Also see: Problem with Many Zen Teachings
My opinion on Shurangama Sutra

My last comment on this particular teacher after attending his second day of talks at the Zen center:

Today the teacher talked about no self and emptiness of all aggregates. However, this is the 'view' aspect (which can be intellectual), and although he did have some direct experiential insight into no-self (Thusness Stage 4 mirror bright, not Stage 5 of no-mirror), he affirms the self-luminous Mind to exist substantially (unchanging, eternal) as opposed to thoughts which are changing, arising and passing away. This is like I said, no different from the non-Buddhist views of Advaita. Sure, it's a good realisation to have but I would not equate this to Buddhadharma.

He also discusses how Buddhism differs from those of other religions through its unique teachings of no-self, but he doesn't realise that his own realisation is no different from Advaita Vedanta.

He then differentiates Hinayana vs Mahayana teachings in this way:

In Hinayana, the practitioner, through dissociating from phenomena as non-self, impermanent and suffering, finally realises Mind-Essence -- which is the unborn, non-arising, without sense of self -- basically he is referring to the I AMness realization. He equates the Arhat's nirvana with the formless absorption into the formless Mind-Essence.

In Mahayana, the practitioner realises Buddha-Nature, as defined in Mahaparinirvana Sutra. That Mahayana nirvana (which a Bodhisattva/Buddha realises) itself has the capacity for infinite functions, just like a clear lake is without moon in it but can reflect the moon clearly (like I said, Thusness Stage 4's Mirror Bright), just like electricity is unseen but can light up the lightbulb, our Mind is formless but can produce limitless functions, in ears it can hear and in eyes it can see. As such, birth and death is nirvana, suffering is bodhi, thoughts are not to be get rid of, green bamboos are dharmakaya and chrysanthemum is prajna, both the waves of the ocean and a waveless ocean are both made of water (and thus neither is to be preferred). This is no different from the One Mind phase of realization. Non-dual is experienced but the reification of Mind and view of inherency is still strong -- still reifying Brahman.

He is not the first Mahayana teacher I have seen making this false equation. This misunderstanding is in fact, common. Unfortunately, as they are not exposed to the teachings and teachers from other religions, they seem to be unaware that all these realisations do not go beyond Hinduism's Atman-Brahman realisation. In Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is not merely static and formless, as Maya is the sport (lila) of Brahman, and the universe is finally realised to be nothing but Brahman. This is no different from this venerable's explanation of Ti (substance) and Yong (function).

There is a complete misunderstanding of Mahaparinirvana Sutra on his part, a very common issue which needs context and clarification as I discussed in

Basically, this Venerable (and many other teachers) make the mistake of attributing Hinayana to I AMness level of formless realisation, and Mahayana to One Mind where the Substance can produce infinite functions and is nondual with its functions. They get stuck between Thusness Stage 1 to 4. They didn't realise that 'Hinayana'/Theravada teachers like Daniel M. Ingram can have an effortless, constant nondual experience of 'Bamboos are dharmakaya' WITH Right View and realization of anatta which makes nondual even more effortless. Other Theravadin masters/teachers/practitioners who realized non-dual anatta insights include but are not limited to Ajahn Amaro (See: The Breakthrough), (Phra) Kovit Khemananda, and so on. Hence, the notion that Theravada leads only to 'Causal/Formless/I AM' realization and do not have access to any nondual insights is unequivocally false. As Thusness also pointed out in the past, and anyone with any semblance of familiarity with the Pali Suttas (the original teachings of Buddha) will know, anyone who held any ideas about Consciousness as Self, or as a Source/Substratum of phenomena will get heavily admonished by the Buddha as holding wrong views (see: MN38 and MN1). We can thus know that Thusness Stage 5~6 is really where the true insight into Buddhadharma 'begins', and while Thusness Stage 1~4 may be enlightenment in non-Buddhist religions, they are not considered to be even entering the gate or 'stream-entry'/'first bhumi' in Buddhadharma.

The Venerable didn't realise that the 'Hinayana sutta', Bahiya Sutta, is clearly not only non-dual but in fact taught the peak of non-dual experience, with right view, and Bahiya attained arahantship instantly upon hearing Buddha speak of that teaching. Bahiya Sutta, Kalaka Sutta, and many other suttas are all about this. Without the direct realisation of right view (anatta, dependent origination, emptiness), whatever nondual realisations cannot be considered Buddhadharma, even at the Hinayana level, let alone Mahayana which further elaborates on the direct realisation of the non-arising of all phenomena that are dependently designated/dependently originated.
The realization of anatta allows us to see through/penetrate the false view of 'Awareness' as existing changelessly and independently (even if inseparable from) apart from transient manifestation by realising that in seeing, there's only colors, no seer -- seeing is only colors without seer, in hearing only sounds, no hearer, hearing is only sounds -- there is no unchanging 'seeing essence' or 'hearing essence' permeating and yet remaining unchanged from the transient functions/experiences. Furthermore 'Awareness' is just another label like 'weather' as I have said many times. The Shurangama Sutra is very often misinterpreted and needs clarification, which I have also done elsewhere. The realization of anatta is the realisation that 'Buddha-Nature is Impermanence' as Zen Master Dogen and Ch'an Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng taught. This will free one from substantialist, eternalist, non-Buddhist views.

This mistaken attribution of Hinayana and Mahayana is also similar to Ken Wilber's mistaken understanding, again, of equating Hinayana to the Causal (I AM) level realization and the Nirvana of the arhat with the formless Hindu absorption in Self of Nirvikalpa Samadhi while Mahayana as his Non Dual (One Mind) level. Therefore, he sees Buddhism as no different from Vedanta and other religions. I don't mind that equation if that were true (seriously, if all religions are preaching the exact same realisations, wouldn't it be great? I would love it and prefer that to be true), but unfortunately it is not true. I love and respect all religions, but let's not confuse them up and get into the perennial philosophy.

I'm glad we have Edmond Cigale's (director of a Transpersonal Psychology Institute)'s writing on the difference between I AM/Causal realization, the different kinds of Nirvikalpa samadhi, Nirodha Samapatti, non-dual insights, anatta realization and total exertion. In this thread in DhO back in 2012 on Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, after some of my pointers on anatta he was able to breakthrough. He is also into integral theory.

Jui (who also went through I AM to One Mind to Anatta and was sitting beside me) also commented, "Disappointing man." 😂


Thusness wrote in 2014,

"Your Master Chen (Soh: not the same as the Venerable I'm referring to in this article) can say Theravada tastes 寂滅為樂 (cessation is bliss) but may not realize 諸法常寂 (all dharmas are always quiescent) instead of belittling Theravada."

"Bliss of presence and bliss of cessation... both are related to the emptying of self/Self. After anatta the sense of self/Self is realized to be fabrication and the entire chain of afflictive D.O. [dependent origination] can come to a rest by seeing how stressful, dis-satisfying and suffering the chain is. That is right intention in the Noble Eightfold Path. Taste this afflictive D.O. coming to rest in relation to the need to maintain the Self/self or beingness. When the mind let go this way seeing the dis-satisfactoriness... it is by way of renunciation, dispassion, dis-identification… the freedom and bliss that come from Atammayata is the bliss of cessation (寂灭为乐), it is understood to be many times more blissful than any form of pleasure and beingness. However cutting the cause of suffering at root in Mahayana is about seeing the emptiness of self and phenomena. The bliss of cessation of the Theravadins are replaced by tasting the non-arising of phenomena therefore 观法如化,三昧常寂, 见闻觉知,本自圆寂。(contemplating all dharmas as illusory, [always in] samadhi-quiescence, seen-heard-cognized-sensed, are by nature completely quiescent [nirvana])"


2009 conversation with John Tan:

(1:21 AM) Thusness: since Buddha is so clear about non-dual and anatta, why said DO (Dependent Origination) is so important.
(1:22 AM) Thusness: Many higher vehicles do not know that the basic teachings is all about non-dual.
that is Buddhism is not about non-dual.
(1:23 AM) Thusness: not only about non-dual, it starts from non-dual.
(1:23 AM) Thusness: that is, the entry level is non-dual otherwise there is no true understanding of what that is being taught.
(1:24 AM) Thusness:
DO (Dependent Origination) is not talking about non-dual, no division between phenomena and self.
(1:25 AM) Thusness: It is not talking about the observer and the observed and how to get into that.
(1:25 AM) Thusness: it is talking about what that is already no-self, non-dual and conditions.
that is non-dual appearance and conditions.
get it?
(1:27 AM) Thusness: means Buddha is not talking about phenomena and self, observer and observed in Dependent Origination.
(1:27 AM) Thusness: There is already anatta, no self, never was there a division. This is the entry level to understand Dependent Origination.
(1:28 AM) Thusness: It is about non-dual appearance and conditions.
(1:29 AM) Thusness: There must already be some stability in non-dual experiences and the experience of anatta before one can truly understand Dependent Origination.
(1:29 AM) Thusness: What seen is awareness, what heard is awareness...
(1:31 AM) Thusness: there is no division in experience or in awareness. Subject/Object division has always been an assumption. There is no agent, no-self. So Buddha has already spell this out clearly in anatta.
it is talking about appearances and conditions.
Get it?
(1:31 AM) AEN: icic..
(1:31 AM) Thusness: So know the basic is already the deepest.
But only misunderstood.
(1:32 AM) AEN: oic..
(1:34 AM) Thusness: What dependently originates does not arise nor subsides nor is anything created nor destroyed.
merely appearances.
(1:35 AM) Thusness: Dependently originates implies effortlessness and spontaneity.
(1:35 AM) Thusness: However appearances though spontaneously arises, does not arise without a cause or condition.
(1:36 AM) Thusness: though appearances arises, it is not a product of causes or conditions.
(1:36 AM) Thusness: all appearances are always non-dual.
(1:37 AM) AEN: does nathan know DO?
(1:38 AM) Thusness: it is always tempting after the experience of effortlessness in non-duality to by-pass this phase.
(1:38 AM) Thusness: I wrote in stage 5 to jonls saying it very clearly not to be too happy and spoke of stage 6.
It is to point out the importance of this.
(1:39 AM) Thusness: many Zen masters also fail to understand the important of this.
(1:40 AM) Thusness: and some practitioners are so engrossed in the ordinariness of activities and attempt to imitate the masters -- trying to be ordinary and missed all the important insights.
(1:41 AM) Thusness: that is why all the 6 phases of insights must be thoroughly seen first before one talks about spontaneous arising.
(1:42 AM) Thusness: That is why I told u not to talk about spontaneous arising or self liberation before you have thorough insight experience of anatta and emptiness or DO.
(1:43 AM) Thusness: spontaneous arising is not a good phrase, spontaneous perfection or self-liberation are better phrases. :)
but i do not know about these practices that time when i told u.
(1:43 AM) Thusness: not into vajrayana.
(1:43 AM) AEN: oic..
why is spontaneous arising not a good phrase and spontaneous perfection of self liberation better
(1:44 AM) Thusness: it is actually okie also...ahhaha
(1:44 AM) Thusness: just remember all six phases of insight must arise before u talk about that.
(1:45 AM) Thusness: imagine this, can u talk about self-liberation to one that has not even experience 'I AMness'?
(1:46 AM) AEN: no
(1:46 AM) Thusness: if someone has experienced "I AMness" yet know nothing about non-dual, can he talk about spontaneous perfection?
(1:46 AM) AEN: no
(1:47 AM) Thusness: so how is it possible for anyone to start practicing what that is being said in the videos?
(1:47 AM) Thusness: even one has reached that sort of insight in anatta, there is still a desync of view... and maturity of insight need time to stabilize.
(1:48 AM) Thusness: even after that, one may disregard 'conditions' like in stage 5.
(1:48 AM) AEN: icic..
nathan didnt talk about conditions rite
(1:48 AM) Thusness: like arising without cause and conditions.
(1:49 AM) Thusness: or 'things' are the product of causes or conditions.
there is no creation nor destruction of anything.
(1:49 AM) Thusness: merely dependently originates.
(1:49 AM) AEN: icic..
(1:49 AM) Thusness: nothing is the product of anything.
(1:49 AM) AEN: its everything simultaneously in one moment rite, and not a causal interaction of things in time and space
(1:50 AM) Thusness: yes
(1:50 AM) Thusness: u have to experience step by step.
(1:51 AM) Thusness: there is no short cut. If u practice and understand correctly, u will not deviate and have all wrong views.
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