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The Core Mechanics of Awakening

©Copyright 1995, by Phil Servedio

Recently, my friend Joel and my wife Anne had a conversation that struck a chord in me relative to the specifics of the Awakening process. Anne was expressing that she felt self-conscious when she was talking in groups, and that she felt even more separate than usual. Joel, in his unique gentle style of pointing people back to their assumptions and unrecognized ideas about themselves, responded by asking, " Well....how do you know that you're separate?". Anne started with a long description based on something that she read from Adi Da's teachings, but eventually resolved her answer into the following simple statement: "I just assume that I'm separate."

Her answer sent me to raise my eyebrows in Spock-like fashion. Aha, we have something here, don't we! Her statement led me to reflect on some things that I wrote about right after the transitions that have occurred this past year. I had felt that some deep seated assumption or idea relative to my status as being a separate individuated chunk of consciousness was eradicated or "cut through" in the moment, leading to the joyous "Aha!" of Awakening. Though there were numerous insights, experiences and perceptions that occurred in the minutes, hours, days and weeks surrounding these transitional moments, these were simply resultant effects of this core "snap" of a deeply held delusion about separation and identity, in which our true and inherent Self-Aware Nature can become the permanent foundation of our existence.

So what is this moment, where something "snaps", "shifts", "unravels" and becomes embarrassingly Obvious? And does it have any connection with our bodies in any way? Based on my own experience and what I have read in various spiritual literature, particularly Adi Da and several Advaitic teachers, it became clear that we carry this assumption of a separate identity deeply buried in a very subtle body, and live from this idea or assumption of separate identity and existence, which generates the spiritual search, primary fears and a multitude of forms of dilemma and suffering. What's more, this core delusion seems to have a locus relative to a point on the right side of the heart, about an inch or so to the right of the sternum.

According to Adi Da, this point is the place where the causal body, known as the bliss sheath or "anandamayakosha", and the most subtle of all subtle bodies is penetrated in the moment of Awakening. This causal body houses or is, the primary form of bodily existence as an idea; essentially it is an "idea" body, as opposed to a mental, astral or physical body, and all other bodies exist on the basis of this initial body. This leads me to believe that we are not born enlightened and lose it as we grow an ego, but this subtle causal error is already in place by the time we are born. It seems to me, based on movies I've seen about the process of life, is that this causal error seems to be an inherent quality in the sperm cell that helps conceive our physical bodies. We are already unenlightened by the fact that a body is conceived and appears.

Adi Da speaks of this point on the right as the causal "knot" and the causative root of conditional selfhood. In my own process, all the work and all the grace of the years of sadhana led me back to this point in the heart, which over time certainly felt like a tight knot. This very knot, whether or not it is felt by an individual (based on their yogic inclinations), must be penetrated or pierced or unraveled in order for Awakening to occur. It appears that the heart on the right has two knots, one in the front and one in the back, leading to, in Adi Da terms, 6th and 7th stage Awakenings, respectively. FRom what I have noticed, it is this knot which results in the "bondage" to the sense of "I" and to attention, as these arise from this point in the heart.

In my own 6th stage transition, with the help of an Advaitic teacher, the back knot seemed to have been pierced in a very yang-like thrust, resulting in the clear and even laughable Obviousness of my fundamental and real identity as Being. In the transition in August, it was bodily felt as a simple unraveling of the knot on the front of the heart, leading to a complete resolution of the dilemma of separation between Consciousness and phenomena. And this final resolution led to the emergence of this point on the right as the source of "joy-love" (though by no means, at this point, a stable source!). In retrospect, I remember feeling this point heating up to a level where it was both blissful and painful at the same time right before these transitions.

In any case, what this knot appears to be is the very simple and fundamental bodily presumption that can be stated as " I AM SEPARATE", or even simpler "SEPARATE". This knot is the fundamental error of separative identity. Such a simple little thing, causing so, so much suffering!! And until this causal knot, or body is really penetrated, the transition of Awakeness has not occurred. And the real core of Awakening is when this knot is truly penetrated so that the "Aha" of Self-Recognition can occur, which itself is really, really, really such a simple, simple, simple thing also.

Let me say that unenlightenment, or the presence of this knot is not a mental presumption. The conscious mind assumes separation because the presence of a mortal threatened body and the knot within the causal body (apparently binding Consciousness with a body) supply it with no evidence but to presume that the being associated with the body is separate.

Is there a way to penetrate this knot? I can only say that what is most effective is the mechanism of "doubt" in the form of spontaneous enquiry, in order to obviate this most subtle error of identity. All the practices, techniques and strategies that deal with the other, less subtle bodies are useless in this case, as they are working on the grosser manifestations of this subtle body, the "idea" body, and thus not getting to the "core" of things, as ridiculous as putting on aluminum siding to fix a boiler breakdown. Spontaneous, and not strategic, enquiry leads back to heat up this knot of identity, pricking at, undermining, questioning, confronting, hassling, and doubting the fundamental ideational error of identity. This spontaneous enquiry seems to arise and when only when one's process has come to a point when one is ready, hot enough or cool enough, to expunge this silly idea of separateness.