What is spiritual awakening? You may have heard several answers to this question—but perhaps none as penetrating as Adyashanti's point of view on the subject. In this excerpt from The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment, he shares his unique perspective on the surprisingly destructive nature of spiritual awakening.
In a very real sense, it is much more accurate to talk about what we lose upon awakening rather than what we gain. We don't only lose our self—who we thought we were—but we also lose our entire perception of the world. Separation is only a perception; in fact, when it comes to our world, there is nothing but perception. “Your world” is not your world, it is only your perception. So while it may seem negative at first, I think it's much more useful to talk about spiritual awakening in terms of what we lose—what we awaken from. This means we're talking about the dissolution of the image we have of ourselves, and it's this dismantling of who we thought we were that is so startling when one wakes up.
And it is indeed startling: it's not what we think it's going to be like at all. I've never had a single student come back and say, “You know, Adya, I peered through the veil of separation and it's pretty much what I thought it would be. It measures up pretty closely to what I've been told.” Usually they come back and say, “This is nothing like what I imagined.”
This is especially interesting since many of the people I teach have been studying spirituality for many years, and they often have very intricate ideas about what awakening is going to be like. But when it happens, it is always different from their expectations. In many ways, it is grander, but also in many ways, it is simpler. In truth, if it is to be true and real, awakening must be different than what we imagine it to be. This is because all of our imaginings about awakening are happening within the paradigm of the dream state. It is not possible to imagine something outside of the dream state when our consciousness is still within it.
The Willingness to Question Everything
Nothing I say substitutes for the real, direct experience of knowing what you truly are. You need to be willing to question everything, to stop and ask yourself, “Do I really know what I think I know, or have I just taken on the beliefs and opinions of others? What do I actually know, and what do I want to believe or imagine? What do I know for certain?”
This one question—“What do I know for certain?”—is tremendously powerful. When you look deeply into this question, it actually destroys your world. It destroys your whole sense of self, and it's meant to. You come to see that everything you think you know about yourself, everything you think you know about the world, is based on assumptions, beliefs, and opinions—things you believe because you were taught or told that they were true. Until we start to see these false perceptions for what they really are, consciousness will be imprisoned within the dream state.
In the same way, as soon as we allow ourselves to realize, “My gosh, I know almost nothing: I don't know who I am, I don't know what the world is, I don't know if this is true, I don't know if that is true,” something within our being opens up. When we are willing to step into the unknown and its inherent insecurity, and not run back to anything for cover or for comfort—when we are willing to stand as if facing an oncoming wind and not wince—we can finally face our actual self.