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Identity (True Identity)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Identity (True Identity)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Identity (True Identity)

Attachment to the True Identity Will Keep You Separate

The only possible way to regain Oneness, the original oneness that we want, is to allow the identity to dissolve. The separate identity needs to go, even the true identity. Attachment to the true identity will keep you separate because attachment creates boundaries. The boundaries need to be lost, and the boundaries can only be lost by the loss of identity itself, by the loss of the separate self. When that goes, then it is possible to see that you are not separate from the original consciousness, that there is only one consciousness, one existence. That is what we call the cosmic level. At this cosmic level you understand that true merging is a loss of your boundaries, so you are One. If there’s a sense of identity, there is not One. You might perceive the cosmic consciousness, but if you are not dissolved in it you can still be attached to it. When there is no individual identity, no boundaries, you will know that what you have always wanted is this dissolution, merging into One. To merge means to lose your self, without holding onto something; you have to lose yourself completely, even your desire, your wanting. After ego extinction there is cosmic identity or cosmic consciousness. Now the identity, the ego is gone, but there might still be attachment. We have dissolved the roots of attachment, fear, and desire but the process of attachment itself, the actual activity of attachment can exist without a center. One can have a very subtle attachment to the cosmic identity. It doesn’t even feel like attachment. You can experience God, which is what’s called the cosmic identity, but as long as you want only that there is still some preference, some attachment. Now the identity is seen as the cosmic ocean, but there remains some identity, though it’s not personal. On the personality or essential levels there is no identity, but the cosmic identity is still there.

Ego Sense of Identity Coalesced Around the Vague Memory of the True Identity

The sense of identity of the personality exists because there is an unconscious memory of this true self. The personality's sense of identity develops through the loss of the true self. The child had it to start with, but its loss led to the development, through internalizations and identifications, of the ego sense of identity coalesced around the vague memory of the true identity. A self-representation is felt as relating to self because of this vague memory of self. This is the reason for the vagueness about identity in everybody's experience. This true self, the spark of our life, the most alive and most brilliant aspect of essence, is, so to speak, the source of all essential aspects. It is like the star of Bethlehem, witnessing the birth of essence. Many work systems, many teachings, aim all of their efforts toward finally beholding and realizing the true self, our source, the brilliant point of it all. This true identity, this aspect of I-ness, is what Ramana Maharshi, for instance, wanted his disciples to reach when he exhorted them to contemplate the question Who am I? To free this aspect means finally to shift the identity from the ego to the essence. This is the most difficult part of the process. Even after essence in its various aspects is uncovered and freed, the individual finds that he still believes in his personality. He still holds tenaciously to the personality. The essence is present, but the individual still thinks of himself and very often acts, if he is not paying attention, as if he is the personality. That is why the death of this identity is so strongly stressed by all true teachings. But obviously it cannot be a burning one for the individual until essence is realized because his experience is mainly limited by the personality. In fact, until then, it is very difficult for such a person to understand or appreciate the issue of the death of the personality.

Essential Identity is the Purest, Most Specific and Most Differentiated Form of Essential Experience

We have noted that the usual feeling of identity is a vague sense of self-recognition with which we are always identified. But we rarely isolate or directly contemplate it. Doing so actually tends to precipitate the experience of the Essential Identity, as is demonstrated by the results of the traditional spiritual practice of constantly asking oneself the question, “Who am I?” This practice can lead to increasing disidentification with the more superficial aspects of the self, particularly the self-images, until one’s experience of self shifts to the dimension of Essence, with the true identity as the center of the self. One feels simply, “I am present, this is me.” This sense cannot be completely described, but it can be recognized. The Essential Identity is the purest, most specific, and most differentiated form of essential experience. This complete definiteness and delineation of perception is not possible in the conventional dimension of experience; it is specific to the intrinsic discriminating property of the domain of Essence. 

Essential Identity is the True Identity on the Essential Level

Because the Essential Identity is the true identity on the essential level, when the self loses contact with it, it loses the capacity to be identified with Being; thus, it loses the capacity for self-realization. In order to understand this point more exactly, we need to investigate the relationship between the Essential Identity and Being in general. As we have seen, the presence of Being, which is the essence of the self, manifests as a structured dynamism in which presence arises in various forms. We call these manifestations aspects of Essence. Each of these pure forms of Being possesses phenomenological qualities along with specific functions in relation to the self. The Essential Identity is one of these forms. In the last chapter we discussed two of its qualities—the sense of being a unique, differentiated locus of existence, and a feeling of identity. Each aspect of Being is an expression of the same reality. Each of them is part of the essence of the self, constituting its ontological core. The Essential Identity additionally provides the self with the capacity to identify with Being, to be Being. 

Feeling Completely Intimate with Our True Identity

The experience self-realization, of knowing oneself as self-pervasive consciousness, is felt experientially as an exquisite sense of intimacy. The self-existing consciousness experiences itself so immediately that it is completely intimate with its reality. The intimacy is complete because there is no mediation in the self’s experience of itself. We feel an exquisite stillness, a peace beyond all description, and a complete sense of being truly ourselves. We are so totally ourselves that we feel directly intimate with every atom of our consciousness, completely intimate with and mixed with our true identity. The contentment is like settling down peacefully at home after eons of restless and agonized wandering. Clarity and peace combine as the feeling of exquisite, contented intimacy, which is totally independent of the particulars of our situation, beyond the conceptual confines of time and space. The peace and contentment do not come from accomplishing anything, nor are they a result of anything. They are part of the actual feeling of being truly ourselves.

Finally Experiencing Your True Identity

When you finally experience your true identity, and you say, “Now what is this? Let me understand it,” you can’t. You want to see, but when your mind tries to go there, it disappears. You try again to understand this. You knock your head against the wall for a few years. “I have to understand this one.” You look, and can’t get any idea about it, can’t get the flavor of it, or a feeling that goes with it. You almost get a feeling . . . it disappears. You keep trying until your mind is convinced that your ultimate identity is something that cannot be known through understanding, that understanding can’t reach it. And then the final realization, the final understanding is that you reach the end of understanding, the death of understanding, when finally you know that you are un-understandable. When you reach the un-understandable, that is the end of understanding. And of course, it can’t be lost, because you can’t understand it. If you understand it, you lose it, but that fact cannot be understood completely. By its very nature it has nothing to do with your mind. The mind has led you there, but the mind cannot go there. We can call this the death of understanding, or we can call it total understanding. Both mean the same here. So, as you see, understanding is very curious. If you use it correctly, it will take you through the whole unfoldment process, one layer after another, until you reach a place where understanding can’t go. And if you’re faithful to understanding, then you cannot but reach its end. Understanding is complete when it annihilates itself. When it dies, then the mind dies, too. There is just Being, Being with no mind. You become like an animal but with the understanding that you are not understandable and the knowledge that you are that which is unknowable. 

Knowing Oneself Without Self-Image

As the process of the deepening dissolution of boundaries and the related experiences of space goes on (which we mentioned above need follow no absolute sequence), it usually happens that all manner of experiences and realizations not directly involving space intervene. We refer particularly to the experience of essence in its various aspects and dimensions. In fact, the experience of essence contributes greatly to the deepening experience of space. Without the invaluable presence of essence, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to tolerate the loss of the deeper boundaries. The experience of ego death and annihilation is too frightening to allow without the experience of a reality beyond the ego, the reality of Being, our true essence. And in turn, the realization of emptiness in its various grades contributes to the discovery and development of essence, and ultimately to its actualization as the real life. The dimension of space deepens and opens up as the realm of Being deepens and expands. The ultimate experience of space is beyond all concepts, even the concepts of space and Being. This is the experience of nonconceptual reality, the ground of all existence. It cannot even be called an experience. We can call it the Ultimate Space or the Supreme Reality as long as we remember that such concepts fail to reach it. It is the ultimate mystery, where mind cannot go. This ultimate reality, beyond all concepts, is seen then to be one’s true identity, one’s ultimate self. It is knowing oneself without self-image. It is knowing oneself by being oneself. This is self-realization. 

The Void, pg. 149

Orienting Ourselves to the Point Means Getting Closer to Our True Identity

In inquiry, we notice that if we fully understand what we experience, the inquiry naturally sinks inward, goes deeper, becomes more fundamental. Why does this happen? Have you ever wondered why, when you understand something, your understanding doesn’t get more superficial and diffuse but rather more focused and deeper? The reason is that understanding means getting to the point. Getting to the point means orienting ourselves toward the essential Point. And orienting ourselves to the Point means getting closer to our true identity. Because our identity is ultimately depth, when we get to the depth, that’s intimacy. The Absolute is both depth and intimacy at the same time. Another way of saying it is that all manifestations—which include all experiences—are ultimately manifestation out of the Absolute. Everything is the Absolute communicating with us, revealing some of its possibilities and potentialities. And inquiry is a matter of reading and understanding this communication. In its communication, the Absolute is always guiding us to itself, pulling us toward itself. It does this through its emissary, its representative in our personal experience, which is the Point. In the operation of the Diamond Guidance, the Point affects our consciousness by always orienting us to the point of the situation, the meaning of experience, the heart of the matter. In guided inquiry, we are always pulled in deeper and deeper. The Point, the Essential Identity, is needed in order to comprehend our experience—to reveal it as a unified whole—because the Point is the organizing center of our circle of experience. It is the center of our personal mandala. It is also the direction of ultimate understanding. In other words, the function of the Point, as part of the Diamond Guidance, is to continuously deepen our understanding. How? By pointing it toward our ultimate nature, our final identity.

Pure Presence Experienced as Our True Identity

So the fundamental ground is the pure presence, and it is this which we experience as our true identity. This development is the pure experience of the soul in complete identity with its true nature. The self becomes the open, flowing experience of soul, aware of its true nature by simply being it. The soul knows itself as primordial presence. This presence is the very substance and existence of all the forms appearing within it; hence, we experience all the forms, all dimensions of experience, as part of our sense of self, without separateness. This is not a matter of a lack of differentiation, since one can discriminate forms within this changing presence. It is rather the absence of separateness and duality. This is the wholeness of primordial presence, where the purity of Being is the fundamental fabric, and all other dimensions and elements are the patterns in this fabric. Persisting in this condition of primordial self-realization, we realize that even the concept of self begins to lose its meaning and significance. The ordinary sense of self, familiar for many years, falls away slowly, to be replaced by a sense of freshness and nowness of experience, as evernew forms and modes of experience appear and disappear. There is no more need to recognize ourselves through an old, familiar sense of self, for self-recognition is spontaneous and inherent in the primordial presence, as its own mirror-like awareness. It is a minute-to-minute recognition of ourselves as the ongoing mirror-like awareness of the unfoldment of presence, inseparable from its beingness. Self can only be the nondual presence that continues unfolding as an expression of its own dynamism. But then this is inseparable from, and nondual with, the totality of all presence, which is all of appearance.

Seeing the True Identity of Essence, the True Self

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 your self?” 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.” 

Self-Realization Connects the Person to His True Identity which is His Being

The process of spiritual development, which is the maturation of the human being, can be divided into two complementary facets. One is the self-realization of Being in its various aspects and manifestations, and the other is the integration of this self-realization in the everyday life of a human person. The latter is a progressive process of maturation of the self, in which the unfoldment of Being expresses itself in an individuated personal life with other human beings in a real world. Self-realization connects the person to his true identity, which is his Being, and this makes it possible for him to mature in everyday life and to fulfill his humanness. Human life becomes then the personal expression of one’s realization in the context of normal life situations. So we can say that the process of individuation makes it possible for us to be in the world, while that of self-realization connects us with the transcendental source of our Being, which is beyond the world of appearance.

The Point is True Identity

So this is one of the basic functions of the Essential Identity when it comes to the Diamond Guidance. It guides the inquiry to the Point by guiding us to see the point of all and any experience. That is easy to understand when we remember that the Point is true identity. What is our identity? It is who and what we are. And what are we but our true nature, which goes deeper and deeper and deeper until it gets to the ultimate identity, which is the Absolute? This means that getting to the point of any situation is the same thing as penetrating deeper. The moment we get to the point of any situation, we go deeper. Why? Because the point of the situation always has to do with the Point, which has to do with identity—and identity is depth, is penetration inward into ourselves. The ultimate identity is pure depth; that is why the Absolute is depth itself. 

True Identity Arises when there is a Need for Essential Action

The true identity arises when there is a need for an essential action. When there is no need for a response, there is no essential identity, there is just Being in repose: no activity, no mind, no body, no nothing, just stillness. When a tiger is not acting, just lying there, it doesn’t know anything, it doesn’t think of itself as tiger. It is just Being. When it acts, it becomes one-pointed, and that one-pointedness is at that moment the identity of the tiger. True action is the boundless Being becoming one-pointed, and that will be a personal action. But that Being, that universal Being, is always acting everywhere. The creation of one point, which is your own action, which is your own self, is one of the manifestations of Being. Everyone is in action in the Being all the time. That is why it is said that if you are willing to be aligned to the supreme will, there is no end to the plenitude that you can achieve in your life. This is because your action is the most correct action, the action that goes with all the rest of existence, and it can only benefit everything and everybody involved including you at all levels. It is the most unifying action. 

True Identity is a Reflection of a More Universal, Boundless Identity which is the Nature of All that there Is

When that goes, there is peace. Then there is the discovery of the essential or true self. The real self is made out of pure essence and consciousness. It is luminous and pure and a source of love, compassion and goodness, with a sense of timelessness and spacelessness. That identity can go too. When that goes, there is another experience of peace which has to do with nonexistence. When that happens, there is the possibility of the arising of another identity, which we call the Supreme identity, for this identity is the self of the whole universe. The true identity is a reflection of a more universal, boundless identity, which is the nature of all that there is. You see yourself as everything, as the source of everything, not merely the source of your own body and thoughts. Then there is the possibility of losing even this cosmic self. This results in a new experience of peace, which is the experience of selflessness. Then there is no self to see you or anything: All that exists is ultimately empty and selfless. Then even that can go. The selflessness can go, which means going through fear and terror again. The selflessness goes because even selflessness is a concept. What is left then is absence, which is not anything left. 

True Identity is the Identity with All Essence, with All of Reality

It is not that when you go through the emptiness you’ll feel “Oh, now I have a true self.” The perspective of having something is the perspective of the separate self, the personality. So it is not that you are a little brilliant entity and you have love, compassion, beauty; no, the whole shift happens because the true identity is the identity with all Essence, with all of reality. This very moment, not related to past or future, is the center, and from there you can see that you are nothing but grace. Not only does life have meaning, but it is a grace, as if the heavens opened and poured grace into you. You will see that your very nature is that grace, pure, unoriginated preciousness, which you don’t see by looking but by being. There is no sense of separateness between the looking and the being; they are one act. To be yourself means you are Essence, you are Being, you are the significance, you are the meaning. We have seen that we are always looking for the preciousness that was lost, thinking we can get it from the outside. But it is the innermost. It is so private, so deep, so inner, that there is nothing more inner than this. Who you are is so inner, so private, so precious, that when it is experienced at its depth it is felt as an absolute sacredness. To really be oneself is to eliminate the chasm, to unify the two sides of oneself, to fully become one. It is not as if you are someone who has a body, someone who does this or that, someone who has an Essence. You are it! You are the whole thing. Meaning is not something we can get to with our minds; it is not an answer found in the mind. It is not an ideal or an image we’re fulfilling. It is not a result of anything. It is just falling into one’s nature. To be able to simply fall into one’s nature, is, however, not easy. It is the most difficult thing there is. It takes perseverance, patience, sincerity, and compassion for oneself. And it may take a long time. 

Wanting to Explore Our True Identity

When you know yourself, when you realize your true identity, the meaning of life does not come to you in the form of a conceptual answer to a question It is not an answer in your mind. It is you. The presence, fullness, and intrinsic preciousness is directly experienced; it is not in reference to anything else. It is complete autonomy; only the experience itself can give a taste of this satisfaction. This experience of self-realization is the answer, in the sense that it ends the drive. It is true absence of seeking. When we want to explore our true identity, we have to allow ourselves to refrain from using our various roles, activities, ideals, and images to fill our sense of emptiness. Then we can observe whether any of these things actually satisfies our deep need for meaning. If you observe yourself, you will probably discover that you have become disappointed in one thing after another. You will see that you are disappointed in your career, the relationship with your lover or spouse, your own mind, everything. You’re disappointed because they don’t do what you hoped they would do for you. You are expecting the wrong thing from each area of your life that disappoints you. There is one disappointment after another until you allow yourself to fall into the great chasm, the great split. You need to allow yourself to exist in that vast emptiness. We must go through this non-existence. There is no other way. To become unified, we must go through the split in us, which is the same thing as the chasm. We cannot go over it or avoid it. We must allow ourselves to experience the chasm. We have to allow ourselves to feel the insignificance completely, without defending against it. 

We are Permeable to Our True Identity and to the Nature of All Existence

As far as I can tell, we are the only beings who are permeable to everything that exists, from the most painful to the most sublime. We’re sensitive not only to experiencing the pleasures and pains of our bodies, to feeling our emotions, the painful and the pleasurable, and to sensing our thoughts, but our vulnerability also gives us the possibility of experiencing, being aware of, being in contact with all levels of reality. We’re permeable to not only physical, emotional, and mental stimuli, but to essential and spiritual stimuli as well. So, not only are we vulnerable in the sense that our feelings, our preferences, even our identity can be influenced, but we are also vulnerable to being aware, conscious, and permeable to our true identity, and to the nature of all existence. So you see, our uniquely human quality of vulnerability is a disadvantage from one perspective, and a great advantage from another. We are wide open to all influences, all possibilities if we allow ourselves to be—if we don’t defend ourselves, if we don’t build a shell and hide behind it. Our human consciousness is so vulnerable that we can actually know who we are. We’re so conscious, so permeable, that we can experience the very nature of all of reality—the nature of a stone, a tree, the nature of ourselves. 

When the Student is in Touch with Her True Identity

This purposelessness may be felt as a sense of insignificance. She might feel she is not important or that her life has no real importance. Earlier experiences of not being treated as important may arise at this point, but with further investigation she will see that she feels she is not important because there is “nothing to her.” She is empty, she is nothing, and this nothingness feels deficient, lacking in significance. This sense of insignificance which is encountered in the process of uncovering the narcissistic constellation points to an important component of the motivation for self-realization. Self-realization is inherently significant. When the student is in touch with her true identity, she realizes that she matters in a way that is independent from all object relations, because she is preciousness itself. When she is not realized, she will feel the absence of significance, and this absence can motivate a search for significance which can lead her to the process of self-realization.

You Can Say that the Essence of Being is Our True Identity

I think this is a very clever and subtle way of understanding the indeterminacy of the essence of our Being. However, the adventure of inquiry is based on a slightly different perspective on the mystery. Some would say that you cannot say anything about the mystery because whatever you say is going to be inaccurate, and therefore it is better not to say anything. The perspective I prefer is that the essence of Being is amenable to descriptions. You can actually say a great deal about it, just as the mystical poets have been doing for thousands of years. You can say it is emptiness, you can say it is mystery, you can say it is stillness, you can say it is peace, you can say it is neither existence nor nonexistence, you can say it is the ultimate beloved, you can say it is the annihilation of all ego, you can say it is the source of all awareness, you can say it is the ground of everything, you can say it is our true identity, you can say it is dimensionless nonlocality, and so on. Each one of these descriptions is saying something about it. Thus the mystery of Being can be seen as having two different implications. I believe the more fruitful one is not that there is nothing you can say about it, but that you can never exhaust what you can say about it. We can describe it and talk about it forever. So instead of calling it indeterminacy, I think a better word is inexhaustibility: The mystery is characterized by the fact that it is inexhaustible. You can never know it totally. 

“I Am” is the Same Thing as Presence as the True Identity

There is “I am.” Completeness is the experience of “I am” without mind, without anybody reflecting on it and saying “I am,” without subjectivity. It is just the actual “I am-ness,” without the mind conceptualizing it. “I am” is the same thing as presence, as the “I,” as the true identity, except there is no need to conceptualize. When you’re complete you’re not even interested in completeness. You’re totally unself-conscious; you’re not self-conscious at all. You’re just self. And you cannot say really if it’s self or not self, because these are concepts. The completeness is sometimes called self; sometimes it is called no self. Both can apply. Completeness is a very simple, little thing. Very simple, very little, very minute, very uncomplicated. And at the same time it is without the huge gap between you and the universe. It is the state of no gap. 

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