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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Featurelessness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Featurelessness

Ever Present Featurelessness

As we come to understand that Being can appear in this way, we recognize that this subtle featurelessness is actually implicit in all of the presentations of true nature: in absolute awareness, in primordial nonconceptual awareness, in knowingness and pure presence, in boundless love, in the dynamism of reality, in the qualities of being, and also in the everyday experience of subject and object. This kind of featurelessness is always there, and we don’t recognize it precisely because it is featureless. We are habituated to seek features. We are always identifying with one feature or another. And because there is the view or the position that if there are no features, there will be nothing—which sounds like bad news to most of us—featurelessness might feel like nothing, but it is actually everything. The experience of featureless reality is quite ordinary; everything is simple. Life goes on as usual, except there is no fixation on or stuckness in one view or another—existence or nonexistence, self or no self, dual or nondual, happening or not happening. We are just not concerned about these kinds of determinations. We live our usual life without the Velcro of attaching or fixating in any ultimate way. The total openness of featurelessness is a kind of pure not knowing. The experience is “I know. I know that I know. But I do not know what I know.” Reality is not ultimately determined by any feature, which allows it the freedom to experience all features.

Featureless Consciousness

In dual experience, we believe that duality is a permanent feature of reality. That is how most people experience life: “There is me and there is you, and we are really separate, and we can go our own way and never see each other again.” But when we experience nonduality, we see that nothing is separate. We are all an inseparable, indivisible, and formless kind of awareness. That is an important stage of spiritual experience. And total nonconceptuality further shows that even nonduality is a recognizable feature, something that can be isolated and known in contrast to the dual. The experience of total nonconceptuality reveals a featureless consciousness that cannot be experienced by contrasting it with anything else. Thus, for featureless consciousness, whether experience is dual or nondual is irrelevant—it could be either, both, or neither.

Featurelessness is the Potential for Any Feature

Total nonconceptuality, which is total featureless consciousness, allows us to see everything as an experience, perception, and realization that feels very ordinary. Everything is simple and everything is just itself. If we check to see what “itself” means, whether it means being separate from other things or not, we think, “Well, it’s neither separate nor nonseparate, because those are human concepts.” Reality here is totally nonconceptual and is not the product of individual thinking. Whether things are separate or not, which can both be true at times, is not relevant or necessary for life, not necessary for awareness, and not necessary for being. The fact that there is no concern or no relevance does not mean that there is no appreciation or love. We value all experience, but have no need to attach to any of it in an ongoing way. And in some sense, everything is relevant, because things being relevant or not is yet another polarity that we can be free from. All of the possibilities—things mattering or not mattering, things being relevant or not—are welcome. Featurelessness is the potential for any feature. If the openness is not truly featureless, it will inevitably exclude something. The fact that the openness is a featureless openness is what allows all possibilities of experience.

Realization Freeing Itself from Polar Opposites

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 is 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. This way of experiencing true nature is Total Being manifesting its featurelessness—a featurelessness that is not characterized by the feature of existence. To say that existence is a feature is also to say that nonexistence is a feature. And yet both existence and nonexistence are valid ways of experiencing reality. They are polar opposites that annul each other. When we experience featurelessness, it is as if we were a creature from a parallel universe and never heard of the concepts of existence or nonexistence. We continue to live, reality keeps happening, and the question of whether things exist or not does not occur to us. These concepts are neither denied nor negated, but are simply recognized as irrelevant. We can observe a similar dynamic in the realization of selflessness, which is an important realization in most spiritual teachings. Most traditions agree that if you don’t get to a place of selflessness, you are still stuck with a self. That is also true on this path, but we see that, at some point, as realization reveals more of its freedom, it also frees itself from the position of selflessness. We can recognize that selflessness already implies some kind of memory of a self, whether as a knowing that it is possible to be a self or as an awareness that there was a self that is now gone. Either way, we are still referring to the concept of self.

The Dichotomy Between Subject and Object

Featureless consciousness challenges all dichotomies and reveals other ways of experiencing reality. One of the features of ordinary experience is the dichotomy between subject and object; this is usually referred to as dualistic experience. We have seen that in deeper levels of realization, especially realization from the perspective of the boundlessness of true nature, the sense of duality disappears. The self and the object are not separate, and the ground and its manifestation are not separate. Reality appears here as nondual experience—it is all one fabric. But from the perspective of total nonconceptuality, both dual and nondual are features of experience; they can be isolated and can be recognized and known. When our experience is featureless, we think, “Nonduality is wonderful, but what does that have to do with me? Dual, nondual—neither of them applies to me. My experience is neither dual nor nondual.”

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