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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Ultimate ?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Ultimate

Awakening is Always Awakening: It Does Not Rest in Any Ultimate Condition

Recognizing the difference and truth of each face of reality makes possible runaway realization, which is realization naturally moving to further realizations. We are thoroughly awake when we awaken to the truth of the dynamic and changing character of true nature. On the spiritual path, we discover true nature, we realize it is what we are, and we see that even though it is changeable, it is always the purity at the heart of all reality. This kind of understanding is not any particular experience but a profound wisdom that results from many experiences of awakening. We see that awakening is always awakening. It does not rest in any ultimate condition.

Collapsing All Ultimates Into the Philosophers’ Stone

The fourth turning reveals something about true nature that is not immediately obvious. Although it is implicit in the first two turnings of the wheel, it doesn’t become explicit until the fourth turning. What we see is that there are other ways of looking at reality and true nature apart from the Aristotelian logic of finding out what the ultimate or final constituent of reality is. Many paths of enlightenment focus on finding the ultimate and realizing the ultimate as reality, but the fourth turning reveals this as only one point of view, only one way of looking at reality. One of the problems with the view of ultimates is that different teachings posit different ultimates. How do we reconcile them? Often someone ends up saying, “My ultimate is the true ultimate and yours is only provisional.” We can see many examples of this kind of reasoning in religions and spiritual traditions. So when I mentioned collapsing all ultimates—Brahman, Shunyata, Christ, Ein Sof, Tao, and others—into the philosophers’ stone, I didn’t mean to imply that there are no differences between them. Brahman is not the same thing as Shunyata, and Shunyata is not the same thing as the universal Christ, and Christ is not the same thing as Ein Sof, and Ein Sof is not the same thing as the Tao. Each is a different way of experiencing true nature and each gives rise to a different experience of reality.

Divine Indifference

Another kind of realization is the realization of what I call the “clean ordinary.” From this perspective, sipping your green tea is as significant an experience as the enlightenment of emptiness or the realization of love. Any experience of any kind can be experienced as ultimate without being experienced as the totality of true nature. All experience is simply reality doing its thing in one way or another. From this perspective, freedom is the freedom from having to be in any state or condition. This is sometimes referred to as divine indifference. The indifference to what is happening allows things to open and keep moving from one experience to another. And more important than any of the experiences, which can be truly wondrous, is the indifference itself. Indifference doesn’t mean you don’t feel joy or love or anger; it means that it doesn’t matter what you feel or experience. It doesn’t matter in the sense that you are not invested in reality being one way or another; you are not trying to skew your experience one way or another. You are naturally at ease with yourself and with reality. Reality rejoices at this kind of indifference, this total openness and surrender, and expresses this joy by revealing more of its secrets.

Revelation of No Ultimate Condition

Opening time and space to reveal the mysteries of reality doesn’t only mean that there is no journey and no ultimate condition. Opening time and space can reveal much more profound mysteries. For instance, one of the things that we believe is that we cannot experience a whole hour in one minute. We think it takes a whole hour to experience an hour of time. But sometimes we can have the experience that what takes an hour can happen in a minute. That does happen. And space too can open to more space than you can possibly imagine, and can reveal secrets about itself that, after a while, you can’t even think about. Space and time have unfathomable mysteries, some of which we will explore further as we go on. In our day-to-day lives, we have parceled out space, measured time, and constructed a self within that. The construction of that self within fixed ideas about time and space gives us a sense of stability and security. We feel that is how things are. “Now I am stable, and the world is stable.” And we need to have that stability. When what we have held fixed is challenged, our equilibrium is thrown off, and we might begin to feel disoriented and discombobulated. As long as anything throws off our equilibrium, that means reality is not completely free. Something in us still needs a frozen view, some kind of fixity to give us stability. We are afraid that if there isn’t stability, there will be chaos. That is true in some sense, but the feeling of being disoriented marks a transition. As fixities break down and dissolve, a feeling of disintegration or chaos can arise. This is how reality unfolds to reveal a new order. 

Revelations of the Wisdom of Non-Hierarchy

Whatever it is that is happening is really it. There isn’t another “it” that we are going toward. In the first and second turnings of the wheel, it seems as if there is an “it” that we are moving toward—deeper revelations and more subtle insights. But by the third turning, we wise up. We realize after we have gotten to the “it”—whatever that might be for different people and different teachings—that there actually isn’t any “it,” and whatever we are experiencing is reality and cannot be anything but reality. Gone is the sense of the hierarchy of realization that appears in the first and second turnings of the wheel. The fourth turning reveals the wisdom of nonhierarchy. There are no levels or degrees of progress, no process or development, no ultimate goal or aim. Instead, there is the pure simplicity of reality expressing itself however it wants. 

Seeing Realization or Enlightenment that is Not Related to the Question of Ultimate or No-Ultimate

Although we can experience awakening, realization, and even enlightenment within the perspective of hierarchy, we see that enlightenment is constrained if we limit ourselves to only those possibilities. But if we really allow and experience the condition of enlightenment or realization without taking any point of view about it—without feeling that it is the ultimate or what needs to happen or what needs to continue to happen—it naturally, spontaneously, and dynamically reveals itself in other ways. True nature reveals the faces of reality until we recognize the possibility of seeing realization or enlightenment that is not related to the question of ultimate or no-ultimate. 

The Absolute Demonstrates that there is No Ultimate Substance

The absolute demonstrates that there is no ultimate substance, for whatever substance we find will have to possess nonbeing as its final nature and constituency. The other concept we lose in our experience of manifest forms, besides that of substance, is that of realness. We normally have a subjective sense of reality in our perception of objects and people. We tend to believe that this feeling of reality is objective, and not simply our inner and subjective feeling. However, when we finally realize the insubstantial nature of things, we wake up to the fact that we do not possess this old feeling of realness in relation to these things. It is not that we realize these things are not real in the sense that they are not actually there or that we are mentally hallucinating them. No, it is clear to us that they actually and truly appear in perception, that they are not just the content of our personal minds. What we realize is that the customary sense of realness to which we are habituated is concomitant to the sense of substantiality and solidity we tend to perceive in these objects. When we recognize their ultimate insubstantiality they lose their sense of realness, for this sense is caused by the belief and perception of substance. Without ultimate substance they lose their sense of realness. 

The Hierarchical View of the Ultimate is Only One Way of Experiencing Realization

I am mentioning these different kinds of nonhierarchical realizations mostly to show that the hierarchical view of the ultimate is only one way of experiencing realization. There are other kinds of realizations that are equally as free, and maybe even more free, where the question of what is ultimate is no longer relevant or productive. It’s not that the ultimate has changed; it’s that the concept of ultimate ceases to function. In fact, one way to understand the holographic realization is to see that each form and every experience is the ultimate experience, in the sense that it is reality in its entirety. As long as we are looking for an ultimate realization, we remain fixed in the hierarchical view. When we recognize the subtle presence of the self and our attachment to conditions of realization in our experiences of nonduality or oneness, reality begins to show further possibilities of realization.

The View of No Ultimates

The view that I am presenting here is the view of no ultimates, not the view of many ultimates. You could say that there are many ultimates—that is a valid and useful way of experiencing the potential of spiritual practice. But how about not thinking of them as ultimates? How about considering them to be different ways that reality manifests itself? A subtle value judgment arises when you say, “This one, and not that one, is the ultimate.” That means that other conditions are not as good. This kind of judgment can introduce a comparativeness that seeps into the practice to push it in the particular direction of what is considered ultimate. In the view that I am presenting, you don’t need to think of any ultimate. In fact, whatever is happening right at this moment is the ultimate. Why not what you’re experiencing right now? Even if you are experiencing a dualistic state, that is how reality is manifesting itself. If you can accept that completely and let the experience be, the reality of that state will naturally transform into something else.

There’s No Ultimate Truth Other than What’s Happening Right Now

So the moment you have a theory about anything, your theory is basically a story. Whenever you have a system, whenever you have an approach, whenever you have a terminology, whenever you have a science, it’s a story that is being generated. There’s no Ultimate Truth other than what’s happening right now. You could say this is a school, we do work, people learn to develop themselves and be free and realize who they are and all that. We could say that and that’s a good theory, but it’s a story. Other people could have a different story—that this is some kind of cult with a secret force that pulls all these people together toward some secret purpose that will not appear until later. Neither story is accurate. The accurate perception is that this is the pattern in which reality emerges right now. 

We Are Attached to the Ultimate

But what we discover, which does not become clear until the third and fourth turnings of the wheel, is that we are attached to the ultimate. When we are established in a condition of realization and we feel it always has to be the case that we are in that condition, we are attached to that realization. We can become established in a particular realization in the sense that it becomes home base. And once we come to know this awakening as home base, we become attached to it—just as we are attached to the home base of the self at the beginning of spiritual practice. Our consciousness gravitates toward a particular condition of being, which is natural as we are being established in any awakening. Every time we are relaxed, every time we are at ease, we find ourselves in this condition. But at some point, we become attached: Reality has to be this way and only this way. And if we don’t find that experience, we freak out. “Oh no, where is home? I lost my home. It is in foreclosure!”

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