Love, wisdom and happiness are found by becoming conscious. Becoming conscious means to know your nature as pure observing consciousness, to establish sanity and wholeness of the psyche, and understand the spiritual nature of existence. This process includes the transcendent awakening of pure consciousness to itself, as well as the gradual refining of insight and understanding in daily life and relationships. We are then able to embody and express spiritual intelligence through our character.
What is the relationship between universal consciousness and individuality?
When we recognize pure consciousness as our nature, we continue to experience an individual psyche or mind, yet without unconscious identification. Enlightenment means to know our universal, spiritual nature and to have a well integrated, conscious psyche as a result.
Do we have a self?
Each of us exists absolutely as conscious spirit. Our consciousness cannot be reduced to phenomena or conditions. It is the pure observer of all experiences, and it exists beyond the body or the time-space world. What we outgrow is a narrow and material notion of our self. We do not lose our real self or nature. You can only get rid of what is false, not what is real.
The real self of every human being is eternal consciousness, the source of will, intellect and feeling. Insofar as we come to know our conscious nature, then our thoughts, feelings and actions will reflect its positive qualities.
Do we have to get rid of desires?
Desire, or will, is the vehicle of our spiritual development. We cannot get off this horse. We need to understand its nature and curb its excesses, while we direct it more wisely. Desire is ultimately aiming for love, peace and happiness, but in a human life it must evolve in its own time, through experience and insight.
It is natural that we search for the wrong things, get frustrated, and must gradually refine our attitude and values. Once we have enough insight, we start to desire spiritual wisdom and self-knowledge most of all. Even then, we will at first hold superficial notions of what spiritual wisdom is and how to find it. This too must be refined.
Gradually we learn that what we are seeking is wisdom, or understanding. Understanding is the factor that reveals all positive qualities within us, as our nature. When we engage in life from wisdom, we can enjoy all things without losing ourselves in them. Love and wisdom put all things in perspective.
Should we stop all seeking?
Seeking the wrong things only stops when wisdom is present. Wisdom starts with observing. The problem human beings have is that the unconsciousness and ignorance in their minds actively blocks love, peace and happiness. A confused and agitated mind cannot will itself to be at peace and accept things as they are. To enjoy peace requires clarity. As the experience of countless frustrated spiritual seekers indicates, the lack of this clarity is precisely the problem.
When we work to to gain clarity and to dissolve our delusions, we are not seeking an exotic, higher state of bliss, visions or special spiritual status. We are endeavoring to strip away the false, discover truth and enjoy all the positive qualities that truth brings. If you've noticed that agitation of mind, heavy moods and negative behaviors block your daily experience of love and peace, then a process of understanding is in order.
What is the process of understanding?
The process of self-realization involves two inseparable aspects. The first is knowing our conscious nature, the transcendent context of our experience. By this we rise out of the state of unconscious identification with mind patterns; and also out of a merely material sense of our existence. The second aspect is psychological insight and integration.
We come to know and understand our nature as consciousness by observing, which is the natural function and light of our conscious nature. While we live in observing, we must also use our conscious presence to gain penetrating insight to our psychology. This psychological insight removes the blinding and binding ignorance from the mind, so that the direct knowing of consciousness more easily arises.
In other words, the process of directly recognizing our conscious nature and the process of gaining psychological integration reinforce each other. Psychology without the direct knowing of conscious essence becomes earthbound and cannot liberate. Spiritual awakening without psychological insight becomes ungrounded mysticism; embodied in the hope that all suffering will be removed by one single shift of awareness.
In order to fully know our spiritual nature, we must make what is unconscious in us, conscious. We must shine the light of intelligence on our psychology and relationships. We must do this because the only thing blocking the full love and wisdom of our spiritual nature is the entrenched false beliefs, distorted thoughts and negative moods in our psychology.
These obscuring patterns get entrenched as personality disorders, defenses, obsessions and addictions. The hope that a single shift of recognizing awareness as the sole reality (of self and world) will remove all these distortions within us, is a false hope. Although we do not need to perfect our personalities or psychology in order to awaken spiritually, we do need to gain a sufficient degree of meditative stillness, insight and integration.
The principle is that Light begets light. Instead of waiting for one great epiphany, which may or may not come, we must work with the light we have. At all times, our focus should be to live in observing, inner listening and examining our character, attitudes and actions. This brings all that is unconscious in us to light.
It is only by making the unconscious conscious that we gain wisdom.The many subtle insights and shifts of attitude that come from steady self-reflection all work to reveal our conscious spirit more fully, in the mirror of its own luminous intelligence.
As our misunderstanding exists in the mind and expresses itself in mind activity, it can only be removed by understanding. To understand begins with observing our inner experience, and learning to also think clearly about it. Observing, or pure awareness, must be joined with higher reasoning and intuition.
Understanding comes from observing and thinking clearly about our experience. So the intellect is our ally in this. When directed properly, thought helps reveal pure consciousness. From then on, thought will function in a conscious atmosphere of stillness and clarity. Feelings also will come into alignment with wisdom, so that we can more easily trust that our feelings reflect truth instead of confusion.
In our daily lives, we must work to understand the subtle attitudes, habits and beliefs that block love and truth. We must learn also to cut through heavy moods by taking courageous action and creating a clean lifestyle. By this gradual process, we go through many psychological changes and openings, and we also open ourselves to sudden awakening of consciousness.
Do we have to stop thinking? How should we view the mind?
I do not regard thought as the enemy of truth, or the intellect as a useless troublemaker. Many enlightenment teachings are deeply anti-intellectual. They give us the false idea that all thinking is purely unconscious, automatic and deluded. This is a profound error that pervades popular spirituality.
Our intellect is our most powerful tool and needs only to properly directed toward wisdom. By observing, we can learn to notice useless, deluded thinking, and engage our powerful faculties of reason and intuition. We can consider reason to be the masculine, linear expression of mind, while intuition is receptive and feminine. Both are needed to reveal wisdom.
Instead of making thought the enemy, I advise you to patiently observe your thoughts and learn to think clearly. As you do so, thoughts slow down and you open a space for stillness and intuitive knowing. This creates a harmony between reason and intuition, the masculine and feminine aspects of mind.
What is the ego?
What many people call the ego is only a confused way of thinking, and a mistaken notion of oneself. From a spiritual point of view, we can say ego refers to a very material and mental notion of ourselves. This material and mental notion of self arises from habits of mind, history and conditioning. To the extent that we identify exclusively with this psychological and social sense of self, we misjudge ourselves and live in painful ignorance of our spiritual nature.
Rather than refer to your ego or my ego, I prefer to speak of confusion or spiritual ignorance. For, even within our confusion, none of us has entirely forgotten our spiritual nature. The light of conscious spirit shines within and beckons us all, even if it seems very dim for some of us, some of the time. As we acquaint with the original, pure light of our spirit, we steadily shine through our false identity and confused mentality. Our basic character traits remain, but become gradually purified by understanding.
How hard is it to overcome our delusions?
A confused mind is a mind of mistaken ideas and beliefs, that is all. Let's not underestimate how deep the delusions can be, but remember that's all they are -- delusions and mistaken ideas. They vanish when light is shone on them. Your real self, spirit or soul is that light of pure, conscious presence (and love) which has always been right here as the inner witness of your life. In awakening, we don't get rid of our mind, body or personality; we just illuminate these things with the light of love and truth that we are.
Our intellect is not a dull instrument; it is the mirror that reflects the light of our consciousness. As we gain ever more subtle wisdom, the mind becomes luminous, like the moon being lit by the sun of pure consciousness. We experience a depth of stillness and well-being that steadily transforms the mind. Again, transforming our personality and mind patterns is not something we do with the hope that if we do it well enough, then an awakening will magically happen. Rather, the illumination of the mind and purification of the psyche is the natural function of consciousness -- and is inseparable from awakening itself. When there is sufficient clarity, consciousness reveals itself to itself, in totality and timelessness.