Any effort towards enlightenment or self-realization leads to the strengthening of personal identification. There’s no individual person that ever gets enlightened. It is simply the end of “me and my story.”
Spiritual awakening is not achieving a permanently blissful state but the breakdown of illusory structures of the ego-mind. For most people, spiritual awakening is brutal, sometimes causing deep existential crisis and depression. Enlightenment, on the other hand, is just a concept.
I prefer to use the word understanding rather than enlightenment. While the spiritual awakening happens instantaneously, the understanding dawns gradually. As this understanding deepens, the mind settles down, and the individual learns to live in high awareness.
So what is the understanding? It is that we’re not the doer of our actions. In the words of Buddha, actions happen, deeds happen, even the consequences happen, but there is no individual doer thereof.
As this understanding deepens, the dispassion towards the materialistic life naturally occurs as the individual is no more concerned with the results of their actions. The ego realizing that only the cosmic law prevails suspends the sense of doership, resulting in peace, tranquility, and compassion.
Even with the understanding, the mind-body organism continues to live life as before, but there’s a shift. The shift is that the involvement in worldly affairs is gone. The self-realized individual does not deny anything in the world, but at the same time, they don’t get too attached or involved.
Before spiritual awakening, the individual attached to doership puts effort to achieve the desired outcome to enhance its sense of personal self. For example, the person may work hard to fulfill worldly desires like buying a house and conveniences like cars, phones, etc.
For him, things like money, power, position, stature, and prestige matter more than peace of mind. All of these pursuits enhance his sense of personal identification. He derives his sense of self-worth from the value of possessions he accumulates.
He believes that he’s a separate individual living in separation from the rest and has to prove his worthiness to gain other people’s validation and acceptance. Therefore, the idea of achieving wealth and fame through hard work appeals to him.
But the problem is that it further increases the separation, which itself becomes the cause of suffering. In a society deeply entrenched in consumerism, it is commonly seen that most people are always on a chase to better themselves by acquiring external possessions-something to make them whole.
After a spiritual awakening, the individual sees the illusory nature of the world. All ideas, beliefs, and concepts lose their grip on him. He no longer chases ideas in order to enhance his personal sense of self.
He clearly sees the futility of the obsessive thinking mind and how it leads to unnecessary involvement that causes pain and suffering. It is the dawn of something beautiful – witnessing. In witnessing, things and events are seen for what they are, and not from the biased perspective of the ego-mind.
However, even at this stage, the individual is not entirely at peace as it is just the beginning of understanding. As the understanding deepens and the individual realizes that he is not the doer, surrender happens.
But what about paying bills, mortgage, student loans, work deadlines, relationships? All of these remain, but the involvement of ego in the drama disappears. A self-realized person continues to work, pay bills, but there’s a greater realization in the background of awareness that all of life is illusory and one is already what they seek.
When the load of doership is gone, peace is the natural outcome. Such people don’t bother much about the outcome of their work.