The idea of partial or incomplete awakenings is a refuge of the ego by creating progress. It feels good, egoically, to say I partially awakened. I have taken another step to “full awakening.” No, that is just being stuck in a new illusion…a new set of chains.
How can there be a partial or incomplete awakenings? It is like saying you can partially know that 2 + 2 = 4. Can you incompletely know 2 + 2 = 4? Both versions are really not yet knowing 2 + 2 = 4. You either know 2 + 2 = 4 or you haven’t quite figured it out yet. Or it is like saying you can partially or incompletely see a person entering the room. You either saw a person enter or you did not see a person enter the room. If you didn’t see, you are not sure a person is in the room. If you did see, you know a person is in the room. Partially seeing doesn’t exist.
I will admit that there can be insights along the way and some seem very profound. I have had many spiritual experiences and insights prior to awakening. I had the classical mystic experience in which you feel at one with everything. This temporary feeling of oneness could then be claimed as knowledge that we are all one, but oneness was not my day to day understanding. Be clear…I did not say day to day experience. I said day to day understanding. So although I could say I “knew” we were all one…I did not act like someone with that understanding. I was still very much trapped by the mirage of ego. The experience came and went, but I still felt I was a someone in the body/mind.
Some of these insights can also take you to very dark places. For example, if you realized that there really is not point or purpose to life. This is a realization one can have and it could cause someone to lose all desire and motivations. Some may even commit suicide…seeing life as pointless and not worth living. The problem is this passing experience or insight is glanced, but you still believe you are the ego. The ego can’t handle life without a point or purpose.
These mind blowing realizations are often claimed as awakening, but awakening is really a radical and permanent change of our identification. Basically, we see through the mirage called “ego” and are never fooled by the mirage again. If you awakened and realized who/what you are, then life not really having a point or purpose doesn’t matter. So you can realize life has no point or purpose, and yet still be totally caught up in the mirage of ego. Actually, to react poorly to the insight of life not having a point/purpose is a negative manifestation of the mirage of ego. The ego wants a point and purpose and is not happy with pointlessness and purposelessness.
So when I hear someone say they have had a partial awakening or incomplete awakening, what I hear is that they have not yet seen through the mirage of ego and therefore have not awakened at all. Who/what does the idea of a partial/incomplete awakening benefit…only the ego. The ego wants to feel like it is getting somewhere.
Awakening really is an all or nothing kind of thing. In Zen there is a saying, once the bottom of the bucket falls out…all the water goes with it. It should not have to be said that it never holds water again. Likewise, when the apple falls from the tree…it never returns. There is no partial or incomplete falling from the tree. Once the apple is off the tree…that is it. Partially or incompletely off doesn’t make sense.
You either recognize the mirage for what it is and are not fooled by it anymore…or the mirage still tricks you up and you really do think it is water. It is a matter of understanding…a realization…a eureka moment. Once you realize who/what you are, you live from that realization immediately and automatically. It does not take effort or trying to live as you are. It only takes effort or trying to live as you think you are (or should be)…if what you think is contrary to what you really feel you are.
The mind is tricky that way. We can glimpse something and yet not understand it – because we did not see it clearly and fully. We can glimpse something and believe in it intellectually, but our hearts don’t buy it. For example, you can have a spiritual experience that you are a soul that lives on and the after life is very pleasant…we can say we know it…we can try to believe in it…but we still fear our own death. Why? Likewise, if you truly realized that you are not this body-mind…you were never born and so you can not die…then what is there to fear in the end of this body-mind?
The rubber hits the road when you are honest with how you are really living. The rubber hits the road when you are honest regarding how you really feel about yourself and the world. If you have awakened, then suffering, seeking, problems, and fear are no more. If you still are suffering, seeking, have problems, and fear…then you haven’t awakened yet…not matter how great the spiritual experience or profound the insight was that you had. You still feel you are a someone (i.e. ego)…and this is the root of all suffering, seeking, problems, and fear.