Andre A. Pais:

Awareness cannot be independent or separate from the appearances it knows. If it was, there could be no connection between knowing and known - and thus no experience could arise. All perception must be non-dual, despite having [conceptually] implicit in its functioning a subject and an object.

But if awareness is not separate or independent from the appearances that are known, it must be as transient and fluxing as the very appearances that are known. There is no sensible way in which one single thing (in this case the [conceptual] union of awareness and appearances) can have a split nature or a contradictory way of being.

These being the case - that no awareness exists outside of the arising appearances; and that awareness is thus of a transient nature -, it follows that all there ever exists is the self-knowing, self-luminous appearances, free of an observing or knowing subject beyond themselves, meaning that awareness, mind or any knowing principle are merely beliefs imputed on the flow of naturally luminous appearances.

It follows that we are not experiencing an external reality (naive realism), nor a mental representation (scientific materialism), nor even modulations of our own awareness (most non-dual traditions). There is actually no experiencer, no witness, no observer, no center or core, no knower - and no awareness (as awareness is always posited as "that which knows"). Let's allow that to sink in. This is one of the most powerful insights available to us.

What this means is that there isn't even perception going on. There is no one perceiving anything. The dualistic idea of perception itself is merely conceptually constructed and imputed onto pure manifest activity. What appears is reality as it is - as real, authentic and direct as it gets. Luminosity arises naturally and dependently, empty of any duality of knowing and known, mind and matter, inside and outside, subject and object, etc. Curiously, if one had to choose between the reality of either subject or object, the presence of the "objective world" would be far more undeniable than that of any subjective entity.

Further investigation must happen as to deeply understand the unestablished, empty and merely transient nature of what appears. This will help clarify the answer to "what is this?". However, the main question of all spiritual traditions, "who/what am I?", is answered when reality is understood as being without any observer, experiencer or entity of any kind and thus free of knowingness itself (and its ideas of "distorted" or "undistorted" perception).
Hoping for Thusness's comments on this writing by Andre A. Pais:



What appears is what appears. We could call that ''reality''.

''Reality'', when conceptualized, becomes a ''truth''.

If those concepts express the true nature of what appears, it's an ultimate truth (usually about the emptiness of what appears; or the natural union of emptiness and appearance in what appears).

If those concepts express something other than the true nature of what appears, it's a conventional truth (usually about some function performed by some conceptualized object, like a table; or a belief in the permanence or inherency of some conceptualized object).

Concerning what appears, ''reality itself'', when it arises as ''concealing'' its true nature (emptiness), which is every ordinary appearance, then it's conventional reality.

When what appears, appears as it actually is (happening only when one has a direct perception of emptiness, since emptiness is empty and appears as such), then it's ultimate reality.

So, we have both conventional and ultimate reality. And we have both conventional and ultimate truth.

____

I'm having an issue with the conventional reality aspect. I said ordinary appearances are intrinsically of a ''concealing'' nature, because the tradition says that things always appear as inherently existing. Only emptiness appears in the same way as it is - empty.

I'm not sure I agree. When what is labeled as ''perception of blue sky'' arises, the ''blueness'' that appears is not broadcasting any inherency. It is only ''naturally manifest'', a mere  instance of sheer luminosity. The mask of inherency is added later, conceptually.

So, I'd say all appearances are ultimate reality, because they all naturally express the intrinsic union of emptiness and appearances, nothing else. All else is a mere truth about it - conventional or ultimate.

____

What are people's thoughts about this?
Kyle Dixon wrote:

And to put this “great self” thing on ice:

Depending upon which system of Dzogpachenpo you are using there can be between seven and nine positions one can take in relation to the basis [gzhi]. 


Vairocana's view of choice was bdag nyid chen po, however that is only one facet of the basis and therefore grasping at that definition as an all encompassing view which speaks for the basis would be akin to the blind man grasping the elephants tail and proclaiming that the elephant is actually a rope. It is an incomplete view. 

Further, the only definitive view of the basis is held to be ka dag i.e. original purity, which is emptiness free from extremes. Ka dag as such therefore completely forbids any type of substantial self.

As stated by Dylan Esler on this issue, 'integral being' [bdag nyid chen po] (what Jackson is fixating on as a “Great Self”) is nothing more than the inseparable emptiness and clarity [stong gsal dbyer med] which is experienced upon recognizing the nature of mind [sems nyid] and does not refer to an eternal, great or "true" self of any kind. He states "The fact that it is explicitly described as being both empty and luminous excludes reification into a monolithic self."

The point of bdag nyid chen po is to illustrate that the nature of one's mind is not to be found elsewhere, that it is one's immediate condition, however it is the the wisdom which ensues from recognizing the non-arising of one's mind [skt. citta, tib. sems]. This term is therefore pointing to that nature, and only that nature which is completely empty and free from extremes.

Esler continues:

“...the tantric and rDzogs-chen notion of integral being [skt. mahātman] should not be misconstrued to contradict the orthodox Buddhist insistence on selflessness [skt. anātman], simply because of the use of related words with different shades of meaning. As mentioned above, the terminology used is sufficiently precise to ward off misunderstanding, and that is to say nothing of the contextual meaning, which leaves no trace of doubt.”

and:

“It is precisely when egocentric apprehension, the mistaken moment-by-moment reification of a self [skt. ātman], falls aside that one can speak of integral being [skt. mahātman], without this notion contradicting more normative Buddhist ideas of selflessness [skt. anātman].”

Malcolm writes:

“In Dzogchen, the term bdag nyid chen po and bdag nyid accompanies the terms ngang and rang bzhin. This true in both Buddhist and Bon texts. 

For example, in the Zhang Zhung sNyan rGyud, we find:

‘State [ngang], nature [rang bzhin] and identity [bdag nyid] are a trio. The state is the total clarity of rig pa. The nature is the total emptiness of rig pa. The identity is the nonduality of clarity and emptiness. Everything is understood as pure consummate mind [byang chub sems] through the axiom of total identity [bdag nyid chen po].’

I have many similar examples from Buddhist texts. So here, I would prefer to render this term as ‘total identity.’”
Posted to someone:

Because mind is no mind, there is no center or boundaries. There it is said to be like space as space has no center or boundaries. It does not mean a formless entity underlying and being inseparable from forms.

Mind is empty of mind and is nothing ot
her than the colors, sounds, textures, or manifestation of the moment. Presence is none other than these. The formless sense of Presence is simply another face of Presence and nothing special

.....




Excerpt from Maitripa which uses the analogy of space:

The mind as such is merely a flow of awareness,
without self-nature, moving where it will like the wind.
Empty of an identity, it is like space.
All phenomena, like space, are the same.

That which is termed Mahamudra,
Is not a "thing" that can be pointed to.
It is the mind's own nature
that is Mahamudra [i.e., the Absolute State].

It is not something to be perfected or transformed.
Thus, to realize this, is to realize
that the whole world of appearance is Mahamudra.
This is the absolute all-inclusive Dharmakaya [i.e.,the Ultimate Embodiment of Buddhahood].

http://www.naturalawareness.net/mahamudra.html
....


You should also realise that clear light is empty of being anything of itself. And because being empty of anything in and of itself the vivid textures and colors or the myriad faces of Presence are fully actualised as the ghostly images are cleared


To use the six sense perceptions as the path has many purposes. The
initial effect is that you will cease to slip under the influence of the six
senses thus giving them free rein, and phenomena will no longer negatively
affect your meditation; later, phenomena will arise as ornaments;
and finally, there will be no duality between phenomena and mind, and
you will have arrived at the expanse of the great pervasiveness of the
dharmakaya.”

- khamptrul rinpoche

“All phenomena are the illusory display of mind.
There is no mind; mind is empty of an essence.
Empty and unceasing, it appears as anything whatsoever. Investigating this thoroughly, may we ascertain the ground. (9)

Our nonexistent projections are mistaken to be objects. Through ignorance, intrinsic awareness is mistaken to be a self. Through clinging to this duality, we wander within saîsåra. May we cut the root of ignorance and confusion. (10)”

“Looking at objects, there are no objects; we see only mind. Looking at mind, there is no mind; it is empty of an essence. Looking at both, dualistic clinging is spontaneously liberated. May we realize luminosity, the true nature of mind. (18)”

- 3rd karmapa

Taken from http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/mipham/essence-of-mind

Dzogchen | Tibetan MastersMipham Rinpoche

Mipham Rinpoche
Ju Mipham Namgyal Gyatso
Further Information:

The Essence of Mind

by Mipham Rinpoche

Namo Guru Mañjuśrīye!
The actual nature of things is inconceivable and inexpressible. Yet, for those fortunate individuals who seek to penetrate the profound meaning of dharmatā, I shall here offer a few words by way of illustration.
What we call “essence of mind” is the actual face of unconditioned pure awareness, which is recognized through receiving the guru's blessings and instructions. If you wonder what this is like, it is empty in essence, beyond conceptual reference; it is cognizant by nature, spontaneously present; and it is all-pervasive and unobstructed in its compassionate energy. This is the rigpa in which the three kāyas are inseparable.
It is therefore as the vidyādhara Garab Dorje said in his Final Testament:
This rigpa, which has no concrete existence as anything at all,
Is completely unobstructed in the arising of its self-appearances.
To summarize: the actual nature of mind—the way it has always been, in and of itself—is this innate pure awareness that is unfabricated and unrestricted.
When this is explained in negative terms:
  • It is not something to be apprehended;
  • Nor is it a non-existent void;
  • It is not some combination of these two,
  • Nor is it a third option that is neither.
This is the view of the absence of any identifiable existence, the fact that it cannot be conceptualised in any way by thinking, “It is like this.”
When explained in more positive, experiential terms, it is said to be glaringly empty, lucidly clear, vividly pure, perfectly even, expansively open, and so on.
To illustrate this using examples: without limit or centre, it is like space; in its unlimited clarity, it is like sunlight flooding the sky; without clear inside and outside, it is like a crystal ball; in its freedom from clinging and attachment, it is like the traces of a bird in flight; and neither arising nor ceasing, it is like the sky.
To dispel any doubts or misunderstandings that might arise from this instruction, it is described as the great clarity that is beyond partiality, the great emptiness of freedom from conceptual reference, the great union that cannot be separated, and so on.
In terms of its meaning, as it cannot be pointed out by words, it is inexpressible; as it cannot be known with ordinary modes of consciousness, it is inconceivable; and as it is does not fall into any extreme, it is the great freedom from elaboration. In the end, it is beyond all expressions, such as: it is all and everything, it is not all, everything lies within it, or does not, and so on. It remains an individual experience of self-knowing awareness.
The names used to illustrate it are 'primordial purity' (ka dag) and 'spontaneous presence' (lhun grub), and, when summarizing: 'the single, all-encompassing sphere of naturally arising wisdom' (rang byung ye shes thig le nyag gcig).
As it is the pinnacle of all in terms of the qualities it possesses, it is also the transcendent perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) and so on.
Symbolically, it can be revealed by means of the sun, or a magnifying glass, a crystal ball, or a finger pointing into space, and so forth.
When you have a precious jewel in your own hand,
Even if others should discard them, why be angry?
Without losing your connection to these instructions,
The pinnacle of Dharma, and your own good fortune,
Even if others should criticize them, why be angry?
By Mipham.
Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2016, with the kind assistance of Alak Zenkar Rinpoche.
• Download this text: EPUB MOBI PDF
I wrote on a discussion:

The so called "Absolute" is really just another label for "relative manifestation" just like "Weather" is just a label for clouds forming and parting, wind blowing, the blue sky. All of these are just appearances and then a label "Weather" is applied. There is no Weather entity existing in and of itself that could either be separate from, nor encompass, all these phenomena.

Just as airplane is just a label applied in the same way to the activity of flying, and so forth, wind is also a label applied in the same way to blowing, 'Awareness' is applied in the same way to momentary manifestation. And just as it's not the case that winter 'becomes' spring, there is no 'airplane' that existed before that later 'does the flying', or a 'weather' the later 'becomes clouds and wind blowing' or 'a blue sky' that 'becomes clouds'. All these are just appearances abiding in their dharma positions.

Stationary airplane is stationary airplane, moving airplane is moving airplane, but then view of inherency and duality makes it appear as if there is a prior entity, a 'background agent', causing the airplane to move, as if there is an airplane that exists behind that movement causing the movement, or a wind existing behind blowing causing the blowing, or a consciousness existing behind manifestation causing them. It's just a snapshot of a previous state of 'airplane' or 'consciousness' being reified into an agent but there is no such thing.

Hrence Alan Watts said, "Thus what we call the agent behind the action is simply the prior or relatively more constant state of the same action: when a man runs we have a "manning-running" over and above a simple "manning." Furthermore, it is only a somewhat clumsy convenience to say that present events are moved or caused by past events, for we are actually talking about earlier and later stages of the same event. "
https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=28648&start=20

Malcolm:

The idea that things have natures is refuted by Nāgārjuna in the MMK, etc., Bhavaviveka, Candrakīrti, etc., in short by all Madhyamakas.

A "non-inherent nature" is a contradiction in terms.

The error of mundane, conventionally-valid perception is to believe that entities have natures, when in fact they do not, being phenomena that arise from conditions. It is quite easy to show a worldly person the contradiction in their thinking. Wetness and water are not two different things; therefore wetness is not the nature of water. Heat and fire are not two different things, therefore, heat is not the nature of fire, etc. For example, one can ask them, "Does wetness depend on water, or water on wetness?" If they claim wetness depends on water, ask them, where is there water that exists without wetness? If they claim the opposite, that water depends on wetness, ask them, where is there wetness that exists without water? If there is no wetness without water nor water without wetness, they can easily be shown that wetness is not a nature of water, but merely a name for the same entity under discussion. Thus, the assertion that wetness is the nature of water cannot survive analysis. The assertion of all other natures can be eliminated in the same way.

...

Then not only are you ignorant of the English language, but you are ignorant of Candrakīrti where, in the Prasannapāda, he states that the only nature is the natureless nature, emptiness.

Then, if it is asked what is this dharmatā of phenomena, it is the essence of phenomena. If it is ask what is an essence, it is a nature [or an inherent existence, rang bzhin]. If it is asked what is an inherent existence [or nature], it is emptiness. If it is asked what is emptiness, it is naturelessness [or absence of inherent existence]. If it is asked what is the absence of inherent existence [or naturelessness], it is suchness [tathāta]. If it is asked what is suchness, it is the essence of suchness that is unchanging and permanent, that is, because it is not fabricated it does not arise in all aspects and because it is not dependent, it is called the nature [or inherent existence] of fire, etc."