Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Ultimates
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.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 141
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.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 30
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.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 70
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 Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 140
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!”