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What is the true nature of reality according to Dzogchen?
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The Essence of Mind by Mipham Rinpoche

Namo Guru Mañjuśrīye!

The actual nature of things is inconceivable and inexpressible. Yet, for those fortunate individuals who seek to penetrate the profound meaning of dharmatā, I shall here offer a few words by way of illustration.

What we call “essence of mind” is the actual face of unconditioned pure awareness, which is recognized through receiving the guru's blessings and instructions. If you wonder what this is like, it is empty in essence, beyond conceptual reference; it is cognizant by nature, spontaneously present; and it is all-pervasive and unobstructed in its compassionate energy. This is the rigpa in which the three kāyas are inseparable.

It is therefore as the vidyādhara Garab Dorje said in his Final Testament:

This rigpa, which has no concrete existence as anything at all,

Is completely unobstructed in the arising of its self-appearances.

To summarize: the actual nature of mind—the way it has always been, in and of itself—is this innate pure awareness that is unfabricated and unrestricted.

When this is explained in negative terms:

• It is not something to be apprehended;

• Nor is it a non-existent void;

• It is not some combination of these two,

• Nor is it a third option that is neither.

This is the view of the absence of any identifiable existence, the fact that it cannot be conceptualised in any way by thinking, “It is like this.”

When explained in more positive, experiential terms, it is said to be glaringly empty, lucidly clear, vividly pure, perfectly even, expansively open, and so on.

To illustrate this using examples: without limit or centre, it is like space; in its unlimited clarity, it is like sunlight flooding the sky; without clear inside and outside, it is like a crystal ball; in its freedom from clinging and attachment, it is like the traces of a bird in flight; and neither arising nor ceasing, it is like the sky.

To dispel any doubts or misunderstandings that might arise from this instruction, it is described as the great clarity that is beyond partiality, the great emptiness of freedom from conceptual reference, the great union that cannot be separated, and so on.

In terms of its meaning, as it cannot be pointed out by words, it is inexpressible; as it cannot be known with ordinary modes of consciousness, it is inconceivable; and as it is does not fall into any extreme, it is the great freedom from elaboration. In the end, it is beyond all expressions, such as: it is all and everything, it is not all, everything lies within it, or does not, and so on. It remains an individual experience of self-knowing awareness.

The names used to illustrate it are 'primordial purity' (ka dag) and 'spontaneous presence' (lhun grub), and, when summarizing: 'the single, all-encompassing sphere of naturally arising wisdom' (rang byung ye shes thig le nyag gcig).

As it is the pinnacle of all in terms of the qualities it possesses, it is also the transcendent perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) and so on.

Symbolically, it can be revealed by means of the sun, or a magnifying glass, a crystal ball, or a finger pointing into space, and so forth.

When you have a precious jewel in your own hand, Even if others should discard them, why be angry? Without losing your connection to these instructions, The pinnacle of Dharma, and your own good fortune, Even if others should criticize them, why be angry?

By Mipham.

| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2016, with the kind assistance of Alak Zenkar Rinpoche.
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Thank you
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Gnas lugs med pa (there is no reality).
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Care to explain? I'm new to Dzogchen.
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The general idea aligns with emptiness [śūnyatā], free from extremes, as understood in common Mahāyāna and so on.
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You can also take a look at Prajnaparamita literature. Dzogchen view is not different from sutra Prajnaparamita view. Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Prajnaparamita in 8000 lines can all be good sources. Also I'm sure you can easily find commentaries on Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra.
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No identity, no nature, no reality
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Mind’s nature is indivisible emptiness and clarity,

Inexpressible and indestructible, like space.

In seeing it, there is no separate one who sees;

There is but a single, all-encompassing sphere.

Even looker and looking are one and the same.

This view of seeing all at once is unsurpassed,

A centreless, limitless, exceptional experience.

In this fruition in which what has to be done has been done,

There's no seeing at all, and any wish to see,

Any deep longing to discover the view,

Is naturally destroyed from its very depths.

To arrive at such contentment and evenness

Is to be touched by brave Mañjuśrī's beneficent light.

by Mipham Rinpoche (source)



Putting the Instruction on the Purification of Mental Activity into Practice

by Mipham Rinpoche

Namo guru!

When putting the instruction on the purification of mental activity into practice remain in solitude and adopt conduct that is conducive to concentration. Focus your mind on the difficulty of obtaining the freedoms and advantages and so on as a means to inspire enthusiasm for the meditation. Visualize the Blessed Teacher, King of the Śākyas, on the crown of your head surrounded by the saṅgha of the greater and lesser vehicles. Perform the seven-branch offering (ji nyé su dak…etc.),[1] and make the following prayer with fervent and heartfelt devotion: “Inspire me with your blessings, so that the stages of the practice for purifying mental activity arise in my own mind and the minds of all sentient beings here and now, while I remain upon this very seat!” Generate bodhicitta by thinking, “I will attain the level of perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. And it is for this reason that I now meditate on the stages of purifying mental activity.”


To begin, imagine that someone to whom you feel attached, or the object of your practice, whoever that might be, appears before you. Then consider that they are dissected like a corpse in a charnel ground, beginning at the right eye socket and continuing with the skin, flesh, bones, and internal organs. Consider the smell and other features of each part as it is dissected. Continue the process, mentally dissecting each of the thirty-six impure substances right down to the level of the subtlest particles, and develop a deep understanding of the inherent flaws of the physical body. Then, in the same way, divide the flesh and bones of the body according to their elemental components: solidity as the earth element; warmth as the fire element; breath as the wind element; blood, urine and so on as the water element; and cavities as the space element. These elements with their different characteristics are combined and contained within the body like a mass of poisonous snakes. Direct the eye of your intelligence to the body’s hollowness or mask-like character. The pace and duration of the session are not predetermined; meditate until everything arises clearly in your mind.

The sūtras say that when grains such as rice, barley and corn are placed together in a pile, a skilled person may separate them by identifying what is rice, what is barley and so on; and in the same way, by dividing the constituents of the aggregates and analyzing each one in turn it is possible to understand how they are a multiplicity. First, consider form in the way described. Then, when you have gone through the contemplation once clearly in this way, consider sensations, which are divided into pleasant, painful and neutral. Even pleasant sensations have further subdivisions, according to whether they arise from seeing a pleasant form, hearing a pleasant sound, and so on. Analyze and dissect these sensations according to their multiplicity. Then, afterwards, consider perceptions. There are various forms of perception, including good, bad and neutral, as well as all the various forms of perception classified according to their particular object—be it a pillar, vase, horse, ox, man, woman, or whatever. Develop conviction that the aggregate of perception, too, includes a multiplicity of phenomena, given that there are so many different forms of perception. After this, consider what is known as the aggregate of conditioning factors. Since conditioning factors associated with mind include the various mental events—with the exception of sensation and perception—such as attention and contact, they too are a multiplicity. For example, there are several virtuous mental states, including faith and conscientiousness. There are also several different forms of nonvirtuous mental state, such as lack of faith and lack of conscientiousness, as well as attachment and aversion, and so on. Even within a single mind of attachment or non-attachment there are particularities of object, time and features, so that the subdivisions are beyond limit. Conditioning factors thus consist of a multiplicity of various phenomena. Consider then how there are six types of consciousness, from visual consciousness through to mental consciousness, and how each has its own subdivisions. Visual consciousness, for example, includes the apprehension of blue, the apprehension of yellow, and so on. Analyze clearly how these constitute a multiplicity of different types.

A sūtra says:

Form is like a mass of foam,

Sensations are like bubbles on water,

Perception is like a mirage,

Formations are like a plantain tree,

And consciousness is like an illusion.

So says the Kinsman of the Sun.

When you develop a special certainty that this is how things are, rest in that state without becoming subject to forgetfulness for as long as you can. When the impression fades, rather than seeking to prolong it, turn instead to the contemplation of impermanence.


All entities, once they have come into being, do not remain as they are in the second instant but undergo immediate change. From the very first moment they arise until their final moment of cessation, they are subject to a continuous process of transformation. It does not matter whether something is like lightning, which disappears in a single instant, or the outer world, which endures for an aeon, as long as it is conditioned it will pass through a succession of moments during which it arises and ceases anew. Settle in the understanding that everything is similar to a waterfall or the flame of a lamp. Meditate on how all worlds—environment and inhabitants alike—are formed and ultimately perish, on the passing of the four seasons in the external world, and on the phases of life and changes in circumstances—youth and old age, high and low status, happiness and sorrow—that beings must pass through. Consider your own experience and what you have witnessed and heard concerning others. Meditate in these various ways until you develop clear certainty that all conditioned things resemble flashes of lightning, bubbles on water, or clouds.


When the momentum of this notion fades, investigate once more these tainted aggregates, the assemblies of various elements in constant flux, which never remain static even for an instant. Consider how, leaving aside their continuity and the coarser level of appearance, even in each passing moment, experiences of pain constitute the suffering of suffering, whereas moments that seem to have the nature of happiness are still liable to cease at any time and thus, being part of a constantly evolving stream, constitute the suffering of change. No matter whether you experience happiness, suffering or equanimity in the present moment, still, it is as if you had eaten poisonous food: there is not a single moment of experience that will not become a cause of future suffering. It is on the basis of earlier moments that subsequent moments arise; if previous moments were somehow incomplete this would obstruct the arising of their effects. All moments therefore function as causes for future suffering and thus constitute the suffering of conditioning.

Reflect on how the defiled aggregates included within the three realms relate to these three types of suffering until you are certain that the aggregates are the basis for suffering and similar to a pit of fire or filthy swamp. In addition, contemplate the individual sufferings of the six classes of beings, such as the intense heat and cold of the hells, and all the aspects of suffering you have seen or heard about, including the pain you have experienced directly. The sequence and duration of the reflection are not predetermined. You should simply reflect as much as you can on all the various major and minor forms of suffering within existence. Recognise that these different forms of suffering, which are so difficult to bear, will continue to arise, again and again without end, until the noble path is reached. Recognise too that they all emerge from the stream of tainted aggregates that are the basis of grasping. Continue this reflection until a recognition of their inherent faults arises from deep within and you develop certain conviction.


Remain in the state of mind that this certainty induces for as long as it has momentum. Then, when the force of the notion begins to fade, consider these five conditioned aggregates, which, through the certainty that the three investigations carried out so far has elicited, are now understood to be impermanent, multiple and painful by nature. Although we presume that these aggregates constitute a person or a self in relation to which we think, “I am,” they have no such inherently existent self, person or “I” whatsoever. Reflect on this, and consider how you would recognise the absence of a snake in a mottled rope in plain sight, and how the eyes of intelligence may similarly perceive the absence of a self in what are merely aggregates composed of assembled particles and successive moments, labelled as a self only where there is no investigation or analysis.

Generally speaking, selflessness is the most important point to realise. Still, this does not mean that it should be the exclusive focus, since emphasising the three preceding investigations makes it easier to understand the final one; that is to say, the momentum that they bring removes some of the difficulty. Here too, you should meditate until certainty concerning selflessness fades. When other thoughts begin to stir do not fall prey to their influence but carry out the analysis once again, beginning with the multiplicity of the aggregates. Meditate by focusing on each stage in turn and ensuring that you reach a decisive understanding of every point. Sometimes investigate your own aggregates, sometimes analyse the aggregates of others, and sometimes consider conditioned phenomena in general. Practise whichever of these three forms of analysis you prefer.

Dedicate the virtue at the end of the session and then rest in natural ease. If you are practising in multiple sessions, try to keep the wheel of analysis turning without interruption, like wildfire spreading through grass, so that there is no opportunity for other superficial thoughts to intervene. Should you grow mentally tired or fatigued, allow yourself simply to relax without contemplating anything at all. If thoughts stir, think to yourself: “What is the point of trivial preoccupations? I shall steer any movement of mind towards this most appropriate form of mental activity.” By doing so repeatedly you will arrive at a point where deliberate focus effortlessly induces an intensely powerful conviction and allowing the mind to settle during breaks between sessions causes the points of the contemplation to course spontaneously through your mind, bringing great benefit. These stages of meditation based on the sūtras are easy for anyone to understand, irrespective of their level of intelligence. They bring vast benefit without the need for exhaustive reasoning and make it possible, once the practice has become familiar, to realize the key to all dharmas. Thus:

Teaching is not paramount, meditation is.

When meditating don’t teach but learn deeply.

To teach without meditating is to be like a parrot.

Practise, therefore, this analytical meditation.

As requested by Pema Gyaltsen,

Who provided the paper on which to write,

I, Mipham, wrote down concisely

Whatever came to mind during a tea-break.


| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2021.


Tibetan Text Used

Mi pham rgya mtsho. "sems kyi spyod pa rnam par sbyong ba so sor brtag pa'i dpyad sgom 'khor lo ma/" in: gsung 'bum/_mi pham rgya mtsho. TBRC W23468. 27 vols. paro, bhutan: lama ngodrup and sherab drimey, 1984-1993. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=W23468 Vol. 27: 9–17

Secondary Sources

Dilgo Khyentse, The Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse: Volume Two. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2010.

Duckworth, Douglas, S. Jamgön Mipam: His Life and Times. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2011.

Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche & Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, Uprooting Clinging: A Commentary on Mipham Rinpoche’s Wheel of Analytic Meditation, Dharma Samudra, 2019

Khenpo Gawang. Your Mind is Your Teacher: Self-Awakening through Contemplative Meditation. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2013.

Lama Mipham. Calm and Clear. trans. Keith Dowman. Berkeley, CA. Dharma Publishing, 1973

Mipham Rinpoche. "The Wheel of Analytical Meditation That Thoroughly Purifies Mental Activity." trans. Adam Pearcey. Lotsawa House. https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/mipham/wheel-of-analytical-meditation

I.e., The seven branches from The King of Aspiration Prayers: Samantabhadra’s “Aspiration to Good Actions” (Zangchö Mönlam)  ↩

 John Tan:

The path of dukkha is the path that directly speaks to the heart. 

Since it directly speaks to the heart, it frees the mind from all fantasy views and arbitrary notions. 

Through the door of dukkha, we can develop a deep sense of gratitude and treasure the most simple of things. 

Therefore it is also the direct path towards the wisdom of simplicity, sincerity and gratitude.


"...The anatta definitely severed many emotional afflictions, for the most part I don't have negative emotions anymore. And either the anatta or the strict shamatha training has resulted in stable shamatha where thoughts have little effect and are diminished by the force of clarity. I'm also able to control them, stopping them for any amount of desired time etc. But I understand that isn't what is important. Can I fully open to whatever arises I would say yes. I understand that every instance of experience is fully appearing to itself as the radiance of clarity, yet timelessly disjointed and unsubstantiated.." - Kyle Dixon, 2013

Soh Wei YuAdmin

William Kong defines residual imprints in terms of emotional issues. Actually as you know, there are not just one but two residual imprints: the afflictive obscuration and the knowledge obscurations. The prior is related of clinging to 'self' while the latter is clinging to 'phenomena'. The antidote is the full realization and actualization of anatman of self [person] and shunyata of phenomena for the two obscurations respectively.

Without thorough twofold emptying, even after anatta, phenomena appears vividly real, arising and ceasing, having substantially existent cause and effect relationship, mind and matter, subtle subject-action-object structures etc.. rather than empty and illusory and free from extremes. When you have known the dharmata or nature of all phenomena and exhausted all phenomena thoroughly, that is omniscience/Buddhahood, as you have known the nature of all knowables and exhausted them [which does not mean a nihilistic state without appearances - https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fawakeningtoreality.blogspot.com%2F...%2Fexhaustion-of&data=04%7C01%7C%7Ccc1e402d14244ba674fc08d976bf63e9%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637671386647255234%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=%2BZVeVuvTSFpVsorFwphB46OpsugBBd7D6r%2Ffb5GVU%2F8%3D&reserved=0... ]. So going into MMK is important post-anatta to liberate the subtle cognitive obscurations.

As for liberating the afflictions, traditionally for all traditions even right from Theravada it is the three trainings, samatha and vipasyana together that liberates afflictions. If you lack insight into anatman you cannot liberate afflictions. If you lack training in meditative equipoise or samadhi that is also insufficient.

“The conditions for this subtle identification are not undone until anatta is realized.

Anatta realization is like a massive release of prolonged tension, this is how John put it once at least. Like a tight fist, that has been tight for lifetimes, is suddenly relaxed. There is a great deal of power in the event. The nature of this realization is not often described in traditional settings, I have seen Traga Rinpoche discuss it. Jñāna is very bright and beautiful. That brightness is traditionally the “force” that “burns” the kleśas.

The reservoir of traces and karmic imprints is suddenly purged by this wonderful, violent brightness. After this occurs negative emotions are subdued and for the most part do not manifest anymore. Although this is contingent upon the length of time one maintains that equipoise.” - Kyle Dixon, 2019 

“Only Buddhas rest in prajñā at all times, because they rest in “samati” which is an unfragmented samādhi which directly cognizes the nature of phenomena at all times.

The rest of us do our best to cultivate concentration, dhyāna, which then will lead to samādhi, and after time we will awaken to have the awakened equipoise which comes about due to our samādhi being infused with prajñā. However due to latent obscurations that awakened equipoise will be unstable and our prajñā will be fragmented. The more we access awakened equipoise however, the more karma in the form of kleśa and vāsanā will be burned away, and as a result, the more obscurations will be removed and diminished. The path is precisely eliminating those obscurations, the afflictive obscuration that conceives of a self and the cognitive obscuration that conceives of external objects. Buddhas have completely eliminated these two obscurations and as a result their samādhi is samati, a transcendent state of awakened equipoise beyond the three times.” – Kyle Dixon, 2021

"If you practice effectively and begin to have instances of awakened, nonconceptual equipoise of a yogic direct perception of emptiness, then you will encounter what is called prajñā, which is the transcendent and ecstatic knowledge of emptiness that occurs while in awakened equipoise. Prajñā is forceful and bright and actually involuntarily “burns” away kelśas just by virtue of its nature. As such, if you cultivate awakened equipoise, then each time you establish a samādhi infused with prajñā, more and more kleśas will be exhausted, and with them, the seeds for afflictive states of mind and negative emotions.

You will still be able to have positive emotions, but overall you will actually end up establishing a state of equanimity where you will be pretty even all the time, content and undisturbed.

With that your compassion will naturally increase, because compassion is actually an innate property of the nature of mind.

The prajñā or “wisdom” of suchness/emptiness that knows the actual nature of phenomena, manifests once the knowledge obscuration that misconceives of an inherent identity or "self" in phenomena is exhausted as a result of authentic awakening. The direct realization of an absence of self in persons and phenomena is then the basis of compassion, as noted in the Sangs rgyas gsang ba'i lam rim:

Being empty, it is always devoid of attributes, and free from the clinging to the notion of self. Therefore, the suchness upon seeing this forms the basis for the arising of compassion.


 Soh Wei Yu

Another quote I intended to paste earlier but missed out:
“Prajñā “burns” karma, only when in awakened equipoise. Regular meditation does not.” - Kyle Dixon, 2021

“On hand I have this:
The Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra states:
Affecting the mind, kleśa and vāsanā can be destroyed only by a wisdom [prajñā], a certain form of omniscience [sarvajñatā].
There is a lesser form of prajñā that is able to eradicate the kleśas, and then a superior form of prajñā that destroys vāsanās. Only buddhas possess the superior form and have therefore dispelled both the kleśas and vāsanās.
The Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra continues:
There is no difference between the different destructions of the conflicting emotions [kleśaprahāna]. However, the Tathāgatas, arhats and samyaksaṃbuddhas have entirely and definitively cut all the conflicting emotions [kleśa] and the traces that result from them [vāsanānusaṃdhi]. The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas themselves have not yet definitively cut vāsanānusaṃdhi... these vāsanās are not really kleśas. After having cut the kleśas, the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas still retain a small part of them: semblances of love (attachment) [rāga], hate (aversion) [dveṣa] and ignorance [moha] still function in their body [kāya], speech [vāc] and mind [manas]: this is what is called vāsanānusaṃdhi. In foolish worldly people [bālapṛthagjana], the vāsanās call forth disadvantages [anartha], whereas among the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas they do not. The Buddhas do not have these vāsanānusaṃdhi.” - Kyle Dixon, 2021
 · Reply · 2w · Edited


[10:06 am, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Wrote yesterday:

Its all god
All divine
Appearances are divine

All is the one life one intelligence one clarity flow

Eat god taste god see god smell god sleep god

Liberate god - for god has no face of its own, only infinite faces

Everything - what a wonder, what a miracle

The ordinary are all miraculous activities and spiritual powers

Presence is infinite potentiality

Empty and hence infinite potentiality is possible
[10:06 am, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Its like more brahman than brahman but its nature is empty
[10:42 am, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Also all is spontaneously perfect. Its luminosity and emptiness. Absolutely no effort towards achieving something required.. its rather a release of ignorance, conditionings and fixations
[10:45 am, 12/09/2021] John Tan: U wrote?
[10:54 am, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Yeah
[10:57 am, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Its effect is like everything dissolved into spontaneity and presence.. spontaneous presencing
[11:01 am, 12/09/2021] John Tan: Yes
[11:01 am, 12/09/2021] John Tan: Outside, talk later
[2:01 pm, 12/09/2021] John Tan: Should not say everything is dissolved into spontaneity and presence also. Spontaneity and non-dual presence is simply one's natural condition. The conceptual and conventional are based on a paradigm of entities and characteristics resulting experiences appearing as dualistic and inherent.

When u go through the 2 stanzas, first stanza of non-doership is spontaneity and second stanza of luminosity is presence.

Why does seeing through a background construct, entities and characteristics result in insubstantial non-dual. If u r clear, then there is no arguments of empty of self nature and freedom from all elaborations. But the mind trying to integrate the two conceptually will face some challenges.

The key actually rest in anatta insight. If there is no background, one is left with the transient and exploring the nature of the transience. Groundlessness has to lead one this this insight, once this is clear, there will be no contradiction.
[3:01 pm, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Yeah its clear spontaneous presence/spontaneous perfection is what is always already the case and has nothing to do with stages or achievement, buddha vs sentient being etc. Only adventitiously obscured

There is a feeling of divinity, of being the one intelligence, god, mind, life, awareness etc but not as a background but purely as all ongoing appearances. If there is a feeling of eternity it is not of an unchanging background but of infinite interpenetration of time and space and as if past present future are inseparable from this moment
[3:04 pm, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: If no background and no entity is not clear, this feeling of all pervading divinity easily gets reified into either a universal mind or solipsist thinking
[3:05 pm, 12/09/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Which is all forms of inherency thinking
[3:13 pm, 12/09/2021] John Tan: This is good. Read what I wrote to u when jack left.

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

I've been overwhelmed by the number of messages I get lately in Reddit and Facebook and so on and may have missed out some messages, so my apologies if I have not gotten back to you for some time.

You are all welcomed to join and participate in our Awakening to Reality group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AwakeningToReality

It now has 800+ members and still growing rapidly.

Many in the group has had insights into anatta and emptiness and will be able to offer good advices.