Douglas Harding, "On Having No Head":

..."Victim of a prolonged fit of madness, of a lifelong hallucination (and by "hallucination" I mean what my dictionary says: apparent perception of an object not actually present), I had invariably seen myself as pretty much like other people, and certainly never as a decapitated but still living biped. I had been blind to the one thing that is always present, and without which I am blind indeed -- to this marvelous substitute-for-a-head, this unbounded clarity, this luminous and absolutely pure void, which nevertheless is -- rather than contains -- all that's on offer. For, however carefully I attend, I fail to find here even so much as a blank screen on which these mountains and sun and sky are projected, or a clear mirror in which they are reflected, or a transparent lens or aperture through which they are viewed -- still less a person to whom they are presented, or a viewer (however shadowy) who is distinguishable from the view. Nothing whatever intervenes, not even that baffling and elusive obstacle called "distance": the visibly boundless blue sky, the pink-edged whiteness of the snows, the sparkling green of the grass -- how can these be remote, when there's nothing to be remote from? The headless void here refuses all definition and location: it is not round, or small, or big, or even here as distinct from there. (And even if there were a head here to measure outwards from, the measuring-rod stretching from it to that mountain peak would, when read end-on -- and there's no other way for me to read it -- reduce to a point, to nothing.) In fact, these coloured shapes present themselves in all its simplicity, without any such complications as near or far, this or that, mine or not mine, seen-by-me or merely given. All twoness -- all duality of subject and object -- has vanished: it is no longer read into a situation which has no room for it."...
I wrote this based on what Thusness/PasserBy have said regarding his Thusness/PasserBy's Seven Stages of Experience on Spiritual Enlightenment - not to think of the 7 stages as strictly linear or having a hierarchy.

Some are able to understand the profound wisdom of emptiness from the start but have no direct experience of luminosity, then luminosity becomes a later phase. So does that mean the most pristine experience of "I AM" is now the last stage? On the other hand, some have experienced luminosity but does not understand how he got himself 'lost', as there is no insight to the karmic tendencies/propensities at all, therefore they cannot understand Dependent Origination adequately. But does that mean that the one that experiences emptiness is higher than the one experiencing luminosity?

Some people experience non-dual but do not go through the I AM, and then after non-dual the I AM becomes even more precious because it brings out the luminosity aspect more. Also, when in non-dual, one can still be full of thoughts, therefore the focus then is to experience the thoroughness of being no-thoughts, fully luminous and present... then it is not about non-dual, not about the no object-subject split, it is about the degree of luminosity for these non-dualist. But for some monks that is trapped in luminosity and rest in samadhi, then the focus should be on refining non-dual insight and experience. For non-dualists, depending on the level of understanding, one can move forward and backward, there is no hierarchy.

So just see the phases as different aspect of insights of our true nature, not necessarily as linear stages or a 'superiority' and 'inferiority' comparison. What one should understand is what is lacking in the form of realization. There is no hierarchy to it, only insights. Understanding this means that one will be able to see all stages as flat, no higher.
"The “I” is a thought, a word, a label. Basically, there is no “I” at all, except as a concept. There is seeing, doing, thinking, feeling, etc. but it is not being done by that notion “me”. It is action without the actor. The actor is posited, but not really present on direct evidence. Acknowledging the absence of doer-ship is key. But it is necessary to see that the “I” notion itself is an idea. That idea is not what you are. Are you that thought “I”? No! You are that presence in which all functioning happens. Not only the body/mind, but all appearances arise in the space of that knowing/being. As such, there cannot be any sense of “my” body or “my” actions, except as notions. If those are seen as notions, there is no problem. The notion is not doing anything. The actions are happening spontaneously, not by a concept. In fact, the “I” gets appended later, only after the event. There is no “I” in any present thinking, acting or doing. The “I” thought is added later and claims the ownership of the activity. Then we think “I” did that, when in fact the activity happened and was only claimed later. Thoroughly examine the nature of the claiming “I” thought, and see how the identification with that thought brings in a sense of limitation on your natural state."

~ John Wheeler


"I had always had a sense of 'innerness', a sense of a 'center' within. Then at one point it struck me that my sense of center could be an "assumption," not a fact. I suddenly realized that that assumption created a sense of inner/outer, of a 'me' inside and of a 'world' outside. With that realization I was able to 'let go' of that assumption. With that letting go consciousness became as a point that was everywhere at once. There was no longer an 'outside'. Everything was included in that expanded sense of spaceless presence. It was as if the 'subjective geometry' of experience became radically simpler, indeed as if there were no geometry at all!"

~ Peter Dziuban in Consciousness is All

Based on some conversations earlier this year and last year by Thusness/PasserBy which I have slightly edited:

First experience the Isness of the gap between 2 moments of thought, then the Isness of the thought between 2 moments of gap.

~ Thusness/PasserBy
When we discriminate between awareness from thoughts, awareness appears as the 'space' behind and between thoughts. And because of discriminating awareness and content thinking, the behind background reality is preferred over content, so background awareness appears as 'awakening' -- but it is really only treating a particular speck of dust as mirror and thus unable to see all as mirror... and so instead of being 'awakening' it is actually being 'lost'. That experience is just a dimension of Presence... but due to deeply rooted habitual tendencies to grasp dualistically, one tightly clings to the 'background subject'. That is, Presence is mistaken as a true Subject or True Self behind all objects, as some kind of unchanging background. Or it becomes the Eternal Witness perceiving (dispassionately) and untouched by all impermanent objects coming and going (where in reality the knowingness cannot be separated from the flow of phenomenality). (See Stage One of Thusness/PasserBy's Seven Stages of Enlightenment) But it is not the entirety of Presence -- the aspect of non-dual, Anatta (no-self), Emptiness and Dependent Origination are not included. Because of this, it is difficult to see that the five aggregates (the 'heaps' of experiences that are designated as 'self': forms, feelings, perceptions, volition and consciousness) are Buddha-Nature.

When we talk about naked awareness it is not a state where not even a single thought arise. When it is taught about the gap between 2 moments of thought, it is to first have an experience of the nakedness of awareness. To touch just that aspect of awareness. When we extend the gaps, our thoughts become less and clarity becomes more obvious.

However it will come to a time that no matter what is done, how much effort is being invested, how long, the other aggregates do not subside. This then is the crucial moment whether one can break through into non-duality (of subject and object).

Awareness is a seamless experience that is non-dual in nature. In this seamless experience, there is no boundary whatsoever, no experiencer experiencing experience; whatever arises is experience, is awareness -- as the sound of birds chirping, as words appearing on the screen, as the thoughts itself. There is no separate hearer, seer, watcher, observer, thinker. Everything is shining, self-felt, self-luminous, without a center. It is always just spontaneous arising and ceasing. There is no center, agent, boundary, inside or outside... merely a seamless whole experience.

Whether perception or no perception, whether momentum or no momentum, whether there are thoughts or no thoughts, it doesn't matter. That is the arising of the non-dual wisdom, with the understanding that the transience are the Presence.

Then no thoughts and thoughts are thoroughly understood. When no thoughts and thoughts are clearly understood, it becomes Gap-less. That is true effortlessness and is the pathless path without entry and exit.

Going before the arising of thoughts and perception and have a glimpse of that luminous nature is simply just a glimpse. If a practitioner mistakes it as the entirety of Buddha Nature by maintaining the mirror bright and attempt to go after that particular state, it will eventually proof futile. If we see only the realm of no-thought, then the gap between two moments will eventually becomes an obstruction.

Then the practice becomes the thought moment between two moments of gaps. To experience that luminous empty essence of that thought. It is in essence clarity, awareness itself, and is empty. The waves and the ocean are one and the same. All waves are One Taste. Experiencing Isness as an ocean and shunning away thoughts and manifestation is equally lost, the further insight (insight into non-duality) is the insight into everything as self-luminous awareness or Mind. smile.gif

However, start by practicing the gap between 2 moments of thought and expand it but with the right understanding of no-self/non-duality. Then when the luminosity shines, it will gradually understand because it knows what blocks. When it tries all its best to do away the transients and yet the transients persist, one will have to wait for the right condition to come, such as having someone to point out or some verses that serves as a condition for awakening.

So first experience the Isness of the gap between 2 moments of thought, then the Isness of the thought between 2 moments of gap.

Excerpt from Pointing Out Innate Thinking:

"Is it an aware emptiness after the thought has dissolved? Or is it an aware emptiness by driving away the thought from meditation? Or, is the vividness of the thought itself an aware emptiness?"

If the meditator says it is like one of the first two cases, he had not cleared up the former uncertainties and should therefore be set to resolve this for a few days.

On the other hand, if he personally experiences it to be like the latter case, he has seen identity of thought and can therefore be given the following pointing-out instruction:

"When you look into a thought's identity, without having to dissolve the thought and without having to force it out by meditation, the vividness of the thought is itself the indescribable and naked state of aware emptiness. We call this seeing the natural face of innate thought or thought dawns as dharmakaya.

"Previously, when you determined the thought's identity and when you investigated the calm and the moving mind, you found that there was nothing other than this intangible single mind that is a self-knowing, natural awareness. It is just like the analogy of water and waves."


~ 14th Century Mahamudra Master, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal

Dzogchen Master Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche:

http://www.fudomouth.net/rhizome/nnawareness.htm

Even if those who begin to practice this find it difficult to continue in this state for more than an instant, there is no need to worry about it. Without wishing for the state to continue for a long time and without fearing the lack of it altogether, all that is necessary is to maintain pure presence of mind, without falling into the dualistic situation of there being an observing subject perceiving an observed object. If the mind, even though one maintains simple presence, does not remain in this calm state, but always tends to follow waves of thoughts about the past or future, or becomes distracted by the aggregates of the senses such as sight, hearing, etc., then one should try to understand that the wave of thought itself is as insubstantial as the wind. If one tries to catch the wind, one does not succeed; similarly if one tries to block the wave of thought, it cannot be cut off. So for this reason one should not try to block thought, much less try to renounce it as something considered negative. In reality, the calm state is the essential condition of mind, while the wave of thought is the mind's natural clarity in function; just as there is no distinction whatever between the sun and its rays, or a stream and its ripples, so there is no distinction between the mind and thought. If one considers the calm state as something positive to be attained, and the wave of thought as something negative to be abandoned, and one remains thus caught up in the duality of accepting and rejecting, there is no way of overcoming the ordinary state of mind.

Shurangama Sutra:

"Ananda, you have not yet understood that all the defiling objects that appear, all the illusory, ephemeral phenomena, spring up in the very spot where they also come to an end. Their phenomena aspects are illusory and false, but their nature is in truth the bright substance of wonderful enlightenment. Thus it is throughout, up to the five skandhas and the six entrances, to the twelve places and the eighteen realms; the union and mixture of various causes and conditions account for their illusory and false existence, and the separation and dispersion of the causes and conditions result in their illusory and false extinction. Who would have thought that production and extinction, coming and going are fundamentally the eternal wonderful light of the Tathagata, the unmoving, all-pervading perfection, the wonderful nature of True Suchness! If within the true and eternal nature one seeks coming and going, confusion and enlightenment, or birth and death, one will never find them."

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"You still have not realized that in the Treasury of the Tathagata, the nature of form is true emptiness and the nature of emptiness is true form. That fundamental purity pervades the Dharma Realm. Beings’ minds absorb itaccording to their capacity to know. Whatever manifests does so in compliance with karma. Ignorant of that fact, people of the world are so deluded as to assign its origin to causes and conditions or to spontaneity. These mistakes, which arise from the discriminations and reasoning processes of the mind, are nothing but the play of empty and meaningless words."

Lama Surya Das:

http://www.dzogchen.org/teachings/talks/dtalk-95may22.html

I think this five skandha scheme is a very interesting one, in the sense that it can begin to raise some very interesting questions and help us dig deeper, rather than just having a vague, amorphous kind of understanding. We are individual. We are each responsible for ourselves and our karma and our relations. Our individuality is comprised of these five aggregates or skandhas. We can work with that. It is actually an expression of the Buddha-nature.

Now, doesn't anybody want to say, "I didn't hear anything about Buddha-nature in the five skandhas. Where's the Buddha-nature? Who made that up?" That's the right question. What Buddha-nature? I never said anything about it. Who made that up? What enlightenment? What nirvana? Who made all that stuff up? Is it in us or elsewhere? How to get from "here" to "there"?

We're all looking for something to hang our hopes on, but when we really get down to the present moment, to our own experience, to clear seeing, we come to what Buddha said: "In hearing there is only hearing; no one hearing and nothing heard." There is just that moment, that hearing. You might think, "Oh, a beautiful bird." How do you know it's a bird? It might be a tape recorder. It might be bicycle brakes squeaking. In the first moment, there is just hearing, then we get busy, our minds and concepts get involved. The Buddha went through all the five senses. "In seeing there is just seeing; no one seeing and nothing seen." And so on, with tasting, touching, smelling, and thinking. Thoughts without a thinker. In thinking there is just thinking. There is just that momentary process. There is no thinker. The notion of an inner thinker is just a thought. We imagine that there is somebody thinking. It's like the Wizard of Oz. They thought there was this glorious wizard, but it was just a little man back there behind the screen, behind the veil. That's how it is with the ego. We think there's a great big monkey inside working the five windows, the five senses. Or maybe five monkeys, one for each sense; a whole chattering monkey house, which it sometimes feels like. But is there really a concrete individual or permanent soul inside at all? It seems more like that the lights are on, but no one is home!
Edited on 22th July 2011 - replaced older translation with a newer one which I think is more accurate as it reflects the understanding of anatta better.

http://www.kagyu.org.nz/content/aspirationprayer.html

The Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra


Composed by
The Lord Protector Rangjung Dorje
The Third Gyalwa Karmapa
Namoguru,
Gurus and yidams, deities of the mandala,
Buddhas of the three times in the ten directions and your sons and daughters,
Please consider us with kindness and understanding, and
Grant your blessing that these aspirations may be accomplished exactly as we ask.
Sprung from the snow mountain of pure intentions and actions
Of myself and all sentient beings without limit,
May the river of accumulated virtue of the threefold purity
Flow into the ocean of the four bodies of the Victorious Ones.
So long as this is not accomplished,
Through all my lifetimes, birth upon birth,
May not even the words "evil deeds" and "suffering" be heard
And may we enjoy the splendour
and goodness of oceans of happiness and virtue.
Having obtained the supreme freedoms
and conjunctions of the precious human existence,
endowed with faith, energy, and intelligence,
Having attended on a worthy spiritual friend
and received the pith of the holy instructions,
May we practice these properly, just as we have received them,
without obstacle or interruption.
In all our lives, may we practice and enjoy the holy dharma.
Hearing and studying the scriptures and
reasonings free us from the obscuration of not knowing,
Contemplating the oral instructions disperses the darkness of doubt.
In the light born of meditation what is shines forth just as it is.
May the brightness of the three prajnas grow in power.
By understanding the meaning of the ground,
which is the two truths free from the extremes of eternalism and nihilism
And by practising the supreme path of the two accumulations,
free from the extremes of exaggeration and denial,
Is attained the fruit of well-being for oneself and others,
free from the extremes of samsara and nirvana.
May all beings meet the dharma which neither errs nor misleads.
The ground of purification is the mind itself,
indivisible cognitive clarity and emptiness.
That which purifies is the great vajra yoga of mahamudra.
What is to be purified are the adventitious,
temporary contaminations of confusion,
May the fruit of purification, the stainless dharmakaya, be manifest.
Resolving doubts about the ground brings conviction in the view.
Then keeping one's awareness unwavering in accordance with the view,
is the subtle pith of meditation.
Putting all aspects of meditation into practice is the supreme action.
The view, the meditation, the action--may there be confidence in these.
All phenomena are illusory displays of mind.
Mind is no mind--the mind's nature is empty of any entity that is mind
Being empty, it is unceasing and unimpeded,
manifesting as everything whatsoever.
Examining well, may all doubts about the ground be discerned and cut.
Naturally manifesting appearances, that never truly exist, are confused into objects. Spontaneous intelligence, under the power of ignorance, is confused into a self.
By the power of this dualistic fixation, beings wander in the realms of samsaric existence.
May ignorance, the root of confusion, he discovered and cut.
It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
May the ultimate nature of phenomena, limitless mind beyond extremes, he realised.
If one says, "This is it," there is nothing to show.
If one says, "This is not it," there is nothing to deny.
The true nature of phenomena,
which transcends conceptual understanding, is unconditioned.
May conviction he gained in the ultimate, perfect truth.
Not realising it, one circles in the ocean of samsara.
If it is realised, buddha is not anything other.
It is completely devoid of any "This is it," or "This is not it."
May this simple secret, this ultimate essence of phenomena,
which is the basis of everything, be realised.
Appearance is mind and emptiness is mind.
Realisation is mind and confusion is mind.
Arising is mind and cessation is mind.
May all doubts about mind be resolved.
Not adulterating meditation with conceptual striving or mentally created meditation,
Unmoved by the winds of everyday busyness,
Knowing how to rest in the uncontrived, natural spontaneous flow,
May the practice of resting in mind's true nature be skilfully sustained.
The waves of subtle and coarse thoughts calm down by themselves in their own place,
And the unmoving waters of mind rest naturally.
Free from dullness, torpor, and, murkiness,
May the ocean of shamatha be unmoving and stable.
Looking again and again at the mind which cannot be looked at,
The meaning which cannot be seen is vividly seen, just as it is.
Thus cutting doubts about how it is or is not,
May the unconfused genuine self-nature he known by self-nature itself.
Looking at objects, the mind devoid of objects is seen;
Looking at mind, its empty nature devoid of mind is seen;
Looking at both of these, dualistic clinging is self-liberated.
May the nature of mind, the clear light nature of what is, be realised.
Free from mental fabrication, it is the great seal, mahamudra.
Free from extremes, it is the great middle way, madhyamika.
The consummation of everything, it is also called the great perfection, dzogchen.
May there be confidence that by understanding one,
the essential meaning of all is realised.
Great bliss free from attachment is unceasing.
Luminosity free from fixation on characteristics is unobscured.
Nonthought transcending conceptual mind is spontaneous presence.
May the effortless enjoyment of these experiences be continuous.
Longing for good and clinging to experiences are self-liberated.
Negative thoughts and confusion purify naturally in ultimate space.
In ordinary mind there is no rejecting and accepting, loss and gain.
May simplicity, the truth of the ultimate essence of everything, be realised.
The true nature of beings is always buddha.
Not realising that, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May unbearable compassion be conceived in our being.
When the energy of unbearable compassion is unceasing,
In expressions of loving kindness,
the truth of its essential emptiness is nakedly clear.
This unity is the supreme unerring path.
Inseparable from it, may we meditate day and night.
By the power of meditation arise the eyes and supernormal perceptions,
Sentient beings are ripened and buddha fields are perfectly purified,
The aspirations that accomplish the qualities of a buddha are fulfilled.
By bringing these three to utmost fruition-fulfilling,
ripening and purifying-may utmost buddhahood be manifest.
By the power of the compassion of the Victorious Ones of the ten directions
and their sons and daughters,
And by the power of all the pure virtue that exists,
May the pure aspirations of myself and all sentient beings
Be accomplished exactly as we wish.