Consciousness is the manifestation of Pure Being. Consciousness creates the world in which we live and have our being. Just like a mirror, Consciousness reflects things on its own surface. It would be interesting to compare the characteristics of a mirror with those of Consciousness and what is really perceived on the “mirror” of consciousness.
There is a Buddhist saying that explains Consciousness and Enlightenment. It describes Consciousness as having three levels. The first level of consciousness is about how an individual sees and understands the world as something outside of him. In other words, he himself is the subject observing objects. The second level of consciousness is about a certain degree of awakening. The individual’s consciousness realizes that the way he sees and understands what goes on around him depends on the level of awakening of his own consciousness. He knows that he is the one who projects reality and gives meaning to his world. Finally, the third level Consciousness allows one to fully understand that the only truth is that Consciousness is the Creator of Creation and that without consciousness nothing can exist.
Here is the summary of that Buddhist saying: it goes like this: In the first degree, first, mountains and rivers are seen as mountains and rivers. This statement represents an individual identifying himself as the subject and seeing an object. In this case the individual is totally involved as a subject with whatever he is perceiving and observing as an object. This is what the ordinary person does.
In the second degree of Consciousness awakening, mountains and rivers are no longer seen as mountains and rivers. Objects are seen as the mirrored projection of the subject. They are perceived as illusory objects in Consciousness and therefore unreal.
Finally, in the third degree of awakening or Enlightenment, mountains and rivers are once more seen as mountains and rivers. That is, when the individual is awakened and whatever is perceived is known as Consciousness itself manifesting as mountains and rivers. Subject and objects are not seen as being separate.
Let us try to explain the three levels of Consciousness in more detail.
In the first level of consciousness it is the ego that replaces Consciousness and is under the illusion that it is the perceiver and therefore the subject observing the world of manifestation. And therefore in this case, mountains and rivers are seen as separate realities.
In the second level of consciousness the awakening process allows the ego to realize that mountains and rivers and the whole world that exists around it is just like a dream and unreal, hence, in this case the view of the individual changes. He sees everything around him as unreal because, as the subject, his ego becomes more aware of the Presence of Consciousness within and gradually an inner transformation takes place that makes things appear to be quite different. When understanding rises to this level, there is a release of pressure generated by his own ego and a sense of freedom appears on the surface of consciousness. He wants the whole world to know about what his discovery. He wants to broadcast that everyone is a world to himself, everyone creates his own world and therefore, he is convinced and wants to communicate and convince others that the truth is that each person creates a world of illusion! There is no real world as such, since each individual will have a different view of it. Therefore, for such a person mountains and rivers do not exist, they are seen as illusions. Moreover, he feels the need to change the world and tries to convince others to see the world in the same way as he does. He advises and tells them what to do and how to change. He still hasn’t realized that no matter how illuminated he is, he cannot pass his experiences to others, he can change no one, because real change can only come from within each person. However, it is his ego that wants to change the world and therefore he goes around creating problems for him¬self.
In the final awakening stage, the individual realizes that everything that he sees depends on consciousness, the pure impersonal level of Consciousness that permeates everyone and everything. He realizes that as an ego he cannot perceive anything. Everything that he becomes aware of is perceived and created by Consciousness. He recognizes that everything that he perceives around him is perceived not by his thinking self, (the ego) but by Consciousness. And suddenly it dawns on him that the true perceiver in him is Impersonal Consciousness - the same Consciousness that creates and manifests everything in the Universe – the same Universal Consciousness that identifies everything created by itself. Therefore the enlightened individual realizes that the only thing that exists is Impersonal Consciousness without which nothing could exist. Since the Creator of manifestation and the Created manifestation are both the same. There is no more, subject and no more object, since Impersonal Consciousness is the creator and Consciousness is the perceiver. This level of awakening is what is sometimes referred to as Enlightenment, the ultimate realization that makes Mountains and Rivers and the whole world unreal, but, also real!
We have said that the world is real for the ego that sees itself as the subject and things as perceived as objects. However, the world is also unreal in the sense that it is dependent on Consciousness for its existence. It has no independent existence of its own. Hence the world can only exist when it is identified by Consciousness. If every human being and every animal suddenly became unconscious, who's to say that there is a world? The world not only wouldn't appear, but it wouldn't exist.
Let us take the mirror as an example…let us say that consciousness is the mirror, the quality and function of a mirror is to reflect whatever appears on its surface. In the same manner, objects appear reflect and disappear on the surface of consciousness… this is clear. However, Whatever appears on the surface of the mirror is still part of the mirror… since nothing has been added to the surface of the mirror… whatever appears on its surface is still part of the same material as the mirror. If however nothing appears on the surface of the mirror the reason is simply that there is nothing reflecting on it, but still the mirror remains the mirror. In the same manner, consciousness has two aspects, an active one on which manifestations appear all the time and a passive aspect on which nothing appears. The first aspect concerns the waking state of being, in other words it concerns our daily activities and also our dreaming activities during the night. In this state, Consciousness witnesses its own activities through the reflections of all kinds of manifestations on its own surface (just like a mirror). In its passive state, Consciousness seems to disappear because this level concerns the process of deep sleep, unconsciousness and death. In this case, Consciousness remains in the recesses of its own Nature, which is the pure essence of Being, the Source of the “I AM”. In this instance Consciousness cannot reflect itself and as a result it remains as the formless Presence of Being. In this condition, as human beings, we remain unconscious of our true Nature, since Consciousness does not reflect its own Presence and has nothing to manifest and reflect its own nature.
If as we have described the Universal Consciousness is the sole creator and reflector of all manifestations in creation, then where do we fit in the scheme of creation? What role do we have to play as individuals? The answer is simply that we have to realize that the ego itself is a reflection and a manifestation of consciousness. Our “role” as individuals is to allow Consciousness to reflect itself through us…and through Creation
In the same spirit, we could add for those who have read the essays on the Perfect Mold and the Perfect Model that both represent manifestations of the Impersonal Consciousness in an individual that is about to be enlightened. Both of them represent the Impersonal level of Consciousness manifesting and recognizing itself in an individual.
So, we could ask ourselves how could we explain what is real and what is unreal? How could we explain this paradox? Here is an analogy that will explain it. During the day, the sun shines on everything and at times casts shadows, on trees for example. In this instance, could we say that the shadows of the trees are real? Yes they are, since we can see them. But what happens when the sun disappears, the shadows disappear also… Hence shadows are both real and unreal at the same time. All manifestation is dependent on Consciousness for its existence. In the same way when in deep sleep, in a coma or dead, consciousness seems to disappear and becomes unreal. However, conversely, when a child is born, or when we are conscious of being awake, active consciousness seems to be present and seems to us to be real. The truth is that the essence of Consciousness is inherent in all creation and it also transcends it, since it is also the Source of all manifestation.