A.H. Almaas - Endless Enlightenment
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello, and welcome again to conscious.tv, I am Iain McNay and today my guest is Hameed Ali. Hi Hameed.
Hameed: Hi Iain.
Iain: And Hameed is also known as AH Almaas, which is his pen name. And he’s written about twenty books altogether. I have a few of them here. The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence, Diamond Heart: Book Five – which obviously indicates there is a Book One, a Book Two, a Book Three and a Book Four as well.
Hameed: The last of the series, yes.
Iain: And Essence: The Diamond Approach to Inner Realization, and The Point of Existence which is quite dense, but also very fascinating. So Hameed, it’s interesting, I was realizing earlier that last time I was in Amsterdam I came for a conference and it was quite a difficult time in my life. I was going through some changes and I’d left one spiritual school and I wasn’t quite sure where I was. And I had dinner with somebody who said, “You know what? The Diamond Approach” – the Ridhwan School, which is your school – “could be the right thing for you now.” And I found out there was a group happening in Northern Germany, near Bremen, and I went. That was just a few weeks later I went to the first group. And that was very instrumental for me in understanding where I was more, and also very much a catalyst for change in my life. And when we were talking earlier you were saying to me that at thirteen you became interested in finding out more about life. And at that point you thought that maybe science had the answers for you.
Hameed: That’s what I thought, and for a long time. I became a scientist. But it really started for me by just feeling. I didn’t think about it. It’s just, feeling that I wanted to know what it is. Reality – what is all this about? What is the real truth of all of this that we experience? And I thought science will give me an objective knowledge, not somebody’s opinion. Not somebody’s story. I knew about religions and all that, but what I knew was like stories. I couldn’t tell whether they were really true. But I thought science at that time. And partly the influence of my teachers, I had good science teachers. So I got interested in mathematics, physics and chemistry. First I thought, “I will be a chemist.” But I turned out to be more a physicist. So when I went to college I went to the US and studied physics in Berkeley, California.
Iain: You see, thirteen is quite early for someone to have this desire, if you like, this calling to ask these deep questions. Was that something you could share with your contemporaries? Or was this quite an isolated thing for just you?
Hameed: No. I think maybe we all feel that in different ways. And for me it wasn’t exactly an explicit kind of question in my mind that was driving me. It was like part of my life. I was just that way. You know, I felt that way. I wanted to know, what is this reality? We had religion classes and science classes, different kinds of psychology classes. I was interested in – what is it, what’s it all about? And I thought physics, especially deep theoretical physics, can go deep into what is it – what’s happening –that is not anybody’s opinion or idea. I wanted to know the truth as it is.
Iain: You wanted to know the truth as it is.
Hameed: And at that time I thought, science will do it. And I went in science very far. I was at the point of getting my Ph.D. in nuclear physics when I realized that’s not what I’m looking for. And it was an interesting story. I don’t know if you ever heard how I realized that. I used to work in graduate school in Lawrence Rad Lab, in Berkeley. That’s when they first did the research on the atom bomb and all that work. I had my office there and I was in the cafeteria one time for lunch, where all the professors and graduate students. I was sitting having lunch and at some point, for some reason I was looking around. And I looked and all those brilliant physicists and mathematicians were some of the top in the world. And it struck me, I don’t want to be like that. And I felt that way because I saw something. I saw those brilliant big heads and nothing else. And I realized no. That’s not the kind of truth I’m looking for. That’s not the kind of life I want. Big head, great intelligence, but the rest is almost gone. It’s not there.
Iain: So it was like knowledge without depth, almost.
Hameed: Yeah. Well, knowledge without completeness. It’s like partial, it’s part of being human. Part of the truth. And it was an intuitive thing. Partly it was like recognizing the truth I’m looking for isn’t going to happen that way, I realized at that time. And partly seeing that – I was thinking I was going to get my Ph.D. and become a professor and teach and do research in physics. That was my intention. I realized, no. My research is not that. I just learned at that point. And then I lost complete interest in physics. And I go to my office to do research and every day, every morning, I go sit at the desk to write all these equations and within half an hour I’m asleep. That happened for weeks. Finally I went to my professor and told him, “I can’t do it.”
Iain: So what were the clues that took you to the next stage? I know you still had to do some experimental workshops…
Hameed: Then what happened is that I got interested in various kinds of workshops, different kinds of individuals. I even went to Esalen, for instance, in California and I did some kind of workshop. I went to various events. I learned meditation. Like I learned transcendental meditation, TM, for a while. That was one of the first meditations I ever learned.
Iain: Did that work for you?
Hameed: I liked it. I still like it, you know, but I didn’t go deep into that school. Because you can go deeper if you followed Maharishi. I didn’t do it that way but it was one thing I learned. But I did a lot of psychological thing. Gestalt therapy, bioenergetics, I actually got a bioenergetic therapist. I did several years of it. And I did Reichian therapy for several years. And I worked with the various Gestalt groups and therapists. It was called the human potential movement, I was pretty involved in it and learning various things. Until of course I met Claudio Naranjo at Esalen, it was at an Esalen workshop he was doing on meditation and Gestalt therapy. And he approached me at some point during the workshop and he said, “You know, I’m forming a group in Berkeley to work more on that thing, if you want to be” – because he knew I was living in Berkeley. And I said, “hmm”. So I went to that group. And of course Claudio taught a combination of psychology – he worked with psychology and meditation. He taught different forms of meditation and he worked with psychology by using the Enneagram of Fixations. And he has a lot of psychological background because he was a Karen Horney student. She emphasized self-analysis so he taught self-analysis basically. So he did two directions – psychology and spirituality – side by side.
Iain: And hardly anyone was bringing those two things together at the time.
Hameed: He was one of the first pioneers, I will say, of seeing that psychology and spirituality can go together.
Iain: And he had a great title. He called it “Seekers After Truth,” which must have really appealed to you.
Hameed: That’s what Gurdjieff called his work. He got it from Gurdjieff. Yeah.
Iain: I’m looking at my notes here…you were involved with the Fourth Way teaching as well.
Hameed: What happened is that Claudio Naranjo was instrumental in some sense in my development. Not in terms of my realization or my liberation, but in terms of going in the right direction. Because he knew he had something, but he didn’t have everything. So he introduced us to many other teachers. He brought many other teachers – he brought Rinpoches, he brought Tao masters, he brought Hindu masters, he brought Sufi masters. So I got to work with many of those people. One of the Rinpoches, for instance, a Tibetan lama I worked with for several years, I learned a lot about Tibetan Buddhism. And I worked with EJ Gold who had more of a Fourth Way orientation and also a Sufi orientation. I worked with another person who was more Gurdjieffian, Fourth Way; I worked with him for several years. And at the same time I was still continuing my Reich therapy. I was doing my psychological bodywork too. Breathing, energizing, liberating the body at the same time that I was learning with those various teachers. And by the time I was working with the Fourth Way teacher, at some point I was beginning to have experiences of what I call essential nature. When I talked to him about it, he didn’t recognize them. He dismissed them.
Iain: So what kind of experiences were they?
Hameed: I was experiencing something that I felt as truth. I was feeling, “I am experiencing truth.” But I could feel it, sense it, see it. And it was like a pretty palpable sense of presence of truth. Which is so present, it’s like a conscious mass of 25 carat gold. I became like a statue of gold. And just like the gold statue you see of the Buddha, I felt like that. I felt, I am gold. I am truth. And I recognize that gold, what the alchemists call gold, is truth. True truth. The truth I was looking for. I was looking for what is objective truth. So when I talked to this teacher about some of those things, he didn’t recognize it. And I began to have a peaceful, congenial separation from his work. And then went on my way. Because things weren’t developing in me. And I think one other influence – because of my interests at that time, I met the 16th Karmapa.
Iain: I don’t know what that is.
Hameed: The Karmapa is one of the leading figures in Tibetan Buddhism. He does what’s called the Black Hat Ceremony where he transmits the teachings of his lineage. It’s called Mahamudra. He is the head of the Mahamudra lineage and he does an initiation where he transmits that state. So I went to his transmission. That was the early 70s and I got a headache. Many people had clarity and light. I had a headache for several years. It reminded me of Krishnamurti who had headaches for many years at the beginning. I had a headache and I went from one person to another – doctors, and I went to yogis, a Hindu yogi who said, “Oh, this is just some kind of gas” and he gave it some name. When I talked to the Rinpoche I knew, he taught me, “This is light.” And I didn’t know exactly what it meant. But in time, when I started working psychologically on what is this? Like an obstruction in the head. At some point there was like – even when doing the meditation – things like something flowed down, descended. And it was light, but it wasn’t light the way people know it. More like liquid light. And I felt it as my presence. That is my being. Presence. And that was the discovery of presence, which I then talked to my friends too, like Karen.
Iain: Karen Johnson?
Hameed: Johnson, yes, I talked to her. She’ll talk to you [later] about how she received it. And she got it, right away. And I thought other people would get it right away. That was the beginning of the Diamond Approach. That presence, which is the truth of reality, the truth of what I am, didn’t just stay that way. It developed and grew and manifested so many things about itself and the rest of reality and what I am.
Iain: How did that realization, that manifestation, influence you in your day-to-day life? Like how you interacted with other people, how you went out and about? Was that always with you, and how did that change things on a personal basis?
Hameed: Very good question. At the beginning, when I was first learning, I noticed I was not interested in people. Like I was married, right, we had a house and I had a small group I was working with. But I was not interested in social contacts. My wife would invite people and I would stay in my room. I wouldn’t go.
Hameed: Yeah. I might say hi and then go back to my room. I wasn’t interested in what was happening and I saw that all these other things would be distractions. For several years it stayed like that. I didn’t dislike people or anything, I was friendly and fine. But I didn’t want the usual social practical thing to dominate. And I didn’t think it, I just was that way. And that allowed this truth, this presence, this awareness to grow and develop and teach. Teach me, teach my mind and teach other people. Then of course it changed – then it started impacting my behavior and my relationships to people. And one of the ways it presented itself is personalness. What we call ‘the pearl beyond price’. How to be not just this consciousness conscious of itself as presence, but how it can be a person who interacts with another person, like I’m interacting with you. I am the true nature but I’m also a human being. It showed me not only how to be a human being but what is a real human being.
Iain: Yes, that reminds me, when I got the first book of yours, the line I read that really hit me was being man in the world, but not of the world. I think you’re touching on the beginning of that in terms of you were beginning to find that yes, there was presence there. And also being in the world was important, living the potential of a human being.
Hameed: You see that expression, being in the world and not of it, is a Sufi expression which I found very appealing to me. What was happening, that expression was appealing and that presence revealed what that means. Which is, I think I didn’t want those interactions and those social things because it would’ve been being in the world and of it. I’ll be like everybody else. Lost in the usual, ordinary way of experiencing things and not being in contact with this deeper, more fundamental truth. So being in the world but not of it is like, I am now the presence, the reality, but I’m talking with you. We’re discussing things. And I feel that I have a heart and so do you. And our hearts are communicating. And it’s amazing wisdom. It shows how to be contactful, how to be personal, how to be aware of the other person and their uniqueness and how to be attuned to them – what hurts, what doesn’t hurt, what’s useful. So although the truth is sort of impersonal, but also it can present a personal quality that shows what is life and how life can be lived from a place that is outside of life. Like really, being in the world but not of it – not of it means I am not of the physical, I am not an individual human being with a history, a mother and father who has a job and – no, I am something much more mysterious, much faster. At the same time I am a human being who is a conduit for that. So that mystery works through the individual and lives as an individual. It reminds me of a Christian precept that says “I liveth not, but Christ liveth in me”. So I can say, I liveth not, but truth liveth in me. That’s one way of saying it.
Iain: And the starting point really for being a more real human being is the recognition of presence, isn’t it? Because that gives you the reference point. That gives you – I like to call it the ground of being. And with that I know for myself of the dangers running off from these automatic programs. But somehow if there’s a groundedness and a feeling of presence – in your books you call it essence a lot of the time. With that essence we have something real to relate from.
Hameed: Something real, authentic. Because usually, in the ordinary sense that I was, and most people are, is to be an individual that is mostly the creation of our history and our mind. Our ideas about ourselves, the programming from our childhood. That makes us be a kind of self and we believe we are that self. And we believe we are the body with a mind, physically. So most of us don’t know, until we wake up. That’s what spiritual work is all about. It’s to wake up to – what are you really? What is reality? And so that was the beginning of my waking up. You see, I think that what happened in the cafeteria was the beginning of waking up. I didn’t recognize true nature, but I realized that wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be that way.
Hameed: The next thing is recognizing, ‘Oh, that’s me. That’s what I am and that’s what everybody is.’
Iain: But why doesn’t that spark become more of a flame in most people? Because although there’s a growing interest in waking up, it’s still quite rare that somebody has the courage and the motivation, the drive if you like, to really follow things through like you have. Why is that? I think you actually said – one of the things I wrote down – is that “Man is asleep, little do we know what this means, the extent of this sleep”. And the more I’ve learned through your work, [the more] I’ve realized how man’s asleep and how I’m asleep. So how is it that there’s not more of what’s so obvious when you see it. How is it there isn’t more of an interest in this search in most people?
Hameed: Yeah. Different teachings will explain it in different ways. Some teachings say “Your karma” - your Eastern teachers of karma. If you come from more Western teachings they will say “God’s will. God’s grace comes to some people but not others.” The way I understand it – which is just another story because nobody really knows the true reasons behind it; it’s a mystery and we can just have approximations of it – is that reality as a whole, the truth I saw, the truth I realized as truth, which then I realized as love, but then I realized as awareness, and consciousness, conscious of itself and its spasms. At some point [it was] revealed that it is not just something inside me, but it is everywhere. Inside you, inside everybody, inside everything. It is not only inside everything, it is everything. It is the inside of everything. The other side of everything. Our physicality, our thoughts, the chairs and the furniture is the outside appearance of something alive and mysterious and conscious. And that reveals itself in different ways, like it’s experimenting with different ways it experiences reality. So it experiences reality through the rock, through the tree, through the alligator, through human beings. And then at some point, through some human being, it wakes up completely to what it is. You see. Now, it is not something that chooses to do it one way or another. It is – you know, you hear lately about intelligent design. Scientists realizing this universe has a design that seems to indicate intelligence. And some people use it to say, “Yeah, that means God created things that way.” I think of intelligent design more as this consciousness, this force is intelligent. And just as intelligence usually experiments with this and that, some experiments work better than others. It is like that. It is evolving and developing different ways it can reveal itself. And in some places it succeeds in revealing itself fully. And in other places it’s still working and probably will reveal itself one way or another. So I don’t think me as an individual is what did it. I’m not that special as an individual. It is being itself, true nature itself, this mysterious force and power and nature beyond, somehow chose this individual and put them through various karmic experiences. Like made me be born in Kuwait and live there for eighteen years, made me go to the US to study physics so my mind will have the precision and the logic of the scientist. And then made me go and study psychology so I could understand the mind and consciousness. And then oriented me toward particular books, toward particular teachings. It used my mind and consciousness and body to know itself. And now it knows itself and I realize that is what I am. And at the same time I am an individual human being. So the back and the front.
Hameed: The front is the individual that you see. The back is an unfathomable mystery that can reveal itself in many ways. It can be love, it can be truth, it can be awareness, it can be nondual awareness or it can be dual awareness.
Iain: So when you say you have this knowing, then, talk more about the knowing. Is it a knowing that is expanding the whole time? Or is the base of the knowing always there and always basically the same thing?
Hameed: It is more than knowing. It is difficult to say what it is. In fact, there is no way to describe it, to delimit it, because it is unlimited in what it is. It has the capacity to know. Knowing is one of its capacities. Consciousness, awareness is one of its capacities. What people call nondual awareness is just one of its capacities. It can be aware in other ways, you see. And this truth, this reality that expresses itself through all of us, that’s what I see. And it’s not just the basis – it is the basis of my teaching, right. And even to say my teaching is not accurate. It’s not mine. It’s true nature’s teaching, you know, an instrument. This individual, called Hameed, is an instrument for this magnificent, unfathomable to express itself and to know itself and enjoy life on Earth. How something indefinite, formless becomes a human being who walks and talks and experiences and loves and interacts. That is an amazing thing.
Iain: It’s a miracle, in so many ways.
Hameed: It’s a miracle. It’s always a miracle when we recognize that. When we’re just in our usual, ordinary level of experience we don’t see the miracle. We think we are those biological entities who are trying to survive and maybe be happy. And when we recognize this, when we recognize our true nature, we realize it’s an adventure. It’s an adventure of discovery, of learning, of developing. And living life is a matter of discovering and expressing what we discover at the same time. I live it, enjoy it, and I’m also learning all the time. When I use the word ‘I’ it’s confusing because there is no ‘I’ in the usual sense.
Iain: And the excitement of your learning is coming from consciousness - the expression of your consciousness.
Hameed: I, as a consciousness, enjoy you. I can feel your heart. I feel a sweetness between us and that for me brings us closer because we’re already one in a very deep way. From consciousness perspective, which is what my essence is - my true nature, my true condition, my true being - there is no separation between us.
Iain: And in our human form, in a way that’s what we’re seeking, isn’t it? We’re seeking this completeness the whole time and we look outside and we try and have more of this and more of that because we want to feel happier and better on the inside. Maybe it’s an oversimplification but the way I see it is that’s all a way – it’s all a false way in its own way – of trying somewhere to get back to the one, to the completeness.
Hameed: I wouldn’t call it a false way. I would say a misinterpretation. Because it’s natural to want to be happy. Because our nature is happiness and we want to be our nature. It’s inherent to us. Every human being wants to be happy. Why would they want to be depressed? You can imagine a race of beings who want to be depressed, or want to be hateful all the time. No, you want to be happy. Why? Because we are moved from deep within us, from the depths to be happy because that is what we are. If we really are relaxed and open and at ease, and being ourselves completely, we’re pure delight.
Iain: Pure delight. Yeah.
Hameed: Pure delight.
Iain: There’s something I want to explore with you in terms of the different stages that you went through and I think other people go through in their own way. I think you talk about first of all there was a realization there was presence, which you called essence. And you were with essence. And then there was a realization, or the integration that essence and you were the same thing. And then there was a further realization that you were the ground of being I think you said containing essence. Can you just talk us through those stages?
Hameed: That’s the stages I went through. Some people, some masters, they say they had an awakening and they are suddenly enlightened and they see everything is one. It didn’t happen exactly that way with me. For me it was a growing, a presence that grew. It had an infinite mystery in it and it was teaching my mind, my consciousness about it a step at a time. So first I was experiencing something that comes. Something that descends, or arises, you know, sending force. Some people, like Aurobindo, call it something that arises within… it comes from deep within the heart. And I was still being the human individual, what I call the person or the personal or the self. At some point that presence manifested itself in such a way that it made me confront my identity. What am I? Am I really this person experiencing this presence? And I realized that person was a shell, an empty construct of concepts and ideas and memories from the past that my mind has constructed.
Iain: But when you saw that, how was that for you? Because that’s quite a devastating realization.
Hameed: It was. It made me feel… to be that individual, I realized it felt empty, meaningless, ‘Oh, that’s why sometimes I feel life is meaningless. That’s why sometimes I feel there is no significance.’ That’s inherent to the sense of the ordinary self, which I call the ego-self, which for me is a stage of development. Being manifests itself gradually, this is one of its first stages. And then I saw a gap between that and this luminous presence. And that gap felt like an abyss - scary. And at some point by knowing the psychology – I was led to study self-psychology, Kohut and others – through that guidance, I saw those books and that’s I wanted to read. I saw them in Karen’s husband’s house who was studying psychiatry. So that’s interesting, I wasn’t interested in those things before. And I started and learned about self-psychology and how the self develops. And I said oh yeah, that’s how it goes. And I realized, but that is not exactly me. That is a fake self, false self.
Iain: It’s a reflection of you, I think you talk about it being a reflection.
Hameed: A reflection, it’s like a partial expression of what I am but I was seeing that’s what I am. And that belief created a separation from the true nature, from the luminous consciousness. And when I saw that disconnection, that disconnection dissolved. And when it dissolved I realized that luminous presence is what I am. And that was it. It continued to be that way, but that luminous presence wasn’t just one thing. It kept growing and developing, so what I am is not one static thing. That’s what many people believe, they get realized, enlightened, and you become pure awareness or pure emptiness or pure love. I have been those and I still am those, but I am something else also - something more mysterious.
Iain: And are there times in life practically, you look back on the response that you, as Hameed, had to a certain event and you see that could be more refined, that response, so you make a decision or there’s a realization that next time you might act differently? Are those human processes still running?
Hameed: Yes. They’re always running. There is a continual refinement of both my understanding of what reality is and how to be skillful in living life. What I do, my choices, my interactions, my communications. I’m always getting better. Or let’s say, reality is learning to hone the instrument and make it a more and more perfect expression. So that it not only enjoys its expression, but it communicates so that other manifestations of the self also begin to enjoy that expression. That’s why there’s teaching. The teaching is simply sharing this beauty. But it’s not me sharing the beauty. It is true nature. It’s not ‘I’ who developed the whole school that I have developed, that people think I co-founded. I didn’t co-found. I’m not, as an individual, capable of doing something like that. So being itself, true nature itself, this mysterious spirit developed this individual manifestation and developed the school that we call Ridhwan School. And what is coming through the students and the teachers from our school.
Iain: One of the things that I’ve been kind of wrestling with over the years – wrestling is probably too strong a word – but I’ve been intrigued by over the years, is these different people claim awakeness, self-realization, enlightenment. And it seems from listening to you that the process is never-ending. So there is not a definitive state that somebody can reach, as a human being on this planet at this time. You mention the refinement is always going on. Do you ever feel that you’ve met someone or you know of someone or indeed you feel in yourself the capacity to reach this, what we might call perfect balance, or perfect expression of the oneness?
Hameed: There are many teachings who teach that you reach a certain place. Like if you’re Buddhist it’s realizing Dharmakaya. In Vedanta you become the Brahmin, or Satchitananda. They define exactly what it is, you know. And if you’re a Sufi you become pure love. Right. And if you’re a Christian you become one with Christ or one with the Father. So many teachings have an end point that is well defined although they have different schools, slight variations. And I believe that myself. The teachings, this being showed me these things. At some point I was the Brahmin for several years. I was Dharmakaya for several years.
Iain: You’re talking about in this lifetime or –
Hameed: In this lifetime, as part of the development of this teaching I was the Dharmakaya, nondual awareness for several years. I was in total stillness of the Brahmin for several years. All those happened. And I thought at those times, “That’s it.” I read the books, I study, I read the teachings, and they all say yeah, that’s it. And I believe that’s it. And I’m happy, comfortable being that and I’ll teach it. And then at some point it changes. And of course my mind gets into, what’s going on? I’m disoriented – what’s going on? I thought that’s it! And then what happens – like one time, for one example, I was teaching a group on non-conceptual pure awareness. And as I was teaching, the whole thing was manifesting. Non-conceptual, pure, transparent awareness is filling the whole room, being the whole room, and manifesting. But as I was saying that, I felt myself receding back. Going back. And going deeper. My consciousness was receding back and I could see everybody, I could see the whole room. I see pure awareness and I realize all pure awareness and all this is happening within me. And then I realize the whole universe is happening within me. And that was something different. I wasn’t just pure awareness, I was the source of pure awareness. This mysterious, undefinable source of pure awareness. This is just an example of how it changes. That was one of the changes and there’s no last change.
Iain: You said your mind was responding somehow – what was that? Was it out of regret or was it basically the excitement of something new, more paramount?
Hameed: Part of it was concern that something went wrong, like maybe there’s something in me I haven’t worked out, that I don’t understand about myself. And yes there were, because what wasn’t worked out was a need to be something. To be something. Even though it was formless and formless pure awareness, I was still being something.
Iain: You were still being something…
Hameed: I was being something. Even though I wasn’t an individual self, I was still something that is real. That is still – you can touch it and feel it and it’s stable. And everybody wants that stability. And I realized there was a need for stability. And then what I learned by things changing, was the stability is not it. To be stable in one place is a limitation of the freedom of true nature.
Iain: But isn’t it basically the mind that is wanting the stability? But that’s not the way –
Hameed: Well, that’s it. Everybody wants stability in their life. Because it’s security, right. But the true nature itself – you see, there are people who reach a place, one place, and they stay at. I’ve met people like that, like the Karmapa I mentioned – he was expansive, pure awareness. Nondual all the time, I think he was like that. He might grow bigger or smaller as he lived, but he was that. I could see that. I’ve met other people who are different things. But in time I learned that for me, it wasn’t arriving at a place. For me enlightenment, in the Diamond Approach, the way we learned it, is not recognizing a particular condition of reality. It is the freedom for reality to keep discovering itself without restraint. What’s the true enlightenment in Diamond Approach, is freedom. Freedom for being to express itself in whatever way it does at any time. It is playing and enjoying and being creative.
Iain: Do you find the human side of you still has to sometimes, in its own way, accept things? Or is acceptance taken for granted now – acceptance always happens inside you?
Hameed: Sometimes, like when I am in physical pain, I don’t like it. It’s difficult. What’s difficult is that discomfort – although I can accept it and I can hold it, and I can be bigger, but it is discomfort. It sometimes takes a while for me to let it be. That happens. Because as an individual, I’m still learning, see. But as being, I’m free.
Iain: I wrote down – it’s funny, it just appeared in front of me – I wrote down one of the things you said when I was researching. “Suffering is a heavenly message.”
Iain: It’s not always easy to see at the time.
Hameed: Yes, suffering – you see, in Buddhism the whole approach is how to be free from suffering. The whole approach is inherent to life is suffering. And the teaching is how to be free from the suffering. And the way to be free from the suffering is to be free from the self. And to just be the empty awareness or true nature. I’m not interested in being free from suffering. I am much freer from suffering than – I don’t have psychological suffering, let’s put it that way. I have physical suffering but not psychological suffering. However, my interest is not freedom from suffering. That’s not what I teach. What I teach is to love the truth and to enjoy the discovery. To enjoy. We are not here just to be free from being here. We are here to fulfill it. To be what’s it for. So reality didn’t manifest all of this so that to get rid of it. It manifested this so that to experience things in a certain way, to manifest someone’s potentiality that hasn’t been expressed yet. And that is exciting and it’s wondrous and that’s what I want to teach people. I want them to catch the wonder and the delight of discovering reality. Suffering will be dealt with. We need to deal with suffering because that’s part of the obstacles to the delight, part of the obstacles to the freedom. Because we’re fixated, we’re imprisoned by the suffering. It’s part of what we need to deal with. But I deal with it and I teach my students to deal with it. We have to. But it is part of the story. The main thing for me is this luminous delight that comes through, that wants, that lives – to say even wants is human approximation. It just does it. The nature of what I am, what you are, is to express itself. To manifest itself as fully as possible and to know itself more. But it cannot know itself except through an individual consciousness like you or me. Human beings are needed by this mysterious ground to express itself, to be itself, to talk with each other.
Iain: We were talking at lunch earlier and I was just thinking that you love Sherlock Holmes. And really you use that whole world of Sherlock Holmes in this; you say that some of the puzzles that he has to solve are quite difficult puzzles. But you, the vehicle that is you, is really alive by trying to solve this constant adventure of consciousness. Not necessarily trying to solve but exploring this constant adventure of consciousness.
Hameed: It is an adventure of consciousness. And that’s what Aurobindo called it, he talked about adventure of consciousness. And I agree with the thing about freedom from suffering because I think there is a lot of suffering in the world. And I see the suffering being manifested as kindness and compassion and wanting to help, to do whatever I can. But I want to help not to be free from suffering – the real help is for them to see the delight of their being. Because their suffering cannot go away without them seeing the delight of their being. See, the disconnection from what we are is the main source of our psychological suffering. And that all teachings know.
Iain: So we only have about two minutes left. Anything you wanted to say in the last two minutes?
Hameed: Not to assume it’s difficult, not to assume it’s impossible, not to assume only special people can do it. But also, the other thing is not to believe it is something to arrive at. But to continue being interested in what is true, what is real, what is authentic. And it has no end. Like right now, for instance, people talk about nondual awareness being everywhere. I feel that, but at the same time I feel I am in your heart. I am in your heart. You know why I am in your heart? Because even though I perceive that you are over there and I am here, in my heart there isn’t that. In my true heart there is only one heart. It’s like being inside your heart. And you are inside my heart. I could be inside the heart of anybody. In a sense, I am feeling their heart. I am the essence of their heart. That’s a different kind of realization. People talk about nondual, boundless. This is not nondual. It is beyond nondual, beyond dual. And that is just an example, another way that the enlightenment realization can happen. So I’m inviting people not to box it in. Each tradition tends to box it in as one thing. And it’s true, each thing is freedom and liberation. But freedom and liberation can be even further freedom and liberation – even freedom and liberation from those freedoms and liberations. So the freedom liberates itself from being anything in particular.
Iain: Okay. That’s a wonderful place to finish, Hameed. Thank you very much.
Hameed: Not being anything in particular (laughter).
Iain: I really enjoyed our meeting. It was very special.
Hameed: It was so sweet. I get to be a being that expresses itself.
Iain: Wonderful, thank you. I’m just going to show some of Hameed’s books again. AH Almaas is his pen name. So we have “Essence.” “Diamond Heart Book Five.”
Hameed: The last of the series.
Iain: Yes. The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Potential through the Practice of Presence. And The Point of Existence.Thanks again, Hameed. It was wonderful meeting you here.
Hameed: Oh, it was fun too, Iain.
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