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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Indeterminacy?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Indeterminacy

Indeterminacy: the Openness in Inquiry

Inquiring into how our ordinary knowledge determines, patterns, and limits our experience enables us to learn a different way of approaching the content of that knowledge. Usually we take our knowledge as the determination, as the boundary, of what is possible and what can be known. However, if we understand indeterminacy, the openness of inquiry, in time we learn to take the knowledge not as a boundary but as a pointer. We can use our words, concepts, and thoughts as pointers toward truth, toward what is possible, rather than as boundaries for what can be known: “This is a possibility” instead of “That is what you will find.” If we can inquire into our experience by using knowledge as a pointer, it becomes a helper, a kind of guidance. For instance, we know that anger frequently hides hurt. That becomes knowledge from repeated experience. The next time we see anger, how do we use that knowledge? Do we say, “There must be hurt there; let’s find the hurt”? Or, rather than making this automatic assumption, are we open to the possibility that there is hurt, which then can guide our investigation? If you assume that you are hurt, you might be wrong, for once in a while hurt does not underlie anger. There are always exceptions. Knowledge can be used in a way that will aid our inquiry, but we usually use it in a way that limits and binds our inquiry.

Inexhaustibility of Total Being

Furthermore, when I recognize myself as Total Being, I don’t simply mean that I’m experiencing the totality of everything that I perceive. I do mean that, but I also mean that I am experiencing what I experienced yesterday, what I will experience tomorrow, what you are experiencing, what you experienced ten years ago, what you will experience twenty years from now. Total Being is inexhaustible, absolutely inclusive, and totally indeterminate. It is not defined by any particular experience; however, every experience expresses it. Any experience, any dimension, any quality, any form, any formlessness is bound to be an expression of Total Being. What is Total Being? It is too indeterminate and too variable to be encompassed by any one particular experience, too subtle and too vast to be encompassed even by any combinations of experience. And yet, we can with full awareness and knowing realize that we are Total Being. It is more in the nature of a felt understanding, irrespective of the particulars of experience.

The Indeterminacy of the Absolute is the Same as the Divine Darkness, the Ultimate Essence of Being

It is interesting that the more we recognize the indeterminacy of the absolute, the deeper is its darkness, and the more luminous. We go further into its unfathomable depths as we accept its mysteriousness. Such darkness is pure bliss and realization, for even though it is the absence of all being and knowing, it is enlightenment. Its darkness is luminous and brilliant; it is the spiritual midnight sun. This darkness bathes us, caresses us, melts us, dissolves us, annihilates us, until we are all gone; there remains only the majesty of the luminous crystal night. We realize then that this darkness of being and knowledge is God’s knowledge of Himself. It is not normal knowledge, it is pure basic knowledge before any discrimination, before any conceptualization. It is nonconceptual knowledge, which is not what we ordinarily call knowledge. Thus the indeterminacy of the absolute is the same as the divine darkness, the inscrutable nature of the divine, the ultimate essence of Being. It is not an ordinary darkness and lack of knowing and being; it is the majestic and luminous blackness of the divine essence, the absolute essence of Being, the most intimate truth of true nature. It is the core of all existence, the depth of Being, the inner of all. Whenever we find an inner quality and dimension, the luminous night will be its innerness; whenever we find a deep truth the luminous night will be its ultimate depth. It is the inner of all, the essence of everything, the back of all fronts, and the ultimate ground and facticity of all manifest forms. It is indeterminacy, but it is also the ground of all determinations; it is nonbeing but it is also the ground of all being; it is darkness but it is also the ground of all light; it is unknowing but it is also the ground for all knowing. It is the primal darkness before there was light, and the eternal night that highlights the appearance of the day.

The Mystery of Being is Inexhaustible

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. So, for instance, when you say that the mystery is emptiness, this does not capture it completely. It does not give you the whole picture. You might say it is stillness. Well, you’ve then discovered something else about it, which helps you understand what it does to desires and agitations. When you realize this stillness, you experience that the whole universe is still. Yet, since you have an innately inquiring mind and you are inquiring into the stillness, the next day you realize that the mystery is not only stillness, it is also knowledge. What does that mean? Well, you knew it was stillness, and you knew it was emptiness, so knowledge must be intrinsic to it. But the next day, you realize that somehow defining the mystery as knowledge does not do it justice either. You can say that the mystery is stillness, you can say it is knowledge, you can say it is emptiness, but any one of these—and even all of them together—do not do it justice. So every day, you have a new discovery about the mystery, as if you were flying through the blackness of outer space and suddenly found you had alighted on a whole new star system that you can explore with joy and excitement.

The Mystery of Ultimate Nature

This mystery, this sense of indeterminacy, has been explored by many people, and many teachings and formulations exist to describe it. One way of looking at it is that the ultimate nature of things cannot be described, cannot be determined. You cannot make any definite statement about it, you cannot take any position about it. Some equate ultimate nature with emptiness but are quick to say that there is no “something” there called emptiness. Emptiness is simply a way of referring to the indeterminacy of ultimate nature. This means that you cannot say it exists, you cannot say it does not exist, and you cannot say it neither exists nor doesn’t exist. This way is called the way of negation, in the sense that you negate everything you can say or determine about ultimate nature. 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.

The Sheer Indeterminacy of Reality

On the spiritual path, we can have various experiences of totality. We might experience it as the soul or individual consciousness being aware of itself as the totality of our experiences and the totality of what we are. The individual soul, with its organs and capacities and histories, is where all of our experiences happen. So we might experience the soul as a kind of totality. Or we might experience totality in a boundless dimension—not being the individual soul but being the totality of the universe. That experience usually appears in what is called boundless or nondual experience. When we are experiencing that kind of totality, we are everything. We are the totality in the sense that we are the nowness or the awareness that contains everything—all thoughts, all feelings, all objects, all phenomena are part of this totality. Sometimes when we experience that kind of nonduality, we are the totality in the sense that we are all of that. But Total Being doesn’t refer exclusively to either of those two dimensions of experiencing totality. Total Being does not refer to any experience at all. It does not refer to a particular way of experiencing reality. It does not refer to a dimension of experience. It does not refer to a combination of dimensions of experience. It does not refer to all the dimensions of experience taken together. Total Being refers to the sheer indeterminacy of reality—to its nonexclusivity and its noncontainability. So Total Being is everything, including your experience of whatever totality you are experiencing. Total Being includes all the experiences of totality, and much more. However, Total Being itself is not an experience. We awaken to it through a recognition, an understanding, an illumination that includes all experiences.

There is No Way to Know this Mystery from Its Own Viewpoint

<p>Some of the chapters in this book discuss this absolute dimension from the perspective of the heart—the absolute as the inner beloved, as the true essential home from which we have been estranged, as the mysterious night of stillness in which all suffering and strife cease. We come to see in clear relief that the emptiness of this dimension can be seen as its indeterminacy, but that this indeterminacy does not mean that it is unknowable. The title Inexhaustible Mystery refers to the paradoxical nature of our spiritual purity: that we can know it more and more, and we can discern ever deeper and more subtle realizations about its nature without ever exhausting its truth. We can know our spiritual purity, but we can never know it completely. We can never say the last word about it, because there is no end to what can be known, and no way to know it from its own perspective. It is always through our individual consciousness that we know the mystery, even when we experience ourselves as its vastness, its expanse, its luminosity. It is our experience, not somebody else’s. In other words, this perception is happening through a particular individual consciousness, even though we recognize ourselves as this empty vastness. This demonstrates the implicit presence of individual consciousness, of the individual soul. No experience or perception can occur without this organ of experience, so there is no way to know this mystery from its own viewpoint. There is no claim that the mystery knows itself in a way we cannot know it, for it needs our individual consciousness for it to know. But simply put, the mystery can only know itself through a particular individual consciousness, and hence it can never know itself absolutely without it. The Diamond Approach takes the view that the teachings of different spiritual paths approximate the knowledge of this mystery in different ways, some definite and precise, others indefinite and ambiguous. However, we see no reason to take one as true and the others as false. Different teachings can each reflect objective truth about reality in its purity because of this indeterminability of the mystery.</p>

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