The immediate and gradual path are one
Sometimes enlightenment is longed for and does not occur. Sometimes enlightenment is not longed for and occurs spontaneously.
Sometimes enlightenment occurs spontaneously but is not recognized. Sometimes enlightenment occurs spontaneously, is recognized, but its significance is not acknowledged.
Enlightenment arises more easily when there is ‘soft satisfaction’, when the subject is enjoying something in a gentle way or when the subject is tenderly longing for something. In pleasurable situations like these, the contraction coming forth from the subject-object duality is weak. These circumstances set the stage for the dance of consciousness, form and energy. Here, subject and object can naturally fade into the background, giving space for the dance to dance itself.
It is more difficult for enlightenment to arise if the situation is not allowed to be what it is; if we are troubled by something or strongly desire something. The subject is then compellingly pushed away from the object (aversion) or drawn to it (craving). Meaning is compellingly attached to the object (illusion) as well as to the subject (identity). In uncomfortable situations in which the subject-object contraction is strong, perceptions are experienced as fixed, necessary and true, seemingly reflecting an objective reality independent from the subject. In these circumstances, there is little space for the dance between consciousness, form and energy to occur.
Underlying aversion and craving there is a compelling association between subject and object. If this dual entanglement is sensed as energy, subject and object return to form in consciousness. Then liberation arises. Liberation is the liberation from contraction. (The amount of energy which is released in this process is in accordance with the degree of contraction.)
Again, it is not the subject who is liberated. We are liberated from our ‘selves’, i.e. from the subject, and enter a state of non-existence. There is no one who perceives. There is no one who causes anything to happen. The subject is recognized as form and disappears into the background. We are thereby also freed from the object: if the subject is recognized as form-in-consciousness, then the object is also recognized as form-in-consciousness.
Subject-object linkages not only arise from aversion and craving, but also from habit (of which aversion and craving can be part). Here the association between subject and object is made automatically and mindlessly. Liberation occurs if habit is noticed and observed as form in consciousness.
Enlightenment is the immediate path. It is instantaneously perfect and happens beyond time. Liberation is the gradual path that extends over an entire lifespan. Liberation is a process that unfolds over time and is never completed.
Enlightenment and liberation are one and together they constitute the pathless path. Liberation is where enlightenment endures the change of circumstances; where there is awareness of the dance in both ease and difficulty. If there is enlightenment, at that eternal instant there is also liberation. Where there is liberation, the dance dances itself at every moment.