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Paradox

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Paradox

A Totally Nonconceptual Realization of True Nature

This precipitates the movement of the student’s identity into a subtler manifestation of Being, a totally nonconceptual realization of true nature. He experiences himself now as nonconceptual reality, beyond all mind and concepts, beyond all specifications and recognitions. He cannot even say whether he is being or nonbeing, absence or presence. Existence is negated, and this negation in turn is negated. His recognition of himself negates both negation and affirmation of any attributes, which is a much more profound experience of Being than that of pure Being. There is now no definite sense of any concept, reality, thing, or manifestation. He is both existence and nonexistence, not existence and not nonexistence. He is both self and not self. This is a very paradoxical manifestation of Being, beyond any conceptualization. This experience is boundless, but it does not feel as clear as presence or fullness. It is like experiencing the inside of all of the universe as a totally clear and completely transparent, crystalline medium. There is no iota of obscuration or impediment, just an infinity of transparent clarity. There is a stunning sense of awakeness, intensely fresh and new. When there are no concepts in our recognition of ourselves, nothing is old; everything is the pure freshness of suchness, the intensity of eternity that has no concept of time.

Beginning to Live the Mystery of the Paradox of Practice and Grace

True practice means letting ourselves explore what is happening in this moment. For a long time, we can’t help thinking that exploration will take us deeper and will reveal more. And it does reveal more and more until, at some point, we might recognize that the revelation is not headed in any particular direction or to any specific place. We might recognize that whatever is being
revealed at any moment, from the very first moment we practice, is realization, is reality manifesting itself. What else could it be? Who else would be doing it? Practice fully realized is mature enough to accept the ordinary simplicity of whatever is happening as what realization is at the moment. But it takes a great deal of work to develop that kind of maturity. We have to fully exhaust all other possibilities for that simplicity to manifest. We have to experience and understand and embody all kinds of spiritual dimensions and all kinds of enlightenment in order to be free and to accept our everyday ordinariness without it having to be anything else. We cannot one day decide to be simple and ordinary. We need only to live each moment as it is, to live each moment fully and authentically without rejection or acceptance, without commentary or second guessing. With such total practice, we begin to live the mystery of the paradox of practice and grace.

How can Absence Which is not Existence Have Qualities Like Radiance and Density?

I now experience my identity, which is the nature of everything, as a crystal black absence. I feel myself, my existence, as the immensity of presence, absolutely dense and infinitely deep. Yet this immensity and density feels totally light and weightless, completely devoid of any sensation. It is so empty it is total absence. It is nothing, but at the same time it is dense presence. To describe it exactly, it is radiant black crystalline dense absence. How can absence, which is not existence, have qualities like radiance and density? This is absolutely paradoxical, but this is my experience. How does this absence feel? Like the absence of everything. But this absence of everything is simultaneously the solid ground and nature of everything. The sense of this
truth is that it is neither presence nor absence but, at the same time, it combines presence and absence. It feels absolute in its truth and certainty. The sense of truth and certainty are not conceptual; they are totally beyond mind and thought.

Paradoxical Experience when Space and Presence are Indistinguishable

It is possible to see that space is present all the time, and that it underlies and inheres in any object that we perceive. So space becomes the inherent emptiness, the inherent openness in experience. That is why in some of the traditions, as that of Dzogchen, Being is described as having emptiness as its essence. Experientially, as we penetrate the representations through which we perceive, we discover that Being is presence whose essence is spaciousness. Our perception and understanding of spaciousness can go through degrees of refinement, which are experienced as the levels of space, until we recognize it with complete objectivity, which is possible when there are no obscurations in our experience of reality. At this subtlety of perception space and presence are so indistinguishable that experience becomes paradoxical. It is both being and nonbeing, both presence and absence, but not exactly, because even being and nonbeing are categories not free from representations. This is the dimension of the mystery of our Being.

The Void, pg. 156

The Absolute is the Ground that, Paradoxically, is not Only Nonexistent, it is Nonexistence

The absolute is not something other than the consciousness that contemplates it. It is not something outside of the awareness that inquires into it. It is not a product of consciousness or perception, but their very source. It is also not a percept that can be delineated completely. In fact, it is not a percept, even though we seem to have the experience of perceiving it. It is the ground of all perception, all experience. And this ground is paradoxically not only nonexistent, it is nonexistence. This nonexistence is also mysteriously inseparable from all existence, as its ultimate truth and reality. The absolute is what gives everything its existence, without it itself being an existent.

The Beginning of the Paradoxes of Being

The dimension of pure presence is the beginning of the paradoxes of Being, where logical dichotomies no longer hold. Being and nothing are not two things here, for they have not yet been differentiated for the conceptual mind to make them into a dichotomy. Inner essential space appears here as an indistinguishable side of presence, as the nothingness of Being. Its direct feel is somewhat different from the way we have experienced it before, on the preceding dimensions. Space has felt to us similar to physical space, even though pervaded by the clear awareness and psychological spaciousness. It has felt somewhat linear, Euclidean. Now we feel it free from linear Euclidean dimensionality. It feels as if it has no straight lines, no sense of distance, almost no sense of extension at all. We feel like nothing, a nothing that extends forever, without this nothing having any sense of dimension. It is a nothing that underlies and constitutes everything, and hence there are no limitations or boundaries anywhere. Yet, we do not sense any inner structuring that will give us the sense of length, width, and depth. It has no coordinates, at least no Euclidean coordinates. It is like a space that has been destructured, that has lost its spatial structuring. We have no sense of orientation and no sense of its absence, no sense of direction and no sense of its absence. It is like an exploding nothing where we have a sense of exploding only because we still perceive forms arising.

The Emptiness of the Absolute is the Ground of all Reality

An alternative experience is that of awareness of one’s presence as the vast crystalline mystery of the absolute, whose surface is a transparent and clear crystalline layer that contains all the forms of manifestation, in all of its dimensions. In this experience it is quite clear that nonconceptual presence or pure awareness is the ground of all manifestation, yet it is external to the absolute. More accurately, the absolute functions as the ground of all reality, including nonconceptual awareness. The absolute is the ground of all grounds, the ultimate ground. In other words, the emptiness of the absolute is the ground of all reality, so all manifest forms, whether relative or essential, are grounded in emptiness. This is quite a paradoxical truth, for it shows that nonbeing is the ground of all being. All forms, regardless of how real or substantial, are grounded in nothing. Such is the objective relation that the ground dimension reveals the absolute to have in relation to all manifestation.

The Paradox at the Bottom of the Issue of Inadequacy

From these observations we can see why inadequacy, and the defenses against it, inhibit many individuals from embarking on the process of transformation, and why many of those who do embark, do it in such a halfhearted way that nothing of significance happens. To actually expand, or to truly believe in the possibility of expansion, challenges one’s entrenched belief in one’s hopelessness and inadequacy. Identifying with the inadequacy makes one feel and believe one cannot deal with it, because one will be then feeling inadequate! This is the paradox at the bottom of this issue which constitutes one important reason a teacher is generally needed for the process of realization. He is not needed only for guidance, but also for support, without which most students will feel helpless and inadequate to engage in the process. The fact that the teacher has successfully gone through the process makes it possible and believable that the student might do so, and thus shakes his deep conviction in his hopelessness.

The Paradox of Nondoing

Many teachings recognize the orientations of nondoing and no-goal because these reflect the condition of realization. The realized condition doesn’t have goals and doesn’t do anything to itself. Doing anything to change what is happening will interfere with being in the realized condition. It is paradoxical that nondoing is the heart of many practices, when practices are usually seen as something done by somebody. Some teachings practice nondoing as a sitting meditation …………. In our teaching, what is important about not moving toward a goal is that
the practice isn’t oriented toward taking you to a particular state. This is a delicate point, because even when we learn nondoing, even when we say inquiry is simply staying with the truth, we think that if we do these practices diligently enough, they will take us to the correct state. And we think that there is a particular state that is the correct state. Usually this is the state of enlightenment or realization—whatever we think that may be, whatever the books we read or the teachings we follow say that it is. We think the correct state is absolute awareness or the boundless dimension of love or some other spiritual state. And we think that if we could only practice correctly, if we could only practice without motivation, without aim, we would find ourselves in the primordial condition, which is the enlightened condition. But this assumes that the primordial condition is an end state and that practice will take you there. I am not saying that practice won’t take you there; practice, if we’re experienced and mature in practice, will take you there, but not only there.

There is No Separate Soul Ultimately

So the Basic Fault is seeing things from the perspective of object relations, as discrete entities with fixed boundaries. The perception that there isn’t separateness, that there isn’t discreteness in the way we usually think of it, corrects the Basic Fault. Although discreteness exists, it is a paradox. Difference exists by virtue of being, not through willed effort. There is no separate soul ultimately, although you could experience yourself as a separate soul. As long as you experience yourself as a separate soul, you will feel empty and needy. The true perspective is of oneness, of unity, of no division, no separateness, no duality. We don’t usually see or believe or trust the true perspective of reality. We rely instead on the usual perspective of discrete objects. We trust the usual perspective of object relations and continue to live our life from the perspective of separateness. Now, it’s not enough simply to have the perception or experience of oneness or unity. You have to think that way. You have to feel that way. You have to act that way. All of your centers must realize and live from the perspective that reality is one unity. You perceive discreteness, but the discreteness is more apparent than real. Discreteness lies on the surface of things. Discreteness exists as an apparency, and we consider it useful for practical functioning. Ultimately, though, reality can’t be but one.

We Think Aloneness Means Separateness but Aloneness is not Being Separate

The mind doesn’t understand a state with no boundaries. You have always lived as if you are someone who is different from other people, and different from chairs and everything else. You don’t know if it is possible to be a being, to be oneself and not have that sense of isolation. But when you experience yourself from the perspective of essence, you see that essence doesn’t have that sense of boundary, doesn’t isolate, doesn’t feel it ends somewhere. This does not mean that you don’t exist as you. You still exist as you. But the ego doesn’t know this is possible. To allow yourself not to have boundaries means to accept your aloneness. At the very core of our assumptions about reality, we think aloneness means separateness. But aloneness is not being separate. Aloneness means having no boundaries. How can this be? It is a paradox. Aloneness means your personality is not there, that essence is on its own without personality. It is beingness without the label. When the label falls off, the balloon, the identity, starts floating away.

When You Give up Trying to be who You are You Just Are

Student: I’m wondering about something I heard—that it’s useless, even counterproductive, to work on yourself.
Almaas: That’s true. When you get to subtle levels, you see that the ultimate paradoxes in your work are vicious cycles. This is why some people say it’s better not to do anything about yourself and forget about it. To work on yourself is, at a certain point, to split off from yourself. What does working on yourself mean? It’s artificial. You’re trying to do something to “be” yourself. How can you do something to become who you already are? At the beginning, from the perspective of the superego, you want to become better. But what is “better”? Basically, you believe that to become “better” means actualizing your ego ideal. You just take the Work and fit it with your ego ideal. After a while, when you see through this motivation, you might not use the Work for superego reasons. You might genuinely want to be yourself. But even that falls short, because there’s nothing you can really do to be yourself. How can you try to be who you already are? You can only try to be who you are by separating yourself from who you are. That is what most people do all their lives. You have to go through this all the way and frustrate the hell out of yourself before you can see that it doesn’t really work. The Work speeds up the process. The clearer it becomes, the more you really see you cannot try to become who you are. At some point you give up trying to be who you are. When you give up trying to be who you are, you just are.

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