What happens after this great enlightenment? We’ve realized clearly that everything is one. There is no separate self anywhere. We are this great freedom, bliss, peace and love we have been searching for. All suffering has come to an end.
Now we bring this great benefit to the world in the most ordinary of ways. As we say in Zen, “We chop wood and carry water.” We serve life spontaneously in every moment and yet we don’t feel as if there is a me doing anything. It is simply life happening naturally. We no longer take credit for what we do. There is nothing separate from life itself. It is simply life acting.
From the perspective of the dream, this must feel extremely mundane. After this long path to awakening, this is the end, chopping wood and carrying water, living an ordinary life? But don’t be fooled. Any action done through this enlightened consciousness brings enormous benefit to everyone it touches. It doesn’t matter what the action is, it is the enlightened consciousness itself that makes the difference.
We come to see that everything we once perceived as an obstacle to our awake consciousness is actually none other than a momentary appearance of this same awake consciousness. Everything that arises in each moment is seen as the miraculous gift it truly is. Since everything we think, feel and perceive is this same one awake consciousness momentarily appearing in different forms, we no longer have problems with anyone or anything. It is all awake consciousness and all entirely for our benefit and the benefit of all. In this recognition, how can a problem arise?
Mountains are Mountains. Rivers are Rivers.
When we began our spiritual search, we perceived mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. We believed that name and form were what we perceived. We believed our thoughts about people and things were true. And we believed that those thoughts were who we were. In spiritual terms, we call this the Dream, Maya or the Great Illusion.
Mountains are Rivers. Rivers are Mountains.
As we deepened in our spiritual realization, we began to see that our thoughts were not true. They were simply an abstract distortion of reality. As our belief in our thoughts faded, we came to realize something much greater than what our perceptions were showing. Eventually we realized that reality cannot be contained in any thought. We experienced a great openness free of all limitations. Everything is connected and interdependent on everything else. Nothing is separate from anything else. Nothing has a separate, independent, self nature. In Zen terms, you might say that now mountains are rivers and rivers are mountains.
Mountains are Mountains. Rivers are Rivers.
Now, after this great awakening, we return from the mountaintop and this great realization does what it does best. It effortlessly and spontaneously provides great benefit for all. We realize the truth of the world. Knowing full well that everything is one and there is no separation anywhere in the universe, we serve the world in exactly the way it needs to be served. We use words freely to the greatest benefit of those being served. Although we said “Mountains are mountains.” in the dream stage of consciousness and we are saying exactly the same thing here, their meaning is entirely different. Here we are completely free of language and of names and forms. Everything arises spontaneously in this infinite freedom.
In the Ten Ox Herding Pictures, this last stage is called “Returning to the marketplace with bliss bestowing hands.” It is wonderful to be enlightened, but how does this enlightenment function in the day-to-day world? Enlightenment is not for ourself alone. There is no separate self to be enlightened. From now on, our life is of benefit to all. No longer do we act in the world in self-centered ways, as if the universe revolved around us. Now we effortlessly and spontaneously bring the greatest benefit to all. “We return to the marketplace with bliss bestowing hands.” Before awakening, we may have done our best to be of benefit to all. But this was still self-centered. There was me serving and I was a separate being from those I was serving. Now there is no such discrimination and differentiation. It is all simply the effortless and spontaneous flow of life. It is reality. I cannot be separate from those I am serving. There is no separation anywhere.
A Life Of Complete Freedom
In this way, I walk through the world in complete freedom. Wherever I go and whatever I do brings great benefit to all. Gone are the former preferences and ideas of good and bad, I see everything that arises in each moment as the complete perfection that it is. In this way I am always completely present. I neither resist nor attach to anything. I let everything come and go in its perfect expression of the continuous flow of life.
Meditation continues, but there is no separate self who is meditating. There is no doer. It is simply the effortless flow of life. The forms that meditation takes are the spontaneous deepening into this infinite presence. There are no longer plans or structured practices. There is simply the continuous arising of each moment. This is appreciated on its deepest level in silence and stillness. And this same silence and stillness permeates our life even in moments of action or speaking. Everything arises from this deep silence and stillness.
If we are teaching meditation at this point, we do the same practices we are teaching. As the continuous flow of life, we never stop learning. Everything is for the benefit of all.
Teachers, Teachings, Books, Etc.
Without the experience of a separate self, we remains always humble. There is nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Every moment is always complete just as it is. And at the same time, everyone and everything is our beloved teacher. We are continuously learning from every momentary expression of this infinite Oneness, which we are not separate from. Seeing every moment as a great gift, we are enormously grateful for whatever arises in this precious moment.
I will not recommend teachers, teachings or books at this point. Everything you need will arise spontaneously and perfectly exactly as you need it. You are not separate from the eternal and infinite flow of life. In every moment you have complete access to whatever is needed in that moment. Teachers, teachings, books and other resources arise spontaneously as part of this great perfection. There is no longer anything to worry about or try to accomplish or attain. You are the infinite and eternal flow of life expressing itself temporarily in a human body. To others it may seem like you are doing an enormous amount of work and accomplishing a great deal. It may seem like you have attained something very special in this great awakening. But everything happens completely effortlessly for you. Does the river need to make an effort to flow downstream? You are this river of life flowing effortlessly to the infinite ocean. And you are the infinite ocean that is the source of this river flowing effortlessly back to itself. Only your belief in and attachment to the experience of being an independent separate self prevented you from realizing this.
Map of Consciousness – Journey to Awakening