“Is there really any difference between you and me?” the disciple demanded. “I look at us, and I just see two old men sitting in a room waiting for their lunch.” The guru replied, “Your level of awareness forces you to see yourself as an old man sitting in a room. But to me, this room and everything in it occupy the smallest speck on the horizon of my awareness.”
“Even if you have adopted this perspective, we still live in the same world,” the disciple argued. “No, your world is personal, private, and unshareable. No one else can enter it, because no one can hear or see things exactly as you do; on one lese can have your memories, thoughts, and desires. And they are all you have.
My world is consciousness itself, open to all, shared by all. In it there is community, insight, love. The individual contains the totality, which makes him real. You are unreal. This private reality you accept without question, bounded by these four walls, by your isolated body and your conditioned mind, is imaginary. It is nothing but a dream. It gives me pleasure to visit your dream, because I may coax you to wake up.”
For thousands of years, the metaphor of waking up has been applied to describe what it means to move from a state of ignorance to a state of enlightenment. When a person wakes up, he opens his eyes and sees, which he couldn’t do while asleep; he moves from a completely inert state of consciousness to one that is alert and responsive; he regains the sense of identity that was lost in sleep.
The contrast delivered when a person becomes enlightened is said to be just as stark. But there is a subtle point to grasp: waking up also implies a natural process that does not have to be forced. You do not choose to wake up in the morning – it dawns on you – and despite the sleepy resistance you may put up, eventually you are awake. The rishis believed that spiritual awakening was just as natural and inevitable.
Adapted from Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra (A Bantam Book, 1991).