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Nonconceptual Reality

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Nonconceptual Reality?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Nonconceptual Reality

Experiencing Things Without the Past, with Absolutely No Mind

In the last few meetings, we have explored the subject of nonconceptual reality. We have approached the nonconceptual by discussing what concepts are and how they influence perception. Basically, we have tried to get a feeling for what we mean when we speak of experience with concepts and without concepts. Some of us have some inkling of what I mean by concepts, and what I mean by experiencing things without concepts. To experience things without concepts means to experience things without the past, with absolutely no mind, because mind is the filter we put on reality. When we speak here of experience without mind, we mean without discursive or discriminating mind, not without awareness. The nonconceptual is what is, without the overlay of our past experience, our past prejudices, and our minds. This is what is referred to when some traditions, such as Zen, talk about “no mind.”

Nonconceptual Reality is What Functions

In other words, the Nonconceptual Reality is what functions, without functioning being perceived as separate in any way from the presence of Reality. There is no conceptualization whatsoever, so there is no differentiation between functioning and what functions. It is as if when the hand moves it is not your hand, but the hand of the true Reality, which is nothing but the true Reality. The Nameless Reality is you, is the hand, and is the movement of the hand.

Nonconceptual Reality, which is the Ground of the World of Concepts, Experienced as Not Absolutely Real

Even consciousness, which is not exactly a concept, can be shed. At some point, usually without anticipating it, one realizes that one is perceiving the Nameless Reality as external to oneself. One becomes aware that one is beyond the Nameless, and the world that it supports, as an unknowable mystery. The Nonconceptual Reality, which is the ground of the world of concepts, is experienced here as not absolutely real. In fact, it is experienced as a radiance, ephemeral and insubstantial, in relation to and emanating from an unfathomable Absolute. One realizes that one’s most absolute nature, which turns out to be the underlying nature of all of existence, transcends not only the mind, but consciousness itself. One is the beyond, beyond whatever can be experienced or perceived. Absence is seen as an incomplete glimpse into the Absolute. One is the ultimate subject, which cannot be an object of perception, and hence is unknown and unknowable. The Absolute is not aware of itself, but awareness of everything else proceeds from it, while what characterizes consciousness is that it is conscious of itself.

Referencing What Actually Exists

Nonconceptual reality is a term I use to refer to what actually exists. That reality can be perceived and apprehended not by going beyond concepts, but by going through concepts—seeing and recognizing concepts, a process which can make them transparent. We generally live from an incomplete perception, taking a small dimension of reality to be all that there is. Then we try to live our lives according to that partial view. We try to solve our problems from that incomplete perspective, which doesn’t work. Unless we actually realize what the whole truth is, what is actually there, what reality is in its totality, we will be misguided and inefficient in dealing with the situations in our lives. We generally can’t even imagine what actual reality is like, because we have taken a dimension of what exists and focused on it to the exclusion of the rest of reality. To actually comprehend the greater reality not only helps us to deal with our lives, but also shows us that reality is something more beautiful, real, and majestic than we have imagined. It is ultimately a beautiful mystery—the way things are, what actually exists, and how things function. Reality is so mysterious, so amazing, so magical, that seeing it is bound to change us and change our lives. Knowing what is real, we can’t continue to live in the same way.  

The Experience of Nonconceptual Reality

The experience of the Absolute is similar to that of nonconceptual reality, with an important difference: In looking towards the depths of presence instead of towards manifestation (that is, focusing the attention on the quality of presence rather than on the forms and colors that it displays), we find clarity characterized by absence in the latter and cessation of all perception in the former. The experience of nonconceptual reality is like clear, colorless light, while the Absolute has more a sense of clear, black light. The blackness of the Absolute is not a color, however; it is the absence of perception. It is cessation. So the experience of the Absolute is even more paradoxical than that of the non-conceptual dimension.

We Need to Come to Appreciate that Reality is Beyond Concepts

When concepts become this fixed in our consciousness, we can perceive nothing new. Unable to perceive the subtleties of each changing situation, we even repeat the same gestures and the same comments in situations that appear the same. That’s the pattern. When our minds become habituated to such automatic responses, they grow lazy and inattentive, especially in familiar surroundings. Our fixed views give us a sense of security. We feel we ‘know’ the objects in our world; we feel we ‘know’ people and other living beings. We count on things to stay the same and to fulfill our expectations of what they are supposed to be and do. This statement brings out a psychodynamic issue related to concepts. We use our conviction that concepts are real to give us a sense of security. They function as supports for our sense of ourselves and the world. As we explore conceptual and nonconceptual reality, we will deal little by little with some fundamental, entrenched concepts and with the psychodynamic need for concepts. But first we’re working to understand concepts. We need to contemplate this issue of concepts if we are to truly understand reality. And we need to come to appreciate that reality is beyond concepts.

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