Posted by: Wei Yu
Loppon Malcolm:

One cannot find the nature of water apart from water. It does not precede or succeed it. Now then, if you are an essentialist [Hindu, etc.], you will argue that all water derives its nature from some hypothetical essence of water. If you are a nominalist [Buddhist], you will argue our notion of a characteristic of water is an abstraction derived from our experiences of water. So, the answer is that your nature of water is merely an abstraction, and does not really exist. See MMK chapter 5:7:

    Therefor space is not existent, it is not non-existent, is not the characterized,
    is not the characteristic; also any other of the five elements are the same as space.

And 5:8:

    Some of small intelligence, see existents in terms of ‘is’ or ‘is not’;
    they do not perceive the pacification of views, or peace.


Your quote does not support Dolbupa's entire theory, which has much more to do with his treatment of three own natures, his interpretation of the idea of the three turnings, and so on that it does tathāgatagarbha.

We all accept tathāgatagarbha theory, we just don't accept Dolbupas interpretation of it, because it is eternalist.


Nope. Gzhan stong is the theory that the ultimate truth is empty of relative truth and utterly different than it; it is not the theory that the nature of mind (tathāgatagarbha) is empty of adventitious defilements and replete with buddha qualities (potentially). You can cite the Śrīmālādevī-siṃhanāda sūtra (and the nine other tathāgatagarbha sūtras) till you pass out from exhaustion but it wont make tathāgatagarbha theory any more "gzhan stong".


Umm, no, that is not what gzhan stong is. This is how it is defined:

    Dharmatā, the thoroughly established, the ultimate truth, is not empty of its own nature, but because it is empty of imputed and other-dependent entities, relative entities, conditioned phenomena, it is empty of other entities. That is the true unperverted emptiness, ultimate truth, dharmakāya, [3/b] the limit of the real, suchness, and emptiness endowed with the supreme of all aspects. The powers, major and minor marks and so on are the unconditioned qualities that abide in that from the beginning.


What you do not seem to understand is while the sūtra passages you are citing are noncontroversial, the gzhan stong interpretation Dolbupa applied to them in general is controversial for many reasons, but mostly having to do with his novel (and largely unprecedented) interpretation of the three own natures, his idea that the perfected nature (parinispanna) was empty of both the dependent (paratantra) and imputed (parikalpita) natures. In fact Maitreyanath, Asanga and Vasubandhu uniformly consider that the absence of the imputed in the dependent is the perfected. The second place where the gzhan stong view is found contradictory to Nāgārjuna is that if one follows the gzhan stong view, samsara and nirvana cannot be inseparable. Therefore, the statement by the Buddha in the Hevajra Tantra must be false:

    This so-called "samsara,"
    just this is nirvana.

Many other clear and unambiguous statements by the Buddha on the identity of samsara and nirvana must also be considered false. Not to mention Nāgārjuna's famed dictum:

    Samsara is not the slightest bit different from nirvana,
    nirvana is not the slightest bit different from samsara;
    whatever is the limit of nirvana, that is the limit of samsara,
    a difference between those two does not exist even slightly.

We can see that Vasubandhu agrees with this meaning in the Sūtrālaṃkārabhāṣya:

    The meaning of nirvana being all-pervasive is that because samsara and peace (nirvana) have one taste due to one not having concepts about their faults and qualities, in the respect there is no difference between samsara and nirvana.



Right, so you did not even answer the question.

As a basic definition, nirvana, space and so on are included in "all phenomena." In fact, the Śatasāhasrika-prajñāpāramitā, etc., state:

    All phenomena are included with the category of suchness, those cannot go beyond that category. If it asked why, Subhuti no coming or coming can be perceived in suchness. Subhuti, all phenomena are within these categories: the dharmadhātu, are the limit of reality, uniformity and inconceivability.


    Subhuti, when categorized, all phenomena are the nature of being unreal. Subhuti, in the same way, also all phenomena are nature of emptiness, all phenomena are the nature of signlessness, all phenomena are the nature of aspirationalessness. Subhuti, in the same way also, all phenomena are the nature of suchness, all phenomena are the nature of the limit of reality, all phenomena are the nature of dharmadhātu.

This being so, it is ludicrous to assert that the ultimate is empty of all relative phenomena. Such an assertion directly contradicts the words of the Buddha. It is one thing to claim "tathāgatagarbha is empty of adventitious afflictions." It is quite another to claim that the ultimate is empty of all relative phenomena. The ultimate is merely the emptiness of all phenomena, there is no other ultimate that can be found.


And it is for this reason, for example, that Rongton Sheja Kunrig classifies gzhan stong as a species of false aspectarian yogacara, or a sort of intermediate view between yogacara and madhyamaka.


The problem lies when one conflates the language of the tathatagarbha teachings, the language of yogacara and the language of madhyamaka. The ancient yogacarins in Indian took virtually no interest in tathāgatagarbha theory devoting only a total of two commentaries to the subject: the Uttaratantra and the subcommentary on that by Asanga. Further proof, is that Madhyamakas such as Bhavavieka and Chandrakirti treast the subject of tathāgatagarbha theory with much more interest then Asanga, Vasuubandhu and so on. We do not really find consistent commentarial treatment of tathāgatagarbha theory until the Vajrayāna commentaries dating from the ninth century onward. Even here it is not systematic.
Posted by: Wei Yu
The writings below by Lopon Malcolm reminded me of what Rob Burbea wrote.

Rob Burbea:

Sometimes, when we go to the texts of different Buddhist traditions, it seems as if, especially the Vast Awareness, it seems we find something in the texts that really corresponds to that. And I can find plenty of references. But this is actually not as simple as it seems. Words can sound very very similar when you get to a certain level in practice, and we say empty or nothingness or vastness or this or that, and it kind of all begin to sound very similar after some point. So it behooves us I think to really be careful not to be sloppy with language in our practice, as it's difficult, as precise as we can, which isn’t easy. And not to throw out words or concepts, because as I said, I can’t remember where it was in one of the talks. If I throw out conceptuality too early, what happens is I’m just left with my default unexamined concepts. I’ve done nothing to really dig them out. I’m just saying concepts are not helpful.

What we also find if you do kind of check out a lot of texts on this is the same words used in very different ways. So when we use words like Awareness is luminous, but it turns out if you really probe that, that luminous actually means empty. Or pure, meaning empty of inherent existence. Doesn’t mean bright in that sense. You wonder why they’re using that word. Or clarity, doesn’t mean clarity in the sense we would usually mean clarity. Or even the word space, funnily enough, doesn’t even mean space in the way we would usually mean space. It’s not easy.

One time the Buddha went to a group of monks and he basically told them not to see Awareness as The Source of all things. So this sense of there being a vast awareness and everything just appears out of that and disappears back into it, beautiful as that is, he told them that’s actually not a skillful way of viewing reality. And that is a very interesting sutta, because it’s one of the only suttas where at the end it doesn’t say the monks rejoiced in his words.

This group of monks didn’t want to hear that. They were quite happy with that level of insight, lovely as it was, and it said the monks did not rejoice in the Buddha’s words. (laughter) And similarly, one runs into this as a teacher, I have to say. This level is so attractive, it has so much of the flavor of something ultimate, that often times people are unbudgeable there.

In the Dzogchen tradition, there’s a very beautiful saying – very simple but very beautiful. And it says, “trust your experience, but keep refining your view.” Trust your experience, but keep refining your view - there’s a lot of wisdom in that, a lot of wisdom.


Malcolm/Loppon Namdrol:

Light = purity in the pre-modern mind.

Natural luminosity [rang bzhin gyis od gsal ba], as very clearly stated in the citations above, is a description of the purity of all phenomena. I did not exclude citations that were somehow inconvenient to this definition. On the contrary, I sought for them and could not find them because they do not exist.

Thus, to say that matter is naturally luminous is merely to say that it is ultimately pure. I am not sure why people are intent in ignoring the fact that the term "natural luminosity" is uniformly applied to all phenomena, all phenomena are naturally luminous, not only the mind.

To be sure, the term 'od gsal by itself can and is often used merely to refer to lights shining from the Buddha's uṛṇa and so on, the quality of the light of a gem and so on. But in this context, we are not discussing the generic term "light", we are discussing a very specific term, [rang bzhin gyis od gsal ba], which is a technical term that has a very persistent usage across a broad swath of sūtras and tantras.

Clarity [gsal ba] is the power of the mind to makes things evident. It is defined as the characteristic [lakṣana] of the mind, for example, in both Sakya Lamdre and Kagyu Mahāmudra.

Luminosity [in this context] and clarity, 'od gsal ba and gsal ba, are therefore, really not the same thing at all.

I very carefully looked for examples in the translations of Indian texts where gsal ba could be taken as an abbreviation of 'od gsal ba and was unable to find any at all. I have spent many hours engaged in this project. I also compared usages in available Sanskrit texts as well. Perhaps someone more skilled in Tibetan, in looking up citations, in reading them and in translating them, will be successful where I have failed.

Further, as I showed already, luminosity and clarity are treated separately and distinctly in one of the main sources for understanding the so called union of clarity and emptiness, which I presented in the tantra above.

I did not present this post with an intention to have a lengthy debate about the issue. I selected a few representative quotes out of hundreds (to avoid stultifying repetition) in order to edify all of you. If you choose to be edified, that is fantastic. If you prefer to cling to your own ideas, that is just fine with me too.

At this point, having restated my point of view three or four times, I will leave it here unless someone has something of further value to add. Otherwise, I fear we are just going in circles.


Then we have to be very precise, don't we? For example, we have in the Ṥrī-jñānavajra-samuccaya-tantra this line:

    Luminosity ['od gsal ba] is the ultimate truth.

But we also have this verse in the same text:

    If the two truths are separate,
    the path of wisdom is pointless.
    If clarity and emptiness ['gsal stong] are separate,
    there will be falling into the extremes of permanence and annihilation.

Now, in case you are tempted to think that emptiness is relative, the same text clearly states:

    Relative truth
    is the moon in the water;
    ulimate truth
    is the eighteen emptinesses.

Luminosity is clearly described here as ultimate. Clarity here is clearly described as relative, the apparent and evident aspect of the two truths, as we can further see:

    From the relative clarity arises the woman,
    the bhaga, and the assembly of goddesses.

Or for example, in Indrabhuti's Śrī-cakrasaṃvaratantrarājaśambarasamuccaya-nāma-vṛitti, it is stated:

    There is joy from the gradual blazing everywhere from the three channels; and in a moment of experience, samsara and nirvana arise as nondual clarity and emptiness.

In any case, clarity [gsal ba] is described as relative, samsara; while luminosity ['od gsal] is everywhere described as ultimate and nirvana; so how can gsal ba = 'od gsal? Clarity is relative and conditioned, luminosity is ultimate and unconditioned


Actually, what is being said is that space is pure, as the Śatasāhasrika-prajñāpāramitā states:

    Due to the element of space being naturally luminous, it is pure and without afflictions.

Vasubandhu echos this in the Āryākṣayamatinirdeśaṭīkā:

    Luminosity is natural because its nature is pure.


    Since so-called "luminosity" is free from the temporary taint of subject and object because there is no reification, it is explained as naturally pure. The concept that there is a subject and object is called "reification"; since there is no concept of the existence of subject and object, so-called "luminosity" means "the characteristic of natural purity."


    Since the obscurations of knowledge and affliction do not exist, the luminosity of discerning wisdom (prajñā) is explained as "the purity of discerning wisdom."

Bhavaviveka states in the Tarkajvala:

"Luminous clarity" is so called because of being free from the darkness of affliction and objects of knowledge.

Jayānanda states in the Madhyamakāvatāraṭīkā-nāma:

    It says in sūtra that "Tathāgatagarbha" means "All sentient beings have tathāgatagarbha." That passage concerns tathāgatagarbha. "Natural luminosity" means that natural luminosity is immaculate. It's characteristic is what which is pure. "Pure from the start" meanings immaculate from the beginning like space. "Possessing the thirty two major marks means possessing the nature of emptiness.


    So called "luminosity" means the nature of emptiness is intrinsically pure.

Prajñamokṣa's Madhyamakopadeśa-nāma-vṛtti states:

    Luminosity is natural purity.

I could go on citing Indian masters, but there is not much point.


Natural Luminosity

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 16, 2015 7:00 am
The following is a comprehensive selection of citations from sūtra and tantra concerning natural luminosity [prakṛti prabhāsvara, rang gzhin gyis ‘od gsal]. It is by no means exhaustive, and I have not included any commentarial glosses by Indian scholars.

To understand natural luminosity, the first place to start is with the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras. Most people are familiar with the famous statement:

    There is no mind in the mind, but the mind is naturally luminous.

The Śatasāhasrika-prajñāpāramitā, beginning with matter, ending with omniscience and including everything in between, states:

    Due to matter being naturally luminous, it is pure and non-afflicted…due to omniscience of all aspects being naturally luminous, it is pure and non-afflicted.

Ārya-suvikrāntavikrami-paripṛcchā-prajñāpāramitā-nirdeśa states:

    It is thought, “This mind is naturally luminous.” As this was thought, it is thought, “The mind arises based on a perception.” Since that perception is totally understood, the mind does not arise and does not cease. Such a mind is luminous, non-afflicted, beautiful, totally pure. Since that mind dwells in nonarising, no phenomena at all arise or cease.

The Ārya-prajñāpāramitānayaśatapañcāśatikā states:

    Since prajñāpāramitā is totally pure, all phenomena are naturally luminous.

The Buddhāvataṃsaka-nāma-mahāvaipulya-sūtra states:

    Since the original nature [prakriti] of the mind is luminous and endowed with purity, it is extremely pure…
    The original nature [prakriti] of the mind is correctly known as peaceful, luminous and equivalent with space…
    The natural luminosity of the dharmadhātu is abides as totality pure in the same way…

The Āryānantamukhapariśodhananirdeśaparivarta-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Whatever is totally pure, that is an immaculate entryway, the mind is naturally luminous and never possesses afflictions.
    The Ārya-bodhisattvapiṭaka-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
    All these phenomena are naturally pure,
    naturally luminous, fundamentally pure from the start,
    unfabricated and imperceptible.


    If it is asked what is luminosity, that which is natural is without affliction, like space, the nature of space. Follow space. That which is equivalent with the extent of space itself is extremely luminous by nature. Therefore, the immature are temporarily afflicted because they do not comprehend natural luminosity. Since sentient beings do not know natural luminosity, they must comprehend natural luminosity…Due to understanding the natural luminosity of the mind just as it is, the unsurpassed perfected awakening through the discerning wisdom possessed by an instant of the mind is called “full buddhahood.”

The Ārya-lalitavistara-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    I have obtained the ambrosia of Dharma,
    profound, peaceful, immaculate, luminous and unconditioned.
    Even though I explain it, no one will understand,
    I think I will remain in the forest without speaking.
    Free from words, untrained by speech,
    suchness, the nature of Dharma, is like space
    free from the movements of mind and intellect,
    supreme, amazing, the sublime knowledge…
    Always like space,
    nonconceptual, luminous,
    the teaching without periphery or center
    is expressed in this Dharmawheel.
    Free from existence and nonexistence,
    beyond self and nonself,
    the teaching of natural nonarising
    is expressed in this Dharmawheel…

The Ārya-sarvabuddhaviṣayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkāra-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Mañjuśrī, because the mind is naturally luminous, the secondary afflictions are exhausted by temporary secondary afflictions, but the primary afflictions do not exist by nature. Whatever is naturally luminous is without primary afflictions…
    Mañjuśrī, awakening naturally luminous through the natural luminosity of the mind. If it is asked what is luminosity, whatever is natural is without the primary afflictions, is equal with space, has the nature of space and is included in space, and is like space because of being extremely luminous by nature.

The Ārya-cintye-prabhāsa-nirdeśa-nāma-dharmaparyāya states:

    The child asked, how shall I discern this? The mind is naturally luminous, within that afflictions are not produced and it does not become afflicted.”
    The Bhagavān replied, “It is just as you have said. The mind is always luminous, the common people become afflicted by temporary afflictions."

The Ārya-laṅkāvatāra-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Purified of the afflictions
    abandoned by meditation and seeing,
    the mind is naturally luminous,
    the pure tathāgatagarbha;
    but the addictions of sentient beings
    are boundless and endless.
    Just as when the surface of gold is polished, one sees
    the gold color, the brilliant shine and the pure surface,
    in just that way
    is the sentient being in the aggregates.
    The supreme ones have always shown
    the inexhaustible wisdom of the Buddha to be peace,
    without a person, without the aggregates.
    The natural luminosity of the mind
    endowed with the affliction of mind and so on
    along with [the affliction of] self
    possesses temporary afflictions
    from the start,
    naturally luminosity can be purified of the affliction of self,
    just like a [stained] cloth.
    Just as the flaws of either cloth or gold
    can be cleansed because they are [intrinsically] stainless,
    which neither remain nor are destroyed,
    and likewise have the nature of being flawless.

The Āryātajñāna-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Since all phenomena are naturally luminous,
    one should fully cultivate the perception of nonperception.

The Ārya-Śūraṃgamasamādhi-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    those are not real entities.
    When something is a nonentity,
    that is the purity of phenomena.

The Ārya-pratyutpanna-buddhasaṃmukhāvasthitasamādhi-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Also the mind is pure, naturally luminous,
    unperturbed, all pervasive and unadulterated.


    Since all these phenomena are naturally luminous, they are equivalent with nirvana.

The Ārya-bodhisattvagocaropāyaviṣayavikurvitanirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Due to not being asserted in other vehicles, the mind is pure. Due to the removal of the turbulence of the afflictions, the mind is not afflicted. Due to naturally luminosity, the mind is luminous.

The Ārya-tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Due to the natural luminosity of the mind, awakening is naturally luminous. If it is asked why it is called “naturally luminous,” whatever is natural is without the afflictions, equivalent with space, the nature of space, and equal in extent with space, and even with space. That nature is very luminous. Since immature common people do not comprehend natural luminosity, they are afflicted by the afflictions…
    The element of afflictions are fully known as the characteristics of the temporary afflictions. The element of purification is fully known as the characteristic of natural luminosity…
    The natural luminosity of the mind should be known in just that way. Due to that, the Dharma of the existence of result is shown in one moment of mind.

The Ārya-gaganagañjaparipṛcchā-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Whoever skillfully realizes all phenomena as pure,
    that is the natural luminosity of the mind…
    Because the mind is naturally luminous,
    therefore it is never afflicted.

There are of course many sūtra citations which I have excluded, but they all present a consistent theme.

Moving onto the tantras, we really do not find much variation on this theme, apart from the fact that the tantras tend to present a more precise explanation of the stages of the experience of luminosity in meditation (which will not be disclosed here). To begin with, the Ārya-ḍākinī-vajrapañjara-mahātantrarāja-kalpa-nāma states:

    The dharmadhātu is luminous,
    someone who meditates on that
    is a sentient being who becomes equal with a buddha…
    The dharmadhātu is luminous,
    the taste of excellent bliss,
    called “the unobscured vajra.”

The Śrī-mahāsaṃvarodaya-tantrarāja-nāma states:

    Natural luminosity
    is beyond the range of analysis,
    it is not low, not high, peaceful
    it cannot be invoked,
    it is inexpressible, beyond enumeration,
    the aspect of emptiness
    abiding as the nature all entities,
    free from all qualities such as sound and so on,
    this is the sources of the bliss of buddhahood.

The Saṃpūṭi-nāma-mahātantra states:

    Natural luminosity is free from all concepts,
    free from being covered by the taints of desire and so on,
    with subject and object, the supreme being
    has said that is supreme nirvana…
    all phenomena are naturally luminous,
    because all phenomena do not arise from the start,
    it is termed non-origination by the mind.

The Mahāmāyā-tantra-nāma states:

    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    pure from the start and without perturbation…
    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    pure from the start, like space.

The Śrī-vajramālābhidhānamahāyogatantra-sarvatantrahṛdaya-rahasyavibhaṅga-iti states:

    Natural luminosity is stainless,
    free from all aspects.

The Sandhivyākaraṇa-nāma-tantra states:

    This phenomena is naturally luminous,
    since it is pure from the start, it is equivalent with space,
    there is no awakening, no realization,
    it is the explanation of bodhicitta.

The Māyājāla-mahātantrarāja-nāma states:

    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    pure from the start, without perturbation,
    without sentient beings, without life,
    without buddhas and without awakening.

The Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:

    Also everything is naturally luminous,
    pure from the start, like space,
    neither a phenomena nor a nonphenomena,
    inconceivable and delightful…
    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    intrinsically pure from the start.

The Vajraśikharamahāguhyayoga-tantra states:

    Since everything is naturally luminous,
    its nature will be pure from the start,
    afflictions will not be perceptible,
    there will also be no liberation of nirvana…
    All phenomena are nonarising,
    totally luminous, peaceful from the start.

The Sarvarahasyo-nāma-tantrarājā states:

    To explain the meaning of “sentient beings:”
    the mind is naturally luminous…
    whatever is naturally luminous
    is unsurpassed bodhicitta.

The Śrī-paramādya-nāma-mahāyānakalparājā states:

    Since prajñānapāramita is totally pure, all phenomena are naturally luminous.

The Ārya-guhyamaṇitilaka-nāma-sūtra states:

    All conditioned things are impermanent, and never arose from the beginning in natural luminosity.

The Ārya-vajrapāṇyabhiṣeka-mahātantra states:

    The wisdom free from concepts
    is the actual buddhahood of all the past victors,
    that freedom from concepts
    is demonstrated as the accomplishment of Secret Mantra.
    The result of that is pure,
    naturally luminosity.
    Whoever dwells in conceptuality
    will never produce siddhis.

The Śrī-jñānavajrasamuccaya states:

    Whatever arises from luminosity,
    that is called “mind,” “intellect" and “consciousness,”
    that is the foundation of all phenomena,
    the two stages are realized from
    affliction and purification…
    In order to explain the reality of all phenomena [gnas lugs], whatever arises from luminosity is dharmatā, the dhātu of naturally pure luminosity. Since a nonconceptual knowing awareness arises at the same time as the subtle vāyu, the mind [citta, sems] is the basis of all…
    The reality of that inner consciousness,
    nonconceptual innate dharmatā,
    is the nature of luminosity, empty and not a self…
    The reality of luminosity
    is an unfabricated mind which arises from it
    different from generic consciousness…
    luminosity is the ultimate truth…
    based on luminosity, the ultimate true state,
    the path is traversed rapidly…
    luminosity is dharmatā, suchness,
    pure like space, great bliss,
    unceasing, immaculate, peace,
    ultimate, mahāmudra itself.
    Mahāmudra of union
    is attained from luminosity that is very free from proliferation…
    Natural luminosity is totally pure,
    immaculate, like the element of space…

So, in the end we can see here that luminosity is uniformly considered to be a metaphor for the purity of both mind and phenomena. It is the critical point of meditation in Mahāyāna Buddhism, in both sūtra and tantra, and its experiential recognition leads in both cases to the realization of the final result, buddhahood. I have not included any citations from either sūtra and tantra which indicate how it is experientially entered, as that is beyond the scope of this post.

Finally, we can also see here in these citations that the naturally luminosity of the mind what is being termed tathāgatagarbha, dharmadhātu, and so on, and we can see that it is also termed emptiness, suchness, dharmatā and so on.


Wayfarer wrote:
'Luminous' means 'giving off light; bright or shining.
synonyms: shining, bright, brilliant, radiant, dazzling, glowing, gleaming, coruscating, scintillating, lustrous, luminescent, phosphorescent, incandescent'

The mind doesn't literally give off light - neither does matter, really - so as said, it's a metaphorical description. But what is it a metaphor for?

Stainless purity, it is one of the central concepts in Mahayana.


Dan74 wrote:
    Why not say 'stainless purity' then?

    Perhaps there is a vibrant luminous quality to the mind when freed from the habitual defilements?

All phenomena are naturally luminous, not just the mind. In any case, few of these citations have been presented in English before. Perhaps it is best if you reference a particular citation.


"The point is that things, including the mind, are naturally luminous regardless of whether one is awakened or not."


anjali wrote:

        Wayfarer wrote:
        The mind doesn't literally give off light - neither does matter, really - so as said, it's a metaphorical description. But what is it a metaphor for?

    I've always liked this simple definition/explanation by Tony Duff,

            Luminosity or illumination, Skt. prabhäsvara, Tib. 'od gsal ba: The core of mind has two aspects; an emptiness factor and a knowing factor. The Buddha and many Indian religious teachers used "luminosity" as a metaphor for the knowing quality of the core of mind. If in English we would say "Mind has a knowing quality", the teachers of ancient India would say, "Mind has an illuminative quality, it is like a source of light which illuminates what it knows".


This is not what rang bzhin 'od gsal means. He is conflating 'od gsal ba and gsal ba. A very common error among translators. Luminosity and clarity are not the same thing.


Re: Natural Luminosity

Unread postby Malcolm » Sun May 17, 2015 12:34 am

    dzogchungpa wrote:
    From the entry in one of his glossaries for 'luminosity':

        Note also that in both Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist literature, this term is frequently abbreviated just to Skt. “vara” and Tib. “gsal ba” with no change of meaning. Unfortunately, this has been thought to be another word and it has then been translated with “clarity”, when in fact it is just this term in abbreviation.

    You're saying he's just wrong about this?

Yes. For one thing, he is splitting the word at the wrong place, i.e. he splits it as prabhās/vara.

The split is actually prabhā ['od] svara [gsal ba], hence prabhāsvara.

Prabhā means "light". svara primarily means "sound"; but also is the antonym of āsvara, indistinct, hence svara also has a meaning of "distinct". For example, the voice of a bodhisattva is described as prabhāsvara. If you look in the Sanskrit dictionary, you discover that prabhāsvara usually means "clear, shrill," but not in this case. When prabhāsvara is to be translated as "clear" as in a voice, it is rendered as gsal dbyangs, and not as 'od gsal.

The other Sanskrit terms which gsal ba generally translates are uttānaḥ, to stretch or vyaktaḥ, "...caused to appear , manifested , apparent , visible , evident", and a number other terms as well which are not included in the Mahāvyutpatti.
Posted by: Wei Yu
This is an important insight to realize. Not singing eloquently about clarity but straight into the quintessence of liberation, unraveling the knot that binds oneself to cyclical existence. Clarity is clarity, what binds us to samsara requires us to have insights into D.O. and emptiness, they are different realizations. We should not get mixed up but we need both.

No essence No existence This joy

by Traktung Rinpoche:
There is nothing more disturbing than dharma’s pure message that is the undoing of identity …. the concrete, existent identity of self, of things, of mind.  There is a nexus of meanings; we call it our lives - adornment of nothingness’ luminosity across emptiness’ expanse. It is our ownmost authenticity without there being any being, or essence or even existence to it at all.

The Greeks felt essence preceded existence. The existentialists felt that existence preceded essence.  Buddha’s great realization disentangles this non-question in the realization of the absence of essence or existence in the unutterable mystery of suchness.  Existence and essence are co-emergent substanceless empty appearing / appearance emptiness.

Let the dharma unmake you, disrobe your habits – even the habit called “me”, unconstruct the suredness you call you. In authentic dharma there is no ground to stand on and that no-ground is the most disturbing fact imaginable. ….  but the same fact which causes the existentialist nausea is unutterable playfulness to the yogi.

my dark unlearnings began
with the innocent speech of leaf fall.


                    snow melt.
                    mud. fallen tree.

                     spins, addled by secret scripts of
                     beetle track, patternings of
                     rainfall, diagrammatic log fire

listening.whole body. mitochondrial scholar stones.

i made a deal with moss and dirt   a

                                                            e d about:

identity decomposed. about. little birds. about.
sky all over closer to here than when and this.

      your lips. memory. how freedom is more
      under than above. measureless.
      complete love.
                                                              - t.k.

Posted by: Wei Yu
A good text explaining dependent origination, emptiness, two truths, etc.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination


The Venerable Khenchen
Thrangu Rinpoche
Geshe Lharampa

Transcribed by

Gaby Hollmann

Translated from Tibetan by

Ken Holmes
Edited by
Kate McDonnell
Namo Buddha Publications
Posted by: Wei Yu

I had an intense peak experience recently, which I revisited some aspects of my previous realizations/experience.

There is a vast impersonal natural intelligence which is living you, or rather, it IS this life, this breathing, this walking, this drinking... this life of the universe, of the earth spinning, .... all an interconnected play of Dharma, of total life, intelligence, and awareness. The only blockage is simply this sense of an 'I', someone who controls will and dictates actions in life.

If you think that I am sounding like an advocate of 'God', I have to reiterate that this so called 'God' or intelligent Mind is empty of its own existence apart from Dharma, is not something changeless and independent, and is not some sort of source acting behind the scenes or pulling the strings. Because this vast impersonal intelligence is so magnificent, powerful and impersonal, it can give the impression that we are all just the dream or expression of a Universal Mind of God, and if we follow this 'personification' and 'reification' we may start to think whether we are living in a matrix, a dream of Shiva for no other reason than his own enjoyment. But we are not the play or lila of a Brahman, there is no need to personify or reify this at all. This intelligence IS the miracle of manifestation. The divine has no face of its own, and yet every face is the face of divinity. There is no I, no perceiver, or a controller of this spontaneous intelligent happening. Living this is living in complete ecstasy and joy born of this total intelligence, life and clarity.

I just found something by Daniel Ingram which pretty much describes it nicely:

"Thus, sensations of effort are just sensations of effort, but imply no fundamental split off entity that is making this effort. It is just a natural product of the interdependent universe. Just so, the sense of a will is replaced with a mysterious sense of absolutely natural causality and a natural, creative “intelligence” that operates in all of this, though the sensations that make up the sense of will continue as before. This is what is meant in the teachings of the twelve links of dependent origination when it says, “With the complete cessation of [fundamental] ignorance, volitional formations cease.” Similarly, sensations of intimacy are just sensations of intimacy and simply imply proximity rather than a separate self. Those of third path know this to some degree, and those of second path can look into this to try to attain the understanding of third path. Arahats have fully understood this."
(note: his definition of 'Arahat' is different from the suttas definition)

Also in moments of peak experience, I see we have to overcome the habitual tendencies of distracted thoughts... means we must be able to completely silent our mind and be able to have no thoughts at all to fully experience the fullness and presence of our six senses without a single trace of thought or sense of self... the trees, the sky, the breeze, everything in its complete intensity without thoughts. I'm not saying thought must be stopped at all moments, but like Eckhart Tolle said, after awakening 90% of his (unnecessary) thoughts just disappeared and thats what make a difference to his life. Without this we will not be able to feel the intensity of total Presence. So meditate and do yoga. Realization alone is insufficient without shamatha. Yes, you can experience anatta even when there are wandering thoughts because it is always already so, but one can never fully appreciate the Presence, total life, intelligence and awareness... it is a whole different level.

In other words: thoughts are ok, but you must have 'mastery' over them. Means unnecessary thoughts do not arise.
Posted by: Wei Yu

Posted by: Wei Yu

Even more anatta stuff! By Bill F in DhO. He's here too but never posts.


I relate to a lot of AEN's descriptions and stages. There are some that I can see on the intellectual level, but I can't honestly say that I have realized deeply in a way that has permanently shifted experience, particularly stage 7 (…/thusnesss-six-stag…). I'm feeling tired and lazy, but for the sake of comparison, here goes:

I had worked within the fold of the pragmatic dharma scene for a while. Shortly prior to stream entry it became evident that what I had called "me", this backdrop upon which all experience seemed to reflect and hinge, was not solid and durable, but was instead a composite built from causes and conditions in the field of experience. After stream entry it became impossible to solidify around this idea of an eternal, solid "me", but habitual patterns of thought and reaction could lead to thoughts and behavior not aligned with this insight.

At third path in the pragmatic dharma model it became clear to me that external phenomena in the form of thoughts, mental impressions, sights, sounds, etc. could not be separated into things with inherent solidity. I could look at a face and see it as a fluxing pattern of nondistinct, vividness. I was working with the elderly at the time and the beauty of their faces, and wrinkles was really amazing. This insight is not perfected, perhaps it never will be, but the general pattern is that it continues to infuse more and more areas of experience.

As a point of comparison, having seen the empty nature of self at stream entry, or perhaps even before, does not mean that you will never again think a sentence with the word "I" or constrict around a personal attack. If you've been driving one hundred miles per hour for ten, twenty, or forty years and you suddenly slam the breaks the momentum of the previous years will continue to effect the movement of the car. The next phases in my practice involved a further shift into what zen refers to as One Mind. Alex Weith in his excellent piece on the Bahiya Sutta -Bahiya- writes the following of this phase: "One Mind has often been compared to a bright mirror that reflects phenomena and yet remains untouched by appearances. As discussed with one of Sheng-yen's first Western students, this One Mind is still an illusion. One is not anymore identified to the self-center, ego and personality, yet one (the man) is still holding to pure non-dual awareness (the ox). Having tamed the ox, the ox-herder must let go of the ox (ox forgotten) and then forget himself and the ox (ox and man forgotten). The problem is that we still maintain a subtle duality between what we know ourself to be, a pure non-dual awareness that is not a thing, and our daily existence often marked by self-contractions. Hoping to get more and more identified with pure non-dual awareness, we may train concentration, try to hold on to the event of awakening reifying an experience, or rationalize the whole thing to conclude that self-contraction is not a problem and that suffering is not suffering because our true nature is ultimately beyond suffering. This explains why I got stuck in what Zen calls "stagnating waters" for about a year. " (…/zen-exploration…)

One of the more interesting aspects of this phase is that cycling between the nanas that before seemed a major problem, no longer seemed to be a problem. It was as though some physical instability that had been driving practice for me for those years (five at the time of this phase) seemed gone. Two of the major pragmatic dharma teachers diagnosed me as fourth path at this point, but in truth, I did not find my ongoing experience to match up to Daniel's description of 4th path until several months later. During the next several months I would occasionally have experiences where any sense of an internal observer just vanished. My consistent experience was still that of the non-solid Watcher, empty but in some way separate and reflecting on other empty phenomena. But then suddenly the watcher would be gone, and there would just be experience experiencing itself vividly, no doer, or watcher, simply the sensations manifesting as themselves at all sense doors. Each time I would come out of this state there would be a sense of anxiety, particularly as these experiences began to increase in consistency and duration. Then one day I was walking the dog General R.I.P and I experienced the vanishing of the observer, but with the realization that there had never been a separate observer, dual or non-dual, no watcher, no Self, or self. Experience spoke for itself without any residual observation point. Even self-referential thinking was seen to occur without a landscape from which it projected or landed onto. I documented that experience, and the fall out here, towards the bottom of the page, on January 29: Bill'sNotes (

More than anything else I had experienced this changed the nature of how I understood everything that had happened before and it totally destroyed any sense of my being a meditatior or on a spiritual path or any of that. That being said, I still practice daily for 2-3 hours, but practice is perhaps the wrong word as that implies efforting towards a goal. Things continue to change and deepen and infuse new areas. I went through a dramatic deepening a couple weeks ago, but nothing new was really revealed, just an increase in clarity and immediacy.

As an aside, I can't know for sure that what I'm writing about/experienced is what AEN and Thusness are writing about. I am just sharing my own experience, and it may not correspond exactly so I'm not making definitive notes as a representative of Thusness and AEN's understanding.


I am glad these things are being discussed. I think an important point would be that just because one is no longer priviledging non-dual experience as being an ultimate reality does not mean that one is prohibited from acting in a way towards living a good life. In my experience, when the idea of the spiritual and Awareness and Ultimate Reality fell away, I was devastated. It was as though what had given my life meaning for so many years had suddenly been taken away, and I had no way to account for all the hours I'd spent practicing, nor the way I had held certain states or practices or insights as being special. It really and truly broke my heart. I could not practice for a while, or even really think about it, as I had no way to configure this new understanding with the way I had constructed practice and life before. That was a bout a year. It was in some ways very dark, and yet I couldn't feel that bad about it somehow.

Gradually I returned to practice, but with a new sense of freedom. Without being tied to ideas of non-duality, self/no self, I was more or less free to pursue whatever I wanted. This might be the brahma viharas. It might be the jhanas. It might be therapy. Or relationships. I might choose to spend a couple hours a day walking outside and not practice at all.

One question that comes up for me is this: Having had a similar experience, how can I be sure that I am not now just creating another model? In other words, the stage of reifying a Super Awareness or Non-duality or whatever it might be, is just the stage before the stage of seeing through all that, and in what ways am I currently cutting myself off from further development? Just some food for thought for myself.



I don't know that there's much there I don't agree with. I do think you are projecting onto me ideas that are not being put forth. All I was stating was that the belief in awareness separate from phenomena, is itself an experience, not to be priviliged, and it is flimsy.

At a certain point in practice it seemed to me that all of my experience, though empty, was being experienced through the filter of empty, lucid, awareness. At a certain point (January 2012) Awareness as Self, Watcher, Primordial Reality, or whatever term we use or don't use to designate a backdrop or landscape for reality that contains that reality, was seen through. It became apparent that that experience of Awareness was simply another appearance, undivided, not happening on any landscape or with any backdrop or source. It was simply the experience and the possibility that it reflected onto something or was born from something was seen to be impossible. The idea of Awareness as backdrop is simply the idea of Awareness as backdrop. It is not symbolic of anything else. The same could be said for the sense of identity. The experience of I or non-self is simply that, with nothing attached, signifying neither the absence of identity nor a separate self who experiences. The sense of self, the sense of awareness, the sense of reflective consciousness is immediate and is not happening against a backdrop, born out of anything, or landing on anything.

I am not trying to build a new model out of this realization. As I wrote above it took me time to integrate this new, and very much unexpected understanding into what I understood my life and practice to be before it happened. It really and totally put me into a new and different place than any insight or change in practice had brought before. After it was integrated there was a great deal of freedom in not being tied to spiritual ideas, or models. That being said, I can not see that this insight could not progressively happen after some reliance and belief on a non-dual backdrop behind experience, as it is precisely seeing through that that is the experience.



I have been practicing Mahamudra for the past few weeks in a systematic way using Reggie Ray's "Mahamudra for the Modern World" as a practical guide. I have also been practicing a form of metta involving simply tuning into the direct sensations of the body (using breath as an anchor) and spreading the feeling of metta through the body. The latter does not involve sending myself or anyone else metta, just submerging into the pleasurable directness of the body, and repeating the word "happy" at the beginning of the out breath. At times the invocation of any word becomes too cumbersome, and it is enough to just bathe in the comfort of the body. This feeling has persisted at times throughout the day so that it seems the practice has begun to take effect on a cellular level. The feeling is at times that of having a new physical body free from tension so that the whole body for hours oozes a sense of release. If you have experienced a deeply pleasant exhale where release seems at the forefront it is as if the deep tissue of the body is doing that in an extended and potent way.
Regarding Mahamudra, Reggie Ray in "Secret of the Vajra World: The Tantric Buddhism of Tibet" writes, "In the realization of Mahamudra, each phenomenon stands as a proclamation of the inseparability of form (mudra) and emptiness (maha). The form aspect of each phenomenom is the fact that it appears vividly; the emptiness aspect is that it is beyond concept or imagination." Though for me this became evident "in real time" consistently at third path such that no effort was needed to induce the insight, I continue to find variations in how the depth of what has been seen play out in my life and in my reactions.

I spent the last couple of weeks using shamatha to heighten enjoyableness and clear seeing, and am now mostly in a phase where I am practicing the somatic metta (not a mahamudra teaching, though similar to vajrayana tonglen in some ways), shamatha without an object, and investigating the nature of thoughts.

In the practice of shamatha without an object one returns again and again to the undivided, ununified, knowing, natural aspect of reality. Though it is referred to as the "natural state" or "emptiness of mind" what's left in the practice is what remains when thoughts that would take one outside of the direct immediacy of reality have been let go. What remains is the immediacy of reality, totally at rest. The more I practice in this way the more evident that direct, restful, non-separate nature of reality becomes my reality, and the less pull there is from thoughts that, if grasped onto, obscure this naturalness.

The other practice I have been useing frequently is the practice of investigating thoughts. There are a variety of instructions, but basically it begins with resting in the natural state, allowing thoughts to arise, and investigating from the innocence of the natural state. In this practice it becomes apparent that thoughts upon their arising are just blips of energy, inseparable from naturalness. Writing of Mahamudra using the analogy of a child visiting a colorful temple, Trungpa Rinpoche writes, "He sees all kinds of magnificient decorations, displays, rich colors, vividness of all kinds. But this child has no preconceptions or any concept whatsoever about to begin to analyze...The experience is all pervasive. At the same time, it is perhaps somewhat overwhelmingly pleasurable." There is the experience when practicing in this way of seeing thoughts as beautiful patterns of energy, arising and dying of their own accord. To further the analogy, if you have ever lay on the ground on a winter night when it is snowing and looked up into the sky, mostly there is the all pervasive peacefulness of the limitless dark above, and out of the dark flashes of pristine light. One may begin to conceptualize the snowflake, think about the weather, what time it is, when to be home, but the nakeness of the experience remains unblemished when seen directly.

To clarify the analogy above, I am not suggesting a non-dual watcher gazing into the sky of emptiness. Rather, "I" am an empty thought, the same as a star erupting and dying, and in direct experience there is only the nakedness of sky and snow.


Though it is tempting to think of awakening as binary, an on/off switch that once encountered is complete, my own experience is that it is more gray scale. It is true that there are insights that once seen, can never be unseen, and that in the seeing perception changes clearly in a permanent, effortless, no need to induce anything sort of way. None the less, within that transformation there are still moments of dullness or narrowing that obscure the lucidity of luminosity and emptiness.
Inspired by reading Droll's recent postings, and former practice logs from a few years ago I have again begun incorporating the process of grounding. Formally influenced by Kenneth Folk's method of grounding emotions in the body, I spent a serious chunk of practice time keeping an almost constant thread of awareness on the body, watching for pockets of reactivity and then feeling into them. This resulted in a shift in a way that emotions presented. It did not stop them, nor was that the intent. Rather, it was that the energy of the emotions became more clear, lucid, richer and in some subtle way pleasurable, while the story lines themselves that would normally occur as a result of disassociating from that initial spark of energy, became signifigantly less pronounced and elaborate. This process has continued to deepen in subtle ways in the intervening years. As a side note, I don't like the word grounding, and its implications, and my own experience is that it is intimacy with the arising of energy in the body. In being with the body in direct experience the boundaries of skin are not obvious, and it is impossible to tell where the body begins and ends. Similarly emotions when seen in direct experience as arising energy, when neither grasped onto nor consolidated into story, are without border or definite shape. Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche spoke about the experience of empty, knowing as "space suffused with sunlight", and it is a good description of the immediacy of the practice.

In Reggie Ray's Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body, he writes "When we remain within the body and are thereby able to remain open enough to allow the process of emotions to unfold, we make the starling discovery that the the so-called "neurotic emotions" are not inherently neurotic at all. The neurotic emotionality -the self-absorption or twisted reaction that happens with us- is not a result of the emotions at all, but rather of our attempts to get control of them, to short circuit their own natural, in-born process, and to prematurely come to closure about them. This discovery, which we make over and over in working with subtle as well as highly charged emotional states, can be experienced as astonishing, moving and deeply inspiring". What this has looked like for me recently is that when the subtle changes of energy that would normally lead to disassociating from the immediacy of the energy -by conceptualizing the energy into a story or simply a narrowing but nonverbal change in attention- are remained with in an intimate way the story line does not begin and there is just the energy, fluid, transparent, immediate and lucid. So my practice has been continued somatic metta, shamatha without an object, and the practice of feeling into the body and remaining with the immediacy of the changing energy. It has been rewarding, and I am trying to remain without ideas about where it will go.


Not much to add here, but for the sake of consistency why not:

What became interesting to me recently was the subtle sense of presence, that can be felt attentionally or somatically as a narrowing. Mostly for me I experience it in the gut. I have been playing around with the feeling of how it is that this sense of presence comes to be, locating the narrowing in the immediate directness of experience.

At other times it is just sitting in effortlessness. This is non-meditation. No focus. Just sights, thoughts, sensations. No intention. No intention to have no intention.

At other times it is just returning again and again to the immediacy of experience.

I also am continuing with the metta practice as before. Some times it is "may this body be happy", but more recenlt it has become "may love (on the inbreath), love this body (on the out-breath)"
There are more sustained periods where the attentional focus seems not to shift at all. It is interesting to practice metta from this place. It's nice in a way, but also doesn't seem to do much.


Without agency, there is no one to meditate. Meditation then becomes simply the effortless experience of aliveness, experience, thoughts, sights and sounds. The experience of life released of the pressure of navigation justifies itself in its nakenedess.

Having seen this before, I know that intention can and does arise again, and in the intention, just the intention, though clarity waxes and wanes.


Had an experience two weeks ago where the practices I had been doing intensively for the previous two months seemed to culminate. It was not the experience of anything new, rather the immediacy of thinking became apparent in a way it had not before such that thoughts seemed to be unraveling in direct, immediateness with the same clarity as the perception of the external world. Due to the immediacy of it all thoughts were thoughts, but were experienced more like physical energy, and were brief, and somehow pleasant in their duration.

I have lately been working with familiar methods to some extent, but putting more focus on locating the "where" of transient phenomena (thoughts/feelings). There can at times be the vague sense of location related to thinking. Often this is the sense that a thought or feeling is located in the area of the body where the sensations occurring along with the thought or sensation are. In looking directly into the experience the mental impressions reveal themselves to be empty, without a fixed position, neither divided or inside but separate from the seamless landscape of experience, but existing as a seamless movement of the field of experience.


I don't know if there is a good way to maintain awareness while thinking if this suggests that the thoughts are playing themselves out and you are aware of it. In my experience prolongued conceptual thinking only occurs when I am disassociated from thoughts in their immediacy. In being with the immediacy of thoughts they reveal themselves as explosions of energy, and quickly die. If a thought has been going on and attention inclines to looking directly at the thought it seems to vanish. Most of the dullness in my experience anymore comes from moments where there is just some habitual, neutral thinking going on at a low hum below the surface.
Mahamudra practice regarding thoughts involves looking at thoughts from a place of emptiness as though looking at the surface of a still pond and watching for a ripple to appear in a very intense way. Conversely there is the practice of relaxing the focus and allowing the thoughts to do whatever they may as though watching from sidelines in appreciation of the wild, energetic nature of thinking. The analogy that is given is like watching children play from the side without interfering.


John Wilde wrote:

Only that which is delineated is impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-me/not-mine/not-self. The totality -- by whatever name -- never is. (And there's no place from which to evaluate it as such, nothing to compare it against).

Bill replied:

The delineation is the totality. Thinking that it is somehow different, or apart from, separate, is uneccesary confusion and the result of separating the two and creating borders where there need not be any. Even this separating is only experience manifest. Look closer into the looker who is able to perceive the perfection of the totality, as well as the experience of the totality itself. That or just spend a lot of time resting attention on the direct experience of the body, which is really just a fancy way of saying the immediacy of experience.

Not Tao: Why make bold proclamations that refute the understanding of others and then ignore any criticism when others try to engage you on the post you created. I believe you won't respond to this as criticism of others, and avoidance of their responses seems to be the name of the game, but it's a pretty slimey way to operate.


John Wilde: I think you think I was saying that 'the delineated' is impermanent / unsatisfactory while 'the whole' is permanent / satisfactory. If so, that's not quite where I was coming from. What I meant was that, once you partition anything off and reify it as an object, that which is partitioned off is thereby subject to the 3Cs... as an artefact of the partitioning.Which is to say, the language of limitation (in time, space, knowledge, etc) then becomes applicable to 'it'. (Which is never the case regarding the totality, by definition, because it can't be objectified).
Bill: Yes, I did read you that way, which I guess you are saying was a misinterpretation. I like what you wrote here. Well put.
How are you defining the totality that can't be objectified, and are you saying that it itself is neither permanent nor impermanent? How do you know that you are accurately reading it, and it is not just your subjective interpretation?

John Wilde: Why? I'm not sure what you want me to notice, or quite how it relates...
Bill: I guess I'd need you to clarify the question above, but if you believe that the totality stands apart from conditioned experience like thoughts, and feelings, then this itself is a misperception caused by the believe that there is a separate observer or that thoughts/feelings are somehow an experience separate from the totality. A closer look would reveal that they are not two separate things. Even the thought that they are is just the thought that they are. I'm not being clever. I mean that exactly. The thought or perception of separation is only and totally the thought or perception of separation. In seeing this more clearly the attachment to perfection as separate from one's subjective experience evaporates, and the load is lessened significant

Posted by: Wei Yu
Here is something I wrote today. Cut and pasted from another online discussion. Thought it would go nicely here as well.

No, I'm saying something completely different. I'm questioning your assertion that "at every moment, experience has two components -- (1) appearances (thoughts, perceptions, sensations) which come and go; and (2) awareness, which does not come and go." This, I maintain, is a misunderstanding.

I'm suggesting that there is no experience of awareness. Awareness is always inferred. The experiences you are calling "awareness," however subtle, exquisite, profound, and self-validating, are just experiences, with no more or less claim to Ultimate Reality than an itch, or a thought, or gas pain. I'm suggesting that neither you, nor I, nor anyone else, past or present has ever perceived or apperceived, quasi-perceived, or otherwise-perceived awareness, either personally or impersonally. What people (understandably) mislabel "Awareness" is, in fact, a mental construct, a composite of physical and mental phenomena. I'm suggesting that the next step for you (and anyone who is talking about Awareness) is to grieve the death of your projection. With this understanding, this process of awakening takes a sharp turn into territory we never bargained for and couldn't have anticipated in advance. This is why it's hard, and rare. Most people will not take this step. They will park themselves in their mental constructs, surround themselves with people who believe the same thing, and fail to move beyond their current understanding.