“Cause and effort are conventional so they are of course illusory.  But only in the eyes of (Soh: unawakened) sentient beings, illusory are unimportant and have no consequences.”

- John Tan

I would like to thank Cao Khan and Vu Huy Le for offering to help with the translation and ammendments of the Thusness Seven Stages of Enlightenment article in Vietnamese and On Anatta (No-Self), Emptiness, Maha and Ordinariness, and Spontaneous Perfection article in Vietnamese. Cao Khanh had a breakthrough shortly after helping with the translation while reading the book that Yin Ling and I recommended: Cracking the Walnut: Understanding the Dialectics of Nagarjuna by Thich Nhat Hanh https://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Walnut-Understanding-Dialectics-Nagarjuna-ebook/dp/B0BKKR3N74/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3GY6R5K9F7ZCF

I recommend the book by Thich Nhat Hanh above as an introduction to Nagarjuna's teaching and found it quite accessible for beginners.

Another good beginner book to Madhyamaka is How to See Yourself As You Really Are by the Dalai Lama: https://www.amazon.com.au/How-See-Yourself-You-Really/dp/0743290453/ref=sr_1_1?dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.W4OQeCmEgwQUBmvVBERo7uDFxQwdFP_x3jd9lDpOW70exXT17ayTLA9gyu4K4FRF.r9TVFi5KTJ62Ic8lnfSgyUvfx6IQqDT3t0yh1T14VAQ&dib_tag=se&keywords=how+to+see+yourself+as+you+really+are&qid=1710781621&s=books&sr=1-1

“Earth is flesh... Water is blood... Fire is heat... Air is breath... Space is mind... The sun and moon are the eyes... Stars are light... Clouds are hair... Trees are nāḍīs... Mountains are the body... Cliffs are the bones... These are perfect as such in the body of the yogin. [...] As such, since all phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are complete within the body and mind of the yogin, both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are present as the buddhahood of the naturally perfect nature. [...] This so-called 'saṃsāra,' this is nirvāṇa."

— Excerpt from "Buddhahood in This Life," translated by Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith (Introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMWJ5TbbxU8, Amazon link to book: https://www.amazon.com.au/Buddhahood-This-Life-Commentary-Vimalamitra-ebook/dp/B01G2DD4U6, Acarya Malcolm's website: https://www.zangthal.com/)

Images below generated from ChatGPT / Dall-E.

Wrote to someone who insists that luminosity is the reality of all appearances:

In Buddhism, as taught in Prajnaparamita and MMK, all the way to Dzogchen, there is no reality.

As Krodha (https://www.reddit.com/user/krodha/) explained:

Gnas lugs med pa (there is no reality).


The ultimate is only the lack of reality of the conventional, that is the inseparability of the two truths.

Mind is empty so it’s “reality” is negated. Same with the external world. The mind and the external world are only valid conventionally, which according to Candrakīrti, means the mind and the world are nominal imputations which capture the consistency of a deluded cognition.

Hence the Tibetan saying gnas lugs med pa “there is no reality.”


John tan also wrote before:

"Realness" as in the taste of incredible vividness, clear, lurid appearances.  However it is the taste of crystal, vividness but realising it is nothing "real" that is most interesting.  Empty of essence, luminous by nature is magic of wonderous manifestions and spontaneous perfection.

Nevertheless, if "realness" leads to total openness in authenticating sensations, colors, taste, smell...etc...then by all means...🤣

One is seeing through reification of constructs, the other is the experiential taste of empty and non-arising of what appears.

Tasting  the "realness" of what appears and what appears is nothing real r two different insights.  I wrote these b4.

It is not only realising mere appearances r just one's radiance clarity but empty clarity is like that...like a 🌈.  Beautiful and clearly appears, but nothing "there" at all.  These 2 aspects r very important.  

1.  Very "vivid", pellucid

2.  Nothing real

Tasting either one will not trigger the "aha" realization.


Someone asked: if not solipsism, then you seem to be advocating nihilism - nothing exists. is that correct?

Krodha replied:

Typically in buddhadharma, a view of nihilism (ucceda) is one that negates conventional entities. I am not negating conventional entities.

In terms of things existing, I defer to Buddhapalita who said "we are not making claims of nonexistence, but rather, we are refuting claims for existing existents."

Generally, the "nonexistence" we are avoiding in terms of the classical tetralemma is an entity that previously existed, has ceased to exist, and now is nonexistent. That type of nonexistence is refuted, because it necessitates an entity that existed previously. In emptiness however, we are challenging the validity of the entity in question from the very beginning, and therefore come to realize that the entity in question is ultimately free from the four extremes of (i) existence, (ii) nonexistence, (iii) both, and (iv) neither. Traditionally these four positions were respectively directed at eternalists, nihilists, Jains and sophists of various kinds, but in general we can simply see them as four possibilities in terms of ontological status.

If the entity cannot be found, then there is no entity to conform to one of these "extremes." Now, in Mahayana, the implications or consequences of this are sort of taken to their limit, especially in terms of understanding the negation of existence. If the existence of something is refuted, then such a thing cannot truly be said to exist. Some of these sutras are quite comfortable stating that phenomena ultimately do not exist for this reason, but only because the phenomena in question cannot be verified or found when sought after.

Which is all to say that this issue is not so cut and dry, and I am not out to simply make coarse assertions without taking this subtle aspects of the teaching into question.

But in some senses, yes, what can be said to exist? We can certainly say that phenomena have a conventional status, and we would say they "exist" conventionally, or "don't exist" conventionally. For instance, the moon "exists" certainly. But two moons "do not exist." This is addressing existence and nonexistence on the level of convention. Then, when emptiness comes into play, we have to understand that we are challenging the ontological status of the entities that convention infers. Is the moon truly (ultimately) an established entity? This is what emptiness is investigating, and as a rule of thumb, the conclusion that we come to is no, an entity like the moon is not an entity that can be found when sought, for it cannot withstand "keen" scrutiny. That being the case, the true existence of the moon is then brought into question, or rather, outright negated in the view of emptiness. Sure, the moon appears, yes, the basis of designation, the bundle of sensory appearances, is certainly there, but does that bundle contain or create an entity? Is there a core entity, a svabhava, made-by or found inside that bundle of appearances? These teachings say no, and in the end we are left with an appearance of something that isn't actually there. What would one call an appearance of something that isn't actually there? An illusion. But this is all just intellectual, and this matter is not intended to be an intellectual exercise, or at least not solely. The point is to actually realize this experientially, and that is where the liberating, "soteriological" value is derived from.



There is no reality, also no brahman and this is not nihilism in buddhism. 

Everything seen and heard are luminous and vivid, but are only med par gsal snang a “nonexistent clear appearance” or a “clearly apparent nonexistent,” with no seer, no seeing and nothing seen

Completely equivalent to the eight examples of illusions


Eight similes of illusion

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The eight similes of illusion (Tib. སྒྱུ་མའི་དཔེ་བརྒྱད་, gyumé pé gyé, Wyl. sgyu ma'i dpe brgyad) are (in the order in which they appear in Longchenpa's Finding Comfort and Ease in the Illusoriness of Things):

Dream: like a dream, objects perceived with the five senses are not there, but they appear through delusion

Magical illusion: like a magic illusion, things are made to appear due to the temporary coming together of causes and conditions

Hallucination or trompe-l'oeil: like a hallucination, things appear, yet there is nothing there

Mirage: like a mirage, things appear, but they are not real

Echo: like an echo, things can be perceived, but there is nothing there, either inside or outside

City of gandharvas: like a city of gandharvas, there is neither a dwelling nor anyone to dwell

Reflection: like a reflection, things appear, but have no reality of their own

Apparition: like an apparition, there are different types of appearances, but they are not really there


In buddhism, everything is illusory, including and up to nirvana (cessation of delusion and suffering).

As the prajnaparamita sutras state:

“"Nirvāṇa is an illusion. Even if there is anything greater than Nirvāṇa, that too will be only an illusion.”

— https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/the-concept-of-sunyata-in-mahayana.html



John Tan Haha Jackson, u never give up. 

This heart is the "space" of where, the "time" of when and the "I" of who. 

In hearing, it's that "sound".

In seeing, it's that "scenery".

In thinking, it is that "eureka"!

In snapping a finger, it is seizing the whole entire moment of that instantaneous "snapping".

Just marvelous such as it is on the fly.

So no "it" but thoroughly empty. 

To u this "heart" is most real, to dzogchen it is illusory. Though illusory, it is fully vivid and brilliance. Since it is illusory, it nvr really truly arise. There is genuine "treasure" in the illusory. 

I think Kyle has a lot points to share. Do unblock him. 

Nice chat And happy journey jax!




Emptiness is not some inherently existing reality.

Like i shared this before:

All Things Have One Nature, That Is, No Nature


John Tan and I like this excerpt.

John Tan:

“I really like this article from Jay Garfield expressing "emptiness of emptiness" as:

1. The everydayness of everyday.

2. Penetrating to the depth of being, we find ourselves back to the surface of things.

3. There is nothing after all beneath these deceptive surfaces.

Also concisely and precisely expressed the key insight of anatta in ATR.”

“That is what I always thought is the key insight of Tsongkhapa also. Like the phases of insights in ATR through contemplating no-self (a negation), one directly and non-dually tastes the vivid appearances.”

The excerpt:

“Now, since all things are empty, all things lack any ultimate nature, and this is a characterization of what things are like from the ultimate perspective. Thus, ultimately, things are empty. But emptiness is, by definition, the lack of any essence or ultimate nature. Nature, or essence, is just what empty things are empty of. Hence, ultimately, things must lack emptiness. To be ultimately empty is, ultimately, to lack emptiness. In other words, emptiness is the nature of all things; by virtue of this they have no nature, not even emptiness. As Nagarjuna puts it in his autocommentary to the Vigrahavyavartanı, quoting lines from the Astasahasrika-prajnaparamita-sutra: ‘‘All things have one nature, that is, no nature.’’

Nagarjuna’s enterprise is one of fundamental ontology, and the conclusion he comes to is that fundamental ontology is impossible. But that is a fundamentally ontological conclusion—and that is the paradox. There is no way that things are ultimately, not even that way. The Indo-Tibetan tradition, following the Vimalakırtinirdesa-sutra, hence repeatedly advises one to learn to ‘‘tolerate the groundlessness of things.’’ The emptiness of emptiness is the fact that not even emptiness exists ultimately, that it is also dependent, conventional, nominal, and, in the end, that it is just the everydayness of the everyday. Penetrating to the depths of being, we find ourselves back on the surface of things, and so discover that there is nothing, after all, beneath these deceptive surfaces. Moreover, what is deceptive about them is simply the fact that we take there to be ontological depths lurking just beneath.”

Jay Garfield & Graham Priest, in "Nagarjuna and the limits of thought"

(Source of text: https://app.box.com/s/ne0b0wwismozwkftpe1h3tx4ew7mi9gn)”

 John Tan:

To me, this separation of "existence" from "what appears" is unique and very skillful.  "Non-existence" appearance is essentially the same insight as anatta.  It involves the 2 authentications:

1.  Seeing through the reification of conventional construct and

2. Recognition of appearances as one's empty clarity.

What makes appearances appear "real, solid and external" are our mistaken perception of the inherent framework of subject-action-object.  But that is only part of the confusion.  The other is not realizing what appears is just radiance, that is y it is illusory and insubstantial.

However if we deconstruct entities and characteristics, then mind and phenomena, consciousness and conditions are all deconstructed, u can't treat mind as real due to point 1.  Otherwise one skewed towards yogacara (but then yogacara doesn't actually treat mind as real either).  It is sort of strawman stereotyping a group of practitioners attaching to mind as real.


Therefore there r 2 parts:

1.  Understand and clearly see how the conceptual conventions confused the mind.

2.  Directly experiencing appearances as one's radiance

But some masters can see 1 yet the path they teach can't match with 2.

While other masters try to teach 2 but their view cannot doesn't match.

This is most problematic.


Yes what x said is good.

What originates dependently does not originate, abide and cease. Neither internal nor external nor is there a here and now. This must be directly linked to what appears and not as a mental enterprise. 

So in anatta, 

there is no hearer, only sound.

there is no thinker, only thoughts.

Sound is neither internal in our head nor external in the world.

Thought is also not inside our head nor is it outside our head.

The spell from our faulty premise creates that impression,

Freedom of that is liberation.

If she stabilises this experience of essencelessness post anatta, the radiance will turn very soothing, very light and transparent; like space, free and liberating. Appearances turn illusory and magical, joy will keep surfacing in every authentication. Her clogged energy will surely be released.😁


Actually after authenticating appearances r radiances, I see the next most important step is to arise insight of DO and emptiness.  It is a sort of special insight that sees the "middle path" and we use this insight to re-orientate our conventional world view and understand  8 extremes do not apply.


I shared this with someone recently 

“Even when all is mind is taught, it was not asserted by the Buddha that such a mind is a universal mind or a truly existing mind. Mind is empty of mind, this too was clearly taught by the Buddha. 


Therefore as Mipham wrote and criticised self-styled followers who misinterpreted the Yogacara founder Asangha:

https://old.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/iyepfk/madhyamaka_cittamātra_and_the_true_intent_of/ (highly recommend to read the whole text in full)

...Why, then, do the Mādhyamika masters refute the Cittamātra tenet system? Because self-styled proponents of the Cittamātra tenets, when speaking of mind-only, say that there are no external objects but that the mind exists substantially—like a rope that is devoid of snakeness, but not devoid of ropeness. Having failed to understand that such statements are asserted from the conventional point of view, they believe the nondual consciousness to be truly existent on the ultimate level. It is this tenet that the Mādhyamikas repudiate. But, they say, we do not refute the thinking of Ārya Asaṅga, who correctly realized the mind-only path taught by the Buddha...

...So, if this so-called “self-illuminating nondual consciousness” asserted by the Cittamātrins is understood to be a consciousness that is the ultimate of all dualistic consciousnesses, and it is merely that its subject and object are inexpressible, and if such a consciousness is understood to be truly existent and not intrinsically empty, then it is something that has to be refuted. If, on the other hand, that consciousness is understood to be unborn from the very beginning (i.e. empty), to be directly experienced by reflexive awareness, and to be self-illuminating gnosis without subject or object, it is something to be established. Both the Madhyamaka and Mantrayāna have to accept this...