Presence

The state of presence is very simple; it is a state of being aware of oneself. It is not difficult to begin to be aware of oneself, but it is difficult to prolong it. If one can sustain and deepen this state, the God within, one`s Higher Self, awakens and is present. The Japanese (Shinto) expression nakaima o ikiru is synonym to the idea of being present. Nakaima means in the now and ikiru means to live. Rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future, or being engrossed in one`s activities at hand, one focuses on self- awareness and awareness of the present moment.

An advertisement in a magazine
Make the Divine Presence your destination. -- Al-Ghazali (11th c. Persian Sufi mystic)
No one can reach the Divine Presence except by continuing to practice of remembrance. -- Qushayri (11th c. Persian Sufi master)
If you ask what the Word of the Presence is, we will reply, the word “Be.” -- Ibn Arabi (13th c. Andalusian Sufi mystic/ philosopher)
To be or not to be, that`s the question. -- Shakespeare


Being present is the center of all esoteric traditions and is spoken of in many different ways. Because it is a wordless state and words inevitably fall short to adequately describe it, each explanation about presence shows only one aspect of it. Different symbols of presence are different ways to look at the state of presence. They are all true at the same time and together give a better picture of what presence is. Ultimately however, presence can only be really understood when one experiences it. Rumi calls it one thing.

There is one thing in this world which must never be forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, but did not forget that, then there would be no cause to worry. Whereas if you performed and remembered and did not forget every single thing, but forgot that one thing, then you would have done nothing whatsoever. -- Rumi (13th c. Sufi mystic and poet)

The state of presence is also referred to as truth. The painting below depicts Pilate asking Christ, What is truth? Christ remains silent because the highest truth, the state of presence, is a wordless state.

Christ Before Pilate (1308-11),
(by Duccio, The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena)
The highest truth cannot be put into words. -- Lao Tzu (6th c. BCE Taoist philosopher)
The only truth is God. -- Guru Nanak (1st Sikh guru, 16th c.)
One who mounts the truth of Heaven and Earth rides the changes of the six breaths, and then roams amongst the boundless. -- Zhuangzi (4th c. BCE Taoist philosopher)
I will teach thee the truth of pure work, and this truth shall make thee free. -- Bhagavad Gita (Hindu text)

The state of presence is also referred to as liberation, because the state of psychological sleep, that man spends his days in, is likened unto being in prison.

An angel leading St. Peter out of prison.
The liberation of St. Peter (by Salvatore Rosa)

The way toward liberation is to train yourselves to live in the present without wanting to become anything. Give up becoming this or that, live without cravings, and experience this present moment with full attention.
-- Buddha

You do not realize your own situation. You are in prison.
-- Gurdjieff (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)
There are six ways that lead to Liberation. -- Milarepa (11th c. Tibetan yogi)
The eternal lamp represents perfect awareness. Likening the illumination of awareness to that of a lamp, those who seek liberation see their body as the lamp, their mind as its wick, the addition of discipline as its oil, and the power of wisdom as its flame. -- Bodhidharma (1st Partriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism. 6th c.)

The state of presence is also called enlightenment.

Six large and four small Jizo Bodhisattvas
(Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo)
Wisdom has a fourfold manifestation and a sixfold manifestation . . . But the Wisdom Beyond Discrimination has a singular expression, which is constantly manifesting before our very eyes here and now: It is total and absolute enlightenment.
-- Dogen (13th c. Japanese Zen master) 
In order for a bodhisattva quickly to achieve real and perfect enlightenment, the six transcendent qualities (the six paramitas) must be applied constantly and in all circumstances. -- Gampopa (12th c. founder of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism)

Every step towards enlightenment is enlightenment itself. -- Buddha
To attain Enlightenment is the highest happiness. -- Buddha

The state of presence is also referred to as happiness. What is normally considered to be happiness, is dependent upon some external stimulus. It`s always only temporal and when it has passed, the lack of it, often makes one unhappy. Happiness that comes as the result from the state of presence only depends on oneself. One is happy because one experiences the miracle of being present. It is the only true happiness, and can eventually be made permanent.

The laughing Buddha
Sleep is an inactivity of the soul. Happiness is a virtuous activity of the soul. -- Attar (12th c. Sufi poet)
Happiness in unhappiness – such is perfection. --  Attar (12th c. Sufi poet)  
The fruit of the first visitation is true conversion to God. The fruit of the second, mortification of self-will and all the passions. The fruit of the third is perfect happiness.
-- Aelred of Rievaulx (12th c. Christian saint) 
The season of happiness has come when each one places six petals at the foot of the cup. -- Hafiz (14th c. Persian Sufi poet)

The state of presence is also called yoga.

A mummy with six gates & four slain enemies (wall painting
from the Tomb of Ramses V and VI, Valley of the Kings, Egypt)
Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of the mind.
-- Patanjali (2nd c. BC Indian yogi
Led by these six guides, one will reach the happy plane of Yoga — abiding in the realm of non-differentiation in which all views are no more.
-- Milarepa (11th c. Tibetan yogi)
Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation. -- Bhagavad Gita (Hindu text)
Like a corpse lying quietly in the cemetery, doing nothing and having no worries, happy is the Yoga of Non-action. -- Milarepa

The state of presence is also called peace, which comes after one has struggled to establish it. After the body of spiritual effort dies, one rests in peace.

Manjoun observing a battle in his mind,
(Persian miniature)


If only you will remain resting in consciousness, seeing yourself as distinct from the body, then even now you will become happy, peaceful and free from bonds. -- Astavakra Gita, Hindu Texts
Awake happily in peace. -- Egyptian Texts, Book of Opening the Mouth
I know myself now, and I feel within me a peace above all earthly dignities. -- Shakespeare, Henry VIII
Peace may be reached by the even sending forth and control of the life-breath. -- Patanjali (2nd c. BCE Indian yogi


The state of presence is also referred to as the breath of the Holy Spirit or the breath of life. This doesn`t refer to the breath which nurtures the physical body, but that which gives life to the state of presence and is symbolized by breath.

God and Christ, controlling the breath of life (the Louvre, Paris)
The breath of life is the consciousness of life.
-- Upanishads (Hindu text)
One who mounts the truth of Heaven and Earth rides the changes of the six breaths, and then roams amongst the boundless. -- Zhuangzi (4th c. BCE Taoist philosopher)
This immortal fourfold breath, is hidden in the original cavity of the spirit, behind the spot between the eyes. -- Chao Pi Chen (20th c. Taoist Master)
When the ascetic has finally acquired all the virtues, then grace illumines his whole being with a deeper awareness. From now on the arrows of the fiery demon are extinguished before they reach the body; for the breath of the Holy Spirit extinguishes them while they are still in mid-air. -- Diadochos of Photiki, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)

The state of presence is also called grace.

The Dance of Death (The Munster of Bern, Switzerland, 15th C.)


Allah’s grace is treasured in the single word, ‘Be’.
-- Arabian Nights
It is possible for grace to be ceaselessly active, and yet for the evil that defiles the mind to coexist with it. -- Symeon Metaphrastis, Philokalia
The presence of grace does not depend on man's will. Grace comes and goes according to the will of God. -- Elder Sophrony, Philokalia

In the image above, the lower is trying to kill the state of presence, but the monk symbolizing the heart, doesn`t pay any attention to it and stays focused on presence. He has six fingers on one hand and four on the other, symbolizing tools to be present.

The energy of grace is the power of spiritual fire that fills the heart with joy and gladness, stabilizes, warms and purifies the soul, temporarily stills our provocative thoughts, and for a time suspends the body's impulsions.
-- Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia

The state of presence is also called light.

The Ascent of the Blessed (1500, Hieronymus Bosch,
The Palazzo Ducale, Venice)


Grace begins to operate in people during prayer in different ways. Finally God produces a gentle and serene flow of light. -- Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia

From Presence, the bestower of light, most generous and prophetic, the guiding commandment is created. -- Sultan Bahu (17th c. Sufi mystic)

Lead me from the unreal to the real Lead me from darkness to light! Lead me from death to immortality! -- Upanishads (Hindu text)

And after six days Jesus …..was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. -- The Bible, Matthew 17:1-2



In the above image six figures (four below and two inside the tunnel) are being raised up towards the light.

The state of presence is also called the Dharmakaya or the body of Dharma. The sanskrit word Dharma can be translated as law or truth. The word is derived from the root dham, meaning to uphold or to support, which refers to upholding the state of presence. Dharma is also used to refer to the teachings of the Buddha, not in the context of the words of one man, but as a reflection of natural laws that were re-discovered by him and shared with the world.

Mahavairocana showing the mudra of the six elements
(1176, by Unkei, Enjō-ji temple, Nara, Japan)
What is the Pure Dharmakaya? Within the Essence of Mind all things like the azure of the sky and the radiance of the sun and the moon which, when obscured by passing clouds, may appear as if their brightness has been dimmed; but as soon as the clouds are blown way, brightness reappears and all objects are fully illuminated. This is what is called the Pure Dharmakaya of Buddha.
-- Huineng (6th Partriarch of Zen Buddhism, 7th c.)
The sound of dharma, the six syllables. -- Tibetan Book of the Dead
The six elements produce the four kinds of Dharmakaya.
--Kukai (9th c. Founder of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism)
The first six stages may be considered as preparatory. The decisive stage (the seventh stage) is the stage where the bodhisattva attains complete freedom from all sense of clinging. It is the stage where he obtains the Dharmakaya. -- Nagarjuna (2nd c. Indian Buddhist philosopher)

According to Kukai, Mahavairocana Buddha (Great Sun Buddha) represents the Dharmakaya.

In the state of presence one knows God, realizes God or becomes God.

God saith, “O Man! Only follow thou my laws, and thou shall become like unto me, and then say, ‘Be’ and behold it is”. -- Muhammad
When the mystery of the oneness of the soul and the Divine is revealed to you, you will understand that you are no other than God. Then you will see all your actions to be his actions and all your attributes to be his attributes and your essence to be his essence.
 -- Ibn Arabi (13th c. Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher)
Only when the soul attains God-realization on the seventh plane does it get full control over its joy. -- Meher Baba (20th c. Indian mystic and spiritual master)

Ten steps that lead one up to heaven.
Ten steps through which a man knows God.
The ladder may seem short indeed,
But if your heart can inwardly experience it,

You will find a wealth the world cannot contain.
--Theophanis the Monk, Philokalia

Copyright 2010 - 2016 Walther Sell