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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Knowing ?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Knowing

Beginning to Know Yourself without Reference to Your Body, Your Feelings or Your Environment

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.

Being is the Original Concept, the Root of Mind and Knowing

Recalling our discussion in chapter 3, it would seem that pure presence is nonconceptual awareness, the ground of experience and perception. This conclusion is true but partial. Pure presence is undifferentiated, so it has no discriminated conceptual categories. However, one discrimination remains: nondifferentiated presence is conceptualized as presence. Thus this dimension of true nature retains one concept, the concept of being. The fact that we experience it as presence means we recognize it as beingness. It has no other recognition, but still the recognition of being is a recognition. Being free from all determinations, and hence from all existents and beings, it is true nature with the self-recognition of its own presence. True nature knows one thing here, only one thing. It knows it is. And it knows it is by being. More precisely, nondifferentiated Being is true nature with one concept, the concept of being. This lack of differentiation in pure presence divulges that Being is the original concept, the root of mind and knowing. The first thing that true nature knows is its being, its presence. This knowing is knowing of its being, a knowing not differentiated from its being. Being, in this dimension, is knowing of being. In other words, in this dimension, manifest true nature is being, which is knowing of being. More accurately, in this dimension of true nature, knowing is being and being is knowing. Being and knowing are both present in pure presence, but undifferentiated. We can say that being is the original knowing, before which there is no knowing.

Being Ruthlessly Honest

To know the truth you have to be both a scientist and an artist. To really go about doing the work from the perspective of truth you have to unify the two sides of the brain. You have to be rational and intuitive at the same time. Loving truth for its own sake creates some kind of sincerity, some kind of humility and honesty about who and what we are. Am I angry but pretending to love? Do I want something from you but am pretending to give you something? You have to be ruthlessly honest here, out of loving the truth and loving who you are and who the other is. Your will engages with exact and utmost precision. You want to see exactly why you are doing this and what it’s about. So as you see, knowing the truth is a precise, scientific way of looking at what’s here now.

Experience of Knowing and Being as a Single Phenomenon

In self-realization we experience ourselves as Presence where Presence is both Being and knowingness. Here, the cognitive act and being are the same experience... The reason we experience knowing and being as a single phenomenon is that Presence is the Presence of consciousness, pure consciousness more fundamental than the content of mind... experiencing the direct truth and reality of our consciousness requires no object

Innate Ignorance

The other level of ignorance is more fundamental, more subtle, and more difficult to deal with. It is called innate ignorance. But we cannot even recognize it as ignorance until we work through much of our learned ignorance. Unless we become much more illuminated about our beliefs, ideas, positions, and patterns, our innate ignorance will be hard to identify. But at some point, it becomes clear that no matter how much of our learned ignorance we work through, the realization arising from that process does not bring us to the clarity, openness, and immediacy that we have experienced when we are more directly in touch with reality. This is when we begin to recognize what is called innate ignorance, which is also referred to as primordial ignorance. This is the ignorance that we share with all animals. It is not learned; we come into the world with it.... We come into the world not knowing our True Nature. We don’t know who we are. That doesn’t mean that we don’t experience True Nature. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel it. It doesn’t mean that we don’t perceive it. It means we don’t understand it. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know its meaning, its significance. We don’t know that it is what we are.

It is Not an Individual Soul that Knows, Although that is How Things Appear

The mind that knows is pure presence itself, which knows its own differentiations. It is the knowing of Being, the knowing of true existence, differentiated into the knowing of beings and existents. It knows through the soul, for it needs to be localized for there to be discriminated knowledge of forms. It provides the soul with her knowing faculty, with her mind and intellect, just as the dimension of divine love provides her with her heart and feelings. This means that it is not an individual soul that knows, although that is how things appear. When we know the boundless dimension of pure presence, which is the dimension of pure basic knowledge, we recognize that it is basic knowledge that knows. Basic knowledge is a dimension of true nature, and not limited to the individual soul. It operates through the soul; for the soul is its organ of perception, similar to how the eye is the organ of seeing for the body but it is not exactly the eye that sees. The boundless dimension of being-knowledge is inherently knowing; its very substance is knowledge, for it is the original knowledge of simple being. We have seen that knower, known, and knowledge are the same in this dimension. True nature here is the knower, the known, but also knowledge. It is pure knowledge without differentiation; it is the very substance of knowing, which is knowledge. The whole expanse of this dimension is spanned by knowledge, constituted by knowledge, knowledge undifferentiated from the experience of presence. The expanse is the space of pure basic knowledge, untouched by ordinary knowledge. The expanse functions as the background against and within which noetic forms manifest themselves.

Knowing is a Fundamental Characteristic of Every Moment

Knowing is a fundamental characteristic of every moment of our experience. Our sensation is knowledge of sensation; our emotion is knowledge of emotion. Our seeing is knowledge, our hearing is knowledge, our thinking about past, present and future is knowledge. Questioning is knowledge. Our sense that we don’t know something is knowledge; we know that we sense that we don’t know.

Knowing the Answer to "Who Am I?" Happens Only in the Moment

Knowing the answer to “Who am I?” happens only in the moment. The answer has nothing to do with the past. If the past determines the answer now, then it is obviously not a correct answer, since the past no longer exists. To really answer the question requires that we see that we don’t know, and also that we don’t know how to find out. Is it possible to let yourself see that you don’t know the answer and don’t know how to find it, and still let the question burn in you? “Who am I?” “Who am I?” Can we allow ourselves to see that we don’t know? If we assume we know, then we stop the inquiry. If we assume we know how to go about it, we assume we know what the answer is, that we know what we are looking for. Perhaps not knowing is the real knowing. If you allow yourself to see that you don’t really know and you don’t know how to know, something can happen. Maybe this is your first chance of really knowing something. Assuming that you know and assuming that you know what to do are barriers to true knowing. When you finally know that you don’t know, you finally have absolute knowledge. Complete ignorance is what will bring true knowledge. You see, the mind can’t function here. This has nothing to do with your mind. Your mind can only answer the question and say that some of the answers are not the answers. The only thing we can do is to eliminate what we believe we know and see that we really don’t know. That’s all we can do. We cannot do anything positive to begin finding out because the moment we do that we’re assuming that we know where we’re going. How do you know what should happen? That knowledge is inferred from memory, from past experience.

Knowing the Capacities and Functions of the Soul

The knowledge of the soul does not mean only experience of the various states and conditions and transformations of the soul, which is the personal consciousness. It also includes the various capacities and functions. To know the capacities and functions of the soul means to know how to operate as human beings should or can operate. The knowledge of the soul includes knowing how to live correctly. The soul evolves through some kind of education. Frequently, while some parts of the soul develop, others remain untouched. Often the development of the soul is not balanced, is askew in various ways. So we tend to go around in circles instead of going straight because of this imbalance in development. But with the development of balance, we learn to move forward, toward greater evolution and expansion.

Learned Ignorance

The first kind is called learned ignorance. It can also be referred to as developed ignorance or accumulated ignorance. Sometimes the term conceptual ignorance is used, which means that as our mind develops and we acquire the capacity to conceptualize, we develop a certain kind of ignorance that is specifically human. Generally speaking, animals and other beings don’t have that type of ignorance, because it is something that you have to learn in order for it to develop. Usually this ignorance develops as knowledge. That is to say, much of our knowledge about ourselves and about the world is actually learned ignorance. It is ignorant because it is simply wrong; it does not reflect how reality is. We have all kinds of beliefs and ideas about reality that are not true. We have positions and philosophies and ideologies about ourselves, about how things work, and about what makes things happen, and many of these are inaccurate. Of course, it is difficult to see this as ignorance, because it is what we know, it is what we take to be our knowledge.

Not Knowing Underlies All Knowing

One corollary of the fact that not-knowing underlies all knowing is the recognition that knowing is not something we must have. Knowing is a transitory phenomenon. Something arises and you know it; the experience of knowing it at that moment is what matters. What is important for your liberation is not that you’ve just gotten a piece of knowledge, which you can store in your brain in order to increase the amount of knowledge you have. What matters is the direct experience of the luminosity. And this direct experience of the luminosity needs and requires the ground of not-knowing. 

Not Knowing Where to Stand

We began this book by looking at the relationship between the particular individual who practices and the larger reality that is manifesting realization. In order to understand that dynamic of realization—the fulcrum of the path—we had to resort to the view of totality. What we discovered is that we cannot fully understand the relationship of practice and realization from the perspective of any one state or condition of realization, regardless of how profound or enlightened it may be. The view of totality is both very unsettling and very liberating. Its liberating power comes from its unbounded inclusiveness, which, at the same time, is unsettling because it doesn’t tell us where to stand. In fact, it shows us that there is no place to stand. This challenges our tendency to fixate and to take positions, which is a cornerstone of the sense of self. Our usual sense of self requires some kind of position—a secure perch or foundation or ground—to establish itself. The view of totality reveals that any stability, any fixity of experience, is ultimately a delusion. Reality is not only empty, but also fluid; it moves smoothly like a flowing, free void.

The Discerning Capacity that Discriminates the Immediacy of What We are Experiencing

This brings us back to the discerning and knowing capacity of presence itself—the higher intellect, essential nous, or what we call “diamond guidance”—which reveals that freedom has other meanings and other horizons. The thing that we need to understand about this discerning capacity is that it discriminates not only our knowledge and the content of our mind but also our direct experience. It discriminates the immediacy of what we are experiencing by discerning, seeing, and revealing what is there. It can extract the meaning and the implications of the experience, which in any experience of true nature are countless and varied. When I say “higher intellect” or “divine mind,” many people misunderstand and consider these to be mental faculties. But the heart is vital to this kind of creative discrimination. The functioning of this capacity actually happens through the unity of mind and heart because without love, there would be no compassion or sensitivity to the mind’s discernment. The creative discrimination of presence is activated by the participation of the heart. This discrimination arises according to true, deep, existential need and only when we have the right orientation—a loving desire to know the truth. As I said before, this capacity of presence to discriminate experience transforms life into a process of discovery and revelation. This presence is not our mind, is not our feelings, is not our body, although it makes use of all of these; it is its own truth. 

The Feeling of Not Knowing What to Do to Be Oneself is Not an Actual Deficiency

The most important insight needed for a student to move from the deficient lack of support to the actual state of support is the recognition that the feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what to do to be oneself, is not an actual deficiency, nor a personal failing. It is rather, the recognition of a fundamental truth about the self, which is that we cannot do anything in order to be, for to be is not an activity. We can come to this understanding only through the cessation of intentional inner activity. At this point, not to know what to do is a matter of recognizing the natural state of affairs, for since there is nothing that we can do to be, then it is natural that we cannot know what to do. There is nothing to know because such knowledge is impossible. Nobody knows what to do to be, and the sooner we recognize this, the easier is our work on self-realization. In fact, feeling that we don’t know what to do to be ourselves is the beginning of the insight that we don’t need to do anything. This fundamental insight underlies many advanced spiritual practices, such as those of surrender and “nondoing” meditation. We can arrive at this insight by exploring the question of support for identity, but it is another matter to remember and practice it. When we truly learn this fundamental truth, then we have become wise; for self-realization is now an effortless relaxation into the nature of who we are, and this is the presence of Being. Nothing more need be done; the transformation is a matter now of spontaneous unfoldment.

The Knowing Of Being is by Identity

The experience of the Personal Essence is independent from memories. This is because the Personal Essence, with its sense of being a person, is neither an image nor a feeling dependent on an image. It is independent from the mind and its structures, and hence it is independent from the memories of one’s personal history. It is direct perceptual recognition of a state of Being, in the here and now. It is direct and immediate knowing of one’s true personhood, that is inseparable from being the person. This kind of knowing is characteristic of Being in general. The usual kind of knowing is through inference. The knowing of Being is by identity. One knows oneself because one is oneself. It is knowing by being what is known. So it is an immediate, direct, and existential knowing, in which there is no duality of subject and object. So the recognition that Personal Essence is oneself as a person is a definite, clear, profound and unassailable knowingness. There is confidence and certainty. One experiences oneself as a human being, as an ongoing-personal beingness. One is real for one exists absolutely, irrespective of the past and of the environment. One is an ongoing sense-of-beingness that is made out of alive consciousness, consciousness that is a palpable presence and not merely the capacity to be conscious. To be is not just to know in one’s mind that one is. To be is to be Being, as existence, and as a substantial presence that is experienced as concretely as physical reality. So to be the Personal Essence is to be a substantial presence, a fullness, a compact consciousness that feels personal. 

There is No True Knowing the Atom by Looking at It

To say that love is a beingness doesn’t mean anything to someone who doesn’t know what beingness is. Being is not an emotion. It does not even feel the way your body feels. Beingness means knowing that I am, that I exist as an is-ness, without reference to anything else. You know your body exists because you can feel it, see it, but that is not the way essence is. Essence exists not because you can feel it or see it. It is more intimate than that. The knowing of existence, the feeling of existence and the existence itself are all one thing. This category of experience is not available to the personality. To know an atom, you look in the microscope and see its shape and color. If you were to know the atom the way essence is known, you would need to be the atom itself and know what the atom feels like. There is no true knowing the atom by looking at it. As you can see, the beingness of essence is very far from emotional reactions, or something you give somebody. There is no somebody having something. The mode of knowingness, the mode of taste, of beingness and love doesn’t have that kind of separation, which as we have seen is the only mode in which the personality functions—there is me knowing something, me experiencing my body, me having an emotion, me having an idea. It is not that there is a me which has love; the love and the me are the same thing. I don’t mean that they are two things intertwined—I mean they are the same thing. It is not that this finger has this finger. They are so intertwined that I know I have love, but I am not separate from love. It is one finger, and the finger says, “I am.”  

To Indirectly Know Ourselves Means that We do Not Know Ourselves as Presence

Representations are the stuff of ordinary knowledge, which means the identity ends up being part of ordinary knowledge, not basic knowledge. This means the soul will know herself through representational knowledge. Representational knowledge, especially through memories, is bound to be an indirect knowing. To indirectly know ourselves means, by definition, that we do not know ourselves as presence; to know ourselves as presence is nothing but to know ourselves directly and immediately. The hallmark of our essential presence is immediacy and directness. The development of the ego sense of identity means the loss of this immediacy, which is again a dissociation of the soul from her essential ground. Furthermore, the overall self-representation, with all of its underlying ego structures, patterns the soul by impressing her field with the content of her history. The past ends up determining the forms the soul experiences in herself, conditioning her dynamic creativity to flow in largely predetermined grooves. This again means the soul’s experience of herself is not immediately in the present, but mediated through past experience. This is both a mediation through the past, and a direct loss of the immediacy of the experience of the present moment. Essential presence is both an immediacy of consciousness and a completely present centered consciousness of oneself. This again dissociates the soul’s experience from her essential ground of presence. 

We Can Only Know Consciousness Purely by Being It, by Identifying Consciousness with Consciousness

Being is more fundamental than the thinking mind and more fundamental than feelings and emotions. It is the ground of all manifestation. And we can focus our knowing on this dimension, rather than on manifestation, the content of normal experience and perception. When we do that we find we are presence. As presence, I am because I am. Before we go into the subtle question of identity, whether presence is an “I” (which is discussed in The Point of Existence), the point we are emphasizing here is that presence is known by presence. In this dimension, being and knowing are one, not yet differentiated. From the perspective of a culture whose perspective is dominated by the dissociation of self, world, and Being, this unity of knowing and being seems like a novel idea. The dissociation of Being from the self or soul has separated rational/representational knowing from spiritual/mystical knowing. The articulation of rational thought characterizes our logical and discursive knowing, which relies primarily on thinking; and spiritual knowing is now thought of as involving nonrational, direct experience. In our modern understanding, what we think of as knowing is only knowing that relies on the discursive rational mind; we have largely forgotten that direct and mystical experience is also knowing, or gnosis. Gnosis is knowing by being, by identifying with what we know. This kind of knowing has for the most part in modern culture been relegated to religious and spiritual teachings. And since consciousness is the very faculty of knowing, the only way we can truly know it is through gnosis. We can only know consciousness purely by being it, by identifying consciousness with consciousness. This is the experience of presence, which we know by being the presence.

What We Know is Through Words and Concepts that We Acquired from the Past

We kill the world, we kill our lives, we kill our perception by believing that we know. I’m just analyzing it to help you see that we do not really know, not directly, not in an immediate way. What we know is through words and concepts that we acquired from the past. The meanings and connotations of words has a lot to do with what your mother and father believed. The world you see, you are seeing through your mother’s and father’s eyes. You are not really seeing through fresh eyes. You are seeing through your mother’s eyes, and the eyes of the mother of your mother, and the mother of that mother. It goes back to the beginning. But if we can look innocently, purely, directly, then we might see whether we know or not. And the moment we say we know it, the moment we say, “I know who I am,” or we say, “I know what life is, I know what death is, I know what a table is, I know what this world is about,” we put a big barrier on our perception. The barrier is your words, your knowledge, your mind, your past, your experience, and what you know is no longer the world. 

When the Knowing Faculty is at Rest

I think it is good to distinguish between the two kinds of not knowing. The not knowing of ignorance is when we don’t know something because we don’t have the information. This is different from the not knowing that is a state of being, which means that the knowing faculty is at rest. That kind comes about not because we are ignorant but because we trust that we can be in that gap, that stillness. It is not the same as the normal not knowing, which is, “I don’t know; I haven’t heard about it.” When people here talk about not knowing as an experience, it doesn’t mean not knowing in the sense of not having information.

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