Wrote this yesterday and have since expanded on it. Maybe John Tan can comment on this.

IMO, when we talk about non-arising and emptiness, there is the level of emptying conventions and the level of emptying pure presence. The conventional level pertains to seeing dependent designation, and what I wrote about convention 'creating' subject and object.* This is the part where the sutra talked about "man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon."**

The key in anatta however is not only seeing how convention brings about fabrication but how the absence of a subject leads to the ceasing of fabricating a background and simultaneously direct taste of presence as foreground. But this is not the same as seeing ignorance and dependent designation. After anatta, one does not necessarily realize the emptiness of conventionally designated subject and objects. And furthermore does not necessarily taste total exertion, empty/non-arising nature of Presence, and their simultaneity. They are different 'gradients' of insight which has to do with the degree that the emptiness of self/Self is extended to all phenomena.

Also in emptiness and dependent origination there can be like a direct taste of total exertion and illusoriness of that foreground presence as colors/sounds/etc. IMO the emptiness of Presence requires first a direct taste of Pure Presence as all phenomenal appearances, and this requires anatta which simultaneously sees through the ghostly image of Presence-as-background and realizes Presence-as-manifold or Presence-as-thousand-faces followed by penetrating the very nature of that direct and immediate foreground Presence. Otherwise we are simply negating on the level of conventions and not seeing the very Presence as illusory appearance, or Presence as the very interplay or interrelations of dependencies and thus non-arising.

That is, that very pure presence as forms is seen to be illusory, appearing but not truly created, like mere painting on water. Nothing truly there or anywhere. Also the sense of total exertion and illusoriness complements each other (although one usually gets glimpses of either one to the exclusion of another at first), because the red of the rose is the total exertion of my body turning towards a certain direction, my seeing or focusing on the red, my breathing, heart beating and all conditions are what's exerting 'red', and therefore that 'red' is truly nothing there or anywhere, and is thus only a magical illusion. This total exertion and magical illusion can be recognised by taste. When looking at many different glasses the reflections change as you walk, the water bursting upwards from the water fountain is also a result of the whole body mind activity of focusing, acting, seeing, etc in certain ways. Which is to say, arising/abiding/ceasing of phenomena do not make any sense as all phenomena are only vivid appearance that appears only with the moment's dependencies (not to be confused as 'existing only for a moment, therefore non-arising').

And when I say whole body-mind-universe as dependencies it may seem to imply that there is a body mind or universe moving or interacting with each other in order to produce a certain effect, but that is not so. For body mind universe (aka summarised as "conditions") are entirely also conditionally appearing and non-arising 'mere painting on water'. In other words as the Zen Master Hong Wen Liang wrote to me years ago, 空花在眼,一翳墜落 ,一空在眼,眾翳墜落。 With empty flower in vision, one illusion (as in sky flower) falls away, one emptiness in vision, all illusions fall away. Not only is phenomena empty, but when whole body-mind is empty, then all is empty. For when exerting a single phenomena all conditions that exerts are not themselves 'existing things interacting or producing other existing things' but mere relations like reflections upon reflections in the nodes of the net of indra. They are not only deconstructed into a single flow but are all themselves empty-non-arising-Presencing. And what we call dependencies are empty phenomena relating with empty phenomena.

And I should also add: not only is whole body-mind empty, but emptiness IS the whole body-mind-universe. It is none other than the vividly manifesting 'forms' with its apparent shapes and dimensions, its apparent dimensionality (Which I will elaborate in the next paragraph) VIA dependency IS its emptiness, because emptiness is precisely dependent arising (so therefore the emptiness and illusoriness of phenomenal appearances does not contradict all mundane causalities and responsibilities -- you can't just act irresponsibly in the 'real world' without 'real world' consequences unlike lucid dreams or video games like GTA. Emptiness/dependencies 'actualizes' or 'exerts' as vivid appearances). Whatever appears is empty due to dependencies, appearances are mere appearances due to dependencies, and appearances are empty and non-arising due to dependencies, and there is no emptiness to be spoken of apart from non-arising phenomenal appearances. Emptiness is the very vividness of forms appearing exactly as it is, with no 'depth' or 'lustre' subtracted from it, and yet simultaneously tasted to be illusory or nowhere 'there' at all.

Another aspect of vision (in contrast to other senses like sound and sensation which only differs in loudness and intensity) is that there is apparent depth involved. Anatta demolishes centerpoint and thus everything appears sort of gapless, distanceless, depthless. But it is not sufficient to demolish 'locality'. And locality is also somehow related to the perception of depth or dimensions through vision. That things are located in certain places are due to certain colors in vision interpreted as depth. For example, if you went to a good 3D movie with 3D glasses (btw, Ready Player One in IMAX 3D is pretty good -- their movie has complex and well-designed 3D), things that appear flat on screen suddenly becomes more alive as if apparent objects on the screen take up a life of their own by assuming three dimensions with locations in front of and behind the screen.

But at the same time logically we know that the stuff that 'pops out' in front of the screen moving towards you isn't in actuality coming out of the screen towards you, they are not located anywhere but 'on the screen' -- just take off your 3D glasses and it becomes as clear as day. That is just common sense. But for most people, that common sense does not get applied to the 'real world' (which means the commonly experienced conventional reality/karmic vision with glasses off), in 'real world' without the glasses we think that the colors of vision imply actual depth and locality to inherently existing objects, including 'screen is over there', 'table is here', and so forth. Depth is actually just impressions based on delineating colors into objects of varying sizes (smaller objects appear more 'distant') plus the saturation/contrast of colors - (Wiki: Aerial perspective – Due to light scattering by the atmosphere, objects that are a great distance away have lower luminance contrast and lower color saturation. Due to this, images seem blurry the farther they are away from a person's point of view. In computer graphics, this is often called "distance fog." The foreground has high contrast; the background has low contrast. Objects differing only in their contrast with a background appear to be at different depths. The color of distant objects are also shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum (e.g., distant mountains). Some painters, notably Cézanne, employ "warm" pigments (red, yellow and orange) to bring features forward towards the viewer, and "cool" ones (blue, violet, and blue-green) to indicate the part of a form that curves away from the picture plane.)

However, we attribute those colors to be characteristics of objects existing on their own side (on the objective side) in and of itself (although colors do not apply to many other animals or beings, and if we investigate the quantum structure of things we find almost completely empty space), with locality, apart from appearance/conditionality, just as we (by ignorance) attribute the aspect of luminous clarity or 'awareness' to a subjective side existing in and of itself apart from appearance/conditionality. This attribution is the power of ignorance driving conventional reality into apparent existence.

But by seeing presence/vision/forms as a play of conditionality, then all colors that conventionally imply 'depth' and 'dimension' are simply a dependently originating mirage that is unlocatable and non-originating. Even the so called 'depth' and 'dimension' are merely non-dimensional colors/appearances and impressions arising due to conditions. Why non-arising? Because what dependently originates is non-arising -- like the 3D glasses and the 3d-designed-film-images manifesting various '3 dimensional' images in dependence, yet its appearance does not in any way imply an actual locality or depth or dimension or the creation of some real objects anywhere. And as I wrote in another post, it's not so much that a self-existing I over here walk towards a self-existing park over there but rather my walking manifests illusory-yet-vividly-Presencing space-time, buildings, trees and parks.

However the illusoriness of Presence is not the same as the sutra about the "man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon."**, even though that it is equally important. Rather, it's the man with clear sighted vision sees pure presence as illusory display.

* "What is convention? Conventions are not just verbal words occurring in thought.
Conventions are alive!

They bring I, universe, car, movement alive.. or red patches into “the redness of rose”. The power and magic of conventions."

** Excerpt from The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment

"What is ignorance? Virtuous man, since beginningless time, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the four great elements as the attributes of their bodies, and the conditioned impressions of the six sense objects as the attributes of their minds. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon.

"Virtuous man, there is in reality no flower in the sky, yet the sick man mistakenly clings to it. Because of his mistaken clinging, he is not only deluded about the intrinsic nature of the empty space, but also confused about the arising of the flower. Because of this false existence [to which he clings], he remains in the turning wheel of birth and death. Hence this is called ignorance.

"Virtuous man, this ignorance has no real substance. It is lik a person in a dream. Though the person exists in the dream, when [the dreamer] awakens, there is nothing that can be grasped. Like an [illusory] flower in the sky that vanishes into empty space, one cannot say that there is a fixed place from which it vanishes. Why? Because there is no place from which it arises! Amidst the unarisen, all sentient beings deludedly perceive birth and extinction. Hence this is called the turning wheel of birth and death.

"Virtuous man, one who practices Complete Enlightenment of the causal ground of the Tathagata realizes that [birth and extinction] are like an illusory flower in the sky. Thus there is no continuance of birth and death and no body or mind that is subject to birth and death. This nonexistence of [birth and death and body and mind] is so not as a consequence of contrived effort. It is so by its intrinsic nature.

"The awareness [of their nonexistence] is like empty space. That which is aware of the empty space is like the appearance of the illusory flower. However, one cannot say that the nature of this awareness is nonexistent. Eliminating both existence and nonexistence is in accordance with pure enlightenment.

"Why is it so? Because the nature of empty space is ever unmoving. Likewise, there is neither arising nor perishing within the Tathagatagarbha. It is free from conceptual knowledge and views. Like the nature of dharmadhatu, which is ultimate, wholly complete, and pervades all ten directions, such is the Dharma practice [of the Tathagata] of the causal ground.

"Because of this [intrinsic completeness], bodhisattvas within the Mahayana may give rise to pure bodhi-mind. If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age practice accordingly, they will not fall into erroneous views."

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to clarify his meaning, proclaimed these gathas:
Manjusri, you should know
that all Tathagatas,
from their original-arising causal ground,
use wisdom to enlighten
and penetrate ignorance.
Realizing that ignorance is like
a flower in the sky,
they are thus liberated from the continuance
[of birth and death].
Like a person [seen] in a dream who
cannot be found when [the dreamer] awakens,
awareness is like empty space.
It is impartial and equal, and ever unmoving.
When enlightenment pervades all ten directions,
the Buddha Path is accomplished.
There is no place where illusions vanish,
and there is no attainment
in accomplishing the Buddha Path,
for the intrinsic nature is already wholly complete.
By this, bodhisattvas
can give rise to the bodhi-mind.
Sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age
through this practice will avoid erroneous views.

https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/abhidharma-tenet-systems/the-indian-tenet-systems/ways-of-cognizing-the-two-truths-gelug-prasangika

Ways of Cognizing the Two Truths: Gelug Prasangika

 
 

Cognition of an Object

All Tibetan traditions accept that in cognizing a validly knowable phenomenon (shes-bya), mental activity (sems, mind) simultaneously gives rise to (shar-ba, produces) a cognitive object (yul) and cognitively engages (‘jug-pa) with it. In the definition of mind, “giving rise to a cognitive object” is referred to as “clarity” (gsal), while “cognitively engaging with such an object” is referred to as “awareness” (rig).
For example, in seeing a white rectangular towel, mental activity simultaneously produces the sight of a white rectangular towel and sees it. What we see, however, is not just sensibilia (a white rectangle). In order not to contradict convention (tha-snyad), we need to assert that we also see the towel itself – the so-called “ commonsense (‘jig-rten-la grags-pa) towel.” Cognition of a towel, however, does not create the towel.
Producing a cognitive object and cognitively engaging with it are two aspects of the same mental activity, two ways of describing the same phenomenon. It is not that production of a sight comes first and then, a moment later, the seeing of it occurs.
Moreover, mental activity occurs without there being a findable agent “ me” or “ mind” existing independently and separately from the activity and making it happen, like a person using a computer to make images appear on a screen. Thus, mental activity (mind) is defined as the “ mere” arising and cognizing of objects – in other words, “mere clarity and awareness” (gsal-rig-tsam).

Conceptual and Nonconceptual Cognition

Cognition of an object may be either conceptual cognition (rtog-bcas-kyi shes-pa) or non-conceptual cognition (rtog-med-pa’i shes-pa). Conceptual cognition of something is through the medium of an audio category (sgra-spyi), a meaning/object category (don-spyi), or both. It may also be through the medium of merely a concept (rtog-pa), such as a concept of space (nam-mkha’) or a concept of an impossible way of existing. Conceptual cognition occurs only with mental cognition (yid-shes), never with sensory cognition (dbang-shes).
A category (spyi) is a universal imputed onto a set of individual items sharing a common defining characteristic mark (mtshan-nyid, definition), such that all the items in the set can be understood as being the same general type of thing.
  • The individual items that fit into an audio category are an acoustic pattern, pronounced with any voice, accent, or volume, but not necessarily having any meaning understood by the sounds of the pattern. When anyone says “towel,” whether or not the person understands a meaning associated with this acoustic pattern, the person is saying sounds that fit into the audio category towel.
  • The individual items that fit into a meaning/object category are the objects meant or signified by the sounds of an acoustic pattern. In such cases, the acoustic pattern constitutes a word. All individual items that share in common the defining characteristic mark “ being an absorbent cloth or paper used for wiping or drying” fit into the meaning/object category of “towel.”
Note that an audio category does not have an object/meaning category inherently associated with it from its own side. The audio category do can be associated with not only the meaning/object categories do, due, dew, or doo (as in “ doo-doo”) in English, but also the meaning/object categories du in German (equivalent to “ you” in English), du in Chinese (equivalent to either “measure” or “stomach” in English), ‘du in Tibetan (equivalent to “gather” in English), and so on. The association of an audio category with an object/meaning category is established by mental labeling alone, according to an adopted convention.
Non-conceptual cognition is without such a medium. It may be sensory, mental, or yogic.
  • Sensory and yogic cognition are exclusively non-conceptual.
  • Mental cognition may be either conceptual or non-conceptual.
Bare yogic cognition (rnal-‘byor mngon-sum) is a valid non-conceptual cognition that arises from the dominating condition (bdag-rkyen) of a state of combined shamatha (zhi-gnas, a stilled and settled state of mind, mental quiescence, calm abiding) and vipashyana (lhag-mthong, an exceptionally perceptive state of mind, special insight), and which cognizes either subtle nonstaticness (mi-rtag-pa phra-mo) or voidness (stong-pa nyid, Skt. shunyata, emptiness). When it cognizes voidness (the absolute absence of all impossible ways of existing), it occurs only during the total absorption (mnyam-bzhag, meditative equipoise) of an arya. Like sensory cognition, it too is exclusively non-conceptual.

Distinguishing

Distinguishing (‘du-shes, recognition) is a mental factor (sems-byung, subsidiary awareness) that accompanies all non-conceptual and conceptual cognitions, except for certain extremely deep meditative absorptions. Distinguishing takes an uncommon defining characteristic mark of what appears (snang-ba) in either a non-conceptual or conceptual cognition and ascribes a conventional significance (tha-snyad ‘dogs-pa) to it. It does not, however, necessarily ascribe a name (ming) or mental label (brda) to its object, nor does it compare it with previously cognized objects.
In sensory nonconceptual cognition (for instance, visual cognition), we can distinguish sensibilia (for instance, colors such as white and shapes such as a rectangle), and commonsense objects (for instance, a towel). In such cases, the distinguishing does not ascribe the labels white, rectangle, or towel to what appears in the cognition. In fact, distinguishing here does not even know that the color is white, that the shape is rectangular, or that the object is a towel. It merely distinguishes them as conventionally knowable items, from everything else that appears in that visual cognition. In other words, it distinguishes them from all the other colors, shapes, and commonsense objects that appear in the field of vision. This is known as “the distinguishing that cognitively takes as a characteristic mark something’s being a knowable item” (don-la mtshan-mar ‘dzin-pa’i ‘du-shes).
In conceptual cognition, distinguishing ascribes a conventional term and its meaning (sgra-don) to its object. It specifies the object as belonging to a specific audio category or to a specific audio and meaning/object category, excluding it from what is not in those categories. Thus, in ascribing a name or both a name and its meaning to the object that appears to it, such as “white,” “rectangle,” and “towel,” it distinguishes white from all other colors that are not white, a rectangle from all other shapes that are not rectangular, and all other items that are not towels. This is known as “the distinguishing that cognitively takes as a characteristic mark something’s being a conventionality” (tha-snyad-la mtshan-mar ‘dzin-pa’i ‘du-shes). Non-conceptual cognition lacks this type of distinguishing.
Thus, visual non-conceptual cognition merely distinguishes the individual defining characteristic marks of something that characterize it an existent, validly knowable color, shape, and commonsense object. It distinguishes “this” color from “that” color, “ this” shape from “that” shape, and “this” commonsense object from “that” commonsense object. Conceptual cognition distinguishes as well the individual defining characteristic marks that characterize what appears to it as the type of object it specifically is – “this” specific color (“ white,” not “ yellow,”) “this” specific shape (“a rectangle,” not a “circle,”) and “this” specific type of commonsense object (“a towel,” not “a raincoat.”)

The Two Truths

Every knowable phenomenon has two truths (bden-pa gnyis) concerning it. In technical language, the two truths share a single essential nature (ngo-bo gcig). In other words, they refer to two true aspects of any phenomenon. Each truth may be cognized either non-conceptually or conceptually.
  • Superficial truths (kun-rdzob bden-pa, conventional truth, relative truth) are those phenomena that are findable by a valid cognition scrutinizing (dpyod-pa, analyzing) what is conventional (tha-snyad-pa).
  • Deepest truths (don-dam bden-pa, ultimate truth) are those phenomena that are findable by a valid cognition (tshad-ma) scrutinizing what is ultimate (mthar-thug).
In these definitions, “findable” does not imply that the scrutinizing valid cognitions find, on the side of the scrutinized phenomenon, the referent “thing” (btags-don) corresponding to the name or label for the phenomenon. If the scrutinizing valid cognitions could find such a referent “thing,” the phenomenon would fulfill the definition of having existence established by its self-nature (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa, inherent existence). Prasangika is unique among the tenet systems in asserting that nothing has its existence established in this impossible way. “Findable,” here in the definitions of the two truths, simply means that the scrutinizing valid cognitions take the phenomena as their involved objects (‘jug-yul) and explicitly apprehend them.
  • An involved object of a cognition is a principle object (yul-gyi gtso-bo, main object) that it cognitively engages.

Valid Cognition and Apprehension

Valid cognition is a non-fallacious (mi-bslu-ba) cognition of an involved object of a cognition. A cognition is non-fallacious if it induces decisive determination (nges-pa) of its involved object and is not damaged by other valid cognitions.
  • Other valid cognitions refer to valid cognitions scrutinizing either deepest or superficial truth.
  • Prasangika does not include the stipulation that valid cognition also requires that the cognition be fresh (gsar-tu), which the less sophisticated tenet systems assert. This is because, in light of the Prasangika view of voidness, all moments of cognition are fresh.
  • Valid cognition may be nonconceptual or conceptual.
A cognition, whether non-conceptual or conceptual, apprehends (rtogs-pa) its involved object if it correctly and decisively determines it as “this” and “ not that.” Apprehension of an object may be either explicit or implicit.
  • With explicit apprehension (dngos-su rtogs-pa), a mental aspect (rnam-pa) representing the apprehended object appears in the cognition. A mental aspect is somewhat like a mental hologram, although it need not be a visual one.
  • With implicit apprehension (shugs-la rtogs-pa), such a mental aspect does not appear.
A cognition cannot implicitly apprehend an object without simultaneously explicitly apprehending another object. However, a cognition can explicitly apprehend an object without simultaneously implicitly apprehending anything.
All valid cognitions apprehend their involved objects.

Two Facets of a Valid Cognition

In general, any specific moment of valid cognition has two facets, each of which is valid for apprehending only one truth about the phenomenon that is its involved object. They are the facets:
  • valid for apprehending superficial truths (kun-rdzob rtogs-pa’i tshad-ma)
  • valid for apprehending deepest truths (don-dam rtogs-pa’i tshad-ma).
In terms of these two facets,
  • Valid mental cognition, whether conceptual or non-conceptual, has the ability to apprehend either of the two truths, either explicitly or implicitly.
  • Valid sensory non-conceptual cognition apprehends only superficial truths, either explicitly or implicitly.
  • Yogic non-conceptual cognition of voidness apprehends only deepest truths, and only explicitly.

Facets of Superficial Truth

In general, the superficial truth about any item is its appearance, while the deepest truth about it is its voidness (its actual mode of existence).
In terms of this general formulation, within superficial truths, there are two inseparable facets of the appearance of an item:
  • the appearance of the item as an object,
  • the appearance of a mode of existence of the item.
Note, however, that an item cannot appear without it appearing with a mode of existence; and a mode of existence does not exist independently of an item that exists with that mode of existence.
Consider the case of a visual object.
  • The appearance of a visual object as an object is the appearance both of a colored shape and of a conventional, commonsense object. For example, when seeing something, both a white rectangle and a towel may appear. Both conceptual and non-conceptual cognitions produce cognitive appearances of both sensibilia and commonsense objects.
  • The appearance of a mode of existence of an item may be either an appearance of seemingly true existence (bden-par grub-pa) or an appearance of non-true existence. The two alternatives constitute a dichotomy (dngos-‘gal), with no third alternative (phung gsum-pa) possible.
For an item to be truly existent means for it to have a truly existent conventional identity (tha-snyad-du yod-pa’i bdag) as “this” or “that” individual validly knowable object or as “ this” or “that” individual, specific kind of validly knowable object.
A truly existent conventional identity would be one established by the power of an objective, individual defining characteristic mark (rang-mtshan) findable on the side of an item. Such a findable mark would allow for a correct mental labeling (yang-dag-par ming ‘ dogs-pa) of the item as “this” or “that.” This is because the findable mark would be what made the basis having the findable mark (mtshan-gzhi) into a proper basis for labeling (gdags-gzhi) “this” or “that.” It would establish that truly existent identity either by its own power alone, or in conjunction with mental labeling. Thus, truly established existence is synonymous with existence established by self-nature.
Although mental activity can give rise to an appearance of a mode of existence that resembles true existence, actual true existence cannot appear because there is no such thing. The item’s absolute absence of true existence is its voidness (emptiness). Voidness, as a mode of existence, is equivalent to non-true existence.
An item’s absolute absence of a truly existent conventional identity does not mean that it has no conventional identity at all. For something to be devoid of true existence implies that it has a non-truly existent conventional identity as “this” or “that.” Otherwise, the absurd conclusion would follow that nothing could be distinguished from anything else. Everything would be the same item and you and I would be the same person.
Although there is no such thing as an objective defining characteristic mark findable on the side of a basis for labeling or on the side of an item itself, nevertheless there are conventional defining characteristic marks, validly knowable by the mental factor distinguishing. Their existence, however, is established by mental labeling alone. Thus, a non-truly existent conventional identity is one established by the power of mental labeling alone, and not in conjunction with the power of an objective defining characteristic mark findable on the side of a basis for labeling or on the side of an item itself, or by the power of such a findable objective mark alone.
In short, the deepest truth about an item is its actual mode of existence, which is its voidness – the absolute absence of its having a truly existent conventional identity. The superficial truth about an item regards the basis for the voidness (stong-gzhi). The basis includes the nonconceptual appearance of the item and of a mode of existence, both of which have non-truly existent conventional identities as validly knowable objects. The basis also includes the conceptual appearance of what the item specifically is and of what the mode of existence specifically is, both of which also have non-truly existent conventional identities. Thus, the non-truly existent conventional identities of any knowable object are devoid of existing as truly existent conventional identities.
[See: The Appearance and Cognition of Nonexistent Phenomena]

Impure and Pure Appearances of Superficial Truths

Corresponding to the above distinction between the true existence and non-true existence of any item, there are impure appearances (ma-dag-pa’i snang-ba) and pure appearances (dag-pa’i snang-ba) of the superficial truth about an item.
  • An impure appearance of a superficial truth about an item is the appearance of it as seemingly truly existent. This mode of appearance (snang-tshul) does not correspond to the actual mode of existence (gnas-tshul, mode of abiding) of the item. An example is the appearance of the item as having a seemingly truly existent conventional identity – for instance, as a truly existent “white rectangular towel.”
  • A pure appearance of a superficial truth about the same item is the appearance of it as having a non-truly existent conventional identity as a white rectangular towel. Here, the mode of appearance and the mode of existence are the same.
Note that there is no common locus (gzhi-mthun) between a pure appearance and an impure appearance of a superficial truth. In other words, there is no findable entity, such as a “white rectangular towel,” that exists independently of a mode of appearance, and which can appear either impurely or purely, depending on the mind that cognizes it. This is because there is no findable referent “thing” on the side of a knowable object that corresponds to the names or labels for it. Nevertheless, there are external objects (phyi-don) – validly knowable objects that have a different essential nature from that of the cognitions of them.
Similarly, it is not the case that a pure appearance of a superficial truth arises first in a cognition and then the cognition projects onto it an impure appearance. Cognition gives rise either to an impure appearance or a pure appearance of a superficial truth.
When conceptual mental cognition and either sensory or mental non-conceptual cognition cognize superficial truths, they can only give rise to and cognize impure appearances of superficial truths. None of them can give rise to and cognize pure appearances. All three types of cognition, however, can be equally valid for cognizing impure appearances of superficial truths, depending on the way in which they cognize the impure appearances. Only clear light cognition, discussed later in this essay, can give rise to and cognize pure appearances of superficial truths.

Grasping for True Existence

In summary, sensory and mental non-conceptual cognition cognize only the appearance of an something – the appearance of an item and the appearance of a mode of existence of the item. Conceptual mental cognition cognizes both (1) the appearance of an item and a mode of existence, as well as (2) the appearance of what something specifically is and of the specific mode in which it exists. All these appearances are impure appearances, and impure appearances are appearances of seemingly true existence (bden-snang, appearances of true existence).
As for cognition of the impure appearances of seemingly true existence, the term grasping for true existence (bden-par 'dzin-pa) has two meanings. The word translated as “to grasp” ('dzin, Skt. graha) actually means only “to take something as a cognitive object.” In terms of true existence, we may take as a cognitive object “an appearance of seemingly true existence” (bden-snang ‘dzin-pa), or we may take as a cognitive object “ truly established existence” (bden-grub ‘dzin-pa). “Grasping for true existence” may mean either the first of the two alternatives or both alternatives in conjunction with each other.
  • Sensory and mental non-conceptual cognitions take as a cognitive object only an appearance of seemingly true existence. They merely give rise to and cognize this appearance. Thus, they “grasp for true existence” only in the first sense of the term.
  • Conceptual cognition takes as a cognitive object both an appearance of seemingly true existence and the concept truly established existence. This is because conceptual cognition interpolates (sgro-‘dogs, superimposes, projects) something that is not there. It interpolates (1) that the mode of existence that appears to it fits in the category truly established existence and (2) that this specific conceptualized mode of existence corresponds to the actual mode of existence of the object that appears to it. In other words, it takes the mode of appearance (an impure appearance of superficial truth) of its involved object to be the actual mode of existence (deepest truth). Thus, conceptual cognition “grasps for true existence” in both senses of the term.

Correct and Distorted Superficial Truths

Relative to reasoned cognition (rigs-shes), there is no division of superficial truth into correct superficial truth (yang-dag kun-rdzob) and distorted superficial truth (log-pa’i kun-rdzob). This is because there is no such thing as a distorted superficial truth.
  • A correct superficial truth is a non-truly existent one – one that exists in the manner of a pure appearance of superficial truth.
  • A distorted superficial truth would be a truly existent one – one that actually existed in the manner of an impure appearance of superficial truth.
Reasoned cognition is cognition that analyzes the two truths by relying on valid reason. Such cognition decisively determines that there is no such thing as truly established existence, either ultimately or conventionally. Because of this, relative to reasoned cognition, a division scheme into correct and distorted superficial truths is invalid. A division scheme of phenomena into two sets is only valid when both sets have items that belong to them.
Nevertheless, relative to conventional valid cognition (tha-snyad-pa’i tshad-ma), superficial truths can be divided into correct and distorted superficial truths.
  • Superficial truths that are cognized by conventional valid cognition are correct superficial truths.
  • Superficial truths that are cognized by distorted cognition (log-shes) are distorted superficial truths.
Conventional valid cognition, also known as worldly valid cognition (‘jig-rten-pa’i tshad-ma), is valid cognition by all minds other than yogic nonconceptual cognition of voidness. Thus, since conventional valid cognition always makes impure appearances of superficial truths, the division scheme of superficial truths into correct and distorted ones refers only to impurely appearing superficial truths.

Distorted Cognition

Distorted cognition (log-shes), then, cognizes impure appearances of distorted superficial truths. Of the two facets of an impure superficial truth, however, the distortion is in regard to the appearance of an item as an object. It is not in regard to the appearance of the mode of existence of an item, since all impure appearances of superficial truth, whether distorted or correct, are appearances of seemingly true existence.
Distorted cognition may be either non-conceptual or conceptual.
  • A distorted non-conceptual cognition is one that is deceived (mistaken) with respect to its involved object.
  • A distorted conceptual cognition is one that is deceived with respect to its conceptualized object (zhen-yul, implied object).
Conceptualized objects belong exclusively to the domain of conceptual cognition and are, literally, the items onto which the categories or concepts “cling.” They are what a category in a conceptual cognition refers to. For instance, when thinking about an apple, the category apple refers to a commonsense apple. When remembering our mother, the concept we have of our mother refers to our mother.
An example of a distorted non-conceptual cognition is the visual cognition of a double moon by a cross-eyed person when not wearing corrective eyeglasses. The involved object of the cognition is a double moon. Examples of distorted conceptual cognition are imagining a double moon, remembering a blue shirt that we wore yesterday when actually we wore a yellow shirt, and thinking that sound is permanent (eternal).
In the case of seeing a double moon, the involved object (an actual double moon) is nonexistent. In the case of imagining a double moon, the conceptualized object (an actual double moon) that would fit into the category double moon is nonexistent. In the case of incorrectly remembering a blue shirt that we wore yesterday, again the conceptualized object a blue shirt that we wore yesterday does not exist.
However, if we think of sound as being in the category permanent phenomenon, the conceptualized object a permanent phenomenon does exist. It is not like a double moon. Nevertheless, the cognition is still deceived about its conceptualized object and is therefore distorted. This is because the involved object sound is not an example of the conceptualized object a permanent phenomenon. The imputation of the category permanent phenomenon onto the basis for imputation a sound is incorrect. The distorted imputation is “a conceptual cognition that does not accord with fact” (rtog-pa don mi-mthun).
There are four causes for deception (‘khrul-ba’i rgyu bzhi) – referring to the deception that occurs in distorted cognition:
  • A faulty dominating condition (bdag-rkyen) for the cognition, such as the faulty visual sensors of someone who is cross-eyed.
  • A faulty focal condition (dmigs-rkyen) for the cognition, such as when seeing a twirling torch as a ring of fire.
  • A fault with the situation of the cognizing person, such as being in a moving vehicle and seeing trees moving backwards, or wearing tinted sunglasses and seeing white objects as pink.
  • A faulty immediately preceding condition (de-ma-thag rkyen) for the cognition. The immediately preceding moment of cognition is its immediately preceding condition. If the immediately preceding moment of cognition were under the influence of faulty logic or stubborn ignorance, we might think that sound was permanent. If it were under the influence of forgetfulness, we might incorrectly remember what we wore yesterday. Or if it were under the influence of paranoia, we might think someone was following us, when actually no one was.
All such cognitions are deceived or mistaken concerning their involved objects. Valid cognitions that are not affected by any of the causes for deception do not corroborate the distorted cognitions. They contradict them.
Although a cognition of a double moon is distorted and, as a whole, is not a valid cognition; nevertheless, the cognition of the appearance of the double moon within the context of that distorted cognition is “valid.” This is because it is non-fallacious that an appearance representing a double moon actually does arise and is cognized clearly in the distorted cognition.
  • The cognition of this distorted superficial truth is not contradicted by the cognition of superficial truths by other persons who are cross-eyed. They all see appearances of a double moon when looking at the moon.
  • The cognition of this distorted appearance is not even contradicted by a cognition of deepest truth, in the sense that cognition of the voidness of the distorted appearance does not negate the conventional existence of the distorted appearance.
The same is true regarding distorted conceptual cognition, such as thinking that sound is permanent. Within this distorted cognition, the cognition of “sound” and the cognition of the category permanent are themselves valid, although the imputation of the category permanent onto sound and the cognition of sound through the medium of that category are distorted.
One further clarification needs to be made. Although distorted cognition of a distorted superficial truth does not concern the appearance of the mode of existence of an item, nevertheless there can be a distorted conceptual cognition of the appearance of a mode of existence. For example, we might conceptualize that an item’s impure appearance of seemingly true existence is a pure appearance of non-true existence. This distorted conceptual cognition is deceived about its conceptualized object pure appearance. The impure appearance that is its involved object is not an example of a pure appearance. Such invalid cognition occurs, for instance, as a consequence of taking a Svatantrika-Madhyamaka understanding of voidness as the deepest understanding of voidness and therefore negating an under-pervasively identified object to be negated (dgag-bya ngos-‘dzin khyab-chung-ba dgag-pa).

Deceptive Cognition

A deceptive cognition (‘khrul -shes) is one that has a mistake or confusion concerning its appearing object. Its appearing object seems like something else.
All cognitions other than yogic non-conceptual cognition of voidness are deceptive cognitions of the appearance of the mode of existence of superficial truths. This is because all of them give rise to and cognize appearances of impure superficial truths. The appearances of seemingly true existence seem to be appearances of actual true existence. However, not all deceptive cognitions of the impure appearances of superficial truths as objects are distorted cognitions. Only some are distorted, while others are valid.
Among non-conceptual cognitions, only distorted non-conceptual cognitions are also deceptive cognitions regarding the appearance in them of superficial truths as objects. This is because the involved object of a distorted non-conceptual cognition, such as seeing a double moon, is also its appearing object.
Among conceptual cognitions, however, all conceptual cognitions are also deceptive regarding the appearance in them of superficial truths as objects, whether the conceptual cognition is valid or distorted. Let us examine this point in detail.
In conceptual cognition, the appearing object is a category, a concept, or both. For the sake of simplicity, let us restrict our discussion to just conceptual cognition that has a category as one of its appearing objects – for example, the conceptual cognition of a dog. The appearing objects of this cognition are the category dog and the concept truly established existence. What actually appears (snang-ba) in the cognition, however, is a dog (through a mental aspect representing one) and an appearance of seemingly true existence. The conceptual cognition imputes the category and concept onto what appears – namely, it imputes them onto the superficial truth of the appearance of the object that the item is and the appearance of the mode of existence that the item has.
The conceptual cognition is deceptive because it mixes into one what appears with what it imputes (snang-btags gcig-tu ‘dres). “To mix into one” means to make two things appear is if they were one and the same identical thing. It may be correct that an individual dog is an instance of something that could conventionally be put into the category dog. However, when, in cognition, the category dog is mixed together with the appearance of a specific instance of a dog, the cognition is deceptive. This is because it seems as though the category and the specific instance of an item that conventionally is in that category are one and the same identical thing. In different words, it seems as though an entire set is identical with just one member of the set, when the member that appears is merely representing an example of all the members of the set. In simple language, it seems as though what this particular dog looks like is what dogs in general look like.
Conceptual cognition is not only deceptive because it mixes into one its appearing object (in our example, the category dog) with what appears to it (a conventionally existent dog). It is also deceptive because it mixes into one its other appearing object (the concept truly established existence) with what also appears to it (an appearance of seemingly true existence). Specifically, the conceptual cognition takes the appearance of something as being a truly existent dog and interpolates onto it the concept truly established existence as a dog. This aspect of the conceptual cognition is distorted. The conceptualized object truly established existence does not exist at all. Therefore, to take something nonexistent as if it were existent is a distorted interpolation.
Thus, concerning cognition of impure superficial truth, the conceptual cognition of a dog as a “dog” is deceptive from two points of view:
  • It mixes the category dog with the appearance of a specific individual dog.
  • It mixes the concept truly established existence with an appearance of seemingly true existence.
The first deceptive aspect is a valid conceptual cognition. It is valid that this individual knowable object conventionally fits in the category dog. It could even be a valid deceptive cognition that this specific appearance of seemingly true existence conventionally fits into the category appearances of seemingly true existence. It would be distorted, however, to take this specific appearance of seemingly true existence as conventionally fitting into the category appearances of non-true existence.

Simultaneous Cognition of the Two Truths

Cognition of two sensory aspects of something by two appropriate types of mental activity can occur simultaneously. For example, we can see the sight of an orange with visual cognition and, at the same time, smell its fragrance with olfactory cognition. We cannot see and smell the visual and olfactory cognitive objects, however, with just visual cognition.
Similarly, we can cognize the superficial and deepest truths about something simultaneously, but only by the appropriate aspects of mental activity valid for cognizing each. Thus, mental activity valid for cognizing superficial truths about an item – what it appears to be and how it appears to exist – is not valid for cognizing its deepest truth – how it actually exists, and vice versa.
This statement is true whether the mental activity is cognition of impure or pure appearances of superficial truths and, within the former category, whether the mental activity is conceptual or non-conceptual.
The sight and the smell of an orange are not mutually exclusive phenomena (‘gal-ba) and thus one moment of mental activity can cognize both simultaneously, with both being explicitly apprehended. The presence and absolute absence of true existence, however, are mutually exclusive phenomena. One moment of mental activity cannot simultaneously give rise to a mental aspect representing the presence of true existence as well as its absence. In other words, one moment of mental activity cannot explicitly apprehend both at the same time.
Therefore, because the impure appearance of an item is with an appearance of seemingly true existence, such an appearance occludes (khegs) or blocks simultaneous explicit apprehension of its deepest truth, its absolute absence of true existence. In other words, cognition of impure superficial truths and of deepest truths cannot occur simultaneously, with both being explicitly apprehended.
Simultaneous cognition of the two truths can occur, however, in one moment of conceptual cognition, with one being explicitly apprehended and the other being implicitly apprehended.
  • Conceptual total absorption (mnyam-bzhag, meditative equipoise) cognition of voidness simultaneously apprehends voidness explicitly and the basis for that voidness implicitly.
  • Conceptual subsequent attainment (rjes-thob, subsequent realization, post-meditation) cognition of voidness simultaneously apprehends the basis for a voidness explicitly and its voidness implicitly.
On the other hand, although one moment of non-conceptual cognition can implicitly apprehend voidness while simultaneously explicitly apprehending the basis for the voidness, it cannot implicitly apprehend the basis for a voidness while explicitly apprehending its voidness.
  • Non-conceptual total absorption cognition of voidness apprehends voidness explicitly and does not apprehend the basis for that voidness even implicitly.
  • Non-conceptual subsequent attainment of voidness simultaneously apprehends the basis for a voidness explicitly and its voidness implicitly.
[See: Cognition of the Two Truths: Gelug Tenet Systems]
A conceptual cognition that explicitly apprehends a voidness can only do so by giving rise to an appearance of the seemingly true existence of the voidness. The cognition is correct regarding the superficial truth of what the voidness is – it is an appearance of a voidness. It is also correct regarding the superficial truth of how the voidness appears to exist – it appears to be seemingly truly existent. However, the conceptual cognition is deceptive, because it mixes the voidness that appears with the category voidness, and the appearance of seemingly true existence that appears with the categories appearances of true existence and truly established existence. The aspect of the cognition that mixes the appearance of a seemingly truly existent voidness with the category truly established existence is distorted. The other aspects are merely deceptive, but not distorted. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the cognition is a valid conceptual cognition.
Here, the explicit conceptual apprehension of a voidness that appears to be seemingly truly existent does not block the same conceptual cognition from simultaneously implicitly apprehending the basis for that voidness. It does not block it because that basis for voidness could appear in the conceptual cognition, although it does not appear. In technical language, the manner with which the conceptual cognition cognitively takes its object (‘dzin-stangs) explicitly (namely, by giving rise to an appearance of it as if truly existent and grasping) does not prevent cognition in general of the object that it simultaneously apprehends implicitly.
  • If the basis for the voidness did appear in the conceptual cognition, the aspect of the cognition for cognizing superficial truths could only make that basis appear as if truly existent. This is because the appearances that conceptual cognition makes can only be appearances of seemingly true existence.
  • From the point of view of the appearance of how something exists, the appearance of a seemingly truly existent voidness would not be incompatible with an appearance of a seemingly truly existent basis for the voidness. This is because both are appearances of seemingly true existence. They are incompatible only from the point of view of the appearance of what something is – the absence of an impossible mode of existence and the presence of an object having that impossible mode of existence.
  • Because of that incompatibility, the two truths cannot appear and be explicitly apprehended simultaneously in conceptual cognition.
When conceptual subsequent attainment cognition explicitly apprehends a basis for voidness, it also makes it appear as if truly existent, because it is a conceptual cognition. The explicit conceptual apprehension of a basis for voidness that appears to be seemingly truly existent does not block the same conceptual cognition from simultaneously implicitly apprehending the voidness itself. It does not block it because that voidness could appear in the conceptual cognition, although it does not appear. If the voidness did appear in the conceptual cognition, it also could only appear as if truly existent. The rest of the analysis is the same as that for conceptual total absorption cognition of voidness.
The analysis for non-conceptual subsequent attainment cognition is the same as that for the conceptual variety. This is because both types of cognition are with mental cognition, and mental cognition, whether conceptual or non-conceptual, can only make appearances of superficial truths that are appearances of impure superficial truths. Thus, if the voidness did appear in non-conceptual subsequent attainment cognition, here as well it could only appear as if truly existent.
The situation is quite different with non-conceptual total absorption cognition of voidness. This type of cognition is a bare yogic cognition and therefore does not make appearances of true existence. Thus, when this cognition explicitly apprehends a voidness, it does not make it appear as if truly existent. Such an explicit apprehension of voidness does block the same non-conceptual cognition from simultaneously implicitly apprehending the basis for the voidness. It blocks it because that basis for voidness could not appear in the non-conceptual yogic cognition. If the basis for the voidness could appear in the non-conceptual yogic cognition, it could only appear as if truly existent. This is because non-conceptual yogic cognition is with mental consciousness, which is a grosser level of consciousness that that used in clear light cognition.

Clear Light Cognition

Anuttarayoga tantra explains that mental activity occurs with three levels of subtlety: gross, subtle, and subtlest.
  • Gross consciousness is sense consciousness, and that has only sensory non-conceptual cognition.
  • Subtle consciousness is mental consciousness, and that may have conceptual or non-conceptual mental cognition, as well as non-conceptual yogic cognition.
  • Subtlest consciousness refers to the clear light mind (‘od-gsal). Its cognition is always non-conceptual.
Clear light cognition is the only level of cognition that, when giving rise to and cognizing a superficial truth, can do so in terms of a pure superficial truth (an appearance of a superficial truth as being devoid of true existence). This is because during clear light cognition of an item, the clear light mind can never give rise to an appearance of the item as being seemingly truly existent. Because of this unique feature, clear light cognition is the only type of cognition that can explicitly apprehend both truths simultaneously – namely, deepest truth and pure superficial truth. After all, a voidness of true existence and an appearance of something as devoid of true existence are not incompatible.
Although non-conceptual yogic cognition also does not make an appearance of seemingly true existence, it cannot explicitly apprehend both truths simultaneously. This is because yogic cognition is a type of subtle cognition – not a subtlest one – and when subtle cognitions give rise to superficial truths, they can only give rise to appearances of impure superficial truths.
[For further discussion, see: The Union of Method and Wisdom: Gelug and Non-Gelug]

What is convention? Conventions are not just verbal words occurring in thought.

Conventions are alive! They bring I, universe, car, movement alive.. or red patches into “the redness of rose”. The power and magic of conventions.
Someone having a substantialist view of Mind quoted Longchenpa,

“Buddha Mind is empty of afflictions but is not empty of the Buddha qualities”


I responded:

That’s besides the point, it is empty of intrinsic existence. The Buddha qualities like compassion etc do not belong to an inherently existing entity but are naturally manifest as Buddha nature “without ground or agent”. Just like there is no redness of a rose and yet red patches manifesting as a display of the five lights without belonging to subject or object.



"And so we carefully investigate the arising, abiding, and vanishing of our own mind. Next, we look into whether it is produced or ceases. We do this to the point where we have no doubt whatsoever. We want to be utterly clear about the status of our own mind, absolutely certain that it does not in any way truly exist. Once we come to that conclusion, we see that our mind is without existence or nonexistence: it is not characterized by permanence or annihilation: it has neither edge nor center.

Until we fully abandon doubt regarding this, we cannot get to the actual Dzogchen view. So long as we harbor doubt, we cannot leave behind all bias toward permanence and impermanence. So you must gain certainty that the basis of all qualities is neither existent nor nonexistent, neither eternal nor annihilated, nor associated with any boundary or core.

Until you settle this well and digest it deeply, you will not find it possible to enter the self-settled, self-liberated state. You will not know the natural, spontaneous quality of your own mind, or its self-piloting and naturally settled nature. And you will not have the correct Dzogchen view."

"Our recognition that neither sheer awareness nor the afflictions obstructing it are truly established is special seeing. This seer is naked, clear, and empty. The special seeing that knows this is itself a clear emptiness, a nakedness of mind. Seen and seer are not separate, for both are clear and both are empty. They are not different. And it is special seeing's place to understand that they are not separate. This is how special seeing and serene abiding are unified. This is how we can carry afflictions to the path."

- Strands of Jewels, Khetsun Sangpo

Sonam Thakchoe (The Two Truths Debate: Tsongkhapa and Gorampa on the Middle Way):

"Tsongkhapa regards the nondual realization of ultimate truth as an epistemic event... ...Tsongkhapa does not hold the achievement of nondual wisdom as equivalent to the cessation of cognitive activity...

Tsongkhapa's description of the way the meditator arrives at nondual understanding is as follows. The cognitive agent experiences a fusion of subjectivity and its object, which refer here not to self and outside world but rather to elements within the meditator's own psychophysical aggregates. The meditator remains introspective, not engaging the outside world, but the outside world as such does not disappear. What occurs is instead a total cessation of the dualities between subject I and object mine, between thinker and thought, between feeler and feelings, between mind and body, between seeing and seen, and so forth. Initially a meditator perceives, for instance, that in each act of seeing, two factors are always present: the object seen and the act of seeing it. While each single act of seeing involves dissolution, the object seen and the act of seeing actually consist of numerous physical and mental processes that are seen to dissolve serially and successively. Eventually, the meditator also notices the dissolution of the dissolution itself.

In other words, the meditator first realizes the fluctuating and transitory character of the five aggregates, which is then followed by further realization of the aggregates as empty and selfless, and finally by the realization of the emptiness of even the empty and selfless phenomena. Nondual knowledge is thus arrived at, in Tsongkhapa's view, through the direct experience of seeing the truths within one's own aggregates, rather than being convinced of the truth of certain abstractions through rational argument or persuasion. Since the process here is a cognitive experience that operates entirely within the domain of one's psychophysical aggregates, it is therefore an epistemic but not a metaphysical nonduality.

This is how, according to Tsongkhapa, an arya has direct nonconceptual and nondual access to the transcendent nature of his own five psychophysical aggregates during meditative equipoise. In the wake of meditative equipoise, an arya engages with dualistic worldly activities, such as taking part in philosophical discourse, practicing different social conventions, and so on. The arya will thus make use of socio-linguistic conventions, but since the arya has eradicated all reifying tendencies, even these worldly dualistic engagements will be seen as consistent with nondual wisdom. Both non-dual and dual wisdoms, especially in the case of a buddha, Tsongkhapa argues, are fully commensurate."

"Both Tsong khapa and Go rampa describe non-dual knowledge as being like a process of mixing water. They argue that the fusion between subjectivity and objectivity, from the meditator's point of view, reaches its climax in their non-dual state in a way that is like mixing clean water from two different jars by pouring it all into one jar. Tsong khapa for example argues: "from the vantage point of the wisdom that directly realises ultimate reality, there is not even the slightest duality between object and the object-possessing consciousness. Like mixing water with water, [yogi] dwells in the meditative equipoise".' Tsongkhapa insists, however, that this metaphor should not be taken too far or too literally. It refers only to the cognitive process that occurs in total dissolution, and to the experience associated with that process, and must not be taken to represent the achivement of a metaphysical unity."

“So, as far as Tsong khapa is concerned, there is no contradiction in claiming that, from the empirical standpoint, on the one hand, non-dual wisdom constitutes the subjective pole of consciousnesses with ultimate truth as its objective counterpart; from the ultimate vantage point, on the other hand, non-dual wisdom and ultimate truth, "are free from the duality of act (bya ba) and object acted upon (byed pa)".

In the non-dual state, even the cognitive interplay between subject and object appears, from the meditator's point of view, completely to cease. This is because, as Tsong khapa points out, "duality of act and object acted upon is posited strictly from the perspective of empirical cognition".

Although the dual appearances of subject and object completely dissolve from the perspective of non-dual wisdom, and thus the meditator does not experience the mutual interaction between distinct and separate elements—between the seer and the seen—the meditator nonetheless engages in an act of 'mere seeing'. As the Buddha explains to Bahiya:

In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the
heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In
reference to the cognised, only the cognised. That is how you should
train yourself [Ud I. 10]... then Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that.
When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there
is no you there, you are neither here not yonder nor between the two.
This, just this, is the end of stress [Ud I. 101.

The experience of 'mere seeing' in a non-dual form is valid only when it is empirically grounded and when there is cognitive activity occurring between non-dual wisdom and non-dual ultimate truth.”

"Although all empirically given truths such as the aggregate of form, feelings etc., are contingently produced and have diverse conventional characters, all of them, according to Tsong khapa, are ultimately empty of the inherent arising. They share the universal characteristic (ro gcig, eka-rasa), literally, the same 'taste'. The Buddha, for example, makes this statement: "just as the great ocean has but one taste, the taste of salt, even so does this dharma and discipline have but one taste, the taste of release" [AN VIII.19].

The Samadhirajasatra (ting nge 'dzin rgyal po'i mdo) tells us: "By knowing one all are known. And by seeing one all are seen. Despite many things are said about [ultimate truth] in the conventional terms, no haughtiness should arise from it",' and furthermore, "Just as you have recognised ('du shes) personality, even so you should apply the same insight with respect to all [phenomena]. All phenomena are of the [same] nature like a clear space".

In the Gaganagamjasamadhi (Nam mkha'i mdzod kyi ting nge 'dzin), it is stated that: "Whoever by meditating on one phenomenon knows all phenomena as apprehensible like illusions and mirages, and knows them as hollow, false and ephemeral will before long reach the summum bonum (snying po) of enlightenment".

And Aryadeva also tells us that "whosoever sees one is said to see all. That which is emptiness of one is the emptiness of all" [VIII:191].

 Referring to this last passage from Aryadeva, Candrakirti has this to say:

The emptiness of the essence of form is itself the emptinesses of the essences of aggregates such as feeling. Similarly, the emptiness of the essence of eye-source is itself the emptinesses of the essences of all twelve sources. Likewise, the emptiness of the essence of eye-constituent is itself the emptinesses of the essences of all eighteen constituents. Equally so are [the emptinesses of the essences of] the infinite categories of things due to the distinct divisions in things, spaces, times and references. For whatever is the emptiness of the essence of one thing, is itself the emptinesses of the essences of all things. In spite of the fact that jars and bowls for example are distinct, space is not distinct. While things such as form are distinct, insofar as they all lack of essential arising of the form etc., they are not distinct. By understanding the lack the essential arising of merely one phenomenon, one understands the lack of the essential arising of all phenomena.'

Since all phenomena are empty of any substance or essence, they are all dependently arisen and relational entities. Tsong khapa agrees.' Yet to endorse the claim that the ultimate nature of all phenomena is fundamentally the same does not, in Tsong khapa's view, make one a monist. While accepting this account of the ultimate nature of things, Tsongkhapa remains committed to a pluralistic view. "A pluralistic view of the world", as Kalupahana puts it, "is not incompatible with dependent arising (pratityasamputpada).


Pluralism in the context of dependent arising does not imply the existence of self-contradictory truths. It need not necessarily lead to a notion of an Absolute that transcends such self-contradictory truths. As far as Tsong khapa is concerned, the ultimate reality of, for instance, the table in front of my eyes, cannot be treated as simply identical with the ultimate reality pertaining to the chair that I am sitting on. The empty table cannot be the taken as identical with the empty chair since the emptiness of the table is constitutive, not only of the empty table, but of the empty conceptual-linguistic conventions imposed upon it as well. Those conventions belong exclusively to the ultimate truth of the table and are not present in the chair.

According to Tsong khapa, however, conceding this much does not prevent one from arguing for the universality of ultimate truth. Just as different objects occupy different spaces, and yet the space those objects occupy has the same 'non-obstructive' characteristic, so the ultimate realities of both table and chair are different, notwithstanding the fact that two ultimate realities have identical natures—they share 'the same taste'. Both of these emptinesses imply insubstantiality and essenceless in the negative sense, as well as dependently arisen and relational nature in the affirmative sense."
Someone wrote:

Most practitioners think experiences are appearing TO their consciousness instead of seeing experiences are how their consciousness is appearing.

I wrote back:


Most practitioners think experiences are appearing TO or even WITHIN their consciousness instead of seeing consciousness is JUST the appearing.
Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection.
Although he got into trouble yesterday for being unable to exercise compassion and make an apology when he offended someone. He make a remark that struck a chord in regards to a loved one someone had lost, and they asked him to apologize. He refused.

Manage

· Reply · 1d
John Tan
John TanJohn and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. Can't understand him. This aside, recently he posted some extracts about selflessness written by Khenpo Tsulstrim Gyamtso:

"When we realize the selflessness of the individual, however, this whole process stops. The wrong views that have their root in the belief in self cease, then the mental afflictions cease, then karmic actions cease, and as a result of that, birth in samsara’s cycle of existence ceases."

"We can formulate the following logical reasoning: Karmic actions and results are mere appearances devoid of true existence, because no self, no actor, exists to perform them. This is a valid way to put things because if the self of the individual does not exist, there cannot be any action, and therefore there cannot be any result of any action either."

Would like to hear ur view Kyle, that because there is no-self, there is no action.

Frankly this is not inline with the experience and insight of anatta I have. I seriously cannot accept jax's "because there is no self, there is nothing to do". I resonate more with Buddhaghosa's ' Suffering as such exists, but no sufferer is found; The deeds are, but no doer is found.'

Manage

· Reply · 1d · Edited
Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. I was thinking about these comments from KTG just the other day because I saw Jax post them, they do seem off.

The only guess I have regarding the first quote is that he is referring to the complete realization of selflessness, not a mere recognition. It would not be right to think all of those processes cease upon initial recognition, but that is of course how Jax misinterpreted the excerpt. I don't have the text, but I can imagine there is more context that is missing.

As for the other quote, it isn't the best way to communicate the message in my opinion.

My view is that the self is imputed onto the action or afflicted activity. And the activity is the result of ignorance. First there is ignorance regarding the nature of appearance, and appearances are mistaken to be external, whereas mind is then internal. From there further grasping occurs which fortifies this split, and the alleged inner reference point is then treated as mine and myself, which leads to I-making in the form of imputation. That activity of imputation then further deepens the fallacious structure of self and other because activity unfolds based on the misconception of the self.

But the self is not the lynchpin. Ignorance is. Is the self and ignorance synonymous? I don't think so. Because ignorance is two fold in that it reifies the apparent inner dimension and external dimension. The self that karma is related to is the mind reified as self. We can recognize non-arising related to that substrate knower, and still perceive a substantial external dimension. Likewise we can recognize non-arising of objects in the external dimension and the inner substrate knower remains in tact. Then, we can also recognize the non-arising in different sensory gates at different times. For instance one can recognize the non-arising of sound yet visual perception remains afflicted, and vice versa.

So it isn't as simple as just negating the self and washing our hands of the massive nexus of afflictive processes. It is much more complex than that.

Is it true that the self is unreal and the activity base on the self is unreal? Sure. But KTG is sort of communicating this in a backwards fashion. Just because the self is unreal does not mean it is not constructed and based on a complex nexus of afflictive activity, that is then based in delusion. And that activity is habitual.

This is why Padmasambhava says my view is higher than the sky but my attention to karmic cause and effect is finer than flour.

The karmic cause and effect is the patterns of grasping that reinforces the inner and outer yings or dimensions.

KTG's message is true in a certain context, but is communicated recklessly. And of course the nuance of the issue are completely lost on you-know-who. I feel he has had some coarse insights into substantial non-dual states, maybe. But he has never really seen equipoise. This is my feeling.

The self does not create the fundamental afflictive activity. The fundamental afflictive activity gives rise to the self, and then both spin out of control from there. But one will not resolve the affliction by merely negating the self.

Manage

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Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. Anatta equipoise is related to absence of time, and in this sense action is indeed negated. Also the threefold actor, action, acted upon is undone when the insight is twofold. Anatta in objects is related to unreality of space. But only Buddhas are in non-retroactive state of that nature.
Manage

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John Tan
John TanJohn and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. Yes Kyle, like u said it is not so straight forward and logical deduction can b slippery. Does freedom from subject/object duality necessarily frees one from "mine" attachment?

"First there is the ignorance regarding the nature appearance and appearances are mistaken to b external whereas mind is then internal. "

My view is this misapprehension is the result of ignorance but grasping need not arise. That is, I/others, subject/object are not the result of grasping but a non-recogntion. However when "mine" arises, that is grasping.
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Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Dharma Connection. I agree that the feeling of subject-object precedes grasping and "mine."

In some systems there is actually a tiered model of ignorance for this very reason, and that simple non-recognition is treated as a different aspect of ignorance. That bare non-r
ecognizing ignorance is sometimes illustrated in the example of the first instances when waking up from sleep where one is cognizing appearances, and those appearances are externalized, but self-identification has not arisen yet. I've had these moments extend to where I will wake up and it takes a few moments to even register where I am, yet bare cognizance is certainly functioning. Then imputation arises and recollection of person, place, time, plans, schedule etc., all unfold, which is held as a different type of ignorance.
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