This "knowing" you talk about is traditionally called enlightenment. As you know, enlightenment has been both idealized and trivialized in the West. How would you define it?
Enlightenment is awakening from the dream of being a separate me to being the universal reality. It’s not an experience or a perception that occurs to a separate person as the result of spiritual practice or cultivated awareness. It doesn’t come and go, and you don’t need to do anything to maintain it. It’s not about being centered or blissful or peaceful or any other experience. In fact, enlightenment is a permanent nonexperience that happens to nobody. The separate person is seen through, and you realize that only the supreme, universal reality exists, and that you are that.
Could you say a little more about the difference between mystical experiences and true awakening?
When the personal "I" merges and becomes one with everything, that’s a mystical experience. Or your consciousness expands infinitely, or your kundalini [innate spiritual energy] awakens, or you have a vision of the Buddha or Mother Mary, or you feel totally blissed out and peaceful. Even an ongoing experience of being unified with God or Buddha is just another mystical experience.
But even though they’re the highest, most beautiful states a human being can have, mystical experiences are happening to the dream character you take to be "me" - and this "me" is the one you wake up from. Awakening is the realization that you are the awakeness or lucidity that’s experiencing every moment of the dream, including the so-called spiritual or mystical, without being caught by it. As I said before, awakeness is not an experience, it’s a fact, whereas a mystical experience happens to someone at a particular place and time.
- from The Taboo of Enlightenment - Do we really believe we can awaken? Stephan Bodian talks with popular lay teacher Adyashanti, Tricycle, Fall 2004.
I knew virtually nothing about Adyashanti before reading this interview, although, having done some background reading now, I am aware that there is some controversy regarding his methods of teaching, his lineage, his relationship to Buddhism / Zen and that he discusses enlightenment openly. Nonetheless, I found the relentless enquiry of his practice over the years along with his directness and clarity to be refreshing and inspiring.