It has come to my attention that this video "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" -- it is important for me to update because I have sent this article to thousands of people online, including spiritual teachers (along with other articles depending on conditions, usually I also send 1) Thusness/PasserBy's Seven Stages of Enlightenment and possibly 2) On Anatta (No-Self), Emptiness, Maha and Ordinariness, and Spontaneous Perfection -- 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." - .

Here's the additional paragraphs I added into :

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

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 and 6) Differentiating I AM, One Mind, No Mind and Anatta

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

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 ( ).


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 )



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 ( ), or like 'lightning' and 'flash' ( ) -- 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.


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 · 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 :

...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 , 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? with many scriptural citations to back my statements.


Do also see, Greg Goode on Advaita/Madhyamika

  • Soh Wei Yu
    I also updated this paragraph earlier this year in the article with a small comment:
    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, 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.
    After Awareness: The End of the Path
    After Awareness: The End of the Path
    After Awareness: The End of the Path
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  • Soh Wei Yu
    Although most Advaita teachers treat consciousness as ultimate background (this is also a problem in Buddhism, many teachers and practitioners in Buddhism also fall into this error of reifying Buddha-Nature into a pure consciousness that is an ultimate background that is the true Atman-Brahman, despite the fact that Buddha was so clear about anatman right from the start), there are very rare Advaitins that do not fall into that trap (where the background Witness collapses and even the notion of consciousness is dissolved at the end, such as in Greg Goode's Direct Path or Atmananda's Direct Path). Most mainstream Advaitins however may not agree.
    But I added that comment to reflect the fact that some Advaitins do go beyond the notion of an ultimate background.
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