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Absolute Absence

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Absolute Absence

Absolute Absence of All Being

When the last atom annihilates there is total cessation, but in this last perception there is the clearest impression of the nature of the absolute: vastness so empty it is the absolute absence of all being, silence so still there is no manifestation. Nothing stirs and nothing reacts in this mysterious but luminous darkness. It is so empty of anything that it is absolutely transparent, a transparency that makes it the greatest clarity. We see that the nature of the absolute is really the absence of being, the annihilation of presence. This discovery is actually not surprising, for all presence is nothing but the being of the manifest world. Presence emerges as the flow of the logos, as the outflow of being, whose field is patterned by the forms of the universe. And since being is a conscious presence that emerges from the absolute, the absolute must be prior to being and its contrasting
background. Being, in other words, emerges out of nonbeing. The source is a mysterious nonbeing, a nonbeing that is not simply an ordinary nothing, but a metaphysical nonbeing that holds the potential of all possibilities of existence and experience. It is a breathtaking truth: the source and ultimate nature of all existence is nonexistence.

Being the Absolute Completely

Unlike other kinds of love, real passionate love is self-consuming. Passionate love feels annihilating rather than giving and sweet. The more you are passionate, the more you disappear. You burn up from within, as if with black fire. You feel as if all your atoms are passionately in love. You don’t know at the beginning what it is that you love. You just feel consumed with passion and longing. You feel you just want to not be, until you finally disappear. And you want to disappear, out of passionate love. When passion completely dissolves the consciousness, then the Guest arrives. The intensity of the contact with the nearness of the Guest, like a hydrogen bomb, incinerates your every atom with passion. The consciousness burns like a raging fire until nothing is left. The outcome is the absolute presence of absence. You are present as absence, absolutely. You cannot comprehend this with the mind. The mind does not know what it means to be present as absence. What it means is that there are no sensations, no consciousness, no thoughts. Like the most delicious and deepest sleep, being present as absence is being the Absolute completely; it is being the awareness contemplating its absolute emptiness. There is no perception of anything. True emptiness is total absence, the ultimate ground of consciousness and of everything. True emptiness is the nonbeing of being, inseparable from being and from all the manifestations of being. 

Loving Absence

When we experience absence, we can’t help but fall in love with it. Although it’s certainly not what we imagine as lovable, absence is the most lovable condition. We think we love things or conditions that are pleasurable and sublime, but when we really experience absolute absence, we completely love it because there is no barrier whatsoever between our heart and this completely free condition. In the absence, your heart is so light, so open, so empty, that the sense is that your chest is not there. In fact, all of you is not there. What you have always experienced and taken yourself to be is absolutely absent. No remainder is left after you are gone. Such absence is so fundamental, so radical, so absolutely clear and exact and real that you can’t help but be passionately in love with it.

The Cessation of Consciousness is Absolute Absence

Student: So this is a separate experience from what you were describing as cessation?
Almaas: Yes. The condition of absence can be absolute. When the absence is so complete that even the world disappears, I call it absolute absence, cessation, or annihilation. But in that absolute absence the world emerges, which means that consciousness emerges. Consciousness emerges as the ground of the world, containing the world. After the cessation of consciousness that is absolute absence, consciousness returns as the awareness
of the world, where the awareness of the world is identical with the arising of the world. We are so trapped in our usual way of thinking and of perceiving things that we don’t allow the possibility that we are the perception, that we are the awareness of phenomena without being separate in any way from the phenomena. We firmly believe that reality is the physical world that we see, the same world that our mother saw. That is to say, we think the world exists on its own as a solid, basic, and fundamental reality. Everyone believes this. In truth, however, the world is simply consciousness that arises from absence, from nothing whatsoever. But realizing this is a radical experience that arises as part of the culmination of one’s work. One way to realize this truth is to understand consciousness. As long as you make discriminations in consciousness and take these to be true, self-existing realities, it is difficult to realize absence. Going from one state of consciousness to another, you’re simply trapped within consciousness.

The Presence of the Guest is the Complete Presence of Absolute Absence

The Absolute is not a nothing in the sense of complete voidness. It is not passive. It’s true that it is a complete nothing, nothing there, but this nothingness has an annihilating power. It’s like explosions in every cell. So we can’t say it’s a nothing. Yet we can’t say it’s a something, for its annihilating power is that it is pure voidness, absolute absence. It is not present and it is not absent. It’s both at once. It is absolute absence and it is complete presence. So the presence of the Guest is the complete presence of absolute absence, without the presence and the absence being two things. You see what I mean when I say it’s beyond concepts? The way I am talking now no longer has rational meaning. You can have the understanding only if you get the direct sense of what I’m talking about. If you just go with your mind, with my words, no way, nothing will happen except maybe a headache.

When Conscious Presence is in Touch with Absence there is Not Complete Absence

Student: Sometimes when I sit [in meditation], I resist “nodding out” or going to sleep. When you go into that place, is it like “nodding out”?
Almaas: No, absolute absence does not feel like going to sleep. It is much more crisp. Sometimes getting sleepy can be a way of entering it because the consciousness cannot tolerate being aware of absence. The usual experience is more like: There is something and then there isn’t. It is also possible to know absence through consciousness. I am thinking of the condition in which both absence and consciousness arise at the same time. This experience is not easily accessible; it generally requires the realization of cessation first. In this intermediate experience between cessation and absence in action, consciousness knows absence by coming in contact with it. This experience is mysterious and paradoxical. You don’t know absence in its entirety or in its absoluteness. You know absence from the perspective of consciousness as presence. But because conscious presence is in touch with absence, there is not complete absence.

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