Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768) is known to have had several and various awakenings through his Zen Buddhist practice.
His autobiography, Wild Ivy
, treats these and other matters. At the start of his book Wild Ivy
, Hakuin stresses the importance of awakening, "seeing one's nature" ("kensho"
), in saying:
"Anyone who would call himself a member of the Zen family must first of all achieve kensho -- realization of the Buddha's way."
--Norman Waddell, translator; Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin, Shambhala, 1999.
And it's generally known that subsequent practice is necessary following awakening. The late Albert Low Roshi (1928-2016) writes, about the subsequent practice that Hakuin stressed:
"Hakuin says that this subsequent practice is essential if one wishes to fulfill the potential offered by the first awakening. Indeed it could be said that a first awakening, even if it is deep, very rarely has the power to transform a person. The value of the first awakening is that it enables us to arouse great faith, so much so that efforts that previously were arduous to sustain become less arduous.
"We can compare it to cleaning up the basement. If the basement is completely dark, then it will be very difficult to clean it up. Indeed, one could make the mess a great deal worse. If one has even just a faint light, the work becomes considerably easier. Even so, the basement still needs to be cleaned up."
--Albert Low, Hakuin On Kensho -- The Four Ways of Knowing, Shambhala, 2006, p.69.
Low Roshi also includes some words of Yasutani Roshi (1885-1973), to, ...yes, illuminate this further:
"Suppose you are in a completely dark cave. If you then light a match, the 'quality' of the cave will change completely. It will now be filled with light, and no longer be completely dark. If you then light a candle from the match, the intensity of the light will increase, but this is a quantitative change, not a qualitative one. If, with the help of one candle, you find a flashlight and turn it on, the intensity will increase again. One could go on increasing the intensity until eventually one might break through the roof of the cave and let the sunlight flood in. Although the intensity of the light is different in each case, qualitatively sunlight is no different from the light of the match".
--Albert Low, ibid., p.68-69.
Although our practice is indeed the manifestation and activity of awakened mind and of our true nature, nonetheless, awakenings can potentially, and do, occur. The first notable one was in the life and practice-career of Shakyamuni Buddha, who woke up under the Pipal (Bodhi) tree upon seeing the Morning Star, and then afterward became the teacher recognized as the Original Teacher of Buddhadharma.