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  • Writer's pictureRudy Bauer

Our Existential Character: A Phenomenological Dzogchen View

Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D. Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.

The Washington Center for Consciousness Studies and the Washington Center for Phenomenological and Psychotherapy Studies

The interface of Dzogchen and Phenomenology opens up for us the power of Being. The power of Being takes us beyond the power of the Mind alone.

Ontic Ontological Being We Are

We live our life within the unfolding of our character. Our character is simultaneously psychological, somatic and ontological. True understanding of our ontological dimension of Being is not easily understood by our intensely psychologically oriented culture. The word spirituality itself is a metaphor for Being, and reflects our subtle experience of the ontological dimension of our human experience.

Existential Sense of Self

Our existential sense of self is a convergent experience of our sense of our embodiment of self, and our sense of our embodiment of our Being. Our character reflects our experience of our ontic-ontological Being. Our character reflects our psychological ontological Being in the world. Our character reflects our psychological ontological existence. Our sense of our embodied Being is convergent within our sense of our embodied self. Our sense of embodied Being is convergent with our sense of embodied awareness. Our sense of embodied awareness is convergent within our sense of embodied self. Our sense of embodied awareness is convergent with our sense of embodied Being.

Our sense of our own Being and our sense of the Being of others deeply reflects our sense of the Being of our world. Our experience of Being is not simply an ideation event, or an event of ideational belief . Belief is an ideational ascent to an ideational event as Cardinal John Henry Neuman reminds us in his great text “An Essay In The Grammar of Ascent.” Belief is not experience. Belief is not direct knowing. Belief is not direct experiential knowing.

To think about Being, and to reflect about Being does not provide the direct experience of Being. Our reflection on Being is simply our focus on an idea about Being. Having an idea about Being is not the experience of Being. Metaphysics is not ontology. Metaphysics is mentalistic ideas about Being. Ontology is our direct experience of Being. Ontology is the phenomenological articulation of our experience of Being. Being cannot directly be known or experienced by our mind alone. Our sense of self cannot be known or experienced by our mind alone. Our concept of self is not our direct experience of self. We have two modes of knowing. Our knowing of mind knows form. Our knowing of awareness knows Being. We are the one knower with two ways of knowing.

The Knowing of Mind and The Knowing of Awareness

Our knowing through our mind knows through concepts, through memory, through sensation, through reasoning, through imagination and through affect. Our mind knows form and our mind knows difference. Our mind knows dualistically, and our mind knows through the medium of subject and otherness.

Our awareness knows Being directly. We directly know Being through our pre-conceptual open knowingness of awareness. Our awareness is non- conceptual openness. Our awareness is primordial luminous openness and spaciousness directly knowing the luminosity of Being, and the luminous Being of Phenomena.

The luminous openness of our own Being experientially knows and directly experiences the luminous openness of Being, in and of itself. Awareness is our primordial knowing that is open to Being. Heidegger calls this human openness to Being Da Sein. Awareness knows directly, experientially, non- dualistically, non- conceptually and pre-reflectively. Our Awareness is our Being knowing Being as Being. Our awareness is our Being experiencing Being as Being. The Dzogchen Eastern philosophical tradition calls the direct knowing of awareness Gnosis or Jnana.

Our Awareness is our own Being’s open knowingness of Being. Our own Being is actually Being self-manifesting of Being as us. Our Awareness is our own Being’s non-conceptual luminous knowingness of Being. We are the embodied intertwining of both our psychological knowingness of phenomena and our Being’s knowingness of Being. Our Being’s knowing of Being is awareness. Awareness is an innate dimension of our Being.

Our mind knows psychologically and our awareness knows ontologically. There is a continuum of experience between our knowing of mind and our knowing of luminous awareness. Our luminous awareness can infuse and illuminate our mind. Our mind can foreclose our experience of awareness. Our mind can foreclose our experience of our Being.

Our mind can become dissociated from our awareness and detached from our experience of awareness and dissociated from our experience of our Being. This dissociation from our embodiment of Being is a source of suffering in our life. The most primary dissociation within human beings is the dissociation between our mind and our field of awareness. When our mind becomes detached from the field of our awareness, we have become detached from our field of Being. Awareness is a dimension of our Being.

Our awareness is our primordial openness of Being and our awareness is our luminous spacious experiencing of Being. We know Being because we are Being. We are Being knowing Being. Our direct experiencing of Being infuses our sense of character and infuses our sense of self. Our openness to Being profoundly opens our knowing of our character and even the character of others. In the truest sense, our sense of the character of the Being of the other is deeply infused by our direct sense, our direct experience of the Being within the other.

Our Being experiences our own Being, and our Being experiences the Being of others. Our Being experiences the Being of the world . This experience is simultaneously pre-reflective, pre-conceptual and a non- dual experience. Our Awareness which is our Being experiencing of Being is pre-reflective, non-conceptual and non-dualistic. The tantric Dzogchen traditions call this direct knowing gnosis or jnana.

Dudjom Rinpoche the great Dzogchen teacher would so often say “Although hundreds or thousands of explanations are given, There is only one thing to be understood, Know the one thing that liberates everything- Awareness itself, you own true awareness.”

This gnosis or this jnana knowing of Being is both natural and ordinary. Gnosis or Jnana is not omniscience and is not omnipotence. Gnosis is not supernatural. There is only Nature. Nature is Being and Being is Nature. Nature is our awareness. What is often called spiritual is completely natural and is simply ontological. Spiritual is another wording and expression of the experience of our multidimensional Being. Spirituality is a metaphor for Being.

Union of Mind within Awareness

Our two ways of knowing can be experienced simultaneously. Our mind and our awareness can be integrated within each other. We can integrate our mind within our experience of awareness, and we can integrate our mind within our vast field of awareness. We can integrate our mind within our vast field of Being. Our mind can know the form of phenomena and our awareness can know the Being of phenomena.

Our awareness can directly experience the phenomena of Being and the Being of phenomena. The Phenomena of Being and the Being of Phenomena are indivisible. This indivisibleness is the oneness of Being-ness. This indivisibleness is the experience of the non-dual Oneness of the Being of beings. Being is the same Being-ness in the infinity of different beings. As the Dakini said to Dudjom Lingpa “you and I are indivisible”. There is a you and there is an I and we are indivisible. There is duality of beings within the non- duality of Being. And within the Non- Duality of Being is the duality of beings.

All Being is the same Being. Una voce was the wording of the medieval theologian Don Scotus who expressed the oneness and sameness of Being within all beings. Philosophers and Theologians like Meister Eckhart, St.Augustine, Spinoza, Deleuze, Bergson, Heidegger, Merleau Ponty have each expressed this sameness and the oneness of the Equality of Being .

In the Dzogchen tradition Rongzompa, Longchenpa, Mipam, Dudjom Lingpa, Dudjom Rinpoche, Lama Tharchen, Kungsang Dechen Lingpa, Rigdzen Dorge, Lama Norhla, Namkai Norbu, Lama Wangdor have the expressed the sameness of Being as the Oneness and the Equality of Being.

In Kashmir Shavism Abinavagupta and Swami Muktananda have expressed the indivisibleness of the sameness and oneness of Being within the infinity of all beings. For Muktananda, self- liberation was the experience of Equality Consciousness and Equal Vision within Being.

Duality of beings within Non Duality of Being

When our mind is integrated within our field of awareness which is the field of Being, we can experience the duality of phenomena within the non- duality of Being. This statement means we can experience the difference within phenomena, within the oneness of Being. And simultaneously, we can experience the non-duality of Being within the duality of phenomena. This statement means we can experience the oneness of Being within the differences of beings. We can experience profound difference and profound oneness simultaneously. This unfolding experience of non -duality of Being is the unfolding and manifesting experiential source of self-liberation.

Character Style

Character style and character development is intimately related to our sense of Beingness and our sense of Being-less-ness. Some character styles reflect a disembodied lack of Being or disembodied emptiness of Being. This lack of Being or this void of Being is an unending experience of Being-less suffering.

There are Character styles that reflect the fullness of Being, the fullness of Presence. Presence is the sense of the radiant manifestation of Being. Being is unbound spaciousness and Being is luminous radiance. The felt sense of radiance is Presence. Presence is the experience of the Presence of Being. Our experience of Presence is our experience of the radiance of Being. The radiance of Being is also the vitalness of Being. This Vitalness means Being is continuously alive and is the source of aliveness. Being is cosmologically alive. Being is manifestation and the energy of manifestation. Being is the radiance of manifestation.

Character Style is Not Simply a Psychological Event

Many if not most people think our character style is simply a psychological event. Most people think all events and all experience are psychological. Many people if not most, think that their self is their mind. They think their psychology of their mind is their self. They think that their character is simply a psychological phenomenon. This is a limiting and limited understanding about the Nature of Psyche. This is a limited understanding about the nature of our mind being the nature of self. The nature of our self is the nature of our Being. The nature of our Being is the nature of our self.

Our Character is not simply a psychological event. Character reflects psyche. Psyche is the union of mind within the field awareness. Awareness is the field of Being knowing of Being. Psyche is the union of mind knowing form and awareness knowing Being. Psyche implies the intertwining of our mind knowing phenomena and our awareness knowing Being. Psyche is the intertwining of our mind knowing of phenomena, and our awareness knowing the Being of phenomena. Psyche is the intertwining of our knowing of mind and our knowing of the field of Being. This union of mind and awareness within psyche is the true Mysterious Conjunctio.

The Experience of Psyche and Being-less Form

Some people live within the experience of psyche. They live within the experience of Being and within the presence of Being both within themselves, within others, and within the world. There are many others who live in mind alone and only experience form. They only experience through their mind and the functions of their mind alone.

They experience the Being-less phenomena of form. They live within a world of Being-less forms and being-less persons. They continuously experience the absence of Being within themselves and within the world. Their experience is absent of Presence. Their experience is the absence of self. The life of Being-less-ness is a life of suffering. The bliss of Being is foreclosed when our mind forecloses the experience of Being. The natural experience of Being is Bliss. The great tantric traditions declare Bliss overcomes Suffering. The tantric traditions are traditions that honor the embodiment of Pure Being.

Awareness Metabolizes Suffering

Awareness metabolizes suffering. Awareness metabolizes the phenomena of suffering. The Being of awareness metabolizes the phenomena of suffering and the openness of luminous spaciousness infuses the phenomena of suffering.

To only know through mind alone is to experience the phenomena of form absent of Being-full-ness. To experience Being-less form in a Being-less world is to live within the painful continuous experience of the absence of Presence. Without the Presence of the Being of phenomena, our world is experienced as Being-less-ness and emptiness and void-ness. Some unhappy spiritual traditions support this unhappy viewpoint as the only reality. They also think all life is suffering. And the singular goal of these dissociative traditions is cessation.

The Being-less Person

When human beings live within the absence of ontological presence , human beings experience each other within a Being-less and solipsistic primitive view of need gratification. Without the pervasive experience of field of Presence there is only the vacuous psychological experience, empty of compassion. This Being-less vacuous experience destroys humanness and human being-ness. This Being-less vacuous experience maintains and sustains a primitive perception of a Being-less person who is empty of self or empty of personhood. In this Being-less state the person cannot experience the Being of the other, or the human self of the other. The other has become a thing to be used and dominated and destroyed. There is no otherness in the other. There is no who-ness in the other, there is no oneness there. There is no innermost awareness. Innermost awareness is the presence of Pure Being within us.

The absence of the Presence of Being creates a darkness of absence that permeates character style where life is nothing and domination destroys compassion. The absence of presence of Being deconstructs our humanness not only of our own self but the embodied Being of the other. There is no sense whatsoever of the Being of the other, the knowingness of the other, the who-ness of the other, the light of the other. In truth there is no otherness. There is only thingness. This is not a function or a failure of of mental value. This is a failure of the human function of foundational perception of Being or Being-less-ness. Without the perception of Being, without the experience of innermost Being, darkness and the terror of Being-less-ness manifests and becomes pervasive.

Our contemporary corporate and contemporary patriarchal states contextually enhances the intrinsic and profound lack of embodied self and embodied Beingness. Our human character, rather than being the self- experience of embodied presence, becomes the disembodied void-ness of Being-less-ness. Our self- experience becomes absolute absence in the context of domination and servitude and terror.

Mind As Symptom

When we approach our human experience as being only the experience of psychological mind, the mind quickly becomes a series of symptoms, a symptomatic presentation arises. Contemporary cognitive psychology views our person as a psychological mind alone. We are only cognitions. We are cognitions of calculation. Our self is our mind and our mind is our self. Within this Being-less mind within this Being-less self, our sense of person become a simplistic collection of symptoms. Our character now becomes a Being-less symptom, our very character becomes a symptom of Being-less-ness!

Becoming Our Being, Embodying Being

When our character is not locked into the psychological dimension of Being-less phenomena, but rather directly involves our direct experience of Being, we are free to experience our Being by Becoming our Being. We become Being by embodying Being. Our Being is Being itself. Being is infinite in its horizons, vast and multidimensional. By becoming aware of our awareness, and experiencing our awareness as the openness of our Being to the openness of Being itself, is a wonderful and liberating movement. This movement is infinite in its horizons, vast and multidimensional.

Unbound Opening of Our Being to Being Itself

We can open our Being to the openness of Being itself. We can open our Being to the openness of Being in and of itself. We can open into the multidimensional realm of Being by bringing forth the openness of our own Being. We can open the light of Being ,and we can open the vast spaciousness of Being. We can open to the experience of the indestructible vitality of Being and the luminous liquidity of Being. We become what we are! In becoming Being we experience the infinite multidimensional horizons of Being, and we experience the intrinsic potential space of Being. We experience the light of Being. We can experience the ground of Being.

This discovery of multidimensional Being within us is not supernatural and Is not even spiritual. If by spiritual you mean supernatural, then Being is not spiritual. The nature of Being is completely natural. And the nature of Being is within all Beings. All Being is the same luminous Beingness. All beings are the same luminous Beingness. There is no hierarchy of Being as St. Thomas Aquinas once thought and imagined. Even Thomas could not leave and go beyond the patriarchal archetypal framing of our experience of Being as Analogy and consequently intrinsically hierarchal.

Equality Consciousness As Self Liberation

The Patriarchal Mythology of the old testament dominated and contained the hierarchal dimensions of Thomistic ontology, The Patriarchal Father God! The Eternal Judge! The last Judgement! Eternal Heaven or Eternal Hell! The desert religions of the Old Testament were anthropomorphic. The focus in all three desert traditions was the Divinity as Father in a dominating asymmetrical existence. Early Thomistic understanding of the analogy of Being by passes the equality of Being and the purity of Being of all beings. The experience of the equality of Being and the Purity of Being within all beings whatever their character brings forth the essential foundational basis of egalitarianism and the divinity of all beings and the divinity of all appearance. Equality Consciousness brings forth the power of pantheism, that is” all is divine.”

One day Thomas was on a journey to visit a monastery to teach and he suddenly he began to experience this beatific vision of the Divine Mother and he fell off of his horse and immediately began to experience the luminous Equality of Being of all beings. Some say he fell into a luminous pantheism and experienced all Being as God including his own Being as God.

He experienced directly that all beings were the self- manifestation of Divinity. He fell into the profound experience of Being, Being including his own being Being as Divinity. Maria Von Frantz has a magnificent paper on St. Thomas’s self- liberation from hierarchal Being. After this profound experience Thomas gave up writing and he thought that his writing was just straw, as compared to his magnificent vision of the Pure Oneness of Being of all beings. He experienced Equality Consciousness, and in this experience of Equal Vision he was self- liberated.

Self- liberation is not simply the unending purifying of mind and offering sacrifice to the divine father God. St. Augustine described in the 6th century CE that self- liberation is experiencing the great deep within our own Being, and of course our own Being is Being itself. Our own Being in knowing our own Being, actually knows and experiences Being itself. Our very character which is the embodiment of mind and Being and can experience Being and the Beingness of Being. We can experience the Being of phenomena, and we can experience the phenomena of Being.

Without our experiencing the field of Being and experiencing the self- manifestation of the field of Being as our own Being, we may stay located in our mind alone experience. We may stay located in a solipsistic psychology, a historically bound psychology of mind alone. This is a Being-less and hopeless experience. This is the dissociative experience of mind becoming detached from the awareness of the field of Being.

Some may think that our mind is our self. Within our experience of our awareness, we know our mind is not our self. Within our experience of our awareness we do not think that Being is an metaphysical idea. We actually directly experience within our field of innate awareness the field of Being in its unmanifest and in its manifestation. We do live within potential space and we live within the complete indeterminacy of pure Being.

The Field of Being Becomes The Drama of Self Liberation

In the unfolding of our character there is the decisive moment when we are no longer located within the psychology of mind but we are radically opening to the field of Being of our own embodiment. We are opening to the light of Being and we able to manifest the light of Being in and to the Being of beings who we know and love. As Bodhidharma said in the 6th century ce “Beyond words and letters there is a transmission. This transmission does not belong to any tradition, this transmission is the very nature of human awareness.” This is self- liberation through transmission and self-manifestation. Knowledge is the manifestation of our knowing action of Being-full-ness,

As our mind has become integrated into the field of Being as Awareness. Our unfolding begins to become focused within the field of embodied Being. The unmanifest becomes more manifest. The luminous light of Being becomes more manifest within our very embodiment and the Amrita of the liquidity of Being becomes manifest and is both an intrinsic protection of our Being, but also brings forth the actuality of the archetypal dimension of our Being. Being also brings forth the unborn and undying quality of our Pure Being of our Pure Awareness just as we are. The Kechari Mudra becomes focal in our experience of natural self- liberation. The Kechari Mudra does not belong to any tradition but is the natural experience of the embodiment of light of primordial Being of awareness.

Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D. Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.

The Washington Center for Consciousness studies and the Washington Center for Phenomenological and Existential Psychotherapy


Bauer, R. The Absence of Self: An Existential Phenomenological View of the Anatman Experience. The Journal of Philosophical Investigations, Vol.13/Issue 28/Fall 2019.

Bauer, R. Transitional Space: An Opening of the Experiential Realm Beyond the Mind: A Phenomenology. Transmission: The Journal of The Awareness Field, Vol. 8, published April 11, 2017.

Bauer, R. Experiencing The Archetypal Realm: A Phenomenology of Self Liberation. Transmission: The Journal of The Awareness Field, Vol. 8, published April 11,2017

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Daws, Loray. Editor. On the Origin of the Self, The Collected Papers of Henry Elkin, Epis Press 2016.

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