Consciousness has levels. It is one of the well-accepted concepts.
When we live only with our survival instinct, our consciousness level is at the lowest. In the next level, we care about neighbors; we learn how to live in society. Still, in the next, we would see ourselves amid everyone and everything. Our self-consciousness becomes sharper and more sensitive, pondering our self-identity and the meaning of life.
Maslow calls it the stage of self-actualization. And in his later years, he even thought of the further next phase called transcendence.
Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos.Farther Reaches of Human Nature
Like Buddhism, various religious, metaphysical views also possess the same concept. In such a view, for example, the lowest is even lower than the animals. And in the next, most of us are in the level of animals, or more correctly in the level of the beasts. Learning and internalizing ethnical values and self-disciplines, some could go up to the level of humans.
Still, life is suffering. We suffer as we love and hate ourselves and others too much.
Only a few of us could leap to the next level where we could forget ourselves. This forgetfulness, however, is different from the selfless state of animals and beasts. We are completely spontaneous like a baby. But this spontaneity is the result of transcending self or ego, while the baby’s state is the result of unformed self or ego.
Zen monk, Dōgen says:
To study the Way is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and everMaster Dōgen
At the moment of leaping from one level to another, we use the term “awakened” or “enlightened.” In fact, the name “Buddha” means the awakened one or the enlightened one who sees the world and life as is. Just like beasts are different from humans, this awakened, enlightened person is different from most of us.
In the beast level, we cannot clearly see ourselves since our survival instinct is too dominant. In the human level, on the contrary, we can see ourselves too much, and this “ourselves” controls us a lot, up to the extent that we can’t help but kill ourselves or vice versa.
Finally, in the next conscious level, we transcend ourselves. There is no longer such thing as “ourselves” seen. But, there is only “we” who see. We call it absolute subjectivity.
In absolute subjectivity, nothing is seen and nobody is seen, just as God never stands at the side of seen as He is the absolute seer.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.John 14:6
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