I entered the spiritual path very seriously at a time when the deep esoteric wisdom of the East was being seriously pursued in many circles.
Some of us have decided to pursue awakening and enlightenment with single-pointed dedication. We lived in communities, did extreme experiments, traveled to India, spent time with teachers and read sacred texts.
Revisiting Roots of Awakening
Lately, I feel called to these roots and the spirit of radical discovery embodied in them. I wrote this essay because I felt called to express as clearly as I could my understanding and experience of the esoteric traditions of the East.
My spiritual training took place within the Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta and specifically in the lineage of the great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi.
In that tradition, enlightenment is spoken of in terms of spiritual freedom and non-dualism, and so this will be an essay about the discovery of spiritual freedom and non-duality.
What is freedom?
In its simplest form, spiritual freedom means freedom from the limitations of the lesser self to the direct recognition of one’s absolute or greater self.
It is the recognition of “I Am,” as described by another great Indian sage, Nisargadatta.
This means admitting that behind all our self-ideas there is nothing but pure consciousness—a source of awareness that is not tied to any perceiving being.
We see that consciousness is not a property of material existence, but rather that our material existence is an illusion, a perceived existence arising from pure consciousness.
The Limits of a Materialist Worldview
We live in a profoundly materialistic age, and our belief in our own material existence is so unquestionable that it is impossible to break the spell of solidity and perceive our own true nature as a free-floating place of consciousness. is the source of everything.
Because our language is built on the assumption of separateness, it does not feel comfortable conveying non-dual reality.
Even using the descriptor “free-floating” is problematic because it implies the existence of some medium in which consciousness enters. This implies the existence of two things – awareness and the environment in which it floats.
What is a consciousness-based worldview?
Non-dual vision is the recognition of oneness, the secondless oneness, the direct realization that conscious awareness is all.
What exists in the universe is not conscious awareness, because the universe itself is an illusion created by consciousness.
Everything we experience, including ourselves, is part of a virtual reality experience created by pure consciousness.
The above statement may not seem shocking to you. You may have heard similar things before and it is easy to understand and accept.
Understanding vs. Experience
Again, it will help us to move slowly here, remembering that understanding and accepting spiritual truth is not the same as living it.
Understanding and acceptance is a distant second to the ultimate reward of directly accepting our own absence as a separate self and being swept away by the impossible grasp of pure consciousness.
The language of virtual reality is useful because it suggests that everything we see and experience as real is merely a perceptual construct—an experience of things that don’t exist.
The language of virtual reality is also problematic because most of us will assume that the illusion of reality is created in our own head or brain.
But our experience of mind and brain is also part of virtual reality. They are not available for practice.
In non-dual teachings we learn that all reality is a dreamless dream.
Time and space do not exist because they are part of sleep. There is no self and no other. No internal or external experience.
Look around you. I’m here at my favorite coffee shop. I meet baristas and customers. I smell the coffee and see the bricks on the wall in front of me.
Everything exists in space, and it’s been about an hour since I first sat here.
None of this is realistic in the way I’ve been trained to think about it. None of them exist regardless of my experience. I don’t see the baristas and the customers.
I have experience with baristas and customers. If I touch the person next to me. I would not touch a person, I would have the experience of touching a person.
The world and everything in it is a collection of experiences that the real experiencer assumes are experiences of real things, but they are not. They are pure experiences.
Reality is timeless, spaceless and empty. It lacks thickness and depth. It has no future and no past. It’s just that.
It is a perfect and carefully constructed sense of being a separate conscious entity existing in a vast universe of time and space.
If we have the chance to disappear into this experience of absolute existence, we will never be the same again.
We can live in a similar way, but we are no longer deceived by the appearance of a world of separation. As useful as it may be to relate the world of time and space and individual entities realistically, deep down we know that this is not the case.
We are one
When we meet someone, we can talk to them as if they are in a body and we are in this body, but we know that we are one.
We know that the source of the consciousness that looks at us through their eyes is the same consciousness that looks at them.
There are no two interacting entities. There is a consciousness that has created the illusion of two beings, creating the experience of separation so that it can have the sublime experience of meeting and relating to the other.
There is no institution that has the experience you are currently experiencing. There is simply an experience that is essentially awake and aware, but there is no entity separate from that awakened consciousness that has the experience.
Our belief that we are a being with experiences is the first source of duality. It is the first source of perceived separation of the indivisible non-dual wholeness of being.
Can you let go of your sense of self so deeply that you are the only consciousness there?