"What am I doing wrong?"
"Why can't I see this?"
"There seems to be a gap in knowledge between me and a realized person."
Many, many questions point to this basic misunderstanding - sometimes referred to in Zen as the "Gateless Gate". There seems to be a person who is suffering or wants Enlightenment. That person believes he/she needs to gain more knowledge in order to attain some realized state. So many seek to find and go through this Gate to Enlightenment, after which the person will have some permanent blissful experience.
Much effort is put into seeking, struggling to find answers to questions which seem impossible. How do I drop the "I"? How can I find peace? How can I stop suffering? The mind is utilized to its fullest to put this Enlightenment or Zen or Advaita thing in some definable box - something the mind can understand and from then on, the person can say "I've got it!"
All this is 100% false.
Through whatever method speaks clearest, meditation, investigation based on pointers, all out suffering to the breaking point, whatever - the mind is exhausted. There is no longer anywhere to look, nowhere to go to get the answer.
At that point, there may arise a spontaneous and effortless dawning that there just is no person there. It's like finally getting the joke, only this has to do with everything believed in.
Once the belief in the separate person is finally realized to be false, things start to fall away. If there is no ME, who can suffer? If there is no ME, who is reading these words? If there is no ME, who can walk through that Gate?
This is why it is called the Gateless Gate. There really is no gate. There never has been a person, only a belief. All that has been happening or arising or appearing has been happening to no one and done by no one. Who would do it if there is no ME?
This is seemingly very difficult for many, simply because of the investment in the person, the ME. "I have a personality, I have a life, I want to change my life and make it better..." There is tremendous investment in this.
But in the investment, suffering is bound to arise because it never goes quite the way we want. Sometimes it completely falls apart. And that sense of ME is threatened, taken away from, unwanted things are added - we want everyone to think well of us, think we're competent, worthy... we want to be loved, trusted, needed...
So upon passing through this Gateless Gate, we realize that all the suffering and investment in the ME has been an illusion. There never was anyone who needed anything, never was anyone who lost anything. There never was anyone who could be hurt or touched by anything.
The world perceived, including the arising of a body-mind, is only temporary in THIS MOMENT. You are like the sky - spacious and empty but the very basis for all that arises. Sometimes the sun rises brightly and it's happy, sometimes storm clouds come. But the very ground or basis for any of these to arise is the spacious empty sky.
All the thoughts, all the situations, even the arising of the sense of ME, is only appearances in awareness or the activity of knowing in the immediacy of this very moment. It all comes and goes, but that intelligent knowing never goes, never stops. That very presence of awareness is what you really are - not the body or mind.
Stop for a moment and look to what is knowing... It is very simple, effortless, totally obvious, unavoidable... it is 100% present NOW as you read these words.
No effort is required to know what you are.