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Consciousness (Pure)

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Consciousness (Pure)

Experiencing the Direct Truth and Reality of Our Consciousness Requires No Object

The reason we experience knowing and being as a single phenomenon is that presence is the presence of consciousness, pure consciousness more fundamental than the content of mind. Although we usually associate our consciousness with the act of being conscious of some object of perception, experiencing the direct truth and reality of our consciousness requires no object. When we can finally be ourselves fully, we recognize ourselves as presence, and apprehend that this presence is nothing but the ontological reality of consciousness. We feel our presence as a medium, like a material medium, such as water or clear fluid. This medium is homogeneous, unified, whole, and undivided, exactly like a body of water. This homogeneous medium is consciousness. The medium is conscious and aware of itself. It is not aware of itself by reflecting on itself, but by being itself. In other words, its very existence is the same as awareness of its existence. To continue the physical metaphor, it is as if the atoms of this medium are self-aware. Presence is aware of itself through self-pervasive consciousness, where this self-pervasive consciousness is the very substance or medium of the presence itself, not an element added to it. 

Experiencing the Mind as Consciousness

To see consciousness in its purity is to experience what is called universal consciousness, to experience the mind as pure consciousness. When you experience the mind as consciousness, it is also knowingness, the very element of knowing. Either the individual consciousness has to go through the ego dying and then be reborn as universal consciousness as we described, or individual consciousness must expand to become universal consciousness. It’s as if space experiences space, rather than someone experiencing space, and it is limitless. It is difficult to describe what universal consciousness or what the mind as consciousness means, because there are no thoughts in it. The moment there are thoughts, the content separates you from the consciousness. There are no thoughts; your head feels expanded, your consciousness spreads out infinitely. It has no boundaries and no center. There is not a somebody here looking at something there. The looking is everywhere. Everything is consciousness existing as a universe of consciousness, boundless and infinite. 

Pure Awareness is Ontologically Prior to Concept Just as the Absolute is Prior to Consciousness

Awareness or consciousness is the first quality that arises. The Absolute transforms and becomes, or within its dark vastness arises, pure consciousness or awareness. This awareness has the capacity to perceive, but it does not perceive concepts or entities. It is ontologically prior to concept, just as the Absolute is ontologically prior to consciousness. The realm of experience and perception at this level is what I call the “nonconceptual realm.” The Absolute is nonconceptual because there are no concepts there; but it is deeper than simply nonconceptual. In the Absolute there is not even any consciousness. The nonconceptual is the same as the Absolute, except that there is consciousness. As the nonconceptual, which I call the Nameless because there is no name for it, I know, and I know that I know. But I don’t know what I know. This level of knowing does not involve recognition of things. In the Absolute I don’t know, and I don’t know that I don’t know. The Nameless is “I know.” I know that I know, but I don’t know what I know, because there is nothing there to know. It is just consciousness knowing itself. It is just the bare minimum of awareness of existence, which is pure consciousness. We call it nonconceptual because there are no concepts there. The moment there are concepts, you know something. The moment you say, “I know this,” you have created a concept or become aware of a concept. You have put something in a category, delineated it as something. But the nonconceptual is not a something. 

Pure Consciousness is Consciousness That is Experienced Directly and Purely

Student: Is there such a thing as the experience of absence of consciousness?

Almaas: It can happen that a person’s consciousness ceases for a period of time. In this absolute silence, there is no conscious experience. In order to understand cessation of consciousness, we need first to understand consciousness itself. We can understand not only the experience of being conscious of one thing or another, but also the experience of pure consciousness, the underlying sensitivity that makes it possible for us to be consciously aware of anything at all. Sometimes pure consciousness is referred to as cosmic consciousness, but I think this makes it more difficult to understand. Pure consciousness is consciousness that is experienced directly and purely, instead of being inferred through the objects of consciousness. Since consciousness includes everything you know, you have nothing with which to contrast it except the absence of consciousness, which is a rare experience. When I say “consciousness,” I don’t mean anything strange or unusual. Everything you experience is in consciousness. Ordinarily, our consciousness is full of objects: my body, the table, people, all that I see and hear, and all of our inner experiences. As we explore our experience, we discover finer and deeper states of consciousness until we know more specifically what pure consciousness is. As we become open to new modes of perception, through exploring presence and essence, we come to realize that Being itself is pure consciousness. 

Recognizing Pure Consciousness

If the soul is a field of consciousness, a medium aware of itself, then how is perceiving this different from our normal experience of being conscious of our inner experience? In other words, how is pure consciousness different from the normal subjective consciousness, which also feels like a field of sensitivity? The primary difference between ordinary inner experience and direct knowing of consciousness is that when we discern the inner field that is the soul, we experience it as a presence, independent from and more fundamental than all the content of consciousness and all characteristics of subjective experience. When we recognize pure consciousness, then, what we become aware of is the presence of consciousness, its existence, its ontological truth. We are contrasting the recognition of presence with awareness of the objects of consciousness as well as with awareness of consciousness as activity or process. Experience of pure consciousness is awareness of the thereness, the isness, of consciousness. Consciousness is fundamentally presence, presence conscious of its own presence. 

The Final Essence of the Soul is Pure Consciousness

In other words, if we investigate what the final essence of the soul is, the essence beyond particular manifestations, we find it to be this presence of pure consciousness. Therefore, we refer to this presence of pure consciousness as essence, meaning the essence of the soul. So essence is the ultimate ground of the soul, her final nature, her absolute purity. We also refer to it as the true nature of the soul, meaning that if we investigate our soul and are able to penetrate all of our beliefs and prejudices about her, and are able to behold her with total objectivity, without the slightest subjective posture or position, without any obscurations or veils, we find her as this essence, which is presence. Essence and true nature are the same thing, but viewed from different perspectives: when we view the ultimate and simplest ground of the soul from the perspective of its most basic constituency we refer to it as essence, just as the essence of water is H2O molecules; and when we view it from the perspective of its final and most naked truth we refer to it as true nature. There exist some minor disagreements among the various wisdom traditions about this essence or true nature. Some think of it as presence, some as awareness, some as light, some as love, and some as emptiness. But these views actually reflect fine distinctions and subtle discriminations in the experience and understanding of ultimate truth. 

The Person who is Real, who is a Person of Being, who is Pure Consciousness

Usually, the man of spirit, because of his experience of personality, is unable to conceive the possibility of a person who is real, who is a person of Being. But this is exactly the experience of the Personal Essence. One is a person, who is Being and not a mental structure. One is not self-centered, although one is unique. One is completely selfless, loving, compassionate, real, generous and human. How else can one be? His nature is Being. He is pure consciousness. He is an integration of love, kindness, joy and all aspects of Being. And he is fully aware of all these aspects and dimensions, without much preoccupation with them. He is fulfilled but is concerned with the fulfillment of others. He is satisfied and contented, and he is concerned with the satisfaction and contentment of others. He is personally fulfilled, satisfied, contented and happy, living a personal life that is completely and unselfconsciously devoted to the service of humanity.

The Possibility for All Discriminations to Disappear

Once we learn that our being is pure consciousness, it becomes possible for all discriminations to disappear. We abide in pure consciousness so fully that we do not differentiate between essence and ego, between physical and not physical. Consciousness is simply consciousness, independent of all objects, essential or otherwise. In the beginning of the work, our discriminations are so opaque that we need to refine our perception to penetrate that opacity. When we have our attention on the ground of the mind, and at the same time become aware of it without completely identifying with the content of the mind, the objects in the mind become more transparent, until there is only transparency. This transparency reveals to us the state of pure consciousness in which all objects that we have deemed coarse or impure, all that we have felt we had to leave behind, we perceive to be of the nature of consciousness itself. 

The Pure Experience of Consciousness

In the pure experience of consciousness there is no experience of body or thoughts; there is no experience, no experiencer, no self. Hence springs the Buddhist notion of no self . The Buddhists say that ultimately there is no self because in that aspect, universal consciousness, you cannot experience a self. Any entity-ness stops you from experiencing this vastness which is the elimination of separateness, the elimination of discrimination. There is complete non-differentiation. There is no separation, no two, and no thought that there is one. 

The Recognition That is One of the Great Discoveries on the Path of Transformation

We discussed in chapter 1 the possibility of an integrated and integrative understanding of knowing, which unifies discursive rational knowing with direct knowing. We see the seed of such knowing here, in our present description of the recognition of pure consciousness, which is the discovery of presence. There is direct experience, but there is knowing. The directness of the experience comes from the fact that it is the experience of presence, and the knowing comes from the fact that it is the experience of consciousness. The inseparability of consciousness and presence gives us the seed that can grow into a way of knowing that integrates the discursive rational with the mystic and intuitive. This understanding is part of a much larger perspective that becomes revealed only in very deep and subtle dimensions of Being, which we discuss in the second half of this book. When we know our consciousness in itself, we find presence. We are presence. Because consciousness is presence it is not only a function. This is why we recognize pure consciousness as presence. This recognition is one of the great discoveries on the path of transformation. Consciousness is Being. Being is consciousness; it does not have consciousness. And the other side of this momentous discovery is that Being is conscious: that is, we can experience our beingness directly. To know presence is a matter of our consciousness seeing itself directly and immediately

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