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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Nonduality?

“In the nondual condition, the individual consciousness is not foreground. The self disappears, the individual disappears, even the soul disappears—there is only reality. There is only nondual presence.” 

— A. H. Almaas

Nonduality is the absence of the separateness between subject and object. Subject and object are no longer dual; they are unified. There is no longer a subject experiencing an object; everything is one thing. 

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Nonduality

Can the Nonduality of Reality be Discovered?

Like life, the teaching that I communicate, the Diamond Approach, is a living truth that constantly evolves and reveals more about itself and more about reality. For many decades now, this teaching has been investigating the nature of who we are and what reality is. It has developed many practices and revealed countless realms of experience. Inquiry, our central practice, always begins by exploring exactly where we find ourselves in the moment. For most of us, this means that we begin our inner work by dealing with the structures and beliefs that constrain the aliveness of our immediate experience. Over time, this open and open-ended inquiry into our experience carries us through all kinds of realizations and awakenings. We discover the soul, we discover presence in its myriad qualities, we discover the boundless dimensions of true nature and the nonduality of reality, and we learn how to live a personal life that reflects the wisdom of all these discoveries. The journey into the absolute heart of reality and its integration into our daily life is fundamental to waking up and to continuing to wake up in novel and unexpected ways.

Dualistic Perception Contains Traces of Nonduality

One characteristic of dualistic perception is that it contains traces of nonduality. The separateness of subject and object is never total. What I mean is that you never find a subject by itself. A subject always implies an object. And conversely, you can never only have an object; there is always the experiencer of the object. There cannot be an other without somebody saying, “This is an other.” So, in dual experience, there is no experience of a self or a subject by itself, and there is no experience of an other or an object by itself. Subject and object, although distinct, always arise as a unit; they are always connected to each other somehow. This is a mysterious sort of perception that most of us, when we are experiencing from the conventional view, never even consider.

Experiencing Nonduality and Delusions that Can Persist as Concepts

We might think that nondual experience is the real thing because it seems to have no conditions, and is free. We can experience the nondual condition as one field that is manifesting everything, as one field that is being aware of everything, as a pure awareness or presence that experiences everything as its own luminosity and presence. The nondual condition, also called the enlightened condition, is free in terms of being free of suffering, but it is not free, as we have already seen, of certain positions or concepts. In other words, we can experience true nature fully without necessarily being free of all delusion and ignorance. We can experience the nondual condition and, at the same time, ignorance or delusions can persist as concepts we do not recognize that are patterning the experience. And the primary concept that patterns the nondual condition and makes us think that the nondual condition is the true condition of reality is the concept of nonduality itself. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “What does that mean? Of course the nondual is nondual, and that is what is wonderful about it.” It’s true, that is what is wonderful about it; however, if you investigate nonduality more completely, you can begin to discern some of its implications. A truly nondual teaching will, at some point, divulge that the nondual is not opposed to the dual, that the nondual is not entirely nondual. In the beginning of experiencing the nondual condition, we experience it as simply the absence of the separateness of the duality between subject and object. Subject and object are no longer dual; they are unified. There is no longer a subject experiencing an object; everything is one thing. But that one thing is experienced as one unified thing precisely because it is contrasted to the dual.

Experiencing True Nature Nondual with Its Manifestations

Because of this difficulty, many wisdom teachings take the view that the transcendent true nature is unknowable. In our view this is both true and false. We can definitely know and experience true nature, fully and completely. We can experience ourselves as timeless and spaceless infinity, and respond with wonder. We are then the ground of everything, the source of all manifestation, the essence of reality. We are total freedom and bliss, with no conceptual limitations. We are what makes anything exist, the source of all that appears, and the very substance and nature of everything. At the same time we are totally autonomous, absolutely independent of any form or quality. Yet this is not the experience of true nature in its absolute transcendence. It is the experience of true nature nondual with its manifestations. Here we are experiencing ourselves as true nature; we are recognizing true nature in its fullness and completeness. Yet we are experiencing it with the forms and colors that it manifests. We can discriminate true nature from its manifestations, yet in reality we do not know whether true nature will be like this when there is no manifestation. So, in actuality, we cannot know true nature in its absolute transcendence. This is so because there is no such thing as experience of true nature without some manifest form. The form might be empty space, but this is still not true nature. In fact, as we will see shortly, when there is no form manifesting there is no awareness at all, for awareness requires some differentiation, and hence the presence of forms.

Freedom from the Conventional View of Being a Separate Self

But the important thing about any condition of nondual realization is that there is a freedom from the conventional view of being a self that experiences objects and the world as separate from that self. We are free from the conventional view of duality between the experiencer and the experienced, between oneself and other things, between oneself and reality as a whole. In the nondual view, of course, not only is there no conventional self, but even the individual consciousness is one of the forms that manifests like any other. So we experience ourselves as the totality, as the whole universe. We are all the universes. We are the Being that is the nature of the universe that is in constant transformation, and that transformation is the evolution of the universe. In other words, the appearance of true nature is the universe that we see and the experiences that we have. But true nature is far more than only that—it is vast and mysterious, transparently clear, empty and full of presence. Nondual realization is definitely a condition of freedom, a condition of deep realization, and to be in that condition is considered by some teachings to be true enlightenment.

How Might We Experience Nonduality?

In the experience of nonduality, it is not as though physical reality were a dream emanating from it -- that perception would still be dualistic. When duality is seen through, physical reality is imbued with the essential dimension, and the two become one. This gives the physical more reality, more substance, more existence, more meaning, more depth, and more dimensionality. When you look at people, they seem more substantial, and even their bodies appear more physical, in a sense. Every object and person has a concreteness and a definiteness that makes each appear more defined, more present, and more complete, because your experience of them includes the depth of the true existence. When everything is perceived as the Absolute, each atom, each form, has its depth. The Absolute not only underlies everything, but penetrates all manifestation. Depending upon which dimension you are experiencing, everything you perceive acquires the depth and beauty of that dimension.]



Facets of Unity, pg. 87

Implications of the Nondual Dimension

The individual soul matures and develops through life and experience and understanding. Its maturation reveals the essential person we call the pearl beyond price, the manifestation of the true individual instead of the ego individual. There is an essential person, and the essential person is a person of presence, a manifestation of presence. But the individual is a much bigger mystery than we know. There are realizations and truths about reality that are not apparent in the nondual condition. As we investigate and see the implications of the nondual dimension, we can transition to other forms of realization, which not only reveal the importance of the individual for any realization, but also reveal the intrinsic importance of the individual. It’s not only living presence and total nondual reality that need to be realized. That is not all of realization. The individual has his or her own importance. The view of totality shows that other forms of realization can reveal the individual in a different light, which is not evident in most teachings or most states of nonduality.

In the Nondual Condition the Self Disappears, the Individual Disappears, there is Only Reality

But from the view of totality, the nondual condition is only one of infinite kinds of possible realization. Nondual realization is accurate in the sense that this vastness and transparent truth is what is manifesting everything, and the self is either a delusion or a form simply manifested, and all activities are simply ways of seeing the continuous manifestation of reality as a whole in its unity and oneness. However, without the view of totality, we might forget that there would be no realization, no enlightenment, and no awareness of the nondual condition if it weren’t for the individual consciousness. In the nondual condition, the individual consciousness is not foreground. The self disappears, the individual disappears, even the soul disappears—there is only reality. There is only nondual presence. However, if there were no individual consciousness, there would be no perception, no sensation, and no awareness of nondual truth manifesting its possibilities. So you, as an individual, are important for realization. Enlightenment needs you to recognize itself; it needs you as an individual. In nondual truth, your sense of who you are is not as an individual. You are the Living Being that is the nature of everything and that is manifesting and creating everything. However, you as an individual who is practicing is how this nondual truth is recognizing its enlightenment.

Kinds of Nonduality

In the third mode, Truth and identity are completely coemergent, absolutely nondual. If we express the second mode of experiencing Truth we will say: “There is only Truth,” while if we express the third way, we will say: “I am the Truth.” Both modes of experience are nondual, but we see here two kinds of nonduality. The first mode of experience of the nonduality is absolute identity, while the second is absolute coemergence.

Love Brings Nonduality Between the Soul and Its Own Identity

When the soul finally unifies with its Beloved, we say that the soul is complete, whole, nondual. So, we say, “Love eliminates duality.” It brings nonduality between the soul and its own identity. This nonduality is not between the soul and something else we call the Beloved, which is over there somewhere and which you bring back and become unified with. That is merely the language of love. The language of love is a language of duality. There is a lover and there is the Beloved—that's how we experience the underlying ground of nonduality being felt in the world of duality in which we live.

Love Unveiled, pg. 108

No Single View Can Capture the Dynamism of Reality

What is revealed as we do this is that reality is far more indeterminate, far more mysterious than anything we can conceive of. No single view—whether dual, nondual, unilocal, or something else entirely—can capture the dynamism of reality. Freedom is the freedom of reality to reveal its dynamism, to express itself as form, as formlessness, as both, or as neither. No single feature and no combination of features can exhaust the potential of reality. It is a mystery without end. Reality is always revealing itself by knowing itself; and knowing reality and living it becomes the fulfillment of our life. The purity of reality expresses itself to us, through us, and as us, all at once. Our life becomes the life of true nature—the purity at the heart of reality—living consciously and expressing itself as us, using us by being us. This is the mysterious and miraculous heart of human freedom

Nonduality is the Experience of Many Levels of Presentation of Being

Our observation is that nonduality is the experience of many levels of presentation of Being. We can experience nondual presence that is pure Being, or the nonconceptual reality, or the absolute truth. Also, on any of these levels there is a continuous gradation of dominance of presence or clarity on the one hand, and emptiness on the other. One can experience mostly the fullness of presence or the openness of emptiness, without losing the other quality. This is most clear in the case of the Absolute, where we experience this crystalline emptiness coemergent with pure Being or nonconceptual reality. Then we can experience a nondual presence that is a pure presence of fullness, or a nonconceptual clarity, totally inseparable from the crystalline voidness of the Absolute. We then know ourselves as the Absolute, which is total cessation, but which manifests clarity by its sheer radiance. This clarity changes from a fullness and solidity to the most subtle shimmering. In all these transformations of radiance there is a constant, the mysterious Absolute Essence. The Absolute is unchanging, but its radiance is in a constant state of dynamic transformation. The radiance is not a part of the Absolute, but totally coextensive with it. So the Absolute is the absolutely unchanging, while it never ceases to change. This coemergence or coextensiveness of the Absolute and its radiant clarity is what ultimately ends the need for mirroring. The radiant clarity is the mirror-like awareness, and the Absolute is the ultimate depth of Being. So depth and awareness of depth are inseparable. We know the depth of our Being in the very fact of simply being.

Nonduality Reveals the Non-Separateness of all Things

In dual experience, we believe that duality is a permanent feature of reality. That is how most people experience life: “There is me and there is you, and we are really separate, and we can go our own way and never see each other again.” But when we experience nonduality, we see that nothing is separate. We are all an inseparable, indivisible, and formless kind of awareness. That is an important stage of spiritual experience. And total nonconceptuality further shows that even nonduality is a recognizable feature, something that can be isolated and known in contrast to the dual. The experience of total nonconceptuality reveals a featureless consciousness that cannot be experienced by contrasting it with anything else. Thus, for featureless consciousness, whether experience is dual or nondual is irrelevant—it could be either, both, or neither.

Presence Completely Coemergent with Action

In the deeper stages of self-realization, and especially in the experience of primordial nondual Presence, the flow of Presence is completely coemergent with action. Action flows out completely inseparable from Presence, for the body and mind are inseparable manifestations of Presence. In some sense, there is no such thing on this dimension as action, for there is only the continuity of Presence, as a discriminated and patterned flow. Some of these patterns we ordinarily call actions, some we call feelings, and some we call states, but they are all nothing but Presence, the expression of the never-ending creativity of Presence. In other words, action here is ontological creativity and the notion of Presence as the center of initiative and action breaks down on this level of experience, for the center is completely inseparable from, and in fact totally coemergent with, the totality of the self.

Soul and Essence are Nondual

In reality, soul and essence are two aspects of the same thing, just as the body and protoplasm are two aspects of the same thing. For us, for our experience, which is all we have, they are nondual, they are our nonduality. Because they are nondual it is not possible to differentiate them completely. More accurately, we can differentiate them but we cannot dissociate them, we cannot make them two separate and independent realities. How we see their relationship is bound to be somewhat arbitrary, depending on how we differentiate them in thought or experience. We can see essence as a potential of the soul, as its most primordial potential; but we can also see the soul as one of the aspects of essence, as the aspect of life. We can see essence as the ground of the soul, but we can also see the soul as the wholeness whose very fabric is essence. Both possibilities arise in direct experience and in advanced stages of the inner journey the difference between the two gradually dissolves. At this point we experience an essential soul, or a dynamic essence, indicating a complete and total coemergence of essence and soul, reflecting the primordial nonduality of Reality.

The Nondual Condition Tends Not to Focus Much on Matters of Daily Life

<p>The nondual condition shows that all particulars are background and what is foreground is the pure awareness or presence of true nature. Everything is a manifestation of the same thing; all forms are ephemeral and transitory, and they have equal value in terms of perception. We know that if we take everything in life to have equal value—even though we might perceive it that way when our heart is full of love—we will end up with a lot of trouble. We need to discriminate that some things are more important than others, that there is a hierarchy of values, and we need to set priorities. Without priorities, it is difficult to live life. The nondual condition tends not to focus much on matters of daily life. It tends not to recognize that we need to prioritize in order to live in a mature way. And for that to happen, we need to understand the uniqueness of the particular. As we discern the concepts implicit in duality, nonduality, and their opposition, as we penetrate that dichotomy, the condition of realization changes character. Instead of seeing that everything is not separate from everything else and all is one nondual wholeness, what we experience is the absence of thinking of whether things are separate or not, dual or nondual, whether reality is whole or not whole. The notions of duality and nonduality evaporate. We forget that such things exist. And then, when we look at things, when we experience things, we simply perceive them. What is the relationship of a subject and an object? Are they dual? No. Are they nondual? No. What are they? Each is being itself. Everything is whatever it is.</p>

There is, Basically, Only Presence

This recognition of the nondual ground of experience is the realization that there is basically only presence. Presence is what exists, what is, and everything that exists is a form that presence takes. Reality is one unified field of luminosity that differentiates itself into the various perceptions that we have. Thus, True Nature and Being are really the same thing as truth, or reality. All those terms mean the same thing: presence that is in a condition of conscious full realization. In this condition, experience is not filtered through the mind; things are experienced exactly as they are. We see their nature and recognize that it is True Nature—which turns out to be the nature of everything, all the way down to the tiniest particle. This means that nothing exists but True Nature. It pervades everything so intimately, so completely, that it doesn't leave any one spot unoccupied by it.

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