Awakening is the union of the Atma (individual soul) with Paramatma (Higher Consciousness/Divine) in the Vedic concept. Specifically, in the Advaita philosophy, the soul (I AM) is in the body which is run by thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
The goal is to liberate the Soul from these different aspects so it can transcend and can return to the Paramatma/Brahman (Higher Consciousness). This process of liberation is known as awakening. A way to do this is to focus on the question – “What am I?”
By staying with this thought, one will be able to discard what one is not – through being the observer – he/she will come to the realization that he is not the thoughts or the mind, the ego, the beliefs, the emotions and thereby reveal what the truth.
The goal can be reached by learning to reject all attachments to the body, beliefs, thoughts, emotions or anything else that is binding. There will then come a point where one will be able to realize their true self or I AM – the Divine and is not different from who they are in reality (not from the point of ego).
One is able to then exist in the reality of the Divine/I AM and all else is less real or not at all in comparison. This is a quiet revelation and not some huge burst according to those who have already become enlightened or achieved “moksha”. Moksha or awakening is when the Soul is liberated from the restrictions of the worldly or material connections or what we can refer to as “non-soul”.
In addition to the Advaita philosophy there is also another traditional way to reach the Divine – through the observance and understanding of Karma and realizing that we must complete our karmic cycles. We have multiple births to complete our karma and as we do so we move along in our individual spiritual paths. The goal is to experience bliss in an incarnation where we are completely liberated, one with the Divine. Here bliss is referred to as “ananda”.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna has shown another way to reach the Divine, and that is through Bhakti Yoga or Devotion. By focusing all attention and love towards him/Lord Krishna with sincerity and humility, and moving away from the distracting sense organs or “indriyas”, one can move forward on their spiritual path and eventually merge with the Divine, if blessed.