As I define spiritual awakening, the seeing through the mirage of ego is a sudden and deep insight that can not be denied. As such, you either have had the deep, undeniable insight or you have not. There are no stages when it comes to understanding. You either understand, or you do not yet understand.
For example, you know that 1 + 1 = 2. It does not matter how much I might try to convince you that it equals 4, you will not believe me. Isn’t this so? When I show you ” 1 + 1 = ” and ask you what does it equal, you will always say 2…wouldn’t you? Could it equal anything else?
OK, now I will say that 2 is correct and the typical answer, but it could also equal “11”. Do you understand how and why? Perhaps you knew this already, but for those who don’t I will say that if you add the characters (not the numbers) together you would get “11”. Like Eric + Putkonen would equal my full name of Eric Putkonen. It is a different way of seeing the same thing, and with that understanding you can come up with a different answer.
Last one, ” 1 + 1 = 10 “…this is also true. Do you see how and why? Do you understand?
This is the way insight and understanding work. Based on your own understanding, perhaps you never have thought that “10” could be the answer. Initially, you may want to argue that “10” could not be the answer…but if you understood, you would know it is true. You either know it is true or you don’t know yet. There are no stages of knowing.
The same applies to the insight of deeply seeing through the mirage we call ego. You either have seen through it (deeply, undeniably) – in which case, suffering, seeking, attachments, and fear are no more…OR you have not really seen through it and still suffer, seek, are attached, and have fear.
This insight is not like a passing spiritual experience of being one with everything, and so you think and then believe that there is only one and you are it. There was the experience of oneness, but later you still will say you have problems, suffer, seek to regain the experience or find “complete and permanent awakening (or next level)”, and fear the death of this person you call me. Experience does not always bring deep insight and understanding…nor acceptance. The experience comes, but you reject it at some level within you. You can have such an experience, and yet it doesn’t change how your really see the world and how you operate within it (one’s real understanding has not profoundly changed).
If it was purely a mental realization via passing spiritual experience, then yes, worries, fears, anxieties, etc. still arise for him…because he thinks he knows there is no separate self, he thinks he should believe there is no separate self, but he really doesn’t believe it. I know it is not a belief, so maybe a better way to put it is that the head says there is no separate-self, but in his heart and bones he feels otherwise. Or to put it yet another way, there was the experience of not being a separate self and yet something within him rejected it and so he comes away from that experience still really believing he was a separate self that still has problems, worries, fears, attachments, suffering, etc.
I am not talking about a superficial insight or realization due to spiritual experiences (no matter how profound or life changing it seems to be for the mind)…but something that is realized deep in the mind, body, heart, and bones. The deep insight/realization can not be denied and so nothing within you rejects it. Then there is no future believing in a separate self…which is required as a basis for fear, anxiety, and worry to exist.
So I am not talking about some experience and knowledge gained. I am talking about a deep insight and understanding into who/what you really are and the nature of reality (which is one and the same). This changes everything instantly.
Awakening is an insight or realization. Sometimes awakening is called liberation. I will use this term to make a point. We think we are making progress in the process of freeing ourselves from bondage…but awakening (i.e. liberation) is realizing you were never in bondage in the first place. Upon awakening, you clearly realize that all of that time you spent in the process of freeing yourself from bondage was the delusion of bondage itself.
In this way, you are either free or your are not free. If you are free, fly free…otherwise you are deluding yourself by thinking you are free or partially free or progressing towards freedom.
I don’t want to leave readers wondering how ” 1 + 1 = 10 “, and so I will let you in on the secret. Binary. The number for 2 in binary is 10. If you did not know this before, now you understand the answer now. This, of course, may be only a mental understanding (i.e. knowledge)…but in your heart of hearts you may think it is only clever to say 10 or 11 but 1 + 1 really equals 2. Any answer but 2 is rejected on some level. In this way, there can be a disconnect between the mental knowledge (the head) and true understanding (the heart).
I want to conclude by saying that awakening is not the end. There are deeper realizations. Adyashanti defines awakening very similarly to me, but he said after his first awakening there were two other awakenings that deepened understanding (beyond the initial change of identification). I have listened to how he describes these awakenings and the understanding that came with them. For me, it was not three separate awakenings…but one to get to the same point. I don’t think it matters, because the key was realizing who/what you really are undeniably (i.e. the change in identification).
I will say my own understand has evolved and deepened as well, but I would not characterize them as further or additional awakenings. Merely, a deepening of understanding. So it is not like awakening is the end and then there is nothing else. You can see through the mirage of ego, and then later have more realizations or insights that deepen or modify your understanding. But I would say awakening comes down to a radical and permanent change of our identification…not just a mental realization (that is not really accepted deeper within you).
In the end, you have either recognized the mirage of ego for what it is and suffering, seeking, attachments, fear, problems, etc. have vanished…or you are still trapped by it (still fooled by the mirage of ego).