How did you find the Diamond Approach?
Finding doesn’t seem to be the right word. I wasn’t looking for a new teacher or a new teaching. I studied Theravada Buddhism and I was very dedicated to this path, to my teacher, and the sangha. Then I heard from a student of the Europe 1 Diamond Approach group about the Ridhwan School. She told me a little bit about inquiry and this aroused my interest. I wanted to learn more about this method and applied for the Europe 2 group and went to my first retreat in 1996 and I felt home at once—no doubt. I felt welcome to be myself and to be interested in being.
When you first started, what was your greatest challenge?
I was raised as a Catholic in Germany and at that time we were mostly taught to listen, obey, and believe. Already as a child I felt a deep longing for a different kind of finding out what is real or true than blind faith. Even though my heart was open to love God, I soon felt disappointed by the Church.
When I came into contact with Buddhism it was wonderful for me that I was invited to explore and study the teaching of the Buddha and prove it. I didn’t have to believe blindly but my experience was part of the path.
The Diamond Approach not only invited me to investigate, to explore and inquire into my experience but to do it with a true open mind—with no goal, open ended and with no final destination. That is for me the most compelling part and is at the same time the most challenging one.
What has kept you engaged with the Diamond Approach teachings?
The role of Hameed Ali (founder of the Diamond Approach) and of the other teachers was very important for me. In Theravada Buddhism the honoring and respect of the monk is an important factor in forming the relationship between student and teacher. It was an important step for me to learn humility and humbleness after years in political movement fighting against authorities and the political establishment. My German history made it difficult for me to trust a leader or a teacher. And I was not happy with the veneration of the Buddhist monks.
With Hameed I got in contact with a new model of teacher. He didn’t call for submission or admiration at all. He was really open and interested in what came up for the student and honored the contributions of their process. There was no call from his side for personal attention. He points to the truth and that’s where he guides the students’ attention. His openness, friendliness and simplicity evoked a deep natural respect and love for him in me and this helped me to learn to trust and follow the teaching full-heartedly. Also the support of my long-term private teacher helped me and still helps me to stay steadfast and open even when I am facing resistances and barriers. This personal relationship that was always guided by the teaching and love for the truth deepened my love and engagement for the teaching. And of course this was, and is, a huge motivation to becoming a teacher of the Diamond Approach.
What aspect of the teaching is most alive in you right now?
There is a new level of letting go, loss, having no preferences, featurelessness, emptiness, absence that comes to me with the teaching and a deeper understanding of the Freedom Vehicle. It is a new adventure that brings up all the remnants of the ego personality that are not worked through yet and not digested. At the same time it opens me up to an unlimited freedom in being a pure expression of reality and a pure servant of reality without any rejection. It brings me back to the journey with no goal where everything is an expression of True Nature and reality and there is no preference of anything, but just the freedom to be.
What has been the most surprising discovery for you?
It was surprising to me that one of my first workshops as a teacher was about practice. Together with my colleague and friend Tanja we offer practice days in Cologne and I really love this work. We teach meditation; Sensing, Looking and Listening; Five Movements; and inquiry. In the beginning of my own development in the Ridhwan School I saw all the practices only as a preparation for the “real” thing: inquiry and the teaching. Teaching meditation, sensing, and movement practice made it much clearer to me that these practices are very crucial and essential. I learned a lot for my own practice and it stimulates me to put more attention and energy into it.
What advice/encouragement would you offer someone “on the fence” about attending an intro event?
I want to use a Buddhist word that was an invitation to me: Ehipassiko—come and see! Don’t believe, but come and investigate, inquire, and explore what you hear and find out what is true for you. Be curious and feel invited to be wherever you are.
If you could have one wish for humankind, what would it be?
Let’s say yes to each other and to ourselves. Let’s be alert to our projections and our reactivity. Breathe in and out before you act.
Christa Jonas is a teacher of the Diamond Approach in Germany.