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Perception (Pure Perception)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Perception (Pure Perception)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Perception (Pure Perception)

A Luminous and Blissful Field of Consciousness

The more we allow the pure perception of consciousness to happen, the more all the tensions, difficulties, and hardness begin to soften and dissolve. The different categories merge into each other, melt, lose their separateness. Love merges into hatred, the good merges into the bad, you merge into the other, the rug merges into the air, the air merges into you. The world becomes one big patterned medium, luminous and beautiful. If you allow the various contents of this medium to keep melting into each other, little by little the medium obtains a blissful quality, a deliciousness. It is not a chaotic mass, but a luminous and blissful field of consciousness. You can’t say it’s physical, mental, or spiritual; it is simply a deliciousness. Visually, it is a luminous field of conscious presence. In terms of feeling, it is like an ocean of sensation, where sensation becomes more and more relaxed. Because sensation is relaxed, it is more blissful. Whether you’re feeling your arm or a chair that you’re sitting on or the body of your lover, it is all one blissful type of consciousness

Awareness is the Experience of Presence Without Concepts Which Allows the Capacity for Pure Perception, for Pure Noncognitive Experiencing

The dimension of pure awareness is a vastness, an empty, spacious ground where everything is a manifestation of this transparent clarity. Because it is nonconceptual, there are no memories or associations. Our experience is not patterned by our usual, constructed sense of self, so reality sears with newness and freshness. It seems as if everything is always new, as if everything is experienced for the first time, as if every perception is occurring immediately now. Experiencing this dimension when it first arose, we understood that awareness is a more refined way of recognizing presence. Awareness is the experience of presence without concepts, which allows the capacity for pure perception, for pure noncognitive experiencing. The experience of pure presence and knowingness was sufficient for me; I was happy with that. I didn’t see the need for anything else. So pure awareness came as a surprise. The sense of reality as a unified totality of knowing presence was revealed as an outer manifestation of something more fundamental: pure, transparent, empty awareness. With the arising of this dimension of pure awareness came the recognition that it had been there all along. Both pure knowing and pure awareness are always present in our experience, but we don’t notice them because they are filtered through the constructs of mind and self. We pay more attention to the experiences and the patterns of the structures and completely miss the presence of the unified field of knowing that underlies all experience. And at some point, we recognize that even when there is no knowing, there is still awareness. The arising of this dimension simply makes explicit and dominant in experience something that is already there in an implicit way.

Objective Perception Means Pure Perception

The realization and understanding of space is necessary for the perception of objective reality—what we will call objective perception. Objective perception means perceiving reality, all that confronts our awareness, as it is. It is a matter of seeing things as they are, rather than seeing them from a certain point of view or position. So by objective we do not mean the scientific positivist sense, in which objective means what exists physically outside us rather than in the mind. We also do not mean objective in the sense of not being emotional, or not being experiential. We mean seeing things, seeing internal or external things, as they are, instead of subjectively. Subjective is the antithesis; it means according to our positions, feelings, filters, beliefs and attitudes. So objective perception means pure perception, free from all positions, bias, filters, conflicts, intentions, etc. It is perceiving whatever it is without any obscuration or intermediacy, so we see it just the way it is in itself.

The Void, pg. 151

Our Experience is Not a Pure Perception, but the Thoughts, Feelings and Memories that Our Concepts Bring In

Our experience of what is happening is not of what is actually happening. Actually, when you perceive, the impressions, sounds, sights, or sensations are new—they’re one hundred percent new as they happen. But we don’t see them in their newness, we see them through our concepts about the various kinds of impressions. Not only do we see them through those concepts, those concepts automatically evoke emotional associations and feeling tones. So our experience is not a pure perception, but the thoughts, feelings, and memories that our concepts bring in. We have an experience only in the present moment, but that experience is not really an experience of the moment. Your experience is already your own interpretation of the moment. This happens every second. We never, or rarely, allow ourselves simply to perceive. These associations arise simultaneously with the concept, projecting a past situation onto the present and conditioning how we view an experience. We do not necessarily respond to the immediate experience, but to the experience as it is filtered through concepts, memories, images and associations. Seeing a present situation as similar to a past one, we tend to react automatically, decreasing our ability to assess the present situation freshly. Bound to the past in this way, we cannot perceive the vast range of alternatives available in the present and so diminish our options for action.

Perceiving the Quintessential Jewels is the Pure Perception that Whatever Appears is Always an Ornament of Reality

It’s a subtle thing. In our teaching, we see that our normal mind simply does not have the capacity to recognize true nature. When we recognize true nature, it is actually true nature making the recognition happen. From the beginning of our practice, it is true nature that decided to make itself known through the practice. It’s not like we practice and at some point we recognize true nature. True nature is functioning from the beginning. The dynamism from the beginning is what is guiding our work, what is moving the whole process. The practice is simply to recognize that we need to get out of the way; we need to suspend our habitual goal-oriented doing. The magic is not only in the experience of the enlightened view. The magic is anytime, all the time, anyplace, everyplace. Even when we are not experiencing the instantaneous creation of reality everywhere at once, true nature is ornamenting itself, is changing its jewelry. We can perceive the preciousness of reality regardless of what is arising. If we are aware of the Quintessence, then everything appears as jeweled, even the superego and all of that. Perceiving the Quintessential jewels is the pure perception that whatever appears is always an ornament of reality.

Perception that One is the Formless Oneness of Being

At some point one perceives—usually suddenly—that one is the formless oneness of Being. The supreme, pure aspect of Being is now experienced in its aloneness, without the presence of ego structures and identifications. For this reason, the issue of aloneness sometimes resurfaces just before this experience of pure oneness. This state of oneness is in contrast to that of the Personal Essence, but without any contradiction. One feels that one is everything; there are no personal boundaries, and no partitions between objects. One is the supreme aspect of Being, is pure nondifferentiated presence, that is the nature of everything, that is also everything. Pure Being is experienced as both everything and beyond everything. As beyond everything it is experienced in its suchness as a pure sense of Beingness. This is referred to usually as the state of unity. As everything, it is experienced as the nature of everything, and this is usually referred to as the state of oneness.

Perception with No Discernment, No Discrimination at All

The first level of pure perception, prior to these two steps, is the level of perception with no discernment, no discrimination at all, simply pure consciousness aware of awareness itself and nothing else. This ground of pure awareness is the fundamental ground spoken of in many spiritual traditions, and is the medium in which all levels of knowing appear. The capacity to discern differences in the field of our awareness is a fundamental element of our consciousness. But here we need to make a difficult and subtle distinction: in describing this capacity, we want to discriminate it from the capacity to actually recognize the forms that arise. So in what we are calling pure perception, associated with what is traditionally called nonconceptual awareness, there is the perception of differences within a field without recognition of those differences. There is awareness that there are different forms, but in pure perception these forms are not discriminated in such a way that they can be recognized or named.

Presence that Doesn’t Know that It Is – Just as It Operates in a Baby

These observations show us that the capacity of pure perception is a potential of our True Nature. Our True Nature has in it this dimension of pure awareness, which is actually presence. But usually presence has a cognitive capacity; it knows that it is. What we are talking about here is a presence that doesn’t know that it is—just as it operates in a baby. In that state, you don’t experience the fact of not knowing as a feeling of something missing. What you recognize is: “I am complete. I am so much myself that I don’t need to know. Anyway, I already know True Nature, so why do I have to think about it? I know it, and it is me—continuously. I understand that the mind has done its job. It has brought me to the place where I can recognize True Nature and see it for what it is. And now I can sit in it with confidence and know that it is not something I can lose—or gain.”

Pure Perception and Understanding of what is Actually there in Our Experience Dissolves the Subtle Movement of the Psyche

This is true nondoing, which can happen only when we have no interest in any doing because we are not striving toward any state. From this place, there is freedom from all teachings, freedom from desiring specific states, freedom from ideas and perspectives—even one’s own perspective. For it is implicitly understood that any perspective or teaching will be an overlay on whatever is purely arising. Instead, we merely recognize the subtle movement of the psyche toward goals, and that understanding naturally dissolves the movement and liberates our unfabricated and uncontrived naturalness. The pure perception and understanding of what is actually there in our experience dissolves the subtle movement of the psyche. The Diamond Guidance is present and operational as a natural and spontaneous functioning of intelligence and awareness. The result is a discriminating understanding of what is arising, liberating the display of Being from our opinions. This discriminating understanding appear as the flashes of insight that are inseparable from our intimacy with the qualities of experience. We recognize here the functioning of the Diamond Guidance as spontaneous curiosity, love of the truth, and steadfastness, which together result in the spontaneous unveiling of truth, as both unfoldment and insight. As this continues, the unveiling finally merges into a nondual condition—the natural perfection, which is the lucidity displaying experience. At this point, lucidity and understanding are inseparable, completely unified. There is unity of presence and discriminating awareness, which is a guided, dynamic flow and unfoldment.

The Dimension Where there is Only Pure Perception, Pure Nonconceptual Awareness

In our work with the boundless dimensions of reality, we first encounter radical nonconceptuality in the dimension of pure awareness. Reality appears here with pristine clarity and transparency, but there is no knowing. Because there is no knowing in this dimension, we consider it nonconceptual. There is only pure perception, pure nonconceptual awareness. In the beginning, we called this dimension “the nameless” because, without knowing, we could not name anything. And we managed to give it a name anyway. Otherwise, each time we talk about it, we would have to say a whole paragraph to point to what we are talking about. That is what happens in any area of study; we have to create concepts, symbols, and labels to make communication more efficient. The arising of this nonconceptual dimension made it possible for us to understand the role of the primitive and precognitive structures that we discussed in the last chapter. Although we were already aware of these structures, we did not understand them fully. For a long time, I thought that they were constructs and concepts that I hadn’t yet penetrated. But the arising of the nonconceptual dimension, because it is truly nonconceptual and has no knowing, revealed that these structures were not representational but precognitive.

The Nonconceptual Dimension of all Perception or Experience Remains the Fact of Pure Perception

The nonconceptual dimension of all perception or experience remains the fact of pure perception, as the ground for all of our discrimination, recognition and labeling of our experience. We can retrieve, or more accurately, isolate this nonconceptual dimension of experience by suspending our habitual tendency to conceptualize. This occurs in some of the deep spiritual experiences, which make it possible for us to see firsthand that our perception is originally nonconceptual. When we become attuned to this dimension of experience, we may see that conceptualization requires first differentiation and then discrimination. Labeling occurs as a third step and helps in giving the conceptualizations a greater clarity and fixity, and the possibility for use in memory and communication. Concepts become the building blocks for representing the objects of our perception. It is actually when we experience ourselves nonconceptually that we recognize our quality of presence, which is the mere perception of our factness

The Nonconceptual Dimension of All Perception or Experience Remains the Fact of Pure Perception, as the Ground for All Our Discrimination

By the “nonconceptual” dimension of experience, we mean experience before it is discriminated, recognized and cast into labels. It is known that infants, for instance, do not, at least sometimes, experience things in a differentiated and conceptual manner. Their capacity for differentiation develops slowly, which gives them the ability to discriminate the details of their perceptions, needed before they can employ concepts. This does not mean that perception totally loses its nonconceptual dimension; it merely indicates that our conceptualizing activity happens so fast on the heels of our perceptions that we do not notice, under normal circumstances, the original nonconceptual nature of our experience. The nonconceptual dimension of all perception or experience remains the fact of pure perception, as the ground for all of our discrimination, recognition and labeling of our experience. We can retrieve, or more accurately, isolate this nonconceptual dimension of experience by suspending our habitual tendency to conceptualize. This occurs in some of the deep spiritual experiences, which make it possible for us to see firsthand that our perception is originally nonconceptual. When we become attuned to this dimension of experience, we may see that conceptualization requires first differentiation and then discrimination. Labeling occurs as a third step and helps in giving the conceptualizations a greater clarity and fixity, and the possibility for use in memory and communication. Concepts become the building blocks for representing the objects of our perception. It is actually when we experience ourselves nonconceptually that we recognize our quality of presence, which is the mere perception of our factness.

The Nous Does Not Depend on the Past. It Does Not Depend on Time Because It is a Pure Perception of What is There

If you are beyond the personal mind with its preferences, and if you are oriented by the Universal Mind, there is the sense of beauty and harmony. Everything is bright and beautiful. Nothing is ugly. You have to be in the personal mind to differentiate the beautiful from the ugly, and usually what is seen as beautiful is what takes us closer to the Universal Mind. The personal mind includes our own perceptions and beliefs, evaluations, judgments, preferences, reactions, and philosophizing based on perceptions that originate from the Universal Mind. These beliefs, evaluations, and stories are generally based on our personal history. The personal mind, as we have seen, developed in time with the growth of our organism, and carries the past with it. The Nous does not depend on the past. It does not depend on time because it is a pure perception of what is there. If you see people sitting in a room, you might not call them people, but you definitely know they are there, and you are probably aware that the people and what they are sitting on are not the same thing. So you might not call the different things the same names, but you know there is a difference, unless your senses are flawed in some way. And even if your discrimination accurately reflects the forms of the chair and the person, your personal mind is certain to evaluate—to say, for instance, that the person is more important than the chair. That evaluation is the personal mind. The fact that we can tell the person and the chair apart is a function of the Universal Mind.

The Pure Capacity for Perception, Before Recognition, is a Necessary Ground for All Our Experience

Thus we recognize here the quality of mind that is emphasized in many traditional spiritual teachings: the ground of nonconceptual awareness, of pure perception. We do not normally notice this dimension of consciousness, because our knowingness arises too fast for us to catch it. In ordinary experience, our knowing mind, in addition to our labeling, categorizing, and remembering mind, functions almost simultaneously with pure perception of objects. Normally, we perceive and know in the same act, thus always believing that consciousness functions only as the normal perception that always has some recognition of form. It is clear, however, that the pure capacity for perception, before recognition, is a necessary ground for all our experience, including experience of our inner content.

To Allow Pure Perception Means that We Let Go of the Primary Concept of Entityhood

The more we allow the pure perception of consciousness to happen, the more all the tensions, difficulties, and hardness begin to soften and dissolve. The different categories merge into each other, melt, lose their separateness. Love merges into hatred, the good merges into the bad, you merge into the other, the rug merges into the air, the air merges into you. The world becomes one big patterned medium, luminous and beautiful. If you allow the various contents of this medium to keep melting into each other, little by little the medium obtains a blissful quality, a deliciousness. It is not a chaotic mass, but a luminous and blissful field of consciousness. You can’t say it’s physical, mental, or spiritual; it is simply a deliciousness. Visually, it is a luminous field of conscious presence. In terms of feeling, it is like an ocean of sensation, where sensation becomes more and more relaxed. Because sensation is relaxed, it is more blissful. Whether you’re feeling your arm or a chair that you’re sitting on or the body of your lover, it is all one blissful type of consciousness. Only when we allow ourselves to be this conscious field of blissful presence, and realize that is all that we are, does it become possible for us to make the transit into the night. To allow pure perception means that we let go of the primary concept of entityhood. As we allow the various differentiations to melt into each other, we see how these differentiations have been functioning. We recognize that one of these differentiations is the idea of self, with the attendant notion that we are separate from others, and we begin to see how the belief in the reality of differentiated concepts functions as a support for this concept of entityhood. When we understand the nature of our assumptions, our boundaries begin to melt.

Total Nonlocality Means that there is No Extension and, thus, No Space

When we transcend the transcendence of space from finitude to infinity, when we are truly free from the concept of space, we realize that there is no here and no there and no everywhere. There is simply no location. I call this experience of no space “total nonlocality.” Nonlocal usually means that one is not located here but located everywhere. Total nonlocality means something different. It means that there is no extension and, thus, no space. It is experience without being here, there, or everywhere. There isn’t an everywhere to be. So what is present if there is no here and no there? We are back to the simple experience of the lizard—pure perception. We are back to simplicity before conception. This condition of total nonconceptuality is free both from the concept of space and from the freedom from the concept of space. The spacelessness of the boundless dimensions is freedom from the finite locatedness implicit in the concept of space. But that is still not completely free of the concept of space. When we are truly free of the concept of space, we are comfortable with space and spacelessness. We can experience vastness and we can experience finitude, and we are comfortable with both because we are truly beyond both without that being in opposition to being both.

When We Perceive Through Concepts it’s Hard to Know What a Thing Might Look Like when the Perception is Fresh

We are concerned here with the most basic, fundamental conditioning—the automatism of the mind. This conditioning is beyond your personal patterns and issues. Reacting to reality through concepts underlies all your personal patterns and issues and history. Concepts are the building blocks of our reactions, our knowledge, and our cognition. But it happens so automatically that most of the time we think we’re seeing reality. We aren’t aware of that split second of interpretation. The input comes in and we perceive a word or an idea. Otherwise you couldn’t say “This is a chair, this is a person.” Without these ideas pure perception is just colors and sounds. When we perceive through concepts, it’s hard to know how a thing might actually look when the perception is fresh. What is it like? Tarthang Tulku calls it the “open dynamic of the living moment.” The openness of the living moment is dynamic and fresh. But we have lost that freshness because we don’t experience the pure perception in the moment. It’s not as if it’s not available; it’s happening all the time. Perception has to happen for us to have any experience. But our mind instantaneously responds and we instantaneously react. And this response and reaction is completely governed by inherited concepts. To go beyond the mind means simply to perceive without conceptual or cognitive response. It means to put your mind “on hold,” to put that automatic neuro-linguistic response “on hold.” Then you can see what’s actually there.

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