“There’s nothing to achieve. This is it. What’s the point of talking about any of this? Why are we so interested in “awakening”? Why is it so important? Why do teachers talk about awakening like it’s the most incredibly important experience on the planet? Why can’t I just go back to the story of me? Why not take the blue pill and continue living in the Matrix?”
Why not? That’s a perfectly reasonable choice to make.
Awakening isn’t important. It isn’t even necessary. What you realize or fail to realize makes not an ounce of difference to the overall scheme of things.
I know most of the stuff you’ve heard directly contradicts what I am saying. To awaken to your own true nature has been marketed to you as the highest virtue a being can aspire to. It is “breaking the karmic cycle”. It is “getting off the wheel of birth and rebirth”. It is having “compassion for all sentient beings”. It is seeing, like the Buddha did, that “all beings are enlightened”. It is breaking the chains of suffering and becoming liberated once and for all.
… It’s still all about YOU. And life simply couldn’t care what you do or don’t do, what you see or don’t see, what you realize or don’t realize. Even other people don’t really care that much. If they appear to care it’s because they really care about themselves and wish the same for themselves. The only person who this is actually important to – is you.
Awakening, self-realization and most things spiritual are only new stories we tell ourselves when the old stories we were living out begin to seem boring and predictable. That’s not to say such experiences don’t exist. Certainly they do. Awakening is an experience as real as my sitting here and typing this sentence.
But is it important? Is it essential? Is it the highest virtue you can aspire to?
How you answer that depends on the LENS through which the question is being asked.
If the lens is a self-centric one i.e. a worldview in which your self is the center around which the universe has been constructed and its values prioritized? Then, YES. Awakening IS important, essential and the highest virtue.
In such a self-centric view, what greater importance could there be than to liberate the very core around which the entire universe revolves and upon which all of reality hinges? Awakening is the pinnacle of all experiences! To be enlightened thus, is to enlighten all beings. Because when the root is awakened the whole tree that emerges from it must spring to life! You ARE that root. There can be no greater act of virtue than this. What human endeavor could be more essential? To say that awakening is “important” is the greatest understatement of all time.
With the self at the center, the fate of the universe literally depends upon you. What choice will you make? Will you choose just another mundane sheep-like existence: being fed your views, your beliefs, your ideas and your stories of self? Or will you choose the extraordinary path of realization and casting aside all falsehoods one by one in an effort to reveal the truth? Which movie will you star in? Will it be a dull and forgettable TV Drama? Or a groundbreaking, award-winning, box-office record-setting, blockbuster of the year?
As the hero of your own narrative, what could be more important than to undertake a “hero’s journey”? From rags to riches. From disillusionment to triumph. From suffering to liberation.
That moment when you finally awaken and proclaim as the Buddha did, “ALL BEINGS ARE ENLIGHTENED!”
Do you hear that?
That’s the sound of the whole universe applauding!
…There is the lens through which no such self sits at the center of it all. The self is just a passing phenomenon like a cloud formation in the sky. In such a view, there is no center to the universe. All points are equally valid. Everything affects everything else. Nothing remains for long. Even the brightest supernovas and the densest black holes are passing phenomena that have a momentary effect then are totally forgotten.
In this view, what happens or doesn’t happen for a single particular self is of minimal consequence. Whether you awaken or don’t. Whether you realize something of yourself or don’t is of very little significance. Whether you burst into a blaze of illumination like a supernova or collapse into a dense void like a black hole is of negligible importance. The universe has seen many like you and will encounter many more to come.
From the viewpoint of the whole, no point within it is more or less significant than another. No phenomenon happening within it is more or less significant. A Buddha enlightening and a prostitute orgasming are of equal significance. A sage waking up to the reality of his true nature and a teenager waking up to the reality of another school day are both utterly ordinary phenomena.
ALL are ordinary. Nothing is extraordinary. For if something were to be extraordinary, something else would have to be less-than-ordinary. And to the whole, nothing can be more or less than whole. Everything is of the same nature as itself.
From this lens of perception, the answer to your questions is a resounding NO. Your awakening is not essential. Not important. Not the highest virtue one can aspire to. It is just another mundane event in the universe: like a cloud dissipating.
The great irony then, is that “awakening” is simply a shift in perspective from the first lens to the second.
It is a reordering of one’s worldview from a self-centric one to a “centerless” one. And in the process, all those events of spiritual significance, all the revelations we crave and value, all our hopes and aspirations are razed back to the ground zero level at which all phenomena exist. Everything becomes absolutely ordinary and of no special significance – INCLUDING awakening.
If our spiritual teachers were really “awakened” they would be telling us this. They would be like our dull and humorless parents, dousing the fires of our romantic spiritual views with their sobering perspectives rather than fanning the flames for their own amusement or benefit.
Like teenage girls or boys who believe that finding their perfect soulmate is the purpose of their life, spiritual seekers are likewise driven by hopelessly romantic ideas of enlightenment. A good parent is one who neither discourages nor encourages the teenager, yet simply adds a sober perspective that the teen may not fully comprehend as yet, but will in time make greater sense. Similarly, a teacher if they are truly wise, will neither egg the seeker on nor will command them to cease and desist. They will simply present a sober perspective that says,
“None of this is really as significant as you are making it out to be.”
The seeker may not fully comprehend this, but in time it will make greater sense.
Of course, what most teachers actually do is egg on their students. They are like parents who claim, “I have found my own soulmate and YOU WILL TOO ONE DAY IF YOU JUST BELIEVE!” They rarely question the fundamental premise of lack that is driving the seeker’s seeking. And they NEVER talk of awakening as the ordinary experience that it is.
Seeking, finding, awakening, realizing. None of this is of any real significance.
If given the choice to live another lifetime under an entirely different storyline – I would gladly choose something completely different. Rather than the theme of spiritual realization, I’d pick another genre entirely. Perhaps, a life of organized crime or being a member of an undiscovered Amazonian tribe. So many genres of fiction to pick from. The only reason we pigeonhole ourselves in our narratives is because we actually believe that such a genre as “non-fiction” exists. Spirituality is not non-fiction. It’s just another fictional genre like the rest.
So, why not take the blue pill and live in the matrix? Or take the red pill and step out of the matrix. It’s all just as well. Both choices are equally valid. Neither is of greater significance than the other. Neither of higher virtue. Neither is going to save you from the death that is imminent. The universe isn’t going to give much of a shit. You won’t get an applause. You may receive a scattered clapping from a few people around the world who are obsessed with the same things you are. But they are really clapping for themselves, not for you.
For me, the question of which pill to take is inconsequential. It makes no difference whether I place my self in the matrix or apart from it. Blue or red? It’s as significant as asking me what my favorite color is. It’s only a matter of preference and nothing more.
Because what I see through my own lens is that, I AM the matrix.