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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Suffering?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Suffering

Understanding Suffering

As you see, the understanding and resolution of suffering is not simple. It involves a fundamental transformation, a transformation that does not mean going from unhappy to happy. Understanding suffering requires transformations that we ordinarily don’t think about and that our minds can’t easily conceptualize. The causes of our suffering are so intrinsic to how we live that once we recognize them, we can no longer believe that it is unfair that we suffer. How else could it be? Suffering is simply a symptom of incomplete knowledge. Suffering is a symptom of lack of realization, lack of complete awareness. We experience lack of awareness, of realization, and of knowledge as suffering. As we begin to understand this, our attitude toward suffering changes: it is no longer something bad happening. We realize that there is simply something that we don’t understand, that remains to be seen. Our suffering is a symptom, a sign coming from our nature, which is the deepest guide. Our suffering beckons us closer to the truth, shows us the way to peace. Through our suffering, our true self tells us that there is more to realize. Our suffering is connected with our guidance, and it’s better not to try to silence it. The only approach to suffering is to understand it. Suffering is silenced in the final silence, in the Absolute.

A Duality in Our Mind that Will Create a Subtle Suffering or Longing

Some of you might already see a problem that arises here, another source of suffering. We have not yet arrived at the final resolution. It is true that our mind can go, our consciousness can go. Our sense of things goes from being to nonbeing. But there remains a duality in the mind, which will create a subtle suffering or longing. That duality is between existence and nonexistence. We believe that existence and nonexistence are two things. How can that be? How can we be the totality of everything and then become something else? The heart becomes perplexed at this point. That perplexity can lead to profound sorrow. In my own process, I didn’t understand this issue for a long time. I would experience the state of the Absolute, and then experience the state of cosmic existence or the sense of being an individual. And there was sadness so deep that it filled the whole universe with deep, dark sadness and longing. It was hard to know what it was about. I felt, “I know who I am, I know my ultimate self, and there is still sadness.” Some time passed before I finally said, “What is this sadness all about?” I realized that in going from existence to nonexistence, there is a sense of loss of the existence. The sadness was connected to my love for that existence.

A Separate Individual is Always Insecure

The belief in individuality, the belief in separateness, the belief in the ego boundaries is what causes the suffering. As a separate individual, you can't help but be insecure, one individual in contrast to other individuals, always surrounded by forces beyond you. Even though you might have true will, a separate individual is always insecure. As you explore the actual condition of being a separate individual, you will inevitably encounter fear and helplessness. The insecurity, fear, and helplessness of being a little, separate entity in a world of greater forces is the condition of every individual.

As Long as You Live from Any Ideal there is Suffering

In time you realize that as long as you live according to any ideal, as long as you try to actualize any ideal, there is suffering. And you learn this through the process of suffering more than anything else. If you suffer deeply and with understanding, you will mature, you’ll be a ripe human being. A ripe human being is a human being who feels deeply that at the deepest level there is happiness and harmony, but who knows at the same time, that desiring happiness and harmony cuts him off from reality. Because he is mature and he knows this principle, he stops desiring. A mature human being knows that he wants happiness more than anything else, and he also knows that by wanting it, he will not get it; so he acts accordingly. Another person might know these things, but not be mature enough to act accordingly. Being mature means that your knowledge allows you to actually stop pursuing your fantasies. But it takes a lot of disappointments to allow that to happen.

Being Disconnected From the Source Lies at the Very Heart of Human Suffering

In exploring the question of Holy Origin and the consequences of its absence, we are dealing with one of the dilemmas of being a human being. Human beings have two options: being in contact with the Source, or being in a state of disconnection from it. Being disconnected from the Source is not the loss of a luxury, of something extra—this loss lies at the very heart of human suffering because this Source constitutes your most real nature, the true center of who you are. Without it, life is deadened in all its aspects and becomes meaningless. We don’t simply lose a sense of peace or contentment, or the intimacy of feeling at home with ourselves, but we also lose the source of all of our real capacities that we need to deal with and live our lives fully and correctly. So this is not a small loss or simply a philosophical one—it is a very practical and immediate one. Working on regaining the Holy Origin—realizing our unity with our Source—is not supplemental, something to do when everything else is taken care of. It is basic and fundamental. Not to do it is like trying to live your life without your insides, your bodily organs—what kind of life can you live? Without the connection with your Source, in which your life is lived as a continuity of Being, life becomes a prolongation of hollowness.

Facets of Unity, pg. 202

Believing That We Are Our History Brings Suffering

We each take some part of our identity from the past and live our life as if we are that object in our memory. We have a powerful, entrenched belief that we are our history. This belief is a much deeper cause of suffering than what actually happened in our childhood. If you just stop believing that you are your history, if you really let go, if you see that’s not you, all that happened in your childhood will be gone. You will be completely new. What happens now might cause you suffering, but what your mother did, what your father did, whatever depression or war you lived through is gone. They exist only in your mind. So we realize that a deeper cause of our suffering is that we hold on to the past, and we hold on to it in a certain way. We use the past to determine what we are. The past generates our concepts, our beliefs about who we are and about what reality is.



Believing That You are Bounded by the Body

The belief that you are contained within the body, bounded by the body, related to the body, part of the body will be wholly challenged. You will come to see that belief as one of the major sources of suffering. At some point in our work we realize that our true nature doesn't have boundaries, that who we are is not bounded by physical partitions. If we continue believing in the solidity of those partitions, then we are trying to compact our true nature to fit into our idea of ourselves. This will bring a lot of tension!

Even Opening to Essence Does Not End Suffering

As we go on, we discover that true understanding requires much more; it requires compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, love, clarity, strength, and will, among other things. Although these aspects of our being are cut off by the patterns of our personality, when we work in the dimension of essence, we begin to see things in terms of the interaction between ego and essence. We see that the work of liberating our essence involves understanding both our ego and our essence. This process ultimately leads us to the actualization of the true self, true individuality, true consciousness, and to the actualization of all the essential aspects. But even opening to essence does not end the suffering, which many experience as a disappointment. It takes a lot of stamina and dedication to continue the inquiry regardless of this disappointment. But if we stop at this stage, our suffering might even increase. This is because the experience of the aspects of essence, such as love, joy, strength, or fulfillment, brings more light to our personality conflicts and ego deficiencies. So we might start to experience suffering we didn’t even know we had, simply by seeing the contrast to our essential experience. Our new experiences of essence and being are expressions of the truth and tend to bring to light previously hidden truths. As we continue in our inquiry, further causes of suffering are revealed. As our essential experiences naturally put pressure on the ego-mind, we begin to understand even deeper levels of our suffering. Most of us think we can be liberated without fundamentally challenging our identity. But as we become comfortable with essence, it begins to exert pressure on who we think we are. Inevitably, we must begin to question our very identity.

Filling Your Self with the Activities of the Positions You Take

It is possible to see that the reason you’re suffering is that you’re always filling your self with the activities of the positions you take. When this is happening you cannot experience things freshly, directly, purely. You even experience your body as heavy and sluggish. If you allow emptiness, your body can become light, rather than a hindrance or a boundary for your experience. Your body is your orientation in the physical universe but your experience does not have to be limited by its shape or contour. You are basically an openness and a sensitivity which has no point of view, which is not restricted by any boundary of any kind—emotional, essential, physical or mental. When you allow yourself to be that openness and freedom, you will experience yourself as giving, as a flow of love. The point of view of the ego is what stops love and the true abundance that flows like a fountain. The fountain isn’t thinking of giving or not giving. The fountain is just there, flowing. A point of view, which is automatically a restriction, blocks the heart. The heart cannot pump its essential juices. As long as you believe you are a separate person with boundaries, with the attitude of getting things and protecting your self, you will block love. Love destroys boundaries. Love has nothing to do with you or me. Love is just the activity of that creativity in that openness. Love is the outcome of non-restriction, of freedom. When the body and the mind are not restricted by that point of view, the harmony of the body and the mind will be expressed in a lovingness, an abundance. The natural movement of our being is to be in love.

Man's Alienation From Himself Brings Suffering

Also, there have always existed a few people with the knowledge that most of this suffering is due to man’s alienation from himself. Most of our dissatisfaction comes not from sickness or material problems, but from not being ourselves. Not much can be done about the suffering caused by sickness or ageing. Some people have seen, however, that the emotional suffering is not inevitable in the same way. It is this alienation which leaves us with a sense of emptiness, of deep suffering. In time, physical difficulties, psychosomatic diseases and the like, result.

Negative and Positive Causes of Suffering

The process of inner work has two threads: seeing the negative causes of suffering, and seeing the positive causes of suffering. The negative causes of suffering involve the negative experiences, often from childhood, that created suffering. What I call the positive cause of suffering is the actual blockage of our potential, our essence. The positive cause is the alienation from true reality. After a while the process of understanding involves these two threads working together. You understand personality, and you understand essence. You understand your history and you understand your nature. You understand your mind and you understand your beingness. These two threads are inherently intertwined in our work in the Diamond Approach.

Not Understanding the Cause of Suffering Perpetuates It

Our work exposes the extent to which we blame our parents for our suffering. When we delve deeply into the matter, we realize that the lack of understanding is more basic than what happened with our parents. What happened in childhood caused the suffering in some sense, but not knowing those causes, forgetting about them, not understanding them is what perpetuates our suffering. Our work is based on the insight that understanding the causes of suffering is the best way to relieve it.

Perpetuating Your Suffering by the Very Activity You Thinks is Going to Release You from Suffering

It seems that when someone has done the Work for some time, the normal ego activity of seeking pollutes the practice in the Work. So students tend to approach the practices of the Work from that perspective. If I say we have essence, you seek your essence. If I say you need to deal with your issues, you start to dig for your issues. Everyone becomes a hunter. This is the primary source of our suffering. We have talked about the sources of this perspective of seeking, of discontent, deficiency; we understand a lot about the patterns. Today, however, we are considering the activity itself. You perpetuate your suffering by the very activity you think is going to release you from suffering. Many people assume that inquiry and understanding are a matter of figuring things out, a matter of searching for issues in your mind, or tensions in your body, or difficulties in your life, so that you can resolve the issues, relax the tensions, get rid of the difficulties. You hope that this activity will make you suffer less. If you are not trying to get rid of suffering, you are looking for some essential state or pleasurable condition, so you can grasp and hold on to some aspect of your essence. But this is a ridiculous thing to do, because you are the essence. How are you going to trap the essence if you are the essence? Who is going to trap your essence? Who is going to get it? The consequence of this activity of trying to get something and trying to get rid of something else, is that you identify with the activity of searching. You are doing it, the activity is always present, and you take it to be you. Thus, you continue projecting outside the thing you are looking for. In the process of doing the Work, you merely continue the activity of seeking that you engaged in while pursuing personality goals and desires. You used to be looking for the right person, the right job, the right situation, and now you are looking inside yourself. Now you substitute looking for real confidence instead of looking for recognition. Instead of searching for success, you are searching for enlightenment. It is just different words for the same thing; it is the same activity whether it is directed inside or outside.

Suffering and Disaster

Personality without Essence is suffering. Personality with attachment to Essence is a disaster.

The Bases of Suffering

The question of ignorance and delusion is a profound one. Just as it manifests beauty and luminosity and love and goodness, Living Being also manifests ignorance and delusion, which are the bases of suffering, violence, and insensitivity. As we have seen, living our realization requires continual practice. Because of the persistence of our ignorance, practice continues not only before realization, but also after realization. And we have seen how, at some point, practice is not at all separate from realization. Our continual practice illuminates the ignorance and delusion that endure beyond realization.

The Need to Deal With the Issue of Suffering

So to really deal with the issue of suffering, we need to understand reality. We need to go all the way through the process of realization. The process of realization, of understanding the truth, is a process of understanding and relieving oneself from suffering. There is no shortcut; there is only one way. What's causing suffering cannot be surmounted, cannot simply be dropped, cannot be ignored, cannot even be erased by some essential awakening or realization. Suffering is a fundamental factor in our lives that has to be dealt with. We need a lot of study and understanding; we need to go through all the dimensions before we can exit the realm of suffering. Many of us hope we can exit right away, hope we can transcend our problems through spiritual experience. But unless we actually penetrate our beliefs and identifications, our life will always involve suffering.

There is Bound to be Suffering in the Life of Ego

So, to believe that we are the separate individuality is to take ourselves to be something that does not truly exist, and to fail to see who we are, to fail to realize our true essence. No wonder, then, that we are dissatisfied and suffering, just as the Buddha observed. We can note here that this suffering is not a problem that can be solved therapeutically; it is not a matter of emotional conflict. Psychologists and psychotherapists deal usefully with human suffering by working on the conflicts of the personality, but from the perspective of spiritual teachings this approach clearly cannot deal with the basic problem, the root of all emotional conflicts. When the Buddha said that life is suffering, he did not mean only neurotic suffering. He was referring to the more fundamental understanding that there is bound to be suffering in the life of the ego, because one is not seeing reality correctly; one is taking oneself to be something that actually does not exist. It is a problem of mistaken identity. This perspective of the man of spirit, which contrasts ego with Being and sees the latter as fundamentally real and the former as illusory, is incomprehensible from the perspective of ego, which cannot conceive of experience that is not related to a separate individuality. For ego, each experience is personal, related to oneself. The man of the world will understandably ask: “How can there be experience if I am not there?”

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