Without consciousness (vijñāna) appearance (māyā, nāmarūpa) cannot exist. In other words, the price of admission into our world of appearances or fantasyland is consciousness. Without consciousness our universe and the earth on which we live and die cannot exist. Consciousness preexists all appearance and yet it is bound down to it, unable to escape.
In previous blogs I have gone over the fact that consciousness is always dual; it is not a universal essence or something like spirit, far from it. If anything, it can roughly be described as the one divided within itself—a non-intrinsic illusory division. Said again, this division is never other than unreal—an imaginary opposition. Still it cannot be bridged even though it is illusory. Even thinker and thought are opposed. So here we get a taste of what Zen Buddhism is really about.
The barrier we face which prevents us from seeing what is beyond appearance is the duality inherent within consciousness. Even the duality of realizer and realized must be transcended. In most profound words there is only the transcendence of realizer and realized when the seeming duality contained within consciousness disappears into the original one. The one, it turns out, has only realized itself as absolute. But this is not a dualistic realization. This is awakening (buddhatā).
Those who desire to awaken but cannot awaken are constantly caught within the trickery of consciousness. This might explain why it is so difficult to explain the awakening of Siddhartha because he attained nothing determinant from it. Nevertheless, Siddhartha transcended the illusion of non-enlightenment that consciousness produced.