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Kernel of the Kernel

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Kernel of the Kernel

Clarity, Nowness and the Depth of the Intimacy of Emptiness

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. 

Enlightened Awareness, the Kernel of the Kernel, Includes Everything We Know About Our True Nature

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. Enlightened awareness, the Kernel of the Kernel, seamlessly includes everything we know about our true nature, all of what we know at once together, without its being a collection of things or qualities. The complete stillness and privacy of the emptiness add to the clarity a searing, sharp, smooth quality. And the clarity and the fullness add to the emptiness a kind of brilliance, a kind of shine—a shine made more intensely luminous by its total emptiness. This full, luminous emptiness has a kind of lightness, a kind of freedom that is beyond the idea of freedom, a kind of total relaxation and ease. 

Essence of the Essence

But enlightened awareness is the true nature of all manifest phenomena. I am making a distinction between nonconceptual awareness, which is the ground of all experience, and what I call the Kernel of the Kernel, the Quintessence. I use the word “Quintessence” to mean Essence of the Essence, Ground of the Ground. The word is used in ancient Greek philosophy as the fifth element; quint means five. The ancients thought all matter exists in one of four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. The fifth element was the underlying prima materia constituting all celestial spheres. That is the original meaning of the word. But now, in English, “quintessence” means the most distilled essence of something. Kernel of the Kernel, a translation of the Arabic lubb al-lubb, which means the Essence of the Essence, the cream of the cream, is the title of a celebrated Sufi book by Ibn ‘Arabi. Whereas pure awareness is spacious, clear, and transparent, almost like colorless light, Quintessence is that and also profound and deep and vast. Quintessence unifies the day and the night, the sky of the day and the sky of the night. Emptiness distills to utmost profundity as total peace and stillness, pure privacy and intimacy. 

Various Ways of Seeing the Kernel of the Kernel

The Kernel of the Kernel can be seen in various ways. As the Essence of the Essence, it is the underlying nature of all the qualities of Essence we experience. And if we see the Kernel as the manifest world, then the Kernel of the Kernel is the Quintessence. The Kernel is the manifest world in its clarity, in its unobstructedness, without the accumulation of learned and innate ignorance. Quintessence is the nature, the essence, of this manifest world of clarity. Quintessence is the utmost elegance of manifestation, a beauty that is wholly clear, and whose clarity is utmost because it is totally empty. The whole perception has an exquisite elegance—the emptiness is elegant, the awareness is elegant, the beingness is elegant. The absolute nature of all manifest phenomena is a seamless coincidence of freshness and intimacy, of a fresh winter day and the deep, dark night. What we’re exploring here is the nature of reality, the nature of all experience, the inseparability of forms and formlessness. Quintessence is the nature of the underlying ground of all forms. This mysterious yet simple truth is both the freedom and the promise of freedom. 

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