Levels of Awareness

Levels of Realizations (Awakenings):

Self-realization is not just one final level of realization as many books and people try to convey. It actually has many different levels of depth. Below a list of the different levels people can find themselves in.

Body / mind

This is what most people belief they are if you ask them for the first time the question: "who are you?"

Answers like their name, their job function or a loop such as I am myself are frequent answers. All answers are pointing to the body or mind, who the body is, what it does and what it has. I am a crippled man or I am a father for example. For those who go a bit deeper, answers like I am because I can think (identified with the mind) are common.

This is not a state of awakening or self-realization as the self has not been found yet. But it can be worse like in Schizophrenia or other mental disorders where the identification becomes completely illusionary, beyond the already illusionary body / mind identification.

Spiritual being

With self-inquiry there comes a point where you realize that all the things you can perceive is not who you really is. All the answers to the question "who are you" are exterior to who you really are, such as a feeling or thought or emotion or even knowledge.

Like the sun who tries to find out who he is by looking around himself and seeing the planets he gives light and saying I am that planet.

Out of body experiences and past life memories can trigger this realization as well.

Oneness / God realization

Realizing you are not the body or mind but a spiritual being, one can go deeper and inquire into who you really are as a spiritual being. All the answers to this question again dissolve and you find that this separate soul or spiritual being does not exist and you merge with the universe. You are everything.

Nirvana / Moksha

The realization that everything is I, the opposite of oneness and you are no more. The awareness arises that everything is who you are and when you fully experience yourself it dissolves in silence as well. It is the end of the cycle of dying and rebirth and nobody dies and nobody is born. Time is who you are.

Enlightenment / Suddha Deham

Enlightenment has often been mixed with the first step of Self-realization, realizing you are the sun and not the planets. But if you look more carefully into the Bon tradition of Buddhism or Lord Murugan in the Tamil tradition you find that enlightenment goes a lot deeper.

Vallalar, a famous Tamil Saint who reached the highest level of realization / Awakening in 1874 described the “Principle of Light” as being the most effective way of producing Enlightenment (Suddha Deham).
This Principle has two important aspects: Compassion toward all the beings -paropakaram- and devotional Meditation -satvicharam-.
According to Vallalar, the first of these aspects was the most important; if is acquired, the Grace will come easily. God is present in all the beings and all the beings are in God. Cultivating the human compassion for all the beings can be achieved the God's Grace (divine Compassion), similarly to the way in which a spark becomes a radiant Light.
Likewise he taught that it was necessary to develop another aspect of the Principle of Light: the ardent Devotion to God. The key is constituted by the constant thought on God, begging for his Grace. Basically in God-realization there is still someone who can talk and perceive the world, even though knowing he is one with it. Continuing this merging deeper and deeper into Moksha and Suddha Deham means you dive into compassion and devotion, not as something exterior from you but as you.

In one of his poems he expresses that it is necessary to think incessantly on God, until one be melted / merged with the Divine Love. Then the crying happens unexpectedly and praises are sung to God, being produced in the disciple a smooth internal heat (kundalini). Without knowing this secret, the yogis have come carrying out ascetic practices with the only purpose of producing this heat (shuddi ushanam). When this universal Love and this sacred Heat are realized, body and soul are prepared for the descent of the Grace in the shape of Light. When this happens, the material body constituted of impure elements is transformed into a “Body of Pure Light” that emits a golden brightness - Enlightenment, Suddha Deham.

Ja lu phowa chenpo /
Gnana Deham
/ Rainbow Body

This divine light starts to change the body and starts to reverse the age and shrinks the body until the point where only light remains...

More info from Vallalar about Enlightenment and beyond here.