The dictionary meaning of realization is understanding, and so even worldly people talk of having "realized" God. As a matter of fact, God-realization means actual union with God. It is the highest Divine Knowledge and Experience that comes by and through Love, which has in it the spiritual faculties, intuition, inspiration and illumination, and which is opposed to the intellectual faculty. It is love that makes one transcend the domain of intellect and gain the state of complete annihilation of the lower self or the false ego; and it is this state that ends in union with God. Love makes its captive forget his or her own individual existence by making one feel less and less bound on one’s onward march by the trammels of human limitations, till one reaches a point where one can raise oneself to the realization of the Highest in one's own self. When the soul makes itself free from all manifoldness and duality, the Sole Unity that is God, answers truly to the oneness of the Self. And the mystical journeys, aided solely and wholly by love, which a pilgrim has to undergo towards this superconsciousness, as well as superconsciousness plus gross consciousness, are three in number.
The first, which has seven distinct stages, begins with Tarikat (Adhyatm Marg or Gnosis), and ends with Fana (Lai) or the complete passing away or the total annihilation of the lower self and the entire severance from all phenomenal existence.
The second begins at the moment when the self-annihilation is succeeded by Baka, (Advaita Sakshatkar), Abiding or Union with God. This Union has been briefly explained by the expressions "Anal Hak," " Aham Brahm Asmi" or "I am God." The aspirant, when he attains to this union, becomes a Majzoob (Paramhamsa), or the man of full consciousness alone, i.e., having no gross or subtle consciousness. He becomes the Emblem of Perfection and realizes that he is the very Universal, Infinite Existence.
The third journey begins from the state of "I am God" and ends in that of the Perfect Master, Kutub or Sadguru, the man of full superconsciousness (the same as the Majzoob), plus gross and subtle consciousness. He who comes to the end of this final journey becomes the Centre (Kutub) of the Spiritual Universe, so that every point or limit reached by individual human beings is equally distant from his station, whether it be near or far off. To him, Gnosis (Tarikat or Adhyatma Marg), Divine Knowledge (Marefat or Atmagnyan) and self-annihilation (Fana, Atma Lai or Nirvana) are as the rivers of his Ocean. He is the horizon of every mystical station, and has transcended the furthermost range of experience known to any grade of seekers after Truth.
A pilgrim, while undergoing these three journeys, has to pass through various worlds, planes and stations. Each of these stations has peculiarities of its own — the obstacles, sufferings and experiences being of different types.
"Fana" means complete annihilation, but annihilation of what? Before replying to this question, let us see what the spiritual pilgrim himself is. A human being is the Real Self, plus consciousness, plus sanskaras, plus ego, plus mind. We shall leave aside the Real Self for the present, as in reality, the ego is nothing but the perverted manifestation of the Real Self. Now Fana means the complete annihilation of all Sanskaras (A’mal) or mental impressions of actions, desires and tendencies bound with egoism, ego and mind, with the exception of consciousness.