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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Subject/Object?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Subject/Object

A Central Feature of the Relationship of Subject and Object

As we recognize and explore this, we see that a central feature of the relationship of subject and object is not that they are two, but that they are two that are always together, two that never leave each other, two that are part of one. They are intrinsically wedded to each other. Why is this so? How come we never find a sole object or a sole subject? These are good questions. This does not mean that it is not possible, only that it is not possible in dualistic experience. In dualistic experience, object and subject go together, the other and the self go together. If we simply inquire into that, we realize that in every perception, there is always the object and the subject arising together. If we can leave aside our opinions and ideas, if we can think of it as neither good nor bad, if we can be liberated from associations, from spiritual jargon, from the past, from all other influences, we can purely perceive that subject and object arise together. For example, as I twirl my meditation beads, I can perceive that there is the subject “me” and the object “beads.” The usual dual perspective considers me and the beads as two separate and distinct phenomena. But I can begin to recognize that the sense of me as a subject arises in relationship to the beads as an object, that there is no me that is entirely independent of the experience of the-beads-and-me as one arising. As we recognize the influences of the past, of associations or self-identifications, and as we are free of them, we begin to enter what is called the nondual condition. There is a sense that “Oh, the-beads-and-me . . . there isn’t really me and beads. There is only one thing and this one thing is simply aware of the totality of the whole thing. It is aware of me, it is aware of the beads, and it is all one unified thing and everything is part of this unity.”

Beginning to See the Nonduality of Subject and Object in Experience

To understand that the soul is the agency, the site, and the varied content of experience will bring us a great deal of clarity about experience. Under normal circumstances, we are aware of simply having experience, but are vague and indefinite about the basics of such experience. What is experience? How does experience happen, where is it, and what exactly is it? To recognize the soul is to become clear about such fundamental questions. This brings us to a further fundamental truth about the soul: Since the soul is the experiencer, the fabric and container of experience, and the content of experience, then the experiencer is not separate from this content. The subject of inner experience is the soul, but so is the content, the object of experience. In other words, as we recognize the soul we begin to see the nonduality of subject and object of experience, at least with respect to inner events. For instance, if we consider an emotion that arises in our consciousness, the agent or experiencer of this emotion is not a subject that experiences it as an object, an object separate and different from this subject. The subject is the field and the emotion is a manifestation of this field, in this field. The emotion is nothing but the field itself with a certain manifestation or frequency arising in some region of it. The field is a field of sensitivity, so it is sensitive to this change in frequency or vibration.

Complete Contact with Oneself

To experience the Personal Essence through the process of disidentification makes clear its sense of beingness. One feels oneself as a presence. One feels oneself as a fullness, as a Beingness, in contradistinction to reactivity or activity. One feels oneself because one is oneself. Being is recognized by being it. The perception is most direct. The contact with oneself is complete. There is no subject separate from the Being. This is an important point about the nature of Being. One knows Being by being it, because Being is self-aware. It is self-aware because it is pure consciousness. This consciousness is not an activity, it is a presence. Since Being is pure consciousness capable of direct awareness of itself, it does not require thinking and deduction for it to know itself. This is what most distinguishes it from the personality of ego, which knows itself through reference to the past. One reason it is not easy to have a clear experience of Being is that the habit of ego is to know itself through reference to other perceptions, as in Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” But Being’s perception of itself is immediate and direct. The experience is more like “I exist,” felt with immediate, definite certainty. It is the feeling “I am.” “I am because I am.” The experience of Being is like being a certain medium or substance in which each point or atom is exquisitely and clearly aware of itself as pure sensation or consciousness. There is pure sensation, exquisite aliveness.

Immediate, Direct and Existential Knowing in which there is No Duality of Subject and Object

The experience of the Personal Essence is independent from memories. This is because the Personal Essence, with its sense of being a person, is neither an image nor a feeling dependent on an image. It is independent from the mind and its structures, and hence it is independent from the memories of one’s personal history. It is direct perceptual recognition of a state of Being, in the here and now. It is direct and immediate knowing of one’s true personhood, that is inseparable from being the person. This kind of knowing is characteristic of Being in general. The usual kind of knowing is through inference. The knowing of Being is by identity. One knows oneself because one is oneself. It is knowing by being what is known. So it is an immediate, direct, and existential knowing, in which there is no duality of subject and object. So the recognition that Personal Essence is oneself as a person is a definite, clear, profound and unassailable knowingness. There is confidence and certainty. One experiences oneself as a human being, as an ongoing-personal-beingness. One is real for one exists absolutely, irrespective of the past and of the environment. One is an ongoing sense-of-beingness that is made out of alive consciousness, consciousness that is a palpable presence and not merely the capacity to be conscious.

In Dualistic Perception the Separateness of Subject and Object is Never Total

One characteristic of dualistic perception is that it contains traces of nonduality. The separateness of subject and object is never total. What I mean is that you never find a subject by itself. A subject always implies an object. And conversely, you can never only have an object; there is always the experiencer of the object. There cannot be an other without somebody saying, “This is an other.” So, in dual experience, there is no experience of a self or a subject by itself, and there is no experience of an other or an object by itself. Subject and object, although distinct, always arise as a unit; they are always connected to each other somehow. This is a mysterious sort of perception that most of us, when we are experiencing from the conventional view, never even consider. If you are alone in your bedroom, you might notice that you are all by yourself, which is true in a sense, but you are not simply alone as a subject. You are the subject, but your object has shifted from being somebody else to being your bed or being your feeling of aloneness.

One's Absolute Nature Transcends Not Only the Mind but Consciousness Itself

Even consciousness, which is not exactly a concept, can be shed. At some point, usually without anticipating it, one realizes that one is perceiving the Nameless Reality as external to oneself. One becomes aware that one is beyond the Nameless, and the world that it supports, as an unknowable mystery. The Nonconceptual Reality, which is the ground of the world of concepts, is experienced here as not absolutely real. In fact, it is experienced as a radiance, ephemeral and insubstantial, in relation to and emanating from an unfathomable Absolute. One realizes that one’s most absolute nature, which turns out to be the underlying nature of all of existence, transcends not only the mind, but consciousness itself. One is the beyond, beyond whatever can be experienced or perceived. Absence is seen as an incomplete glimpse into the Absolute. One is the ultimate subject, which cannot be an object of perception, and hence is unknown and unknowable. The Absolute is not aware of itself, but awareness of everything else proceeds from it, while what characterizes consciousness is that it is conscious of itself.

Pure Subject Which is Not an Object

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 the center. There is no frame of reference here. There is lightness, openness, expansion, and joy.

The Absolute is the Final Subject and the Final Object is the Cosmic Existence

The final dichotomy is between the Absolute and the cosmic existence. The Absolute is the final subject and the final object is the cosmic existence. But when that union happens, when that dichotomy is erased in the understanding of nondifferentiated reality, there is no subject and object, no inside and outside. So the person who is completely nonattached, who knows reality exactly, will not assert anything. If someone is completely real, that person will not say, “I exist.” He will not say, “I don’t exist.” He will not say, “I both exist and don’t exist at once.” He will not say anything like that. He will not say there is God. He will not say there is no God. He will not say there is both God and no God at the same time. Ultimately, reality is not any of these differentiations. Reality, whatever it is, is simply there. Whatever it is, it simply is.

The Aspect of Basic Knowing Implies a Complete Identity of Knowing and Being

Being knowing . . . . . . The aspect of Knowing arises when one knows that one’s very beingness is inseparable from knowing: that one is being knowing and hence this presence is completely one with itself. There is no division between subject and object, absolutely no duality in the knowing. So it is basic knowing. But since it is presence, it is not an activity of knowing. It is the presence of the quality of Knowing. Because the aspect of basic Knowing implies a complete identity of knowing and being, the experience of it is of deep abiding, total settling in oneself, complete repose in one’s presence. Any agitation, any movement away from oneself, will tend to disconnect us from it. It is complete inner rest, what is referred to in Sanskrit as sahaja-samadhi. There is no agitation in the field of consciousness. There is total repose in presence, by being the presence so completely that we only know that we know through experiencing ourselves as a field of Knowing.

The Boundless Dimensions Contain No Dichotomy Between Subject and Object

All the boundless dimensions of reality—realms of love, knowledge, awareness, nonbeing, and dynamism—are nondual in the sense that they contain no dichotomy between subject and object. That is to say, in the realization of the boundless dimensions, there is no separate “I” experiencing the dimension. The sense of I is the dimension experiencing itself as a unified totality. Not only is there no subject/object dichotomy between you and the boundlessness, but also there is no subject/object dichotomy between the vastness and all objects and phenomena within it. Every single form is a manifestation of the same field. Experiencing this kind of presence that is not limited by any boundaries or partitions will put pressure on the structures, beliefs, and ideas that limit our sense of self to a particular shape or size. The nondual dimensions of Total Being initially arise inseparably from our obscurations because each dimension addresses a certain level of obstruction as if it were designed specifically for that purpose. We discover that there is an inherent intelligence in reality: Our obstacles, delusions, and limitations are directly connected to the pure or free dimensions of reality.

The Soul is the Subject that Perceives and Recognizes Perceptions

We also normally think of ourselves as the perceiver of outer objects and events. Once we recognize the soul as the inner field that contains inner experience and events, it becomes easy to see that the soul is also the perceiver of all events, outer as well as inner. Outer manifestations can be seen to be outside the soul but our perception of them occurs within us, within our sensitive interiority, our soul. The soul is the recipient of perception; these perceptions might arise through the windows of the senses, but it is the soul that is the subject that actually perceives and recognizes such perceptions. The soul in this functions similarly to the eyes that receive the light, also similarly to the brain that deciphers the light signals, but most primarily it is the consciousness that finally sees and recognizes, the consciousness that becomes impacted by what it sees, and responds accordingly. In recognizing the soul we recognize the real self that we intuitively know is at the center of all experience, and the agent of all functioning. Our intuition transforms into a direct perception of what we have sensed to be not only the site of all inner experiences and perceptions, but also the agent of all experience, perception, and action. The soul is the experiencer, the perceiver, the observer, the doer, the thinker, the chooser, the responder, the enjoyer, the sufferer, and the inner site of all of these.

When the Eye Sees an Object the Intermediate Medium is Light, but when Essence is Aware of Itself there is No Intermediary

The most direct perception and experience is the one of identity, when we are what we experience, when the perception is so direct that what perceives and what is perceived are the same thing. This is exactly the experience of essence. Here there is no inference from something else. It is the most direct experience. The experiencer and the experienced are the same thing. There is no separation between subject and object. The subject and the object are the same: essence. It is not only that there is no inference. There is also no intermediate medium for the perception. Usually there is an intermediate medium that enables a subject to experience an object. When the eye sees an object, the intermediate medium is light, but when essence is aware of itself, there is no intermediary. The object, the subject, and the medium of perception are all the same: essence. Also, the organ of perception is essence itself. There is in the experience only essence. Essence is the subject. Essence is the object. Essence is the medium of perception. Essence is the organ of perception. Essence is the experience. There is no separation whatsoever, no duality and no differentiation. The experience of essence as existence, the experience of “I am,” is not as if there is a subject that is the actor of existence. The “I” and the “am” are not separate. The “I am” is a unitary experience. The nature of the essence, of the real self, is existence. The “I” itself is existence. So it is more accurate to say that the part of me that is existence is present. Essence is the only part of me that actually exists, in the sense of experiencing itself as pure existence, pure presence.

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