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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Understanding?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Understanding

Being Affected by the Ground of Knowing

So when I say that I want to understand what’s going on, I don’t mean that I intend to think about it and come to a logical conclusion. I mean that I want to first let myself be present in the experience, feel the experience, be fully in touch with the elements of the experience. The more I am in touch with the elements of my experience, the more clearly the experience will reveal its patterns and meanings. This is so because experience is a manifestation within our consciousness, whose ground and nature is knowing luminosity, so being in touch with experience means being affected by that ground of knowing. This revelation of the patterns as an embodied experience is understanding. I can then formulate this experiential discrimination mentally in concepts and words.

Blocking the Flow of Understanding

Insight and realization can be used to magnify imbalance, or to balance and harmonize the consciousness. A primary component of this balance is doing, action. Understanding is also very important because you can experience a state of being without understanding. Many people experience all kind of states of realization, but they do not understand what those states are about; they are not interested in understanding. That is just as detrimental as not embodying these states in one’s life. It is possible to block the flow of understanding. When there is a state of being that is not yet understood, whatever understanding can come from it needs to flow, and then the whole thing needs to come out in action. It has to seep completely into your life to transform your life. There is no reason why a human being cannot live a life of truth, love, strength, impeccability, dignity, and self-respect. You do not need any special situation. You do not need any unusual occasion. Any interaction, any transaction, is a place for you to be that way, and that is when you see the grace and the beauty of life.

Elements Needed for the Process of Understanding

For the process of understanding to happen, three elements need to be there at the same time. The element of disidentification is one of them, involvement is another. The third element is the quality of allowing. These elements can be there when there is harmony among the three centers—the belly center, the chest center, and the head center. When there is this harmony, it is possible to experience fully, to allow, and to disidentify. Now, what do I mean by these three elements? Each center contributes to the process of understanding. If the head center is functioning correctly, it means that space or emptiness is allowed. What is the significance of space and emptiness? Space and emptiness make possible the quality of allowing. When there is space in the mind, there is no self-image. You’re not trying to stick to something in particular. You’re not trying to go somewhere. The mind is allowing whatever is there to be there. So the head center’s participation or contribution is space, which is an allowing, a welcoming in a sense—space for things to happen without rejection, without trying to hold on. You become complete allowing. The heart center’s contribution has to do with its central quality, which is the personal essence. The contribution of the personal essence is the diving movement, the actual living of the experience. You not only allow it, you’re in the midst of it, you’re one with it. You’re really it, you let it happen, you feel it fully, you sense it fully, you experience it fully, right? That’s the contribution of the heart center. The belly center has its contribution, which is represented by the self, the essential self. The contribution of the essential self is the disidentification, the turning away. When you are truly functioning in the belly, you are completely present, and being completely present, you are being yourself. So you are not identified with the usual activity of trying to get somewhere else.

Emergence of Spontaneous Understanding and Discernment

In other words, there are two overlapping movements in our practices. The central practice of inquiry, whose core is nondoing and noninterference, contains an active engagement that, at some point, becomes completely spontaneous. And, there is the nondoing practice that begins with sitting in an abiding stillness in which, at some point, a spontaneous understanding and discernment can emerge because of the presence of our discriminating intelligence. Inquiry can become spontaneous nondoing, and nondoing can become spontaneous inquiry. In inquiry, we are actively engaged—we’re experimenting, we’re exploring, we’re delving into things, we’re reading, we’re questioning—while, at the center of it, we are not doing anything to our experience and are only interested in understanding its truth. In the nondoing meditation, we are sitting still, being the condition of realization, and the revelation of reality is a spontaneous arising. Our focus is nondoing and inquiry simply erupts. When that spontaneously happens, we don’t say, “No, no, this is nondoing practice; I have to remain still,” because the arising is not our doing—it is Living Being manifesting as dynamic revelation. So if we insist on remaining in our meditative stillness, we are clamping down on the dynamism of Being. When the dynamism of Being is free, it freely reveals the understanding of the situation we are in and reveals further and further realization.

Insightful Awareness of Our Experience

The common view of understanding is that it is basically an intellectual comprehension of some content of experience, perception, or thought. It is usually an insight or idea that can occur after an experience has ensued. We use the term understanding in a specific way that is particular to our view. By understanding we mean the insightful awareness of our experience. There is immediate contact with the particulars of our experience -- both inner and outer -- plus the comprehension of this content, a comprehension that is part of, and inseparable from, the immediate experience. Hence, it is not merely an intellectual comprehension, although such comprehension forms part of it. Since the insight is part of, and inseparable from, the immediate experience, it does not have the abstract quality characteristic of intellectual comprehension.

Objective Understanding

Understanding an aspect of Being objectively means knowing it from its own perspective and not from one's own point of view, which is necessarily prejudiced by personal history. Objective understanding has the effect of altering the experience of the aspect, taking it to a new dimension of Essence. This dimension is that of objective understanding.

Psychodynamic Understanding Deals Exactly with Whatever Situation the Student Presents

Psychodynamic understanding has, then, an extraordinary power and potential far beyond its therapeutic uses. The existing body of knowledge in the field of psychology, and especially in psychoanalysis, can be very effectively used for essential development. And the nature of psychodynamic understanding allows us to work directly with the present experience of the student without following any particular progression or gradation. We can simply understand what is there in the moment, and this will lead us naturally to a particular aspect of essence: space, the personal aspect, the universal aspect, or any of several others. Using understanding in this way, we can avoid the awkwardness and inefficiency of many traditional techniques, such as giving all students the same meditations, the same physical exercises, or the same advice on the value of surrender regardless of the specific situation or state of the student. Psychodynamic understanding deals exactly with whatever situation the student presents, with what is actually of vital interest to him and his life. And from this real situation, understanding will lead him to the particular aspect of essence that is actually relevant to him at the time. As he continues the process of self-understanding, now with awareness of his own essence, the other aspects will appear and develop. This will happen naturally and spontaneously if the person looks at the truth in his experience. The essence is gradually freed from the grip of the unconscious and assumes its rightful place as the conscious center of one’s life.

The Void, pg. 77

Real Love and Real Understanding are the Same

The language of love is different from the language of discernment; they use different images and have slightly different emphases. And yet they describe the same thing. Likewise, real love and real understanding are the same. But when understanding and love aren’t real, when they are manifesting on the ego level, they become something else. Love, when it is not real, tends to degenerate into sentimentality. When understanding is not real, it tends to devolve into intellectuality. Each is reduced to an empty version of itself and, at this level, love seems very different from understanding. But love is not sentimentality, and understanding is not intellectuality. Both terms refer to the same process from a slightly different perspective—one from the feel of the energy driving the process, the other from the constantly changing discriminated forms manifesting in the process.

Love Unveiled, pg. 53

The Best Way to Understand Personal Experience Objectively

Since objective knowledge is so difficult to reach in the physical realm, quantum theory is the best tool we have. However, inner experience tells us that there is such a thing as the objective understanding of experience—even to the point of total objectivity—although it is not easy to get to. This does not mean transcending the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg—not exactly. But it is something analogous to that, in an arena not envisioned by Heisenberg. The best way to understand personal experience objectively is through inquiring not only into the object of inquiry, but also into the inquiring subject at the same time. The physicist does not include his own impact on results when observing an experiment. He merely tries to interfere as little as possible and works on improving his instruments. However, when we inquire into our personal experience, we do not try to avoid interfering, we simply include our interference as part of what we observe. Our exploration is not only into the nature of our experience or state, but also into the totality of who we are, including the nature of the part of us that observes or explores. All of this must become an object of study and inquiry. This means that to be objective about a situation, we, as the inquirer, will need to become objective—free from subjective influence. For when we inquire into what prevents our understanding from being objective, we find that it is the fact that we bring our subjectivity to our experience.

The Dynamic, Creative Flow of Knowledge and Knowing

What is understanding then? How is it different from knowledge? Understanding means that you not only have knowledge of what is going on, you not only have the experience, but you also are in touch with the meaning of the experience. There is not just the knowledge of the fact of the experience itself, but also a cognitive appreciation of its significance… Understanding is thus the dynamic, creative flow of knowledge and knowing. Knowledge creatively transforms through the seeing of truth, and the truth is what transforms the knowledge from one form to another, taking it to a deeper, fuller, and more meaningful level.

The Meeting of Being and Mind

Understanding, then, includes the mind becoming an expression or a channel for Being. Mind becomes connected to Being, not separate from it like it was when you were a child, or like it was when you were an adult just seeing your issues. At this level, understanding becomes the unity, the interface, the meeting of Being and mind. You are Being, but there is also awareness of the beingness. This consciousness of beingness is understanding.

Three Elements

Understanding involves three elements: a full in-touchness with the fabric of experience, the precise discrimination of the various patterns of this fabric, and the insightful comprehension of the meaning and significance of these patterns and their interrelationships.

Ultimately, Understanding Coincides with the Total Realization of Our True Nature

We have discussed the fact that in the Diamond Approach, understanding is not a matter of mentally connecting concepts; it’s a matter of being clear about what’s happening in our experience by being intimately in touch with it. In other words, understanding is the process of true living. It is realized life. Real living is the unfoldment of understanding, and inquiry is the way that unfoldment happens. As we inquire, understanding manifests, develops, expands, and deepens. Understanding is ultimately a precise, clear, objective awareness of our true nature, for as we understand ourselves, our soul keeps unfolding and manifesting her hidden potentials until we are just our true nature, our real self. Ultimately, understanding coincides with the total realization of our true nature. In other words, understanding is the vehicle for the integration of the soul—which is our normal consciousness—with its source and nature beyond time and space. In the process of inquiry and understanding, the soul first throws away her old garb—all our accumulated images, patterns, and self-concepts. This is a process of purification, part of the overall process of revelation in which inquiry reveals the hidden potentials in our soul. At some point, the purified soul—the soul that has gone through the process of clarification—becomes transparent awareness. What we call true nature becomes the soul’s identity. Self-realization and awareness coincide as a coemergence of soul and identity. Our experience continues as an unfoldment in which the identity stays the same and only the content that presents itself to our awareness changes.

Understanding is the Central Faculty Needed for Liberation

Realization and liberation require many things: dedication and commitment, love and devotion, awareness and sensitivity. But more than anything else, they require understanding. Understanding is the central faculty needed for liberation, especially when we go very deep in our experience and arrive at subtle places. That is because when we reach the subtlety of our true nature—the real depth—what is left is our understanding. Everything else, in some sense, has dropped away by then. All that is left is our subtle capacity for discriminating what is manifesting, what is true, and what is false. It has been acknowledged and understood by all spiritual traditions that what finally liberates the soul is to see the false as false and the true as true. This is for one simple reason: Our soul is fundamentally faithful to the truth. Truth is the fundamental ground of our soul, so the soul is fundamentally faithful to the truth. She always lives and acts out what she believes to be true. Yes, we frequently act out of lies and falsehoods, but this is because the soul believes that they are true. When we act out being a little deficient kid, for instance, it is because the soul believes that she is a little deficient kid. When we act from anger, we really believe that the truth is that we should act out the anger. The difficulty is not that the soul loves or likes falsehood, but that she takes a falsehood as truth and lives it out faithfully.

Brilliancy, pg. 63

Understanding is the Meeting of the Unreal World with the Completely Real

Understanding is the expression of the ultimate reality in this world. The intelligence that is actually producing understanding is the unknowable, which, when it encounters concepts, disintegrates them one after another. This disintegration, or erasing of concepts as they come up against the unknowable, is the process of understanding. When mind and Being make contact, the particular concept at hand is integrated, or metabolized, into Being. That’s why you go to the next level, the next concept. It’s true that the world of the mind, of concepts, is not the truest reality. But understanding is the meeting of that unreal world with the completely real. Understanding itself is neither wholly real or unreal; it is a meeting of the two. The meeting is a transformation, and the transformation is understanding. So understanding happens only when what is completely real in you—the unknowable, your final identity—is in contact with your concepts, with your mind. The process is one of disintegration of concepts. Isn’t that what happens when you understand? You have a certain concept, see through it and then it dissolves. Being comes in contact with mind. This is what we experience as insight. Then there is completion of that level and you move on to the next. If Being doesn’t come in contact with the mind, there is no real insight, only mental knowledge. And because mental knowledge is not real understanding, there is no transformation. The concept is not burned up and dissolved into Being. The person simply goes from one part of the concept to another; it’s just a matter of mental rearrangement.

Understanding Needs to Be Motivated by Love of Truth For Its Own Sake

Experiencing an essential state affects some people in such a way that the experience deeply transforms their life, shifting their whole orientation and perspective. Whether this happens seems to have to do with expectations the person has, or what the person is already valuing and idealizing. It has to do with the person’s focus. Some people are looking for a certain thing; other people are looking for other things. Also, it depends on the depth of a person’s interest and love for the truth itself. Many people are not interested in the truth. Many people are interested in experiences of security, or simply the pleasure or the comfort of these realizations. In traditional schools, in some of the old schools, people are not allowed to have these experiences because it is seen as a waste. The least that could happen is that it could be a waste. The worst that can happen is an imbalanced development. If we look at understanding from a perspective that will tend naturally and spontaneously to go towards balance and harmony, we find that understanding needs to be motivated by love of the truth for its own sake. The experience, or the beingness, is the experience of the truth. That’s what a person needs to learn over and over again. When you are in a state of being, what you are experiencing is the truth: the truth of who you are. Your experience is not a candy, or a goody, it’s not a reward for being good or for having done your work. No; you are experiencing the fundamental truth, and that needs to be seen, understood, imbibed and absorbed; then action will come from the place of this truth.

Understanding the Totality of Ourselves

As we become serious about understanding the totality of ourselves—in terms of both our personality and essence—we recognize that we need to come to an understanding of our essential nature as it lives in the depth of our personal experience. And we cannot completely know our depth if we don’t understand the relationship of the aspects to the boundless dimensions. That’s because we can’t really understand our true nature when we just experience love inside our heart, or strength in our belly, or intelligence in our head. That’s not the whole story. Yes, we may be experiencing our true nature, but we’re still experiencing it from the perspective of the personality. It’s still from the perspective of the ego, a separate individuality. Even though this dualistic realm is useful in many ways, and we always start from it, it is not sufficient for our understanding of reality to be complete. Even though spiritual experience and illumination can occur in this realm of experience, it is limited on its own, and the soul needs to transition to other realms, such as the boundless nondual dimensions of reality. There are limitations to how much of our true nature we can see in the dualistic world because it is being filtered through psychic structures that are not real, and the ego cannot see this because it is one of those structures. When we confront and penetrate these basic structures, the essential aspects reveal themselves as not being bounded by our body. They are not bounded by our physical extent or by our physical location, and this reveals our true nature as boundless—pervasive and infinite, extending everywhere.

Understanding Will Take You Through the Whole Unfoldment Process

So, as you see, understanding is very curious. If you use it correctly, it will take you through the whole unfoldment process, one layer after another, until you reach a place where understanding can’t go. And if you’re faithful to understanding, then you cannot but reach its end. Understanding is complete when it annihilates itself. When it dies, then the mind dies, too. There is just Being, Being with no mind. You become like an animal but with the understanding that you are not understandable and the knowledge that you are that which is unknowable. The moment you change, there is a shift from one state to another, and implicit in this is the possibility of understanding and differentiation, which are at the beginning of mind. But if this understanding can lead you to the unknowable, which is the undying and the unchangeable, then you are free to live life without fear. When you know that you are unknowable, you know you cannot be any image, you cannot be your body or your personality, you cannot be what your mother thought you were or what your father said you were; you cannot be rejected or hurt, you cannot die or be afraid because anything that can die is knowable. What can die? The body can die. What can be hurt? Your ideas about yourself, your self-image? But when you know that you are not knowable, how can anybody hurt or reject you? How can anyone do anything to you? Even your own mind can’t hurt you. How can you criticize yourself? What’s there to criticize? But as long as you have ideas about who you are, you will have ideas about how you should be, and criticize yourself: you should be bigger, smaller, smarter, better looking. But when you reach the place of understanding, your mind asks, “What is this?” and the only answer is “Beats me.” You honestly don’t know. So you can’t give yourself a hard time. You don’t know because you cannot be known. That’s freedom, then.

Understanding Yourself

When I say you need to understand yourselves, I do not mean that you should all start thinking about yourselves and become hunters pursuing issues and insights. What I mean is that you need to be compassionate and loving toward yourself and let yourself be. If you let yourself be, there will be a spontaneous curiosity about what arises. To simply live and rest and let yourself be, allows this spontaneous inquiry. When you are just being, you are not busy thinking, worrying, trying to figure things out. Your mind is clearer and emptier, and whatever truth that you need to understand about your situation is already there.

We Learn in Our Work that the Way to Deal with Suffering is to Understand It

The reason suffering is so complex and such an entrenched part of our experience is that the causes of suffering lie in multiple dimensions of reality. Today we’ll look at the different dimensions in which suffering appears. One of the first things we notice is how our suffering is generated through our history. Toward the beginning of our work, we often realize that a lot of our emotional difficulties, and the pain that arises from them, are connected with what happened to us in childhood. Our childhood environment was not completely understanding and hospitable, and the resulting pain and difficulty are present now. Psychotherapy works with this initial level of what causes suffering, dealing with our personal history and its effect on us in the present. If we were rejected then, we now are afraid of being rejected. If we were frustrated then, we now experience being frustrated. Anger, insecurity, fear, hurt—all began in childhood and persist to this day. This is the emotional life of most people. We learn in our work that the way to deal with suffering is to understand it. You need to be awake to your situation, and you have to discover what is actually happening. You might feel miserable without knowing why, but when you inquire, you might realize that you are living through certain patterns and having certain reactions. You might discover that habitual, unconscious reactions to situations in your life generate all kinds of suffering. In the course of becoming conscious of those patterns, you might trace them to your childhood and see what started them. Understanding the patterns and experiencing the original situation that created them tend to loosen their hold and relieve the pain.

What True Understanding Allows

True understanding allows reality and ourselves to unfold, to change, to manifest all of the richness and variety of being. The entryway to this world of wonder, world of magic and beauty is who we are. So if you know yourself, that human person is the opening, the door into that mystery. Being human, in fact, is the expression of that mystery. The most perfect expression of the mystery that exists is the human being. The human being has the potential not only to perceive and experience and see the totality of existence, but to be existence and to live existence.

What True Understanding Requires

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.

When Understanding Becomes the Process of Unfoldment Itself

If you have a noncomparative and mirror-like attitude toward your experience, in time, understanding becomes the process of unfoldment itself as reality is unfolding within your consciousness. So understanding becomes a spontaneous insight into what your situation is at this moment, regardless of whether you are experiencing a delusion or the actual presence of Essence; you will see it and understand it. Then understanding becomes nothing but the revelation of the perfection of reality in its isness and in its unfoldment.

Facets of Unity, pg. 161

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