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Reality (Ultimate Reality)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Reality (Ultimate Reality)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Reality (Ultimate Reality)

Absence is the First Glimpse into Ultimate Reality and is Still Not Complete

Although there are no concepts in the state of Absence, when there is functioning there is duality. Absence is experienced as separate from, transcendent to, and totally uninvolved in functioning. One experiences oneself as not involved in functioning, and hence, there is the duality of Absence and functioning consciousness. Absence can be seen as the ultimate transcendence, but it is still not the ultimate reality. We can say it is the first glimpse into ultimate reality, and is still not complete. It is the absence of presence, and of all other concepts. However, there is a subtle conceptualization here, because Absence can be experienced as a definite state. Its definiteness is its absence of concepts. In other words, the concept of the absence of concepts becomes the subtle concept in the state of Absence. One is quite aware of the absence of presence, in particular. These considerations of the perception of duality and subtle conceptualization, amongst others, precipitate spontaneously the ultimate reality, the truly nonconceptual truth. Here, words will not say anything positive. Nonconceptual Reality is how things are. It is direct perception of reality without the involvement of the mind. It is both presence and absence, but also neither. It is neither self nor no-self, nor the absence of both self and no-self. It is both being and non-being and neither. It is everything and it is nothing. Whenever there is negation or affirmation there is conceptualization, and the true reality is gone. And hence we call reality as it is the Nameless; it cannot be named. In Zen this Nameless Reality is expressed in paradoxes and enigmatic actions, called koans. One such koan is: “Show me your face before you were born.” Technically speaking this ultimate reality, the Nameless, is experienced when Presence and Absence are integrated, when Pure Being acquires the property of Absence.

Absolute Absence is the Ultimate Reality, the Final Condition of Existence

Now, it happens that absolute absence is the ultimate reality, the final condition of existence. It is the beginning and the end of all there is, of humanity, of the world, of creation, of consciousness, of everything. If a person moves toward absolute absence, everything will go right because they will be free in their life, and if a person doesn’t go toward it, everything will go wrong because they will be living in the prison of illusion. It’s that simple. Ultimately, everybody loves absolute absence whether they know it or not. You know you love it when you become aware of pure consciousness. Before you become aware of pure consciousness, you are trapped within the differentiating consciousness, discriminating, rejecting, and prizing one aspect of consciousness over another. You want sweetness and merging or are angry because there is pain; you reject this person because they don’t like you, judge that person because they’re different from you, and so on. Within the differentiating consciousness, you are busy within the knowable world, trapped within your own mind. To go from consciousness to absence is to break out of the cycle of birth and death, to escape the trap.

Being Willing to Let Go of Our Belief in the Ultimate Reality of the Content of the Mind, of Knowledge

Penetrating the mental world is not easy. We will make this exploration more specific as we work with it, and deal with the various issues and perspectives relating to it. It is a big step to see that knowledge and the world it creates are not necessarily ultimately real but something we have learned. To approach new knowledge, to become a new person, will happen through letting go of the old, not holding on to old concepts, which means not holding on to your mind. Our task, then, is not to take our knowledge as ultimate. This means to be willing to let go of our belief in the ultimate reality of the content the mind, of knowledge, at least for a while. This will feel like we are letting go of the mind itself, since we do not know the mind without content. But only this will allow us the possibility of seeing the world in its actuality and its truth. No matter how much psychological insight we have, how many inner spiritual experiences we have, how many times we see angels or talk with God, if our experience occurs still within the old concepts, no actual transformation of ourselves and our world will happen. We are confronting our reality from its roots, from its basis. In time, hopefully, our experience will reveal the true reality that exists beyond the mind, beyond the ideas, the fresh awareness of how things actually are. The truth, or reality, or God, whatever we call it, is always here. Reality is not somewhere else, it is here, it is everything. It is the world when it is seen in its true nature, in its true light. When you can see the whole world, including yourself, without concepts, without these ways of knowing things you are accustomed to, you will see a completely fresh world, a new world. 

Depending on which Path You Follow, You Reach a Different Ultimate Reality

We never totally know everything about reality. The idea is to open up our view, not to fixate on anything, not to try to hold on to anything. We don’t say, “This is reality. This is the truth. And I know it and that’s that.” There is always something we don’t know. And when I say that there is something that we don’t know, I mean that there is something that we haven’t yet realized. We could look at this as related to the fact that each teaching has its own ultimate reality or condition. And since there are many teachings, each with its own ultimate truth, we can see that reality has many ultimates and, depending on which path you follow, you reach a different ultimate reality. The view that I am presenting here is the view of no ultimates, not the view of many ultimates. You could say that there are many ultimates—that is a valid and useful way of experiencing the potential of spiritual practice. But how about not thinking of them as ultimates? How about considering them to be different ways that reality manifests itself? A subtle value judgment arises when you say, “This one, and not that one, is the ultimate.” That means that other conditions are not as good. This kind of judgment can introduce a comparativeness that seeps into the practice to push it in the particular direction of what is considered ultimate. In the view that I am  resenting, you don’t need to think of any ultimate. In fact, whatever is happening right at this moment is the ultimate. Why not what you’re experiencing right now? Even if you are experiencing a dualistic state, that is how reality is manifesting itself. If you can accept that completely and let the experience be, the reality of that state will naturally transform into something else.

Experience of the Ultimate Reality Seen to be the Source of Functioning

The relation of the Personal Essence to this nonconceptual reality is again seen in functioning. Functioning in this realm is like that in the state of Absence, in the sense that it is not related to a doer or a center. However, there is no duality, no differentiation between the presence of Nameless Reality and functioning. The experience is of the ultimate reality, which is everything and beyond everything, and is seen to be the source of functioning, without functioning being any different from the presence of the Nameless Reality. One is the Nameless all, without the mind saying so. One is the functioning, without the mind saying that one is functioning. The Reality is functioning, and functioning is the Reality. 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.

Primary Turning Point in the Journey Towards Ultimate Reality

Awareness of the essential aspect of Identity, the radiant point of light, is not unique to our work. This experience is familiar to many spiritual teachings, traditional and modern, Eastern and Western. Many of these teachings appreciate its importance for self-realization and spiritual liberation, even though they may differ in their understanding of the way it is important. The centrality of this aspect, in the overall process of spiritual development and maturity, is appreciated by many teachings. Its realization is the primary turning point in the journey towards ultimate reality; specifically, this realization is the primary step towards integrating the soul into ultimate reality, the absolute nature of Being.

Pure Being is None Other than the Ultimate Reality

To thoroughly understand in what sense the Personal Essence is the functional aspect of Being, we must explore the relationship of the Personal Essence to the ultimate reality. This ultimate reality is not exactly that of nondifferentiated Pure Being or oneness. It is beyond all conceptualizations. Oneness still retains a concept of oneness. Nondifferentiated Pure Being still retains the concept of Being or existence. Pure Being is none other than the ultimate reality, but is still not seen completely objectively. It is devoid of all differentiation, but it is not devoid of concepts. It is beyond all concepts except one; one is still adhering to the subtle conceptualization of existence. There is still a sense of presence, of beingness, which is very clear experientially. And we find that ego ultimately will use this sense of presence to support its existence and identity. So the next development in the process of inner realization is for Pure Being to lose the last concept, that of Presence.

The Absolute is the Ultimate Reality that Remains Unchanged

To understand how all the dimensions exist as a unity, let’s take the example of the physical body. At the level of relative truth, we first see the appearance of the body: we see its shape, we notice the limbs, the face, the expression. Penetrating beneath the surface, we realize that there are muscles, bones, organs, blood vessels, and so on. This level would correspond to the essential truth. If we investigate into the nature of these inner components, we will see that they are all made out of molecules. These molecules reveal themselves to be made out of atoms which, in turn, are made up of sub-atomic particles. These levels would correspond to the progressive truths of the formless dimensions. Investigating even more deeply, we discover that these are ultimately space, corresponding to the Absolute level. Are the sub-atomic particles or the organs separate from the outer form of the body? No. All these dimensions are present and interpenetrate each other. You couldn’t take one level away and leave the others remaining. Although the Absolute is the ultimate reality that remains unchanged if you take everything else away, all levels of reality exist as a totality all the time. They form a unity. 

Facets of Unity, pg. 79

The Absolute, although it is the Ultimate Reality, is Not the Complete Development

Let’s see if we can understand the relationship of the Pearl to the Absolute. Pure consciousness, or conscious presence, manifests in different forms such as love or peace. It can also manifest as a person, a true person, an essential person. We call that the Personal Essence. It is a certain manifestation of pure consciousness or aspect of essence. But as I said earlier, the Absolute, although it is the ultimate reality, is not the complete development. It is true that it is the inner nature of everything and the ultimate experience; it is where we are going and where we came from and where we come from all the time. However, realizing the Absolute is not the entire story of the inner path. In order to complete the story, consciousness as pure presence becomes inseparable from absence. Consciousness can develop, whereas the Absolute does not. So, in a sense, the development in consciousness is the work. Much of this development can happen before the discovery of the Absolute or after it. It depends on the person. Some people don’t embark on the development of consciousness until after the recognition of the Absolute. Others do a lot with the development of consciousness before the realization of the Absolute.

The Conviction that Physical Reality is the Ultimate Reality

If we look only through the physical senses, we tend to look at reality from the perspective of physical things. If I use only my physical senses, only my eyes, ears, nose, touching, and my tongue, I will tend to see things in terms of physical objects in space because that’s how the senses function. We have been seeing how physical reality and reified concepts are actually the same thing in our experience. The world of entities, discrete entities like tables and people and trees, is what we call the physical world. But that physical world is made up of what I am calling concepts. The conviction that physical reality is the ultimate reality is the same as the conviction that concepts are ultimate reality. This is a radical notion which seems to be the opposite of common sense. Conventional understanding has it that the physical world is independent of the mind, and that what we see, smell, feel, and hear is objective reality. Taking the physical world to be ultimate reality means taking the table as an ultimate reality, as something independent. It seems to exist without you, without people, without consciousness, so it must be ultimate reality. But a table is a concept. Before the child learns this concept, the child doesn’t necessarily know that there is a table separate from the floor. When you see through your concept of “table,” when it becomes transparent rather than opaque, you realize that the table and the floor are not separate. That nonseparateness is not on the physical level; it exists on another level, which we cannot see through our physical senses. The unity which makes concepts transparent is apprehended through a capacity to perceive which has nothing to do with the physical senses. The basis of unity is not in the physical world. 

The Logos of a Particular Teaching Has Its Own Unique View of Ultimate Reality

It is possible to see that each teaching is an expression of a particular logos. The logos of a particular teaching has its own unique view of ultimate reality or truth, self or soul, and spiritual path. Each possesses a different and unique technical language, logic of experience and understanding, ideals of development or realization, phases of unfoldment of experience and understanding, and kinds of experience, perception, and knowledge. Furthermore, each possesses an approach to spiritual work or practice, determined by its view of ultimate truth and realization. This necessitates different methods and approaches, and varying spiritual technologies, that are often different in principle. Most important, this implies differing views of ultimate truth, final realization, and spiritual experience, which amounts also to different ways of conceptualizing spiritual dimensions and qualities. An obvious example is the difference of conceptualization in the view of ultimate reality between Buddhism, Vedanta, and Taoism on one hand, and the monotheistic traditions on the other. Buddhism and Taoism conceptualize the ultimate truth as an impersonal truth, a ground of existence, emptiness, or Tao, from which everything spontaneously arises. The monotheistic traditions think of the ultimate truth as not only a personal and personally responsive God, but as one who actively manages creation. 

The Ultimate Reality, the Ultimate Nature of Everything, is Absence of Being or Nonbeing

Actually, we are always living daily life from the place of cessation, without being aware of it. Cessation is the underlying ground of our experience all of the time. We are always living from the state of absolute absence. Because, you see, nothing else is. The ultimate reality, the ultimate nature of everything, is absence of being, or nonbeing. Everything that you experience is an expression of nonbeing. If we are to think of the absence of being as useful, that is its usefulness—it makes everything arise and underlies all existence. Without absence, traditionally referred to as emptiness, nothing can exist. Absolute absence is the source of all that is. Practically speaking, you cannot get anything from absence. Absence does not make you feel good or bad. It does not help you make money or win an argument with a friend. What absolute absence does is give you presence, which you might consider useful or not. 

Ultimate Reality is How Things are, Not How We Think They Are

The reality we see is usually the reality of names, of words. Death is a word, life is a word. Birth, body, happiness, suffering—all words. Without the words, all this is neither life nor death; it is simply what is, and that’s all you can say about it. The ultimate reality is how things are, not how we think they are. It is not easy to see this, because your life is so pervaded by words and concepts, which you take to be reality. The reality we see, the creation, is nothing but words. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word.” God is the ultimate reality, and the beginning of creation is a word, and the world of appearance is with God, and it is not separate from the reality. Human reality is completely linked to language. Our world exists through the language we use. The less we are caught by this language, the less we are attached to our beliefs about how things are, the more we see the whole of reality as one solid, immense clarity, pervading everything through and through. We see that words appear and create appearance, a very thin layer over reality. When we take that layer to be the whole thing or the real thing, there is trouble. That trouble will not disappear as long as we take our skin to be the whole thing. 

Understanding is the Expression of the Ultimate Reality in this World

Understanding is the expression of the ultimate reality in this world. The intelligence that is actually producing understanding is the unknowable, which, when it encounters concepts, disintegrates them one after another. This disintegration, or erasing of concepts as they come up against the unknowable, is the process of understanding. When mind and Being make contact, the particular concept at hand is integrated, or metabolized, into Being. That’s why you go to the next level, the next concept. It’s true that the world of the mind, of concepts, is not the truest reality. But understanding is the meeting of that unreal world with the completely real. Understanding itself is neither wholly real or unreal; it is a meeting of the two. The meeting is a transformation, and the transformation is understanding. So understanding happens only when what is completely real in you—the unknowable, your final identity—is in contact with your concepts, with your mind. The process is one of disintegration of concepts. 

When You Don’t Believe in the Ultimate Reality of Any Concept

To have a free mind is to be a universal heretic. You don’t believe in the ultimate reality of any concept. You can assume any belief you find useful and attractive, but you don’t need to hold on to any of it. Without being captured by your beliefs, you are strong enough and confident enough to throw away any and all beliefs and perspectives, each and every philosophy and story. You can stand totally alone, completely independent of all that comes through the mind, through time and space. This station of realization is difficult and rare. Most of us don’t have the nerve to lose our minds. Although terrifying, it is necessary for true freedom. We have to risk that we may be wrong. We have to risk the aloneness and the terror of being totally on our own. We have to risk cutting all of our supports, burning all of our bridges, destroying all of our boats. They are all ultimately and fundamentally concepts that come from hearsay or, at best, from our own past experiences. Even the concepts and knowledge that have come from our own immediate experiences cannot be relied on. That knowledge is like Buddha’s words—old, unless corroborated in this moment.

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