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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Knowingness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Knowingness

As the Sense of Knowingness and Consciousness Dissolves the Soul is in Cessation

So, little by little, the concepts go away. The concept of being the body, the concept of being an individual, the concept of past, present, and future, the concept of space—all dissolve. The last concept to go is existence, the notion that something is there. Awareness of existence is called consciousness. We are attached to the sense that there is beingness. And even when the sense of beingness goes, there can remain a sense of consciousness. If the sense of presence or existence goes, there will be just consciousness. Pure consciousness is awareness without content. In Zen, this is often called fundamental reality. There is no sense of existence, there is just awareness. There is knowingness, but not knowingness of anything in particular. Nothing can be said about it. But even this open knowingness has to go at some point. It doesn’t go and never come back, but we discover that knowingness is not final, that consciousness is not final. As the sense of knowingness and consciousness dissolves, the soul is in cessation; it has no sense of being or existence. We call this the Absolute. You realize your final nature is not that cosmic existence, but the source of cosmic existence. You discover that the nature of the human being you have taken yourself to be is ultimately the source of everything. This is the deepest mystery, unknowable by mind or by consciousness. You realize that the universe is simply a robe that you wear. When you take it off is when you go to sleep. The Absolute is like the sleep of the cosmic existence; the cosmic existence is like the waking up of the Absolute. The cosmic existence is the day; the Absolute, the night.

Felt Knowingness

The feeling of an essential presence is part of its very substance; it is a quality of consciousness, a felt knowingness, a state with a recognizable quality. The closest we can come to describing the present quality is to call it a feeling of identity.

Immediate Knowingness

So, the knowingness we’re talking about has to be immediate. That’s why we say you not only have to be aware, you have to be fully present. Your consciousness of what you are experiencing has to fill the entire field of your awareness. It has to feel whatever is there, without veils or filters. Whatever you are feeling—hatred, rejection, resistance, anger, happiness, spaciousness—you allow it to fill all of your awareness, so that you feel it directly and completely. And the feeling of that, the experience of whatever is arising, is inseparable from the knowingness of it—because you cannot know True Nature conceptually, through the discursive mind.

Knowing Through Identity

You can know your body through being intimate with it, you can know your feelings through being intimate with them, you can know your inner state by being intimate with it. Intimacy means that no barrier exists between you and whatever you are knowing. It’s a direct in-touch-ness, a direct contact. More than that, it is a mixing of your consciousness with whatever it is you’re knowing. There are no barriers, no walls, between you and what it is that you are knowing. This has been traditionally termed knowing through identity, that is, knowing by being what you know. It has also been termed gnosis (jnana in Sanskrit; yeshe in Tibetan; ma‘rifa in Arabic). For example, you know anger by being anger, by experiencing it as part of you when your awareness and consciousness pervade the experience of anger. The nature of the soul is such that when a feeling arises, we can experience that feeling from within the feeling itself. We can intimately mix our consciousness with the specifics of our experience and recognize directly what the experience is. This is the ground of knowingness, which is direct knowing, and it is necessary in the process of understanding. Without this kind of knowingness, this gnosis, there is no possibility of real understanding; understanding remains only a mental operation, which is good for mathematics but is not enough for spiritual transformation.

Knowingness Can be a Double-Edged Sword

We need to find out how to use the knowingness in a way that doesn't ensnare but liberates. The fact is that we need knowingness to get to enlightenment. Without knowingness, we would just become stupid saints. A cow is a kind of saint—she grazes peacefully, lies down when she has eaten enough, has no hatred for anything, doesn't want to kill anyone, is completely harmless. But a human being in that state would be called a stupid saint because the knowingness that brings in creativity and learning would be missing. Our human intelligence, our knowingness, our discerning capacity, is what opens many of our potentialities. But it is a double-edged sword; it can turn back on itself and cut us into pieces, disconnecting us from the primordial place of unity and innocence. The more we learn to be in that place and not fight it, the freer we can be from the dangers of identification, reification, and the reactions that happen in the mind.

Knowingness is Inherent to Presence

The fifth major characteristic of true nature is that it is not only awareness, oneness, dynamism, and openness, but also knowingness. This is similar to the Buddhist notion of the “wisdom of discrimination” or the discriminating awareness of the Buddha. It is inherent to essential presence that it is not only awareness of presence but simultaneously the discrimination of the particular quality of presence, such as Compassion or Peace. This knowingness is inherent to presence, inherent to the awareness of presence. It is not that presence arises and a separate awareness knows it as Compassion.

Knowingness of Our Experience in the Moment of Perceiving It has a Profound and Unsettling Implication if We Pay Attention

Now, this knowingness of our experience in the moment of perceiving it has a profound and unsettling implication if we pay attention. This is the hyperdrive jump that shifts us out of our familiar mind. Usually we think of our experience in terms of the duality we have developed as the experiencer and the experienced, the perceiver and the perceived. In terms of the example of fear, we would say, “There is fear and there is me perceiving the fear.” We think fear exists someplace on its own, and the perceiver is someplace else, looking and thinking, “Oh look, there is fear.” This is the familiar and assumed position that we are in some separate place of observation viewing the world and our experience. But when you experience fear, are you the perceiver separate from the fear? Remember, we are speaking now about the immediate level of direct perception. Can you ever separate in your experience the perception of the fear from the fear itself? It is not possible. The perception of the fear is the same as the experience of the fear, which is the same as the presence of the fear. It’s as simple as that. The perceiver and the perceived actually exist together as the experience. If we set aside the duality of the perceiver and the perceived, then what is actually there is consciousness aware of itself as fear. More accurately, there is a consciousness aware of a manifestation within itself as fear. This becomes clear and distinct when we have direct knowledge of what the soul is, for the soul is the experiencing consciousness. The soul is a field of consciousness that has experience because the experience is an arising within the field of that consciousness. Its experience does not happen outside of that field. Thus the soul is both the experiencer and the medium of experience. So the experiencer and what is experienced are not separate. The soul manifests part of itself as fear. It is not a soul over there experiencing its fear as separate from itself, as if through a telescope. The awareness, which is the nature of the soul, is in the fear itself.

Releasing the Need to Know

We can eventually become quiet enough or secure enough in our knowingness that we no longer need to hold on to our knowing. Or perhaps through our inquiring, we have come to recognize what knowingness can and cannot do—we have seen its capacity completely, and so we don’t need to reify the knowing as something to hold on to. Either way, something falls off. The need to hold on to that knowing falls away, and there is just the luminosity of Being, on its own. And our True Nature continues to be our True Nature—because it is timeless, eternal. It was there before we started to know and it continues to be there. Through our experience of living, we have developed the potential of True Nature to know, but True Nature is itself beyond that; it is pre-knowing, more primordial than knowing. It is just the “simply being there”—the awareness of being there without the awareness of being there meaning anything. The experience is: “I am aware of being here, but there is nothing in the mind that says I am aware of being here. There is no recognition of being here; I am just being here.”

Seeing that Knowingness is the Same Thing as the Known, Which is the Same Thing as the Knowledge

The moment you are consciously in touch with basic knowledge, you realize that nothing can escape it. No concept exists outside of it because any concept is ultimately basic knowledge—even God. What is God? Basic knowledge. What is the Absolute? Basic knowledge. Basic knowledge has many qualities, many levels, many refinements, and many ways of manifesting itself. The point is that in any experience, there is knowingness, and if you eliminate the dichotomy of observer and observed, you see that this knowingness is the same thing as the known, which is the same thing as the knowledge. This is a different way of defining knowledge than the ordinary way of defining it. This knowledge is a more direct, immediate, and experienced knowledge, and yet it is still knowledge that includes the discrimination and recognition of the meaning of the experience.

The Capacity for Knowing is Preverbal, Prelabeling

Knowingness is more than just perception, for perception alone indicates only the fact of seeing differentiation. To recognize the differentiation—for differentiation to become discrimination—knowingness is required. This knowingness precedes labeling. For example, an infant knows that it is uncomfortable without having the word or even the concept for being uncomfortable. It simply starts squirming. Its body recognizes that something is uncomfortable. Later on, when we develop language, we call it discomfort. So this capacity for knowing is preverbal, prelabeling. Labeling arises as the next step. In experience, first there is differentiation, that is, awareness that there are various elements and patterns in consciousness. This awareness functions in the same way that a mirror reflects—it reveals the shapes and patterns of our experience but provides no knowledge about what is reflected. The next step is discrimination: recognizing what these elements and patterns are. Knowing implies both their differentiation and discrimination. The third step is labeling, putting a tag on each known element. Thinking assumes all three of these steps in order to proceed. The knowing necessary for understanding occurs in the second step: the discrimination of experience. Labeling may arise—it can be present or not. If it is, it will serve as a tool for articulating the understanding, unless we use the labels as a substitute for the direct knowing. In that case, we end up with only mental understanding.

The Whole Field of Experience is Pervaded by Knowingness

So the whole field of experience is pervaded by knowingness, constituted of knowingness. If you look at a mountain, you say, “I’m seeing the mountain.” Are you seeing the mountain or is there an awareness of a knowingness of seeing the mountain? All you can be aware of is your knowingness that there is a mountain. The knowingness is the object and subject of awareness, for the experience itself is nondual. You are in touch with knowingness in a nondual way. To say that there is a mountain is entirely another step. I am not saying that there is no mountain, but to assert that there is a mountain is a whole other step in addition to the fact of knowingness, which is immediate and direct. You are aware of me talking to you; this is your knowingness. Apart from that knowingness, I cannot exist, as far as you are concerned. That does not mean that I do not exist; that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that as far as your experience is concerned, I do not exist apart from your knowingness. Reality inherently possesses not only awareness, but a discrimination, a faculty that discerns what is encompassed in this awareness.

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