Hi there, Ted.
I am a long time meditator in the Sant Mat tradition (www.sos.org) for 40 years and still no Moksha! However, most of the time I am deeply in love with my Self so I must have been doing something right! Wanted to thank you for your generous offer to answer questions and I have a nice list. For example, I’m reading “The Essence of Enlightenment” again and on p. 104 the 3rd Jiva category is ‘’one that knows it is awareness and what it means to be awareness.” Can you explain that sentence so I can understand what it means?
Ted: Apprehending the fact that your true nature is limitless conscious existence is what we call self-realization. Through the process of self-inquiry, you negate all objective phenomena as “not self” in the sense that while in essence everything is nothing other than non-dual awareness (i.e., the self), no limited objective phenomenon or even the collective of all limited objective phenomena (i.e., the entire manifestation in both its subtle and gross aspects) can comprehensively define, describe, or delineate that which is limitless. Once all objective phenomena have been mentally negated as the self, the psyche’s hand is forced, so to speak, and rather than conceiving of the self as an object/experience any longer, it apprehends (i.e., understands—not in the sense of learning information, which is object-oriented, but rather in the sense that the proverbial light bulb goes on and the mind realizes that it is actually only an object within a limitless “field” of consciousness.
Great as that realization is, however, it does not seal the deal as far as moksha goes. The mind is enlightened, has gained self-knowledge, but it has not lain to rest all its habitual tendencies and thus has not attained liberation from attachment to objects and the consequent suffering that ensues from this attachment. The conditioning that I am the limited person, that I am the body-mind-sense complex with which a portion of the limitless conscious existence that is my true nature is associated with is still strong. And because the mind—via the ego, which is actually only a thought in the mind, though a rather unique thought in that it is the only thought that considers itself to be not a thought at all, but rather an independently existent, volitional entity—still identifies with the body-mind-sense complex, it gets swept up in the idea that it is incomplete and inadequate and consequently still feels the need to chase objects that it hopes will bring it joy and fulfillment. Thus, though the mind has caught a “glimpse” of its true nature, it is not yet completely free of the sense that the self is the apparent limited individual person with whom it is associated or free of the idea that particular objects/conditions/experiences are necessary for its wellbeing.
Self-realization is the fruit of the first two “phases” of self-inquiry—shravana, or hearing and getting a sound intellectual understanding of the teachings, and manana, or the process by means of which all one’s doubts and counter-arguments are laid to rest through the thorough examination of one’s experience and the proper unfoldment of the implied meaning of the words of scripture under the continued guidance of a qualified teacher.
Self-actualization, or “knowing what it means to be awareness,” comes as a result of the third “phase”—nididhyasana, or the continuous contemplation of and meditation on the teachings until such time as the mind is as convinced that the true nature of the apparent individual person is limitless conscious existence as it once was that the apparent individual person was a real entity (i.e., an independently existent volitional entity with its own self-nature).
The chief sign that this shift in identity has truly taken hold is that the mind will no longer be riddled with binding vasanas, or the compelling desire for limited objects/experiences/circumstances that it believes are necessary for its wellbeing. The mind will still harbor preferences, likes and dislikes. But these attractions and aversions will not be attachments or addictions. One will be able to enjoy or at least endure whatever life presents, knowing that even while the apparent individual still experiences pain and pleasure, no object or experience can enhance or diminish one’s essential nature as limitless conscious existence. Once one knows limitless conscious existence is his true nature, one can thereafter enjoy objects, but will no longer seek to get the joy from the object. Rather, one will know that one’s self is the source of the joy, and thus, to put it in colloquial lingo, one will no longer wait for the party to start, but will bring the party with him wherever he goes. This is what it means to know what it means to be awareness.