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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Experiencer?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Experiencer

All You Can do is Understand the Situation as Thoroughly as Possible

Student: I got to the stage where I just felt I was a point, and it feels like that’s what creates experience. That’s what separates awareness into being able to experience itself and it also seems like I’m bound by it, so that I don’t have a way to get outside of “I,” at least from this place I’m at right now.

Almaas: Yes. That makes sense. You don’t have a way of getting out of the experiencer. It’s not just you in particular having difficulty with this, it’s a universal thing. The experiencer cannot get out of being an experiencer. That’s why the only possibility is grace. Which means the divine love itself manifests and dissolves your sense of being the separate experiencer. All you can do is understand the situation as thoroughly as possible. That way, you don’t cooperate in resisting the divine love. However, the sense of yourself as a point doesn’t have to be the way you are saying it. The point can be a pure simple witnessing of what occurs, without the witness being separate from the witnessed. The point is one way of experiencing pure consciousness or presence, and if you let yourself be that, it is bound to transform you into a boundless infinite consciousness.

Any Experiencer Seen as Just One of the Contents of Mind

The nature of mind is seen as space, but even the notion of space must be transcended to deeply understand the nature of mind. As long as there is space, there is someone there experiencing something and calling it space. But completely experiencing the nature of the mind involves complete openness, or complete nothingness; when you really experience the nature of the mind, there is utter stillness with no observer observing anything, no experience, thought or label. Any experiencer would be just one of those contents, just a thought or feeling or constellation of thoughts or feelings. You continue finding nothing, you don’t even find space; there will be space but no one to find it. This is sometimes called the ground of existence. In this perspective, then, the mind is taken to be everything, and the ground for everything. Everything is the mind because the mind is known in its most absolute nature as nothingness, as the absence of anything, which is seen as the ground for everything.

Discovery of the Personal Essence is the True Birth of the Human Being

This brings us to the concept of rebirth in relation to the Personal Essence. Rebirth is a recurrent theme in the literature of inner transformation. Inner transformation is primarily a death and rebirth, the death of an old identity and the birth of a new one, on a deeper level of reality. While we can see the realization of each essential aspect as a process of death and rebirth, it is the discovery of the Personal Essence which is actually felt by many students as the birth of who they are. It is the true birth of the Human Being, and is recognized as such by the experiencer himself. If the development of the separate individuality of ego is the psychological birth of the individual, then the realization of the Personal Essence is his essential birth. The death, of course, in this process of rebirth, is the abandoning of ego identifications. In this sense the “birth” of the Personal Essence is fundamentally different from the birth of the ego, which is not preceded by a death but arises out of a state of nondifferentiation. There is no conscious identity preceding ego identity which needs to be dissolved to allow the birth of the ego. However, the birth of ego does mean the loss of contact with Being, as we will see later. This is a significant fact which is relevant to the relationship between the birth of ego and the birth of the Personal Essence. Many work systems and their teachings consider ego a preliminary stage that precedes the conscious existence of Being. Ego existence is considered the childhood of humanity. When a human being truly grows up and becomes an essential adult, he lives the life of Being. This is one reason the Sufis call the man of Being the “complete” man, and the man of ego the “unregenerate” or “undeveloped” man.

Essence is then the Experience, the Experienced and the Experiencer

Essence is a relentless teacher. It does not stop at any aspect. After one aspect is understood and realized, it starts manifesting another aspect. This aspect in its turn now pushes into consciousness the particular sector of the personality connected to it, and makes it imperative for us to understand and resolve it. The emerging aspect makes us feel the lack of its quality. It makes us long and yearn for it. Gently but consistently, intelligently and knowingly, it puts pressure on us to start longing for it. Then it provides us with the insights, the intuitive knowledge that help us understand our disharmony. And finally it shows itself, culminating our experience by manifesting itself as a complete and absolute resolution for our conflicts. Essence is then the teacher. Essence is then the taught. Essence is then the freedom. Essence is then the realization. Essence is then the fulfillment. Essence is then the being. Essence is then the very nature and substance of the individual. Essence is then the experience, the experienced and the experiencer. Essence is then the truth. Essence is then the nature of all reality. This process of essential development continues as personality is clarified and worked through. Essence manifests itself to the individual's consciousness as the true strength, will, joy, compassion, love, peace, truth, fulfillment, consciousness, awareness, knowledge, freedom, samadhi—as one aspect follows another. The amazing richness of essence manifests in that there is an essential aspect for every important human situation or condition. The aspect that is experienced is experienced as the complete and exact fulfillment for these situations. The exactness, the precision and fitness are astounding. The beauty of essential action cannot but fill the consciousness with wonderment.

In the Pure Experience of Consciousness there is No Experience of Body or Thoughts; there is No Experience, no Experiencer, No Self

It is not possible to understand what universal consciousness is without experiencing it, because it eliminates the ordinary level of understanding. The understanding of universal consciousness is exactly the elimination of separateness, of any division in perception, including thoughts about consciousness. There is no consciousness of anything in particular. This is a foreign experience for most of us, because we know consciousness only in terms of consciousness of something. 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.

Since the Soul is the Experiencer, the Fabric and Container of Experience, and the Content of Experience, then the Experiencer is Not Separate from the Content

This brings us to a further fundamental truth about the soul: Since the soul is the experiencer, the fabric and container of experience, and the content of experience, then the experiencer is not separate from this content. The subject of inner experience is the soul, but so is the content, the object of experience. In other words, as we recognize the soul we begin to see the nonduality of subject and object of experience, at least with respect to inner events. For instance, if we consider an emotion that arises in our consciousness, the agent or experiencer of this emotion is not a subject that experiences it as an object, an object separate and different from this subject. The subject is the field and the emotion is a manifestation of this field, in this field. The emotion is nothing but the field itself with a certain manifestation or frequency arising in some region of it. The field is a field of sensitivity, so it is sensitive to this change in frequency or vibration. There is no distinct separate observer experiencing the emotion. The soul, a medium or field, is in its totality aware of the emotion. The soul is the agency, the medium of experience, and the experience itself. The three are not separate; they are the same thing. When we recognize the unity of the three we are truly recognizing the soul. This differentiates the experience of the soul from that of the ordinary self, whose experience is egoic. For egoic experience, the three are different and separate. The site of the emotion or other experience is not clear, or not perceived at all. The site is experienced generally and vaguely as inside. The object, the emotion in this case, is an event separate and distinct from the experiencer, who is a subject over and above this object.

The Soul is Both the Experiencer and the Medium of Experience So the Experiencer and What is Experienced are Not Separate

Now, this knowingness of our experience in the moment of perceiving it has a profound and unsettling implication if we pay attention. This is the hyperdrive jump that shifts us out of our familiar mind. Usually we think of our experience in terms of the duality we have developed as the experiencer and the experienced, the perceiver and the perceived. In terms of the example of fear, we would say, “There is fear and there is me perceiving the fear.” We think fear exists someplace on its own, and the perceiver is someplace else, looking and thinking, “Oh look, there is fear.” This is the familiar and assumed position that we are in some separate place of observation viewing the world and our experience. But when you experience fear, are you the perceiver separate from the fear? Remember, we are speaking now about the immediate level of direct perception. Can you ever separate in your experience the perception of the fear from the fear itself? It is not possible. The perception of the fear is the same as the experience of the fear, which is the same as the presence of the fear. It’s as simple as that. The perceiver and the perceived actually exist together as the experience. If we set aside the duality of the perceiver and the perceived, then what is actually there is consciousness aware of itself as fear. More accurately, there is a consciousness aware of a manifestation within itself as fear. This becomes clear and distinct when we have direct knowledge of what the soul is, for the soul is the experiencing consciousness. The soul is a field of consciousness that has experience because the experience is an arising within the field of that consciousness. Its experience does not happen outside of that field. Thus the soul is both the experiencer and the medium of experience. So the experiencer and what is experienced are not separate. The soul manifests part of itself as fear. It is not a soul over there experiencing its fear as separate from itself, as if through a telescope. The awareness, which is the nature of the soul, is in the fear itself.

The Soul is the Experiencer, the Perceiver, the Observer, the Doer, the Thinker, the Chooser and More

In recognizing the soul we recognize the real self that we intuitively know is at the center of all experience, and the agent of all functioning. Our intuition transforms into a direct perception of what we have sensed to be not only the site of all inner experiences and perceptions, but also the agent of all experience, perception, and action. The soul is the experiencer, the perceiver, the observer, the doer, the thinker, the chooser, the responder, the enjoyer, the sufferer, and the inner site of all of these. We arrive here at the classical notion that each of us is subject, and that when we experience this subject individually it is the soul. The innerness of experience is the soul. Since the soul is the site and agency of experience then everything that arises in the soul can be seen as part of the soul. Thoughts, images, emotions, feelings, sensations, perceptions, insights, knowledge, and states of consciousness are all the soul. They all arise in the soul as waves in a field, as particular manifestations within it. At this point in our discussion this might not be an easy jump, but it will become clearer as we study the basic properties of the soul. The point is that the content of experience does not only occur in the soul, but that it arises in her as her manifestations. Thoughts do not come from outside; neither do feelings or images. They come from the soul and go back to the soul, always within the soul. Even our perceptions of external objects and events are part of the soul, for our perception is an internal event even though the object of perception is external. So all these are the soul, or more specifically its manifestations. To sum up, the soul is the locus, the agent, and all the varied content of experience.

There is a Dialectic Interaction Between the Individual and Being in Its Manifestation and in Its Wholeness

So the individual and Living Being are not two things and, at the same time, they are not one thing. Reality is more mysterious than simply saying that everything is one. Seeing this opens up a new appreciation of the individual. Not only is the individual necessary for any form of realization—including the nondual, which says that the individual is a delusion or an ephemeral form—but also the individual has an intrinsic significance that is fundamentally mysterious. There is a dialectic interaction between the individual—the practitioner or the experiencer—and Being, in its manifestation and in its wholeness. Understanding this dynamic interaction—between individual and whole, between practice and grace, between dual and nondual—begins to reveal a deeper understanding of how things really happen. Reality is far more nonlinear and indeterminate than the boundlessness or the nonduality that true nature reveals. The indeterminacy of true nature allows realization to behold reality in many ways. Yet that perception always happens through the individual consciousness—a consciousness that is always present, whether explicitly or implicitly, in any condition of realization.

When in the Experience there is Only Essence, Essence is the Subject, the Object and the Medium of Perception

Here there is no inference from something else. It is the most direct experience. The experiencer and the experienced are the same thing. There is no separation between subject and object. The subject and the object are the same: essence. It is not only that there is no inference. There is also no intermediate medium for the perception. Usually there is an intermediate medium that enables a subject to experience an object. When the eye sees an object, the intermediate medium is light, but when essence is aware of itself, there is no intermediary. The object, the subject, and the medium of perception are all the same: essence. Also, the organ of perception is essence itself. There is in the experience only essence. Essence is the subject. Essence is the object. Essence is the medium of perception. Essence is the organ of perception. Essence is the experience. There is no separation whatsoever, no duality and no differentiation. The experience of essence as existence, the experience of “I am,” is not as if there is a subject that is the actor of existence. The “I” and the “am” are not separate. The “I am” is a unitary experience. The nature of the essence, of the real self, is existence. The “I” itself is existence. So it is more accurate to say that the part of me that is existence is present. Essence is the only part of me that actually exists, in the sense of experiencing itself as pure existence, pure presence.

When the Experiencer is Gone and there is Only What Is

Now, you might have a boundless experience once in a while. You experience the boundlessness and you feel everything as one. However, it doesn’t last very long. And one of the reasons it doesn’t last is because you believe it’s an experience you’re having. The moment you think that, the experiencer reasserts itself as an individual entity, who now thinks, “Wasn’t that an amazing experience?” But the experience of boundlessness is not what we usually mean by “experience,” because the sense of it is not like “I’m there, having one experience, and then another experience.” In the boundlessness of divine love, at some point the experiencer recognizes “Oh, this is all delusion—there is no experiencer.” And then the experiencer is gone, and there is only what is. There is awareness; there is perception and consciousness, because divine love is consciousness, it is light. But there is nobody having the experience. It’s more like “Oh. That’s how things are. This is reality.” Reality is conscious of itself, because it is consciousness, but it’s not an experience happening to somebody. It’s like the one who is having experiences quits. Then there is the perception of what’s there all the time—you don’t call that an experience, do you? Would you call the presence of this room an experience? Or is it just there? It’s just a room. You believe that if you leave, it will still be there. That’s what the dimension of divine love is. You might leave it, meaning you become an individual again, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. You are the one who comes and goes.

When the Individual Starts Experiencing Himself as Essence Instead as the Experiencer of Essence

At the beginning, the work of understanding continues as a necessity. However, the necessity is more apparent than real. The ego believes in the necessity of its own work, but this is due to the lack of understanding of deeper essential dimensions. As these dimensions unfold and bring about their understanding, one starts seeing how the activity of the ego (the sense of self) is the main barrier, the cause of any conflict or inner suffering. As the pearl beyond price develops and as the true self is understood and integrated, there occurs another radical transformation. The identity starts shifting from personality to essence. The individual starts experiencing himself as essence, instead of the experiencer of essence. Experiences of ego death occur here. Inner aloneness is accepted. Personal boundaries dissolve. Essence begins to be experienced from the perspective of essence itself. One starts to understand and experience boundlessness, timelessness, not doing, innocence, and purity. Essence and mind start becoming one. This manifests either as complete absence of thoughts, or the thoughts themselves are experienced as the spontaneous outpouring of insight. Life continues to be a process of creative discovery. The process of learning, unfolding, and expansion never stops. Essence continues to unfold, new dimensions arise, new modes of experience and insight emerge, new capacities manifest. The process of understanding continues; however, it is not seen as a necessity, as work, but rather as the process of creative discovery itself. Life becomes a process of creative discovery from the moment essence is recognized and experienced as one's true being. It continues to be an endless process of creative discovery when the identity shifts to essence; however, there is now the understanding that it is so. There is now the understanding and the trust that essence will bring about whatever needs to be brought about. The ego does not need to work any more. The creative process happens on its own. Ego can only obstruct it. This is true the moment essence is discovered.

When We Recognize Knowledge as the Fabric of All Experience

The soul, then, is not simply an organism of consciousness, but is also an organism of knowledge. When we recognize knowledge as the fabric of all experience, we cannot hold on to our habitual dichotomy of experiencer and experienced, knower and known. The knower is knowledge, the known is knowledge. The knower is the field, and the known is a form that this field assumes without ceasing to be the field. When we experience fear, our consciousness is the very sensations of the fear. The fear is the conscious field forming into fear, and knowing itself as fear. We might be experiencing fear in the belly, as some kind of vibration, an uncomfortable shakiness and irritation. Our consciousness is manifesting itself as fear in a particular region, and as consciousness we are aware of the fear in that region. We cannot actually separate the fear from the knowingness of the fear; they are the same arising in the belly. We do not actually know the fear in our head, even though we say we know it in our mind. The phenomenon of experience presents itself as an emotional form in the belly, a form that is itself the knowingness of what this form is. Of course we might experience fear in the belly without recognizing it as fear; but when we do recognize it, the recognition occurs at the same location as the fear, in the belly. This recognition often manifests as the form becoming clearer and more delineated.

When We Recognize the Soul, it Becomes Clear that this Experiencer is the Same Thing as the Field where all Experience Happens

When we recognize the inner vessel, and see that it is the locus of all experience, knowledge of the soul begins to unfold. Since the soul is the field where all experience happens, it becomes possible to see that there is no experiencer experiencing the inner events, apart from the soul. This field is a field of sensitivity; it is the consciousness that is conscious of such experience; so the soul is the experiencer. It is a field of sensitivity—we will shortly discuss this sensitivity in its relation to consciousness, awareness, and knowing—capable of what we call experience. It can experience anything arising within itself, within its field. Soul, we see here, is basically an organ of experience. We normally think of ourselves as the experiencer of our experiences, but we do not know what this experiencer is. When we recognize the soul, it becomes clear that this experiencer is the same thing as the field where all experience happens. The experiencer is the locus; there is no duality between subject and locus of experience.

You Can Never Only Have an Object, there is Always the Experiencer of the Object

One characteristic of dualistic perception is that it contains traces of nonduality. The separateness of subject and object is never total. What I mean is that you never find a subject by itself. A subject always implies an object. And conversely, you can never only have an object; there is always the experiencer of the object. There cannot be an other without somebody saying, “This is an other.” So, in dual experience, there is no experience of a self or a subject by itself, and there is no experience of an other or an object by itself. Subject and object, although distinct, always arise as a unit; they are always connected to each other somehow. This is a mysterious sort of perception that most of us, when we are experiencing from the conventional view, never even consider. If you are alone in your bedroom, you might notice that you are all by yourself, which is true in a sense, but you are not simply alone as a subject. You are the subject, but your object has shifted from being somebody else to being your bed or being your feeling of aloneness. As we recognize and explore this, we see that a central feature of the relationship of subject and object is not that they are two, but that they are two that are always together, two that never leave each other, two that are part of one. They are intrinsically wedded to each other. Why is this so? How come we never find a sole object or a sole subject? These are good questions. This does not mean that it is not possible, only that it is not possible in dualistic experience. In dualistic experience, object and subject go together, the other and the self go together. If we simply inquire into that, we realize that in every perception, there is always the object and the subject arising together. If we can leave aside our opinions and ideas, if we can think of it as neither good nor bad, if we can be liberated from associations, from spiritual jargon, from the past, from all other influences, we can purely perceive that subject and object arise together.

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