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Mountain Metaphor

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Mountain Metaphor?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Mountain Metaphor

Recognizing the Divine Coming Through all Forms

If you really love, you see the whole picture. If you truly love somebody, you see that he or she is not different from the divine. So when you love this person, you love the divine—if the love is complete. And if you love the divine, you don’t love only one person; you love everything and everybody, because the divine comes through everything and everybody. So, as we begin to recognize the divine coming through all forms, all bodies, and all manifestations, our perception changes. It is the same mountain and, at the same time, it is transparent. It is as though you could see through the rocks, through the trees. It is not that you see objects behind other objects because things are physically transparent; that is not what I mean. You are able to see through everything, to the center of the universe, to the essence of it. You look at the mountain and into the mountain, and it opens into inner space and pure light, but it is still the mountain.

The First of Three States: The First Mountain

There is a Zen saying that describes the primary stages of the path: “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is a mountain” ……… When we inquire into our ordinary experience, we see that it contains things that are of the first mountain. Ordinary experience says that there is a mountain, there is me, there is you, there is the world. And all of this is seen from the ordinary perspective: There is this mountain and that other mountain—all these mountains, just as there are all these people and all these things. Everything is actually seen from an isolated, mental perspective, a perspective that views reality as being composed of many things. And we tend to see this manyness of things in terms of divisions and polarities.

The Second State: Dissolution Reveals the State of “No Mountain”

The second mountain is very different from the first mountain, however, because we have traveled the whole path. It is the same mountain, yet we experience it, and the whole of realty, in a totally new way. Zen practitioners do things such as koan practice and zazen, sitting meditation. Although we engage in meditations of various kinds, our main practice in the Diamond Approach is inquiry into ordinary experience. ................ Exploring the divisions within our experience and understanding how they become separated into opposing sectors can be a rich inquiry. Understanding the opposition, the conflict, and the polarity will resolve to an underlying truth, which is the second mountain. But in the process, dissolution occurs. There is loss, there is annihilation of whatever it is we are exploring—and that is true about anything we explore in our personal experience. This is the state of no mountain. If we fully explore any of our experiences, any of the objects of our experience, any of the content of our experience, in order to understand it as completely as possible, at some point the process will reveal things that we don’t see at the beginning. The process begins to reveal the invisible world, the world that we don’t see with our senses, with our ordinary eyes. This will feel like a loss, but through the loss a discovery is uncovered.

The State of “No Mountain” is Not Complete Without the World

It is the nature of spiritual experience and realization that we feel we are disengaging from the world. The deeper we go into the spiritual ground, the more we feel we are losing things in the world. And we assume that we have to let go of our attachments. We think we need to release our attachment to our bodies, to other people’s bodies. We have to let go of our attachments to our cars, our homes, our mobile phones—all the things we love and enjoy. We feel that we have to give up many things we love, and many spiritual traditions support that: “Yes, you have to surrender these things; they should not be that important to you. The spiritual, God, buddha nature—these are what bring true freedom, true happiness.” Many people who manage to experience the vastness, the depth, the infinity, the eternity of our nature and its miraculousness and mystery, can feel at some point that the world and everything in it is not important. You might have experiences that the world is all gone—this is the stage of no mountain. However—and frequently—the first love reasserts itself because the spiritual dimension does not seem complete on its own. The spiritual, whether we think of it as God or not, is not complete without the world.

The State of “No Mountain” is Seen as the First from the Nondualistic Viewpoint

The second mountain is the same mountain as the first, but is seen without the dualistic point of view. When we see the second mountain, our heart is unified. We don’t have two loves. We have only one love— because there is only one reality. This points again to the juxtaposition of the two terms “divine” and “eros.” The first represents the spiritual world and the second represents this world, but divine eros combines them. When we see their reality, we recognize that they are inseparable. They are not only inseparable, they are one. When we see the spirit completely for what it is, we know that what is called the spiritual universe is nothing but the true underlying condition of this world.

The Third State: Return of the Same Mountain

Spirituality, at least in the Diamond Approach, means recognizing the true condition of reality and understanding through experience that it is much more mysterious than we think. The true condition of reality is that the physical and the spiritual are the same thing, yet this does not mean they are identical. The mountain comes back again. It is the same mountain; nothing changes in it, yet it has become God’s appearance. Look at the mountain—you don’t see the burning bush, you just see God. That mountain is God . . . but it is also the mountain. Which one do you love? You don’t have to decide, because they are the same. You will experience conflict or disharmony between the two if you divide God and the mountain into two separate things. To want only one is to want an impossibility, because one doesn’t exist without the other. If you only want the world, that is not possible. If you only want spirit, that is not possible. You can’t help but want both because the two are the same thing—a unity that we can experience in various ways, depending on our level of spiritual realization. Thus, when you separate that which is the same, you experience conflict, because deep inside of you is unity, and what you have divided into two is actually the same thing. You are the spirit. Who else do you think is looking at me? If you are not the spirit, you will not hear, you will not see, you will have no sensitivity.

Understanding of this Metaphor is Centered on the Wisdom of Nondual Realization of Presence, Awareness and Emptiness

This point is illustrated in Buddhism by the saying, “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, and then there is a mountain.” The usual understanding of this is centered on the wisdom of the nondual realization of presence, awareness, and emptiness. “First there is a mountain” refers to looking from the perspective of the individual, where regardless of whether we experience ourselves in a spiritual way or not, we perceive that there is a mountain. When we recognize “there is no mountain,” we are seeing the real nature of the mountain and of reality as emptiness. The mountain could be anything or reality as a whole; it could be replaced with your body, your thoughts, an apple, or the totality of the universe. This second phase means that we are seeing true nature as a simple emptiness. That is what is real and the mountain is an ephemeral mirage. The third phase, “and then there is a mountain,” refers to a mountain that is different from the first one because it is integrated into true nature. Here we perceive it as an empty mountain, a mountain of luminosity where the manifest and unmanifest are completely inseparable. In the second phase where there is no mountain, there is only true nature, and we are seeing the truth of true nature in its emptiness and transparency. In this progression, the mountain that then appears is true nature appearing as a mountain.

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