When one realizes oneself to be unborn-ordinary-actionless-non-dual Awareness… and that Awareness (Ātman/Brahman) is everything that is… it does not mean that the world (jagat) suddenly goes “poof” into a whirlpool of nothingness.
The world remains, but with the understanding that there is nothing real (substantial) to it. In other words one no longer gets fooled. One gets smart. This is a jīvanmuktaḥ (Liberated person while living).
One gets smart because he-he comes to terms with fact that one can’t depend on anything in this world for real/permanent happiness. Thus jīvan-muktaḥ then shifts their attention onto something that is reliable… something that one can ALWAYS depend on. Vedanta’s definition of REAL is something that never ceases to exist nor change. And that something is YOU, awareness.
A fashionable enlightenment myth is that an enlightened person becomes “empty”, and that there is nothing for him/her to do. This modern ‘teaching’ called Neo- Advaita is easy to get suckered into as it is both true and not true.
It does state that you are not the body-mind-ego entity, and that you are non-dual awareness… both of which are in harmony with Vedic tradition. But it attempts to close its eye on the existence of the apparent realty (mithyā). The word “apparently” is used because existence does NOT equal Realness (satyam).
The Neo teaching presents only from one aspect…the eye of awareness. Because this is a non-dual reality and only but awareness exists, this statement is true, but nonetheless, this does not offer the inquirer (jīva) much assistance to negotiate the play of duality in which he/she finds himself/herself needing to consult.
Remember, freedom is for the jīva– NOT for Awareness (Ātman). You, awareness – have never not been free.
As James Swartz puts it “Non-duality, non-difference, does not mean sameness. It means that from the self’s perspective there is no difference, but from the level of the body and mind there are only differences”.
Not taking into account the apparent reality is like trying to quench your hunger by eating a juicy hologram. Not very filling. It leaves the person stranded in the chaotic ever-changing-impersonal world of saṃsāra… minus a practical tool kit on how to operate in it.
In addition, this teaching can seed a lazy and adharmic jīva attitude. If you fall in the grips of this teaching, best get out.
Enough with the Neo warning. Let us bite into a proper teaching, Vedānta…
Once self inquiry has revealed the non-dual reality of your true nature, Awareness, it does not mean that the person becomes invisible on this apparent Earth of duality.
It is true however that once self-knowledge is firm that the identification with/as the action-figure (jīva) is defused and that the experience of this world is understood to be no more real than a dream… but the play continues. Besides, duality is absolutely enjoyable, especially when one knows it’s NOT Real.
As you, Awareness (Ātman), ever-presently and effortlessly shine, everything gets lit up. The mind and body equipment have no choice but to continue to dance like a puppet under the strings of its master.
Indeed there are self realized people who choose not to practice guna management (triguna vibhava yoga) and who don’t bother much about cultivating an attractive sāttvic lifestyle. Some are able to dispassionately take whatever comes without a concern to improve their environment. This is fine. But why not have your cake and eat it?
This win-win is attained when the knowledge of ‘I am awareness’ if firmly grounded and understood. This is fruited by the continuous application and contemplation on the science of self inquiry. Vedānta being the means.
A qualified person who is fit for self inquiry does not deny the experience of duality but neither gets overwhelmed with disappointment or fear.
As James Swartz puts it ”The knowledge renders vāsanās non-binding and destroys one’s sense of doership. When this knowledge is firm it infuses the mind with a sense of authenticity, wholeness and rock solid confidence. Henceforth the individual knows that it can weather any existential storm. When you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are awareness, you no longer desire to feel good because you know you are the source of goodness”.
”When you know yourself to be awareness, this does not mean that there is no action to be done by the person (jīva) on the apparent level. It is just that now you do sādhana knowing who you are, not to know who you are. It is true that once self knowledge is firm, the compulsion to do stops and you don’t do what you do for happiness, you do what you do happily”.
Though freedom naturally extends to the person, it would be more accurate to say that freedom is actually freedom from the person.
The word ‘from’ is bold because there is a subtle sound tweak- yet a potent difference with the sentence ”freedom is not for the individual but from the individual”. Contemplate on this.
Nothing changes on the apparent level… only the negation of its reality. Life continues same as before minus the sense of incompleteness.
You perform your jīva duty (svadharma) and take part in this play just as you did before… but without identifying as a doer. Wood is chopped, water is carried…but you know very well that you are not doing any of the chopping nor carrying.
When you know yourself to be non-dual awareness you understand that the play is you but you are free from the play.