From the absolute perspective —the non-dual wisdom of awakening (Buddhahood)— there are no separate beings and there is no delusion. Duality is false; it does not factually exist. Delusion never ‘happened’. What lacks true existence does not have an origin, duration, or end.
And yet, here we find ourselves…
Words and the concepts they represent can only weakly indicate that which is necessarily beyond concepts, like the proverbial finger pointing at the moon. Why? Because they are products of the ordinary, dualistic, deluded mind. They have their origin in limited understanding, and are therefore pale and inadequate reflections of truth. Still, they are the instruments we have, and we must try.
The nature of mind is empty luminosity. Emptiness is the ground or potential for everything to manifest, the space in which all arises, dwells, and ceases. Luminosity is the awareness of all that arises, dwells, and ceases in emptiness. Emptiness and luminosity are inseparable. One cannot “be” without the other.
When we artificially separate emptiness from luminosity, we create duality. We generate extremes. If we focus our attention on emptiness, we fall into the extreme of nihilism, and temporarily lose our awareness of that which arises in emptiness. We mistake nothingness for emptiness.
If we focus our attention on luminosity, we fall into the extreme of eternalism, and impute real existence to the appearances that arise in emptiness. We believe that appearances are real, that they have true existence. We mistake appearances for reality, and ascribe substantiality, independence, and permanence to that which is insubstantial, dependent, and impermanent. This is delusion.
It is not only appearances that lack absolute reality. The very act of imputing reality to what is unreal also lacks reality, as does the consciousness that imputes reality to what is merely an appearance. The mind that grasps, the act of grasping, and the object grasped are equally unreal. The deluded mind, deluded mentation, and the objects of deluded mind are insubstantial, dependent (on causes and conditions), and impermanent. This is our present condition.
Once we become perfectly and irrevocably aware of this delusion —once we realize that we have artificially separated emptiness and luminosity— we abandon the wrong view of separation.
Can it happen again? No. A classic example illustrates this impossibility. When we first encounter a coiled rope in the darkness, we may believe it to be a snake, and become scared. But once we realize it is but a coiled rope, we are no longer scared, no matter how many times we encounter the rope.
Furthermore, since the concept of time is also a mental construct, an appearance, it lacks true existence. Delusion does not happen “in time”. It never happened, and therefore cannot happen again. It does not happen.