Mr Z.R wrote:

"I came to the Prasangika emptiness teachings by way of a set of nondual awareness teachings, so refuting a global, inherently existent awareness was part of that shift in view. As an awareness-only student, I was aware of similarities between some Tibetan Buddhist schools and the Advaitic-inspired approach I was taking, but I wasn't sure how extensive those similarities were. (In fact, in some cases, based on what I was reading on some forums, Dzogchen , for example, seemed to completely parallel the awareness-only teachings, though of course different terminology was employed.)

But I found /find myself enamored with the Gelug approach that, to me, refuses to reduce all phenomena to some type of substrate. But it seems that this specific commitment is something of an anomaly among Western students of Tibetan Buddhism, and there seems to be a preference for overall approaches that are either more ecumenical/non-sectarian and/or a strong preference for Yogacara, but I don't know. I'm still very new to the Tibetan Buddhist world.
I'd love to hear from folks who are more conversant with the schools of tenants and Tibetan Buddhism generally. Are my assumptions above inaccurate? Do many feel persuaded by the turning-of-the-wheel taxonomy? Is the Gelug approach considered too limited or constrained--or, horrors: incomplete? If they do, how are the emptiness teachings formulated to sit alongside some type of global substrate, like awareness? (Just for background, my main sources for understanding these teachings have been Greg Goode, Jeffrey Hopkins, Guy Newland, and to a lesser degree Jan Westerhoff, CW Huntington, and of course, the classical literature associated with this tradition, Tsongkhapa, et. al.).
I replied:
Most teachers are teaching "awareness-only" in most traditions, and this includes Thai Forest of Theravada, and most of Zen school, and most of Tibetan schools. Does that mean they define the doctrines of each school? Not exactly. It just means for most people and even teachers that we see nowadays, they only realise the aspect of Awareness/Clarity, and this makes their expressions sound very similar to Atman-Brahman. I even made my own estimates -- of all those who claim or seem to express realisations, in general, and in some sense this applies to Buddhists as well: 85% have only realised I AM, 10% have realised One Mind [I AM and One Mind are Brahman realisations - first four stages in ], only 2% or less have realised anatman/emptiness nowadays.

The situation today is the same as how it was back in ancient India:

'Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara with Commentary by Jamgon Mipham',

"There is a story that once when Atisha was in Tibet, he received news of the death of the master Maitripa. He was deeply grieved, and on being questioned about the reasons for his sorrow, he replied that Buddhism was in decline in India and that everywhere there was syncretism and confusion. Until then, Atisha continued, there had been only two masters in the whole of India, Maitripa and himself, capable of discerning the correct teaching from the doctrines and practices of the reviving Hindu schools. The time is sure to come, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche commented, and perhaps it is already here, when there will be an analogous situation in the West. Only the correct establishment of the view will enable one to find one's way through the religious confusion of the modern West and to distinguish authentic Buddhism from the New Age "self-help" versions that are already taking hold.”

But the founders of each of these Buddhist schools have gone beyond that to realise anatman and emptiness because this is the definitive teaching of Buddhism in all schools. Without such a realisation, it will be indistinguishable from Advaita Vedanta, for example. However, most of the modern teachers and students have not realised it.

To make my case, consider these links for the difference between Dzogchen and Advaita: - Dzogchen teacher Arcaya Malcolm explains the difference between dzogchen and advaita - Kyle Dixon, Malcolm's close student who Malcolm expressed confidence in his understanding, explains the different levels of rigpa, with the initial unripened rigpa being the recognition of the aspect of radiance clarity, and the realisation of emptiness only comes later, particularly the third vision called rigpa attaining its full measure. - Arcaya Malcolm explains how Dzogchen 'basis' is not the same as Brahman

Dzogchen teacher Mipham explains the emptiness of Mind:

The explanations of Mahamudra of the ancient siddhas [but not necessarily most of the modern teachers] are also clearly non-substantialist:


Consider these links for the founder of Ch'an/Zen Buddhism Bodhidharma, and Zen Master Dogen, you can clearly see the difference with Advaita: - scroll to the middle beginning with 'Rujing said that authenticity of The Shurangama Sutra has been questioned from ancient times, therefore ancestral masters in the early times never read this sutra.'

For Theravada, it's pretty clear that it too is distinct from Advaita due to realisation of anatta. For instance, look at the expressions of the Theravada teacher Daniel Ingram and Ajahn Nyanamoli Thero [the latter from the Thai Forest tradition which often has the fault of reifying 'Awareness']:

Arcaya Malcolm is going to start teaching Dzogchen view in two weeks

If anyone is interested in Dzogchen and has a nonsubstantialist view, I trust they will find it resonating as I have.

Oh and... nothing wrong with the Gelug approach as well. It's great in its own way. My teacher/mentor John Tan loves Tsongkhapa very much.

Also, we have people like Dalai Lama that integrates Gelug with Dzogchen and Mahamudra. That's possible too.
After all, as Arcaya Malcolm pointed out, "There is no teaching in Buddhism higher than dependent origination. Whatever originates in dependence is empty. The view of Dzogchen, according to ChNN (Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche) in his rdzogs chen skor dri len is the same as Prasanga Madhyamaka, with one difference only - Madhyamaka view is a result of intellectual analysis, Dzogchen view is not. Philosophically, however, they are the same. The view of Madhyamaka does not go beyond the view of dependent origination, since the Madhyamaka view is dependent origination. He also cites Sakya Pandita "If there were something beyond freedom from extremes, that would be an extreme."" -
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