Awakening: what is it exactly?
Siddharta Gautama nickname the Buddha was born on 623 BCE. He was the son of a local king near the current border of India and Nepal. This silver-spoon young man left his wife, young boy and family at the age of 19. His quest: to understand the sources human suffering and to look for potential solution.
After 5 years of huge struggling including near death ascetic practice, he decided to meditate intensively and to find some answers. Meditation, practiced for thousands of years was an integral part of life for everyone. At 30 years old and after6 years of meditation he found the answers he was looking for.
“ I am awake!” he said meaning, “I am aware of the present moment & its concrete reality. I am free from my relentless mind-made day dreaming”.
He started verbal teaching until he died at the age of around 80 in 544 BCE. He never want to write anything, to be worshiped nor to create a new religion, his followers did that even if Buddhism practice is more a way of life rather than a pure spiritual practice based on faith, divine persons, miracles and Holy Scriptures.“ I am just teaching about suffering, its roots and how to manage it, nothing else”. His followers gave him a nickname The Buddha” which means “the awakened one”.
What awakening means in simple terms?
To be awake means to be actively aware and to experience our present surrounding reality is that is
to differentiate it from the virtual one coming from our mind-made fictional world.
The Buddha discovered that most of our suffering roots are mind-made that is clinging, hate and illusions and these 3 self-generated roots are the main sources of our pain and negative feelings that we call “suffering”. Being in this mind made space-time is “sleeping”.
When you experience present concrete reality, you discover your true, genuine and authentic self, the one who is alive and not the one trapped in your mind-made dream world including sources of suffering.
Our true and genuine self is, by definition, mind-free, experiencing reality as it is and not experiencing through the mind. Genuine self is pure consciousness beyond thinking, beyond mind.
When we are under the control of our mind, its thoughts and feelings ----which is most of the day----Zen calls it “ waking sleep state” or “day sleep walking state” or “thinking zombie”.
The words “waking” and “sleep” should not take in their literal senses. It means doing something w/o knowing it. Obviously we are awake physically but when our body is doing one thing almost automatically while our mind is doing something else, away from the body and the preset moment, we are in a sort of
” waking sleep”.
In other words: our body is here doing A but our mind is elsewhere doing B. We are in a dream world or sleeping mode.
To be awake or being enlightened is having both body and mind together as a single entity that is w/o having a split personality where the physical me is separate from its mental one.
This is what the Buddha meat when he said about awakening: “ When I eat, I know I am eating”
Nothing elating, divine, miraculous, no need for a third spiritual entity.
How to achieve awakening and why it is important?
Being mindful during the day and practicing mindfulness-based meditation are the tools you need.
Being mindful is, again, to pay attention, to observe something in the present moment without any analytic, judgmental and decisional attitude. Being mindful is acting like a perfect mirror.
When we pay attention to our present surrounding reality whatever it may be, our wandering mind is on pause for a short duration. We are experiencing genuine reality and not a mind-made fictional world.
We are alive----awake in the now and aware of its reality ----rather than elsewhere in a “walking sleep mode” run by our relentless, wandering and dreaming mind including our desires, hatred and illusions.
Remember: our true and genuine self is the one who experiences concrete existing reality of the current moment.
Thoughts, feelings, desires, hatred and illusions do exist of course but they are not real, just immaterial.
When we practice formal meditation, by focusing on our breathing, we are experiencing absolute present reality, at least during short intervals.
During these short intervals we are awakened or enlightened because body and mind are one. No illusion, no delusion, no “waking sleep”. Being “awake” is to differentiate the concrete, present reality from the mind-made virtual one. The reverse is “sleeping”. Use your precious mind when you need it, otherwise, don’t be used by it nor attached to what he is telling you all the time..