How the Diamond Approach uses inquiry to access spiritual states.
This article and the videos included address two questions we are often asked:
- What is the Diamond Approach?
- What is Diamond Inquiry®?
The main body of text is a talk that A. H. Almaas gave to students of the Diamond Approach in 1983. It is an example of inquiry which addresses a fundamental existential question of human beings – Why am I here? It answers the question – What is inquiry? – through your personal experience, should you take the time to sincerely engage it and not simply read it.
Inquiry is something that arises in the midst of your experience—as part of your experience, not separate from it. In other words, there is not a person here inquiring into something over there. The inquirer has to be within the field of inquiry itself. This is different from inquiry in natural science, where the object of inquiry is outside you and all that is needed is to not interfere with it. In fact, as it has been stated in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, even in physical science we cannot separate ourselves totally from the object of our inquiry. In our work, however, since you are inquiring into your consciousness, to make that separation will effectively stop the inquiry. When you are inquiring into yourself, the soul is a field of inquiry that is alive and active, where the inquirer, the inquiry, and the object of inquiry are the same field. – A. H. Almaas, Spacecruiser Inquiry, ch. 8
Diamond Inquiry® is a practice for contemporary life. We do not live in monasteries. We live rich and full existences with spiritual lives, family lives, love lives, bodily health, sex lives, work lives, financial lives, political lives, community lives, interests, and so on. With inquiry, you can approach and explore experience related to any aspect of life, inner or outer, to find out its deeper truth, to see how it connects with your inner depths. As you do this, you clarify and transform where you are coming from within yourself in meeting that area of life. In this way, inquiry can touch and transform every part of life with a unique, personal directness and immediacy. It brings more truth, exposes the barriers to your inner depths in each situation, and in time allows more realness and freedom, helping you find exactly what you need. And it all happens right in the midst of life, not by leaving life. This makes it uniquely relevant and effective for people today, whether they would think of themselves as spiritual in any traditional sense of the word or not. – Dominic Liber, Diving in the Inner Ocean*
Introduction to the Diamond Approach
WHY AM I HERE?
Hameed Ali – 1983
So I have a few questions. And we want to see how real, how honest we can be with ourselves, in trying to answer them.
First question: Why are you here?
Second question: Where are you going?
The two questions are interlinked, as you see. You probably think you are here because you want to go someplace.
- Where do you want to go?
- Do you know where you want to go?
- Do you think you know?
- Do you think I know?
- And, if I know, can I tell you?
- And if I tell you, will you follow?
- Can you follow?
These are questions that you cannot answer with your mind. These are questions that should remain questions.
You do not try to answer them with your mind. These questions are like a flame. If you answer them with your mind, you put out the flame. Because your mind doesn’t know. You don’t really know. When you answer them with your mind, and you think you know, the question is gone. All the questions you believe are answered, the flame is put out and there is no more inquiry.
How is that different from the rest of humanity, who believe they know why they are here, who believe they know where they are going? And the result is an insignificant, shallow, insensitive and petty life. The result is living a life according to formulas, according to what others have said.
How do you know that what you think in your mind about what life should be is the real thing?
How do you know, just because somebody said the way should be such and such, it is going to be like that for you? You don’t really know until it is actually like that. It is better to remain ignorant than to pretend knowledge because, if you know you are ignorant, and don’t pretend otherwise, then there is a flame, then there is a question mark, there is an inquiry, there is a deep hunger.
If you look at every moment of your life, besides this moment, you will see that most of the time you believe you know what the best thing is for you in that moment.
You think, feel and behave as if you know what needs to happen, as if you know what you want or what is important to want. You live your life every moment believing that you know what’s supposed to happen, you believe you know how you should be.
Where does that knowledge come from?
Most of the time that knowledge comes from your early childhood, from what happened. Some of it comes from hearing things, reading things. Some of it comes from some experience of the past. The conditioned part is completely useless in terms of knowing why we are here, because that conditioned part is just a mechanism for survival. You have survived, you’re here. That part has done its job.
But that part is not going to answer the questions.
It’s not going to lead you there. It will help you to survive, that’s it. If you are to survive, with that part you could. But what difference then is there between you and any animal, any insect, that is born, does its best to survive, then dies?
So the conditioned knowledge, that what I am here for is to be happy, what I am here for is to be successful, what I am here for is to feel good, what I am here for is to get what I think I want, satisfy all these dreams, get somebody to love me, make a lot of money, this is the conditioned knowledge, but not an answer to real fundamental questions.
And the knowledge you got from others, teachers, school, reading, listening, hearing, even if it has been said by the great philosophers and the great teachers: How do you know that’s the truth?
Christ says, “Love your neighbor.” Do you really know that’s what should happen? Buddha says you should be enlightened. How do you know that’s what you need? What makes you think that will be the resolution of your situation?
Some people say you have to learn to be yourself. Sounds good. Do you really know that’s what’s supposed to happen?
Some people say you should be free from your personality and develop your Essence. Sounds great! How do you know it will resolve your situation? You don’t really know.
You don’t really know that any of those suggestions are real or true. You don’t know. You don’t know until you know yourself, personally, experientially. Before that, it is belief, faith.
And if you take it to be the truth, that will just put out the flame. You believe you have answered questions, and you haven’t answered them. Somebody else has answered them, for themselves. They haven’t answered them for you.
We comfort ourselves by believing that others know how we can use their knowledge.
It’s a very comforting thought. It helps us to be lazy, too. “Somebody knows and in time, I’ll get around to studying it. It’s already been known.” We comfort ourselves that way. But do you yourself know?
Do you, yourself, in your heart, really know what’s supposed to happen?
Do you ever allow yourself to question, that way? To allow yourself to have the questioning, not to put it away, to put it out fast, to bring out the security and the comfort.
Most of what you do is according to certain ideas, ideas that come from other people.
Somebody says, “It’s good to pay attention, to be aware.” And when you do, it seems to help a little. You don’t really know if it’s going to resolve your situation completely. You could try it for size. But you don’t really know it’s the answer. And if you believe you know, you’re just lying to yourself.
These are uncomfortable questions.
These are questions, that if they are not asked, and allowed to be questioned, you will never know what’s it all about. You will never know why you are here, who the hell you are or where the hell you’re going.
Your mind is full of ideas and dreams and plans, of what will fulfill you, to make you happy, what will give you freedom. But these ideas just put out the inquiry, silence the question, comfort your mind because you don’t know it really, your knowledge is not certain.
Maybe Buddha was right, maybe it was right for him. How do you know it’s right for you? How do you know you understand what he said? What makes you think you know what it means when Christ says, “Love thy neighbor”? Maybe he was just in love with the girl next door.
Buddha said, “Enlightenment is to realize you have no self.” How do you know he wasn’t schizophrenic? That’s actually the accepted understanding of what schizophrenia is, somebody who doesn’t have a self. Read the psychiatric books. So how do you know?
Just be aware of all the feverish attempts in your mind to convince yourself that you know. It’s not only that you don’t know the answers, you don’t really know if those questions have answers.
- Can you allow the question to be, if you don’t know that there is going to be an answer?
- Can you be that genuine with yourself?
- Can you be that sincere with yourself?
You believe you are here because you understand that you can get something here, you can experience something here, you could have some freedom here. But do you really know that?
Are you certain that’s what will do it? Can you ever be certain that what anybody says will do it for you? Can you ever be certain, if you, yourself, don’t answer the question for yourself? Do you think you need to love yourself, love others? You need to be selfless?
Sounds good. That’s what the great master said. For you, it is hearsay, a rumor, possibility, worth inquiring into. It’s not knowledge yet. Is it possible for us to let our ideas, our thoughts, our knowledge; to leave it behind and let the inquiry be, let the question stand?
Can we for a moment forget all of our formulas, all of what we have heard, everything that our parents said or didn’t say, our teachers, what we’ve read, what our friend said, what the great masters and philosopher said? Can you forget all that for a while and remain with the question:
“Why are we here?
Where are we going?
What the hell is it all about?”
Can you allow this deep inquiry to stay in you? Can you let yourself have that questioning intensely? Can you let that flame burn in you, without needing to put it out with an answer?
Can we let that inquiry just deepen inside us, in our hearts, in our bellies and our being? Can we let our being be a question mark? An inquiry? A yearning? A motiveless search?
A search that is not dependent on any idea of what you’re looking for. It’s not directed anywhere, but it’s a flame that is still burning. To let it burn, to let it be, not to cover it up, not to put it out, but to let it deeper, to let it deepen, to let it go, to let it consume you, to let it burn away all your ideas and beliefs of how things should be. , to let it burn away all our concepts of what is good, what is bad.
Can you let that inquiry deepen and expand? So that you can forget, let go of all that you’ve learned, for a while at least.
Can you exist as an inquiry, an inquiry about the truth, an inquiry about what is, an inquiry about what the hell is happening here?
Am I just here to live, work, eat, love and hate, have children and die? Can you let go of all that you believe you have? Can your mind empty itself of all your positions, all your beliefs, all of your theories, all of your knowledge, all of the past understanding? Can you just remain as an inquiring flame? A search that is not influenced by anything, by anybody. An inquiry that is not influenced by others, not influenced by the past, not influenced by whatever you have experienced in the past.
How do you know that what you experienced in the past, even if it was good, is supposed to be what happens now? Even if you felt love and freedom and relaxation in the past, what makes you think it is your resolution in this moment? You don’t really know. All the insights you had in the past maybe were true, were right. How do you know they are what you need now and for the future? You don’t know.
So, can you empty your mind of your past experience? Can you empty your mind of your prejudice, of your past experience, of the knowledge that resulted from your past experience?
Can you stay completely ignorant, unknowing, for a minute?
Can you leave yourself completely alone, not impose anything in your mind, but not to go dead, not to go unconscious, but to feel the question? To be the inquiry. Can we rid ourselves of all influences, everybody else’s influences, including us in the past, and remain just now with the question, to remain as an inquiry, a consuming inquiry.
I think you notice that every time somebody says something nice, every time you have an insight, “Oh, wonderful, that must be it,” you want to put out the flame. You’re always trying to put out the flame. You want to get the first answer that comes, the first insight, the first experience, “Ah, I found it. That’s it.” And you feel that urge to always put out the flame, always to silence that question.
What’s wrong with just having it as a question? Why are we in such haste to have it answered? Why do you always jump at the first thing that comes? The first promise of salvation that comes, we jump on it. Why not remain in inquiry?
What makes you think salvation is the answer?
What makes you think freedom is the answer?
What makes you think enlightenment is the answer?
What makes you think love is the answer?
You might feel you want these things. How do you know these are the things that are supposed to happened? How do you know you are supposed to be dead or alive? Who said to stay alive is best for you? Can you allow that question without having to answer it? Can you eliminate all these beliefs, all these ideas, all these fears? Can you leave your mind free?
Now’s not the time to give yourself an answer, but to remain a question, a question that you need to allow to stay there and burn in you. You need to let your being be a blaze, like a flame, an aspiring flame. Aspiring, but doesn’t know aspiring to what.
You’re just burning intensely, deeply, wanting to know, wanting to see the truth, without having to follow any preconception, anybody’s ideas, any past tense, but to stay now with the question itself, to let it burn. Let it burn away all the ideas, all the beliefs, all the conceptions, all the concepts.
Will you ever rest in your life, if you don’t allow that flame completely?
Will you ever rest in your life as long as you’re covering up that question, answering it before it is answered? Will you ever really be contented?
As you see, it is a completely personal quest.
Your situation, your life, your mind is yours, is you, nobody can answer it for you, nobody can give it to you. Whatever answer comes from outside, it is still an answer that belongs to the outside. You can try it for size, but you have to make your own inquiry.
You can use anything there is that exists, any suggestion, any guidance, but you need to have that inquiry go on. Don’t just silence it because you hear something.
Without the true genuine and sincere questioning, without this motiveless search, without this burning flame of inquiry, the work cannot be done, because if it is done without it, it is done according to an idea, a concept, a belief.
The work could be done according to your own inquiry. The work that exists here is a guidance, but the motivation in you has to be pure, real, true. Your flame has to be there. Otherwise you use everything in the work for the wrong motivation.
Maybe you want to be more comfortable, more relaxed, richer, or more beautiful? Maybe, maybe not. These are just ideas. But the true questioning, the true inquiry doesn’t have an end result in its mind.
The moment you think you have an end, you think, “I’m going to go there,” you’ve already put out the flame. You already told yourself, “I know where I’m going.”
If you think you’re here because you want to be enlightened or you want to be free or you want to be loving or this or that, that means you already know. But you don’t know really. It’s a lie, if you believe you know.
It is true there’s a question. It’s true you don’t know. And that is the truth. Really, the most honest answer you could give to the question, “Why am I here?” – it is not the ultimate answer, not the answer you are looking for – but the truest answer you can have here is that –
“I am here because I don’t know.”
The truest reason why you can be here is because of that inner flame, that inquiry. If it is for any other reason, than you’re lying to yourself. You’re starting on the wrong foot.
These questions, this inquiry, is not theoretical, is not philosophical.
It is at the root, and the heart of all of your life, relevant for every moment of your life, whatever you are doing, wherever you are, these questions are relevant.
So really, if you don’t know, if you’re not being the truth and at the same time you’re pretending that you know, you are not having inquiry, then you are wasting that moment. It’s a complete waste, regardless of what you do, a complete absolute waste.
What I am saying here is not directed toward you blaming yourself for believing that you know. It’s not a matter of trying to be good. No, we want to see the truth. You want to see all the ways that you snuff out the flame and all the ways you use to silence the question; how you put out the inquiry.
You have a session, you work with somebody, and you have a wonderful experience. It’s good, right? Wonderful. How do you know that wonderful experience is what you need right now? How do you know that the knowledge and understanding that you got from that experience is what is needed at this moment? How do you know, even in that moment, that it was going to resolve your situation?
The flame must continue, you see. The fire of inquiry needs to be fed. It needs to grow, to intensify, to deepen, get bigger. That attempt is not trying to reduce it, but that attempt should be to let it go. The final inquiry needs to go and go and go, until it answers itself, by itself becoming the fulfillment.
That fire needs to burn through all the dross, all the resistance, all the ideas, all the accumulation of the past, so you could actually see what is really happening, what is really there. So that you see what it is really, what’s the whole thing all about, without needing to depend on anything that happened in the past or anything that anybody has ever said, but by you, you yourself, at that very moment, at that very second, without any influence from anywhere, knowing.
To know completely, in aloneness, because it’s obvious that without that, you still don’t know, there isn’t a certainty. Only with that can life become significant, can the pettiness go away.
You put out the flame, you silence the inquiry the moment you try to direct it in any direction because to direct in any direction means you know where you are going. It means you know what’s supposed to happen. And if you really know where you are going, what’s supposed to happen, you see, you will be a one hundred percent fulfilled human being.
Yes, there’s guidance here, there’s help here. But the guidance and the help is not to give you formula answers. The guidance is to help you inquire, ultimately is to help you inquire, to help you stay alone with that inquiry. How to let your mind be alone by itself. How to let your being just be. How to be in authenticity, not an imitation, not a reaction.
Yes, to be open, to listen to what anybody says, but whatever anybody says is really only a possibility of an answer. You still need to inquire by yourself. within the intimacy of your own heart.
“Is this answer my answer?”
You don’t need to reject what you hear. You do need to be completely open to it. But also you must not take those things, those answers, those sayings, to comfort yourself. You need to take them to add fuel to your inquiry.
Can we let ourselves be one hundred percent intimate with ourselves?
Completely uninfluenced in our minds, completely unbiased by the past, and let that inquiry, that flame burn in that intimacy?
That utter aloneness within.
For those wanting to deepen their inquiry into the profound questions of human life, we suggest:
Are you here?
Who am I?
- From Diving in the Inner Ocean: An Introduction to Personal Transformation through Diamond Inquiry by Dominic C. Liber © 2021 by Dominic Liber. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.shambhala.com
Information on the full lecture series is available here. Coming Soon! An edited video recording of this lecture will soon be available.We will also post a Downloadable Handout featuring the quotes referred to in the lecture. This is not a teaching on Advaita Vedanta. It
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