized aspect of the Absolute, of the source of even our superficial, egoic consciousness—the source, in essence, of all that is done. All that everyone says, does or thinks originates with this ever-present source. So, this essence is the only identity which any of us can rightfully claim. Recognize that this formless essence is your fundamental condition; and that proscient awareness will dictate the direction of your every act—without a “self-ish” perspective to be concerned about any outcome.
This extension of your present existence, into freedom, is “awakening”—just a different form, an inclusive form, of living.
So, while it’s not about “doing good deeds”, as a means to a desired end, being of dedicated service to others is an uncontrived consequence when personal self fulfillment has disappeared from the agenda.