“There's another insight that sometimes arises, and I don't know where it fits in. My field of experience (indeed, everything I can call "reality") consists of a nondual (i.e., self-experiencing) luminosity.”

My reply:

For now you are having glimpses of No Mind but not yet realization of anatta. (Relevant: https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/10/differentiating-i-am-one-mind-no-mind.html and https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/11/no-mind-and-anatta-focusing-on-insight.html )  How often does it occur and for how long? When you get to MCTB 4th path, it will be effortless and perpetual/permanent.

To get to Thusness Stage 4 realization, certain realizations must arise, particularly through the 2nd Stanza of anatta in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html and one will realize as Zen Master Seung Sahn wrote,

"Your true self has no outside, no inside
Sound is clear mind, clear mind is sound
Sound and hearing are not separate, there is only sound"

There is a direct realization involved with regards to the relationship between luminous awareness and phenomenal manifestation.

Before that, it’s not yet Thusness Stage 4 or Stage 5. The experiences will come and go, not the gateless gate without entry and exit, not realization of the nondual or anatta nature of awareness. Your peak experiences are good but actually far more common than you seem to think. Realizations are rarer, and anatta is much more rare, yet is crucial for effortless and perpetual experience of non-dual luminosity, and more importantly a liberating experience (non-dual luminosity in itself is blissful but not liberating).

(Non-dual luminosity is the vivid presence-awareness or clarity experienced in/as everything without falling into a dichotomy of subject and object, perceiver and perceived)

“When my thoughts are extremely still, it becomes obvious that all my assumptions about what is causing it (either a world, or a self, or a brain...) are totally baseless. In that moment, all of experience becomes utterly miraculous. It feels like staying with the source of that wonder, awe, gratitude, joy, love, etc. is very relevant to practice, but I never hear anyone write about this exactly. At that point the belief in materialism should shatter, but I see so many practitioners still believe in it.”

Even after nondual realization (Thusness Stage 4/5) or perhaps before, there are three ways one’s experience can unfold, and in each of these three phases nondual luminosity is clearly experienced:

  1. Deconstruct all objectivity but subsume into an inherently existing subjectivity or cosmic consciousness. Everything is just the modulations of an inherently existing Mind. (Late I AM to One Mind~No Mind phase) Examples of such approach: Direct Path of Sri Atmananda as taught by Greg Goode, Refuting the External World by Goran Backlund, Hall of Mirror teachings, Advaita Vedanta teachings, George Berkeley and many other substantialist nondual teachings, yet most Buddhist practitioners and teachers get stuck here at Subjective Realism even though the Buddhist scriptures are of a non-reductionist kind (see number 3)
  2. Deconstruct all subjectivity, initial phase of Anatta but fall into the extremes of Objective Realism. (Example: Actual Freedom teachings, U.G. Krishnamurti) This is more similar to Thusness Stage 5 but a sub-phase of it, a sidetrack or common deviation of it that can only be corrected or remedied by Stage 6 – non-arising through dependent origination
  3. Further expand on the anatta insight and realize all appearances as vivid empty-clarity and total exertion not through subsuming into object to subject nor subject to object. One neither falls into subjective realism nor objective realism. It is here that dependent origination is realized. All phenomena are realized to be neither arising and ceasing, nor non-arising and non-ceasing, rather it is directly realized to be non-arising because of dependent origination, and thus all appearances are empty and illusory, due to dependent origination but not because they are merely mental projections nor subsumed into an overarching universal consciousness. Thusness Stage 6, and is taught in varying degrees in Buddhadharma, from Pali Suttas and Theravada to Dogen (more on Anatta and Total Exertion), Madhyamika, Tsongkhapa, Mipham (more on Empty-Clarity) and other Tibetan, Mahamudra and Dzogchen texts and so on. Soto Zen (Dogen) stresses more on anatta and total exertion while Vajrayana/Mahamudra/Dzogchen tend to stress more on all appearances as one's empty-radiance.

There are some variance and diversity of views and paths. Most people who simply deconstruct objectivity still ends up with the reification of consciousness into a changeless and ultimate source and substratum. However, at the very end of Greg and Atmananda's Direct Path path, even the notion of 'consciousness' is dissolved, as he wrote in various books including 'After Awareness'. (Also, a side-note: Greg has also dwelt into Madhyamika teachings and wrote about them) Also, Goran Backlund and Hall of Mirror does not seem to reify an unchanging consciousness as source or substratum and their experience is non-dual yet seem to treat Pure Subjectivity as real and ultimate (but not separate from manifest experience). In particular, Goran Backlund stressed that 'Consciousness' only refers to the flow of experiences in the six sense doors (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking).

All 3 of those cases above experiences non-dual luminosity but clearly have different view (paradigm/framework) in which the experience is viewed or perceived. In 1 and 3, materialism (or more accurately objective realism) is gone, but for different reasons. But 1) will cause one to fall into reified absolutistic spiritual views (i.e. Atman-Brahman, Cosmic/Universal Consciousness, Pure Subjectivity, All is Self, an unchanging and independent Source and Substratum of all phenomena, etc), or on the other extreme, it might cause one to fall into weird solipsistic view by overemphasizing ‘there is no other’ and reducing everything to 'there is only You/This' (e.g. Hall of Mirrors/John Mirra/Empty Mirror neo-Advaitin group in Facebook). There is due to the reductionist tendency in 1) and 2) to absolutize something -- i.e. Everything is only X, or There are no Y but only X -- e.g. there is no Objects, but only Consciousness/Pure Subjectivity, or... there is no Subject, but only Universe/Physical Body and World, etc. Whereas in 3) there is no reductionism involved, there is no establishing some final principle or irreducible Existence to land on, be it in terms of subjectivity or objectivity. I think I first heard the term 'non-reductionist' from Greg Goode.

Although Hall of Mirror/John Mirra's insights and experience are quite close to anatta, there is a key difference. In true Anatta, there is no reducing of everything to some principle ('This', 'Pure Subjectivity', 'The Universe', etc). John Mirra likes to establish 'There is only This', 'There is only You, no other', even as he equalifies that 'You' is only referring to the direct experience of 'vroomyumouch'. For example, John Mirra once told me, '"This" is a word that points to what is. Would you prefer the term "vivid, clear, present"? Or "lemon-meringue-pie"? I replied to him that "teaspoon bangs on a teacup, tings...Vivid, clear and present" is not a pointer to "anything" but simply a description. Descriptions are phenomenal, whereas pointers imply hidden noumenons, referencing something. Yet this is just anatta (not yet twofold emptiness). In the seen only the seen, no seer, but the seen (colors, teaspoon bangs on a teacup, ting...) are not referencing some static or foundational principle.

You can say they are self-luminous, self-aware, vivid, clear and present, as a description but there is no reducing them nor subsuming them into the some greater or ultimate metaphysical (or even physical) principle. Instead there is just a dynamic, seamlessly interdependent play of diversities and multiplicity of vivid display/activity/total exertion that goes on without end without referencing anything, without some ultimate final landing ground to grasp (therefore Practice-Enlightenment is dynamic and endless). When I encounter another person, I do not think "You are Me", or "There is only Me", but simply experience and engage with that other person fully without self/Self, without trying to reduce or subsume or re-confirm anything, because it is clearly seen that any form of self/Self/static principles are completely delusional, and there has just been no more tendency or slightest trace of subject/object duality nor subsuming tendency for the past 8 years. And there is nothing in direct experience that tells me 'There is only Me, no others', in the seen only the seen does not imply there are no other mindstreams, it only means in the seen there is just the seen without a background seer/agent apart that is watching the seen from behind, that what we call 'seeing' or 'awareness' is simply that manifest experience. This anatta insight is best described in terms of the 'non-referentiality' of direct experience and is not reductionist. It negates any referencing centerpoint, any sense of an unchanging and independent Self, Agent or Substance from which experience is viewed (any self/Self/agent) but does not affirm an absolute position in place of its negation (You/This/Pure Subjectivity/Pure Objectivity/etc). Furthermore, correct comprehension of anatta does not reject dependencies and conditionality but allows us to see them clearly as there is no attempting to subsume everything to an absolute principle.

It is my experience that deeper insights into 3) of the non-essentialist or non-reductionist kind leads to deeper freedoms and liberation. However there are many teachings belonging to 1) that does not see essentialism or substantialism as 'wrong' but completely buys into this view. As Greg Goode wrote before,

Greg Goode: Oh, another thing - Advaitins don't see (what we're calling) susbstantialism or essentialism as a bad thing. For them, it is the only thing. Since Brahman = truth, being and freedom from suffering, it makes no sense to be without it. One needs it even to deny it, is the thinking there. So even the standards of evaluation are different. Not to mention the varna/caste system, which is defended on upanishadic, doctrinal grounds. Oops, I just mentioned it!
February 10 at 12:33pm · Like · 3

Greg Goode: I love the Mandukya Upanishad and the Gaudapada Karika. I think it is effective and profound, and like many views, doesn't need to be reconciled with other views. I know that some Advaitins shy away from that Upanishad because of gossip about G's Buddhist influences. I studied that text for a few years, and it never felt subversive to me...
February 10 at 12:43pm · Like · 4

And in 3, the conventional efficacy of causality between the world, self and brain are not in any way negated or denied but are not held to be intrinsically existing in any way. Rather the web of interdependencies are totally exerting from moment to moment like a net of indra, and everything takes on a sense of illusoriness, just like the reflections of a mirror or the reflection of moon on the lake or the reflections of the interplay of nodes in the net of indra in real-time – they are clearly realized and experienced to be mere dependent reflections/appearances no where residing ‘inside’ the lake or ‘inside’ the mirror (not inherently existing anywhere) but merely appearing due to intricate dependencies but not truly arising or coming into existence or existing by its own essence. The relative individuality or rather uniqueness of various mindstreams and various ‘external phenomena’ are not negated conventionally just like the uniqueness of each node in the net of indra isn’t negated and yet they are not held to exist by way of its own essence, nor are they subsumed into an overarching universal consciousness. Vivid non-dual presence/consciousness is merely the appearances of those vivid colors, sounds, sensations yet nothing truly existing ‘there’, no ‘essence’ to be found here, there or anywhere.

Here in 3) there is no subsuming of appearances into some overarching ultimate or universal awareness as by 2) the ‘awareness’ and ‘radiance’ is already clearly realized to be the mere foreground manifesting transience, no unchanging background or subject behind. Consciousness is also not reified to be some inherently existing/unchanging and independent source and substratum of all phenomena as in the case of 1) or Thusness Stage 1~4. At this 3) phase one can also have better understanding of the play of karmic conditioning, and one understands that afflictions cannot be destroyed through hard will in the same way as we cannot get rid of the moon in the mirror by trying to break the mirror, because the moon never resided inside the mirror ‘inherently’ to begin with, and afflictions do not reside 'inside the mind' inherently but merely appears due to karmic tendencies meeting secondary conditions, so rather the practice is by way of facing and uncovering the conditions and releasing those conditions through wisdom.

Number 2) is a good example to demonstrate that experiencing nondual luminosity need not lead to a deconstruction of material reality, depending on one’s conditions it may in fact cause one to reify the physical universe as absolutely existing with intrinsic existence, as an immature insight into anatta fails to address the deeper underlying ignorance or view of inherency/inherent existence, therefore once the Subject is completely deconstructed (and one no longer reifies an Ultimate Subjectivity or Consciousness as some metaphysical and ultimate, changeless and independent source and substratum behind all phenomena) and dissolved, the underlying ‘ignorance’ then swaps its object of grasping from the Subjective pole to the Objective pole, as the Subject is seen as unreal therefore (it seems) the objects has to be real? Not knowing that this is just the underlying ignorance that projects inherent existence re-appearing in another guise.

This is even though nondual luminosity is also experienced at 2), as Richard demonstrated his realization and experience of the luminosity as foreground manifestation:

Actual Freedom’s Richard Maynard wrote, Yet what I experience is neither materialismhttp://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/images/note-icon.jpg nor spiritualismhttp://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/images/note-icon.jpg; I experience actualismhttp://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/images/note-icon.jpg. I am neither materialistic nor spiritualistic; I am actualistic. I am neither a materialist nor a spiritualist; I am an actualist. An actualist is a person who, unlike a spiritualist, does not believe that matter is passive (as in inactive, inert, quiescent, stagnant, static, torpid, supine, idle, moribund or dormant) and, unlike a materialist, does not believe that nature and/or life is a random, futile event in an empty, aimless, universe. Actualism is the direct experiencing of the meaningful, vibrant, dynamic, effervescent, sparkling, pulsating, amazing, marvellous, wondrous and magical happening that is this very physical universe in action.
To be actualistic is to be living the infinitude of this fairy-tale-like actual world with its sensuous quality of magical perfection and purity: where everything and everyone has a lustre, a brilliance, a vividness, an intensity and a marvellous, wondrous, scintillating vitality that makes everything alive and sparkling ... even the very earth beneath one’s feet. The rocks, the concrete buildings, a piece of paper ... literally everything is as if it were alive (a rock is not, of course, alive as humans are, or as animals are, or as trees are). This ‘aliveness’ is the very actuality of all existence ... the actualness of everything and everyone. We do not live in an inert universe ... but one cannot experience this whilst clinging to immortality.


... and just as the moving picture is visually brilliant, vivid, sparkling, so too is the sound track aurally rich, vibrant, resonant.


Therefore, when I wrote that ‘as [the qualities of] splendour and brilliance are intrinsic to the properties of this actual world’ and that ‘they present themselves openly where apperception is operating’ I am reporting that literally everything is ‘bright, shining, vivid, intense, sparkling, luminous, lustrous, scintillating and coruscating in all its vitality here in this actual world’ ... thus it is not the imposition of subjective attributes (which phrase may very well equate to what you called ‘internal percepts’ in the previous e-mail) that I am talking about.
Rather it is the absence of such subjectively imposed attributes – due to the absence of identity – which reveals the world as-it-is.


The actualism website states: You could say that mysticism pursues the subjective to the  vanishing point of the self – everything becomes subjectivity. In  other words, ‘I’ envelope the world to the point where the  distinction between subject and object no longer makes sense and  the objective is ‘sucked into’ the subjective with no distinction  between the two.
Actualists pursue objectivity to the vanishing point of the self –  ‘I’ become so whittled down that eventually the distinction between  the objective and the subjective collapses, but this time it is the  objective that replaces the subjective – everything becomes (as it  already is) objective – factual. No 37 to No 61(R)


p.s. Thusness wrote in early 2010:


....What David Carse said requires more than the “I AMness” realization you narrated in your post “Certainty of Being”.  It also requires more than just glimpses of the non-dual state that can be induced by penetrating the question:

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

It requires a practitioner to be sufficiently clear about the cause of ‘separation’ so that the perceptual knot that creates the ‘division’ is thoroughly seen through.  At this phase, non-dual becomes quite effortless.  The three following articles that you posted in your blog are all about the thorough insights of seeing through the illusionary division created by mental constructs.  They are all very well written.  It is worth revisiting these articles.

1. Body/No-Body
2. The Teachings of Atmananda and the Direct Path
3. The Direct Path
Of all the 3 articles, I like Joan’s article Body/No-body best.  Do not simply go through the motion of reading, read with a reverent heart.  Though a simple article but is not any less insightful than those written by well-known masters, it has all the answers and pointers you need. :)
Next, there are several points you made that is related to the deconstruction of mental objects but you should also note that there exist a predictable relationship between the 'mental object to be de-constructed' and 'the experiences and realizations'.  For example “The Teachings of Atmananda and the Direct Path” will, more often than not lead a practitioner to the realization of One Mind whereas the article from Joan will lead one to the experiential insight of No-Mind.  As a general guideline,
1. If you de-construct the subjective pole, you will be led to the experience of No-Mind.
2. If you de-construct the objective pole, you will be led to the experience of One-Mind.
3. If you go through a process of de-constructing prepositional phrases like "in/out" "inside/outside" "into/onto," "within/without" "here/there", you will dissolve the illusionary nature of locality and time.
4. If you simply go through the process of self-enquiry by disassociation and elimination without clearly understanding the non-inherent and dependent originated nature of phenomena, you will be led to the experience of “I AMness”.
Lastly, not to talk too much about self-liberation or the natural state, it can sound extremely misleading.  Although Joan Tollifson spoke of the natural non-dual state is something “so simple, so immediate, so obvious, so ever-present that we often overlook”, we have to understand that to even come to this realization of the “Simplicity of What Is”, a practitioner will need to undergo a painstaking process of de-constructing the mental constructs.  We must be deeply aware of the ‘blinding spell’ in order to understand consciousness.  I believe Joan must have gone through a period of deep confusions, not to under-estimate it. :)


I'll end this with a quote from Bernadette Roberts:

"That everyone has different experiences and perspectives is not a problem; rather, the problem is that when we interpret an experience outside its own paradigm, context, and stated definitions, that experience becomes lost altogether. It becomes lost because we have redefined the terms according to a totally different paradigm or perspective and thereby made it over into an experience it never was in the first place. When we force an experience into an alien paradigm, that experience becomes subsumed, interpreted away, unrecognizable, confused, or made totally indistinguishable. Thus when we impose alien definitions on the original terms of an experience, that experience becomes lost to the journey, and eventually it becomes lost to the literature as well. To keep this from happening it is necessary to draw clear lines and to make sharp, exacting distinctions. The purpose of doing so is not to criticize other paradigms, but to allow a different paradigm or perspective to stand in its own right, to have its own space in order to contribute what it can to our knowledge of man and his journey to the divine.

Distinguishing what is true or false, essential or superficial in our experience is not a matter to be taken lightly. We cannot simply define our terms and then sit back and expect perfect agreement across the board. Our spiritual-psychological journey does not work this way. We are not uniform robots with the same experiences, same definitions, same perspectives, or same anything."

14 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    The original Q expresses doubt(dont know whr it fits in) .....well , i think its better to let personal experiences mature naturally and organ8cally instead of giving conceptual 'stages' answer(u r at this stage,u need to climb such and such ladder somemore etc...)

    Does relying on personal exploration so unreliable?So much so that one needs some stages,paths etc.. to believe in?

    Obviously,with right pointer one can avoid going in circles but 99.99999% of spiritual path is really exhausting oneself through circling over and over again , until finally lightbulb appears .... Its the nature of clinging and ignorance ! Keep on and on and on until one can finally let go ! This is how clinging and letting go functions.

    No point keep telling ppl 'u r at lower stages' now climb according to my paths/stages .....

  2. Soh Says:

    On the contrary it is my experience that a clear map and pointers are very important, otherwise I would definitely have been stuck at 'earlier stages' 'forever'.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Hv u ever consider the possibility that yr pointer and map may not accurately represent actuality/reality?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Saying ' cannot be,cause ive realized that myself' doesnt sound like a valid way of testing ....
    cause that simply means u realized what the pointer/maps is showing u , not yet seeing 'outside ' of it

  5. Soh Says:

    I have no doubts about my realizations and insights. My realizations are unshakeable and no views can sway me any more, and has been so for a long time.

    Also, I do not have a position to defend, but I have seen through all delusional positions of subject/object duality and inherent existence, while at the same time not denying the earlier realizations but integrating them (i.e. nondual Presence) and clarifying their nature to remove any wrong views and clinging.

    If I had a position (some final reality that I can land on, as discussed in the article), that can be subject to criticism, but I do not.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    " When the student is ready,genuine teacher/teachings will appear ".

    And the teacher/teaching may come in many diverse forms,instead of some particular dogma/teachings...

    Again, no point holding rigidly to 'fixed stages/path' viewpoint...

  7. Anonymous Says:

    And what work for you may not be for others at all - pls seriously consider this .....

    Some may not need any view of stages/paths at all ,but instead let inner intuition be their main guide .....

  8. Soh Says:

    Not everyone needs map, but those who do not need maps are very very few. Buddha, maybe certain masters like Padmasambhava, Bodhidharma, and certainly Bahiya whom we know attained liberation instantly simply by listening to a short teaching by Buddha, they don't need anything as they were ripe. Also some people like Daniel M. Ingram went through a different, or more gradual, style of training before nondual anatta insights, instead of going through I AM and so on. But Daniel M. Ingram too emphasized the need for good maps.

    Most people need maps. Even very high capacity people, like Thusness, who realized anatta by encountering some Buddhist anatta verses and Buddha's teachings, would have benefitted from a map. He was stuck in I AM for maybe around 15 years before he realized nondual and anatta due to lack of guidance and experienced teachers.

    Most people would not have made it that far without proper guidance from a very wise and realized teacher/teaching. Of all the people who realize anatta and/or emptiness (more than 30), I think only Thusness realized it without pointer from a living teacher, and that is because he was very open to investigating the Buddha's teachings due to certain conditions. Maps and clear pointers by someone enlightened are completely necessary for most people.

    For all of the rest who realized anatta after I AM and one mind, all did so after being pointed out by someone who is realized, or encountering the pointers and teachings of someone realized. Nobody has realized through 'inner intuition' alone, not even Thusness, and intuitions are often wrong. One can often remain stuck in I AM for a whole life without encountering the right pointers or persons.

  9. Soh Says:

    Also, a teaching that leads to direct realization cannot be called a dogma. It is only a dogma if it is only held as a mere theory and unexamined.

    As the Buddha himself stated:

    "The Perfect One is free from any theory, for the Perfect One has
    understood what corporeality is, and how it arises, and passes away.
    He has understood what feeling is, and how it arises, and passes away.
    He has understood what perception is, and how it arises, and passes
    away. He has understood what the mental formations are, and how they
    arise, and pass away. He has understood what consciousness is, and how
    it arises, and passes away. Therefore, I say, the Perfect One has
    won complete deliverance through the extinction, fading-away,
    disappearance, rejection, and getting rid of all opinions and
    conjectures, of all inclination to the vainglory of "I" and "mine."

  10. Soh Says:

    "Of all the people who realize anatta and/or emptiness (more than 30), "

    I mean those that I know, and are currently living.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I think you still stuck rigidly to your pov and didnt consider deeply what ive written above, so heres again :


    Now, this 'teacher' may be just as simple as a deep gaze into a blossom flower,or as hard as certain severy physical pain - cancer etc...

    Wheres the necessity of fixed views of stages etc... in such situation ?



  12. Soh Says:

    You are seeing the stages in terms of a 'fixed view' while I do not.

    Stages do not unfold in a fixed and linear way for everyone. However, the stages are very helpful and necessary in pinpointing the direction one can proceed at each phase so that one does not get stuck.

    Everything in life is a teacher, including stages, pointers by enlightened teachers, and so on, all these are important. A deep gaze into a blossom flower only results in satori after years of inquiry, contemplation, meditation, and pointers by enlightened teachers.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    John Mirra insists that people are not aware of what they say or do, even himself, it just "happens" that he writes his bullshits on his FB page. And that you are not one with life, but you need to understand that you and life are the same... and you and the show are the same, thereforeno differences, you are also the entire show ( I don't know what he means by that ), and that you don't exist as a person because you know that therefore others also don't. All he does is post a picture of a mirror in his profile picture and tell others they cannot prove he is a person that lives in Australia with a head and a body and his thoughts comes from his mind. This is of course bullshit but why the hell he does that? Is he mental or is he tried playing with people's mind?

  14. Soh Says:

    John Mirra has nondual realization but goes into the extreme of pure subjectivity to the point of solipsism.