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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Questions?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Questions

Even to Recognize an Unknowingness We have to be Observing Our Experience

Questioning based on observation addresses the quality of knowledge in our experience, so that our participation in basic knowledge becomes open and direct. Direct observations—the fruits of our mindfulness—give our questions the necessary direct data for us to use our intelligence. Observation also functions to guide our inquiry by directing our questions to relevant areas. Even to recognize an unknowingness, we have to be observing our experience. This brings in the elements of mindfulness and concentration as described in chapter 4. Let’s look at an example of direct observation: I am sitting here and I recognize that there is a tickle in my belly that seems to be out of the ordinary, for my belly doesn’t usually tickle like that. I can inquire directly into this. I do not need to check any book; I can just apply my mindfulness and concentration with a questioning mind. The tickle can be the tip of an iceberg. Many other things might be happening in my belly: The tickle might turn out to be the tip of something that extends all the way through my pelvis and down through my legs. If I use my concentration and am not dissuaded by all my ideas, reactions, and superego, if I stick with my experience and my attention is not deviated, my mindfulness might inform me that the phenomenon doesn’t stop at my feet. In my seeing that, another layer of unknowingness has arrived. What is this tickle that begins in the belly but doesn’t stop at my feet? This is an example of an inquiry based on direct observation, which also includes a dynamic openness. It demonstrates the usefulness of developing mindfulness and concentration as supports for the direct observation necessary for inquiry. In using these capacities, I recognize that there is something there I don’t know, and I am interested to find out what it is.

Ideas that Put Out the Flame

Our questions about why we are here and where we're going are uncomfortable, but they are real questions for every human being. If you do not ask them, and allow them to be ongoing questions, you will never know for yourself what it's all about. You will never know who you are, why you're here, and where you are going. Your mind is full of ideas and dreams and plans about what will fulfill you, what will make you happy, what will give you freedom. But these ideas silence the question, comfort your mind, and put out the flame.

Pursuing Your Questions

Whatever questions you have, whatever you do not understand about yourself, you have to pursue. If you have any dissatisfaction, any discontentment, you need to pursue it. Teachings and teachers provide help, guidance, and orientation so that you don't spend too much time dealing with the wrong issues. The teacher saves you time, energy, and effort. But the teacher can't do it for you. The teacher gives you guidelines to help you do the practice and to help you deal with yourself.

Questioning in the Teachings of the Diamond Approach

I am sure many of you have questions about what I have been teaching. You may be wondering what the point of spiritual practice is if there is no motivation and no goal, no cause and effect. Why is there a teaching if there is no place to get to? Why present all these aspects, qualities, dimensions, and vehicles of true nature? Whose experience and liberation and realization are being discussed if not yours? Aren’t the states we experience various goals that are progressing toward some final goal? Doesn’t the teaching get subtler and deeper until we reach the final ground where the journey finishes? These are good questions because that is how things appear. And that is the primary way in which we have worked with the path. But we are approaching the question of realization differently now. How we teach the Diamond Approach is different from some other teachings that present the most complete view from the beginning, and students practice to actualize the state of that most complete view. We don’t do it that way, even when we do present an overarching view. We usually do it from a perspective of the view expanding and developing as the path progresses and as the student’s practice matures. So our view keeps opening and evolving as we proceed on the path. That is one way of seeing how we have conducted this teaching, as many of the previous books have shown. In this book, I am presenting a view that not only expands the view that we have been developing over the years in our teaching contexts, but at the same time, departs from the progressive way of looking at things, departs from the view of aspects and vehicles and dimensions of true nature. The view of totality is basically a departure from the view of the journey of ascent and descent. So far in the teaching, we have mostly been working from the perspective of a journey of ascent—going deeper and deeper into the nature of reality—and a journey of descent, in which we integrate those realizations into our life.

Questioning Needs Heart

A question is an interesting manifestation of the soul. It is not just a string of words in your mind. If it were only that there would be no movement in your inquiry. A question has to have a heart to it, a living force. This living force is the unknowingness that is dynamically moving toward knowing. If you directly sense this self-directed movement of aliveness, you can actually experience the flow of the soul, the dynamic nature of who you are, separate from any particular content. In this way, the soul directly links the unfoldment of Being with the asking of a question.

Questioning the Ontological Nature of Ego

We will show later that by deepening our understanding of inner space, and by finding in it more dimensions of openness, we will be able to expand our knowledge of object relations and gain more insight into the psychic structure. In particular, we will be able to explore on a more fundamental level the nature of identity, of the self, and its relation to self-image. We will be able to extend the findings of object relations theory to an understanding of the ontological nature of the ego, a question that has not yet been approached in traditional psychoanalysis. This notion of space as openness in more dimensions than the spatial will help us to construct a theory about inner space and self-image. First, however, we must say more about this new notion of space. As the experience of space repeats, deepens, and expands in the gradual process of dissolving self-boundaries, the individual becomes aware of more subtle kinds of boundaries. He becomes aware of and can dissolve boundaries regarding the depth and extent of his feelings, the kinds and types of feelings and sensations he can have, the extent of his awareness of both mind and body, and the categories of possible experiences of himself and the world. Space brings about expansion in the qualities of our senses, our sensations, and our mental capacities. It deepens our intuition. It expands our awareness into new dimensions of ourselves, some we would never have conceive could exist. It brings new capacities for perception and experience. In addition, space has the surprising and powerful capacity of expanding itself, continuously increasing the openness and dissolution of boundaries, allowing ever-greater understanding of ourselves and our minds.

The Void, pg. 31

Questions Engage Being's Love of Revealing Itself

A question expresses both the fertile openness of true nature and the love that characterizes the dynamic creative force of that nature. The question invites revelation because it’s love for knowledge engages Being’s love of revealing itself, and the openness of the question expresses Being’s infinite and unlimited potentiality – both the source of all manifestations and the space that allows those potentialities to arise. From our limited individual perspective, we are aware of the herald of Being’s new revelations as a question. For a question is how the creativity of Being’s dynamism appears in our limited mind.

Relating to Questions

I am not trying to give you an answer; I'm just giving you a question. You need to let your being be ablaze like a flame, an aspiring flame, with no preconceived ideas about what it aspires to. To be just burning intensely, deeply wanting to know, wanting to see the truth without following any preconceptions, totally in the present with the question itself, and let it burn away all the ideas, all the beliefs, all the concepts, even the ones you learned from great teachings. If you don't allow that flame completely, will you ever rest in your life? Will you ever rest in your life as long as you're covering your question, answering it before it's really answered? Will you ever really be content with someone else's answer?

The Question "Who Am I"?

There is another side to us as well. In addition to our relationships, another realm draws the attention of the heart: the love of mystery, the fascination with what might lie beyond our normal view. Since ancient times, human beings have been seeking to know and understand whatever is there. This has expressed itself in many ways—through the adventure and exploration of the external world and how it works, and also through our inner exploration, the quest for meaning and the desire to understand our place in the universe. The question “Who am I?” has been a significant part of our evolutionary story. All the questions that arise at the beginning of the spiritual journey become more scintillating as we get a taste of what lies beyond and a taste of our spiritual being and its vastness, its magnificence, its beauty, its lightness, its unfettered nature. Each taste tends to inspire love and appreciation, to make more love available in every way; and the love grows and expands both inwardly and outwardly. The more we know about our nature, our spiritual nature, the more we love it, the more it draws us, pulls us. The more we feel the expansion of how we view our life, the more we feel, know, and are drawn by and to a more fundamental sense of reality. As our questions are answered, more questions come to replace them. The unknown grows as we come to know it.

The Question of the Relation of the Soul to the Body

This can bring up the question of the relation of the soul to the body. From the perspective of our vision the soul and body form a complementarity, similar to wave and particle. This metaphor is not a complete description, but valid for our physically embodied experiences. We also find it to reflect direct perception of soul more accurately than the contemporary scientific theories about consciousness. Physical fields are inseparable from their particles, being two sides of the same reality, but this does not hold completely for the soul and body. It does not hold completely because it obviously does not explain a disembodied soul, which is what individual experience after death means. This is also seen in out of body experiences. To recognize the full complementarity principle in relation to the soul we need to view it from the larger perspective of Reality, where the question is not about the relation of soul and body, but about spirit and matter in general. We discuss this universal complementarity principle of spirit and matter when we discuss the relation of physical reality to Being. (See chapter 23.)

The Question of Value

Let’s go back to the question of value. Now that we see a glimpse of what value is, we can reconsider the question, “What is the value of the Work for you?” I think we can get a better idea now of the purpose or the value of the Work. It’s much more fundamental than how we usually think of it, more basic. The Work is to realize who you are. And who you are, from one perspective, is value. So looking for value is looking for oneself. People ask, “What is the meaning of life? What is the value of life?” The answer is not in words. When you see yourself as Value, it becomes much easier to let Essence really unfold in its beauty, its majesty, its grandeur, with its pleasures and joys. When you experience Value in yourself, you will see that Value is the ground, the basis, of what we call the Personal Essence, what is in you that is you. You are based in Value. Value is so definite, so palpable, that it has a color, a taste, and a texture. As you have seen, Essence has these qualities of color, taste, and texture. Value is a beautiful amber color; its taste is delicious. When you experience yourself as Value, you’ll see that you are delicious. Value is like an exotic, precious dessert. Just as when we look for truth, we look first at the lies, in exploring Value, we look at our lack of self-esteem, our feelings of inferiority or deficiency. By understanding these we can finally get to value-as-such.

What Happens When You Inquire Into Your Experience?

What happens when you inquire into your experience? You notice that after a while, certain things begin changing, moving, and manifesting the various feeling states, beliefs, and associations involved in your experience. These arise as you question your experience. Do you ever wonder why? What is it about questions that does that? A question is really the functioning of both the dynamism and the optimizing force of the dynamism. When we inquire, Being’s dynamism moves toward expansion, toward light, toward understanding, toward truth. We experience this in the process of questioning. Or we can say that the openness toward the expansion and understanding is manifested through a question, for a question allows the possibility or the space for Being to manifest, to display whatever it is that we call an answer. But the answer is not just another piece of ordinary knowledge; it is a new experience, a new perception, a fresh insight. And this new experience, this fresh insight, is the output of the activation of Being’s dynamism. It is true that a question includes concepts, words, and previous knowledge, but what is its living force? If it is a genuine question, the living force in it is this unknowingness that wants to know, this dynamic unknowingness. The openness manifests at the beginning as not-knowing. And as questioning continues, this not-knowing proceeds toward the revelation of whatever manifestation will occur in that space of not-knowing. So the not-knowing, in some very real sense, invites the answer. That is why I call it dynamic.

What is a Question?

What is a question? If you really get into a question, what do you find at its heart? The heart of a question is obviously an unknowing. When you ask a question, you are acknowledging that there is something you do not know. However, a question is not just an unknowing, because unknowing by itself does not necessarily mean there is a question. It is possible to not know and not question. A question has an unknowing in it, but the unknowing is a knowing unknowing. You cannot ask a question unless you know that you do not know. But it is not only that you know that you do not know; you also know something about what you do not know. Otherwise you cannot ask a question about it. The moment you ask a question about anything, you acknowledge that you do not know and that you also have a sense of what you do not know. So the question is arising from a place where there is a knowing of an unknowing plus a knowing of a possible knowing, and this possible knowing is somehow penetrating your consciousness in a way that emerges as a question. It is as if something is tickling you from inside, saying, “Look here, there is something here.” That flavor of unknowing, of a knowing unknowing, is how the unfoldment is arising. Something is coming up. Being is heaving up, presenting one of its possibilities, and that possibility is approaching your knowing consciousness. However, it is approaching it with something you have not known before. This new presentation is touching you from someplace within your heart. And this touching makes you ask a question.

Why, When Being is Lost, is What Remains Nothingness?

An important question remains unanswered: Why, when Being or its aspect of space is lost, is what remains nothingness and not something else? In other words, why do we end up with emptiness and not another content of experience? To answer this question we have to discuss the point at which psychodynamics touches phenomenology. We need to see how psychodynamic processes—which are processes in time—affect felt phenomena—which always involve spatially experienced objects of perception. We first consider how specifically the loss of space leads to deficient emptiness. Space is lost as the mind takes self-image for identity. We have seen that this leads to the building of boundaries in the openness of space. The final result is that instead of the experience of Being without mental images, one ends up with a mental image for an identity. So instead of space being pervaded by Being it gets filled with a self composed of many self-representations. Now, what is the phenomenon of space when it is filled with the self? In other words, what is the mind filled with the psychic structure? On the surface it is the usual experience of the personality with its various manifestations. But, at the core, it is the deficient emptiness.

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