Posted by: Soh
(Article last updated: 29th October 2009)

(Much of the following are a compilation of what Thusness/PasserBy wrote from a few sources with minimal editing.)

Like a river flowing into the ocean, the self dissolves into nothingness. When a practitioner becomes thoroughly clear about the illusionary nature of the individuality, subject-object division does not take place. A person experiencing “AMness” will find “AMness in everything”. What is it like?

Being freed from individuality -- coming and going, life and death, all phenomenon merely pop in and out from the background of the AMness. The AMness is not experienced as an ‘entity’ residing anywhere, neither within nor without; rather it is experienced as the ground reality for all phenomenon to take place. Even in the moment of subsiding (death), the yogi is thoroughly authenticated with that reality; experiencing the ‘Real’ as clear as it can be. We cannot lose that AMness; rather all things can only dissolve and re-emerges from it. The AMness has not moved, there is no coming and going. This "AMness" is God.

Practitioners should never mistake this as the true Buddha Mind!
"I AMness" is the pristine awareness. That is why it is so overwhelming. Just that there is no 'insight' into its emptiness nature. Nothing stays and nothing to hold on to. What is real, is pristine and flows, what stays is illusion. The sinking back to a background or Source is due to being blinded by strong karmic propensities of a 'Self'. It is a layer of ‘bond’ that prevents us from ‘seeing’ something…it is very subtle, very thin, very fine…it goes almost undetected. What this ‘bond’ does is it prevents us from ‘seeing’ what “WITNESS” really is and makes us constantly fall back to the Witness, to the Source, to the Center. Every moment we want to sink back to Witness, to the Center, to this Beingness, this is an illusion. It is habitual and almost hypnotic.

But what exactly is this “witness” we are talking about? It is the manifestation itself! It is the appearance itself! There is no Source to fall back, the Appearance is the Source! Including the moment to moment of thoughts. The problem is we choose, but all is really it. There is nothing to choose.

There is no mirror reflecting
All along manifestation alone is.
The one hand claps
Everything IS!
In between “I AMness” and no “Mirror Reflecting”, there is another distinct phase I would name it as “Mirror Bright Clarity”. The Eternal Witness is experienced as a formless crystal clear mirror reflecting all phenomenon existence. There is a clear knowledge that ‘self’ does not exist but the last trace of the karmic propensity of ‘self’ is still not completely eliminated. It resides in a very subtle level. In no mirror reflecting, the karmic propensity of ‘self’ is loosen to a great extent and the true nature of the Witness is seen. All along there is no Witness witnessing anything, the manifestation alone is. There is only One. The second hand does not exist…

There is no invisible witness hiding anywhere. Whenever we attempt to fall back to an invisible transparent image, it is again the mind game of thought. It is the ‘bond’ at work. (See Thusness's Six Stages of Experience)

Transcendental glimpses are misled by the cognitive faculty of our mind. That mode of cognition is dualistic. All is Mind but this mind is not to be taken as ‘Self’. “I Am”, Eternal Witness, are all products of our cognition and is the root cause that prevents true seeing. 

When consciousness experiences the pure sense of “I AM”, overwhelmed by the transcendental thoughtless moment of Beingness, consciousness clings to that experience as its purest identity. By doing so, it subtly creates a ‘watcher’ and fails to see that the ‘Pure Sense of Existence’ is nothing but an aspect of pure consciousness relating to the thought realm. This in turn serves as the karmic condition that prevents the experience of pure consciousness that arises from other sense-objects. Extending it to the other senses, there is hearing without a hearer and seeing without a seer -- the experience of Pure Sound-Consciousness is radically different from Pure Sight-Consciousness. Sincerely, if we are able to give up ‘I’ and replace it with “Emptiness Nature”, Consciousness is experienced as non-local. There isn't a state that is purer than the other. All is just One Taste, the manifold of Presence.

The ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘when’, the ‘I’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ must ultimately give way to the experience of total transparency. Do not fall back to a source, just the manifestation is sufficient. This will become so clear that total transparency is experienced. When total transparency is stabilized, transcendental body is experienced and dharmakaya is seen everywhere. This is the samadhi bliss of Bodhisattva. This is the fruition of practice.

Experience all appearance with total vitality, vividness and clarity. They are really our Pristine Awareness, every moment and everywhere in all its manifolds and diversities. When causes and conditions is, manifestation is, when manifestation is, Awareness is. All is the one reality.

Look! The formation of the cloud, the rain, the color of the sky, the thunder, all these entirety that is taking place, what is it? It is Pristine Awareness. Not identified with anything, not bounded within the body, free from definition and experience what is it. It is the entire field of our pristine awareness taking place with its emptiness nature. 

If we fall back to 'Self', we are enclosed within. First we must go beyond symbols and see behind the essence that takes place. Master this art until the factor of enlightenment arises and stabilizes, the 'self' subsides and the ground reality without core is understood.

Very often it is understood that beingness is in the experience of "I AM", even without the words and label of "I AM", the 'pure sense of existence', the presence still IS. It is a state of resting in Beingness. But in Buddhism, it is also possible to experience everything, every moment the unmanifested.

The key also lies in 'You' but it is to "see" that there is no 'You' instead. It is to 'see' that there is never any do-er standing in the midst of phenomenal arising. There is just mere happening due to emptiness nature, never an 'I' doing anything. When the 'I' subsides, symbols, labels and the entire layer of conceptual realm goes with it. What is left without a 'doer' is a mere happening.

And seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling and not only that, everything appears as purely spontaneous manifestation. A whole Presence of the manifold.

Up to a certain stage after insight of non-duality, there is a hurdle. Somehow the practitioner cannot really "breakthrough" the spontaneity of non-duality. This is because of the latent deep 'view' cannot sync with non-dual experience. Hence, the realisation/insight into the Viewless View of Emptiness is necessary. (more on Emptiness later)

Over the years I have refined the term “naturalness” into “spontaneously arise due to conditions”. When condition is, Presence Is. Not bounded within a space-time continuum. It helps to dissolve the centricity.

Since appearance is all there is and appearance is really the source, what gives rise to the diversities of appearances? “Sweetness” of sugar isn’t the “blueness” color of the sky. Same applies to “AMness”… all are equally pure, no one state is purer than the other, only condition differs. Conditions are factors that give appearances their ‘forms’. In Buddhism, pristine awareness and conditions are inseparable.

Although there is non-duality in Advaita Vedanta, and no-self in Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta rest in an “Ultimate Background” (making it dualistic), whereas Buddhism eliminates the background completely and rest in the emptiness nature of phenomena; arising and ceasing is where pristine awareness is. In Buddhism, there is no eternality, only timeless continuity (timeless as in vividness in present moment but change and continue like a wave pattern). There is no changing thing, only change.

Thoughts, feelings and perceptions come and go; they are not ‘me’; they are transient in nature. Isn’t it clear that if I am aware of these passing thoughts, feelings and perceptions, then it proves some entity is immutable and unchanging? This is a logical conclusion rather than experiential truth. The formless reality seems real and unchanging because of propensities (conditioning) and the power to recall a previous experience. (See The Spell of Karmic Propensities)

There is also another experience, this experience does not discard or disown the transients -- forms, thoughts, feelings and perceptions. It is the experience that thought thinks and sound hears. Thought knows not because there is a separate knower but because it is that which is known. It knows because it's it. It gives rise to the insight that isness never exists in an undifferentiated state but as transient manifestation; each moment of manifestation is an entirely new reality, complete in its own.

The mind likes to categorize and is quick to identify. When we think that awareness is permanent, we fail to 'see' the impermanence aspect of it. When we see it as formless, we missed the vividness of the fabric and texture of awareness as forms. When we are attached to ocean, we seek a waveless ocean, not knowing that both ocean and wave are one and the same. Manifestations are not dust on the mirror, the dust is the mirror. All along there is no dust, it becomes dust when we identify with a particular speck and the rest becomes dust.

Unmanifested is the manifestation,
The no-thing of everything,
Completely still yet ever flowing,
This is the spontaneous arising nature of the source.
Simply Self-So.
Use self-so to overcome conceptualization.
Dwell completely into the incredible realness of the phenomenal world.

-------------- Update: 15/9/2009

The Buddha on 'Source'

Thanissaro Bhikkhu said in a commentary on this sutta Mulapariyaya Sutta: The Root Sequence -
Although at present we rarely think in the same terms as the Samkhya philosophers, there has long been — and still is — a common tendency to create a "Buddhist" metaphysics in which the experience of emptiness, the Unconditioned, the Dharma-body, Buddha-nature, rigpa, etc., is said to function as the ground of being from which the "All" — the entirety of our sensory & mental experience — is said to spring and to which we return when we meditate. Some people think that these theories are the inventions of scholars without any direct meditative experience, but actually they have most often originated among meditators, who label (or in the words of the discourse, "perceive") a particular meditative experience as the ultimate goal, identify with it in a subtle way (as when we are told that "we are the knowing"), and then view that level of experience as the ground of being out of which all other experience comes.
Any teaching that follows these lines would be subject to the same criticism that the Buddha directed against the monks who first heard this discourse.

Rob Burbea (very enlightened teacher at Insight Meditation Society) said regarding that sutta in Realizing the Nature of Mind:
One time the Buddha 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.
-------------- Update: 21/7/2008

Is Awareness The Self or The Center?

The first stage of experiencing awareness face to face is like a point on a sphere which you called it the center. You marked it.

Then later you realised that when you marked other points on the surface of a sphere, they have the same characteristics. This is the initial experience of non-dual. (but due to our dualistic momentum, there is still no clarity even if there is the experience of non-duality)

Ken Wilber: While you are resting in that state (of the Witness), and “sensing” this Witness as a great expanse, if you then look at, say, a mountain, you might begin to notice that the sensation of the Witness and the sensation of the mountain are the same sensation. When you “feel” your pure Self and you “feel” the mountain, they are absolutely the same feeling.

When you are asked to find another point on the surface of the sphere, you won't be sure but you are still very careful.

Once the insight of No-Self is stabilized, you just freely point to any point on the surface of the sphere -- all points are a center, hence there is no 'the' center. 'The' center does not exist: all points are a center.

When you say 'the center', you are marking a point and claim that it is the only point that has the characteristic of a 'center'. The intensity of the pure beingness is itself a manifestation. It is needless to divide into inner and outer as there will also come a point where high intensity of clarity will be experienced for all sensations. So not to let the 'intensity' create the layering of inner and outer.

Now, when we do not know what is a sphere, we do not know that all the points are the same. So when a person first experiences non-duality with the propensities still in action, we cannot fully experience the mind/body dissolution and the experience isn't clear. Nevertheless we are still careful of our experience and we try to be non-dual.

But when the realisation is clear and sank deep into our inmost consciousness, it is really effortless. Not because it is a routine but because there is nothing needed to be done, just allowing expanse of consciousness naturally.

-------------- Update: 15/5/2008

An Elaboration on Emptiness

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. 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.

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.

Because the karmic propensity of perceiving subject/object duality is so strong, pristine awareness is quickly attributed to 'I', Atman, the ultimate Subject, Witness, background, eternal, formless, odorless, colorless, thoughtless and void of any attributes, and we unknowingly objectified these attributes into an ‘entity’ and make it an eternal background or an emptiness void. When this is done, it prevents us from experiencing the color, texture, fabric and manifesting nature of awareness. Suddenly thoughts are being grouped into another category and disowned. In actual case, thoughts think and sound hears. The observer has always been the observed. No watcher needed, the process itself knows and rolls as Venerable Buddhaghosa writes in the Visuddhi Magga.

In naked awareness, there is no splitting of attributes and objectification of these attributes into different groups of the same experience. So thoughts and sense perceptions are not disowned and the nature of impermanence is taken in wholeheartedly in the experience of no-self. ‘Impermanence’ is never what it seems to be, never what that is understood in conceptual thoughts. ‘Impermanence’ is not what the mind has conceptualized it to be. In non-dual experience, the true face of impermanence nature is experienced as happening without movement, change without going anywhere. This is the “what is” of impermanence. It is just so.

Zen Master Dogen and Zen Master Hui-Neng said: "Impermanence is Buddha-Nature."

For further readings on Emptiness, see
The Link Between Non-Duality and Emptiness and The non-solidity of existence


Noumenon and Phenomenon

Zen Master Sheng Yen:

When you are in the second stage, although you feel that the "I" does not exist, the basic substance of the universe, or the Supreme Truth, still exists. Although you recognize that all the different phenomena are the extension of this basic substance or Supreme Truth, yet there still exists the opposition of basic substance versus external phenomena.
One who has entered Chan (Zen) does not see basic substance and phenomena as two things standing in opposition to each other. They cannot even be illustrated as being the back and palm of a hand. This is because phenomena themselves are basic substance, and apart from phenomena there is no basic substance to be found. The reality of basic substance exists right in the unreality of phenomena, which change ceaselessly and have no constant form. This is the Truth.

------------------ Update: 2/9/2008

Excerpt from sgForums by Thusness/Passerby:

AEN posted a great site about what I am trying to convey. Do go through the videos. I will divide what that are being discussed in the videos into the method, the view and the experience for ease of illustration as follows:

1. The method is what that is commonly known as self enquiry.
2. The view currently we have is dualistic. We see things in terms of subject/object division.
3. The experience can be further divided into the followings:

3.1 A strong individual sense of identity

3.2 An oceanic experience free from conceptualization.
This is due to the practitioner freeing himself from conceptuality, from labels and symbols. The mind continuous disassociates itself from all labeling and symbols.

3.3 An oceanic experience dissolving into everything.
The period of non-conceptuality is prolonged. Long enough to dissolve the mind/body ‘symbolic’ bond and therefore inner and outer division is temporarily suspended.

The experience for 3.2 and 3.3 are transcendental and are precious. However these experiences are commonly misinterpreted and distorted by objectifying these experiences into an entity that is “ultimate, changeless and independent”. The objectified experience is known as Atman, God or Buddha Nature by the speaker in the videos. It is known as the experience of “I AM” with differing degree of intensity of non-conceptuality. Usually practitioners that have experienced 3.2 and 3.3 find it difficult to accept the doctrine of Anatta and Emptiness. The experiences are too clear, real and blissful to discard. They are overwhelmed.

Before we go further, why do you think these experiences are distorted?

(hint: The view currently we have is dualistic. We see things in terms of subject/object division.)


The following writings are from another forummer who posted in another forum:

As I walked away from the computer, into the kitchen, and then the bathroom, I noticed that I can't make a distinction between the air out here, and me or the air and the sink. Where does one end and the other begin? I'm not being silly here. No, I'm saying, do you see the interplay. How could one be without the other?

I'm taking air into my lungs right now, and noticing the interplay. This keyboard is just at the end of my fingertips, like an extension of me. My mind says "No, that is a keyboard, and these are your fingers. Very different things, " but the awareness doesn't make that distinction so cut and dry. Sure, there is a seeing that my fingers look this way, and the keyboard looks different. But again, the interplay.

Why does the mind make such a distinction between silence and sound. Are we sure these are separate? I just said "yes" into the air. I noticed that there was silence, then the word came into the air, then silence again. These two "things" are married aren't they. How can one be without the other? And so are they separate? Sure, the mind says "yes" they are separate. It might even say something the teachers have said which is "you are awareness." But am I? What about these words, what about this desk. Is that awareness? Where is the distinction.

We make this stuff up as we go don't we? Whatever we want to believe. "it's all one." "I am awareness." "Jesus Christ is my savior." "Peanut butter and jelly is gross." I'm being silly now. But how would I know if these things are separate, form and formlessness if I don't look here now, at this relationship, at how they interact. Again, this feels like an open question. I could say "it's all One" or whatever as I said above and miss the chance to look again at this interplay, and see how my fingers, the keyboard, the air, the space in front of the screen, and the screen play together.

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