Someone who went through I AM and one mind (nondual) but having the metaphysical view of an absolute Brahman wrote:

It sounds like integration more than revelation. Are you not still within your body? Though you feel connected to everything and give yourself up, here you are - and can you claim to have done it completely selflessly? Wasn't Anatta attained by you, for the benefit of you?

Saying you are just the manifestation is like saying you are just the dream at night; the body and world are dream, but you are there to give life to it, transcending and transitioning from one manifestation to another.

There is never a time when you are not, if there were there would be no experience of it. So while it's true to say that Self and manifestation arise mutually, doesn't the fact that you transcend forms and faces, that you are the continuity between lives, make the term "Self" closer to the truth?

How can one even be truly self-less? You can sacrifice your conceptual attachment to a persona, or relative identity, but it's still you seeing this happen - feeling the difference before the sacrifice and after.

Again, I fully appreciate collapsing experience and manifestation into the Self - feeling no separation between observer and observed - but when it's truly seen that there is no separation, where does the need to negate the Self arise? When you say it's experientially the same, but the insight of Self is wrong, you're turning Truth into an object to be witnessed and conceptualised.

Please don't give me past documents or statements from others. Speak to me human to human. Give me your present and spontaneous insight :)

Soh replied:

What is crucial here is not simply non-dual experience and experiencing presence in both the foreground and background and in the 3 states (waking, dreaming, dreamless deep sleep). Most teachers only get up to that point and teach up to that level. That is not realizing our true empty nature but our luminous essence and then attempting to integrate that realization of luminous essence in foreground/background/3 states as a practice but not realizing the key to the full blown maturity of it, non referentiality and effortlessness lies in a breakthrough in paradigm (from inherency and duality to non-dual and emptiness) through direct realization.

In John Tan and my path (and countless others), at a later point we come to understand the difference between luminosity and empty nature (luminosity here refers to the radiant aspect of Presence-Awareness, and emptiness refers to the lack of intrinsic existence or unchanging independent essence of Presence/Self/Phenomena). Very often, people rely on the experience and not true realization of the view. The right view (of anatta (no-self), dependent origination and emptiness) is like a neutralizer that neutralizes dualistic and inherent views; by itself, there is nothing to hold. So realize what right view is pointing and all experiences will come naturally. The right enlightenment experience is like what Zen Master Dogen described, not merely a non-dual state where experiencer and what's experienced collapses into a non-dual stream of experience.

Hence what is crucial is to attain the realization of anatta and emptiness. The first breakthrough of anatta (Thusness Stage 5 realization) will be the most crucial, or as John Tan said that is 60~70% done. The very subtle cognitive obscurations will take the full maturity of emptiness wisdom (Thusness Stage 6) to clear.

Even after non-dual (Thusness Stage 4) or the collapse of subject-object duality, there are distinctions and gradations of non-duality in terms of insight. We call it one mind, no mind, and anatta. One mind is post non-dual but subsuming leaving trace (everything is arising within awareness, awareness is not within its contents but subsumed into an overarching context that is inseparable from its contents, like body is in awareness but awareness is not in body). No mind is just one mind except that there is evenness till the last trace is gone, such that it (mind/presence/awareness) is experienced as simply the very substance and fabric of manifestation. Yet there is no breakthrough in view, so the understanding is still one mind (unchanging mirror is not its reflections, unchanging sky is not its clouds) but having peak experiences of no mind (overarching awareness forgotten into the mere radiance of appearance). When you go from dual to non dual or one mind to no mind, those are stages and experiences. If one has the condition to get pointed out that originally there never was a mind, there are no stages to climb, that is original mind. This requires insights and wisdom. The original mind spoken here does not mean some unborn metaphysical primordial mind such as the I AM, but the originally, already-is nature of mind -- empty of itself -- "originally there never was a mind", empty of all self/Self. Zen Master Bodhidharma the founder of Zen/Ch'an in China that started the whole tradition extending into Japan and south east asia, he emphasized this doctrine of No-Mind and even has a treatise called 'Doctrine of No Mind' that explains this in detail. For him the 'No Mind' is not spoken as a peak experience but a deep insight/clear seeing that there never was a mind. It is simply pointing to the crucial realization of anatman.

In Zen, although they say there is no mind, they in fact embrace mind more fully than all is mind, until no trace of mind can be detected. Yet Ven. Sheng Yen said this is just the entry point of zen because originally there is no mind and this is clearly realized in anatta. So post anatta, mind and phenomena are completely indistinguishable. If both mind and phenomena are completely indistinguishable in experience, then distinctions are nothing more than conventional designation of empty luminous display.

We see the same emphasis in Vajrayana, particularly the Mahamudra teachings which John and I love. For example the 9th Karmapa says, "All phenomena are illusory displays of mind. Mind is no mind--the mind's nature is empty of any entity that is mind. Being empty, it is unceasing and unimpeded, manifesting as everything whatsoever. Examining well, may all doubts about the ground be discerned and cut. Naturally manifesting appearances, that never truly exist, are confused into objects. Spontaneous intelligence, under the power of ignorance, is confused into a self. By the power of this dualistic fixation, beings wander in the realms of samsaric existence. May ignorance, the root of confusion, he discovered and cut. It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it. It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of a basis of all samsara and nirvana. This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity."

Even the Buddha has not seen the mind. There never was a mind, yet conventionally all appearances are mind, luminous and empty.

To bring it back to the point -- the crucial insight here is the realization of the emptiness of Mind, the emptiness of Awareness, that it never existed in and of itself apart from manifestation and conditions. In hearing there is just sound, hearing is just sound, never a hearer. In seeing, seeing is just colors, never a seer. Just like wind is simply the blowing and not an agent of blowing, and there is no wetness of water besides water and no water besides wetness, no fire apart from heat nor heat apart from an instance of fire burning - it is not that one is the essence of the other, they are completely indistinguishable and its distinctions are nothing more than conventional designations of the empty luminous display. You can't even distinguish it in terms of front and back of a palm. Any more than you can distinguish the lightning from the flash or the flash apart from lightning except as a conventional linguistic structure spoken in convenience. There is no agent-agency-action, subject-action-object in reality. When this is thoroughly seen, then there will no longer be a tendency to reify an unchanging metaphysical essence.

But this insight is not to deny the Mind/Heart-essence/Pure Presence-Awareness. On the contrary the purpose is to have full blown experience of the heart/mind/awareness/buddha-nature -- boundlessly, completely, non-dually and non-locally in every situations, in all conditions, in all events, as the pristine vibrancy of colors, sounds, scents, touch, taste, thought. It does not deny the authentication of 'I AM' as the aspect of thought realm in samadhi but equalizes that luminous taste in all manifestations and abolishes all fabricated hierarchies and categorization (such as noumenon vs phenomenon, unchanging vs changing, etc). All are just occurrences/appearances/mind/luminous and empty. It eliminates unnecessary contrivity so that our essence can be expressed without obscuration. As long as there is the sense or delusion that Awareness is a background mirror reflecting phenomena or even being inseparable with phenomena, there is effort and struggle. No matter how much you attempt to integrate, there will always be struggle and effort if the paradigm held is based on the delusion of duality and inherency, much like the attempt to integrate wind from blowing, wetness with water, lightning with flash. Or as John Tan said a decade+ ago, "it is because we are unable to see with complete clarity that appearance is awareness that 'practice' is necessary. Otherwise 'practice' is just every moment of experience"

Lastly, on rebirth and continuity:

All traditions of Buddhism has explained at lengths on how to account for an object changing and persisting through time without having to assume that there is some unchanging aspect of the object which underlies all change. This can indeed be done if dependent origination and emptiness is properly understood. That is, there is conventionally, the temporal continuity of persons happening via dependent origination, but without the need of a persisting subjective core (ātman) being passed on or transferred from lifetime to lifetime. Consciousness in Buddhism is not understood as an unchanging noumenon of phenomena but as mind-moments/manifestation inseparable from conditions.

An analogy I gave earlier is that it is like a candle lighting another candle, from moment to moment, this stream of dependent origination 'continues' but without an unchanging and persisting entity/self/Self acting as a medium or entity transferring from one moment or lifetime to another.

And as to your question, "Wasn't Anatta attained by you, for the benefit of you?" the answer is yes, indeed it is, conventionally.

We have to understand when we talk about anatman, it is not a denial of conventional selves. For example, the Buddha never used the term "self" to refer to an unconditioned, permanent, ultimate entity. He also never asserted that there was no conventional "self," the subject of transactional discourse. So, it is very clear in the sutras that the Buddha negated an ultimate self and did not negate a conventional self.

Anatman is the negation of an unconditioned, permanent, ultimate entity that moves from one temporary body to another. It is not the negation of "Sam," "Fred," or "Jane" used as a conventional designation for a collection of aggregates. Since the Buddha clearly states in many Mahāyāna sūtras, "all phenomena" are not self, and since everything is included there, including buddhahood, therefore, there are no phenomena that can be called a self, and since there are nothing outside of all phenomena, a "self," other than an arbitrary designation, does not exist.

Or as John Tan said a decade ago, "To me is just is "Soh" an eternal being...that's all. No denial of Soh as a conventional self... ...Doesn't mean Soh does not exist… lol. Or I am you or you are me. Just not construing and reifying."

So from the context of anatman/emptiness teachings or Buddhadharma, we do not negate conventions such as our nominal identity, or even as an agent who can engage in activity in a purely nominal or conventional sense.
Identity is negated ultimately, through the cessation of the conditioned mind, however we are still free to implement conventional distinctions. Otherwise we end up like neo-Advaita. Saying "who recognizes? Who is there to stabilize? No one wakes up." These are unnecessary statements if the teaching is understood.

In truth, a 'self' is merely an arbitrary designation just like the word 'weather' is an arbitrary designation applied to a collection of conditions that we also arbitrarily label as 'rain falling, wind blowing, sun shining, lightning flashing' and so on and so forth. In reality there is no weather to be found as a reality existing in and of itself apart from a convenient arbitrary designation for the collection, just as there is also no self/Self/awareness to be found existing in and of itself besides the empty and luminous display/appearance.

Yet, conventions serve to indicate functions accurate to the characteristic, process or entity they are designating. The convention is a tool for communication and given that we are already functioning on the premise that everything is empty, the convention in question is ultimately treated as an inference. Therefore there is freedom to employ whatever convention is fitting to the context, as long as it is accurate in its application.

In this sense you can say the conventional identity realizes emptiness and this is not an assertion that actually reifies said identity. In another context the inclusion of an agent, identity or entity related to the realization of emptiness is also extraneous. The process of delusion and the cessation of delusion is in one sense, a completely agentless process, all happening due to dependent origination.

The two truths (conventional and ultimate) underpins the Buddhist teachings. One falls into error if one does not properly understand the two truths, and the union or inseparability of these two truths.

"the body and world are dream, but you are there to give life to it, "

If one realises that transients are presence, then transients themselves are full and Total Life, Total Intelligence, Total Clarity. Why is 'I AM' needed? This is a deeper realisation beyond "I AMness". Intelligence and aliveness are all around, in all moments and everywhere. Orphan thoughts and sensations and perceptions are intelligent, luminously clear and spontaneous. So why do you need 'someone' to be the center of these orphan thoughts? That center is really moulded by propensities. One can directly experience this. All manifestations are Presence in no-self and the transients that we shunt away are the very Presence we are seeking; it is a matter of living in Beingness or living in constant identification. Beingness flows and identification stays. Identification is any attempt to return to Oneness without knowing its nature is already non-dual. If everything is already intelligent, allow transients to come and go, they are more intelligent than what the "I" thought. Experience the full presence of all transients.

There can be no spontaneity if there is a center. It is better to think and see that every cell is on its own and is self luminous then to think that there is a linking center that controls and co-ordinates. It is better to realize that everything flows and knows on its own without a separate knower, than to abstract out the luminosity into an agent, entity, or knower.

All appearances/dream are both empty and luminous simultaneously. They are empty in the sense of having no true existence of its own/inherent existence, no reality. But paradoxically they are all at the same time the pure brilliance and luminosity of pure presence. There is no need to seek for anything else, just apprehending the nature of the very appearance is to apprehend Mind and the nature of mind (its luminosity and emptiness).

p.s. There is no "I" that "transcends forms and faces", there are just infinite diversity of faces, each as intimate as any other, each as luminous and empty as any other, be it forms, formless, or what have you, yet as vivid and alive and nondual as each face 'is', each face/appearance self-liberates upon appearance without a trace like drawing on water, nothing more than a momentary flash

As I wrote in 2012,

“Every moment is an encounter of my thousand faces. The sound of thunder, every drop of rain, every heartbeat, every breath, every thought. Experience, experience, experience, experience!”
-    Soh, 2012

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