So you’ve seen the non-dual light, melted into the ocean of pure consciousness, become one with God, rested in Nirvakalpa Samadhi. Now what? How do you live in the world when you have realized that you are not of the world? The final stage of Yoga, Sahaj Samadhi, addresses this conundrum.
Many renunciate traditions of the world describe this final mystical union achieved in deep states of absorption to be the end of the path, the summit of personal evolution, where the individual transcends the samsaric wheels of birth and death to blissfully merge into the timeless One behind space-time. The yogi in a cave, the monk in the monastery, the ascetic in the jungle are all images of beings who have left the trials and tribulations of mundane life behind to seek personal liberation from the endless ocean of suffering. As attractive as this image may seem, especially as we all face an accelerating global collapse, the deeper call is one of collective awakening, deeply rooted in the manifest world, as it is.
Many of us who have seen the light, whether through devoted spiritual practice, a psychedelic encounter, a near death experience (NDE), or just graced by a spontaneous mystical revelation, are faced with the daunting project of integrating what was once protected in the renunciate setting. We inevitably have to come back to our lives, our communities, our livelihoods, our relationships, but now we are different. The very structure of our personality has been utterly transformed by a direct encounter with this transcendent reality. Who we once thought we were begins to resonate with a deeper mystery that renders the personality construct transparent and illusory. The mirror of the mind is finally polished so that when we look out into the world, we begin to see none other than our self. In other words, the final duality to be transcended is the me vs. the world, for the deepest realization reveals that there is no other, only the self.
From this non-dual stance, the yogi tucked away in her private nirvakalpa samadhi is still stuck in duality, pushing away the world of the senses and grasping for the formless states of transcendence. This subtle duality is the final confrontation of the awakening soul, as the next stage becomes the selfless service that the liberated being offers to the larger body of the collective.
According to Mahayana Buddhists it’s the “Great Vehicle,” where the hero comes back from their personal liberation to help the rest of the world awaken. Salvation is viewed not as an individual pursuit, but as a collective process. Since it is all part of Us, the bodhisattva, or Awakened One, knows that we are all in this together, so that if one of us is still suffering then we are all still suffering. We either all liberate, or none of us does, since in our deepest core we are all part of a single consciousness that only manifests as fractal, individualized expressions in space-time for the dance.
The difference, however, is that the bodhisattva has seen beyond the world of form, and knows that in that timeless Source Consciousness there is no time, therefore we are already saved, enlightened, and liberated! Awareness itself is the liberation. Pure awareness is already whole, complete unto it-Self, the only thing in our experience that does not change. As it turns out, pure consciousness is the medicine! In that formless, innermost place within all beings nothing happens; it is pure stillness, ever-present Now, timeless Being.
After we have established contact with that deepest identity where we are already free, we then return to space-time to do our thing, but this time from a space of awe, curiosity, wisdom, and compassion. In other words: you become a free evolutionary agent, deeply embodied in the game of life, but with a secret resonance that continually reminds you of who you truly are; the eternal One behind all of creation.
Patanjali called this final level of realization sahaj samadhi. One of the limits of the high causal state of nirvakalpa samadhi is that it can be enjoyed only while the individual remains still, absorbed in deep meditation. The final step in Raja Yoga is to extend the deep stillness of samadhi into all other realms of the individual’s life (waking, dreaming, and deep sleep). If one is able to abide in this deep inner stillness throughout life’s everyday challenges, and remain conscious at every level of Being, then one is called a jivan-mukti, a liberated wo/man (bodhisattva).
In this enlightened state of Being, the Supreme formless Void is integrated into the lower matrices of creation as a constant witnessing. The Witness itself being one with that pure formless Awareness at the core of all experience. This is true wholeness.
Life is Your Meditation
Enlightenment literally means “light emanating from within,” and this light is none other than ever-present awareness. In sahaj samadhi, meditation is a self-sustained, spontaneous fact of the individual’s existence. Life becomes the meditation, as the practice becomes one of subtly identifying with the quiet presence that is aware behind that which is observed. Whether perceptual, sensual, emotional, mental, social, or spiritual, the non-dual practice is to see all phenomena as the play of consciousness.
Remember, pure consciousness is not some far out, unattainable mystical concept. It is the very essence of who and what you are, in this very moment. That which is aware, that which knows, that which is having an experience right now is pure awareness, the “Witness” or “Observer” behind all of the impermanent waves that are arising moment to moment. Normally, for most people, this awareness identifies with that which arises and is “unconscious” of its self-being and self-knowing. It identifies with the body, which is an object that awareness is aware of. If you really notice, what we call “our body” is but a series of sensory-perceptual signals arising in a field of awareness, the subjective Witness that is conscious of those sensations.
Awareness also identifies with the habitual thoughts of the brain, which through association, memory, and self-referencing creates a conceptual sense of self; the ego personality most humans believe themselves to be. Pure limitless awareness condenses from its boundless, infinite nature into the limitations of the body-mind, therefore forgetting its essential nature. The spiritual journey is the progressive awakening of this awareness, as it sheds lawyers of conditioned self-identity to reveal its true and original luminous nature.
The simple recognition that the deepest I Am is inherently fulfilled, whole, and free is all that is required to remain rooted in the Mystery. But as simple and obvious as this realization seems, the paradox is that to get to it requires practice and a certain devotion to self-knowing.
Most humans go through life without ever realizing who or what they ultimately are. They live asleep to their true nature, conditioned and programmed by outside forces that often distract attention away from the richness of an inner life. It often takes a drastic life event to shake a person up from their slumber, such as a loss, almost dying, or a pinch of psychedelic, revealing that life is a much deeper miracle than the mundane nine-to-five prime-time 3D reality would have us believe. The ultimate revelation is that freedom and peace is the very substance that we are made of, and by simply reorienting toward it, as a practice, we can initiate the flowering towards a liberated life.
Becoming Aware of Awareness
This recognition can be had in an instant if accurately pointed out. Let us take this moment and explore this question directly, within the lab of our own intimate subjective knowing. As we turn our gaze in on itself, becoming Aware of Awareness it-Self, a number of obvious truths become apparent regarding the nature of that which is looking:
1. Awareness itself has no form; it is fundamentally formless. It is aware of shifting forms, the world for example, or a dream, but in itself is formless.
2. Awareness has no space, it is spaceless, dimensionless, without boundaries, therefore limitless. Limits only arise as a function of the activity of the individual mind. When the individual mind learns to quiet and listen, the infinite nature of the underlying Awareness is experienced.
3. If you really notice, it will be self evident and obvious that you are always “here;” awareness is always in “here.” “Over there” is a thought, a projection, for all awareness ever knows is “here.” Your experience is always in your own personal “here.” You don’t really know anyone else’s “here;” a categorical impossibility.
4. Awareness is always in the now. The mind can remember a past or fantasize and plan for a future, but the Awareness Witnessing those constructs exists only in the now. If we look closely we may notice that this now is ever-present. In fact it is eternal. Do you remember a time when you did not exist? Of course not, you can’t remember non-existence; you can only know now, existence in this moment. Now is all there is.
5. And finally, if we are really honest with the knowing in our deepest experience, we may notice that there is just ONE of it! Your experience is singular. You assume others are having a subjective conscious experience of being, just as you are, but you don’t really know that. All you truly know is your own experience, the only thing you will ever know.
The Unified Field
To recap, what we can observe when we quiet our individual mind is an underlying Witnessing Awareness, which appears as a vast, unified field in which the world of form arises, and into which it returns. It is dimensionless; there is no distance or size, just a “here;” time stands still as an eternal now; and no limitations can be discerned. This, is the Singularity. It is the only Singularity we could ever know. And you are it! Not the you that you identify with on a regular daily basis, but that which feels itself to be you in your deepest inner core, before your mind forms an image of who it thinks it is.
And so, after we have recognized our true nature as pristine and free, we return to “the market place” with helping hands. Rooted in the knowing that there is no death, that the deepest awareness is eternal as evidenced by it’s changeless ever-present reality, we return to the suffering masses to assist and midwife the birth of this evolving consciousness. We become part of a larger collective movement of awakening that we influence through our individualized connection to that indwelling Source. This can manifest in a variety of actions and behaviors, but ultimately it is the quality of being that emanates from the awakened heart that gently calls others to remember.
When one awakens from the clutches of time, one relaxes into the play of life, bringing joy and creativity as a contribution to the evolutionary journey itself. In the non-dual stance, one embraces all that presents itself without resistance, while simultaneously being grounded in the clear light of ones own Witnessing Awareness. This Awareness is synonymous with unconditional love, which when turned toward the apparent world helps heal and transform its changing forms.
Buddha’s “Form is none other Emptiness, Emptiness is none other than Form” becomes a blazing reality as we walk through a world on the cusp of radical transformation. When we know that deep eternal presence within, we open our hearts without fear or hesitation to whatever life puts in front of us, as we feel life rise within us. All that arises exists within awareness, and the final recognition is that it is not two, but one spontaneous movement of the One.
In that recognition, we fall in love all over again.
Eugene A. Alliende has been practicing meditation and yoga for twenty years and facilitates weekly meditation groups and classes at his healing center. His passion is the exploration of consciousness, and how a deeper understanding of our true nature can help heal the individual and the world. Read his book Dimensions of Being here