Good article I read many years ago by David Loy: 

Nondual Thinking
By David Loy

Journal of Chinese Philosophy
Vol. 13 (1986)
pp. 293-309

Copyright 1986 by Dialogue Publishing Company

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Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 13 (1986)

I never think - my thoughts think for me. (Lamartine [1])

Much of Asian philosophy constitutes a radical critique of thinking as it usually occurs. It is commonly claimed that the superimpositions of thought-projection (vikalpa and prapañca) obscure the actual nature of experience. Given the emphasis on meditation, during which one "lets go" of thoughts, one might conclude that thinking has solely the negative effect of an interference that distorts reality, and hence that we should strive to eliminate or minimize it. This inference would be an error: thought is not to be rejected, but its actual nature must be clarified. If thought-construction distorts perception, so perception might be said to interfere with thought. When the thought-forming activity of the mind is preoccupied with a system of representation and intention, then something fundamental about the nature of thoughts is obscured also. In Ch'an, the fifth of Kuo-an Shih-yuan's Ten Oxherding Pictures describes a stage of enlightenment in which thoughts too are not to be rejected: "Enlightenment brings the realization that thoughts are not unreal since even they arise from our True-nature. It is only because delusion still remains that they are imagined to be unreal". [2]
    The problem is not thoughts per se but more specifically a certain type of thinking, variously called "reasoning", "conceptualizing", "dualistic thinking", etc. But exactly what these terms refer to is not clear, especially if an alternative mode of thinking is supposed. What kind of thinking is left if we eliminate "reasoning"? If "conceptualizing" means "thinking that employs concepts", it is difficult to conceive of what thinking without concepts could be. Dualistic thinking is easier to understand: thinking which uses dualistic categories such as being and nonbeing, samsara and nirvana, pure and impure. The usual criticism of such thinking is that although

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distinctions are made in order to choose one half, the interdependence of the two terms means that to affirm one is also to maintain the other: in clinging to life I reveal my obsession with death, and my desire for success is equal to my fear of failure. But isn't all thinking dualistic in its alternation between assertion and negation? If such thinking is eliminated, what remains? What is "nondual thinking"? The concern of this paper is to characterize the difference between such problematic modes of thinking and whatever type is supposed to occur after enlightenment.

I.    Prajña

    Another nonduality, the nondifference of subject and object, is a crucial-perhaps the crucial-concept for several of those Eastern systems which criticize reasoning/conceptualizing-particularly Mahayana Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, and Taoism. This suggests that a fruitful approach to the question of the true nature of thinking might be to investigate whether thinking is (or can be) nondual in this second sense-that is, without a thinker distinct from the thoughts that he thinks. The concept of prajña as developed in Mahayana seems to be an instance of this: Prajña is often defined as that knowing in which there is no distinction between the knower, that which is known, and the act of knowing. D.T. Suzuki begins his paper on "Reason and Intuition in Buddhist Philosophy" by thus distinguishing prajña from vijñana:
    Prajna goes beyond vijnana. We make use of vijnana in our world of the senses and intellect, which is characterized by dualism in the sense that there is the one who sees and there is the other that is seen-the two standing in opposition. In prajna this differentiation does not take place: what is seen and the one who sees are identical; the seer is the seen and the seen is the seer. [3]
In his chart listing the various counterbalancing characteristics of prajña and vijñana, the former includes "Non-duality" in contrast to the latter's "duality". [4] The title of Suzuki's paper derives from his translation of the two Sanskrit terms: Vijñana he translates "reason or discursive under-

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standing", in contrast to prajña which is translated, perhaps unfortunately, as "intuition". The main philosophical meaning of intuition is "the immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without the intervention of any reasoning process" [5] -- as in Spinoza's scientia intuitiva, the third and highest form of knowledge, the perception of a thing "through its essence alone", which does not consist in being convinced by reasons but in an immediate union with the thing itself. Thus Suzuki's term is an appropriate one to describe nonduality. However, it may be unwise in that "intuition" more commonly suggests another faculty of mind apart from the intellect, whereas the function of "intuition" here is nothing other than the function of the intellect when it is experienced nondually. As Suzuki repeatedly emphasizes, prajña underlies vijñana:
...if we think that there is a thing denoted as prajna and another denoted as vijnana and that they are forever separated and not to be brought to the state of unification, we shall be completely on the wrong track. [6]
vijnana cannot work without having prajna behind it; parts are parts of the whole; parts never exist by themselves, for if they did they would not be parts-they would even cease to exist. [7]
    The etymologies of vijñana and prajña are revealing. Both have the same root jña, "to know". The vi- prefix of vijñana (also in vi-kalpa and vi-tarka) signifies "separation or differentiation"; hence it refers to that type of knowing which functions by discriminating one thing from another--the most fundamental discrimination being that of the knower from the known. In contrast, the pra-prefix of prajña means "being born or springing up" [8] -- presumably by itself, evidently referring to a more spontaneous type of knowing in which the thought no longer seems to be the product of a subject, but is experienced as arising from a deeper nondual source. In such knowing the thought and that which is conscious of the thought are one. One important implication of this is that it is impossible to observe one's thoughts objectively. The Śiksāsamuccaya of Śantideva contains a meditation on thought which dwells on this point:

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...For thought, Kāśyapa, cannot be apprehended, inside or outside, or in between both. For thought is immaterial, invisible,, non-resisting, inconceivable, unsupported and homeless. Thought has never been seen by any of the Buddhas, nor do they see it, nor will they see it. . . . A thought is like the stream of a river, without any staying power; as soon as it is produced it breaks up and disappears. ... A thought is like lightning, it breaks up in a moment and does not stay on....
    Searching for thought all round, he does not see it within or without... Can then thought review thought? No, thought cannot review thought. As the blade of a sword cannot cut itself, as a finger-tip cannot touch itself, so a thought cannot see itself. [9]
But this seems contradicted by our experience. Surely thought can review itself; doesn't this happen often, whenever we ponder the logical implications of some thought as part of a sequence of reasoning? The point of the passage must be that the various thought-elements of such a sequence do not co-exist in the mind at the same time. At any moment there can be only one thought; a "review" of that thought, or any other thought that arises, is a completely new thought. The next section will explore the implications of this.

II.    "An Unsupported Thought"

It thinks, one ought to say. We become aware of certain representations which do not depend on us; others depend on us, or at least so we believe; where is the boundary? One should say, it thinks,just as one says, it rains.
- Lichtenberg [10]

    In the Western philosophical tradition, the denial of a thinker is even more radical than the denial of the subject as a perceiver or an agent. Modern philosophy begins with Descartes' postulation of the subject which functions autonomously as its own criterion of truth, and this subject is founded on the

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fact that the act of thinking requires a thinker, an "I" to be doing it.
What of thinking? I find here that thought is an attribute that belongs to me: it alone cannot be separated from me. I am, I exist, that is certain. But how often? Just when I think; for it might possibly be the case if I ceased entirely to think, that I should likewise cease to exist.. . . I am, however, a real thing and really exist; but what thing? I have answered: a thing which thinks. [11]
Descartes argues that it is self-contradictory to doubt my own existence. "For it is so evident of itself that it is I who doubts, who understands, and who desires, that there is no reason here to add anything to explain it". [12] As a proof, this begs the question: To assume that "I" am doubting my own existence is to go beyond what is empirically given. What is experienced is thoughts, some of which involve the concept "I", but from this it is illegitimate to infer a thinker distinct from the thought. No cogito can be derived from cogitans.
    In reaction, Hume's conception of the mind denies the existence of any identifiable self and emphasizes the "intentionality" of all consciousness, that consciousness is always consciousness of something:
I never catch myself at any time without a perception, and can never observe anything but the perception. When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible to myself, and may truly be said not to exist. [13]
The intentionality of "dualistic" consciousness is essential to the nondualist, for this is implied by the claim that there is no self apart from its experience. John Levy has elaborated this concept into what is perhaps the classic argument against subject-object duality:
When I am conscious of an object, that is, of a notion or a precept, that object alone is present. When I am conscious of my perceiving, what alone presents itself to consciousness is the notion that I perceive the object: and therefore the notion of my

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being the perceiver also constitutes an object of consciousness. From this, a most important fact emerges: the so-called subject who thinks. and its apparent object, have no immediate relation.

    ... the notion, I am reading, does not occur while we are thus absorbed in reading a book: it occurs only when our attention wavers. . . .a little reflection will show that even when we are not thus absorbed for any appreciable lapse of time, the subject who afterwards lays claim to the action was not present to consciousness when the action was taking place. The idea of our being the agent occurs to us as a separate thought, which is to say that it forms an entirely fresh object of consciousness'. And since, at the time of the occurrence, we were present as neither the thinker, the agent, the percipient, nor the enjoyer, no subsequent claim on our part could alter the position...

    If the notions of subject and object are both the separate objects of consciousness, neither term has any real significance. An object, in the absence of a subject, cannot be what is normally called an object; and the subject, in the absence of an object, cannot be what is normally called the subject. It is in memory that the two notions seem to combine to form an entirely new notion, I am the perceiver or the thinker. [14]

From this, Levy later concludes: "Memory and the consciousness of individual existence are therefore synonymous". [15] If this argument is valid, then originally there is no distinction between "internal" (mental) and "external" (physical), which implies just what Ch'an Masters Hsueh-Feng and Dogen claimed: trees and rocks and clouds, if they are not juxtaposed in memory with the "I" concept, are as much "my mind " as thoughts and feelings. Levy develops a point much stressed in Advaita: the Self is that which cannot be known, for to know it would be to make it into an object. What is usually overlooked about this point is that our usual sense-of-self is the result of exactly such an objectification. Levy's emphasis on memory as the source of duality is consistent with Sankara's reference to it in his famous definition of adhyasa, which may be restated as: Superimposition is the apprehension



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of something in the present as different than it actually is, due to the interference of memory-traces. [16] (There is also a parallel in the Lankavatara Sutra: "When the triple world is surveyed by the Bodhisattva, he perceives that its existence is due to memory [literally, 'perfuming'] that has been accumulated since the beginningless past, but wrongly interpreted"). [17] The usual function of memory as superimposition is to interpret the perception so that it is seen as... -- in this case, as a self-existing object. This process involves relating together perceptions and other mental events, including memory-traces and the notion of "I" (the subject). But what if memory were not relating together the distinct notions of precept and subject? Or-it amounts to the same thing-if the memory were experienced as it is, not superimposed but "an entirely fresh object of consciousness" quite distinct from the other thoughts and precepts which it relates together? The significance of the Śiksāsamuccaya passage, quoted at the end of Section I, becomes evident: If memory "wrongly interpreted" is "synonymous" with individual existence because it is a case of "thought reviewing thought", then the experience of each thought as autonomous will eliminate that sense of individual existence--that is, the sense of subject-object duality.

    Nietzsche came to such a conclusion as a result of developing the implications of other reflections on causality:

    "Causality" eludes us; to suppose a direct causal link between thoughts, as logic does-that is the consequence of the crudest and clumsiest observation...

    "Thinking", as epistemologists conceive it, simply does not occur: 'it is quite an arbitrary fiction, arrived at by selecting one element from the process and eliminating all the rest, an artificial arrangement for the purpose of intelligibility-

    The "spirit", something that thinks: ... this conception is a second derivative of that false introspection which believes in "thinking": first an act is imagined which simply does not occur, "thinking", and secondly a subject substratum in which every act of thinking, and nothing else, has its origin: that is to say, both the deed and doer are fictions. [18]



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    We believe that thoughts as they succeed one another in our minds stand in some kind of causal relation: the logician especially, who actually speaks of nothing but instances which never occur in reality, has grown accustomed to the prejudice that thoughts cause thoughts-...

    In summa: everything of which we become conscious is a terminal phenomenon, an end-and causes nothing; every successive phenomenon in consciousness is completely atomistic... [19]

Nietzsche relates the denial of a thinker to a denial of the process of thinking. Why; after all, do we believe that there is an act of thinking? Because that act is what the thinker does: stringing thoughts together by creating new thoughts on the basis of the old thoughts. If there is no such thinker, then there need be no such act. That leaves only thoughts, but one at a time, although the succession may be rapid.

    The significance of Nietzsche's remarks for us is that we find the same claim in the Asian nondual philosophies, particularly in Ch'an Buddhism. In The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng explains what prajña is:

    To know our mind is to obtain liberation. To attain liberation is to experience the Samadhi of Prajna, which is ''thoughtlessness". What is "thoughtlessness"? Thoughtlessness is to see and know all Dharmas (things) with a mind free from attachment. When in use it pervades everywhere, and yet it sticks nowhere....When our mind works freely without any hindrance and is at liberty to "come" or to "go", we attain Samadhi of Prajna, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of "thoughtlessness". But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view. [20]

The term "thoughtlessness" would seem to recommend a mind free from any thoughts, but Hui Neng denies this: rather, "thoughtlessness" is the function



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of a mind free from any attachment. The implication is that for someone who is liberated thoughts still arise, but there is no clinging to them when they do. Why the term "thoughtlessness" can be used to characterize such a state of mind will become clear in a moment. But the question that arises first is in what way one can ever be attached to thoughts if, as the Śiksāsamuccaya says, a thought has no staying power, that like lightning it breaks up in a moment and disappears. Hui Neng answers this later in the Platform Sutra when he says more about "how to think":

In the exercise of our thinking faculty, let the past be dead. If we allow our thoughts, past, present and future, to link up in a series, we put ourselves under restraint. On the other hand, if we never let our mind attach to anything, we shall gain liberation.
(my emphasis [21])

One clings to a thought by allowing the thoughts to link up in a series, which means having one's next thought "caused", as it were, by the previous thoughts, rather than letting each thought arise spontaneously and nondually.

    According to the autobiographical first part of the Platform Sutra, Hui Neng became deeply enlightened and realized that all things in the universe are his self-nature, upon hearing a line from the Diamond Sutra: "Let your thought arise without fixing it anywhere". [22] The passage just prior to this one-which Hui Neng must also have heard-puts this in context. Edward Conze translates it as follows:

    Therefore then, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva should produce an unsupported thought, a thought which is nowhere supported, which is not supported (apratisthiti) by forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, or objects of mind. [23]

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.



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    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.



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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.

    This understanding of thoughts-not-linking-up-in-a-series but springing up nondually is consistent with D. T. Suzuki's conception of prajña:

    It is important to note here that prajna wants to see its diction "quickly" apprehended, giving us no intervening moment for reflection or analysis or interpretation. Prajna for this reason is frequently likened to a flash of lightning or to a spark from two



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striking pieces of flint. "Quickness" does not refer to progress of time; it means immediacy, absence of deliberation, no allowance for an intervening proposition, no passing from premises to conclusion. [28]

This gives insight into the many Ch'an dialogues in which students are criticized for their hesitation or praised for their apparently nonsensical but immediate replies. That the reply is immediate is not itself sufficient; what is important is that each response be experienced as a nondual "presentation of the whole". Hesitation reveals lack of prajña because it indicates either some logical train of thought or the self-conscious paralysis of all thought. That many approved replies are non-sequitur reveals one aspect of the enlightened mind, that its thoughts are free from reasoning and any methodology.

    Even more important, this also explains how meditation functions, since the "letting-go" of thoughts breaks up the otherwise habitual linking together in a series. Huang Po: "... Why do they [Ch'an students] not copy me by letting each thought go as though it were nothing, or as though it were a piece of rotten wood, a stone, or the cold ashes of a dead fire"? [29]


III.    Conclusion

We are now in a position to answer the problem posed at the beginning of this paper: How to characterize the difference between reasoning/conceptualizing/dualistic thinking and the type of thinking that occurs after realization: nondual thinking. The problem with reasoning/conceptualizing is that it involves thinking as a logical process leading to a conclusion--that is, as a series of linked thoughts. The distinct thoughts of such thinking never stand "unsupported" by themselves but depend upon and refer back to the  previous thoughts, because apparently "caused" by them. The experience of prajña seems to be that, instead of my laboriously extracting the logical implications of one thought for another (for which process a self is assumed to be necessary), thoughts spring up full-grown, like Minerva from the forehead of Zeus.

    There are two objections which spontaneously arises in reaction to this conception of nondual thinking: "Without the direction of a thinker



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to organize one's thoughts and relate them in a series, thoughts would arise randomly and chaotically, and we could not function in any meaningful way". This objection gains its force from our experience of the free-association that occurs during daydreaming, when the conscious controls which normally direct (or seem to direct) our thinking are relaxed. However, we should not equate concentration-of-mind with a thinker; the former-"one-pointed mind"-is much recommended in Ch'an for example, even as the self is denied (Wu-hsin) [a]. Prajña is an instance of the first because there is not the self-conscious "reviewing" of the second. A manifestation of this occurs in the dharma-combat which advanced Ch'an monks were expected to engage in with masters and other monks as a way of testing and "polishing" their own realization. When a monk was challenged with a "Ch'an question", his answer needed to be both immediate and appropriate to situation. The point here is that, contrary to our usual understanding, the mediation of reasoning is not necessary to choose the most appropriate response from among various alternatives, but what arises spontaneously in "prajña-intuition" will be appropriate if self-hesitation does not interfere This is no special process of "intuiting", but the natural function of mind for someone without the delusion of duality. There is certainly pattern in "my" mental life, but it is not something that "I" have imposed upon it, there has never been a thinker creating and linking thoughts.

    But (this is a second objection) "how then do you explain away the sense of effort that we experience when we 'try to think'? You have denied not just the thinker, but the very act of thinking, which leaves only thoughts, whose nondual nature is, it has been claimed, to spring up spontaneously. If that is true, why is thinking ever effortful"?

    To answer this, we must distinguish between types of "effort" in thinking. One type is that involved in rigorous logical thinking, but I suggest that much of the effort involved here is due to selecting and organizing into a rational pattern thoughts which naturally arise, which in themselves have no such pattern. The function of the "self' here is not creating thoughts but linking them into an acceptable logical sequence. As Nietzsche claimed in a passage quoted earlier, thinking as epistemologists conceive it is an arbitrary fiction, an artificial arrangement for the purpose of intelligibility in which certain thoughts are selected out and others ignored.

    But I think that this does not explain all the effort which is indubitably



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connected with thinking. The example of Zen dharma-combat, used in answering the previous objection, is also helpful here. Even for one who sometimes experiences nondual prajña-intuition, effort is necessary, but this effort is to keep a one-pointed mind by avoiding and cutting through the various interferences that still arise and tend to distract. Again, this effort is not to produce thoughts but to eliminate or bypass the other mental processes (emotions, desires, memory-traces, etc.) which otherwise transform the creativity of prajña into discrimination of vijñana by filtering prajña through various organizing mechanisms. Perhaps the "sense of self" is this habitual process of organizing thoughts and linking them in series; if so, the sense of self constitutes a barrier which can be overcome only with effort.

    This interpretation invites comparison with some philosophical views on telepathy. From his own researches, H.H. Price concluded:

It looks as if telepathically received impressions have some difficulty in crossing the threshold and manifesting themselves in consciousness. There seems to be some barrier or repressive mechanism which tends to shut them out from consciousness, a barrier which is rather difficult to pass, and they make use of all sorts of devices for overcoming it. .... It is a plausible guess that many of our everyday thoughts and emotions are telepathic or partly telepathic in origin, but are not recognized to be so because they ,are so much distorted and mixed with other mental contents in crossing the threshold of consciousness. [30]

This could serve as a description of how prajña is filtered and distorted into vijñana. It also raises the question whether psi phenomena such as telepathy and precognition are natural aspects of prajña-intuition (about whose function there is always something essentially mysterious) which has been freed from such distortions. Claims to psychic powers are traditional to all the nondual Asian traditions. For example, according to the Pali sutras the Buddha had such faculties as "heavenly ear", the ability to hear sounds very far away. Are mental powers such as telepathy perhaps the natural function of the mind when "interferences" are eliminated?

    But prajna-intuition, as described in this paper, may seem too mys-



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terious to be believable. Do we ever experience such nondual thinking? Of course: this is what is normally expressed by the term "creativity", which too is usually acknowledged to be essentially mysterious.

Has anyone at the end of the nineteenth century a clear idea of what poets of strong ages have called inspiration? . . . If one had the slightest residue of superstition left in one's system, one could hardly reject altogether the idea that one is merely incarnation, merely mouthpiece, merely a medium of overpowering forces.. .. One hears, one does not seek; one accepts, one does not ask who gives;like lightning, a thought flashes up, with necessity, without hesitating regarding its form-I never had any choice...

    Everything happens involuntarily in the highest degree but as in a gale of a feeling of freedom, of absoluteness, of power, of divinity.
(Nietzsche [31])

The concept of nondual thinking as developed in this paper also seems a fruitful approach to Heidegger's later work (after the Kehre), which distinguishes between vorstellendes and ursprungliches Denken and insists that thinking must be "claimed by Being" so that it is not just about Being but is itself "an event of Being". "We never come to thoughts. They come to us". [32] But to expand on these issues would go beyond the bounds of this paper. [33]







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1. Quoted in Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation, London: Hutchinson, 1963, p. 150.

2. Philip Kapleau, ed., The Three Pillars of Zen, Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1956, p. 306.

3. D.T. Suzuki, "Reason and Intuition in Buddhist Philosophy", in Charles A. Moore, ed., Essays in East-West Philosophy, University of Hawaii, 1951, p. 17.

4. Ibid., p. 35.

5. Oxford English Dictionary.

6. Suzuki, op. cit.; p. 34.

7. Ibid., p. 17.

8. See Monier-Williams' A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

9. Śiksasamuccya 233-4, in Edward Conze, ed., Buddhist Texts Through the Ages Oxford: Cassirer, 1954, p. 163.

10. Quoted in Koestler, op. cit.

11. Rene Descartes, "Meditations on First Philosophy", in The Philosophical Works of Descartes, trans. Haldane and Ross, Cambridge University Press, 1931, p. 152.

12. Ibid., p. 154.

13. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature Book I, Part IV, Section VI, "Of personal Identity".

14. John Levy, The Nature of Man According to the Vedanta, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956, pp. 66-7.

15. Ibid., p. 69.

16. From the preamble to Śankara's Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya.

17. Quoted in Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, London: Chatto and Windus, 1974, p. 216.

18. F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, No. 477, trans. Kaufmann and Hollingdale, New York: Vintage, 1968, p. 264.

19. Ibid., No. 478, pp. 264-5.

20. Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch on the High Seat of "The Treasure of the Law", trans. Wong Mou-lam, Hong Kong Buddhist Book Distributor, no date, p. 35.

21. Ibid., p. 49.

22. My translation of this line; see ibid., p. 19.

23. Edward Conze, ed., Selected Sayings from The Perfection of Wisdom, Boulder, Colorado: Prajna Press, 1978, p. 90.

24. Ku-tsun-hsu Yu-lu 1:4 (Kosonshuku Goroku) Recorded Sayings of Ancient Worthies, Sung Dynasty, Fu-hsueh Shu-chu, Shanghai, no date; quoted in Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, Penguin edition, p. 102 fn. Compare: "The True is thus the Bacchanalian revel in which no member,i.e., no thought, is not drunk; yet because each member collapses as soon as he drops out, the revel is just as much



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transparent and simple repose". (From the Preface to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, No. 37, trans. A.V. Miller.)

25. Chang Chung-yuan, Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism, New York: Vintage, 1971, p. 203. For more on wei-wu-wei, see "wei-wu-wei: nondual action", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 35, No. 1, January 1985.

26. Ramana Maharshi, Erase the Ego, Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1978, p.18.

27. Surendranath Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975, Vol. I, p. 493.

28. Suzuki, op. cit.; p. 18.

29. The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, trans. John Blofeld, London: The Buddhist Society, 1958, p. 54. Why do we link thoughts together, always needing to add one more? The answer, I think, is in the fact that the sense-of-self is not a thing but a process. In itself, the self is a nothing, and this is usually experienced as a lack; so the sense-of-self always tries to get ahead of itself by projecting the next thought, and the next... This constant thrust into the future is: the "self".

30. Quoted `in Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up, New York: Random House, 1978, p. 271.

31. F. Nietzsche, Ecce Home, trans. Walter Kaufmann, New York: Vintage, 1966, pp. 300-1.

32. See "Letter on Humanism", in David Farrell Krell, ed., Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, New York: Harper and Row, 1977, p. 341.

33. That prajña-thoughts do not link-up-in-a-series does not deny that, from another perspective, previous thoughts "condition" later ones. But when one "forgets oneself" and becomes a nondual thought, then there is no longer any awareness that the thought is caused. This paradox--that the thought is both caused and unconditioned (see last Nietzsche quote)-is discussed in two other papers: "The Paradox of Causality in Madhyamika", International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 25, No.1, March 1985, and "The Mahayana Deconstruction of Time", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 36, No. 1, January 1986.

Realization of “One Sense”

(by James M. Corrigan)

Filed under Prose
What leads one to the realization that there is truly only one sense, not five or six as we normally understand experience?
Answer: One way that this realization arises is out of the process of “turning hearing around,” which is both a deconstruction of the subtle structuring of experience that is normally overlooked, and ultimately a direct experience.
Even though we may understand the emptiness of thoughts and other sensations, which arise without any intrinsic self-reality, and though we may also have direct non-conceptual experiences, what is still present is the perspective, even if there is no inferred, actual, or imagined observer/knower involved. This is the normal perspective that we all have, because it is our familiar way of experiencing things. So, in hearing something that is arising impersonally, we still understand it to be “heard,” even if we know there is no one to hear, nothing to hear, etc. But instead of taking that perspective, turn it around: “you,” which is that perspective even when it is stripped of all the concretions of ego and identify, is still a false structure. “You” are confusing, through a subtle structuring of direct experience, what is actually happening. “You” are doing this because you understand hearing to be structured as a perception, therefore encompassing something perceived and the perception of it.
Sound is a manifesting experience that is empty of an intrinsic self-nature like everything that manifests is. You neither create it, nor hear it in a dualistic sense. Instead it is experienced because all that is manifesting is the process of knowing. This knowing is not self-centered, so all the problems of shared knowledge are not present, but a perspective still exists. So which way, truly, should the perspective be pointing? From an illusory “you” that, lacking an intrinsic self-nature, isn’t real at all, toward a “sound” that is just as illusory? Or from the source of the manifestation towards the manifestation? That latter perspective is our normal perspective turned around. When we realized that there is no “me” or ego “here” we forgot to realign our more fundamental understandings of perceiving and experiencing, leaving this subtle error to trip us up, and leading to a proliferation of identified types of perceptions and senses.
Once you understand that there has been that subtle misunderstanding of the experience of hearing sound, every time you experience sound, note the error and force yourself to understand “sound” as just something arising in mind, and by that I mean being selflessly natured, so really not having a source at all. Done with some dedication, suddenly you will experience it directly, without effort, because that is how it truly is. And once you have that direct experience you will understand that all of the senses are like this, and they will all collapse into the only sense there truly is—selfless naturing, which is the process of knowing.
It’s easiest to do this with hearing “unstruck sound,” in my experience, because the overpowering attraction of a source, like a tree falling in a forest, is absent with “unstruck sound” which has no source in what is manifested.
Unstruck sound has been referred to in many ways, even by me. Some of them are: unborn sound, Anahata Nada, Chönyid kyi rangdra, Dharmata Swayambhu Nada, Divine Tremoring, Shabd, Eternal Sound, Music of the Spheres, Primordial Sound, Sound of Creation, Soundless Sound, the Word of God, Autogenous Resonance, and others.
Question: It is difficult to comprehend that sound isn’t dependent on a source. How can this be?
Answer: In my experience, there are two ways that sounds can arise: as sympathetic resonances in the mind based upon manifest conditions, and autogenous resonances in the mind. I use the word “resonance” so as not to confuse what I am speaking of with normal “sounds” that we understand we hear in a dualistic sense, and the difference between sympathetic and autogenous must be fleshed out below. But note that the word “autogenous” is being used, not because its meaning is accurate, but because, properly understood, it’s meaning can be clearly intuited. Once one clarifies their understanding, the “auto-“ prefix is seen not as indicating a relation to a self-entity, but to the “essence of self-less naturing,” i.e. “emptiness.” So, onward…
Since everything is empty of an intrinsic self-nature, everything that arises does so spontaneously and uncaused. I experience a self-less (actor or agent-less) naturing and mindfully do not infer a cause or source of that naturing as many do, because that is intellect trying to impose rational order on our understanding. Thus, for me, there is nothing to be known apart from this naturing, and that necessarily includes the understanding that there is no entity such as a “nature” that is naturing.
In all cases, this naturing is the event-horizon between the intelligible—all that we experience, and which can be puzzled out, to make sense of—and what is beyond the intelligible. And of what is beyond the intelligible, there is nothing that can truthfully be said, although interpretive explanations abound in religious and spiritual traditions. But the fact that the naturing itself, as well as what is natured, is intelligible, at least in some respects, provides a hook into a more subtle understanding, as I will explain. By this I mean, for example, that we can note that what manifests is coherent—things go together—so we can say something like: “this naturing, while spontaneous and uncaused, is conditioned by what has already manifested.”
First, this naturing is viscerally known. It’s not a knowing of something, and it’s not a knowing by someone, it’s just an awake/aware naturing, so while ultimately empty of selfhood, it is also ultimately pregnant with infinite possibility of visceral presence.  If this was not the case, then nothing would or could be known, given that what manifests has no intrinsic self-nature, and reality is an inside without an outside, so there are no other forces, causes, actors, etc. at play here.
But in our experience, it is noted that what arises is somehow coherent with what is already the case. At least, that is how intellect orders experience. I understand our idea of “time” to be just such an ordering placed upon what appears in the eternal (i.e. timeless) Now, in which there is no time, so no past, no future, no present—only presence. I have noted that the coherence is not the result of causality, but of conditioned freedom, thus what arises is coherent with the range of possibility opened up by what is manifest Now, but it is not caused directly by it—how could that be, since there is no “it” and no separation, nor “self-causality,” and thus without such bounds, there can be surprise, novelty, range, awesome serendipity, etc.
What is experienced is always arising in mind (i.e. naturing), and what we experience arises sympathetically (coherently) with current conditions—the state of the universe, so to speak. The perspective, the “I” and the “we,” is what is imposed upon reality by intellect, and intellect is the acquired habits of conceptualization and thought, a kind of karma I suppose, that imposes a narrowing down of focus. That narrowing can be overcome… but that’s another subject.
And in the case of sound, everything up to, but not including, the magical idea that consciousness arises from some quantity, configuration, or function of physical matter, that scientists have observed, holds. Yes, a tree falls and it’s falling conditions the arising of pressure (sound) waves that travel through the air, striking our ears, which are so structured that when the pressure changes condition a vibration in the eardrum, those vibrations condition impulses that move into the brain, which conditions further electrical and chemical activity in the brain, which conditions the arising of sound. But all of those steps, are just intellect imposing ordering upon the dichotomized conditions that are selflessly natured.
So, “sound,” properly speaking, arises only in the naturing (called “mind”) based upon manifest conditions. Sound is thought of as a kind of vibration, but the time and space that vibration requires are also impositions of order by intellect upon this naturing—they are our way of conceptually explaining experience, ordering it, and showing where we have cut things up with our distinguishing thoughts.
What we are trying to do with such orderings is explain what is beyond the event horizon of self-less naturing. But given that we cannot truly succeed, what happens if we just step back and don’t impose an intellectual order? What is “sound?” It can only be the visceral (known) presencing of this self-less naturing, and specifically one kind of presencing that our intellect distinguishes from all other kinds (the concept of “kinds” itself shows this to be the result of intellection). Vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, and thinking are all just subtle structures of distinctions that intellect imposes on self-less naturing. And light, sound, tastes, kinds of physical touching, and smells, as well as thoughts, are all just distinctions that the ordering intellect imposes upon what selfless naturing is manifesting, in this case pointing to the content of the distinguished experiences.
Thus, what is manifest is intelligible in this way. We can, through habit of thought, whether self-developed or learned, make all these distinctions and order all the conditions and coherency in such a way that we build this whole edifice of a world of separate things somehow interacting together through causal relations. And we do this without intent, thoughtlessly! These habits are the very structuring that we have become so accustomed to.
But there are manifestations for which there are no conditions, such as a source for a particular kind of sound that we can experience. We can distinguish these sounds into kinds, but cannot relate them to any conditions that, such as a tree falling, open the possibility of these sounds arising, so they can be called “unconditioned,” or “unstruck”. And in our normal, sleepy way of being, we don’t even notice them, but in deep meditation we can. And when experienced in meditation, they are called “nimittas,” or “meditation signs,” also “siddhis,” and “charismata,” among other names.
When they are experienced, and clearly so as unconditioned sound, they can be referred to as the “resonances of selfless naturing” as well as all the other names from different traditions that I gave earlier. I call them “autogenous resonances.”
We tend to screen these out of our awareness (i.e. we do not turn our attention to them even when they become apparent), or we immediately think, upon hearing them, that we are ill and run to a doctor for drugs or therapy to make them go away. But being that they are unconditioned, there is no intelligible link between them and current conditions in or around us, and so the intellect can’t jump in and say “over there, over there! that’s where they are coming from” thus imposing a subtle conceptual structuring, and even a dualistic perspective, on what we are experiencing. Thus these are the easiest way to see through the dichotomization of our experiences into kinds of phenomena perceived by kinds of senses, collapsing it all into just self-less naturing, which we habitually call “mind.”
I don’t know if this is helpful, without a direct experience of these sounds. Just stay vigilant and if you notice them, follow them. The trail leads to surprising experiences and insights.
Question: What is this “non-conditioned” referring to? Buddha taught that all that arises does so contingently, which is referred to as “dependent origination” in Buddhism, so doesn’t this go against his teaching?
Answer: No, this doesn’t go against what the Buddha taught. It’s comes out of a subtle point about the truth of Dependent Origination—which is that while what arises originates in dependence upon conditions, this truth is not itself dependent upon anything. Dependent Origination holds independent of conditions—there is no contingency upon which it is or is not true.
And what I am saying reflects a more wholistic understanding than Dependent Origination when it is emphasized out of the context of Emptiness.  Dependent Origination and Emptiness are not two truths, they are two perspectives upon nondual reality. On its own, Dependent Origination could be just a codification of the conceptual idea of Causality, and that is how it is often understood, in my experience with others, given the tendency to speak about “causes and conditions” as if they are they same thing. What I am speaking of as non-conditioned is useful for seeing that sound arises solely in mind, and this insight originates in a direct experience I’ve attained and is not the result of speculative intellection. I am presenting this explanation to overcome the absence of first-hand experience of it, pointing others to the possibility of using unconditioned sound as a meditation support, and its superiority as a support.
So, what is non-conditioned is the naturing itself… this processual unfolding is unborn, timeless, and immortal. There is no condition that allows it to be, or not be. What is conditioned is the contingent arising of coherent manifestation, which is called Dependent Origination. That which is unconditioned can also be found in the spontaneous freedom of naturing—because conditions don’t cause anything to arise, they are merely the conditioning of possibility, so that, what arises is not specifically caused, but is dependent upon the conditions that made it possible for them to arise.
The unconditioned sounds that I speak of arise as the resonance of this naturing in the same fashion as the universal ether, the Akasha, is conventionally understood to be both the medium for vibrational movement (sound), as well as, more subtly, nothing other than the vibrational movement. Thus self-less naturing—“dharmata” in Buddhism—can be directly experienced as resonant sound, as well as the manifested appearances. These unconditioned sounds are the naturing of what manifests, thus we can turn towards the naturing in its bare essence as resonance empty of a cause—the non-conceptual emptiness of all that manifests—or toward the formal, structured experience of all that manifests. This is unconditioned sounds’ importance as a meditational support, and the origin of its power to heal and transform.

Malcolm Smith (Lopon Namdrol) wrote:
"I never maintained that N had no views at all. I have always maintained that he had no view concerning existence and nonexistence."
"He (Nagarjuna) states in the VV that he has no propositions/thesis concerning svabhāva as defined by his opponents. He does not say he has no views at all. For example, he clearly states in the MMK that he prefers the Sammitya view of karma.
Your claim is similar to the mistaken assertion made by some who claim that Candrakirti never resorts to syllogisms, which in fact he clearly does in the opening lines of the MAV. What Candra disputes is not syllogistic reasoning in its entirety, but rather, syllogistic reasoning applied to emptiness.
Likewise, he clearly asserts the view in the VV that there is no svabhāva in phenomena. Madhyamaka is not a simple minded "I have no view" proposition."
"There are only two of those views, i.e., "It exists" and "It does not exist." Nāgārjuna negates these two because he has a view — dependent origination, which he calls the "the pacification of views.""
"You are confusing emptiness with dependent origination. Emptiness is a negation, but dependent origination is a statement on how conditiond things function, i.e things do not arise from themselves, from other, from both or without a cause.
You are also making the mistaken argument that views cannot be antidotal, that they are invariably pathological. Thus, Candrakirti states that right view, emptiness, is the antidote for wrong views.
I think you are getting a little too carried away with your anti-view view."
"As long as we understand, as I pointed out at the very beginning here, that "all views" simply means views of existence and nonexistence.
Is it possible to express anything concerning this truth? Perhaps this:
"There is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa.
There is no distinction whatsoever between nirvāṇa and saṃsāra."
MMK 25.19
Or perhaps more apt:
This pair, samsara and nirvana, do not exist.
However thorough knowledge of samsara is nirvana.
But of course, all of this concerns the objective state of phenomena, and not how we subjectively experience the path and its realization."
"But it clearly is a view: "Where this arises, that arose; with the arising that, this arose; where cease ceases, that ceases; with the cessation of that, this ceases."
How does dependent origination function? It functions because entities are empty of existence and nonexistence. That emptiness is what is not to be taken as a view. But dependent origination is acceptable as a view. Why? This is the question you need to ask yourself. If Buddha taught no views at all, then there is no need for Dharma, a path, nor could there be a result."
"The Buddha did not teach emptiness as a view, indeed, but he certainly taught dependent origination as a view. In fact it is what is called "right view.""
"Ummmm...Nāgārjuna held the metaphysical view that sentient beings take rebirth, that past actions ripen, that merit must be accumulated in order to earn the marks of a buddha, etc. So obviously this is not the case."
"He is saying precisely that the reality of phenomena is dependent origination and emptiness, depending on which way one is seeing things.
For example, in the 70 he says:
The nature of all things is empty.
For what reason? The nature of all things
is an assembly of causes and conditions.
or, because there is neither being nor nonbeing
in each and every thing, they are empty
He is here declaring that the nature or reality (the state of being pertaining to things) of all things is emptiness.
He says,
Having realized things are empty,
one will not be confused because of seeing correctly"

Reminded me of what Thusness said in 2014,

"I m not into no view...but actualization of right view. We all know views r only provisional and r approximate of "reality" but some views r better representations of "reality" than others. I m not into "no view", that will lead us into taking "non conceptuality" as the goal of practice. I hv no issue adopting "right view", "non conceptuality of view" to me simply means not to let "view" remains intellect and conceptual but have experiential insight and actualized it in daily activities."
in INNER KNOWLEDGE by James Corrigan%s Comment Part Two of REALITY AND EXISTENCE.

Because what is real must be simple, it must be nondual. This nondual oneness of reality is the great mystery at the heart of all things. It’s why people who talk about it are called mystics and what they’re talking about is called mysticism. You might think that saying non-dual or One captures reality, but it doesn’t at all. That expression I used above when describing my experience as a young man, unseen loving light, fails to capture what was, at that moment, and similarly, non-dual and One fails to capture what is real.

The best explanation of why that is, that I’ve ever read, is from a 3rd Century Neo-Platonic mystic named Plotinus. I’ll quote what he said, but don’t get lost in it. Why? Because it is often more helpful to use a visual or allegorical depiction when dealing with a difficult subject such as that of the nonduality of reality. Speaking of the nature of reality necessarily introduces errors that cannot be overcome, unless one uses a technique designed to mitigate such structural errors which are introduced by everyday dualistic language, since all language is unsuited for metaphysical and spiritual discourse in the sense that it was created for the marketplace, according to the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.

One such technique used almost universally by mystics is apophasis, which means unsaying or saying away. In apophasis all statements are signs in a most indeterminate way, since they are used to point to that which can only be apprehended in a flash of illumination, or gnosis. It must be noted that apophasis is a linguistic performance and is different in intent than apophatic, or negative theological statements, with which it is frequently confused. Those kinds of statements say what something isn’t. That’s not what is going on in the quote below in which Plotinus explains the problem that necessitates his use of apophasis in this section from his “Enneads:”

“Since the substance which is generated from the One is form one could not say that what is generated from that source is anything else – and not the form of some one thing but of everything, so that no other form is left outside it, the One must be without form. But if it is without form it is not a substance; for a substance must be some one particular thing, something, that is, defined and limited; but it is impossible to apprehend the One as a particular thing: for then it would not be the principle, but only that particular thing which you said it was. But if all things are in that which is generated from the One, which of the things in it are you going to say that the One is? Since it is none of them, it can only be said to be beyond them. But these things are beings, and being: so it is beyond being.
“This phrase beyond being does not mean that it is a particular thing, for it makes no positive statement about it, and it does not say its name, but all it implies is that it is not this. But if this is what the phrase does, it in no way comprehends the One: it would be absurd to seek to comprehend that boundless nature; for anyone who wants to do this has put himself out of the way of following at all, even the least distance, in its traces; but just as he who wishes to see the intelligible nature will contemplate what is beyond the perceptible if he has no mental image of the perceptible, so he who wishes to contemplate what is beyond the intelligible will contemplate it when he has let all the intelligible go; he will learn that it is by means of the intelligible, but what it is like by letting the intelligible go.

“But this, what it is like must indicate that it is not like: for there is no being like in what is not a something. But we in our aporia, complete befuddlement, do not know what we ought to say, and are speaking of what cannot be spoken, and give it a name because we want to indicate it to ourselves as best we can. But perhaps this name One contains only a denial of multiplicity. This is why the Pythagoreans symbolically indicated it to each other by the name Apollo, in the negation of the multiple. But if the One, name and reality expressed, was to be taken positively it would be less clear than if we did not give it a name at all.”

The second guide I have adopted, is to see a kind of event horizon between the real and what exists. It’s an expression taken from Science where it is used to explain an hypothesized character of Black Holes. An horizon, as we all have or can experience, hides what is over the horizon from us. In the case of the expression event horizon, what I mean is that experience, which is easily analyzed into events, something we do all the time, still doesn’t show us what is over the horizon because the other side of that horizon cannot be directly experienced.

As Plotinus mentions, the intelligible must be let go of, if one is to reach enlightenment, in the same way that in order to reach the nature of the intelligible, one must meditate in a way that is free of all mental formations, mental images of independent things. What is the intelligible? Why, all experience, of course! Including all our theories, hypotheses, dogmatic assertions, and mental attempts to seize something that can never be within reach. We cannot understand what does not exist. But we can accept the reality of that which is evidenced, necessary, simple, and not contingent on anything for reality.

Yes, this is mystical. And that may grate our Western mindset even if we think we are better than that. We do so love our terminology! There will still be those that believe that they have the final answer to the riddle. But I learned from the example of Aristotle, renowned as The Philosopher in Western history, who, always looking to the material world for what was real, in the end realized that the only answer his exquisite powers of observation and reasoning could arrive at, was that God put everything in motion.

He failed. Why? Because he was trying to do something that is impossible. Not beyond our abilities; just impossible. He was holding onto the intelligible, searching for The Answer that he thought was there somewhere, and because he thought of Nature as an actor that had to be put into motion somehow. He also thought reality was populated with substantial entities, so he didn’t need to distinguish between what’s real and what exists. He didn’t realize that naturing is possible without a nature doing it, and that there was no need for the answer to why there is something, rather than nothing, there just is, and you and I cannot deny it, because in doing so, we affirm it. Nor can we point to a Nature that truly exists. It’s just idea that we have.

The tricky part is letting go of all those mental formations. There comes a point, the event horizon, when language, and ideas, just obfuscates our way completely. Which leads me to the point of this essay: What is known can only be known by appearing, in showing up the knowable is known. It’s that simple. But we are not the ones knowing. Let me explain this insight. If there is no observer and no true entities to be observed, then knowing cannot originate on this side of the event horizon which consists of that which exists, and therefore knowing cannot be structured as a seizing hold of, or grasping with awareness which is dualistic in the sense of involving a perceiver and the perceived a consciousness.

Frankly, there really can’t be any awareness on this side at all, which might explain why scientists can’t find it, but even speaking of awareness or knowing causes dualistic understandings to slip in because awareness is usually understood as being aware of something, as is knowing. This imputes a perspective into our understanding that is misleading and wrong. We may not see it as a perspective because we have removed the illusory me and you and it, so that it is now a perspective from nowhere; but that is still a perspective, and thus is still wrong.

This view from nowhere is widely found in science, where it is the basis for objectivity. But that kind of structural perspective can’t be real because it exists in experience. So this is my third guide: no views from nowhere. Any explanation that permits such a view to creep in, is defective in at least that way. This fundamental problem we have to confront, these perspectives, is exemplified by our tendency to speak of mind and body. This is yet another dualistic distinction we make because of our habitual failure to recognize our true nature, and that there is no entity in body, nor in mind, nor in the whole of both. Everything we think of, feel, and perceive is also lacking any independent reality. I could not, and I believe, nor can you, ignore what becomes so clear in deep meditation, that there is nothing other than this spontaneously creative naturing going on, and that is the true essence of Reality.

What we think of as mind or Mind is just the spontaneously creative naturing of forms, feelings, perceptions, consciousnesses, and mental constructions, the five Buddhist skandhas. We confuse the naturing of what exists with a mind that we lay claim to having, which finally dissolves in the clear light of meditative insight. Yet, if we adjust for the lack of an entity that we can call our mind, calling it instead, and grandly doing so, Mind, that is again a misconstrual of what is the case, because we think that Mind also knows or is aware in a conceptually dualistic sense, in most cases.
Naturing is not limited to the internal skandhas. Everything that exists has the same origin. This includes all forms: including the five skandhas, mountains, planets, galaxies, hummingbirds, trees, bacteria, quantum particles, wind fluttering leaves on a tree, a musical note, a kiss, a thought, etc. There is no mind entity in reality, neither is there a Nature entity. There is no place for knowledge to reside. That which is known is not known through cognizing in an awareness of sense, as if through reflection or contemplation of something, but directly through naturing. It’s the great mystery, of course.

I can think of an allegory to help you get over the initial difficulty that occurs as you try to swallow this argument, if you are hearing it before actually experiencing it: it’s something called the Piezo Electric effect. You make use of it all the time, in microphones, earbuds, even old phonograph pickups, as well as the clickers that ignite gas stoves today. A certain kind of crystal can create an electric field when sound vibrations strike it, causing it to slightly compress its structure. This is how a microphone works. The same crystal can vibrate and thus create sounds, when an electric current is passed through it. This is how earbuds work. In fact, the same crystal can be deformed in such a strong way by a large enough force that it can produce an electric spark in the kilovolt range. Using a small piston to strike the crystal is how a stove clicker works to create a spark. Think of the electric field as knowing and the crystal deformations as the known. They are not two things, they are the same process.

In a way, this allegory sits on the top of every Buddhist stupa in the form of the sun and moon, the Bindu-Nada void-point and vibrational emanation that our brains interpret as sound and which is the support of my meditation. I can only imagine what stupas would look like today, if they had had earbuds back in the day.
Coming Home
By John Crook
Mahamudra Retreat 2005 - Session One

When we were introducing ourselves last night, several of you remarked on how valuable you found it just coming to the Maenllwyd and how much you valued the place.

Let us begin then by asking why that might be so. I have a good story that helps us here. Some years ago there was a practitioner, Jane Turner, whom some of you might remember, who used to be a regular retreatant at the Maenllwyd, driving herself here from north of Glasgow. One year she got the dates wrong and arrived here after her long journey in the wrong week! She told me about it afterwards. In those days the track, was largely undriveable so she had walked up the track only to find the place deserted; there was nobody here! The Maenllwyd was completely silent; not a soul! Locked up! Yet she told me that she was so radiantly happy just being here that when she went back down the hill and got in her car and drove back to Glasgow, it was almost as good as if she had done a retreat!

Jane, perhaps, was a slightly extreme case, but a lot of people make remarks along such lines, I myself sometimes arrive here and discover myself smiling; and, as is my wont, I sometimes ask myself, "What on earth are you smiling about?" I have often gone into that because I have found that if I just sat and allowed the smile, as it were, to seep into my bones, then I began to experience a move beyond smiling, into something really very blissful. And of course on such occasions, it isn't necessary to know why; Something is happening, which is bringing about a feeling of bliss. And indeed that bliss ... that joy ... at thinking about Maenllwyd or being here is, in many ways, a very important component of Dharma. Many people experience bliss in the course of meditation, but in this case it simply arises out of the smile at being here, or maybe even just thinking about the place.
So what is going on here? Well, Shifu gave me a clue to this many years ago when I was talking with him about the fact that sometimes in meditation blissful feelings arise. I had been experiencing bliss on retreat in New York with Shifu; and I went to him and I said, "What is all this bliss about?" So he said, "Well, bliss arises out of gratitude". "How come?" I said. "Well, what it means is that, without really knowing it, in meditation there has been a moment of stillness ... silence. You've got yourself out of the way. And because you did that, you feel gratitude; and gratitude produces bliss."

I have contemplated those remarks of Shifu's ever since .... and tested them out. And I find it to be true. When one experiences those moments of bliss in meditation, it emerges from a process of which one is not fully aware. One has dropped the cares of everyday life for a little while, and the fact that they have gone gives one a freedom and a clarity. And spontaneously, out of that freedom and clarity comes a feeling of thankfulness, gratitude; and that expresses itself in bliss.

I think something like the same thing happens when some of us arrive at the Maenllwyd ... or perhaps when one even thinks about the Maenllwyd, or maybe one does a visualisation which might involve the place. And it is not, of course, only Maenllwyd. Those of us who travel around and visit various monasteries or power places for meditation sometimes find the same thing happening there too. In fact it has to do with the fact that what we have been doing here is creating a little monastery. Maybe not exactly a monastery as a place, but rather a monastery of the mind, in that when we come here we practice a certain " dropping of attributes"; we let go. Maybe we're not always sure about that, and maybe some of us find it very difficult, but essentially the key thing that happens here is the letting go of care. When you arrive here you let go of something; you let go of the troubles of life. And you find yourself arriving and you find yourself smiling, and you say things like "coming to the Maenllwyd is like coming home". Many people say that. Home, of course, is a place where there is no care because one is 'at home'.

This is a very interesting discovery to reflect upon, because we may ask what is going on when one "drops care"? What's happening? One could say "Well, it's just that I'm away from the kids for a bit", or " I've left the office and don't have to worry any more about the bloody finances",., or "Thank God I'm away from him or her for the weekend" .... a bit of rest from the relationship. Any of these things might be, as it were, the stimulus, but that's a fairly shallow response. Because, of course, in problems of relationship, in problems of work, in problems of looking after the children, it is actually one's own performance that one is most worrying about and monitoring. "Am I a good enough Daddy?" "Am I a good enough friend?" "Oh, dear, I wasn't very nice on the phone last night." "Oh, I'm always stressed when I go to work; I'm no good at my job." Many of these things which we attribute to outside calamities, pressures, strains and stresses, are really actually internal strains and stresses. It is self concern.

So I put it to you that one of the things that happens when we arrive here, when we find ourselves "coming home", is that we drop self concern. And in dropping self concern, what does one find? Well, if you drop your self, then you allow a great space to appear; a great space for just appreciating precisely what's in front of your nose, namely: the yard; the clouds glowing in dawn light; a kite flying over; the sound of chanting. All of those things can then make a immediate and direct impression because 'You' are not in the way. You're not worrying about, for an example, "Am I meditating well today?", because you've dropped self concern. There is then no worry about whether you're meditating well or not! You're just sitting there. And if you're truly Just Sitting ... to use that Japanese expression ... if you are truly just sitting and not being there as a 'me', then everything is present to you, for you, of you ... in a kind of special freedom. It's what is called "emptiness" in the Buddhist jargon, the psychological experience that is thus named.

Unfortunately, 'emptiness' is also a technical term in the Buddhist philosophical vocabulary and this may be confusing. Whenever one wants to try to understand what emptiness is, one has to say "What am I or what is it ' empty' of? What is it that's 'gone empty'? And, if you've dropped self concern, that's marvellous: you're empty of self concern. And that's well on the way to enlightenment! We are smiling on arriving at the Maenllwyd because we have actually, unbeknown to ourselves, dropped care. And particularly , for a little while, dropped self concern.

So there's a very useful lesson in this; because, of course, dropping self concern is precisely what the Buddha was talking about in his first two Noble Truths. That's really quite a discovery. If one has found, as it were, an indirect way into understanding the Noble Truths, that's really very useful indeed. So how come? Well, let's just remember the pattern of the Buddha's fundamental thought here. The Buddha, as you know, was concerned about suffering, and suffering, of course, is self concern ... or in a very large measure, self concern. So suffering and self concern go together. So at the moment when self concern is dropped there is no longer suffering ... or, at least, a big alleviation of suffering. And Buddha called that a dropping of "ignorance": we are ignorant of the fact of self concern and the reasons for it. The Buddha worked out why. Self concern is usually concerned with time. It is usually about something I did in the past, or the fear of something in the future. Self concern is time bound. And time, of course, is the measure of impermanence.

The Buddha realized that absolutely the root for understanding suffering is to understand impermanence; because it is the fact that things are impermanent which causes us distress. Something beautiful happens, a lovely holiday on a Greek beach, and then it's gone and Winter comes. Spring comes, but then it goes again. The joyful love affair is over and one is left by one's self. One gets older and one realizes that, as somebody said last night, the idea that one is going to go on for ever (which one takes for granted when one is young) begins to fade, and one realizes that Time is shortening. It's all impermanence and, of course, what we do with impermanence, through our ignorance, is to grab onto things that we like and try to hold onto them and make them permanent, because then we can be "safe" and 'happy'. The reason why that is so ignorant is that we fail to face up to the fact of impermanence: things cannot be made permanent; nothing is permanent. The universe itself is not permanent; it's endlessly moving and God knows where it's going to ... and probably He doesn't either!

In our stupidity we try to make the things that we like permanent and to annihilate or get rid of the things that we don't like sometimes, even the people that we don't like. And this is ignorance, and the root of suffering. The Buddha called it anicca, But then the Buddha said, "Well, what is it that is so worried about impermanence?" Well, of course, it's Me. I'm worried about Me because I am impermanent; I am going to die one day. I'm going to get old; God knows what's going to happen. As somebody said yesterday, arriving on the retreat, "God knows what's going to happen here!" Quite Right! Goodness knows what's going to happen here!
It's scary, very scary; impermanence is scary ... if one is holding onto permanence. Of course, if one isn't holding onto permanence, it's not scary, obviously. The two go together. But time flies, troubles come, troubles go. Nothing to hold on to ...if one tries to hold on, it's like trying to grasp the wind. You can't do it. The Buddha's truth however, was to say "Well, who are you anyway? What are you? What is it you're holding on to?" Well, the Buddha realized that he was holding on to Siddhartha; I have to realize that I am holding on to John; you have to realize that you're holding on to Rebecca, or whoever it might be; Eddie. That's what we're holding on to. This thing which appears to be here; John, which appears to be here, is what I am holding on to because it is that which is changing, it is that which is fading, going away ... it won't be here much longer! So scary. But then, "What is this John?", asked the Buddha. This is where he made a very important discovery. Because when he examined himself through yogic meditation he was able to see very clearly that, actually, what was going on, what was called "John", was a process; not a thing, a process. And it could be divided up into five different aspects. Very simple; very simple psychology; but a very, very good model. It still works. It still works better than a good many modern models.

First of all, there is Sensation. Obviously, you feel something, a sensation; something happens. You sit on a drawing pin Ooooh!: a sensation.

But then there's Perception. Perception is "Oh, what's this? Have I sat on a scorpion? ... Oh, no. No, it's just a drawing pin; that's not so bad." That's perception. You perceive what the sensation is.
And then there's Cognition, which is working out why there happens to be a drawing pin on your chair: "Did someone put it there? Who could have done that? Somebody hates me, and put a drawing pin on my chair so I'd sit on it ... or is it just that I dropped one out of the box yesterday?" Or if it actually is a scorpion, "Oh, my God: scorpions! Better put down some DDT or something. Let's be nasty to scorpions for a change." That's cognition: working it out.

And then there are the so-called samscaras: we have to use the Pali word because it's rather difficult to find an English word for it. The samscaras are, as it were, the habit formations from all one's previous thinking, so you think now "What about scorpions? Yes, I remember about scorpions; well, they are supposed to occur in the South of France, so what is one of them doing here in England? It must have escaped from the zoo. But I haven't been near a zoo, so how can there be a scorpion here?" And so you start working out, by referring to the past, by referring to karma, why the present situation might be as it is. And of course it is these samscaras which become what you might call the "habit formations", because they determine what you worry about next. Thus karma is built up out of these samscaras, these past habits. So a mind, this John, is actually a complicated functioning of Sensation, Perception, Cognition, and habits of the past, which as it were make one decide what is good and what is bad. And all of it has a certain form: and that form ... bodily form ... bodily presence, that is what we call "John". But John is just a name; there is no John, there's just this process; the process of Sensation, Perception, Cognition and habits, going round and round and round. Quite temporary; moving through time, but no fixed entity, no John. John is just the name. So if John is just a name, where is John? Is John the perception? Well, no, that's not enough. Is it cognition alone? No, not enough. Is it the history? Is it the past? No, that's not John. So where is John? There is no John as a thing! It's just a name for the process. The Buddha called that anatta, No Self.

So. We have Impermanence; no self. Very radical; a very scary teaching. Because, of course, what we want is John, this thing, to be loved by everybody all the time (at least John likes that, to be loved by everybody all the time); John wants to be permanently young, permanently beautiful, permanently clever ... whereas, in fact, he is becoming increasingly idiotic, falling apart and getting dotty, and generally becoming absurd. That is the truth about John, it is the zen truth, total absurdity; one big dottiness after another! But that's not how we want things to be: that's because we get attached. So, ignorance is made up out of this attachment to something, which is a flowing, ever moving, process. There is no Thing to be attached to; there are just names. Language fools us: technically it is called "reification"; the making of things out of concepts. Just as another example, take the word Spring. We speak of Spring as a thing; but actually, of course, it is just a period in time, in which all sorts of other things are happening: we know there is Spring because the flowers flower. But we can't actually see Spring; Spring is just a word which refers to the period of time within which flowers flower. There is no Thing called Spring which you can grasp hold of. That's another example of reification. And me, John; you, Betty; whoever it might be, are just like that.

So, the Buddha's thought is very subtle here. But the problem is the illusion that there is a thing to which we can be attached, which we must be protective of. Now, in common sense terms, of course, conventionally, we do look after ourselves; that makes sense. But we don't have to be obsessively attached to the ego in the way in which we usually are; that's where self-concern comes in. Self-concern is actually illusory. Now this message of the Buddha is not so easily taken on board, because we are so easily convinced of the normality of John being John. This is why, in order to really understand the Buddha's message, we have to investigate the mind, to explore and find out whether these things are true or whether it is just the Buddha's fantasy. That's why we meditate. Meditation as it were is always the testing of a hypothesis. The hypothesis is "Where am I? I exist. Am I here?"

Am I here? Well, let's investigate it. And of course, what you find in meditation, as you calm the mind, as you practice, is that gradually the attachment to things begins to fade. You begin to find a kind of openness emerging. Something which is much more difficult to characterise; you can't find words for it. Language begins to fail because you're actually going beyond language. You're going into that which language tries to express but never entirely succeeds. Because it's just language; it's not the thing in itself. So we work at that and in our meditation we begin to test the Four Noble Truths for ourselves. In Buddhism, it is said you should never accept things on trust. There is faith in Buddhism, yes; but it's a faith in the method of exploration. It is not a faith in a thing; it is not an attachment. Faith is often an attachment to a concept. This is more like faith in an investigation, *an unending investigation, because there is no end to it. The universe goes on; we go on ... for as long as we're here. Then we disappear. But what an exciting adventure!

And the moment of smiling as you arrive at the Maenllwyd is a hint that there might be something in this. Because if it's true that you're smiling and enjoying being here because you've dropped your self, even for a moment, and just allowed the space of the place to impact upon you directly, you've actually tested the hypothesis. For when you drop attachment to self, the universe is there in all its wonderful turning, in all its manifestation as a place: Maenllwyd in December. "Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat" .... whether you're a vegetarian or not, the goose is still getting fat!
So we have then in this very simple beginning; this simple recognition of happiness at arriving home at a place we call Maenllwyd; the being open to the monastery and all that the monastery is for, we discover that we drop something. We can either investigate what it is that we have dropped or we can just enjoy the fact that we've dropped something, and let it take care of itself. That's fine also, although it may not allow one an understanding of what one is actually experiencing. So the letting go is an absolutely key thing in Buddhist practice. The Buddha himself discovered his insight through letting go, through the process of letting go. He didn't discover what eventually he knew by adding , as they say in zen, adding a head on a head, more ideas on top of more ideas, more philosophies on top of more philosophies. Intellectual construction isn't it at all. You drop the intellectual constructions and there It is the thing in itself; the Thing In Itself, which can never be quite caught by language, or fixed in philosophy. The experience of Being.

The experience of being is the experience of flowing. Being, in fact, is always becoming. It is never stationary; there is never a halt; there is never permanence. The challenge of Buddhism, the challenge of the words of the Buddha, is whether one can actually allow one's self to enter the flow of being, the flow of time, without trying to grab on to things which keep one safe. That's the challenge. And that's why an entry into Buddhism can be quite painful.

* There are people who come in interviews and meditation and say, "A strange thing happened today: I seemed to be about to fall into nothing". So I say, "Yes?" And they say, "... very scary". So I say, "Why?" "Well, I might not exist". And I say, "Yes, you might not exist."

It requires a certain nerve to say, "Okay, I'll fall into that nothing". So that, in your meditation, you let go of your attachment to your little self, just let go of it, and then you find the extraordinary freedom of the flowing of time without attachment. But it is not easy to do. One has to have a certain nerve to jump off the high diving board; as I know, having jumped off the top of high diving boards. I've done it, but I must say it was quite difficult! And I'm not talking about diving; I'm talking about just jumping into the water: "Oooooh! All the way down there!" Big splash! Yes, big splash, but rather nice.

So maybe out of this comes a key message for this retreat; in fact, for all retreats. Jump!

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