This is a reminder that if you are interested in Arcaya Malcolm Smith's teaching on Dzogchen - Dzogchen Retreat with Arcaya Malcolm - please sign up now. Registration for TWS online retreat closes in 2 days, Aug. 7th.

I can't say everyone is going to resonate with these teachings, since it depends on one's proclivities, etc. But personally, John Tan and I find what Arcaya Malcolm Smith teaches to be highly resonating, so both of us will be attending the online retreat.

I have just updated this page which contains a collection of some of Malcolm's writings concerning the view of Dzogchen: Clarifications on Dharmakaya and Basis by Loppön Namdrol/Malcolm

[12:16 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan:

[12:17 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan: I like guy newland.
[12:18 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan: Dzogchen, madhyamaka from Nyingma perspective...he choose mipham beacon of certainty
[12:19 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan: Go watch
[12:34 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan: Damn happy listening to this youtube

[9:09 PM, 8/4/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Just saw this in chnn book [Crystal and the Way of Light]:

we could even go so far as to say that, essentially, in Dzogchen, the Base is the primordial state, the Path is the primordial state, and the Fruit is the primordial state—and that there is thus a perfect continuity between them in that they all refer to the same thing: the true condition of the individual and the universe.
[11:34 PM, 8/4/2020] John Tan: Yes.
[11:37 PM, 8/4/2020] John Tan: Practice as if you r buddha but u r not yet Buddha.
[11:38 PM, 8/4/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[11:41 PM, 8/4/2020] John Tan: I think U pasted to me right?  Something like result is taken as the basis.
[11:42 PM, 8/4/2020] John Tan: So not from the view that life is impermanent, no-self and suffering.
[12:14 AM, 8/5/2020] Soh Wei Yu: What do u mean
[12:14 AM, 8/5/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Oh taking buddha nature rather than impermanence no self suffering as basis and path of practicing?
[12:15 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan: Yes
[12:34 AM, 8/5/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Do you mean these excerpts by Malcolm:

There are two ways be free of grasping: regarding all things as impure and rejecting them as such (Hinayāna and common Mahāyāna), and regarding all things as pure and accepting them as such. The latter method more rapid, but requires special methods, so that it is not merely an intellectual posture.


In sūtra there is no antidotal method of conceiving the appearance of things as pure which are typically conceived by ordinary sentient being as impure. Emptiness, in sutra, is provided as cure for this, in terms of nature, but not in terms of appearance. Vajrayāna address both nature and appearance; sūtra only addresses nature, not appearance.


In common Mahāyāna, like Hinayāna schools, relatively speaking, phenomena, other than path dharmas, are still compounded, suffering, and not-self, and hence impure. Their ultimate nature, emptiness, is pure.

In uncommon Mahāyāna Secret Mantra, phenomena are rendered pure through special methods which change our attitude towards phenomena.
[12:34 AM, 8/5/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Ok
[12:35 AM, 8/5/2020] John Tan: Yeah

For Chinese readers only:

Recently compiled more articles (almost 130 pages) I previously didn't add to the document by Zen Master Hong Wen Liang -

For the full updated list of Zen Master Hong Wen Liang's writings (hundreds of pages), see
A common misunderstanding is that Buddha taught "life is suffering". As Alan Smith pointed out, there is often an overemphasis on  suffering, but actually in Buddhism, there is only suffering when there  is appropriation and clinging. To be clear: Buddha has never said "life is suffering", however, he did teach right from the beginning in his first discourse on the four noble truths that "appropriated aggregates are suffering", and by appropriated I mean tainted with I-making and mine-making.

In the Pali suttas, clinging and appropriation are not equated with the sheer aggregates ( ), and as Stian mentioned, he thinks aggregates are almost never mentioned in the sense of 'sheer aggregates' in the Pali canon. I think you get glimpses of how are 'sheer aggregates experienced by Buddha/arahants' in scriptures like Bahiya Sutta and Kalaka Sutta. In any case, the appropriation is what causes suffering, and the end of appropriation is the end of suffering.

In Bahiya Sutta ( ), the end of appropriation is equated to the end of suffering, and it is the definition of Nirvana ( ). The first discourse he taught was on the four noble truths and one of his five students attained stream entry then, and the second discourse ( ) he taught was on anatta and all the five monks became arahants.

Now when we come to the Mahayana teachings, all aggregates are taught to be primordially pure and luminous. Does this negate the Pali suttas which says appropriated aggregates are suffering? No, it does not, if understood correctly in context.

Here's some nice clarifications on Dhammawheel:

badge icon

Sobhana wrote:
The Buddha sums up his definition of dukkha with: "aggregates subject to clinging are suffering" (pancu­padanak­khan­dha).
What is the meaning and what are the implications?"
"Since "upadana" means "appropriation",
more accurate translation would be "appropriated aggregates are suffering". This implies that suffering continues as long as the aggregates are appropriated, identified with.
Best wishes!
Post by vinasp » Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:10 am
Hi everyone,
I intend to quote some discourses which speak of the cessation of the clinging aggregates, using the alternative term 'sakkaya.'
One problem with this term is that every translator seems to use a different word for it.
Bhikkhu Bodhi uses 'identity', Ven. Thanissaro uses 'identification'.
However, I first need to show that 'identity' does indeed mean the five aggregates subject to clinging, this is stated in MN 44
"Lady,'identity, identity' is said. What is called identity by the Blessed One?"
"Friend Visakha, these five aggregates affected by clinging are called identity by the Blessed One..."
[Bhikkhu Bodhi, MLDB,- MN 44.2]
When I looked on suttacentral I found that they were not using BB's translation for MN 44, but the one that they are using is very good, it is by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.
“ ‘Embodiment, embodiment,’ is said, Noble Lady. What, Noble Lady, is said to be embodiment by the Gracious One?”
“These five constituents (of mind and body) that provide fuel for attachment, friend Visākha, are said to be embodiment by the Gracious One, as follows:
the form constituent that provides fuel for attachment, the feelings constituent that provides fuel for attachment, the perceptions constituent that provides fuel for attachment, the (mental) processes constituent that provides fuel for attachment, the consciousness constituent that provides fuel for attachment...." [ - MN 44]
Clinging is a mistranslation of 'upadana', fuel or nutriment is much better, I prefer 'sustain' because this sustaining is the cause of 'bhava' (becoming or existence), the continuation of the existence of the apparent self.
“These five constituents (of mind and body) that provide fuel for attachment ..."
Should be understood as: “These five constituents (of mind and body) that provide fuel for becoming (bhava).."
See also SN 12.11 where the 'four nutriments' are said to have craving as their source or origin. This is Dependent Origination with the four nutriments replacing clinging (upadana).
Regards, Vincent.


“Yes, upadana-khandha means 'object of clinging' ('aggregate of clinging').
It does not mean a potential object of clinging but it means an object of actual clinging.
Therefore, a lamp is not an upadanakhandha until there is attachment to the lamp as 'my lamp'.
It follows the word compound 'upadanakhandha' can be translated as 'aggregates subject to clinging' or 'aggregates of clinging'.


[11:32 AM, 8/2/2020] John Tan: Tsongkhapa spoke about appropriated aggregates in his lam-rim chen-mo.

[11:32 AM, 8/2/2020] John Tan: Mmk [Mūlamadhyamakakārikā] also

Re: The 3 marks of what, exactly?
Unread post by vinasp » Sun May 21, 2017 11:55 am
Hi everyone,
"Bhikkhus, form is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, perception is impermanent, volitional formations are impermanent, consciousness is impermanent....." SN 22.12
“Bhikkhus, form is suffering, feeling is suffering, perception is suffering, volitional formations are suffering, consciousness is suffering....." SN 22.13
“Bhikkhus, form is nonself, feeling is nonself, perception is nonself, volitional formations are nonself, consciousness is nonself....." SN 22.14
These may appear to be talking about the five aggregates, but I think that the five clinging aggregates are meant. All three continue in this way:
"Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards form, revulsion towards feeling, revulsion towards perception, revulsion towards volitional formations, revulsion towards consciousness. Experiencing revulsion, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion his mind is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’”
Clearly, the aggregates mentioned at the start are those of an unliberated individual.
Another possibility is that 'form is suffering', and the rest, are not meant to be understood as ontological statements, but as how these things should be regarded. This explains 'seeing thus' as what leads to liberation.
Actual form is experienced, but the 'form aggregate' may mean a habit of regarding form in the wrong way, as permanent, a source of pleasure, and in relation to a self. If so, then the form aggregate will vanish when seen in the right way.
It seems that the discourses do not always make an explicit distinction between the aggregates and the clinging aggregates.
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, while not entirely rejecting the distinction, follows the Abhidhamma and Commentaries, arguing that the Arahant is still described by clinging aggregates.
Perhaps we should assume that almost all teaching on the aggregates is about the five clinging aggregates.
Regards, Vincent.


Also related:


"The eye is not the fetter of forms, nor are forms the fetter of the eye. Whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there. The ear is not the fetter of sounds... The nose is not the fetter of aromas... The tongue is not the fetter of flavors... The body is not the fetter of tactile sensations... The intellect is not the fetter of ideas, nor are ideas the fetter of the intellect. Whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there." -- Buddha, SN 35.191 (PTS: S IV 162) 

"My son, we are not bound by appearances; we are bound by our clinging to them." - Tilopa to Naropa

"The five senses arising with their objects are unimpeded radiance.
What is born from not grasping at objects is the unborn basic state.
Attachment to appearances may be unceasing but reverse it: meditate naturally settled.
Empty appearances arising free from the intellect is the path of natural expressions.
Do not see appearances as problems, let go of clinging.
There will come a time when you will arrive in the valley of one taste meditation." - Yang Gönpa
John Tan sent me the Aspiration Prayers of Mahamudra by the 3rd Karmapa today and said "I like Mahamudra... beautifully expressed"

"All is mind must also be deconstructed by DO and emptiness.

Otherwise you end up subsuming.  When practitioners express all is mind, they are not to be taken literally, they are expressing a deep non-dual experiential taste.  Not as a view.

We go through all process of deconstructions and taste the luminous appearances then adopt the view of DO [dependent origination] and emptiness for the conventional world.

That is why DO and emptiness is the enlightened view."

"[9:09 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: I understand what dzogchen meant. Imo,  DO and emptiness is the spontaneous presence and natural perfection expression in the conventional world. (Soh: also related, Dzogchen, Rigpa and Dependent Origination )
[9:14 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: But I do not know dzogchen so no comment. 

It is just how I see. The beauty of DO and emptiness in expressing the luminous appearance for the conventional world."

- John Tan, 2020

"[8:16 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: It is the direct taste that is important.
[8:18 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: In the direct taste freeing of the background, what is left is the obviousness.
[8:21 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: The luminous display is free from all elaborations.  Neither mind nor not mind, phenomena nor not phenomena.

So can one b free from all proliferations and see clearly this luminous display and how is this to b expressed comventionally?
[8:22 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: Post all these deconstructions, do u still need to talk about mind at all?  Do u still see object?"

"[8:25 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: That is not important imo
[8:26 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: It is how the mind is freed from all proliferated views or religions or any form of conditioning first.
[8:28 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: The freeing is most crucial but not discarding the validity of how they provide explanations for the functioning of the world.
[8:28 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: So first in anatta, the deconstruction of the background self. That perhaps is the most important deconstruction.
[8:31 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: Then we look at object, how do we even come to the idea that phenomena possess characteristics at all?  Why  redness seem to stick to a red flower?
[8:36 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: Then we look deeper into duality and look at how the dualistic structure is constructed...we see objectivity and subjectivity, do we clearly see and understand that the very feeling of objectivity can only arise because of an innate feeling of subjectivity?  Can we feel this understanding in our bone and marrow or just a knowledge?  The idea of self and other...this deep conditioning is often over look.
[8:37 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: Like no suffering, no no suffering...
[8:39 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: Then when we picks up all these conventions, views,  we have no issues with them for they provide a way of explaining and accounting how the world and universe functions.  How well they explain the world.
[8:41 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: U can see how the world is totally make up of energetic vibration also and practice accordingly as long the path can guide u and it works and functions, but ultimately empty."

"[10:32 AM, 7/25/2020] John Tan: The only truth is to see the emptiness of the conventional.  Equipoise strictly speaking is free from all elaborations.  That is exactly the experiential insight and taste of anatta, in the seen just the seen, therefore no seer, no seeing, nothing seen.

[10:38 AM, 7/25/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[10:42 AM, 7/25/2020] Soh Wei Yu: like kalaka sutta