Excerpt from 'The Sun My Heart' by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunshine and Green Leaves

Beginning meditators usually think they must suppress all thoughts and feelings (often called "false mind") in order to create conditions favorable to concentration and understanding (called "true mind"). They use methods such as focusing their attention on an object or counting their breathes to try to block out thoughts and feelings. Concentrating on an object and counting the breath are excellent methods, but they should not be used for suppression or repression. We know that as soon as there is repression, there is rebellion -- repression entails rebellion. True mind and false mind are one. Denying one is denying the other. Suppressing one is suppressing the other. Our mind is our self. We cannot suppress it. We must treat it with respect, with gentleness, and absolutely without violence. Since we do not even know what our "self" is, how can we know if it is true or false, and whether or not what to suppress? The only thing we can do is to let the sunlight of awareness shine on our "self" and en-lighten it, so we can look at it directly.

Just as flowers and leaves are only part of a plant, and just as waves are only part of the ocean, perceptions, feelings, and thoughts are only part of the self. Blossoms and leaves are a natural manifestation of plants, and waves are a natural expression of oceans. It is useless to try to repress or stifle them. It is impossible. We can only observe them. Because they exist, we can find their source, which is exactly the same as our own.

The sun of awareness originates in the heart of the self. It enables the self to illuminate the self. It lights not only all thoughts and feelings present. It lights itself as well.

Let us return to the apple juice, quietly "resting." The river of our perceptions continue to flow, but now, in the sunlight of awareness, it flows peacefully, and we are serene. The relation between the river of perceptions and the sun of awareness is not the same as that of an actual river and the actual sun. Whether it is midnight or noon, whether the sun is absent or its penetrating rays are beaming down, the waters of the Mississippi River continue to flow, more or less the same. But when the sun of awareness shines on the river of our perceptions, the mind is transformed. Both river and sun are of the same nature.

Let us consider the relationship between the color of leaves and sunlight, which also have the same nature. At midnight, the starlight and moonlight reveal only the form of the trees and leaves. But if the sun were suddenly to shine, the green color of the leaves would immediately appear. The tender green of the leaves in April exists because the sunlight exists. One day, while sitting in a forest, mimicking the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra, I wrote:

Sunshine is green leaves
Green leaves are sunshine
Sunshine is not different from green leaves
Green leaves are not different from sunshine
The same is true of all forms and colors.

As soon as the sun of awareness shines, at that very moment a great change takes place. Meditators lets the sun of awareness rise easily, so we can see more clearly. When we meditate, we seem to have two selves. One is the flowing river of thoughts and feelings, and the other is the sun of awareness that shines on them. Which is our own self? Which is true? Which false? Which is good? Which bad? Please calm down, my friend. Lay down your sharp sword of conceptual thinking. Don't be in such a hurry to cut your "self" in two. Both are self. Neither is true. Neither is false. They are both true and both false.

We know that light and color are not separate phenomena. In the same way, the sun of self and the river of self are not different. Sit with me, let a smile form on your lips, let your sun shine, close your eyes, if need be, to see your self more clearly. Your sun of awareness is only part of your river of self, isn't it? It follows the same laws as all psychological phenomena: it arises and vanishes away. To examine something with a microscope, a scientist must shine light on the object being observed. To observe the self, you must shine light on it too, the light of awareness.

I just told you to put down your sword of conceptualization and not cut your self into sections. Actually, you couldn't, even if you wanted to. Do you think you can separate the sunshine from the green color of the leaves? You can no more separate the observing self from the self observed. When the sun of awareness shines, the nature of thoughts and feelings is transformed. It is one with the observing mind, but they remain different, like the green of the leaves and the sunshine. Don't rush from the concept of "two" to the concept of "one." This ever-present sun of awareness is at the same time its own object. When a lamp is turned on, the lamp itself is also brought to light. "I know that I know." "I am conscious of being conscious." When you think, "The sun of awareness has gone out in me," at that moment it re-lights itself, faster than the speed of light.


some other quotations which Thusness/PasserBy liked from the book --

"When we say I know the wind is blowing, we don't think that there is something blowing something else. "Wind' goes with 'blowing'. If there is no blowing, there is no wind. It is the same with knowing. Mind is the knower; the knower is mind. We are talking about knowing in relation to the wind. 'To know' is to know something. Knowing is inseparable from the wind. Wind and knowing are one. We can say, 'Wind,' and that is enough. The presence of wind indicates the presence of knowing, and the presence of the action of blowing'."

"..The most universal verb is the verb 'to be'': I am, you are, the mountain is, a river is. The verb 'to be' does not express the dynamic living state of the universe. To express that we must say 'become.' These two verbs can also be used as nouns: 'being", "becoming". But being what? Becoming what? 'Becoming' means 'evolving ceaselessly', and is as universal as the verb "to be." It is not possible to express the "being" of a phenomenon and its "becoming" as if the two were independent. In the case of wind, blowing is the being and the becoming...."

"In any phenomena, whether psychological, physiological, or physical, there is dynamic movement, life. We can say that this movement, this life, is the universal manifestation, the most commonly recognized action of knowing. We must not regard 'knowing' as something from the outside which comes to breathe life into the universe. It is the life of the universe itself. The dance and the dancer are one."

----------------

Comments by Thusness/PasserBy:

"...as a verb, as action, there can be no concept, only experience. Non-dual anatta (no-self) is the experience of subject/Object as verb, as action. There is no mind, only mental activities... ...Source as the passing phenomena... and how non-dual appearance is understood from Dependent Origination perspective."
(Last edit: 28th January 2009, update consists of an excerpt by Judith Blackstone)

(Also see the related post,
The Syncing of View, Path and Fruition)

Spiritual practices come in countless different forms, so what I am covering is limited and general. Also, I have written on the importance of Right View (near the bottom) that is required for the arising of Prajna wisdom, the insight into Emptiness (Stage 6 of Thusness's Six Stages of Experience). Much of the following post is based on what Thusness/PasserBy have said.

Self Inquiry


Some practices are very helpful in giving an initial glimpse of Presence. The I AMness can be experienced through practices where the object of concentration is the Self. One of such practices is self-inquiry. This is most widely practiced throughout Advaita Vedanta but also practiced in some some Zen/Ch'an (as Koan practice), Tibetan (Mahamudra and Dzogchen), Theravada (Thai Forest tradition) traditions of Buddhism. Through this practice the practitioner can experience the I AMness (see Stage 1 of Thusness's Six Stages of Experience, where Thusness experienced I AMness through the Self-Inquiry of "Before Birth, Who am I?"). It can be a question "Who am I" that leads one to the experience of the subject-object becoming one, i.e. attaining absorption. Till a point the practitioner simply experiences a pure sense of existence. This leads to a deep and ultimate conviction, that certainty beyond doubt of your very own existence -- "I AM". Though it is important to have certainty of our luminosity, this pure sense of existence as being ever-present and never lost, such mode of experiencing has no understanding of its non-dual luminous clarity and its nature as Anatta (Buddhist term for No-Self) and Sunyata (Buddhist term for Emptiness.)

Apart from recommending the practice Vipassana (insight meditation), Thusness sometimes (depending on conditions and the practitioners' inclinations) also recommend the practice of self-inquiry to practitioners (sometimes he would ask them to contemplate on questions such as, “Without using any languages, ‘I’, ‘me’ or any signs or symbols, how is ‘I’ experienced?”). However, this practice does not provide further insights into the non-dual and Empty nature of Presence.

Although having glimpses of this Presence is important, it cannot be misunderstood as the final aim. It cannot even be treated as any sort of arising insight that liberates us from suffering. It's nature tends to be misunderstood, and hence appears to the practitioner as a void/formless background witness, an Eternal Witness, or a Self/Atman. It's nature as No-Self and Emptiness (not 'Void', but as Dependent Origination) isn't realised.

(Related: Also see a good youtube video by Vishrant on the downside of self inquiry -- Satsang with Vishrant self inquiry. He too implied that Self-Inquiry can lead to the I AM experience (he calls it awareness turning on itself) but that realisation/experience of "awareness aware of itself is really only the beginning, it is not the end, it is only the first day in kindergarten". Yes, of course, because that is only Stage 1 of Thusness's Six Stages of Experience. He also talks of the downside of Self-Inquiry as potentially being misused into avoiding painful/unpleasant experiences by turning awareness upon itself and avoid/escape everything, and also on the 'technique' he prefer -- the 'surrendering to/allowing' whatever appearing, and thus dissolving the self.)

Dropping/Dissolving and Mindfulness/Naked Awareness/Bare Attention

The key point about the practice of mindful awareness (see Chapter 13: Mindfulness (Sati) of 'Mindfulness In Plain English' by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana, on the practice of Mindfulness and its relation to Vipassana/Insight Meditation) is there is no keeping of the mind on anything (including on the I AM as in the case of self inquiry) and by not resting on anything, it fuses into everything; therefore it cannot be concentrated; rather it is to relax into nothingness empty of self, empty of any artificial doing so that the natural luminosity can take its own course. There is no focusing, there is only allowing the mirror bright clarity to shine with its natural radiance. In essence there is no one there, only the phenomenon arising and ceasing according to conditions, telling their stories.

As Longchen/Simpo wrote, "No subject-object division is the true nature of existence. The method of realising this insight lies in the dissolving of the 'sense of self'. This often involves the continual and correct letting go of mental grasping." (The misconceptions surrounding Transcendental Non duality)

So, drop and dissolve away into vivid non-dual luminosity. Dissolve completely and arise as the scenery, sound, taste, smell, thoughts, touch sensations.

The ultimate purpose of dropping is to allow non-dual experience to arise.

There are certain types of people who advocate on the uselessness of practice (particularly the Neo-Advaitins), and that asking people to 'do practices' simply strengthens their sense of self. However, what is being spoken here is essentially not a 'doing'. It can more accurately be known as a 'non-doing'.

Nothing needs to be done here, as every single moment is it, and so there is no striving towards a 'better state' -- every state is equally pure, equally the expression of Buddha-Nature. This is It! Hence, as Longchen/Simpo wrote,

...However, there can be no progressing from a dualistic state into a non-dual state. Every single moment is it! There is no one state better than the rest! Every moment is as it is.

There is absolutely no need to do anything. Even if the efforting or anything arise, let it be! The effort arises automatically too... no-self there too!

By doing nothing, everything arises and passes away on its own accord.

Actually, there cannot be a 'doing nothing'... There can only be 'what is' at any single moment."

Thusness/PasserBy said,

"...it seems that lots of effort need to be put in -- which is really not the case. The entire practice turns out to an undoing process. It is a process of gradually understanding the workings of our nature that is from beginning liberated but clouded by this sense of ‘self’ that is always trying to preserve, protect and ever attached. The entire sense of self is a ‘doing’. Whatever we do, positive or negative, is still doing. Ultimately there is not-even a letting go or let be, as there is already continuous dissolving and arising and this ever dissolving and arising turns out to be self-liberating. Without this ‘self’ or ‘Self’, there is no ‘doing’, there is only spontaneous arising.

(source: Non-dual and karmic patterns)

As mentioned earlier, this is not a form of exercise in concentration or focused attention, but dropping and only Dharma spontaneously arising. (Also see
Six Stages of Dropping by Thusness)

Awareness or Buddha-Nature is not the same as focused attention or concentration. Awareness is effortlessly happening right now, whether you like it or not, and whether you are paying attention or not. When causes and conditions is, manifestation is, when manifestation is, Awareness is. Naturally, sounds are
effortlessly being heard, smells are effortlessly being smelled, even if the smell or sound is unpleasant and you try to avoid it, it's being awared. While paying attention to the breath, something still hears sounds. That is Buddha-Nature. It is the sum of all our parts, that which sees, hears, feels and tastes all at once as One Reality. Before you think that this awareness is a 'thing' -- a Mirror or a Witness, it's not separate -- it's just sound hearing, scenery seeing, it's not a something tangible (a Mirror or a Witness) yet is vividly manifesting.

So as Toni Packer said, "There is no need for awareness to turn anywhere. It's here! Everything is here in awareness! When there is a waking up from fantasy, there is no one who does it. Awareness and the sound of a plane are here with no one in the middle trying to "do" them or bring them together. They are here together! The only thing that keeps things (and people) apart is the "me"-circuit with its separative thinking. When that is quiet, divisions do not exist."

Joan Tollifson ("student" of Toni), "This open being is not something to be practiced methodically. Toni points out that it takes no effort to hear the sounds in the room; it's all here. There's no "me" (and no problem) until thought comes in and says: "Am I doing it right? Is this 'Awareness'? Am I enlightened?" Suddenly the spaciousness is gone—the mind is occupied with a story and the emotions it generates."

As John Welwood says: "This larger awareness is self-existing: it cannot be fabricated or manufactured because it is always present, whether we notice it or not."

To reiterate my previous statement that Awareness is not the result of an effort put in concentration or focused attention, is not constructed, is unborn, self-existing and ever-present, and becomes 'apparent' through letting go of fixation, Judith Blackstone nicely puts it:
"Nondual consciousness is not a state of attention. It is experienced without effort of any kind. It is the mind completely at rest. In fact, there is not even a sense that the mind is resting, for that is still an activity of sorts. Rather, one experiences a simple lucid openness in which the phenomena of the world appear, and through which experiences such as thoughts, emotions, and sensations move without obstruction.

There is also a sense that one's consciousness is pervading all of the content of one's experience. Rather than an encounter between one's own head and the objects outside of one's head, as experienced in intentional, dualistic consciousness states, nondual consciousness is experienced globally. It pervades and subsumes one's whole body and everything in one's environment at the same time. "Consciousness is encountered as something more like a field than a localized point, a field that transcends the body and yet somehow interacts with it" (Forman, in Gallagher & Shear, 1999, p. 373).

One of the main characteristics of nondual realization is that it is discovered, rather than created, as rigid subjective organizations are released. Constructivists may insist that nondual consicousness is itself a conceptual construct. Speaking both from my own experience as well as from traditional accounts, I can attest that nondual realization is a process of gradually letting go of one's grip on oneself and one's environment -- as if opening a clenched fist. It does require concentrated effort and time to achieve a certain degree of letting go. But the expanse of nondual consciousness, pervading oneself and one's environment as a unified whole, appears of its own accord as a result of this letting go, and continues to appear, without any effort on one's own part."

~ "The Empathic Ground" by Judith Blackstone (a book that Thusness thinks is very good and recommended me, contains many practical techniques and pointers to nondual awareness)


Also very helpful in the practice of mindful awareness is to contemplate (means, to experience in direct awareness) on certain pointers and instructions that the Buddha gave. For example, one can meditate based on the Bahiya Sutta (see
The Buddha on Non-Duality),

In seeing, there is only the seen,
In hearing, there is only sound
,
In sensing, there is only sensation
,
In thinking, there is only thought


By contemplating as such, insight into Anatta (No-Self) can arise.
What should be noted also is that whatever said is really “already is”. In seeing, there is always only the seen. In hearing there is always only the sound. Never was there a seer or hearer. All “already is”. Anatta is not just a non-dual experience, it must be regarded as a dharma seal, the ever-present nature of reality. That all along the dichotomy of a observer and observed duality is an illusion created by due to our deeply rooted inherent and dualistic tendency of seeing things.

From the comments section in
Thusness's Six Stages of Experience,

...If a practitioner were to feel that he has gone beyond the experiences from ‘I hear sound’ to a stage of ‘becoming sound’ or takes that ‘there is just mere sound’, then this experience is again distorted. For in actual case, there is and always is only sound when hearing; never was there a hearer to begin with. Nothing attained for it is always so...

....This is the seal of no-self and can be realized and experienced in all moments; not just a mere concept...

Next, in thinking, only thought: but what is thought? In your direct awareness you can notice that it is a kind of phenomena just like sound, sight, etc, but a different kind of phenomena. In Buddhism, there are 6 senses instead of the commonly accepted 5 senses within Science. Everything is the same, except that we include 'mind' in it. Thought is not seen with eyes, it is not heard with ears, yet the thought is undeniably present when it arises. Images are recalled, mental reasoning arises, relating, pondering, mental images and words appearing and then disappearing and then another appearing. But what is more important is that it is a 'knowing' or 'luminous' phenomenon. All along the transience rolls and knows; no watcher is real or needed. This thought, and another thought, and another thought, each thought is a complete and luminous manifestation of Buddha-Nature.


If we fail to see that each thought is a self-luminous/'knowing' manifestation, the tendency is to push, to relate to a 'center', a Self, a source, a background Knower/Witness, a void and limitless container. We think that Buddha Nature is not a thought, it is not the transience, it is the invisible Witness of thoughts, the void background wherein thoughts arise from and return to, itself unchanging. And that is a mistake. When we fail to see that there is no separation, we choose to stay as a Witness/Source, not realising All Appearances are the equally the Source/Witness, there is nothing to choose. So this 'practice' is really about 'choiceless awareness'.

See: Choiceless Awareness and Non-Fixation by Aaron

Choiceless awareness means to rest in whatever is present, understanding the conditioned nature of its arising and that whatever has arisen is an expression of the pure heart/mind, an expression of God. Seeing that, you cease to take a dual stance against that which has arisen, but let it point you back into the ground of your being, the divine core. Here equanimity is present, equanimity with arising, neither grasping or pushing away. For this "choiceless awareness" to be truly choiceless, everything that arises must be seen as divine play, divine expression. No exceptions. The difficulty is that you do make exceptions, taking stance against that which you judge as "other-than," the fear, anger, desire. Even this "other-than" judgment is not what fogs in your peace. Delusion grows from the belief that this arising thought is true and from the contractions that form about it.

When we know our nature as empty-luminosity, we'll see all as "ME". The "I AM" is not more "ME" than a passing thought, a passing sound, a moment of sensation when the feet touches the ground. There is no Self apart from phenomena arising and passing.


So one must feel the difference between "In thinking just thought" and the "Eternal Witness" -- the "Eternal Witness" is just a tendency to relate back and sink to a source and refuse to 'see' what is. Every arising of a thought carries with it deeply rooted imprints that 'blinds'.


Yet not only must the non-dual (no subject-object, no thinker/thought division) luminosity be experienced, it must also be experienced that each thought is unsupported, disjoint/discrete and complete yet... and hence there is no chaining of one thought to another. Same goes to sight, sound, taste, smell, touch sensations. Hence Bahiya Sutta is deeply profound.
Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.

This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death.

Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.

~ Zen Master Dogen Zenji


Also see
The Mystique of Enlightenment (Part Two) by U.G. Krishnamurti: http://www.well.com/user/jct/mystiq2.htm

Is there in you an entity which you call the 'I' or the 'mind' or the 'self'? Is there a co- ordinator who is co-ordinating what you are looking at with what you are listening to, what you are smelling with what you are tasting, and so on? Or is there anything which links together the various sensations originating from a single sense -- the flow of impulses from the eyes, for example? Actually, there is always a gap between any two sensations. The co-ordinator bridges that gap: he establishes himself as an illusion of continuity.

In the natural state there is no entity who is co-ordinating the messages from the different senses. Each sense is functioning independently in its own way. When there is a demand from outside which makes it necessary to co-ordinate one or two or all of the senses and come up with a response, still there is no co-ordinator, but there is a temporary state of co- ordination. There is no continuity; when the demand has been met, again there is only the unco-ordinated, disconnected, disjointed functioning of the senses. This is always the case. Once the continuity is blown apart -- not that it was ever there; but the illusory continuity -- it's finished once and for all.

..............

Your movement of thought interferes with the process of touch, just as it does with the other senses. Anything you touch is always translated as 'hard', 'soft', 'warm', 'cold', 'wet', 'dry', and so on.

You do not realize it, but it is your thinking that creates your own body. Without this thought process there is no body consciousness -- which is to say there is no body at all. My body exists for other people; it does not exist for me; there are only isolated points of contact, impulses of touch which are not tied together by thought. So the body is not different from the objects around it; it is a set of sensations like any others. Your body does not belong to you.

Perhaps I can give you the 'feel' of this. I sleep four hours at night, no matter what time I go to bed. Then I lie in bed until morning fully awake. I don't know what is lying there in the bed; I don't know whether I'm lying on my left side or my right side -- for hours and hours I lie like this. If there is any noise outside -- a bird or something -- it just echoes in me. I listen to the "flub-dub-flub-dub" of my heart and don't know what it is. There is no body between the two sheets -- the form of the body is not there. If the question is asked, "What is in there?" there is only an awareness of the points of contact, where the body is in contact with the bed and the sheets, and where it is in contact with itself, at the crossing of the legs, for example. There are only the sensations of touch from these points of contact, and the rest of the body is not there. There is some kind of heaviness, probably the gravitational pull, something very vague. There is nothing inside which links up these things. Even if the eyes are open and looking at the whole body, there are still only the points of contact, and they have no connection with what I am looking at. If I want to try to link up these points of contact into the shape of my own body, probably I will succeed, but by the time it is completed the body is back in the same situation of different points of contact. The linkage cannot stay. It is the same sort of thing when I'm sitting or standing. There is no body.

Can you tell me how mango juice tastes? I can't. You also cannot; but you try to relive the memory of mango juice now -- you create for yourself some kind of an experience of how it tastes -- which I cannot do. I must have mango juice on my tongue -- seeing or smelling it is not enough -- in order to be able to bring that past knowledge into operation and to say "Yes, this is what mango juice tastes like." This does not mean that personal preferences and 'tastes' change. In a market my hand automatically reaches out for the same items that I have liked all my life. But because I cannot conjure up a mental experience, there can be no craving for foods which are not there.

Smell plays a greater part in your daily life than does taste. The olfactory organs are constantly open to odors. But if you do not interfere with the sense of smell, what is there is only an irritation in the nose. It makes no difference whether you are smelling cow dung or an expensive French perfume -- you rub the nose and move on.

..............

You have a feeling that there is a 'cameraman' who is directing the eyes. But left to themselves -- when there is no 'cameraman' -- the eyes do not linger, but are moving all the time. They are drawn by the things outside. Movement attracts them, or brightness or a color which stands out from whatever is around it. There is no 'I' looking; mountains, flowers, trees, cows, all look at me. The consciousness is like a mirror, reflecting whatever is there outside. The depth, the distance, the color, everything is there, but there is nobody who is translating these things. Unless there is a demand for knowledge about what I am looking at, there is no separation, no distance from what is there. It may not actually be possible to count the hairs on the head of someone sitting across the room, but there is a kind of clarity which seems as if I could.


Furthermore Thusness have also said:

...as stated in the Bahiya Sutta,

In seeing, (there is always) just the seen.
In hearing, (there is always) just sound.

The seen, sound are the non-dual luminous experience; but direct experience of non-dual luminosity is not suffcient. Though perfectly clear and vividly present as in non-dual experience, the 'seen' is radically different from the 'sound' -- this is its emptiness nature. This viewless view must be fused into our non-dual insight. When views are firmly established and non-dual experience thoroughly authenticated, a practitioner will see everything as Awareness without conflict in both views and experiences. Not bounded within an inherent and dualistic paradigm, he will not be confused. When the real cause and the empty nature of our pristine awareness are understood, this ‘Emptiness’ view too must be discarded.

(More on Right View later)

Also one can contemplate on the pointing out instructions by Guru Padmasambhava wrote in Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness,


7.Now, when you are introduced (to your own intrinsic awareness), the method for entering into it involves three considerations:

Thoughts in the past are clear and empty and leave no traces behind.

Thoughts in the future are fresh and unconditioned by anything.

And in the present moment, when (your mind) remains in its own condition without constructing anything, awareness, at that moment, in itself is quite ordinary.

And when you look into yourself in this way nakedly (without any discursive thoughts),

Since there is only this pure observing, there will be found a lucid clarity without anyone being there who is the observer;

only a naked manifest awareness is present.

(This awareness) is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever.

It is authentic and unadulterated, without any duality of clarity and emptiness.

It is not permanent and yet it is not created by anything.

However, it is not a mere nothingness or something annihilated because it is lucid and present.

It does not exist as a single entity because it is present and clear in terms of being many.

(On the other hand) it is not created as a multiplicity of things because it is inseparable and of a single flavor.

This inherent self-awareness does not derive from anything outside itself.

This is the real introduction to the actual condition of things.


Tejananda (a current Buddhist teacher) wrote:

(Excerpt from http://tejanandajohnwakeman.googlepages.com/pureawareness -- a good and recommended article on 'Pure Awareness', also see some comments by Thusness/Passerby on this article here: http://buddhism.sgforums.com/forums/1728/topics/331569)

Padmasambhava says ‘there is only this pure observing’ – in other words ‘in the seen there is just the seen, in the heard there is just the heard, in the sensed there is just the sensed, in the cognised there is just the cognised’. There is nothing added, nothing extra – just what is sensed by any of the six senses in this instant. No added concepts about it.

So he continues ‘there will be found a lucid clarity without anyone being there who is the observer’. There is a clear cognition of whatever is arising to the sense fields, but no sense of a ‘me’ who is ‘having’ this ‘experience’. In the seen there is just the seen’ – not the seen plus you seeing it! Only a naked manifest awareness is present. There is just awareness, ‘naked’ (devoid) of any ‘egoing’. That’s all there is.


Right View


Right View is indispensible in Buddhism, it is the 1st of the 8 fold path. And that view essentially, is Emptiness/Dependent Origination.

In Buddhism, the path (naked awareness of everything as it is) alone cannot lead to fruition (liberation), having right view (Emptiness) is necessary and crucial. That is, only through having the right view with the right practices (path) then fruition of liberation can arise.

Even after the arising of non-dual insight, there is a period of desync between what is experienced and the existing paradigm we used to orientate the world. It is a de-synchronization between views and meditative experience. That is, a practitioner will find great difficulties when trying to express the experience based on a subject/object dichotomy. It can be quite frustrating and the practitioner may get himself confused during the process.

In Buddhism there is a complete system of thought to orientate ourselves non-dually, that is, the viewless-view of Emptiness. It is a raft but it is the antidote for the conventional mind to orientate itself in a non-dual and non-local context. It also led to the amazing insight that ‘duality’ is really the result of seeing and taking things ‘inherently’.

In the practice of non-conceptuality, the firm establishment of right view is not a problem.
In the practice of thoughtlessness, thought is not a problem.
In the practice of selflessness, self is not a problem.

Experiences of our non-dual nature can still surface intermittently even when the tendency to see things dualistically is still strong. At times when the layer that divides is temporary suspended, non-dual is most vivid and clear and practitioners may wrongly conclude that ‘concepts’ are the problem because the presence of ‘concepts’ divides and prevent the non-dual experience. This seems logical and reasonable only to a mind that is deeply root in a subject/object dichotomy. Very quickly ‘non-conceptuality’ becomes an object of practice. The process of objectification is the result of the tendency in action perpetually repeating itself taking different forms like an endless loop. This can continue to the extent that a practitioner can even ‘fear’ to establish concepts without knowing it. On the other hand, the continuous enquiry can also lead an inquirer into a situation of utter confusion to the extent that he/she doubts even his/her own existence.

It is not uncommon to find practitioners totally giving up this attempt to synchronize "views" and experience and conclude that it is an absolute futile endeavor to do that. They prefer to rest fully in naked awareness.

By doing so, the practitioner will miss something valuable -- the insight of the importance of "non inherent existence".

In fact, dualistic view is merely a subset of seeing things 'inherently'. Further understanding will also reveal that the bad habit of 'searching' is the result of seeing things 'inherently'. Our inability to sustain a non-dual experience is also the result of it. The formation of a 'center' that we are so unwilling to give up is merely a natural phenomenon of our deeply held 'inherent' views.

Like a red flower that is so vivid, clear and right in front of an observer, the “redness” only appears to “belong” to the flower, it is in actuality not so. Vision of red does not arise in all animal species (dogs cannot perceive colours) nor is the “redness” an attribute of the mind... and in Buddhism we recognise that there are other realms' beings who can see something completely different. If given a “quantum eyesight” to look into the atomic structure, there is similarly no attribute “redness” anywhere found, only almost complete space/void with no perceivable shapes and forms. Whatever appearances are dependently arisen, and hence is empty of any inherent existence or fixed attributes, shapes, form, or “redness” -- merely luminous yet empty, mere Appearances without inherent/objective existence. What gives rise to the differences of colours and experiences in each of us? Dependent arising... hence empty of inherent existence. This is the nature of all phenomena. They are empty of any inherent objective existence in a 'really-out-there' kind of way.

As you've seen, there is no ‘The Flowerness’ seen by a dog, an insect or us, or beings from other realms (which really may have a completely different mode of perception). ‘'The Flowerness' is an illusion that does not stay even for a moment, merely an aggregate of causes and conditions. Analogous to the example of ‘flowerness’, there is no ‘selfness’ serving as a background witnessing either -- pristine awareness is not the witnessing background. Rather, the entire whole of the moment of manifestation is our pristine awareness; lucidly clear, yet empty of inherent existence. This is the way of ‘seeing’ the one as many, the observer and the observed are one and the same. This is also the meaning of formlessness and attributelessness of our nature. But this does not mean that awareness is void or nothing, it is full of forms, full of colours, as Emptiness is Form... just empty of 'inherent existence'. So Emptiness, in Buddhism, strictly means Dependent Arising.

There is something well written related to this topic:

http://www.nichirenscoffeehouse.net/dharmajim/DharmaView.html

...Apophaticism rests on the idea that ultimate nature is somewhere else, than the realm in which we live. Utterly removed from, and different from, the realm of experience, ultimacy can then only be accessed through a step by step process which disengages me from this realm in which I dwell. In other words, apophaticism and mysticism are dualistic, creating a division in existence, minimally between the conceptual and ultimacy, and in extreme cases between ultimacy and everything which I experience.

My understanding of the Dharma does not regard the realm in which I dwell as removed from the ultimate nature of Interdependent Transformation. Ultimacy does not exist somewhere else. It is not a matter of contacting some other domain in order to access ultimacy. Rather it is a matter of shifting our attention so that I can perceive and comprehend the actuality of things. From this perspective, my understanding of existence is misconstrued and my perception of things is askew. The purpose of Dharma study and practice is to correct these misunderstandings, both conceptually and perceptually, to overcome ignorance and the habits that give rise to this ignorance. When that is done, the ultimate nature of all existing things and existence itself, stands forth as the Interdependent Transformation nature which permeates all of existence, unlocated, ever present, never far.

I realize that this way of comprehending the Dharma sets me at odds with those traditions which regard the ultimate nature of existence, Buddha Nature, Nirvana, as something which can not be accessed through study and thinking. I can only say that at one time I agreed with this view, but that my undersanding has now moved to a view which encompasses thought, conceptuality, study, and thinking within the domain of ultimacy without ejecting anything else from that domain. To set thought aside, from the perspective of Interdependent Transformation, makes no more sense than asking someone to set aside hearing, or to set aside seeing. Just as all visual phenomena have the nature of Interdependent Transformation, just as all sonic phenomena have the nature of Interdependent Transformation, so also all thoughts, all concepts, also have the nature of Interdependent Transformation. For this reason rejecting thoughts and concepts means limiting the extent of the play of ultimate nature. But Buddha Nautre as Interdependent Transformation marks all existing things. Marking all existing things, this nature marks all thoughts. Marking all thoughts and concepts, thoughts and concepts, when comprehended in their totality, and as Interdependent Transformations, graciously display the true nature of all existing things. Words also have a luminously clear nature. Thoughts also sparkle with elemental transformative energy. Concepts also shimmer with the ever flowing and present energy of all things. Rejecting nothing, the words of the Dharma compassionately guide me to ultimate realization...


Because liberation is empty of the four extremes (existence, non-existence, both existence and non-existence, neither existence nor non-existence), it is difficult to see. It is better and safer to practice with the firm establishment of right view as taught by Buddha. When we practice, the path of practice should be non-conceptual whether in bare attention or surrendering or dropping. When we have certain direct and transcendental experience, the experience must be validated with the right view. If both views and practices coincide and liberation is experienced from moment to moment, the holding of ‘right view’ will naturally dissolve in its own accord as it is fully authenticated in real time from moment to moment.

When the view and experience are harmonized, the practitioner can progress further. He rests neither in concepts nor non-conceptuality.

Of course, having the right view without right practice will also not bear fruit and simply remains an intellectual view/understanding. Right view (1st of the 8 Fold Path), right practice (remaining 7 of the 8 Fold Path), then fruition.

(Also see http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2008/02/thusnesss-reply-to-longchen-at.html)

What Is The "Me"?

The following article was adapted from a talk by Toni Packer on Day 4 of the August 1997 retreat.

A somber day, isn't it? Dark, cloudy, cool, moist and windy. Amazing, this whole affair of "the weather!" We call it "weather," but what is it really? Wind. Rain. Clouds slowly parting. Not the words spoken about it, but just this darkening, blowing, pounding, wetting, and then lightening up, blue sky appearing amidst darkness, and sunshine sparkling on wet grasses and leaves. In a little while there'll be frost, snow and ice-covers. And then warming again, melting, oozing water everywhere. On an early spring day the dirt road sparkles with streams of wet silver. So — what is "weather" other than this incessant change of earthly conditions and all the human thoughts, feelings, and undertakings influenced by it? Like and dislike. Depression and elation. Creation and destruction. An ongoing, ever changing stream of happenings abiding nowhere. No entity "weather" to be found except in thinking and talking about it.

Now — is there such an entity as "me," "I," "myself?" Or is it just like the "weather" — an ongoing, ever changing stream of ideas, images, memories, projections, likes and dislikes, creations and destructions, which thought keeps calling "I," "me," "Toni," and thereby solidifying what is evanescent? What am I really, truly, and what do I think and believe I am? Are we interested in exploring this amazing affair of "myself" from moment to moment? Is this, maybe, the essence of retreat work? Exploring ourselves minutely beyond the peace and quiet that we are seeking and maybe finding. Coming upon clarity about this deep sense of separation which we call "me," and "other people," without any need to condemn or overcome.

Most human beings take it totally for granted that I am "me," and that "me" is this body, this mind, this knowledge and sense about myself which so obviously feels separate from other people. The language in which we talk to ourselves and to each other inevitably implies separate "me's," and "you's" all the time. All of us talk "I" and "you" talk, we think it, write it, read it, and dream it with rarely any pause. There is incessant reinforcement of the sense of "I," "me," separate from others. Isolated. Insulated. Not understood. How is one to come upon the truth if separation is taken so much for granted, feels so common sense?

The difficulty is not insurmountable. Wholeness, true being, is here all the time, like the sun behind the clouds. Daylight is here in spite of cloud cover.

What makes up the clouds?

Can we begin to realize that we live in conceptual, abstract ideas about ourselves? That we are rarely directly in touch with what actually is going on? Can we realize that thoughts about myself — I am good or bad, I'm liked or disliked — are nothing but thoughts — and that thoughts do not tell us the truth about what we really are? A thought is a thought, and it triggers instant physical reactions, pleasures and pains throughout the bodymind. Physical reactions generate further thoughts and feelings about myself — "I'm suffering," "I'm happy," "I'm no good." Feedback that implies that all this is me, that I have gotten hurt, or somehow feel good about myself, or that I need to defend myself, or get more approval and love from others. When we're protecting ourselves in our daily interrelationships we're not protecting ourselves from flying stones or bomb attacks. It's from words we're taking cover, from gestures, from colorations of voice and innuendo.

Just now words were spoken, ". . . we're protecting ourselves, . . . we're taking cover." In using our common language the implication is constantly created that there is someone real who is protecting and someone real that needs protection.

Is there someone real to be protected from words and gestures, or are we merely living in ideas and stories about me and you, all of it happening on the stage of the on-going audio/video drama of ourselves?

The utmost care and attention is needed to follow the internal drama fairly accurately, dispassionately, in order to express it as it is seen. What we mean by "being made to feel good" or "being hurt" is the internal enhancing of our ongoing me-story, or the puncturing and deflating of it. Enhancement or disturbance of the me-story is accompanied by pleasurable energies or painful feelings and emotions throughout the organism. Either warmth or chill can be felt at the drop of a word evoking memories, feelings, passions. Conscious or unconscious emotional recollection of what happened yesterday or a long ago surge through the body-mind, causing feelings of happiness or sadness, affection or humiliation.

Right now words are being spoken, and they can be followed literally, intellectually. If they are fairly clearly and logically put together they can make sense intellectually. Perhaps at first it's necessary to understand what is going on in us intellectually. But that's not the whole thing. The words that are spoken point to something that may be directly seen and felt, inwardly, as the talk proceeds. And as we go along from moment to moment, now and after the talk is over, (and after retreat) can we experience freshly, wakefully, directly, when hurt or flattery are taking place? What is happening? What is being hurt? And what keeps the hurt going? Can there be some awareness of defenses arising, fear and anger forming, or withdrawal taking place, all accompanied by some kind of storyline? Can the whole drama become increasingly transparent? And, in becoming increasingly transparent, can it be thoroughly questioned? What is it that is being protected? What is it that one thinks got hurt? Me? What is me?

It is amazing. A spark of awareness witnessing one spoken word arousing pleasure or pain all over. Can the connection become clear? The immediacy of it, and no I-entity there directing it, even though we say and believe we are doing all that. But we also say that we don't want to do that. Words and reaction proceed along well-oiled pathways and interconnections. A thought of loss comes up and the solar plexus tightens in pain. Fantasy of love-making occurs and an ocean of pleasure ensues. Who does it? Thought says, "I do!" To whom is it happening? Thought says, "To me of course!" But, where and what is this I, this me, aside from all the thoughts and feelings, the palpitating heart, painful and pleasurable energies circulating throughout the organism? Who could possibly be doing it all with such amazing speed and precision? Thinking about ourselves and triggering physiological reactions take time, but present awareness brings the whole drama to light instantly. Everything is happening on its own. No one is directing the show!

Right this moment wind is storming, branches are creaking and leaves quivering. It's all here in the listening — but whose listening is it? Mine? Yours? We say, "I'm listening" or, "I cannot listen as well as you do" and these words befuddle the mind with feelings and emotions learned long ago. You may be protesting that "my hearing isn't yours. Your body isn't mine." We have thought like that for eons and behave accordingly, but presently, can there be just the sound of swaying trees and rustling leaves and fresh air blowing through the window cooling the skin? It's not happening to anyone. It's simply present for all of us, isn't it?

Do I sound as though I'm trying to convince you of something? The passion arising in trying to communicate simply, clearly, may be misunderstood for a desire to influence people. That's not the case. There is just the description of what is happening here for all of us. Nothing to be sold or bought. Can we simply listen and test out on our own what is being offered for exploration from moment to moment?

What is the "me" that gets hurt or attracted, flattered, time and time again, the world over? In psychological terms we say that we are identified with ourselves. In spiritual language we say, that we are attached to ourselves. What is this "ourselves?" Is it feeling myself existing, knowing what I am, having lots of recollections about myself — all the ideas and pictures and feelings about myself strung together in a coherent story? And knowing this story very well — multitudes of memories, some added, some dropped, all inter-connected — what I am, how I look, what my abilities and disabilities are, my education, my family, my name, my likes and dislikes, opinions, beliefs, etc., etc. The identification with all of that, meaning, "This is what I am." And the attachment to it, meaning, "I can't let go of it."

Let's go beyond concepts and look directly into what we mean by them. If one says, "I'm identified with my family name," what does that mean? Let me give an example. As a growing child I was very much identified with my last name because it was my father's and he was famous — so I was told. I liked to tell others about my father's scientific achievements to garner respect and pleasurable feelings for myself by impressing friends. I felt admiration through other people's eyes which may not even have been there. It may have been projected. Perhaps some people even felt, "What a bore she is!" On the entrance door to our apartment there was a little polished brass sign with my father's name on it and his titles: Professor, Doctor Phil. The Phil impressed me particularly, because I thought it meant that my father was a philosopher, which he was not. I must have had the idea that a philosopher was a particularly imposing individual. So I told some of my friends about it and brought them to look at the little brass sign at the door. This is one meaning of identification — enhancing one's sense of self by incorporating the ideas about other individuals or groups, or one's possessions, achievements, transgressions — anything — and feeling that all of this is "me." Feeling important about oneself generates amazing, addictive energies.

To give another example from the past: I became very identified with my half-Jewish descent. Not openly in Germany, where I mostly tried to hide it rather than display it, but later on after the war ended, telling people of our family's fate, and finding welcome attention, instant sympathy, and nourishing interest in the story. One can become quite addicted to making the story of one's life impressive to others and to oneself, and feed on the energies aroused by that. So that's a bit of what identification and attachment are about. And when that is disturbed by someone not buying into it, contesting it or questioning it altogether, there is sudden insecurity, physical discomfort, anger, fear, hurt, whatever.

Becoming a member of the Zen Center and engaging in spiritual practice, I realized one day that I had not been talking about my background in a long while. And now, when somebody brings it up — sometimes an interviewer will ask me to talk about it — it feels like so much bother and effort. Why delve into old stuff? I want to talk about listening, the wind, and the birds. [Laughter] Are you listening too, interviewer? Or are you more interested in identities and stories?

At times people bring up the question about why I don't call myself a teacher when I'm so obviously engaged in teaching. Somebody actually brought it up this morning — the projections and mental as well as psychological associations aroused in waiting outside the meeting room and then entering nervously with a pounding heart. The images of teacher and student offering themselves automatically like clothes to put on and roles to play in these clothes. In giving talks and meeting with people the student-teacher imagery is not there — it belongs to a different level of existence. If images do come up they're in the way like clouds hiding the sun. Relating without images is the freshest, freest thing in the universe.

So, what am I and what are you — what are we with- out images clothing and hiding our true being? It's un-image-inable, isn't it? And yet there's the sound of wind blowing, trees shaking, crows cawing, woodwork creaking, breath flowing without need for any thoughts. Thoughts are grafted on top of what's actually going on right now, and in that grafted world we happen to spend most of our lives.

And yet, every once in a while, whether one does spiritual work or not, meditating or not, the real world shines wondrously through everything. What is it when words fall silent? When there is no knowing? When there is no listener and yet there is listening, awaring, without any separation?

A moment during a visit with my parents in Switzerland comes to mind. I had always had a difficult relationship with my mother. I was very afraid of her. She was a very passionate woman with lots of anger. But also love. Once during that visit I saw her standing in the dining room facing me. She was just standing there, and for no known reason or cause I suddenly saw her without the past. There was no image of her, and also no idea of what she saw in me. All that was gone. There was nothing left except pure love for this woman. Such beauty shone out of her. And our relationship changed, there was a new closeness. It just happened.

Someone said that seeing a shattered image caused grief. But the shattering of self-image need not cause suffering. Truly seeing that the "me" is nothing but a habitual mental construct is freeing beyond imagination.



Toni Packer began studing Zen in 1967 with Roshi Philip Kapleau at the Rochester Zen Center. In 1981, she founded the Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry in Springwater, New York. From The Wonder of Presence and the Way of Meditative Inquiry, by Toni Packer.