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Self Knowledge

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Self Knowledge

Knowledge that Comes From Your Own Experience, a Felt Kind of Knowledge

Knowledge also extends to feelings. If you are sad, how do you know it? Are you thinking that you are sad? Is that how you know? Do you look at your face in the mirror and see tears, and think, “Oh, that means I’m sad”? How do you know when you are angry? This is a form of knowledge, and it can extend to very subtle levels. And there are forms of knowing even beyond the level of feeling. When I talk about self-knowledge, knowing who you are, I’m not talking about anything you can read in a book, or anything anyone else can teach you. I mean knowledge that comes from your own experience—a felt kind of knowledge. When we say that someone is sensitive we mean that person has this felt knowledge. We say others are thick-skinned or calloused, which means that they can’t feel much and don’t know what they feel.So we return to our original topic: what is knowledge and what is its importance to us? How does that apply to us here? Here we are learning to gain and appreciate the knowledge we need to find what is good for our lives. So we investigate our desires, fears, and feelings in terms of where they come from, what they mean, what we take ourselves to be in experiencing each one, leading to finally knowing who we are. The more we gain knowledge of who we are, the more our desires for what we think is good for us will change and reflect reality, become objective. And the more our belief about what is good corresponds to what we actually are, the better chance there is to be fulfilled, to live in harmony and peace.

Rarely do We Recognize Ourselves as a Field of Knowledge Where the Field Itself is Nothing but a Recognition of Its Patterns

And the more we recognize this capacity, the more it becomes specific, the more it develops and integrates, and our experience becomes more pervaded by that kind of knowingness. So when it is said, “Know yourself,” that’s what is meant—know yourself intimately and directly; because the abstractions that arise out of direct knowing and form ordinary knowledge will not lead you to true self-knowledge. Direct knowing is inherent in our perception in general; it pervades all of our senses, and it’s happening all the time. Without it, we would have no experience. This knowingness is not that mysterious. But we don’t recognize direct knowing as the true source of what we call our experience because it’s usually mixed with all kinds of other knowing. Rarely do we recognize ourselves as a field of knowledge where the field itself is nothing but a recognition of its patterns. Yet this is our nature, and it is important to understand that this direct knowing is happening all the time. It informs and underlies—it is the foundation for—all of our experience. The more our capacity for direct knowing becomes precise, specific, and clearly discriminating, the more we are integrating the aspect in its diamond form. Our knowing then becomes more luminous and vivid. But most important, our knowing becomes objective, that is, free of our associations and preferences. Knowing in the Diamond Dimension brings more precision and clarity—and hence certainty—to our knowing. We are more able to discern correctly and know things as they truly are. How else can we recognize truth?

Self-Knowledge Also Means Understanding Your Potential, Your Nature, Your Essence

When the essential qualities of your being are cut off and your bodily energies are suppressed or distorted, the suffering caused by your past cannot be touched by the real potential of your beingness. This is why our work on the liberation of our essential nature is crucial to addressing our suffering. Our essential nature is the joy, the contentedness, the pleasure, and the peace of our soul necessary to resolve our suffering. It’s not easy to understand how these two categories of the causes of suffering are actually both perpetuated by the lack of understanding. Until we inquire into our experience, we don’t consciously know about the patterns, identities, and reactivities that govern our life. Until we explore presence, we are not naturally aware of our beingness, our essence, our essential nature. So, again, the primary cause of our suffering is ignorance. We suffer because of the absence of awareness, the absence of understanding. The knowledge, the awareness, the understanding are primary in doing our work. Self-knowledge is not simply a matter of understanding your personality, your mind, and your history. Self-knowledge also means understanding your potential, your nature, your essence. Self-knowledge means coming to realize the nature of reality, the nature of truth.

The Infant is Totally Identified with Presence

However, the main reason for the infant’s limited self-knowledge is that the capacity for self-reflection does not exist at the beginning. It develops as part of the maturation of the cognitive functions. Thus, the infant’s perception is always directed outward, so to speak. He does not have the capacity to turn back and look at his “inner” experience, let alone to turn back and reflect on himself. In some sense, he is aware only of the “front” of his experience. At the beginning, the capacity of the infant to simply be is intact. He is, without knowing it. His being himself is completely natural and nonconceptual. He does not know that he is being himself, for he does not even have the concept of self. He is being presence when he is being himself. Our discovery in the experience of self-realization reveals that in simply being, one is identified with presence; and when observing young infants we see that there is no self-reflection and no alienation from immediate experience. Thus, the infant is totally identified with presence without knowing that he is, for his experience is nonconceptual. He has no idea about presence, but it is his very substance, consciousness and identity. This state is due not only to the presence of Essence, but specifically to the fact of childhood self-realization: He is not simply experiencing Essence; he is being Essence. To refer to our classifications in Chapter 14, he is experiencing Essence nondualistically, in the second or third kind of essential experience.

The Interdependence Between Ego and Being

To know that one is Being, which is not within the realm of images, is such a subtle understanding that it seems impossible for a child to have this knowledge. Enlightenment must wait for the maturity of perception, discrimination and understanding, since it depends on self-knowledge. These capacities depend upon concepts. We can say then that ego is needed for enlightenment, since the beginning of conceptualization in childhood is inextricably linked with the development of the ego. So first the ego, which is needed for knowledge and functioning, develops; then the capacity for discriminating knowledge, among other things, leads to the dissolution of the ego. The final result is the life of Being, including the development of functioning within the realm of Being. This interdependence between ego and Being can also be seen in the process of inner metabolism. Ego on its own cannot complete the metabolism of experience and hence cannot bring about complete human development; Being is needed for this process to take place. On the other hand, Being cannot accomplish on its own the whole process of metabolism; it cannot dislodge ego when ego is defensive. From the perspective of the mind, Being can be resisted easily with a slight movement of ego; thus ego must first cooperate by relinquishing its defensive posture.

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