The Loving Heart of Enlightenment
A summary overview of spiritual awakening in simple, clear English
by Thomas Razzeto
For an easy-to-print Adobe Acrobat PDF version of this essay, click here.
You know you exist. This of course is obvious. And you know you are sentient. This too is obvious. These two points lead to a very interesting question. Could it be true that you exist fundamentally – and by that phrase, I mean stripped of everything that is not essential to what you really are – could it be true that you exist fundamentally as this power of sentience, as this open capacity for experience? In other words, could your fundamental identity be pure awareness?
I use this word “awareness” a lot so I want to be clear right up front. I am not using it in any special way. It just means the power of sentience. Yet I use the phrase “pure awareness” to emphasize the idea that this awareness is not a thing.
You are not a thing that is sentient. You are not an object that is aware. You are not a sentient being. You are sentience itself.
When I say that this awareness is not a thing, I mean that it does not have any thing-like qualities that can be perceived in any way whatsoever. This awareness perceives, but it cannot be perceived. This paradox was spoken about rather poetically by some of our most ancient texts – oral texts that go back almost three thousand years, the Upanishads. They offer us this:
“This awareness is the unseen seer of seeing, the unheard hearer of hearing, the unfelt feeler of feeling.” And it goes on. To what these texts offer us, I like to add my own thoughts: This awareness is the undreamt dreamer of dreams.
The idea that you exist fundamentally as pure awareness is the third way that you can identify yourself. You already know the first two ways yet I still want to put them on the table for completeness. So here they are.
The first perspective offers us the idea that you exist fundamentally as your body. And when your body dies, that, my friends – according to this view – is the end of you.
You might be surprised to hear me say that there are two things about this perspective that I really like. The first is that it highly motivates you to take care of your body in a practical way, and I think that’s a good thing. The second is that this perspective does not really answer all of our deep questions about life and creation and so forth, so this leaves you plenty of room to stand in wonder and awe of the world that is all around you. I think this is profound, beautiful, important … and fun! Now, these two points actually apply to all three perspective that I talk about, and I just wanted to mention that.
Now, in my opinion, this first perspective is best described as incomplete rather than wrong and this leads us to the second perspective, which offers us the idea that you exist fundamentally as your soul, which associates with your body. And yet again, in my opinion, this perspective is best described as incomplete rather than wrong.
The recognition that you exist fundamentally as pure awareness comes about, not through observation and logic, but instead, through a spiritual, intuitive awakening. And to be more precise, there are three key awakenings regarding this awareness. These awakenings can occur in any order or in any combination, including all at once. So in my presentation here, when I say first, second and third, I am only talking about their order in this presentation, and not necessarily the order that they will occur for you.
The first awakening is the one that I’ve already touched upon several times: “Ah, I am not fundamentally my body, and I am not even fundamentally my soul. Instead, I am fundamentally pure awareness!” That’s the first awakening.
The second awakening is this: “Ah, the awareness that’s looking out of my eyes is the same awareness that’s looking out of your eyes … and his eyes … and her eyes … and the eyes of every sentient being on all the worlds, both physical and spiritual. There is only one awareness.”
Now, when I use this phrase “one awareness,” it’s not because I’ve looked all around, and I’ve found it, because as I mentioned earlier, this awareness is completely imperceptible in every way. So instead, we use this phrase “one awareness” to emphasize the idea of wholeness.
This awareness never breaks itself into pieces, whether those pieces are disconnected or connected. No, this awareness never breaks itself into pieces at all. Furthermore, this awareness is not like a tree with a trunk of the one awareness that grows into a branch of your awareness, and into a different branch of his awareness, and into a different branch of her awareness and so forth. No, this awareness never branches out at all. This awareness is always whole.
There is only one Awareness. That’s the second awakening.
Now, quickly, before we get to the third awakening, I just want to mention that we call these awakenings “awakenings” since they seem to happen suddenly and yet they are never instantly complete, just like waking up in the morning. These spiritual awakenings always have a period of deepening, and this deepening can last years or even lifetimes. During this time, these concepts are transformed from mere ideas into a living truth that burns within your soul.
Now, here’s the third awakening. This awareness arises as each and every thing that it is aware of.
What we are talking about here is God and creation – Awareness (God) and the objects of awareness (creation). It is very simple. When I use this phrase “objects of awareness,” I am talking about anything at all that can be perceived in any way at all. So I am not just talking about physical objects, I am also talking about thoughts, emotions, nighttime dreams, intuitive feelings, energy states, hallucinations, and so forth. Anything at all that can be perceived in any way at all is an object of awareness.
Now, with this particular awakening, we recognize the second capacity of this awareness. This awareness has both the capacity to perceive and the capacity to create what it perceives. This process of creation is best described as an emanation – a spontaneous emanation – and this Awareness is the source of this emanation. This is why my mentor, Timothy Conway, and I refer to this awareness as “Source-Awareness.”
This Source-Awareness spontaneously emanates as the totality of created reality and this Source-Awareness is what you truly are fundamental. This Source-Awareness is looking out of your eyes right now! Not a piece of it. Not a branch of it. The wholeness of this Source-Awareness is looking out of your eyes right now!
There is an ancient metaphor that will help us here. It is the metaphor of the actor and the character. So just think of a Hollywood actor and when you do, it’s very easy to see that the actor is the source of the character. Surely it’s not the other way around. The character is not the source of the actor. Furthermore, the character cannot go on the stage without the actor. And yet, the actor can drop the role of the character at any time. Because of this, it is wise to make a distinction between the transcendent source (the actor) and the dependent construction (the character).
And yet when the actor comes forward as the character, they are one. If you are standing in front of the character and you want to find the actor, you do not need to dig into a deeper and deeper layer. No. When you look into the eyes of the character, you are looking directly into the eyes of the actor. They are one.
Of course you see what this metaphor is pointing to. This Source-Awareness is the one invisible Actor who arises as each and every visible character, as each and every visible person. It is God who is arising as everyOne and it is God who is doing everything.
We have all heard it said, “We are all one.” Yes. Yes, of course. But this brief statement is a bit more confusing than it needs to be. It starts off by speaking from one perspective and then it changes to a completely different perspective and it doesn’t even give you a hint that it’s going to do that. So I like to add a few words, not too many. And here they are: “In form ...” (meaning “in construction,” “in creation,” “in the world all around us.”)
“In form, we are many; in essence, we are one.”
In this, we see that it is only through the many that we can share the One Love of God. When you look into the eyes of another, you are looking directly into the eyes of God. It is God who plants a seed in your soul that grows into the loving heart of enlightenment.
I will keep this short so I will leave you with that.
Thanks for visiting my website! In truth, I honor your divine nature.
All my best, Thomas Razzeto
Written January 2017.
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