Also see: Greg Goode on Advaita/Madhyamika

The 7 stages do not unfold in the same exact linear steps for everyone. For some, it is the reverse. For some practitioners, they may have certain insights into emptiness and dependent origination but lack the direct realization of appearances as one’s radiance clarity. And hence for these people, John Tan said, “...empty clarity is highest teaching. To me [that] is peak of [stage] 5. Post 5 [i.e. stage 6] is [about] knowledge of Dependent Origination and emptiness, which I think is more [of a crucial] key. Roaming in Conventional world in freedom requires deep wisdom that is not covered in the insight of clarity.”. However as John also pointed out, lacking the insights into 5, the understanding of dependent origination and emptiness tends to be intellectual. For these people, a separate pointing to recognise all appearances as one’s empty radiance clarity may be necessary.

“From anatta to the natural state of spontaneous perfection is essentially to understand the breadth and depth of what hinders and is meant by being "natural". The journey is effectively how an immature mind that is full of all sort of artificialities frees itself into its primordial natural condition that is boundless and free.

Why are there stages? There are stages because it is based on a proliferated mind. The fragmented mind creates stages as that is how it understands and works, it separates and re-connects what that has never been separated. Realizing the illusion of separation, there is no re-connection either. So the self is empty, the other is empty, the line that demarcates them is also empty.

As for investigation into the nature of appearances, perhaps you can elaborate more on what do you mean by appearances?

I think we must also separate direct knowledge of one's empty clarity from the relative conceptual knowledge of mind and how are they "linked". Can Madhyamaka bring about direct recognition of one’s radiance clarity? If not, what is the role of mmk (mulamadhyamakakarika)?


In my previous message, I mentioned about anatta and spontaneous perfection as returning to one's natural and authentic condition because I hope you can see it from another angle.

To some, in the seen, just the seen sounded like a perfect state of concentration through long period of training and practice. To me however, the taste of anatta is the birthright, primordial and natural condition of one's clarity.

Seeing is just seen, no seer; Hearing is just sound, no hearer. It is the gateway to realize that the mundane is precisely where one's natural radiance is fully expressed. Nothing hidden, nothing beyond and fully manifested.

What does freedom from reification entail? It is to get rid of all "beyonds", all "backgrounds", all constructs so that we can recognize "face to face" of what's seen, heard, touched... etc as one's empty clarity, not to bring us to an unreachable la la land. So wherever and whenever I see dependent arising and emptiness, I see one's empty clarity.

Some can realize directly one's empty clarity through seeing emptiness, just like case of the insight of anatta, but some can't. If this isn't obvious, then separate pointing is necessary.

Lastly the true practice is in ceaselessly meeting conditions and situations, without that, there is no genuine actualization.

Good luck!” - John Tan 2018


"When one says mind or basis or clarity or presence, it is only conventional expression. If we mistaken there is anything to grasp or anything beyond or ineffable, it is immediately mistaken. However if we just stop there it becomes nihilistic. Because the purpose is to allow one to clearly and fully realize, feel and taste the moment to moment of manifestation. To clearly see and understand the nature of what is felt, seen, taste, heard and thought. It is not only no seer, but in the seen just the seen. However in the seen just the seen can be seen as a form of focus shamatha concentration. Therefore I always say it is the natural state." - John Tan 2018

It should however be understood that recognition of all appearances as one’s empty-clarity is not the insight of Stage 6. As John Tan said, “They [Gelugpas/Emptiness teachings] do not require a ground foundational consciousness, do not seek presence, what do they rely on to release?

Soh: The release of the sense of phenomena truly there that can be found when sought, existing with Essence, by itself or on its own side. The conventions are seen to be empty

John Tan: 👍 So in phase 6, don't talk about presence.  Talk about the general dependent origination into emptiness.  In terms of experience, fully refine +A and -A.”

8 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    How many can understand such deep thoughts/writings? Judging frm the lack of comments on yr blog,the answer is obvious,isnt it?

    Or perhaps some will simply ignore yr articles and feel offended cause u repeatedly 'lowered' their spiritual state ....

    "no, u simply at stage 1 - i am , but me,im higher dan u , or ... this guy still at stage 4,but we already at 7 .... or that guru havent realized anatta.... etc...etc..."

  2. Soh Says:

    There are many who understands, otherwise how come this blog can lead more than 25+ people to anatta and emptiness?

    How many teachers can truly say that more than 25+ of their students have attained enlightenment? Very few nowadays, I dare say.

    You will not see those who realised talking here, they talk privately with me or John. Once they realised, they are off on their own.

    It's ok for people to feel offended. Buddha also offended people, but in the end those offended people realised he is right and attained liberation.

    Rob Burbea:

    "One time the Buddha went to a group of monks and he basically told them not to see Awareness as The Source of all things. So this sense of there being a vast awareness and everything just appears out of that and disappears back into it, beautiful as that is, he told them that’s actually not a skillful way of viewing reality. And that is a very interesting sutta, because it’s one of the only suttas where at the end it doesn’t say the monks rejoiced in his words.

    This group of monks didn’t want to hear that. They were quite happy with that level of insight, lovely as it was, and it said the monks did not rejoice in the Buddha’s words. (laughter) And similarly, one runs into this as a teacher, I have to say. This level is so attractive, it has so much of the flavor of something ultimate, that often times people are unbudgeable there."

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Soh, love your blog mate, have been a lurker for many years. I'm just wondering if you could comment on a recurring experience I seem to have which seems to resonate with this post.

    The first time it occurred was when I was out walking I randomly asked myself the question "What is actually going on here?". Somehow the asking of this question shifted my perception completely outward to a place where everything took on sheer-ness or right here-ness, a vividness I have never experienced before in my life. There was an acute sense of "Hang on, This is ACTUALLY happening right now, this is REALLY happening!" It was like a sudden awareness of the obviousness of everything, and it was magical lol.

    Is this an experience of my own natural radiance you speak of? Or an awakening to I Am ness?

    Cheers mate, Steve

  4. Soh Says:

    Not yet. It is an experience of the intensity of luminosity. You should do self-inquiry (ask yourself, Before birth, Who am I?) to get Self-Realization of I AMness.

    You can refer to my e-book, there's a section on self-inquiry. Or read Ramana Maharshi books.

    I wrote this months before my Self-Realization:

    I wrote: I think 'What is it' is a powerful koan and pointer. Whatever you say isn't It (it's your interpretation of It, which thus is not It), you can only 'know' it by becoming ONE with it. Actually there is not even a becoming one, there is only actually IT, our mind merely projects separation.
    When we experience Awareness directly without using our thoughts, everything is experienced as having a magical, alive, shimmery, fresh, amazing and blissful quality to it. Life is not not the 'boring and ordinary'as the mind interpretes it, even the most ordinary things (such as eating, walking, etc) just feels awesome. You will be naturally attracted, pulled towards the pristine awareness than to stressful thoughts. The ego will melt in the wonder and majesty of awareness. Awareness will literally blow your mind away. One moment I was just dreaming stressful thoughts, the other moment I 'woke up' and was totally drawn to Awareness itself... there was no compulsion for me to go back to the dream. It's just such a huge contrast. Sometimes it's so blissful that people around me wonder why I'm smiling. But surely I'm not mad... it's mad to not notice Life... hahaha

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, it was a powerful koan! The asking of the question seemed to short circuit the sense of of self, like a muscle knot had been loosened in the mind, very light and freeing. As you say there was a sense of the ordinary way of perceiving as being dreamlike in comparison, clouded in ego and stressful thoughts. Once these clouds give way there was just life shining in its magical obviousness.

    So are you saying that this experience of the 'Is-ness' or luminosity of the world is in fact awareness itself? That there is no actual, really real world being 'illuminated' so to speak?

    Cheers, Steve

  6. Soh Says:

    At the anatta and emptiness level of understanding, both 'awareness' and 'world' are understood to be mere names, mere conventions.

    'Awareness' too is understood to be like a label for the six sense experiences just like 'weather' is merely a label (and not a stable, solid entity that can be found somewhere) for the various everchanging patterns, it does not have existence on its own side. The luminosity does not exist on its own side.

    However, when doing self-inquiry, your focus is on the Mind door. To get the realization of the formless Presence, pure sense of existence, I AM. Not sound, not sight, just the pure formless sense of Existence even if all senses are shut, whether they are shut or not, I AM. Before birth, I AM. Or as Jesus said, before Abraham was, I AM. Before the world of form, I AM.

    That is the beginning as Thusness wrote,

    When consciousness experiences the pure sense of “I AM”, overwhelmed by the transcendental thoughtless moment of Beingness, consciousness clings to that experience as its purest identity. By doing so, it subtly creates a ‘watcher’ and fails to see that the ‘Pure Sense of Existence’ is nothing but an aspect of pure consciousness relating to the thought realm. This in turn serves as the karmic condition that prevents the experience of pure consciousness that arises from other sense-objects. Extending it to the other senses, there is hearing without a hearer and seeing without a seer -- the experience of Pure Sound-Consciousness is radically different from Pure Sight-Consciousness. Sincerely, if we are able to give up ‘I’ and replace it with “Emptiness Nature”, Consciousness is experienced as non-local. There isn't a state that is purer than the other. All is just One Taste, the manifold of Presence.

  7. flávio Says:

    Hi Soh,
    What Thusness is describing is different from the two truths in meditative equipoise?
    Do you believe that "natural state" that Thusness is describing is a conventional state?
    Is he not using a Svatantrika's description of a post meditation state, instead of a Madhyamaka's description?

    Thanks all the best!!

    "This is what we should strive to understand! In their respective
    teachings, the Prasangikas emphasize the primordial wisdom of the union, or
    single taste, of the two truths in meditative equipoise, while the Svatantrikas
    emphasize the wisdom that distinguishes the two truths in the postmeditation
    period. It is thus that this question should be understood."
    ~ THE A DORNMENT OF THE MIDDLE WAY Shantarakshita’s Madhyamakalankara

    "In sum, a careful distinction between the Svatantrikas and Prasangikas
    according to the manner in which they emphasize either the state of
    postmeditation (in which the two truths appear as separate) or that of meditative
    equipoise (in which the two truths are of the same taste) is extremely important
    and profitable. It is certain that the ultimate Madhyamaka, the primordial wisdom
    of meditative equipoise, conforms to the view of the Prasangikas. The
    postmeditation, however, wherein the two truths are validly cognized, 161
    corresponds to the tradition of the Svatantrikas. In the sutras also, some texts point
    out the ultimate truth in itself, which is beyond any assertion of existence,
    nonexistence, and so forth, and cannot be spoken of, conceived, or taught. Other
    texts, by saying things like “There is no form” or “There is no consciousness,”
    indicate the approximate ultimate truth, which is simply a nonimplicative
    negation (med dgag)."
    ~ THE A DORNMENT OF THE MIDDLE WAY Shantarakshita’s Madhyamakalankara

  8. Soh Says:

    I'll let Thusness answer that for himself.