A SOULful Consciousness is a "Perfect Consciousness." It is defined as-
"that state of consciousness, a state of awareness, where there is thorough knowledge of the functioning of consciousness, where there is no feeling of owning the consciousness, where there is no sense of being an “experiencer,” where there is no attachment to the consciousness as my consciousness, and where there is only awareness and knowledge that this is consciousness."
Once a meditator has experienced moments of enlightenment as discussed in Soulful Mind Meditations (M24-M29), he or she can then practice following higher meditations to even go beyond enlightenment and to experience moments of Nirvana.
The first step is to see danger in the attachment to moments of enlightenment that arrives after the four states of absorption (SOUL Meditations M25-M28 upto Step 35). We have to develop dispassion towards enlightening moments by understanding the reality of the dormant ego. Then, we have to continue the meditation as a follow-up of Step 35. I like to call this the post-enlightenment meditation which is basically a continuation of the fourth level of mental absorption leading to even higher levels of mental absorption and purification.
SOUL Meditation M30
Infinity of Space
While abiding in the fourth level of mental absorption (Step34/35) and experiencing pure awareness and equanimity, contemplate like this: “This pure awareness and equanimity is rooted in breath which was used as a meditation subject. The breath is a bodily formation. The body, mind, and consciousness that were discerned and transcended, are rooted in breath. They are rooted in the realm of the material, sensual, and fine-material worlds. Because of such roots, they are simply arising and passing away. They are all impermanent. This impermanence is not satisfactory. It is imperfect. It is not final liberation.”
By contemplating this way, develop dispassion for breath and move your awareness to the “empty space” within nostrils through which the breath moves. The awareness of “empty space” should result from the removal of the awareness of breath. It is as if you remove the breath and become aware of what remains- the empty space.
Remain aware of this empty space by constantly regarding the awareness as “space.” Contemplate the awareness as “space” “space” until “spaceness” is established. This “spaceness” is nothing but the arising of consciousness that is rooted in “space” and not in “breath” as before.
The consciousness of “spaceness” is such that there remains no feeling or perception of matter anymore. Matter no longer generates any contact because there are no senses arising. Expand this awareness of “spaceness” beyond the nostrils in stages to such an extent that there remains only “spaceness” through-in and through-out. In such moments, you enter the fifth stage of mental absorption.
The ‘spaceness” is literal, in a sense that, you become space. When that happens, you have not only transcended the body and senses (as in the 1st stage of absorption) but also extinguished the bodyness and sensuality. This does not mean you die. It simply means that, while you are absorbed in it, you do not hear any sound, you do not feel any touch, you do not see anything, you do not smell anything, and you do not taste anything. There is neither feeling nor perception of any matter or senses. Also, “spaceness” is literal in a sense that you do not perceive any differences or varieties which arise due to materiality. Space is literally uniform and unbounded. Thus, the consciousness of “spaceness” brings about non-material, non-sensual, and non-variant unbounded awareness.
SOUL Meditation M31
Infinity of Consciousness
While abiding in such absorption, shift your awareness from “spaceness” to the “consciousness” that pervades the “spaceness.” Understand that this consciousness had arisen when “space” was made the object of awareness and then contemplate like this: “This “spaceness” is really the “consciousness” which pervades the “spaceness.” The consciousness is unbounded because there is now only awareness of consciousness and not the awareness of space. Thus the subject of meditation - “space,” has been transcended by the arisen consciousness. This “consciousness” now abides in consciousness itself! It is thus unbounded consciousness and nothing else.”
In this way, when you transcend the “spaceness” and abide in “unbounded consciousness,” you enter the realm of the sixth stage of absorption. After the experience of several such periods of absorption, take time to review the entire process of concentration from beginning to end and from end to beginning of each stage of mental absorption. Once the entire process is thoroughly contemplated and understood, renew the practice so you can enter, advert, attain, maintain, and exit all stages of absorptions at will and without any difficulty. In this way, perfect all stages of absorption.
SOUL Meditation M32
While abiding in the 6th stage of absorption- in the boundless consciousness, contemplate like this: “This abiding is rooted in “space” which was used as a meditation subject. The space is a derived material formation. The space, spaceness, and boundless consciousness that were discerned and transcended, are rooted in space. They are rooted in the realm of the material or immaterial worlds. They are still rooted in the realm of the worlds, in the realm of existence. Because of such roots, they are simply arising and passing away. They are all impermanent. This impermanence is not satisfactory. It is imperfect. It is not final liberation.”
By contemplating this way, develop dispassion for “space” and shift your awareness to the “emptiness and nothingness” of space. Shift your awareness to its “voidness and not-ness.” The awareness of “emptiness, nothingness, voidness, and not-ness” should result from the removal of the awareness of space. It is as if you remove the space and become aware of what remains- the emptiness, nothingness, voidness, and not-ness itself.
Remain aware of this “emptiness, nothingness, voidness, and not-ness” by constantly regarding the awareness as “emptiness, nothingness, voidness, and not-ness.” Contemplate the awareness as such until “non-existence” is established. This “non-existence” is nothing but the arising of awareness that is rooted in “emptiness and nothingness” and not in “space” as before. The awareness of “emptiness and nothingness” reaches to such an extent that there remains no feeling of even non-matter (such as consciousness) anymore. Matter or non-matter no longer generate any contact because there is neither matter nor mind arising. In this way, when you transcend the “unbounded consciousness” and abide in “emptiness and nothingness,” you enter the realm of the seventh stage of absorption.
The “emptiness and nothingness” is literal in a sense that, you become empty or you un-become. Now, you have not only transcended the body and senses (as in the first stage of absorption) and extinguished the bodyness and sensuality (as in the in the fifth stage of absorption), but also extinguished the “feeling” itself. This does not mean you die. It simply means that, while you are absorbed in this way, you do not perceive “you” as “you” because you do not feel that there is some “you.” This is what “emptiness or nothingness” is. It is non-clinging of any kind. It is non-attachment of awareness due to non-feeling. It is the non-existence of owner, doer, and feeler. What really remains now is just the perception of “emptiness and nothingness.” Just that perception!
SOUL Meditation M33
While abiding in this way- in the perception of “emptiness and nothingness,” contemplate like this: “There is this “perception” of “emptiness and nothingness.’ It is really not absolute nothingness because there is still this “perception” of it. This abiding is imperfect. It is not peaceful because perception still exists. It is not final liberation.”
By contemplating this way, develop dispassion for “perception” of “nothingness” and shift your awareness to the peacefulness of “non-perception.” Direct the awareness to peacefulness of “non-perception” again and again until the awareness arises with “neither perception-nor-non-perception.” In this way, when you transcend the “emptiness and nothingness” and abide in “neither-perception-nor-non-perception,” you enter the realm of the eight stage of absorption.
The awareness of “neither-perception-nor-non-perception” is neither gross in which there is perception nor so subtle in which there is no perception. It is simply so extremely subtle that there is only the residue of perception. So, it cannot be called non-perception; nor it is perception. Such perception is incapable of performing the function of perception decisively. However, it is not completely absent. It is like a wet and empty earthen pot which does not contain enough quantity of water for drinking; but still cannot be technically called empty due to its wetness.
After the experience of several such periods of absorption, take time to review the entire process of concentration from beginning to end and from end to beginning. Once the entire process is thoroughly contemplated and understood, renew the practice so you can enter, advert, attain, maintain, and exit all stages of absorption at will and without any difficulty. In this way, perfect your absorptions.
SOUL Meditation M34
Perception & Feeling
Soon, a stage will come when the faculties of awareness and concentration will be perfected to such an extent that there will be not even “perception” of any kind left. This is born out of the cessation of feeling (as in the seventh stage of absorption) and cessation of the awareness of “neither-perception-nor-non-perception” due to transcendence and due to complete eradication of all mental/volitional formations or karma (seeds of I-ness or ego). In this way, when you transcend the stage of “neither-perception-nor-non-perception” and abide (or non-abide) in the “cessation of feeling and perception,” you enter the realm of the ninth stage of absorption.
The ninth stage of absorption is the attainment of cessation born out of “being-ness without the perception of body, mind, and consciousness.” What then remains is this “being-ness without” or simply “being-less-ness.” This moment of “being-less-ness” is the moment of entering full and pure enlightenment which eventually leads to Nirvana.
What exactly is this “being-less-ness?” Do you mean the body, mind, and consciousness simply vanish?
The body, mind, and consciousness exist as they are, however, there is neither feeling nor perception of it. Body, mind, and consciousness do not exist belonging to someone. There is no more a person or an entity, because, the subtlest impurities of such ignorance are completely rooted out. There is no “being” no “person” that attains such full and pure enlightenment. The meditator still exists relative to the world, however, this relative existence is now even without the “being.”
Such moments of abiding gives a taste of Nirvanic peace. Nirvanic peace brings about complete release from the clutches of ignorance. When the last traces of ignorance are eradicated or extinguished, perfect wisdom arises. Perfect wisdom brings perfect freedom. Perfect freedom manifests as “perfect peace.”
Nirvana ends all suffering because no seeds of ignorance, karma, or desire remain. The vicious cycle of birth and death is broken, destroyed, and extinguished. Nirvana is thus the absolute final liberation. It is the end of evolution.
A constant, moment-to-moment abiding (or non-abiding) in Nirvanic peace is necessary for the happening of ultimate Nirvana which technically occurs when the physical body of the enlightened master (who abides in nirvanic peace) eventually dies.
It all sounds fantastic, but, does it have any practical relevance? How is Enlightenment or Nirvana helpful to me in this very life? How is it helpful to others?
You have to work ardently and consistently over many lives for enlightenment and nirvana to happen. However, you can experience the taste of it in this very life in the periodic moments of enlightenment and nirvana. A few moments of such abiding has a profound effect on mental development because such abiding does four things:
1.It makes you infinitely more aware and wakeful than before. Awareness or wakefulness is the fundamental quality of an enlightened or evolved mind.
2. It purifies the consciousness by removing craving and aversion. You become less and less reactive and more and more proactive due to purified equanimity and awareness. Notice that I am not saying inactive but proactive.
3. It makes you divine and holy by increasing the qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity. These qualities of divinity and holiness manifest in your relationship with others.
4. It makes you wise in the truest sense. It arises penetrating wisdom, pure understanding. In this very life, your ultimate reward is this “penetrating wisdom / pure understanding.” Why it is a reward? Because it is this wisdom that can only remove the ignorance which is the root cause of all our suffering. Ignorance is the ultimate disease and wisdom is the ultimate remedy and Enlightenment-NIrvana provides that.