Sonam Thakchoe (The Two Truths Debate: Tsongkhapa and Gorampa on the Middle Way):

"Tsongkhapa regards the nondual realization of ultimate truth as an epistemic event... ...Tsongkhapa does not hold the achievement of nondual wisdom as equivalent to the cessation of cognitive activity...

Tsongkhapa's description of the way the meditator arrives at nondual understanding is as follows. The cognitive agent experiences a fusion of subjectivity and its object, which refer here not to self and outside world but rather to elements within the meditator's own psychophysical aggregates. The meditator remains introspective, not engaging the outside world, but the outside world as such does not disappear. What occurs is instead a total cessation of the dualities between subject I and object mine, between thinker and thought, between feeler and feelings, between mind and body, between seeing and seen, and so forth. Initially a meditator perceives, for instance, that in each act of seeing, two factors are always present: the object seen and the act of seeing it. While each single act of seeing involves dissolution, the object seen and the act of seeing actually consist of numerous physical and mental processes that are seen to dissolve serially and successively. Eventually, the meditator also notices the dissolution of the dissolution itself.

In other words, the meditator first realizes the fluctuating and transitory character of the five aggregates, which is then followed by further realization of the aggregates as empty and selfless, and finally by the realization of the emptiness of even the empty and selfless phenomena. Nondual knowledge is thus arrived at, in Tsongkhapa's view, through the direct experience of seeing the truths within one's own aggregates, rather than being convinced of the truth of certain abstractions through rational argument or persuasion. Since the process here is a cognitive experience that operates entirely within the domain of one's psychophysical aggregates, it is therefore an epistemic but not a metaphysical nonduality.

This is how, according to Tsongkhapa, an arya has direct nonconceptual and nondual access to the transcendent nature of his own five psychophysical aggregates during meditative equipoise. In the wake of meditative equipoise, an arya engages with dualistic worldly activities, such as taking part in philosophical discourse, practicing different social conventions, and so on. The arya will thus make use of socio-linguistic conventions, but since the arya has eradicated all reifying tendencies, even these worldly dualistic engagements will be seen as consistent with nondual wisdom. Both non-dual and dual wisdoms, especially in the case of a buddha, Tsongkhapa argues, are fully commensurate."

"Both Tsong khapa and Go rampa describe non-dual knowledge as being like a process of mixing water. They argue that the fusion between subjectivity and objectivity, from the meditator's point of view, reaches its climax in their non-dual state in a way that is like mixing clean water from two different jars by pouring it all into one jar. Tsong khapa for example argues: "from the vantage point of the wisdom that directly realises ultimate reality, there is not even the slightest duality between object and the object-possessing consciousness. Like mixing water with water, [yogi] dwells in the meditative equipoise".' Tsongkhapa insists, however, that this metaphor should not be taken too far or too literally. It refers only to the cognitive process that occurs in total dissolution, and to the experience associated with that process, and must not be taken to represent the achivement of a metaphysical unity."

“So, as far as Tsong khapa is concerned, there is no contradiction in claiming that, from the empirical standpoint, on the one hand, non-dual wisdom constitutes the subjective pole of consciousnesses with ultimate truth as its objective counterpart; from the ultimate vantage point, on the other hand, non-dual wisdom and ultimate truth, "are free from the duality of act (bya ba) and object acted upon (byed pa)".

In the non-dual state, even the cognitive interplay between subject and object appears, from the meditator's point of view, completely to cease. This is because, as Tsong khapa points out, "duality of act and object acted upon is posited strictly from the perspective of empirical cognition".

Although the dual appearances of subject and object completely dissolve from the perspective of non-dual wisdom, and thus the meditator does not experience the mutual interaction between distinct and separate elements—between the seer and the seen—the meditator nonetheless engages in an act of 'mere seeing'. As the Buddha explains to Bahiya:

In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the
heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In
reference to the cognised, only the cognised. That is how you should
train yourself [Ud I. 10]... then Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that.
When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there
is no you there, you are neither here not yonder nor between the two.
This, just this, is the end of stress [Ud I. 101.

The experience of 'mere seeing' in a non-dual form is valid only when it is empirically grounded and when there is cognitive activity occurring between non-dual wisdom and non-dual ultimate truth.”

"Although all empirically given truths such as the aggregate of form, feelings etc., are contingently produced and have diverse conventional characters, all of them, according to Tsong khapa, are ultimately empty of the inherent arising. They share the universal characteristic (ro gcig, eka-rasa), literally, the same 'taste'. The Buddha, for example, makes this statement: "just as the great ocean has but one taste, the taste of salt, even so does this dharma and discipline have but one taste, the taste of release" [AN VIII.19].

The Samadhirajasatra (ting nge 'dzin rgyal po'i mdo) tells us: "By knowing one all are known. And by seeing one all are seen. Despite many things are said about [ultimate truth] in the conventional terms, no haughtiness should arise from it",' and furthermore, "Just as you have recognised ('du shes) personality, even so you should apply the same insight with respect to all [phenomena]. All phenomena are of the [same] nature like a clear space".

In the Gaganagamjasamadhi (Nam mkha'i mdzod kyi ting nge 'dzin), it is stated that: "Whoever by meditating on one phenomenon knows all phenomena as apprehensible like illusions and mirages, and knows them as hollow, false and ephemeral will before long reach the summum bonum (snying po) of enlightenment".

And Aryadeva also tells us that "whosoever sees one is said to see all. That which is emptiness of one is the emptiness of all" [VIII:191].

 Referring to this last passage from Aryadeva, Candrakirti has this to say:

The emptiness of the essence of form is itself the emptinesses of the essences of aggregates such as feeling. Similarly, the emptiness of the essence of eye-source is itself the emptinesses of the essences of all twelve sources. Likewise, the emptiness of the essence of eye-constituent is itself the emptinesses of the essences of all eighteen constituents. Equally so are [the emptinesses of the essences of] the infinite categories of things due to the distinct divisions in things, spaces, times and references. For whatever is the emptiness of the essence of one thing, is itself the emptinesses of the essences of all things. In spite of the fact that jars and bowls for example are distinct, space is not distinct. While things such as form are distinct, insofar as they all lack of essential arising of the form etc., they are not distinct. By understanding the lack the essential arising of merely one phenomenon, one understands the lack of the essential arising of all phenomena.'

Since all phenomena are empty of any substance or essence, they are all dependently arisen and relational entities. Tsong khapa agrees.' Yet to endorse the claim that the ultimate nature of all phenomena is fundamentally the same does not, in Tsong khapa's view, make one a monist. While accepting this account of the ultimate nature of things, Tsongkhapa remains committed to a pluralistic view. "A pluralistic view of the world", as Kalupahana puts it, "is not incompatible with dependent arising (pratityasamputpada).

Pluralism in the context of dependent arising does not imply the existence of self-contradictory truths. It need not necessarily lead to a notion of an Absolute that transcends such self-contradictory truths. As far as Tsong khapa is concerned, the ultimate reality of, for instance, the table in front of my eyes, cannot be treated as simply identical with the ultimate reality pertaining to the chair that I am sitting on. The empty table cannot be the taken as identical with the empty chair since the emptiness of the table is constitutive, not only of the empty table, but of the empty conceptual-linguistic conventions imposed upon it as well. Those conventions belong exclusively to the ultimate truth of the table and are not present in the chair.

According to Tsong khapa, however, conceding this much does not prevent one from arguing for the universality of ultimate truth. Just as different objects occupy different spaces, and yet the space those objects occupy has the same 'non-obstructive' characteristic, so the ultimate realities of both table and chair are different, notwithstanding the fact that two ultimate realities have identical natures—they share 'the same taste'. Both of these emptinesses imply insubstantiality and essenceless in the negative sense, as well as dependently arisen and relational nature in the affirmative sense."
Someone wrote:

Most practitioners think experiences are appearing TO their consciousness instead of seeing experiences are how their consciousness is appearing.

I wrote back:

Most practitioners think experiences are appearing TO or even WITHIN their consciousness instead of seeing consciousness is JUST the appearing.
Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection.
Although he got into trouble yesterday for being unable to exercise compassion and make an apology when he offended someone. He make a remark that struck a chord in regards to a loved one someone had lost, and they asked him to apologize. He refused.


· Reply · 1d
John Tan
John TanJohn and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. Can't understand him. This aside, recently he posted some extracts about selflessness written by Khenpo Tsulstrim Gyamtso:

"When we realize the selflessness of the individual, however, this whole process stops. The wrong views that have their root in the belief in self cease, then the mental afflictions cease, then karmic actions cease, and as a result of that, birth in samsara’s cycle of existence ceases."

"We can formulate the following logical reasoning: Karmic actions and results are mere appearances devoid of true existence, because no self, no actor, exists to perform them. This is a valid way to put things because if the self of the individual does not exist, there cannot be any action, and therefore there cannot be any result of any action either."

Would like to hear ur view Kyle, that because there is no-self, there is no action.

Frankly this is not inline with the experience and insight of anatta I have. I seriously cannot accept jax's "because there is no self, there is nothing to do". I resonate more with Buddhaghosa's ' Suffering as such exists, but no sufferer is found; The deeds are, but no doer is found.'


· Reply · 1d · Edited
Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. I was thinking about these comments from KTG just the other day because I saw Jax post them, they do seem off.

The only guess I have regarding the first quote is that he is referring to the complete realization of selflessness, not a mere recognition. It would not be right to think all of those processes cease upon initial recognition, but that is of course how Jax misinterpreted the excerpt. I don't have the text, but I can imagine there is more context that is missing.

As for the other quote, it isn't the best way to communicate the message in my opinion.

My view is that the self is imputed onto the action or afflicted activity. And the activity is the result of ignorance. First there is ignorance regarding the nature of appearance, and appearances are mistaken to be external, whereas mind is then internal. From there further grasping occurs which fortifies this split, and the alleged inner reference point is then treated as mine and myself, which leads to I-making in the form of imputation. That activity of imputation then further deepens the fallacious structure of self and other because activity unfolds based on the misconception of the self.

But the self is not the lynchpin. Ignorance is. Is the self and ignorance synonymous? I don't think so. Because ignorance is two fold in that it reifies the apparent inner dimension and external dimension. The self that karma is related to is the mind reified as self. We can recognize non-arising related to that substrate knower, and still perceive a substantial external dimension. Likewise we can recognize non-arising of objects in the external dimension and the inner substrate knower remains in tact. Then, we can also recognize the non-arising in different sensory gates at different times. For instance one can recognize the non-arising of sound yet visual perception remains afflicted, and vice versa.

So it isn't as simple as just negating the self and washing our hands of the massive nexus of afflictive processes. It is much more complex than that.

Is it true that the self is unreal and the activity base on the self is unreal? Sure. But KTG is sort of communicating this in a backwards fashion. Just because the self is unreal does not mean it is not constructed and based on a complex nexus of afflictive activity, that is then based in delusion. And that activity is habitual.

This is why Padmasambhava says my view is higher than the sky but my attention to karmic cause and effect is finer than flour.

The karmic cause and effect is the patterns of grasping that reinforces the inner and outer yings or dimensions.

KTG's message is true in a certain context, but is communicated recklessly. And of course the nuance of the issue are completely lost on you-know-who. I feel he has had some coarse insights into substantial non-dual states, maybe. But he has never really seen equipoise. This is my feeling.

The self does not create the fundamental afflictive activity. The fundamental afflictive activity gives rise to the self, and then both spin out of control from there. But one will not resolve the affliction by merely negating the self.


· Reply · 21h · Edited
Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. Anatta equipoise is related to absence of time, and in this sense action is indeed negated. Also the threefold actor, action, acted upon is undone when the insight is twofold. Anatta in objects is related to unreality of space. But only Buddhas are in non-retroactive state of that nature.

· Reply · 21h
John Tan
John TanJohn and 12 others manage the membership and moderators, settings and posts for Dharma Connection. Yes Kyle, like u said it is not so straight forward and logical deduction can b slippery. Does freedom from subject/object duality necessarily frees one from "mine" attachment?

"First there is the ignorance regarding the nature appearance and appearances are mistaken to b external whereas mind is then internal. "

My view is this misapprehension is the result of ignorance but grasping need not arise. That is, I/others, subject/object are not the result of grasping but a non-recogntion. However when "mine" arises, that is grasping.

· Reply · 5h · Edited

Kyle Dixon
Kyle DixonKyle and 12 others manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Dharma Connection. I agree that the feeling of subject-object precedes grasping and "mine."

In some systems there is actually a tiered model of ignorance for this very reason, and that simple non-recognition is treated as a different aspect of ignorance. That bare non-r
ecognizing ignorance is sometimes illustrated in the example of the first instances when waking up from sleep where one is cognizing appearances, and those appearances are externalized, but self-identification has not arisen yet. I've had these moments extend to where I will wake up and it takes a few moments to even register where I am, yet bare cognizance is certainly functioning. Then imputation arises and recollection of person, place, time, plans, schedule etc., all unfold, which is held as a different type of ignorance.
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· Reply · 17h
Realization of anatta presented in the commentary to the ninth oxherding picture in Zen:

Ten Ox-herding Pictures
Stage 9


It is originally pure and clean without a speck of dust clinging.
He observes the flourishing and dying of form while remaining in the silence of no-action.
This is not the same as illusion; what need is there for striving or planning?
The water is blue and the mountains green; he sits and watches phenomena take form and decay.


Having come back to the origin and returned to the source, you see that you have expended efforts in vain.
What could be superior to becoming blind and deaf in this very moment?
Inside the hermitage, you do not see what is in front of the hermitage.
The water flows of itself and the flowers are naturally red.

How much time and pain it took to come to the eighth stage of "Person and Ox Both Forgotten"! Now you have reached at last the stage where you realize the fact of "Person is empty, so is the dharma," that is, the subject (person) and the object (dharma) are both totally empty. Since this is the fruit of extremely long and hard labor, you tend to stick to this stage and to cherish it endlessly - the last residue of enlightenment. If you succeed in washing it away by constant and persistent sitting, you come to a state of realization that the fact of "Person is empty, so is the dharma" is the essential state of human beings, signifying nothing special at all. Through this realization you return to your original starting point. This is the stage of "Returning to the source," where not a trace of such things as "Buddhism" or "Tathagata" is found anywhere. It is true that "the state after enlightenment is exactly the same as that of before enlightenment." It is the state of mind of "a leisurely person of the Way, who, having finished learning, has nothing more to do."

At this stage you can observe that all the highs and lows and vacillations of this world are, as they are, void of substance and are manifestations of the world of perfect stillness and non-being. Expressed in these terms it sounds as if there were two things - being and non-being. But in fact, being is non-being; the aspect of being is, as it is, non-being itself. There is no distinction between the two at all.

This proposition "Being is non-being" is a crude fact, not a temporary illusion or a dream. At this point you can realize and affirm that it has been entirely unnecessary to be consciously engaged in practicing the way or trying to attain enlightenment. This is a very important point: you start with the first stage of "Searching the Ox," and, spending many years in practice, you come at last to the ninth level of "Returning to the Source," and as a result of this entire process you can say that practice and enlightenment were unnecessary. It is totally wrong to maintain from the very beginning that practice and enlightenment are of no use. Such an attitude is called "inactive zen" [buji-zen] . Today, almost all Zen schools in Japan have degenerated to this "inactive zen." They maintain that just sitting is enough, not appreciating the experience of enlightenment or even ignoring it. On the other hand, you must bear in mind: No matter how strongly you argue that enlightenment is important, if it's nothing more than just propagating a conceptional zen or if you take pride in your experience (if it was an authentic experience), you are only mid-way. There is no other way than to sit and sit and sit, until you can very clearly say that practice and enlightenment were intrinsically unnecessary.

Let's now appreciate the verse by Master Kakuan:

Having come back to the origin and returned to the source,
you see that you have expended efforts in vain.

You are now back to your starting point. How much effort you needed for that! Occasionally you encouraged yourself washing your face with the ice-chilly basin water, or you sank into desperation listening to frogs croaking in the dusk outside, or you kept sitting in defiance of the pains in the legs or of unbearable fatigue. Many times you have felt, "Now, this time I've come to a true experience!" but soon that experience is covered with anxiety and discontent. How many times you have determined to stop doing zazen altogether!.

What could be superior to becoming blind and deaf
in this very moment?

Come to think of it now, why didn't I become like a blind and deaf person right away? "Blind and deaf" here means a state of mind where there is nothing to see and nothing to hear. When you see, there's only the seeing, and the subject that sees doesn't exist. When you hear, there's only the hearing, and the subject that hears doesn't exist. The objects which are seen or heard are, just as they are, without substance. But understanding the logic of this will not do. When this is realized as a fact, you become like a "blind and deaf" person.

Inside the hermitage,
you do not see what is in front of the hermitage.

The late YAMADA K�un Roshi comments that this line comes from a dialogue between Unmon [864-949] and Master Kemp� [dates unknown]: Unmon visited Master Kemp� and asked, "Why doesn't a person inside the hermitage know anything outside the hermitage?" To this, Kemp� burst out into laughter. The point is why the person inside the hermitage (subject) cannot see the things "in front of the hermitage" (object). That's because there isn't anything in front of the hermitage. You may say that there is only the subject, there being no object at all. Yet, in actual truth, that "subject" doesn't exist either.

The water flows of itself and the flowers are naturally red.

The water runs smoothly, the flowers are colored scarlet. This line seems to imply that there are only the objects and there's no subject at all. However, as a matter of fact, those objects do not exist at all. It's simply that the water is running smoothly, and flowers are scarlet. Everything is just as it is [tada korekore], and everything is void as it is now [arugamama no aritsubure]. The fact that there is no distinction between self and others simply continues without end - "The water flows of itself and the flowers are naturally red.".
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If someone talks about an experience he/she had and then lost it, that's not (the true, deep) awakening... As many teachers put it, it's the great samadhi without entry and exit.

John Tan: There is no entry and exit. Especially for no-self. Why is there no entry and exit?
Me (Soh): Anatta (no-self) is always so, not a stage to attain. So it's about realisation and shift of perception.
John Tan: Yes 👍

As John also used to say to someone else, "Insight that 'anatta' is a seal and not a stage must arise to further progress into the 'effortless' mode. That is, anatta is the ground of all experiences and has always been so, no I. In seeing, always only seen, in hearing always only sound and in thinking, always only thoughts. No effort required and never was there an 'I'."


Here's a description by Daniel Ingram of what is awakening, also an interesting comment about whether he would trade it for anything else. It's a good description which resonates with my experience.

“Since the topic has come up so often and been so bandied about so many times by so many people, let me state here what I mean by 4th path, regardless of what anyone else means by it. It has the following qualities:

1) Utter centerlessness: no watcher, no sense of a watcher, no subtle watcher, no possibility of a watcher. This is immediately obvious just as color is to a man with good eyesight as the old saying goes. Thus, anything and everything simply and obviously manifest just where they are. No phenomena observe any others and never did or could.

2) Utter agencylessness: meaning no agency, no sense of doing, no sense of doer, no sense that there could be any agent or doer, no way to find anything that seems to be in control at all. Whatever effort or intent or anything like that that arises does so naturally, causally, inevitably, as it always actually did. This is immediately obvious, though not always the forefront of attention.

3) No cycles change or stages or states or anything else like that do anything to this direct comprehension of simple truths at all.

4) There is no deepening in it to do. The understanding stands on its own and holds up over cycles, moods, years, etc and doesn't change at all. I have nothing to add to my initial assessment of it from 9 years ago.

5) There is nothing subtle about it: anything and everything that arises exhibits these same qualities directly, clearly. When I was third path, particularly late in it, those things that didn't exhibit these qualities were exceedingly subtle, and trying to find the gaps in the thing was exceedingly difficult and took years and many cycles. I had periods from weeks to months where it felt done and then some subtle exception would show up and I would realize I was wrong yet again, so this is natural and understandable, and if someone claims 4th as I define it here and later says they got it wrong, have sympathy for them, as this territory is not easy and can easily fool people, as it did me many, many times over about 5 years or so. However, 4th, as I term it, ended that and 9 years later that same thing holds, which is a very long time in this business.

There are other aspects that may be of value to discuss at some other time, but those are a great place to start for those who wish to claim this. If you truly have those, then perhaps we can talk about a few other points that are less central and essential.

Now, how there can still be affect (though quite modified in many ways) when there is centerlessness and agencylessness, this is a mystery to the AF kids and to me as well, and that brings me to my next point: there seems to be areas of development depending on what you look for and aim for that may arise independently, and not everything seems to come as a package necessarily. Those things are what I looked for really hard for about 7 years, and that is what I found. Now I find that the interest in the unraveling of what drives that residual affect is arising, and so that investigation happens on its own also.

Perhaps people will find this helpful in some way.”


"Well, these debates go on and on and on.

A few simple points:

I still very much recommend my criteria as helpfully posted above. They have merit and value, and achieving those really shifts reality to something much better, having myself tried the before and after, I can tell you that from my point of view there is nothing more important that I achieved and attained than the total elimination of all sense of doer, watcher, controller, center point, observer, etc. True and total elimination of duality was a massive step up from the near total elimination of it: no comparison at all. It is hard to imagine that anyone else wouldn't value it the same way I do, but then tastes differ.

There are many axes of development: insight, concentration (and it has many axes within it), morality (an endless festival of axes to develop, including emotional and psychological health). Insight stands alone in that it is all basically towards one goal, and that goal does transform the relationship to all of the rest of it in ways that provide global improvement at the core sensate and paradigmatic levels of intrinsic processing. The rest are all also important, but nothing does what that does.

I really appreciate the chapter in Chögyam Trungpa's Journey Without Goal about the Five Buddha Families. This is a video of that chapter by the crazy old dead perverted but helpful genius himself: The Five Buddha Families

His embracing of the wide range of experience in all its human glory is so valuable, and that helped empower me to really take on everything that was going on in my experience. I still must warn against the limited emotional range models and what they can do to practice: beware becoming like those who follow those: so many complexities occur.

Is my emotional life transformed by my insights? Vastly transformed, no question.

Do I still manifest all the standard emotions: definitely, and some even more strongly than I did before.

Is there vastly less suffering in them as a result of their happening totally on their own just like qualities of space? Absolutely.

Is this anything like the disconnect feared by a poster above? Not in the least: there is no disconnection, because there is no longer any imagined thing to be disconnected.

The field lights up itself totally, without division, without restraint, without any barrier or gap, so disconnection is impossible. Does really honestly feeling what is going on help with emotional transformation more than models that imply that we shouldn't feel what we are feeling? I definitely think so.

Would I trade this for anything? Maybe world peace, but I would have to think about it. Until then, this totally rocks, and missing out on it would be barking crazy from my point of view.

Best wishes, and practice well,


John Tan Purpose of one hand clapping koan is not for the realization of conditionality.
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Alejandro Serrano
Alejandro Serrano Yeah well, it also reveals clapping sound does not rise with a clapping hand. Pretty conditioned.
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Yacine Haffar
Yacine Haffar Please do tell us more John :)
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John Tan
John Tan Yacine, conditionality is crucial but more about a specific taste of suchness. Here "suchness" means ur mind itself.

We can say duality and non-duality r too conditionality but the aim is more abt the direct taste of "mind" itself, when experienced
as dual, what is it.

When experienced as non-dual how is it directly.

Means how this taste is like when in dual, in non-dual or in oneness.

Of course we can say it is to point out "conditionality and mind" but it is more abt the immediate mind itself.

Directing one to see the relationship of "externality of things" and "internal mind" and express not the "logic" but the "taste" of it.
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· Reply · 1d · Edited
Alejandro Serrano
Alejandro Serrano John Tan yes. But I’m interested in knowing how do we get these tastes, and more precisely, putting it into words. Perhaps this inquiry isn’t very zen. Or maybe it is even though we get too wordy. Yet being wordy has indeed led me to the open heart. ...See More
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· Reply · 1d
John LM Tan
John LM Tan Alejandro, I would separate non-arisen and emptiness from the luminosity. Imo, it's a separate pointing. The one hand clapping here directly points to the luminosity.

What is the way that leads the practitioner to “the direct taste”? In zen, koan
is the technique and the way.

The one hand clapping koan is the instrument that leads one to directly and intuitively authenticate presence = sound.

Let’s use another koan for example, “Before birth who am I?”, this is similar to just asking “Who am I”. The “Before birth” here is to skilfully lead the thinking mind to penetrate to the limit of its own depth and suddenly completely cease and rest, leaving only I-I. Only this I as pure existence itself. Before birth, this I. After birth, this I. This life or 10 thousand lives before, this I. 10 thousand lives after, still this I. The direct encounter of the I-I.

Similarly the koan of the sound of one hand clapping, is to lead the practitioner after initial break-through into I-I not to get stuck in dead water and attached to the Absolute. To direct practitioner to see the ten thousand faces of presence face to face. In this case, it is that “Sound” of one hand clapping.

Whether one hand claps or before both hands clap, what is that sound? It attempts to lead the practitioner into just that “Sound”. All along there is only one hand clapping, two hands (duality) are not needed. It is quite similar to contemplating "in hearing always only sound, no hearer".

As for the empty and non-arisen nature of that Sound, zen koans have not (imo) been able to effectively point to the non-arisen and emptiness of one’s radiance clarity.
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· Reply · 12h · Edited
What is the sound of one hand clapping?

“Q: Subject and object are nondual?

KW: You know the Zen koan, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Usually, of course, we need two hands to clap--and that is the structure of typical experience. We have a sense of ourselves as a subject in here, and the world as an object out there. We have these "two hands" of experience, the subject and the object. And typical experience is a smashing of these two hands together to make a commotion, a sound. The object out there smashes into me as a subject, and I have an experience--the two hands clap together and experience emerges.

And so the typical structure of experience is like a punch in the face. The ordinary self is the battered self--it is utterly battered by the universe "out there." The ordinary self is a series of bruises, of scars, the results of these two hands of experience smashing together. This bruising is called "duhkha," suffering. As Krishnamurti used to say, in that gap between the subject and the object lies the entire misery of humankind.

But with the nondual state, suddenly there are not two hands. Suddenly, the subject and the object are one hand. Suddenly, there is nothing outside of you to smash into you, bruise you, torment you.
Suddenly, you do not have an experience, you are every experience that arises, and so you are instantly released into all space: you and the entire Kosmos are one hand, one experience, one display, one gesture of great perfection. There is nothing outside of you that you can want, or desire, or seek, or grasp--your soul expands to the corners of the universe and embraces all with infinite delight. You are utterly Full, utterly Saturated, so full and saturated that the bound- aries to the Kosmos completely explode and leave you without date or duration, time or location, awash in an ocean of infinite care. You are released into the All, as the All--you are the self-seen radiant Kosmos, you are the universe of One Taste, and the taste is utterly infinite.

So what is the sound of that one hand clapping? What is the taste of that One Taste? When there is nothing outside of you that can hit you, hurt you, push you, pull you--what is the sound of that one hand clapping?

See the sunlight on the mountains? Feel the cool breeze? What is not utterly obvious? Who is not already enlightened? As a Zen Master put it, "When I heard the sound of the bell ringing, there was no I, and no bell, just the ringing." There is no twiceness, no twoness, in immediate experience! No inside and no outside, no subject and no object--just immediate awareness itself, the sound of one hand clapping.

So you are not in here, on this side of a transparent window, looking at the Kosmos out there. The transparent window has shattered, your bodymind drops, you are free of that confinement forever, you are no longer "behind your face" looking at the Kosmos--you simply are the Kosmos. You are all that. Which is precisely why you can swallow the Kosmos and span the centuries, and nothing moves at all. The sound of this one hand clapping is the sound the Big Bang made. It is the sound of supernovas exploding in space. It is the sound of the robin singing. It is the sound of a waterfall on a crystal-clear day. It is the sound of the entire manifest universe--and you are that sound.

Which is why your Original Face is not in here. It is the sheerest Emptiness or transparency of this shimmering display. If the Kosmos is arising, you are that. If nothing arises, you are that. In either case, you are that. In either case, you are not in here. The window has shattered. The gap between the subject and object is gone. There is no twiceness, no twoness, to be found anywhere--the world is never given to you twice, but always only once--and you are that. You are that One Taste.

This state is not something you can bring about. This nondual state, this state of One Taste, is the very nature of every experience before you slice it up. This One Taste is not some experience you bring about through effort; rather, it is the actual condition of all experience before you do anything to it. This uncontrived state is prior to effort, prior to grasping, prior to avoiding. It is the real world before you do anything to it, including the effort to "see it non-dually."

So you don't have to do something special to awareness or to experience in order to make it nondual. It starts out nondual, its very nature is nondual--prior to any grasping, any effort, any contrivance. If effort arises, fine; if effort doesn't arise, fine; in either case, there is only the immediacy of One Taste, prior to effort and non-effort alike.

So this is definitely not a state that is hard to get into, but rather one that is impossible to avoid. It has always been so. There has never been a moment when you did not experience One Taste--it is the only constant in the entire Kosmos, it is the only reality in all of reality. In a million billion years, there has never been a single second that you weren't aware of this Taste; there has never been a single second where it wasn't directly in your Original Face like a blast of arctic air.

Of course, we have often lied to ourselves about this, we have often been untruthful about this, the universe of One Taste, the primordial sound of one hand clapping, our own Original Face. And the nondual traditions aim, not to bring about this state, because that is impossible, but simply to point it out to you so that you can no longer ignore it, no longer lie to yourself about who you really are.

Q: So this nondual state--does this include the duality of mind and body, of Left and Right?

KW: Yes. The primordial state is prior to, but not other to, the entire world of dualistic Form. So in that primordial state there is no subject and object, no interior and exterior, no Left and no Right. All of those dualities continue to arise, but they are relative truths, not absolute or primordial truth itself. The primordial truth is the ringing; the relative truth is the "I" and the "bell," the mind and the body, the subject and the object. They have a certain relative reality, but they are not, as Eckhart would say, the final word.

And therefore the dilemmas inherent in those relative dualisms cannot be solved on the relative plane itself. Nothing you can do to the "I" or the "bell" will make them one; you can only relax into the prior ringing, the immediacy of experience itself, at which point the dilemma does not arise. It is not solved, it is dissolved--and not by reducing the subject to the object, or the object to the subject, but by recognizing the primordial ground of which each is a partial reflection.

Which is why the dilemmas inherent in those dualisms--between mind and body, mind and brain, consciousness and form, mind and nature, subject and object, Left and Right--cannot be solved on the relative plane--which is why that problem has never been solved by conventional philosophy. The problem is not solved, but rather dis- solved, in the primordial state, which otherwise leaves the dualisms just as they are, possessing a certain conventional or relative reality, real enough in their own domains, not but absolute.”

Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything. Chapter 13.