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Existence (Ultimate Existence)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Existence (Ultimate Existence)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Existence (Ultimate Existence)

Belief in the Ultimate Self-existence of Objects

This realization helps us understand insubstantiality in subtler ways. We see that substantiality is actually not physical solidity, but the belief in the ultimate self-existence of the objects. In other words, we normally give substance to air, space, thoughts, images, light, and so on, objects that are not physically solid. Giving them substance means we give them a final ontological status of truly existing. This simply means that we do not apprehend that nonbeing is their final ontological mode. We do not perceive the absolute as their ultimate ground of existence. This subtle ignorance appears in our perception of physical objects as the sense of solidity, which psychologically makes us feel they are real and substantial. But the sense of realness appears in our perception of all objects, whether physical, psychological or spiritual; for we attribute to all these forms of manifestation an ultimate status of existence: that is, we do not recognize that their ultimate ontological status is nonbeing.

Not Finding Phenomena to Possess Ultimate Existence

The nothing is not exactly something substantial, something that exists. The nothing is simply the perception of the nonbeingness of things. In other words, emptiness is the term used here and in many mystical writings to refer to the fact that things do not exist the way we ordinarily think, but that they are luminous forms whose mode of being is nonbeing. When we investigate their existence we end up in complete nonbeing, total absence. We do not find phenomena to possess ultimate existence. Thus we see that the ground of all manifestation is nonbeing. This is not the conventional sense of nonexistence, which is closer to nihilism. Clearly, this understanding is subtle and difficult. Yet we do understand it when we experience the true nature of things. When we recognize that emptiness characterizes all objects, that it is inseparable from them in the way a shadow is inseparable from the object that casts it, or similar to how wetness is inseparable from water, it is easy to see that it is the ultimate nature of things. This view is supported by the fact that all forms are transitory while emptiness is not. Emptiness is not something in itself, so we cannot say that it is everlasting or eternal; but since it is absolutely inseparable from all forms, and all forms are transitory, emptiness is the only factor that is permanent, or unchanging. Actually, what is permanent is the flow of forms and their inseparability from emptiness. However, this is not the only possible view of true nature. 

Seeing that the World is Grounded in Emptiness and Lacks Any Ultimate Existence

The insight that emptiness is the ground of all forms is specifically significant for the inner journey, especially for the journey of descent. Through the absolute descending into the world we see that the world is grounded in emptiness, and hence is always insubstantial and lacks any ultimate existence. The soul learns that to live in the world from the perspective of the absolute is to never forget that the world is ultimately insubstantial, that it is groundless; for the absolute ground is simply absence. More precisely, its groundlessness is its truth and freedom and the liberation of the soul is in remembering that she can rely ultimately only on the absolute: it is the groundless ground. She can trust emptiness, for it is the ultimate unchanging ground that is certain to be found at the depth of everything. In other words, the ground of all manifest forms is that when we try to find their ultimate essence they disappear. The unfindability of their ultimate existence is their ground.

The Absolute and Pure Awareness are Empty of Ultimate Existence

In experiencing the absolute, we perceive a transparent and clear space, but dark, so dark it is absolutely black. The blackness is not a color, but the absence of light. In other words, nonconceptual awareness possesses light while the absolute is ontologically prior to light. They are both transcendent to being and nonbeing, but they differ in their relation to light. We can say that the absolute is the mystery prior to light, but at the same time the source of light. The first light that manifests in it is the nonconceptual light, pure awareness. In other words, both are empty of ultimate existence, but the absolute is much more empty. It is even empty of light, awareness, and hence can be experienced as cessation. Looking into pure awareness we see transparent and light-filled space, pervading all manifest forms, and constituting them. Looking into the absolute we first see darkness, but if we focus on it completely, our awareness spontaneously turns around and we find ourselves witnessing manifestation. We see the manifestation as possessing a ground of pure nonconceptual awareness, but this ground now appears as a manifestation within the absolute.  

The Individual Soul Does Not Have Its Own Ultimate Existence

We can think of emptiness in two ways—emptiness of other and emptiness of self—each of which has many degrees. In order for anything to be liberated, including the individual consciousness, it must be empty both of other and of self. By “other” I don’t mean other people, but anything that is extrinsic to our basic nature. For the individual consciousness to be empty of other means for it not to be patterned by extrinsic factors, factors that are not inherent to it. So when we are limited or defined by elements that are not fundamental to us, not inherent, not ontologically primordial, then we are not empty of other. Emptiness of self is a matter of recognizing that apart from freedom from other, the individual self, the individual soul, does not have its own ultimate existence. So when I say that realizing human freedom requires a thoroughgoing understanding of the self, I mean on both of these levels. We need to investigate deeply both emptiness of other and emptiness of self. These two kinds of emptiness are connected and, as we will see, they can merge at some point.

To Be Empty, a Form is Void of Ontological Substance, Solidity, Realness and Ultimate Existence

Normally we have a continuous subjective feeling of the realness of things, a feeling that gives our ego-self a sense of security, the sense that its supports ultimately exist. By perceiving the absolute nature of things this feelings ceases, for it turns out to be a psychological outcome of the belief in the ultimate self-existence of things. But this does not mean that objectively things are not real in the sense that they do not manifest independent of our thoughts. Things are noetic forms, even prenoetic, but they simply do not possess the kind of reality we have been accustomed to giving them. In fact, in such perception we see true Reality; we see how things actually are. We are truly in Reality, but it does not have the same psychological sense to which we are accustomed. Realness turns out to be a concept, and our perception has now gone beyond concepts, to the core of things. We experience freedom and liberation, and are finally released from the need to support our ego-self with the sense of solidity, substance, and reality. We do not need any supports, for reality has no supports; it is all a magical display of colors and shapes, of presence that is simultaneously insubstantial and rich. We are beyond the conceptual mind, and the dichotomy of being and nonbeing. The traditional term for the ultimate absence of substance, solidity, realness, and existence is emptiness. To be empty, a form is void of ontological substance, solidity, realness, and ultimate existence. Emptiness is a name for the absolute, which points to one way of experiencing it, or to its most significant truth. To recognize the absolute as the ultimate ground of all objects and phenomena is to perceive their transparency, insubstantiality, and lack of ultimate being. Instead of opaqueness we experience a transparent expanse, spacious and open. Instead of substantiality we experience a lightness, a freedom, a total absence of heaviness. Joy is released, and contentment fills the heart. 

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