In chapter 10 of Adyashanti’s book The End of Your World, he touches on an interesting debate. If you explore various spiritual traditions, you will find some that will tell you awakening happens by grace. It has nothing to do with anything you do. It simply happens. Those that awaken spontaneously may also speak similarly.
You will find other traditions that will tell you it’s all about the practice. It is through a spiritual practice and tapas that you will awaken, perhaps conceding that this will earn you the grace for actual awakening.
The teaching of a given teacher very much reflects their own process and history. I spoke about this spectrum back on This Journey.
For myself, I’ve been following a path derived from ancient traditions. There is a richness of understanding there that suited me well, especially when I still had a need to know. But for the actual awakening process, the framework was too rigidly held. Many in the group had come to think it was all about the practice, forgetting the grace. And ignoring the emotional work they needed.
From where I sit now, I would say it is ideally a blend. Awakening is, as I have often mentioned, Self awakening to itself. Awareness awakens within and of itself. The me or person does not awake. Thus it has nothing to do with what a person does. This is grace, whether it come in the form of awareness, God, or guru. One can awaken without practice or intention, simply by the natural evolution of the soul.
However, such an awakening may be, as one description I heard, “like playing Mozart on a washboard”. This is where the true value of a good practice comes in. The culturing of the nervous system and physiology and the repeated experience of the transcendent source prepares the ground. The point of the infinite we call the soul is better able to reflect the higher values and perceive the details. It can also be much smoother.
Additionally, a personal process can help prepare the ground for grace to happen. Learning to surrender can be a key step. It certainly was for me. It was when I had let go enough and cleared the decks enough that grace was able to step in. (NOTE – enough, not completely. This is not about perfection)
From a higher perspective, we are already the Self. The practice of a person is really the Self preparing itself. Our every action is really grace, the flow of Self within Itself. We may muddy this flow with limited perception, but what is remains. A process for Self to discover itself through form.
Awakening with the aid of a practice tends to bring greater clarity, understanding, and benefit. Because there is essentially no limit to expansion and refinement, it also means we can reach higher levels during the time we have the privilege of a human experience. If that’s what Self has in mind. (laughs)
But don’t use this to blame or make wrong. Just do your best. This is about being OK what what is. It’s not about perfection, it’s about coming though illusion. Or as Adya puts it “We come to Nirvana by Way of Samsara*”
*Samsara is the flowing cycle of death and rebirth, usually characterized as a cycle of growth, decay and suffering. We transcend this with awakening when we become that which is immortal.