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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Discrimination?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Discrimination

An Understanding of the Capacity for Discrimination

This discriminated and discriminating property of the essential dimension, and of the essence of the self, makes it possible for us to recognize the many forms in which presence manifests. This capacity is a reflection of the wisdom of discrimination, of the nous dimension of presence. Our understanding is that the capacity of discrimination exists fundamentally on the ontological dimension of presence, and it remains the same property or capacity in other dimensions, but we do not see its reality because we have lost contact with presence. In the experience of self-realization, this property gives the self a capacity for discrimination of such precision and sharpness that is inconceivable in the conventional dimension of experience. This element of the essential dimension contributes to its aesthetic quality, the beauty and indescribable majesty of essential manifestations. The view of the structures of manifestation in all its dimensions, perceived through all the modalities of perception, is breathtaking.

Arriving at the Discriminating Awareness of True Nature

Ordinary knowledge is knowledge that comes through memory. In conventional experience, basic knowledge does not experience itself directly but through the veil of these memories. Inquiry penetrates these veils so that basic knowledge can begin to experience itself without their influence. So experience is always basic knowledge, but that knowledge can be more or less direct, more or less immediate. The more immediate basic knowledge is, the more luminous it is and the more it embodies the sense of truth, presence, and awareness. When this purity is complete, we have arrived at the discriminating awareness of true nature, the wisdom of discrimination. The less direct it is, the more it lacks implicit meaning and understanding, the more distorted it is, the heavier and more stale it becomes. But it is always basic knowledge. Basic knowledge means experience right now, the direct knowingness of your experience this moment. It is discriminated information that is happening in the moment inclusive of the observer and the observed. But then you have thoughts about this arising information, reflection on it, and a framework through which you look at it, and that is what we call ordinary knowledge. Inquiry helps you see how ordinary knowledge is affecting your direct experience now. To be liberated from ordinary knowledge means that you feel what you are experiencing right now freshly, without this overlay of old information.

As Knowing Develops in the Direction of Discrimination . . . . what is Discriminated is Experienced as Separate

Since there is no differentiation in pure presence, its knowing is the first knowing, the origin of cognition. We see that the origin of cognition is the experience of being, or more precisely, the dimension of pure presence. Knowing begins with being, which is the knowing of being. It becomes clear to us in the realization of the dimension of pure presence that the origin of the cognitive capacity of mind is the knowing of Being. This means that knowing begins as immediacy of experience, a directness of consciousness with a discrimination of the condition of consciousness. Knowing begins as completely inseparable from what is known. Even more, knowing begins with the nondifferentiation of known, knower, and knowledge. Furthermore, knowing begins with the knowing of Being, where Being is known, knower, and knowledge. The timeless truth here is that fundamentally the knower is Being, the known is Being, and the knowledge is Being. We see of course that as cognitive differentiation develops and expands, knowing tends to develop in the direction of discrimination so completely that what is discriminated is experienced as not only discriminated but separate; ultimately this separateness develops to such an extent that knower, known, and knowledge become three distinct things.

Conceptual Discrimination Divorced from the Ground of Being

More specifically, as we have seen in this book, the dissociation of soul from essence occurs primarily by, and parallel to, the development of normal representational knowledge, which is conceptual discrimination divorced from the ground of Being. Ordinary knowledge develops by the soul abstracting out the outlines of concepts from basic knowledge, and holding their reifications in the mind. Such knowledge develops to greater discrimination as the mind creates more abstract concepts and concepts of these concepts, in an increasing complexity and abstraction. This is exactly how Western thought developed its capacity for greater and greater discrimination that finally led to our science and technology. Ego development occurs basically by taking these reified concepts as real constituents of Reality. The soul identifies with the reified concepts of her own experience of herself, which become her self-representations; by thus defining herself through representational knowledge she loses contact with her essential ground, which cannot be captured in representational concepts.

Diamond Guidance Provides the Soul with the Objective Discriminating Capacity that She Needs

The Diamond Guidance uses the mind, instead of the mind being in control, or in the foreground. It guides the mind, but it is actually the guide for the soul toward individuation and maturity, toward self-realization and the journey home. This is similar to the Sufi view that what is needed for the awakening and transformation of the soul is the “higher intellect” more than anything else. The Diamond Guidance provides the soul with the objective discriminating capacity that she needs to understand more and more deeply what reality is. This discrimination and understanding is not only the process of the work of inquiry, it is the nature of a true life. Inquiry can become the center of our entire life as our life becomes the unfoldment of our soul. If our life is not a continuing inquiry that is always engaging the unfoldment of the soul—if it is not an ongoing transformation—then we are stuck; in a deep sense, we are dead. We will be mired in inertia, repeating the same patterns forever.

Differentiation Creates Differences, but Discrimination Makes these Differences Knowable

In this experience, there is only true nature, for all forms are nothing but true nature, as its own differentiation. Conceptually, we can discern true nature as the pure undifferentiated awareness that is the ground of everything, and everything as manifestation, but in immediate experience there is no such discrimination of the two. Reality is what is, in its thusness. We describe this situation by saying that nonconceptual Reality is inherently differentiated as the world we normally see, but in the immediate experience of pure awareness we do not recognize the elements of our world, even though we clearly perceive them. In other words, differentiation is a step prior to discrimination. To put it more analytically, true nature manifests as a nonconceptual ground that differentiates into all the forms of appearance, and its dimension of pure presence develops these differentiated forms into discriminated ones. Differentiation creates differences, but discrimination makes these differences knowable. The new point for our discussion is that the nonconceptual ground functions as ground by differentiating into the various forms. If that were not the case we would then have a ground that is separate from the world of differentiation, which is a contradictory position from the point of view of the perception of the nonconceptual ground.

Disappearance of Discriminations

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.

Discriminating Physical Sensation from Essential Substance

The capacity to sense oneself must become so refined that the individual can discriminate between physical sensation and the sensation of essential substance. It is not enough that the mind be quiet. It is also necessary for the body to be sensitive. The mind can be quiet while the body is deadened. The body has to be awakened so that the center of sensing, the belly center, can be activated. The belly center, or what Gurdjieff called the physical center, is the center of sensing for all parts of the body. It's deepest function is the subtle sensing, the sensing of essential Presence, that the Sufis called the organ for touch.

Discriminating True Nature

The first step is to recognize what True Nature is. This means to distinguish it from more familiar elements in our experience such as thoughts and feelings, sensations and energy. We need to see how it impacts our perception and affects our relationship to our experience. We must know that True Nature is the fundamental nature of experience and understand what that means in order to recognize it as True Nature. The second step is to understand yourself as True Nature. This means having full discrimination and insight, at the adult level, into who and what you are. It is possible to recognize True Nature—the first step—but not know that it is you. You might think it’s God. Or that it’s an angel who has descended into the room. You experience that this presence is empty and light and luminous, and it feels so different from how you know “yourself” that you think it must be some kind of wonderful angel. You recognize that presence, but you don’t know that it’s you. To understand yourself as True Nature means that you recognize, “That is my nature.” And this occurs not through thinking, but through experiencing. The third step is to see that True Nature is the nature of everything and to know how it manifests everything. We don’t know how things work because we don’t understand how things are related to True Nature.

Discrimination is the Very Heart of Inquiry, the Heart of the Revelation of Truth

So there is a very intimate relationship between discrimination and strength. To be able to separate, I need to be strong. But separation is based on discrimination. Hence, if I’m not strong enough, I won’t be able to discriminate. I won’t be able to—and I won’t want to—know how I am different from you. Then there will be no separation. More often than not, we tend to be mushy and undifferentiated in our experience—relating to it with vagueness and in generalities. We cannot tell one thing from another. When there is no precision, it means there is no clarity, and then it’s not possible to know the truth for what it is. This brings us back to the function of the Red latifa. The Strength Essence is useful for inquiry in giving us the strength to begin to discriminate. The more active the Red Essence, the more powerful, precise, and real our capacity for discrimination becomes. The more we discriminate, the more we separate from our reactions and self-images, and the more we know ourselves for who we are, which lets us open up to true nature. Discrimination is the very heart of inquiry, the heart of the revelation of truth. So now we see the interconnections between inquiry, the Diamond Guidance, and the Red Essence. We understand how the Red latifa functions in the Guidance and thereby supports our inquiry. At this point, you might want to experiment with these relationships for yourself.

Discrimination Means Not Only the Differentiation of Patterns, Shapes and Forms

Discrimination means not only the differentiation of patterns, shapes, and forms, but also the inherent knowingness of what these forms are. Seen from this perspective, the whole universe is nothing but the discrimination inherent in true nature. The ability to discriminate is inherent in our consciousness; that is why you can distinguish the pressure in your knee from the tension in your back. That is why you can differentiate the warmth in your heart from the heat in your pelvis, the emptiness in your belly from the thoughts in your mind. You can also differentiate the sounds you make from the ones you hear. But what are these things? They are knowledge, knowingness. The thoughts you are experiencing are nothing but the knowingness of the thoughts. The pressure that you experience in your knee is a recognition of what that awareness is. It is an awareness of an impression and the recognition that it is a tension or a pressure. That is knowledge, basic knowingness.

Discrimination of Aspects, and Naming Them, in a Sense Concretizes Them

Seeing essence in its various aspects, seeing these aspects as different and distinct, and giving each one a specific name, can lead to some difficulties for the student. This discrimination of aspects, and naming them, in a sense concretizes them. This specificity and delineation can lead to a certain form of attachment. It becomes easy for the personality to be attached to some of these aspects. The individual might want to experience the same aspect over and over. He might try to hold onto it and become afraid of losing it. He might develop the attitude of hoarding, of collecting more and more substance, or collecting various kinds of aspects. Essence is then being treated like any material possession. In other words, the objectification of the aspects can and does lead to spiritual materialism. This materialism, this attachment can then strengthen, instead of weakening, the rigid grip of the personality. This is counter to what is needed for inner work, where the personality must learn to let go, especially of its attachments. In fact, the personality's basic characteristic is attachment, which is the main cause of suffering.

Essential Aspects are Amenable to the Most Precise Descriptions and Discriminations

The interesting thing about the essential aspects, including the personal aspect, is that they are amenable to the most precise descriptions and discriminations by the one having the experience, but the words will not communicate the essence of the experience to another who never had the experience. However, if someone has had the experience then it is easy for him to understand what is being described. Because of this, descriptions of essential aspects are useful mainly to those who have had a specific experience or are on the verge of having it. It is also true, however, that these descriptions, like literary and poetic ones, can evoke those deeper and truer experiences of reality and of one’s nature; in some artistic or spiritual contexts, the ego can become slightly more “transparent” and one will intuit some new level of truth.

Gnosis Can Possess Degrees of Discrimination

The question of the status of mystical knowing is clarified when we appreciate basic knowledge. Becoming aware of what is called mystical knowledge is the opposite operation from the development of discursive knowledge. Basic knowledge is being and discrimination at the same time. Discursive knowledge develops by emphasizing the discrimination aspect of basic knowledge, while mystical knowledge emphasizes the direct feel and touch of basic knowledge. It focuses on its Being side. In reality, basic knowledge is gnosis—the common word for direct knowledge of Reality—especially when it is not patterned by ordinary knowledge. Gnosis can possess degrees of discrimination, depending on how much we focus on the discriminating outlines in the field of knowledge. The less we focus on these demarcations and the more we are immersed in the direct feel of the field, the more that gnosis will be mysterious, intuitive, even vague and indiscernible. Gnosis can be divested of its discriminating characteristics such that only a bare minimum remains; this involves deep, direct experience, usually without the capacity to say much about it. This movement toward knowledge without discrimination goes as far as total mystery, where we are touched deeply, totally immersed in the depth of awareness with no content, or even with no sense of awareness.

Minute Discrimination of Inner Touch

The inner touch can become very precise in its discrimination of these textures in the soul. For instance, you can feel the Water Essence—the quality of human vulnerability—as a crystal-clear stream of water washing you from the inside. But you can also feel it on the subtle lataif level as water vapor, on a deeper level in the fuller form of regular water, or on the diamond level, in the solidified form of an ice crystal. You can discriminate all of these experiences just through sensing the different textures with the sense of inner touch. For this subtle sense to awaken, however, our usual perception of our physical body must first become quite refined. This means increasing the sensitivity not only to our skin but also to whatever is inside our body—the muscles, organs, and so on. When the subtle sensitivity is highly developed, you can travel the entire journey using only the inner touch, because you can discriminate very minutely with it.

Precise Discrimination and Knowledge

The Clear diamond contributes the capacities of objectivity and clarity, but its most specific and characteristic property is the sharpness of its facets, which contributes the faculty of precision. More accurately, the objectivity and clarity of the diamond are inseparable from its precision and sharpness, which imbue perception and experience with precise discrimination and knowledge. In other words, the process of clarification in the operation of Diamond Guidance occurs through our basic knowledge becoming exact, specific, precise, and sharp… when we have become specific and precise about a matter, we have arrived at objective understanding.


Pure Presence Inherently Presents Its Differentiations as Discriminations, as Noetic Forms

We saw in the last chapter that the dimension of pure presence exposes reification, for it reveals the original concepts that have been reified. However, this dimension inherently presents its differentiations as discriminations, as noetic forms. In other words, the possibility of reification will always be present because of the very nature of the dimension of pure presence. The mere fact that pure presence includes forms that can be known, makes its realization insufficient for total freedom. Our mind will naturally reify noetic forms, and such reifications will ultimately alienate us from our essential presence and dismember its boundlessness.

Recognizing the Many Forms in Which Presence Manifests

This discriminated and discriminating property of the essential dimension, and of the Essence of the self, makes it possible for us to recognize the many forms in which Presence manifests. This capacity is a reflection of the wisdom of discrimination, of the nous dimension of Presence. Our understanding is that the capacity of discrimination exists fundamentally on the ontological dimension of Presence, and it remains the same property or capacity in other dimensions but we do not see its reality because we have lost contact with Presence. In the experience of self-realization, this property gives the self a capacity for discrimination of such precision and sharpness that it is inconceivable in the conventional dimension of experience.

Seeing Inquiry as a Vehicle that Takes Us from Conventional Experience to Enlightened Perception

To put it succinctly, ordinary knowledge is carried by thoughts whereas basic knowledge is carried by perception. Ordinary knowledge cannot be separated from thoughts, and basic knowledge cannot be separated from perception. Inquiry is the action of the optimizing thrust of Being’s intelligent dynamism that opens up basic knowledge, liberating it from the cramping influence of ordinary knowledge. When basic knowledge is liberated from the filter of ordinary knowledge, it reveals itself as the discriminating awareness of Being, the wisdom of discrimination. In other words, we recognize that this inherent discrimination is the source of discrimination in basic knowledge, and hence in ordinary knowledge. Basic knowledge spans the distance between the wisdom of discrimination —one of the fundamental characteristics of true nature—and conventional experience, which is basic knowledge filtered through ordinary knowledge. From this perspective, it is possible to see inquiry as a vehicle that takes us from conventional experience to enlightened perception, through the understanding that transforms basic knowledge back to its source, the wisdom of discrimination.

The Discriminating Property of the Essential Dimension

This discriminated and discriminating property of the essential dimension, and of the essence of the self, makes it possible for us to recognize the many forms in which presence manifests. This capacity is a reflection of the wisdom of discrimination, of the nous dimension of presence. Our understanding is that the capacity of discrimination exists fundamentally on the ontological dimension of presence, and it remains the same property or capacity in other dimensions, but we do not see its reality because we have lost contact with presence. In the experience of self-realization, this property gives the self a capacity for discrimination of such precision and sharpness that is inconceivable in the conventional dimension of experience. This element of the essential dimension contributes to its aesthetic quality, the beauty and indescribable majesty of essential manifestations. The view of the structures of manifestation in all its dimensions, perceived through all the modalities of perception, is breathtaking.

The Need to Function on all Levels of Discrimination

To effectively and fully operate using the Diamond Guidance, we need to be able to function on all levels of discrimination. It is important to have intellectual discrimination, for example, not because we are primarily intellectual, but because intellectual discrimination is necessary for describing a feeling, a sensed discrimination, or a perceived one. It is also necessary to have emotional and sensate discrimination to appreciate the subtleties in our lived experience. The Diamond Guidance, in the arising of basic knowledge, gives us the discrimination on the essential level—the spiritual level—but it also sharpens our discrimination on all the other levels, because it is the prototype, the Platonic form, of the capacity for discrimination in general.

The Purity of Discrimination of All Reality Everywhere is Reflected in Our Soul as the Presence of the Diamond Guidance

Understanding discrimination in this way shows us more about the function of the Diamond Guidance. The Diamond Guidance is a manifestation or a reflection of the discriminating awareness. Discriminating awareness means the already existing truth of experience, which has its own inherent objective discrimination. For instance, if you look around the room you are in, you may see chairs and lights. Now, we don’t create the lights or the chairs with our mind. The fact that they’re there is how reality is manifesting. They are already existing discriminations. Our mind then can recognize them and give them names. So discriminating awareness means that the field of experience always arises with its own discrimination. When that discrimination is arising in our consciousness completely from true nature, we do not experience reactions or layers of self-image getting in the way. We have a pure experience of discrimination. That is what is usually meant by the discriminating awareness. This pure discrimination is the ground that underlies all of our experience. That purity of discrimination of all of reality everywhere is reflected in our soul as the presence of the Diamond Guidance. The Diamond Guidance is a function, it is the action in our soul of the discriminating awareness. If you liken it to seeing the moon reflected in a bowl of water, discriminating awareness is the moon, the bowl of water is your soul, and the reflection of the moon in the bowl of water is the Diamond Guidance. So each soul has its own Diamond Guidance, but it is only a reflection of the discriminating awareness of Being itself. And because it is a direct reflection of the discriminating awareness, it has the capacity to reveal all the discrimination within our experience, just as it is. It’s capable of revealing the truth of our experience.

True Discrimination of the Diamond Guidance

The Diamond Guidance functions as a source of pure and real knowledge, new basic knowledge, completely fresh discrimination. Because it is made up of elements that are each gnostic, or direct, knowledge about an essential aspect, the Diamond Guidance becomes a source of knowledge about anything it touches in our experience. Real knowledge is not only basic knowledge, but basic knowledge that is free from ordinary knowledge and that originates in reality. The Diamond Guidance also functions as a capacity for true discrimination. Because each aspect is now discriminated objectively and precisely, the Guidance, which is the vehicle formed of these aspects, has a profound and precise capacity for discrimination. It can discriminate the false from the true, and it can distinguish various shades of truth as well. We already have a capacity for discrimination in the conventional dimension—we call it intellect. That capacity for discrimination deepens and becomes much sharper when the Diamond Guidance affects our consciousness. In some very real sense, our ordinary capacity for intellectual discrimination arises from the Diamond Guidance. The degree to which our discriminating intelligence has developed, however, depends on how in touch we are with this diamond manifestation of Being. The farther away from it we are, the less sharp our capacity for discrimination is.

Vital Participation of the Heart in Creative Discrimination

This brings us back to the discerning and knowing capacity of presence itself—the higher intellect, essential nous, or what we call “diamond guidance”—which reveals that freedom has other meanings and other horizons. The thing that we need to understand about this discerning capacity is that it discriminates not only our knowledge and the content of our mind but also our direct experience. It discriminates the immediacy of what we are experiencing by discerning, seeing, and revealing what is there. It can extract the meaning and the implications of the experience, which in any experience of true nature are countless and varied. When I say “higher intellect” or “divine mind,” many people misunderstand and consider these to be mental faculties. But the heart is vital to this kind of creative discrimination. The functioning of this capacity actually happens through the unity of mind and heart because without love, there would be no compassion or sensitivity to the mind’s discernment. The creative discrimination of presence is activated by the participation of the heart. This discrimination arises according to true, deep, existential need and only when we have the right orientation—a loving desire to know the truth. As I said before, this capacity of presence to discriminate experience transforms life into a process of discovery and revelation. This presence is not our mind, is not our feelings, is not our body, although it makes use of all of these; it is its own truth. It is an intelligence that brings not only discernment and understanding but also creative discrimination. What makes the discrimination creative is that the moment we make a discrimination, we are seeing an implication, which reveals another possibility of experience that opens another insight, another experience, or another whole dimension of knowing and being.

When Discrimination is Only Appearance, Ultimately Unreal

It is possible to see the Personal Essence as a concept, as not having a final reality. This is the perception of the nonconceptual aspect of Being, the supreme unknowable ground of reality. It is the experience of absolute oneness in which there are no discriminations, as Lao Tzu says above. All forms are seen to exist only as concepts, and hence are taken not to have a separate existence. All duality is absent in this realization. However, from this perspective, not only the Personal Essence is seen to be a concept, but so are love, compassion, consciousness, awareness and so on. In other words, from the perspective of the supreme reality of the undifferentiated aspect of Being, all aspects of Essence are seen to be conceptual (as well as, for that matter, the entirety of the physical world, including the body). Only the unqualified Being exists, and differentiation and discrimination are only appearance, ultimately unreal. This is the nature of the experience of the nonconceptual reality of Being, of Being-as-such. This experience also feels so real, so profound and so comprehensive that it has a flavor of finality to it. It is experienced as an objective fact.

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