Conversation in the Facebook group 'Emptiness':

  • Cornelius O'shaughnessy "Cornelius: "There is a mind and body that is given the name Nenad , this mind body is having an experience"

    What proof do you have for that?"

    Scientists can stimulate the brain and it will change the experience that is being experienced.

    Again, what proof do you have that there is only one DE?
  • Kyle Dixon Though ultimately emptiness would also challenge the validity of mind, body, brain and so on as well.

    But of course there is no issue in saying that minds and bodies are valid in the conventional sense.
  • Christian Shadlock If the experience is dependant on that which is being experienced, then how could it be said that a limited mind/body is having it?
    Could the mind/body experience the taste of honey without the honey being there?
  • Cornelius O'shaughnessy Experience is of course dependant on all sorts of things, but having a brain is a pretty crucial factor
  • Cornelius O'shaughnessy Different brain, different experience
  • Christian Shadlock There is much you can examine in this area, should the interest appear
  • Dannon Flynn The point is that landing on any ontological conclusions, metaphysical or otherwise, about the existence of things, has no bearing on liberation or freedom. In fact, they only define the limit of our understanding and ignorance. It is irrelevant for the spiritual investigation to be so much invested in the composition of the universe, what matters is much more intimate. Can you imagine two monks arguing over whether the Earth is round or flat a thousand years ago? As far as enlightenment goes, it is totally irrelevant which ontological beliefs you hold. Let science sort it out.
  • Kyle Dixon Dependencies in emptiness does not truly mean that things are actually dependent upon one another, for that would be a subtle view of substantiality. Dependency in emptiness is a way to reveal that there is no core essence or being that a given conventional appearance has.
    9 hrs · Like · 2
  • Kyle Dixon The importance of the brain in our culture this day in age is partly due to the reigning materialist scientific paradigm that is considered to be supreme. However it really is just a paradigm and while it explains some things in the contexts it serves to represent, it completely fails to explain other things, some very vital.
    9 hrs · Like · 5
  • Christian Shadlock I would say that any statement beginning 'The Brain is responsible for', only details a grossly simplified view and may show a lack of understanding that the Brain does not and cannot be responsible for anything without other things being involved.
    However, there is nothing wrong with such statements and can be considered essential in order to convey information.
  • Cornelius O'shaughnessy Yes other things are involved, but you're pretty screwed if you don't have a brain. The brain obviously has a very key role in experience ...
  • Kyle Dixon Example of something the brain theory fails to explain? How experience appears at all, for one. Some in the scientific community are quite pleased with the theory that consciousness etc., is generated by the brain, but that seems quite ridiculous to me.
    7 hrs · Like · 1
  • Kyle Dixon For example: If experience, or visual consciousness, is a representation created in the brain, meaning that seeing, hearing, tactile sensation etc., are located in the brain; how do you get around the fact that the brain itself is likewise only apprehended via those very same faculties?

    The implications that there is an external universe which is apprehended via the senses and translated by a brain are quite damning. If that is the case, since experience would never transcend its translation, there is no way to access or prove the existence of such an external universe, and so the logic would negate the initial premise. The other issue would be that the very 'brain' experience is apprehended by, would likewise only be accessible and apprehensible from within the very experience it (the brain), itself apprehends. If experience goes on inside the brain, and the brain goes on inside experience; establishing an ontological hierarchy which maintains that experience occurs in a brain (or is generated by a brain) is impossible. Therefore no brain which could possibly contain visual (or any other type of) consciousness has ever been encountered.

    This is akin to saying 'the chicken is an interpretation which only ever occurs inside the egg' ...but the egg was laid by a chicken, which itself hatched from an egg... which was laid by a chicken.

    If consciousness is allegedly located in the brain or skull, yet brains and skulls (including your own skull which supposedly contains your own brain) appear to consciousness, then there's no way to make any definitive statements as to what comes first.

    And when it comes down to it neither can be found apart from conventionality, so attempting to make a definitive statement regarding either is choosing to be bias about one of two equally unfounded illusions as it is.
    7 hrs · Like · 3
  • Cornelius O'shaughnessy For me experience is made of to many things to say it originates within the brain.

    The fact that we are conscious of the brain doesn't undermine the hypothesis that consciousness originates in the brain. It may or may not originate in the brain , I don't really know.
  • Kyle Dixon Technically consciousness doesn't originate at all, so there's really no way it originates in a brain.
    7 hrs · Like · 2
  • Cornelius O'shaughnessy Ultimately no, but conventionally it might.
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  • Michael Zaurov Kyle, have you ever been under anesthesia? I was a couple years ago. Very interesting experience. They injected some chemical into my vein and immediately I felt sleepy, then I passed out and awoke several hours later. No dreams, no experience at all during that time.
  • Michael Zaurov I think the arguments 'you can't directly experience your own brain therefore you should be skeptical' or 'you can't directly experience the external world therefore you should be skeptical' are a bit naive. Direct experience shouldn't be the end all for gaining knowledge. Cognition is pretty useful too.
    6 hrs · Like · 1
  • Kyle Dixon Michael, the emptiness of time, scrutinizing consecutive sequencing of events, scrutinizing cause and effect, etc., would reveal the emptiness of experiences like those.
    6 hrs · Like · 4
  • Michael Zaurov Sounds like an interesting way to put your head in the sand.
  • Kyle Dixon Also, I wasn't saying you can't directly experience the world or your own brain. Emptiness inquiry doesn't really go that route... The idea that we don't experience the 'actual' world but rather a mere representation of it is another modem scientific theory (intromission theory).

    Emptiness inquiry is more concerned with direct empirical data, what is immediately apparent. The various components of intromission are inferential and abstract, you have to infer through second hand information that there is a world beyond what is experienced, and honestly it isn't really very helpful.
  • Michael Zaurov Yes, you have to infer there are other beings too then since there is no direct empirical evidence that other beings exist. Yet you find motivation to respond to me so clearly you don't cling just to empirical data. Sometimes inferences are necessary. How is this not solipsism?
  • Kyle Dixon How is it akin to burying one's head in the sand?
  • Kyle Dixon I wasn't discounting the conventional existence or application of things. This is the main point to be remembered with emptiness inquiry; we are negating the inherency of the aspects of experience that conventionality suggests, but we are not negating the conventional for there is no reason to... the conventional is merely conventional and so it is not an issue. The issue is mistaking the conventional to be inherent.
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  • Dannon Flynn The scientific method also relies on empirical data, and is not solipsism... if you look at meditation as a scientific method of investigating experience itself, we don't need to bring solipsism into it.
  • Michael Zaurov Saying there is only your experience, nothing outside of it, is solipsism. The difference is that science uses cognition where what Kyle is talking about discards it as second hand information
  • Kyle Dixon I would be advocating for solipsism if I said nothing else exists except for my personal experience, or my reference point, my knowing etc., I would have to negate everything else while affirming the allegedly solitary locus of my own experiential aperture or cognition.

    Or I would have to subsume everything else into my own consciousness, knowing, mind etc. However the conviction that my own experience is primary is arrived at (through outright negation or subsuming) it really makes no difference.
  • Dannon Flynn It is not affirmed that there is nothing outside of experience, just that there is no proof of it, so that it cannot be relied upon using a empirical method. Like science.
  • Kyle Dixon I wasn't discarding second hand information by any means. I think we're sort of missing each other on the type of view we are seeking to work with.

    I am not negating second hand information in order to advocate for some other type of view, I was merely saying in the course of a empirical analysis we would want to directly evaluate our experience as it is known.

    And my point was that carrying presuppositions of certain scientific models (as statements of ontological truth) into that inquiry is going to be problematic.
  • Kyle Dixon This is sort of along the same lines as another discussion I had recently where upon evoking the notion of the eight consciousness model, someone objected to that on the grounds that science has a different model. Which is an example of looking for ontological truth in these inquiries and completely missing the point of the conventional application of such a model:

    PadmaVonSamba wrote:
    Actually, terms such as "eye consciousness" and 'ear consciousness" are misleading. Those parts of the body do not possess consciousness. The activity associated with the sense organs, once light enters the eye, and vibrating air molecules reach the ear, occurs in the brain, which also itself has no consciousness. Nothing but neurological activity... and of course, some awareness of that neurological activity which manifests as sensory experience.

    My response:
    We're coming at this from two entirely different angles now. The point of the "eye-consciousness" [cakṣurvijñāna] (and the other seven consciousnesses) is to propose a conventional model (for the purposes of upāya) in order to allow the aspirant a means to pierce the seeming inherency of consciousness in general. Unlike the intromission theory you are referencing, the eight-consciousness model is not a statement (or proposition) of ontological truth. And that exclusively conventional nature is characteristically implied due to the fact that the buddhadharma contends that inherency (in general) is a figment of deluded cognition which is completely unreal. Therefore the label "eye consciousness" is a term which is implemented so that the visual faculty and all of its implied constitutional characteristics can be compartmentalized into a single grouping for the purposes of analysis or expeditious delineation (eye-consciousness accounting for (i) sensory organ [eye], (ii) sensory cognition [seeing] and (iii) sensory objects [sights]).

    At any rate, intromission theory is really only towing the standard party line when it comes to a modern materialist scientific interpretation of consciousness. While the processes you are writing about are all well and good in a conventional sense, they have no practical application (in the sense of being a means to liberate you from the conditioned projections of inherency which is attributed to your conscious condition). In fact, the model you are proposing (and championing) actually serves to fortify the conditioning that the buddhadharma is attempting to dispel.

    The eight-consciousnesses [aṣṭavijñāna] as a conventional model is meant to be a tangible and empirical guideline for your direct experience, whereas the intromission theory you are discussing with its various electro-chemical processes is inferential in every way. The former model (the eight-consciousnesses) is one means to reveal the non-arising of consciousness, that cannot be said for the latter (intromission) which possesses zero soteriological value.
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  • Kyle Dixon The point being that in the application of a conventional model, at no point in time does that implementation suggest that the conventional model is actually true. It is merely a means to be discarded.

    But coming back to addressing experiences such as being under anesthesia; scrutinizing the various factors which go into an experience of that nature isn't a way to put one's head in the sand. In fact I would argue it is quite the opposite, because we are evaluating our convictions of inherency and continuity in experience to reveal that those convictions are predicated on certain presuppositions which do not hold water. And if done correctly the result can be very liberating, for those convictions can be turned on their heads, and in the end an experience which seemed to be quite impenetrable and infallible can be shown to be anything but impenetrable and infallible. Why is that? Because the experience itself lacks inherency, and the infallibility it seems to carry is actually our own conviction and perception which is not an intrinsic characteristic of an experience we can locate or find.
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  • Michael Zaurov Kyle, What I'm questioning is this assumption that direct experience is the way to go and that all concepts must be discarded. How do you know that's the right way to go? You're talking about analyzing and scrutinizing, but all of that is done with the assumption that unmediated by concepts we come to reality. I'd argue that through emptiness we come to the nature of experience, but this doesn't mean that all views are false in regards to reality. You can scrutinize your experience all you like, but this does not negate views about the world we live in just because you cannot directly verify them
  • Dannon Flynn People who engage in debate degrading philosophy in general and emptiness in particular really need to educate themselves on the philosophical ideas of ontology and epistemology. If the debaters are not coming from the same paradigm then they are speaking different languages and will inevitably misunderstand each other. Kyle is talking epistemology and Michael is talking ontology. Look it up on Wikipedia.
  • Michael Zaurov I'm talking about the epistemic value of views, Dannon. My degree was in philosophy so I'm well acquainted lol. I'm probably just not communicating clearly
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  • Dannon Flynn As far as investigating awareness and experience itself, direct experience is the way to go if you want to have realization. If you want a story that explains the way things are and why, there is religion, superstition, science, etc. all of which offer explanations and second-hand knowledge of variable veracity to be accepted or rejected in accordance with beliefs. But, like Kyle says, meditation has soterilogical value. There is a method, and sure it has its limitations, just as the scientific method does, but it is great at what it does. And if we apply the method we get the result that is promised.
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  • Kyle Dixon The scrutiny does not negate the inherency of the world, the realization of emptiness does though. The direct non-conceptual cognition of non-arising reveals that the world is unborn and unreal.

    Also, I'm not saying all concepts must be discarded, I'm just saying that clinging to concepts which have emerged from the reigning materialist scientific paradigm while attempting to recognize the emptiness of the very things those scientific theories reify is either severely complicating that process or is compromising it altogether. Because you're holding to a view which is saying there is an actual way things are, like an ontological truth. As opposed to emptiness which is an epistemic method.

    Emptiness would say that all views indeed are false in regards to reality because it would reveal a lack of an inherent reality to have views about.

    This is why emptiness is called the pacification of views. Because views can only be in reference to an existent or a non-existent, and if neither can be found, then how can one have a view? Like Nāgārjuna said; "If I had a view then I would undoubtedly be flawed, but alas I have no view and therefore I have no flaws."
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  • Dannon Flynn It's limitations are evident in HoM view where the observations are taken to be ontological facts. This seems to be what you are having a problem with, Michael. HoM view is solipsism, because they are claiming that there is nothing whatsoever outside experience, while emptiness teachings say that we only can work with experience, and any ontological claim regarding what is outside experience is irrelevant and not useful in this method.
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  • Dannon Flynn As far as epistemology is concerned, how do we know that the brain exists? Through our sensory awareness of witnessing a brain and dissecting organisms. We are still using our awareness and experience. If we want to figure out ontological facts we need to make inferences. I believe in brains, but in my investigation of awareness I use the method of meditation, and observing awareness especially during dreaming and sleep states have found an awareness that is not completely a product of the brain, yet is intimately involved with it. I suppose all doubts will be cleared up when nirodha samapatti is attained.
  • Michael Zaurov Dannon, I'm not questioning the soteriological value of meditation, rather the epistemic value. Why is knowledge gained through meditation more accurate than knowledge gained through the scientific method?
  • Kyle Dixon Because knowledge gained through the scientific method (in the way you are using the term to reference modern science) is information amassed in the context of relative truth. It will always be limited to the relative since it is gathered through the lens of the relative condition.
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  • Christian Shadlock Oh dear . . .
    It seems we are falling down the same rabbit hole
  • Dannon Flynn Who knows if it is more accurate? But meditation has more soterilogical value, it is more relevant to how we experience our existence. Neuroscience can logically infer that the sense of self is an illusion, but that does no good unless it is discovered first-hand in direct experience. I watched a documentary about the neuroscience of the sense of self, and in the end the scientists said "Imagine if we could actually experience the sense of self as an illusion?" Personally I think science and meditation are both accurate.
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  • Kyle Dixon Relative knowledge [skt. saṃvṛti-satya, tib. kun rdzob bden pa] is information regarding dharmins i.e. the things, places, functions, modalities, processes of the world as it is perceived from the standpoint of confusion. It is based on a subject measuring objective occurrences, presupposing existence, non-existence, time, space, dimension, spatiality, temporality and various other constructs of ignorance [avidyā]. Therefore it is information acquired from the standpoint of invalid cognitions. All allegedly relative truths are objects of deluded cognition, therefore the title 'truth' is only given to the relative within the conventional dichotomy of the two truth schematic. This does not mean there are actually two truths, nor that the relative is true by any means.

    Ultimate knowledge [skt. paramārtha-satya, tib. don dam bden pa] is knowledge of the dharmatā of dharmins, which is their emptiness or non-arising. That knowledge is of tathātva [gnas lugs] which means 'the actual way of things'. In the context of emptiness inquiry, the knowledge of emptiness is the only valid knowledge, hence why it is considered to be a valid cognition (whereas the relative is that which is ascertained via invalid cognition).

    So why is knowledge gained through the veil of the relative considered to be 'more accurate'? Because in the context of these teachings, being a soteriological methodology the only 'accuracy' there is, is of course going to be the accurate knowledge of the nature of phenomena i.e. their emptiness. The point of these inquiries and so on is to overturn that specific species of ignorance which gives rise to (and perceives) the apparent existence or non-existence of phenomena. Knowledge gained from within the confines of that ignorance is simply ignorance. Scientific measurements, presupposing the various aspects of experience listed above such as existence, non-existence, time, space, dimension, spatiality, temporality and so on only serve to reify and solidify the apparent validity or inherency of those things. Therefore that relative knowledge can never overturn the various principles it serves to substantiate. It has no application in the context of revealing the unreality of those things, and thus it has no application in the context of the conventional method of removing delusion that emptiness inquiry, analysis, meditation provides. So, this is to say that modern scientific knowledge lacks value in the context of emptiness inquiry. Is it all well and good conventionally? Sure, but it is not a means to remove delusion and that is the pertinent point.
    2 hrs · Like · 1

In another thread:

Kyle wrote below: Dependencies in emptiness does not truly mean that things are actually dependent upon one another, for that would be a subtle view of substantiality. Dependency in emptiness is a way to reveal that there is no core essence or being that a given conventional appearance has.
So how does anything exist?
  • Kyle Dixon Things exist conventionally. However apart from convention; existence, non-existence, both and/or neither cannot be found.
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  • Stephen Metcalf Once again, I have been lazy in asking my question I understand your answer from the emptiness perspective but am not satisfied I will go do my homework [ maybe !! ]
  • अष्टावक्र शान्ति "The ultimate truth is that the conventional truth is the only truth there is."
    - Gred Goode & Tomas Sander.
    9 hrs · Like · 2
  • Kyle Dixon Ok, well if you have more inquiries or objections to raise then please fire away, it would make for a good thread I'm sure everyone would enjoy contributing to.
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  • Peter Baker What do conventional truths depend on?
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  • Neony Karby well, conventions
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  • Neony Karby Remember, physics is not about how nature is, but how we talk about it
  • Matt James For me, this is a problem solved by looking rather than thinking.
  • Dannon Flynn Still trying to figure it intellectually why there is everything instead of nothing? Why do we dream? Because emptiness is infinitely creative and nature abhors vacuum. There are no voids. Even 'empty' space is full of subatomic particles popping in and out of existence. Conventional truth depends on the ignorance of sentient beings.
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  • Neony Karby Even enlightened people have to navigate conventionally
  • Greg Goode Stephen - Hmmm, not satisfied? Would you prefer more existence than emptiness seems to give? Better grounding?
  • Stephen Metcalf Not looking for grounding. Looking for clarity. Perhaps I'm just not clear on what the ultimate purpose of the Emptiness teachings are. Perhaps I'm chasing something that doesn't really concern me. I totally get dependent origination and do not see inherent existence in any "thing". It just seems that the emptiness teachings fall short in describing what "this" is. Of course, everything falls short in describing because what this is is indescribable and unresolvable as far as language is concerned at least.
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  • Kyle Dixon Hmm I feel that if you didn't see the inherent existence of any thing the notion of 'this' would go out the window. That has been my experience at least.
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  • Greg Goode Purpose: freedom from confusion, grasping, clinging and suffering.

    "This": This table? This pencil? This thisness?

    The final nature of "whatever" is not verbal or conceptual. The emptiness teachings are just a reminder not to expect words or concepts to capture any finalities.

    Emptiness teachings tend not to talk of an overall "this," as if it were one thing... Where there's one, there can jolly well be another....
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  • Greg Goode As far as "existence" goes, the emptiness teachings (pre-Tibetan) don't affirm existence and don't affirm non-existence either.

    Neither extreme is needed, and both lead to suffering if banked on. What can be done instead? Look for helpfulness or serviceability....
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  • Lindsay Funk Thanks for asking this, Stephen. It's been a sticking point for me for a long time.
    I get how 'things' exist conventionally, but I don't get how the knowing of things - or rather, just knowing - is a convention. I can see how talking about it, or thinking about it conceptualizes it, but the self-evident nature of isness... that doesn't seem purely conventional to me.
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  • Greg Goode Lindsay , the way the emptiness teachings would go about "isness" would be like this:

    -- get a real clear sense of the more-than-conventional nature of isness. Make this conception as vivid as you can.

    -- try to find the isness itself that corresponds to your conception. Look among the spatial and temporal parts, and look elsewhere too. Look everywhere you can. You'll be looking for inherent isness.

    --if you fail to find inherent isness, you'll find a lack of inherent isness.

    -- this lack is the emptiness of isness.

    -- your finding is your realization of the emptiness of isness...
    7 hrs · Like · 4
  • Neony Karby Though we cannot know objects (thoughts included) as things in themselves , we have to be able to at least think of them as things in themselves (refer to); otherwise we land in the absurd linguistic construct that there can be appearance without anything that appears. We can't represent to ourselves any possibility of an understanding that should know its object 'as it is', not discursively through concepts, but only as non-sensible intuition (non-sensible pointing to intuition also being a concept). Emptiness can be seen directly.

    Neony Karby's photo.
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  • Delma Mc Isn't this an appearance? Conventional. Not conventional. Ultimate. Relative. Are they all the way things seem? Not seem 'to be', but just plain Seem, with no substance or core behind the Seeming.

    That's my current understanding, which I expect to change anyway. But I can't pin anything down beyond appearance appearing.
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  • Delma Mc On vacation a couple of weeks ago, the emptiness of mountains became clear. There they were in the distance but when we drove into them, they began to disappear until finally all that was left was a marker letting us know we were at ~12,000 feet (whatever *that* meant). Not a single thing about the mountains was inherent, and if mountains aren't actually a thing, and I'm not a thing traveling "up and through", all that's left are appearances which seem to dependend upon other appearances, which I'd also found to be empty.

    Lindsay Funk, can you say more about the knowing of things. That sounded like an interesting question.

    But also, can anyone help me identify what it is in my mountain observation/inquiry that is missing from the perspective of emptiness teachings? This rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper, but it seems there is no 'end'. That's how I know I'm missing something... it's like a jewel with facets. There's no set way to view it, and if you turn it to just one angle, you miss an infinity of other ways to see it, and it surprises you at every turn.
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  • Nick Myers "This rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper, but it seems there is no 'end'. That's how I know I'm missing something..."

    Sounds like you entered a rabbit hole on your way through that mountain? Did you make it out Delma!?
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  • Lindsay Funk Greg, thanks, that sounds like a fun exercise, and one I need to do.

    You say "if you fail to find inherent isness, you'll find a lack of inherent isness." I would tend to think of a lack of inherent isness as implying a negation, but wouldn't that be going too far? Unfindable, sure, but not a negation, right? The cliche of the eye not seeing itself is the potential for the open-endedness of emptiness, right?

    Delma, I just mean that knowing doesn't seem like a convention until it's the knowing *of things*. Pre-conceptual knowing seems non-conventional until it's conceptualized. So, in my experience so far it seems that there is an indefinable, but undeniable 'reality' in the reading of these words. However, like yourself, views are subject to change without notice
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  • Delma Mc I see! Thank you, Lindsay.

    Nick, I did not!
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  • Greg Goode Lindsay , that's exactly right. Emptiness is a negation. It's a negation of the extreme of exaggerated existence.

    It's also a "non-affirming" negation. When you discover the lack of inherent isness or inherent pencil-ness or inherent self, then it is that lack, that absence.

    It does not imply another presence underneath that absence. By discovering emptiness, you won't also be discovering global awareness or any other candidate for essence or substance. Nope, just that absence.

    That's a non-affirming negation, as opposed to an affirming negation. An affirming negation would be how negating one thing actually affirms another.


    YOU: "The red wire or the blue one! Hurry! I only have 007 seconds!"

    VOICE IN HEADPHONES: "Not the red wire."

    YOU: (snipping the blue wire and not getting blown up). "OK. Done!"
    6 hrs · Edited · Like · 4
  • Lindsay Funk But Greg , isn't "lack of inherent isness" already an extreme? It seems to me that it's more accurate to say that we can't *ascertain* inherent isness or a lack thereof. Or, in the case of knowingness, though we can't prove its inherent existence, wouldn't it be an unverifiable extreme (and a logical impossibility) to say that we've discovered its lack? So isn't 'lack' an outright negation, and wouldn't unfindable or unascertainable be the middle way?
    5 hrs · Like · 6
  • Stephen Metcalf Very good Lindsay
  • Dannon Flynn neither existing nor not existing.
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  • Mara Rosolen I am eagerly following this thread. This is my question too, but I wouldn't have been able to put it so clearly. Thank you all.
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  • Greg Goode Those were formal definitions from just one school. Here's another way to look at it.

    "X is" is the extreme of permanence and essentialism.

    "X is not" is the extreme of nihilism.

    The middle way is to go about life happily, relying on neither. No matter what value you plug in for X...
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  • Dannon Flynn I always fall back on 'unfindable but undeniable'...
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  • Kyle Dixon Lindsay, the extremes would belong to the conditioned entity. So X would be an entity which has originated and therefore exists and can potentially also lack existence etc.

    Emptiness inquiry asks that you evaluate X to see if such a conditioned entity can be found to begin with. Because existence, non-existence, both or neither are only applicable to X.

    Emptiness states that X is an object of deluded cognition, an abstraction or a figment of confusion. So if that confusion can be pierced, then the X which is product of that confusion is revealed to have always only been a figment of confusion, like a figment of one's imagination. When that recognition dawns directly and non-conceptually, then X is immediately realized to be unreal, unborn from the very beginning. And hence we realize that there is no true X that could possibly exist or not-exist. Thus the extremes of existence and non-existence (both and neither) no longer have anything they apply to.

    This is like being in the desert and seeing the mirage of an oasis and taking it to be real. You would hurriedly go to that oasis because it appears to exist, and you even proclaim that it exists. You would be elated that there is water which is not far away. Upon getting closer you would realize that the oasis is just a mirage, and it would dissipate. Your convictions of an existent oasis were based on a deluded cognition, there never was an oasis. Upon realizing that, the notions of existence, non-existence, both or neither cannot actually apply to anything. The oasis cannot actually be non-existent, for it would have to first exist and then cease to be. But the oasis never arose in the first place, it was a figment of confusion, a hallucination. It now cannot possibly actually exist or not exist just like horns on a rabbit or fur on a turtle cannot actually exist or not exist. So emptiness states that all phenomena is like horns on a rabbit or hair on a turtle, primordially unreal and unborn from beginninglessness.
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  • Robert Dominik "Even enlightened people have to navigate conventionally" <- -="" a="" agree="" at="" because="" behind="" buddha="" buddhist="" but="" context="" conventional="" deluded="" do="" emptiness="" free="" from="" how="" i="" imply="" is="" it.="" it="" least="" m="" make="" nature="" necessarily="" not="" notion="" object="" of="" only="" onventional="" out="" perception.="" point="" reality="" relative="" remembering="" s="" samsara="" samsaric="" say="" seems="" some="" span="" statement="" such="" taken="" teachings="" that="" the="" there="" to="" traditional="" truth...="" truth="" trying="" ultimate="" understand="" with="" worth="">
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  • Robert Dominik Greg Goode wrote: "As far as "existence" goes, the emptiness teachings (pre-Tibetan) don't affirm existence and don't affirm non-existence either." <- and="" are="" buddhism="" class="emoticon emoticon_tongue" existence="" extremes="" in="" it="" like="" non-existence="" of="" re="" s="" sounds="" span="" stuck="" suggesting="" teachings="" the="" tibetan="" title=":P" you=""> At least that's how "(pre-Tibetan)" in this context appears to me

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  • Dannon Flynn Yet Tibetan Vajrayana will say that traditional emptiness teachings don't go far enough and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Kyle Dixon I haven't seen Vajrayana state that.
    3 hrs · Like · 1
  • Robert Dominik IMO: That is a misrepresentation of Vajryana. Vajrayana doesn't part ways with the fundamental message of the Buddha and all the principles like Anatta, Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination still apply there. It simply may use different terms and skillful means, which might be misinterpreted by the people lacking knowledge/understanding of Vajrayana.
  • Kyle Dixon Vajrayāna may scrutinize the path and praxis of certain methods found in Mahāyāna and Sūtrayāna in general, but the prajñāpāramitā sūtras are considered to be expositions on the same emptiness discussed in Vajrayāna.

    Sort of like various methods to realize the same insight of non-arising, but different ways to realize it. Some paths scrutinize other paths and so on, this is pretty normal when it comes to buddhist polemics, but all in all they're aiming for the same insight.
    3 hrs · Like · 1
  • Robert Dominik Maybe the part about "not going far enough" comes from confusing what Vajrayana says, that it's a quick path because it works with the body and utilises energy, it has diverse methods for different individuals etc. From the Vajrayana POV Madhyamaka analysis is nice but slow and it's possible that many people who work with it are just left with philosophical debates after many (and quite possibly some subtle forms of delusion - like clinging to the Relative Truth etc.), many years of going in circles. Of course this doesn't serve the purpose of bashing other vehicles. The path to Arhathood can be also very fast if someone is ready to completely renounciate wordly life. In the end every path is slow if one goes into it half-assed.
  • Robert Dominik But what Kyle said is valid. Vajrayana is part of Buddhadharma (to be more specific Vajrayana belongs to Mahayana), which has diverse methods for individuals with different circumstances, capacity and different setup of attachments, ignorance etc.
  • Greg Goode Robert _ pre-Tibetan as in pre-Tsong-kha-pa. You know about his and the Gelugs' emphasis on conventional existence which is affirmed, and inherent existence, which is refuted.

    Some folks charge that this is too much existence even though it is laboriously explained as nominal only.

    Even within Grlug monastic training, the conventional/inherent distinction is so hard to grasp that it's almost easier to realize emptiness first! Then it is easier to grasp that distinction.

    That distinction is not found in Nagarjuna and the other Indian Madhyamikas. Conventional and ultimate truth, yes. But Nagarjuna didn't talk about conventional vs inherent existence.

    The Gelugs are very serious about conventional existence and the valid establishment of conventional truths.

    I could go into lots of technical details but that is a quick overview....
    3 hrs · Like · 3
  • Robert Dominik Thank you for your clarification. I didn't know this was the context of that statement I only heard some pretty basic stuff about Gelugs so you might go to into details but maybe make a different thread in order to do so
  • Dannon Flynn Vajrayana agrees with Nagarjuna's emptiness, but says that it is still an intellectual understanding. They also say that emptiness is inherently blissful, joyful, compassionate, and lucidly aware. I may be misunderstanding Mahayana view, but for Mahayana this is straying into inherent views and bare emptiness is the highest realization while in Vajrayana it is the union of emptiness and bliss/compassion beyond intellectual that is the highest realization. I have heard this from many Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachers. Yet they say that it is not straying into inherent views, that it is the true realization of madhyamaka.
  • Dannon Flynn I have no knowledge of the Gelug schools but I am referring to Nyingma and Kagyu.
  • Kyle Dixon The Madhyamaka praxis as outlined by Nāgārjuna, if left as an intellectual and analytical method is certainly merely intellectual, as anything would be. But the point is undoubtedly to apply that method in order to have a direct and non-conceptual realization, and this is of course Nāgārjuna's directive in teaching the path he did.

    I would say Mahāyāna also contends that one's nature implies bliss, joy, compassion etc., though because it is also the cessation of affliction. Some texts also simply describe that nature as 'peace' because it is free from arising and cessation. I don't think either are asserting that these are inherent views though, these are merely terms which are describing the qualities of that release or unbinding. Much like when releasing a tightly clenched fist there is an ease, an absence of tension, a relief etc. If you had been holding that fist for quite some time you might even describe that release of tension as blissful and joyous.

    I suspect you may be confusing with Mahāyāna the Śrāvakayāna though. For Vajrayāna is itself a part of Mahāyāna, and the Mahāyāna is the teaching of the bodhisattva.

    Take this from Nāgārjuna for example, from his Bodhisambharaka:

    "Since [prajñāpāramitā] is the mother of Bodhisattvas it is also the mother of Buddhas. Prajñāpāramitā is the foremost collection for enlightenment. Prajñāpāramitā is the mother of Bodhisattvas, skill in means is their father, and compassion is their daughter. Generosity, morality, patience, energy, dhyāna and the [other pāramitās] beyond these five are all due to prajñā. Prajñāpāramitā comprises them all. Great compassion penetrates into the marrow of the bone. It is the support of all living beings. Like [the love of a] father for his only son, the tenderness [of a Buddha] is all-pervasive. If one thinks of the Buddha's virtues and listens to [accounts of] the miracles of the Buddha, [this creates] love, joy, a feeling [of happiness], and purity. This is called great joy."
    2 hrs · Like · 1
  • Kyle Dixon Also, I have not seen Vajrayāna state that emptiness is lucidly aware, as if emptiness is a quality which can possess lucidity or awareness. Emptiness is only the lack of inherency of that which is empty, so for example; lucidity would be empty, or awareness would be empty, but emptiness itself isn't a quality which can perform functions or have attributes like lucidity or awareness.

    Vajrayāna does indeed state that emptiness is inseparable from lucidity, inseparable from clarity etc., when addressing the nature of mind or phenomena. Clarity can be cognition, or it can also represent appearance, so in that sense yes emptiness is always the emptiness of these 'things'. When we are realizing emptiness we are realizing the emptiness of appearances, or the emptiness of our own mind or cognizance i.e. clarity. In this way, stating that emptiness and appearances, or emptiness and clarity, emptiness and rigpa [rig stong] etc., are inseparable, is merely stating that emptiness is not found apart from these things, and those things are themselves empty.
    2 hrs · Like · 1
  • Hopefully, Thusness can write something to comment on this:

    "a quick Q on the PCE and the anatta insight. Soh (or anyone else e.g. Tommy?) I have heard you mention in the past that after the anatta insight, PCE mode is effortless, could you clarify what you mean by this?
    In my experience, what I would call a full blown PCE is thoroughly non-subjective, just sights, sounds, sensations, all totally perfect. There is not a trace of anyone to have any kind of problem or opinion on reality. In my more usual experience I would say there are subtle moods and subtle thought patterns which cause the vague sense of someone, what I would call the scent or conceit of "I". As I notice and turn attention to them, they are seen through quite quickly, normally a few seconds, and it is normally easy to relax into a PCE-like-mode, of sights sounds, but not always easy to return to the full blown PCE experience...
    After one has had what you call the anatta insight, is the conceit/scent of I totally gone? Thanks" - Anthony Goh

    Labels: 1 comments | | edit post
    Comments: Jui sent me a good article which Thusness and I think is good. The first part of this article is subsuming all as Mind... second part is anatta. As Thusness say, it is good "because there is a direct taste of mind. Otherwise one also has the danger of misunderstanding anatta as mere non-doership and ownership without the direct taste of mind." Also he said, "Atammayata is an important word... depicting a freedom from proliferation without subsuming."

    (Above: Piya Tan, a Dharma teacher in Singapore, author of this article)

    Reflection no 328:
    [For past reflections, see]

    Making nothing of it
    We have all heard of the 3 characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self. It is impossi­ble for any of us, in our right minds, to deny that everything in this universe is impermanent. Whatever is impermanent is not satisfactory (or is suffering): we can never be fully satisfied with such a thing, even if we tenaciously grasp to it. Indeed, we keep grasping it because we are not satisfied with it!

    Whatever is impermanent and unsatisfactory entails that there is no abiding entity behind it. It has no con­trolling factor, nor any kind of essence, whether we call it God, soul, or whatever. Everything that exists is a process. There are no entities. Of course, we may have concepts of an “entity,” but it is merely an idea to discuss or communicate some other ideas with.

    Very often, the main hindrance to our understanding the higher reality that Buddhism or Buddhist medi­tation offers us is that of language. The kind of language we use, the kinds of questions we ask, often decide whether or not we will readily or really understand the nature of true reality.

    For example, we often tend to ask questions like “Who created the world?” This is a loaded question, one that is wrongly put. We assume it is a “who” (some kind of entity) that “creates” the world. We assume that the world is “created,” and so we assume that there is also a “creator.” The world is “evolving,” a process; we are all processes, we are evolving beings. We are sets of conditions, physical and mental, working together to produce results which in turn become new conditions, and so on and on.

    The problem is that whenever we assume something, especially about someone or even about ourselves, the situation is never really what we have assumed it to be. When we assume something to be “that,” it often turns out to be something else. This is a more tricky aspect of impermanence that we are troubled with but less likely to notice. Indeed, if we are able to notice this guile of impermanence, we would surely understand ourselves and the world much better.

    Things are such that we cannot make sense of them unless we accept that they are impermanent, chang­ing and becoming other. Interestingly, the key term here is “that.” We can rightly say, for example, “that’s the way it is.” And leave it at that, but this is not easy if we do not really understand what it is that we are letting go of.

    Let’s use a simple figure: the hand takes the shape of whatever it grasps. The process of seeing, for exam­ple, is explained as the eye sending out some kind of rays which then takes the shape of what we see and comes back with it. Similarly with thought: mental energy con­forms to its object (such as a thought) and then returns to the subject. Our idea is “formed of that,” which in Pali is atam,mayata,[1] that is, the mental energy of the experiencer is physically shaped by the thing experienced. In modern terms, this may be said to be a representationalview of perception.

    The early Buddhist theory of perception, on the other hand, is constructional. We cognize sense-data through the sense-faculties, which are then perceived or recognized by checking them, as it were, against a memory bank of past experiences, so that we can make sense of it, form ideas and motivation for vari­ous actions. In other words, we do not really see even a representation of the external world, but con­struct our own private reality and live with that.

    In simple terms, we can say that an understanding of atam,mayata corrects our inner vision to see things as they really are. Otherwise, we are constantly pushed ahead or pulled back by the idea, “What is that?” meaning that something else out there is more interesting or more real than what is in here.

    Try examining this. Thinking the mind is in the body, we say, “my mind” [pointing at the head] or “my mind” [pointing at the chest (the body)]. “It’s all in my mind.” Actually, it’s the other way around.

    The mind is not in the body, but that the body is in our mind! Even when we are in a body, “our” body, we are not really there if we do not have a conception of “body.” We can only truly know our body by constantly being mindful of it; then, we begin to know what it really is.

    What do we know about our body? We can see it. We can hear it. We can smell it. We can touch it.

    But, where does seeing occur?               In the mind.
    Where does hearing occur?                    In the mind.
    Where does smelling occur?                  In the mind.
    Where does tasting occur?                     In the mind.
    Where do we feel touch?                         In the mind.

    When we think or know of the body, we do so through the agency of our minds. We have never known anything about our body except through our mind. So our entire life, from the very first day, everything we have ever known about our body and the world has happened in our mind. So, where is our body?

    It does not mean that there is no physical world, but all that we can meaningfully say is that our expe­rience of the body and of the world happens within our minds. It does not happen anywhere else. It is all happening here, and in this here-ness, that the world’s externality and separateness cease. When we real­ize that the whole world is in this body of ours,[2] its thingness, its thatness, its otherness, stop. We are bet­ter able to see its true nature.

    This shift of vision is a simple but useful meditation tool we can use any time. It is very useful be­cause it leads us on to see the true reality of the matter. As it were, it turns our world inside out, so that we are able to see that this body is indeed just a set of perceptions, and everything is seen in proper per­spective. It is all happening right here in our minds.

    Having said that, we are now ready for atam,mayata to take us a step further. At first, atammayata makes us realize that there is really no “that,” only “this.” Then, as we get used to this new level of reality, we soon realize that even the “this” is meaningless, that is, we begin to see the duality of subject and object, or the notions of self and other, as essentially meaningless.

    In reality, atammayata creates neither an objective observed “thing” known nor a subjective “observ­er” knowing it. There is neither a representation (“thatness”) of reality nor a construction (“thisness”) of reality: there is just true reality. It is the abandoning of the conceiving of “thatness” and “thisness,” of the observer and the observed, of subject and object, of duality. Hence, non-identificationrefers to the sub­ject­­ive aspect and non-fabrication to the objective. True reality transcends both.

    Atammayata is the realization that, in reality, there cannot be anything other than ultimate reality. There is neither this nor that. In completely letting go of this and that, the whole relative subject-object world, even at its subtlest level, dissolves away. Transcending both these extremes of perception, atammayata refers nei­ther to a state where the mind does not “go out” to the object and occupy it, nor to a fabricated virtual real­ity relative to the object. The roots of duality have been pulled out. All we see is a spacious whole­ness: this realization is true wisdom and seeing wholeness is true compassion.

    With this kind of understanding, we will find that a cryptic passage in the Malunkya,putta Sutta (S 35.95) becomes clearer, as it is illustrative of atammayata:
    ”When, Malunkya,putta, regarding what is seen, heard, sensed and cognized by you,

    in the seen                   there will only be the seen;
    in the heard                  there will only be the heard;
    in the sensed               there will only be the sensed;
    in the cognized            there will only be the cognized,

    then, Malunkya,putta, you are ‘not by that.’

    When Malunkya,putta, you are ‘not by that,’ then you will ‘not be therein’.
    When, Malunkya,putta, you are ‘not therein,’ then you will ‘be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two’.       (S 35.95.13/4:73), SD 5.9[3]

    R328 Revisioning Buddhism RB85
    [an occasional re-look at the Buddha’s Example and Teachings]
    Copyright by Piya Tan ©2014
    Also see: The Mahayana Model of Awakening
    Update: Made a correction  - akanistha is the highest of the five pure abodes which are five subplanes of the fourth jhana realm. An anagami can be born in either of the five pure abodes.


    Someone asked me to write something about the ten fetters, so this is what I wrote:

    In the Pali suttas, the Buddha teaches two types of persons destined towards stream entry, and four types or stages of aryans (awakened beings).

    The two types of persons destined towards stream entry is 1) a faith follower, and 2) a dhamma-follower. (Khanda Sutta)

    What is a faith follower? A faith follower is someone who accepts by faith and conviction, that all conditioned dharmas/phenomena - that is, the five aggregates, are inconstant, changeable, alterable, arising and passing, and also are unsatisfactory and ungraspable, and that all dharmas (conditioned and unconditioned) are empty of a self. If you have such a view, even by faith, the Buddha assures that you will never be capable of performing non-virtuous deeds that are so serious as to land you in the three lower realms (hell, animal, hungry ghost), and furthermore you are assured to attain stream-entry before you die in this life.

    So even if you are not yet awakened but you want some kind of assurance for your liberation, and you have some faith in the Buddha's teachings, get right view (which is the forerunner of the noble eightfold path). That alone is enough for an assurance for your Nirvana. And it isn't really difficult - after all, you don't even need to be an expert in the Madhyamika or the Abhidharma, you just need to understand it and accept it by faith, even that alone serves as an assurance. When you have the right view, your entire life will naturally be directed or led towards realizing this truth, there is no turning back.

    And what is a Dharma follower? A Dharma follower is someone who goes a step further than the faith follower, a dharma follower is someone who after "pondering with a modicum of discernment" (that is, after intellectually analyzing and concluding that all phenomena are such, for example, by following the Madhyamika or Abhidharma analysis, or just reading the suttas or sutras) and perhaps with a little experience with vipassana meditation (not to the point of direct realization) has accepted that all the conditioned dharmas are impermanent, (as mentioned above), unsatisfactory, and all dharmas are empty of self. Again, such a person is said to be (as similar to the above) someone who has 'entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill'. He is incapable of doing misdeeds (as mentioned above) that can land him in the three lower realms, he is incapable of dying before he realizes the fruit of stream entry.

    Now, those two types of people I have just mentioned above, those are people who only had an intellectual view, one is accepted by faith in the Buddha's dharma, and one is concluded through intellectual analysis. Even these people have the assurance that they will attain awakening (at least the first stage of awakening) before they die. But those are still not awakened people. Awakening starts at stream entry (sotapanna), where you become an aryan, which is then followed by three more stages of awakening: once returner (sakadagami), non returner (anagami) and arahant - which connotes the conqueror, the saint, etc.

    A stream entrant, having *directly*, *experientially*, realized that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent and unsatisfactory, and are empty of a self. Having directly discerned the nature of phenomena and gaining the dharma eye that sees the arising and cessation of aggregates, realizing anatta, the stream entrant has permanently eliminated the view of a self. What this means is really such a person can no longer conceive, believe in, or hold the notion of, a real, changeless, independent self, agent, observer, doer, controller, of one's life or experiences or the aggregates. One stops conceiving of any soul, self, or even an ultimate Self (such as identifying a true self that is 'Brahman' or 'Pure Consciousness'). A stream entrant can no longer hold the view that there is such a self/Self. A stream entrant sees, realizes, there is only ever the stream of aggregates with no self behind (or within) the aggregates. And he realizes this directly, through insight meditation.

    A stream entrant is called a "stream entrant" because
    by attaining the right view he/she has entered the stream that leads to Nibbana - the noble eightfold path.
    From Dhammapada verse 178:
    Sole dominion over the earth,
    going to heaven,
    lordship over all worlds:
    the fruit of stream-entry
    excels them.
    A stream entrant (sotapanna) is assured to never again be reborn in the three lower realms, to be only reborn in either the human realms or the deva realm (heaven), and furthermore is assured to attain complete Nirvana (cessation) of afflictions as an Arahant in no more than 7 more lifetimes. Now a stream entrant may attain arahantship in that very life if he puts some effort in his practice, but even if he didn't, he can no more exceed 7 more lifetimes in samsara. A stream entrant has eliminated the first three fetters:

    1. identity view (as explained above)
    2. doubt (there can be no more doubt about the Buddhadharma because you have directly realized it in your own experience)
    3. ritual attachment (the belief that reliance on rituals and rules can somehow save you from samsara or end your suffering, as by now you would have realized that only by following the noble eightfold path which is summarized as the path of insight and tranquility, can suffering truly be ended, there can be no end of suffering besides through wisdom)

    So once you have directly realized the dharma, and gained the Dharma Eye, you are a stream entrant that has permanently ended the above three fetters and is on an irreversible conveyer belt to Nirvana - the end of samsaric births and deaths, the end of all afflictions (passion, aggression and delusion), the end of all I and mine-making. What is the 'stream' that the stream enterer enters? The Buddha explained that the stream is the noble eightfold path, so basically such a person, having attained realization of the right view - which is the forerunner of the noble eightfold path, has entered the path which invariably leads to Nirvana.

    A once returner (sakadagami) is one step further, having attenuated (lessened, weakened significantly) two more fetters: the fetter of sensual desire and the fetter of ill will. Well the fetter of sensual desire is very easy to understand: craving for good sensual enjoyment, sex, music, or even good food and chocolates, etc. Anything that has to do with desiring nice experience of the senses, that comes under sensual desire.

    The fetter of ill will, well, it just means hostility, hatred, violence, thoughts of harming others, etc. All these are ill will. A once returner has significantly attenuated, though not necessarily removed completely, these two fetters. And a once returner is assured to only be reborn in either the human or the deva realm for one more life at most before attaining complete nirvana.

    The non returner is a further step, having completely eliminated the fetter of sensual desire and fetter of ill will, instead of merely 'attenuating' them. Such a being, an anagami, cannot have thoughts of anger, cannot have sexual lust, and do not engage in sex. Yeah - that is what the Buddha taught, it is not what I invented (refer to Mahavacchagota Sutta - it clearly states that stream entrants and sakadagami partakes in sensual pleasures but not anagami and arahants). So if someone continues to crave sex, and engage in sexual activities, and claims to be anagami, I have good reason to doubt that, because it simply does not tally with the Buddha's definition of what anagami is. It may be that others have different ideas of what anagami means from the Buddha, but after all the four stages are defined by Buddha so we should follow his definitions when discussing it in the context of dharma as taught by him. Otherwise we simply won't understand what he is saying, what he had in mind.

    Then again some may say, oh, actually I am an anagami, I so transcend these earthly desires but for some reason I am still having an active sex life. Again, I seriously would doubt such claims, because as the Buddha states, "“Bhikkhus, that one can engage in sensual pleasures without sensual desires, without perceptions of sensual desire, without thoughts of sensual desire—that is impossible." (Alagaddūpama Sutta) So in my mind, in accordance with the scriptures, all anagamis and arahants are celibates, and furthermore have no interest in pursuing the pleasures of the senses (not only sex). This is what the Buddha suggested in the suttas, and is also the position of the commentaries.

    Because an anagami has completely put an end to the fetter of sensual desire and ill will, there is no more cause for becoming (rebirth) in the sensual planes - which is all the planes of samsara up to the 6 sensual devalokas (deva means celestial being, loka means world, i.e. heavens). Why? Because if you understand the four noble truths you know, becoming (that is, rebirth) and the mass of suffering is driven by craving. Craving is the cause of suffering and rebirth.

    If you have craving for sensuality, and the karmas pertaining to sensuality ripens - you get reborn in the sensual planes of existence. If you have craving and attachments to the form dhyanas/jhanas (these are states of meditative absorptions), then (provided that you have the wholesome karma and meditative practice to support that desire) you get reborn in the form devalokas as a Brahma. In the form realm you still have a material body but no sensual desires, whereas in formless realms you do not have a material body. If you have craving or attachments to the formless dhyanas such as infinite space, infinite consciousness, etc, then you get reborn in those samsaric planes. Then, you experience living in those realms for kalpas, for millions of years, until eventually your karmas get exhausted (especially if you are reborn in the formless realms it is easy to get into lower realms since there is no opportunity to make merits), and then you become reborn again in the lower realms and work your way up again. So, rebirth in these devalokas without wisdom is totally insecure, they are not to be sought by Buddhists seeking for freedom. (It's another thing if you are reborn there as a stream entrant, etc, cos eventually you get back to dharma and the path and you don't stray into samsara for long)

    So going back to topic, an anagami does not get reborn anymore in the sensual planes, then where does he/she get reborn to? They are reborn in the five Pure Abodes (suddhavasa) of the 4th jhana planes, of which the akanistha is the highest of them. This is the only realm where Buddha has not been reborn in before (as he stated: having recalled many aeons of past lives, he has been reborn in all samsaric realms, except the five pure abodes), because once you get reborn in it, you can never come back - that realm is literally made up of ONLY anagamis and arahants: once an anagami is born there, one will never return from that realm into another samsaric rebirth, so basically you just become an arahant there and enter into nirvana. (Mahāsīhanāda Sutta: "it is not easy to find a realm in the round that I have not already [82] passed through in this long journey, except for the gods of the Pure Abodes; and had I passed through the round as a god in the Pure Abodes, I would never have returned to this world.")

    Anagamis are assured of only rebirth in such a high devaloka simply because an anagami has cut off craving from sensuality, yet, there is still the fetter of craving for form and formless jhanas (will be explained later), and this supports becoming/rebirth in a jhanic plane.

    Then we have an arahant. An arahant fully removes 5 more fetters and no longer takes birth in samsara after his/her parinirvana:

    lust for material existence, lust for material rebirth (rūparāgo)[12]
    lust for immaterial existence, lust for rebirth in a formless realm (arūparāgo)[13]
    conceit (māna)[14][15]
    restlessness (uddhacca)[16]
    ignorance (avijjā)[17]

    Material existence and immaterial existence here refers to the jhanic planes. So how can you have craving for jhanic planes? As I mentioned before, the meditative absorptions of jhanas are incredibly blissful and sublime. They are much more blissful than any sensual pleasures you have ever experienced. As Ajahn Brahmavamso said, jhanas are more blissful than sex. And it is on an entirely different level too.. the mental peace, intense joy and bliss, and equanimity, and mindfulness, these are very good, very wholesome mental factors. So it is nothing like the coarse sensual pleasures we get from drugs, intoxication, sex, etc etc which only leads to heedlessness and delusion. This is why jhanas is part of the noble eightfold path, the practice of right concentration. Jhanas are to be developed. They support the development of wisdom, they support the complete liberation from defilements, so it is important.

    However these states are like any other conditioned phenomena marked by transciency, unsatisfactoriness, and are not-self, not-mine. By not perceiving the nature of all states, they can become object of attachment and craving. That is why some people who have no wisdom at all (that is, they are not even stream entrants) may get stuck on practicing jhanas the wrong way - that is, instead of using it as a support to develop wisdom they completely get attached to those states and become what is called "jhana junkies". If you have proper guidance I don't think you will fall into such a category of people. These jhana junkies only know how to sit all day, get into meditative bliss, and then when they die the cycle of rebirth continues, they get reborn in the higher devalokas for a long time but that is about it, eventually they return back to lower realms (like all sentient beings do eventually, if they did not encounter dharma).

    So anyway as I was saying, these material existence and immaterial existence are so sublime and blissful and peaceful, so it is only at the very last stage of the path to personal liberation - that is, arahantship, that all attachments to the jhanic factors are completely removed, and with it, the causes for rebirth in these jhanic planes too are removed. Although stream entrant onwards have perceived directly the impermanence/dukkha/anatta of all phenomena, nonetheless subtle remnants or residue of ignorance persists that could lead to craving.

    Regarding conceit, well, I've already spoken a little about it recently so I'll just cut and paste it here:

    Many people translate the fetter of conceit as 'pride', however, the fetter of conceit is not just in the sense of being 'proud'. I mean, pride etc is definitely a fetter. But also some people can be very humble, yet it does not mean they have overcome their 'I Am conceit'.

    The 'I Am conceit' is more specifically described as a kind of trace, like a stench left over in a jug when the contents of the jug has been poured away. That trace of self remains after realization of anatta and then one has to liberate even that trace itself. That liberation of trace is Arahantship. This is clearly described in the Khemaka Sutta.

    The Buddha said:
    Blissful is passionlessness in the world, The overcoming of sensual desires (i.e. anagami); But the abolition of the conceit "I am" (i.e. arahantship) — That is truly the supreme bliss.

    Also, the Buddha said:

    “The noble ones have seen as happiness

    The ceasing of identity.

    This [view] of those who clearly see

    Runs counter to the entire world.


    “What others speak of as happiness,

    That the noble ones say is suffering;

    What others speak of as suffering,

    That the noble one know as bliss.”

    So what is the difference between the 'view of self' and the 'trace of self'?

    As Thusness wrote to me in 2011:

    Session Start: 29 March 2011

    Thusness: yeah of course
    AEN: Ic
    Thusness: if u do not feel the 'body construct' and 'mind construct', just the play of dharma, how does the sense of self arise?
    AEN: It doesnt
    Thusness: yeah...
    Thusness: for me, it is just this dependent originated activity...
    Thusness: primordially pure and luminous
    Thusness: sense of self does not arise
    Thusness: i do not see 'body' or 'mind'
    Thusness: for there is no agent
    Thusness: for u by now u should be clear on this
    Thusness: experientially
    Thusness: otherwise, u will not feel the 'process'
    AEN: Ic..
    Thusness: u told me about the mini maha experience
    Thusness: so u should not feel the sense of self
    AEN: Yea
    Thusness: logically when the agent is gone, the primary cause for these sense of self should also be gone
    Thusness: however due to the deeper dispositions, it continues to linger
    Thusness: when u engage in this modern world, it re-enfore the identity
    Thusness: so by seeing there is no-self in anatta, the sense of self should also dwindle
    AEN: Ic
    Thusness: when u practice and there is mind body drop
    Thusness: due to de-construction of body and mind
    Thusness: there is only purity of sensations
    Thusness: it is just a lingering trace
    Thusness: how does the sense of self arise?
    Thusness: and that means it is simply a dispositions
    Thusness: and during daily activity, there is re-enforcing of this trace
    Thusness: when there is no agent, this trace will be seen as it is
    Thusness: in non-dual and one mind, this is not just a trace
    Thusness: u may have trace of identity

    Thusness: but 'Self' (comments: self-view; that a truly existing self/Self exists) is not a trace

    Thusness: it is as if it is truly 'there' and all there is
    Thusness: but anatta is different
    Thusness: for everything is like a trace
    Thusness: and self is not any more special that an arising sound
    Thusness: no diff
    Thusness: can u understand the difference?

    Now the 9th fetter which an arahant has eliminated:

    restlessness (uddhacca)[16]

    Restlessness is defined as "the excitement of mind which is disturbance, agitation of the heart, turmoil of mind." (Dhammasangani 429).

    And this is a fetter that is only removed completely by an arahant. So it's very normal that you have a restless mind, a monkey mind, a distracted mind. We all experience that (well unless you're an arahant!). First we have a thought of X, and then from that thought X it drifts off into Y and Z and an endless chain of thinking, worries, pondering, etc. An analogy I gave is like it's reading the news feed on facebook. You scroll from one to another mindlessly, grasping to another post before leaving the previous post. We get distracted from time to time. In fact if you think you never get distracted, try sitting down in meditation, just watch your mind. Soon you'll realize how distracted you are but only you didn't notice it before. But at the same time if you sit a little longer, everything starts to tranquilize, mind and body tranquilizes and bliss happens.

    Anyway. So, an arahant is someone who does not have restlessness. What this means, in my understanding, is that arahant does not have discursive thinking at all. They don't have a wandering mind. They don't daydream. They don't get distracted. They never get agitated. The only thoughts they have are wholesome, beneficial, necessary thoughts. They don't get excited and from thought X jump into Y, Z, etc, an endless chain of agitated thinking. And they aren't just in a state of equanimity in meditation - that is easy, but they are in equanimity in every moment in their life, through its ups and downs. They are not happy when they gained something nice, they are not unhappy when they lost something, in fact, sense of ownership never comes up in their mind at all.

    The Buddha says that arahants are completely fearless. Arahants are free from hope and fear, they are free from craving for life and fear of death, they are free from any kinds of craving or fear at all. In the Dhammapada, a newly attained arahant climbs down from a very high pole to meet the Buddha without the slightest fear, he does not fear falling to his death. They have no worries at all. And they have no sorrow even at the death of their closed ones. Their minds are not affected at all in life, they do not experience agitation, their minds are like a calm, serene lake. So that's arahant's mind - complete peace, non-disturbed, equanimity... arahants are the "cooled ones" according to Buddha.

    Honestly, restlessness (discursive thoughts) is the strongest fetter I have. I don't have much sensual craving or ill will or anger or any of those fetters mentioned, but my mind wanders, gets distracted, I believe like all or most of us here. Sometimes it settles down in meditation but in daily life there are so many things to think about... until mindfulness returns, and then there is complete intimacy with the appearance at hand and at the same time everything self-releases, thoughts gets released.

    Lastly it is the fetter of ignorance (avijjā) that the arahant overcomes -- the Buddha defines ignorance as ignorance of the four noble truths, but the four noble truths is linked all the truths that we discover - impermanence, unsatisfactoriness/suffering, not-self, dependent origination, etc. So if you truly, fully, comprehend the four noble truths, you also overcome the perception of permanence, satisfactoriness, self, independence, inherency, and so forth.

    If you see the four noble truths, you clearly see dependent origination in action. You clearly perceive that suffering - the eight kinds of suffering - is rooted in craving, in grasping, in delusion, and you clearly perceive that there is path which leads to the end of that craving, that grasping, that delusion.

    So you see dependent origination Directly, not just as an inference, but you see ignorance in action - what does ignorance means? What does karmic propensities mean? Many of us think of karmic propensities and ignorance as being some kind of ghostly, hidden, almost mystical force hiding somewhere and affecting our lives from a hidden 'subconscious' component of consciousness stored away from sight. That is having an inherent view, a self-view of ignorance and karmic propensities. We need to directly See that cause of suffering and that suffering as the total exertion of our experience in seamless dependencies.

    As Thusness say, having the view of afflicted dependent origination is having the enlightened view. The enlightened view does not conceive of a sufferer, suffering does not come from a self. How does it arise? Based on conditions - delusion, grasping, craving.

    The totality of our experience is being shaped moment by moment by our delusions (either that, or by wisdom), by our sense of self, and with it all kinds of grasping and craving and afflictions. Taste it, see it for yourself, what is it like? See that grasping in action, see that becoming in action, see the birth of suffering. Only when you see suffering and the cause of suffering, only then can you realize the path and the end of that suffering. (Otherwise you become some neo-advaitins that say the path is not necessary)

    And the moment you perceive the nature of that - that every phenomena is dependently arising, is empty of a self, is empty of inherent existence, at that moment, by realizing the four noble truths you realize dependent origination and you realize emptiness. And with that, you attain liberation. That is how overcoming the ignorance of the four noble truths is so crucial. From a view that a Subject interacts with an Object, to a view of seamless process of dependencies without self/Self, and furthermore clarity into the workings of delusion, grasping, craving I-making and suffering.


    The early Buddhism's model of awakening as taught by Buddha are a series of (four) stages in progressively terminating the three poisons of passion/craving/lust/desire, aggression/anger/ill-ill, and delusion/ignorance, which are the causes of all suffering and samsaric births. This results in release from mental afflictions and any further re-births/becoming in the cycle of samsara. That is the end of suffering, also known as Nirvana. How is Nirvana attained? By perfecting the three trainings of ethical conduct/morality (Sīla), meditative composure (Samādhi) and discernment/wisdom (Paññā).
    Also see:

    Fearless Samadhi
    Excerpts from the Jewel Mirror Samadhi 

    Thusness wrote to me yesterday:

    "In my opinion many of our great aspirations and high views turn empty talks easily.

    After the direct insight of anatta, it opens the gate that allows one to experience effortlessly all sensations that arise without duality, without fear, without doership and without ownership. Many are unable to see the "why"s and "how" of "directness", so don't waste your insights that have given the opportunity in this life.

    Train yourself to do that with sincerity and dedication first. Then you will be fully in touch with your original purity; you will be genuinely in touch with peace and openness."

    More later:

    If we want to experience fully and have genuine peace, be very sincere in sensing all your sensations for pretense, blames, rejections and contractions... ...don't rush... slow down your thoughts and scan all your sensations for these... see all these traces... see all these come from the "I"s and "mine"s... develop a strong willingness to let go with your insights of anatta. If you can for a brief moment be free from the conceit of I, the craving of mine and the background of I AM, that moment you are respectable even to the gods.

    I do not want you to get into too high views and lose touch with genuine and simple practice."


    Thusness, 2007:

    (5:29 PM) Thusness:    what are the 3 characteristics (of self-liberation)?
    (5:29 PM) AEN:    impermanence, suffering, no self ?
    (5:29 PM) Thusness:    nope
    (5:29 PM) Thusness:    i just told u the other day
    (5:30 PM) Thusness:    completely non-dual and transparent.
    (5:30 PM) Thusness:    Completely fearless
    (5:30 PM) Thusness:    completely non-attached
    (5:30 PM) Thusness:    so if a person after the experience of no-self, and is able to attain this 3 characteristics
    (5:31 PM) Thusness:    then his hui geng (wisdom root) is truly deep
    (5:31 PM) Thusness:    da geng qi (superior capacity)
    (5:32 PM) Thusness:    means the enlightenment of non-dual of our nature leads directly to self liberation
    (5:32 PM) Thusness:    that is because the 'sense of self' is completely eliminated from 7th
    (5:32 PM) Thusness:    and karmic propensities become self liberated 

    Even after initial realization of anatta, we have to continue practicing and meditating until these three aspects are perfected.
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    Someone wrote: "wisdom can only exist if ignorance is reified, they're both flip sides of the same non-existent coin, just more interpretation by the mind, that's why i tend towards "innocence""

    The awakening of wisdom is only possible when ignorance is seen through, however wisdom is not 'just more interpretation'. It is a form of awakeness, it is a direct prajna wisdom where the true nature of experience/mind being empty is directly apprehended. This is what liberates, there is no liberation when the bonds of delusion persist. One can remain non-conceptual and luminous, but non-conceptuality is not what liberates the bond. The bond of perceiving inherent existence and self persists even in states of non-conceptuality. It does not resolve the deep-seated delusion.

    As Thusness wrote to me in 2013:

    Thusness Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 6:20pm UTC+08

    There must b clear understanding of right and wrong understanding, ignorance and wisdom. What u r doing and subscribing is using experience to replace right understanding.
    Thusness Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 6:23pm UTC+08

    Ignorance is that tendency to c things inherently or "things" truly exist or there r "things". Wisdom is to c through that "thingness" via DO and realized emptiness...that nothing arise, come, go, life, death...

    (note by me: 'things' include 'Awareness', seeing 'Awareness' as inherently existing is also bondage)

    26/2/13 9:42:12 AM: Thusness: U experience them in terms of sensation
    26/2/13 9:42:36 AM: AEN: Yes
    26/2/13 9:44:48 AM: Thusness: What u r going through is freeing these "constructs" that bond u at the deepest lvl
    26/2/13 9:45:43 AM: Thusness: But that is not being "non-conceptual" alone but by wisdom
    26/2/13 9:46:19 AM: Thusness: Experience will naturally turn luminous and liberating experience wholely via losing center, not by intensifying experience.

    26/2/13 8:53:42 PM: Thusness: With regards to locality, deconstruction implies freeing the tendency of getting bonded ... So u must feel and experience this freeing of oneself from this bond
    26/2/13 8:54:38 PM: Thusness: Means whenever and where ever arising manifest, there must b this freedom
    26/2/13 8:55:42 PM: Thusness: That sense of center and locality must dissolve.

    16/3/13 1:02:48 AM: Thusness: Ignorance is like an endless loop
    16/3/13 1:04:21 AM: Thusness: U penetrated object with direct non-conceptual experience, it hides in subject
    16/3/13 1:05:09 AM: Thusness: U destroy object, it hides in here/now, there/here, in/out
    16/3/13 1:06:25 AM: Thusness: Becoz the fundamental ignorance is there
    16/3/13 1:07:04 AM: Thusness: With that view, there is no true overcoming
    16/3/13 1:07:42 AM: Thusness: Objects will still appear to b external
    16/3/13 1:07:58 AM: Thusness: Even after non-dual
    16/3/13 1:08:37 AM: Thusness: A practitioner din really overcome it
    16/3/13 1:11:13 AM: Thusness: U will hv to feel it with ur entire body-mind with that view to understand
    16/3/13 1:12:34 AM: Thusness: And compare with the deconstruction of "emptiness"
    16/3/13 1:14:05 AM: Thusness: If we hold substantial view, we will always feel something has changed to something
    16/3/13 1:14:28 AM: Thusness: And we want to understand it that way
    16/3/13 1:15:04 AM: Thusness: Therefore we r unable to overcome the source, appearances and apparent objects
    16/3/13 1:15:48 AM: Thusness: How is something so solid and external is "mind"
    16/3/13 1:19:24 AM: Thusness: Also when u realized there is no hearer behind sound and initially penetrated anatta, it does not mean u hv overcome appearances and apparent objects too
    16/3/13 1:19:32 AM: Thusness: What is lacking?
    16/3/13 1:19:55 AM: AEN: Insight that penetrates empty nature of objects ?
    16/3/13 1:21:52 AM: Thusness: Yes only when one begin to "realize" emptiness and look into the experience of anatta and understand this "emptying"
    16/3/13 1:23:27 AM: Thusness: Until it replaces that "inherent/dualistic" and apply it endlessly
    16/3/13 1:23:57 AM: Thusness: When u look into Self/self it is empty
    16/3/13 1:24:12 AM: Thusness: When u look into aggregates, it is empty
    16/3/13 1:24:29 AM: Thusness: When u look at here/now, it is empty
    16/3/13 1:25:15 AM: Thusness: When u look into in/out, it is empty then u begin to overcome appearances and apparent objects
    16/3/13 1:27:17 AM: Thusness: R u denying Awareness?
    16/3/13 1:27:30 AM: AEN: No
    16/3/13 1:27:44 AM: AEN: Deconstruction is not denial
    16/3/13 1:27:57 AM: AEN: But seeing inherent dualistic view
    16/3/13 1:28:11 AM: AEN: Through
    16/3/13 1:31:03 AM: Thusness: That is liberating it
    16/3/13 1:31:21 AM: AEN: I see..
    16/3/13 1:32:36 AM: Thusness: Life, death, here, now, this, that, subject, object...etc
    16/3/13 1:32:57 AM: Thusness: Is there a substance?
    16/3/13 1:33:33 AM: Thusness: Or the same substance being transformed into another
    16/3/13 1:33:53 AM: Thusness: Is the current thought the same as previous thought
    16/3/13 1:34:08 AM: AEN: Nope
    16/3/13 1:34:10 AM: Thusness: The entire view has changed
    16/3/13 1:34:20 AM: Thusness: It does not apply
    16/3/13 1:35:03 AM: Thusness: All along we hv understood our immediate experience wrongly and treat that as ultimate
    16/3/13 1:36:06 AM: Thusness: Then non-dual experience will turn liberating
    16/3/13 1:36:46 AM: Thusness: Next look into total exertion

    16/3/13 1:45:32 AM: Thusness: When u see a table, is there a truly existing "table"
    16/3/13 1:46:29 AM: Thusness: When I say awareness, is there a truly existing awareness
    16/3/13 1:46:54 AM: Thusness: When we say "here", is there a "here"
    16/3/13 1:47:07 AM: Thusness: When we say now, is there a now
    16/3/13 1:47:46 AM: Thusness: Some use analytical way of deconstructing into parts
    16/3/13 1:48:18 AM: Thusness: As for me, it is total exertion of this immediate formation
    16/3/13 1:50:28 AM: Thusness: Until luminosity, total exertion and emptiness becomes seem less
    16/3/13 1:50:32 AM: Thusness: Seamless
    16/3/13 1:51:48 AM: Thusness: The view that there must b an essence that continue from here to there, from now to then is overcome
    16/3/13 1:52:25 AM: Thusness: Experience is as direct, non-conceptual, non dual and liberating

    Thusness Monday, December 9, 2013 at 9:29pm UTC+08

    The more I read, the more I find the essence of what liberates is not clearly expressed...rather what expressed is more on non-dual clarity
    Thusness Monday, December 9, 2013 at 9:46pm UTC+08

    Yeah...what liberates with ur current experience and insights?
    AEN Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:34pm UTC+08

    anatta, emptiness and impermanence... all these breaks various clinging be it self, here, now, it, etc
    Thusness Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:36pm UTC+08

    Yes. Simple and why it becomes complex is because of the many faces of grasping.

    Göran Backlund recently published a new book.

    Göran Backlund:


    After countless days of hard work the book is finally done. I’m very proud of it. I’ve written something that I would have wanted back in the days when I just started to pull the threads of the fabric.
    This piece of philosophy will guide you through every step in dismantling the notion of the external world. It will ruthlessly and effectively reveal and dispel any wrong-thinking surrounding this idea upon which all else stands.
    This isn’t the first book that tackles this subject. But others have left it at “we can’t really know whether there’s anything beyond our experience,” while I go all the way and say that we can know – and in this book I’ll show you exactly how and why this idea of an external world beyond our perceptions is nothing but a figment of our imagination.
    But this is a book for serious people. You won’t find any ‘pointers’ in it. What you’ll find is stone cold logic hacking away at the very foundation of existence itself. And in it’s wake; when the dust settles; you’ll recognize that, not only were the words of the sages true all along, but they’ve gone from being a remote possibility to being the light and guiding principle of your life. What words?
    Consciousness is all.
    The book is called REFUTING THE EXTERNAL WORLD and is available NOW as a downloadable E-book.