Most of you must have heard about the old Zen saying about the rivers and the mountains, for those of you who haven’t here is a condensed version of it:
At the first level on the path, he saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. On the second level of the path, he saw that mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers. And at a third level, he saw once again mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.
That Zen metaphor describes the three important stages experienced by consciousness as it passes through the gate of VISION, COMPASSION, and REBIRTH.
At the first level on the path, he saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers
The first stage describes the state of mind-consciousness. Objects are labeled, they have a story attached to them, and seem clearly separated and independent from each other. This is the current state of consciousness of the majority of human beings.
On the second level of the path, he saw that mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers.
As the world and our ego start to appear for what they are, mind constructs, the “contour” of all inner and outer objects starts to blur and the unity of all starts to become our experience. That stage is often considered as awakening. Many individuals are currently going through that process.
At that stage, I would like to add a little note of caution based on my conscious experience of stage 2.
Consciousness can easily be fooled into thinking that stage 2 is the destination. The first contact of the “substance” with Presence can be fascinating. All objects and forms seem to “float” within a pure Presence, Awareness.
The mold of Neo-Advaita, in particular, seems to freeze many seekers into stage 2 through a dynamic of neverending compulsive self-inquiry. They deconstructed their reality and through a form of new spiritualized ego, they tend to compulsively reject all forms and objects that present themselves to their newfound awareness. It is just another form of inverted duality and an exclusive expression of consciousness. Exclusive because the all-inclusive heart is still not included.
And at a third level, he saw once again mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.
The world of forms and objects has dissolved, the self has acknowledged its essential nature as pure Presence, and the time of rebirth has come.
Strong from its “self-awareness” in the substance, Presence embraces the world of forms once again and it is now an embrace of love with the substance. Mountains are mountains again. Body, emotions, and thoughts are “impregnated” by Presence, and the “little things of life” re-emerge in a newborn awareness. The VISION is now connected to THE HEART, humanity is embraced in its beauty, limitations, imperfections, and fragility. Presence knows itself as the source of all, pure knowing, pure experiencing, and the known, the experienced is not separated from it, it is essentially Love meeting Love.