From new book by Ajahn Amaro, “The Breakthrough”. Source:

Ajahn Amaro:

They went back and forth three times, and after a third time a Tathāgata has to respond, so the Buddha said:
‘Listen carefully to what I have to say. In the seen there is only the seen. In the heard there is only the heard. In the sensed there is only the sensed. In the cognized there is only the cognized. When you, Bāhiya, can see that in the seen there is only the seen, and in the heard there is only the heard, and so forth, then you will indeed recognize that there is no thing there; there is no substance in the world of the object. And when you see that there is, indeed, no thing ‘there’, you will also recognize that there is no thing ‘here’; there is no being or person, no real ‘I’ in the realm of the subject. You will recognize the
object is empty, the subject is empty. When you see that there is no thing there and no thing here, you will not be able to find yourself either in the world of this or in the world of that, or any place between the two. This, Bāhiya, is the end of suffering.’ And Bāhiya instantly became an arahant.
‘You will not be able to find a self in the world of this or in the world of that, or in any place between the two...’ Bāhiya obviously had some spiritual potential, since he became an arahant right then and there. He then said, ‘Please, Venerable Sir, may I be your disciple, and will you give me ordination as a monk?’ The Buddha asked him, ‘Have you a robe and a bowl?’ Bāhiya was an ascetic who wore clothing made of tree bark, so he didn’t have a robe or a bowl. The Buddha said, ‘If you can find a bowl and robe, I will give you the ordination. Bāhiya went off to try and find a robe and a bowl. And as he had correctly feared, his life was indeed short and uncertain; a runaway cow hit him as it was charging through the street, and he died from his wounds. But he died an arahant, so he was right to press the Buddha to give him that teaching.
‘In the heard there is only the heard. In the sensed there is only the sensed. In the cognized there is only the cognized...’ So as we hear a sound, as we feel a sensation in the body, as we smell, taste or touch something, as we have a thought or a mood – if there is just hearing, just seeing, just smelling, just tasting, just touching, just thinking, just remembering, just feeling – if they are known as just what they are, events in consciousness, then as the Buddha said to Bāhiya, ‘You will recognize that there is no ‘thing’ there.’
When we hear a sound, we might think, ‘That’s the sound of Ajahn Amaro talking’, or ‘That’s the sound of a plane going to Luton Airport.’ And we think that the sound is ‘out there’, the plane is ‘out there’. But if we know it clearly and directly, we recognize that the experience of hearing is not ‘there’; it’s happening in this awareness. The plane is in your mind. The experience of hearing is a pattern of experience in the mind. It’s happening here. The mind’s representation of that thing is experienced here and now in this field of awareness. And just as you see there is no thing there, that the object is empty, so the feeling of a ‘me’ here who is the experiencer can be seen to be empty too. There’s no person who’s the experiencer. There’s just knowing. There’s just the awareness of this moment, the unentangled participating in this pattern of experience.
The Buddha said that when you can see there is no thing there and no thing here, when you can see that the object and subject are both empty, at that point there is just subjectless awareness. You will not be able to find a self. You will not be able to find yourself in either the world of objects or the world of the subject, or any place between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.
This teaching is extraordinarily helpful, because we often fill up the world, making a ‘me’ here who is experiencing a world out there. We create a ‘me’ here watching a ‘mine’ out there: ‘Me watching my mind; me dealing with my thoughts; me and my practice.’ When that happens we are not attending in the most skilful and complete way. We are creating a subject here and an object
there, both laden with ‘I’ and ‘mine’. So if we bear in mind this simple teaching, it helps us to undermine that I-making and mine-making habit. It dissolves the ahaṃkara/mamaṃkara programme. It dissolves the causes of self-view. And the more we are able to let there be just seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching; the more we let things take shape, do their thing, without creating a ‘me’ here who’s experiencing a world out there, or patterns of thought and feeling and memory inside, the more we recognize our experience as being just patterns of nature coming and going and changing.


After a while, though, there was a strange feeling of being cramped, a quality of containment or limitation. I thought, ‘What is this about?’ There was clear seeing that things are anicca, dukkha, anattā, not self, empty of substance; but there was also this strange limitation, a strange kind of tension in the system. And it suddenly dawned on me and became clear, ‘Ah! It’s all happening here.’ I realized that it was the mind creating the feeling of locatedness, that everything was happening in ‘my’ mind, even though the usual crystallizations of the ‘I’ feeling were absent. I realized my mind was attached to the notion that it was happening ‘here’, at this spot.
At the risk of being too abstruse, I feel this is a helpful thing to look at. It was clear to me that until that point I hadn’t actually seen the attachment to the feeling of place or the feeling of location that the mind creates – the sense of ‘here-ness’, in this spot, this geographical centre where things are felt.
I don’t know if any of you have intuited or felt this but it was very striking to me at that time. I suddenly realized there was an attachment to the idea that awareness was happening in this place, this location. So I began to look at that very feeling of locatedness and the sense of things happening here. I used a very simple and straightforward reflection: bringing to mind the word ‘here’ or saying to myself, ‘It’s all happening here.’ By bringing the attention to it, the word ‘here’ began to seem absurd. Then a whole extra layer of letting go was able to happen.
Awakened awareness, knowing, is free from bondage to the realm of time and space as well. It is timeless and unlocated.
Shortly after that, I came across a sentence in a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Mahā- Boowa. He talked how this very insight had played a radical role in his own spiritual development. It was just after the time when his teacher Venerable Ajahn Mun had passed away. Ajahn Maha-Boowa was doing walking meditation, and out of nowhere this thought appeared in his mind: ‘If there is a point or a centre to the knower anywhere, then that is the essence of birth in some level of being.’
If ‘the knower’ considers itself to have a location or a centre, then that is the essence of birth in some level of being. This means that this is where the mind gets caught. Avijjā happens right there. Until that false locatedness is recognized as a quality of grasping, the heart cannot truly be free.
So along with things being impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self, I find it is also helpful to recollect that Dhamma is essentially unlocated in the world of three-dimensional space. Location is a useful tool in the physical world, but in the world of mind location, place does not apply. Three-dimensional space only refers to the physical world, to the rūpa-khandha. Mind, the nāma-khandhā, does not have any relationship to three-dimensional space, because mind has no material substance. Mind has no physical form; therefore three-dimensional space has no fundamental relationship to the mind.
So where is the mind? This is another helpful reflection and we can use this kind of inquiry to explore the issue as well. Ask the question: ‘Where is the mind?’ This illuminates the presumption: ‘It is here’. For in the clear light of awakened awareness, the wisdom faculty recognizes that even any kind of ‘hereness’ is not it either. So again, at the risk that this may sound abstruse or unhelpful, this is raised because it is important to look all the different habits of attachment and identification, even if they are very, very subtle.
Though we may have no sense of self, it can be that that ‘no sense of self’ is being experienced here. And that ‘hereness’ is also to be let go of in the practice of liberation. Dhamma is absolutely real, but it’s completely unlocated. You cannot say that the Dhamma is any ‘where’. You might say, ‘But it’s everywhere!’ But by looking at that whole dimension of experience it can be recognized that ‘whereness’ does not apply. Allow that recognition to have its effect upon the citta.

After quoting from The Anatta-lakkhaṇa Sutta, someone wrote:

“I agree that it's delusion to believe that I can affect the unfolding of reality”

 I replied:

There are two extremes. Free will and predeterminisms are extremes.

One is thinking I am the agent, controller, that can determine the outcome of something. As if hard will alone can cause something to happen. (I cannot immediately run as fast as an Olympic medalist no matter how hard willed I am, but I can gradually improve and work on my body fitness and health and run faster through disciplined training)

The other is thinking there is nothing that can be done to influence an outcome, or that intention plays no role since everything merely spontaneously arise, or that everything is predetermined. This is the faulty view that many Neo Advaitins fall into.

The middle way is that intention and action can influence the unfolding of reality, through dependent origination, but not through hard will or the control of agency. One finger does not control other fingers but one finger contributes to the total exertion of hand grasping object. You cannot deny the contributive influence of one finger but you can categorically reject the notion of agency.

Likewise, I cannot control global warming, but collective activism, increasing global consciousness or awareness, and cooperation throughout the world may be able to solve some of its issue by addressing the interdependencies and causalities accordingly - if (a big if) it’s not too late already, as irreversible tipping points may be triggered after certain point.

This sounds theoretical but the main point is this - no self rejects agency but should not lead to the nihilist extreme of a state of passivity, thinking “nothing can be done” or “nothing to do” and “no practice” or “predetermined” of the Neo advaitin. In true anatta there is discerning of conditionality, there is discerning of karmic propensities, there is practice-enlightenment, actualization, mindfulness, concentration, right effort. Even though the insight is effortless actualized in all moments from just sitting to simple activities like chopping wood and carrying water, peace and freedom is experienced, the factor of mindfulness and samadhi is there, rather than spouting about “no practice”.


"Causes and conditions also have no self-nature; they do not actually control anything, except in appearance."

and quotes someone on the emptiness of causality

I replied:

The emptiness of causality is what allows for causality, for causality and svabhava (existing by its own essence) are contradictory, and thus emptiness is not a negation of but in fact what allows for the efficacy of conventional causality. Otherwise, one falls into the view of nihilism, misinterpreting emptiness to be non-existence, and “are harmed by it” as Nagarjuna puts it.

This is taught clearly by Nagarjuna –

We say that this understanding of yours
Of emptiness and purpose of emptiness
And of the significance of emptiness is incorrect.
As a consequence you are harmed by it.
                                          (Garfield 1995, p.68)
Because the opponent has taken "emptiness" to signify the nonexistence of the Four Noble Truths, he is "harmed by it"-in other words, he sees "emptiness" as destructive…

If you perceive the existence of all things
In terms of svabhava,
Then this perception of all things
Will be without the perception of causes and conditions.

Effects and causes
And agent and action
And conditions and arising and ceasing
And effects will be rendered impossible.
                                          (Garfield 1995, p.69)

And as Malcolm said, “This whole discussion of what is the middle way comes directly after the discussion of how the Buddha only teaches two truths. The two truths are themselves the middle way, the latter is not a third truth. The whole purpose of this discussion in MMK 24 is to explain how the four noble truths are possible only if dependently originated phenomena are understood to be emptiness.”

Also as Malcolm pointed out,

“Nāgārjuna states that dependent origination and emptiness are basically the same thing:
  • That which originates in dependence is explained as emptiness,
    that is a dependent designation, that itself is the middle way.
  • Whoever rejects the emptiness of dependent origination
    is one who rejects all mundane conventions.

  • Whoever sees dependent origination sees suffering,
    the source of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path.
One of the Buddhist criticisms of Advaita is that their presentation of the relative, conventional level is faulty, and therefore, their presentation of the ultimate is consequently faulty.

Because that which dependently originates is empty, it is illusory. Emptiness itself is not a phenomena to characterize as either real or illusory. To say something is empty is equivalent to saying it is illusory.”

Also, the teaching of dependent origination negates control of any kind whether from internal nor external – there is no self-made Nor other-made, but arising via dependencies. There is no agent, no controller, either internally nor externally, but neither is whatever arising spontaneously manifesting without conditions. This must be understood as well.

Sutta – “"It's not the case, Kotthita my friend, that consciousness is self-made, that it is other-made, that it is both self-made & other-made, or that — without self-making or other-making — it arises spontaneously. However, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness." -

Neither from itself nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a cause,
Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.

Also James Corrigan wrote well (he writes with deep experiential insights):
In INSIGHTS by James Corrigan4 Comments
Agency implies an agent. If there is no agent, there can be no agency. Agency, of course, is the action or intervention of a thing, or person, that produces an effect. To say that language can’t capture the truth is even more true when silly things are being stated. So when someone talks about causes and conditions, they are being silly because these are not the same. A cause is that which makes a thing happen. It implies an agent and agency, a veritable proliferation of sillinesses. A condition is that which opens the possibility of something happening. But conditions can never cause anything to happen because they are neither an agent nor have agency. Perhaps this surprises you. But think about all the things you thought were going to happen in your life that didn’t, and all the things that did that you never saw coming! Scientists call this stochastic behavior, it extends all the way down to the quantum level, and perhaps especially there. It’s the reason why a computer needs a clock, that coordinates all the stochastic behavior of electronic components so that the device can actually accomplish the tasks it has been engineered to allow to happen. Notice I didn’t say make happen, because sometimes things don’t. And we’ve probably all experienced that too.
Often, in our attempts to make sense of reality, we fall into old habits of thought that arise from an understanding in our heads that things do things. Exorcising that understanding happens naturally when a certain point is reached, but without the direct experience, silliness abounds.
Parmenides, an Ancient Greek philosopher once wrote a poem about his insights into reality. He didn’t use any pronouns, and few, if any nouns. Smart people, thinking they knew what he meant, supplied a lot of additional wording that made the poem easier to read, but empty of truth. Then, once that was done, they realized that Parmenides hadn’t said the right thing in the right way, so they fixed that up too. When Parmenides said: “the same: to be and wherefore is intuitive awareness” (“ταὐτὸν δ᾽ ἐστὶ νοεῖν τε καὶ οὓνεκέν ἐστι νόημα”), equating the manifesting appearances and selfless knowing, they clarified it, equating “being” with “thinking,” turning it into a kind of “I think, therefore I am!” statement instead. Silliness. Neither the Greek word for thought, nor for thinking appears anywhere in Parmenides’ statement.
So, try to make sense of conditions, not as any kind of interaction between entities, not even in a metaphorical fashion. Instead, think of how a seed grows. The sun doesn’t cause the seed to grow, any more than rain does, or the soil, or all the bacteria, fungi, animals, and other plants do. Yet, for the seed to grow, all of those conditions need to be right, including the condition of the seed being present.
As to what causes the seed to grow, well, just let the idea of causes go. It involves agents and agency, and they are just silly nonsense. Understand that when the right conditions are present, the possibility of genesis is present, but what actually happens is uncaused.
Now divest that scenario of all sense of things inherent in it. Sunlight isn’t a thing, except as a concept. Neither is water, or soil, or all the life present in soil. These are all just ideas, ways to talk about reality in shorthand. Instead, see an amazing, and coherent presencing of selfless naturing. Don’t even hold onto the idea of a nature, as something doing the naturing. It will cause a cognitive dissonance that will tire you out, but the effort lays a groundwork for the direct experience to come. It’s all just more conditioning, and in this case, it’s called mind training, but it could be called mind conditioning as well, because you are not making anything happen, you are only developing the right conditions for certain experiences to happen.
So remember: there is no mind, instead there is just this awesome and beautiful selfless naturing. Or if you prefer, there is just this awesome and beautiful selfless minding. But no nature and no mind anywhere, just the appearance of awesome beauty. Reflect on that phrase, awesome beauty. Another way of expressing it, that I use, is the visceral essence of selfless loving. But you can just call it bliss instead.


By the way Garfield explains well and is consistent with my explanation as well as James Corrigan's:

I will begin by offering a philosophical reading of chapter 1. I will argue that Nagarjuna distinguishes two possible views of dependent origination or the causal process--one according to which causes bring about their effects in virtue of causal powers and one according to which causal relations simply amount to explanatorily useful regularities--and defends the latter. This, I will argue, when suitably fleshed out, amounts to Nagarjuna's doctrine of the emptiness of causation.


To assert the emptiness of causation is to accept the utility of our causal discourse and explanatory practice, but to resist the temptation to see these as grounded in reference to causal powers or as demanding such grounding. Dependent origination simply is the explicability and coherence of the universe. Its emptiness is the fact that there is no more to it than that.


Next, Nagarjuna notes (1: 4) that in exploiting an event or entity as a condition in explanation, we do not thereby ascribe it any causal power. Our desire for light does not exert some occult force on the lights. Nor is there anything to be found in the flicking of the switch other than the plastic, metal, movement, and connections visible to the naked eye. Occult causal powers are singularly absent. On the other hand, Nagarjuna points out in the same breath that this does not mean that conditions are explanatorily impotent. In a perfectly ordinary sense--not that which the metaphysicians of causation have in mind--our desire is active in the production of light. But not in the sense that it contains light potentially, or some special causal power that connects our minds to the bulbs.[5]