(Somewhat long and rambling…)
There is a coin of ignorance and a coin of awakening.
Coin of ignorance: what we are and mechanisms of samsara
One face of the coin of ignorance is ignorance of what we are, and the other face is ignorance of the mechanisms of samsara.
Coin of awakening: emptiness and form
And one face of the coin of awakening is emptiness, and the other form. Or we can, more loosely, say context and content, Ground and phenomena, absolute and relative, and more specifically – in our case, Big Mind and human self.
When Big Mind awakens to its own nature, when there is realized selflessness, both are naturally present, inseparable, revealed as two sides of the same coin. One is not more or less real or present than the other.
At the same time, there can definitely be a difference in emphasis, and this has to do with how our particular human self is put together, and also the culture and traditions it functions within and is influenced by.
Emphasizing the absolute
So for instance Joel, at the Center for Sacred Sciences, tends to emphasize awakening as a release from our human self, which is completely valid. There is a release from blind identification with our human self, and the drama that comes with that identification.
In general, he tends to emphasize emptiness, Ground, the context of a sense of I or realized selflessness, Big Mind. And he tends to de-emphasize form, phenomena, the content of this universe and the human self, and our particular human self. He certainly acknowledges this face of the coin, but it is not emphasized. He also tends to leave out the evolution aspect of the world of form, including the interpersonal and the healing, maturing and development – along the many lines and their levels, of our human self.
Since Big Mind is emphasized, it can appear somewhat detached and impersonal. It can even appear as an escape more than anything else, although it is an escape from misidentification into what we already really are.
Since the particulars of our human self is somewhat in the background, the healing, maturing and development of our human self is also in the background. As Ken Wilber points out in his dramatic language, an awakening – and the practice up to it, can even “cement” the human self in place to some extent, including its dysfunctions and current levels of development.
Including the relative
Others, such as Genpo Roshi, Saniel Bonder, the other teachers associated with Ken Wilber, and I am sure many others, emphasize more strongly an inclusion of the relative.
For Genpo Roshi, it means to become more fully human. For Saniel Bonder, the many forms of mutuality and embodiment.
Here, the evolution of form, and the development of this particular human self, is emphasized as much as the awakening itself. And the awakening of realized selflessness is just one step in this process. It is not by any means an end point. It may be “final” as it is a Ground awakening, yet it is not final at all in terms of the continuing unfolding, evolution and development of the world of form in general, and of this human self in particular.
One aspect of the awakening can still be seen as an “escape” from blind identification with this human self and the suffering that comes with it. But as much as an escape, it is an opportunity and invitation to allow this human self to heal, mature and continue to develop in a richer, fuller, deeper, wider way.
Development within two contexts: a sense of I and realized selflessness
The world of form is change and continues to evolve, and this human self too continues to change and develop.
When this human self changes and develops within the context of a sense of I, there is an identification with some aspects of this human self and a disowning of other aspects. It is a house divided against itself. There are varying degrees of drama and struggle in this process, which in itself brings various dysfunctions, lopsided developments, and so on.
On the other hand, when this human self changes and develops within the context of realized selflessness, there is an invitation to a much fuller, richer, deeper, wider, more balanced and integral healing, maturing, and development.
This human self naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this process can be aided and greased. And the relationships that this human self has to others and the wider world also naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this too can be encouraged and helped along.
Nothing new, yet a difference in emphasis
Most (or all?) mature traditions and teachers acknowledge this. But there is certainly a difference in emphasis. As many suggests today, it seems that our current phase in human evolution, and the way awakening is expressed, is one of emphasizing the inclusion of the relative, including the healing, maturing and development of our human self and its many relationships to the wider world.
Why settle for just a Ground awakening when there is so much more to explore within this new context of realized selflessness. When there is an opportunity for this human self to engage more actively in the evolution of the world of form, particularly through its own healing, maturing and development.
Realized selflessness changes the context only: this human self continues to be part of an evolving universe and continues its own development. So it may as well actively engage in that process.
Evolution is, after all, one of the faces of God. It is what God appears to do in its form aspect.
Leave that out and there is still realized selflessness, which is of course fine. But it also leaves out the fun that this human self can have by more consciously engage with and grease its own process of unfolding and reorganizing, and that of the larger whole.
Big Mind doesn’t care either way. But engaging in this way can certainly be more fun for this human self. At least for this human self.