Self realisation, awakening and enlightenment are terms used to label the direct experience of Reality. This is not a regular experience (spiritual or otherwise) that one can have as the ‘I’ can not experience it. Yet it is a happening within the phenomenal world. The space between two ‘I’ thoughts offers this direct experience many times a day but while attention is focused on thoughts and they are taken to be real, well…then the ‘I’ movie is still more potent than the pull towards Truth.
Seeing through the matrix; realising that your perception of reality entirely hinges upon the belief that you exist as a separate individual, is for some a eureka moment but for others it goes un-noticed. In the latter case, some time (usually years) pass until it is recognised that thoughts are no longer believed. For some, a deep understanding follows; the intricacies of how creation can be taken as real is revealed. It is then that sentences from advaita such as ‘nothing ever happened’ make most sense. There is clear knowing of what is illusion and a direct knowing of what is beyond mind.
Advaita texts state that the stabilisation of self realisation leads to the ‘state’ of liberation. While the seeing through of the ‘I’ thought is the first step towards liberation; it does not automatically follow that self realisation leads to liberation in every case. From what jac has seen while travelling in the west in 2009 it seems in western cultures self realisation is taken to be the end of the line; the show is over. To a certain point this is so, yet self realisation is not liberation…there is more. What can change will continue to change against the unmoving background. To this end, the sense of the ‘I’ can again arise and desires may influence action or in some cases the pull towards total annihilation of the wandering mind continues until liberation.
Useful terms to denote the difference can be found in Indian culture; the guru is self realised and the satguru is liberated.
Manifesting as the satguru, the Absolute Seer has nothing to see. No ideas come to mind at all. Action taken is never guided by a concept. There is no sense of needing anything - ever. Liberation is the changeless state with no will, no ideas, no imagination and no doubt.
All traces of ‘I am’ can disappear, leaving no trace of individuality. What remains is consciousness experiencing consciousness. The ‘I am’ can come and go spontaneously as long as the body functions, but it is given no importance. This level of functioning of ‘I am’ is no more than an aid to existence.
The self realised can say ‘I am That’ and the liberated have realised the unreality of ‘I am’.