The following is an excerpt from an interview with Adyashanti.
Question: How did awakening and liberation occur for you?
I had my first what traditionally would be called awakening experience when I was 25 years old. This was very powerful and full of emotion and release and joy and bliss and all that it is supposed to be full of. But, because there was so much emotion involved, it obscured the simplicity of awakeness itself. Like so many others, I continued to chase certain ideas and concepts of what awakeness was supposed to be. That caused years of misery.
Gradually over time I had the same experience reoccur, but each time with less and less emotion. I could see more and more clearly over time what was the actual essential element. Then finally an awakening occurred where at the moment of awakening, there was no emotion in it. It was just the pure seeing of what is. When there was the pure seeing of what is, unclouded by emotional content, it was obvious. It was very obvious that consciousness recognized itself for what it really is – aware space before any emotion or thought or manifestation.
Question: Would you say that this is the point at which the
distinction between awakening and liberation occurred?
No. Even though there was a freedom and incredible sense of fearlessness and release from not being confined to the dream of a separate “I”, I started to feel somewhat discontented with that. I didn’t know why I felt discontented, and it didn’t bother me in any way. The discontent didn’t touch that freedom, so it didn’t bother me, but I was interested in it.
Then one day I was sitting reading a book, and I folded the book to
put it away and realized that somewhere in some magic time, something had dropped away, and I didn’t know what it was. There was just a big absence of something. I went through the rest of the day as usual but noticing some big absence. Then when I sat down on the bed that night, it suddenly hit me that what had fallen away was all identity.
All identity had collapsed, as both the self in the ego sense of a separate me, and as the slightest twinge of identity with the Absolute Self, with the Oneness of consciousness. There had still been some unconscious, identity or “me-ness” which was the cause of the discontent. And it all collapsed. Identity itself collapsed, and from that point on there was no grasping whatsoever for little me or for the unified consciousness me. Identity just fell away and blew away with the wind.
Question: When you noticed that the identity had collapsed and was
gone, what remained?
Everything just as it always had been. There was just the lack of any “I”, personal or universal, or the fundamental unconscious belief in any identity or of fixating self in any place. The mind can continue to fixate a subtle identity of self even in universal consciousness, or Self. It can be so incredibly easy to miss. To say “I am That” can be a very subtle fixation of consciousness.
Question: It’s still a landing, a form of identity.
It’s a slight landing, a slight grasping. It’s very subtle. But when it collapses, you are even beyond “I am That”. You are in a place that cannot be described.
Question: And that is what you call liberation?
That is what I call liberation. Really, in the end, what you end up with is that you don’t know who you are. You end up in the same place you started out. You truly don’t know who you are because it’s impossible to fixate the self anywhere.