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Consciousness (Pure Consciousness)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

What is Consciousness (Pure Consciousness)?

The experience of pure consciousness is the experience of consciousness without an object. It is simply consciousness directly sensing itself. It is consciousness aware of itself as a field, a field characterized basically by the fact that it is conscious of itself.

— A. H. Almaas

Pure consciousness is consciousness that is experienced directly and purely, instead of being inferred through the objects of consciousness.

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Consciousness (Pure Consciousness)

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. 


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. 

How Do We Recognize 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.

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

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 and Existence is Independent of the Various Forms

When I talk about seeing the reality of what is, I don’t mean that you are suddenly going to see all kinds of strange things in front of you. The physical reality is part of what’s there: it’s just not the only thing that’s there. When you see the totality, physical reality will appear differently, as if you are seeing it in a different light. It will have more color, more harmony, and more refinement. You will see more the sense of beauty, the sense of grace in physical reality. But that sense of beauty arises through seeing the porousness and the consciousness that constitute the physical world. This basic, fundamental, pure consciousness and existence is independent of the various forms. It is specifically what I call nonconceptual. So a table is a table, but at the nonconceptual level it is not a table. The concept exists, but it does not exist on its own. The concept is simply a surface phenomenon of something more fundamental.

Pure Consciousness is Beyond Experience, Beyond Mind, Beyond Concept

It is suchness, pure suchness. We cannot say anything about it. We cannot say it is self, we cannot say it is not self, we cannot say it is God, we cannot say it is the universe, we cannot say it is a person, we cannot say it is not a person; the moment we say anything, we are within mind. If we use any concept here, even the concept of purity, simplicity, or whatever, we are within the mind, and we are blocking that which cannot be named. The only thing that is there is consciousness. But consciousness here is not exactly a concept; it is just the fact of consciousness. We are not unconscious, that’s all. There is consciousness, but there is no one who is conscious. Here, we are going into the true nature of Being, the true nature of God, or the true nature of the universe, before any mind, before any conceptualization, before any specification, before any differentiation, before we can experience or say anything; so this pure consciousness is beyond experience, beyond mind, beyond concept, beyond all these things. We realize that we are the suchness, but we don’t feel that, “I am the suchness”; there is just suchness, and we don’t even say there is suchness. This nonconceptual awareness is truly radical. While it does not affirm any concept, neither does it negate or deny any concept. To negate is to affirm and to affirm is to negate, for in both cases a concept is present. This reality is prior to any concept, and hence, possesses no presupposition whatsoever. Purity of Being is now nonconceptual, so it is complete, and recognized as the fundamental reality of all experience.

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.

The Blue Essence is Usually Called the Aspect of Pure Consciousness

Knowingness—the capacity to know through direct contact with an element of our experience—is related to a particular essential aspect. It is related to the operation of the Blue diamond, which is the Blue Essence in its diamond presence. The Blue Essence is usually called the aspect of pure consciousness, but it is also the aspect of knowingness. Even intellectual knowledge is based on this capacity; without inherent direct and intimate knowingness, ordinary knowledge would not be possible. Direct knowingness is what gives us the data necessary for our mind to think and spin out its knowledge. Without knowingness, we have no data. Knowingness is more than just perception, for perception alone indicates only the fact of seeing differentiation. To recognize the differentiation—for differentiation to become discrimination—knowingness is required. This knowingness precedes labeling. For example, an infant knows that it is uncomfortable without having the word or even the concept for being uncomfortable. It simply starts squirming. Its body recognizes that something is uncomfortable. Later on, when we develop language, we call it discomfort.

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 Presence of a State of Being Means the Presence of Pure Consciousness

So contact involves not only openness and vulnerability, but, also, the presence of a sense of Being. One is open, vulnerable and present. However, the reader might object that this is the condition of the presence of any aspect of Essence. Whenever Being is felt as presence there is necessarily some openness, and a measure of disidentification from ego and its defenses. This is true, but this does not yet make for contact. The presence of a state of Being means the presence of pure consciousness, in any of its absolute forms. This means there is awareness, sensitivity and openness. There is a sensitive consciousness of the other, an empathy and an appreciation of the other’s existence. In these states, one might be very accurate in one’s perception of the other, and observant of his state. There might be tender love, warm kindness or even joyful interaction. But this is not necessarily contact. Consciousness is not necessarily contact, although it can make possible sensitivity and empathy with the other. Although Being is necessary for contact it is certainly not sufficient for contact in its unqualified form. For there to be contact, the Personal Essence has to be present. Contact implies personal contact. It implies a being in contact with another being. This is difficult to imagine without the experience of the Personal Essence. But when the Personal Essence is present, then one cannot help but exclaim: “Aha, of course, how else can it be! I have to be present, as who I am, for me to make contact.” The contact of the Personal Essence feels so direct, so immediate, so complete, so full, that when it is known it becomes impossible to call any other state of consciousness contact. One is making contact because one is personally present in the interaction. One is actually there, as one’s own substance, filling the interaction with immediacy and significance.

To Recognize the Soul is to Experience Ourselves as Pure Consciousness

This experience of pure consciousness is like a quality that is aware only of its quality, like the color blue that itself is a seeing capacity but sees only blue. To recognize the soul is to experience ourselves first and foremost as pure consciousness, as a self-aware medium. The soul is not only this homogeneous medium constituting a field; it is an organism constituted of consciousness, like the body is constituted of protoplasm. Just as the body, even though it consists entirely of protoplasm, is differentiated and organized into various organs, systems, and functions, the soul is also differentiated and organized into various qualities, properties, and faculties. The body’s organization is generally fixed for relatively long periods of time, but the soul is much more fluid and changeable. We will discuss this in detail in the next few chapters, but now we will continue our discussion of the soul as a field of consciousness. We brought in the question of structure and organization merely to point out that even though consciousness is the ground and substance of the soul, the organism that is constituted by this consciousness is what is structured; that is, the substance is consciousness, and the form the substance takes is the organization of systems, functions, properties, and qualities.

What is the Final Essence of the Soul?

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.

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