A.H. Almaas about Runaway Realization: “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.”
By Zarina Maiwandi
At the heart of most of our human activity is the search for meaning.We look for it explicitly in all sorts of places, from tiny, invisible particles to grand, transcendent states. The point of the search is to find a place to rest, an ultimate truth that can bear the weight of the entirety of our human experiences. Our sciences chase elusive super symmetrical particles in the hope of finding a unified theory of everything. Our spiritual traditions travel the inner realms looking for the final dimension of reality. Our philosophies investigate being and nothingness for master concepts with maximum explanatory power. And each of us mirrors this impulse for finality in our daily calibrations of who we are and what we are all about. We can even see our conflicts—be they personal, intellectual, political, religious, or cultural—as a clash of competing ultimates.
Looking for the one thing that will make sense of all things often has the paradoxical effect of obliterating the particularity of each thing. Unity becomes a matter of sameness and equality a matter of equivalence. We want to get either to the bottom of everything—say, the Higgs boson—or beyond everything—the absolute emptiness of reality. But life happens across a broad scale of things: quarks, Aunt Cathy, the Pacific Ocean, a traffic jam, boundless awareness. The impulse to subsume this multiplicity into a single, fixed, and overriding unity—whether quantum, macro, or both—springs from our need for stability, for knowing once and for all, for shoring ourselves up against insecurity. In our inner life much as in our outer, we tend to trade freedom for security.
In Runaway Realization, A. H. Almaas, the founder of the Diamond Approach to inner realization, presents another possibility. What if reality is not limited to any single ultimate? What if there is no fixed truth that unifies all human life? What if the search for an ending is a vestige of subtle concepts of the self? What if unity includes particularity? What if freedom means never coming to a final rest?
Almaas introduces us here to the view of totality, a view that holds all possible views as valid without limiting reality to any one of them. Rather than holding fast to any one ultimate truth, the view of totality recognizes that no single view or combination of views can exhaust the richness of reality. The view of totality includes all possible views—the dual, the nondual, the unilocal, the theistic, the scientific, the philosophic, and others—without reducing them to mere iterations of a single truth (as do the perennial philosophers). Although each view is a complete understanding of its own particular truth, none of them is a complete understanding of all of reality because reality is inherently free and cannot be fully captured in any view.
Something novel is happening in the view of totality. It goes beyond the dualism of “This view is better than that view.” It goes beyond the nondualism of all views reflecting one truth. And it goes beyond both of these views not by discounting either but by seeing them as two legitimate possibilities among an infinite number of ways to view reality. The view of totality neither negates views nor tries to reconcile them; it is neither syncretic nor centrist, neither a chaotic jumble nor a mud puddle of compromise. At its core is a radically new conception of identity and difference, one that is not relative but absolute—meaning that unity does not come at the expense of particularity, or infinity at the expense of the finite. The view of totality is infinitely comfortable with actual and irreducible difference.
By challenging the idea that reality can have a bottom or a top that is fixed and final, Almaas does away with the idea of reality either as a container or as containable. Reality is limitless in the ways it reveals itself. It can accommodate all manner of different views and remain still indeterminate, which indeterminacy is not ambiguity but rather radical openness. So a quark, Aunt Cathy, and the Pacific Ocean can be one without ceding their particularity; they can be one exactly as they are, without resorting to the level of subatomic particles or nonduality. This is only one of the insights that is possible from the view of totality. Throughout the book, Almaas takes up many common notions—of practice, of emptiness, of time and space, of relationship, of nondoing—and refigures them from the perspective of totality.
Because it recognizes the validity of all views, each with its own ultimate, the view of totality does away with the notion of any single, conclusive truth. Reality remains ever beyond the reach of any one totalizing view, reflecting the fact that all views contain certain truths about reality. Runaway realization is the triumph of reality living its life, freely moving from one realization to another. Freedom becomes a matter not of arriving at some ultimate truth, but of being able to be nimble in view, to hold any view or multiple views or even no view at all. This underlying openness of view—to hold any or many, one or none—is at once the essence of the dynamism that animates all possible views of reality.
In this view of totality, Almaas extends Gödel’s famous mathematical proof into the realm of spiritual work: No view or combination of views, no matter how consistent, can completely exhaust the truth of reality. The price of human freedom, then, is to live this uncertainty.
What sets this book apart from Almaas’s previous works is that it introduces for the first time a larger view that holds the whole teaching of the Diamond Approach and situates it in relationship to other teachings and spiritual discourses. His previous books articulate what can be considered a hierarchical view of realization, where spiritual practice is a gradual process of seeing through ego identifications, realizing various qualities of presence and levels of nonduality, and integrating these realizations into our daily life. In this book, there is no refutation of the Diamond Approach as we have known it—a steady progression of experiencing essential qualities, boundless dimensions, and wisdom vehicles—but rather it is seen anew from the enlarged perspective of non-hierarchy.
The view of totality, its attendant conception of reality called “Total Being,” and the understanding of the dynamic of realization—the relationship between individual practice and realization—begin to articulate the nonhierarchical view of the Diamond Approach. As we plumb the depths of our immediate experience, at some point, we can begin to uncover the underlying implications of its view. From the vantage of totality, we can discern not only the distinctness, the validity, and the experiential universe of that particular view but also the relationship of one worldview to another. Doing so unleashes the inherent freedom of reality, and reality shows its delight by leading us to other views and further mysteries. This is the upshot of uncertainty: We are loosed from the search for final meaning into a life of limitless adventure.
More information: www.ahalmaas.com