If you have read my autobiography—and it is strongly advisable that you do as it will provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of these teachings and approach—it will become apparent that enlightenment is more of an art than a science. Although there are precise steps that each seeker must take to realize their ultimate freedom, there’s also room for everyone’s unique dance. I have noticed, however, that for most seekers, the benefits of having a structured and clearly outlined spiritual system significantly outweigh the disadvantages.
A skillfully developed “enlightenment map” or system helps facilitate a greater understanding of the various steps along the spiritual path while also providing a sense of direction that keeps one from being derailed or sidetracked. Otherwise, it is all too easy to lose sight of the path and become disoriented, devoid of a clear sense of direction and purpose, and with no real progress to show for one’s efforts.
Consequently, I created the Tree of Liberation, a simple and straightforward system that illustrates the essential stages, states, and shifts along the way to liberation. In other words, it is something accessible in terms of understanding without having to water down any teachings, and yet it has massive practical value. Nondual teachings are often either vague and diluted into their bare simplicity (e.g., “Just be aware” or “Just inquire who am I?”) or too intellectual, conceptual, and dense. But the middle way between these two extremes is often the best approach for the vast majority of aspirants.
Here are the three main phases of the path toward liberation, following the Tree of Liberation:
1. Phase of Self-Realization
2. Phase of the Absolute
3. Phase of Luminous Emptiness
The vast majority of seekers have yet to enter the first phase of the path. They’re currently exploring different forms of spirituality and understanding, and performing dualistic practices. These types of practices and teachings have nothing inherently wrong, it’s just that without a nondual “component,” they’re not capable of taking one toward self-realization. After all, it is the ego that performs these practices, and borrowing from the words of the great sage Ramana Maharshi, it’s like making the thief the policeman—he will go with you and pretend to catch the thief, but nothing will be gained. This includes almost all of the spiritual practices, teachings, and techniques that you’ve come to know and learn.
In light of this, a major part of my teachings is directed at propelling seekers from a state of ignorance toward the first phase of the Tree of Liberation. Only those who have established themselves in the natural state can then begin to “look” beyond into universality and, subsequently, into the absolute. With a nondual approach and appropriate mentorship, establishing yourself in the natural state is straightforward. Afterward, the expansion into the universal state is a natural consequence. However, to penetrate deeper into the mystery of reality and ultimately dissolve into the unmanifested, guidance and instructions must be more particular and tailored to the aspirant as their living reality flows toward the absolute state.
Phase 3 is a different “reality” of realization altogether, as one goes not only beyond objects but also beyond the subject itself, letting all reifications fall and shifting into complete referencelessness. The naked experience of reality has no subject, no object, and no activity—it’s just suchness. This is the realm of subjective and objective emptiness.
If you are looking for a way to start, contemplate the following:
– Awakening of Discernment
– Awakening the Highest Desire
– Awakening of Inner Sensitivity
With awareness through presence, love through the heart, and motionlessness through surrender, you awaken into the I am. I am is the state of being aware of one’s being through bliss. Awareness is aware of itself, the heart is touching the divine through love and bliss from within, and everything is rooted in the motionlessness of being through surrender.
Being with the I am is not the same as being aware of awareness; it is existing as awareness that loves itself. And it is in the surrendering into being of its own blissful self-knowing that lies the doorway to transcendence.
Frequently, spiritual teachings equate the “Self” with awareness. However, just as the ancient rishis discovered, the nature of our self is actually being, awareness, and bliss—namely, sat-chit-ananda. Presence is chit, surrender into being is sat, and the heart is ananda. Therefore, when we attempt to realize our natural state of being, our “true self,” we must approach the practice and understanding from these three “dimensions,” although they are essentially one and not three.
Awareness (chit) will allow you to recognize and abide in your own subjectivity. This is awakening to the background of awareness and being aware of it. Surrender into being (sat) will allow you to let go, to drop into the ground of being, to be in the dimension of nondoing, opening the doorway to the unmanifested. The heart (ananda) will allow you to awaken to the dimension of divine beauty, connecting you with inner joy and warm love, opening you up to the essence of happiness, and infusing your whole consciousness with its blissful recognition of itself. Surrendering into being from the heart through the clarity of awareness is knowing the heart from the inside. That’s the practice of I am—and your entrance onto the actual nondual path.
– Av Neryah