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Gone (Dissolutions)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Gone (Dissolutions)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Gone (Dissolutions)

At Home, Soul’s Reason for Her Search is Gone

At this point the soul is surprised by new feelings and realizations that occur spontaneously, as if brought home by the power of the self-realization. What spontaneously arises, without self-reflection or reasoning, is the feeling that the soul is at the end of a certain phase of life and work. She feels she has accomplished the task she had set for herself, or is in the last stages of finishing it. She recognizes her worldly accomplishments and her realization of her true nature. But the feeling is more general than the specific accomplishments. It is a sense of finishing something. There is a feeling of space or room left, open for new possibilities. She begins to feel completely relaxed and settled. Upon inquiry she feels she has reached her destination, even though she did not know it was the absolute that she was looking for. There results a sense of having lots of time, energy, and space to spare. She may feel willing and happy to give her time and energy to others. She feels at home now; her search is ended. It is as if she has been on a journey, searching for her beloved and her true home, but she did not know it consciously, at least she did not think of it in these terms. She does not have to decide to stop the search; the seeking ceases on its own, for the drive for seeking is spent. She sees that she has been consciously or unconsciously seeking, regardless what she was doing or involved in, because she was actually away from home, estranged in the profoundest way. Now she is home, and the reason for her search is gone. It is truly gone, not because she understands there is no need to seek, but because she does not feel the seeking energy anymore. The seeking energy is simply the tension of separation and the love for the union.

Childhood Loss of Pure Absolute Value

There is another reason why when we start perceiving our essence, we start seeing it in other places where it doesn’t exist and tend to idealize and admire situations or people who don’t have what we believe they have. The reason is that when our essence is lost in childhood, when our parents didn’t see our value, didn’t value us for just being there, our own value was lost. The essential aspect of pure, absolute value is gone. A deficiency results, leaving a hole in the place of that loss. When an essential state is cut off, the result is what we call a hole, a deficiency, a lack. We attempt to fill that hole by trying to get value from the outside, instead of seeing that the value was ours to start with and that we were just cut off from it. But there is an even more difficult complication, which is that one way to fill the hole is to make a false value, to pretend you have value when you don’t feel that you really do. It’s too painful to feel the absence of value, so most people create false essence to cover up that feeling of lack. This is what the personality consists of—false qualities of Essence. We call the personality the “false pearl.” Each person retains the memory of what was lost and will try to imitate it, try to act, believe, and feel in ways that are so close to the essential states that after a while the person fools herself and other people as well. Some people do this more than others, and some people are better at it than others. The personality is really nothing but an impostor trying to take the place of Essence.

Dissolved Self-Image

The final outcome of the process of disidentification is the experience of the dissolution of the psychic structure or self-image. This is the experience of space, of what is sometimes called the void—when self-image is dissolved, the person will experience the loss of boundaries, both physical and mental. The nature of the mind is then revealed as an emptiness, a void, an immaculately empty space. The void and the absence of the identifications that form the psychic structure are the same thing. There are various depths and levels of empty space. We can say that the beginning of the void is the absence of identification with the self- image. There is self-image but there is no identification with it. What results is the inner sense of expansion and spaciousness. Then, at a deeper level, the self-image is gone, dissolved. There is only the experience of empty open space, which is boundless, clear, and crisp. The focus is not on the content of the mind but on the spacious emptiness that is its nature.

Emptiness Means that Space is Gone, Distance is Gone, You and Your Experience as Two Separate Things is Gone

The Kernel of the Kernel has the clarity and the freshness of pure awareness, the nowness and fullness of presence, and the depth of the intimacy of emptiness. They are all present distinctly, explicitly, and yet there is absolutely no separation between them. They are completely one, completely indivisible, and nevertheless explicitly discernible. Even though they are all one explicit thereness, we can feel it as complete absence, completely nothing there and everything there at the same time, in the same shot, in the same perception. This is the paradox of enlightened awareness. The lack of obstruction of the emptiness, of the nonbeingness, makes transparent the actual presence. The absolute emptiness allows the perception or the feeling, allows whatever is there, to be so, fully and clearly. So the absence or the nonbeing doesn’t mean there is an empty space between you and what you experience. Emptiness means that space is gone, distance is gone, you and your experience as two separate things is gone. The intimacy between you and what you experience is total. At the same time, the emptiness is completely private; it is the innerness of your awareness and consciousness. Nothing penetrates the emptiness, because any thought, any feeling, any state that faces the emptiness instantly dissolves. You can only enter the privacy by giving up your being. And yet, thoughts and dimensions and forms manifest in presence and in clarity, in a clarity that is a graceful fullness. By seeing through the innate ignorance about the underlying ground of what we experience, we arrive at this paradoxical mystery of the totality and the fullness and the emptiness of this ground.

Fully Trusting, Even Unconscious Fears are Gone

Let’s look further into what trust is. Let’s say that trust is what gives the security and the safety and the confidence to allow yourself to be open in a situation, allowing whatever is there to happen without resisting it, without having to protect or defend yourself against it. That’s a good operative definition of trust for now. Within this concept of trust, there are two levels. The first level, the superficial one, is the willingness to trust. You feel no conscious resistance. You can say, “Yes, I trust. I don’t want to resist you or the situation.” That is one level. The deeper level is actually doing it—not resisting, even unconsciously. So the superficial level is consciously not wanting to resist, consciously not defending, consciously feeling safe and secure enough to let yourself be open and surrender to the situation. Perhaps that’s all a person can do at a given moment, even though there is still an unconscious distrust. On the deeper level, the person trusts all the way; even the unconscious fears are gone. Then there’s a complete openness, a complete lack of resistance, defensiveness, or protectiveness, a complete lack of fear or paranoia, a complete surrender. Not just willingness to surrender, but really surrendering. On the first level, there might be a willingness to surrender, but not the capacity to surrender. On the deeper level, there is the capacity to surrender, to be there, to yield to the situation.

If Essence is Gone You are Dead

The presence of Essence with its truth, its intrinsic blissfulness, and its intelligence, is there all the time—it cannot go. If Essence is gone, you are dead. You can’t be conscious or aware without Essence. So when we perceive that Essence comes and goes, we are saying that it is limited, indicating that we are projecting a past relationship onto it, relating to it as though it were our mother. It also means that we have not yet fully understood that Essence is our essence, as fundamental to us as atoms are to the physical body. It is not something detachable from the soul that can come and go. It is the actual substance of the soul. When we don’t know this for certain, it means that our experience is incomplete and that we need to keep inquiring into what is limiting our experience. We need to ask ourselves, “Why do I believe that Essence is something that comes and goes? Where does that idea come from? What’s that experience like?” If the view that we are discussing is accurate, if Holy Truth is the nature of all of reality, what gives rise to the experience that it comes and goes? Where could it come from and where could it go to? So if we have an understanding of how things really are—if we know the view of objective reality—then every time we experience Essence as coming and going, instead of believing this projected past relation, we can say to ourselves, “Wait a minute! That’s not how it really is, but I’m experiencing it that way. What does this mean?” We have some guidance, an orientation toward our experience. We recognize a distortion, even when it feels real; and the more we see our distortions, the more faith in Essence arises.

Facets of Unity, pg. 247

If the Center that Possesses is Gone then there is No You that Has Something and then You Experience Everything

If you have deficiency, you are still rich. Poverty is complete freedom. Poverty ultimately becomes completely pure, completely empty. This turns out to be the absolute state, the state of having absolutely nothing. Nothing is yours; you are beyond everything. The clothes are not yours, the feelings, the body, essence, God—nothing is yours. When you have nothing and you are absolutely poor, then you go beyond it all. But then you can have it all, since you don’t need it anymore. So, ultimately, the letting go means letting go of the center that possesses. If the center that possesses is gone, then there is no you that has something, and then you experience everything. Possession involves an entity that restricts you in space and time. If you have an experience or a state or a possession, then you must exist somewhere in space and time, which is a limitation. By being rich, you define yourself and make yourself exist in a limited way: “I am here now and I have something.” And when you have nothing, completely, absolutely, then you are not in any place or in any time. If you are not in any space or any time, you are not a local phenomenon. You have all space and all time available to you. You are then an openness, a nothingness that has everything with no barrier. That’s the paradox to which Jesus was referring. If you become poor in spirit, you will be in the kingdom of heaven. If you are completely poor, you get nothing absolutely, which ontologically is the same thing as having everything. The switch point concerns the sense of an existing self, the feeling that there is a me who has or who doesn’t have. The transition is that the sense of self goes. Before that goes, you have things or you don’t have things. That central sense of self who is going to have this, who is going to be enlightened, who is going to experience God, who is going to get rich, who is going to have pleasure, is what ultimately goes.

In the Experience of Nonbeing the Medium of Space is Gone

The emptiness that is the source of the freedom of the dynamism manifests in many ways and degrees. I’ve mentioned various qualities of spaciousness going toward nothingness and openness, toward absence and nonbeing. The nonbeingness of Being opens up the presence of Being and imbues everything with a lightness, a freedom, an expansiveness, and a transparency. We can experience that the innerness of presence is its total lack of obstruction because there is nothing in it to obstruct, not even a sense of medium. So that dimension of experiencing emptiness as nonbeing means recognizing emptiness without the medium of space. In the experience of nonbeing, the medium of space is gone. This is, of course, a mysterious kind of understanding. The mind cannot grasp it, but when we actually experience this nonbeingness, it is an unmistakably clear and precise recognition and awareness that brings about total transparency and intimacy. This understanding of nonbeing moves the experience of the unity of Being to reveal its luminosity and its radiance. As we know from the various boundless dimensions, we can experience the unity of Being before we experience the dimension of nonbeing. Experiencing the emptiness of self reveals that the unity of Being cannot be without, at the same time, being the flip side, which is nonbeing.

It is True that When All Concepts are Gone there Remains One More Thing, Consciousness Itself

Inner realization is a process of shedding, of losing what one takes oneself to be, to ultimately become what one is, without need for any external support, not even one’s mind. This description is not metaphorical; one actually experiences the disappearance of great realms of one’s identity. As one goes deeper and deeper, one realizes that one is shedding concepts that one had taken to be absolute truths. The shedding of all concepts is the realization of the Nonconceptual Nameless Reality, what is. Nothing can be said to describe it because one can only use concepts to describe. Yet the shedding is still not absolute. It is true that all concepts are gone, but there remains one more thing—consciousness itself. The nature of the Nameless is pure consciousness, consciousness that is conscious of consciousness, without labeling or knowing anything. There is consciousness, but there is no knowing of what is known, or what knows; there are no conceptual categories. Huang Po says: “. . . you would find it formless, occupying no point in space and falling neither into the category of existence nor into that of non-existence.” [Translated by John Blofeld, The Zen Teachings of Huang Po, p. 87]

Even consciousness, which is not exactly a concept, can be shed. At some point, usually without anticipating it, one realizes that one is perceiving the Nameless Reality as external to oneself. One becomes aware that one is beyond the Nameless, and the world that it supports, as an unknowable mystery. The Nonconceptual Reality, which is the ground of the world of concepts, is experienced here as not absolutely real. In fact, it is experienced as a radiance, ephemeral and insubstantial, in relation to and emanating from an unfathomable Absolute. One realizes that one’s most absolute nature, which turns out to be the underlying nature of all of existence, transcends not only the mind, but consciousness itself. One is the beyond, beyond whatever can be experienced or perceived. Absence is seen as an incomplete glimpse into the Absolute. One is the ultimate subject, which cannot be an object of perception, and hence is unknown and unknowable. The Absolute is not aware of itself, but awareness of everything else proceeds from it, while what characterizes consciousness is that it is conscious of itself.

Merging Love Creates a State with No Boundaries

When you know your essence, you can allow yourself to experience merging love with another person; you don’t feel the need for barriers between you and the other. When you feel your beingness and the beingness of the other, it is okay for them to become one beingness. When there is no issue of me and you, of boundaries and separation, then there is no issue of us as One. Merging love creates a state with no barriers. There are no barriers then between you and anyone or anything, between you and your body, your surroundings, your car, the whole universe. You feel you are sharing in everything, you are part of everything, melted with everything. Your heart is open and melting like butter. This is a deeper aspect of who you are, a deeper realization of yourself. You begin to know yourself without reference to your body, your feelings or your environment. You are a depth. You look into the distance and you don’t feel you are looking at the distance; you are the distance. You look up into the sky, into the clouds and you don’t feel you are looking into the clouds. There is no distance between you and the clouds. You are the clouds. You are here and everywhere. Your boundaries are gone and the belief in boundaries is gone. They have melted away. This kind of love is one of the most difficult for people to experience in love relationships even though it is exactly what they say they want.

Perception Going Beyond Concepts

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.

Real Merging Means the Boundaries Between the Two are Gone Completely

Attachment involves one thing attaching to another, a subject attaching to an object. The desire is for loss of the boundaries, but in attachment boundaries are created, because you make two, one attached to another. “I” want to have “this.” So there is an “I,” there is “this,” and the “I” wants “this” forever. This is a misunderstanding of what union or connection is. Real merging means the boundaries between the two are gone completely. Then there is no one attached to another, no one holding onto someone else, no octopus with its prey; there is only one thing. Ultimately, attachment is caused by desire and fear, desire for the good and fear of the bad, desire for pleasure and fear of pain, desire for life and fear of death. If you examine fear and desire you will see that fear itself is based on desire, fear of death is desire for life, and that its opposite, fear of life, is desire for death. Desire is there because of the absence of understanding. What will free us from attachment is understanding, or knowledge of how things really are. So we could say that attachment is based on fear and desire, fear is based on desire, and desire is based on lack of understanding or ignorance. If we are ignorant, we end up being attached. We are ignorant of the actual fact that union is the absence of boundaries. We create more boundaries with our attachments, which then stop us from getting exactly what it is we think we want.

Realization Going Beyond Knowing

No sacred cows survive the realization of the nonconceptual, and one’s realization becomes independent from any belief or teaching. He recognizes that who and what he is is ultimately beyond any category, including all the spiritual categories. He realizes that Reality is not a description, and that any description, any teaching or belief system, regardless how useful and accurate, falls short of Reality as it is. He recognizes the uniqueness of his realization without having to compare it with others, and appreciates the differences between the various teachings without having to rate them. His realization has gone beyond conceptual categories and, hence, beyond comparisons and ratings. He believes in nothing, and adheres to no teaching or religion as final and ultimate. He has become a universal heretic, embracing all, yet free of all. In the Diamond Approach, this realization is related to the crystal vehicle of the citadel. It is the timeless wisdom leading to nonconceptual certainty. One attains here a certainty beyond doubt, because it is independent of belief, of knowledge, and of any intellectual or experiential category. One is oneself, and sees Reality as it is, with a nonconceptual conviction. The person’s realization has gone beyond knowing and, hence, beyond any doubt or questioning. It is not that he feels certain because he is convinced, for he is beyond convincing. He is not convinced of anything, not even of the truth of his own personal and ascertained experiences and perceptions. He is certain because there is nothing to be certain about, and nothing to doubt. In fact, there is no such thing as doubt, for the mind that doubts is the discriminating mind. This realization becomes what we call certainty only when he contemplates it conceptually. He understands that certainty is unquestionable only when it is nonconceptual, when it is not certainty about anything, but simply the solidity and rootedness of one’s realization of nonconceptual truth.

Sensing that the Passage of Time is Gone

In the lucidity of space, a question appears, carefree and delighted: “And what is me?” Nothing recognizable by memory. I experience myself, without a feeling of self, as the simplicity of presence, which is now a simplicity of perception, a bare witnessing. There is no inner dialogue, and no commentary on what is perceived. The perceiving is without a perceiver, awareness without an observer. Without self-reflection, the simplicity of presence is merely the simplicity of witnessing. I am a witness of all in the field of vision, a witness with no inside. The witness is merely the witnessing. The only thing left from familiar experience is the location of witnessing, which seems to be determined by the location of the body. The body is relaxed and clear. The sense of the body is more of luminosity than of sensation, witnessed as part of the environment. Time does not seem to pass; it has come to a stop. When the psychic constellation that has given me the familiar sense of identifying myself ceases, the sense of the passage of time is gone. In the simplicity of presence, time does not pass, for the sense of the passage of time is simply the continuity of the feeling of the familiar identity. Simplicity of presence, when it is complete, is timelessness. Timelessness is completely being the simplicity of presence. Timelessness is not an idea, a thought in the mind. It is the fullness of the experience of presence of Being, pure and prior to thought or self-reflection.

The Moment Being Liberated Becomes a Big Deal, It’s Gone

Being liberated means there is no clinging to anything; there is no worry, no concern, no heaviness. The mind is not fixated, focused or bound to any particular content; you are aware of whatever arises in the mind, without effort, without even trying to be aware. You don’t care whether you are sensing your essence, or even whether your essence is there. Whether you are happy or sad, whether a person is there with you or not, none of these things seem important. For the moment you’re completely free from all the concerns in your life. This state can never be achieved by striving for it. It will just happen one day, and if you notice it you won’t think it’s a big deal. You’ll go on eating your dinner or whatever you are doing. The moment it becomes a big deal, it’s gone. The moment you have the attitude of, “Oh, wonderful! I want to know what’s going on—I want to hang on to this,” it’s gone. Holding on is exactly what is absent in this state, and because of the tendency to grasp this subtle state, it can be very fleeting. It’s very simple, the simplest thing there is. Young children are in this state much of the time, a state without concern for anything in particular, daydreaming or playing. But because of our early experiences, our minds become set in a certain direction, so that we fixate on a certain part of reality and reject the rest. This selectivity is the loss of the state. It occurs very early in life, but the fixation doesn’t usually become dominant until age five to seven. Until then, the experience of this state comes and goes, but gradually is experienced less and less often. Throughout life it comes and goes, for some people more often than others. It is a state of release, but without a conscious feeling of release; everything is loose. This condition of freedom is not like liberation from some particular oppression; it is the raw state of liberation itself, so liberating that it doesn’t matter what your experience is.

The Moment Consciousness Dawns and Self-Reflection Starts and Knowing Happens, You’re Gone, You’re Lost

It is our lot as human beings to fall into a momentous error. This error is so momentous that we not only end up not knowing and not recognizing who or what we are, but we end up not seeing the world around us as it is. We are born with physical bodies, and we grow up little by little to become independent, functioning human beings, and through this long process mind develops. At some point we see ourselves not as the reality that we truly are, that we were born as, but we start seeing and believing the reality which is our conditioned mind. Our awareness of our true reality and potential is so fragile, so delicate, so pure, that even in the moment we notice it, it disappears. The moment you begin knowing you are here, The moment consciousness dawns and self-reflection starts and knowing happens, you're gone, you're lost.  What you are, what reality is—gone. Completely gone. You cannot say that it is forgotten, because it is not really a content of your mind. It just becomes unperceived and unperceivable. A certain natural development of the mind, of our cognitive and functional capacities, is necessary to enable us to live and to function. However, this development tends to establish us in a perspective which is not an accurate reflection of reality. This perspective tends to exclude some aspects of reality and emphasize others, and the perspective that allows us to function in the world tends to become the only reality that we perceive. We take a very small part to be the whole. This loss is much more momentous than can be imagined from the perspective of conventional reality.

The Only Way We Can Experience Complete Nothingness is For the Usual Consciousness to Go

Because our normal consciousness can only experience things as someone experiencing something else, we cannot experience nothing without its being changed, mellowed down, bounded, because our usual awareness is very restricted and limited. Its tendency is restriction, limitation, specialization, labeling, and conceptualizing. The only way we can experience complete nothingness is for the usual consciousness to go. When it is gone, it is experienced as its absence, and its absence is seen as the absence of everything. It is not seen only as the absence of everything, but is also the absence of the absence of everything. This experience is called cessation or extinction: complete death. It is what people usually think of as death. It is exactly how death is. You don’t have to die physically to experience it. This does not mean necessarily that if you die physically you’ll experience this kind of death. It is the complete cessation and absence of everything. As I said, this experience is needed partly because the personality has its own consciousness, which has to go. However, after it goes, it is possible for another kind of consciousness to be there to experience the complete, unbounded, limitless space as it is. There is a need for a complete, unbounded, limitless consciousness to experience nothingness. With your own consciousness, you cannot experience real unboundedness, real limitlessness. In the experience of the actual, unbounded, complete infinity of nothingness, your consciousness itself is unbounded, limitless, and infinite, which means not individual, not restricted, and not separate from what is experienced. When that kind of consciousness manifests, it is what is called cosmic consciousness, or universal consciousness, or primordial mind.

There Can Be Inquiry, Even with Stillness, when the Mind is Completely Gone

There can be inquiry even with stillness, when the mind is completely gone. We assume that there is no possibility of inquiry in this state, but that is not true, because inquiry does not have to be verbal. You may think that you have to ask questions with words, but if you say that, you have already put a boundary on how inquiry can proceed. Maybe inquiry can proceed in other ways. Maybe there is curiosity without words, without mind. So even the state of stillness, where there is no mind, can have an inquiring quality to it. There are no limitations. The fact that experience continues shows that there is an infinite possibility for inquiring. Regardless of how deep and enlightened one’s experience is, it is possible to go further, to have experience open up more. When we appreciate this fact, inquiry can bring us an intrinsic energy that has a sense of deep and thrilling freshness, as if your blood were nuclear energy that is moving and bursting with aliveness, bursting with drive. The drive here is not effort but movement—an inexorable, powerful movement, an unfolding. Being is then always opening up with power, with energy, with strength, with intelligence, with gentleness. Sometimes the opening is delicate, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes bursting, sometimes quiet.

This Innocence, this Virginity, this Newness is Delicate. The Slightest Idea Arises About It and It is Gone, Erased

To be like a real baby means to not know, and to not know that you do not know. You do not want and you do not know that you do not want. You do not know what to do, and you do not know whether there is something to do or there isn’t anything to do. The moment you know what to do, you are already using the past. You are already taking direction. You’ve already separated things: you are choosing one part of your mind over another when you say, “I know what to do.” Knowing reality, knowing what to do about it, wanting something from reality, desiring it, feeling dissatisfied by it—all these are indications of living in the old, dead world. All these things merely perpetuate the dead and make it more dead. If you really let it be, let yourself penetrate to reality, let your perception penetrate to reality, reality is absolute virginity. Reality is total innocence, so innocent that you do not know anything and you do not know whether it is important to know anything or not. You do not know what to do and you cannot say anything about that, good or bad. This innocence, this virginity, this newness, is delicate, very, very delicate. The slightest idea arises about it and it is gone, erased. To be completely innocent means to perceive newly, freshly. Reality, right now, has nothing to do with what I remember from yesterday. To perceive reality, you need to be innocent in the sense that you do not know anything you do not know what reality is, and you do not know whether there is such a thing. You do not know whether there is something there to look for or not look for—you are completely innocent. You haven’t known anything yet. You are there, you are being there, but you aren’t feeling that you are being there. You do not even know that. It is mysterious. It is not mysterious because it is obscure or hidden; it is mysterious because it is so totally new. It is totally new and you do not even know it when you see it; it is a direct tasting. If you know it, you make it old.

To Believe that When the Mind is Gone We Will Not See Anything . . .

If we can be without the mind even for a little while, many of the subtle obstacles and identifications, as well as the conceptualizations underlying our reifications, can be exposed. We can see the discrimination, the labeling, and how all of these activities are the natural activities of the mind—necessary for navigating our practical life but not necessary for us to be ourselves. To be who we are, we don’t need these things. To be what we are—just to be, just to be alive—we don’t need them. But many people think that if mind is gone, there will be no experience. In fact, the opposite is true: awareness continues with more intensity, more clarity, more transparency; colors are more vivid and forms are much more distinct. That is because everything becomes much more itself, since all the veils, all the projections, all the concepts are gone. We perceive without anything intervening, so everything is naked as itself. To believe that when the mind is gone, we won’t see anything, we must believe that everything exists only in our limited, discursive mind. Hence, from the place that is beyond mind, we do not reify nondoing, because we don’t conceptualize it. The awareness that is beyond mind cannot make any distinction between doing and nondoing because the distinction between doing and nondoing is conceptual; it involves knowing. We see here the layer where conceptualization becomes the obstacle, the barrier. The reification of the concepts of doing and nondoing in this dimension of experience is not the barrier—the conceptualization itself, the knowing itself, is the obstacle. Actually, it is even more subtle than that. The knowing itself is not inherently an obstacle, but because it can easily become the ground for reification, it becomes the building block that the mind uses to reify.

When All the Concepts and Categories are Gone, Only the Nonconceptual Awareness Remains

Pure consciousness feels like deep presence. Sometimes the experience is that conscious presence thins out little by little as you abide in it. After a while only a few atoms of consciousness remain here and there. You begin to realize the absence in the place between these atoms, the place they are manifesting, the place where there is absolutely nothing. These atoms feel like islands of consciousness, awareness, and sensation in the ocean of absence surrounding them. At some point even these few atoms of conscious presence disappear, and consciousness totally ceases. There is a gap in your experience. At some point you perceive again, awareness returns, and with it the whole manifest world. What we’re seeing here is that self-realization is ultimately self-annihilation. We don’t gain anything. Rather, we are going to lose everything. We lose the concepts of our mind, one after another, one category after another: people, objects, values. When all the concepts and categories are gone, only the nonconceptual awareness, which is a field of pure consciousness, remains. This spontaneously dissolves into its underlying ground, absolute nonbeing, total absence of being. This nonbeing, when we recognize it as the ground and inner secret of all of reality, is the night of reality, the inner of the inner. This is the Guest.

When Boundaries are Completely Gone You Don’t Experience Yourself as an Individual

Unity is a very deep experience. It is the absence of boundaries. When boundaries are completely gone, you don’t experience yourself as a separate individual, and there is no boundary between one thing and another. There is unity: This is the universal identity. When you feel that you are everything, that everything is one, still there is a concept, the concept of unity. Beyond that concept, however, the way reality ultimately is, is neither unity, nor non-unity. The way things are is just the way things are. Saying it is unity is your own comment.

When Essence is Gone

This state of taking the personality as the true identity and master of our life is what the Sufis call the state of sleep. The Sufi master Sanai of Afghanistan puts it this way: “Humanity is asleep, concerned only with what is useless, living in a wrong world.” The essence is gone, and the personality claims its position. The shell claims to be the essence. The lie claims to be the truth. No wonder man is said to be living upside down. This situation is illustrated in graphic detail by a Sufi story that tells how the servants of a large house take it over when the master leaves for a long period. In time they forget that they are the servants; they forget their true positions and function. Eventually, they even believe they own the house. It is not possible for the average person who is identified with his personality to understand or appreciate the significance and the far-reaching consequences of this subversion. The average person actually, albeit mistakenly, believes that his personality is he himself. He has no context for comparing the experience of his personality with what he lost. He can only compare the experiences of his personality. The beauty and the wonder of essence is completely lost to him.

When Everything is Gone when Everything is Night, that Will be the Guest

You see, the Guest is not something you will get, not something you will attain. The Guest is something that will erase you, that will make you disappear. The Guest is something that will burn you up completely. You can’t even call it who you truly are, because it is before you were. You can’t call it the nature of the universe, because it is before the universe was and will be there after the universe goes. When everything is gone, “you” is gone, everybody else is gone, the universe is gone—when everything is night, that will be the Guest. When the night is pure, when the night is before there were stars in it, when the night is pure night, complete night, nothing but night, then the Guest has arrived. Then the Secret has no other—there is simply the primordial potential. The only glimpse you can get of the Secret is not the Secret but the beginning of creation, the thunder and lightning filling the universe. The Secret of the universe turns out to be its absence, its vanishing, its nonbeing. The universe is, but in its isness lies the deep Secret that this being is only the appearance of nonbeing. By vanishing, the soul clears the way for the Beloved. Now the Beloved takes its rightful place, the throne it made for itself, the heart it gave you. What do you say at such times? There can only be saying without knowing there is saying. There is living, total involvement in living without the slightest consciousness that you live. Then all that is you is there. Nothing, absolutely nothing is held back. All the veils of light and darkness are gone. What you are is all that you are. In other words, to live as the Guest is the experience of what was the back being the front, nothing else remaining behind. The Guest is like the back of all existence, while all manifestation is the front. When the Guest has arrived, when the Secret has moved to the foreground, then the back is the front. There is no more back, for the back is right there at the front.

When the Attachment to the Body is Understood . . . the Need for the Attachment is Gone

When the attachment to the body is understood, all the attachments begin to dissolve; you know that it is not you. You know you would exist without it. The need for the attachment is gone. Then there is no fear and desire that will lead to the attachment to that particular body, to that particular level of identification. When the attachment to the body is understood, and you go through the death experience, you know you are not any of these things, images or sensations, and you see the true identity of essence, the true self. This is death and rebirth. This is referred to in the The Tibetan Book of the Dead: if someone is conscious during the death experience then self-realization will occur. You are aware of your true identity. The true identity will expose the false identity, the personality. So the death experience is needed to see the true identity, which in turn will reveal the false identity, what most people call “myself.” There are many other levels. When you ask people “What is yourself?” they respond according to their level. At the surface level someone will call their card-holder identity “myself.” If someone is at the body-image level they will call that image “myself.” If you are sensing your body at a deeper level you will call those sensations “myself.” There are many other levels. If you pursue this question of who you are, what is your self, you may discover that none of that is really you. But to know that, the true identity must be there, to make the contrast. Then we can directly experience the very subtle psychological identity, which we call “the pea.” Everyone has a pea. The pea is what is called ego identity in psychological literature, and in spiritual literature it is called “the ego.”

When the Sense of Presence is Lost, the Last Foothold for the Sense of Self (Identity or Person) is Gone

The loss of the concept of Presence happens through the realization of the ultimate void (Sunyata), which is the absence of conceptualization. This is another radical departure from one’s previous experience. One goes from a sense of absolute presence to a sense of absolute Absence. One here realizes that for the first time a complete cessation of the sense of self is attained. There is no experience of self or person, without consciousness that there is no self or person. When the sense of presence is lost, the last foothold for the sense of self (identity or person) is gone. In the state of Absence there is no self-consciousness at all, and one realizes that it is the self-reflective movement of the mind that is the core of the sense of self. Roberts describes her discovery of this truth this way:

Before this event took place, I had never noticed how automatically and unconsciously the mind was aware of itself, or how continually conscious I had been of my own awareness in all mental processes, or in all my thoughts, words, and deeds. But when this reflexive movement came to an end, I suddenly realized the profound roots of self-consciousness, roots that unknowingly had infiltrated every aspect of my existence. [Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self, p. 148]

It is not until this realization of Absence that one realizes that usually there is a continuous and incessant sense or feeling of self or I. Every experience is related to this I. Now there is experience and perception of experience, but it is not related to an I, not even to the I of oneness. There is pure awareness of phenomena, with complete absence of self or center. The Absence is so complete that there is not even consciousness of the Absence. The complete absorption in this condition is the cessation of all sensation and consciousness of oneself. There is Absence and there is absence of the consciousness of Absence. It is like deep sleep but one is not asleep.

When We Thoroughly Understand Something, It’s Gone

That is exactly what understanding something means. To understand something means ultimately to sacrifice it, to let it go, to be done with it. If we do not let it go, if we keep holding on to it, we have not fully understood it. When we thoroughly understand something, it’s gone—whether it’s an aspect of the personality or an aspect of essence. We’re attached to it only when we haven’t completely understood it. The path of the heart shows us that everything we become attached to remains in our heart, filling the abode of the Guest. Our attachments become idols filling the sacred space of the Kaaba, the holy place of the absolute Beloved. We need to recognize all our attachments, even to spiritual states, as distractions. All the levels of realization—even though they’re good, wonderful, and useful, and inevitably we fall in love with them—are ultimately seen to be distractions. As long as we can conceive what it is we realize, as long as we can remember it, as long as we have a relationship to it, even if it is a deep realization, it is a distraction. That still is not the Secret. And anything we realize, anything we understand, will stop being a distraction and the attachment to it will fall away the moment the relationship to it disappears. When there is no duality of subject and object, when you and what you realize become one, only then is it sacrificed, only then is it gone. In that very second of complete understanding and realization, you go beyond it. Understanding is the last step toward transcendence. You cannot hold on to something unless you don’t completely understand it. Because of this we can say that the search, or the work, is a process of continual disappointment. You find something, and then you realize you haven’t found anything. You get something, and then you realize you haven’t gotten anything. Whatever we find is not it, whatever we have is not it, whatever we get is not it, and whatever we love is not it. As long as the subject remains separate from the object, it’s not it.

When You Know All the Time, Faith is Gone

There is belief; there is faith that results from belief; there is faith that results from knowledge; and there is knowledge. When knowledge is there all the time, there is no need for faith. I don’t need to have faith in my Essence; I always know it’s there. Most people take faith to mean the belief itself or the feeling that comes out of believing something—which means they still don’t know. They will say, “I don’t know. I just have faith that this is true.” But when one knows, the faith is unshakable. When you know all the time, faith is gone. So in the beginning there is no faith, then there is faith, and at the end there is no faith. Faith is the intermediate state, the transition between belief and knowing. In many religions, faith is important because the church leaders do not have precise, direct knowledge. They emphasize belief and devotion to the doctrine, although at the heart or beginning of most religions, there was actual knowledge, the direct experience. In some religions like Buddhism, you don’t hear much about faith at all. They speak of it once in a while, but it’s not a big deal. They rely more on the immediate, direct experience of something. At least that is what is emphasized in Buddhist texts.

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