Göran Backlund: "Starting now, my book Refuting The External World is free in the kindle store for the next 5 days."
The purpose of this essay is to get you to understand Enlightenment – what it is and how to attain it. To attain enlightenment is sometimes referred to as Waking up, which is a shorter way of saying Awakening to Enlightenment – but what that actually means requires some further explanation.
So what does ‘awakening’ mean?In order to understand what Awakening to enlightenment really means, we need to first understand the nature of reality – and the short version goes something like this:
You’ve seen the movie The Matrix, right? If you haven’t, please go and do that now. But assuming you have, envision the matrix but without anything outside. No machines, no big computer running things, no space, no time; nothing at all – in fact, there isn’t even an outside. Are you imagining it? That’s our reality. Put differently, there is no material universe out there beyond our experience. There are no atoms. No planets. No stars. No space. There’s only subjectivity. There’s only this ever-changing field of experiencing otherwise known as consciousness or awareness.
That’s the short version. The long version—where I actually provide the proof for all this—is detailed in my book; and this essay is somewhat targeted to those of you who already read it but are now ready to step off that cliff and turn these truths into a living reality.
Anyway, the key point is:
- There’s no objective reality – there’s only experiencing
But why does it seem like we’re entities in a universe that exist independently of us? Why does it feel like there’s me on the one hand, and something else that’s not-me on the other? It’s because of the way in which we divide our experience.
Undivided experienceNow, here’s the thing. Our experience isn’t actually divided. There is no separation in the way we usually think about it – that is, the triad of seer, seeing and seen that we tacitly assume is present is never actually part of our direct experience. That division simply isn’t there. But let’s go through it in detail so you can see what I mean.
First we’ll investigate whether a seer, a subject, can be found in direct experience.
Go on. Find your self.
Have you looked yet? You can look all you want, but you won’t find anything. We can’t find a subject, because if we could, we would have to admit of a further subject, to which whatever we just found is known – making what we found an object, not a subject – And so, ad infinitum.
That’s one reason as to why we can never find a subject – we’re logically precluded from doing so.
The other reason would be: there simply is no subject. Remember, there is no objective reality. The presumed seer doesn’t exist – nothing does. There’s only this field of experiencing.
So the key insight here is:
- No subject can be found in direct experience
First, let’s state some self-evident facts.
- The objects of our visual experience consist solely of colors.
- That is, nothing is given in direct visual experience except colors.
- In other words, we don’t see objects and their colors – we only see the colors.
- Put differently, nothing is found in vision other than patterns of color.
Therefore, we must concede that ‘seeing’ and ‘color’ are merely different words for the exact same thing, namely ‘seeing.’
In other words, colors aren’t ‘colors’ in the way we usually think about them – glued to objects, waiting to be seen – instead, what they are is nothing other than seeing itself.
And since the ‘objects’ of our experience consists solely of colors, we must now understand that they actually don’t – what they’re really made out of is ‘seeing.’
And finally, the last step in this reduction is to simply understand that ‘seeing’ is just another word for awareness. Awareness, or consciousness, doesn’t signify a thing – these words simply refer to the presence of seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling and thinking.
- There’s no subject given in experience.
- There are no objects—or ‘colors’—given in experience.
- There’s only ‘seeing’ or awareness.
Non-dual awarenessBut although our analysis reveals that there’s only awareness—only seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling and thinking actually going on—the unenlightened still feel like there’s a me—a subject—in here, behind the eyes; a seer that perceives a multitude of objects out there, in the world.
It’s because of a specific mode of perceiving that makes it seem as if experience is divided although it’s actually not. This affliction is known as samsara, or simply bondage. It’s our ordinary way of looking. It’s what makes it seem like there’s a seer, seeing and something seen.
But there’s another mode of perceiving possible – the undivided way.
The phrase ‘Awakening to enlightenment’ signifies the moment where we shift into that other mode of perceiving. It’s the moment of cessation of the division that makes it seem as if there’s a me, a subject of experience, and a not-me, the object of experience – leaving only pure seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting and thinking; simply non-dual beingness without any sense of being a subject that experiences objects. The sense of being an observer; a witness of experience; vanishes, and instead one’s sense of being shifts to encompass the entire field of experience. ‘Awakening’ denotes that actual shift – ‘Enlightenment’ is where we find ourselves afterwards.
But true enlightenment is more than a profound shift in perception. It’s a deep realization of the non-objective nature of reality; of the hollowness of one’s self – it’s a revelation of the fallacious nature of objectivity; which inevitably leads to a total rewrite of the way we think, act and feel.
- Awakening to enlightenment means that we shift into another mode of perception wherein experiencing no longer seems divided into a me and a not-me.
The end of ignoranceIf we are to cease dividing experience into me and not-me, it’s useful to understand why we perceive in this way in the first place.
Why do we perceive in terms of subject-object?Due to our culturally imposed world view, the act of perceiving is interpreted in terms of what could best be described as something like a camera model. That is, we think of ourselves as cameras, moving around, looking at stuff. And the field of experience is our view, wherein the objects of experience briefly appear as we apprehend them with our sensory faculties. That’s the universe-model in a nutshell. Now, let’s break it down into detail.
When we encounter an object in direct experience, essentially the following happens (let’s pretend we see something – a box, for example):
- A particular pattern of color is conceptualized as an ‘object,’ which has a wide range of connotations attached – such as, it’s a space-time entity; it has mass; it’s made of a material, etc. In other words, the concept that we have to represent this percept has attached to it a bunch of other concepts, all of which contribute to our idea of what it is – making us forget that it’s really nothing but patterns of color – which is nothing other than ‘seeing,’ or awareness itself.
- Now, because it’s an ‘object,’ there’s another fundamental connotation involved – namely that of it being perceived by a subject. Which is us. In other words, according to our universe-model of reality, whenever an object is present in our experience, it is so because we as its subject has encountered it. That is, our field of view simply happened to slide past that object. Put differently, the very presence of an object implies us as its perceiving subject. It’s the camera model of perception. Just as the presence of images on a TV screen imply that they were apprehended by some camera, the presence of an object in experience implies that it’s being perceived by us as its subject.
- So the very notion of an ‘object’ entails the presence of a subject that perceives it. It’s built in to the concept. We cannot help but see ourselves in this way under the universe-model, because every encounter with an object reaffirms and reminds us of our existence as its subject.
But what if we had no model at all? Not because it would be a ‘better’ way to live life(it is), but because we have through careful inquiry realized that the very nature of models as such are based on a fundamental error of thought?
We would start to see reality as it is before any conceptual overlay. We would, in effect, be at a ‘ground zero’ state. No longer would it seem as if we’re a camera moving about in the world – instead, what we previously thought of as the world, we now abide in – finally – as the very flow of phenomenality itself. With no model laid out over experiencing there’s just pure non-dual beingness. And that’s the enlightened mode of perceiving. Ground Zero.
So, there are actually two steps to this process. The first step is to realize that the division that we think is there isn’t. The subject-object model that we have is not representative of what’s actually going on. If you look right now you’ll see that there’s never any subject nor any objects given in direct experience – which reveals that the subject-object model of experience is entirely a mental fabrication – it all hinges on our beliefs about reality.
The last step is to pick apart those beliefs. To refute objectivity. To disprove the external world – so that we can abandon the universe-model and instead shift our experiencing into non-dual awareness.
EndgameSo stop fucking around. All of this deconstructing-your-ego business that everybody’s preaching these days is just a waste of time. Nothing dismantles an ego as effectively as pulling the rug out from underneath its existence as a space-time object.
Moreover, there’s certain movements on the internet that specialize in pointing out something that goes like this:
“Although there’s a body here, there’s no self in it. There’s just a brain doing the thinking and a body doing the walking, etc.”
That’s just pure nonsense. The idea of a self is the idea that there’s a space-time entity with perceptual capabilities – it’s as simple as that; and no amount of this kind of reasoning will ever ‘liberate’ you if you still believe that there are subjects that perceive objects.
In order to awaken, you must deconstruct the universe-model of reality – you must understand exactly how and why that model is false, so that you can begin to untangle the subject-object knot of perception that’s standing between you and reality in its infinite form.
Get real. Declare it with force and finality, and you’ll soon find yourself in full appreciation of the beauty and power of that which has always been staring you right in the face.
A Shift Into Enlightenment
I think there were two factors that were paramount to my awakening. First, I spent a lot of time contemplating that color equals seeing, and that sound equals hearing; that thoughts equal thinking and smells equal smelling. I did that every spare moment – checking my experience, confirming that the apparent colors I saw, in fact, were nothing other than seeing, and that the body sensations I felt were nothing other than feeling.
I confirmed to myself over and over, not the inseparability of knowing and known, but the total lack of a ‘known’ altogether.
That’s worth saying again: Over and over, I confirmed to myself the total absence of a ‘known’ altogether.
You don’t see a dog. You’re seeing dogly. There’s no known – there’s just knowing.
I did that for months.
The second thing I did was to pierce through the veil of conceptualization. At least that’s how I like to think of it.
In attempting to induce an awakening, I think that it can be helpful to view ordinary experience in terms of two layers – namely, raw sensory data on top of which there’s another layer of conceptuality. Now, of course, such division is never actually present in our direct experience, but to artificially divide experience in this way can be useful in this kind of endeavor.
The key is to notice that you’re nearly always focused on merely the conceptual aspect of experience. That is, when looking at something, your perceptual focus is on what it is—conceptually—rather then the raw sensory data substratum upon which the concept is based. In other words, looking at a coffee cup, one is mostly focused on its coffee cup-ness (and thus its objectness), rather than the actual colors (which, again, are nothing but seeing) that make up one’s experience of it. Awakening happens when this veil of conceptuality is pierced. That’s when the shift occurs.
Again, I wanna emphasize that I don’t mean to say that there’s an actual veil over experience – just that I think it’s helpful to view experience in such a way in order to guide one’s attention to this raw aspect of experiencing, which I believe is what allows for a shift to occur.
I remember when I started experimenting with this. I used to take an ordinary object, such as a coffee cup, and just look at it very intently – trying to really see the colors that made up its existence in my field of view. And when I did this I would sometimes enter a kind of super-focused state wherein I suddenly could see the colors very, very clearly. And if I kept that kind of concentration for a few seconds I would sometimes experience a shift where the sense of being a subject that’s observing an object, suddenly would collapse into just pure seeing.
The first time that happened, I finally knew what everybody had been talking about – what phrases such as non-dual awareness, enlightenment and sat-chit-ananda actually meant. But then, after a few minutes, I reverted back to ordinary perception. But I could now pretty much enter this super-focused state at will, which would most often induce another shift. Eventually I started to spontaneously shift in and out of non-dual awareness during the day, and after about six months of shifting back and forth, it finally settled into an abiding non-dual awareness that hasn’t left since.
So, that’s what I suggest – to look at ordinary objects very intently, similarly to how one does when trying to read a license plate on a car from far away. In trying to read that license plate, one must concentrate and really try to see, which is very similar to the type of effort required in this excercise. You know you’re doing it right when you suddenly start to see the colors ‘clearly’ – at which point you just keep your attention there and keep your fingers crossed until you shift.