We're off pursuing the spiritual search - pursuing this thing called enlightenment. We want it badly, why - we're not sure. There is a vague feeling that it will bring us bliss, even though we aren't sure what that means. We believe it will bring happiness, solve all our problems, bring everlasting peace. Yet we search for this thing called enlightenment within the same paradigm that we search for everything else - we want it as another possession, another achievement, another goal met. Then we will go write a blog or a book and our lives will forever be changed for the better.
We take our freshly-delivered advaita books to the "reading room" - sit on our porcelain throne of enlightenment - intensely pore over every word while our legs go numb and the rest of the family demands access to the facilities. We are mining for that one gold nugget which will flip some switch, shift our perception somehow, make reality appear as it really is, reveal the beautiful oneness which is hiding somehow under the covers.
What we don't realize, what we're too stubborn to notice, is that we're standing on the platform built from concepts and then trying to dissect the concepts. Yet to truly dissect them, we would have to disassemble the platform itself, the very ground upon which we stand. We would have to sacrifice the very life story, the core of our identity as an individual, and we're either not ready to do that or we're afraid of the unknown.
Therefore we march on anyway - we're frustrated and confused... we meet paradox with intellect - certain that we can eventually figure it out. We apply all the mental elbow grease we can muster - yet we always fail to "get it".
We read - you are already THAT - you already HAVE it. You already ARE what you are seeking. Yet that doesn't satisfy - what we believe we are and have, is not good enough. We don't LIKE what we ARE - we want enlightenment to SAVE us, save us from ourselves, from our awful decisions, from our incessant anxiety, from our obsessive personality, from our depressed state of mind. Therefore THIS CANNOT BE IT! It MUST be something else, it MUST come in the future as something different, as something better.
So we pull and pull, and the identity as "seeker" gets tighter and tighter. We don't realize that in rejecting THIS, this very moment, whatever it is, we tighten the noose of identification - we take THIS to suck really bad, we cannot imagine that THIS is IT. We don't WANT - THIS - to be IT.
Isn't this the situation?
So it's not that the pointers are ineffective. It's not that the so-called teachings are wrong. It's that they are immediately rejected - they become boring - they don't satisfy our IDEAL of what enlightenment is supposed to be.
It's like going down a dead-end path - we just keep prodding on even though we see the signs. We just cannot fathom that THIS could be IT. How could it be, when THIS brings so much suffering, so much pain, war, depression, discontent.... How could THIS be it, when I don't understand what nonduality means yet, when I haven't "got it" yet?
How would you know if you were enlightened? What is the expectation? Anything you can say would be an arrival of something, a happening, a new situation, a new state, a new experience - hopefully a good or blissful one, yes?
So without exception - there is an expectation placed upon enlightenment as an arrival - whatever it is, we believe we'll know it when we see it come.
Therefore the absolute belief is that you don't have it now but can get it through seeking.
This is false.
Vedanta says that enlightenment is not the arrival of a new "state". It's simply the removal of ignorance about your true Self. So your true Self is already the case, only there is ignorance about it - there are false concepts in play, coloring reality as dualistic, coloring reality as made up of subject and object.
Vedanta says that the "mature seeker" - this means one who is ready to discard the false, ready to lay aside anything which has been accumulated in beliefs - the "mature seeker" is on the verge of self-discovery. This doesn't mean they are ready for a new experience, ready for a new "state", primed to receive this so-called wisdom.
This means that the ignorance isn't being held on to anymore - the beliefs and concepts aren't being clinged to with a death grip. The fear surrounding loss of individuality is fading fast - there is a willingness to surrender, an openness to reality, as it IS, not as it's conceptualized.
So ignorance is like a veil - obscuring reality - it's not really hidden but it's like a dirty mirror - skewing the reflection. The falling away of ignorance is like cleaning the mirror, discarding the dirty bits and polishing the surface until it shines.
Then reality is reflected cleanly - ignorance is no longer obscuring. And what is this ignorance?
Ignorance of your Self is taking yourself to be limited. Taking yourself to be limited by time (you were born and will die) and taking yourself to be limited by space - you are "here" and the world is "out there". It is this basic idea about yourself that is the only bondage.
So take a close look at those concepts - are they true? Are you, in fact, limited by time and space? Where exactly is this limitation found? Where are the boundaries? Where are the lines drawn?
In order to take ourselves as limited by space, we must be a "thing" - that thing is the body. We take the outside world to be not-"I" - yet we take the body to be "I". But the body is part of the physical world, is it not? The body appears TO "I", does it not? So the "mature seeker" properly discerns what "I" is and what "I" is not.
Are thoughts "I"? Thoughts appear TO "I", yes? Thoughts are objective to "I", which is purely subjective in nature. "I" objectifies thought, yes? So whatever "I" actually is, it is not the body or thoughts.
We include in this inquiry feelings, emotions, states of mind, sensations, all perceptions, knowledge, ignorance, memories, imagination. Every bit of this comes via some means of knowledge - every bit appears TO "I" - yet "I" never appears in this way.
"I" is not known because of our typical means of knowledge. Therefore a new means of knowledge must come in - that is called "Self-Knowledge" - Vedanta is a valid means of knowledge.
So Vedanta says - "I" has no attributes which can be described. "I" does not appear objectively. "I" is not known via perceptions, concepts, memory, imagination... yet do you know "I"? Do you know OF "I"?
Yes. You intimately know this "I". "I" is the most intimate aspect of being, is it not? Only "I" is tied up with "things" which appear TO "I", like the body and thoughts. So we discern between "I" and not-"I".
And we find, if we're earnest and open, that "I" is something entirely unexpected. "I" is that presence of perceiving, that activity of knowing, that "awareness" which is the very core of all experience. That "I" cannot be said to be the "knower", because the "knower" is necessarily another limited "thing" and dependent on an object to be known.
We find that these limitations cannot actually apply to "I" at all. "I" is not objectifiable - it has no attributes. "I", although it is intimately known at all times, is not describable - it is simply the unchanging background of perceiving upon which the idea of "perceiver" and "perceived" come and go.
"I" is found to be always the case, always present and is the awareness itself, the fact of aware presence. Even the idea of time and space are dependent on this "I"-ness or always-here-always-aware-ness. "I" is not dependent on time or space, therefore it is not limited by them. It entirely transcends time and space, although this is very subtle.
So Vedanta says that there is only ONE "I" - one subjectivity which objectifies everything yet never objectifies another "I". That "I" is YOU.
Instead of brushing off the pointers as already-heard or too simple, instead of ignoring certain messages depending on the appearance of the messenger, ask one simple question - What IS "I"?
What really IS "I"? Is it an object? Can "I" be perceived? Or is "I" the perceiving?