Often people think that someone wakes up, someone becomes enlightened, that enlightenment somehow belongs to a person. Although this is how it often seems, this is not quite how it works. It may appear that Tom Das or whomever has awakened, etc, but actually Tom Das is just an appearance, nothing.
There is no-one here that knows anything, although it may appear that way within the waking dream.
The ‘me’ thinks itself to be an individual and projects that individuality onto others. The ‘me’ identifies itself and believes itself to be a body-mind entity and so believes that Tom Das or whoever has ‘woken up’. But this is all part of the apparent dream of ‘me’ (ignorance or ajnana in Sanskrit).
What happens in the appearance is in essence empty and non-significant with respect to liberation/non-duality. The sages and scriptures have tried to explain this in many ways.
Below are a few quotes, all from Ramana Maharshi, where he tries to explain how the Jnani (‘liberated sage’, so to speak) is not a person and there is only That.
In the quotes you will see the words jnani/jnana and ajnani/ajnana. The word jnani (lit. knower) refers to a liberated sage – this is only a term used as a way of expressing non-duality – there is no liberated sage in reality, only in the eyes of the ignorant (ajnani, lit. one who does not know).
The word ajnana means ignorance, and someone who is ignorant is termed an ajnani, what I have called the ‘me’ above. In reality there is no ajnana and no ajnani – that is just how it appears, but the appearance is not real.
Here are the quotes from Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi:
Q: I see you doing things. How can you say that you never perform actions?
Ramana Maharshi: The radio sings and speaks, but if you open it you will find no one inside. Similarly, my existence is like the space; though this body speaks like the radio, there is no one inside as a doer.
Q: I find this hard to understand. Could you please elaborate on this?
Ramana Maharshi: Various illustrations are given in books to enable us to understand how the jnani can live and act without the mind, although living and acting require the use of the mind…. It is hard to understand how this is possible…These explanations are for the onlookers who think of the jnani as one with a body and cannot help identifying him with his body.
An ajnani sees someone as a jnani and identifies him with the body. Because he does not know the Self and mistakes his body for the Self, he extends the same mistake to the state of the jnani. The jnani is therefore considered to be the physical frame.
Again since the ajnani, though he is not the doer, imagines himself to be the doer and considers the actions of the body his own, he thinks the jnani to be similarly acting when the body is active.
The jnani sees nothing separate from the Self. The Self is all shining and only pure jnana. So there is no ajnana [ignorance] in his sight.
In the ignorant state one superimposes one’s ignorance on a jnani and mistakes him for a doer.
There is an illustration for this kind of illusion or superimposition. Two friends went to sleep side by side. One of them dreamt that both of them had gone on a long journey and that they had had strange experiences. On waking up he recapitulated them and asked his friend if it was not so. The other one simply ridiculed him saying that it was only his dream and could not affect the other. So it is with the ajnani who superimposes his illusory ideas on others.
Q: There are said to be sadeha mukta (liberated while still in the body) and videha mukta [liberated at the time of death].
Ramana Maharshi: There is no liberation, and where are muktas [the liberated]?
The Self alone is and nothing else. However it is differentiated owing to ignorance.
The existence of the ego in any form, either in the jnani or ajnani, is itself an experience. But to the ajnani who is deluded into thinking that the waking state and the world are real, the ego also appears to be real. Since he sees the jnani act like other individuals, he feels constrained to posit some notion of individuality with reference to the jnani also.
Q: As the bodies and the selves animating them are everywhere actually observed to be innumerable how can it be said that the Self is only one?
Ramana Maharshi: If the idea `I am the body’ is accepted, the selves are multiple. The state in which this idea vanishes is the Self since in that state there are no other objects.
The reality which shines fully, without misery and without a body…
Since the body itself does not exist in the natural outlook of the real Self, but only in the extroverted outlook of the mind which is deluded by the power of illusion, to call Self, the space of consciousness, dehi [the possessor of the body] is wrong.
The jnani knows he is the Self and that nothing, neither his body nor anything else, exists but the Self.
It is false to speak of realization. What is there to realize?
Q: What are the fundamental tests for discovering men of great spirituality, since some are reported to behave like insane people?
Ramana Maharshi: The jnani’s mind is known only to the jnani. One must be a jnani oneself in order to understand another jnani….His words or actions or appearance are no indication of his greatness, for they are ordinarily beyond the comprehension of common people.
Q: You are Bhagavan. So you should know when I shall get jnana. Tell me when I shall be a jnani.
Ramana Maharshi: If I am Bhagavan there is no one besides the Self – therefore no jnani or ajnani.
Coming here, some people do not ask about themselves. They ask: `Does the jivan mukta see the world ? Is he affected by karma? What is liberation after being disembodied ? Is one liberated only after being disembodied or even while alive in the body ? Should the body of the sage resolve itself in light or disappear from view in any other manner? Can he be liberated though the body is left behind as a corpse?’ Their questions are endless. Why worry oneself in so many ways? Does liberation consist in knowing these things?
Actually, the idea of the Self being the witness is only in the mind; it is not the absolute truth of the Self. Witnessing is relative to objects witnessed. Both the witness and his object are mental creations.
Q: How did the knower come?
Ramana Maharshi: On account of the error of perception. In fact the knower and his misperceptions appear simultaneously, and when the knowledge of the Self is obtained, they disappear simultaneously.
Just as in a dream a false knowledge, knower and known rise up, in the waking state the same process operates…Whatever you see happening in the waking state happens only to the knower, and since the knower is unreal, nothing in fact ever happens.