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 http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2016/07/how-should-we-understand-mahayana.html

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." 😂

p.s.

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..
ya
(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.


...


.......

2008:


(11:46 PM) Thusness:    Does ken (Ken Wilber) talk about anatta
(11:46 PM) AEN:    no
(11:47 PM) Thusness:    Or Advaita sort of understanding
(11:47 PM) AEN:    advaita (Ken Wilber is at Thusness Stage 4)
(11:47 PM) Thusness:    Then y u kept asking me.
(11:47 PM) Thusness:    What is anatta?
(11:48 PM) AEN:    ya but wat i mean is nondual experience is not as in stage 2 type of passing experience, but as everpresent reality?
(11:48 PM) AEN:    anatta is no agent and dependent origination?
(11:48 PM) Thusness:    Didn't I tell u understanding non-dual experience as verb. (Soh: refer to my article The Wind is Blowing, Blowing is the Wind)
(11:48 PM) AEN:    icic
(11:49 PM) Thusness:    Not an entity that is independent and unchanging?
(11:49 PM) AEN:    but ken wilber say "You are that, and there is no you – just this entire luminous display spontaneously arising moment to moment. The separate self is nowhere to be found."
(11:50 PM) AEN:    *oic
(11:50 PM) Thusness:    Non-dual experience is there is clarity of no separation (As in Thusness Stage 4)
(11:51 PM) Thusness:    Stage 2 is there is merging
(11:51 PM) Thusness:    As if I dissolved and merge..
(11:51 PM) AEN:    icic..
(11:52 PM) Thusness:    There r two, dual
(11:52 PM) AEN:    oic..
(11:52 PM) Thusness:    Non-dual is there never was a separation
(11:52 PM) Thusness:    No split
(11:53 PM) AEN:    icic..
(11:53 PM) Thusness:    There is no separate I.
(11:53 PM) AEN:    oic..
(11:53 PM) Thusness:    But this awareness is still very much constant, permanent and unchanging
(11:54 PM) AEN:    icic..
(11:54 PM) Thusness:    Anatta goes further and understand exactly what is non-dual experience
(11:55 PM) Thusness:    This is a break-through in insight
(11:55 PM) AEN:    oic..
(11:55 PM) AEN:    its about discerning it as DO?
(11:55 PM) Thusness:    There is thinking, no thinker
(11:55 PM) AEN:    icic
(11:55 PM) Thusness:    Seen no seer
(11:56 PM) Thusness:    Sound no hearer
(11:56 PM) AEN:    oic
(11:56 PM) Thusness:    Understood becoming no being
(11:56 PM) AEN:    icic..
(11:57 PM) Thusness:    Understand that object@
(11:57 PM) AEN:    wat u mean
(11:59 PM) Thusness:    Object/subject is the result of compartmentizing 'verb'
(11:59 PM) Thusness:    Action
(11:59 PM) AEN:    icic..
(11:59 PM) Thusness:    Thinking becomes thinker and thoughts
(11:59 PM) Thusness:    That is anatta
(12:00 AM) Thusness:    It is the direct experience that there is no thinker, just thoughts
(12:01 AM) Thusness:    In seeing, always only the seen.
(12:01 AM) AEN:    is this wat u mean by nondual yet permanent (for ken wilber):

You are not the one who experiences liberation; you are the clearing, the opening, the emptiness, in which any experience comes and goes, like reflections on the mirror. And you are the mirror, the mirror mind, and not any experienced reflection. But you are not apart from the reflections, standing back and watching. You are everything that is arising moment to moment. You can swallow the whole cosmos in one gulp, it is so small, and you can taste the sky without moving an inch.
(12:01 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:03 AM) Thusness:    Yes what I called desync of view and non-dual experience
(12:04 AM) Thusness:    When insight arises, there is no desync
(12:04 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:05 AM) Thusness:    Non-dual experience is clearly understood because there never was one.
(12:05 AM) Thusness:    It is always only manifestation
(12:06 AM) AEN:    there never was what?
(12:06 AM) Thusness:    DO is the operation mechanism of the Transience
(12:06 AM) Thusness:    A self
(12:06 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:10 AM) Thusness:    It is very difficult to have such clarity
(12:11 AM) Thusness:    Only Buddha has it
(12:11 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:12 AM) Thusness:    Even buddhist practitioners have so much mis-conceptions
(12:12 AM) Thusness:    They can't see how consistent and precise the teaching is
(12:13 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:14 AM) AEN:    btw this is not yet nondual experience rite, more like I AM?:
(12:14 AM) AEN:    "the world moves forward as it is..... but instead of seeing the diversity as the ulitmate the One underneath it all is rested in..... Like the ocean reality or maya is simply the surface waves of moving consciousness.... shakti which manifests the underlying Ocean of Consciousness into a limited visible form..... But what is beneath and around and within that form is simply the same consciousness which comprises the Whole of the Ocean.... But in the calm of the depths you know the vastness instead of the limited......"
(12:16 AM) Thusness:    Yes
(12:16 AM) AEN:    icic
(12:17 AM) Thusness:    Under the influence of the 'bond' without knowing it
(12:17 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:17 AM) Thusness:    Stage 1 to 6 cannot be skipped
(12:17 AM) AEN:    wat do u mean
(12:18 AM) Thusness:    Best experienced that way.
(12:18 AM) AEN:    oic
(12:18 AM) Thusness:    A practitioner cannot skip stages
(12:18 AM) AEN:    but buddhist path skips some rite
(12:18 AM) AEN:    like dharma dan never go through 'i am'
(12:18 AM) Thusness:    Yes
(12:19 AM) Thusness:    the depth of clarity will not be there
(12:19 AM) Thusness:    Like grimnexus see 4 same as 5.
(12:20 AM) Thusness:    But a person that undergone knows clearly.
(12:21 AM) AEN:    oic
(12:21 AM) AEN:    ya he tot its the same
(12:21 AM) AEN:    btw grimnexus at stage 4 rite
(12:21 AM) Thusness:    Like ken and Ajahn amaro, seems the same but even Ajahn Amaro thought it is the same.
(12:21 AM) AEN:    long time nv see him online liao, he like never came online for many months
(12:21 AM) AEN:    oic
(12:21 AM) Thusness:    Why u worry so much abt others ppl stage?
(12:22 AM) AEN:    lol
(12:23 AM) Thusness:    Rather pray hard that u will not be misled and go through countless lives of rebirth again
(12:23 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:23 AM) Thusness:    What u must have is to correctly discern
(12:24 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:25 AM) Thusness:    If u want to hv clarity of the essence of the six phases, discern and understand correctly.
(12:25 AM) Thusness:    What if I m no more around?
(12:25 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:26 AM) Thusness:    If Ajahn Amaro cannot know the diff, much less is others
(12:26 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:26 AM) AEN:    dharma dan leh
(12:26 AM) Thusness:    Rather ask urself have u correctly understood then abt others
(12:27 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:27 AM) Thusness:    How I know?
(12:27 AM) AEN:    oic
(12:27 AM) Thusness:    U kept asking abt others, I worry more abt u.
(12:27 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:28 AM) Thusness:    If u know, u will be able to know r they there.
(12:28 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:29 AM) Thusness:    Like ken and Ajahn Amaro clearly have same experience but different understanding
(12:29 AM) Thusness:    David loy treat them the same too.
(12:29 AM) Thusness:    Not realizing the differences
(12:30 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:30 AM) Thusness:    So have the right understanding
(12:31 AM) Thusness:    One is abiding, the other is non-abiding
(12:32 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:32 AM) Thusness:    One is still efforting, the other is effortless
(12:32 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:33 AM) Thusness:    One is Brahman, the other is DO
(12:34 AM) Thusness:    One is mirror, the other is pure manifestation
(12:34 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:36 AM) Thusness:    'Self' is grasped unknowingly because it is independent, changeless
(12:36 AM) Thusness:    Therefore they can't treasure the Transience
(12:37 AM) Thusness:    They can't c conditions
(12:37 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:37 AM) Thusness:    The Transience and conditions are most sacred
(12:38 AM) Thusness:    How can Self c this?
(12:38 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:39 AM) Thusness:    But one must know the emptiness nature of Transience, unfindable and ungraspable
(12:39 AM) Thusness:    And rises when condition is
(12:40 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:40 AM) Thusness:    When we say attributes, we r referring to the empty nature of awareness
(12:41 AM) AEN:    wat u mean
(12:41 AM) Thusness:    But awareness is full of colors
(12:41 AM) AEN:    u mean attributelessness?
(12:41 AM) AEN:    icic
(12:41 AM) Thusness:    Like 'redness' of a flower
(12:42 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:42 AM) Thusness:    But to advaitins, it is absence
(12:42 AM) Thusness:    Nothing to do with awareness
(12:43 AM) AEN:    u mean they see awareness as formless?
(12:43 AM) Thusness:    yes
(12:43 AM) AEN:    icic
(12:44 AM) Thusness:    Means absence of attributes as colorless, formless
(12:44 AM) Thusness:    But what buddhism is referring is its emptiness nature
(12:45 AM) Thusness:    Not that there is a real formless entity
(12:45 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:45 AM) Thusness:    Awareness is appearances appearing when condition is
(12:46 AM) AEN:    icic..
(12:46 AM) Thusness:    awareness is not free of thoughts
(12:46 AM) Thusness:    To advaitins, it is.
(12:47 AM) Thusness:    To buddhist practitioner, thought is awareness
(12:48 AM) Thusness:    One thought arises
(12:48 AM) Thusness:    Next one
(12:48 AM) Thusness:    Like what Ajahn Amaro said
(12:48 AM) Thusness:    There is no worry abt no thought, no conceptuality
(12:49 AM) Thusness:    All will be experienced in their most vivid forms
(12:49 AM) Thusness:    I got to go now.
(12:49 AM) AEN:    oic..
(12:49 AM) AEN:    ok gd nite
(12:49 AM) Thusness:    Nite 
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