Posted by: Wei Yu
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
It is not existent - even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent - it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
May the ultimate nature of phenomena, limitless mind beyond extremes, be realised.
I love these lines. But what is "the ultimate nature of phenomena"? Is there an essence is Buddhism? If emptiness is not a thing, but the way things are, what are they made of?
6 people like this. (Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 7:56am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
"Appearance is mind and emptiness is mind. " In this line of the same text, what does it mean to say emptiness is mind?
(Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 8:04am)
Kyle Dixon
I'm not sure what term is translated as "Ultimate nature of phenomena" in that quote (it is a common one I've seen attributed to a few individuals such as Jigme Lingpa), but in general the ultimate nature of phenomena is that they are non-arisen i.e. empty.

The essence of things is usually emptiness, however that is like saying "things are empty in essence", "the essential nature of X is that it is empty", it does not mean emptiness is an 'essence' in the sense of something substantiated.

Conditioned 'things' are the result of confusion, when seen for what they are they are known to be unreal. So they are not made of anything per se, since ultimately they cannot be found when sought. A 'thing' as such is a nominal designation, a mere inference, useful as a convention, but ultimately the object that the convention infers is unfindable.
7 liked this (Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 8:08am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
May this simple secret, this ultimate essence of phenomena,
which is the basis of everything, be realised.

May the unconfused genuine self-nature be known by self-nature itself.


These 2 lines too seem to point to an essence, a clear light, or primordial mind. A kind of vedantic pure consciousness. It's this thing that has been itching a lot lately. I come from an Advaita background, where awareness is the ultimate essence of all appearances. But I feel pulled to the buddhist view of emptiness of all things, even consciousness. But I can't see how can pure consciousness itself be dependently originated...
(Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 8:16am)
Kyle Dixon
Not a Vedantic type consciousness, because Vedanta posits an uncaused. existent, transpersonal, ontological consciousness that subsumes everything.

Those lines do point to an essence or primordial mind, however just as your original quote states, it
is nothing truly established as existent or non-existent. The mind is luminous and cognizant, but it is also empty and non-arisen... when we are ignorant of its emptiness we reify the luminous cognizance into a personal reference point which is relating to conditioned objects (objects that can exist or not-exist).

'Consciousness' [skt. vijñāna, tib. rnam shes] in the context of the buddhadharma usually refers specifically to that species dualistic cognition, i.e. a subject relating to objects. Therefore consciousness is considered to be an afflictive cognition since it is influenced by ignorance [skt. avidyā, tib. ma rig pa].

The opposite of consciousness is 'wisdom' [skt. jñāna, tib. ye shes]. When one recognizes their nature as being empty and free from extremes, then that 'consciousness' is no longer a deluded cognition that is cognizing conditioned objects, it instead directly and experientially knows the emptiness of those objects. That is why the quote says "may the unconfused genuine self-nature be known by self-nature itself".

This is not pointing to a truly established cognition though, especially since that wisdom entails a collapse of the ignorance that mistakes itself as an abiding reference point in relation to objects. The wisdom knows its own nature, as empty; which is the "unconfused genuine self-nature". For instance in the same way consciousness knows a chair, wisdom knows the non-arising of that chair. But this is still just a conventional description, it is not pointing to something real or something established. This does not mean that everything is subsumed into awareness, it simply means that there is a genuine knowledge of one's nature.
5 liked this (Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 10:04am)
Kyle Dixon
It is important to understand the concept of 'conventional truth' in Buddhism, because you may ask why these texts are stating that there is a 'self-nature' and a 'basis' and so on, why would they be doing this if these things are in fact unestablished and ultimately unreal? It is because the ultimate truth of things is their non-arising or emptiness, and what are those 'things' that are ultimately empty? They are conventions which are mistaken to be real things. So these alleged conventional objects are precisely what are realized to be unreal, and this means that we can relate to conventions freely because they are never pointing to anything actually 'real' or established. All conventions are simply useful nominal designations, tools for communication. The problem arises when we mistake these conventions to be something more than just a convention.

Conventions are reliable as long as they are not subjected to keen investigation. That is how 'convention' is defined per buddhism, a correct convention [tathyasaṃvṛti] is, according to Śāntarakṣita; "something can be tacitly accepted as long as it is not critically investigated, that is characterized by arising and decay, and that has causal effectivity." So the validity of a convention is measured by its efficacy, if it appears to function correctly, then it can be accepted as a correct convention prior to its investigation. In the wake of investigating any convention it will fail, since conventions cannot withstand proper scrutiny.

So there is no problem stating that there is a 'self-nature', because when that convention is subjected to scrutiny that self-nature would be ultimately unfindable. Yet the term "self-nature" is a conventional designation that is pointing to the capacity of 'wisdom' mentioned above, which is completely free from the extremes of existence, non-existence, both and neither.

For instance, Longchenpa discusses that nature here:

"Mind itself [i.e., the nature of mind: tib. sems nyid] - naturally occurring timeless awareness [i.e., self-originated primordial wisdom: tib. rang byung ye shes] - has no substance or characteristics. Since it is empty yet lucid and free of elaboration, it cannot be conceived of as 'this' or 'that'. Although it can be illustrated by a metaphor - 'It is like space' - if one reflects on space as the metaphor, it proves to have no color, no shape, or anything about it that is identifiable. Therefore, if the metaphor being used does not refer to some 'thing', then the underlying meaning that it illustrates - mind itself, pure by nature - is not something that has ever existed in the slightest."
8 liked this (Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 10:14am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
In buddhism how is reality seen? I mean, in the approach I come from (Krishnamenon's direct path - Rupert Spira, Greg Goode, etc.), visually speaking, for example, objects are known to be just colors. "Color" is just another name for seeing (meaning, the presence of color). Then seeing is just a form of awareness.

Object >> Color >> Seeing >> Awareness;
Object >> Sound >> Hearing >> Awareness;

So this approach has its basis in what they call Direct Experience. All that is experienced is colors, sounds, etc - no physical objects are given. Then not even colors or sounds, just the knowing of them, etc. So in the end reality becomes just pure experiencing, without a solid substance or reality, except for awareness, which is not physical nor possessing any characteristic whatsoever.

In this view, one could say that the objects are empty because they depend on the colors/sensations/etc., which depend on seeing/sensing/etc., which depend on awareness.

How does buddhism arrive at the view of emptiness? A car is empty because it is made of several parts, lacking inherent existence - there is no "car-ness" is the object conventionally named as car. There are only wheels, metal, plastic, rubber, etc. And in each of these, there are other components, etc., all the way down to molecules and atoms and particles and...(?)...

But this is the conventional view (atoms, etc.). None of this (atoms, particles, etc.) is given in direct experience. In direct experience, there is only colors, sounds, etc. Does buddhism believe in atoms and particles that are not given in direct experience?

For instance, the emptiness of an object rests in its being dependent on causes, right? But a cause is not verified in experience. An apple is supposedly dependent on many factors, but many of those are not present in experience - the sun, the rain, the soil, the farmer, etc. Where do all those abide as we experience the apple?
(Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 8:45am)
Kyle Dixon
Alleged objects being broken down into constituent factors such as color, shape etc., in the context of Buddhism is an example of exploring how things originate dependently, i.e., dependent origination [pratītyasamutpāda].

However when these appearan
ces are treated as ultimately being awareness in traditions like Śrī Atmananda's, this sets up a unilateral dependency where awareness is treated as an irreducible principle. This is due to the nature of those paths, but the Buddhist system does not uphold a view of that nature.

For example if X is dependent upon awareness, awareness would also be dependent upon X. Because both are dependent, neither can stand alone, they are both conditional principles and for that reason they are not something which has an independent, autonomous nature.

Not only that, but Buddhism states that because things only originate in dependence upon what defines them, they do not originate at all. For to legitimately originate and have existence, a 'thing' or capacity would have to manifest without cause and be unconditioned. However since such a thing cannot be found, there ultimately is no origination.

But every separate principle is essentially the implication of every other principle. When we search for an object as a 'thing' in itself apart from color, size, dimension, sensory cognition, location, texture, awareness, etc., we cannot find that object. Said object also cannot be found within those appearances. But this also goes for each of those appearances themselves, including awareness.

This view also leads to a lack of solid substance or reality, or any type of substance or reality apart from the nominal designation 'reality'.

Deconstructing things down to molecules and atoms is one way to approach emptiness however I personally do not like that approach because molecules and atoms are not things we can directly cognize without an instrument. It is better to work with one's direct cognition.

The most effective way to view 'cause' is as ignorance [avidyā]. When things arise due to causes they arise due to misconception. Like taking a mirage to be a real oasis, the oasis arises as a result of a cause, that cause is ignorance regarding its true nature as being devoid of any substance or reality. When we finally recognize that the oasis is a mirage, the misconception of an oasis is immediately liberated. And it is directly known that there never was an actual oasis from the very beginning. All things are like that. They appear due to the cause of ignorance and abide as long as the conditions of ignorance remain, when ignorance is dispelled, said object is known to be non-arisen.

For example, Nāgārjuna states:

"When the perfect vidyā sees
That things come from ignorance as condition,
Nothing will then be objectified,
Either in terms of arising or destruction...

...Since the Buddhas have stated
That the world is conditioned by ignorance,
Why is it not reasonable [to assert]
That this world is [a result of] conceptualization?

Since it comes to an end
When ignorance ceases;
Why does it not become clear then
That it was conjured by ignorance?"
6 liked this (Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 9:26am)
Kinkok Sin
I think it is akin to what is called a field of force in science. You can't see the field, but you can see the impact of the field. So the ultimate could be a field of force of consciousness. You cannot see that field but you can experience the impact of that field in the form of awareness. Starting with basic or raw awareness, consciousness can evolved (initiated by an initial misknowledge of duality) into what we now experience as ordinary consciousness. This is how I see it. I could be wrong, so take it with whatever dosage of salt you consider necessary for yourself.
(Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 10:28am)
Viorica Doina Neacsu
Great thread! Thank you Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb and Kyle! :)
1 liked this (Friday, September 12, 2014 at 12:32am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
Thanks Kyle, for your insights in this and other posts.

The thing is that in the direct path approach right from the beginning "things" are seen as not existing. Even subtler objects like color or shapes are seen as nothing more than pure awareness or
experience. Experience, right from the beginning is known to be undivided, seamless, whole.

In such a context, I find it hard to explore emptiness, because in a way there are no things to be empty or not empty. One could say that things are empty because they depend on experience or on being known, but in doing so, one creates a division (experience vs objects in experience / knowing vs. objects known) that is not given in direct experience.

Another way would be to see that objects are empty because they are no where to be found when not being experienced - so they don't inherently exist. But if they are not being experienced, they are neither existent nor non-existent, so talking about their emptiness is moot.

In the context of this type of non-dual perception, where only undivided experience is seen, how is the emptiness understood?
(Friday, September 12, 2014 at 8:28pm)
Kyle Dixon
As you seem to know already, the direct path approach is simply a different path and view. In terms of the direct path, which is a teaching of Advaita Vedanta, things are seen to lack existence because they are in fact an undifferentiated pure consciousness [purusha], which is transpersonal, truly existent and unconditioned. Which means that consciousness is as you said: an "undivided, seamless, whole."

In such a context it would indeed be hard to explore emptiness, because that context contradicts emptiness by nature. According to Advaita, there may be no so-called 'relative' things to be empty or not-empty, but there is a truly existent purusha instead, which by Advaita's standards; is definitely not-empty.

In terms of Vedanta, 'things' are not empty but are unreal because they belong to prakṛti, and prakṛti is māyā. Only cit is real, which is the purusha or pure consciousness i.e. brahman. So things do not even depend upon experience or 'being known', because ultimately there is only a single undifferentiated, existent pure consciousness.

In the buddhadharma, things are empty not only because they depend upon being experienced or known, but for other reasons too. The apparent division is not a problem, because as I attempted to explain above with 'convention', these alleged divisions are simply conventional in nature, and are ultimately empty. This however does not mean there is a single undivided whole, for that would simply be another thing to be empty. The ultimate truth in the buddhadharma is simply the fact that the 'things' which are inferred by convention are ultimately unfindable. The realization is epistemic and not ontological like Adviata. The buddhadharma is not saying we cannot find these things because they are actually this undivided pure consciousness, it is saying we cannot find these things at all. They appear, yet are unreal and so they have never arisen in the first place.

As for the idea that "objects are empty because they are no where to be found when not being experienced - so they don't inherently exist", by the standards of the buddhadharma this would actually fail to overcome inherent existence because Advaita would state that these alleged objects are actually the single undivided purusha which does inherently exist.

Talking about the emptiness of said objects would be moot in the context of Advaita, because those objects are simply māyā and the only thing that exists is purusha, so objects are not being experienced either way (as there is only pure consciousness). In the context of the buddhadharma, said objects are ultimately unfindable whether they are allegedly being experienced or not, so the duality of 'experienced objects' versus 'unexperienced objects' is also inapplicable (yet because said division between experienced and unexperienced objects is merely conventional, in terms of the buddhadharma; one would be free to say there are experienced and unexperienced objects due to the fact that this is ultimately untrue, for ultimately everything is empty and lacks inherent existence).

As for your last question: "In the context of this type of non-dual perception, where only undivided experience is seen, how is the emptiness understood?"

In that context emptiness is not understood (and is not meant to be), because that single undivided experience is held to be inherently existent.
5 liked this (Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 6:59am)
Viorica Doina Neacsu
“Therefore it is said that whoever makes a philosophical view out of emptiness is indeed lost.” Nagarjuna
3 liked this (Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 7:24am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb

>>>>> The ultimate truth in the buddhadharma is simply the fact that the 'things' which are inferred by convention are ultimately unfindable. The realization is epistemic and not ontological like Adviata.<<<<<<

I can see how things are unfindable through the conventional route of "molecules, atoms & particles". There is just empty space in the end. But through direct experience, where there is merely colors or perception or experience, how are things unfindable? Experience seems pretty obvious and irreducible. But I'm open and willing to see through the apparent inherency of it (deep sleep seems to be a good example of experience's emptiness...).

Or one could say that experience is empty because it depends on causes, like there being any perception or activity of any kind to appear as experience. Experience of nothingness is no experience at all, so experience depends on somethingness to appear.

And could you explain the ontological and the epistemic stuff? Philosophy is not my forte!


>>>>>The buddhadharma is not saying we cannot find these things because they are actually this undivided pure consciousness, it is saying we cannot find these things at all. They appear, yet are unreal and so they have never arisen in the first place.<<<<<<

Ok, this is serious stuff, imo. A car is not found as a car, but there is some experience, rather then nothing. Something appears, like you said - be it colors, knowing, perception, experiencing, etc... They appear, but are unreal - in the sense that they are not what they claim to be, right? A car is not a "car", it's a bunch of other stuff (its several pieces and components) or at least something else (a perception or experience). But the appearance is made of something right? The image of the Eiffel tower in my head is not made of metal, because it is not the Eiffel tower, but just an image. But as an image, it is made of "mental stuff" or consciousness (conventionally or neurologically speaking). What are things made of then? Or does Buddhism refuse to assume such explicit ontological positions? How come you're saying they've never arisen at all? What is it that exists as "this" right now?

I'm not disagreeing with you. On the contrary, I'm truly hungry for that depth of understanding.


>>>>> In that context emptiness is not understood (and is not meant to be), because that single undivided experience is held to be inherently existent.<<<<<<

This was probably asked above already, but how then can the emptiness insight be brought into this perspective? How can one pierce through the aparent inherency of experience or pure awareness? How can awareness, devoid of characteristics, be caused by something else?

Wei Yu seems to have come from the Awareness teachings, but later moved through to the emptiness view. How can this be done?

Thank you!
(Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 9:56am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
"If you would free yourself of the sufferings
of samsara, you must learn the direct way to become a
Buddha. This way is no other than the realization of your own Mind.

Now what is this Mind? It is the true nature of all sentient beings, that
which existed before our parents were born and hence before our
own birth, and which presently exists, unchangeable and eternal."

This was taken from the Three Pillars of Zen. What was Bassui talking about here? Was he pointing to the realization of I Am or One Mind? Was he falling victim to the view of inherency?
(Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 10:11am)
Kyle Dixon
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb you wrote:
"I can see how things are unfindable through the conventional route of 'molecules, atoms & particles'. There is just empty space in the end. But through direct experience, where there is merely colors or perception or ex
perience, how are things unfindable? Experience seems pretty obvious and irreducible. But I'm open and willing to see through the apparent inherency of it (deep sleep seems to be a good example of experience's emptiness...)."

You'll probably have to step away from approaching 'experience' or 'direct experience' as a reductive unity or a thing-in-itself. Doing so will probably mean you'd have to let go of the idea of a single consciousness or awareness that is cognizing phenomena as well. In Buddhism there is no single central consciousness that everything is appearing to, but instead many different consciousnesses (six to eight depending on the system). There is an eye consciousness which perceives shape, color and so on, and a olfactory consciousness which cognizes various aromas etc.

For example: the point of the "eye-consciousness" [cakṣurvijñāna] (and the other seven consciousnesses) is to propose a conventional model (for the purposes of upāya) in order to allow the aspirant a means to pierce the seeming inherency of consciousness in general. The eight-consciousness model (for example) is not a statement (or proposition) of ontological truth, when these models are presented they are not meant to say there is truly eight consciousnesses, those consciousnesses are conventional designations which are implemented as a skillful means. And that exclusively conventional nature is characteristically implied due to the fact that the buddhadharma contends that inherency (in general) is a figment of deluded cognition which is completely unreal. Therefore the label "eye consciousness" is a term which is implemented so that the visual faculty and all of its implied constitutional characteristics can be compartmentalized into a single grouping for the purposes of analysis or expeditious delineation (eye-consciousness accounting for (i) sensory organ [eye], (ii) sensory cognition [seeing] and (iii) sensory objects [sights]).

So in terms of 'direct experience' as such; the eight-consciousnesses [aṣṭavijñāna] is one example of a conventional model that is meant to be a tangible and empirical guideline for said experience. In applying a provisional model of this nature, and taking into consideration that nothing ultimately has inherent existence, we undoubtably already run into an issue as to how we are now choosing to define 'direct experience'. Is that experience singular? Are there eight different direct experiences corresponding to the eight different consciousnesses? If so, is there a hierarchy as to which experience is more valid or superior in comparison to the others? And so on. In this way we find that even the idea of 'experience' or 'direct experience' as such is really a "broad conceptual generalization" as Greg Goode once put it. How can we define such a notion, and what would the criteria be for that definition?

It's perfectly okay to use 'experience' as a conventional designation, but once we believe that said conventional experience transcends being a mere inference then problems begin to arise.

Conventionally we can say that appearances manifest ceaselessly, however the buddhadharma is not concerned with the fact that appearances manifest, but rather with how said appearances are related to, or are known. This is what it means for emptiness to be an epistemology rather than an ontology. Buddhism isn't trying to establish an ontological X, because ultimately, how is an ontological existent any different than an identity? If 'things' have an ontological status, then they exist, if they exist then they have an essence, to have an essence is to have something that X truly 'is', and that would be no different than having an identity, or a self. So buddhism objects to the idea that there is a global reductive X (be it consciousness or experience) because said X would be no different than an identity. Buddhism as a soteriological methodology is interested in freeing sentient beings from the mistaken notion of a fixed essential identity, and stating that there is an ultimate ontological X that we truly are (instead of being the so-called individual self we take ourselves to be) is simply trading one identity for another.

Therefore buddhism is epistemic because to realize emptiness is to know (or cognize) phenomena correctly. Presently, as afflicted sentient beings we relate to phenomena through invalid cognitions which perceive truly existent objects, persons, places, time, space etc. We mistakenly believe that there are things which have arisen, abide in time and can cease (or are born, live and die), and this causes suffering because we then grasp at phenomena. We cherish and cling to things or people, we suffer when those things are lost or destroyed, or when those we love leave or pass away. However this is all due to misunderstanding phenomena. When we know phenomena correctly, then we recognize that they have been in a state of perfection since beginningless time (or this is at least how Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna define this principle). Upon realizing that phenomena are non-arisen [empty] we directly know that they have never arisen, have never abided, and have never ceased at any point. Not only that but principles such as time, space, distance, coming, going, here, there, subject, object, presence, absence, dimension, life, death, consciousness, body, mind, senses, perception, etc., are all liberated. For someone who has a complete and unobstructed wisdom-knowledge of emptiness, such notions can be related to conventionally, but they know that those concepts do not refer to anything real.

"Like a dream, an illusion, [or] seeing two moons: Thus have You seen the world, as a creation not created as real. Like a son who is born, established, and dies in a dream, the world, You have said, is not really born, does not endure, and is not destroyed."
- Acintyastavaḥ
3 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 8:09am)
Kyle Dixon
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb you wrote:
"Ok, this is serious stuff, imo. A car is not found as a car, but there is some experience, rather then nothing. Something appears, like you said - be it colors, knowing, perception, experiencing, etc... They appear, but
are unreal - in the sense that they are not what they claim to be, right? A car is not a 'car', it's a bunch of other stuff (its several pieces and components) or at least something else (a perception or experience)."

Reducing something like a car to other pieces or components can be one form of emptiness analysis, however ultimately this can still potentially lend to the idea of an essence or a substance (so one would have to be mindful not to make that error). If we are saying that a car is truly made of other things, then we are not overcoming the perception of there actually being a true 'something' that the car is made of. The actual point is to effectively realize that there is no car to be found anywhere, within or apart from the aggregates which apparently constitute a car. Even in principle these notions carry certain implications which lend to the unreality of car; for if said aggregates no longer serve to construct a car, then what is maintaining a relationship between said aggregates in general? If there is no essence that those aggregates are serving to constitute, then there is nothing ultimately tethering one aggregate to another. If nothing is holding them together then we begin to lose structure and continuity, for what is maintaining the perception of said aggregates having a valid extension in time, or in space? Or how are we defining space or time themselves? Do they not themselves depend on the perception of an appearance which is manifesting as a single 'thing' in consecutive instances? So these are examples of questions and implications that arise due to investigating a given appearance. The car cannot be reduced to its aggregates because that would then give credence to the inherency of the aggregates themselves. The aggregates are also fallible, and never arise, abide or cease, they do not create anything, and possess no validity in and of themselves.

Overall though, in the example of a car the point is to attempt and find the 'car' in itself, or perhaps to find the 'self' in itself if we are relating to our own experience. We mistake these things to have a true inherent essence, and become deluded into believing that they actually exist (or that they can lack existence). The idea is to fail in finding that 'core' or 'essence' which makes a thing that 'thing', because when we fail to find that essence, we have the potential to realize that there never has been a thing in the first place, the 'thing' was only ever a misconception. And this goes for 'experience' too, for example if you experience something troubling in a dream, and are under the influence of that dream, then you have no discernment to say "this isn't real, this is just a dream" and so the apparent events that unfold in the dream can seem to effect you. You may be upset, or scared, or even very happy. But when you wake up that experience is immediately known to have been unreal, and so the emotions related to said dream events are immediately liberated. Realizing emptiness is like that, except one wakes up to this so-called waking experience and realizes it to be equally unreal. The point isn't whether appearances manifest, but how they are known. If you are lucid in a dream you simply know that everything that appears is an unreal display, nothing being created or destroyed, nothing coming or going, nothing actually 'there'... yet illusory appearance manifests. Likewise if you realize the non-arising of appearances then you simply know that everything that appears is an unreal display, nothing being created or destroyed, nothing coming or going, nothing actually 'there'... yet illusory appearance manifests.
3 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 8:51am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
>>>>>If you are lucid in a dream you simply know that everything that appears is an unreal display, nothing being created or destroyed, nothing coming or going, nothing actually 'there'<<<<<<

There is nothing actually there as it appears to be. But so
mething was experienced in the dream - colors, thoughts, emotions. What are those made of? I realize that if you say "they are ultimately made of X", then that will be an essence that escapes the seal of impermanence or emptiness.

But I'm having a hard time in seeing things as being made of nothing at all. I was comfortable with Advaita, because things were still transitory appearances - empty of being separate, objective or anything at all by themselves -, but ultimately there was a substance at their root - awareness itself, which is a void, but not non-existent.

Now here things are really shaky right now. Can't seem to even know how to inquire or investigate stuff...
(Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 9:12am)
अष्टावक्र शान्ति
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb ,you still have the conventional side of the Two Truths. Conventional attainments, releases,...
(Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 9:46am)
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb
What do you mean, अष्टावक्र शान्ति?
(Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 10:12am)
अष्टावक्र शान्ति
If you put emphasis on only one aspect of the two truths(ultimate truth) you go into nihilism!

"Of course, this Buddhist division of truths sounds dualistic. But it is not dualistic, because the two truths are identical. That is, the ultimate truth is that the conventional truth is the only truth there is." - Emptiness and Joyful Freedom - Greg Good, Tomas Sander
2 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 10:33am)
Kyle Dixon
Bdcrtgb Rcnrcrrdfvnb, Different systems give different explanations as to why appearance known in direct perception [pratyakṣa] manifests, each explanation ultimately corresponding to the nature of their praxis and methods. None of those systems state that appearances are "ultimately made of X" though. They may conventionally state they are made of any number of things; mind, traces, causes, energy, wisdom - but to state that phenomena is truly 'made' is to say said phenomena has an essence [svabhāva]. Phenomena do not have svabhāva because if they did indeed have an essence they would be fixed, undynamic and unable to appear, so they are not 'made'. Appearances are essenceless and free from extremes, ultimately never arising, abiding or ceasing.

These systems are soteriological in nature, and so the most important thing is a correct cognition of said appearances.

Overall though, why do they need to be made of something? And what would stop that description from being more fodder for the mind to grasp at? The idea is to ultimately remove notions of essence and substantiality.
2 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 10:26am)
Kyle Dixon
Even in a system like Dzogchen, which does give an explanation on how something like color arises, the varying capacities and principles involved are ultimately nothing more than literary devices.
(Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 10:41am)
Kyle Dixon
AN 4.24 Kāḷakārāma Sūtra:

Thus, monks, the Tathāgata does not conceive an [object] seen when seeing what is to be seen. He does not conceive an unseen. He does not conceive a to-be-seen. He does not conceive a seer.

He does not conceive an [object] heard when hearing what is to be heard. He does not conceive an unheard. He does not conceive a to-be-heard. He does not conceive a hearer.

He does not conceive an [object] sensed when sensing what is to be sensed. He does not conceive an unsensed. He does not conceive a to-be-sensed. He does not conceive a senser.

He does not conceive an [object] known when knowing what is to be known. He does not conceive an unknown. He does not conceive a to-be-known. He does not conceive a knower.
1 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 10:56am)
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>>>>>>the Tathāgata does not conceive an [object] seen when seeing what is to be seen. He does not conceive an unseen. He does not conceive a to-be-seen. He does not conceive a seer. <<<<<<

This means there is only seeing, not a seen nor a seer? Not a
nything unseen nor yet to be seen? This makes sense to me.

But how can this seeing be understood as being empty? Seeing seems to be going on continuously and unobstructedly. It seems to be the nature of experience itself, thus reality's essential nature.
(Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 11:07am)
Kyle Dixon
Well, not 'just' seeing because that would be a reductionist view. Buddhism avoids reducing everything to one thing. Seer, seeing, seen are technically all purified through realizing emptiness. It is called threefold purity.

For instance there is anot
her Sūtra where Śākyamuni is addressing Bāhiya and he states "in the seeing just the seen", so these are really just pointers and aren't meant to be absolute statements.

In describing the same type of insight Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said; "Seeing no thing is the supreme sight."

So it isn't as it there is 'just seeing' or 'just seen'.

Maybe try reading chapter 3 of Nāgārjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika.
2 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 12:50pm)
Wei Yu
4 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 1:02pm)
Wei Yu
Bahiya Sutta is not 'only seeing' but 'in the seen only the seen' with 'no you in terms of that'. There's a difference. Seeing can still be a subtle subjective reference point.
4 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 1:05pm)
Wei Yu
The point of Bahiya Sutta is to realize there is absolutely no seer nor seeing behind/within/in-between/besides seen/heard/cognized. Then anatta is realized. But that is just the beginning.
4 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 1:10pm)
Viorica Doina Neacsu
Beautiful and very clear article, Wei Yu. :)
I thought i will not read all your article thinking that is long and i have no time.... but your right words, right speech, right view didn't let me to go away.... so much clarity ....with each paragraph your words became a soft and kind energy.... wisdom... true delight... Thank you so much!
3 liked this (Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 8:25pm)

See original post
Posted by: Wei Yu
BR wrote: ""in deep sleep only deep sleep, just like in the seen only the seen."What then, is deep sleep? A gap in reality? An absence or non-existence?"

An absorption in a state of nothingness or oblivion.

The Abhidhammic tradition calls this state 'resting in bhavanga citta'. If you want to read more:


BR wrote: "So when things are absent, what is there? Does reality pop in and out of existence? This is the same question as above, since, in my experience, "when all things are absent" and "deep sleep" amount to the same thing."

One who realizes anatta is not afraid of 'fading away', every moment, not just in particular states.

As Thusness told JonLS (Din Robinson) in 2007:

Originally posted by JonLS:
Because we're too busy identifying with thoughts and feelings in the mind and body.
And also busy identifying with the "I Am". The worry has now come to it. Dissolve and passaway, fade out of existence! So be it!

Why can't we fully appreciate our perfection?
Fade away and appreciate "no where". Sleep well!

Greg Goode wrote:

"Stian, cool, get into that strangeness! There is a certain innocent, not-knowing quality to strangeness that counteracts the rush to certainty, the need to arrive, to land.

I still don't get your "no compromise" point. Can you rephrase it, but without the words "between" or "compromise"?

Anything can be denied. And is. There is one prominent Advaita teacher that I like who likes to say "You can't deny that you are the awareness that is hearing these words right now."

This kind of gapless continuity, so prized in Advaita, is readily denied in other approaches to experience:

you. can't. deny. that. you. are. the. awareness. hearing. these. words. right. now.

I remember feeling during one retreat, just how many ways that this could be denied. From a different model of time and experience, there are gaps and fissures all over the place, even in that sentence (hence. the. dots). Each moment is divided within itself, carrying traces of past and future (retention and protention). The first "you"-moment and the second "you"-moment are not necessarily experienced by the same entity. Each "I" is different. Entitification itself is felt as autoimmune, as divided within itself, and any "gaplessness" is nothing more than a paste-job.

Not saying one of these is right and the other wrong. Just pointing out how something so undeniable can readily be denied!


BR wrote: ""Then "Awareness" is always only manifestation and nothing hidden, nothing intrinsic, there is nothing 'unmanifest' about it."

I see that. That was already the way I understood Awareness. The idea of the separate witness was "smelly" to me. During manifestation, awareness is just the manifestation - there is no place for awareness to be. But when appearances subside, something must remain, appearances must fall "into" something. No? Awareness remains as the potential for experience, like light, invisible in itself, but allowing objects to be seen."

In the Buddhadharma, Consciousness does not exist inherently, in and of itself. So while you may say consciousness is a potential, it is a potential that isn't actualized apart from causes and conditions. This is different from the Advaitic notion that Awareness or Consciousness exists in and of itself independently regardless of the coming and going of conditioned states. In that case, it is already 'inherently self-existent' changelessly all the time, and is not purely 'mere potentiality'.

All the dependencies are totally exerting this manifestation, and 'consciousness' is merely this total exertion. For example, when walking, the entire scenery, wind breeze, and so on, are the total exertion of the various activities -- such as walking. Your walking actualizes that new moment of manifest-consciousness (vision-consciousness, auditory, tactile, etc), your sitting actualizes it, the bird singing actualizes the manifest consciousness, and so on.

And being that everything merely dependently originates, has anything ever been created? For something to be created, there would have to be a substantial entity being born within/besides the appearance. An appearance in and of itself does not imply substantial existents, like a dream does not imply real entities, but if the appearance somehow reference something with core and substance then it would be. Likewise, a mirror reflection never implied that something comes existence inside the mirror, that could stay in existence inside the mirror and then cease to exist later. We know that a mirror reflection is a momentary reflection as the total exertion of all dependencies, but no entity is ever being born. When we walk by the side of a lake, the reflection of the moon moves (totally exerts) along with our movement, obviously nothing is born inside the lake (otherwise it would be static, independent, fixed at one location).

Could the same be true for all other appearances in life? When we see red apple, is there really an 'apple' or 'redness' existing in and of itself somewhere, or merely a totally-exerting/dependently-originating appearance that is a momentary unborn shimmering? (even to call it 'momentary' is merely conventional, as there is no foundational, indivisible, substantially existing moments as posited in Abhidhamma)

By directly apperceiving the nature of 'reflection' (all appearance), the unborn nature of empty-clarity-totalexertion-display is unveiled.

Also, as Thusness wrote in 2012:

5/11/2012 4:36 PM: John: Understanding in terms of potential is ok and good
5/11/2012 4:38 PM: John: Beyond this explanation it has to be understood as mere imputation, ultimately no cause, no potential.

And I wrote earlier this year:

"Emptiness of the "I" does not negate the "I".
    We can agree that we can substitute 'I' with 'Self' in that sentence ?"

    Yes. "Self" as a convention is not a problem, it is only problem when "Self" is taken as truly existing - as independent, changeless, hidden/ghostly something with self-existence.

    For example, when we talk about "Seeing", one realizes that "Seeing" is just a convention and is just a label for the shapes and colours/the scenery, etc, i.e. "Seeing" is empty of being some hidden, ghostly entity existing in and of itself, rather it is a label for the manifestating transience/interdependencies.

    In hearing, there is no independent hearing or hearer, hearing is just the vivid sound...

    In "Self", there is no truly existing "Self" but is just a label collating the five aggregates...

    In "Weather", there is no truly existing "weather" in and of itself but "weather" is just a label collating the wind, the blowing, the shapes and colours of the blue sky, the darkening, raindrops falling... You do not search for 'weather' or conceive of 'weather' as being some sort of changeless/self-existing source, substratum or container for rain to happen, etc... you realize and penetrate its conventionality and see directly the entire workings in action.

    In "Awareness", there is no changeless/independent "Awareness" in and of itself or existing as some sort of container but "Awareness" is just a label collating the self-luminous transiency that are dependently originating...

    In "Body", there is no truly existing container with substantial shape or boundaries but merely vivid and flickering bodily sensations...

    Same applies for "Buddha-nature", etc etc.

    Even "physical universe"/"matter"/etc is analyzed that way: “In the Pali literature, the mahabhuta ("great elements") or catudhatu ("four elements") are earth, water, fire and air. In early Buddhism, the four elements are a basis for understanding suffering and for liberating oneself from suffering. The earliest Buddhist texts explain that the four primary material elements are the sensory qualities solidity, fluidity, temperature, and mobility; their characterization as earth, water, fire, and air, respectively, is declared an abstraction—instead of concentrating on the fact of material existence, one observes how a physical thing is sensed, felt, perceived.[8]"” (Wiki)

    The convention is OK if understood as mere collating convention, the problem lies in reifying an eternal, changeless, truly existing X (Self/Awareness/etc etc).


BR wrote: "Even formless presence in the gap between thoughts or when five senses are shut, a pure Mind presence-awareness, that too is fully manifest and empty of intrinsic existence."

I don't think so, but is it possible that when you refer to awareness, you're referring to the waking state consciousness that vanishes during deep sleep or anesthesia? That I'd agree it's empty and transient, just regular manifestation. But that which witnesses the coming and going of experience, of consciousness even, how can that come and go or be dependent on causes? What would witness THAT in order to claim knowledge about it?

The realization of anatta is realizing that Awareness is not 'The Witness' behind everything, the 'Witnessing' (which is not denied), is merely and always only 'manifestation'. It has no independent, separate, changeless existence apart from manifestation in the same way as 'weather' has no independent, separate, changeless existence apart from the everchanging manifestation of colours and sensations we call wind blowing, rain drops, etc. And then we realize those very manifestation which we call colours, sensations and so forth, those too are mere unborn total exertions.

The same goes even for so called the formless witnessing awareness, even that too is realized to be empty of self/Self behind/besides/within/in-between those instantiations or manifestations (of formless consciousness).

As pointed out -- in the Direct Path (Atmananda style), deep sleep is not an object to which the Witness watches, rather, deep sleep IS the witnessing awareness itself, there is no duality whatsoever. The same goes for dream and waking state. Although the Atmananda path establishes oneself as the Witness in the beginning, the duality of the Witness and witnessed collapses after all those investigations. Therefore, the position or reference-point of the 'Witness' is also seen through and deconstructed in Direct Path.

However Buddhism would investigate and deconstruct that in a different way, in a non-subsuming way, non-reductionist manner, by realizing the dependent origination and insubstantiality of X (whatever the subject or object is being investigated), not by subsuming one pole to another (subject to object, or object to subject).


"If you understand what I just wrote above, then you'll also see why 'what it is made of' does not apply since there is nothing besides/behind/within/apart from the very manifestation."
Yes, but the manifestation has to be made of something, right? I understand that, visually, for example, redness is not a quality of the apple; redness IS the apple. But redness has to me made of something. Goode's and Spira's direct path would say redness is just seeing, which is just awareness. Different names for one same substance.

Redness may be a temporary manifestation, but it exists, right? It is experienced - or it is experience. As what does it exist? Redness, when vanishes, cannot fall into oblivion, it must dissolve IN something or AS something - like a wave disappearing in water, or a dream-mountain dissipating into the dreaming consciousness.

I know you said that there is an ultimate truth, but not an ultimate reality, but what are the ordinary experiences made of? It feels like according to this view all is happening in mid air - or not even that! The conventional view is that an apple is made of atoms. The Vedantic view is that an apple is made of experiencing or awareness. I feel like I'm repeating the same question of a few hours back, but the Buddhist view is...?

Buddhadharma (at least in the Middle Way view) is a completely non-reductive and non-subsuming path. It is a non-affirming negation*. For example, we do not refute 'Apple' by reducing it to, or affirming, an underlying substrate such as 'Awareness'. When we see the emptiness of 'X', we realize there is nothing behind/besides/within the appearance to which those appearance can be imputed as characteristics belonging to an entity ('redness OF The Apple'), and those appearance are fundamentally non-arising. But we do not subsume them into an underlying, inherently existing substrate.

By realizing the emptiness of X, we do not posit the non-existence or nothingness of everything, nor do we posit the existence of something more fundamental or foundational. Rather, by realizing the emptiness of X, we directly taste the total exertion of the dependencies, functionality, appearance of which X is conventionally/nominally designated upon. X cannot be established in them nor apart from them inherently, but dependent on those functions/appearance/dependencies, a nominal convention is designated like a placeholder. (Same as 'Weather')

Buddhadharma leaves nothing uninvestigated, therefore, even 'Awareness' is to be investigated in the same light -- could 'Awareness' be inherently existing, or could it be like 'Weather'? Could it be like what Bahiya Sutta described? This is not to deny 'Awareness' (just like we wouldn't deny 'Weather'), but only its inherent existence. If Awareness is inherently existing, then container metaphors such as 'everything is manifesting within Awareness and subsiding back to it, while Awareness remains unchanged' would make sense. However, if Awareness is only conventionally designated as such like weather, would that make sense? Do you say 'rain and clouds arise and subside within Weather, while Weather remains unaffected'? Sure, we aren't denying the conventional efficacy of Weather here, but does Weather exist apart from rain/wind blowing/etc (or within them) as a truly existing container? To say that Weather 'exists' inside the rain would likewise be superfluous... the entire notion of 'existence', 'non-existence' can be penetrated. What is conventionally designated is empty of real existence, is merely inferential and not referential.

When Anatta is directly realized -- in the seen only the seen, no 'you' or 'seer' or 'seeing' in/apart/besides/behind the seen, (and likewise for the heard/sensed/cognized/etc), then everything is revealed to be a self-luminous play. The luminosity is not posited to be a container behind or underlying things, any more than 'weather' is understood to be a container behind or underlying the rain and rolling clouds, etc. Rather, directly taste the intense aliveness and luminosity of 'only the seen (and the heard, the cognized)' without any intermediary or center or boundaries! In the same way when we see through the veil of our imputed inherency of 'weather', we will see/hear/touch the very appearance of life which we conventionally label 'weather'. Weather cannot be found within nor apart from those appearance (the sensation of 'breeze' being felt, the sound of rain dripping, the grey patches of vision) which is basis of designation. Self, Awareness, Mind, Body, are also deconstructed through insight in this manner. After this, look into total exertion and the non-arising of that.

*Malcolm Smith (Loppon Namdrol):
"The great 11th Nyingma scholar Rongzom points out that only Madhyamaka accepts that its critical methodology "harms itself", meaning that Madhyamaka uses non-affirming negations to reject the positions of opponents, but does not resort to affirming negations to support a position of its own. Since Madhyamaka, as Buddhapalita states "does not propose the non-existence of existents, but instead rejects claims for the existence of existents", there is no true Madhyamaka position since there is no existent found about which a Madhyamaka position could be formulated; likewise there is no false Madhyamaka position since there is no existent found about which a Madhyamaka position could be rejected."


BR wrote: "Sorry if I'm being a tough nut to crack, or maybe this is an intellectual struggle that is pointless when direct seeing happens. But I find that these intellectual refinements really help in dissolving the mental structures that filter our perceptions.

In fact, please don't think that I'm totally lost in my head. Aha! In fact, after asking you "who are you", a few hours back, I started pondering on the absurdity of the question and a very interesting experiential clarity opened up. The feeling of self briefly dissolved (nothing spectacular) and the I-lessness of experience became quite obvious.

Sometimes, reading your comments, I just feel a bit lost as to what to do, what practice is there for this kind of stuff. I know that you've mentioned repeatedly the Bahiya sutta and self-enquiry, but I don't know where exactly I'm supposed to put my feet on. I've read the sutta, and I think I get the main point of it, and self-inquiry (or investigation of experience) is something I've been doing for a few years now.

My knowledge about Buddhism is quite modest compared to what I've been seeing in your groups and forums, so I'm wondering if your path is a traditional one that follows a certain number of steps, or if it something a bit more abstract or alternative to the conventional curriculum...

I have a certain amount of experience and insight, mainly through Advaita, but I'm quite open to the possibility of investigating Awareness, the supposed ultimate reality. I'm just not 100% sure where the road actually is. I have your e-book, but I haven't managed to read it yet.

Please excuse me if all this is made clear there. In fact, I've been longing to find a teacher who could walk me to the end of the path. The desire to realize the truth is growing ever stronger and it's not easy to know where the road is..."

Which path of investigation to take is entirely up to you, if it helps, go for it -- if you find Direct Path and Advaita investigations helpful for you then why not try to apply it and see where it takes you? And then, if you feel like investigating into anatta and emptiness, go into it... see where it takes you. I understood anatta and emptiness intellectually for 8 years, but my first 4 years was spent practicing Advaita, self-inquiry and so on.

Why is that so? My Chinese Buddhist tradition where I came from was Awareness-teaching based, so that is one source of influence, so did other contemporary authors like Eckhart Tolle, and teachers like Ramana Maharshi and the other Advaitin/Neo-Advaitin teachers. Thusness did not tell me to practice self-inquiry straight away (at first he was advising more on Vipassana), in fact it was only about 4 years after he met me that he advised that I do self-inquiry, since I was very much into the Awareness teachings. Then when I'm done with self-inquiry due to doubtless self-realization, I looked further.

That being said, I think Thusness is advising more on Awareness realization for beginners lately. He wrote to someone in 2011:

Hi TC,

What you described is fine and it can be considered vipassana meditation too but you must be clear what is the main objective of practicing that way.  Ironically, the real purpose only becomes obvious after the arising insight of anatta.  What I gathered so far from your descriptions are not so much about anatta or empty nature of phenomena but are rather drawn towards Awareness practice.  So it will be good to start from understanding what Awareness truly is.  All the method of practices that u mentioned  will lead to a quality of experience that is non-conceptual.  You can have non-conceptual experience of sound, taste...etc...but more importantly in my opinion, u should start from having a direct, non-conceptual experience of Awareness (first glimpse of our luminous essence).  Once you have a ‘taste’ of what Awareness is, you can then think of ‘expanding’ this bare awareness and gradually understand what does ‘heightening and expanding’ mean from the perspective of Awareness. 

Next, although you hear and see ‘non-dual, anatta and dependent origination’ all over the place in An Eternal Now’s forum (the recent Toni Packer’s books you bought are about non-dual and anatta), there is nothing wrong being ‘dualistic’ for a start.  Even after direct non-conceptual experience of Awareness, our view will still continue to be dualistic; so do not have the idea that being dualistic is bad although it prevents thorough experience of liberation.

The comment given by Dharma Dan is very insightful but of late, I realized that it is important to have a first glimpse of our luminous essence directly before proceeding into such understanding.  Sometimes understanding something too early will deny oneself from actual realization as it becomes conceptual.  Once the conceptual understanding is formed, even qualified masters will find it difficult to lead the practitioner to the actual ‘realization’ as a practitioner mistakes conceptual understanding for realization.