Wrote this yesterday and have since expanded on it. Maybe John Tan can comment on this.

IMO, when we talk about non-arising and emptiness, there is the level of emptying conventions and the level of emptying pure presence. The conventional level pertains to seeing dependent designation, and what I wrote about convention 'creating' subject and object.* This is the part where the sutra talked about "man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon."**

The key in anatta however is not only seeing how convention brings about fabrication but how the absence of a subject leads to the ceasing of fabricating a background and simultaneously direct taste of presence as foreground. But this is not the same as seeing ignorance and dependent designation. After anatta, one does not necessarily realize the emptiness of conventionally designated subject and objects. And furthermore does not necessarily taste total exertion, empty/non-arising nature of Presence, and their simultaneity. They are different 'gradients' of insight which has to do with the degree that the emptiness of self/Self is extended to all phenomena.

Also in emptiness and dependent origination there can be like a direct taste of total exertion and illusoriness of that foreground presence as colors/sounds/etc. IMO the emptiness of Presence requires first a direct taste of Pure Presence as all phenomenal appearances, and this requires anatta which simultaneously sees through the ghostly image of Presence-as-background and realizes Presence-as-manifold or Presence-as-thousand-faces followed by penetrating the very nature of that direct and immediate foreground Presence. Otherwise we are simply negating on the level of conventions and not seeing the very Presence as illusory appearance, or Presence as the very interplay or interrelations of dependencies and thus non-arising.

That is, that very pure presence as forms is seen to be illusory, appearing but not truly created, like mere painting on water. Nothing truly there or anywhere. Also the sense of total exertion and illusoriness complements each other (although one usually gets glimpses of either one to the exclusion of another at first), because the red of the rose is the total exertion of my body turning towards a certain direction, my seeing or focusing on the red, my breathing, heart beating and all conditions are what's exerting 'red', and therefore that 'red' is truly nothing there or anywhere, and is thus only a magical illusion. This total exertion and magical illusion can be recognised by taste. When looking at many different glasses the reflections change as you walk, the water bursting upwards from the water fountain is also a result of the whole body mind activity of focusing, acting, seeing, etc in certain ways. Which is to say, arising/abiding/ceasing of phenomena do not make any sense as all phenomena are only vivid appearance that appears only with the moment's dependencies (not to be confused as 'existing only for a moment, therefore non-arising').

And when I say whole body-mind-universe as dependencies it may seem to imply that there is a body mind or universe moving or interacting with each other in order to produce a certain effect, but that is not so. For body mind universe (aka summarised as "conditions") are entirely also conditionally appearing and non-arising 'mere painting on water'. In other words as the Zen Master Hong Wen Liang wrote to me years ago, 空花在眼,一翳墜落 ,一空在眼,眾翳墜落。 With empty flower in vision, one illusion (as in sky flower) falls away, one emptiness in vision, all illusions fall away. Not only is phenomena empty, but when whole body-mind is empty, then all is empty. For when exerting a single phenomena all conditions that exerts are not themselves 'existing things interacting or producing other existing things' but mere relations like reflections upon reflections in the nodes of the net of indra. They are not only deconstructed into a single flow but are all themselves empty-non-arising-Presencing. And what we call dependencies are empty phenomena relating with empty phenomena.

And I should also add: not only is whole body-mind empty, but emptiness IS the whole body-mind-universe. It is none other than the vividly manifesting 'forms' with its apparent shapes and dimensions, its apparent dimensionality (Which I will elaborate in the next paragraph) VIA dependency IS its emptiness, because emptiness is precisely dependent arising (so therefore the emptiness and illusoriness of phenomenal appearances does not contradict all mundane causalities and responsibilities -- you can't just act irresponsibly in the 'real world' without 'real world' consequences unlike lucid dreams or video games like GTA. Emptiness/dependencies 'actualizes' or 'exerts' as vivid appearances). Whatever appears is empty due to dependencies, appearances are mere appearances due to dependencies, and appearances are empty and non-arising due to dependencies, and there is no emptiness to be spoken of apart from non-arising phenomenal appearances. Emptiness is the very vividness of forms appearing exactly as it is, with no 'depth' or 'lustre' subtracted from it, and yet simultaneously tasted to be illusory or nowhere 'there' at all.

Another aspect of vision (in contrast to other senses like sound and sensation which only differs in loudness and intensity) is that there is apparent depth involved. Anatta demolishes centerpoint and thus everything appears sort of gapless, distanceless, depthless. But it is not sufficient to demolish 'locality'. And locality is also somehow related to the perception of depth or dimensions through vision. That things are located in certain places are due to certain colors in vision interpreted as depth. For example, if you went to a good 3D movie with 3D glasses (btw, Ready Player One in IMAX 3D is pretty good -- their movie has complex and well-designed 3D), things that appear flat on screen suddenly becomes more alive as if apparent objects on the screen take up a life of their own by assuming three dimensions with locations in front of and behind the screen.

But at the same time logically we know that the stuff that 'pops out' in front of the screen moving towards you isn't in actuality coming out of the screen towards you, they are not located anywhere but 'on the screen' -- just take off your 3D glasses and it becomes as clear as day. That is just common sense. But for most people, that common sense does not get applied to the 'real world' (which means the commonly experienced conventional reality/karmic vision with glasses off), in 'real world' without the glasses we think that the colors of vision imply actual depth and locality to inherently existing objects, including 'screen is over there', 'table is here', and so forth. Depth is actually just impressions based on delineating colors into objects of varying sizes (smaller objects appear more 'distant') plus the saturation/contrast of colors - (Wiki: Aerial perspective – Due to light scattering by the atmosphere, objects that are a great distance away have lower luminance contrast and lower color saturation. Due to this, images seem blurry the farther they are away from a person's point of view. In computer graphics, this is often called "distance fog." The foreground has high contrast; the background has low contrast. Objects differing only in their contrast with a background appear to be at different depths. The color of distant objects are also shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum (e.g., distant mountains). Some painters, notably Cézanne, employ "warm" pigments (red, yellow and orange) to bring features forward towards the viewer, and "cool" ones (blue, violet, and blue-green) to indicate the part of a form that curves away from the picture plane.)

However, we attribute those colors to be characteristics of objects existing on their own side (on the objective side) in and of itself (although colors do not apply to many other animals or beings, and if we investigate the quantum structure of things we find almost completely empty space), with locality, apart from appearance/conditionality, just as we (by ignorance) attribute the aspect of luminous clarity or 'awareness' to a subjective side existing in and of itself apart from appearance/conditionality. This attribution is the power of ignorance driving conventional reality into apparent existence.

But by seeing presence/vision/forms as a play of conditionality, then all colors that conventionally imply 'depth' and 'dimension' are simply a dependently originating mirage that is unlocatable and non-originating. Even the so called 'depth' and 'dimension' are merely non-dimensional colors/appearances and impressions arising due to conditions. Why non-arising? Because what dependently originates is non-arising -- like the 3D glasses and the 3d-designed-film-images manifesting various '3 dimensional' images in dependence, yet its appearance does not in any way imply an actual locality or depth or dimension or the creation of some real objects anywhere. And as I wrote in another post, it's not so much that a self-existing I over here walk towards a self-existing park over there but rather my walking manifests illusory-yet-vividly-Presencing space-time, buildings, trees and parks.

However the illusoriness of Presence is not the same as the sutra about the "man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon."**, even though that it is equally important. Rather, it's the man with clear sighted vision sees pure presence as illusory display.

* "What is convention? Conventions are not just verbal words occurring in thought.
Conventions are alive!

They bring I, universe, car, movement alive.. or red patches into “the redness of rose”. The power and magic of conventions."

** Excerpt from The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment

"What is ignorance? Virtuous man, since beginningless time, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the four great elements as the attributes of their bodies, and the conditioned impressions of the six sense objects as the attributes of their minds. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon.

"Virtuous man, there is in reality no flower in the sky, yet the sick man mistakenly clings to it. Because of his mistaken clinging, he is not only deluded about the intrinsic nature of the empty space, but also confused about the arising of the flower. Because of this false existence [to which he clings], he remains in the turning wheel of birth and death. Hence this is called ignorance.

"Virtuous man, this ignorance has no real substance. It is lik a person in a dream. Though the person exists in the dream, when [the dreamer] awakens, there is nothing that can be grasped. Like an [illusory] flower in the sky that vanishes into empty space, one cannot say that there is a fixed place from which it vanishes. Why? Because there is no place from which it arises! Amidst the unarisen, all sentient beings deludedly perceive birth and extinction. Hence this is called the turning wheel of birth and death.

"Virtuous man, one who practices Complete Enlightenment of the causal ground of the Tathagata realizes that [birth and extinction] are like an illusory flower in the sky. Thus there is no continuance of birth and death and no body or mind that is subject to birth and death. This nonexistence of [birth and death and body and mind] is so not as a consequence of contrived effort. It is so by its intrinsic nature.

"The awareness [of their nonexistence] is like empty space. That which is aware of the empty space is like the appearance of the illusory flower. However, one cannot say that the nature of this awareness is nonexistent. Eliminating both existence and nonexistence is in accordance with pure enlightenment.

"Why is it so? Because the nature of empty space is ever unmoving. Likewise, there is neither arising nor perishing within the Tathagatagarbha. It is free from conceptual knowledge and views. Like the nature of dharmadhatu, which is ultimate, wholly complete, and pervades all ten directions, such is the Dharma practice [of the Tathagata] of the causal ground.

"Because of this [intrinsic completeness], bodhisattvas within the Mahayana may give rise to pure bodhi-mind. If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age practice accordingly, they will not fall into erroneous views."

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to clarify his meaning, proclaimed these gathas:
Manjusri, you should know
that all Tathagatas,
from their original-arising causal ground,
use wisdom to enlighten
and penetrate ignorance.
Realizing that ignorance is like
a flower in the sky,
they are thus liberated from the continuance
[of birth and death].
Like a person [seen] in a dream who
cannot be found when [the dreamer] awakens,
awareness is like empty space.
It is impartial and equal, and ever unmoving.
When enlightenment pervades all ten directions,
the Buddha Path is accomplished.
There is no place where illusions vanish,
and there is no attainment
in accomplishing the Buddha Path,
for the intrinsic nature is already wholly complete.
By this, bodhisattvas
can give rise to the bodhi-mind.
Sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age
through this practice will avoid erroneous views.

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