Jackson Peterson shared some of his recent insights and refined understanding on certain issues in my Facebook group Dharma Connection, a shift towards a more non-substantialist view in comparison with his past.

"What is described is exactly what I call "transparency". There is no sense of observer and observed. Its one piece of self-knowing clarity. Its arisen in this moment as I write. The post transparency mode is where the mistaken imputation occurs. The mind labels the transparency mode as "awareness in oneness with experience". This is the basic error and imputation. Experience is its own awareness, a non-dual happening occurring to "no one". Due to the dualistic imputation, the mind then attempts to focus on the "awareness" side in order to recover the "transparency event". But there is no free-standing "awareness". In this case one is then developing the "awareness witness" mode. It can be pleasant and spacious, but it is not the non-dual "transparency" where luminosity is its own awareness without remainder. The propensity of the mind to impute a separate and subjective awareness as a "mirror" to experience, is now no longer unrecognized. Otherwise its a kind of egoistic eternalism as being a "changeless awareness". The mind likes that imputation.

The vast Intelligence IS the entire event, not a source of it. Here we can also error in separating the Intelligence from experience, as being a "constructor" instead of seeing the event as complete Intelligence itself. There is no "mirror" in transparency, yet the post state is subject to ones conditioning."


Nisargadatta says: "the personality gives way to to the witness, then the witness goes and pure awareness remains." I then would continue the deconstruction to then say: "pure awareness" goes revealing that which is truly "unestablished" as being beyond conceptual description. This is the single step beyond Advaita that differentiates Buddhism from Advaita.

The problem is one like Santa Claus. All the young children across the world agree there is a Santa Claus, but differ regarding his costume and how he arrives.

They don't consider that perhaps there is no Santa Claus at all, and that it was just a "belief". But then they argue: well then how do you account for all our presents that "he" brought us?

We infer a Santa Claus based on experience and evidence. Santa Claus was a convenient explanation and fostered belief only.

Likewise looking deeper we may learn something about "awareness". Because our dualistic mind rips reality into two separate pieces, a perceiving subject and object, we sense an awareness that perceives and objects perceived. In this dualistic illusion we can mistake "awareness" as being one half of the whole. We then create a story about the half alone. This is like ripping the waves off the ocean and discussing the waves as though a possible independent reality as just "pure waves" independent of "ocean and water" were possible.

We do the same with awareness. In the moment of immediate experience as a thought or sensory perception. There is a vivid happening like the gong of a bell. Our mind rips the experience into two pieces, the sound texture and the awareness of it. But in fact the experiential event is a flashing forth of aware-sound-texture, as a unit-like self-known-event. Because of this mental bifurcation, the mind imputes experienced texture and awareness as two independent realities. We then believe in an independent "awareness" or super-pure-awareness. But unfortunately this is a belief that we can successfully verify in dualistic vision from moment to moment, just like looking at pictures of Santa Claus that prove his existence. We remain trapped in our own self-validating loop of dualistic illusion.

Then some guy comes along and says: Hey! There is no Santa Claus and no "awareness" either! Ho, ho ho..,


Beyond Awareness...

Its interesting how these discussions evolve between the "awareness" approach and the other regarding the "emptiness" approach. Some I think get the idea that awareness "disappears" in the "emptiness of awareness" insight. It doesn't disappear by any means, so its not that "awareness" is seen to be an illusion. What is the illusion is that "awareness" exists on its own side as a "perceiver", as though experiences are arising "to awareness".

I found when this is really seen clearly, experiences appearing like the gong sound of a bell, contain the "awareness" element as the sound itself, without a "listener". In Dzogchen all phenomena are described as "essence, nature and energy". Essence is the empty aspect, nature is the clarity and awareness luminosity aspect, and energy is the formative aspect. Energy (thugje) implies a quality of "compassionate reflexiveness" that runs through the whole continuum as Bodhicitta.

So cognitive awareness is a quality of all experience, inherently so or the experiences would never be known, its just not a separate viewer of experience. In Dzogchen one can speak freely of the cognitive "clarity" aspect as though it was a stand-alone phenomena. In fact it is this aspect that is pointed out in what is called a "direct introduction". The intelligence is the "clarity" as "wisdom" (yeshe). Therefore the empty aspect is never absent of awareness-clarity, nor are the appearances. So we could invent a new word: "empty-awareness-luminous-appearances" and I would add that there is an overall "intent" embedded in that totality as a "resonating compassionate concern" as Bodhicitta. As such there is no reason to postulate a background awareness or Brahman. Its all self-contained as non-dual "empty-awareness-luminous-appearances".

We could further refer to "empty-awareness-luminous-appearances" as simply "Buddha Nature". That would mean that all phenomenal and cognitive aspects could be called "Buddha Nature". The term Buddha Nature also implies this quality of a Buddha, compassion. How is this compassion expressed? It is the compassionate action of "awakening" due to pointing out the "right view" that allows the release of all suffering.

To clarify: The Buddha Nature is empty, yet is cognitively bright, and has a quality of self-presenting itself as appearances called "experience". It also has the Buddha qualities of compassion, wisdom and power. The Buddha Nature is never absent at any time as it is all there is on any level. Hence we can more easily understand Dogen's and others comments that "mountains, rivers, streams and the grasses" are all the Buddha Nature. There is only Buddha Nature.

The empty aspect of the Buddha Nature means its is intrinsically free of inherently existing afflictions and substance, yet the luminous clarity and compassionate "alive responsiveness" aspect ensures it's functions for the benefit of all. "Buddhahood for all" is embedded in the display as Bodhicitta and therefore we can always find the true Guru or Buddha within. Its the very essence of what we are.


Some thoughts on "emptiness and appearances":

Some may think that "emptiness" and appearances are two different phenomena or aspects of one reality. But if we think like that we are seeing reality as compounded not non-dual.

Some may think that appearances arise from emptiness, but in fact there is no "causal connection". Appearances are emptiness, not in a "cause and effect" relationship, but in the fact that what we call an appearance is merely a web of relationships that can't be ascertained to be any one apparent part more than another. The absence of the independently existing nature of the appearance is its emptiness. Its empty of itself. So you don't find the emptiness of appearances in some other place or time than as the appearance itself. Its also not that the emptiness is "within" or the "true nature" of the appearance either. The appearance is itself emptiness as it can't be found to exist as the mind believes it to exist. There is indeed an energy event occurring, but there is no way to really pin it down. That's as futile as trying separate a river from the river bed, gravity, and movement. Rarely do we consider those aspects as defining a river. But there is no possibility of there being a river without those aspects being present. So it is also with all appearances, they only "exist" as within their total context, which in itself has no center or border. This can give a sense of the "feeling" of emptiness.

If appearances were caused, that would mean something was actually "caused" and therefore having been caused, now "exists". If we examine any apparent "existent", we won't be able to find a fixed unit of a "something". There are only interdependent relationships. The caused "thing" disappears amongst its various aspects and conditions that in themselves can't be pinned down as being any one thing either. Since there are clearly no "caused" things, then that means "cause and effect" is an illusion. There is just a flow of inter-dependent relationships, none of which ever attain the legitimate status of being either a "cause" or an "effect".

When applying this insight to the notion of there being a "self", we also will fail in finding any one "thing" that we can point to as this "entity" known as a self. It too will become lost in a web of inter-dependent relationships without any one part waving its hand in the air saying "Hey this part is the real me!". Well, almost not any part, except for the "I" or "me". So when we look for this "me", what do we find? Can we separate an independent "me" apart from its context any more successfully than we could with separating a river from its river bed, gravity and motion? In this case the "me" is inseparable from thoughts, self-images, memories, emotions, feelings, identity-stories, the body, consciousness, awareness and sensory experience. Pondering this we may get the sense of the empty nature of the "me".

Who would you be without your story of "me"? Don't answer that question with another "story"! Don't answer that question with a concept, word, sentence or thought. What you may be experiencing in this moment if you followed the instruction, is the "emptiness of "me" or self".

The appearance as a "me" or self is now seen to be "empty of itself". Having recognized the two-fold nature of emptiness of "things" and emptiness of "self"... we simply continue without the futile effort of reifying appearances beyond their own emptiness and hence find unbounded openness as the true nature of experience.

"Cause and effect" exist, but only conceptually.


What's occurring when any appearance is known, is that a "thought" is appearing, a sense of consciousness is appearing, a feeling is appearing, a perception is appearing, a choice is appearing,a sense of an identity is appearing, an action is appearing. But in all that activity there is no one "doing" it or thinking it or choosing the action nor is there a consciousness or an awareness that is perceiving the arising energies. A flashing forth is just what is happening, like individual frames in a movie, each frame a complete presentation in itself. But no one is watching the movie, nothing is aware of the movie. The movie is self-known, frame by frame bursting forth in vivid clarity as vivid clarity... how wonderful, how amazing!

Every appearance is the self-display of "Buddha Nature" flashing forth as the "ten thousand things"...


 What I ask students often is to recognize that aspect of vivid knowing intelligence, the Buddha Wisdom that itself is flashing forth in every moment. We could take any phenomena and look at its constituents. We would notice an energy manifestation, the dependent nature of that energy manifestation, the empty nature of that phenomena (as when a thought appears and disappears in the same moment) and the cognitive element that is making the whole "event" known. When we direct introspectively, our currently present awake and knowing intelligence to refer to itself alone, something special happens. This "intelligence" can recognize itself and that is "self-liberation". This wisdom mind continuum is continuously "enforming" itself. When the "enformed" energy aspect suddenly dissolves in "self-recognition" its quality of emptiness and wisdom is revealed. The empty essence, wisdom-clarity intelligence, and formation are one phenomena, but can be subjectively known with emphasis on any one aspect more than another. When too much of the "formative" is stressed the sense of wisdom and emptiness are not noticed. In samsara all the beings are in the condition of the "formative" being overly emphasized due to reification of subject and object. When the intelligent aspect is directed to look upon its own wisdom or knowing aspect, which is already "empty by nature", the "reifecation" releases and liberation from the tight contraction of self-reification occurs energetically and cognitively.


Essential Non-Duality

Imagine we have "awareness" on one side of a wall and "experience" on the other side of the wall.

Next imagine that we have "waves" on one side of wall and "water" on the other side.

In the case of "awareness" and "experience" the two are prevented from coming together by a wall. In fact our experience seems just like this, doesn't it? But it makes no sense because in order for an experience to be an "experience" a factor of awareness has to be directly "connected" to the aspects of experience or nothing would be experienced. That wall is the illusion of the independence of awareness from experience. It is this same tendency of the mind that creates the illusion of "subject/object" in all experience.

How much distance is there between waves and the water?

It is exactly the same distance as exists between awareness and experience.


Today the weather is sunny. Maybe tomorrow rainy. Sometimes windy, sometimes calm. Sometimes cold and sometimes warm. But no one is doing this weather, its the natural processes of the universe that comprise weather at all times.

Today I am happy. Tomorrow perhaps sad. Sometimes peaceful and kind, sometimes anxious and unpleasant. Sometimes self-centered and other times caring and giving. Sometimes filled with brilliant insights and other times dull and not clear. All of these changes are my inner weather. No one is controlling or causing this weather. The natural processes of the Universe comprise the inner weather at all times.

Its just like this... just One weather blowing this way or that. Today the sun is shining and I am feeling pretty good.


If I can't justify being angry at the weather, how can I find fault with you?


KON:~ ah , i love that Jackson.
The impersonal meteorological perspective on passing mental-emotional phenomena. . . No matter the weather, the sky remains untroubled. And always pervaded with star-light. . .

Jackson: Yes KON,
but even the "untroubled sky pervaded with starlight is just another change in the weather"

~ yes, so seeing/feeling/preferring no difference between a foul and pestilential storm and a sweet sunny spring morning, is something that's often achieved (when it ever is) by recognizing that both are briefly occurring in the "untroubled star-lit sky".

But are you now talking about seeing/feeling/preferring no difference between (1) recognizing that the weather is subsumed in the sky (in order to be free of the binding implication of the weather appearing to be self-existent);
and (2) not recognizing the sky but just allowing the changing weather to flow on by?
So that neither (1) or (2) are preferred over the other. ?

The sense of their being a star lit sky is weather. There is only weather or Buddha Nature.

The "binding" too is weather or Buddha Nature. Nothing is obscuring anything. Each moment as it appears is "it".

Just my understanding of things:

Zen Master Dogen says: Impermanence is Buddha-nature.

When this is seen, there is no subsuming involved, since subsuming implies that there is some changeless super-awareness in which transient epiphenomena are subsumed into... but the very notion of a super-awareness is should be challenged and penetrated then we realize there isn't such a super-awareness, the transience itself is awareness, awareness is the flow, the weather.

Or like Thusness told me in 2009 after I talked about my experience of buddha-nature as being 'like the sky':

"Yes not to be fixated but also not to objectify the “spaciousness” otherwise “spaciousness” is no less fixated. The ‘space’ appears appealing only to a mind that abstracts but to a fully participating and involving mind, such “spaciousness” has immediately sets itself apart, distancing itself from inseparable. Emptiness is never a behind background but a fully partaking foreground manifesting as the arising and passing phenomena absence of a center. Therefore understand ‘spaciousness’ not like sky but like passing clouds and flowing water, manifesting whenever condition is. If ‘Emptiness’ has made us more fixated and immobilized this innate freedom of our non-dual luminosity, then it is ‘stubborn emptiness’.

Nevertheless, no matter what said, it is always inadequate. If we want to fully realize the inexpressible, be willing to give up all centers and point of references that manifests in the form of ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’. Just give up the entire sense of self then instantly all things are spontaneously perfected.

Just a sharing, nothing intense."
So this is what Jackson is trying to point out (As above).

That is... If you want to talk about the oceanic or sky-like nature of awareness from a non-dual and non-inherent perspective, you wouldn't say "appearances arise like waves arising from/on t
he ocean" but every moment is ocean-waving. Ocean-waving. Ocean-activity. Awareness-activity. (not activity in awareness) Awareness stands out - boundless, centerless, like an ocean, but it is always manifestation. It is always weather. It is always the flow of activity.

"Weather" is just a label/convention imputed upon this everchanging whole activity and the same goes for "buddhanature/awareness/etc", the same goes for everything in the world. Not 'clouds appearing in weather' or 'clouds appearing in sky' but weather-clouds, sky-clouds, weather-sky-clouds, one whole/boundless entire activity of the transient foreground manifestation in which the fabric and texture of forms as pure luminosity (knowingness) is revealed devoid of a ground, center, or boundary.

Nice AEN. There is just the Dream. The "Dreamer" is the dream. The space in the sky is the Dream. The "Dreamer" or "Vast Intelligence" is holding nothing back. The Dreamer is fully invested as the Dream. The Vast Intelligence is embedded fully in the Dream as the self-organizing intelligence within and as all appearances in the natural world. If you look closely you can see that "Intelligence" fully exerted and invested. Seeing this clearly, appearances reveal themselves to be "wisdom" appearances. When a being "wakes up" to Reality, that is also within the Dream.

De-constructing Awareness:

The human mind, for survival purposes takes raw sensory information and turns that information into "subjects and objects". As a new born baby, we just experience a field of color, sounds, sensations and feeling. We can't separate out "threats" or "allies". As our brains develop these functions of labeling and assessing this field of sensory experience, become more competent in discerning real threats or imagining potential threats. In order to do this the mind has to turn the open field of colors and sounds into "entities" that can be assessed and dealt with. This is a key survival software program that continuously divides wholeness into pieces and parts as "subjects" and "objects". No experience is spared. No inner experience is spared as well. I am sure this is grounded in the DNA as universally human survival soft-ware.

This bifurcating soft-ware is running in the background without need for one to attend to it consciously, like breathing. Its meant to be that way, it has to be outside of conscious control or we would never have enough mental capacity to make all these survival computations, assessments and judgments and still be able to function with any degree of responsive creativity.

Our sense of self as a subject is just this functioning taking place. The mind's soft-ware is generating a subjective sense of being a unique "entity" amongst an ocean of other "entities", both animate and inanimate. But in fact there are no such "entities", they are just the mind's objectification of an open field of colors, sounds, sensations and feelings. Those "objectified entities" only exist in the soft-ware as imputations and mental images. They aren't actually "out there" or "in here". They are the product of imagination, that ensure the overall survival of the organism, hence the soft-ware being so difficult to dismantle.

This brings us now to the topics of awareness, self and experience. Let's start with "self". A new baby has no active "self" subjectivity, so there is not a self-entity that is inside the baby's brain somewhere waiting to pop into life and consciousness. It develops along with the soft-ware coming on-line, as part of child brain development. It happens for every human. That means the pattern for this development must be in the human DNA that directs the default hard-ware and soft-ware developments. Its not a product of our autonomous thought processes (as though we had any!).

What is our experience of "self"? Well, we notice an "I" or "me" concept and a feeling of localized alert "hereness" with emotional coloration. We may also notice an internal "self-image" of ourselves that is a defining result as identity. That self-image is supported and reinforced by a "body image", memories, and defined roles in life like; I am a husband, a father, a lawyer, a Buddhist, an environmentalist, a liberal etc.

We also notice we have a unique personality: a bundle of preferences, tendencies and habits, all the result of conditioning and influences from our DNA. From all of the above sources, the soft-ware projects a viable "me". There is no other "me" there. We know this because sometimes for various reasons, the soft-ware stops and suddenly there is no "me" there at all! In the absence of this "me" construction there however still remains a cognizant presence. There is a noticing of no "me". What is noticing this no "me"? We could say that "awareness" is noticing the condition of existing and experiencing without a "me".

If we look into this "awareness" quality in a moment of inner contemplation and reverie, we won't be able to find any "thing" called "awareness". What we find instead is just the vividness of experience and perception itself, but no "awareness" is perceived. So instead of there being an "entity" of awareness, perhaps "experience" is itself vividness and that "vividness" is seen mistakenly to be an "experiencer", called awareness. Ah, we now notice the bifurcating quality of the soft-ware is still dividing things into subjects and objects, as it just did with the "vividness of experience": it separated out the vividness from experience and made it into a subject-object called "awareness". We now have the idea that our new identity is actually "awareness". We say "I am awareness". This makes us feel good to think and say. But this is just another projection of the mind talking.

The "vividness" has a quality of alert awareness, but the vividness is due to the vitally energized event that is arising, not to an inherent, stand-alone "awareness". The energy event is itself alert-vividness as clarity. Now perhaps through this insight, the soft-ware ceases the creation of "awareness" as an independent identity and there is just "vivid experience" happening.

So then, what is "vivid experience"? Is this my true identity? Am I "vivid experience"?
Well, most often the bifurcating soft-ware starts up again and "vivid experience" is now made into a "subject-object". A new identity is generated: I am "vivid experience" and no other! But this is just another construction of the soft-ware. When this is seen, the soft-ware stop again and there is a condition of just "vivid awareness" not being subjectified nor objectified.

When we take a moment of quite reflection and contemplate the nature of this non-dual "vivid experience", we won't be able to pin anything down as being solid or enduring. There is just "experience". But in that moment the bifurcating soft-ware starts up again and turns "just experience" into a subject-object, called an "experiencer". We now have a sense of being a naked "experiencer" as our true identity. This feels really good! But it too is just a projection or construction of the bifurcating soft-ware.

If we take a moment of quiet contemplation and observe this "experiencer", we won't find one. We will only find experience: transparent, vivid, colorful, aware and lively; neither able to be pinned down as a subject nor an object, nor as "existing" nor as "not-existing" nor as "both or neither".

But what is it that "knows and recognizes" this wisdom insight? It is the wisdom insight itself that knows the wisdom insight. It is the knowing of the knowing as pure wisdom. What does this "knowing of the knowing" look like? Vivid experience. Please enjoy your day!
Also, there is no "knower", just the "knowing"...as vivid experiencing.

Jackson Peterson's biography taken from mumonkan.org: My journey to greater awareness began in 1966 when I began studying and practicing Soto Zen meditation under Matsuoka Roshi for three years along with the opportunity to practice with Suzuki Roshi and Katagiri Roshi in 1968.  In 1978 I went to China and received teachings from Chan Master, Yen Why Shih, a direct disciple of Hsu Yun.  He gave me permission to teach other of his students Chan.  Later that year I was in Nepal where I entered the Kagyu lineage tradition of Tibetan Buddhism under Sachyu Tulku.  Later that year I received teachings from Trungpa Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche in 1980.  In 1985 I met my root guru, Namkhai Norbu from whom I received the practice transmissions for the Semde, Longde and Mengagde sections of Dzogchen. In 1986 I received the Dzogchen thogal practice teachings from one of Dudjum Rinpoche's Lamas for the thogal methods of the Yeshe Lama. I have also received Mahamudra teachings from the lineage of the Dalai Lama and the gTumo teachings from the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. This last September 2008, I received transmissions from the head teaching Lama for the Bon Dzogchen tradition covering the practices of trekchod and thogal.  Since 1985 I have been an active practitioner and student of Dzogchen.  It has been my goal to be able to present these teachings in a non-sectarian, non-religious manner that would be more effective and appealing to a Western audience.  

More information about Jackson Peterson can be found here - www.WayOfLight.net

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