The clarity of the second stage is like looking through a spotless window. You can see through it very well, almost as if the window were not there, but it is there. In the second stage, the self lies dormant but subtle self-grasping is present. In other words, seeing through a window, even a very clean one, is not the same as seeing through no window at all. Seeing through no window is one way of describing the state of enlightenment, which is the third stage. In utter clarity, the mind is unmoving. Why? Because there is no self-referential mind.
The third stage of silent illumination is the realization of quiescence and wakefulness, stillness and awareness, samadhi and prajna, all of which are different ways to describe mind’s natural state. Experiencing it for the first time is like suddenly dropping a thousand pounds from your shoulders—the heavy burdens of self-attachment, vexations, and habitual tendencies. Prior to that, you may not know exactly what self-attachment or vexations are. But once you are free from them, you clearly recognize them.
Self-attachment, vexations, and habitual tendencies run deep. So practitioners must work hard to experience enlightenment again and again until they can simply rest in mind’s natural state. The key is to practice diligently but seek no results.
By practicing in this way, our life gradually becomes completely integrated with wisdom and compassion, and even traces of “enlightenment” vanish. We are able to offer ourselves to everyone, like a lighthouse, helping all those who come our way, responding to their needs with*out contrivance. This is the perfection of silent illumination.
You might ask, “I’ve been practicing for ten years now—exactly when is this going to happen to me?” The difference between delusion and enlightenment is only a moment away. In an instant, you can be free from the constructs of your identity and see through the veil of your fabrications.