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View of Totality

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is View of Totality?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: View of Totality

A Specific Development of Human Potential

The view of totality as a whole is larger than the sum of its parts. But each part is also at once the whole. We cannot grasp the view of totality as a mental understanding. It’s a certain development, a specific realization of human potential. When we have understood and integrated the various views of different realizations of true nature, and many other views as well, then it becomes possible to discern the view of totality. Many new perspectives can develop because this view opens realization to further realizations than are available in the journeys of ascent and descent. The view of totality itself can be understood as aperspectival, but this is only partially true. More accurately, it is the openness to hold any view or many views of reality and realization, precisely because it does not need to hold any one particular view.

A View that Accommodates Many Conditions of Realization at the Same Time

Now the view of totality is a radical departure because it is not a view of a certain condition of realization—it is a view that accommodates and utilizes the views of many conditions of realization at the same time. And it is also not an intellectual or abstract perspective. The view of totality has to do with a certain maturation of realization, but it is not a matter of being in a particular state or dimension or condition of realization. It is different from realizing and integrating some dimension of reality and then seeing things anew from the perspective of that dimension. Furthermore, the view of totality is not a conceptual view created by mind, for it is the expression of immediate realization and its understanding. It is not a view that expresses a certain type of realization; rather, it is the expression of realization continually realizing further realization and ceaselessly illuminating reality in novel and unexpected ways. Strictly speaking, the view of totality expresses an unconditional openness to all possible real ways of experiencing and intimately knowing reality.

Addressing All Possibilities of Realization Spontaneously

Simply moving from the conventional view to the view of the realization of pure awareness or absolute reality, which are dimensions we have explored in past teachings, gives us some understanding of the conventional view from the perspective of realization. But it doesn’t provide a thoroughgoing understanding of how the two conditions relate to each other. The view of totality, because it can hold both perspectives at once by being outside both of them, can give us a more complete understanding and appreciation of how they interrelate. Instead of alternating between views or progressing from one to the next, this view of totality has the advantage of understanding how practice is realization. We can come to understand what we are doing when we practice because we understand how things happen behind the scenes. The view of totality also has the advantage of a greater openness that heralds other conditions of realization, which cannot be apprehended simply by moving from dual to nondual understanding. What I like about the view of totality is that it brings everybody along, meaning it addresses everybody in terms of where they are. It includes all perspectives at the same time. It doesn’t speak from any one particular vantage point. It addresses all possibilities spontaneously and naturally without the mind having to think about it or figure it out or plot the right course.

Evolution of the View of Totality

The view of totality evolves, in large part, from the experience and the understanding of the various aspects and vehicles and dimensions of true nature, as seen both on this path and on many other paths. It evolves as we experience the aspects, one after the other, understand them, integrate them, and actualize their perspective about reality. When we are learning about a specific aspect of true nature, many of us have probably had the experience that, as we really get into it, we feel that particular aspect to be the most important of all, that the understanding it brings about reality is the most important one. This happens because as we experience and understand any aspect, we are recognizing its view; we are recognizing the perspective implicit in the aspect itself. The more complete our understanding of any aspect or dimension of true nature, the more we see everything from its inherent viewpoint.

Freedom from Adhering to Any Ideology

As we explore the view of totality, we see it is a perspective that includes all possible views of reality. But what exactly do we mean by “totality”? The view of totality does not mean that there is a totality that we are viewing. I call this perspective the view of totality to indicate that it is an open-ended view that includes other views. It is actually an aperspectival understanding. In other words, it is not one particular view. The view of totality is an understanding that allows and holds multiple views at once: the ego view, the essential view, the boundless view, the view of one or another realization, the Christian view, the Buddhist view, the view of nonduality, the dual view, the view of being an individual, the view of not being an individual, and infinite other views. The view of totality holds all these views, and also allows views that are not yet known by the individual, or by anybody else for that matter. So this view is totally open and open-ended. The importance of such a view is that when we fully understand the view of totality, we don’t need to adhere to any one particular view. We can acknowledge and include many different views and, at the same time, the perspective of totality gives us the freedom to take any one view at any particular time without having to adhere to that view as our ideology or as the final word on reality.

Freedom Seen as Not Specific to Any Particular Realization

The view of totality liberates freedom from being defined by any particular experience or realization. Freedom, at some point, becomes free of realization, because true nature itself is free and has no limits. Even though, as we have seen, freedom is present in any experience of realization, the view of totality also shows that freedom is not specific to any particular realization, aspect, or dimension. Each of these gives a taste of freedom, but freedom is something more mysterious than that. And the view of totality keeps liberating freedom from anything that we would connect with freedom. Freedom, at some point, liberates itself from all associations, including the association to true nature. The view of totality allows this because any perspective that arises is welcome and enriches the view.

Indeterminacy of Reality

The teaching in this book is off the map. It is outside of all previous articulations of the Diamond Approach. We are in uncharted territory. This new view, which I call the view of totality, reveals that the Diamond Approach cannot be mapped because reality itself cannot be captured in a map. Reality is not a monolithic, static truth that can be defined in a fixed way. It is actually way more alive and mysterious than that. We might feel chagrined by this if we believe that we have reached some final, eternal truth about reality; or we might feel delighted by the freedom of not having an end or a goal to reach. Regardless of how we feel about it, recognizing this indeterminacy of reality is crucial to living our realization and our freedom.

Just Because a Particular Realization is True Does Not Mean that Only that is True

The view of totality allows all views—all realizations and teachings—to be valid and true. Each one of them reveals something about liberation, enlightenment, and awakening. And we can abide in one realization forever, but we don’t have to. Just because a particular realization is true does not mean only that is true. The view of totality shows us that this is true and that is true and there is no end to truth. It challenges not only our attachment to an ultimate realization but also our belief in the concept of an ultimate. This frees us to experience true nature manifesting other kinds of realizations.

No Single View Can Capture the Dynamism of Reality

What is revealed as we do this is that reality is far more indeterminate, far more mysterious than anything we can conceive of. No single view—whether dual, nondual, unilocal, or something else entirely—can capture the dynamism of reality. Freedom is the freedom of reality to reveal its dynamism, to express itself as form, as formlessness, as both, or as neither. No single feature and no combination of features can exhaust the potential of reality. It is a mystery without end. Reality is always revealing itself by knowing itself; and knowing reality and living it becomes the fulfillment of our life. The purity of reality expresses itself to us, through us, and as us, all at once. Our life becomes the life of true nature—the purity at the heart of reality—living consciously and expressing itself as us, using us by being us. This is the mysterious and miraculous heart of human freedom.

Recognizing and Understanding the Relationships Between Various Perspectives

So the thoroughgoing inquiry into the self includes investigating those situations and constructs—like service—that we usually take for granted as bedrocks of reality. There are, of course, such things as service and helping. But as we come to question the subtle concept of separate individuals, we necessarily will question all kinds of relationships between self and other, including the idea of helping. But the view of totality doesn’t say that there aren’t separate individuals with various kinds of relationships. The view of totality simply recognizes and understands the relationships between various perspectives. It recognizes the nondual view, in which there is no separate individual, as well as the dual view, in which there are separate individuals. In his statement about the Bodhisattva, Buddha uses both the dual view and the nondual view. When he says that the Bodhisattva is one who vows to liberate all sentient beings, he uses the dualistic perspective. When he says that you are not a Bodhisattva if you believe that there are sentient beings, he uses the nondual perspective.

The View of Totality Includes All the Various Realizations

We have been exploring how the view of totality arises without contradicting or negating any realization or view of realization. In fact, it includes all the various realizations, acknowledges them, and values them as manifestations of experiencing our true Beingness. So the view of totality doesn’t discount the perspective our teaching has presented on true nature with its aspects and dimensions. Rather, it further opens the view of realization to liberate it from our subtle judgments, preferences, fixations, and idealizations. From this view, when we are practicing, when we are working with ourselves, when we are living our life authentically, we don’t feel a need to be in any particular condition. So reality is totally free—in its intelligence and its dynamism—to respond to whatever situation with the appropriate realization.

Understanding Free Will From the Perspective of Realization

The understanding of free will from the perspective of realization, particularly from the view of totality, is quite subtle. The view of totality recognizes the truth of all views. If we start with the assumption of being a separate individual soul, and if we consider that to be an unchanging condition of reality, then it’s reasonable, even preferable, to believe that we have a free will. We act from the perspective of having a choice, and that is one way that Total Being manifests—as an individual with free will. But from another view, that of the nondual dimensions, we realize that what is happening always arises from a place deeper than the individual soul, and the individual soul is simply the location of that experience. What looks like choice from the individual perspective, from the boundless perspective is revealed to be our appropriation of the dynamism of Being itself. From boundlessness, we see that whatever happens is not a result of our individual or personal will. The view of totality sees how the truth of both of these perspectives is connected. When we assume that we have free will, we take responsibility for our actions and gain the possibility of choosing wisely, which means optimizing our own and others’ experience. This wise choice, from another perspective, is Total Being from its boundlessness waking up in a continually brighter way. So how you see the question of free will depends on where you stand and which view you take. You can say there is free will, and you can say there is no free will, and you can also view the entire matter of free will as irrelevant to freedom.

When the Totality of All that there Is is Practicing

Understanding the orientation of continual practice, the attitude of devotion to what is real, gets us closer to the mystery of the relationship between practice and realization. When we first learn to practice, we usually have an experience of ourselves practicing. As we come to more thoroughly understand the nature of the self and of reality, our sense of self transforms until, at some point, we realize that when one is practicing, when one is meditating, when one is inquiring, when one is chanting, it is not one particular individual that is practicing, it is the totality of all that there is that is practicing. The more continual our practice and the more unflagging our orientation toward reality, the more our understanding of who or what practices can shift from an identified self to the totality of reality.

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