Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Madhyamaka and Advaita Vedanta: A Comparison


A response to StepVhen Stark's recent post in his 'Emptything' group:

Good points. Modern and traditional Advaita alike don't really teach about emptiness as the interdependence and lack of essence or substance of self and things... it is not just modern Advaita which takes ultimate reality to be some substantial "foundational background" or "ground of being" or "source and substance of all that is". Brahman, their ultimate reality, is traditionally known as Sat Chit Ananda - Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. It is seen as substantially existing, not dependently originated, the ultimate true Self (Atman-Brahman) of all beings and as some irreducible Truth that is the summum bonum of spiritual life. Buddhists and 'emptiness teachings' would disagree that 'Consciousness' is something 'irreducible'.

Right from traditional Advaita and the Vedas and Upanishads, we find a living tradition that treats the world as illusory and Brahman as the ultimate reality, i.e. it attributes 'forms' to be 'illusory Lower truth' as a mere illusory appearance of Brahman the 'higher truth'... and even in the final position that 'the world is Brahman' it actually means 'the world is but an appearance inseparable from the ultimate higher truth of Brahman, like printed words is inseparable from the paper underlying it, and apart from the ultimate reality of Brahman or Pure Consciousness there is no objective reality anywhere'. This is not what Emptiness teachings are talking about. Emptiness does not 'reduce' the world or objectivity into a substantial source and substance but liberates it, it frees us from erroneous imputation and grasping of I, me, mine, and objects. 

The only living contemplative tradition that talks about emptiness in a mere deconstructive (not reductionist) way, and in terms of interdependent origination, would be Buddha and the Buddhist tradition such as Madhyamika. It may be argued that some philosophers since have adapted or taught doctrines that may have similar elements to the Buddhist teachings, however I think Buddhism so far offers the most indepth deconstruction and most of all a practical method of contemplation aimed at directly seeing the truth of it in experience. And the Buddha would certainly be the first (2,500 years ago) to teach a non-substantialist doctrine of emptiness. In any case, it is quite different from other spiritual and contemplative traditions we see out there, including Advaita Vedanta. 

And since Advaita treats Brahman, pure consciousness, as ultimate reality, Greg Goode calls Advaita not an "Emptiness teachings" but an "Awareness teachings". I think that is a more appropriate description of Advaita.

The Buddhist understanding of emptiness, middle way, and two truths, though sounding similar is nevertheless vastly different from the usage by Shankara and Advaita Vedanta - whether traditional or neo. I.e. Buddhism's two truths does not mean that phenomena are the lower truth in contrast to the highest truth of ultimate reality or Brahman or Awareness. Instead, there is no 'higher' or 'lower' - the two truths refer to the ultimate truth and the conventional, imputed truth - that means all our labels like 'self', 'table', 'weather' are mere parlance and imputation - a conventionally labeled designation commonly agreed upon... but the ultimate truth (not exactly 'reality') of things is that when investigated, there is no real substance or true, independent existence graspable behind those conventions or appearance - all of which are interdependently originated. 

That lack of true essence (svabhava) is the ultimate truth of all phenomena, and emptiness is 'designated' dependent on phenomena's lack of essence, apart from phenomena no 'emptiness' can be spoken of. Therefore there is no way emptiness can be called a 'higher truth' and phenomena a 'lower truth', which is the way it is taught in the traditional Advaita Vedanta teachings. Instead, the Heart Sutra puts it succinctly: Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form. Everything is flat without hierarchy.

Lastly... and I think this is a most important point, I think emptiness and luminosity need not be seen as two different approaches. In fact we should see the inseparability of luminosity and emptiness. That is we have to see the luminous essence or quality of mind/experience - that everything is vivid luminosity, vivid cognizance, vividly self-aware. In fact the peak of this luminosity is experienced when all divisions of subject/object, perceiver/perceived dichotomy is completely seen through... through seeing through there is a natural non-dual opening to vivid sensation in every moment and experience.

But as vivid and luminous and aware as mind/experience is, its empty, unlocatable, ungraspable, coreless nature of everything - 'selves' and 'things', all phenomena, must also be penetrated for true liberation... for luminosity is blissful, but emptiness is liberating. Which is why it is more impactful, in the sense that it releases all attachments and graspings due to freedom from establishments - non-dual luminosity on the other hand can even lead to greater attachment to some ultimate non-dual luminous state. But non-dual luminosity and emptiness is inseparable, and this inseparability (of appearance and emptiness, bliss and emptiness, luminosity and emptiness, etc) is given many names in the Tibetan traditions such as 'the nature of mind', 'Buddha-nature', and so on.

Madhyamika emphasizes the aspect of understanding the truth of emptiness through logical reasonings... but Tibetan Buddhism utilizes Madhyamika as only part of their training program. Madhyamika is important for them so that they have the 'Right View' that does not end up in a substantialist view such as Advaita and at the same time, they engage in meditative training such as Mahamudra, Dzogchen, etc which focuses on training on recognising the nature of mind (as the inseparability of luminosity and emptiness, rather than just remaining at the level of conceptual understanding of emptiness). While Mahamudra is most often attributed to the Kagyu tradition and Dzogchen with the Nyingma tradition, the Sakya and Gelug traditions also engage in a myriad of tantric methods to realize the Clear Light essence of mind and the inseparability of luminosity and emptiness through those practices such as those involving the the two stages of tantric practices (creation and completion stage), the result of which is none other than Mahamudra. The means may differ slightly but the goal is always the same. For them, Madhyamika is mostly like a foundation for establishing the view of emptiness albeit on an inferential/conceptual level, and then they engage in tantric methods to quickly realize the inseparability in direct experience.
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Nick Fetko: Excellent points Soh, particularly the last paragraph. The current trend in some of the FB groups is a bit of an overemphasis on emptiness, almost falling into nihilism at some points. Madhyamika is a brilliant tradition but just one (early) part of the Mahayana tradition. It gets a lot of emphasis because it has survived in such pristine form via Tibet. 

Many of the later developments in Indian and Chinese Buddhist thought have been more obscure for historical reasons (dying out in India and being suppressed in China). Personally I try to embrace a reconciliation of Madhyamika and Yogacara views, with a correct understanding of Buddha-nature and "original enlightenment" (Jp. hongaku). In my humble opinion the pinnacle achievements of the Mahayana are the HuaYen approach to tathagatagharba, and the TienTai school with its emphasis on ekayana and upaya. 

And of course the apparent dichotomy of emptiness/tathagatagarbha (or rantong/shentong if you like) is not a dichotomy at all. These are two very skillful means which need not be declared as mutually exclusive or contradictory, at least not by relative newbies and amateurs such as ourselves. Buddhism is nothing if not diverse!
February 10 at 9:00am · Like · 1

Albert Hong View, experience, realization.
February 10 at 9:11am via mobile · Like · 2

Greg Goode: Of course Gaudapada is the most Buddhist of Advaitins. Jax, I have been on ADVAITA-L (a listserv) for 12 years. It is a very substantialist place. There are people who really think that maya is made up out of Sanskrit, and that Westerners cannot achieve liberation. Their best bet is to be reborn in India - as a cockroach - and work their way up from there.
February 10 at 11:08am via mobile · Like · 2

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

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

Greg Goode: I've studied with the Chinmaya Missoin and the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. Those schools and the Indian Shankaracharyan matha folks in the ADVAITA-L do not use kundalini yoga AFAIK. There is a separate yoga tradition of course, but the Advatins that I know of don't use it. Swami Vivekananda talked about "raja yoga," but in his version of Vedanta it served as what Buddhists call "meditative stabilization." Just an aid to the mind to better stay focused on the very subtle jnana yoga process. And jnana yoga focuses on what it calls knowledge of one's true nature, not transcendent or oceanic experience.
February 10 at 1:23pm · Like · 1

Greg Goode: That's a good question. I'm multilingual. What I don't do is regard one of the world views as a mere entry point for another. That is how many people see other people's paths, as a preliminary, or preparation for their own vaster, truer path.
February 10 at 1:48pm · Edited · Unlike · 4

Soh: Interesting Jackson but what Gaudapada wrote doesn't really go beyond the basic tenets regarding lower truth being illusory manifestation of the higher truth of brahman, true Self, ultimate reality isnt it... The descriptions may sound "Buddhist" in the way it is phrased but it's fundamental tenets and meaning remain the same. In Buddhism, it's a paradigm shift... Not just different ways of talking about the same thing as what the Archaya Mahayogi Shridhar Rinpoche wrote in

That said I do appreciate Advaita teachings as it has helped me in my path before and still recommend their stuff including those by Ramana Maharshi to those inclined towards that path and direction like I was. It does lead to important realisations. But I feel both systems must be clearly distinguished in order to properly understand each. There is a distinction between the substantialist position of Advaita and that of the nonsubstantialist teachings in Buddhism (in general, of course certain strains of shentong etc may be fundamentally indistinguishable from Advaita too)

As the Rinpoche says, "I must reiterate that this difference in both the system is very important to fully understand both the systems properly and is not meant to demean either system."

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

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

Awakening to Reality: Madhyamika Buddhism Vis-a-vis Hindu Vedanta
Thusness/PasserBy's comments to me: I do not want you to have knowledge regarding who is right or wrong and all those comments and challenges made to other religions and traditions. I never want you to get into that. I am only interested in opening up your wisdom of what is the truth of Awareness an... [Cut off preview]
February 11 at 1:41am via mobile · Edited · Unlike · 1 · Remove Preview

Jackson Peterson: I have read this before Soh, but it really comes from purely from a scholarly basis. His assumptions and quotes regarding Dzogchen are not accurate. Many Lamas, like Dilgo Khyentse and Namkhai Norbu use the example of the mirror quite differently. They both say that appearances just arise in the mirror of awareness, but no matter how the appearances appear the mirror itself remains unaffected. They are referring experientially to Rigpa and philosophically to Dharmakaya. This example is actually used by Norbu in his pointing out rigpa introduction. We realize our essential nature is empty "pure awareness", yet inseparable from the empty appearances. As Lonchenpa says "Samsara and appearances are arising in the scope of Rigpa". Like a vast hologram arising in the Empty Space of Awareness as its self-reflection of potentials, like a day dream. This can only be known in the non-dual rigpa state of gnosis, not conceptually. Also the tantric practitiioners of Shaivism bring consciousness to the crown chakra to the place of the "bindu visarga" which is also known as the place of Shunya or emptiness. The "bindu visarga" is the white "ham" in tantric Tibetan Buddhism and results in the experience of shunyata when "melted". When consciousness comes to this space the mind experiences "nirvikalpa samadhi" in which again the reality of "emptiness is form" "form is emptiness" becomes known. But also it is realized that Brahman is this empty self-knowingness. Brahman is Shunya or emptiness that appears as all form at the same time. Brahman in this case is like the omniscience of the Buddha Mind. Brahman has to be empty in order to be form, or there wouldn't be enough room for all form to fit... 

Then on a personal level, Advaita teaches the "jiva" or self is an illusion, not an independently existing "entity". Dzogchen says the individual is the illusory action of the five skandhas, and that beyond the illusion of the five skandhas is "rigpa", the Mind of Clear Light or Buddha Mind. The Advaitins say beyond the illusion of self is Brahman, an unborn Intelligence that is inseparable from appearances. 

Nirvana and samsara are not identical at all. Yes they are both empty. Samsara is how things appear in a state of ignorance, like having a cataract in your eye. Nirvana is seeing the perfection of how things actually are. Samsara or the relative is purely a conceptual overlay upon the spontaneous display of Empty/Luminosity. This is known in vipassana and rigpa.
February 11 at 4:02am · Edited · Like

Greg Goode: Not commenting about Buddhism here, but Advaita Vedanta and the Mandukya and Gaudapada's commentary (karika). In the living teaching tradition of Advaita-Vedanta, the Mandukya rocks. 

I studied Advaita-Vedanta for many years in the Chinmaya Mission, which is one of the very few traditional schools in the West that teach Shankaracharyan Advaita Vedanta. No neo! In this school and in the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, the Mandukya Upanishad is honored as the pinnacle of Advaititc teaching. It's considered to be the "highest" Upanishad. I once saw a teacher's guide to the curriculum for students. It spanned a period of 15 years. The very last text covered for students is the Mandukya Upanishad.

It's the only upanishad mentioned by another upanishad as all you need for liberation. Cf. Muktika Upanishad "The Mandukya is enough; if knowledge is not got from it, then study the Ten Upanishads. Getting knowledge very soon, you will reach my abode. If certainty is not got even then, study the 32 Upanishads and stop. If desiring Moksha without the body, read the 108 Upanishads."

It is a meditation on the mystic syllable AUM, which takes the meditator to the ultimate from the waking state (A) through dreaming (U) and deep sleep (M) to the silence that is turiya, which is akin to Nirguna Brahman. It establishes the experiencer as nondual Brahman through each of the three states of AUM.

It's generally regarded as only upanishad that establishes its point philosophically, without the need for a belief in Hindu theology.

Gaudapada's commentary (the karika) establishes the what is in Advaita considered to be the highest theory of causation, which is "ajati-vada" or non-causation, because in Nirguna Brahman there is no manifestation in the first place, only Brahman. The lower two are expedient means used in teaching. They are: Srshti-Drshti-vada for the beginning student. Srshti (creation) comes before Drshti (perception). Then Drshti-Srshti-vada for the more advanced student. Creation (Srshti) and perception (Drshti) are simultaneous. Many times this is explained in deference to faith in Ishvara or one's deity, which creates both.
February 11 at 4:13am · Edited · Like · 1

Greg Goode: Nick Fetko writes, "In my humble opinion the pinnacle achievements of the Mahayana are the HuaYen approach to tathagatagharba."

These are forms of Buddhism one doesn't hear too much about in the West, at least in circles I travel in. I'm interested in the Hua-Yen school, but never looked into it too much. Nichiren and Sokka Gakkai are other ones that you sometimes hear about. My sister was married to the son of a Nichiren Buddhist priest. Pure Land Buddhism is my other favorite with Madhyamika, but we don't hear too much about that either. In the West, Zen and Tibetan are hugely popular. When one is actually a member of a temple, lineage or dharma center, most folks seem to keep to themselves pretty much, even on the Internet. They don't seem to get on nondenominational forums and talk across paths and traditions like we do.
February 11 at 4:08am · Like · 2

Jackson Peterson: Really interesting Greg Goode! How does the system you explained stack up with Atmananda's path? Same? Similar? Or?
February 11 at 4:17am · Like

Greg Goode: Similar. The biggest difference is in how they treat deep sleep. In trad advaita, deep sleep is considered to be the most subtle obscuration of Brahman. In order to gain knowledge, my teacher would recommend nirvikalpa samadhi, and then contemplation. Knowledge in the trad system is gained by a particular modification of the mind, and this can't be done in deep sleep. Deep sleep is said to be "dark, and it is contrasted with nirvikalpa samadhi, which is said to be "light." 

In Atmananda's DP, deep sleep JUST IS one's true nature. It is an example of the "I-principle," or consciousness with no objects. When objects appear, it's called dreaming or the waking state. What is clever about this definition is that is more direct. You don't gain knowledge of your true nature in deep sleep (they agree with the trads there), but you experience it directly by being your Self with no objects in the way. It forgoes the need for practice in nirvikalpa samadhi, because everyone already has plenty of experience of deep sleep. And while waking, you can contemplate the presence and continuity of yourself during deep sleep. After all, if you are present when no objects are present, then you can't be an object!

Another difference is that there the DP is taught mostly outside of any religious organization. The Menon family tries to set itself up as a lineage, but the message is already out, and there are all these Westerners who are not direct disciples of any living Menon family member. They hate it when that happens!
February 11 at 4:39am · Edited · Like · 1

Jackson Peterson: Very interesting! In Dzogchen we don't use "deep sleep". In rigpa awareness there are "no objects" and no "self objects" either. In other words the conceptualizing mind that turns the 3D color and light show into conceptualized and labeled subjects and objects has transformed into the attentive presence of Rigpa.
February 11 at 4:46am · Like

Jackson Peterson: Greg Goode, how do you work with "deep sleep" in those practices?
February 11 at 5:26am · Like

Greg Goode: I don't want to go into it too deeply here, being OT. But two main ways. "Sleep knowingly," where you contemplate your nature as you fall asleep, knowing that you as awareness are there even in the total absence of the appearance of mind, body and world. The other is to contemplate the implications of this continuity and objectlessness.
February 11 at 6:29am · Like

Jackson Peterson: Thanks! If you have more details please IM me... 
February 11 at 6:43am · Like

Soh: Jackson, the precise details of how different masters use analogies is not the main issue here. What is crucial is that there are two fundamentally different paradigms, and the Buddhists do not accept a substantialist view such as that of "brahman", and even "awareness" is empty of any substantially existence or self. It is all too easy to fall into a "Advaita in Dzogchen drag" or "Advaita in Buddhist drag" without proper understanding of emptiness and the teachings of Buddha. Emptiness as freedom from extremes does not mean a space big enough to encompass everything... as such a view may fall under the faults of substantialism if space is reified into a truly existing and unchanging substance/source/substratum. It may become another "something" to grasp on to or another subtle identity being clung to. In reality space is no more special and is as empty as any other phenomena...
February 11 at 7:31am · Edited · Like · 2

Greg Goode: I agree about the different paradigms. I have talked to many, many people who are very resistant to the idea that different paths might not be talking about "the same thing," or taking a person to "the same place." It can bring up a lot of anxiety, because then people believe they have to investigate and in advance, determine which is true and which is false. I think this tension underlies a lot of perennialism. Which could be summed up crudely as "All paths lead to the same thing - the thing that I happen to be talking about." Or, "Deep down, your path is actually my path." Or, "My path is the essence of all paths." 

To my own way of thinking, this gestalt has ethical problems and lacks compassion. It removes a person's right to speak for their own path, and puts one's own characteriization over theirs.
February 11 at 7:29am · Edited · Like · 6

Greg Goode: Of course I would say that paths are not inherently different either.  ...
February 11 at 7:30am · Edited · Like · 3

Din Robinson: good one, all paths lead to the present moment where you come to know it (or not know it) for the first time
February 11 at 8:02am · Like · 1

Albert Hong: Too bad the present moment is a fabrication. 
February 11 at 8:02am · Like · 1

Jackson Peterson: Yes, great comment Din! Authentic paths can only lead to what is... and its best to leave that "what is" undefined, as it is anyway!
February 11 at 8:06am · Like · 1

Jackson Peterson: If people are actually following the Advaita path and are doing the yoga that brings "nirvikalpa samadhi", then there is no worry. Its not possible to "substantialize" or to even think about a Self in that pure state of Awareness. Buddhists would do well to practice their meditation to the point of "nirvikalpa samadhi" as well, and then their worry about "substantializing" would disappear... 
February 11 at 8:15am · Like

Albert Hong: thats the whole popping in and out of existence right?
February 11 at 8:16am · Like

Din Robinson: it's all about "not knowing" and just "being", but for no one 
February 11 at 8:32am · Like · 1

Din Robinson: what is it that pops in and out of existence, except for the idea itself of "popping" 
February 11 at 8:33am · Like · 1

Albert Hong: just be where?
February 11 at 8:39am · Like

Albert Hong: i love these games.
February 11 at 8:40am · Like

Din Robinson: the whole point i think  , is that life is just a game of hide and seek, i hide in form and seek myself 
February 11 at 8:41am · Like · 1

Albert Hong "it's all about "not knowing" and just "being", but for no one."

"no one".

"the whole point i think , is that life is just a game of hide and seek, i hide in form and seek myself "

"i hide in form and seek myself"
February 11 at 8:43am · Like · 1

Soh: Something I just wrote in Useful Talk but relevant here: 

those Advaitins are referring to experiencing a "pure Beingness" prior to concepts. But in Buddhism, a non-conceptual state is not to be mistaken as liberation. Babies also have no concepts but they have innate ignorance. If you pause thoughts for a moment, there can be non conceptuality but it does not mean ignorance and grasping has ceased. Even if you realize the pure beingness/Awareness in the absence of thoughts, that still does not end the delusion of inherent views.

Non-conceptual presence/awareness/etc itself often becomes an object of reification and identification. This is why Nirvikalpa Samadhi of Hinduism does not bring about liberation from the Buddhist perspective.

As I wrote in my e-book,

"Non-conceptuality does not mean non-attachment. For example when you realize the I AM, you cling to that pure non-conceptual beingness and consciousness as your true identity. You cling to that pure non-conceptual thought very tightly – you wish to abide in that purest state of presence 24/7. This clinging prevents us from experiencing Presence AS the Transience. This is a form of clinging to something non-conceptual due to the false view of duality (subject-object duality) and inherency (perceiving an essence that is truly existing). This is a form of clinging to something non-conceptual. So know that going beyond concepts does not mean overcoming the view of inherency and its resultant clinging clinging. Even in the substantial non-dual phase, there is still clinging to a Source, a One Mind – even though experience is non-dual and non-conceptual. But when inherent view is dissolved, we see there is absolutely nothing we can cling to, and this is the beginning of Right View and the Path to Nirvana – the cessation of clinging and craving."


And as Kyle Dixon quoted,

"…The process of eradicating avidyā is conceived… not as a mere stopping of thought, but as the active realization of the opposite of what ignorance misconceives. Avidyā is not a mere absence of knowledge, but a specific misconception, and it must be removed by realization of its opposite. In this vein, Tsongkhapa says that one cannot get rid of the misconception of 'inherent existence' merely by stopping conceptuality any more than one can get rid of the idea that there is a demon in a darkened cave merely by trying not to think about it. Just as one must hold a lamp and see that there is no demon there, so the illumination of wisdom is needed to clear away the darkness of ignorance."
Napper, Elizabeth, 2003, p. 103

Awakening to Reality: Experience, Realization, View, Practice and Fruition
Found this to be a very true and helpful post. Thanks for writing it.Also thanks for recognizing the idea that annata can be experienced prior to non-dual. This was the case for me initially in the burmese vipassana tradtion that emphasis annata over luminosity.Interestingly enough the non-dual stuf... [Cut off preview]
February 11 at 8:48am · Edited · Like · Remove Preview

Albert Hong: Din Robinson

Read OP ten thousand times.

Maybe you will get something from it.

Or maybe you can just be! Whatever works!
February 11 at 8:45am · Like · 2

Din Robinson: Soh wrote in the o/p:

"Emptiness does not 'reduce' the world or objectivity into a substantial source and substance but liberates it, it frees us from erroneous imputation and grasping of I, me, mine, and objects."

it reduces the present moment to "what is" which, of course, need not be understood or defined but is just allowed to be what it is... so it may best be known as...

February 11 at 8:45am · Like

Albert Hong: That tendency of groping at an IS. or a what is. or a here now, present, whatever.

is the grasping for a source, center, substantiality.
February 11 at 8:48am · Like

Din Robinson: Soh wrote in the o/p:

"And since Advaita treats Brahman, pure consciousness, as ultimate reality, Greg Goode calls Advaita not an "Emptiness teachings" but an "Awareness teachings". I think that is a more appropriate description of Advaita."

to get involved with any idea, to reify it, whether it be a teaching or any other belief, is to hide in form

and if you do that, you eventually have to seek yourself...

it's all a lovely little game as Albert would say 
February 11 at 8:49am · Edited · Like · 1

Albert Hong: i don't get the whole seek yourself.

unless you're speaking about awareness seeking awareness.

that would be the whole distinction between buddhism and advaita. 

buddhism doesn't strive to seek awareness as an object.
February 11 at 8:52am · Like

Din Robinson: the "seek yourself" is spirituality in a nutshell

it's the final chapter in the story of "me"

at least in my "own" experience 
February 11 at 8:53am · Like · 1

Soh: Din Robinson, what you said is good, as John Ahn said:

"..."Suchness" is more or a description of experience after realization of emptiness, and also not some stage before emptiness..."

Experience after the purification of twofold emptiness is pure Suchness - primordial, before proliferation, pristine clarity of mere manifestation. Without penetrating the emptiness of an inherently existing self and objects, we will be too busy grasping and reifying in terms of a self and what is seen and heard and experienced in terms of inherently existing objects...

Here's a very clear discourse by Buddha on "Suchness":

Kalaka Sutta: At Kalaka's Park
The Blessed One said: "Monks, whatever in the cosmos — with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, its generations with their contemplatives & brahmans royalty & common people — is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect: That do I know. Whatever in the cosmos — with i... [Cut off preview]
February 11 at 8:55am · Edited · Like · Remove Preview

Jackson Peterson: What is being completely missed here is that empty Aware Presence is 100% free and perfect always. It requires nothing to recognize nor to see into. It is not tainted by karma or conditions. It is totally stable. Soh, you are "day dreaming"! As Nagarjuna makes clear as well as the Buddha is that conceptualizing is the only cause of suffering. But awareness has never suffered! Without this direct insight arising in the mind stream, the dream continues but without a sufferer. There is no one to liberate and there is no one to arrive at nirvana. Without Knowing your self-nature, these silly discussions offering no benefit continue just like your dreams at night. As Dogen says "Do you presume that Reality needs a push?"
February 11 at 10:13am via mobile · Like · 1

Din Robinson: ah yes, i love a good discussion... especially about someone who is missing something and may (or may not) need to "get" it

talking about this is like trying to catch air with your hand 
February 11 at 10:20am · Like · 1

Kyle Dixon: "Since the mind gathers-together and accumulates
(Emotional distortions via karmic propensities),
It is stained and polluted,
And thus a long list of stains come about therein - 
'The mind as the universal ground's retentive and synthesizing function', and so forth.

For this reason, the differentiation of the mind and primordial wisdom must be understood by the learned."
- Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra

'The mind' doesn't merely mean the movement of conceptualization, but the complex patterns of habituation which subsequently arise as a direct result of our ignorance. Conceptualization may indeed be one of the root causes of samsaric affliction but deeming the movement of conceptualization as defiled while regarding the stillness of mind (empty aware presence) as 100% free and perfect always is an error. 

The Aspiration Of Samantabhadra states:
"The vacant state of not thinking anything
is itself the cause of ignorance and confusion."

The lack of 'someone' to liberate is a redundant point, the 'someone' has always only been a conventional designation attributed to the intricate interweaving of afflicted processes. Liberation occurs when familiarization with awakened wisdom evolves to its culmination (which is merely the exhaustion of contamination). Something was missed, or unrecognized to be precise and it isn't merely neutral indeterminate cognizance.
February 12 at 12:23am · Like

Soh: Clinging to non-conceptual presence/awareness/etc is as much a cause of suffering as clinging to conceptuality. Clinging is the main problem, and the main problem arises due to fundamental ignorance - ignorance as not only a lack of knowledge of the union of luminosity and emptiness but also the presence of false views, positions, or misconception of 'inherent existence'.

Nagarjuna refutes thoroughly the view of existence, and through the realization of emptiness the conceptual proliferation regarding existence and non-existence ceases. But he does not advocate entering into a state of samadhi or non-conceptuality as a means of ending suffering. The ending of proliferation is a direct result of wisdom into twofold emptiness and this is why Nagarjuna emphasizes so much about emptiness and dependent origination. Babies are also non-conceptual but still full of ignorance.

Also, for Jax, since you can't read Kyle's posts... [Jackson had blocked Kyle] Here's something he just wrote:

Kyle Dixon "Since the mind gathers-together and accumulates
(Emotional distortions via karmic propensities),
It is stained and polluted,
And thus a long list of stains come about therein - 
'The mind as the universal ground's retentive and synthesizing function', and so forth.

For this reason, the differentiation of the mind and primordial wisdom must be understood by the learned."
- Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra

'The mind' doesn't merely mean the movement of conceptualization, but the complex patterns of habituation which subsequently arise as a direct result of our ignorance. Conceptualization may indeed be one of the root causes of samsaric affliction but deeming the movement of conceptualization as defiled while regarding the stillness of mind (empty aware presence) as 100% free and perfect always is an error. 

The Aspiration Of Samantabhadra states:
"The vacant state of not thinking anything
is itself the cause of ignorance and confusion."

The lack of 'someone' to liberate is a redundant point, the 'someone' has always only been a conventional designation attributed to the intricate interweaving of afflicted processes. Liberation occurs when familiarization with awakened wisdom evolves to its culmination (which is merely the exhaustion of contamination). Something was missed, or unrecognized to be precise and it isn't merely neutral indeterminate cognizance.
5 minutes ago · Like
February 12 at 12:37am · Edited · Like


220. Concepts and meditation techniques

Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche

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Conceptual frameworks in us that tell us that the rose is beautiful and the lump of shit is yucky (example from previous article) and that bind us to the fact that they arise merely from learned concepts to such an extent that we are ready to murder, strike or even go to war for those concepts, forgetting that they are acquired conceptual frameworks through which we are supposed to experience the world aesthetically.

Therefore, merely stopping conceptual thinking by stopping thoughts through various methods is not enough. As first of all, these concepts remain latent and come out with a vengeance once allowed to appear. Even if they are suppressed through various kinds of methods like Nirvikalpa Samadhi for many Kalpas, they would just remain latent and remain ready to pop their heads up as soon as the Samadhi ends. That is why going into various Samatha-style Samadhis or just remaining thoughtless or non-conceptual does not really free us from Karma and Kleshas (emotional defilements) which bind us. We do not become liberated or free from Karma and Klesha (emotional defilements) by just practicing remaining in some kind of a thoughtless or concept-less state.

Within Buddhism, there are two major categories of meditations. One is the group of meditational techniques which help calm down the mind by decreasing thoughts and concepts. There are many kinds of meditations which can achieve this and Buddhism by no means is the only repository of this kind of meditation which helps to calm down the mind of thoughts and concepts. Various meditation techniques from within Hinduism or even Sufism or Christianity or Jainism all belong to this category. In Buddhist technical language this form of meditation is called Samatha. 'Sama' means to remain in the 'same or unchanged' state, which means quiet without changing with new thoughts etc. every second, and 'stha' means to remain. So Samatha means to remain the same or quietened or tranquil or pacified free from thoughts and concepts. All the various types of meditation found within the Indian subcontinent today followed by various schools of Hinduism and Jainism and even new schools of thoughts like Rajneeshism or Krishnamurtiism all fall within this category of meditation called Samatha.

True, it is that Krisnamurti claimed he had no method as all methods are conditioned wrong, etc. etc. but in spite of his claim of a pathless path and following no methods, he did advocate remaining choice-lessly aware moment to moment. Well, that is a method and it is a type of meditation which comes under the category of Samatha meditation.

Byoma Kusuma Buddhadharma Sangha
Conceptual frameworks in us that tell us that the rose is beautiful and the lump of shit is yucky (example from previous article) and that bind us to the fact that they arise merely from learned concepts to such an extent that we are ready to murder, strike or even go to war for those concepts, forg...
February 12 at 12:43am · Like · Remove Preview

Jackson Peterson: Soh, the point that both you and Kyle miss is that our immediate and present awareness, is always "naked" of clinging. It simply "IS" like empty space, and completely insubstantial. Even when the mind tries to "substantialize" it, it can't. How does one substantialize empty space? 

Dzogchen Master Tulku Urgyan wrote: "Longchenpa's Dharmadhatu Kosha says the following about rigpa:

'Utterly uninvolved, and yet this naked state of dharmakaya is inconceivable. Utterly flawless, and yet it is the source from which all qualities unfold.'

"Rigpa does not reach out after perceived objects; nor does it become covered by them. The objects are reflected within the state of rigpa."

"Rigpa is not absorbed into the duality of perceiver and perceived; it is innately stable. "

"The moment you shatter the chain of thinking, you are free from the three realms of samsara"

"The state of realization of all the buddhas, on the other hand, is a primordial knowing that is independent from an object."

"The wakefulness knowing of the original nature is a type of knowing that does not depend on an object."

"To recognize mind essence doesn't mean to sit and meditate upon mind essence. It means simply allowing, simply experiencing, our empty and cognizant nature to be as it ALREADY IS."

Quotes from "As It Is" vol. 1

Soh, what is being missed here is that our rigpa awareness is always in its perfect condition. It is the only aspect in our mind/body that can know, sense, perceive or notice experience. That aspect of "knowing" is not subject to change. It is independent of all conditioning. It requires no purification. It is the default quality that knows in all experience. Its not hidden, its not obscured. Its the quality that is noticing these typed words and your thoughts about them. Everything is arising in this empty knowing space of rigpa as rigpa's empty display... like a day dream.
February 12 at 3:32am · Edited · Like

Greg Goode: Soh writes, "Clinging to non-conceptual presence/awareness/etc is as much a cause of suffering as clinging to conceptuality"

If clinging to anything is possible, then clinging to nonconceptual awareness is possible. You may also say, clinging to the notion of noncpnceptual awareness is possible. Of course nonconceptual awareness is not the kind of thing that can do clinging. But if we allow a vocabulary any clinging in the first place (such as saying "he clings to that"), then we must allow for the possibility that one can cling to (at least) the idea of nonconceptual awareness. 

I am not so interested in the subtleties there, since "being nonconceptual awareness" plays no part in the Buddhism that I participate in. 

What I am interested in is how people can cling to awareness as they see it. 

I know two very prominent nondual teachers in the more Advaita tradition. They have a pretty good rap and rep. "The world and the self are nothing other than Awareness." When you get near them, you can feel a kind of anxious energy. It is not the exalted energy of spiritual accomplishment. Rather, it is a complex of almost needy beliefs, demands, assertions and bodily "hexis" (positions and contractions). I have an energy worker friend who saw one of these teachers at a restaurant where he was eating before going to give a "satsang." My friend was struck by a kind of dark, demanding furrowed-brow-type energy. He felt like the teacher was about to stab the table with a fork. But this is that teacher's normal state. I regard that as clinging to awareness. Sure, global awareness is not doing any clinging, but it's nice to have some sorts of words for this phenomenon!
February 12 at 4:46am · Edited · Like · 2

Soh: Nice, Greg.

Jackson, I don't deny the luminous aware presence. However, as Thusness puts it,


[01:14] <^john^> more on the aspect that the pristine awareness does not lost its lucidity and brightness.
[01:14] <^john^> no dust can alight.
[01:14] <^john^> even when we are in samsara, it still remain clearly bright.
[01:15] <^john^> there is no wisdom needed because it is luminosity itself
[01:16] <^john^> mirror bright does not require a stand
[01:16] <^john^> empty here is not the essence of the nature, but refers to the formless nature of consciousness
[01:17] <^john^> essence of emptiness i mean
[01:18] <^john^> direct perception of consciousness is important but must go hand in hand with emptiness.


[19:21] <^john^> learn how to experience emptiness and no-selfness. 
[19:22] <^john^> this is the only way to liberate.
[19:22] <^john^> not to dwell too deeply into the minor aspect of pure awareness. 
[19:23] <^john^> of late i have been seeing songs and poems relating to the luminosity aspect of Pure Awareness.
[19:23] <^john^> uncreated, original, mirror bright, not lost in nirvana and samsara..etc
[19:23] <^john^> what use is there?
[19:24] <^john^> we have from the very beginning so and yet lost for countless aeons of lives.
[19:25] <^john^> buddha did not come to tell only about the luminosity aspect of pure awareness.
[19:25] <^john^> this has already been expressed in vedas.
[19:25] <^john^> but it becomes Self.
[19:25] <^john^> the ultimate controller
[19:26] <^john^> the deathless
[19:26] <^john^> the supreme..etc
[19:26] <^john^> this is the problem.
[19:26] <^john^> this is not the ultimate nature of Pure Awareness.
[19:27] <^john^> for full enlightenment to take place, experience the clarity and emptiness. That's all.
February 12 at 5:19am · Like

Jackson Peterson: Nice Soh! But the Pure Awareness can't be "experienced" as clarity and emptiness: does the sun require the instruction to "experience" it's warmth and rays of light? 
February 12 at 5:25am via mobile · Like

Soh: Buddha nature does not require instructions... it is delusion that needs to get out of the way. Of course you can say "buddha nature is never lost in delusion" but where there is delusion there is delusory ignorance, grasping, suffering, etc.
February 12 at 5:30am · Like

Jackson Peterson: Soh, that "delusion" which only appears as "thoughts", appears IN rigpa. Like clouds in the empty sky. It does not influence the empty awareness that is present during delusion, that experiences delusion. Delusion has no effect upon your immediate and always present awareness. Nothing needs purifying... ie delusion.
February 12 at 5:37am via mobile · Like

Soh: As I said, buddha nature does not require purification. But that doesn't stop delusion from proliferating and causing suffering. Delusion cannot be removed by trying to purify it by contrived effort, true purification is simply knowledge. Knowledge, rigpa, wisdom, jnana, nana, etc.
February 12 at 5:54am · Edited · Like

Soh: July 2006:

(8:40 PM) John: there is no attainment. 
(8:40 PM) John: therefore whether we are lost or enlightened, buddha nature not only remains but is working as hard as before...
(8:41 PM) John: do not misunderstand that it is not working at all.
(8:41 PM) John: however i do not want to tell u becoz i do not want it to become a form of knowledge in u.
(8:41 PM) John: so what is the difference? Suffering that's all. 
(8:43 PM) John: pure and simple. There is no attainment ultimately. Buddha's nature still work as hard. Not any clearer or dimmer. Suffering alone exist, none who suffer.
(8:43 PM) John: the path there is, no traveller
(8:43 PM) John: nirvana is, no attainer. 
(8:44 PM) John: what ur taiwan master said is not easy to understand. 
(8:46 PM) John: but i just want u to know that buddha nature is working as hard as when we r enlightened. Working hard as a sentient and manifested as karma and suffering. 
(8:46 PM) John: there is no seer, Scenery that is.
(8:47 PM) John: what is Scenery, still pure awareness
(8:47 PM) John: there is no hearer, only sound
(8:47 PM) John: what is sound, still pure awareness
(8:47 PM) John: is there a formless, invisible pure awareness around?
(8:47 PM) AEN: no
(8:48 PM) John: then where is it?
(8:48 PM) John: this is, that is, the nature is empty
(8:48 PM) John: in anatta we find it
(8:48 PM) AEN: icic
(8:49 PM) John: u can only understand what i told u in knowledge, the clarity comes from practicing no-self.
(8:50 PM) John: I do not want u to tell others or explain to others and it becomes a form of knowledge that blocks one's progress
(8:51 PM) John: true understanding comes with clarity and all teachings of sutra will become perfectly clear.
February 12 at 5:51am · Like

Jackson Peterson: Suffering is no problem, just another harmless experience as a reflection in the changeless mirror of awareness. Don't try to change, alter or eradicate delusion or suffering. They are all already empty, rest open as is, natural Presence is primordially untouched.
February 12 at 6:02am via mobile · Like · 1

Din Robinson: "The moment you shatter the chain of thinking, you are free from the three realms of samsara"

February 12 at 8:40am · Like · 1

Kyle Dixon: 'Shattering' the chain of thinking doesn't mean simply suspending conceptualization for a few moments. Shattering the chain means uprooting delusion.
February 12 at 11:27am via mobile · Like · 1

Greg Goode: Analytic cessation, not non-analytic cessation.
February 12 at 11:58am · Unlike · 3

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