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Self (No Self)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Self (No Self)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Self (No Self)

A Pure Manifestation of Inner Spacious Reality

The state of no self is actually a pure manifestation of inner spacious reality, Being in its openness, we experience it as empty space, immaculate and pure, light and clean, empty of everything structured by the mind. However the self reacts to the sense of no self in many ways -- as a loss, as a deficiency, and so on, plus the associations, memories, and feelings that go with these interpretations. All this psychic content pervades the inner spaciousness so that we lose sight of its lightness, purity, immaculateness, and freedom. Instead, we feel it as deficient emptiness, dull and flat, heavy and dark. Only when we allow this emptiness to be, without judgment or rejection, without reaction or opinion, does it shed its obscurations and reveal its inherent truth: the state of no self, the freedom and openness of our Being.

Absence of Mind, Consciousness and Sensation

There is consciousness and a kind of emptiness, a void that has no sense of self and no need for a sense of self. The step after that is the loss of consciousness of no-self, and when that consciousness is gone, there is no consciousness of self, or no-self and no knowing that there is no consciousness of self or no-self. This is the absence of mind, consciousness, and sensation. When that happens, it is then possible to be truly spontaneous because there is no self there to reflect on. If you reflect on yourself in this state, the only thing that happens is that you realize your head is turned around and that you are looking outside. There is nothing else to look into; you can only look outward. The main barrier to all these transitions is the belief that you are the person that is connected to the body. You’re taking what we call the shell (because it functions as a defensive shell) to be you. Identifying with the shell brings the terror that you are going to lose the sense of being a person. But what you actually are is not a person; you are a window to the universe.

Being Completely Unconscious of Yourself

Here, we are changing the terminology from what we have been using. To be free means to be completely unconscious of yourself because at the deepest level there is no self to be conscious of. You don’t know who you are. You don’t know what you’re doing. You are just doing it. You are not even doing it: it just happens. You’ll be eating and suddenly you realize that you are eating, and then you can reflect on yourself. But most of the time that you are eating you don’t know that you are eating or that somebody is eating. There is eating; that’s all. There is an awareness of the food but there is no awareness of your mouth or anything like that. You are not seeing your image if you are completely spontaneous. No, there is just the process of eating. This is a fact: It is only when you reflect on yourself and think about things that you feel there is a person there. There is a body there, and there is food. If you just let everything be there on its own, get it out of your mind completely, you will simply know the process of eating. This is the spontaneous life that is both Existence and Love. Imagine a child who is about six months old, who is eating. Does she know she is sitting there and that she is eating? Does she know she is eating? No, not mentally. Infants do not have the self-reflection that you have; they do not have the notion that there is a person who is there, there is food there, they are eating, and eating is for such and such. All these things are in your mind, but if your mind is silent, none of that is there. I’m not saying that there is no food going in the stomach. The whole thing is a process; that’s all.

Complete Cessation of the Sense of Self

The loss of the concept of Presence happens through the realization of the ultimate void (Sunyata), which is the absence of conceptualization. This is another radical departure from one’s previous experience. One goes from a sense of absolute presence to a sense of absolute Absence. One here realizes that for the first time a complete cessation of the sense of self is attained. There is no experience of self or person, without consciousness that there is no self or person. When the sense of presence is lost, the last foothold for the sense of self (identity or person) is gone. In the state of Absence there is no self-consciousness at all, and one realizes that it is the self-reflective movement of the mind that is the core of the sense of self. 

Completeness is Sometimes Called Self, Sometimes No Self and Both Can Apply

There is “I am.” Completeness is the experience of “I am” without mind, without anybody reflecting on it and saying “I am,” without subjectivity. It is just the actual “I am-ness,” without the mind conceptualizing it. “I am” is the same thing as presence, as the “I,” as the true identity, except there is no need to conceptualize. When you’re complete you’re not even interested in completeness. You’re totally unself-conscious; you’re not self-conscious at all. You’re just self. And you cannot say really if it’s self or not self, because these are concepts. The completeness is sometimes called self; sometimes it is called no self. Both can apply. Completeness is a very simple, little thing. Very simple, very little, very minute, very uncomplicated. And at the same time it is without the huge gap between you and the universe. It is the state of no gap.  

Crystal Absence that Has Not an Iota of Self in It

For a few days lately, however, I have been aware of a new development: a readiness to give, an openness for generosity, and space to spare. The realization of fulfillment, and the sense that my life is a new life, engenders a sense of having lots of time, energy, and space to give to others. I feel willing and happy to give my time and energy to my family and friends. There is nothing that I want, or want to accomplish for myself, and there is a great deal of space. It is not that I am doing less, or that there are fewer physical activities. The sense of space is psychological; my consciousness is much less cluttered. When I feel the attitude of unrestricted generosity, I am aware of being the absolute, an absence that has no sense of self. This state of being the crystal absence, that has not an iota of self in it, is the core of generosity. I am willing to give energy, time, and attention because there is no self that needs them. The self needed all these, and many other things, to go home. Now that it is home, it is gone, and everything that arises is for others. I feel I am home now, my search is ended. The absolute is home. My personal motivations have spent themselves, and now it is the dynamism of the absolute that moves the soul. 

Deficient Emptiness Accompanied by the Affect of the Sense of No Self

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. This means that if the totality of the personality is seen objectively and graphically it looks like an empty shell; the shell is composed of many layers, each standing for a self-representation. Identifying with the shell gives the feeling of self or identity. When one ceases identifying with the shell as a whole there will emerge the experience of deficient emptiness, accompanied by the affect of the sense of no self. The sense of being an empty shell, when it is finally perceived, is accompanied by the feeling of being fake and a sense of shame that is a reaction to the fakeness.

The Void, pg. 136

Deficient Emptiness is the Feeling of Having No Self

The alienation from the Essential Identity results in narcissistic emptiness. This feels like a deficient emptiness, the specific deficiency being the feeling of absence of the sense of self. It is the loss of identity. Instead of clear and definite self-recognition, the person feels an emptiness, a phenomenological nothingness, with an accompanying sense of no identity. She feels that her self is missing. This deficient emptiness makes her feel lost, with no center, no orientation, no purpose, no meaning.     A typical reaction to this deficient emptiness comes in the form of superego attacks. One feels one is worthless, not important, not good enough, or perhaps fake. The deficient emptiness is the feeling of having no self, which can feel like a lack of center or orientation. When this emptiness is arising, superego reactions—self-attacks, such as feeling one is worthless, not important, or not good enough—might arise as resistances to directly experiencing the deficiency. These reactions are partly due to disconnection from the value of Being. A healthy reaction at this point might be the sense of remorse of conscience, for failing to be authentic.  

Direct Perception that is Neither Self nor No Self

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. 

Dissolving of the Structure of Identity

One way of experiencing this absence of the familiar sense of identity is to feel lost. The student feels lost psychologically, not knowing where she is and who she is. When she investigates this sense of being lost, she discovers that it means that she feels she cannot find herself, cannot find the feeling which gives her the sense of self-recognition. The lost feeling is part of the process of dissolving the structure of identity. When the dissolution is complete, the feeling is no longer that of feeling lost, but of having no self or no sense of identity. 

Emptiness that Does Not Have Any Particular Feeling, Even of Self

As we abide in the inscrutable darkness of the absolute we recede, as if backward, from the world of manifestation. The soul feels: “I am perceiving the world and knowing I am not of it, not part of it, and not in it. When I reflect I do not find myself, either as a person or self. It seems I am some kind of emptiness that does not have any particular feeling, even of self. There is awareness of phenomena, but I am not part of what I perceive, and I am not anything in particular. I am pure subject, which is not an object. I am the source of awareness. I am not the witnessing, but I make witnessing possible.” There is everything, there is the perception of everything, but no self or person, and no reference to them. The mind cannot conceive of existence without reference to a center. There is no frame of reference here. There is lightness, openness, expansion, and joy. 

Essence Can Manifest as Self or as No Self or as Neither

You see, the beauty of working with Essence is that there’s no place that you can get to emotionally that doesn’t turn out to be fine if you just stay with it. When you work with something—in this case, the absence of the needed father—you may lose yourself at any step of the way, and then you have all your emotions about losing yourself. But if you stay with your experience, you realize that even losing yourself is wonderful. You might get to another state, and suddenly you will have a self, and having a self can feel wonderful. It doesn’t matter what steps you go through; Essence manifests in all kinds of ways, and each one of them is fine. So there’s no bad place that you can get to on the essential level. Essence can manifest as self or as no-self, or as neither, and there is really no need to worry which way it is going to go. Inquiry and exploration, if carried deep enough, are bound to manifest Essence in one way or another.

Brilliancy, pg. 208

Everything Happening as Functioning

When we are witnessing within the manifestation but still being the absolute, we can perceive our body moving, doing what it does—eating, talking, and so on. However, all this is seen as completely spontaneous functioning, not belonging to a person or a self. There is no doer whatsoever. Everything is happening as functioning, each part is doing its functioning smoothly and spontaneously. The functioning is not related to a doer, a person, or a self. And it is not seen as separate from other functioning in the environment, for all functioning is a unified dynamic field. Furthermore, the functioning is the same as the phenomena, the perceived reality, the logos whose dynamic pattern is the universe. However, there is no I, no self, no center. The awareness and perception originate from the darkness of the absolute.  

Everything, the Same as Usual, Except that there is No Self

In Absence one experiences oneself to be a pure subject, that is not an object. One is the source of awareness. One is not the witness, not the witnessing, not the witnessed. One recognizes oneself as an Absence, unknown and unknowable. When one looks inward there is no perception; there is absolute Absence without consciousness of Absence, because Absence is not an object of perception. It is in fact the absence of an object of perception. When one looks at phenomena one observes functioning. There is absolutely no self-consciousness, so there is complete spontaneity. There is awareness of phenomena and functioning, but there is no involvement at all. It does not feel that there is someone or something observing or aware of phenomena. Everything is the same as usual, except that there is no self. There is no person or presence who feels or thinks he is doing or perceiving. The perceiving is present, the doing is present, without being related to a perceiver and doer. This is completely incomprehensible to ego. Ego cannot conceive of perceiving or functioning if it is not present at the center of it. For ego, functioning is always the functioning of the person or self. 

Experience of Total Selflessness, of No Self of Any Kind

We first experience the total nonconceptuality of our true nature as we delve more deeply into the nature of pure awareness and absolute awareness. As we explore the nature and the very substance of these nondual dimensions, as we consider their sense of nothingness, emptiness, and absence, that opens the door for true nature to manifest itself in a way that reveals degrees of freedom that we haven’t even imagined possible. In the usual trajectory of our work, our unfolding development or realization reveals the realization of the absolute—the absolute depth of true nature that is complete freedom from self. Some teachings think of the absolute as the big self or the ultimate self or the ultimate subject. But it is actually the experience of total selflessness, of no self of any kind. The individual self is seen simply as a window for experiencing no self. It is not the center, and there is no center. So the absolute is a profound realization of emptiness of self. It also can appear as the emptiness of everything, the nonbeing of everything in the sense that nothing has an ultimate identity. Things appear and we experience them, but they don’t exist in the way that we usually think.  

In the Pure Experience of Consciousness there is No Self

It is not possible to understand what universal consciousness is without experiencing it, because it eliminates the ordinary level of understanding. The understanding of universal consciousness is exactly the elimination of separateness, of any division in perception, including thoughts about consciousness. There is no consciousness of anything in particular. This is a foreign experience for most of us, because we know consciousness only in terms of consciousness of something. In the pure experience of consciousness there is no experience of body or thoughts; there is no experience, no experiencer, no self. Hence springs the Buddhist notion of no self. The Buddhists say that ultimately there is no self because in that aspect, universal consciousness, you cannot experience a self. Any entity-ness stops you from experiencing this vastness which is the elimination of separateness, the elimination of discrimination. There is complete non-differentiation. There is no separation, no two, and no thought that there is one.  

No Identified Self

When the student finally settles into this experience of deficient emptiness, allowing it without judgment, rejection or reaction, she sees that it is a state of no self, or, more specifically, no identity. When we fully experience this state of no identified self, it transforms naturally and spontaneously into a luminous vastness, a deep spaciousness, a peaceful emptiness. 

Normal Life Without a Self at the Center of It

This is an interesting kind of realization that doesn’t depend on realizing any specific dimension of reality, like awareness or presence or love. This is a realization beyond duality and nonduality. But the word “beyond” isn’t quite accurate when we refer to the kinds of realization that happen in the fourth turning of the teaching, because that word connotes hierarchy. Instead, sometimes I refer to this realization as “other than duality and nonduality.” This removes it from being in a progression or a continuum with duality and nonduality; this realization simply is different from duality and nonduality. This realization that is other than duality and nonduality also reveals a subtle sense of freedom. It is a subtle freedom because, in some sense, it is quite similar to the ordinary point of view—where there are people and objects and events—except there is no self. Everything in life proceeds normally but there is no self at the center of it. 

Reactions of the Self to the Sense of No Self

The narcissistic emptiness sheds its deficiency and reveals its truth, as an emptiness that has no sense of self, but is spacious and peaceful. The deficient emptiness is actually nothing but this inner spaciousness, experienced through the judgment of deficiency. The state of no self is actually a pure manifestation of inner spacious reality, Being in its openness, we experience it as empty space, immaculate and pure, light and clean, empty of everything structured by the mind. However, the self reacts to the sense of no self in many ways—as a loss, as a deficiency, and so on, plus the associations, memories, and feelings that go with these interpretations. All this psychic content pervades the inner spaciousness so that we lose sight of its lightness, purity, immaculateness, and freedom. Instead, we feel it as deficient emptiness, dull and flat, heavy and dark. Only when we allow this emptiness to be, without judgment or rejection, without reaction or opinion, does it shed its obscurations and reveal its inherent truth: the state of no self, the freedom and openness of our Being. We experience ourselves then as a luminous night sky, transparent and pure, light and happy, cool and virginal, deep and peaceful. An emptiness, yes, but a stillness, a silence, where we recognize the absence of the familiar identity as the absence of agitation.

Realization of No Self where the Ultimate Truth Reveals that there is in It No Self of Any Kind

When essence is ignited, our process and the experience of our illumination has reached a point where it is spontaneously free—spontaneously effulging in a way in which it continues to open up and to open up further and to reveal and illuminate in different ways both itself and whatever is happening. We can see these illuminations hierarchically, as we do in the first and second turnings. And it is true that as we experience true nature more fully, these illuminations can seem like deeper or subtler or simpler dimensions of true nature. This can lead to seeing enlightenment as the final attainment in some kind of spiritual progression. Enlightenment can be the realization of the ultimate self, where we see that this ultimate truth is what we are; or it can be the realization of no-self, where the ultimate truth reveals that there is in it no self of any kind. But there are also realizations of true nature that have nothing to do with the question of whether there is a self or not. The fourth turning of the teaching reveals the perspective of nonhierarchy, where there is the enlightenment of self, the enlightenment of no-self, and the enlightenment that has nothing to do with self or no-self. There is also the enlightenment of nonduality, the enlightenment of duality, the enlightenment of divinity, the enlightenment of humanity, the enlightenment of enlightenment, and the enlightenment of no-enlightenment. This is what I mean by essential activation: Our experience is activated in such a way that it continually transforms so that what we experience as our being or the being of reality reveals itself endlessly in different ways. 

The Experience of Absence

Ego psychologists have assumed that the infant perceives things somewhat similarly to adults. So when they have observed behavior that indicates projection they have concluded that the child is aware of an inside as opposed to an outside. This is probably not an accurate conclusion. From the perspective of Being, when there are no ego identifications at all, it is possible to experience perception from a certain state, which we call the experience of Absence, in which both the sense of individuality and self are absent. There is no self-consciousness whatsoever, although there is perception and functioning. The perception includes one’s body as part of the environment. But the perception is not related to a frame of reference, or to a self as a center. There is the perception of all that appears to the senses, without the slightest movement of referring anything perceived to a self or entity. It is as if there is the perception of the outside without a concept of inside.

There is No Self-Existing and Abiding Entity Called Self

Since the logos is the harmonious flow of all phenomena, a flow that embodies an optimizing and loving intelligence, it is the source of wisdom regarding many of these phenomena that are of particular interest to human beings. Being the harmonious flow of interrelating phenomena, the logos contains the wisdom of their optimization. It can show us the truth and reality, and the possible optimizing direction, of such things as human relationships in their various forms, such as love relationships, marriages and divorces, friendships and work associations. It can reveal to us the wisdom regarding destiny, connection, union, even the various degrees of union with God. It can also reveal to us the wisdom of how to grow, develop, mature, evolve, and so on, and how to unfold knowledge and deepen heart. Because it is the harmonious order of all phenomena, it can guide us toward optimization of all concerns of human life, and of life in general. It can also provide us with a more complete understanding of the self, and support our realization that there is no self-existing and abiding entity called self, for everything is continually created new. 

True Nature is the True Guide, the Real Self and the No Self . . . . .

Even though it is not an object, we might be tempted to objectify the philosophers’ stone. In my experience, as long as we feel it and are in touch with it, as long as we are devoted to it and respect it, it doesn’t matter what the mind does in terms of its delusions. The stone will expose and shatter all our delusions. The human mind cannot think precisely enough, the human heart cannot be courageous enough, the human belly cannot persevere enough. It is true nature that does everything. It is the true guide, the real self, and the no-self; it is the enlightenment, the nonconceptuality, and the freedom. The more we recognize this truth and are devoted to it, the more true nature will impact and transform us. 

Weakness or Loss of Identity

Disturbances in the development of the self can occur either in the sector of either entity or identity, or, of course, in both. When the development of identity is incomplete or distorted, the identity is brittle, feeble, shaky, superficial, incomplete, distorted, and/or unrealistic. It is thus vulnerable to injury, disintegration, and loss. When the self’s vital center, the center of her psychological balance and harmony, the place in her that allows her to know herself in an immediate way, is not firmly established or stable, she will experience her feeling of identity not only as uncertain and vague, but sometimes as threatened, or even as destroyed or lost. This weakness or loss of identity may manifest as the feeling that she has no self, or as a sense of deficient emptiness. These feelings indicate the absence of a sense of center. One feels like an entity without a center, a body without insides 

When Self or No Self Becomes an Issue

The issue of self or no-self does not become a personal issue for the student until he is near the end of his inner development and spiritual growth. Before that point, the question of self and no-self will be experienced as irrelevant. Buddha saw that many people around him were very conscious and highly developed spiritually, but were still suffering; their realization had not freed them completely. He saw this for himself too. And only at this point did the issue of self or no-self become important to him. Solving this issue was his final accomplishment, the acme of his realization and his contribution to humanity. 

Essence with the Elixir of Enlightenment, pg. Bibliography, pg 25

When there is Complete Poverty there is No Self, No You

The concepts of poverty and purity appeal to our hearts. They inform the path of the heart. They are things that you can actually feel. You can feel the poverty and the purity. Ultimately, poverty means letting go of all havingness. The final havingness is the self. Purity ultimately means letting go of all attachments, all preferences, all prejudices and personal beliefs and positions. When there is complete poverty, there is no self, no you; there is total purity.  

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