When you sink your teeth in the topic of awakening, it all may seem very contradicting. For example, you’ll often come across statements that ‘you can’t do anything to awaken’ while the same authors prescribe all sorts of activities that supposedly lead to awakening.
Some authors indeed contradict themselves and so do a lot of people who are engaged in awakening. Yet, once you awaken – that is, you get past your conceptual point of view – these apparent paradoxes dissolve. But the good news is that you don’t have to awaken first to see through them.
Levels of magnification
What we see, depends on our level of magnification. For example, a body can be as balanced as it could possibly be and still there would be a war going on the level of blood cells. While one person might choose to describe the peaceful aspect, another might give a description of a battlefield. Both would be correct statements, but only about the respective level of magnification.
Another example concerns the creation of money. You often hear that banks can create money out of thin air, especially in the years following the financial crisis in which many banks went bankrupt. But how can a bank go bankrupt? Did they run out of thin air? Of course not. The seeming contradiction came into existence because there are two levels of money in the money system, which are both indicated with the same word. While banks can create money on the lower level, the payments and repayments happen with the higher-level money. And if people don’t repay loans, a bank runs out of higher-level money and goes bankrupt, regardless of the amount of lower-level money they create. In other words, there isn’t really a paradox here.
The same thing happens with language about awakening. As you’ll know by now, awakening is about getting past the conceptual point of view – the me-sensation. When this sensation drops, there still is a person around. The only difference is that this person is not continuously repeating a thought-process that creates the concept of a self. That person is still there, but the perception is taking place on another level of magnification. A peripheral rather than a focused perception.
What this kind of perception creates is a split between the person and that which is perceiving (or actually it should be just called perception). On the level of the person, there might be a problem or a strong emotion while at the same time there can be a sort of okayness about it. Are you then okay or not okay? That depends on what is meant by the word you.
The limitations of language
Because the non-conceptual point of view isn’t really a thing but rather a process of perception which has no perceiver doing the perceiving, it would be a bit strange, technically, to say that you are okay. Yet, when writing an article or book about awakening, especially for people who are not familiar with the experience of the non-conceptual point of view, it would be more practical to refer to it is you, when indicating who is okay with having a problem, for example. You could say it’s a didactic approach whereas being a purist in language would be the alternative approach. The downside of the practical approach is that it may look like there are all kinds of paradoxes, but with the upside of making writings more accessible to read, especially for novices. The downside of the purist approach is that the language becomes very complex, often even too complex for people to read, while the upside would be that there are no apparent paradoxes.
Find an author you trust
For analytically inclined people it can be quite challenging to get past the seeming paradoxes you encounter, while the purist approach doesn’t resonate either. A solution for this would be to look for an author you trust to meet your standard for logical reasoning and commit for a set time period to pierce through the paradoxes.
It’s actually quite similar to an ancient practice for awakening, as in Zen monasteries, students would be deliberately instructed to resolve certain seeming paradoxes, such as ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping?’.
When working with people who are or have been engaged in spiritual disciplines, the main challenge is often to get past the mixing up of logical truths from the various levels of magnification. It’s often said that the spiritual ego is the hardest to let go of. Indeed, it’s not easy to accept that ‘all is love’ on one level also encompasses all of the good, the bad and the ugly on another level.