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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Disappearance?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Disappearance

Disappearance of the Familiar Sense of Identity

Anyone who pays attention to the sense of the “I” as the center of perception is likely to find the observer located somewhere in the body. Some people experience the observer centered in the head, in the back of the head or neck, or in the back of the body in general. Our perception of ourselves is almost always clearly oriented in space. For example, a person observing her inner experience might find that she is looking from the head downward, or from the back forward, or from the surface inward. Her perception will inevitably have a locus or center, and thus a direction. If, in such processes as self-observation or awareness meditation, we observe the observer itself, only one of two outcomes seems possible. The first is that a new center of observation is created by this maneuver. So the observer merely shifts location. The other outcome, which is the goal of awareness meditations, occurs when no new center of observation manifests. It is not only the observer that dissolves in this condition, but also the feeling of identity. The disappearance of the familiar sense of identity is something that parts of the self will quite naturally resist; this is why such experiences are not easy to achieve, and generally occur only in the context of a lengthy, dedicated practice. In advanced stages of meditation, practitioners experience the absence of the center or locus of observation, called the diffusion of the observer. This indicates that one is experiencing awareness as boundless presence (or space), centerless and omnipresent.

Experiencing the Disappearance of Great Realms of One’s Identity

 Inner realization is a process of shedding, of losing what one takes oneself to be, to ultimately become what one is, without need for any external support, not even one’s mind. This description is not metaphorical; one actually experiences the disappearance of great realms of one’s identity. As one goes deeper and deeper, one realizes that one is shedding concepts that one had taken to be absolute truths. The shedding of all concepts is the realization of the Nonconceptual Nameless Reality, what is. Nothing can be said to describe it because one can only use concepts to describe. Yet the shedding is still not absolute. It is true that all concepts are gone, but there remains one more thing—consciousness itself. The nature of the Nameless is pure consciousness, consciousness that is conscious of consciousness, without labeling or knowing anything. There is consciousness, but there is no knowing of what is known, or what knows; there are no conceptual categories. Huang Po says: “. . . you would find it formless, occupying no point in space and falling neither into the category of existence nor into that of non-existence.” [Translated by John Blofeld, The Zen Teachings of Huang Po, p. 87]

Even consciousness, which is not exactly a concept, can be shed. At some point, usually without anticipating it, one realizes that one is perceiving the Nameless Reality as external to oneself. One becomes aware that one is beyond the Nameless, and the world that it supports, as an unknowable mystery. The Nonconceptual Reality, which is the ground of the world of concepts, is experienced here as not absolutely real. In fact, it is experienced as a radiance, ephemeral and insubstantial, in relation to and emanating from an unfathomable Absolute. One realizes that one’s most absolute nature, which turns out to be the underlying nature of all of existence, transcends not only the mind, but consciousness itself. One is the beyond, beyond whatever can be experienced or perceived. Absence is seen as an incomplete glimpse into the Absolute. One is the ultimate subject, which cannot be an object of perception, and hence is unknown and unknowable. The Absolute is not aware of itself, but awareness of everything else proceeds from it, while what characterizes consciousness is that it is conscious of itself.

Longing that May Lead to a Complete Disappearance Into the Unmanifest Absolute

Cessation can also happen as part of the love affair that the soul has with her true nature. As she opens up and becomes fully present, without defenses or pretensions, she may feel her intimate love for the absolute. Such love may appear as an ardent desire and longing, or a resistance and unwillingness to keep living in manifestation. She feels she would rather dissolve in the absolute and disappear than experience the various realms. Such longing may lead to a complete disappearance into the unmanifest absolute, as the soul feels enveloped by its delicious darkness, and caressed by its infinite mystery. This intimate embrace can reveal to the soul that she is like a cloud of consciousness particles. As she dissolves she feels only a few particles, conscious of themselves and of black nothingness. As consciousness thins away it disappears in the nothingness. All perception and sensation are lost. There is then not even consciousness of nothing. It is as if unconsciousness. There is absence of consciousness. There is absence of existence, absence and no awareness of absence. It is as if the consciousness thins away like air and the awareness itself disappears. When there is no consciousness at all, there is no experience whatsoever, and no awareness of no experience. Such dissolving is usually gradual, feeling like a delicious melting, a wonderful and lovely embrace. However, this experience is quite informative, for it reveals further mysteries of the absolute. As the consciousness of the soul thins away, she recognizes the effect of the surrounding blackness and nothingness on her presence. She feels herself as a thin and dispersed mass, so delicate and so fine, as if she is composed of the most minute atoms. Each atom is conscious of itself and of the surrounding emptiness. Each experiences itself as presence, and the surrounding emptiness as the absence of presence. In other words, the surrounding darkness is not only the absence of light and consciousness, but also the absence of presence and being. It is total nonexistence, absolute nonbeing. As this nonbeing comes into contact with the presence of consciousness it annihilates it, turning it into itself. The consciousness of the soul thins out much more, where the experience becomes of a few particles of conscious presence within an infinite expanse of nothingness. There is simply nothing around, not even the sensation of space. Just the distinct sense of oneself as a conscious presence, right at the precipice of annihilation. All around there is absolutely nothing, only annihilating absence. As the conscious presence apprehends this annihilating absence it comes into contact with it, and it instantly dissolves and disappears; only annihilation is left.

Recognizing the Nonbeingness of Being Does Not Lead to the Disappearance of the Individual Soul

It turns out in the work we do here that a thorough understanding of the values, structures, and dynamics of the self is not separate from a thorough understanding of our true nature, its qualities, and its dimensions. In this exploration of our true nature, the more we understand Being, the more we are free from the conventional view. As we understand the nature and dimensions of Being, particularly as we understand emptiness, the freedom of the dynamism is liberated. The beingness of living presence has an eternal partner inseparable from it, which is its nonbeingness. And when we recognize and understand emptiness as the nonbeingness of Being, as the absence of what we ordinarily call existence, we discover the kind of emptiness that opens the liberation of the dynamism. Recognizing the nonbeingness of Being does not lead to the disappearance of the individual soul; it leads to understanding that the individual soul doesn’t exist the way we usually think it does. Then we discover that emptiness of Being is true not just about the individual self, but also about the perceptions of the individual self. In other words, all that we perceive can be liberated from the ordinary conception of existence as a solid something that is really there. We plaster our beliefs and our projections over all manifest forms, all the world, all the universe that we see. And when the world is free from our ideas about it, we see it in its beingness, we see that everything is a manifestation of beingness in its purity and presence and luminosity. The thoroughgoing understanding of emptiness reveals not only that the world and the individual soul are manifestations of Being, but also that the manifestation of Being doesn’t have the kind of existence we attribute to it. Being, in all its forms, is in complete eternal, inseparable embrace with its eternal partner, nonbeing. When we recognize the intrinsic emptiness of everything, then the beingness recognizes not only that the world is a manifestation of Being, but also that the world is a manifestation of emptiness. We recognize that Being is the radiance of emptiness, and that this radiance has variegated colors and multifaceted forms that we experience as the world and as all the content of our experience.

The Disappearance of the Boundaries is Not Complete Disappearance of the Individual

So we understand the teaching of Christ when we realize that the individual, separate, bounded soul is a belief in our minds, and we relax and realize that the soul is continuous with the rest of reality. That soul continuous with the rest, as that totality, is then the Logos or the Christ or the Word. This is an exact and specific resolution because we don’t simply let go of our boundaries and become pure consciousness, pure awareness, or the Absolute or something like that. We let go of our boundaries without losing our uniqueness. We continue to be a soul, to be an individual, but are continuous with the rest of reality. We are an individuation, then, out of a totality. So it’s a very specific resolution. The disappearance of the boundaries is not complete disappearance of the individual. So we lose the sense of bounded individuality as we become that totality of cosmic dynamic presence—the Logos itself, in which there is no individuality. Yet, it is not simply boundless dynamic presence with no individual, even though it has no division or duality. For it is also possible to be a unique individual not separate from that cosmic presence, such that it’s hard to tell if you are an individual or not an individual. You are an individual and unique and at the same time you are the totality. That means the concepts are there still: the concept of a person is there, the concept of a table is there, the concept of a house is there, the concept of a tree is there, the concept of life is there, the concept of humanity is there, the concept of the universe is there. All the concepts are there but are not completely separate from each other. They’re more like variations in the same substance, formations of the formlessness.

The Understanding that No Appearance Actually Exists in the Way We Usually Assume

I recall a concern, which occasionally becomes a fear, that complete absorption into and unification with the absolute means cessation of all experience and loss of everything. I thought that total merging with the absolute might mean total and permanent cessation of consciousness, and hence all perception. I could not anticipate what total integration with the absolute might be like. This experience of soul coemergent with the absolute answers this concern and resolves the fear. Everything remains, is not lost, does not disappear. But it is seen not to exist; nonbeing is its ultimate condition. There is no disappearance, there is only the understanding that no appearance actually exists in the way we usually assume. The fear of loss is resolved in another interesting way. As I contemplate the experiential qualities of this coemergence, the insight arises that it is actually never possible to hold onto anything in any case. It is not possible to hold onto anything because nothing exists the way it appears. The true reality and condition of phenomena includes nothing one can actually grasp. One cannot grasp a mirage, or a hologram. Furthermore, there is no one there to hold onto anything. It is not only the object of experience that is emptied, that is seen to be fundamentally nonexistent, even though it is experienced. The subject itself is emptied as well. Both experiencer and experienced are characterized by the fundamental absence of the absolute. There cannot be loss because there is nothing that can be lost.

When the Activity of the Mind Comes to a Stop

When I felt the sense of familiar identity disappear, I did not see that this also meant the disappearance of all impressions of others. In other words, as the activity of the mind comes to a stop, all the feelings dependent on the internalized memories disappear. This understanding shows me that the sense of familiar identity always includes, explicitly or implicitly, the feeling of others. The feeling of self swims in an atmosphere of internalized relationships. This normally ever-present atmosphere of an interpersonal world ceases in the experience of the simplicity of presence, allowing presence to be alone. This aloneness of presence is its simplicity. Recently I have been experiencing it as simplicity, but this experience shows me that I have unconsciously reacted to it as total aloneness. Here, the feeling of emptiness deepens into a dark abyss, and the loneliness disappears into a singular state of aloneness, existential and fundamental. A hint of sadness remains, in the form of a subtle, warm feeling pervading the deepening emptiness. The throbbing presence at the forehead again scintillates brightly; this time emerald green outshines its other living colors. The sadness reveals associations with the state of aloneness: times in childhood when I was left alone. In the emptiness of the mind float memories of a sad and lonely child, left alone, sometimes forgotten.

Whereas the Emptiness of Other Leads to the Disappearance of the Other, the Emptiness of Self Does Not Lead to the Disappearance of the Individual Soul

This nonbeing becomes even more profound as we recognize that the emptiness of self reveals that the individual consciousness, this living presence, is inseparable from the absence of presence. It’s like the beingness of the living presence has an eternal partner that is inseparable from it—its nonbeingness. And when we recognize and understand emptiness as the nonbeingness of Being, as the absence of what we call existence, we discover the emptiness that liberates the dynamism of Being. We usually think that the individual consciousness is a solid something that exists in the same way that an object exists. When we recognize that this isn’t actually the case, the dynamism of reality is free to manifest in other ways. Whereas the emptiness of other leads to the disappearance of the other—the evaporation of the constructs, the beliefs, and the ideas that are not intrinsic to the self—the emptiness of self does not lead to the disappearance of the individual soul. Rather, we recognize that the individual consciousness doesn’t exist in the way that we usually think it does. Its beingness is totally wedded to its nonbeingness. Furthermore, it becomes clear that emptiness of self is true not only about the individual self but also about the perceptions of the individual self. In other words, it is not only the individual self that is empty. Nonbeingness is fundamental to the truth of the individual self and also to the truth of all that it perceives.

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