“Buddha - mind - *is* (not, ‘is like’) mountains, rivers, and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars. Mind *is* houses and streets, animals, guns, plants, thoughts, bombs, corpses, laughter, and cancers. Mind *is* all particular dharmas as they are; *particular* dharmas. All particular dharmas *are* this mind *as it is; this* mind. This tree *is* the mind *as it is*, the mind *as it is*, is all dharmas, hence *is* this tree. That this tree is mind ‘as it is,’ means mind only exists *as mind* by virtue of this tree existing *as this tree*. Because this tree *is* mind ‘as it is,’ it actually goes too far to say ‘is mind,’ and is more accurate to simply say ‘this tree.’ 

As Dogen puts it:

‘Mind as mountains, rivers, and the earth is nothing other than mountains, rivers, and the earth. There are no additional waves or surf, no wind or smoke. Mind as the sun, the moon, and the stars is nothing other than the sun, the moon, and the stars.’

Shobogenzo, Soku-shin-ze-butsu”

From Zen Cosmology: Dogen’s Contribution to the Search for a New Worldview by Ted Biringer



Mind is skin, flesh, bones and marrow. Mind is taking up a flower and smiling. There is having mind and having no mind... Blue, yellow, red, and white are mind. Long, short, square, and round are mind. The coming and going of birth and death are mind. Year, month, day, and hour are mind. The coming and going of birth and death are mind. Water, foam, splash, and flame are mind. Spring flowers and autumn moon are mind. All things that arise and fall away are mind.


The quote above from Zen Cosmology is useful for those who are stuck in 'One Mind'. The urge to retain an image of the luminescence of mind is dissolved by realizing that mind is none other than the self-luminosity of the ten thousand things. Therefore "Mind as mountains, rivers, and the earth is nothing other than mountains, rivers, and the earth." -- no more subsuming everything to be "contained by Mind" despite experiencing Mind as being nondual with everything (a subtle referencing back of non-dual experience to the source and substance underlying all), only ongoing actualization of myriad phenomena 'advancing into novelty'.

Before birth, I AM - mere conscious-existence-bliss. Before ten thousand things, I AM, but that too is later seen to be simply one aspect of the ten thousand things. If one holds onto one 'face of Presence' (the formless, shining void aspect of mind) you fail to see the manifold textures, forms and colors are simply different faces of Presence. 

Zen is about directly touching one's heart and mind, and that begins with the I AM realization. But soon it becomes a dead image of some static background. If instead we can penetrate by insight into anatta and forego all dead or 'ghostly' images and directly taste the Heart in every manifestation and exertion, everything reveals itself to be one seamless aliveness and intelligence.

Also see: Exertion that is neither self-imposed nor imposed by others
Wrote a comment to someone posting about non-meditation who emphasized the point "How ridiculous and deluded to think that practices, meditation, study or realizations can improve the perfect awareness that is always what you already are."

I wrote:

"On the one extreme is the view that through practices one can somehow reach Buddha-nature in the future, which comes with the sense of distance, time, separation, and sense of self. Buddha-nature is all-pervasive and whole in its immediacy, how can it be reached in the future through practice?

On the other extreme is of a static, immobile Buddha-nature separate from the ordinary activities of sitting, walking, sleeping, chopping wood and carrying water. Nothing is clearer and more direct than these simple activities when subject and object is severed. We walk not in order to achieve enlightenment but as a manifestation of our true nature.

When sitting, sitting is sitting, not me sitting. Recently I visited a Zen master. He asked a group of students, (pointing at a bell) what is this? Some said it's a bell, he replied you are attached to name and form. If you only hit the floor or remain mute, he says you are attached to emptiness. I simply picked it up and rang it. He said "Correct!" So, a "zen" answer will be just ring it -- there is just the ringing, no subject and object, only spontaneous action, only sound. Non-meditation and non-practice is not lazing all day doing nothing, but severing the delusion of subject and object. When the gap between actor and action is refined till none, that is non-action, non-meditation and that non-action is at the same time total action.

In that act of ringing, is the ringing, and mind two or one? Again if we say they are one or two, we fall into dualism or concepts. Just ring it - that's enough. That total action reveals the true face of mind, the true face of the bell, the true face of ringing. If there is still a sense of an actor achieving a goal through an action, that is not non-meditation or practice-enlightenment.


"Zen master Baoche of Mt. Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. When, then, do you fan yourself?"

"Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent," Baoche replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."

"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again. The master just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.

The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind. The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and makes fragrant the cream of the long river."


A monk said to Chao Chou, “I have just entered this monastery. Please teach me.”
Chao Chou said, “Have you eaten your rice gruel?”
The monk said, “Yes, I have.”
Chao Chou said, “Wash your bowl.”
The monk understood."
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Someone told me about having been through insights of no self and then progressing to a realisation of the ground of being.

I replied:

Hi ____

Thanks for the sharing.

This is the I AM realization. Had that realisation after contemplating Before birth, who am I? For two years. It’s an important realization. Many people had insights into certain aspects of no self, impersonality, and “dry non dual experience” without doubtless realization of Presence. Therefore I AM realisation is a progression for them.

Similarly in Zen, asking who am I is to directly experience presence. How about asking a koan of what is the cup? What is the chirping bird, the thunder clap? What is its purpose?

When I talked about anatta, it is a direct insight of Presence and recognizing what we called background presence, is in the forms and colours, sounds and sensations, clean and pure. Authentication is be authenticated by all things. Also there is no presence other than that. What we call background is really just an image of foreground Presence, even when Presence is assuming its subtle formless all pervasiveness.

However due to ignorance, we have a very inherent and dual view, if we do see through the nature of presence, the mind continues to be influenced by dualistic and inherent tendencies. Many teach to overcome it through mere non conceptuality but this is highly misleading.

Thusness also wrote:

The anatta I realized is quite unique. It is not just a realization of no-self. But it must first have an intuitive insight of Presence. Otherwise will have to reverse the phases of insights

Podcast on dzogchen with Malcolm Smith, it’s very good 

It explains what rigpa is. Rigpa is not mere Awareness, it’s like a state of realization, the knowledge of our basis. And not only that, it must recognise the five lights as its own state.

How ignorance is present before beginning and why and the part about the bardo states is also well explained. A good podcast. First 1/4 is more on personal introduction.

(Malcolm Smith was asked by his teacher Kunzang Dechen Lingpa to teach dzogchen but he focuses on translation work for now)

Recognition of the five lights as one's own state is what I meant by anatta and the bardo shows the importance of realizing it in the 3 states (walking, dreaming and deep sleep). Depending on the practitioner the strength of recognition may not be there even if insight may have manifested.

Also highly recommend his translation work. Seldom do we see such a serious translation. Accurate and precise.

“Buddhahood in This Life”


Pemi Yeshi wrote,

“I couldn't play it from that link because I don't have itunes, but here i is I listened: https://learn.wisdompubs.org/podcast/malcolm-smith/

Very very good stuff! I love reading translator's introductions in books. Hearing translator talk is great.”
Wrote on facebook:

Without awareness there can be no objects, (there is no “unheard sound”) and without objects there can be no awareness, (seeing is dependently designated with “sight”) not because there are two distinctly existing things depending or interacting with each other but because they are merely dependently designated and have no existence of its own to speak of. For example you cannot speak of a sun without sunlight or a computer screen without the images, they are dependently designated and without any intrinsic existence. Just like a computer screen that doesn’t display images is not a computer screen, a knowing is labelled as such in dependence on the known, so both subject and object are severed - nondual clarity is vividly presencing as all appearances without needing to collapse subject into object or object into subject.

There is no denial of knowing known or “you” like there is no need to deny a conventional car. But if “you” or “knowing known” is just a label for vroomyumouch, just like car is merely imputed based on the parts and functions, then there is also no intrinsically (independent, changelessly) existing “you” or “car”. So you or car is not denied but simply a convenient label, so you can still use conventions but are not bound by them, just like when you talk about weather you don’t think of an entity but directly experience the rain falling wind blowing clouds forming and parting and so forth. When we say sensing we don’t get bound by subject action or object but directly sense the coolness, heat, softness and so forth.

The realisation of true mind, the luminous vivid presence is also important. But mind is no mind - empty of intrinsically existing entity. And being empty of mind, it is as dogen said,

“And just what is this wondrously pure, bright mind? It is the great earth with its mountains and rivers, along with the sun, the moon, and all the stars.”


Objects are merely conventionally and dependently designated as such. It cannot be understood apart from or excluding other conventions that make them meaningful otherwise it becomes erroneous (the same goes for everything - from self, to cars, to awareness, to whatever). A sound is not an object besides hearing, besides awareness - there is no such thing as an unheard sound. This part I believe you agree, the other part however in Buddhadharma's emptiness teaching is that awareness is also dependently designated in relation to what's experienced. So it's a two-way dependence unlike the one way dependence in Advaita. Hearer and hearing is only meaningful in reference to sound (and vice versa) - in truth there is no hearer, no hearing, no sound, the bell ringing has no subject or object -- direct immediacy of just this awareness as ringing.

But you'll interject, what about the formless consciousness that underlies and exists beneath, and in the absence of, thoughts and sensations? That pure infinite formless sense of Existence which is a mere formless sense that I AM? I too have realised that through self-inquiry a long time ago. But now I see that too is also another manifestation of consciousness, another face of Presence, no more and no less Presence than a sound, a sight, etc. It cannot be understood apart from manifestation, and apart from the conditions that defines it.


In my experience, manifestation is limitless. When walking, it's not legs walking, the entirety of everything is walking. Any sort of abiding, be it in the fiction of a subject or an object, even in a grasped image of 'infinite formless consciousness', is still limitations


You're saying there is an ocean independent of its wave (a limitation) reflecting back on itself without investment in wave. I'm saying the wave is none other than the entirety of the ocean, including the conditions that makes it wave - the wind, etc

To me, the latter is 'more' 'limitless'

Taken from http://dogenandtheshobogenzo.blogspot.sg/2011/02/zazen-polishing-tile-to-make-mirror.html

Zazen-Only - Polishing Tiles, Making Buddhas
The perfection of each person is unique; a particular human becomes a Buddha when that human wholly becomes that particular human. The Buddhahood of an individual being is the perfection of the “integral character” of that particular being “as it is.” Zazen-only is the perfection of the “normal mind,” that is, a particular body-mind that is fully seated in and as the wholeness of its particular existence ceaselessly advancing in harmony with the true nature of its own integral character. One of the clearest of Dogen’s numerous presentations of this aspect of the Buddha Dharma is revealed in one of his masterly commentaries on a classic Zen koan.

One day when Nangaku came to Baso’s hut, Baso stood up to receive him. Nangaku asked him, “What have you been doing recently?”

Baso replied, “Recently I have been doing the practice of seated meditation exclusively.”

Nangaku asked, “And what is the aim of your seated meditation?”

Baso replied, “The aim of my seated meditation is to achieve Buddhahood.”

Thereupon, Nangaku took a roof tile and began rubbing it on a rock near Baso’s hut.

Baso, upon seeing this, asked him, “Reverend monk, what are you doing?”

Nangaku replied, “I am polishing a roof tile.”

Baso then asked, “What are you going to make by polishing a roof tile?”

Nangaku replied, “I am polishing it to make a mirror.”

Baso said, “How can you possibly make a mirror by rubbing a tile?”

Nangaku replied, “How can you possibly make yourself into a Buddha by doing seated meditation?”

For hundreds of years now, many people have held the view that, in this story, Nangaku is earnestly endeavoring to encourage Baso in his practice. This is not necessarily so, for, quite simply, the daily activities of the great saintly teacher were far removed from the realm of ordinary people. If great saintly teachers did not have the Dharma of polishing a tile, how could they possibly have the skillful means to guide people? Having the strength to guide people is the Bones and Marrow of an Ancestor of the Buddha. Even though the tile was the thing that came to hand, still, it was just an everyday, household object. If it were not an everyday object or some household utensil, then it would not have been passed on by the Buddha’s family. What is more, its impact on Baso was immediate. Be very clear about it, the functioning of the True Transmission of Buddhas and Ancestors involves a direct pointing. We should truly comprehend that when the polished tile became a mirror, Baso became Buddha. And when Baso became Buddha, Baso immediately became the real Baso. And when Baso became the real Baso, his sitting in meditation immediately became real seated meditation. This is why the saying ‘polishing a tile to make a mirror’ has been preserved in the Bones and Marrow of former Buddhas.

Thus it is that the Ancient Mirror was made from a roof tile. Even though the mirror was being polished, it was already without blemish in its unpolished state. The tile was not something that was dirty; it was polished simply because it was a tile. On that occasion, the virtue of making a Mirror was made manifest, for it was the diligent effort of an Ancestor of the Buddha. If polishing a tile did not make a Mirror, then even polishing a mirror could not have made a Mirror. Who can surmise that in this act of making, there is the making of a Buddha and there is the making of a Mirror?

Further, some may wonder, “When the Ancient Mirror is polished, can It ever be polished into a tile?” Your state of being—your breathing in and breathing out—when you are engaged in polishing is not something that you can gauge at other times. And Nangaku’s words, to be sure, express what is expressible. As a result, in the final analysis, he was able to polish a tile and make a Mirror. Even we people of the present time should try to pick up today’s ‘tile’ and give it a polish, for ultimately it will become a Mirror. If a tile could not become a Mirror, people could not become Buddha. If we belittle tiles as being lumps of clay, we will also belittle people as being lumps of clay. If people have a Heart, then tiles too will have a Heart. Who can recognize that there is a Mirror in which, when a tile comes, the Tile appears? And who can recognize that there is a Mirror in which, when a mirror comes, the Mirror appears?
Shobogenzo, Kokyo, Hubert Nearman

The "ancient mirror" is the Buddha mind; more specifically, it is an aspect or quality of the Buddha mind that is traditionally referred to as the "universal mirror prajna." The “universal mirror prajna” is the first of the “four prajna's (or “cognitions”) of Buddhahood.” This prajna is described as the aspect of mind that, like a mirror, perfectly reflects the world as it is in the immediate present – the world in its ‘thusness.’ Unlike an ordinary mirror, this prajna is not only reflective, it is also luminescent. It is the initial realization of this “prajna” (or “cognition”) that is traditionally regarded as the practitioners entrance into awakening (often called "kensho" in Zen).

Dogen’s commentary on the koan illumines the same principle informing his teaching that “clear seeing is prajna itself” – here the principle is formulated as “when the polished tile became a mirror Baso became Buddha.”

A “tile” is only a tile by virtue of being experienced as a mind-form unity (dharma) as it is. In the koan, “Baso” is only Baso (his true self; Buddha) by virtue of experiencing mind-forms as they are. When “the tile became a mirror Baso became Baso” – Baso became Baso (his true self; Buddha) when the tile became a mirror (its true self; a mind-form). Moreover, because the mirror (that which verifies) is never separate from the tile (that which is verified), the mirror (Baso) was actualized as a real mirror (the real Baso) by virtue of experiencing the tile.

In terms of the prajna paramita literature, tile and mirror (forms) is emptiness, Baso is Buddha, emptiness is tile and mirror, Buddha is Baso; therefore, emptiness is emptiness, tile is tile, mirror is mirror, Buddha is Buddha, Baso is Baso. When Baso is Baso the whole universe is solely Baso; when zazen is zazen, the whole universe is solely sitting.

In Dogen’s view, the only reality is reality that is actually experienced as particular things at specific times. There is no “tile nature” apart from actual “tile forms,” there is no “essential Baso” apart from actual instances of “Baso experience.” When Baso sits in zazen, “zazen” becomes zazen, and “Baso” becomes Baso. Real instances of Baso sitting in zazen is real instances of Baso and real instances of zazen – when Baso eats rice, Baso is really Baso and eating rice is really eating rice.
I like this quote but does anyone know who translated it and the source of that text?

Subhuti asked: "Is perfect wisdom beyond thinking? Is it unimaginable and totally unique but nevertheless reaching the unreachable and attaining the unattainable?"

The Buddha replied: "Yes, Subhuti, it is exactly so. And why is perfect wisdom beyond thinking? It is because all its points of reference cannot be thought about but can be apprehended. One is the disappearance of the self-conscious person into pure presence. Another is the knowing of the essenceless essence of all things in the world. And another is luminous knowledge that knows without a knower. None of these points can sustain ordinary thought because they are not objects or subjects. They can't be imagined or touched or approached in any way by any ordinary mode of consciousness, therefore they are beyond thinking."
"Bodhidharma asked, "Can each of you say something to demonstrate your understanding?"
Dao Fu stepped forward and said, "It is not bound by words and phrases, nor is it separate from words and phrases. This is the function of the Tao."
Bodhidharma: "You have attained my skin."
The nun Zong Chi[note 6][note 7] stepped up and said, "It is like a glorious glimpse of the realm of Akshobhya Buddha. Seen once, it need not be seen again."
Bodhidharma; "You have attained my flesh."
Dao Yu said, "The four elements are all empty. The five skandhas are without actual existence. Not a single dharma can be grasped."
Bodhidharma: "You have attained my bones."
Finally, Huike came forth, bowed deeply in silence and stood up straight.
Bodhidharma said, "You have attained my marrow." [38]"

Also see: Luminosity vs Clarity
The Sun Does Not Rise or Set

The Unbounded Field of Awareness
Jax's Message
Fully Experience All-Is-Mind by Realizing No-Mind and Conditionality

To find a buddha, all you have to do is see your nature. Your nature is the buddha. And the buddha is the person who's free, free of plans, free of cares. If you don't see your nature and run around all day looking somewhere else, you'll never find a buddha. The truth is there's nothing to find. Life and death are important. Don't suffer them in vain. There's no advantage in deceiving yourself. Even if you have mountains of jewels and as many servants as there are grains of sand along the Ganges, you see them when your eyes are open. But what about when your eyes are shut? You should realize that everything you see is like a dream or illusion.

Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, it's all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the buddha. And the buddha is the path. And the path is zen. But the word zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it's not zen.

Bodhidharma (440-528)
Jamgon Mipham:

Accordingly, in the case of a beginner, it is possible for mere nonexistence (med rkyang tsam), the negation of truly existent phenomena, to arise as a mental object. But a person whose Madhyamaka investigation has hit the mark will perfectly distinguish the difference between the lack of inherent existence and mere nonexistence; and will be quite certain that a phenomenon's lack of inherent existence is inseparable from its dependent arising. Such an extraordinary mode of apprehension indeed acts as an antidote to the precipitous extremes of both substantialism and nihilism. For as long as, according to one's mode of apprehension, one is either refuting things or establishing them, one is not actually in the nature beyond all conceptual extremes. When, with reasoned analysis, one arrives at the certainty that phenomena do not dwell in any of the four extremes, and when one settles evenly in the dharmadhatu, by way of the self-cognizing primordial wisdom, this will have the power to dispel all conceptual constructs. Thus one will gain confidence in ultimate reality, in 'which there are no misconceptions to dispel and no progress to make. One will have confidence in the genuine meaning of "freedom from mental activity" as explained in the Prajnaparamita-sutra.
Wrote to someone:

The red petals are not red petals of an inherently existing flower. Flower is conventionally designated in dependence on the petals, there is no flower core anywhere. So it might be more accurate to say the petals “are” the flower. Even the red appearance is dependently originating with no real substance to be found, I.e. unreal - dogs don’t see red, so it is a nonoriginating reflection/appearance in any case, like the reflection of the moon on water, only appearing in dependence on certain conditions but never actually referring to an actual thing being created or abiding or ceasing anywhere. Like scrolling through facebook posts or watching a movie, no actual things or persons or objects are created despite their appearances. This is not to say "what you see is all there is" but "what you see does not amount to something truly existing or truly arising" and whatever "things" - self, cup, table, sky, car, flower, are all conventionally designated in dependence on parts, conditions, functions, designating consciousness and when analysed no true existence can be found.

The universe is like that. Nothing that appears in dependence on conditions exists intrinsically by its own power or essence. But of course it is not a rejection of phenomena and its causal efficacy, as explained in the chapter on the four noble truths in madhyamikakarika. It is precisely because conventional empty phenomena are not intrinsically existing that they could arise due to conditions and cease through practicing the path, otherwise they would be forever “there” like a moon in the lake would be stuck there if it were real and intrinsic. So we have to understand emptiness through dependent origination and understand the causal efficacy of conventional empty phenomena, otherwise we are falling into nihilism and rejecting the four noble truths, etc.

When we talk about illusion, there is a difference between water-moon and rabbit-horn. Appearances are like water-moon being dependently originated, without substance and base but not non-existent, whereas true existence/inherent existence is illusory in the sense of being "horns of rabbits", it does not exist even conventionally. If we merely see non-existence, or negate conventionalities and their valid functionalities, that is nihilism. The sun, even if hidden behind the clouds and thus "unseen", is still exerting a causal function of heating up the earth. On the other hand if we treat these things (e.g. the sun) as real and substantial instead of dependently designated/dependently originating and thus unreal, then we are having substantialist tendencies. The sun is also designated in dependence on its functions like 'heat', just like the flower is designated in dependence on the petals, and other conditions. So seeing this, we do not think of the sun as a substantial thing causing a substantial thing to happen, for the heating and sun are dependently designated. But that is not to deny "sun" or "heating" conventionally and their causal efficacy.

"In brief from empty phenomena
Empty phenomena arise;
Agent(cause), karma(action), fruits(effect), and their enjoyer(subject) -
The conqueror taught these to be [only] conventional.

Just as the sound of a drum as well as a shoot
Are produced from a collection [of factors],
We accept the external world of dependent origination
To be like a dream and an illusion.

That phenomena are born from causes
Can never be inconsistent [with facts];
Since the cause is empty of cause,
We understand it to be empty of origination."

- Nāgārjuna

“Earlier we saw that both the Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika argue that only ultimately intrinsic reality (svabhāva) enables things to perform a causal function (arthakriya). The Svātantrika Madhyamaka rejects this, and it instead argues that things are causally efficient because of their conventionally intrinsic reality (svabhāva) or unique particularity (svalakṣaṇa). The Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka, however, rejects both these positions, and argues only what is conventionally non-intrinsic reality (niḥsvabhāva) is causally effective, for only those phenomena, the conventional nature of which is non-intrinsic, are subject to conditioned or dependent arising. Conventional reality (here treated as dependently arisen phenomenon), given it is causally effective, is therefore always intrinsically unreal, and hence lacks any intrinsic reality even conventionally. Hence that which is conventionally (or dependently) coarisen is always conventionally (or dependently) arisen and strictly does not arise ultimately.”

"Nāgārjuna's central argument to support his radical non-foundationalist theory of the two truths draws upon an understanding of conventional truth as tied to dependently arisen phenomena, and ultimate truth as tied to emptiness of the intrinsic nature. Since the former and the latter are coconstitutive of each other, in that each entials the other, ultimate reality is tied to being that which is conventionally real. Nāgārjuna advances important arguments justifying the correlation between conventional truth vis-à-vis dependent arising, and emptiness vis-à-vis ultimate truth. These arguments bring home their epistemological and ontological correlations ([MMK] 24.14; Dbu ma tsa 15a). He argues that wherever applies emptiness as the ultimate reality, there applies the causal efficacy of conventional reality and wherever emptiness does not apply as the ultimate reality, there does not apply the causal efficacy of conventional reality (Vig.71) (Dbu ma tsa 29a). According to Nāgārjuna, ultimate reality's being empty of any intrinsic reality affords conventional reality its causal efficacy since being ultimately empty is identical to being causally produced, conventionally. This must be so since, for Nāgārjuna, “there is no thing that is not dependently arisen; therefore, there is no such thing that is not empty” ([MMK] 24.19, Dbu ma tsa 15a)."

- https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/twotruths-india/