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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Existence?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Existence

Existence is One of the Essential Aspects

Student: I have many questions, but I think they all come down to one really: what constitutes existence?

Almaas: Well, first of all, existence is one of the essential aspects. It is inherent to all manifestations of true nature, all aspects and dimensions. And presence is simply the sense of existing in a palpable immediate way. When you experience the aspect of existence, you feel your existence and also the existence of the world. You know what existence is as an actual feeling, an actual state. If the question then is what exists, that’s what you see in the boundless dimensions. The boundless dimensions bring the experience of what reality is, which means what truly exists. Everything that ordinarily exists still exists there in fact, but it doesn’t exist in the same way. So actually, the question isn’t what exists, but what the mode of existence is, as that changes depending on the dimension. In the dimension of Divine Love, as we’ve seen, the mode of existence is light, love, and presence.

Feeling Your Existence Everywhere

What we notice about this boundless atmosphere or ocean is its direct presence, its thereness. It is a palpable, substantial presence that you can sense physically. There’s a hereness, an “I am-ness” to it, but it’s not just the “I am-ness” of your own individual presence; this is the whole universe saying “I am.” It is being, it is essence, it is presence, and this presence is consciousness at the same time. It is a shoreless ocean of consciousness, and you can feel how every single atom of it is consciousness itself. I don’t mean consciousness in the sense of conscious of other things, the way our mind can be conscious of chairs and trees and things. It is conscious in the sense that it’s conscious of its existence. It is a conscious presence. So when you feel yourself in this boundless dimension, you feel your existence everywhere. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you see with your eyes the forms that existence is taking everywhere; you just feel the boundless existence itself as a conscious presence. You are conscious of the being of everything, an indivisible medium of being, conscious of itself. And you feel infinite.

From Existence to Non-Existence

This is the transition from existence to non-existence. At this stage there is nothing to do and no one there to do nothing. The cosmic existence has to go to sleep sometime. As an individual, don't you go to sleep every night? And when you go to sleep, are you an individual? Do you know anything? Do you feel anything? It’s the same thing with the cosmic individuality; it has to go to sleep. When the cosmic individuality goes to sleep, what's there? Nothing. Not only are you gone, but the whole totality of the universe is gone. Complete non-existence. We discover that the sense of our own nonexistence is relatively tolerable as long as we feel that the universe exists. We believe that when we go to sleep and disappear, we will wake up the next day and the universe will be there. But what are you going to come back to when you experience that the entire universe is gone?

How the Universe is an Event Horizon

The truth of our existence reveals itself only when we start to wonder why we are always moving toward solidity. If we inquire into this, we can follow the thread of why we keep doing it, as if something were pushing us toward reifying, objectifying, making things concrete. Why don’t we just relax and let things be whatever they are? Because if we really did that, we would discover that the whole universe is just an event horizon. We would sense the infinite nothingness “within” all of reality. All of our experience, everything that manifests, is existing just on the edge of a huge black void of absence. It is all a glimmering surface of an infinite black hole, meaning that all of existence is a hologram, an insubstantial hologram.

Personalizing the Aspect of Existence

Finally one is able to go beyond the inertia supporting everything personal. This happens through the process of personalizing the aspect of Existence. The fear is that there will be no existence for anything personal if one lets go of the supports of ego personality. This fear is transcended when the Personal Essence is experienced in the state of Existence. This is another Platonic form, a pure differentiated aspect of Being, where the sense is just existence. Personalizing this aspect one feels a sense of personal existence that is real, and not based on mental structure or the supports of this structure in past or present. The usual experience of the Personal Essence is of fullness and personalness. But when Existence is personalized it attains a density and an immensity that gives the experience the specific feeling of existence. In other words, existence becomes a more dominant feeling than fullness. Existence is present implicitly in Beingness, but now it is specifically delineated.

Questioning Existence

Realizing our nature as essence and the nature of existence as cosmic oneness gives rise to an even more subtle understanding of reality. A more final stage will appear first as a deep longing and subtle suffering. A longing will arise to disappear, to vanish. The concepts that are questioned are not a matter of whether you are an individual or oneness, whether you are human or God. The question is whether you exist or not. The fact of existence is questioned. We become uncomfortably aware of a sense of existence, even though our sense of this existence has no limitations.

Realizing You are All Existence and No Existence at Once

To go to the Absolute brings a sense of losing everything. Even though I am becoming my truest, innermost, secret nature, I feel I am losing the totality of existence, which I love. For a long time I wondered, “Why do I love it? Why don't I love my deepest self more?” So in the state of existence, whether cosmic or individual, there would be the longing and love for the Absolute, for absence, for complete peace, for unspeakable reality. And in the state of the Absolute, there was a subtle longing for the existence that I loved. I realized at some point that I loved both equally, and this seemed to be a big problem. The resolution that happens is nothing the mind can conceptualize. Logically, we can see that the resolution is for the existence and non-existence to become one, for beingness and non-beingness to become one. But no logic can prepare us for the realization that we are the cosmic existence that is completely, absolutely not there. We completely exist as everything and at the same time there is absolutely nothing there. There is no duality whatsoever, no loss whatsoever. Not only are you all existence and no existence, but you are both at once.

Seeing all of Existence as a Presence that is Patterned

This perception of the unity and the inseparability of all change and transformation can take many forms. First, it can be the experience of seeing all of existence as a presence that is patterned. This presence is not static but is, in its unified totality, in constant flow. This unified flow occurs in such a way that its pattern is continuously changing and evolving. It happens in this way because first of all, the unity according to Holy Omniscience, as we have seen, has patterns in it, differentiations and differences, which, while not separating, make a pattern. This pattern is always changing as the flow is unfolding. So, the unfoldment or flow of Being manifests as the changing of the pattern of the unity, continuously changing the patterns of how things appear. It is like seeing the whole universe as one river that is constantly changing as it flows. We not only perceive this change as changes, transformations, movements, and evolutions in the cosmic pattern, but we also see that these changes and movements include what we ordinarily perceive as our actions and the actions of other living beings. So Being is not only presence, but the flow of presence.

Facets of Unity, pg. 260

Seeing that all of Existence is Nothing but Knowledge

Here, experience and knowledge become inseparable; experience is knowledge. The greater knowledge that becomes available through the experience of Essence can develop and deepen to the extent of recognizing that we are knowledge. Our bodies and minds are knowledge. Even our environment turns out to be knowledge. This happens when Essence reveals its boundless dimensions. At this level of experience we find a knowledge that is not information, but a knowledge that is all experience. Here we see that all perception, all experience, all of existence is nothing but knowledge. This deeper knowledge becomes available when we start seeing that all experience and all that exists is knowledge, a knowledge that is itself presence, is Being. This is sometimes referred to in religious language as God’s knowledge or God’s mind. It is simply seeing that all of existence, both in ourselves and in the universe, is in some fundamental way, Being. Then the universe is nothing but the self-existing conceptual patterning of this boundless and mysterious Being. Then it is possible to see that Being itself is knowledge, knowledge that is not a content of our minds, but rather is the ground for it, as well as for the universe in its entirety.

The Absolute Depth of Reality Shows that Existence is a Matter of Appearance

For example, total nonconceptuality reveals further understanding about the question of existence and nonexistence. From the perspective of the absolute, nothing truly exists. The absolute depth of reality shows that existence is a matter of appearance. This does not mean that the world is a hallucination, but that things don’t exist in the way that we think they do. From the perspective of the absolute, nonbeingness is the fundamental truth about experience. When we see that the emptiness of self, the emptiness of everything, is the fundamental realization, it brings a great deal of freedom from the self. But this realization still harbors subtle concepts, one of which is the concept of emptiness, the idea and experience that things don’t exist. There is a further understanding that is referred to as the “emptiness of emptiness,” which is the recognition that emptiness is not something that exists. From the perspective of total nonconceptuality, the challenge is not that emptiness does not exist; rather, it is that whether things are empty or not, whether they exist or not, is simply not relevant to this type of realization. Here the recognition and experience of the realization of true nature are that things neither exist nor don’t exist, and there is no concern either way, because we are not operating with the concept of existence.

The Illusion of Existence and Nonexistence

And that is how it is anyway—there is no ground. It is not as though somebody is going to take reality away from us; nobody is going to take anything from us. All that will happen is that we will see through our belief, our position, that there is being and nonbeing. We will see through the illusion that there is existence and nonexistence. We will see through our attachment to the idea that we exist now but that nonexistence means we are going to disappear, that our existence is going to terminate. But these are all concepts, conceptualizations, and reality is nothing like that. Reality is this: We are here and not here at the same time, absolutely. We don’t exist and we continue to exist. This doesn't make sense to our mind because of our conceptual positions. We carry a deep conviction that if we don’t exist, we cannot eat, we cannot talk, we cannot do anything. Don’t you believe that if you don’t exist, then it’s all over for you, that you can't live? But reality is not like that. Reality is: You don’t exist and you keep on living. You die and are born again even though you don’t exist.

The Source and Ultimate Nature of All Existence is Nonexistence

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 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, with all of its richness and variety, is born out of nonbeing. We begin here to understand the mysteries of Reality; we see that it does not correspond with the apparently obvious, normal perception of things. We begin to appreciate the stupendous mystery that is Reality, and the subtlety of truth, which can quicken the passionate love of the heart to inquire into the mysteries of Being.

There is One Existence that is Merely an Infinite Presence that Possesses a Pattern

At this level of realization, we come also to perceive the unity of all manifestation. Since Being is an indivisible medium (not composed of parts), it follows that everything makes up a unity, a oneness. There is one existence, as opposed to two, or many. It is merely an infinite presence that possesses a pattern. This pattern is everything we perceive, including all persons and objects. So everything is connected to everything; there exist no separate and autonomous objects or persons. Another discovery is that we see this unity and oneness as our very self and identity. We experience: “I am everything. I am everyone, the bodies, thoughts and feelings of everybody, inseparable from all objects. I am the ground, essence, and source of everything.” No wonder we have been longing for the dissolution of the separating boundaries; the self intuited that the arising manifestation of Being is boundless and infinite. And no wonder we need to be seen as the most special. Pure Being is the most precious thing in reality because it is the preciousness of everything in reality. It is most special because it is the precious ground of everything that is special.

True Existence is a Metaphysical Truth, for it is the Ontological Ground of all Existents

We normally experience this in the form of “pure presence is everything, and everything is pure presence.” We see here that pure being is ultimate being, it is true being. By Being we do not mean any particular being, but the being of all beings. Being is true existence, but it is not any existent. Being is the true existence of any and all existents. Existence is not something that characterizes existents, nor something that qualifies the forms of manifestation. Such view of existence is part of the egoic worldview, where existence is an abstract property that the mind gives to the forms of manifestation. The ego-self can only conceive of existence or being as an extension of an object, a property it has, while in the enlightened view existence is absolutely more fundamental than any and all existents and forms. In reality, the forms are qualifications of true existence. We see here that true existence is a metaphysical truth, for it is the ontological ground of all existents. Forms are then differentiations of this fundamental existence. The ego sense of existence is only a reflection of this existence, an abstract idea of it, while it is the ground of all experience, and the actual immediate sense of sentience.

Understanding Consciousness as the Experience of Pure Existence

One way to understand consciousness is as the experience of pure existence, which is the beginning of your mind, the seed of all experience, the root of all concepts. Such existence is actually a presence, a conscious presence. When we experience it fully, we recognize it as pure consciousness, a field of awareness which includes our capacities of perception and experience. And furthermore, we recognize consciousness as the underlying ground of everything. Everything turns out to be a manifestation of and within this field. We find out that this consciousness is the ground of mind too, of all concepts and knowing. Although pure consciousness is nonconceptual, it is the ground of all concepts and all kinds of knowing, both the ordinary and the gnostic.

We are Beings Who Exist in Two Worlds at the Same Time, While Believing that We Exist in One World

Many people here experience essential states, states of being, but clearly do not believe them. You do not take essential reality to be the fundamental reality; you take your body to be more important, more real, and you think that essence comes and goes. Your essence is some kind of goody that comes once in a while. But from the perspective of fundamental reality, it is the other way around. Your body is something that comes and goes, and the essence is actually what is always there. So we see things in the opposite way from the truth. The shift of perspective from conventional reality to fundamental reality is a huge, quantum jump from one universe to another. No wonder this Work is difficult! When we see just how difficult, we understand more why we need to be patient and compassionate with ourselves. We are not here simply to become free of the inner critic, or free from the emotional conditioning, nor simply to be successful. These things—the content of the world of appearance—are all part of life. Without appearance, there would be no life. But we want to move towards something more fundamental, which is to work with the ultimate basis of suffering, not the relative suffering that comes from our history. We are beings who exist in two worlds at the same time, while believing that we exist in one world, the world we know. But the way we need to live is with one foot in each world all the time. With one foot in the appearance and the other in the reality, we will never forget one or the other. In the world of appearance there is suffering, strife, success and failure, pain and pleasure, life and death. The true reality of things is the absence of all these. There is no birth, no death, no you, no not-you, neither pleasure nor pain. There is complete freedom, complete release.

What is the Ground of the Existence of Presence?

So, first we recognize that being is really fundamentally a nonbeing, nothing, absence. Presence turns out to be the other side of what can only be described as a spacious absence. The ground of the ground, the ground of presence itself, of the luminosity itself, is nonexistence. You feel it . . . it exists. But what is the feeling of existence in it? What makes it exist? What is the ground of the existence of presence? The recognition of the fact that it does not exist, that it is absolutely nothing. Complete transparency, no opaqueness, no thickness, no objects, no solidity, no substance, no mass, no atoms, no time, no space . . . nothing. But we get accustomed to believing in and living according to our ideas of what we think our existence is—an objective existence such as that of a rock. Thus, recognizing the actual underlying nature of our existence—the nonbeingness of it—requires such a subtle understanding that we tend not to see it.

When Every Moment Seems Full of Treasures

So you see, the value of existence at each moment is not the result of something else; it is its own nature, its own reality. It is not a matter of cause and effect. We do not value something because of something else. At the beginning stages of our work, we might be unclear or a little deluded and think that the reason we value reality is because it gives us a great experience or it makes us happy or it opens up some new capacities or it gives us some other benefit. It is true that it does all that. But the more clearly we recognize what is manifesting in the moment—what the meaning of the moment is, what teaching is manifesting through any particular form—the more we recognize that the very existence, the factness, the pure, self-existing value of each moment, is not related to a reason. Its value does not come from doing this or that; its value is inherent. When we recognize this inherent value of reality, when we experience it ourselves, our heart cannot help but be suffused with a sense of appreciation. And it’s not that we value it because we think it is great. The value is not something that I give to or impose on reality; the value is reality itself—or reality is the value. It is not that it’s valuable because it is transparent and luminous and free and light; its own intrinsic nature makes experience and life supremely worthwhile. It makes every moment seem full of treasures, treasures that the mind cannot fathom. And those treasures are not someplace in the future but in the moment. Knowing this is simply a matter of recognition. It is a matter of being able to see clearly.

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