Based on some conversations earlier this year and last year by Thusness/PasserBy which I have slightly edited:
First experience the Isness of the gap between 2 moments of thought, then the Isness of the thought between 2 moments of gap.
On the realization of luminosity in the gap between thoughts, this conversation in 2005 is relevant:
[23:23] <ZeN`n1th> Dzogchen teacher Tenzin Wangyal (1997, 29) points out:
[23:23] <ZeN`n1th> The gap between two thoughts is essence. But if in that gap there is a lack of presence, it becomes ignorance and we experience only a lack of awareness, almost an unconsciousness. If there is presence in the gap, then we experience the dharmakaya [the ultimate].
[23:24] <ZeN`n1th> so presence is the awareness?
[23:24] <ZeN`n1th> nice quote , anyway
[23:24] <ZeN`n1th> anyway u were saying about the "i"... so what do u mean?
[23:24] <^john^> without presence, it is absorption
[23:25] <^john^> very well said, where u get this quote. 🙂
For the purposes of contemplation for the first breakthrough awakening (the I AM), this pointer by Angelo Dillulo (author of Awake: It’s Your Turn, he also realised deep insights further than the initial awakening and his pointers are clear) is important:
“Inquiry for First Awakening
The inquiry that leads to first awakening is a funny thing. We want to know “how” precisely to do that inquiry, which is completely understandable. The thing is that it’s not wholly conveyable by describing a certain technique. Really it’s a matter of finding that sweet spot where surrender and intention meet. I will describe an approach here, but it’s important to keep in mind that in the end, you don’t have the power (as what you take yourself to be) to wake yourself up. Only Life has that power. So as we give ourselves to a certain inquiry or practice it’s imperative that we remain open. We have to keep the portals open to mystery, and possibility. We have to recognize that the constant concluding that “no this isn’t it, no this isn’t it either...” is simply the activity of the mind. Those are thoughts. If we believe a single thought then we will believe the next one and on and on. If however we recognize that, “oh that doubt is simply a thought arising now,” then we have the opportunity to recognize that that thought will subside on its own... and yet “I” as the knower of that thought am still here! We can now become fascinated with what is here once that thought (or any thought) subsides. What is in this gap between thoughts? What is this pure sense of I, pure sense of knowing, pure sense of Being? What is this light that can shine on and illuminate a thought (as it does thousands of times per day), and yet still shines when no thought is present. It is self illuminating. What is the nature of the one that notices thoughts, is awake and aware before, during, and after a thought, and is not altered in any way by any thought? Please understand that when you ask these questions you are not looking for a thought answer, the answer is the experience itself.
When we start to allow our attention to relax into this wider perspective we start to unbind ourselves from thought. We begin to recognize the nature of unbound consciousness by feel, by instinct. This is the way in.
At first we may conclude that this gap, this thoughtless consciousness is uninteresting, unimportant. It feels quite neutral, and the busy mind can’t do anything with neutral so we might be inclined to purposely engage thoughts again. If we recognize that “not interesting, not important, not valuable” are all thoughts and simply return to this fluid consciousness, it will start to expand. But there is no need to think about expansion or watch for it. It will do this naturally if we stay with it. If you are willing to recognize every thought and image in the mind as such, and keep your attention alert but relaxed into the “stuff” of thought that is continuous with the sense of I, it will all take care of itself. Just be willing to suspend judgement. Be willing to forego conclusions. Be willing to let go of all monitoring of your progress, because these are all thoughts. Be open to the pure experience. Just return again and again to this place of consciousness with no object or pure sense of I Am. If you are willing to do this it will teach itself to you in a way that neither I nor anyone I’ve ever seen can explain, but it is more real than real.
Art by: Platon Yurich”
When we talk about naked awareness it is not a state where not even a single thought arise. When it is taught about the gap between 2 moments of thought, it is to first have an experience of the nakedness of awareness. To touch just that aspect of awareness. When we extend the gaps, our thoughts become less and clarity becomes more obvious.
However it will come to a time that no matter what is done, how much effort is being invested, how long, the other aggregates do not subside. This then is the crucial moment whether one can break through into non-duality (of subject and object).
Awareness is a seamless experience that is non-dual in nature. In this seamless experience, there is no boundary whatsoever, no experiencer experiencing experience; whatever arises is experience, is awareness -- as the sound of birds chirping, as words appearing on the screen, as the thoughts itself. There is no separate hearer, seer, watcher, observer, thinker. Everything is shining, self-felt, self-knowing, self-luminous, without a center. It is always just spontaneous arising and ceasing. There is no center, agent, boundary, inside or outside... merely a seamless whole experience.
Whether perception or no perception, whether momentum or no momentum, whether there are thoughts or no thoughts, it doesn't matter. That is the arising of the non-dual wisdom, with the understanding that the transience are the Presence.
Then no thoughts and thoughts are thoroughly understood. When no thoughts and thoughts are clearly understood, it becomes Gap-less. That is true effortlessness and is the pathless path without entry and exit.
Going before the arising of thoughts and perception and have a glimpse of that luminous nature is simply just a glimpse. Here lies the importance of “concentration & absorption” in spiritual practices. It is also true that the strength of uninterrupted concentration may not be there even for one with insights, and it has to go hand in hand with their new found insight of nonduality for stability, and also move into various graduation of nonduality. In truth, there are no stages/appearances that are purer than any others – every state is equally pure and non-dual in nature. When the mind grasps pure awareness as ‘formless’, ‘thoughtless’, ‘attributeless’, and as the background reality.... the ‘fabric’ and ‘texture’ of pristine awareness as ‘forms’ is then missed. Nevertheless, for the first 3 (Thusness’s) stages of experience in Thusness/PasserBy's Seven Stages of Enlightenment - https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html, the problem would certainly be the lack of sustained meditation concentration as well as the tendency of trying to grasp intellectually... which is also why Thusness often emphasizes the importance of sitting. That is apart from the lack of clear and deeper insight into the nature of awareness which will lead to the effortless and self-liberating actualization of total presence or empty clarity.
The first 3 stages are before the arising of non-dual insight and the purpose of sustainability is to create sufficient gap between 2 moments of thoughts to allow the sensation of contrast between conceptual/non-conceptuality for the thinking mind to realize the possibility of going pre-symbolic thereby loosening its stubborn grips of a dualistic framework.
Sustained bare attention also gave rise to the realization that ‘inner’, ‘outer’, ‘space’, ‘time’ and even ‘body’ and ‘mind’ are all mere constructs. Freeing from these constructs, also give rise to the condition for non-dual insight to arise.
For the first 3 stages, practice takes the form of striving towards a certain stage of perfection whereas Thusness stage 4 onwards, practice moves from ‘efforting’ to natural luminosity and spontaneity. Even so, meditation is still very important as explained in Meditation after Anatta https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2023/09/meditation-after-anatta.html .
Then the practice becomes the thought moment between two moments of gaps. To experience that luminous empty essence of that thought. It is in essence clarity, awareness itself, and is empty. The waves and the ocean are one and the same. All waves are One Taste. Experiencing Isness as an ocean and shunning away thoughts and manifestation is equally lost, the further insight (insight into non-duality) is the insight into everything as self-luminous awareness or Mind.
However, start by practicing the gap between 2 moments of thought and expand it but with the right understanding of no-self/non-duality. Then when the luminosity shines, it will gradually understand because it knows what blocks. When it tries all its best to do away the transients and yet the transients persist, one will have to wait for the right condition to come, such as having someone to point out or some verses that serves as a condition for awakening.
So first experience the Isness of the gap between 2 moments of thought, then the Isness of the thought between 2 moments of gap.
Excerpt from Pointing Out Innate Thinking:
"Is it an aware emptiness after the thought has dissolved? Or is it an aware emptiness by driving away the thought from meditation? Or, is the vividness of the thought itself an aware emptiness?"
If the meditator says it is like one of the first two cases, he had not cleared up the former uncertainties and should therefore be set to resolve this for a few days.
On the other hand, if he personally experiences it to be like the latter case, he has seen identity of thought and can therefore be given the following pointing-out instruction:
"When you look into a thought's identity, without having to dissolve the thought and without having to force it out by meditation, the vividness of the thought is itself the indescribable and naked state of aware emptiness. We call this seeing the natural face of innate thought or thought dawns as dharmakaya.
"Previously, when you determined the thought's identity and when you investigated the calm and the moving mind, you found that there was nothing other than this intangible single mind that is a self-knowing, natural awareness. It is just like the analogy of water and waves."
~ 14th Century Mahamudra Master, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal
"When you vividly perceive a mountain or a house, no matter how this perception appears, it does not need to disappear or be stopped. Rather, while this perception is experienced, it is itself an intangible, empty awareness. This is called seeing the identity of perception."
"Previously you cleared up uncertainties when you looked into the identity of a perception and resolved that perceptions are mind. Accordingly, the perception is not outside and the mind is not inside. It is merely, and nothing other than, this empty and aware mind that appears as a perception. It is exactly like the example of a dream-object and the dreaming mind.
"From the very moment a perception occurs, it is a naturally freed and intangible perceiving emptiness. This perceiving yet intangible and naked state of empty perception is called seeing the natural face of innate perception or perception dawning as dharmakaya.
"This being so, 'empty' isn't something better and 'perceiving' isn't something worse, and perceiving and being empty are not separate entities. So, you can continue training in whatever is experienced. When perceiving, in order to deliberately train in perception, there is no need to arrest it. When empty, in order to deliberately train in emptiness, you do not need to produce it.
Dzogchen Master Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche:
Even if those who begin to practice this find it difficult to continue in this state for more than an instant, there is no need to worry about it. Without wishing for the state to continue for a long time and without fearing the lack of it altogether, all that is necessary is to maintain pure presence of mind, without falling into the dualistic situation of there being an observing subject perceiving an observed object. If the mind, even though one maintains simple presence, does not remain in this calm state, but always tends to follow waves of thoughts about the past or future, or becomes distracted by the aggregates of the senses such as sight, hearing, etc., then one should try to understand that the wave of thought itself is as insubstantial as the wind. If one tries to catch the wind, one does not succeed; similarly if one tries to block the wave of thought, it cannot be cut off. So for this reason one should not try to block thought, much less try to renounce it as something considered negative. In reality, the calm state is the essential condition of mind, while the wave of thought is the mind's natural clarity in function; just as there is no distinction whatever between the sun and its rays, or a stream and its ripples, so there is no distinction between the mind and thought. If one considers the calm state as something positive to be attained, and the wave of thought as something negative to be abandoned, and one remains thus caught up in the duality of accepting and rejecting, there is no way of overcoming the ordinary state of mind.
"Ananda, you have not yet understood that all the defiling objects that appear, all the illusory, ephemeral phenomena, spring up in the very spot where they also come to an end. Their phenomena aspects are illusory and false, but their nature is in truth the bright substance of wonderful enlightenment. Thus it is throughout, up to the five skandhas and the six entrances, to the twelve places and the eighteen realms; the union and mixture of various causes and conditions account for their illusory and false existence, and the separation and dispersion of the causes and conditions result in their illusory and false extinction. Who would have thought that production and extinction, coming and going are fundamentally the eternal wonderful light of the Tathagata, the unmoving, all-pervading perfection, the wonderful nature of True Suchness! If within the true and eternal nature one seeks coming and going, confusion and enlightenment, or birth and death, one will never find them."
"You still have not realized that in the Treasury of the Tathagata, the nature of form is true emptiness and the nature of emptiness is true form. That fundamental purity pervades the Dharma Realm. Beings’ minds absorb itaccording to their capacity to know. Whatever manifests does so in compliance with karma. Ignorant of that fact, people of the world are so deluded as to assign its origin to causes and conditions or to spontaneity. These mistakes, which arise from the discriminations and reasoning processes of the mind, are nothing but the play of empty and meaningless words."
Lama Surya Das:
I think this five skandha scheme is a very interesting one, in the sense that it can begin to raise some very interesting questions and help us dig deeper, rather than just having a vague, amorphous kind of understanding. We are individual. We are each responsible for ourselves and our karma and our relations. Our individuality is comprised of these five aggregates or skandhas. We can work with that. It is actually an expression of the Buddha-nature.
Now, doesn't anybody want to say, "I didn't hear anything about Buddha-nature in the five skandhas. Where's the Buddha-nature? Who made that up?" That's the right question. What Buddha-nature? I never said anything about it. Who made that up? What enlightenment? What nirvana? Who made all that stuff up? Is it in us or elsewhere? How to get from "here" to "there"?
We're all looking for something to hang our hopes on, but when we really get down to the present moment, to our own experience, to clear seeing, we come to what Buddha said: "In hearing there is only hearing; no one hearing and nothing heard." There is just that moment, that hearing. You might think, "Oh, a beautiful bird." How do you know it's a bird? It might be a tape recorder. It might be bicycle brakes squeaking. In the first moment, there is just hearing, then we get busy, our minds and concepts get involved. The Buddha went through all the five senses. "In seeing there is just seeing; no one seeing and nothing seen." And so on, with tasting, touching, smelling, and thinking. Thoughts without a thinker. In thinking there is just thinking. There is just that momentary process. There is no thinker. The notion of an inner thinker is just a thought. We imagine that there is somebody thinking. It's like the Wizard of Oz. They thought there was this glorious wizard, but it was just a little man back there behind the screen, behind the veil. That's how it is with the ego. We think there's a great big monkey inside working the five windows, the five senses. Or maybe five monkeys, one for each sense; a whole chattering monkey house, which it sometimes feels like. But is there really a concrete individual or permanent soul inside at all? It seems more like that the lights are on, but no one is home!