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Absence

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Absence

Absence Compared to Cessation

Absence is very difficult to describe. Imagine the absence of all of the sensations you experience in your body, all of your thoughts, images, and perceptions. Absence does not mean numbness, because numbness is still your consciousness sensing numbness. Neither does absence mean blockage, because blockage is your experience and sensation of blockage. Numbness and blockage can include an awareness that something is missing. In absence there is no sense that something is missing. Absence can be either the total nonexistence of awareness, or it can be absence with an awareness of surrounding phenomena. The former I call cessation and the latter absence. I will make this distinction more clear as we proceed.

Absence is Not Knowable in its Absoluteness

Almaas: As I said, it is possible for absence and consciousness to be there simultaneously. The first step of experiencing absence is total cessation. In this total absence that excludes everything, it is not possible to know it. Absence is not knowable in its absoluteness. Because absolute absence is not aware of itself, no consciousness or knowingness can exist in this condition. You only become aware of this total cessation as you come out of it. You do not remember anything about absolute absence because there was nothing to remember and nobody to remember it. Only in the coemergence of consciousness and absence is it possible to know absence. Let’s look at it this way. Absence is the sky and consciousness is the cloud that arises in the sky. The cloud is a conscious cloud and is aware of the sky, which is the absence of the cloud. Consciousness can be aware of absence as the absence of consciousness, but if the clouds are completely gone and there is only empty sky, then there is absolute absence. Since no consciousness of it exists, the sky is not knowable. Now, it happens that absolute absence is the ultimate reality, the final condition of existence. It is the beginning and the end of all there is, of humanity, of the world, of creation, of consciousness, of everything. If a person moves toward absolute absence, everything will go right because they will be free in their life, and if a person doesn’t go toward it, everything will go wrong because they will be living in the prison of illusion. It’s that simple. Ultimately, everybody loves absolute absence whether they know it or not. You know you love it when you become aware of pure consciousness. Before you become aware of pure consciousness, you are trapped within the differentiating consciousness, discriminating, rejecting, and prizing one aspect of consciousness over another.

Absence is the Absolute Lack of Identification with Anything

Student: Can absence be described as the disidentification from consciousness?
Almaas: Yes, absence is absolute lack of identification with anything. Usually, though, we do not know what this means if we have not yet experienced absence. That is why I prefer to refer to it as the cessation of consciousness. Although I can describe it pretty well, absolute absence is difficult to imagine and understand. We can relate it to the experience of clarity, when your consciousness sometimes feels as clear as transparent glass or crystal. Now take that clarity and make it more clear, absolutely crystal clear. Then make it clearer and clearer and clearer and clearer and clearer until it is so clear that you can’t even feel it. As the transparent medium of consciousness becomes so smooth, so clear, and so fine, it becomes thinner and more subtle and transparent. At its limit, absolute clarity is so fine, so clear, so subtle, and so thin that there is nothing there. The medium of consciousness is then absolutely erased. Complete absence is a state of complete lightness and openness because there is nothing there, not the slightest sensation, to obstruct the openness.

Absence of an Object of Perception

In Absence one experiences oneself to be a pure subject, that is not an object. One is the source of awareness. One is not the witness, not the witnessing, not the witnessed. One recognizes oneself as an Absence, unknown and unknowable. When one looks inward there is no perception; there is absolute Absence without consciousness of Absence, because Absence is not an object of perception. It is in fact the absence of an object of perception.

Accepting Aloneness is Needed for Real Contact to Happen

But you have to allow yourself to feel that absence, feel the aloneness – which is the hole of the real relationship – before you will be able to experience the real relationship. You have to experience the absence of it completely – no relationship, I’m empty, nothing there, no contact. When you feel that way, you may also feel that you are not real, that you do not exist, because you cannot exist without relationship. The moment you allow the negative relationship to go, the mental relationship to go, the ego starts freaking out, starts disintegrating, disappearing, and the aloneness will be felt as some sort of emptiness, some kind of absence of self. So when the mental relationship goes, the part that is relating to it goes, too, and you start feeling the absence of self, an emptiness which will be felt as an aloneness. When the aloneness is accepted and tolerated, it is then possible for real contact to happen, and not before that.

Awareness of Consciousness Arising Out of Absence

In the state of Absence there is no presence, consciousness or functioning. As functioning is needed there is then the awareness of consciousness arising. This consciousness is experienced as a loving presence, spontaneously arising in the voidness of the Absence. It is perceived to gradually transform itself into the presence of the Personal Essence. The functioning is then experienced as inseparable from the presence of the Personal Essence. Functioning and Personal Essence are seen to be equivalent. One is still Absence here, with complete lack of self consciousness. But there is the perception that the Personal Essence is an expression of oneself, as a specific formulation of Loving Consciousness, and is directly involved in functioning. One does not experience oneself as the Personal Essence, but experiences the Personal Essence as an arising conscious presence that is the source, and part and parcel of functioning. In other words, as Absence, one needs the Personal Essence for functioning. There is here no ego structure whatsoever. Functioning is completely spontaneous, in some sense, automatic. But it is a direct response to the situation, totally devoid of premeditation. This capacity is the result of the profound and completely organic integration of all organs of perception and action into the Personal Essence. It shows the unique place of the Personal Essence both to Being and to the world, to the Reality and to the appearance of things.

Complete Absence of Consciousness is the Most Awakened State

There is a state of complete absence, and there is also absence of the awareness of absence. There is no one and nothing there. And there is nobody there to be aware that there’s nobody and there’s nothing – complete absence of consciousness. That is the most awakened state.

Consciousness Can Know Absence as the Abyss Beyond Consciousness

In this state between cessation and absence in action, consciousness knows absence in an incomplete way. Consciousness is aware of itself as presence, and this awareness stops just at the edge of consciousness. There is a drop, a falling off into nothing. You’re walking along and
suddenly there is a drop, and the drop is one hundred percent infinite. There is nothing there. You put out your hand and it disappears. It’s not like you do not see it. You lose touch completely with your hand. So consciousness can know absence in this peripheral way, as the perception of the end of the field of consciousness, as the abyss beyond consciousness. Consciousness knows absence as its own ending. And if consciousness focuses exclusively on this absence, consciousness will completely cease. But it’s not possible to understand this intellectually. The cessation of consciousness is a radical kind of condition, different from anything you have known or can imagine. Usually, we are aware of a state of consciousness but
not aware of the state of cessation of consciousness. I am talking about this not because I think that you will get it by listening to me, but because I think it will be useful to know that such an experience might happen to you at some point. So if you have already had the experience, you now know what it is, and if not, then when it happens you won’t get too freaked out, you won’t think you’ve gone completely bonkers. Absolute absence is a real condition, an advanced stage of the inner journey.

Direct Perception of Reality Without the Involvement of the Mind

Although there are no concepts in the state of Absence, when there is functioning there is duality. Absence is experienced as separate from, transcendent to, and totally uninvolved in functioning. One experiences oneself as not involved in functioning, and hence, there is the duality of Absence and functioning consciousness. Absence can be seen as the ultimate transcendence, but it is still not the ultimate reality. We can say it is the first glimpse into ultimate reality, and is still not complete. It is the absence of presence, and of all other concepts. However, there is a subtle conceptualization here, because Absence can be experienced as a definite state. Its definiteness is its absence of concepts. In other words, the concept of the absence of concepts becomes the subtle concept in the state of Absence. One is quite aware of the absence of presence, in particular. These considerations of the perception of duality and subtle conceptualization, amongst others, precipitate spontaneously the ultimate reality, the truly nonconceptual truth. Here, words will not say anything positive. Nonconceptual Reality is how things are. It is direct perception of reality without the involvement of the mind. It is both presence and absence, but also neither. It is neither self nor no-self, nor the absence of both self and no-self. It is both being and non-being and neither. It is everything and it is nothing. Whenever there is negation or affirmation there is conceptualization, and the true reality is gone. And hence we call reality as it is the Nameless; it cannot be named.

Losing the Concept of Presence

The loss of the concept of Presence happens through the realization of the ultimate void (Sunyata), which is the absence of conceptualization. This is another radical departure from one's previous experience. One goes from a sense of absolute Presence to a sense of absolute Absence. One here realizes that for the first time a complete cessation of the sense of self is attained. There is no experience of self or person, without consciousness that there is no self or person. When the sense of Presence is lost, the last foothold for the sense of self (identity or person) is gone. In the state of Absence there is no self-consciousness at all, and one realizes that it is the self-reflective movement of the mind that is the core of the sense of self.

Pure Awareness of Phenomena

It is not until this realization of Absence that one realizes that usually there is a continuous and incessant sense or feeling of self or "I". Every experience is related to this "I". Now there is an experience and perception of experience, but it is not related to an "I", not even to the "I" of oneness. There is pure awareness of phenomena, with complete absence of self or center. The Absence is so complete that there is not even consciousness of the Absence. The complete absorption in his condition is the cessation of all sensation and consciousness of oneself. There is Absence and there is absence of the consciousness of Absence. It is like deep sleep but one is not asleep.

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