The Awakened And The Ignorant

awakenedThe difference between the awakened and the one who isn’t, is that the former lacks the delusion of the latter. Of course, neither of them exist at all, other than as conceptual figments of the thinking mind – but from that perspective, they appear as thinking, acting, and autonomous characters of this dreamscape in which you’re either awake or you’re not.

To the ignorant, these figments are real – the awakened knows that they’re not. While he seems to know something that others don’t, it’s actually the other way around – the unawakened is precisely that because he’s bound by beliefs that are not only flat out depressing, but also completely untrue. Such beliefs generally involve a variety of delusions including, but not limited to: him being a human being walking around on planet earth, the certainty of free will, or that there’s some meaning or purpose to be found – all of which are misconstrued interpretations of this flow of phenomenality that we know as “life.”

The awakened is free from such ideas. He no longer believes that he’s a fragment, nor that he exists at all – for he has recognized that there is no planet earth, nor any free will, nor any “me” or “you” for that matter. They are nothing but conceptual abstractions – interpretations of the flow of phenomenality – and have no existence whatsoever independent of that.  They are pieces of the phenomenal world, which is what we call the manifested aspect of pure subjectivity, or Consciousness if you will, or the Tao, or any of the other countless names that have been given this-which-we-are.

And not only does he no longer think that he’s something that he’s not, but he perceives differently. He doesn’t look through a lens of conceptuality. He simply sees – not dualistically, for that would be a subject looking at an object, but in recognizing that subject and objects are not, he remains as pure seeing alone.

Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, and thinking is what he is. And if we take a bird’s-eye view of our own experience, we’ll find nothing other than that. Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, and thinking are the facets of this-which-we-are, of pure subjectivity and that is no thing whatsoever. But in thinking, we infer from this palette of sensations that there is a world out there – a world of objects, people, and events playing out. We literally make something out of nothing – we call it “our life” – and the particular sensations that make up “our body”, we take to be the perceiver-end of this spectacle.

We have created this artificial conceptual model of reality through which we interpret our experience. It’s built around this core belief that there is an objective universe out there in which we exist. And by looking through that lens, we divide what is nothing but pure subjectivity – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting and thinking – into the subject we take to be ourself, and the objects that make up the world – and whereas their existence is solely conceptual, we believe them to be entirely real.

This model constitutes our captivity. To hold it for truth is ignorance. This book is about investigating that model, to pull it apart and see if it will stand against logical scrutiny – it won’t, of course, and by seeing through the beliefs that hold us in bondage we effectively place ourselves in the vicinity of awakening.

Further reading:

17 Responses to The Awakened And The Ignorant

  1. les says:

    It’s been very stimulating reading your posts. Aside from some minor issues stemming for the profound difficulty of employing dualistically based language to attempt to unveil the nondual empty ground of experiencing, i heartily support and endorse your understanding and vision! A thought which tends to haunt me frequently, however, is that given the apperception of the wholly empty nonobjective and nonsubjective luminous void in which all sensations, appearances, conceptions and experiencing apparently emerges, WHO is it we communicate with, either through writing or conversation, BUT ourself; or, more properly, “our” non-self? Might there be a subtle disingenuous or incongruous denial and contradiction in our very activity of communicating that renders the very message hollow and sabotaged at the most basic level by so doing? Or is it in fact just another aspect of the luminous mystery just shouting, singing and dancing through timeless eternity out of pure love itself, just for the utter joy of just seeming to be? In the end, could anything more really be necessary? Thanks! Be the Joy!

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Hi Les, thanks for commenting!

      Talking and writing are just aspects of the game. Ultimately pointless, yet still amazing. But what marvels me the most is the fact that there is a game at all.

    • erika says:

      I know nothing but have sensed depth in conversation with (myself) as so-called other where I feel a completeness…Yes, “I” have asked the question, or ” I” am in conversation but it is through my own inner response to what “the other” is responding with that allows me to feel my own completeness…perhaps all just part of “the play”..

  2. unu' says:

    Sorry for going on a tangent but isn’t this a reiteration of what Alfred Korzybski was saying?

  3. StepVheN says:

    I think personally the black and white distinction drawn here, may be a little extreme.
    When we break down this line of thought on ignorant vs awakened we find a central issue.
    The notion of a non existent self. The absence of an actual true self.

    That’s what’s absent, an actual true self. What isn’t absent is all the things we assumed that self had. To make the mistake of considering these things to be an illusion is to take a nose dive into nihilism.

    • Mark says:

      Oh no, not nihilism!

      Wait a minute… Does calling it nihilism and implying that it’s bad to go there make for a valid argument?

      Hmmmmmmm…. No.

      Don’t make the mistake of “considering these things to be an illusion”, as you say. And don’t make the mistake of considering honest inquiry to be nihilism. Because considering anything to be anything is to take a nose dive into conceptualization. Which is to say, it’s refusing to leave delusion behind by dropping your assumptions when you find no more reason to hold on to them. Which refusal is due to nothing but other assumptions, which are yet to be examined.

      If you want you can hold on to them if you think dropping them is “bad”… but that doesn’t make it true. It’s only nihilism from the old perspective that you’re reluctant to leave behind. But you can’t competently assess a new perspective from the old one. Calling it nihilism is just your way of walling it off to sincere exploration. “Don’t go there, it looks bad from this side and I can’t believe it (and I’m too heavily invested in my career as a clever philosopher/liberator), so it must be false.”

    • Neerav says:

      I agree……that nothing exists is a nihilistic approach, and so, he is falling into the trap of the dualistic extreme of nihilism, which is dangerous.

      If you study Madhyamika (Middle Way) Buddhism, they refute both inherent existence and nonexistence (i.e., nothingness…….that nothing exists). What inherent existence means is that things have an existence that is separate and independent of everything else…….that nothing is interconnected, interrelated and dependent upon other things for their existence.

      In the case of the “self” or “ego”, neither does it exist inherently, nor is it nonexistent. But the point you made in your post is very good, and is why I have backed away from spiritual philosophies like Advaita Vedanta.

    • Neerav says:


      Then why did the Buddha try to steer people away from nihilism, and why is the philosophy of nihilism not very popular in many of the religions and spiritual traditions?

      To say that nothing exists or that something comes from nothing is a VERY dangerous proposition, both philosophically and spiritually!

  4. Doug Shears says:

    “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” Lao Tzu

    In other words the secret ingredient is……..(there is no secret ingredient)..well….except perhaps, with the singular exception of DMT.

    Please refer to this review of another example of “Neo-Advaita nonsense” to explore some of the pitfalls encountered in this specific approach to ‘exploration’.

    Instead of “get rich quick” schemes, some peddle “get enlightened quick” schemes.

  5. Goran does a great job of presenting Nagarjuna’s Mahdyamaka without carrying on to replace our mistaken views of reality with a new and better version. All the Buddha taught was the eradication of suffering through the elimination of ignorance. Goran clamps down ruthlessly hard on exactly those key points that keep the illusion and suffering alive. Bravo Goran! Great job! Its nice to have so much in such a tight package!

    • Neerav says:

      With all due respect, Jackson, but What Goran presents is NOWHERE close to Madhyamika. At times, he simultaneously falls into the dualistic extremes of essentialism/eternalism and nihilism in a lot of the essays that he has written and posted on this website. Many of his ideas that he presents in his works do indeed fall into the dualistic extremes of essentialism/eternalism and nihilism, if not separately or subsequently, simultaneously, as previously mentioned. Had Goran studied Madhyamika Buddhism’s ideas, then he would not have made many of the statements that he has made in his many essays.

  6. Kevin says:

    Hi Goran.

    I have yet to come across a clearer description of enlightenment. Thank you! I am having trouble seeing something though. Is awareness or consciousness that happens here, as it happens (as seeing, feeling, tasting, thinking, smelling or hearing) for other people? Is their consciousness the same as ‘mine’ but the perception not shared? I firmly believe that other people, even though I am starting to see that they don’t exist, who are not awake have some form of awareness? This may sound confusing but is there basically one awareness that is perceived as the universe by all the people in it? I could be coming from the point of an objective reality but senses and perceptions must experienced by the other entities. Does seeing arise through what my body perceives as other people eyes?

  7. dominic says:

    Hi Goran,
    Would you please complete the following sentence for me? Taking into consideration the inadequacy of words, of course, I thought you would venture to give it a try. Thanks!

    I am___________________ .

    • Göran Backlund says:

      I am this unbounded field of knowing.

    • dominic says:

      ?…”this unbounded field of knowing” may be you, but you are not it. It is appearing in you, Awareness.

      In the end, the only thing that can be said in truth is I am whole and complete limitless awareness…”aham brahmAsmi”.

  8. Ilya says:

    “This-which-we-are”, in being no-thing whatsoever, also lacks “this-which-we-are”.. Otherwise, “this-which-we-are”, in its circularity is an absolute – reist – perception of experience.
    Instead of first axiomatically defining one’s world view, and then using that lens to colour our perception of experience, we should examine our perception of experience in order to arrive at an ontology consistent with what we perceive.
    Examining “the world” or “self” and seeing that there is no determinable essential quality to the term does not imply that this quality is essentially non-existent. Rather than existence or non-existence, “the world” and “self” could also be seen as empty of the perception of existence.
    Within any local frame of reference, Being is no more and no less, neither both nor neither, than what it is perceived to be. The absolute frame of reference however, is not at any point defined within experience: the presence or absence of ontological determinism is epistemologically indeterminable for any actor within Existence.. “non-being”, in that it is just another deterministic world-view, is included in this.

  9. jj says:

    From Bahiya Sutra:

    “Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how your should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

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