What Changes with Awakening?

Posted on 25 November 2007

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A paradox of Awakening is that, from one perspective, it may be described as an event in time that somehow changes something about experience at a fundamental level. It is a radical shift from a dualistic to nondualistic way of consciousness, a liberation from delusion.

Yet, from another perspective, it may be described as Recognition on a timeless level that has always been present and always will be present. Even the Recognition itself, which is the same as that which is recognized, was always there. It is not a recognition of anything new, and it does not involve any change in the contents of consciousness. Nothing is attained.

Which is it? This is a kind of koan of Awakening.

One meta-perspective on these perspectives is that neither perspective is absolutely true or final or correct, but in a given situation one perspective may be more valuable to emphasize as a way to help bring to awareness the limits of the complementary perspective and reveal what currently is not being fully recognized.

For example, sometimes we may be stuck in a view that Awakening is some new or different state, content or experience that we’ve yet to experience (and this reinforces the notion that we lack some “state of Awakening,” and that we need to seek and attain it, and that we might then lose it). It can then be helpful to emphasize the timeless dimension of Awakening to help recognize and release this one-sided view of it as something missing.

Conversely, at other times we may be stuck in a view that Awakening is nothing at all, that it has no associated manifestations in human experience (and this reinforces the notion that Awakening has no consequence for human life, and is therefore irrelevant). To help recognize and release this one-sided view, it can be helpful to emphasize the changes in how life is experienced after Awakening as compared to experience under delusion, before Awakening.

All this is, of course, just one meta-perspective on these different perspectives about what Awakening is or involves. Other perspectives might also be useful. As for what is really the case about Awakening…that is a koan that only Awakening itself resolves.

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