Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The face is God’s face
The hand is the hand of the universe.
Where is the I?
Even though realization of the absolute brings total contentment, its many mysteries continue to fire my curiosity. The coemergence of the soul with the absolute begins the realization of the coemergence of all manifestations. This in turn reveals the subtle relation between awareness and the absolute. My experience of the absolute has involved being a consciousness that apprehends it by touching it. The consciousness can be the clarified soul, or any aspect of essence. In this process the consciousness dissolves into its blackness, as it becomes aware of it as total nonbeing. Another way of experiencing the absolute is to be the absolute totally, aware of manifestation arising within it, an extension of it. In this condition awareness arises within the absolute as the ground of all manifestation, as luminosity or clarity.
Coemergence reveals that the awareness of the absolute is totally inseparable from its emptiness. Emptiness and awareness are two sides of the absolute, totally coemergent and inseparable. I cannot say that the absolute is clarity or luminosity, because it is much more. I cannot say it is simply emptiness, for it is so rich and so present. As the absolute I recognize myself as awareness which is presence, which is at the same time a lightness, an emptiness. My emptiness is my presence, and my presence is my awareness.
I see that the absolute has a luminosity, a clarity, but not the same as clear light or pure presence. Clear light is colorless, transparent luminosity, a very light and delicate presence. Pure presence is also colorless and transparent, but with a sense of fullness. These levels of consciousness can apprehend the absolute, and can be manifest by the absolute as the ground of all appearance. Yet the clarity and luminosity of the absolute are even subtler than these very subtle forms of consciousness. Its clarity and luminosity are implicit, not manifest. Its blackness is not the absence of light, but its source.
The inherent clarity of the absolute is prior to light. There is complete absence of obscurations. The fact that it is nonbeing makes it totally transparent, without this transparency appearing as clear light. But since, on the other hand, the absolute is not a vacant emptiness, but what truly is, this transparency becomes awareness. The awareness of its facticity is then inherent in the reality of its facticity.
This inherent clarity of the absolute is its own intrinsic knowingness. Its facticity is inherently knowing. I experience this knowing as an implicit clear light, not differentiated as clear light, but which can plumb the depths of the absolute. It is a clear consciousness completely inseparable from the absolute.
I experience the absolute as both knowable and unknowable. I can plumb its depths, and gain a great deal of experience and insight. I can describe what I experience in increasing detail, with more and more precision. But it is clear that the nature of this inexhaustible vastness allows no final or definitive knowledge. The absolute is knowable in that we can become aware of it; many poets and spiritual masters spent their lives talking and writing about it. It is unknowable in that our knowledge is endless and cannot be final. Its nature is indeterminable because it is inexhaustible.
The knowledge of the absolute always involves the revelations of the process of contemplating it, of experiencing it ever more deeply and clearly. It always involves a contemplating consciousness. The absolute is not absolutely alone. When there is no longer a contemplating consciousness, then there is no reflection on the absolute; there is only being it. Then there is no content that can be pointed to.
In other words, no fixed position or final conclusion can be taken regarding the absolute. To fully apprehend it is to know it as mystery.
A few days later…
The contemplation of the absolute continues with its own momentum, without my personal prompting. The consciousness finds itself in the mysterious blackness of the absolute, and a process of sensing into its depths spontaneously commences. I keep returning to this mystery, this intimacy, this delicacy, this contentment, this peace, this freedom, this infinity of release. The absolute cannot even be called space, even though it is a vastness.
Ordinarily I see it as spacious. But as I plumb this spaciousness, it dissolves into a spaceless or dimensionless nothing. The result is absence, the opposite of existence. Then there is no sense of extension, and also no sense of no extension. Awareness of the absolute remains, but this awareness is free of the concept or sense of extension. In this subtle perception, knowingness borders on cessation.
The next day…
The absolute is indeterminate intimacy, the essence of Being. The sense of intimacy comes from the transparency coemergent with centerless knowingness: I am totally in touch with myself at each point of my presence, with no veils. In this complete in-touchness there is a sense of privacy, of interiority. This delicate interiority is the essence of intimacy. There is no subject being intimate with an object; in fact there is nothing to be intimate with. Intimacy is merely the condition of total in‑touchness.
The absolute is definitely Being, but it cannot be said to be existence, or even presence. It is Being in that there is an actuality that we do encounter. In fact, it is the only certain being; everything else arises out of it, and is transitory. However, this beingness of the absolute is devoid of the concept or feeling of existence, empty of the concept or sense of presence. There is an immediacy of self-awareness, but there is nothing to say about what the awareness is aware of. I sometimes call it absolute Being.
Realizing that the absolute is Being, even though there is no sense or idea of existence, can be problematic. The mind tends to objectify being, even absolute being. If something exists in any mode, the mind seems to be impelled to view it as an object, as an independent existent. It is almost impossible in most conditions of mind to think or talk about something without reifying it.The very word “something” contains “thing” which the mind inevitably associates with what it perceives as separate entities. We may think about, or even talk about, the absolute; but it cannot be objectified without ending up with something else. To objectify the absolute is to delimit it, and then it is not the absolute anymore.
The absolute is not something other than the consciousness that contemplates it. It is not something outside of the awareness that inquires into it. It is not a product of consciousness or perception, but their very source. It is also not a percept that can be delineated completely. In fact, it is not a percept, even though we seem to have the experience of perceiving it. It is the ground of all perception, all experience. And this ground is paradoxically not only nonexistent, it is nonexistence. This nonexistence is also mysteriously inseparable from all existence, as its ultimate truth and reality. The absolute is what gives everything its existence, without it itself being an existent.
A few days later…
In the morning meditation I become aware of a vague dissatisfaction. I remain mostly in nonconceptual abiding in the absolute, but something seems to be percolating. I go to the office, begin seeing students, and work as usual. Gradually the vague discontent becomes clearer. I begin to feel a deep sadness, almost a longing. I realize at some point that even though I am doing well working, I feel that I do not want to work. Inquiring into this feeling, I see it is not only about working, but about activity in general. I do not want to do anything. Not only that, the insight arises that I do not want to be part of manifestation. I want to be quiet and inactive. I want to be still, not involved in any activity.
As I stay with this thread without taking a position regarding the feelings, I realize I want to be a silent and passive witness of everything, without participating. I want to be aware of the mystery of the absolute, and I do not want to be separated from it.
As long as I am not too active, I am the absolute or an inseparable part of it. However, when there is personal functioning I become involved, for example, when I interact with students on a level they can relate to, and manifest what they need. As personal functioning dominates the absolute recedes, and I experience some separation from it. I become a functioning person, and am no longer totally immersed in the intimacy. Here is where deep sadness arises; it is about the separation from the absolute, and leads to the feeling of longing to be reunited with the absolute.
I begin to wonder whether this separation is necessary. I begin to see that there remains a lack of complete integration. I have mostly experienced the soul integrated into the absolute in various degrees. I can see now that the process of integration has not yet included the functioning of the soul. The possibility now appears of being the absolute and witnessing the person who is working. When this happens, I see myself as the absolute witness behind and beyond all happening. Yet this does not seem to be the integration I feel is missing.
The issue seems to be a form of the rapprochement conflict. I love being the absolute transcendence, but I also love being personally with others, and working with students in a personal way. So the issue is a conflict between two loves, between witnessing and personal involvement.
The next afternoon…
After finishing work, I am moving around in the yard, looking at the flowers and watching the birds fly between trees. I am aware of the mysterious depth of the absolute as my center, but I realize it is not only the center of my experience. It is the center of my movement; in fact my movement seems to be inseparable from the depths. My movements, and my functioning in general, manifest as part of the lumination of this absolute stillness.
The variegated radiance of the absolute manifests at my physical locus as a flow inseparable from movement. I experience the silence and stillness of the absolute as the center of experience, and the soul as a flow of changes, movements and functioning. More accurately, the movement and functioning appear as fluctuations in the flow of consciousness that is the soul. The stillness and silence are coemergent with the flow. This indicates the integration of the soul’s functioning with the absolute. The absolute emptiness is so completely united with the flowing consciousness of the soul that the visual effect is that the movements are very subtle luminations of the absolute. At my locus the black vastness seems to flow with a dynamic luminosity. The absolute displays not only an inherent luminosity but also a magical dynamism.
Few days later…
The integration of individual functioning in the absolute is becoming a continuing realization, a station. When I am relaxed, working or doing any practice, I find myself in this peaceful stillness that is inseparable from appearance and functioning. I am the absolute stillness, and at the same time personally functioning, acting and interacting. The experience is mostly of personal functioning, and not boundless functioning. I am only occasionally aware of all of appearance as a luminous flow from the stillness.
The movement is smooth and light, free and spontaneous. The body is as light as light. It is a dynamic luminosity. Functioning is easy and complete, and totally in the moment. In this state, when I act I am aware of a formless and mysterious nothingness that acts by varying its external forms. I move the hand, but I am formless boundless nothing, moving a form that is inseparable from this nothingness. The movement is nothing but the flow of shifting forms through which the mysterious depth manifests.
I am stillness, yet I am movement. My movement is the flow of my stillness. The flow is nothing but my dynamic radiance. With all my dynamism, the origin of all change and movement, I never cease being absolute stillness.