The purpose of this essay is to get you to understand Enlightenment – what it is and how to attain it. To attain enlightenment is sometimes referred to as Waking up, which is a shorter way of saying Awakening to Enlightenment – but what that actually means requires some further explanation.
So what does ‘awakening’ mean?
In order to understand what Awakening to enlightenment really means, we need to first understand the nature of reality – and the short version goes something like this:
You’ve seen the movie The Matrix, right? If you haven’t, please go and do that now. But assuming you have, envision the matrix but without anything outside. No machines, no big computer running things, no space, no time; nothing at all – in fact, there isn’t even an outside. Are you imagining it? That’s our reality. Put differently, there is no material universe out there beyond our experience. There are no atoms. No planets. No stars. No space. There’s only subjectivity. There’s only this ever-changing field of experiencing otherwise known as consciousness or awareness.
That’s the short version. The long version—where I actually provide the proof for all this—is detailed in my book; and this essay is somewhat targeted to those of you who already read it but are now ready to step off that cliff and turn these truths into a living reality.
Anyway, the key point is:
- There’s no objective reality – there’s only experiencing
But to the un-enlightened, things don’t seem that way. Rather, it seems as if we’re human beings walking around on planet earth; as if we exist as physical entities in a universe of time and space. It seems as if we experience an objectively existing world – as opposed to, let’s say, a field of subjectivity that’s perpetually transforming, morphing and modulating itself – which is how the awakened experiences life: as a mere flow of ever-changing phenomenality.
But why does it seem like we’re entities in a universe that exist independently of us? Why does it feel like there’s me on the one hand, and something else that’s not-me on the other? It’s because of the way in which we divide our experience.
Now, here’s the thing. Our experience isn’t actually divided. There is no separation in the way we usually think about it – that is, the triad of seer, seeing and seen that we tacitly assume is present is never actually part of our direct experience. That division simply isn’t there. But let’s go through it in detail so you can see what I mean.
First we’ll investigate whether a seer, a subject, can be found in direct experience.
Go on. Find your self.
Have you looked yet? You can look all you want, but you won’t find anything. We can’t find a subject, because if we could, we would have to admit of a further subject, to which whatever we just found is known – making what we found an object, not a subject – And so, ad infinitum.
That’s one reason as to why we can never find a subject – we’re logically precluded from doing so.
The other reason would be: there simply is no subject. Remember, there is no objective reality. The presumed seer doesn’t exist – nothing does. There’s only this field of experiencing.
So the key insight here is:
- No subject can be found in direct experience
Okay, now let’s turn to vision and see if we can find another element of that triad – the ‘object.’ In other words, let’s find out whether we can find something that is ‘seen.’ (I’m using vision in this example, but the same exact principle applies to all sense modalities.)
First, let’s state some self-evident facts.
- The objects of our visual experience consist solely of colors.
- That is, nothing is given in direct visual experience except colors.
- In other words, we don’t see objects and their colors – we only see the colors.
- Put differently, nothing is found in vision other than patterns of color.
Now, here’s the thing: While the presence of color is what we mean by the word ‘color,’ the presence of color is also what we mean by the word ‘seeing.’ (Now, think about that until you realize that I’m actually right – or read more about that here)
Therefore, we must concede that ‘seeing’ and ‘color’ are merely different words for the exact same thing, namely ‘seeing.’
In other words, colors aren’t ‘colors’ in the way we usually think about them – glued to objects, waiting to be seen – instead, what they are is nothing other than seeing itself.
And since the ‘objects’ of our experience consists solely of colors, we must now understand that they actually don’t – what they’re really made out of is ‘seeing.’
And finally, the last step in this reduction is to simply understand that ‘seeing’ is just another word for awareness. Awareness, or consciousness, doesn’t signify a thing – these words simply refer to the presence of seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling and thinking.
- There’s no subject given in experience.
- There are no objects—or ‘colors’—given in experience.
- There’s only ‘seeing’ or awareness.
But although our analysis reveals that there’s only awareness—only seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling and thinking actually going on—the unenlightened still feel like there’s a me—a subject—in here, behind the eyes; a seer that perceives a multitude of objects out there, in the world.
It’s because of a specific mode of perceiving that makes it seem as if experience is divided although it’s actually not. This affliction is known as samsara, or simply bondage. It’s our ordinary way of looking. It’s what makes it seem like there’s a seer, seeing and something seen.
But there’s another mode of perceiving possible – the undivided way.
The phrase ‘Awakening to enlightenment’ signifies the moment where we shift into that other mode of perceiving. It’s the moment of cessation of the division that makes it seem as if there’s a me, a subject of experience, and a not-me, the object of experience – leaving only pure seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting and thinking; simply non-dual beingness without any sense of being a subject that experiences objects. The sense of being an observer; a witness of experience; vanishes, and instead one’s sense of being shifts to encompass the entire field of experience. ‘Awakening’ denotes that actual shift – ‘Enlightenment’ is where we find ourselves afterwards.
But true enlightenment is more than a profound shift in perception. It’s a deep realization of the non-objective nature of reality; of the hollowness of one’s self – it’s a revelation of the fallacious nature of objectivity; which inevitably leads to a total rewrite of the way we think, act and feel.
- Awakening to enlightenment means that we shift into another mode of perception wherein experiencing no longer seems divided into a me and a not-me.
Now that we know what we’re shooting for, let’s discuss how to actually get it.
The end of ignorance
If we are to cease dividing experience into me and not-me, it’s useful to understand why we perceive in this way in the first place.
Why do we perceive in terms of subject-object?
Due to our culturally imposed world view, the act of perceiving is interpreted in terms of what could best be described as something like a camera model. That is, we think of ourselves as cameras, moving around, looking at stuff. And the field of experience is our view, wherein the objects of experience briefly appear as we apprehend them with our sensory faculties. That’s the universe-model in a nutshell. Now, let’s break it down into detail.
When we encounter an object in direct experience, essentially the following happens (let’s pretend we see something – a box, for example):
- A particular pattern of color is conceptualized as an ‘object,’ which has a wide range of connotations attached – such as, it’s a space-time entity; it has mass; it’s made of a material, etc. In other words, the concept that we have to represent this percept has attached to it a bunch of other concepts, all of which contribute to our idea of what it is – making us forget that it’s really nothing but patterns of color – which is nothing other than ‘seeing,’ or awareness itself.
- Now, because it’s an ‘object,’ there’s another fundamental connotation involved – namely that of it being perceived by a subject. Which is us. In other words, according to our universe-model of reality, whenever an object is present in our experience, it is so because we as its subject has encountered it. That is, our field of view simply happened to slide past that object. Put differently, the very presence of an object implies us as its perceiving subject. It’s the camera model of perception. Just as the presence of images on a TV screen imply that they were apprehended by some camera, the presence of an object in experience implies that it’s being perceived by us as its subject.
- So the very notion of an ‘object’ entails the presence of a subject that perceives it. It’s built in to the concept. We cannot help but see ourselves in this way under the universe-model, because every encounter with an object reaffirms and reminds us of our existence as its subject.
Now, if we were to abandon this model and instead adopt some other model, wherein we, let’s say, turn percepts into concepts with entirely different connotations than those that we currently have, our experience of the world would naturally start to shift.
But what if we had no model at all? Not because it would be a ‘better’ way to live life(it is), but because we have through careful inquiry realized that the very nature of models as such are based on a fundamental error of thought?
We would start to see reality as it is before any conceptual overlay. We would, in effect, be at a ‘ground zero’ state. No longer would it seem as if we’re a camera moving about in the world – instead, what we previously thought of as the world, we now abide in – finally – as the very flow of phenomenality itself. With no model laid out over experiencing there’s just pure non-dual beingness. And that’s the enlightened mode of perceiving. Ground Zero.
So, there are actually two steps to this process. The first step is to realize that the division that we think is there isn’t. The subject-object model that we have is not representative of what’s actually going on. If you look right now you’ll see that there’s never any subject nor any objects given in direct experience – which reveals that the subject-object model of experience is entirely a mental fabrication – it all hinges on our beliefs about reality.
The last step is to pick apart those beliefs. To refute objectivity. To disprove the external world – so that we can abandon the universe-model and instead shift our experiencing into non-dual awareness.
So stop fucking around. All of this deconstructing-your-ego business that everybody’s preaching these days is just a waste of time. Nothing dismantles an ego as effectively as pulling the rug out from underneath its existence as a space-time object.
Moreover, there’s certain movements on the internet that specialize in pointing out something that goes like this:
“Although there’s a body here, there’s no self in it. There’s just a brain doing the thinking and a body doing the walking, etc.”
That’s just pure nonsense. The idea of a self is the idea that there’s a space-time entity with perceptual capabilities – it’s as simple as that; and no amount of this kind of reasoning will ever ‘liberate’ you if you still believe that there are subjects that perceive objects.
In order to awaken, you must deconstruct the universe-model of reality – you must understand exactly how and why that model is false, so that you can begin to untangle the subject-object knot of perception that’s standing between you and reality in its infinite form.
Get real. Declare it with force and finality, and you’ll soon find yourself in full appreciation of the beauty and power of that which has always been staring you right in the face.