The search for Truth is, generally speaking, the search for a ground of being, the foundation for existence, the fundamental reality which remains unchanged. No matter which method of investigation: science, philosophy, meditation, etc... all search for meaning is a search of the first cause, that which has no cause but on which all else depends.
In the spiritual path this becomes searching for the true nature of experience, the search for God, the True Self, the Soul, a transcendental reality in which we are free of suffering and in which we are blissfully happy and eternally free from suffering.
If only we could become aware of this Ground of Being would be enlightened and happy forever! If only we found what was truly REAL could we see this world as unreal. This world, this reality that we experience, in which everything is impermanent, everything we create, everybody we love is taken from us. This world where even our own being will suffer old age, disease, and death. If only we could find something real which lasts that we truly are. That is the set of beliefs and concepts most bring with them onto the spiritual path, generally.
In basic non-dual teachings it goes something like: you are already your true nature perfect and divine, all you must do is recognize your true condition as it always has been. Enlightenment is not about attaining anything, but recognizing that which is already the case. This makes sense if there is a ground of being that is the self of all things.
So how do you go about finding and recognizing this ground of being? Is it real hard, does it take many years of devoted and disciplined meditation? The beauty of non-dualism is that if we relax it can be recognized right now in direct experience. In fact, there is no other way. It is already the case. We just have to recognize what we are not and disregard it. Anything that comes and goes, anything that is impermanent, we are not. Anything that we can observe as an object, either outer or inner, also we are not. Can you observe the sense of self? If so, it is not the true Self.
So you see that there is a very logical set of beliefs operating here, and that they bring results. They are a method of inquiry, like a scientific method, but more like using the mind to observe the mind to find out the nature of mind. But it is very important to see that there are these subtle conditioned beliefs still operating here where we take for granted that there is something Real to look for.
What one usually does at one stage is having discarded all contents of the mind and experience as because of its transitoriness, there is a revelation. After everything has been discarded that which has always been there is revealed. But there are still those beliefs that shape how this is experience is interpreted.
We believe that we have discovered a True Self, or God, or the Ground of Reality. We have landed on the ground. Oh this is the Truth! Everything else, everything we have discarded, this world, this dynamic reality with all its colors and shapes and sensations and objects is not real anymore. Only the subject is real. Only the witnessing awareness is real. Everything else arises within this witnessing awareness.
Wow! And what a relief! Wow! This awareness that I AM is eternal and everything is just a dream arising in this awareness! It is a lucid dream! My whole life was just a dream character but I am the whole dreamer of the whole dream! And this is confirmed in direct experience!
But we have used a method to arrive at this experience, and that method has a set of unexamined beliefs in it as well. But the method does not need to be questioned now, because now the proof is in the pudding. We have arrived at a very compelling unitive experience, where what we were seeking was found. Right? We found the ground of reality. We know this to be true now. And we definitely want it to be true.
So like a lucid dream, one is only lucid as long as one doesn't forget that it isn't real. But of course the mind and the ego take ownership of the experience and interpret it. So now that we have found ourselves to be that which we were seeking all along, now we can give up seeking, investigating, etc... We have found. We are "saved", or "born again." We no longer are interested in 'looking', 'meditating', 'spiritual inquiry', 'investigating', because it is the dream character which does that and we are not the dream character. Doing anything like that means that you are not enlightened.
Since we used the mind to observe the mind we found that the essence of the mind is awareness and that thoughts distract us from knowing this essence. But because of our unquestioned beliefs we have carried over from our conditioning we now think that we found the true nature of the whole universe to be awareness. This actual universe is a dream, rather than the universe as it exists in my mind is a dream. Awareness must be the ground of being that we are looking for.
And how can that experience be topped? How can there be a higher experience than experiencing the ground of being, the absolute reality?
Immediately the egoic mind claims this experience and tries to include itself back into it somehow. It starts telling a 'story' that if identity is a dream character, then there must be a real 'dreamer' who is dreaming up the dream character. It now thinks it has found itself as that which it was looking for. "You are already that which you seek." You have heard that before, haven't you?
And it has upgraded its own identity. Before the mind was just a collection of transient thoughts, but now it identifies as some 'changeless awareness' in which is a container or space in which transient thoughts come and go within. At this moment, the seeker (which is the ego) has found what it has been seeking (itself as the ground of being) and now the individual is no longer a seeker. Now the individual will condemn seeking and look down on seekers. He will say such things as "there is nothing to seek, no goal, nothing to find.... etc."
This is a natural stage of insight on the path, and 'changeless awareness' is a very compelling non-conceptual thought. This is a great experience and is a sign of great success, but it is dangerous stage because major denial pops up here, right when the ego thinks that it is beyond denial. One can become stuck at this stage for lifetimes.
But the basic delusion of this state is a very subtle dualism and the beliefs I pointed out earlier which allows for denial. This dualism is the 'thought/awareness' dualism, as if there is a spacious field of awareness in which anything that changes is labeled a 'thought'. Thoughts are sent here to trick us into believing that we are not already free of ego. Everything that we disagree with is labeled a 'story.' We disassociate from thoughts and we identify with awareness. Thoughts are seen as obscurations.
So the next step would be to keep inquiring and investigating this awareness. Is awareness really unchanging? Is it always there? Is there ever lapses in awareness? Are we ever unaware? Do we ever sleep? Does our awareness change if we drink alcohol, suffer a brain injury, take a psycho-active medication? If we remove every quality that is changeable from awareness what is it that is left? What remains that is unchangeable? Is awareness actually the ground of being on which we can trust to stand on? Do we have actual proof that this awareness will survive death, or do we just have tremendous faith that it survives death because it is so compelling? How honest with ourselves are we willing to be? Could it be that everything seems to arise and have its being and return to its source as pure awareness simply because everything we have ever known is a hologram in our brain, and that is the biology of non-dualism? Could it be that we see everything as not separate from us because we are seeing a hologram in the brain? Or is this just a story? If it is just a story, is dismissing it as a story also a story? Does it make us uncomfortable to entertain the idea that maybe this isn't enlightenment? Is it the ego which is uncomfortable?
What if the Buddha was right and that there is no first substance that we could call "spirit", "self", "soul" or "god"? What if this reality right in front of your face is as real as it gets? What if there is no escaping the fact that everything is impermanent? Would that disappoint you? What could we say about the ultimate reality or ground of being if everything is impermanent? What if we put aside concepts or reality and unreality, existent and non-existent, aside and just looked at what is happening?
Do you see a field of pure awareness that doesn't change? If so.... if you can see it, if you can observe it, it isn't you, because an eyeball cannot see itself and teeth cannot bite themselves. Could it simply be the natural radiance of perception itself that you see and not an ultimate ground of being? Close your eyes and look inside. Do you see an infinite spacious void behind your eyes, or is that merely a thought or visualization on what you want to be there? Is there anything eternal behind your eyes looking out? What if awareness if to experience like wetness is to water? The universe is aware of itself.
"The only constant is change itself." What if impermanence is the ground of being? What if the fact that everything is in a state of becoming something else is the absolute nature of reality? Then everything becomes a continuous stream of change where enlightenment is not an attainment of a static experience.
And How is this continuous stream of experience known? Is there anything there which knows it? Yet isn't it undeniable that it is known? Yet it is unfindable. Not being found, it is not a substance, it is not a material, it is not a dimension, it is not a creator... And what does it know? It only knows that nothing permanent is happening as this singularity of a moment, and that the next moment is aware of itself.
I propose groundlessness. Not clinging to an ultimate reality or true identity, not having absolute conclusions, not demanding reality be static and unchanging, but to be open-ended, a process that evolves, with space for many viewpoints and experiences in their diversity and abundance. And none of it has an identity. It still remains a lucid dream, but there is no dreamer, nor is there a space or substance called awareness that makes the dream. These are all beliefs.