Main Pages

By Region



True Nature

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is True Nature?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: True Nature

All States of Being are Generally Experienced as One's True Nature

All aspects of Essence, both differentiated and undifferentiated states of Being, are generally experienced as one's true nature; this is because they are all recognized as the intrinsic existence and Presence of one's Being. The Personal Essence is experienced as such, as one's own nature and Being, but it is also experienced as a person. One experiences oneself as a Human Being.

Being as the Actual Presence of True Nature

We are in not using the term "being" in its everyday sense. Usually, "being" means mere existence, and that "existence" is, like everything else, experienced conceptually. The spiritual traditions, on the other hand, use this term to refer to the actual presence of true nature, which can be directly experienced. We are using the term in this latter sense. As human beings we are Presence, we are Being, we are actuality; we are not simply mental constructs.

Being the True Nature that Inquires and Reveals Its Truth

We continue to ride the razor’s edge until, at some point, our inquiring, our taking responsibility, and the self-revelation of Being become one thing. The inquiry moves to new ground. Prior to this, our inquiring and the self-revelation of Being might seem like two things, two forces interacting in a dialectic, interacting from varying degrees of proximity or distance until the interaction becomes so subtly and intimately connected that the inquiry is spontaneously happening as the dynamism of true nature revealing its possibilities. This is what I call diamond meditation, which means that we are being the true nature that inquires and reveals its truth. True nature inquires by being open and interested in its own revelation. Its inquiry is an invitation for it to reveal its mysteries. The inquiry and the revelation can become so connected that, at some point, they are one movement. Inquiry becomes a dynamic revelation, a nondoing with a dynamic engagement.

Characteristics of True Nature

The first quality of true nature is that it is inseparable from awareness. Our true nature is inherently aware. This is the fact of luminosity, the fact of light, the fact of consciousness. We know this because when we experience any of the essential manifestations, we recognize that Being is inseparable from some kind of awareness, sensitivity, in-touchness, or consciousness. Awareness is not something in addition to true nature; it is an inherent and inseparable characteristic of true nature, the way heat is inherent in and inseparable from fire. The second characteristic of true reality is that this field of awareness, this field of presence, is pervasive and infinite, and includes everything within it. In fact, it is a oneness, an indivisible unity. This is similar to the Buddhist notion of the “wisdom of equality or evenness.” The fact that there are patterns within the field does not mean there are discrete objects… The field is all one consciousness with different patterns in different places. So the entire soul is unitary as well. When we recognize true nature and we lose the sense of boundaries, we recognize that oneness pervades the whole universe. God has one mind. The third characteristic is that true nature is dynamic. Reality is moving and changing all the time. This is obvious when you notice that your perception of your inner experience – or of the whole world – is not a snapshot; it is a movie. It is inherently in a constant state of change and transformation. It is not a static presence. This is related the Buddhist notion of the “all-accomplishing wisdom.” Reality is a dynamic presence that is always changing through shifts in the manifest patterns. In fact, the presence of change is implicit in the fact of awareness; without it, there is no awareness. The openness of true nature is its fourth characteristic. Openness means an infinite number of possibilities – open to be anything, open to manifest as anything, unlimited in its potential. This is the indeterminacy and inexhaustibility that we discussed in the last chapter. Reality is always changing because its true nature is completely open. This is the space dimension of our Being: when you recognize true nature, you find it to be spacious. In other words spaciousness is inherent in the presence that is true nature. The whole universe is a deep mysterious nothingness, openness, lightness, and complete absence of any heaviness. And this very mysterious, delicate spaciousness has a luminosity inherent in it, a glimmer, a radiance that gives it awareness of itself. The fifth major characteristic of true nature is that it is not only awareness, oneness, dynamism, and openness, but also knowingness. This is similar to the Buddhist notion of the “wisdom of discrimination,” or the discriminating awareness of the Buddha. It is inherent to essential presence that it is not only awareness of presence but simultaneously the discrimination of the particular quality of presence, such as Compassion or Peace. This knowingness is inherent to presence, inherent to the awareness of presence.

Even Though True Nature is What Makes Everything Exist We Cannot Say That It Exists

But we can also experience true nature as pure nonexistence, as pure nonbeing. And the truth that appeared as much more solid than the physical universe can suddenly appear ephemeral and phantasmagoric because its nature is nonbeing. When we experience this nonbeingness, it is spacious, open and transparent to everything. The transparency can become fluid like air or it can appear crystalline, faceted, and precise. We see that true nature can be both existence and nonexistence at once. And many teachings agree that it is inseparably both being and nonbeing, both presence and absence. And more than simple presence or absence, we can experience true nature as boundless love or awareness or dynamism. It can be all of these and also empty. So even though true nature is what makes everything exist, we cannot say that it exists. And although true nature does not exist as an object, we can nevertheless experience it more palpably than any of the forms of the material or spiritual world.

How True Nature Relates

True Nature does nothing, but it is naturally aware because it is pure awareness. If we just let things be—if we don’t control them or try to direct them—we are naturally, simply aware. And in this awareness, we are present to whatever is happening. True Nature is so loving, so kind—infinite in its kindness and compassion and intelligence—that it relates to each condition exactly according to what that condition needs. And it doesn't give you an instruction that you cannot relate to. It doesn't try to tell you to practice something you cannot practice. In our work, we discover that True Nature responds to our limitations—our stuckness, our lack of development, our reactivity—appropriately and with attunement and kindness. So that is what our practice is. We are learning how True Nature would approach our situation in the moment—how it would hold it, how it would relate to it. And we especially want to know this when we are reactive or scared or feeling stuck. That’s when it’s especially hard to know how to just be in a natural condition. You might hear people say, “Just be in your True Nature; remember what it is to be yourself and just be that.” For some people, that might work, but most people can’t do that at any time, much less when things are difficult.

Living Being, Total Being and True Nature

As we have been exploring the paradox of realization, I have been using the terms “Living Being” and “Total Being” more than the term “true nature.” This is because Total Being and Living Being refer to the totality of existence in all of its conditions. The understanding of Total Being reflects a view that sees many perspectives at once: the conventional perspective of a self relating to others and to the world; the essential perspective of a self that recognizes itself as an expression of a more fundamental truth or of a relationship to a larger reality; the boundless perspective of a field of reality in its purity, as the true nature that pervades everything and is the nature of everything; and many other perspectives as well. And, because it includes all of these perspectives, the view of Total Being refers to reality in all of its conditions, refers to all of these perspectives and their interrelationships—which means that Total Being includes the states of enlightenment as well as the states of ego. Total Being includes the many kinds of realizations, the many intermediate states, and the many conditions of suffering and pain. Recognizing the importance of the relationship between the particular and the whole—the reality of the individual on one side and the ground of true nature on the other side—can show us that Living Being is not simply true nature. True nature is the essence of Living Being, the true nature of Living Being, but Living Being is reality however we happen to be experiencing it. In the condition that reveals the inherent purity of Living Being, its true nature is apparent: luminous, spacious, and brilliant. In this condition, Total Being is pure goodness and total beauty, grace, and elegance. But Living Being is free to recognize its nature in its true condition or not. It can experience itself in myriad ways, including the dualistic or conventional way. And it is Living Being regardless of how it experiences or manifests itself.

None of Us is to Be Blamed for Our Shortcomings

Each of the boundless dimensions in our work reveals to us and teaches us something about reality and about experience. We learn that reality has true nature. We’ve been using the concept of true nature in our teaching for a long time, and now I’m introducing Total Being, which is an overlapping, though not completely identical, concept. I am leaving it ambiguous on purpose. True nature is total purity and freedom all the time. If we only say, “Everything is always true nature,” that doesn’t account for the fact that most people don’t experience things that way. We could explain this by saying, “Well, that is because they are not aware of it.” But when we understand reality or true nature, we realize that people don’t really exist the way we think they do. So when we say, “They don’t understand true nature,” we believe that they are responsible for not understanding it. But when we blame somebody for not understanding it that way, we ascribe to them an independent existence apart from Total Being. They don’t have that; nobody does. So actually, it is Total Being that is ignorant—not the individual. An individual does nothing on his own because he is a manifestation of Total Being. So none of us is to be blamed for our shortcomings.

Our Essence is Connected to Our Personality

Our true nature, our Essence, what is real and unconditioned in the human being, does not exist in some mysterious realm, waiting for us to attack and slay the inimical ego, and then show up in glory. Our being, our Essence, the divine within us, is connected to our personality in a very complex and intimate way.

Our True Nature or Beingness is Beyond Our Usual Sense of Identity

In the course of this teaching, I’m frequently using the expression “Being” or “Living Being.” In some sense, I have been using these expressions in a loose way. What I mean is that as an individual consciousness, our true nature or Beingness is beyond our usual sense of identity, is not constructed by our individual mind. This Beingness is the Beingness of everything and everybody and is connected to true nature because it is the true nature of everything. And it’s not only that this Beingness is true nature, but also that this Beingness has an aliveness and a dynamism. As we are understanding ourselves and reality, at some point we recognize that there is something larger, something bigger and more fundamental than our sense of individual self or individual life. There is something that underlies it all, underlies everything and, ultimately, is everything. We can realize this truth to different degrees, which brings in the nondual view that reality is one indivisible unity.

Recognizing Nonconceptual Presence-Absence as the Ground, Essence, and True Nature of Everything.

We recognize this nonconceptual presence-absence as the ground, essence, and true nature of everything. It is the eternal ground, transcending all forms and phenomena as it manifests them. It is the reality of all phenomena, their essence and true condition. The realization of this ground is the recognition of true nature in its fullness in the condition of manifestation. It can be considered the experience of absolute manifest Reality, in contrast to true nature in absolute transcendence.

Recognizing that True Nature is Always Inseparable from the Forms It Displays

We can be contented with our present understanding of true nature as fundamental awareness where clear presence is coemergent with emptiness, or of true nature as a self-aware coemergence of being and nonbeing. Many wisdom traditions do just that, for this is one valid way of viewing the situation. Yet, we can also easily see that true nature possesses other inherent properties. Recognizing that true nature is always inseparable from the forms it displays points to another perpetual characteristic, that of dynamic creativity. Since there are always forms manifesting, manifestation or display of forms is an ongoing characteristic of Reality, and also since all forms are a display of true nature itself, it is easy to see that in the nondual view true nature is inherently dynamic, endlessly displaying forms. In other words, true nature is not only coemergent awareness but also dynamism itself. True nature is, then, awareness inseparable from dynamism, just as it is inseparable from potential.

Seeing the Preciousness of True Nature

However, the moment you recognize that true nature is such a beauty, such a preciousness, you will do anything for it. No sacrifice is too great to realize that beauty, that radiant, lustrous preciousness. It is difficult to convey verbally the sense of this preciousness, this beauty, and the wonder and magic of it. Physical beauty is a very pale reflection of the beauty of Being, which is the nature of your soul. If you really recognize that the truth of who you are is so beautiful, so precious, so full of value, and so magnificent, you would devote the totality of your life to it. Everything in the universe, from beginning to end, is like dust compared to this magnificence, and every action and situation is expendable for this preciousness.

Facets of Unity, pg. 225

Sharing Our Very Nature

Our nature, in its purity, is complete. You can’t say that something is missing from it. It encompasses everything because our nature is the nature of everything; our experience of fundamental reality does not exclude anything. So when we are in the vastness of the ocean of consciousness, the experience of reality feels transcendent. But we might feel that we are missing something if we don’t have relationships. If we’re not sharing with another person, we start missing that. How often have you gone on a spiritual retreat and sat for a week, or have gone walking in nature and had an epiphany, and find that you can’t wait to go tell your friend what happened? There is something about sharing it, about saying it, about expressing it. There is something about letting other people know that a wonderful thing happened. This thing that happened to you, you want them to know it too. So we all want to share what we love. In doing this, we are sharing the very nature of what we are, the very beingness of what is all. We share with others our love for them, but we also want to share this freedom we have that is beyond anything in the world. The question of how to live from this freedom usually presents us with a disparity, puts us in a bind. How do we remain in our experience, unencumbered by worldly concerns—outside the world and its limitations, feeling complete freedom, freedom from all the sorrow and the suffering—and still participate in the world we live in? How can we be free and completely separate from all the limitations that we thought we had and yet be in the world with all of its limits? How to reconcile these two realms, these two loves? We love our relationships, we love life, we love being in the world. We might not feel it on some days, because living is very frustrating at times, but when push comes to shove, we want to protect our lives, we want to enhance them. We do things to try to nourish ourselves, make ourselves healthy, bring ourselves into greater well-being physically, emotionally, and mentally. And we also want our freedom, our delight, our expansiveness; we want to feel our fullness. We want to be authentic, to live in a way that is real and true, but we often feel that we have to get away from the world in order to do that.

Sometimes True Nature is a Teacher and Sometimes It is a Student

True nature is always the only truth that we wake up to, even though it has many faces and guises. It is also the light that illuminates that truth and reveals the truth of our obscurations, as well as the practice that expresses that truth. True nature is the guide that leads us to the truth. It is the teacher that points to the truth, that inspires us to appreciate it and to practice, and that supports us in the process of discovery, awakening, and transformation. True nature, the philosophers’ stone that opens all the secrets of existence, is the teacher, the guide, the truth, and the light. True nature is the single element, the elixir, that makes transformation possible. We cannot transform without the interaction between true nature and our life situations, between true nature and our own individual experience. It’s true that human consciousness can transform without the presence of true nature, but that is more of a horizontal transformation: Throughout our life, we can increase our knowledge or expand our emotional range or learn new skills. But the individual consciousness cannot grow spiritually, cannot awaken to itself and express that awakening, without the presence of true nature. As the transformer, true nature transforms itself from one guise to another; that is what a transformer does. Sometimes it is the truth, sometimes it is the light, sometimes it is a form, sometimes it is a teacher, and sometimes it is a student.

The Dynamism of True Nature Manifests Whatever is Needed

But the way I have been discussing true nature, from both the hierarchical and the nonhierarchical views, indicates that true nature is not a thing. It is a mysterious kind of truth that is continuously changing while also being a single truth. True nature is energetic, alive, and dynamic, always manifesting new forms, experiences, and insights. We can think of this as true nature always evolving or always developing or always maturing our souls. This is true and is a good way of seeing what is happening. But we might see that what we consider evolution, development, and maturation from the perspective of the individual can also be, from the perspective of realization, simply that true nature is manifesting whatever is needed in that moment. Evolution, development, and maturation imply a hierarchy of better and worse, of higher and lower realization. But the dynamism of true nature simply manifests whatever is needed, whatever is possible, and whatever somebody is ready for and capable of experiencing.

The Experience of True Nature as Nonbeing Does Not Mean that there is No Reality, No Soul or Manifestation

True nature is absolute being, but also absolute nonbeing. It is both presence and absence of presence. It is both but not exactly, because these are conceptual elaborations of which true nature is innocent. We say it is both being and nonbeing, or neither, only because these are fundamental concerns for the soul. Being is the last thing the soul needs to surrender as she opens up to her true nature. As she does this she learns about nonbeing. She experiences the emptiness and ontological absence of her existence, and everything else in manifestation. So she may believe that true nature is total emptiness, absolute nothingness, complete absence of existence. The experience of true nature as nonbeing or emptiness does not mean that there is no reality, no soul or manifestation. This is a nihilistic perspective that experience and understanding do not support. The wisdom of emptiness or nonbeing is an attempt to understand the final ontological mode of things. We normally believe that things exist when we perceive them. This belief is accompanied by a subtle underlying feeling or sense of what existence is. Things feel real in a substantial way. We consciously or unconsciously feel that the existence of things is a substantial solid quality. Existence becomes the existence of substance and solidity, which becomes opaqueness if we continue in this direction. In other words, we not only perceive that things appear to our perception, and not only believe that this appearance is objective and independent of our imagination and mental construction, but feel at the same time a sense of substance to this appearance, a sense of solidity. Existence for us then is not only the true appearance of things in perception but the imbuing of what appears with a quality we call Being.

The Integration of True Nature and Everyday Life

The understanding of inquiry we are discussing highlights the integration of true nature and everyday life through finding your thread--- being where you are, moment to moment, and following your immediate experience. As this luminous thread, which is the center of your life, manifests and unfolds, your daily life becomes an appreciation and celebration of the continuing manifestation of true nature in its various qualities, colors and forms. This flow of experience, of manifestations, is what we call living the essential personal life, in which the various situations of personal life become the context for Being to manifest its many possibilities.

True Nature Illuminates Itself and Liberates Itself by Revealing Itself

When we understand the discerning capacity of true nature, we come to see that it teaches not only as revelation but as self-revelation. It illuminates itself and liberates itself by revealing itself. In its operation, this penetrating intelligence teaches us the capacity to learn. But as it teaches, it learns. As it reveals, it realizes. As it illuminates, it is enlightened. As it transforms, it evolves. We see that true nature is behind the whole process of learning, unveiling, and transformation. True nature awakens itself by guiding itself as the individual consciousness that appears to be inquiring. In reality, the inquiry of the individual is nothing but the way that true nature is revealing itself. It is Total Being functioning as the student eager to learn and as the teacher, outer or inner, skillfully guiding the student. This is the picture that we see when the discriminating intelligence synthesizes the role of the individual practicing and the action of true nature. It is a picture that emerges when this intelligence utilizes both dual and nondual perceptions in the same insight. This understanding is one of its awakenings: The inner teacher learns in the form of teaching an other which is a form of itself.

True Nature is Actually Transforming and Revealing Itself

We could say that true nature transforms our individual consciousness and our heart and mind so that we learn the correct relationship to true nature. But true nature is actually transforming and revealing itself. And part of the revelation of itself is the arising of this humility, this reverence, and this prayerful attitude acknowledging a mystery so fathomless that regardless of how much we realize and understand it, it is still new and there is always more to learn. The more we experience this innate reverence of true nature, the more we have faith and trust in its truth, power, and goodness. And as our trust and faith increase, essential activation intensifies and realization becomes more dynamic and more liberated. So even though there is the possibility of duality and the danger of self-aggrandizement, people who are activated in this way usually don’t become trapped in these; they are interested only in learning more about reality.

True Nature is Presence Which Is at the Same Time Awareness, Oneness and Knowingness

At the beginning of the inner journey, we usually experience Essence in one of three ways: as a presence that arises inside us, or that appears outside us, or that comes into us from the outside. These forms of experience, though real, are due to limitations in our perception, and can become veils if taken to be final. These experiences can be seen as an intermediate stage between normal experience and the objective experience of reality. When we experience true nature objectively, without veils, we recognize that it is neither inside nor outside. It’s everywhere – outside, inside, and in between. The field of awareness has no boundaries. This presence is an infinite field of awareness, which means that true nature is not the true nature of the human soul only, but the true nature of everything. True nature is nothing but presence, which is at the same time awareness, oneness, and knowingness.

True Nature is the Essence of Living Being

Recognizing the importance of the relationship between the particular and the whole—the reality of the individual on one side and the ground of true nature on the other side—can show us that Living Being is not simply true nature. True nature is the essence of Living Being, the true nature of Living Being, but Living Being is reality however we happen to be experiencing it. In the condition that reveals the inherent purity of Living Being, its true nature is apparent: luminous, spacious, and brilliant. In this condition, Total Being is pure goodness and total beauty, grace, and elegance. But Living Being is free to recognize its nature in its true condition or not. It can experience itself in myriad ways, including the dualistic or conventional way. And it is Living Being regardless of how it experiences or manifests itself. This understanding is inherent in the nondual view, but it is usually not stated explicitly. If we thoroughly understand nonduality, we realize that the dual cannot be separate from the nondual. That is, after all, what nonduality means—there is nothing but it, and it is one. That is to say, there is no other place; there is not another separate reality that is dual. It is all one reality experienced differently.

True Nature Makes Recognition Happen

It’s a subtle thing. In our teaching, we see that our normal minds simply do not have the capacity to recognize True Nature. When we recognize True Nature, it is actually True Nature making the recognition happen. From the beginning of our practice, it is True Nature that decided to make itself known through the practice. It’s not like we practice and at some point we recognize True Nature. True Nature is functioning from the beginning. The dynamism from the beginning is what is guiding our work, what is moving the whole process. The practice is simply recognizing that we need to get out of the way; we need to suspend our habitual orientation of goal-oriented doing.

True Nature Possesses a Dimension of Itself that Makes It Inherently Dynamic and Creative

This original Greek usage of this term logos is identical to our meaning when we use it to refer to this dimension of true nature. The term logos, however, means much more in Western history, which is a further reason we prefer to use it to refer to the dimension of dynamic presence. The logos is the boundless dimension of true nature that is both presence and creative dynamism. Logos refers to the fact that true nature is inherently dynamic and creative. Logos is the creative matrix of all manifestation. Logos is the manifesting dimension, but it is also all manifestation, for it manifests everything from its own substance, its own presence. True nature in its absoluteness is totally transcendent, as we will see in the next chapter; but it possesses a dimension of itself, one of its inherent potentialities, that makes it inherently dynamic and creative. One way of saying this is that true nature creates the universe through its logos,9 while in reality the logos is only a facet of true nature, and not something separate from it. It is true that it is the dimension responsible for creation and manifestation, but this is due to our focus on this dimension, which in reality is always coemergent with all other dimensions of true nature.

True Nature Sometimes Simply Erupts

The cause-and-effect approach to understanding how things happen seems to have a lot of scientific and experiential evidence to support it. People who don’t practice don’t seem to develop spiritually; but there are exceptions. And one of the exceptions is that sometimes you have certain experiences—Being arises, true nature manifests—and it is not obvious that it has anything to do with what you were doing. And this brings us back to the side of grace, the side of spontaneous arising—true nature sometimes simply erupts, simply manifests and looks you squarely in the eye. There are many stories about people, ordinary people, who haven’t done any practice at all and one day simply wake up. As we observe the fact that realization can be decoupled from practice, we might begin to question the logic and the view of cause and effect.

True Nature Stirring the Consciousness of the Soul

The maturation of the soul appears at some point as the stirring of the enlightenment drive. And we interpret this stirring of the enlightenment drive as the interest and love and desire that motivate us to engage the spiritual path. It is actually True Nature stirring within the consciousness of the soul to reveal itself, as if to say, “Hey, you, it’s me. Where are you looking? You are looking in the wrong place! Look here!” But because we don’t yet recognize this revelation, we feel that this interest and excitement, this love, this longing, this yearning, is ours. We feel all sorts of discontent and existential angst and suffering. We want God, we want enlightenment, we crave the truth and, basically, we are full of delusions. And the whole time, we believe we are waking up. We are waking up in a sense, but as we are waking up, we are also perpetuating further lies. Fundamentally, we are misinterpreting the situation.

We Don’t Posit Presence or True Nature as a Goal for Practice

So the deeper understanding of practice and realization in our work is that we don’t posit an end state. There is no state in which we are going to reach an end. This is another understanding of no goal. In one sense, not having a goal means you don’t know where you are going next because Being itself doesn’t have a goal, is not directed in that way. But also, in another sense, practicing with no goal means that even Being itself is not seen as the goal. We don’t posit presence or true nature as a goal for practice. This is a subtle point. Many of you are thinking, “Yes, right, of course. Now we are getting to a subtle way of practicing where we let go of true nature as our goal, because that is the best way to reach true nature.” Although there is some truth to that, it is not completely true. Regardless of what you have experienced of true nature, regardless of what you understand of true nature, true nature will manifest itself in ways you have never known, in ways you could never imagine. So the moment you have a goal, no matter what it is, the moment you conceptualize it, the moment you know it, true nature will go beyond all of that.

We, Most Often, Have to Go Through a Spiritual Journey

True nature, the fundamental nature of what we are—and of everything—is what matters most when it comes to spiritual transformation. It is the single most important element for liberation. The more we understand it, the more we realize that it is not simply the most important element; in fact, it is the only element because it is inherent to all the other elements that are necessary along the way. True nature, when we experientially and sufficiently understand it, is every single thing—every event, every place, all and everything. And all and everything does not have to be sublime; it can be ordinary and still it is true nature. However, it seems that to be able to accept this simplicity and to live a normal life with this kind of freedom, we most often have to go through a spiritual journey. We have to go through the various stages, the deaths and rebirths, the discoveries and awakenings, the enlightenments and illuminations. We have to experience all the subtleties and mysteries of reality.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach