A sub chapter of Stage 5 from the longer AtR Guide:

Anatta as Dispersing into Multiplicity + Spontaneous, Disjoint and Unsupported


Anatta stanza two leads to dispersing of Presence into/as multiplicity, while Anatta stanza one leads to spontaneous, disjointed and unsupported nature of arising. This leads to dissolvteacher in Thailand. He began by drawing the followinging even the grounding into ‘Here/Now’, which will be an issue if one focuses solely on the second stanza of anatta (like many Actual Freedom and Zen teachings that I’ve seen which keeps emphasizing on being grounded in Here/Now).


On the dispersing of Presence as multiplicity:


“In many of your recent posts after the sudden realization of anatta from contemplating on Bahiya Sutta, you are still very much focused on the vivid non-dual presence. Now the everything feels ‘Me’ sort of sensation becomes a daily matter and the bliss of losing oneself completely into scenery, sound, taste is wonderful. This is different from everything collapsing into a “Single Oneness” sort of experience but a disperse out into the multiplicity of whatever arises. Everything feels closer than ‘me’ due to gaplessness. This is a natural [state after anatta]” - John Tan, 2011


“It looks your Bahiya Sutta experience helped you see awareness in a different way, more .... empty. You had a background in a view that saw awareness as more inherent or essential or substantive?


I had an experience like this too. I was reading a sloka in Nagarjuna's treatise about the "prior entity," and I had been meditating on "emptiness is form" intensely for a year. These two threads came together in a big flash. In a flash, I grokked the emptiness of awareness as per Madhyamika. This realization is quite different from the Advaitic oneness-style realization. It carries one out to the "ten-thousand things" in a wonderful, light and free and kaleidoscopic, playful insubstantial clarity and immediacy. No veils, no holding back. No substance or essence anywhere, but love and directness and intimacy everywhere...” - Greg Goode, Greg Goode on Advaita/Madhyamika (http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2014/08/greg-goode-on-advaitamadhyamika_9.html)

“Although Bhāviveka doesn’t struggle that much, he is quite clear:

“Since [the tīrthika position of] self, permanence, all pervasiveness and oneness contradict their opposite, [the Buddhist position of] no-self, impermanence, non-pervasiveness and multiplicity, they are completely different.” – Kyle Dixon, 2020


“Bhāviveka demonstrates the proper way to view buddhanature:

The statement "The tathāgata pervades" means wisdom pervades all objects of knowledge, but it does not mean abiding in everything like Viśnu. Further, "Tathāgatagarbhin" means emptiness, signlessness and absence of aspiration exist the continuums of all sentient beings, but is not an inner personal agent pervading everyone.” – Kyle Dixon, 2021

"Therefore to see that all dusts are primordially pure from before beginning is the whole purpose of maturing the insight of anatta. The following text succinctly expresses this insight:


...According to Dogen, this “oceanic-body” does not contain the myriad forms, nor is it made up of myriad forms – it is the myriad forms themselves. The same instruction is provided at the beginning of Shobogenzo, Gabyo (pictured rice-cakes) where, he asserts that, “as all Buddhas are enlightenment” (sho, or honsho), so too, “all dharmas are enlightenment” which he says does not mean they are simply “one” nature or mind.


Anything falling short of this realization cannot be said to be Buddhist's enlightenment and it is also what your Taiwanese teacher Chen wanted you to be clear when he spoke of the "equality of dharma" as having an initial glimpse of anatta will not result in practitioners seeing that phenomena are themselves primordially pure." -  John Tan, 2011, Realization, Experience and Right View and my comments on "A" is "not-A", "not A" is "A"


“All Buddhas and all things cannot be reduced to a static entity or principle symbolized as one mind, one nature, or the like. This guards against views that devaluate the unique, irreplaceable individuality of a single dharma.” - Hee-Jin Kim, Flowers of Emptiness, p.257


“Gensha Shibi once said, “The whole universe throughout all its ten directions is the One Bright Pearl.” You need to clearly recognize the converse, which is that the One Bright Pearl is the whole universe throughout all its ten directions.”

- Zen Master Dogen, https://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/Shobogenzo/058jippo.pdf


Mahamudra has a similar teaching as Dogen on 'multiplicity':


"The medium One Taste is when this tarnish has dissolved: the conviction of savoring and clinging to multiplicity as being one taste. You have actualized the resplendent indivisibility of perceptions and mind in which the perceived is not held as being outside and mind is not held as being inside.


The greater One Taste is when you realize multiplicity as being of one taste and you experience one taste as being multiplicity. Thus, everything subsides into the original state of equality."


"You have perfected the strength of One Taste if whatever you encounter is experienced as the expression of this original state of equality. You have not perfected its strength if one taste isn't experienced as multiplicity because of retaining the bind of a remedy." - Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, Clarifying the Natural State


John Tan and Soh very much likes and resonates with the teachings of Mahamudra and Soto Zen (Dogen’s lineage) very much as they are about the full-blown actualization of anatta, with different emphasis on emptiness (Soto Zen emphasizing +A, Mahamudra emphasizing the -A in general). If you resonate with the teachings, Soh highly recommends finding a good teacher, guru or sangha to get acquainted with/receive teachings from the lineage and participate in communal practice.


On “multiplicity”, post-anatta when one penetrates into emptiness, there is no one or many:


“[13/3/16, 2:15:15 PM] John Tan: When the "one" dissolves, so too must the "many".  How is it that the "one" or "many" can dissolve?  Because both are unreal and purely conventional.  If either are real, then changing and dissolving will be impossible.”


On the spontaneous, disjoint and unsupported nature of arising aspect of anatta:


“This experience is radically different from One Mind that is non-dual. It is not about stillness transparency and vividness of presence but a deep sense of freedom that comes from directly experiencing manifestation as being disjoint, spontaneous, free, unbounded and unsupported. Re-read the first stanza – an excerpt:


1. The lack of doer-ship that links and co-ordinates experiences. Without the 'I' that links, phenomena (thoughts, sound, feelings and so on and so forth) appear bubble-like, floating and manifesting freely, spontaneously and boundlessly. With the absence of the doer-ship also comes a deep sense of freedom and transparency. Ironical as it may sound but it's true experientially. We will not have the right understanding when we hold too tightly 'inherent' view. It is amazing how 'inherent' view prevents us from seeing freedom as no-doership, interdependence and interconnectedness, luminosity and non-dual presence.” - John Tan, 2011

“In the beginning... when I had the sudden realization by contemplating on Bahiya Sutta, there was a very clear realization of 'in the seeing just the seen' - the second stanza of Anatta in John's article... seeing, hearing, is simply the scenery, the sound, it is so clear, vivid, without dualistic separation (of subject and object, perceived and perceived)... there never was, there is only the music playing and revealing itself. The scenery revealing itself...

It is very blissful, the luminosity is very clear and intensely felt. Yet it became a sort of object of attachment... somehow, even though luminosity is no longer seen as a Self or observer, there is still a sense of solidity that luminosity/presence is constantly Here and Now. A subtle tendency to sink back into substantialist non-dualism is still present.

Later on, I came to realize that luminosity, presence itself, is ungraspable without solidity. Much like the first stanza of Anatta in John’ article. There is no luminosity inherently existing as the 'here and now'... presence cannot be found, located, grasped! There is nothing solid here. There is no 'here and now' - as Diamond Sutra says, past mind is ungraspable, present mind is ungraspable, future mind is ungraspable. What there is, is unsupported, disjoint thoughts and phenomena... There is only the ungraspable experiencing of everything, which is bubble like. Everything just pops in and out. It's like a stream... cannot be grasped or pinned down... like a dream, yet totally vivid. Cannot be located as here or there.

Prior to this insight, there isn't the insight into phenomena as being 'scattered' without a linking basis (well there already was but it needs refinement)... the moment you say there is a Mind, an Awareness, a Presence that is constant throughout all experiences, that pervades and arise as all appearances, you have failed to see the 'no-linking', 'disjointed', 'unsupported' nature of manifestation.

The luminosity and the emptiness are inseparable. They are both essential aspects of our experiential reality and must be seen in its seamlessness and unity. Realizing this, there is just disjoint thoughts and phenomena arising without support and liberating of their own accord. There is nothing solid acting as the basis of these experiences and linking them... there is just spontaneous and unsupported manifestations and self liberating experiences. Simpo_ described it well recently:

Will like to add that, in my experience, no-self is a more subtle insight than non-duality.

Usually, we see a continuity of mental formation... well... my experience is that it is not always so. The streams of thought seems to be linear but it is not.. To my experience, it is the fast movement of thoughts that give the impression of continuity of self.

Now... thoughts can appear and disappear and they do not have to be linear... 'Simpo' the name pop up and disappear... another image appears and disappears... all of them are not self... just appearance, sensations, etc... and we cannot say they arise from a base or sink into the base. There is no base (as far as I see it)... just this ungraspable appearing and disappearing.

Without this realization, one can never hope to understand this phrase in Diamond Sutra:

Therefore then, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva, the great being, should produce an unsupported thought, i.e. a thought which is nowhere supported, a thought unsupported by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or mind-objects.


This is the phrase that got 6th Ch'an Patriarch Hui-Neng his great enlightenment after the 5th Patriarch explained it to him.” - Soh, 2011

“...Just as Zen Master Dogen puts it: firewood does not turn into ashes, firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood while ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, while at the same time ash contains firewood, firewood contains ash (all is the manifestation of the interdependent universe as if the entire universe is coming together to give rise to this experience and thus all is contained in one single expression).


The similar principle applies not just to firewood and ash but to everything else: for example you do not say summer turns into autumn and autumn turns into winter - summer is summer, autumn is autumn, distinct and complete in itself yet each instance of existence time contains the past, present and future in it. So the same applies to birth and death - birth does not turn into death as birth is the phenomenal expression of birth and death is the phenomenal expression of death - they are interdependent yet disjoint, unsupported, complete. Accordingly, birth is no-birth and death is no-death... Since each moment is not really a starting point or ending point for a entity - without the illusion and reference of a self-entity - every moment is simply a complete manifestation of itself. And every manifestation does not leave traces: they are disjoint, unsupported and self-releases upon inception. This wasn't Dogen's exact words but I think the gist is there, you should read Dogen's genjokoan which I posted in my blog.” - Soh, 2011, The Unborn Dharma - http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2011/06/the-unborn-dharma.html 

“A thought is "Unsupported" because it does not arise in dependence upon anything else, not "caused" by another thought ("mind-objects") and of course not "produced" by a thinker, which the Bodhisattva realizes does, not exist. Such an "unsupported thought", then, is prajña, arising by itself nondually.


Hui Neng's grandson in the Dharma, Ma-tsu, reinforces Hui Neng and the Diamond Sutra: "So with former thoughts, later thoughts, and thoughts in between: the thoughts follow one another without being linked together. Each one is absolutely tranquil". [24] That each such "unsupported thought" is absolutely tranquil is a new point, although probably implied by Hui Neng's term "thoughtlessness". So when one loses sense of self and completely becomes an unsupported thought, there is the Taoist paradox of wei-wu-wei, in which action and passivity are combined: there is the movement of nondual thought, but at the same time there is awareness of that which does not change. That is why such an experience can just as well be described as "thoughtlessness". The later Ch'an master Kuei-shan Ling-yu referred to this as "thoughtless thought": "Through concentration a devotee may gain thoughtless thought. Thereby he is suddenly enlightened and realizes his original nature". [25] "Thoughtless thought" is not a mind empty of any thought: "one thought is thoughtless thought."

            An important parallel to this is found in the writings of a modern Advaitin, Ramana Maharshi:

The ego in its purity is experienced in the interval between two states or between two thoughts. The ego is like the worm which leaves one hold only after it catches another. Its true nature is known when it is out of contact with objects or thoughts. You should realize this interval as the abiding, unchangeable Reality, your true Being... [26]

The image of the ego as a worm which leaves one hold only after catching another might well have been used by Hui Neng and Ma-tsu to describe the way in which thoughts are apparently linked up in a series. The difference is that Mahayana Buddhism encourages the arising of "an unsupported thought", whereas Ramana Maharshi understands unchangeable Reality as that which is realized only when it is out of contact with all objects and thoughts. This is consistent with the general relation between Mahayana and Advaita: Nirguṇa Brahman is so emptied of any attribute ("neti, neti,...") that it becomes impossible to differentiate from Śūnyatā. "It is difficult indeed to distinguish between pure being and pure non-being as a category". (S. Dasgupta). [27] But there is still a difference in emphasis.


Mahāyāna emphasizes realizing the emptiness of all phenomena, whereas Advaita distinguishes between empty Reality and phenomena, with the effect of devaluing the latter into mere māyā.

            The image of a worm hesitant to leave its hold was used in a personal conversation I had in 1981 with a Theravada monk from Thailand, a meditation master named Phra Khemananda. This was before I discovered the passage from Ramana Maharshi; what Khemananda said was not prompted by any remark of mine, but was taught to him by his own teacher in Thailand. He began by drawing the following diagram:

Each oval represents a thought, he said; normally, we leave one thought only when we have another one to go to (as the arrows indicate), but to think in this way constitutes ignorance. Instead, we should realize that thinking is actually like this:

Then we will understand the true nature of thoughts: that thoughts do not arise from each other but by themselves.” ~ Zen teacher David Loy, Nondual Thinking


An article on anatta from the monk who drew the diagram can be found here.


Also, some recent writing by Daniel on Vipassana in DhO:




JC said "why the need to experiment with all sorts of practices? Why the need for the switch to Zen, Vajrayana, prayer, Catholic devotional practices, martial arts, magickal practices, and so on?


Why not just continue to observe exactly what's going on in the present moment and see the Three Characteristics?


Well, it could be enough, sort of. The Three Characteristics are profound, very profound, staggeringly profound, and not easily grasped in their entirety. It seems perfectly reasonable to grasp them in their entirety by observing them, but there is a problem, actually, that last line contains a bunch of problems that are not obvious until you see them clearly.


I will go by the words in that last line to illustrate the problem.


"Continue": there is no continuing. There is nothing to continue, no past that could be continued, no future to continue into, and this moment is entirely ungraspable. No sensation could ever actually grasp or continue. Everything is fresh but perfectly ephemeral. The notion of continuing, from a high insight point of view, is a serious problem. Instead, there has to be a deep non-grasping, a perfect and flawless appreciation of non-continuing, a deep never could be a continuing, a deep nothing could ever be continuing, a deep sense of not only discontinuity, but of the utter flowing, vanishing, empty transience of anything that seemed to be able to continue. One must figure out how to go beyond continuing, beyond grasping, beyond that strange mental illusion that such a thing could ever occur or have occurred.


"Observe": there is no observing. There can be no observing. There is nothing that can observe at all. Everything is just occurring where it is, naturally, straightforwardly. There is no observer. There can't be any observer. There never was any observer. Deeply understanding this is required. There never was any observation. Observation can't finally do it. One must figure out how to shift out of observing to just phenomena occurring.


The qualifier "in the present moment" is a problem in some way. This almost always involves some subtle or gross pattern of sensations that we refer to mentally when we say "now", or "the present", which are not actually stable, not actually a present, not actually anything but more empty transience, yet we make them seem like a stable present. This is very subtle, deep, profound. Even "the present" doesn't withstand scrutiny, and we must be careful with this sticky concept, as it can itself become a sort of a solidified thing, part of the illusion of continuity, observation, practitioner, etc.


So, while it is true that deeply comprehending emptiness, non-continuity, non-observation, and even non-present, can occur by just continuously observing this present moment, we must be careful, and sometimes it takes people shifting out of their trench of "good practice" to do something that is out from good practice and instead is just the unfolding empty wisdom dharma. Various people find various methods to make this subtle shift, and one size definitely does not fit all, so best wishes sorting out what will help you work out your salvation with diligence.




One could just say that each transient moment, however it is, naturally understands its ungraspable, discontinuous, ephemeral, non-existent, empty nature, straightforwardly, perfectly.


However, one must be careful not to idealize or intellectually reify any of those concepts and qualifiers, and instead this is something that is purely perceptual.


It applies to every transient moment, regardless of any other consideration of the specific qualities of that moment.


All that said, I did, as my last push, go back to the Three Characteristics and Six Sense Doors, just those, but at a level of extremely high precision, inclusiveness, and acceptance, and found that effective. Yet, the place I had gotten to that seemed to make it effective was a radical disenchantment and dispassion towards with everything “I” had attained, everything “I” was, everything “I” could become, everything “I” could experience, and how to arrive at such a place varies a lot by the person.” - Daniel M. Ingram

John Tan wrote to me after my deepening insight into the first stanza of anatta that dissolved the grounding into here/now, about 5 months after the initial insight into anatta.

“John: it is insight into anatta and DO then you lose all dualistic and inherent view and what's left is simply dharma… I do not want you to fall back to Awareness. when you do not experience 'disjoint and unsupported' with clarity, you will fall back. when you are able to mature the disjoint and unsupported experience then there is no holding to Awareness… it is just a word. what is actual is just simply this luminous activity or ceaseless activity. so you know what I meant about AF (Actual Freedom) not talking about liberation last time?

it is more on stanza 2. direct apprehension… flesh and blood of this body… all these are trying to get grounded much like in the here and now. though tarin talk about that recently [Soh: letting go of the grounding in Here/Now], I cannot see the clarity of insight. but I do not want you to go around making noise...

you just have to 'taste' this directly and realize whether it is true or not. only when a practitioner mature the 'disjoint' and 'unsupported' realization, the 'grounding' can then be gone. otherwise it is only 'talk'. :P so you must realize it, have a glimpse of this truth, then you know the 'how' of proceeding

how many months already after your insight of anatta?

Soh:    about 5” - Conversation with John Tan, 2011


“(6:56 PM) Thusness:    now experiencing no-mind as focus attention is different from experiencing no-mind in a disjoint and unsupported manner.

what is the difference?

(6:57 PM) AEN:    as focus attention still has some level of effort because there is a need to sustain the ground... no mind in a disjoint and unsupported manner is just constant opening and releasing without effort and without ground

(7:00 PM) Thusness:    well said...

so what is the sensation like?

(7:00 PM) AEN:    disjoint and unsupported manner is like a sensation of not staying anywhere... ephemeral, bubble like phenomena arising and passing without traces

(7:02 PM) Thusness:    the key word is 'freedom'

or liberating” - Conversation with John Tan, 2011

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