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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Insight?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Insight

An Insight is an Event and Essence is a Presence

There are other classes of mental experience that are customarily regarded as the experience of essence when in fact they are not, such as the experiences of insight and intuition. In psychotherapy, for instance, one might have an insight about oneself, about others, or about the nature of reality. It often occurs as a flash of illumination and is accompanied by a sense of expansion and certainty. Such insights can provide valuable information and affective satisfaction. Still, the experience of insight is not itself essence, not yet. An insight is an event, and essence is a presence. An insight is an experience of understanding a specific truth, whereas essence is an embodied presence, an ontological actuality. Most of the time, insights give us liberating information and understanding of how our minds, emotions, and personalities function. They might even help lead us to essence. Insights can be liberating, profound, exhilarating, or powerful, but still they are not essence. Essence is more. Insights can go even deeper, to more profound levels of reality, and can give us information about the nature of reality. But what is this reality? It is nothing but the reality of our true nature, our essence. At such times we are receiving insights about essence itself. For instance, an individual can have the sudden deep flash that “I actually exist,” or an expansive insight that “Love is my true nature.” These are insights about essence, realizing some of the truth about our real nature. But this activity itself is not exactly the presence of essence. It can reach essence and give glimpses of it, but if the person remains at the level of insight, essence will not be realized, embodied, or lived in its fullness and beauty.

Being Coming in Contact with the Mind is What We Experience as Insight

It’s true that the world of the mind, of concepts, is not the truest reality. But understanding is the meeting of that unreal world with the completely real. Understanding itself is neither wholly real or unreal; it is a meeting of the two. The meeting is a transformation, and the transformation is understanding. So understanding happens only when what is completely real in you—the unknowable, your final identity—is in contact with your concepts, with your mind. The process is one of disintegration of concepts. Isn’t that what happens when you understand? You have a certain concept, see through it and then it dissolves. Being comes in contact with mind. This is what we experience as insight. Then there is completion of that level and you move on to the next. If Being doesn’t come in contact with the mind, there is no real insight, only mental knowledge. And because mental knowledge is not real understanding, there is no transformation. The concept is not burned up and dissolved into Being. The person simply goes from one part of the concept to another; it’s just a matter of mental rearrangement.

Brilliancy Arrives at Insight in One Shot

By contrast, Brilliancy arrives at insight in one shot, at a glance, as if intuitively. It doesn’t need to go through the various correlations. It is fast and breathtaking. However, it does not see the details of interactions and relationships between the various elements of the situation. We arrive at insight, but most of the time we don’t know how we got there. There isn’t as much perception, understanding, or knowledge in the process of arriving at the insight, which often makes it difficult to communicate it to others. However, since the Diamond Guidance has Brilliancy as an aspect, it can use the capacity for direct illumination by simply seeing the gestalt without also seeing how the illumination came about. This direct penetration to the insight is possible and sometimes necessary. But frequently what is needed is the understanding of interactions and relationships that led to the insight. This is specifically the case when one attempts to relate many insights about the same subject matter. In order to reach an overarching insight that synthesizes the knowledge in various insights, we frequently need an understanding of how we arrived at them. A more complete knowledge of the different processes and relationships is crucial for such super-insights, such as those required to develop a body of knowledge.

Brilliancy, pg. 73

Every Insight You Arrive at is a Burst of Luminosity, but Surrounding that Insight is a Sea of Mystery

Every insight you arrive at is a burst of luminosity, but surrounding that insight is a sea of mystery. This sea of mystery is fundamental for the arising of the insight; without it there will be no space for this burst of luminosity. At the same time, this luminosity is an expression of the mystery and helps us to approach this mystery. In contrast, when we live in the realm of ordinary knowledge, our mind is thick with knowledge. Knowing is all around us, in the form of things we know—rocks, people, likes and dislikes, colors, feelings, memories. Everywhere we turn, there is only old knowledge, no mystery—except in mystery stories. Our conscious minds would have us believe that we are living in an environment of ordinary knowledge, while what really surrounds us is an environment of mystery, of not-knowing. That which truly exists at any moment is not-knowing, with few little bursts of luminosity, of direct, basic knowledge. Yet we do not find ourselves in this reality; our identity is located within our mind, this universe of thoughts and concepts and memories that would have us believe that we know what is going on. Once in a while, when there is a little gap in that knowledge, we freak out: “Oh, there’s something here I don’t know. What am I going to do next?” In reality, however, not-knowing is so fundamental, so important for us, that without it we can never know anything new.

Insight May Manifest as Truth at Some Point

For example, to believe that I’m not a body but I have a body is very useful at some point when I begin to recognize and deal with my body image. As I begin to realize that I am identified with a body image, it is possible for me to recognize that I am a consciousness or spaciousness that has a body. This insight may manifest as truth at some point, which then transforms my experience. But this truth is not final. A year or two later, I might start having certain issues that I recognize are there because I make a separation between my body and my soul. I think I am a soul that has a body or a body that has a soul. At the time, it was useful for me to recognize that I am a soul that has a body, but a year later that truth becomes a falsehood because I recognize then that the body is nothing but a manifestation of the soul. There is no body separate from the soul. The soul doesn’t have a body, like a possession; the body is as much a part of the soul as my feelings are a part of the soul. If I hold on to the insight that “I am a soul that has a body”—which was a truth, a new manifestation of knowledge that at one time transformed my experience—it becomes ordinary knowledge. And if I adhere to that insight as an ultimate truth, there will come a time when it will limit my openness, and the dynamism of my unfoldment will not flow into new dimensions of experience. So truth is something we recognize at the moment, but it is not something we need to adhere to forever. We need to take ordinary knowledge tentatively, and that includes whatever we think and experience as truth, for in the next moment it might not apply.

Insight or Understanding are Nothing but Your Being Eating Your Experience

True understanding that arises on its own is simply your own essence touching your mind, or being in contact with the situation. The actual contact of Being with any situation, or with any part of your mind, is understanding. Insight or understanding are nothing but your being eating your experience, metabolizing it, including your inner experience. This is the process of transformation itself. Being comes into contact with a part of your personality, or with an experience, and in that contact between Being and that part of the personality or the experience, the experience or part of personality is absorbed into Being. That absorption is not just a mental thing, it is a real experience of transformation, a metamorphosis. And this metamorphosis, which is itself understanding, never leads to weakness, deficiency, or impoverishment. It always leads to greater capacity, greater strength, and greater maturity. What is maturity, if not the complete absorption and metabolization of your

Insight Requires Concepts

Insight requires concepts. So in some sense, it is not one-hundred-percent fresh. But it is closer, fresher. It’s seeing something about reality that is closer to the immediate experience. If you get completely close to the immediate experience, of course, there will be no form then. The form disappears little by a little.

Insights Appear When You are Relaxed

So what is inquiry, if not seeking and eliminating? How can we understand if we don’t go hunting for states and eliminating old patterns of behavior? It is very simple. Understanding, itself, is very simple. Understanding is there when you are not searching. You do not need to look for understanding; it is not something to pursue. You do not have to make efforts to have insights. Your efforts are not rewarded with realizations. Understandings, realizations, and insights appear when you are relaxed, when for a moment you have stopped your seeking. Look at your own experience: When do you experience an expanded state, or have an insight and deep understanding? Is it when you are busy trying to figure things out? Or is it when you have forgotten about the struggle for a moment? You might see that your deep insights, the true and deeper understandings, arise when you are not doing anything in your mind, when you just are, simply present. Of course, you might be engaged in some kind of exercise, some activity in your mind, thinking, searching for this or wondering about that, when you have some insight, and you might think that is what brought about the insight. However, if you look carefully, you will notice that in the midst of searching or struggling, once in a while there is a gap—you get tired and give up for a moment. At that moment insight arises. However, you often don’t see that gap because it is so short, so you think it is the activity of the mind that was responsible for the insight.

No Insight is an Ultimate Insight

Openness includes openness to the mind and its accumulated knowledge, but it is also open to the mind’s being wrong or incomplete. Furthermore, there is openness to going beyond the mind and its ordinary knowledge. Openness of inquiry also means that whatever knowledge or insight we get to, we do not wrap it up in a package and put it on a shelf. The moment you do that, you close the path of inquiry. No insight is an ultimate insight. As soon as you believe that you have arrived at the ultimate insight, you know you are stuck. Gurdjieff called that position Hasnamous, which means a crystallized ego. You can crystallize your ego around very divine ideas. The moment you know reality and then believe your knowledge is final, inquiry stops, the dynamism comes to a standstill, and the old repeats itself. But if our mind is always open, the revelation is endless. Then we are just there for the ride. We merely enjoy the journey itself as an adventure of discovery.

The Experiential Response to Insight

Now let’s try to identify what that thing is, if there is something there at those times of insight that gives you that conviction, that certainty; something that makes an insight have more truth than just an ordinary perception of your state. In the experience of insight, isn’t there more of a sense of freedom than in ordinary perception? Don’t you feel a sense of expansion, a lifting, a sense of satisfaction? And insight generally has two things, the content of the insight and something else – the energy present in the insight that gives you the sense of certainty and expansion.

The Insight that Emptiness is the Ground of All Forms

The insight that emptiness is the ground of all forms is specifically significant for the inner journey, especially for the journey of descent. Through the absolute descending into the world we see that the world is grounded in emptiness, and hence is always insubstantial and lacks any ultimate existence. The soul learns that to live in the world from the perspective of the absolute is to never forget that the world is ultimately insubstantial, that it is groundless; for the absolute ground is simply absence. More precisely, its groundlessness is its truth and freedom and the liberation of the soul is in remembering that she can rely ultimately only on the absolute: it is the groundless ground. She can trust emptiness, for it is the ultimate unchanging ground that is certain to be found at the depth of everything. In other words, the ground of all manifest forms is that when we try to find their ultimate essence they disappear. The unfindability of their ultimate existence is their ground.

The Sense of an Intimate Kind of Closeness to Yourself

We’re seeing something here about insight, that the truth is not just a matter of knowing a certain fact. With an insight, there is an energetic sense in your mind and body that indicates more certainty and gives you a sense of freedom that is more satisfactory. It’s a more palpable, lived sense of freedom. As further insights occur, they go deeper, and the certainty also gets deeper. When this process continues for some time, you might feel there is something in the air, almost like a taste, a fragrance. You taste, sense, smell, and feel something almost sweet, satisfying. There is a sense of an intimate kind of closeness to yourself, along with a freedom of expansion. There’s a sense of satisfaction that goes with the experience of insight. It is more than just: “I’m free from this.” Every time you have a moment of insight, it’s as if you open the perfume bottle for a second and close it again. It’s as if you have smelled something—freedom, satisfaction, whatever. Having one insight after another is like opening the bottle many times. You can smell the aroma continuously. So there is something in insight that allows us to know directly, without questioning, that something is true, more so than in the experience of ordinary perception. That sense of certainty seems to be intimately linked with the sense of satisfaction, a sense of being more intimate with oneself, closer to oneself. What does it mean to get more intimate and closer to yourself? There’s more warmth, more satisfaction. There’s a sense of freedom and truth. The facts have led us there, although the facts were not exactly what we were looking for. What we’re looking for is that sense of intimacy, closeness, freedom, satisfaction.

We Never Arrive at True Spiritual Insight or Understanding by Simply Thinking

Each of us is different. Everybody has their history, capacities, and situations and, as we do our work, each of us will need to use whatever resources we have. But one thing we have in common—which I have observed both in my own experience and in the experience of others—is that when there is a true breakthrough, when there is a new knowledge about reality, when there is experience of reality that brings in new dimensions, it is always because of true nature. As we have seen, it is never because of our own individual efforts. It is never because of what we think we’re doing. This is a central insight of the dynamic of realization: In our practice, it is Total Being practicing. Whatever insight we have is because the depth of true nature, the sense of the purity of reality, has touched our mind and sparked an insight or an idea or a revelation. That is to say, we never arrive at true spiritual insight or understanding by simply thinking. Just as thinking alone will not do it, neither will doing anything in particular or feeling anything in particular. The realm of realization, the spiritual realm that brings about freedom, is not accessible to the intentions or efforts of our individual consciousness regardless of how heartfelt or intelligent or skillful they are. From the beginning of this teaching, it was always essential presence, spiritual presence—that purity of awareness or consciousness that is independent of thought, feeling, and sensation—that brought about both the realization and the teaching at the same time.

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