Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is A.H. Almaas. A.H. Almaas is the pen name of Hameed Ali, the author of more than 14 books. His works with Sounds True include the audio learning series The Diamond Approach: A Path of Inner Discovery, and Realization Unfolds: A Dialogue with Adyashanti.
In 1976, Hameed’s interest in the long-term process of spiritual study led him to found The Ridhwan School dedicated to studying what he calls “the Diamond Approach” with the goal of creating a field of spiritual resonance that allows a gradual process of individual spiritual development. Recently, Hameed has created a new online course with Sounds True called Endless Enlightenment: The View of Totality in the Diamond Approach. This is an online course that begins on March 28 and includes two live question-and-answer sessions with Hameed.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Hameed and I spoke about important markers on the path to enlightenment and beyond. We also talked about nondual realization and how, in the Diamond Approach, there are many different aspects and levels of depth to nondual realization—and also how nondual realization is not the end of the spiritual journey, but one realization among many. We also talked about Hameed’s teaching on the View of Totality and why he waited more than 20 years to bring this teaching forward to the public. And finally, we talked about the importance of always being open to what is true and the limits of having a specific goal in mind for our spiritual journey. Here’s my conversation with Hameed on Endless Enlightenment:
Hameed, I’d like to begin by being quite vulnerable and testifying—if you will—that being able to work with you and produce the online program on Endless Enlightenment: The View of Totality in the Diamond Approach was actually one of the highlights for me of my entire career here at Sounds True, working with authors and producing programs.
A.H. Almaas: Interesting.
TS: Yes. It helped me understand so much about the spiritual path. So, I feel happy today that I can talk with you about the teachings on Endless Enlightenment. I have to say that I have as my goal—if you will—as we begin this conversation to try to make your work on Endless Enlightenment as accessible as possible. I don’t think that’s an easy goal, but I’m up for it if you are.
AHA: I am up for it. [Laughs.] It’s not an easy goal. I agree.
TS: But, let’s see what we can do. So, first of all, let’s just start with this title—Endless Enlightenment. I want to begin with the word “enlightenment,” because I think that is such a loaded word and it’s very confusing for people. So, to begin, tell me: if “enlightenment” as a word has meaning for you, what does it mean?
AHA: That’s why I use the word “endless.” Many people take “enlightenment” to be one thing, while for me it is not. It is a living process.
So, enlightenment is basically to awaken to what we truly are—our true potential—[and] that we have an unsaid potential, to be directly in touch with this potential, and for us to be free to recognize [and] experience this potential as it is called forth by our life circumstances.
TS: OK. So, enlightenment is endless. Let’s just say that the listener is with you on this point. Would you say, though, that there are important markers on the path—like, “Oh, this is a very important marker on this ever-unfolding, endless enlightenment process?”
AHA: There are many markers on the path, just as there are markers for enlightenment itself and its endlessness. Before enlightenment and even after enlightenment, there are markers.
TS: So, share with me what you think some of the important markers are leading up to this idea of “enlightenment,” and then beyond.
AHA: Yes. Before the actual enlightenment—what we are calling enlightenment, which might be different from what other people call enlightenment—at the beginning, or let’s say at some point, there is a felt need or a felt movement toward something more than the ordinary, usual, everyday events of life, and the usual things that we experience and accomplish as part of society. It’s recognizing there is another dimension to being human—to being alive. [This is] a dimension that, at some point, we call “spiritual.”
That is an important thing—an important mark—because most people in the world don’t have that yet—having gotten to the point of recognizing there is something deeper, bigger, more profound that will make our life more complete and more fulfilled. Because we have a feeling or a sense of it or a faith in it, we want to move toward it and do what we can do—open ourself to it. That’s sometimes the beginning of the path. There is no path without this beginning.
Sometimes, that happens by somebody having an experience. Out of nowhere, they have some kind of a vision or opening or an insight or some kind of eruption of spiritual experience that opens them up. Some people have it [in] near-death experiences or under the hallucinogenic drugs—or something like that that opens their eyes that there is something else [other] than everyday eating and sleeping and walking and talking and all that—there is something else; a whole other dimension beside our emotions and thoughts.
That’s really one of the big markers that any spiritual path will need to include.
TS: OK, so I think our listeners are probably with you if they’re listeners to this program—Insights at the Edge. They have this hunger.
OK, what’s next? What’s the next marker?
AHA: The next marker, of course—I mean, there are many things that happen. We’re talking about important markers. The next marker is to have a direct encounter with the spiritual reality itself—direct experience of it. I call it “a first encounter of the Third Kind” with our spiritual nature.
Meaning, you don’t just read about it. You don’t only hear about it from your teacher. You don’t just study about it. You actually have a direct, immediate contact and experience of spiritual nature.
Whether you experience it as love or presence or awareness or emptiness, it doesn’t matter. But, it is something not of this world—but real. It appears to us just as real as this world—maybe even more real and more concrete. But, it is not like anything in our world.
That’s an important marker of the path.
TS: Now, Hameed, I want to ask you about this because I’m imagining someone who’s listening who says, “You know, I’m not sure. I’ve read so many spiritual books, and sure I’ve had deep experiences in meditation or staring in the eyes of my partner or being in nature. Have I had what Hameed is calling a ‘close encounter?’ Have I touched true nature? I don’t know.”
AHA: Well, that’s a good question, because maybe and maybe not. All the examples you gave may have that encounter and may not. I’m talking about an encounter where you know it is an encounter—when there is a recognition that’s, “Yes, I recognize this is spiritual nature.”
It’s not enough to feel an amazing awe or depth or beauty or joy or anything like that. Those happen, but those happen without the spiritual path. So, this marked turnabout is the recognition of our true nature—our spiritual nature—recognizing it for what it is: as immaculate, as pure, as perfect, as not corruptible, and that it is not physical, not emotional, not mental.
And really, it’s recognizing the spiritual nature as the palpable presence or as an empty vastness or as an ocean of love—or some nectar of love. But, it’s recognizing a new element, let’s say—an element that wasn’t there in our experience before. It might’ve been there without us recognizing it. That doesn’t count as a marker, because people have it all along their life without recognizing it. It’s the recognition of it that makes this marker.
TS: Once again, I’m kind of going to ask the same question—but I’m going to ask it in a different way. Is there a litmus test? Someone’s listening and they’re like, “You know, yes. It was palpable. I felt the ocean of being. Yes. But, I’m not quite sure.”
AHA: Well, yes. People may doubt their experience afterward. That’s not unusual. You might have an encounter with spiritual nature and then—when it passes—you doubt whether that was real or not, whether it’s my imagination or not. That’s normal. It happens for most people.
But, the marker has happened anyway. If it has really happened, it is another beginning. It will lead. It is part of the process. It will—let’s say—quicken the process.
TS: OK. And are you calling this encounter with true nature—is that a type of enlightenment in your view? Or, are we not at classical enlightenment yet?
AHA: Yes—I’m not calling that enlightenment yet.
AHA: Yes. I mean, we can. My way of looking at things—I leave the word “enlightenment” for something more complete than that.
TS: OK, so let’s keep going then.
AHA: Yes. So, the marker of experiencing spiritual nature—in my own experience, I recognized spiritual nature first as presence—the presence of my consciousness, the presence of my awareness, the presence of my being, the presence of my spirit. My presence: presence that is not physical, not emotional, not mental, but a presence that feels itself as the presence it is.
So, it is presence that is self-aware and self-knowing, and self-knowing of itself as presence. It is palpably presence. I feel I am present. I am present here. I am present in the room. I am present to the situation. I am present with you.
So, that’s an important experience. It is not yet enlightenment or even what people call “an awakening” or “realization,” which are other things too.
But, it is an important marker. It means we really have come face-to-face with what we are. We might not know it yet—it is what we are—but we know something that is unusual.
Some people, when they face [an] encounter, they don’t notice their nature. They think it’s a god or some angel or something like that. So, they think of it as a spiritual nature outside of themselves—or emerging within them, but it’s not themselves.
Which is fine. That is part of this first marker. The first marker—you can recognize it as yourself or you might not. But, you recognize it is something different from everything else. I [actually] call it one—of the articulations I’ve made for it—is “recognizing true nature as other.” By “other,” I mean other than what I have known before that—other than the world I know, the experiences I have; other than the self I have known myself to be.
So, “other” is to make it different—to make it distinctly different from everything else.
TS: OK. I think I’m with you so far, Hameed. I feel like I’m tracking with you and that our listeners are too. Let’s keep going.
AHA: Yes. Because there are many ways of recognizing spiritual presence, people might not agree or might not know or might have doubts—or might have read something that is different from what they read or they heard—because spiritual nature has many ways it manifests itself.
It can manifest itself as presence—as the way I first experienced it, for instance. It can manifest itself as the light—pure, radiant light. It can manifest itself as love—as pure, selfless love that is not emotional. It can manifest itself as spaciousness—as an openness.
So, people can encounter any of those and they say, “Well, that doesn’t feel like what Hameed said.” But, they are all really encounters of the same true nature because this true nature has many ways of manifesting itself.
What’s common to all of these is that they’re all different from conventional, ordinary, egoic experience. They’re all immaculate, they’re all pure, and they’re all spiritual. They’re all non-physical.
TS: OK. So, a marker on the way to endless enlightenment is the recognition of the otherness of true nature in whatever way we encounter it. OK. What’s next?
AHA: The next thing is what I call “the realization of true nature,” which is movement of form from seeing it as an “other” to seeing it as oneself. So, it is really a transition from experiencing it to being it.
So, that’s what I call “the self-realization of true nature.” So, I don’t experience presence; I experience myself as presence. I don’t experience spaciousness; I’m aware I am the spaciousness. I don’t experience love; I’m aware that I am love. I don’t experience truth; I am the truth.
So, this is a big step actually. It can be, for some people—some people it might take a few minutes [or] a few hours to get to the second step. Most of the time, it takes some years because it is going across a big divide between our usual identity to a new identity.
AHA: [Inaudible] justified identity here.
TS: Now, let me ask you a question about that, Hameed. In my experience—in my own life, but also in hearing many, many reports from people—that shift can take a really long time. Maybe even decades. Meaning, it can have a gradual quality of experiencing true nature as other, and then sometimes as self—and going back and forth, back and forth. I’m curious if you could comment on that.
AHA: Yes, it can take a long time. For some people, it might never happen. But, the work I do and the school we have—the school I developed and now I teach in—the first marker, encounter with true nature, usually takes a few years. Two or three years. The self-realization could take up from five to ten years. That’s the average.
Other places might be different. Other teachings [are] different—like the Zen, for instance. They can meditate for 30 years before anything happens, and then they have the realization suddenly and they don’t even go through the first marker. They go suddenly to the second one.
TS: And when you consider the second marker—what you’re calling “self-realization”—in your view and teaching, does that mean that [it’s] stable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Someone is experiencing themselves—as you say—as presence [and] love?
AHA: Well, that is, again, a process. First is the self-realization as an experience. Then the self-realization as an ongoing reality.
One thing that is important for everybody to recognize: when we say that the realization has become constant or has become established, it does not necessarily mean we experience it every instant. It means that it is our home base. Whenever we pay attention, whenever we are at ease, whenever we relax, that’s what we find. I call it “the station”—that becomes a station for us. It is our homeostatic level.
That’s really what it means. Rarely is somebody constantly aware of the realization or the pure element of the realization 100 percent all of the time. That’s not expected, not usual, and not necessary.
TS: OK. So, this home base of self-realization—is that what you mean by enlightenment? Or are we not there yet?
AHA: We’re not there yet.
TS: OK. Let’s keep going.
AHA: [Laughs.] So, we have the first marker, which is true nature as other. And the second marker: true nature as oneself instead of other. The third marker, of course, is what you brought up—which is when it becomes established as a station, which means it is available. It is continually available when its mode of operation is needed.
That’s what I call “self-realization.” So, first we have an experience of true nature. Then we have an experience or realization of true nature. Then we have a constant realization of true nature.
AHA: Usually, for many teachings, if one attains that, that’s quite a lot of fulfillment in one’s life, actually. It’s like the spiritual reality has become the center of one’s life.
TS: OK. But, you’re reserving this term “enlightenment.” As you mentioned, there are markers beyond enlightenment. So, I want to cover the basic map here, if you will, Hameed. So, keep taking us further!
AHA: Yes, well, OK. So, the self-realization, first of all—there are many kinds, many types, and many degrees because we can experience our true nature in a limited way or not. Meaning: one can experience their true nature as presence and recognize there is presence within them in their heart or their mind all the time. That would be considered a constant state of self-realization.
But, it’s limited because the true nature is limited by your location. So, that’s a degree. So, that can expand. So, the true nature—this awareness or presence or love—can begin to pervade everything and become the nature of everything.
That expands the realization so we have another degree of realization. Instead of just recognizing true nature, we recognize that true nature is infinite and it is the nature of everything. That is another development of self-realization.
Another development, of course, is recognizing not that it is the nature of everything, but everything arises out of this nature. Everything is an expression of this true nature. Now, true nature becomes the ground of everything—not just my nature, but as the nature of everything and the ground of everything. Everything is emanating out of it, manifesting out of it. Everything is an expression of the same thing. So, that’s another degree of realization.
TS: OK. And you’re reserving this “enlightenment” word to describe what—and I realize it’s endless, but you would use the word “enlightenment” to describe what?
AHA: Well, first of all, enlightenment—I like to reserve the word “enlightenment” to mean freedom—not only having realized the true nature, but there’s also freedom of constriction by the ego self [and] freedom of constriction by beliefs, ideas, and history. [It’s] freedom from limitation. That doesn’t mean there won’t be limitation, but it means limitations don’t stop the realization from continuing to happen.
So, enlightenment has two components. One of them is awakening to true nature, and the other one is the expansion of true nature—its development. It’s manifesting more of its potential. It’s not hampered by our history or our beliefs or our character.
So, in that way, enlightenment is different from realization. The realization stays as the same thing and can be hampered and can be limited by our character. In fact, many realized individuals still have unworked-out material in their ego. They still have character traits or they have history—or they still have repressed emotion or repressed patterns or compulsive patterns that they don’t have a handle on. That can happen while one is realized.
Enlightenment means we have freedom from that.
TS: OK. That’s an extremely profound thing to say, Hameed, so I have to ask you a direct question then. So, in your life experience, you don’t feel at all constricted, restricted, or hampered by your history, by past experiences, by unworked-out neurotic upheavals—whatever you might describe that just happen [and] are outside of your ability to be free from them?
AHA: It’s not exactly that way. It’s more like when things like that arise—like something I haven’t seen before or some memory I haven’t encountered or some pattern I haven’t seen—it doesn’t become an obstacle. It is easily seen through and realization moves through it. It’s not stopped by it—because there’s no end to how much stuff one has. That’s why it’s endless enlightenment. That’s what makes enlightenment endless.
One is never free of all delusion because there is always ignorance regardless of how much we know. We might know our true nature, but there are many things that we don’t know about our character or our tendencies.
TS: So, help me understand again the difference. If there’s always delusion in every human being or there’s always things we don’t know—every human being—what’s the difference in how delusion appears in an enlightened person versus an unenlightened person?
AHA: Well, the [the way] delusion appears in an enlightened person is by not having a certain way of experiencing and believing it doesn’t exist. For instance, there is the realization [of] what’s called “nondual enlightenment” where you experience reality as nondual—nothing is separate from anything else. It’s all one, unified consciousness or awareness. One can have that realization—and many people, in fact, believe that’s it. “I got it! That’s the end!”
People who say that are deluded. It’s not that.
TS: Yes. I think that this is a very important thing to talk about and one of the things that’s very unique in your work on Endless Enlightenment—understanding the view of totality. It brings us to this view of totality because I do think, Hameed—I’ve interviewed dozens of people who have had a nondual realization and describe that as, “That’s it. I found it. I discovered it. There’s no division. There’s no subject/object. The sea of oneness. I get it. That’s it.”
AHA: I understand them. I felt that way at some point. I realized at some point that that was just as stage because something else happened—not because I was waiting for it. I was resting in nondual enlightenment—feeling it, enjoying it, and not knowing any more. But, something happened. Something else emerged [and] transpired. Then I saw a different way of experiencing things that I didn’t even know was possible. I didn’t think about, and I hadn’t heard about it. I now realized that I had the delusion that this way of experiencing doesn’t exist. That was my delusion.
TS: Can you tell us what emerged?
AHA: Well, there were many junctures, many ways. But, one of the ways for instance is not merely experiencing things like things are not separate from each other, but more a different kind of unity where I as an individual contain everything—where each particular contains all other particulars.
You see, that doesn’t sound like nondual realization because in nondual enlightenment all particulars are manifestations of the same reality and they’re all variations of the same ground. The particulars are not important. They’re all equal. In fact, it’s called “the wisdom of equality” or “sameness.”
[However,] the realization I’m talking about is that the particulars are important. Each particular is unique—not only each particular is unique, but the particular really contains the totality of nondual reality—the totality of all particulars.
So, like now, in the nondual way, I feel I am not separate from you. There is no separation from you. Right?
In this other way of realization, I feel you are inside me and I am inside you. You see? So, it’s a different kind of realization. And now, the people who believe in nondual realization as the ultimate, final thing are deluded because they don’t know that there is another one—another way of experiencing that true nature allows another way of experiencing unity.
So, you see how the delusion can happen here. So, it’s not a delusion in the sense of a belief from one’s childhood or something. It’s more like an ignorance—not knowing that there is such a thing. And hence there is a conceptual conviction that the nondual is the ultimate. It becomes a fixation in the mind.
In my experience, that can become an obstacle. It can limit our true nature from expressing itself in novel ways.
TS: How do you think spiritual explorers—if you will—can help themselves not become fixated on whether it’s nondual realization or on any phase of the path? Like, “Oh, this is it. This is it.” How do we not fall into that trap?
AHA: Well, there are many things and they are things we learn along the way. One of them is that our love—our care—is for what is true, not for any particular true condition—just for truth per se. Whatever is true, I want to know it. I want to know it. I want to be open to it.
That is an important thing because that doesn’t make truth be in one thing. I am open to all truths because if you really adhere to [saying], “Truth is this. Truth is nondual awareness. Truth is Satchitananda. Truth is love,” and you believe it completely—well, that is what differentiates different traditions, as you know. However, if somebody adheres to that completely, they become fundamentalists. They will believe the other tradition must be wrong or limited, or they haven’t gotten it yet. So, there’s a prejudice that arises. I see that all across the board everywhere, which is unfortunate.
When somebody is really in true nature, they don’t really care what the realization [is] and is like. It doesn’t matter what it is. The important thing is that I am free. There’s freedom. There’s love and freedom and enjoyment. It’s dual, nondual. It’s something else. It’s all OK.
That, for me, [has] become what enlightenment really is.
TS: So, it’s this idea of loving what’s true no matter what it shows up like and no matter what it looks like in our life.
AHA: Yes—which way it shows up, which way experience happens, and which way reality appears to be. There are many ways. That’s why I say it’s endless. There’s no end to the ways that we can experience it, which is attested to by the fact that there are many teachings and they’re all different.
As we know—I remember in the twentieth century people tried to unify all the teachings and say, “They’re all talking about the same thing.” It’s called “the perennial philosophy.” It [was] taught a few decades ago.
That’s not true. Different teachings are talking about some things that are fundamentally different. But, what I found out from my own research is, by having this kind of openness, that’s true. Each teaching is actually true in itself and is complete in itself as a teaching. It’s not lacking anything. It’s as good as the other teachings. But they’re all different. They’re all unique.
TS: Now, this is a very important idea, Hameed, and I think as you say, it’s different than the perennial philosophy. Even I hear a lot of people who basically say, “Yes, I listen to so many Sounds True programs by different teachers, and everybody’s really saying the same thing. They’re just using different language. But, they’re all saying the same thing, which is this thing that I’m experiencing inside. I think that everybody’s saying that thing that I’m experiencing inside.”
But, you’re saying something different. You’re saying that people might actually be saying different things, actually.
AHA: Oh, they are saying different things. I listen to many, read many, talk to many. They are saying different things. I’ve had discussions where there were disagreements. They say something and I say, “Oh, that’s not to my experience.” This person says, “Well, I don’t understand this experience. This is my experience.”
People want to be the same—when in reality, the way I find it, it’s OK to be different. It’s interesting, actually, to be different and it’s enriching. It opens us up to even further horizons. We can learn more.
TS: Why do you think it makes people uncomfortable—because I think it does—to think that, “Oh, your tradition is actually different than the path that I’m on?” Everybody wants to collapse Jesus and Buddha. “They were saying the same thing, et cetera.”
So, why do you think people are so uncomfortable with that difference—recognizing differences in traditions?
AHA: Well, I think people—one thing—traditionally, the way people recognize difference is that they believe that their truth is the truth, and the others’ are not exactly as true. That created debates—at least debates—or discord sometimes.
For instance, the longstanding debate between various Hindu schools and the various Buddhist schools. Right? [It’s been] going for thousands of years. They’re not saying they’re talking about the same thing. Neither of them are claiming that. They’re both saying, “We have our truth. It’s different from your truth.” But, they tend to say, “But I got the real truth. What truth is saying is in error or is not complete.” That’s the way they take it.
That creates problems when you have that attitude—when you want to make the other be incomplete or incorrect. That’s not what I mean by difference. I mean a difference that you accept with joy—with embrace. You are different; I see you are different; I’m happy you’re different because I can learn something new that I haven’t known before—because I’m secure in my realization and I don’t need to believe it to be the only one.
But, many traditions fixate themselves on their own realization, their own formulation of the truth, and they want to make it to be the real truth—the only truth. I am trying to go beyond that—and, in fact, not trying. I have gone beyond that. My experience, let’s say, has taken me beyond that. So, I can accept many traditions at the same time.
That’s why I have what’s called “the view of totality.” It means a view that includes all possible views.
TS: So, let’s talk more about the view of totality, which [is what you go into in quite some depth] really in this online teaching program. You talk about it as looking at our current reality as if we had stepped outside into a parallel universe and we could see this view of totality. So, I’m curious about that, Hameed. If we entered some parallel universe, we still have a particular perspective. How do you ever get a view of totality—because you’re always seeing it from a perspective of some kind?
AHA: Because you’re free to move between universes. Your view doesn’t take the view of one universe to be the only truth.
So, that’s where freedom comes in. So, freedom for me is really the mark of enlightenment. Freedom in all senses—in all possible ways. Not just freedom from suffering, but freedom of you—freedom of perspective, freedom of experience.
TS: So, you’re even free from the view of totality?
AHA: Well, yes. I mean, much of the time I don’t think about it. [Laughs.] I’m just having my dinner. I’m not thinking of totality.
But, the view of totality is in some sense—it’s not exactly a view. It’s more like it is the openness to all the views. So, I call it “the View” just to differentiate it from the people who believe in one particular view. Right? One particular way of enlightenment or realization.
I say “View of Totality” meaning “the totality of all views.” But, it is not a view in the sense that it is not a perspective. It’s not a mental concept. It’s not an attitude. I call it “an all-rounded openness to the various views.” Each view has its teaching, has a realization, and has an enlightenment.
I mean, if you were a Kashmiri Shaivite, for instance, your realization will be of Shiva and Shakti. Realizing oneself as Shiva is not exactly the same thing as experiencing oneself as Satchitananda—which is, again, a Hindu thing. [This] is not the same thing as experiencing oneself as Dharmakaya, which is more of a Buddhist thing. [This] is not the same thing as experiencing oneself as Mirror Samadhi of Zen.
They’re all realizations. They’re all illumination and enlightenment. They really have different content, a different feel, [different] topography, different ways of knowing and seeing things. Just like I explained to you the difference between nondual and the other way that I usually call “unilocal”—the way of, “I am inside of you and you’re inside me”—right?
AHA: That’s a realization where they say a grain of sand contains the whole universe.
AHA: Poets spoke about it as known—that realization—by different teachings. But, it’s not nondual realization. Nondual realization is like the ocean that has many waves, and all the waves are part of the same ocean. While this one—no—the wave contains the ocean.
So, that’s a clear example of two kinds of realization that have a different way of perceiving. In fact, the delusions that we go through or the obstacles that we go through are all different. It deals with different parts of our character—different parts of our tendencies.
TS: So, tell me what you would see as the obstacles to nondual realization, and then the obstacles to what you’re calling “unilocal realization.”
AHA: Well, the main obstacle to nondual realization is believing that you are a separate entity. Believing that you are a separate entity—which is the usual belief of ego—that’s the main obstacle for nondual realization.
For unilocal realization, the main obstacle is more like the separation is not between one thing—between what is there and what is here. The idea of separation itself is the obstacle. There’s no idea of separation because, in unilocal realization, the ideas of union or separation are simply not relevant. When you are inside me, I am inside you. What do you call that—separation or union or what? You see, those words don’t apply to it.
TS: I remember in the series, Hameed—I asked you to take us into an experience of unilocal realization. I don’t think that, for some people, that’s that accessible—what you’re describing. I don’t know if people are just—
AHA: For most people, it’s not accessible. But, there are people [for whom] it actually is accessible. I discovered—after I started teaching it—that there are some people actually who knew about it and had the experience. They just never talked about it because they didn’t know it was important.
TS: OK, so I asked you what the sticking point [is], if you will—where people have a realization, whatever type it may be, and they’re like, “That’s it. I’m done. Check. I’ve come to the promised land.” You said that it’s a lack of this openness to truth showing up in however way it shows up again and again and again.
What I’d like to ask about is I think a lot of people believe—if you really get down to it—that the goal on the spiritual path is something like being happy. If you really cornered them and you said, “Why are you doing it? Why are you doing your meditation practice? Why are you praying? Why are you interested in all this?” it’s like, “Gosh, I just want to be a happy person.” So, I’m curious what you think about that. It’s certainly not the same language as, “I love the truth.”
AHA: Happiness is a side product in the fact of realization. So, there is happiness in all the kinds of realization. So, if a person wants happiness, having one realization is enough for them. That’ll make them happy.
And I think it’s fine for people to feel, “This is the truth. I got to it,” and it’s good for them to rest on their laurels for some years. Why not? And then just acclimate to that new reality. That’s what I did for some years—ten years or so. It’s good to acclimatize oneself to the new terrain, whether it’s nondual or boundless or infinite beingness—to learn about and be established in it.
But, if we really establish ourself in it in a complete way—meaning the establishment is through establishment, not through ideas or belief—it means that we are the true nature without believing in our mind that we are the true nature. We are the true nature naturally.
If that happens, then the mind is not in the way and true nature begins to show different things. It begins to manifest itself in different ways—different ways of experiencing.
TS: Now, at one point towards the beginning of the Endless Enlightenment series, you ask people to reflect, “Do you have a goal for the spiritual journey? Is there something you’re going for?” You go so far as to say that having a goal is like trying to twist God’s arm. You’re pretty strong on it, Hameed. You say, “To have a goal—” are you ready for this? This is what you said. “[To have a goal] is uninformed stupidity, actually—like trying to twist God’s arm.”
AHA: Yes. I said that, and it’s true—but I’m not the only one that actually says it. If you go to the deepest teaching of Dzogchen practice or Mahamudra, or the deepest teaching of Kashmiri Shaivism, they all say that. They all say that the highest teaching is non-doing. You don’t do anything. You just let go, relax, let it be. That’s the highest practice.
I’m saying you could start that practice from the beginning—you don’t have to wait until you arrive at the last stage. So, the [inaudible] practice that I teach includes that principle from the beginning—that you inquire into your experience not because you want something from it, not because you want to go someplace, but simply because you really want to find out what it is—what’s happening, what is truth.
So, you don’t have a goal. You don’t want to accomplish something. You just want to know it. That’s all.
So, that’s no goal. “Goal” means “I want peace, I want enlightenment, I want awareness, I want emptiness, I want love, I want God.” All these are seen as goals.
But, if you have these goals, it means your mind is in the way. There’s an idea in the mind that’s saying, “That’s what I want.” So, the mind is leading the way instead of our true nature leading the way.
So, the idea of no goal is not particular to my teaching. It is true about many teachings. They say that, but they don’t say it [until] the end of their teaching, usually. They don’t say it from the beginning. Some of the [in] the beginning say that—they realize there’s some importance in saying it from the beginning. But, many don’t. They don’t say it until they say it in the end, when you reach the final item and you have attained the Three Kayas and all of that. You realize there is nothing to do, and there was never anything to do.
I’m saying that’s true. I recognize that. But, why do we have to wait to realize the Three Kayas?
TS: OK, Hameed. So, let’s say somebody’s listening and they go, “Well, look, I want to be honest. The honest truth is that the goal I have—I have a goal! I want to be peaceful and happy. Something like that. That’s the truth. That’s what I want,” or, “I want to be free! That’s my goal. I want to be free, and I’m not going to pretend that’s not true. That’s how I feel right now. What do I do with that? I’m hearing Hameed at the same time say that this isn’t the most open way to be. But, I have a goal.”
AHA: Well, what you do—I mean, that’s normal; that’s ordinary; everybody’s like that—is that you recognize that you have a goal. At some point, you recognize how having this goal becomes an obstacle in the way. You’re standing in your own way.
If you really stay with it, you realize—and the way the old stories are told is that the person practices or follows the teaching, and something only turns in just at the moment they realize, “Oh, I’ve been in the way. I’ve been trying too hard. Just forget it. I drop everything.” Then it happens. There are many stories like that. That’s when the enlightenment happens for many people—when they stop doing what they’re doing.
I’m not saying that one should never have a goal or it’s not useful to have a goal. I’ll say having a goal at the beginning is useful. You do need to have a goal at least in the sense of, “I’m not happy with the way I am. I feel a longing for something different that will have more freedom, more liberation.” It’s OK to have that goal. That’s natural. That’s how we feel it because we still have a mind that operates to formulate the inner movement—the movement toward enlightenment—as in the language of a goal.
So, it will continue putting it in the language of a goal until, at some point, we realize that having a goal at some point becomes a subtle obstacle.
Not to confuse that with external life—with everyday life, where we have goals.
TS: Sure, sure.
AHA: We want to have a house, we want to get married. That’s fine to have those goals. But not goals for your experience—not goals for your spirit. Spirit is free.
It’s not like the spirit—you can say it has goals—but it’s not really goals. It’s more like it has a dynamic intelligence that moves it toward greater expansion and liberation. It inherently—by itself—does that. We don’t need to have an idea to go.
TS: Now, Hameed, this teaching on the view of totality that you go into quite some depth with on the Endless Enlightenment series is a teaching that you actually received more than two decades ago. But, it’s only in the last handful of years that you’ve been starting to teach both your own students within the Diamond Approach school but also with the public about the view of totality. So, why did you wait so long—and why now?
AHA: Well, several reasons. First of all, I was busy teaching the usual spirituality of nondual realization. It took a lot of time to teach it because, in my teaching, nondual realization has many facets and many dimensions and nuances. All those need to be taught first. That took me years to do.
The other reason is that, for a long time, I did not feel an inner permission to teach it. It felt to me it should stay secret. That was my feeling. It felt like an inner guidance that says, “Don’t do it. Not yet. Maybe you never teach it. Just teach the usual spirituality that everybody knows or has written about or known through visions.” That was what I was doing—although it’s different from other traditions because the Diamond Approach has its own formulation of nondual realization and true nature and the soul and all of that—the ego.
But, I didn’t have the inner permission to teach it. I didn’t feel it was right to give it out because I didn’t know why, but it could be confusing or it could be not the right time.
At some point, however, I started feeling, “It is time to teach it.” I first taught it to the teachers of our school. That’s the first that I taught it to.
TS: And if you were to summarize—if people were to understand the view of totality; if people could really get it—[how would they] be different?
AHA: Well, first of all, life would be thrilling and exciting. Novelty is an important feature of it. It’s not like you become enlightened and stay in the same condition forever. Your enlightenment lives, and lives by learning new things—new things about enlightenment and new things about our true nature [and] about reality.
[This is] just like in our science, for instance. You can’t think of science is going to end one of these days. Science is always going to find new things because there’s no end to how much knowledge there is—how much [there is to seek] in the universe.
The same thing about the spiritual universe. You find out when you’re free in it—in the spiritual universe. You realize that there’s a whole universe and you can travel in it. You can discover many things.
It’s true you’re contented. You’re not looking for anything. You don’t need anything. But, you’re travelling. What are you going to do? You’re not staying in one place. You’re a traveler from one state to another—from one condition to another, from one insight to another, and from one way of knowing [and] being to another.
That is the nature, actually, of reality—that there’s an infinity to it. That’s why it’s Endless Enlightenment. Just like science is endless, enlightenment is knowledge of the spiritual world and freedom. So, it’s endless.
TS: I’ve been speaking with A.H. Almaas about a new online program that he’s created with Sounds True on the view of totality in the Diamond Approach. The online course—Endless Enlightenment—begins on March 28. It includes two live question-and-answer sessions with Hameed. Also, the program takes you through a series of inquiry exercises and practices that you can do both on your own and with a partner. Again, the course begins on March 28.
Hameed, it always deepens me and activates me in a good way—meaning I just feel so excited about the spiritual universe—every time I talk to you. So, thank you.
AHA: That’s the idea. Activation—using the word “activated” —because, really, part of enlightenment is spiritual activation. The consciousness is activated so it begins to overflow and move and becomes unstoppable in its revelations. Instead of just revealing one thing and saying, “That’s the truth,” its answers keep revealing one thing after the other. “Activated.”
TS: Yes. That’s the way I feel right now. I feel this kind of buzzing inside my body and a sense of a kind of brimming, excited life. So, thank you. Thank you so much.
AHA: Hopefully everybody who does the course will be feeling like that—excited and brimming with a thrilling thrill of adventure. That’s what I like about it. It’s the thrill of adventure.
TS: You even helped me, Hameed, reframe. Instead of people being spiritual seekers, [they are] spiritual explorers. I like that idea that we just keep exploring. I love that.
AHA: Yes. In fact, I like that. Definitely.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.