Wrong Interpretation of I AM as Background

(Article last updated: 25th June 2019 - added some excerpts by Gil Fronsdil and Thusness towards the end)

(Much of the following are a compilation of what Thusness/PasserBy wrote from a few sources with minimal editing.)

Like a river flowing into the ocean, the self dissolves into nothingness. When a practitioner becomes thoroughly clear about the illusionary nature of the individuality, subject-object division does not take place. A person experiencing “AMness” will find “AMness in everything”. What is it like?

Being freed from individuality -- coming and going, life and death, all phenomenon merely pop in and out from the background of the AMness. The AMness is not experienced as an ‘entity’ residing anywhere, neither within nor without; rather it is experienced as the ground reality for all phenomenon to take place. Even in the moment of subsiding (death), the yogi is thoroughly authenticated with that reality; experiencing the ‘Real’ as clear as it can be. We cannot lose that AMness; rather all things can only dissolve and re-emerges from it. The AMness has not moved, there is no coming and going. This "AMness" is God.

Practitioners should never mistake this as the true Buddha Mind!
"I AMness" is the pristine awareness. That is why it is so overwhelming. Just that there is no 'insight' into its emptiness nature. Nothing stays and nothing to hold on to. What is real, is pristine and flows, what stays is illusion. The sinking back to a background or Source is due to being blinded by strong karmic propensities of a 'Self'. It is a layer of ‘bond’ that prevents us from ‘seeing’ something…it is very subtle, very thin, very fine…it goes almost undetected. What this ‘bond’ does is it prevents us from ‘seeing’ what “WITNESS” really is and makes us constantly fall back to the Witness, to the Source, to the Center. Every moment we want to sink back to Witness, to the Center, to this Beingness, this is an illusion. It is habitual and almost hypnotic.

But what exactly is this “witness” we are talking about? It is the manifestation itself! It is the appearance itself! There is no Source to fall back, the Appearance is the Source! Including the moment to moment of thoughts. The problem is we choose, but all is really it. There is nothing to choose.

There is no mirror reflecting
All along manifestation alone is.
The one hand claps
Everything IS!

In between “I AMness” and no “Mirror Reflecting”, there is another distinct phase I would name it as “Mirror Bright Clarity”. The Eternal Witness is experienced as a formless crystal clear mirror reflecting all phenomenon existence. There is a clear knowledge that ‘self’ does not exist but the last trace of the karmic propensity of ‘self’ is still not completely eliminated. It resides in a very subtle level. In no mirror reflecting, the karmic propensity of ‘self’ is loosen to a great extent and the true nature of the Witness is seen. All along there is no Witness witnessing anything, the manifestation alone is. There is only One. The second hand does not exist…

There is no invisible witness hiding anywhere. Whenever we attempt to fall back to an invisible transparent image, it is again the mind game of thought. It is the ‘bond’ at work. (See Thusness's Six Stages of Experience)

Transcendental glimpses are misled by the cognitive faculty of our mind. That mode of cognition is dualistic. All is Mind but this mind is not to be taken as ‘Self’. “I Am”, Eternal Witness, are all products of our cognition and is the root cause that prevents true seeing. 

When consciousness experiences the pure sense of “I AM”, overwhelmed by the transcendental thoughtless moment of Beingness, consciousness clings to that experience as its purest identity. By doing so, it subtly creates a ‘watcher’ and fails to see that the ‘Pure Sense of Existence’ is nothing but an aspect of pure consciousness relating to the thought realm. This in turn serves as the karmic condition that prevents the experience of pure consciousness that arises from other sense-objects. Extending it to the other senses, there is hearing without a hearer and seeing without a seer -- the experience of Pure Sound-Consciousness is radically different from Pure Sight-Consciousness. Sincerely, if we are able to give up ‘I’ and replace it with “Emptiness Nature”, Consciousness is experienced as non-local. There isn't a state that is purer than the other. All is just One Taste, the manifold of Presence.

The ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘when’, the ‘I’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ must ultimately give way to the experience of total transparency. Do not fall back to a source, just the manifestation is sufficient. This will become so clear that total transparency is experienced. When total transparency is stabilized, transcendental body is experienced and dharmakaya is seen everywhere. This is the samadhi bliss of Bodhisattva. This is the fruition of practice.

Experience all appearance with total vitality, vividness and clarity. They are really our Pristine Awareness, every moment and everywhere in all its manifolds and diversities. When causes and conditions is, manifestation is, when manifestation is, Awareness is. All is the one reality.

Look! The formation of the cloud, the rain, the color of the sky, the thunder, all these entirety that is taking place, what is it? It is Pristine Awareness. Not identified with anything, not bounded within the body, free from definition and experience what is it. It is the entire field of our pristine awareness taking place with its emptiness nature. 

If we fall back to 'Self', we are enclosed within. First we must go beyond symbols and see behind the essence that takes place. Master this art until the factor of enlightenment arises and stabilizes, the 'self' subsides and the ground reality without core is understood.

Very often it is understood that beingness is in the experience of "I AM", even without the words and label of "I AM", the 'pure sense of existence', the presence still IS. It is a state of resting in Beingness. But in Buddhism, it is also possible to experience everything, every moment the unmanifested.

The key also lies in 'You' but it is to "see" that there is no 'You' instead. It is to 'see' that there is never any do-er standing in the midst of phenomenal arising. There is just mere happening due to emptiness nature, never an 'I' doing anything. When the 'I' subsides, symbols, labels and the entire layer of conceptual realm goes with it. What is left without a 'doer' is a mere happening.

And seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling and not only that, everything appears as purely spontaneous manifestation. A whole Presence of the manifold.

Up to a certain stage after insight of non-duality, there is a hurdle. Somehow the practitioner cannot really "breakthrough" the spontaneity of non-duality. This is because of the latent deep 'view' cannot sync with non-dual experience. Hence, the realisation/insight into the Viewless View of Emptiness is necessary. (more on Emptiness later)

Over the years I have refined the term “naturalness” into “spontaneously arise due to conditions”. When condition is, Presence Is. Not bounded within a space-time continuum. It helps to dissolve the centricity.

Since appearance is all there is and appearance is really the source, what gives rise to the diversities of appearances? “Sweetness” of sugar isn’t the “blueness” color of the sky. Same applies to “AMness”… all are equally pure, no one state is purer than the other, only condition differs. Conditions are factors that give appearances their ‘forms’. In Buddhism, pristine awareness and conditions are inseparable.
The 'bond' is greatly loosened after "no mirror reflecting". From blinking your eyes, raising a hand...jumps...flowers, sky, chirping birds, footsteps...every single moment...nothing is not it! There is just IT. The instantaneous moment is total intelligence, total life, total clarity. Everything Knows, it's it. There is no two, there is one. Smile

During the process of transition from 'Witness' to 'no Witness' some experience the manifestation as itself being intelligence, some experience it as immense vitality, some experience it as tremendous clarity and some, all 3 qualities explode into one single moment. Even then the 'bond' is far from being completely eliminated, we know how subtle it can be ;) . The principle of conditionality might help if you face problem in future (I know how a person feel after the experience of non-duality, they don't like 'religion'... :) Just simply 4 sentences).

When there is this, that is.
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this is not, neither is that.
With the cessation of this, that ceases.

Not for scientists, more crucial for the experience of the totality of our Pristine Awareness. 
The 'who' is gone, the 'where' and 'when' isn't (Soh: after initial breakthrough of anatta insight).

Find delights in -- this is, that is. :)

Although there is non-duality in Advaita Vedanta (Comments by Soh in 2022: In rare variants of Advaita Vedanta like Greg Goode's or Atmananda's Direct Path, even [subtle subject/object] Witness is eventually collapsed and the notion of Consciousness too is dissolved later in the end -- see https://www.amazon.com/After-Awareness-Path-Greg-Goode/dp/1626258090), and no-self in Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta rest in an “Ultimate Background” (making it dualistic), whereas Buddhism eliminates the background completely and rest in the emptiness nature of phenomena; arising and ceasing is where pristine awareness is. In Buddhism, there is no eternality, only timeless continuity (timeless as in vividness in present moment but change and continue like a wave pattern). There is no changing thing, only change.

Thoughts, feelings and perceptions come and go; they are not ‘me’; they are transient in nature. Isn’t it clear that if I am aware of these passing thoughts, feelings and perceptions, then it proves some entity is immutable and unchanging? This is a logical conclusion rather than experiential truth. The formless reality seems real and unchanging because of propensities (conditioning) and the power to recall a previous experience. (See The Spell of Karmic Propensities)

There is also another experience, this experience does not discard or disown the transients -- forms, thoughts, feelings and perceptions. It is the experience that thought thinks and sound hears. Thought knows not because there is a separate knower but because it is that which is known. It knows because it's it. It gives rise to the insight that isness never exists in an undifferentiated state but as transient manifestation; each moment of manifestation is an entirely new reality, complete in its own.

The mind likes to categorize and is quick to identify. When we think that awareness is permanent, we fail to 'see' the impermanence aspect of it. When we see it as formless, we missed the vividness of the fabric and texture of awareness as forms. When we are attached to ocean, we seek a waveless ocean, not knowing that both ocean and wave are one and the same. Manifestations are not dust on the mirror, the dust is the mirror. All along there is no dust, it becomes dust when we identify with a particular speck and the rest becomes dust.

Unmanifested is the manifestation,
The no-thing of everything,
Completely still yet ever flowing,
This is the spontaneous arising nature of the source.
Simply Self-So.
Use self-so to overcome conceptualization.
Dwell completely into the incredible realness of the phenomenal world.


Update, 2022, by Soh:

When people read "no witness" they might mistakenly think this is a denial of the witness/witnessing or existence. They have misunderstood and should read this article: 

No Awareness Does Not Mean Non-Existence of Awareness

Partial excerpts:

John TanSaturday, September 20, 2014 at 10:10am UTC+08

When u present to 不思, u must not deny 觉 (awareness). But emphasized how 覺 (awareness) is effortlessly and marvelously manifests without the slightest sense of referencing and point of centricity and duality and subsuming ...be it here, now, in, out...this can only come from realization of anatta, DO and emptiness so that the spontaneity of 相 (appearance) is realized to one's radiance clarity.


(4:20 PM) Thusness:    buddhism stresses more on direct experience.
(4:20 PM) Thusness:    there is no-self apart from the arising and ceasing
(4:20 PM) AEN:    icic..
(4:20 PM) Thusness:    and from arising and ceasing one sees the emptiness nature of 'Self'
(4:21 PM) Thusness:    There is Witnessing.
(4:21 PM) Thusness:    Witnessing is the manifestation.
(4:21 PM) Thusness:    there is no witness witnessing manifestation.
(4:21 PM) Thusness:    that is buddhism.


(11:42 PM) Thusness:    i have always said it is not the denial of eternal witness.
(11:42 PM) Thusness:    but what exactly is that eternal witness?
(11:42 PM) Thusness:    it is the real understanding of eternal witness.
(11:43 PM) AEN:    yeah i tot so
(11:43 PM) AEN:    so its something like david carse right
(11:43 PM) Thusness:    without the 'seeing' and 'veil' of momentum, of reacting to propensities.
(11:43 PM) AEN:    emptiness, yet luminous
(11:43 PM) AEN:    icic
(11:43 PM) Thusness:    however when one quote what buddha said, does he understand first of all.
(11:43 PM) Thusness:    is he seeing eternal witness as in the advaita?
(11:44 PM) AEN:    he's probably confused
(11:44 PM) Thusness:    or is he seeing free from propensities.
(11:44 PM) AEN:    he never explicitly mention but i believe his understanding is something like that la
(11:44 PM) Thusness:    so there is no point quoting if it is not seen.
(11:44 PM) AEN:    icic
(11:44 PM) Thusness:    otherwise it is just saying the atman view again.
(11:44 PM) Thusness:    so u should be very clear by now...and not to be confused.
(11:44 PM) AEN:    icic
(11:45 PM) Thusness:    what have i told u?
(11:45 PM) Thusness:    u have also written in ur blog.
(11:45 PM) Thusness:    what is eternal witness?
(11:45 PM) Thusness:    it is the manifestation...moment to moment of arising
(11:45 PM) Thusness:    does one see with the propensities and what is really it?
(11:45 PM) Thusness:    that is more important.
(11:46 PM) Thusness:    i have said so many times that the experience is correct but the understanding is wrong.
(11:46 PM) Thusness:    wrong view.
(11:46 PM) Thusness:    and how perception influence experience and wrong understanding.
(11:46 PM) Thusness:    so don't quote here and there with just a snap shot...
(11:47 PM) Thusness:    be very very clear and know with wisdom so that u will know what is right and wrong view.
(11:47 PM) Thusness:    otherwise u will be reading this and get confused with that.


(3:55 PM) Thusness:    it is not to deny the existence of the luminosity
(3:55 PM) Thusness:    the knowingness
(3:55 PM) Thusness:    but rather to have the correct view of what consciousness is.
(3:56 PM) Thusness:    like non-dual
(3:56 PM) Thusness:    i said there is no witness apart from the manifestation, the witness is really the manifestation
(3:56 PM) Thusness:    this is the first part
(3:56 PM) Thusness:    since the witness is the manifestation, how is it so?
(3:57 PM) Thusness:    how is the one is really the many?
(3:57 PM) AEN:    conditions?
(3:57 PM) Thusness:    saying that the one is the many is already wrong.
(3:57 PM) Thusness:    this is using conventional way of expression.
(3:57 PM) Thusness:    for in reality, there is no such thing of the 'one'
(3:57 PM) Thusness:    and the many
(3:58 PM) Thusness:    there is only arising and ceasing due to emptiness nature
(3:58 PM) Thusness:    and the arising and ceasing itself is the clarity.
(3:58 PM) Thusness:    there is no clarity apart from the phenomena
(4:00 PM) Thusness:    if we experience non-dual like ken wilber and talk about the atman.
(4:00 PM) Thusness:    though the experience is true, the understanding is wrong.
(4:00 PM) Thusness:    this is similar to "I AM".
(4:00 PM) Thusness:    except that it is higher form of experience.
(4:00 PM) Thusness:    it is non-dual.

Session Start: Sunday, October 19, 2008

(1:01 PM) Thusness: Yes
(1:01 PM) Thusness: Actually practice is not to deny this 'Jue' (awareness)

(6:11 PM) Thusness: the way u explained as if 'there is no Awareness'.
(6:11 PM) Thusness: People at times mistaken what u r trying to convey.but to correctly understand this 'jue' so that it can be experienced from all moments effortlessly.
(1:01 PM) Thusness: But when a practitioner heard that it is not 'IT', they immediately began to worry because it is their most precious state.
(1:01 PM) Thusness: All the phases written is about this 'Jue' or Awareness.
(1:01 PM) Thusness: However what Awareness really is isn't correctly experienced.
(1:01 PM) Thusness: Because it isn't correctly experienced, we say that 'Awareness that u try to keep' does not exist in such a way.
(1:01 PM) Thusness: It does not mean there is no Awareness.


(12:02 AM) Thusness: it is not that there is no awareness
(12:02 AM) Thusness: it is understanding awareness not from a subject/object view
(12:02 AM) Thusness: not from an inherent view
(12:03 AM) Thusness: that is dissolving subject/object understanding into events, action, karma
(12:04 AM) Thusness: then we gradually understand that the 'feeling' of someone there is really just a 'sensation' of an inherent view
(12:04 AM) Thusness: means a 'sensation', a 'thought'
inherent view
(12:06 AM) Thusness: how this lead to liberation requires the direct experience
(12:06 AM) Thusness: so liberation it is not freedom from 'self' but freedom from 'inherent view'
(12:07 AM) AEN: icic..
(12:07 AM) Thusness: get it?
(12:07 AM) Thusness: but it is important to experience luminosity

Session Start: Saturday, 27 March, 2010

(9:54 PM) Thusness: Not bad for self-enquiry
(9:55 PM) AEN: icic..
btw what do u think lucky and chandrakirti is trying to convey
(9:56 PM) Thusness: those quotes weren't really well translated in my opinion.
(9:57 PM) Thusness: what needs be understood is 'No I' is not to deny Witnessing consciousness.
(9:58 PM) Thusness: and 'No Phenomena' is not to deny Phenomena
(9:59 PM) Thusness: It is just for the purpose of 'de-constructing' the mental constructs.
(10:00 PM) AEN: oic..
(10:01 PM) Thusness: when u hear sound, u cannot deny it...can u?
(10:01 PM) AEN: ya
(10:01 PM) Thusness: so what r u denying?
(10:02 PM) Thusness: when u experience the Witness as u described in ur thread 'certainty of being', how can u deny this realization?
(10:03 PM) Thusness: so what is does 'no I' and 'no phenomena' mean?
(10:03 PM) AEN: like u said its only mental constructs that are false... but consciousness cant be denied ?
(10:03 PM) Thusness: no...i am not saying that
Buddha never deny the aggregates
(10:04 PM) Thusness: just the selfhood
(10:04 PM) Thusness: the problem is what is meant by 'non-inherent', empty nature, of phenomena and 'I'


(11:15 PM) Thusness:    but understanding it wrongly is another matter
can u deny Witnessing?
(11:16 PM) Thusness:    can u deny that certainty of being?
(11:16 PM) AEN:    no
(11:16 PM) Thusness:    then there is nothing wrong with it
how could u deny ur very own existence?
(11:17 PM) Thusness:    how could u deny existence at all
(11:17 PM) Thusness:    there is nothing wrong experiencing directly without intermediary the pure sense of existence
(11:18 PM) Thusness:    after this direct experience, u should refine ur understanding, ur view, ur insights
(11:19 PM) Thusness:    not after the experience, deviate from the right view, re-enforce ur wrong view
(11:19 PM) Thusness:    u do not deny the witness, u refine ur insight of it
what is meant by non-dual
(11:19 PM) Thusness:    what is meant by non-conceptual
what is being spontaneous
what is the 'impersonality' aspect
(11:20 PM) Thusness:    what is luminosity.
(11:20 PM) Thusness:    u never experience anything unchanging
(11:21 PM) Thusness:    in later phase, when u experience non-dual, there is still this tendency to focus on a background... and that will prevent ur progress into the direct insight into the TATA as described in the tata article.
(11:22 PM) Thusness:    and there are still different degree of intensity even u realized to that level.
(11:23 PM) AEN:    non dual?
(11:23 PM) Thusness:    tada (an article) is more than non-dual...it is phase 5-7
(11:24 PM) AEN:    oic..
(11:24 PM) Thusness:    it is all about the integration of the insight of anatta and emptiness
(11:25 PM) Thusness:    vividness into transience, feeling what i called 'the texture and fabric' of Awareness as forms is very important
then come emptiness
(11:26 PM) Thusness:    the integration of luminosity and emptiness

(10:45 PM) Thusness:    do not deny that Witnessing but refine the view, that is very important
(10:46 PM) Thusness:    so far, u have correctly emphasized the importance of witnessing
(10:46 PM) Thusness:    unlike in the past, u gave ppl the impression that u r denying this witnessing presence
(10:46 PM) Thusness:    u merely deny the personification, reification and objectification
(10:47 PM) Thusness:    so that u can progress further and realize our empty nature.
but don't always post what i told u in msn
(10:48 PM) Thusness:    in no time, i will become sort of cult leader
(10:48 PM) AEN:    oic.. lol
(10:49 PM) Thusness:    anatta is no ordinary insight.  When we can reach the level of thorough transparency, u will realize the benefits
(10:50 PM) Thusness:    non-conceptuality, clarity, luminosity, transparency, openness, spaciousness, thoughtlessness, non-locality...all these descriptions become quite meaningless.


(7:39 PM) Thusness:    it is always witnessing...don't get it wrong
just whether one understand its emptiness nature or not.
(7:39 PM) Thusness:    there is always luminosity
since when there is no witnessing?
(7:39 PM) Thusness:    it is just luminosity and emptiness nature
not luminosity alone

(9:59 PM) Thusness:    there is always this witnessing...it is the divided sense that u have to get rid
(9:59 PM) Thusness:    that is why i never deny the witness experience and realization, just the right understanding 


(2:58 PM) Thusness:    There is no problem being the witness, the problem is only wrong understanding of what witness is.
(2:58 PM) Thusness:    That is seeing duality in Witnessing.
(2:58 PM) Thusness:    or seeing 'Self' and other, subject-object division.  That is the problem.
(2:59 PM) Thusness:    U can call it Witnessing or Awareness, there must be no sense of self.

(11:21 PM) Thusness:    yes witnessing
not witness
(11:22 PM) Thusness:    in witnessing, it is always non-dual
(11:22 PM) Thusness:    when in witness, it is always a witness and object being witness
when there is an observer, there is no such thing as no observed
(11:23 PM) Thusness:    when u realised that there is only witnessing, there is no observer and observed
it is always non-dual
(11:24 PM) Thusness:    that is why when genpo something said there is no witness only witnessing, yet taught the staying back and observed 
(11:24 PM) Thusness:    i commented the path deviates from the view
(11:25 PM) AEN:    oic..
(11:25 PM) Thusness:    when u teach experience the witness, u teach that
that is not about no subject-object split
u r teaching one to experience that witness
(11:26 PM) Thusness:    first stage of insight of the "I AM"

(2:52 PM) Thusness: r u denying the "I AMness" experience?
(2:54 PM) AEN: u mean in the post?
(2:54 PM) AEN: no
(2:54 PM) AEN: its more like the nature of 'i am' rite
(2:54 PM) Thusness: what is being denied?
(2:54 PM) AEN: the dualistic understanding?
(2:55 PM) Thusness: yes it is the wrong understanding of that experience.  Just like 'redness' of a flower.
(2:55 PM) AEN: oic..
(2:55 PM) Thusness: Vivid and seems real and belongs to the flower.  It only appears so, it is not so.
(2:57 PM) Thusness: When we see in terms of subject/object dichotomy, it appears puzzling that there is thoughts, no thinker.  There is sound, no hearer and there is rebirth, but no permanent soul being reborn.
(2:58 PM) Thusness: It is puzzling because of our deeply held view of seeing things inherently where dualism is a subset of this 'inherent' seeing.
(2:59 PM) Thusness: So what is the problem?
(2:59 PM) AEN: icic..
(2:59 PM) AEN: the deeply held views?
(2:59 PM) Thusness: yeah
(2:59 PM) Thusness: what is the problem?
(3:01 PM) AEN: back
(3:02 PM) Thusness: The problem is the root cause of suffering lies in this deeply held view.  We search and are attached because these views.  This is the relationship between 'view' and 'consciousness'.  There is no escape.  With inherent view, there is always 'I' and 'Mine'.  There is always 'belongs' like the 'redness' belongs to the flower.
(3:02 PM) Thusness: Therefore despite all transcendental experiences, there is no liberation without right understanding.

Soh: Also, the Awakening to Reality community recommends practicing self enquiry to realize the I AM first, before proceeding into nondual, anatta and emptiness. Hence this post is not about denying I AM but pointing out the need to further uncover the nondual, anatta, empty nature of Presence. 

The realisation of anatta is crucial to bring that taste of non-dual Presence into all manifestations and situations and conditions without any trace of contrivity, effort, referentiality, center, or boundaries... it is the dream come true of anyone that had realised the Self/I AM/God, it is the key that brings it into full blown maturity every moment in life without effort.

It is what brings the pellucidity and beyond measure brilliance bright of Pure Presence into everything, it is not an inert or dull state of non-dual experience.

It is what allows this experience:

"What is presence now? Everything... Taste saliva, smell, think, what is that? Snap of a finger, sing.  All ordinary activity, zero effort therefore nothing attained. Yet is full accomplishment. In esoteric terms, eat God, taste God, see God, hear God...lol. That is the first thing I told Mr. J few years back when he first messaged me 😂 If a mirror is there, this is not possible. If clarity isn't empty, this isn't possible. Not even slightest effort is needed. Do you feel it? Grabbing of my legs as if I am grabbing presence! Do you have this experience already? When there is no mirror, then entire existence is just lights-sounds-sensations as single presence. Presence is grabbing presence. The movement to grab legs is Presence.. the sensation of grabbing legs is Presence.. For me even typing or blinking my eyes. For fear that it is misunderstood, don't talk about it. Right understanding is no presence, for every single sense of knowingness is different. Otherwise Mr. J will say nonsense... lol. When there is a mirror, this is not possible. Think I wrote to longchen (Sim Pern Chong) about 10 years ago.” - John Tan

“It is such a blessing after 15 years of "I Am" to come to this point . Beware that the habitual tendencies will try its very best to take back what it has lost.  Get use to doing nothing. Eat God, taste God, see God and touch God.

Congrats.” – John Tan to Sim Pern Chong after his initial breakthrough from I AM to no-self in 2006, http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2013/12/part-2-of-early-forum-posts-by-thusness_3.html

“An interesting comment Mr. J. After realization… Just eat God, breathe God, smell God and see God… Lastly be fully unestablished and liberate God.” - John Tan, 2012


"The purpose of anatta is to have full blown experience of the heart -- boundlessly, completely, non-dually and non-locally. Re-read what I wrote to Jax.

In every situations, in all conditions, in all events. It is to eliminate unnecessary contrivity so that our essence can be expressed without obscuration.

Jax wants to point to the heart but is unable to express in a non-dual way... for in duality, the essence cannot be realized. All dualistic interpretation are mind made. You know the smile of Mahākāśyapa? Can you touch the heart of that smile even 2500 yrs later?

One must lose all mind and body by feeling with entire mind and body this essence which is  (Mind). Yet  (Mind) too is 不可得 (ungraspable/unobtainable).. The purpose is not to deny  (Mind) but rather not to place any limitations or duality so that  (Mind) can fully manifest.

Therefore without understanding  (conditions)is to limit  (Mind). without understanding (conditions)is to place limitation in its manifestations. You must fully experience  (Mind) by realizing 无心 (No-Mind) and fully embrace the wisdom of 不可得 (ungraspable/unobtainable)." - John Tan/Thusness, 2014

For those still practicing self-enquiry to realise the I AM, do keep this in mind:

John Tan wrote in Dharma Overground back in 2009,


“Hi Gary,


It appears that there are two groups of practitioners in this forum, one adopting the gradual approach and the other, the direct path. I am quite new here so I may be wrong.


My take is that you are adopting a gradual approach yet you are experiencing something very significant in the direct path, that is, the ‘Watcher’. As what Kenneth said, “You're onto something very big here, Gary. This practice will set you free.” But what Kenneth said would require you to be awaken to this ‘I’. It requires you to have the ‘eureka!’ sort of realization. Awaken to this ‘I’, the path of spirituality becomes clear; it is simply the unfolding of this ‘I’.


On the other hand, what that is described by Yabaxoule is a gradual approach and therefore there is downplaying of the ‘I AM’. You have to gauge your own conditions, if you choose the direct path, you cannot downplay this ‘I’; contrary, you must fully and completely experience the whole of ‘YOU’ as ‘Existence’. Emptiness nature of our pristine nature will step in for the direct path practitioners when they come face to face to the ‘traceless’, ‘centerless’ and ‘effortless’ nature of non-dual awareness.


Perhaps a little on where the two approaches meet will be of help to you.


Awakening to the ‘Watcher’ will at the same time ‘open’ the ‘eye of immediacy’; that is, it is the capacity to immediately penetrate discursive thoughts and sense, feel, perceive without intermediary the perceived. It is a kind of direct knowing. You must be deeply aware of this “direct without intermediary” sort of perception -- too direct to have subject-object gap, too short to have time, too simple to have thoughts. It is the ‘eye’ that can see the whole of ‘sound’ by being ‘sound’. It is the same ‘eye’ that is required when doing vipassana, that is, being ‘bare’. Be it non-dual or vipassana, both require the opening of this 'eye of immediacy'.”


In the Chinese version of the above description of I AMness, John Tan wrote in 2007,




: 修行人不可错认这便是真正的佛心啊!由于执着于觉体与甚深的业力,修行人会难以入眠,严重时会得失眠症,而无法入眠多年。"


Once a practitioner deeply experiences the illusoriness of “self/self-image”, the illusory “self-image” dissolves like a river merges into the great ocean, dissolving without a trace. This moment is also the arising of the Great Self.  This Great Self is pure, mystically alive, clear and bright, just like an empty space-mirror reflecting the ten thousand things. The coming and going, birth and death, rise and fall, the ten thousand events and ten thousand phenomena simply arise and cease according to conditions as illusory manifestations appearing from within the ground-substratum of the Great Self. The ground-substratum never gets affected, is still and without movement, without coming and without going. This Great Self is the Atman-Brahman, God-Self.

Commentary: Practitioners should not mistaken this as the True Buddha Mind! Due to the karmic force of grasping at a substance of awareness, a practitioner may have difficulty entering sleep, and in serious cases may experience insomnia, the inability to fall asleep for many years.”


John Tan, 2008:

The Transience

The arising and ceasing is called the Transience,
Is self luminous and self perfected from beginning.
However due to the karmic propensity that divides,
The mind separates the ‘brilliance’ from the ever arising and ceasing.
This karmic illusion constructs ‘the brilliance’,
Into an object that is permanent and unchanging.
The ‘unchanging’ which appears unimaginably real,
Only exists in subtle thinking and recalling.
In essence the luminosity is itself empty,
Is already unborn, unconditioned and ever pervading.
Therefore fear not the arising and ceasing.


There is no this that is more this than that.
Although thought arises and ceases vividly,
Every arising and ceasing remains as entire as it can be.

The emptiness nature that is ever manifesting presently
Has not in anyway denied its own luminosity.

Although non-dual is seen with clarity,
The urge to remain can still blind subtly.
Like a passerby that passes, is gone completely.
Die utterly
And bear witness of this pure presence, its non-locality.

~ Thusness/Passerby

And hence... "Awareness" is not anymore "special" or "ultimate" than the transient mind.
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-------------- Update: 2022

Soh to someone at the I AM phase: In my AtR (awakening to reality community), more than 50+ people have realised anatta and most have went through the same phases (from I AM to non dual to anatta ... and many have now went into twofold emptiness)

For practical purpose, if you had the I AM awakening, and focus on contemplating and practicing based on these articles, you will be able to awaken the anatta insight within a year. Plenty of people get stuck at I AM for decades or lifetimes, but I progressed from I AM to anatta realisation within a year due to guidance from John Tan and focusing on the following contemplations: 1) The Four Aspects of I AM , http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2018/12/four-aspects-of-i-am.html 2) The Two Nondual Contemplations , https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/12/two-types-of-nondual-contemplation.html 3) The Two Stanzas of Anatta , http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html 4) Bahiya Sutta , http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2008/01/ajahn-amaro-on-non-duality-and.html and http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2010/10/my-commentary-on-bahiya-sutta.html

its important to go into the textures and forms of awareness, not just dwell on formless... then with contemplating the two stanzas of anatta, you will breakthrough to nondual anatta

here's an excerpt from another good article 

“It is extremely difficult to express what is ‘Isness’. Isness is awareness as forms. It is a pure sense of presence yet encompassing the ‘transparent concreteness’ of forms. There is a crystal clear sensations of awareness manifesting as the manifold of phenomenal existence. If we are vague in the experiencing of this ‘transparent concreteness’ of Isness, it is always due to that ‘sense of self’ creating the sense of division… ...you must stress the ‘form’ part of awareness. It is the ‘forms’, it is the ‘things’.” - John Tan, 2007

-------------- 2nd Update of 2022

Refuting Substantialist View of Nondual Consciousness

It has come to my attention that this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAZPWu084m4 "Vedantic Self and Buddhist Non-Self | Swami Sarvapriyananda" is circulating around in the internet and forums and is very popular. I appreciate Swami's attempts at comparisons but do not agree that Candrakirti's analysis leaves non-dual consciousness as the final irreducible reality, undeconstructed. Basically in summary, Swami Sarvapriyananda suggests that the sevenfold analysis deconstructs a separate eternal Self, like the Witness or Atman of the dualist Samkhya schools, but leaves the nondual Brahman of the nondualist Advaita schools untouched, and the analogy he gave is that consciousness and forms are like gold and necklace, they are nondual and not a separate witness. This nondual substrate (the "goldness of everything" so to speak) that is the substance of everything truly exists.

Because of this video, I realized I needed to update my blog article containing a compilation of quotes from John Tan and myself and a few others: 3) Buddha Nature is NOT "I Am" http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2007/03/mistaken-reality-of-amness.html -- it is important for me to update because I have sent this article to people online (along with other articles depending on conditions, usually I also send 1) Thusness/PasserBy's Seven Stages of Enlightenment http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html and possibly 2) On Anatta (No-Self), Emptiness, Maha and Ordinariness, and Spontaneous Perfection http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html -- the responses in general are very positive and lots of people have benefitted). Should have updated it earlier for clarification.

I have huge respect for Advaita Vedanta and other schools of Hinduism be it dualist or nondualist, as well as other mystical traditions based on an ultimate Self or Nondual Consciousness found in various and all religions. But the Buddhist emphasis is on the three dharma seals of Impermanence, Suffering, No-Self. And Emptiness and Dependent Origination. Therefore we need to emphasize the distinctions in terms of experiential realisations as well, and as Archaya Mahayogi Shridhar Rana Rinpoche said, "I must reiterate that this difference in both the system is very important to fully understand both the systems properly and is not meant to demean either system." - http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/search/label/Acharya%20Mahayogi%20Shridhar%20Rana%20Rinpoche .

Here's the additional paragraphs I added into http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2007/03/mistaken-reality-of-amness.html :

Between I AM and Anatta realization, there is a phase that John Tan, I and many others have underwent. It is the phase of One Mind, where nondual Brahman is seen to be like the substance or substratum of all forms, nondual with all forms but yet having an unchanging and independent existence, which modulates as anything and everything. The analogy is gold and necklace, gold can be made into necklaces of all shapes, but in reality all forms and shapes are only of the substance of Gold. Everything is in final analysis only Brahman, it only appears to be various objects when its fundamental reality (pure singularity of nondual consciousness) is misperceived into a multiplicity. In this phase, consciousness is no longer seen to be a dualistic Witness that is separate from appearances, as all appearances are apperceived to be the one substance of pure nondual consciousness modulating as everything.

Such views of substantial nondualism ("gold"/"brahman"/"pure nondual consciousness that is unchanging") is also seen through in Anatta realization. As John Tan said before, "Self is conventional. Cannot mix up the 2. Otherwise one is talking about mind-only.", and "need to separate [Soh: deconstruct] self/Self from awareness. Then even awareness is de-constructed in both freedom from all elaborations or self-nature."

For more information on this subject, see the must read articles 7) Beyond Awareness: reflections on identity and awareness http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2018/11/beyond-awareness.html and 6) Differentiating I AM, One Mind, No Mind and Anatta http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2018/10/differentiating-i-am-one-mind-no-mind.html

Here's an excerpt from the longer [non-abridged version] of AtR guide:

Commentary by Soh, 2021: “At phase 4 one may be trapped in the view that everything is one awareness modulating as various forms, like gold being shaped into various ornaments while never leaving its pure substance of gold. This is the Brahman view. Although such a view and insight is non-dual, it is still based on a paradigm of essence-view and ‘inherent existence’. Instead, one should realise the emptiness of awareness [being merely a name just like ‘weather’ – see chapter on the weather analogy], and should understand consciousness in terms of dependent origination. This clarity of insight will get rid of the essence view that consciousness is an intrinsic essence that modulates into this and that. As the book ‘What the Buddha Taught’ by Walpola Rahula quoted two great Buddhist scriptural teachings on this matter:

It must be repeated here that according to Buddhist philosophy there is no permanent, unchanging spirit which can be considered 'Self', or 'Soul", or 'Ego', as opposed to matter, and that consciousness (vinnana) should not be taken as 'spirit' in opposition to matter. This point has to be particularly emphasized, because a wrong notion that consciousness is a sort of Self or Soul that continues as a permanent substance through life, has persisted from the earliest time to the present day.

One of the Buddha's own disciples, Sati by name, held that the Master taught: 'It is the same consciousness that transmigrates and wanders about.' The Buddha asked him what he meant by 'consciousness'. Sati's reply is classical: 'It is that which expresses, which feels, which experiences the results of good and bad deeds here and there'.

'To whomever, you stupid one', remonstrated the Master, 'have you heard me expounding the doctrine in this manner? Haven't I in many ways explained consciousness as arising out of conditions: that there is no arising of consciousness without conditions.' Then the Buddha went on to explain consciousness in detail: "Conciousness is named according to whatever condition through which it arises: on account of the eye and visible forms arises a consciousness, and it is called visual consciousness; on account of the ear and sounds arises a consciousness, and it is called auditory consciousness; on account of the nose and odours arises a consciousness, and it is called olfactory consciousness; on account of the tongue and tastes arises a consciousness, and it is called gustatory consciousness; on account of the body and tangible objects arises a consciousness, and it is called tactile consciousness; on account of the mind and mind-objects (ideas and thoughts) arises a consciousness, and it is called mental consciousness.'

Then the Buddha explained it further by an illustration: A fire is named according to the material on account of which it burns. A fire may burn on account of wood, and it is called woodfire. It may bum on account of straw, and then it is called strawfire. So consciousness is named according to the condition through which it arises.

Dwelling on this point, Buddhaghosa, the great commentator, explains: '. . . a fire that burns on account of wood burns only when there is a supply, but dies down in that very place when it (the supply) is no longer there, because then the condition has changed, but (the fire) does not cross over to splinters, etc., and become a splinter-fire and so on; even so the consciousness that arises on account of the eye and visible forms arises in that gate of sense organ (i.e., in the eye), only when there is the condition of the eye, visible forms, light and attention, but ceases then and there when it (the condition) is no more there, because then the condition has changed, but (the consciousness) does not cross over to the ear, etc., and become auditory consciousness and so on . . .'

The Buddha declared in unequivocal terms that consciousness depends on matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, and that it cannot exist independently of them. He says:

'Consciousness may exist having matter as its means (rupupayam) matter as its object (rupdrammanam) matter as its support (rupapatittham) and seeking delight it may grow, increase and develop; or consciousness may exist having sensation as its means ... or perception as its means ... or mental formations as its means, mental formations as its object, mental formations as its support, and seeking delight it may grow, increase and develop.

'Were a man to say: I shall show the coming, the going, the passing away, the arising, the growth, the increase or the development of consciousness apart from matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, he would be speaking of something that does not exist.'“

Bodhidharma likewise taught: Seeing with insight, form is not simply form, because form depends on mind. And, mind is not simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other. … Mind and the world are opposites, appearances arise where they meet. When your mind does not stir inside, the world does not arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is the true insight.” (from the Wakeup Discourse) Awakening to Reality: Way of Bodhi http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2018/04/way-of-bodhi.html

Soh wrote in 2012,

25th February 2012

I see Shikantaza (The Zen meditation method of “Just Sitting”) as the natural expression of realization and enlightenment.

But many people completely misunderstand this... they think that practice-enlightenment means there is no need for realization, since practicing is enlightenment. In other words, even a beginner is as realized as the Buddha when meditating.

This is plain wrong and thoughts of the foolish.

Rather, understand that practice-enlightenment is the natural expression of realization... and without realization, one will not discover the essence of practice-enlightenment.

As I told my friend/teacher 'Thusness', “I used to sit meditation with a goal and direction. Now, sitting itself is enlightenment. Sitting is just sitting. Sitting is just the activity of sitting, air con humming, breathing. Walking itself is enlightenment. Practice is not done for enlightenment but all activity is itself the perfect expression of enlightenment/buddha-nature. There is nowhere to go."

I see no possibility of directly experiencing this unless one has clear direct non-dual insight. Without realizing the primordial purity and spontaneous perfection of this instantaneous moment of manifestation as Buddha-nature itself, there will always be effort and attempt at 'doing', at achieving something... whether it be mundane states of calmness, absorption, or supramundane states of awakening or liberation... all are just due to the ignorance of the true nature of this instantaneous moment.

However, non-dual experience can still be separated into:

1) One Mind

- lately I have been noticing that majority of spiritual teachers and masters describe non-dual in terms of One Mind. That is, having realized that there is no subject-object/perceiver-perceived division or dichotomy, they subsume everything to be Mind only, mountains and rivers all are Me - the one undivided essence appearing as the many.

Though non-separate, the view is still of an inherent metaphysical essence. Hence non-dual but inherent.

2) No Mind

Where even the 'One Naked Awareness' or 'One Mind' or a Source is totally forgotten and dissolved into simply scenery, sound, arising thoughts and passing scent. Only the flow of self-luminous transience.


However, we must understand that even having the experience of No Mind is not yet the realization of Anatta. In the case of No Mind, it can remain a peak experience. In fact, it is a natural progression for a practitioner at One Mind to occasionally enter into the territory of No Mind... but because there is no breakthrough in terms of view via realization, the latent tendency to sink back into a Source, a One Mind is very strong and the experience of No Mind will not be sustained stably. The practitioner may then try his best to remain bare and non-conceptual and sustain the experience of No Mind through being naked in awareness, but no breakthrough can come unless a certain realization arises.

In particular, the important realization to breakthrough this view of inherent self is the realization that Always Already, never was/is there a self - in seeing always only just the seen, the scenery, shapes and colours, never a seer! In hearing only the audible tones, no hearer! Just activities, no agent! A process of dependent origination itself rolls and knows... no self, agent, perceiver, controller therein.

It is this realization that breaks down the view of 'seer-seeing-seen', or 'One Naked Awareness' permanently by realizing that there never was a 'One Awareness' - 'awareness', 'seeing', 'hearing' are only labels for the everchanging sensations and sights and sounds, like the word 'weather' don't point to an unchanging entity but the everchanging stream of rain, wind, clouds, forming and parting momentarily...

Then as the investigation and insights deepen, it is seen and experienced that there is only this process of dependent origination, all the causes and conditions coming together in this instantaneous moment of activity, such that when eating the apple it is like the universe eating the apple, the universe typing this message, the universe hearing the sound... or the universe is the sound. Just that... is Shikantaza. In seeing only the seen, in sitting only the sitting, and the whole universe is sitting... and it couldn't be otherwise when there is no self, no meditator apart from meditation. Every moment cannot 'help' but be practice-enlightenment... it is not even the result of concentration or any form of contrived effort... rather it is the natural authentication of the realization, experience and view in real-time.

Zen Master Dogen, the proponent of practice-enlightenment, is one of the rare and clear jewels of Zen Buddhism who have very deep experiential clarity about anatta and dependent origination. Without deep realization-experience of anatta and dependent origination in real time, we can never understand what Dogen is pointing to... his words may sound cryptic, mystical, or poetic, but actually they are simply pointing to this.

Someone 'complained' that Shikantaza is just some temporary suppressing of defilements instead of the permanent removal of it. However if one realizes anatta then it is the permanent ending of self-view, i.e. traditional stream-entry ( https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/igored/insight_buddhism_a_reconsideration_of_the_meaning/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf%20 ).


More recently Soh also wrote to someone:

It is actually very simple to understand. You know the word 'weather'? It's not a thing in itself, right? It's just a label for the everchanging patterns of clouds forming and departing, wind blowing, sun shining, rain falling, so on and so forth, a myriad and conglomerate of everchanging dependently originating factors on display.

Now, the correct way is to realise 'Awareness' is no other than weather, it is just a word for the seen, the heard, the sensed, everything reveals itself as Pure Presence and yes at death the formless clear light Presence or if you tune into that aspect, it is just another manifestation, another sense door that is no more special. 'Awareness' just like 'weather' is a dependent designation, it is a mere designation that has no intrinsic existence of its own.

The wrong way of viewing it is as if 'Weather' is a container existing in and of itself, in which the rain and wind comes and goes but Weather is some sort of unchanging background which modulates as rain and wind. That is pure delusion, there is no such thing, such a 'weather' is purely a mentally fabricated construct with no real existence at all upon investigation. Likewise, 'Awareness' does not exist as something unchanging and persists while modulating from one state to another, it is not like 'firewood' that 'changes into ashes'. Firewood is firewood, ashes is ashes.

Dogen said:

"When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death."

(Note that Dogen and Buddhists do not reject rebirth, but does not posit an unchanging soul undergoing rebirth, see Rebirth Without Soul http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2018/12/reincarnation-without-soul.html )



when one realise that awareness and manifestation is not of a relationship between an inherently existing substance and its appearance.. but rather is like water and wetness ( http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2018/06/wetness-and-water.html ), or like 'lightning' and 'flash' ( http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2013/01/marshland-flowers_17.html ) -- there never was a lightning besides flash nor as an agent of flash, no agent or noun is required to initiate verbs.. but just words for the same happening.. then one goes into anatta insight

those with essence view thinks something is turning into another thing, like universal consciousness is transforming into this and that and changing.. anatta insight sees through the inherent view and sees only dependently originating dharmas, each momentary instance is disjoint or delinked although interdependent with all other dharmas. it is not the case of something transforming into another.


[3:44 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Anurag Jain

Soh Wei Yu

the Witness collapses after the gestalt of arisings are seen through in Direct Path. Objects, as you have already mentioned, should have been thoroughly deconstructed before. With objects and arisings deconstructed there is nothing to be a Witness of and it collapses.


 · Reply

 · 1m

[3:46 PM, 1/1/2021] John Tan: Not true.  Object and arising can also collapse through subsuming into an all encompassing awareness.

[3:48 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: yeah but its like nondual

[3:49 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: means after the collapse of the Witness and arising, it can be nondual

[3:49 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: but still one mind

[3:49 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: right?

[3:49 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: but then atmananda also said at the end even the notion of consciousness dissolves

[3:49 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: i think thats like one mind into no mind but im not sure whether it talks about anatta

[3:50 PM, 1/1/2021] John Tan: Yes.

[3:57 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Anurag Jain

Soh Wei Yu

where is the notion of "all encompassing awareness". Sounds like awareness is being reified as a container.

     · Reply

     · 5m

Anurag Jain

Soh Wei Yu

also when you say Consciousness dissolves, you have to first answer how did it ever exist in the first place? 🙂

 · Reply

 · 4m

[3:57 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: lol

[4:01 PM, 1/1/2021] John Tan: In subsuming there is no container-contained relationship, there is only Awareness.

[4:03 PM, 1/1/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Anurag Jain

So Soh Wei Yu

how does Awareness "remain"? Where and how?

 · Reply

 · 1m

[4:04 PM, 1/1/2021] John Tan: Anyway this is not for unnecessary debates, if he truly understands then just let it be.


"Yes.  Subject and object can both collapsed into pure seeing but it is only when this pure seeing is also dropped/exhausted that natural spontaneity and effortlessness can begin to function marvelously.  That is y it has to be thorough and all the "emphasis".  But I think he gets it, so u don't have to keep nagging 🤣." - John Tan


Mipham Rinpoche wrote, excerpts from Madhyamaka, Cittamātra, and the true intent of Maitreya and Asaṅga self.Buddhism http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2020/09/madhyamaka-cittamatra-and-true-intent.html :

...Why, then, do the Mādhyamika masters refute the Cittamātra tenet system? Because self-styled proponents of the Cittamātra tenets, when speaking of mind-only, say that there are no external objects but that the mind exists substantially—like a rope that is devoid of snakeness, but not devoid of ropeness. Having failed to understand that such statements are asserted from the conventional point of view, they believe the nondual consciousness to be truly existent on the ultimate level. It is this tenet that the Mādhyamikas repudiate. But, they say, we do not refute the thinking of Ārya Asaṅga, who correctly realized the mind-only path taught by the Buddha...

...So, if this so-called “self-illuminating nondual consciousness” asserted by the Cittamātrins is understood to be a consciousness that is the ultimate of all dualistic consciousnesses, and it is merely that its subject and object are inexpressible, and if such a consciousness is understood to be truly existent and not intrinsically empty, then it is something that has to be refuted. If, on the other hand, that consciousness is understood to be unborn from the very beginning (i.e. empty), to be directly experienced by reflexive awareness, and to be self-illuminating gnosis without subject or object, it is something to be established. Both the Madhyamaka and Mantrayāna have to accept this...


The cognizer perceives the cognizable;
Without the cognizable there is no cognition;
Therefore why do you not admit
That neither object nor subject exists [at all]?

The mind is but a mere name;
Apart from it's name it exists as nothing;
So view consciousness as a mere name;
Name too has no intrinsic nature.

Either within or likewise without,
Or somewhere in between the two,
The conquerors have never found the mind;
So the mind has the nature of an illusion.

The distinctions of colors and shapes,
Or that of object and subject,
Of male, female and the neuter -
The mind has no such fixed forms.

In brief the Buddhas have never seen
Nor will they ever see [such a mind];
So how can they see it as intrinsic nature
That which is devoid of intrinsic nature?

"Entity" is a conceptualization;
Absence of conceptualization is emptiness;
Where conceptualization occurs,
How can there be emptiness?

The mind in terms of perceived and perceiver,
This the Tathagatas have never seen;
Where there is the perceived and perceiver,
There is no enlightenment.

Devoid of characteristics and origination,
Devoid of substantiative reality and transcending speech,
Space, awakening mind and enlightenment
Posses the characteristics of non-duality.

- Nagarjuna


Also, lately I have noticed many people in Reddit, influenced by Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teaching that anatta is simply a strategy of disidentification, rather than teaching the importance of realizing anatta as an insight into a dharma seal http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2021/07/anatta-is-dharma-seal-or-truth-that-is.html , think that anatta is merely "not self" as opposed to no-self and emptiness of self. Such an understanding is wrong and misleading. I have written about this 11 years ago in my article Anatta: Not-Self or No-Self? http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2011/10/anatta-not-self-or-no-self_1.html with many scriptural citations to back my statements.

-------------- Update: 15/9/2009

The Buddha on 'Source'

Thanissaro Bhikkhu said in a commentary on this sutta Mulapariyaya Sutta: The Root Sequence - https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN1.html:
Although at present we rarely think in the same terms as the Samkhya philosophers, there has long been — and still is — a common tendency to create a "Buddhist" metaphysics in which the experience of emptiness, the Unconditioned, the Dharma-body, Buddha-nature, rigpa, etc., is said to function as the ground of being from which the "All" — the entirety of our sensory & mental experience — is said to spring and to which we return when we meditate. Some people think that these theories are the inventions of scholars without any direct meditative experience, but actually they have most often originated among meditators, who label (or in the words of the discourse, "perceive") a particular meditative experience as the ultimate goal, identify with it in a subtle way (as when we are told that "we are the knowing"), and then view that level of experience as the ground of being out of which all other experience comes.
Any teaching that follows these lines would be subject to the same criticism that the Buddha directed against the monks who first heard this discourse.

Rob Burbea said regarding that sutta in Realizing the Nature of Mind:
One time the Buddha to a group of monks and he basically told them not to see Awareness as The Source of all things. So this sense of there being a vast awareness and everything just appears out of that and disappears back into it, beautiful as that is, he told them that’s actually not a skillful way of viewing reality. And that is a very interesting sutta, because it’s one of the only suttas where at the end it doesn’t say the monks rejoiced in his words.
This group of monks didn’t want to hear that. They were quite happy with that level of insight, lovely as it was, and it said the monks did not rejoice in the Buddha’s words. (laughter) And similarly, one runs into this as a teacher, I have to say. This level is so attractive, it has so much of the flavor of something ultimate, that often times people are unbudgeable there.
-------------- Update: 21/7/2008

Is Awareness The Self or The Center?

The first stage of experiencing awareness face to face is like a point on a sphere which you called it the center. You marked it.

Then later you realised that when you marked other points on the surface of a sphere, they have the same characteristics. This is the initial experience of non-dual. (but due to our dualistic momentum, there is still no clarity even if there is the experience of non-duality)

Ken Wilber: While you are resting in that state (of the Witness), and “sensing” this Witness as a great expanse, if you then look at, say, a mountain, you might begin to notice that the sensation of the Witness and the sensation of the mountain are the same sensation. When you “feel” your pure Self and you “feel” the mountain, they are absolutely the same feeling.

When you are asked to find another point on the surface of the sphere, you won't be sure but you are still very careful.

Once the insight of No-Self is stabilized, you just freely point to any point on the surface of the sphere -- all points are a center, hence there is no 'the' center. 'The' center does not exist: all points are a center.

When you say 'the center', you are marking a point and claim that it is the only point that has the characteristic of a 'center'. The intensity of the pure beingness is itself a manifestation. It is needless to divide into inner and outer as there will also come a point where high intensity of clarity will be experienced for all sensations. So not to let the 'intensity' create the layering of inner and outer.

Now, when we do not know what is a sphere, we do not know that all the points are the same. So when a person first experiences non-duality with the propensities still in action, we cannot fully experience the mind/body dissolution and the experience isn't clear. Nevertheless we are still careful of our experience and we try to be non-dual.

But when the realisation is clear and sank deep into our inmost consciousness, it is really effortless. Not because it is a routine but because there is nothing needed to be done, just allowing expanse of consciousness naturally.

-------------- Update: 15/5/2008

An Elaboration on Emptiness

Like a red flower that is so vivid, clear and right in front of an observer, the “redness” only appears to “belong” to the flower, it is in actuality not so. Vision of red does not arise in all animal species (dogs cannot perceive colours) nor is the “redness” an attribute of the mind. If given a “quantum eyesight” to look into the atomic structure, there is similarly no attribute “redness” anywhere found, only almost complete space/void with no perceivable shapes and forms. Whatever appearances are dependently arisen, and hence is empty of any inherent existence or fixed attributes, shapes, form, or “redness” -- merely luminous yet empty, mere Appearances without inherent/objective existence. What gives rise to the differences of colours and experiences in each of us? Dependent arising... hence empty of inherent existence. This is the nature of all phenomena.

As you've seen, there is no The Flowerness seen by a dog, an insect or us, or beings from other realms (which really may have a completely different mode of perception). ‘'The Flowerness' is an illusion that does not stay even for a moment, merely an aggregate of causes and conditions. Analogous to the example of ‘flowerness’, there is no ‘selfness’ serving as a background witnessing either -- pristine awareness is not the witnessing background. Rather, the entire whole of the moment of manifestation is our pristine awareness; lucidly clear, yet empty of inherent existence. This is the way of ‘seeing’ the one as many, the observer and the observed are one and the same. This is also the meaning of formlessness and attributelessness of our nature.

Because the karmic propensity of perceiving subject/object duality is so strong, pristine awareness is quickly attributed to 'I', Atman, the ultimate Subject, Witness, background, eternal, formless, odorless, colorless, thoughtless and void of any attributes, and we unknowingly objectified these attributes into an ‘entity’ and make it an eternal background or an emptiness void. It ‘dualifies’ form from formlessness and attempts to separate from itself. This is not ‘I’, ‘I’ am the changeless and perfect stillness behind the transients appearances. When this is done, it prevents us from experiencing the color, texture, fabric and manifesting nature of awareness. Suddenly thoughts are being grouped into another category and disowned. Therefore ‘impersonality’ appears cold and lifeless. But this is not the case for a non-dual practitioner in Buddhism. For him/her, the ‘formlessness and attribute-less’ is vividly alive, full of colors and sounds. ‘Formlessness’ is not understood apart from ‘Forms’ – the ‘form of formlessness’, the texture and fabric of awareness. They are one and the same. In actual case, thoughts think and sound hears. The observer has always been the observed. No watcher needed, the process itself knows and rolls as Venerable Buddhaghosa writes in the Visuddhi Magga.

In naked awareness, there is no splitting of attributes and objectification of these attributes into different groups of the same experience. So thoughts and sense perceptions are not disowned and the nature of impermanence is taken in wholeheartedly in the experience of no-self. ‘Impermanence’ is never what it seems to be, never what that is understood in conceptual thoughts. ‘Impermanence’ is not what the mind has conceptualized it to be. In non-dual experience, the true face of impermanence nature is experienced as happening without movement, change without going anywhere. This is the “what is” of impermanence. It is just so.

Zen Master Dogen and Zen Master Hui-Neng said: "Impermanence is Buddha-Nature."

For further readings on Emptiness, see
The Link Between Non-Duality and Emptiness and The non-solidity of existence


Noumenon and Phenomenon

Zen Master Sheng Yen:

When you are in the second stage, although you feel that the "I" does not exist, the basic substance of the universe, or the Supreme Truth, still exists. Although you recognize that all the different phenomena are the extension of this basic substance or Supreme Truth, yet there still exists the opposition of basic substance versus external phenomena.
One who has entered Chan (Zen) does not see basic substance and phenomena as two things standing in opposition to each other. They cannot even be illustrated as being the back and palm of a hand. This is because phenomena themselves are basic substance, and apart from phenomena there is no basic substance to be found. The reality of basic substance exists right in the unreality of phenomena, which change ceaselessly and have no constant form. This is the Truth.

------------------ Update: 2/9/2008

Excerpt from sgForums by Thusness/Passerby:

AEN posted a great site about what I am trying to convey. Do go through the videos. I will divide what that are being discussed in the videos into the method, the view and the experience for ease of illustration as follows:

1. The method is what that is commonly known as self enquiry.
2. The view currently we have is dualistic. We see things in terms of subject/object division.
3. The experience can be further divided into the followings:

3.1 A strong individual sense of identity

3.2 An oceanic experience free from conceptualization.
This is due to the practitioner freeing himself from conceptuality, from labels and symbols. The mind continuous disassociates itself from all labeling and symbols.

3.3 An oceanic experience dissolving into everything.
The period of non-conceptuality is prolonged. Long enough to dissolve the mind/body ‘symbolic’ bond and therefore inner and outer division is temporarily suspended.

The experience for 3.2 and 3.3 are transcendental and are precious. However these experiences are commonly misinterpreted and distorted by objectifying these experiences into an entity that is “ultimate, changeless and independent”. The objectified experience is known as Atman, God or Buddha Nature by the speaker in the videos. It is known as the experience of “I AM” with differing degree of intensity of non-conceptuality. Usually practitioners that have experienced 3.2 and 3.3 find it difficult to accept the doctrine of Anatta and Emptiness. The experiences are too clear, real and blissful to discard. They are overwhelmed.

Before we go further, why do you think these experiences are distorted?

(hint: The view currently we have is dualistic. We see things in terms of subject/object division.)


There are different types of meditative bliss/joy/rapture.
Like samatha meditation, each jhana state represents a stage of bliss associated with certain level of concentration; the bliss experienced from insight into our nature differs.

The happiness and pleasure experience by a dualistic mind is different from that experienced by a practitioner. “I AMness” is a higher form of happiness as compared to a dualistic mind that continuously chatters. It is a level of bliss associated with a state of ‘transcendence’ – a state of bliss resulting from the experience of “formlessness, odorless, colorless, attributeless and thoughtlessness’.
No-self or non-dual is higher form of bliss resulted from the direct experience of Oneness and no-separation. It is related to the dropping of the ‘I’. When non-dual is free from perceptions, that bliss is a form transcendence-oneness. It is what is called the transparency of non-duality.

The following writings are from another forummer (Soh: Scott Kiloby) who posted in another forum:


As I walked away from the computer, into the kitchen, and then the bathroom, I noticed that I can't make a distinction between the air out here, and me or the air and the sink. Where does one end and the other begin? I'm not being silly here. No, I'm saying, do you see the interplay. How could one be without the other?

I'm taking air into my lungs right now, and noticing the interplay. This keyboard is just at the end of my fingertips, like an extension of me. My mind says "No, that is a keyboard, and these are your fingers. Very different things, " but the awareness doesn't make that distinction so cut and dry. Sure, there is a seeing that my fingers look this way, and the keyboard looks different. But again, the interplay.

Why does the mind make such a distinction between silence and sound. Are we sure these are separate? I just said "yes" into the air. I noticed that there was silence, then the word came into the air, then silence again. These two "things" are married aren't they. How can one be without the other? And so are they separate? Sure, the mind says "yes" they are separate. It might even say something the teachers have said which is "you are awareness." But am I? What about these words, what about this desk. Is that awareness? Where is the distinction.

We make this stuff up as we go don't we? Whatever we want to believe. "it's all one." "I am awareness." "Jesus Christ is my savior." "Peanut butter and jelly is gross." I'm being silly now. But how would I know if these things are separate, form and formlessness if I don't look here now, at this relationship, at how they interact. Again, this feels like an open question. I could say "it's all One" or whatever as I said above and miss the chance to look again at this interplay, and see how my fingers, the keyboard, the air, the space in front of the screen, and the screen play together.


There are two forms of knowing that come into play in mindfulness. One form of knowing has to do with sensing. Sensing  our experience. Then the question is, where does sensing occur? So if you sense your hand right now. Where does the  sensing occur in your hand. Does it occur in the foot, where does it happen? Does the sensing happen in the mind?
...In your hand. Of course. Something happens in your hand, that gives you the sensations right, and I call that sensing. Sensing the hand in the hand. The hand is having its own experience of the hand. Your foot is not experiencing your hands. But that hand is having its own experience of the hand. The mind can know what that experience is, but the
hand is sensing itself. Vibrations, tension, warmth, coolness. The sensations happen right there in the hand. The hand is sensing itself. There is a kind of awareness that exists in the location of where we are experiencing it. Does that make some sense? Any of you are confused at this point?

...Part of what mindfulness practice involves is relaxing into the sensing of the experience. And just allowing ourselves to become the sensations of experience. Bringing a sense of presence or involvement... allow ourselves to really kick in that sensory experience... whatever happens in life, whatever experience we are having, has an element of also being sensory. "Awakening beckons us within everything" is a suggestion - Go in, and dive in to the immediacy of how it is being sensed. That's a nondual world. There is no duality between the experience and the sensation, the sensation and the sensing of it. There is a sensation and sensing of it right there, right? There is no sensation

without a sensing, even though you might not be paying attention to it, there is a kind of sensing that goes on there.  So part of Buddhist practice is to delve into this non-dualistic world... this undivided world of how the sensing is happening in and of itself. Most of us hold ourselves distinct from it, apart from it. We judge it, measure it, define
it against ourselves, but if we relax and delve into the immediacy of life... then there is something in there that the Buddha-seed can begin to blossom and grow.

~ Gil Fronsdal on Buddha Nature, 2004

(another part)... And as that gets kind of being settled and dealt with in practice, in order to get deeper and more  fully into our experience, we also have to somehow deal with [inaudible] very very subtle, which the traditions call a  sense of I Amness. That I Am. And it can seem very innocent, very obvious, that I'm not a doctor, I'm not this and I'm  not that, I'm not going to hold onto that as my identity. But you know, I am. I think, therefore I am. I sense, there I  am. I am conscious, therefore I am. There is some kind of Agent, some kind of Being, some kind of Amness here. Just a  sense of presence, and that presence that kinds of vibrates, that presence kinds of knows itself... just a kind of sense of Amness. And people say, well yeah, that Amness just IS, it's non-dual. There's no outside or inside, just a sense of  amness. The Buddhist traditions says if you want to enter this immediacy of life, enter into the experience of life  fully, you also have to come to terms with the very subtle sense of Amness, and let that dissolve and fall away, and then that opens up into the world of awakening, of freedom.

~ Gil Fronsdal on Buddha Nature, 2004

"Gil Fronsdal (1954) is a Buddhist who has practiced Zen and Vipassana since the 1970s, and is currently a Buddhist teacher who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) of Redwood City, California. He is one of the best-known American Buddhists. He has a PhD in Buddhist Studies from Stanford University. His
many dharma talks available online contain basic information on meditation and Buddhism, as well as subtle concepts of Buddhism explained at the level of the lay person."  he also received dharma transmission from a zen abbot."

Update 2021 with more quotes:

Thusness, 2009:
"...moment of immediate and intuitive illumination that you understood something undeniable and unshakable -- a conviction so powerful that no one, not even Buddha can sway you from this realization because the practitioner so clearly sees the truth of it. It is the direct and unshakable insight of ‘You’. This is the realization that a practitioner must have in order to realize the Zen satori. You will understand clearly why it is so difficult for those practitioners to forgo this ‘I AMness’ and accept the doctrine of anatta. Actually there is no forgoing of this ‘Witness’, it is rather a deepening of insight to include the non-dual, groundlessness and interconnectedness of our luminous nature. Like what Rob said, "keep the experience but refine the views"." - Realization and Experience and Non-Dual Experience from Different Perspectives http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2009/09/realization-and-experience-and-non-dual.html


“[5:24 PM, 4/24/2020] John Tan: What is the most important experience in I AM? What must happen in I AM? There is not even an AM, just I... complete stillness, just I correct?
[5:26 PM, 4/24/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Realization, certainty of being.. yes just stillness and doubtless sense of I/Existence
[5:26 PM, 4/24/2020] John Tan: And what is the complete stillness just I?
[5:26 PM, 4/24/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Just I, just presence itself
[5:28 PM, 4/24/2020] John Tan: This stillness absorbs excludes and includes everything into just I. What is that experience called? That experience is non-dual. And in that experience actually, there is no external nor internal, there is also no observer or observed. Just complete stillness as I.
[5:31 PM, 4/24/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Ic.. yeah even I AM is nondual
[5:31 PM, 4/24/2020] John Tan: That is your first phase of a non dual experience.  We say this is the pure thought experience in stillness. Thought realm. But at that moment we don't know that...we treated that as ultimate reality.
[5:33 PM, 4/24/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Yeah… I find it weird at that time when you said it is non conceptual thought.  Lol
[5:34 PM, 4/24/2020] John Tan: Yeah
[5:34 PM, 4/24/2020] John Tan: Lol” – Excerpt from Differentiating I AM, One Mind, No Mind and Anatta
"The sense of 'Self' must dissolve in all entry and exit points. In the first stage of dissolving, the dissolving of 'Self' relates only to the thought realm. The entry is at the mind level. The experience is the 'AMness'. Having such experience, a practitioner might be overwhelmed by the transcendental experience, attached to it and mistaken it as the purest stage of consciousness, not realizing that it is only a state of 'no-self' relating to the thought realm." - John Tan, decade+ ago


Update 17/7/2021 with more quotes:

The Absolute as separated from the transience is what I have indicated as the 'Background' in my 2 posts to theprisonergreco.

    84. RE: Is there an absolute reality? [Skarda 4 of 4]
    Mar 27 2009, 9:15 AM EDT | Post edited: Mar 27 2009, 9:15 AM EDT
    Hi theprisonergreco,

    First is what exactly is the ‘background’? Actually it doesn’t exist. It is only an image of a ‘non-dual’ experience that is already gone. The dualistic mind fabricates a ‘background’ due to the poverty of its dualistic and inherent thinking mechanism. It ‘cannot’ understand or function without something to hold on to. That experience of the ‘I’ is a complete, non-dual foreground experience.

    When the background subject is understood as an illusion, all transience phenomena reveal themselves as Presence. It is like naturally 'vipassanic' throughout. From the hissing sound of PC, to the vibration of the moving MRT train, to the sensation when the feet touches the ground, all these experiences are crystal clear, no less “I AM” than “I AM”. The Presence is still fully present, nothing is denied. -:) So the “I AM” is just like any other experiences when the subject-object split is gone. No different from an arising sound. It only becomes a static background as an after thought when our dualistic and inherent tendencies are in action.

    The first 'I-ness' stage of experiencing awareness face to face is like a point on a sphere which you called it the center. You marked it.

    Then later you realized that when you marked other points on the surface of a sphere, they have the same characteristics. This is the initial experience of non-dual. Once the insight of No-Self is stabilized, you just freely point to any point on the surface of the sphere -- all points are a center, hence there is no 'the' center. 'The' center does not exist: all points are a center.

    After then practice move from 'concentrative' to 'effortlessness'. That said, after this initial non-dual insight, 'background' will still surface occasionally for another few years due to latent tendencies...

    86. RE: Is there an absolute reality? [Skarda 4 of 4]
    Mar 27 2009, 11:59 AM EDT | Post edited: Mar 27 2009, 11:59 AM EDT
    To be more exact, the so called 'background' consciousness is that pristine happening. There is no a 'background' and a 'pristine happening'. During the initial phase of non-dual, there is still habitual attempt to 'fix' this imaginary split that does not exist. It matures when we realized that anatta is a seal, not a stage; in hearing, always only sounds; in seeing always only colors, shapes and forms; in thinking, always only thoughts. Always and already so. -:)

Many non-dualists after the intuitive insight of the Absolute hold tightly to the Absolute. This is like attaching to a point on the surface of a sphere and calling it 'the one and only center'. Even for those Advaitins that have clear experiential insight of no-self (no object-subject split), an experience similar to that of anatta (First emptying of subject) are not spared from these tendencies. They continue to sink back to a Source.

It is natural to reference back to the Source when we have not sufficiently dissolved the latent disposition but it must be correctly understood for what it is. Is this necessary and how could we rest in the Source when we cannot even locate its whereabout? Where is that resting place? Why sink back? Isn't that another illusion of the mind? The 'Background' is just a thought moment to recall or an attempt to reconfirm the Source. How is this necessary? Can we even be a thought moment apart? The tendency to grasp, to solidify experience into a 'center' is a habitual tendency of the mind at work. It is just a karmic tendency. Realize It! This is what I meant to Adam the difference between One-Mind and No-Mind.

- John Tan, 2009

- Emptiness as Viewless View and Embracing the Transience http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2009/04/emptiness-as-viewless-view.html


    Kevin Schanilec
    Thank you for posting your conversation with John Tan. I'm new here - thank you for approving my joining 🙂
    It seems that the focus on “I Am” is one of the main distinguishing factors between Buddhism and Advaita/Non-dual approaches. Some very well-known teachers in the latter approach say that the Buddha taught the discovery and affirmation of the “I Am” (experienced as being-ness, consciousness, awareness, presence, etc.) as what awakening is all about, whereas the Buddha taught that it is in fact one of our more deeply-held illusions. I’d describe it as a very subtle duality that didn’t appear to be one, and yet once it goes it’s obvious that there was a duality in place.
         · Reply
         · 16m
        Soh Wei Yu
        Kevin Schanilec
        Yes, welcome Kevin Schanilec. I have enjoyed reading some of your articles.
        Regarding I AM: The view and paradigm is still based on 'subject/object duality' and 'inherent existence' despite the moment of nondual experience or authentication. But AtR considers it also an important realization, and like many teachers in Zen, Dzogchen and Mahamudra, even Thai Forest Theravada, it is taught as an important preliminary insight or realization.
        The AtR guide has some excerpts on this:
        "As John Tan also said in 2011:
        “John: what is "I AM"
        is it a pce? (Soh: PCE = pure consciousness experience, see glossary at the bottom of this document)
        is there emotion
        is there feeling
        is there thought
        is there division or complete stillness?
        in hearing there is just sound, just this complete, direct clarity of sound!
        so what is "I AM"?
        Soh Wei Yu: it is the same
        just that pure non conceptual thought
        John: is there 'being'?
        Soh Wei Yu: no, an ultimate identity is created as an afterthought
        John: indeed
        it is the mis-interpretation after that experience that is causing the confusion
        that experience itself is pure conscious experience
        there is nothing that is impure
        that is why it is a sense of pure existence
        it is only mistaken due to the 'wrong view'
        so it is a pure conscious experience in thought.
        not sound, taste, touch...etc
        PCE (Pure Consciousness Experience) is about direct and pure experience of whatever we encounter in sight, sound, taste...
        the quality and depth of experience in sound
        in contacts
        in taste
        in scenery
        has he truly experience the immense luminous clarity in the senses?
        if so, what about 'thought'?
        when all senses are shut
        the pure sense of existence as it is when the senses are shut.
        then with senses open
        have a clear understanding
        do not compare irrationally without clear understanding”
        In 2007:
        (9:12 PM) Thusness: you don't think that "I AMness" is low stage of enlightenment leh
        (9:12 PM) Thusness: the experience is the same. it is just the clarity. In terms of insight. Not experience.
        (9:13 PM) AEN: icic..
        (9:13 PM) Thusness: so a person that has experience "I AMness" and non dual is the same. except the insight is different.
        (9:13 PM) AEN: oic
        (9:13 PM) Thusness: non dual is every moment there is the experience of presence. or the insight into the every moment experience of presence. because what that prevent that experience is the illusion of self and "I AM" is that distorted view. the experience is the same leh.
        (9:15 PM) Thusness: didn’t you see i always say there is nothing wrong with that experience to longchen, jonls... i only say it is skewed towards the thought realm. so don't differentiate but know what is the problem. I always say it is misinterpretation of the experience of presence. not the experience itself. but "I AMness" prevents us from seeing.
        In 2009:
        “(10:49 PM) Thusness: by the way you know about hokai description and "I AM" is the same experience?
        (10:50 PM) AEN: the watcher right
        (10:52 PM) Thusness: nope. i mean the shingon practice of the body, mind, speech into one.
        (10:53 PM) AEN: oh thats i am experience?
        (10:53 PM) Thusness: yes, except that the object of practice is not based on consciousness. what is meant by foreground? it is the disappearance of the background and whats left is it. similarly the "I AM" is the experience of no background and experiencing consciousness directly. that is why it is just simply "I-I" or "I AM"
        (10:57 PM) AEN: i've heard of the way people describe consciousness as the background consciousness becoming the foreground... so there's only consciousness aware of itself and thats still like I AM experience
        (10:57 PM) Thusness: that is why it is described that way, awareness aware of itself and as itself.
        (10:57 PM) AEN: but you also said I AM people sink to a background?
        (10:57 PM) Thusness: yes
        (10:57 PM) AEN: sinking to background = background becoming foreground?
        (10:58 PM) Thusness: that is why i said it is misunderstood. and we treat that as ultimate.
        (10:58 PM) AEN: icic but what hokai described is also nondual experience rite
        (10:58 PM) Thusness: I have told you many times that the experience is right but the understanding is wrong. that is why it is an insight and opening of the wisdom eyes. there is nothing wrong with the experience of I AM". did i say that there is anything wrong with it?
        (10:59 PM) AEN: nope
        (10:59 PM) Thusness: even in stage 4 what did I say?
        (11:00 PM) AEN: its the same experience except in sound, sight, etc
        (11:00 PM) Thusness: sound as the exact same experience as "I AM"... as presence.
        (11:00 PM) AEN: icic
        (11:00 PM) Thusness: yes”
        “"I AM" is a luminous thought in samadhi as I-I. Anatta is a realization of that in extending the insight to the 6 entries and exits.” – John Tan, 2018
        Excerpt from No Awareness Does Not Mean Non-Existence of Awareness http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2019/01/no-awareness-does-not-mean-non.html :
        (11:15 PM) Thusness: but understanding it wrongly is another matter
        can you deny Witnessing?
        (11:16 PM) Thusness: can you deny that certainty of being?
        (11:16 PM) AEN: no
        (11:16 PM) Thusness: then there is nothing wrong with it
        how could you deny your very own existence?
        (11:17 PM) Thusness: how could you deny existence at all
        (11:17 PM) Thusness: there is nothing wrong experiencing directly without intermediary the pure sense of existence
        (11:18 PM) Thusness: after this direct experience, you should refine your understanding, your view, your insights
        (11:19 PM) Thusness: not after the experience, deviate from the right view, re-enforce your wrong view
        (11:19 PM) Thusness: you do not deny the witness, you refine your insight of it
        what is meant by non-dual
        (11:19 PM) Thusness: what is meant by non-conceptual
        what is being spontaneous
        what is the 'impersonality' aspect
        (11:20 PM) Thusness: what is luminosity.
        (11:20 PM) Thusness: you never experience anything unchanging
        PM) Thusness: in later phase, when you experience non-dual, there is
        still this tendency to focus on a background... and that will prevent ur
        progress into the direct insight into the TATA as described in the tata
        article. ( https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2010/04/tada.html )
        (11:22 PM) Thusness: and there are still different degree of intensity even you realized to that level.
        (11:23 PM) AEN: non dual?
        (11:23 PM) Thusness: tada (an article) is more than non-dual...it is phase 5-7
        (11:24 PM) AEN: oic..
        (11:24 PM) Thusness: it is all about the integration of the insight of anatta and emptiness
        PM) Thusness: vividness into transience, feeling what i called 'the
        texture and fabric' of Awareness as forms is very important
        then come emptiness
        (11:26 PM) Thusness: the integration of luminosity and emptiness
        (to be continued)
             · Reply
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             · 7m
        Soh Wei Yu
        (10:45 PM) Thusness: do not deny that Witnessing but refine the view, that is very important
        (10:46 PM) Thusness: so far, you have correctly emphasized the importance of witnessing
        (10:46 PM) Thusness: unlike in the past, you gave ppl the impression that you r denying this witnessing presence
        (10:46 PM) Thusness: you merely deny the personification, reification and objectification
        (10:47 PM) Thusness: so that you can progress further and realize our empty nature.
        but don't always post what i told you in msn
        (10:48 PM) Thusness: in no time, i will become sort of cult leader
        (10:48 PM) AEN: oic.. lol
        (10:49 PM) Thusness: anatta is no ordinary insight. When we can reach the
        level of thorough transparency, you will realize the benefits
        (10:50 PM) Thusness: non-conceptuality, clarity, luminosity, transparency,
        openness, spaciousness, thoughtlessness, non-locality...all these
        descriptions become quite meaningless.
        Session Start: Sunday, October 19, 2008
        (1:01 PM) Thusness: Yes
        (1:01 PM) Thusness: Actually practice is not to deny this 'Jue' (awareness)
        (6:11 PM) Thusness: the way you explained as if 'there is no Awareness'.
        (6:11 PM) Thusness: People at times mistaken what you r trying to convey.but to correctly understand this 'jue' so that it can be experienced from all moments effortlessly.
        (1:01 PM) Thusness: But when a practitioner heard that it is not 'IT', they immediately began to worry because it is their most precious state.
        (1:01 PM) Thusness: All the phases written is about this 'Jue' or Awareness.
        (1:01 PM) Thusness: However what Awareness really is isn't correctly experienced.
        (1:01PM) Thusness: Because it isn't correctly experienced, we say that 'Awareness that you try to keep' does not exist in such a way.
        (1:01 PM) Thusness: It does not mean there is no Awareness.”
        “William Lam: It's non conceptual.
        John Tan: It’s non conceptual. Yup. Okay. Presence is not conceptual experience, it has to be direct. And you just feel pure sense of existence. Means people ask you, before birth, who are you? You just authenticate the I, that is yourself, directly. So when you first authenticate that I, you are damn happy, of course. When young, that time, wah… I authenticate this I… so you thought that you’re enlightened, but then the journey continues. So this is the first time you taste something that is different. It is… It is before thoughts, there is no thoughts. Your mind is completely still. You feel still, you feel presence, and you know yourself. Before birth it is Me, after birth, it is also Me, 10,000 years it’s still this Me, 10,000 year before, it’s still this Me. So you authenticate that, your mind is just that and authenticate your own true being, so you don't doubt that. In later phase…
        Kenneth Bok: Presence is this I AM?
        John Tan: Presence is the same as I AM. Presence is the same as… of course, other people may disagree, but actually they're referring to the same thing. The same authentication, the same what... even in Zen is still the same.
        But in later phase, I conceive that as just the thought realm. Means, in the six, I always call the six entries and six exits, so there is the sound and there’s all these… During that time, you always say I’m not sound, I’m not the appearance, I AM the Self that is behind all these appearances, alright? So, sounds, sensations, all these come and go, your thoughts come and go, those are not me, correct? This is the ultimate Me. The Self is the ultimate Me. Correct?
        William Lam: So, is that nondual? The I AM stage. It’s non-conceptual, was it nondual?
        John Tan: It’s nonconceptual. Yes, it is nondual. Why is it nondual? At that moment, there is no duality at all, at that moment when you experience the Self, you cannot have duality, because you are authenticated directly as IT, as this pure sense of Being. So, it’s completely I, there’s nothing else, just I. There’s nothing else, just the Self. I think, many of you have experienced this, the I AM. So, you probably will go and visit all the Hinduism, sing song with them, meditate with them, sleep with them, correct? Those are the young days. I meditate with them, hours after hours, meditate, sit with them, eat with them, sing song with them, drum with them. Because this is what they preach, and you find these group of people, all talking about the same language.” - https://docs.google.com/document/d/16QGwYIP_EPwDX4ZUMUQRA30lpFx40ICpVr7u9n0klkY/edit
        ATR Meeting 28 October 2020
        ATR Meeting 28 October 2020
        ATR Meeting 28 October 2020
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        Soh Wei Yu
        "The sense of 'Self' must dissolve in all entry and exit points. In the first stage of dissolving, the dissolving of 'Self' relates only to the thought realm. The entry is at the mind level. The experience is the 'AMness'. Having such experience, a practitioner might be overwhelmed by the transcendental experience, attached to it and mistaken it as the purest stage of consciousness, not realizing that it is only a state of 'no-self' relating to the thought realm." - John Tan, decade+ ago
        “The direct realization of Mind is formless, soundless, smell-less, odourless, etc. But later on it is realised that forms, smells, odours, are Mind, are Presence, Luminosity. Without deeper realisation, one just stagnates in the I AM level and get fixated on the formless, etc. That is Thusness Stage 1.
        The I-I or I AM is later realised to be simply one aspect or 'sense gate' or 'door' of pristine consciousness. It is later seen to be not any more special or ultimate than a color, a sound, a sensation, a smell, a touch, a thought, all of which reveals its vibrant aliveness and luminosity. The same taste of I AM is now extended to all senses. Right now you don't feel that, you only authenticated the luminosity of the Mind/thought door. So your emphasis is on the formless, odourless, and so on. After anatta it is different, everything is of the same luminous, empty taste.
        And the 'I AM' of the mind door is not any more different than any other sense door, it is only different in that it is a 'different' manifestation of differing conditions just like a sound is different from a sight, a smell is different from a touch. Sure, the Mind door is odourless, but that's not any different from saying the vision door is odourless and the sound door is sensationless. It doesn't imply some sort of hierarchy or ultimacy of one mode of knowingness over another. They are simply different sense gates but equally luminous and empty, equally Buddha-nature.” – Soh, 2020
        John Tan:
        When consciousness experiences the pure sense of “I AM”, overwhelmed by the transcendental thoughtless moment of Beingness, consciousness clings to that experience as its purest identity. By doing so, it subtly creates a ‘watcher’ and fails to see that the ‘Pure Sense of Existence’ is nothing but an aspect of pure consciousness relating to the thought realm. This in turn serves as the karmic condition that prevents the experience of pure consciousness that arises from other sense-objects. Extending it to the other senses, there is hearing without a hearer and seeing without a seer -- the experience of Pure Sound-Consciousness is radically different from Pure Sight-Consciousness. Sincerely, if we are able to give up ‘I’ and replace it with “Emptiness Nature”, Consciousness is experienced as non-local. There isn't a state that is purer than the other. All is just One Taste, the manifold of Presence.
        - http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/.../mistaken-reality-of...
        Buddha Nature is NOT "I Am"
        Buddha Nature is NOT "I Am"
        Buddha Nature is NOT "I Am"
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“Session Start: Tuesday, 10 July, 2007

(11:35 AM) Thusness:    X last time used to say something like we should 'yi jue' (rely on awareness) and not 'yi xin' (rely on thoughts) bcos jue is everlasting, thoughts are impermanent... something like that. this is not right. this is advaita teaching.

(11:35 AM) AEN:    oic

(11:36 AM) Thusness:    now what is most difficult to understand in buddhism is this. to experience the unchanging is not difficult. but to experience impermanence yet know the unborn nature is prajna wisdom. It would be a misconception to think that Buddha do not know the state of unchanging. or when Buddha talked about unchanging it is referring to an unchanging background. otherwise why would i have stressed so much about the misunderstanding and misinterpretation. And of course, it is a misunderstanding that I have not experienced the unchanging. 🙂 what you must know is to develop the insight into impermanence and yet realised the unborn. this then is prajna wisdom. to 'see' permanence and say it is unborn is momentum. when buddha say permanence it is not referring to that. to go beyond the momentum you must be able to be naked for a prolong period of time. then experience impermanence itself, not labelling anything. the seals are even more important than the buddha in person. even buddha when misunderstood it becomes sentient. 🙂  longchen [Sim Pern Chong] wrote an interesting passage on closinggap. reincarnation.


(11:47 AM) AEN:    oh ya i read it

(11:48 AM) Thusness:    the one he clarify kyo's reply?

(11:50 AM) AEN:    ya

(11:50 AM) Thusness:    that reply is a very important reply, and it also proves that longchen has realised the importance of transients and the five aggregates as buddha nature. time for unborn nature. You see, it takes one to go through such phases, from "I AM" to Non-dual to isness then to the very very basic of what buddha taught… Can you see that?

(11:52 AM) AEN:    yea

(11:52 AM) Thusness:    the more one experience, the more truth one sees in what buddha taught in the most basic teaching. Whatever longchen experience is not because he read what buddha taught, but because he really experience it.

(11:54 AM) AEN:    icic..”


Also see: The Unborn Dharma

2 Responses
  1. Unknown Says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. javi gomez Says:


    I am currently letting go of trying to dissolve the subject or awareness into the 1 sound, the trees, the keyboard. I just question if there is an awareness outside of manifestation existing as a thing, a background, a subject, an awareness, a witness. I rest in non conceptuality and surrender......letting the awareness merge with object or manifestation. I also use rupert spira's technique of seeing that there is an awareness first. Awareness of I AM. According to rupert it happens by itself. If there is no I, no doer, then realizing enlightenment must also happen by itself.