Posted by: Soh

Jackson Peterson shared some of his recent insights and refined understanding on certain issues in my Facebook group Dharma Connection, a shift towards a more non-substantialist view in comparison with his past.

"What is described is exactly what I call "transparency". There is no sense of observer and observed. Its one piece of self-knowing clarity. Its arisen in this moment as I write. The post transparency mode is where the mistaken imputation occurs. The mind labels the transparency mode as "awareness in oneness with experience". This is the basic error and imputation. Experience is its own awareness, a non-dual happening occurring to "no one". Due to the dualistic imputation, the mind then attempts to focus on the "awareness" side in order to recover the "transparency event". But there is no free-standing "awareness". In this case one is then developing the "awareness witness" mode. It can be pleasant and spacious, but it is not the non-dual "transparency" where luminosity is its own awareness without remainder. The propensity of the mind to impute a separate and subjective awareness as a "mirror" to experience, is now no longer unrecognized. Otherwise its a kind of egoistic eternalism as being a "changeless awareness". The mind likes that imputation.

The vast Intelligence IS the entire event, not a source of it. Here we can also error in separating the Intelligence from experience, as being a "constructor" instead of seeing the event as complete Intelligence itself. There is no "mirror" in transparency, yet the post state is subject to ones conditioning."


Nisargadatta says: "the personality gives way to to the witness, then the witness goes and pure awareness remains." I then would continue the deconstruction to then say: "pure awareness" goes revealing that which is truly "unestablished" as being beyond conceptual description. This is the single step beyond Advaita that differentiates Buddhism from Advaita.

The problem is one like Santa Claus. All the young children across the world agree there is a Santa Claus, but differ regarding his costume and how he arrives.

They don't consider that perhaps there is no Santa Claus at all, and that it was just a "belief". But then they argue: well then how do you account for all our presents that "he" brought us?

We infer a Santa Claus based on experience and evidence. Santa Claus was a convenient explanation and fostered belief only.

Likewise looking deeper we may learn something about "awareness". Because our dualistic mind rips reality into two separate pieces, a perceiving subject and object, we sense an awareness that perceives and objects perceived. In this dualistic illusion we can mistake "awareness" as being one half of the whole. We then create a story about the half alone. This is like ripping the waves off the ocean and discussing the waves as though a possible independent reality as just "pure waves" independent of "ocean and water" were possible.

We do the same with awareness. In the moment of immediate experience as a thought or sensory perception. There is a vivid happening like the gong of a bell. Our mind rips the experience into two pieces, the sound texture and the awareness of it. But in fact the experiential event is a flashing forth of aware-sound-texture, as a unit-like self-known-event. Because of this mental bifurcation, the mind imputes experienced texture and awareness as two independent realities. We then believe in an independent "awareness" or super-pure-awareness. But unfortunately this is a belief that we can successfully verify in dualistic vision from moment to moment, just like looking at pictures of Santa Claus that prove his existence. We remain trapped in our own self-validating loop of dualistic illusion.

Then some guy comes along and says: Hey! There is no Santa Claus and no "awareness" either! Ho, ho ho..,


Beyond Awareness...

Its interesting how these discussions evolve between the "awareness" approach and the other regarding the "emptiness" approach. Some I think get the idea that awareness "disappears" in the "emptiness of awareness" insight. It doesn't disappear by any means, so its not that "awareness" is seen to be an illusion. What is the illusion is that "awareness" exists on its own side as a "perceiver", as though experiences are arising "to awareness".

I found when this is really seen clearly, experiences appearing like the gong sound of a bell, contain the "awareness" element as the sound itself, without a "listener". In Dzogchen all phenomena are described as "essence, nature and energy". Essence is the empty aspect, nature is the clarity and awareness luminosity aspect, and energy is the formative aspect. Energy (thugje) implies a quality of "compassionate reflexiveness" that runs through the whole continuum as Bodhicitta.

So cognitive awareness is a quality of all experience, inherently so or the experiences would never be known, its just not a separate viewer of experience. In Dzogchen one can speak freely of the cognitive "clarity" aspect as though it was a stand-alone phenomena. In fact it is this aspect that is pointed out in what is called a "direct introduction". The intelligence is the "clarity" as "wisdom" (yeshe). Therefore the empty aspect is never absent of awareness-clarity, nor are the appearances. So we could invent a new word: "empty-awareness-luminous-appearances" and I would add that there is an overall "intent" embedded in that totality as a "resonating compassionate concern" as Bodhicitta. As such there is no reason to postulate a background awareness or Brahman. Its all self-contained as non-dual "empty-awareness-luminous-appearances".

We could further refer to "empty-awareness-luminous-appearances" as simply "Buddha Nature". That would mean that all phenomenal and cognitive aspects could be called "Buddha Nature". The term Buddha Nature also implies this quality of a Buddha, compassion. How is this compassion expressed? It is the compassionate action of "awakening" due to pointing out the "right view" that allows the release of all suffering.

To clarify: The Buddha Nature is empty, yet is cognitively bright, and has a quality of self-presenting itself as appearances called "experience". It also has the Buddha qualities of compassion, wisdom and power. The Buddha Nature is never absent at any time as it is all there is on any level. Hence we can more easily understand Dogen's and others comments that "mountains, rivers, streams and the grasses" are all the Buddha Nature. There is only Buddha Nature.

The empty aspect of the Buddha Nature means its is intrinsically free of inherently existing afflictions and substance, yet the luminous clarity and compassionate "alive responsiveness" aspect ensures it's functions for the benefit of all. "Buddhahood for all" is embedded in the display as Bodhicitta and therefore we can always find the true Guru or Buddha within. Its the very essence of what we are.


Some thoughts on "emptiness and appearances":

Some may think that "emptiness" and appearances are two different phenomena or aspects of one reality. But if we think like that we are seeing reality as compounded not non-dual.

Some may think that appearances arise from emptiness, but in fact there is no "causal connection". Appearances are emptiness, not in a "cause and effect" relationship, but in the fact that what we call an appearance is merely a web of relationships that can't be ascertained to be any one apparent part more than another. The absence of the independently existing nature of the appearance is its emptiness. Its empty of itself. So you don't find the emptiness of appearances in some other place or time than as the appearance itself. Its also not that the emptiness is "within" or the "true nature" of the appearance either. The appearance is itself emptiness as it can't be found to exist as the mind believes it to exist. There is indeed an energy event occurring, but there is no way to really pin it down. That's as futile as trying separate a river from the river bed, gravity, and movement. Rarely do we consider those aspects as defining a river. But there is no possibility of there being a river without those aspects being present. So it is also with all appearances, they only "exist" as within their total context, which in itself has no center or border. This can give a sense of the "feeling" of emptiness.

If appearances were caused, that would mean something was actually "caused" and therefore having been caused, now "exists". If we examine any apparent "existent", we won't be able to find a fixed unit of a "something". There are only interdependent relationships. The caused "thing" disappears amongst its various aspects and conditions that in themselves can't be pinned down as being any one thing either. Since there are clearly no "caused" things, then that means "cause and effect" is an illusion. There is just a flow of inter-dependent relationships, none of which ever attain the legitimate status of being either a "cause" or an "effect".

When applying this insight to the notion of there being a "self", we also will fail in finding any one "thing" that we can point to as this "entity" known as a self. It too will become lost in a web of inter-dependent relationships without any one part waving its hand in the air saying "Hey this part is the real me!". Well, almost not any part, except for the "I" or "me". So when we look for this "me", what do we find? Can we separate an independent "me" apart from its context any more successfully than we could with separating a river from its river bed, gravity and motion? In this case the "me" is inseparable from thoughts, self-images, memories, emotions, feelings, identity-stories, the body, consciousness, awareness and sensory experience. Pondering this we may get the sense of the empty nature of the "me".

Who would you be without your story of "me"? Don't answer that question with another "story"! Don't answer that question with a concept, word, sentence or thought. What you may be experiencing in this moment if you followed the instruction, is the "emptiness of "me" or self".

The appearance as a "me" or self is now seen to be "empty of itself". Having recognized the two-fold nature of emptiness of "things" and emptiness of "self"... we simply continue without the futile effort of reifying appearances beyond their own emptiness and hence find unbounded openness as the true nature of experience.

"Cause and effect" exist, but only conceptually.


What's occurring when any appearance is known, is that a "thought" is appearing, a sense of consciousness is appearing, a feeling is appearing, a perception is appearing, a choice is appearing,a sense of an identity is appearing, an action is appearing. But in all that activity there is no one "doing" it or thinking it or choosing the action nor is there a consciousness or an awareness that is perceiving the arising energies. A flashing forth is just what is happening, like individual frames in a movie, each frame a complete presentation in itself. But no one is watching the movie, nothing is aware of the movie. The movie is self-known, frame by frame bursting forth in vivid clarity as vivid clarity... how wonderful, how amazing!

Every appearance is the self-display of "Buddha Nature" flashing forth as the "ten thousand things"...


 What I ask students often is to recognize that aspect of vivid knowing intelligence, the Buddha Wisdom that itself is flashing forth in every moment. We could take any phenomena and look at its constituents. We would notice an energy manifestation, the dependent nature of that energy manifestation, the empty nature of that phenomena (as when a thought appears and disappears in the same moment) and the cognitive element that is making the whole "event" known. When we direct introspectively, our currently present awake and knowing intelligence to refer to itself alone, something special happens. This "intelligence" can recognize itself and that is "self-liberation". This wisdom mind continuum is continuously "enforming" itself. When the "enformed" energy aspect suddenly dissolves in "self-recognition" its quality of emptiness and wisdom is revealed. The empty essence, wisdom-clarity intelligence, and formation are one phenomena, but can be subjectively known with emphasis on any one aspect more than another. When too much of the "formative" is stressed the sense of wisdom and emptiness are not noticed. In samsara all the beings are in the condition of the "formative" being overly emphasized due to reification of subject and object. When the intelligent aspect is directed to look upon its own wisdom or knowing aspect, which is already "empty by nature", the "reifecation" releases and liberation from the tight contraction of self-reification occurs energetically and cognitively.


Essential Non-Duality

Imagine we have "awareness" on one side of a wall and "experience" on the other side of the wall.

Next imagine that we have "waves" on one side of wall and "water" on the other side.

In the case of "awareness" and "experience" the two are prevented from coming together by a wall. In fact our experience seems just like this, doesn't it? But it makes no sense because in order for an experience to be an "experience" a factor of awareness has to be directly "connected" to the aspects of experience or nothing would be experienced. That wall is the illusion of the independence of awareness from experience. It is this same tendency of the mind that creates the illusion of "subject/object" in all experience.

How much distance is there between waves and the water?

It is exactly the same distance as exists between awareness and experience.


Today the weather is sunny. Maybe tomorrow rainy. Sometimes windy, sometimes calm. Sometimes cold and sometimes warm. But no one is doing this weather, its the natural processes of the universe that comprise weather at all times.

Today I am happy. Tomorrow perhaps sad. Sometimes peaceful and kind, sometimes anxious and unpleasant. Sometimes self-centered and other times caring and giving. Sometimes filled with brilliant insights and other times dull and not clear. All of these changes are my inner weather. No one is controlling or causing this weather. The natural processes of the Universe comprise the inner weather at all times.

Its just like this... just One weather blowing this way or that. Today the sun is shining and I am feeling pretty good.


If I can't justify being angry at the weather, how can I find fault with you?


KON:~ ah , i love that Jackson.
The impersonal meteorological perspective on passing mental-emotional phenomena. . . No matter the weather, the sky remains untroubled. And always pervaded with star-light. . .

Jackson: Yes KON,
but even the "untroubled sky pervaded with starlight is just another change in the weather"

~ yes, so seeing/feeling/preferring no difference between a foul and pestilential storm and a sweet sunny spring morning, is something that's often achieved (when it ever is) by recognizing that both are briefly occurring in the "untroubled star-lit sky".

But are you now talking about seeing/feeling/preferring no difference between (1) recognizing that the weather is subsumed in the sky (in order to be free of the binding implication of the weather appearing to be self-existent);
and (2) not recognizing the sky but just allowing the changing weather to flow on by?
So that neither (1) or (2) are preferred over the other. ?

The sense of their being a star lit sky is weather. There is only weather or Buddha Nature.

The "binding" too is weather or Buddha Nature. Nothing is obscuring anything. Each moment as it appears is "it".

Just my understanding of things:

Zen Master Dogen says: Impermanence is Buddha-nature.

When this is seen, there is no subsuming involved, since subsuming implies that there is some changeless super-awareness in which transient epiphenomena are subsumed into... but the very notion of a super-awareness is should be challenged and penetrated then we realize there isn't such a super-awareness, the transience itself is awareness, awareness is the flow, the weather.

Or like Thusness told me in 2009 after I talked about my experience of buddha-nature as being 'like the sky':

"Yes not to be fixated but also not to objectify the “spaciousness” otherwise “spaciousness” is no less fixated. The ‘space’ appears appealing only to a mind that abstracts but to a fully participating and involving mind, such “spaciousness” has immediately sets itself apart, distancing itself from inseparable. Emptiness is never a behind background but a fully partaking foreground manifesting as the arising and passing phenomena absence of a center. Therefore understand ‘spaciousness’ not like sky but like passing clouds and flowing water, manifesting whenever condition is. If ‘Emptiness’ has made us more fixated and immobilized this innate freedom of our non-dual luminosity, then it is ‘stubborn emptiness’.

Nevertheless, no matter what said, it is always inadequate. If we want to fully realize the inexpressible, be willing to give up all centers and point of references that manifests in the form of ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’. Just give up the entire sense of self then instantly all things are spontaneously perfected.

Just a sharing, nothing intense."
So this is what Jackson is trying to point out (As above).

That is... If you want to talk about the oceanic or sky-like nature of awareness from a non-dual and non-inherent perspective, you wouldn't say "appearances arise like waves arising from/on t
he ocean" but every moment is ocean-waving. Ocean-waving. Ocean-activity. Awareness-activity. (not activity in awareness) Awareness stands out - boundless, centerless, like an ocean, but it is always manifestation. It is always weather. It is always the flow of activity.

"Weather" is just a label/convention imputed upon this everchanging whole activity and the same goes for "buddhanature/awareness/etc", the same goes for everything in the world. Not 'clouds appearing in weather' or 'clouds appearing in sky' but weather-clouds, sky-clouds, weather-sky-clouds, one whole/boundless entire activity of the transient foreground manifestation in which the fabric and texture of forms as pure luminosity (knowingness) is revealed devoid of a ground, center, or boundary.

Nice AEN. There is just the Dream. The "Dreamer" is the dream. The space in the sky is the Dream. The "Dreamer" or "Vast Intelligence" is holding nothing back. The Dreamer is fully invested as the Dream. The Vast Intelligence is embedded fully in the Dream as the self-organizing intelligence within and as all appearances in the natural world. If you look closely you can see that "Intelligence" fully exerted and invested. Seeing this clearly, appearances reveal themselves to be "wisdom" appearances. When a being "wakes up" to Reality, that is also within the Dream.

De-constructing Awareness:

The human mind, for survival purposes takes raw sensory information and turns that information into "subjects and objects". As a new born baby, we just experience a field of color, sounds, sensations and feeling. We can't separate out "threats" or "allies". As our brains develop these functions of labeling and assessing this field of sensory experience, become more competent in discerning real threats or imagining potential threats. In order to do this the mind has to turn the open field of colors and sounds into "entities" that can be assessed and dealt with. This is a key survival software program that continuously divides wholeness into pieces and parts as "subjects" and "objects". No experience is spared. No inner experience is spared as well. I am sure this is grounded in the DNA as universally human survival soft-ware.

This bifurcating soft-ware is running in the background without need for one to attend to it consciously, like breathing. Its meant to be that way, it has to be outside of conscious control or we would never have enough mental capacity to make all these survival computations, assessments and judgments and still be able to function with any degree of responsive creativity.

Our sense of self as a subject is just this functioning taking place. The mind's soft-ware is generating a subjective sense of being a unique "entity" amongst an ocean of other "entities", both animate and inanimate. But in fact there are no such "entities", they are just the mind's objectification of an open field of colors, sounds, sensations and feelings. Those "objectified entities" only exist in the soft-ware as imputations and mental images. They aren't actually "out there" or "in here". They are the product of imagination, that ensure the overall survival of the organism, hence the soft-ware being so difficult to dismantle.

This brings us now to the topics of awareness, self and experience. Let's start with "self". A new baby has no active "self" subjectivity, so there is not a self-entity that is inside the baby's brain somewhere waiting to pop into life and consciousness. It develops along with the soft-ware coming on-line, as part of child brain development. It happens for every human. That means the pattern for this development must be in the human DNA that directs the default hard-ware and soft-ware developments. Its not a product of our autonomous thought processes (as though we had any!).

What is our experience of "self"? Well, we notice an "I" or "me" concept and a feeling of localized alert "hereness" with emotional coloration. We may also notice an internal "self-image" of ourselves that is a defining result as identity. That self-image is supported and reinforced by a "body image", memories, and defined roles in life like; I am a husband, a father, a lawyer, a Buddhist, an environmentalist, a liberal etc.

We also notice we have a unique personality: a bundle of preferences, tendencies and habits, all the result of conditioning and influences from our DNA. From all of the above sources, the soft-ware projects a viable "me". There is no other "me" there. We know this because sometimes for various reasons, the soft-ware stops and suddenly there is no "me" there at all! In the absence of this "me" construction there however still remains a cognizant presence. There is a noticing of no "me". What is noticing this no "me"? We could say that "awareness" is noticing the condition of existing and experiencing without a "me".

If we look into this "awareness" quality in a moment of inner contemplation and reverie, we won't be able to find any "thing" called "awareness". What we find instead is just the vividness of experience and perception itself, but no "awareness" is perceived. So instead of there being an "entity" of awareness, perhaps "experience" is itself vividness and that "vividness" is seen mistakenly to be an "experiencer", called awareness. Ah, we now notice the bifurcating quality of the soft-ware is still dividing things into subjects and objects, as it just did with the "vividness of experience": it separated out the vividness from experience and made it into a subject-object called "awareness". We now have the idea that our new identity is actually "awareness". We say "I am awareness". This makes us feel good to think and say. But this is just another projection of the mind talking.

The "vividness" has a quality of alert awareness, but the vividness is due to the vitally energized event that is arising, not to an inherent, stand-alone "awareness". The energy event is itself alert-vividness as clarity. Now perhaps through this insight, the soft-ware ceases the creation of "awareness" as an independent identity and there is just "vivid experience" happening.

So then, what is "vivid experience"? Is this my true identity? Am I "vivid experience"?
Well, most often the bifurcating soft-ware starts up again and "vivid experience" is now made into a "subject-object". A new identity is generated: I am "vivid experience" and no other! But this is just another construction of the soft-ware. When this is seen, the soft-ware stop again and there is a condition of just "vivid awareness" not being subjectified nor objectified.

When we take a moment of quite reflection and contemplate the nature of this non-dual "vivid experience", we won't be able to pin anything down as being solid or enduring. There is just "experience". But in that moment the bifurcating soft-ware starts up again and turns "just experience" into a subject-object, called an "experiencer". We now have a sense of being a naked "experiencer" as our true identity. This feels really good! But it too is just a projection or construction of the bifurcating soft-ware.

If we take a moment of quiet contemplation and observe this "experiencer", we won't find one. We will only find experience: transparent, vivid, colorful, aware and lively; neither able to be pinned down as a subject nor an object, nor as "existing" nor as "not-existing" nor as "both or neither".

But what is it that "knows and recognizes" this wisdom insight? It is the wisdom insight itself that knows the wisdom insight. It is the knowing of the knowing as pure wisdom. What does this "knowing of the knowing" look like? Vivid experience. Please enjoy your day!
Also, there is no "knower", just the "knowing" vivid experiencing.

Jackson Peterson's biography taken from My journey to greater awareness began in 1966 when I began studying and practicing Soto Zen meditation under Matsuoka Roshi for three years along with the opportunity to practice with Suzuki Roshi and Katagiri Roshi in 1968.  In 1978 I went to China and received teachings from Chan Master, Yen Why Shih, a direct disciple of Hsu Yun.  He gave me permission to teach other of his students Chan.  Later that year I was in Nepal where I entered the Kagyu lineage tradition of Tibetan Buddhism under Sachyu Tulku.  Later that year I received teachings from Trungpa Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche in 1980.  In 1985 I met my root guru, Namkhai Norbu from whom I received the practice transmissions for the Semde, Longde and Mengagde sections of Dzogchen. In 1986 I received the Dzogchen thogal practice teachings from one of Dudjum Rinpoche's Lamas for the thogal methods of the Yeshe Lama. I have also received Mahamudra teachings from the lineage of the Dalai Lama and the gTumo teachings from the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. This last September 2008, I received transmissions from the head teaching Lama for the Bon Dzogchen tradition covering the practices of trekchod and thogal.  Since 1985 I have been an active practitioner and student of Dzogchen.  It has been my goal to be able to present these teachings in a non-sectarian, non-religious manner that would be more effective and appealing to a Western audience.  

More information about Jackson Peterson can be found here -

Posted by: Soh
Kyle Dixon (asunthatneversets):

'Space' is merely a metaphor for awakened wisdom. Like space is unconditioned, unproduced, vast, open, clear, pure, unborn, undying, unadulterated, unassailable etc. awakened wisdom is like that. Emptiness is like that.

Emptiness in Dzogchen and Madh
yamaka are exactly the same (so it would actually be inaccurate to say there's two differing philosophical uses): lack of inherency, freedom from extremes, illusory, unfindability. Everything is 100% empty in Dzogchen and in Madhyamaka. Emptiness allows for process and dynamism, if things existed inherently they'd be dead, stagnant, the basis (gzhi) wouldn't be able to display itself, there would be no possibility for awakening.

Dependent origination in Dzogchen and Madhyamaka both apply to the 12 Nidanas. Dzogchen (unlike Madhyamaka) has both (i) afflicted dependent origination; which applies to the structuring of ignorance (Skt. avidyā, Tib. ma rig pa) and, (ii) unafflicted dependent origination; i.e. lhun grub which is known in vidyā (Tib. rig pa). Lhun grub, which means 'not made by anyone', is spontaneous natural formation (autopoiesis), which is truly self-origination.

Dharmakāya is the epitome of emptiness, but also signifies the condition of a Buddha. It is a total freedom from extremes so we cannot say it is the 'fundamental nature of being as awareness', if dharmakāya was 'being' it would be conditioned, so free from extremes.
Posted by: Soh

Hello Gregory,

Thank you for your comment.

You articulate your position very clearly, and I follow what you are saying here.

Thus, I suspect there is no misunderstanding on your part of my position. The notion of “emptiness” outlined by you is almost certainly the most common among informed Buddhists – not only practitioners but many scholars as well.

Having acknowledged that, I will say that some practitioners (myself for instance) and scholars (Hee-Jin Kim, and Gadjin Nagao for instance) disagree – strongly.

To try and indicate the central point where this disagreement rests, I will attempt to sum it up here by stating it in contrast to something you stated.

You wrote: Emptiness in one sense is the final stage of practice that is the interval between the diving board and the ocean. One can not get to realization of the ocean until jumping off into emptiness.

In contrast then, I would say – emptiness is the intermediary stage of practice-enlightenment realized upon entering the ocean “dying the great death” and “coming back to life” upon swimming all the way through.

Here, then, follows a more comprehensive and precise treatment of my understanding.

The central tenet of this doctrine; the Buddhist doctrine of “emptiness” (shunyata) is seen in the Buddhist axiom, “All things are essentially empty,” or “Emptiness is the true nature of all things.” From the perspective of emptiness all the various types of experience can be regarded as essentially the same. In other words, the various forms (i.e. dharmas) experienced as well as the various modes or types (objects of consciousness) of experience can be said to be constituted of/by the same true nature: emptiness. Indeed, “emptiness” is the primary metaphor for the “true” or “essential” nature of all things, beings, and events (i.e. dharmas).

Now, it is clear that this doctrine is commonly misunderstood as meaning dharmas are nonexistent, unreal, or as meaning that all dharmas are constituted of one and the same “substance” or “stuff” – that dharmas are “made up of” emptiness. Despite sectarian based Zen “assumptions” and “assertions” however such notions simply don’t wash with the teachings in the classic literature. In fact, it would be hard to see how Buddhism could be taken seriously outside of Buddhist sects if it did posit such an unsupportable view.

When the classic literature, including the Zen records, is considered from a nonsectarian unbiased viewpoint, it is clear that the doctrine of emptiness was developed to adequately account for the actual existence of the myriad dharmas, not to deny their existence – it is the reality of dharmas that allows emptiness to function as emptiness. Buddhism says “all things are empty,” not “all things are unreal” or “non-existent.” What are all things empty of? All things are empty of selfhood, empty of a separate self.

For example, let us apply the teaching of the Diamond Sutra to a particular “form” or “dharma” – a “goldfinch.” Now, a goldfinch is “empty” in that it lacks a “separate self.” The existence of a goldfinch can only be realized with the existence of water, food, air, and light – in the absence of these, the is no goldfinch; hence, a real existent goldfinch is water, food, air, and light, as well as feathers, beak, body, and wings. In short, a goldfinch is not the separate independent “self” that is identified as “goldfinch” – a goldfinch is empty of an (independent) self. What appears as “a goldfinch” is (totally inclusive of) “not-a goldfinch” (water, food, light, etc.), therefore it is a (real) goldfinch – in seeing the emptiness of a goldfinch, thus including “not-a goldfinch”; a goldfinch is seen as it is.

1 + 0 = 1 only if “1” is really a 1 and “0” is really a 0. Now, as the actual existence of 1 presupposes the actual existence of 0; and the actual existence of 0 presupposes the actual existence 1, the actual existence of “this particular dharma” (object of consciousness) presupposes the actual existence of “not-this particular dharma,” therefore “this particular dharma” is “this particular dharma” and “not-this particular dharma” is “not-this particular dharma.” Thus: 1 goldfinch + 0 (not) goldfinch = 1 goldfinch. And 1 goldfinch = (the reality of) 1 goldfinch + (the reality of) 0 (not) goldfinch. This example, which by extension applies to all dharmas, could be expanded by listing more of the dharmas constituting a goldfinch including its parents, environment, time, space, and so on up to and including all dharmas of existence-time.

In this way the prajna pararmita literature is clearly not advocating the “illusory” “temporary” or “unreality” of things, rather it demonstrates that it is actually the emptiness of selfhood that allows things to exist as they are (and allows emptiness to exist as it is). Thus Buddhism says, “Form (matter) is emptiness (the immaterial) and emptiness is form.” And the Zen masters elaborate on this pointing out that this verifies, “Form is form and emptiness is emptiness.”

When this principle is preached and realized, it is said that “matter is just the immaterial” and the immaterial is just matter. Matter is matter, the immaterial is the immaterial.
Shobogenzo, Mahaprajnaparamita, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

To state the main points of this discussion in terms of the human experience of emptiness; all of the various “objects” of experience (i.e. sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, and thoughts) are empty; meaning the sameness of all objects of experience is their emptiness. Thus, the true nature of all the myriad dharmas is emptiness (the absence of independent selfhood). What, then, is the true nature of emptiness? The true nature of emptiness is all the myriad dharmas. To put the whole thing into Zen terms (as in Dogen’s example above) dharmas are emptiness and emptiness is dharmas, thus dharmas are (really) dharmas, emptiness is (really) emptiness.

Before moving on it is worth noticing that if all dharmas are empty, and all dharmas are objects of consciousness, then all dharmas are conscious subjects (upon which objects of consciousness are obviously inherently dependent). All subjects are subjects of objects, all objects are objects of subjects; objects are subjects, subjects are objects, therefore, objects are objects, subjects are subjects.

Besides the Diamond Sutra, Dogen’s Genjokoan offers another clear demonstration of the nonduality of emptiness and form. Here, Dogen presents the ability to “realize the koan” (genjokoan) as being enabled by “normal vision” or the “Dharma-Eye” (the vision of Buddhas), the activation of which is portrayed as a threefold process.

First is the ordinary view; the self sees dharmas as “other” (than the self). Second is the view from within the experience of emptiness; the self sees dharmas as “self” (i.e. dharmas as “other” vanish; self and other merge into oneness); herein “self” and “other” are experienced as lacking distinctness, hence there is “no self” and “no other” – only a uniform oneness. Third is the Buddha view; the self sees self as “other”; this occurs when, from the perspective of emptiness (i.e. the oneness of self and other) the self sees that despite their “oneness” the “other” (dharmas) appears and acts independently of the will/expectation of the “self.”

Notice that only with this third phase of realization (the Buddha view) can the nature of emptiness (experienced in the second phase) be truly appreciated as the nondual reality of “self and others.” The Buddha view manifests when/as the experience of emptiness discloses the true existential (ontological) nature of the reality of the self and the other is not a void, absence, or illusion, but the reality of “self and other” as it is. Self and other are distinct yet not-two, sovereign yet interdependent. With this, the true significance of nonduality is experientially verified: the reality of nonduality is the interdependence of nonduality and duality; the reality of duality is also the interdependence of nonduality and duality – in the absence of nonduality there could be no duality, in the absence of duality there could be no nonduality.

As duality and nonduality are coessential and coextensive, so too self and other are coessential and coextensive. To state the significant point in Dogen’s terms; emptiness is emptiness and form is form; the self is the self (not-self, therefore, self), the other is the other (not-other, therefore, other). In short, the distinct uniqueness of things, beings, and events (i.e. dharmas), far from being neutralized or negated by emptiness, is brought into relief and affirmed by it. Because emptiness is really emptiness as it is, dharmas (the particularities of the world/self) are really dharmas as they are. It is with clear insight into this aspect of reality, and a certain radical insistence on applying its implications in every facet of practice-enlightenment, that Dogen articulated his expressions on genjokoan.

Thanks again.

PS - Relevant passages from Hee-Jin Kim follow:

It is axiomatic in Zen Buddhism that delusion and enlightenment constitute a nondual unity (meigo ichinyo). For the sake of argument, let me formulate this dictum: Enlightenment is construed as seeing things as they really are rather than as they appear; it is a direct insight into, and discernment of, the nature of reality that is apprehended only by wisdom, which transcends and is prior to the activity of discriminative thought. In this view, delusion is defined as all that is opposed to enlightenment.

The problem with this reading is manifold: (1) There is an inherent tendency to bifurcate between "things as they really are" and "things as they appear to be"; (2) its corollary is that there is an unbridgeable chasm between insight/discernment and discrimination; (3) "seeing" is conceived predominantly in epistemological, intuitive, and mystical terms; (4) the pre- or extradiscriminative state of mind is privileged in such a way that creative tensions between delusion and enlightenment are all but lost; (5) nonduality in the unity is virtually the neutralization of all discriminations and thus has little or nothing to encourage and nurture duality as such that is, discriminative thinking, intellect, language, and reason in the scheme of Zen's soteriological realization; and (6) the implications for Zen discourse and practice, especially ethics, are seriously damaging. What we see here is a formulaic understanding and misunderstanding at that of the nonduality of delusion and enlightenment.

On the other hand, the ultimate paradox of Zen liberation is said to lie in the fact that one attains enlightenment only in and through delusion itself, never apart from it. Strange as that may sound, enlightenment has no exit from delusion any more than delusion has an exit from enlightenment. The two notions need, are bound by, and interact with one another. That said, the interface of delusion and enlightenment in their dynamic, nondual unity is extremely complex, elusive, and ambiguous. Since they are the two foci' of realization, we might ask how they interplay with one another...
Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp.1-2

Dualisms between dream and waking, reality and illusion… are now thoroughly dismantled and reconstituted in Zen discourse as (revaluated) dualities that intertwine and interpenetrate one another… Dream expands the scope, depth, and precision of awakening.

…Dogen’s religious method firmly grounds itself in the conditions of existence—temporality.

A dream in his view is not merely a necessary illusion or a necessary fiction that brings about a soteriological reality/truth; this would smack of dualism by implying a nonfictional or nonillusory reality that remains yet to be realized…Dogen’s commentary is closely interwoven with the notion of emptiness… the reconstructive aspect of the notion—in contrast to the deconstructive one.
Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp.41-42

The emphasis in Dogen’s Zen thus deepens the meaning of “seeing things as they are” by construing it as “changing/making things as they are.” This is precisely the point highlighted by “expounding a dream (or dream making) within a dream,” in terms of the dynamic dialectics of equilibration and equilibrium in the steelyard analogy. (3) The deconstructive use of emptiness, however potent it may be, is alone not enough. The reconstructive use must be incorporated into it so as to make emptiness soteriologically full-fledged. How can emptiness be serene while constantly challenged by the turmoil of worldly truth… From Dogen’s standpoint, even the “emptiness of emptiness” should be examined in the deconstructive and reconstructive contexts through perpetually ongoing critical scrutiny.
Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp.52-53

In these six short chapters, I have presented some salient facets of Dogen's thought on authentic practice, which was his paramount concern in his praxis-oriented Zen. In this regard, his emphasis was on the reconstructive use of such notions as duality in relation to nonduality and dependent origination in relation to emptiness. His thrust was as much on engagement in duality as it was on nonattachment to duality...

Through such a highly unorthodox formulation of Zen method and hermeneutics, Dogen (1) offers a new direction in Zen praxis with a number of important implications, and (2) opens up new possibilities for creative dialogue between Zen and contemporary thought. By way of concluding this present work, I would like to make a few final observations on these two points.

Dogen's instructions on seated meditation were brief and minimalist. He did not elaborate on meditation techniques or meditative experiences in any detail, nor did he attempt to guide his disciples through graduated stages of meditative and spiritual progression, as we often see in some religious traditions within and without Buddhism... Rather, his approach emerged from his foremost desire to provide them with fundamental principles spelled out in terms of language, thinking, and reason with which each could grapple with his/her individual soteric project, thereby realizing his/her own Zen. Dogen demonstrated this himself by writing the fascicles of the Shobogenzo.

To illustrate, consider "enlightenment-by-oneself without a teacher" (mushi dokugo), the ultimate Zen principle that every practitioner had to actualize, even while studying under competent teachers and reading the sutras for a number of years.1 Dogen provided this well-known dictum with a specific methodological/hermeneutic key that allowed one to unlock the mystery of existence that is, to open the self and the universe. That key amounted, in essence, to critical, reflective thinking as an integral part of meditation. Without this key, it was impossible to attain one's own salvific independence…
Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp.121-122
Posted by: Soh


Yesterday you whatsapps me and told me that Jax has left your Dharma Connection group, I can sense your little disappointment.  :)

The reason why he left is obvious, his message and what he attempted to point out wasn’t adequately addressed and appreciated.  Although you have gone through phase 1 insight (7 phases of my journey), the depth and intensity of this realization may differ therefore you may be not be able to fully appreciate his passion.

So what is exactly is lacking?  It is that direct pointing right to the centre of the heart beyond all verbalization, that you have undoubtedly seen, tasted and realized “Awareness”.  It is the flair that mystics penetrate beyond forms, situations, conditions, all arbitrary opinions and communicates directly about this realization.  If you were able to do it, the exchange would have been more fruitful.  Let this be a learning experience.

So what is the realization about?

The realization that “Awareness” is of a different dimension.  It is a touch of “Spirit”, a taste of “Divinity”, not of the dimension of earth, water, space, fire and wind (However as I have pointed out it should not be treated as beyond and needless once seen through).

The knowledge of this is gnosis.  It is not a mere experience or simply the radiance of “knowingness” nor is this expounded in Madhyamaka.

It is not just an experience, it is not just merely non-dual, it is a taste of what that is more ‘real’ than ‘real’.

How can this die and subject to change for this is the very source of life itself.

This is the “heart” of Zen in the wholehearted smile of Maha Kashyapa.  This is the direct realization of “Buddha” beyond experience and verbalization.

Jax’s message is centered on this and an awakening is the awakening to this dimension, the deepest core of one’s beingness and existence.  Purged of this, nothing is worth to be termed “enlightenment”.  This is the whole message that Jax is carrying (imo).

How is this related to “Rigpa”?  I have no idea as I am not a practitioner in Dzogchen but definitely it is the “heart” of Zen.  This is what that triggers the journey and ends the journey.

On the other hand, your emphasis is on anatta.  An equally important insight and is the key of Buddhist’s enlightenment.  Divorcing this insight in expense of any other realizations can hardly be termed “Buddhist’s awakening” and prajna wisdom is the full maturing of this insight.

I wrote this because for readers that have not awaken to what Jax is pointing appear confusing.  As for you, you will have to be more skillful in integrating them.

In any case neither of these insights should be overlooked.  The realization that Jax emphasized is precious but to grasp the breadth and depth of this priceless jewel requires far more than that in one's spiritual journey.  It requires the awakening of prajna wisdom to pierce into the deepest depth of duality and inherency.  There is nothing that needs to be done yet there is so much “doing” during the “undoing” process due simply to a mistaken view.  This simple mistaken view is so powerfully hypnotic that requires the birth of a Buddha to expound the truth of it so not to underestimate it.

Homage to Buddha


Update by AEN:

I asked Thusness: The taste of spirit is not limited only to the formless mind/thought realm but can be found in all senses too isn't it?

Thusness: Yes. Go through it... and contemplate to balance and refine your insights.

Me: Then why do you say it is different from the radiance of the earth etc? I'd see it as the equal taste as I told Piotr. I think Actual Freedom has similar experience yet can't recognise the equal taste in I AM [mind/thought realm], whereas I AM practitioners may not recognise the equal taste in senses.

Thusness: I did not say [meant that the taste can't be seen in all manifestation?] but I said that is Jax's heart of realization. Updated to clarify.

Me: I see. What do you mean by needless once seen through. Needless to seek beyond?

Thusness: Yes only when view is dualistic and inherent it appears so. But that quality and dimension of realization must remain.

p.s. Link to Jackson Peterson's site:
Posted by: Soh
Daniel M. Ingram wrote in

It is interesting that in another thread the was the assertion that MCTB whatever was about the first meaning of emptiness, rather than what your quote defines as both.

Just to be clear:

When I mean empty, I also mean without boundary, without inside and outside

I also mean the direct immediate experience in its unprocessed or raw form. I also mean the total dissolution of the sense of a perceiver.

I also mean no active agent.

I also mean that nothing is stable, including space and time.

I also mean that all is bare, shifting, empty sensate experience, causal, happening according to the basic laws of the universe, naturally, on its own.

I also would say that there is no boundary or differentiation between the sense doors at they occur, nor between body and mind, nor between manifestation and awareness, nor between this and that, beyond those ordinarily used for communication and discriminating function, but these are not the essential nature of experience, just part of it as sensations when they occur.

Nor can one find any here that is stable, nor a now that is stable, nor a knower, nor an investigator, nor any practitioner, nor any attainer.

When I talk of an integrated transient, natural, causal, luminous experience field, this sounds to me exactly like your "All collapse into a single sphere of natural presence and spontaneous simplicity."

I see no obvious difference either in theory or in actual practice.


Thusness's comments to AEN:


Those were just some very casual sharing written on the spur of a moment, they were not well thought. Emptiness to me has another dimension if you wish to look into it.

When there is not even a single trace of Self/self nor is there any sense of inner/outer division, experiencer and what experienced collapsed...

At this moment there is just this vivid beautiful scenery, this bright brilliant world…all self arises

At this point…

Close your eyes....


Relax and rest in this all-consuming awaring void, this clear non-dual Awareness standing alone as itself and of itself…

Then shift the focus to the breath…

Just the sensations of the breath…

Then the transparent dancing sensations…absolutely no mind, no body, no experiencer/experienced, no inner/outer division… borderless and boundless

Every moment is great and miraculous…

This must become natural to you first.

Then at this moment of appreciating maha suchness of the breath, the sensations, the entire scenery, the entire world…

Understand that they are Empty!

Experience the magnificence then deeply understand that they are empty but this Emptiness has nothing to do with deconstruction nor reification nor do I mean they are simply impermanent. So what is this Emptiness I am referring to?