Enlightenment: What It Is And How To Get It

church_hillThe purpose of this essay is to get you to understand Enlightenment – what it is and how to attain it. To attain enlightenment is sometimes referred to as Waking up, which is a shorter way of saying Awakening to Enlightenment – but what that actually means requires some further explanation.

So what does ‘awakening’ mean?

In order to understand what Awakening to enlightenment really means, we need to first understand the nature of reality – and the short version goes something like this:

You’ve seen the movie The Matrix, right? If you haven’t, please go and do that now. But assuming you have, envision the matrix but without anything outside. No machines, no big computer running things, no space, no time; nothing at all – in fact, there isn’t even an outside. Are you imagining it? That’s our reality. Put differently, there is no material universe out there beyond our experience. There are no atoms. No planets. No stars. No space. There’s only subjectivity. There’s only this ever-changing field of experiencing otherwise known as consciousness or awareness.

That’s the short version. The long version—where I actually provide the proof for all this—is detailed in my book; and this essay is somewhat targeted to those of you who already read it but are now ready to step off that cliff and turn these truths into a living reality.

Anyway, the key point is:

  • There’s no objective reality – there’s only experiencing

But to the un-enlightened, things don’t seem that way. Rather, it seems as if we’re human beings walking around on planet earth; as if we exist as physical entities in a universe of time and space. It seems as if we experience an objectively existing world – as opposed to, let’s say, a field of subjectivity that’s perpetually transforming, morphing and modulating itself – which is how the awakened experiences life: as a mere flow of ever-changing phenomenality.

But why does it seem like we’re entities in a universe that exist independently of us? Why does it feel like there’s me on the one hand, and something else that’s not-me on the other? It’s because of the way in which we divide our experience.

Undivided experience

Now, here’s the thing. Our experience isn’t actually divided. There is no separation in the way we usually think about it – that is, the triad of seer, seeing and seen that we tacitly assume is present is never actually part of our direct experience. That division simply isn’t there. But let’s go through it in detail so you can see what I mean.

First we’ll investigate whether a seer, a subject, can be found in direct experience.

Go on. Find your self.

Have you looked yet? You can look all you want, but you won’t find anything. We can’t find a subject, because if we could, we would have to admit of a further subject, to which whatever we just found is known – making what we found an object, not a subject – And so, ad infinitum.

That’s one reason as to why we can never find a subject – we’re logically precluded from doing so.

The other reason would be: there simply is no subject. Remember, there is no objective reality. The presumed seer doesn’t exist – nothing does. There’s only this field of experiencing.

So the key insight here is:

  • No subject can be found in direct experience

Okay, now let’s turn to vision and see if we can find another element of that triad – the ‘object.’ In other words, let’s find out whether we can find something that is ‘seen.’ (I’m using vision in this example, but the same exact principle applies to all sense modalities.)

First, let’s state some self-evident facts.

  • The objects of our visual experience consist solely of colors.
  • That is, nothing is given in direct visual experience except colors.
  • In other words, we don’t see objects and their colors – we only see the colors.
  • Put differently, nothing is found in vision other than patterns of color.

Now, here’s the thing: While the presence of color is what we mean by the word ‘color,’ the presence of color is also what we mean by the word ‘seeing.’ (Now, think about that until you realize that I’m actually right – or read more about that here)

Therefore, we must concede that ‘seeing’ and ‘color’ are merely different words for the exact same thing, namely ‘seeing.’

In other words, colors aren’t ‘colors’ in the way we usually think about them – glued to objects, waiting to be seen – instead, what they are is nothing other than seeing itself.

And since the ‘objects’ of our experience consists solely of colors, we must now understand that they actually don’t – what they’re really made out of is ‘seeing.’

And finally, the last step in this reduction is to simply understand that ‘seeing’ is just another word for awareness. Awareness, or consciousness, doesn’t signify a thing – these words simply refer to the presence of seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling and thinking.

To summarize:

  • There’s no subject given in experience.
  • There are no objects—or ‘colors’—given in experience.
  • There’s only ‘seeing’ or awareness.

Non-dual awareness

But although our analysis reveals that there’s only awareness—only seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling and thinking actually going on—the unenlightened still feel like there’s a me—a subject—in here, behind the eyes; a seer that perceives a multitude of objects out there, in the world.

Why?

It’s because of a specific mode of perceiving that makes it seem as if experience is divided although it’s actually not. This affliction is known as samsara, or simply bondage. It’s our ordinary way of looking. It’s what makes it seem like there’s a seer, seeing and something seen.

But there’s another mode of perceiving possible – the undivided way.

Non-dual awareness.

The phrase ‘Awakening to enlightenment’ signifies the moment where we shift into that other mode of perceiving. It’s the moment of cessation of the division that makes it seem as if there’s a me, a subject of experience, and a not-me, the object of experience – leaving only pure seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting and thinking; simply non-dual beingness without any sense of being a subject that experiences objects. The sense of being an observer; a witness of experience; vanishes, and instead one’s sense of being shifts to encompass the entire field of experience. ‘Awakening’ denotes that actual shift – ‘Enlightenment’ is where we find ourselves afterwards.

But true enlightenment is more than a profound shift in perception. It’s a deep realization of the non-objective nature of reality; of the hollowness of one’s self – it’s a revelation of the fallacious nature of objectivity; which inevitably leads to a total rewrite of the way we think, act and feel.

Key insight:

  • Awakening to enlightenment means that we shift into another mode of perception wherein experiencing no longer seems divided into a me and a not-me.

Now that we know what we’re shooting for, let’s discuss how to actually get it.

The end of ignorance

If we are to cease dividing experience into me and not-me, it’s useful to understand why we perceive in this way in the first place.

Why do we perceive in terms of subject-object?

Due to our culturally imposed world view, the act of perceiving is interpreted in terms of what could best be described as something like a camera model. That is, we think of ourselves as cameras, moving around, looking at stuff. And the field of experience is our view, wherein the objects of experience briefly appear as we apprehend them with our sensory faculties. That’s the universe-model in a nutshell. Now, let’s break it down into detail.

When we encounter an object in direct experience, essentially the following happens (let’s pretend we see something – a box, for example):

  • A particular pattern of color is conceptualized as an ‘object,’ which has a wide range of connotations attached – such as, it’s a space-time entity; it has mass; it’s made of a material, etc. In other words, the concept that we have to represent this percept has attached to it a bunch of other concepts, all of which contribute to our idea of what it is – making us forget that it’s really nothing but patterns of color – which is nothing other than ‘seeing,’ or awareness itself.
  • Now, because it’s an ‘object,’ there’s another fundamental connotation involved – namely that of it being perceived by a subject. Which is us. In other words, according to our universe-model of reality, whenever an object is present in our experience, it is so because we as its subject has encountered it. That is, our field of view simply happened to slide past that object. Put differently, the very presence of an object implies us as its perceiving subject. It’s the camera model of perception. Just as the presence of images on a TV screen imply that they were apprehended by some camera, the presence of an object in experience implies that it’s being perceived by us as its subject.
  • So the very notion of an ‘object’ entails the presence of a subject that perceives it. It’s built in to the concept. We cannot help but see ourselves in this way under the universe-model, because every encounter with an object reaffirms and reminds us of our existence as its subject.

Now, if we were to abandon this model and instead adopt some other model, wherein we, let’s say, turn percepts into concepts with entirely different connotations than those that we currently have, our experience of the world would naturally start to shift.

But what if we had no model at all? Not because it would be a ‘better’ way to live life(it is), but because we have through careful inquiry realized that the very nature of models as such are based on a fundamental error of thought?

We would start to see reality as it is before any conceptual overlay. We would, in effect, be at a ‘ground zero’ state. No longer would it seem as if we’re a camera moving about in the world – instead, what we previously thought of as the world, we now abide in – finally – as the very flow of phenomenality itself. With no model laid out over experiencing there’s just pure non-dual beingness. And that’s the enlightened mode of perceiving. Ground Zero.

So, there are actually two steps to this process. The first step is to realize that the division that we think is there isn’t. The subject-object model that we have is not representative of what’s actually going on. If you look right now you’ll see that there’s never any subject nor any objects given in direct experience – which reveals that the subject-object model of experience is entirely a mental fabrication – it all hinges on our beliefs about reality.

The last step is to pick apart those beliefs. To refute objectivity. To disprove the external world – so that we can abandon the universe-model and instead shift our experiencing into non-dual awareness.

Endgame

So stop fucking around. All of this deconstructing-your-ego business that everybody’s preaching these days is just a waste of time. Nothing dismantles an ego as effectively as pulling the rug out from underneath its existence as a space-time object.

Moreover, there’s certain movements on the internet that specialize in pointing out something that goes like this:

“Although there’s a body here, there’s no self in it. There’s just a brain doing the thinking and a body doing the walking, etc.”

That’s just pure nonsense. The idea of a self is the idea that there’s a space-time entity with perceptual capabilities – it’s as simple as that; and no amount of this kind of reasoning will ever ‘liberate’ you if you still believe that there are subjects that perceive objects.

In order to awaken, you must deconstruct the universe-model of reality – you must understand exactly how and why that model is false, so that you can begin to untangle the subject-object knot of perception that’s standing between you and reality in its infinite form.

Get real. Declare it with force and finality, and you’ll soon find yourself in full appreciation of the beauty and power of that which has always been staring you right in the face.

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120 Responses to Enlightenment: What It Is And How To Get It

  1. Susitha says:

    Thanks Goran for this clarity. I have purchased your book and it has really helped me. I am glad I followed my instinct

  2. alain says:

    Goran, what do you mean by experience?

  3. pete rivers says:

    who or what then is that that does the experiencing, who or what is that that does the thinking about, the writing about and the talking about the experiencing and ABOUT the subjectivity of it all? about about about

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Dear Pete,

      experiencing need not to imply an experiencer, just as raining need not to imply a rainer. A stream doesn’t require a streamer and thunder doesn’t need a thunderer. In ancient times people did believe that thunder was caused by a thunderer, but we have since long abandoned such beliefs – perhaps it is time to do so also in the case of experiencing!

  4. Chitiz says:

    If objective reality is untrue, then how can you write all this and expect “someone out there” to read it? Isn’t this a contradiction?

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Writing, speaking and acting in the game doesn’t require a belief in an objective reality. I don’t find it pointless to talk to “someone” just because i’m aware that neither of us exist other than as phenomena. There’s a game going on and it runs by itself. I don’t control the character – there’s no one in control, no one to whom people need to objectively exist in order for there to be meaningful to speak to them. Everything is unfolding according to the principles of this game – and it seems like apparent communication between characters is a cornerstone of the progressing storyline.

      Your question boils down to “Why bother talking to people when they don’t exist,” or “why move out of the way when a speeding car approaches – neither you nor the car exist,” or “why bother putting the left foot in front of the right – nothing exists.” But the answer to all of these questions is that you don’t decide anything – whatever happens is simply freely manifesting phenomena, outside “your” control – and that is the case whether or not that phenomena manifests as “writing to other characters” or as “putting the left foot in front of the right.”

  5. Helen says:

    Enlightenment is to return to our true nature of LIGHT. That’s why it is called enlightenment. The LIGHT is indescribable with our commonly shared words. It needs to be experienced, not talked about. With LIGHT, there is also direct knowledge, LOVE, BLISS and unlimitedness.

    • EvenStar LoveAnanda says:

      You can not return to somewhere that you have never left.
      Yes you can say, your true nature is the Transparent-Light of Awareness.
      Even now you are This. (Enlightened or not)
      But this is also just a feeble concept, to describe the Indescribable-Mystery.

  6. Mira Prabhu says:

    Goran, I enjoyed your excellent article and appreciate the clarity with which you respond to comments. You know what you are talking about — which is more than I can say about a host of others on the net who are so eager to promote themselves as gurus for money or fame or whatever that I have pretty much stopped reading anything said by anyone who claims to “know” reality. I myself wrote a novel on enlightenment set in ancient India and in the process morphed myself…there is still a pretty strong notion of identity, but i know that notion will burn away as i deepen my own awareness — from finite to infinite. I do this with a daily sadhana of Atma-Vichara — and when I say daily, I try to practice this awareness at all times — sometimes it kicks in after the event — i get angry, sad, whatever — and only later see these as just experiences rising in the field. Thanks!

  7. annanimm says:

    What happens when two subjects meet? Because we’ve all had moments of talking to other people and noticing that our perceptions or experiences of the same thing – and of each other – was different. Does the other person exist outside of your experience of them? Because I think of enlightenment as learning to see how my experience of others has been conditioned by my own perceptions, thoughts, ideologies, expectations, assumptions … and how I was not truly seeing the other openly, or closer to what they “really” are. Perhaps to see the other *completely* as they really are is impossible, since it is never separate from your perception – but I think you can change your perception to be less caught up in your own mind and more genuinely attuned to the “reality” of the other person. Does such a distinction even make sense in your terms?

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Hi annanimm,

      Two subjects can never meet because there are no subjects at all. There is no objective reality in which such subjects can meet. I think you’re really asking whether there are other ‘experiences’ out there. But how can that question make sense if there’s no “out there”?

    • Kristoffer says:

      Hi annanimm:

      Another way to say what Goran just did, is like this:

      Awakening means changing the way you perceive from a divided ‘mode of experiencing’ to an undivided. What happens is that the ‘thing behind the eyes that feels like it’s the observer of the world’ literally disappears, and so does every other ‘thing’ that was hidden ‘inside’, ‘behind’ or ‘beyond’ the appearance of present reality.
      So, do you see how your question doesn’t really apply to reality? If the ‘the observer behind the eyes’ disappears, both in yourself and in everything else – there is no one ‘meeting’ or ‘experiencing’ ‘someone else’, because what you mean by that is that ‘two observers who are located behind the eyes’ are meeting, experiencing each other.
      These two entites, these two observers, they aren’t present in reality. They are just conceptual ideas with no real referent. This is what can be understood logically, and later directly experienced to be true in awakening.
      There is just this present moment without anything ‘in it’, ‘behind it’ or ‘beyond it’ to experience it. This moment is simply itself as what is present. In awakening – when the ‘divided mode of experiencing’ ends – this is what happens: you stop feeling like you an ‘observer behind the eyes’ and instead start to feel like you are this moment itself, impersonally, and when that happens, the idea of ‘meeting’ or ‘experiencing’ ‘someone else’ is forever made impossible.

  8. Rex Riley says:

    “Stop fucking around.” That may one day rank right up there with the nuggets from Ramana, Nisargadatta, etc.

  9. EvenStar LoveAnanda says:

    You say that needer the Self nor the Object exists, yet there is experiencing of them happening or existing.
    But you do not define what you mean by existing or not existing.

    Let me define None Existence.
    By definition none existence, IS NOT.
    So if something does not exist, there can not be any interaction with it or from it.
    Or if something is perceivable, you can not say it does not exist.
    Apparently it exists in some way.
    The question then becomes, How does it exist?
    That takes care of none existence.

    However existence being a positive concept is more complicated, there can be different types of existence.
    Mainly None-Composite-Beingness (The ground of Being), Composite-Existentials (Objects or Shapes if you will) and Epiphenomena (Illusory Happenings).

    Notice I am not saying in what way these things exist.
    I am only saying these are perceivable things.
    Because even if they exist only conceptually, even then that will be a type of existence.

    So the question is not that the apparent things and phenomenon exists or not, but a better question would be since they do exist somehow, (because they are perceivable)
    in what way do they exist?
    Or how do they “conjure” their existence?
    How do they achieve their apparent existence?
    This type of questioning would allow a deeper examination of the nature of Reality.

    See where I am going with this?

    I submit, that this is a totally different, unconventional way of examining the nature of Reality/Existence.
    This should bring less confusion, then just flatly denying the existence of apparently exiting things.

    Cheers!

    • Dennis says:

      Exactly! Well put.

      Reality is infinite intelligence at play. Denying other people, and moreso – other people’s thoughts, is a fallacy.

      It’s easy to assume that other people’s thoughts don’t exist because you don’t perceive them, yet they do. Their thoughts exists just as much as yours. It is all one infinite WEB of interconnectedness of which at the base, the root, everything is connected, despite *apparent* separation.

      Denying the body and the brain is also a fallacy. There are bodies all over (even though that’s just a label for that mysterious happening we call ‘a body’) with brains in them. You see (even though there’s no seeer, just for the sake of explanation) because there are eyes/brains. It’s NOT that the eye sees an object, it’s rather that the whole scene of seeing, including eye/brain and apparant object is ONE WHOLE. This means, that there are other points of view in this mystery than just the one ‘you’ experience right now.

      Fractal holographic reality, vibration(frequency) are the keywords here.

      Much love

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Hi Dennis.

      No, it’s not a fallacy. But thinking that these things do exist; believing that time and space and bodies and brains are real, that they exist independently of experience is however very much a fallacy. You can read more about that here: No Objective Reality

  10. Karsten says:

    there is one thing i wonder about, that i hoped you could address. I see in my direct experience that there is no ‘me’ and no experienced object: only experiencing. Or non-dual awarness(ing).

    but it also seems like this only happening : experiencing, is dual.
    because different people see different things. i dont se your thoughts and you dont see mine.
    how is this happening ?

    (i agrree that it is an assumtion that other people have different expereinces than me: like the assumption of me or “other people”… i dont know.. maybe this is the belife that still justifies the butchering of life into fragments :)

    thanx

    • Göran Backlund says:

      If there’s no objective reality, then how could other people who supposedly have other experiences, exist? How could the concept of “other” have any purchase unless there’s an objectively existing reality of time and space? The notion of “other” depend on space and/or time to be objectively real, because it draws its meaning from spatial or temporal concepts (think about in what way something could be “other” unless divided spatially or temporally from something else – hint: it can’t)

  11. Mimi says:

    Hi Goran

    Thanks for all you do. I have some questions that really perplexed me for the longest.
    If experiencing doesn’t need an experiencer or rain doesn’t need a rainier, are you saying it just happen cause it’s life? If so, why life wants that while it can live without it? Since there is no ME or WE exist and if I am an alcoholic or a murderer or a child abuser and on and on, is it life happening without the doer so I or WE not responsible?

    Thanks,
    Mimi

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Your first question boils down to an old famous one: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
      The answer is that there isn’t – there’s only nothingness, or no-thingness, and every bit of somethingness is entirely fabricated in thought.

      The answer to your second question is: yes, nobody’s responsible for anything. That is, assigning blame to someone for doing bad stuff is based on faulty thinking; namely that there’s free will. However, that’s not all what the word ‘responsibility’ means. ‘Reponsibility’ need not to be coupled with the concept of blame. Look up responsibility vs. blame on google perhaps.

  12. Vitor says:

    Hi, if all people perceive the same object doesnt that mean that there really is an objective object or reality? That question puzzles me

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Hi! Well, if there is no objective reality, then there aren’t really different ‘people’ to whom objects appear, are there? Where would these people exist? ‘People’ don’t perceive – they are _perceived_.

      This ‘evidence’, these different accounts from different people is only evidence if one has already presupposed an objective reality wherein these people exist – otherwise it isn’t evidence at all, but simply appearances on the screen of consciousness.

  13. Vitor says:

    Thanks for the prompt answer! How does your thinking differ from solipsism?

    • Göran Backlund says:

      I have a yet to be published post about this. Here’s a snippet from it:

      “But, in order for the question of solipsism to arise, one have to first superimpose the physical structure of ‘perspective’ onto awareness. That is, one has to imagine a camera model of perception and then ask the question “Is there anything outside of this view?” or “Are there other views?”

      But there cannot even be an outside—there can be no place in where “others” do or don’t exist—unless we first superimpose this physical perspective model onto awareness.

      The imagining of ‘this perspective’ invokes the very same spatio-temporal context that we pointed out as nonsensical when we first invalidated the ‘other’ perspectives. That is, we can’t claim that this is a ‘perspective’ unless we believe that it exists objectively – and that there could be others, but aren’t.

      The model we conjure up, the ‘perspective model’ basically looks like this:

      http://www.chadvernon.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/frustum.jpg

      It’s a physical, or geometrical structure with tha shape of a clipped pyramid. The question of solipsism, or “Are there other points of sentience”, or “Are there other arisings in awareness” all depend on this geometrical structure for its context. Without this structure being taken as truly existing, these questions stop making sense.

      Not only the notion of “others,” but also the notion of me depend on this structure. It’s easy after one has had some realization to believe that everything within the “view”—that is, everything within this imagined structure—is myself; I; consciousness or whatever. But that leaves something outside of myself, something ‘other’ that may or may not exist. In other words, the notion that this is a ‘view’ depend on there being something outside of it – even if that something is just nothingness – and that is what makes it possible for this question of solipsism to arise in the first place.”

  14. Hami says:

    What are your thoughts on enlightened action? It is possible, I think, to have an enlightened awareness, but to feel very strongly that your actions are unenlightened, that there is a problem with how you act according to your nature. Any thoughts on that?

  15. Leland Small says:

    I understand the ultimate truth is nonduality, but why does the concept of duality arise to separate into many? Is the goal of life or being awareness to return to ground zero without subjectivity and objectivity or experience creativity? In other words,”chop wood, carry water”, seems to be a worthy endeavor in light of what exist before and after these appear to exist.

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  18. George says:

    Are you not potentially making the error here of confusing sensory experience with the entirety of what is (in the sense of patterned reality)?

    There may be no “out there”, but there is an “in here”. A “world” does exist, and is real, just not in the manner we assume; it is not independent of mind; it is dissolved within it, our sensory experience being an unfolding into attention of particular aspects of that pattern.

    • George says:

      EDIT: Ah – you cover your view better elsewhere, in other posts. Things are real at what they are, they just are not what you think.

      And free will / identity is a matter of (illusory) perspective, I’d say…

  19. Steve says:

    So, I’m married with two kids. Can this be done and I still live with my family, who I then realize don’t exist as I think they do now? Could four awakened people live together, each knowing the others don’t exist? I suppose it will be a moot point by then, right? Can one awaken and then choose to step back into the dream out of magnanimity for non-existent beings?

    Thanks; the process has started…

    • steve says:

      perhaps one way to think of this would be that, since other “people” would continue to “act their roles” in the perceptual field, there’s no reason why “my body,” (which is also in the perceptual field) would not continue to play along, as the thoughts, desires and emotions of this body would be nothing more than other mere occurences in perception. is that close?

  20. RC says:

    Dear Goran,
    Thanks for your articles.
    Please enlighten me….
    So my wife is just a bunch of colors, sound, smell, sensation and tastes?
    Does the care “I” feel from her have any value from an enlightened being’s point of view?

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Hmm, what do you mean by value? The love you feel for her is just as much part of ‘her’ as the colors, sensations and tastes. It’s just all part of the unfolding play.

  21. RC says:

    Dear Goran,
    Thank you for your prompt reply!
    I’ll think about the “unfolding play”.
    Have a good day!

  22. RC says:

    Dear Goran,
    Just wonder if you still say “I love you” to family members? And how have they been coping since your awakening?
    These are sincere questions (in case I didn’t set the tone right).
    Have a good day!

    • Göran Backlund says:

      Yes! Love arises as part of the unfolding play! And so is any attempt to express it.

  23. RC says:

    Thank you Goran!
    I have bought your book!

  24. Chrisinbliss says:

    A master lived by himself in a hut on a grass-covered hill. One day, two students visited him to enjoy a picnic. As they were making fire, the master overheard this dialogue.
    One student said, “Look at this log. Is it inside or outside of your mind?”
    The other replied, “From the highest point of view, everything is in the mind. So the log is ultimately inside the mind.”
    The master bowed to the student and said, “Good sir, your head must be extremely heavy, as you are able to carry a log this large inside your mind.”

    The above discussions — even the non-conceptual approach — ultimately hinge on the idea that one’s own insight can actually be the truth. Anyone who has studied a little bit of Kant will know that this itself is an assumption. “A person can know only what he ‘can’ know.” (which implies that if there is anything one cannot know, then one wouldn’t know it).

    Yes, it is absolutely ‘right’ that within one’s own experience one can realise that there is no subject-object duality. And it is even blissful and peaceful, no doubt, and it is most joyful path to live life compassionately. Does this make it true? We can never know, due to the very subjectivity of it all. Simply not admitting subjectivity and objectivity through an extreme advaitic non-conceptual approach makes a lot of sense, yet it doesn’t make it true.

    Also, ironically, it can be an extreme form of “controlling everything” by subjecting everything to the power of one’s own insight.

    When the insight has matured that we cannot actually know anything, — even though it seems we have known the ‘truth’ once we accept the pure subjectivity free of subject-and-object, — then one begins to be in complete awe once more at “why is there something rather than nothing”. Then one begins to live (or be lived) by the deep sacredness of simple unbounded presence free of conceptuality and non-conceptuality, free of knowing and not-knowing, which is simple compassionate living.

    • Göran Backlund says:

      hi, thanks for your comment!

      The philosophical bedrock upon which my writing stands is the deconstruction of objectivity that I lay forth in my book. Your criticism makes perfect sense–if you haven’t read my book. Give it a try!

      Ps. Insofar that the log is in the mind, the guy’s head would be too.

  25. Chrisinbliss says:

    Dear Göran,

    Thank you for your response.

    Fully agree with every single point in your book — of course one could point out that you haven’t been overly original, as the deconstruction of objectivity emerges from Zen, Advaita and Dzogchen as well as the more ‘intellectual’ writings of Michel Foucault, Derrida and others (before rejecting the latter it would be worthwhile reading them and coming to appreciate how they have brought this beautiful discourse even into the academic world).

    Also, as mentioned in my previous post, fully agree with you that this is the ‘ultimate’ realisation the mind (or consciousness if you will) can come to, i.e. that within the unboundedness of pure subjectivity there can be innumerable ‘objective’ appearances, all of which are still purely subjective and thus clearly are only appearances within consciousness. And this realisation is total bliss, true happiness and satisfaction — there is no doubt about it and ‘straying’ from this ‘(non-)path’ makes no sense at all once one has realised it.

    My point is a different one — my point is that having said and realised all this, if there is an ounce of humility left in a person, one would ‘still’ have to admit ‘other’ possibilities (which we simply wouldn’t have the capacity to know the truth of). For example, it could very well be that our universe is a digital ‘simulation’ by some other order of species in another more ‘objectively real’ universe. This would be an (improbable yet nonetheless possible) explanation of why there is an immediate dissolution of subject and object the moment a ‘person’ seeks out consciousness. Are you able to admit some validity to this point?

    Or, for example, if an Abrahamic world-view were ‘somehow’ true (personally I do not think so) and the universe is a ‘real’ creation, then the reason for the subject-object dissolution might be the very complete ‘freedom” that ‘God’ has allocated to human beings, i.e. the complete freedom to choose any world, any moral system, any life-style that consciousness wishes to choose. In this scenario, the dissolution of the subject-object split would simply be the very freedom that ‘God’ has given to us to choose.

    In an even worse scenario, the fact that this subject-object dissolution happens could simply be an ‘epi-phenomenon’ of the brain, i.e. when we relax totally and ‘consciousness’ falls upon itself, then it dissolves the subject-object split automatically (just like it does in deep sleep, only there it is more or less unconscious). In this scenario, although it is utter bliss, it would be simply be a brain phenomenon and you would be deluding yourself to think this is a ‘universal’ truth.

    To sum up, I just want to caution you from falling into the epistemic trap that your ‘insight’ is automatically the supreme truth, even though it seems so and even though consciousness without subject-object split is unbounded and timelessly blissful — personally, like you, I am also convinced that this ‘insight’ actually ‘is’ the truth (therefore I shake your hand and salute you), yet I am simply more cautious and humble in claiming that this is the ‘truth’.

    • Mark says:

      Any and all ‘other’ possibilities that one might admit to are nonsensical, while absolute infinity as the only possible truth of existence makes perfect sense. Receding directly into the only absolute infinity available, awareness, furthermore makes it inescapable.

      Any theory that relies on an impossibility, is impossible. And all theories do so by necessity, so no theory could ever be true. Once every impossibility has been eliminated and the perfectly irreducible and self-evident remains, it makes no sense to take on further impossibilities as actual possibilities except within the paradigm of manifest reality (as opposed to truth).

      The apparent universe may be a digital simulation, or one may suppose any number of scenarios to be the case as far as the machinations of manifest reality is concerned. But no scenario can ever put a dent in the inevitability of absolute infinity as the only possible truth that underlies it all, and the nature of that as being awareness.

      The dissolution of subject and object, and any other movement ever experienced, occurs in/as what one may call mind (i.e. perception, experience, relative individuated consciousness, which is identical with universe/dream/etc). Whether or not that mind supposedly belongs to a fleshy brain or a computer simulation makes no difference whatsoever. Those are dream-bound explanations by definition.

      All of it occurs in absolute awareness in all cases, and that is where any and all movement of mind plays out. Including the contemplation of alternate explanations and the apperception of truth. The interpretation of experience can be made to fit any paradigm, but the fact of experience can not, and no paradigm ultimately holds up.

      The perceived dissolution of subject/object is itself not truth, but the non-objective awareness that gives rise to any and all perceptual content, is. What prevents the recognition of that is the concept structure that shapes experience, and the starting symbol at the root of that structure is the concept of self.

      Every concept in that structure shapes experience to a greater or lesser extent, but none more so than the concept of self. That’s why the road to the recognition of truth begins with the dismantling of that structure and ends with the elimination of the self concept.

      Truth is truth regardless of what concept structure shapes ones experience, but the recognition of absolute truth requires the elimination of the self concept (whether that imply a personal self or a universal self).

  26. Chrisinbliss says:

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for your beautifully eloquent stream of words.

    As mentioned earlier, am in full and total agreement with every single nondual point you have made. Certainly only absolute infinity makes sense — although we need not call it absolute infinity — the Buddha for example gave ´it´ no other name than ´thusness´ (that is how it is-ness) and used only radical emptiness to uncover ´it´: an emptiness which is also empty of true existence. Giving ´it´ a name is never more than that: a name, an objectifying, a reifying. Giving it a name and talking about it is in itself meaningless.

    In any case, I would like to describe my earlier point from a different angle: Although it is the only idea that makes sense to you, it still need not be true. It could simply be the only idea that makes sense to a certain mode of thinking and experiencing, a certain group of humans, as the ultimate possible expression of their thinking and speaking. This is evidenced by the fact that some of the brightest and smartest representatives of science on the planet simply do NOT agree with us (while thankfully some other really smart ones do).

    Let us come back to some basics: If absolute infinity is ´true´ and awareness is absolutely infinite, your enlightened awareness here should have the capacity to be infinitely creative. Can you lose weight instantaneously simply by being aware of it? Perhaps you do not need to lose weight, but what about the poor lady down the street who has been suffering from it since middle-school? Can your infinitely creative awareness simply wish her weight ‘away’ in one infinite swooosh?

    To put it differently, why is the universe and our actual experience of it, so lawful? Such rigid and clear-cut laws of nature? And all this quite independent of what you wish in your our infinite awareness.

    How does the identity of absolute infinity and awareness which you and Göran (and me) subscribe to deal with the fact that the apparent illusion of the universe is so lawful and that the world is based on so many rigid ´rules´ of nature? We may experience in uncontaminated bliss that multiplicity is illusory and exists only on the backdrop of infinity, but you will still shout ´outch´ when a bee stings you as you sit enlightened under the bodhi-tree.

    This is exactly why my cautioning comes in. True enlightenment is not concerned with knowing or not-knowing, with elaborate eloquent descriptions of particular grand views. A truly enlightened person can admit to simply not-knowing — something that simple ordinary people do all the time. When asked who created the universe, the Buddha said he did not know, but that it was not relevant, because knowing it would not relieve suffering.

    In contrast, I suspect your and Göran´s reply would be very extensive, going into all the details — but these would be simple assumptions on the backdrop of an elaborate conviction.

    There is a difference between being psychologically enlightened and truly enlightened.

    The sign of a truly enlightened person is a stream of total compassion — not creating grand teachings, making followers and arguing one´s point.

    I would like to share a quote of the Buddha:

    “Coincident with the development of a happy, glowing,
    thought-free awareness is the birth of authentic compassion,
    which is like the love a mother holds for her only son,
    except that here the love is directed towards all beings roaming
    in samsara who lack the enlightened vision.
    This compassion is a very special feature of enlightened vision,
    and this you must know.

    After you have resolved that all things are empty,
    if then in your conduct you
    abandon virtue and no longer shrink from vice,
    you have fallen under the spell of a demon of infinite and intense evil.
    It is crucial to avoid this demonic pitfall.”

    Therefore, instead of staying within your epistemic realm of knowing, let us abandon knowing and not-knowing and really arrive at this stream of complete compassion.

    • Mark says:

      I know I’m not enlightened and I don’t think you or Goran are either. But I do know that the questions you raise don’t survive scrutiny, and why the assumptions that cause the brightest and smartest to disagree, are inescapably false. The only real question that remains is whether or not my own discernment is worth a damn, and that may never be resolved, but it’s all I’ve got.

      In talking about absolute infinity or anything else, we are necessarily reifying it. And indeed ‘knowing’ something (or thinking we know something) involves the same error. In that sense I agree with not-knowing, and also because the ‘knowing’ of the mind is exactly what prevents the seeing of the self-evident. And also because I may actually be quite insane, if there is such a thing.

      But then that still leaves no room for postulating anything other than the immediately self-evident, which is awareness, because that necessarily involves reification and reliance on unreliable cognitive processes.

      Even if consensus reality were absolutely true, the only paradigm that makes sense – for the very reason that indeed we can’t actually know anything – is the paradigm where awareness is primary, at the very least. Anything else is at best a practical concern within ‘the dream’.

      The errors exposed by the emptiness philosophy are essentially the errors that come with the postulation of duality, and it leads to the impossibility of a foundationless existence. Which means that the moment you stray from awareness as the only possible foundation, you have strayed into absurdity. Which you are free to do, but which doesn’t sound very humble to me.

      Emptiness is not about truth, it’s about untruth. It is a radical deconstruction of consensus reality, including all those questions you raise, and it succeeds marvellously. Nothing remains intact if you contemplate the repercussions of emptiness. But that is your job to find out. I’m not here to argue points, I’m only here to get this shit out of my system.

  27. Chrisinbliss says:

    Dear Mark,

    You have completely hit the hammer on the nail. You have said it better than I ever could have. Thank you for acknowledging the non-knowing (I´m not sure Göran, or most of the neo-enlightened teachers, would acknowledge this).

    You couldn´t have said it better or clearer. Self-evident awareness is not a knowing and not a non-knowing. That is why we cannot brag about its knowledge and ´teach´ any related doctrines.

    Your understanding of emptiness is also exactly to the point, i.e. the total deconstruction — and it is also the deconstruction of deconstruction. In the deconstruction of deconstruction I feel the powerful stream of compassion arising, because after this non-knowing flashes forth even as merely a glimpse, there is no other sensible choice than to be compassionate.

    In the remarkable words of Nagarjuna:

    śūnyatā sarva-dřşţīnām proktā nihsaraņam jinaih
    yeşām tu śūnyatā-dřşţis tān asādhyān babhāşire

    The Victorious Ones have described emptiness as the giving up of all views.
    Hence they have also described them as unaccomplished for whom emptiness is a view.

    I shake your hand and wish you the very best and auspicious luck on this pathless path of joy and compassion.

    • Mark says:

      As far as I’ve been able to tell, Nagarjuna never killed the Buddha.

      I wouldn’t rely on ANY scripture or teaching or philosophy as the last word on anything. I’ve found that whenever I do that, I end up duped for not having questioned it. Makes sense too, because all of those are examples of reification. Bet your life on such things if you must, but I have no such intention.

      Although a word of advice from Jed McKenna seems in order here: You can’t reconcile the irreconcilable. Which is to say, the dreamstate can’t be reconciled with truth. It’s just not possible. So give it up. Or, you know, don’t.

  28. Chrisinbliss says:

    Dear Mark,

    I also went through this process of not accepting any authority — until I realised in a rare moment of humility that I couldn’t be the first person in history to have realised this. I think this moment of insight is the readiness to go back to the tradition.

    You can then begin to adore the Victorious Ones (the term is a bit grand, yes, but that’s what it is) without succumbing to their authority simply because they are authorities.

    This process is circular and never ends, because at some point you will find something that annoys you about the teachings, which you feel you know better or could have said better, or a feeling arises in you that following in anyone’s footsteps is inadequate. In such moments you abandon them once more (killing the Buddha), but then, after some time, you come to deeply appreciate them once more — because, you once again realise that you couldn’t have been the first person to realise this. You couldn’t have been the first ‘consciousness’ to realise itself. And in that moment you are in the tradition.

    The height of ignorance anyone can entertain is to disparage the tradition — especially Zen and Dzogchen — just because it is tradition. Taking such an approach is ultimately akin to seeing oneself as “the magnificent marvellous mad Madame Mim”.

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      It doesn’t matter who ever realized it or not. You don’t know what they said or why they said it. Even the very best of them caution against taking anything they say at face value, and rightly so. They are con men, and they know it, and in many cases they will readily admit it. And then people laugh as if they are joking.

      The fact of the matter is that there is only one sentient being, and you’re it, because you’re me. You’re not a person and you’re not talking to a person. If you actually realized any of this as you say you do, then you ARE the first one ever, because there is nothing else going on.

      If you are going back to tradition thinking it means something, then you’re going the wrong way. Nothing against tradition, but it can never be reconciled with truth. If you wanted to hear someone with more authority than myself say the same thing, I’m sure you could find one. Or if you don’t, then you won’t. See how that works? It’s all up to you. That’s what authority means.

    • Mark says:

      It’s not arrogance if it’s true. It’s not possible to wake yourself up, but it is possible to use the terms of delusion against itself. A thorn removing a thorn, and all that. The mind duking it out with the mind. And the reason it works is precisely because it can’t be reconciled with what’s true.

      So insofar as a teacher can help you at all, they can only help you to use your own delusion against itself. Nothing more, and probably less. That’s why they are con men. It’s a crucial part of the job description.

      And that’s all a tradition is, a thorn. Assuming it’s not just nonsense, of course. All they have to offer are strategies and devices for exercising the muscles of your own discernment. Which is to say, to help you see that nobody but you can be your own authority. If you went back to them, it’s because they failed. And maybe that’s the best they can do. Your call.

    • Mark says:

      Then, all tranquilly and soberly, he made the strange answer, “There is no other.”

      A subtle influence blew upon my spirit from his, bringing with it a vague, dim, but blessed and hopeful feeling that the incredible words might be true – even must be true.

      [...]

      “You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks – in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present, you should have recognized them earlier.

      “It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream – a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought – a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.”

      – The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain

  29. Chrisinbliss says:

    Oh dear Mark, now you have lost me.

    Without these traditions we wouldn’t even know about enlightenment or nonduality. Look at how the Western religious/spiritual traditions evolved before they came in contact with Advaita and Buddhism. With the exception of perhaps a few selected mystics, in spite of all its scientific achievements the West remained completely absorbed in the Abrahamic doctrine for nearly 2000 years. This alone shows you the great value of the nondual traditions as vehicles of wisdom.

    I also strongly advise against any of the neo-enlightened teachers and most current Indian gurus — as you say, mots of them are conmen even in a real sense, not just a spiritual sense. Most of them simply use the spiritual world for purposes their livelihood, selling books, making disciples. No doubt.

    Yet therefore avoiding all the traditions is a fallacy. See what 8th century Shankara, the founder of Advaita (and you wouldn’t know a thing about Advaita had he not existed), had to say:

    “In all the three worlds there is no metaphor to describe
    a true teacher who grants realisation.
    If one were to suggest the touchstone (the philosopher’s stone) as a metaphor,
    though it is said to transform whatever touches it into gold, into its own substance,
    nevertheless, it does not transform them into a touchstone.
    And yet the true teacher makes equal to himself
    the student who has taken refuge at his feet.
    Thus, although he is in this world,
    he is without any comparison.”

    This having been said, I have a nagging doubt that you are too strongly influenced by the Indian nondual tradition (and JD Krishnamurti in particular).

    In contrast, if you are open to the Tibetan nondual tradition, you will see that dependent origination — that all phenomena, people, beings, etc. are interwoven and arise together — goes hand in hand with emptiness. Now you may rightly object that this is merely a doctrine. Nonetheless, dependent origination is different from the Advaitic tendency towards solipsism — your “because you’re me.” Tibetan nonduality doesn’t require this type of frantic view of ‘unity’ and ‘oneness’ versus ‘multiplicity’ and ‘manifold phenomena’.

    Here reality is neither one nor two nor three, so there are no extremes — there is no need to elaborate reality as “The fact of the matter is that there is only one sentient being, and you’re it, because you’re me. You’re not a person and you’re not talking to a person.” — all these statements and ideas become unnecessary in natural spontaneous presence. Neither one nor two, neither eternal nor changing.

    Although Advaitic (Indian-type) nonduality can rarely accept this, Tibetan nonduality is different in the sense that it can freely accept multiplicity. There is no narrowness, no endless ‘neti neti’ infinite regresses.

    I do not need to say that I am one with you, because that’s just nonsense (we wouldn’t be writing), yet I can still be a nondual practictioner in the Tibetan sense. If this doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps try to find out more about it. You might realise actual freedom and spontaneous presence and thereby the value of the tradition.

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      Sounds to me like you’re the one holding on to the view of emptiness. Good luck with that then. I know first hand it’s a tough one to get past. Nagarjuna had me duped for years.

      Out of one corner of your mouth you are saying that emptiness is itself empty, and yet out of the other corner you’re using it to tell me how things supposedly are. Just like all the other adherents out there. Are you not heeding the advice by Nagarjuna that you yourself provided?

      Oneness/nonduality is something entirely different from interconnectedness. The latter is entirely a dream phenomenon, the former is not. Emptiness is about nothing but falsehood, it’s dream interpretation. There are no dependencies between phenomena, because phenomena are nothing more than nothing. Let it go.

      I know everyone is trying to shoehorn all their favorite teachings into the dream paradigm, because despite whatever they may say, they don’t really want to leave it behind.

      You are arguing for a view because you like it. If you wanted to know what was true, you’d be trying to take it down just to see if you could. But you’re not, because you’re looking for personal freedom, freedom within the dream paradigm. There is no such thing.

      That’s why Jed McKenna’s warning against trying to reconcile the irreconcilable is so priceless. But of course only to those who actually want to wake up. And that’s the beauty of being your own authority: Nobody can tell you anything you don’t want to hear.

    • Mark says:

      The biggest obstacle that the emptiness philosophy presented for me was the conviction that I already had the answer. I didn’t see that it was an utterly impossible answer, until I saw the similarity between it and Jed McKenna’s treatment of Agrippa’s Trilema, in that book recommendation I gave earlier. Which is why I recommended it.

      Before that, everything I heard anyone say on the topic of enlightenment, or any other, I could put to the emptiness test and say to myself: “Yeah I know, I get that.” It was a killer. I could have been stuck there for the rest of my life. Thinking I already knew which end was up, when I really didn’t.

      Maya is a hypnotist. I thank the non-existent gods on my non-existent knees that they managed to pull me out of that hole. They had to call in the heavy artillery, but thankfully it worked, eventually.

      Not everyone is so lucky, heavy artillery notwithstanding… Or maybe they just don’t want it. That’s fine too. Either way, good luck and all the best.

    • Mark says:

      To be clear, I am immensely grateful for having encountered the emptiness philosophy. I absorbed a lot of Alan Watts and Dalai Lama and others, and it was a critical part of my journey so far.

      But I am also immensely grateful for finally seeing that emptiness is not the final answer, nor is the emptiness of emptiness.

      Instead it was just another device. A very potent device, possibly the best one available for those who manage to grasp the full implications, for deconstructing reality such that one can come to see that it can’t possibly be reality at all.

      At all!

      Just like impermanence implies dependent origination, and dependent origination implies emptiness, so also does it imply pure relativity, finiteness, foundationlessness, mutual contingence, differentiation, i.e. duality. All of those terms are equivalent to eachother, and they all point to the total absurdity and impossibility of ‘reality’.

      There’s a reason Alan Watts likens it to the bootstrap paradox, and that’s exactly what it is. You can’t lift yourself by your own shoelaces, but that is exactly what emptiness suggests is happening.

      And emptiness is nothing more than an elaboration on impermanence. That’s why advaitins like to quote the gita in saying that “the unreal has no being, the real never ceases to be.” Which is another way of saying that impermanence is impossible. Which it is.

      Which automatically means that consciousness can not be an emergent property of the brain or of anything else. Emergence is just another way of saying dependently originated, and is equivalent to duality, relativity, finiteness, etc. That’s why truth must be absolute, infinite, unchanging, etc.

      If consciousness were dependently originated, then it would be part of an impossible reality. And so Jed McKenna rightly says it’s a puzzle with only one piece. True reality must be absolute infinity, and consciousness must exist. Yes, it must exist inherently, because it cannot be dependently originated. And that’s why no other explanation holds up and no objective reality is possible. There can’t be two absolute infinities.

      So you do the math.

      And so we arrive at the point of middle ways. Waking up is an extreme business, but nobody really wants to wake up. So a teaching has to account for that and give them something useful but not dangerous. Those that really want to wake up must kill the Buddha, and all teachings. And they will, but they will be few. A real teacher knows that anyone who really wants to wake up, WILL NOT take a teacher’s word for anything. That’s the test you have to pass, and that’s why most people don’t.

      That’s the significance of the Buddha’s teaching. Impermanence is a hint, not a final answer, and what it hints at is the unreality of reality. Nagarjuna and the Tibetans don’t like extremes for the same reason as always: They don’t want to kill the Buddha and they don’t want to leave behind the dreamstate paradigm. And so they waste their lives trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.

      The horror…

  30. Chrisinbliss says:

    Shankara would like you. These are all his arguments against the Buddhists. With these arguments he is said to have driven them (us) out of India.

    In my humble opinion you became stuck in emptiness because you lacked a teacher, and a Yidam, a Chosen Deity, as well as the ability to relax a bit from yourself.

    But Shankara was certainly enlightened — his body dissolved into light in the end like the Tibetan rainbow bodies — so it’s alright if you follow his radical style.

    Just relax a bit. Everything is alright as it is.

    • Mark says:

      I’ve never read Shankara. Nor J. Krishnamurti, for your information, so I wouldn’t know where you got that idea. Nor have I read any of the ancient vedanta texts. I started out in buddhism, stayed a while, and eventually moved on because it turned out to be a dead end. And thanks for the reminder.

      I’ve had some critical help from a few books after that, but fortunately not from any formal traditions. So you can’t accuse me of regurgitating those or of taking anyone’s side. I don’t do politics, I don’t know who said what, and I don’t care about any party line. I reach my own conclusions, and that’s the only way it works. So you can attack my conclusions on their own merit, or not at all.

      But don’t worry about me. I’m fine, I just like to play with heavy artillery. No such thing as a humble opinion. Just take it or leave it, you are your own authority.

  31. Chrisinbliss says:

    Well, in this case I still hope you’re glad to know that this is entirely Shankara’s view you are ‘manifesting’, i.e. these are his arguments against the Buddhists, this is his radical nonduality that doesn’t permit any dream in the end. His ingenious definition of illusion, ‘maya’ is ‘ma ya’ (Sanskrit for “that which is not”) So you’ve basically ‘pulled a Shankara’!

    I think it’s lovely how we Buddhists and (unawares) Shankara Advaitins are still fighting it out like an old couple after so many years. Good luck to us! And may the truer one win!

    In any case, be happy with yourself as the only authority (what if you just got it wrong nonetheless? Ever thought about that?) and may all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      I guess I’ll just take it as a compliment then, since nothing else seems to sink in. If I’m to be seen as taking anyone’s side, Shankara seems like a fine choice to me. Didn’t even know there was such a thing as non-radical non-duality. Like, maybe just a little bit nondual. Like a half-hearted negation of duality. Or maybe three parts nondual and 7 parts dual. Why the hell not.

      It’s really quite amazing, by the way. I may not have read any of the classics, but naturally I’ve seen quotes and heard talks and watched videos, and from what I can tell everything has been spelled out to the greatest detail already. A while ago I saw a video of Nisargadatta. Holy cow, that guy just tells it straight up. And yesterday I bumped into a more-or-less scholarly treatment of the Mandukya Upanishad. Bam! It’s right there! Hello?

      It’s all been out there for centuries if not millenia, and it’s not getting through to anyone. What the hell, man. If ever there was proof that all of this is just a ridiculous dream…

      So, cheers to that, my auspicious friend. So say we all.

    • Mark says:

      Oh right, and by the way, since you’ve already made up your mind about me (or was it Shankara): No, I can’t be wrong and I never thought about that.

      I took the trouble to reach my own conclusions, I took the trouble to point out that I might be insane, but no, I never thought about any of it and I never considered the possibility of being wrong.

      Why, do you think a serious seeker who is betting his life on truth should do that? What a novel concept. I think I’ll just dismiss that out of hand.

      After all, I’ve heard it said that everything is alright as it is, and I do like the sound of that. Very auspicious. Or was it asparagus…

    • Mark says:

      So anyway I should go to sleep now.

      Ah enlightenment humor. Gotta love it.

  32. Chrisinbliss says:

    It is certainly a compliment for someone to produce, from his own explorations, the very same arguments that the founder of Advaita produced. It was Shankara who brought the Mandukya-Upanishad and all the other Upanishads back into the limelight through his expositions. Whether you accept something such as history (Shankara himself doesn’t) or not, he was certainly the greatest exponent of ‘radical’ nonduality in history, perhaps second only to his teacher’s teacher, the great Gaudapada who famously said:

    “The son of non-existent parents is born neither
    through maya nor in any other way.”

    “What does not exist in the beginning and in the end
    does not exist in the middle.”

    “Multiplicity does not exist through the nature of reality,
    nor somehow through its own nature.
    Separation or non-separation simply do not exist.
    This the knowers of truth know.”

    In fact, on a more humorous note, I was initiated as a monk in the Shankara Advaita tradition at the age of 13, mastering Sanskrit and Shankara’s expositions in a highly traditional orthodox Advaita monastery. After many years of radical nonduality, I gave up my vows and became a ‘householder’. And then, after a few more years, I discovered the immense vast objectless consciousness-space of Buddhism, in which there is neither self nor non-self to grasp but where spontaneous presence unfolding in boundless creativity itself is reality. So while you ‘pulled a Shankara’, I ‘pulled a Padmasambhava’.

    Oh yes, enlightenment humour is the best possible humour — because, according to you, it doesn’t exist! (while according to me, it exists as an ungraspable phenomenon in the infinite expanse of consciousness-space)

  33. Chrisinbliss says:

    By the way, a perfect description on the essential difference in attitude between Advaita and the pathless path of Buddhism:

    Advaita:

    “Arise, awaken and rest not till the goal is reached.” —

    essentially reflecting your and JM’s frantic radical striving for truth.

    Pathless Buddhism:

    “Sit down, awaken and rest till the goal is reached.” —

    essenceless-ly implying that you can simply relax, because you have already arrived and all is fine. Completely relax and dissolve.

    May all be auspicious because it already is auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      To each their own.

      Btw. of course I should add that I can’t actually take credit for “my own” conclusions, because from a first-person perspective it’s pretty obvious that whatever insights and epiphanies come your way, whatever help you get from books and other sources, and whatever else happens in your life, it’s all clearly just given to you.

      So in the face of your compliment, I feel obliged to add this caveat. It really wasn’t “me”, it just kinda happened. I “thank the gods” not just for that whole emptiness business, but for everything else as well. And I’m pretty sure Shankara must have felt the same way.

      Then again, those ostensible gods got me in this mess to begin with, so there we are.

      Nice chatting with you, Chris. Thanks.

  34. Chrisinbliss says:

    Your caveat is famously called the “enlightenment disclaimer”.

    Nice chatting with you, too!

    And back to reality!

    May all be auspicious

    • Mark says:

      Oooh another nice sprinkle of compliment. Screw reality, I’ll just stand in this blissful shower for a while. I feel like a rainbow body already ;).

      Cheers Chris

    • Mark says:

      P.S. never mind my poking fun at things, it’s just for laughs and nothing personal. You may not think you’re me, but I beg to differ, so there. May all be asparagus! :D

    • Mark says:

      (see… I can relax… I know good advice when I hear it… thanks dude)

    • Mark says:

      Isn’t it hilarious that people think there is no “Cartesian Theater” of the mind with a little homunculus inside?

      When all the while the person they think they are IS the little homunculus, and their life IS the theater of mind.

      It is just too funny!

      May all be homunculus :D

    • Mark says:

      (sorry, I’m not always done when I think I’m done, and vice versa…)

  35. Göran Backlund says:

    Hi chrisinbliss, sorry for taking so long. I’ve been away from the internet.

    If you agree with every single point in the book, then you must have granted that even the possibility of an external world (whether a material one, or a simulation, or turtles all the way down, etc) involves a logical contradiction; and is therefore logically inadmissable. There can be no more the possibility of an objective reality than there could be square circles out there. And this has nothing to do with humility. It’s about logic. It’s not humble to admit for the possibility of square circles. It’s just fuzzy thinking.

  36. Chrisinbliss says:

    Dear Göran,

    I meant that I agree with the nondual points — in the sense that they correspond to the nondual traditions.

    Invoking logic is always a risky endeavour: Logical thinking is itself based on regularity in observations. We wouldn’t know about logic (and its opposite: illogical thinking), if there were no multiplicity and natural laws. It is like saying that it is not logical that the earth should be round because people would fall off (many people said this in ancient times and laughed at those who entertained that the earth is round and said this was ‘logical’). But as observations progressed, logic itself advanced with them and it became ‘logical’ that people don’t fall off. But logic can be used freely (i.e. independently of observations, through mathematics) only after it has first been established on the basis of dualist observations. Therefore the powerful tool of logic is rooted in duality, not in nonduality, and trying to establish nonduality through logic will be a tiresome endeavour.

    Jnana, or enlightenment, is neither about logic nor non-logic, it is not about knowing or not-knowing.

    Most nondualists have probably never thought about a simple truth: We all speak about consciousness. Yet it has no shape or colour, no dimensions or nature of its own. We ever only perceive contents of what we call consciousness. Deducting that there ‘is’ consciousness, because we infer it from seeing other people and contrasting them and ourselves with stones and so-called ‘inanimate’ matter does not help. The entire nondualist scene (except for one particular tradition) is talking about consciousness as if it were an obvious sine qua non, yet no one has ever seen consciousness or has a shred of proof that it exists more than as an inference — because we ever only perceive contents. When someone says ‘I realised that I am pure consciousness’, this is simply wrong, because what has happened is that such a person has only realised that he/she has such a thought — this is simply a powerful verbal narrative.

    No one has ever seen consciousness, my friend. It is a phantom. The same way no one has ever seen existence. So saying that everything arises in consciousness, consciousness is the creator of everything, or of illusions, or whatever else you want to say about it, is actually only based on an inference. And that very inference requires a dualist world to work.

    Disclaimer: This does not stop me from being a nondual practitioner. I am so full-heartedly. But I can easily admit that reductionist materialists have a point when they say we might be deluding ourselves in assuming there is such a thing as ‘consciousness’ and that it is the ground of being (what ‘being’ — no one has ever seen being, we only see forms).

    Moreover, in some particular traditions, it does not matter at all that consciousness and existence are such phantoms. The very space of their unfindability, that we can never find them (even though they are so self-evident, which they actually aren’t), is the free space of true meditation where neither knowing nor non-knowing is necessary.

    • Mark says:

      Sorry to butt in again, but for what it’s worth, I think you’re making some very good points there. And I think this is where the Buddha would say come see for yourself. I’ve had the same glimpses that you describe, but I’m not convinced that that is the final ‘thing’ (for lack of a good way of putting it), even if it were abiding. Also I have no reason to doubt anything Goran is saying and describing about his own state, and I don’t doubt he is abiding in something, but I’m not convinved that is the final ‘thing’ either.

      And since I’m not ‘there’ yet myself I obviously have nothing more to add on that score, except of course that I certainly intend to come see for myself. And if it turns out to be bogus, I will certainly reject it. I can’t help it. It does however make perfect sense to me that there is no mental knowing involved in it at all, or to put it in your words, nothing to grasp at.

      But I would also add that the truth in itself, and ones living paradigm, are not the same thing. Nobody lives in truth, not even a so-called enlightened one. So if truth is what I think it is (in a manner of speaking), then still it would have to somehow filter down inadequately into this relative world that we find ourselves in, and that will never be able to measure up to any standard except the standard of negating all that is false.

      I suspect that’s why Jed McKenna calls the awakened paradigm (which he calls C-Rex, as in Consciousness is King) a “not-false paradigm”. There is no such thing as a true paradigm. So if that’s your concern then I’d say that is also an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. The only possible way to resolve it is to come see for oneself. And that’s why, if you really want to do that, you can’t take anyone else’s word as the final answer.

      I agree with your arguments against logic, but of course those arguments themselves also rely on logic. What we can do is employ logic against itself. Or indeed, using the terms of delusion against itself, as I’ve put it before. Truth may ultimately not be a matter of logic, but the falsehoods we have erected for ourselves are, or at least they claim to be. We go by the things we think make sense, we behave according to our perceptions, there is no alternative.

      And so we can take that all the way to its logical conclusion by discovering that the things we grasp at are actually not logical at all, or even reasonable, that all those things dissolve under scrutiny and that therefore the only logical thing to do is to subject them to such scrutiny. Even if it means logic must eventually dissolve along with it. Unless of course we’d rather hold on to falsehoods.

      So from the perspective of the dream, that’s what it always boils down to: What is it that you want. And as it turns out, that’s probably what you’ll get.

    • Mark says:

      Another way of saying “trying to reconcile the irreconcilable”, might be “trying to fit nonduality into a dual reality”.

      And by reality I mean this apparent reality, the ‘dream’, if that’s what it is. The world of phenomena. What we call reality is dual down to (and including) the floorboards. Raw uninterpreted experience itself is still dual.

      And yet the emptiness philosophy is attempting exactly the impossible. It is not about anything other than the world of phenomena, and yet it purports to be a nondual philosophy. Something has to give.

      Nonduality is not, and could never be, a philosophy. It’s just a placeholder concept for something that can never be touched from here, despite what so many adherents would have you believe.

      This is all a manner of speaking of course, I’m not suggesting that there is some kind of distant nondual realm out there in the clouds or something. But hopefully you get my point.

      The dream can never be explained in terms of the dream. All paradigms are dream paradigms, including the emptiness philosophy or any other philosophy, and including the lucid dream paradigm C-Rex. And all paradigms are self-contained.

      Because all paradigms, views, philosophies, etc. are of the mind, in every possible sense of the word. And as it happens, for better or worse, the mind is the one thing in the way of truth realization.

    • Mark says:

      By the duality of raw uninterpreted experience, I don’t mean the subject/object thing. In raw uninterpreted experience that false dichotomy already does not exist. And yet everything about raw uninterpreted experience is still contingent, relative, finite, etc.

      Anything that you’d care to mention “exists” only in relation to something else, in dependence on something else, in contrast to something else, in terms of something else, in other words always in some way only with reference to something else.

      That’s emptiness, obviously. But it’s not just a valid observation for our interpretations, but even for the very bedrock of our interpretations, which is raw experience.

      For example you only know a color in contrast to other colors, and you can only know a limited spectrum of colors. If there were no other colors, or if the spectrum were somehow limitless, then you couldn’t know any color.

      And the same goes for any constituent of perception. Dual down to the floorboards. They are all irreducible qualia. This is the case of the experience of green, the experience of B-flat, the experience of pain, as well as the experience of self.

      They are conceptual in nature, but not in the usual sense of the little thoughts in our little heads. The concept IS the experience. This entire reality is the theater of mind, and everything in it reduces to irreducible qualia, which are themselves still dualistic in that they can only be known in relation to something else (such as their absence).

      Consciousness is not an inference except in the reasoning about it. But you don’t need to reason about it when for example you turn blind or deaf. You can’t see when you’re blind, you can hear when you’re deaf, but you can certainly know the absence of those experiences. So the buck does not stop with perception. The possibility of perception being absent cannot be denied.

      If the buck stopped with perception, then nothing could take note of its own absence. Something does take note of its absence, as well as its presence, and that something is the intended referent of the concept of consciousness.

    • Mark says:

      And by the way, the supposed space in which everything arises, is itself still an object.

    • Mark says:

      (yada yada yada, and by the way I’ve found that writing off all this mental garbage is a good way of getting it out of my system. So if it looks like I’m arguing points or trying to convince you or even just engaging in dialog, yes I am, but no I’m not – I’m just writing it off so I can let it go, and right now I happen to be using this blog and your feedback to help me do it… for which I owe you both my thanks… please please never take anything I say personally… I’m just an asshole with a purpose… thank you)

    • Mark says:

      Note also that infinity has nothing to do with size. It’s not infinitely big. It may just as well be infinitely small if size were an issue. Size is an attribute, applicable only within duality.

      The absolute must be dimensionless, or maybe it has infinite dimensions, who can say. Attributeless, because all attributes are necessarily contingent. So what does size have to do with anything.

      If you actually perceive yourself to be a vast space, then that is a perception. It may or may not be applicable to your living reality, but it would not be the final truth.

      Space does not exist, and the perception of space is subject to change. So something else must be taking note of that, something unchanging which is not a perception.

    • Mark says:

      And of course, that something which takes note of all perceptions, that consciousness, is the only findable reality of oneself. Nonduality essentially means, simply put, that there can be only one reality. And so whatever turns out to be your reality must be it. Or in Hindu parlance, Atman is Brahman, what you are is what there is. And what you are is quite obviously consciousness.

      The whole no-self thing and the whole subject/object thing, as it is commonly thought about, has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t mean there is no inherently existing entity (which indeed there isn’t). And it doesn’t mean that the dichotomy between perceiver and perceived is false (which indeed it is).

      It simply means that nothing dual remains when perception itself is ruled out. Nondual is complete void. So even a self that equates to the entire field of perception would not survive. In emptiness parlance, that would still be an imputation, by the mind, of an inherently existing self, and as such a delusion.

      Anatta is right, but it means a lot more than you think. The Atman as such is the dream entire, the theater of mind, the dual reality. That’s what does not exist.

    • Mark says:

      So how relevant would the emptiness philosophy be, or any of the other mental masturbations that we perforce indulge here in this dream, including advaita vedanta, when all of perception is ruled out.

      You can see now that if truth is indeed complete void, and all of perception is indeed ruled out, that there can be no such thing as a true paradigm here, and that nobody lives in truth.

      THAT is no-self. Everything else is dreamstuff.

    • Mark says:

      In addition to current perceptual modalities falling away (such as vision when becoming blind or hearing when becoming deaf), consider the possibility of new modalities being introduced, or existing modalities being altered. For example different animals perceive different ranges of sound and vision.

      And conveivably there could be animals, or maybe aliens or beings from different planes or dimensions or what have you, that have perceptual modalities that we can’t even imagine, simply because they’re unfamiliar to our current experience. And each of those could conceivably be altered or absent, or even even introduced to your own current reportoire. And actually, you don’t know that this has never happened, to you or anyone else, just because you don’t remember it and never heard stories about it.

      What if you were born blind and through the miracles of modern medicine were enabled to see at a later age. Same thing. Or what if your subjective color spectrum somehow shifted to something entirely different, introducing colors that nobody has ever seen before or heard of. If vision were seeing itself then it would not see the difference. If perceptions perceived only themselves then they could not be compared.

      So how could any of that possibly exist in and of itself, inherently, without there being something more fundamental to carry it and witness it, as it were. There must be a foundation and it is not merely an inference, it is self-evident and undeniable even though it can’t be perceived. It’s not a phantom, it’s the only thing you can be sure of. But not if you’re stuck in theory.

  37. Mark says:

    By the way if you could prove me wrong, you would do me a great service. I don’t want to be right, I just don’t want to be false. So please don’t hesitate. Thanks.

  38. Chrisinbliss says:

    Welcome back, Mark! There is a Sanskrit saying “jagaama sa yathaagatam” — “he went as he returned” — it well applies to you.

    None of your arguments are wrong in any specific way — this is because you already have your own realisation. Otherwise you would be so clear and lucid. Although, I disagree that raw uninterpreted experience is dual. I think there is something quite non-dual about experience without conceptual elaboration. Just before you begin to conceptualise, it is non-dual.

    All I can do is share my own and see if you feel it resonates. Or in the magnificent words of Shankara (although he is the wrong man to quote here, his words still resonate within my youthful memories), “I do not wish to convince you but to free you.”

    I assume that in line with your arguments the important “emptiness is form and form is emptiness” formula is not important to you. However, if you give it a chance, this formula resolves the problem (and in a sense, reconciles the irreconcilable where JM failed miserably and as a consequence needs to hide himself from the public) — because emptiness and form are inseparable. Samsara and Nirvana are the same reality. There are no two truths, a conventional (relative) and absolute (parmaartha), although I gladly admit it was my dear friend Nagarjuna who came up with this silly idea in the first place (but thank the deities the Nyingma Tibetans got rid of it again).

    If you accept the formula not merely as a formula, but as the key to realisation (and ‘total awakening’ — although the term ‘awakening’ is such a boring term) — then you will realise better what I mean by “everything really is fine”.

    As regards the substratum-related arguments of yours, these make sense from a logical point of view. But even there, they lead to an infinite regress — because, truly and really, how can you sensibly argue that this substratum does not require another substratum?

    The Upanishadic sage Yajnvalakya famously reduced “the gods” from 330 to 33, then from 33 to 3, and finally from 3 to 1. Brahman.

    I see the Buddha simply went a step further and discovered the 0.

    You feel that reality has to be 1 in order to be the substratum of the many. Why can ‘it’ not be 0? Because your logic and ‘conciliatory’ urges revolt against this. This revulsion actually is ‘atman’ — as you yourself rightly said (and in a much more Buddhist tone than could be expected of you as an unawares Shankarite). The revulsion is the grasping for self. Whereas accepting 0 is actually the infinite — which, as you say, of course is not infinite in temporal or spatial terms. The infinite is not 1, it can never be 1. It is 0. And just because it is 0, it can be all other numbers while remaining 0.

    Now you may feel that these are silly ideas or that this is irrelevant. But is it really? 0 means non-grasping, non-clinging — and it is in this moment that form reveals itself as emptiness and emptiness as form. Nothing disappears. It all remains just as it is (tathata, “as it is”). No reconciliations are required. No substractions, no trances, no effort. Simply peace.

    Now you may say this is all nonsense, but is it really? Is it not rather that 1 is nonsense? Because 1 means ‘total grasping’ (1 is the very nature of grasping), whereas 0 means non-grasping any object or subject, non-clinging to any object or subject, the utter freedom, the blowing out of the candle (nir-vaana, ‘blowing out’).

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      I’m totally on board with the inevitability of relative reality ultimately being not other than the absolute. It can’t be any other way, and it’s perfectly acceptable to me that this is where logic fails. It has to, as far as infinity is concerned.

      Seeming duality must be nonduality, just as the seemingly finite must be infinity and the seemingly relative must be the absolute. There is nothing else. And yes, I know, everything really is fine.

      But I would caution against acquiescing to that formula too soon, even though it must be so. As long as there are more assumptions to challenge, there is more work to do. Assumptions are of the mind. And so is intellectual understanding, tacit or otherwise.

      The way I see it, if and when the mind has well and truly let go of a position, then there will be nothing about it left to challenge and nothing to defend. It will simply no longer be an issue regardless of what position anyone else might take.

      This requires a great deal of self-honesty, and a willingness to err on the side of caution. That must inevitably lead to truth, and nothing else will.

      As I’ve tried to point out, the substratum issue will remain unresolved as long as you remain stuck in theorizing about it. The answer lies in your own direct experience before you need to think about it. The narrative comes after.

      The reason it can’t be an infinite regress is because infinite regress is exactly the whole problem of duality. Those imply eachother, as does the emptiness philosophy and Agrippa’s Trilemma.

      I would agree with the Buddha that it’s a mistake to reify consciousness. The absolute is not a thing, and all reification is an activity of mind and, if believed, deluded. The reification of consciousness would certainly not be truth.

      Fortunately there is no need to reify it, unlike literally everything else, since it inevitably proves itself by itself before any narrative pops up, and is the only ‘thing’ (sorry) that does so.

      I would also agree that zero may be closer to the truth than one. I mean, if we’re talking about total void, absolute nothingness, at least as far as mind is concerned, then that would have to be the only real zero, wouldn’t it. Yes, it would. But then I would ask you, how many nothings are there. Certainly not two.

      All is just a manner of speaking, and all manners of speaking will fail in the end. Yes, oneness is bogus. Consciousness is not a countable noun and not a category of objects. There can’t be one if there can’t be two. But just like every other bogus word, it serves its purpose. Nothing true can be said about the infinite.

      So I think we’re on the same page there, at least in theory, which of course is impossible. Gotta love it.

      Thanks

    • Mark says:

      Just as an example, it’s a position of the mind that “an enlightened one” can’t value privacy as Jed McKenna does. I’m not sure how seriously you take that position of yours, but you might want to investigate what assumptions are underlying it. Such a notion can’t exist in a vacuum, and you would not have mentioned it if you didn’t think it meant something.

    • Mark says:

      Hey didn’t the Buddha call himself “Tathagata”, thus come thus gone…

      So I see you keep sprinkling me with compliment :D … I am not worthy!

    • Mark says:

      If you were to go blind, right now this instance. If your entire field of view vanished into nothingness, even the grey/brown spaghetti soup that you normally see when your eyes are closed, is gone. You’re suddenly so goddamn blind that you can’t even see your own blindness.

      Tell me, would you know about it or not? Would you need to think about it or not? Is not this unperceived substratum more certain than perception itself?

      And how can it be dependently originated without implying endless regression? How can the most certain thing to exist, emerge out of an impossible reality of a different nature?

      Must it not exist inherently, unlike everything else? And must inherent existence not necessarily mean that it can’t be finite, relative, contingent, impermanent, etc?

      And must that also not necessarily mean that it can never become an object of perception? You’ve argued that nobody has ever seen consciousness, which is essentially saying that nobody has ever seen absolute infinity. Would it make any sense at all if that were even remotely possible? Especially if it is ‘that which sees’. And yet does it make sense to deny its inescapable existence?

      Just throwing some stale stuff at ya. I’m sure these arguments have been done to death, I vaguely remember some of them from my own buddhism days and I do recognize your arguments in them. But I’ve done the legwork now and find them unconvincing in the face of that which I’ve been unable to deny. Maybe you have something fresh to throw back instead.

      Thanks either way.

    • Mark says:

      Another hint by the way, about why being stuck in theory about this substratum thing is a killer: It necessarily involves reification, and THAT AIN’T IT…

      That’s exactly what the Buddha cautioned against, and rightly so. In theorizing about this supposed substratum, your mind has already turned it into an object before you know it. It just can’t be done, and yet it can’t be denied. But it’s not a thing, and not even a substance. It necessarily is nothing the mind can imagine.

      It’s so easy to agree to those points, and still continue to make that mistake, even without noticing it. There is no satisfactory resolution for the mind on this point, because there is nothing for it to grasp… Makes sense, no?

      And yet we keep trying… Makes no sense, yes? :D

  39. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark,

    The artificial separation of mind from reality is the problem. There is no such separation. The mind is the Buddha. So saying something is ‘of the mind’ while some other order of reality is not (what nonsense to create such a construct and false dichotomy) is simply not seeing that the mind is none other than the Buddha — emptiness is form and form is emptiness.

    As a mere conviction, this is all nonsense.

    But as the key to realisation it opens the door to the unbounded reality which your mind, this very ordinary mind, is. No trances, no subtractions, no additions, only “as it is” — and a vast flow of pure compassion, like an ocean of nectar, directed towards all beings who are suffering because they lack realisation.

    JM doesn’t see that this ordinary mind of yours is the Buddha. Instead he seeks the Buddha in ideas of infinity. That is why he is in hiding.

    “But he who sees that all beings are reality and reality is all beings
    has no desire to hide himself from anything.” (Ishavasya Upanishad)

    May all be auspicious!

  40. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark, last but not least, I think you are at 0.5 — so very close!

    As the great Jalal-ad-Din Rumi said,

    “O you who have made ready your bows and arrows!
    The game is close to you, yet you shoot too far off.
    The further a man shoots, the further off he is,
    and the more removed from the treasure he seeks.” (Masnawi)

    Now the key question to explore immediately is: how far off is 0?

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      Looks like we cross-posted, please be sure to read my previous post above.

      All I can say is, notice how you keep putting things in terms of phenomena. Even the unbounded reality of this buddha mind is an object of consciousness. As we agreed, in the end it must all be the same ‘no-thing’, but as I also urged, you may not want to agree to that too soon but err on the side of caution instead. Your call.

      So yes, there is ultimately no distinction between mind and consciousness. But as soon as we are talking about anything, we are making artificial distinctions, and the very first distinction to make, before any other distinction, is that between dreamer and dream. Which is to say, between consciousness and mind.

      If you take the dream reality as such into consideration, by itself, then you are considering mind, NOT consciousness. Consciousness cannot actually be considered by itself. Any such attempt must inevitably prove erroneous. It can’t be helped. Only phenomena can be considered, and if you are considering consciousness or mind or actually whatever, then you are considering reifications. Delusion spinning delusion.

      There is no getting closer to the final ‘realization’. I can’t see how that could possibly make sense. You get closer to unwinding the spinning of delusion, but the final coup-de-grace can only be an all-or-nothing deal, and until then it’s all just talk. There is no partial enlightenment, no unabiding enlightenment, no return from enlightenment, or any such nonsense as far as I’m concerned.

      Naturally 0 is at no distance. Yet another reason why it can never be perceived. But where we start is not at square zero, maybe at square three or something. And we’ll mistake that for square zero, but that’s just not how it works.

  41. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark,

    I think that once two minds reach the point of cross-posting, the process of enlightenment is complete.

    All these problems (or should I say “neti neti obsessions”) are resolved by the formula “emptiness is form and form is emptiness.”

    There is no getting closer to final realisation because it is not a place to go to. I mean this quite seriously (in contrast to most other things). It really is not any place to go to or reach.

    Once you overcome your “neti neti obsessions” (which actually simply arise from the obsession with the 1 — because none else can be the 1 so one keeps denying everything and rejecting it as an ‘object of perception’ — why this meanness towards objects?), you will simply see that form is emptiness, and then you will smile like a rainbow. Let us replace the word if you wish. Let’s replace it with reality. Form is reality and reality is form. So where is the problem?

    The problem is that most nondualists expect the universe (“phenomena”) to vanish upon realisation. Where should it (they) vanish?

    An even greater problem is that this realisation is not spectacular enough for most people, so they bypass it with a “so what?”

    This “so what” is the source of suffering and suffering is the source of the “so what”.

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      The ‘vanish’ expectation is certainly a tricky one. I strongly suspect that’s another case of “come see for yourself”, since mind and consciousness can’t actually be two different things. It seems more like a matter of emphasis, but I don’t suppose that any way of talking about it will suffice, and for my part it’s all just speculation anyway. I’ll let you know ;).

      In any case it also makes perfect sense that any expectation whatsoever will prove problematic, not only in terms of the theory of truth but also as a very real obstacle to any sort of realization. Another instance of thinking one already has the answer without actually having it, of false knowing blocking true seeing, so to speak. So, ok, fair enough.

      Your shortcutting of the neti neti thingamajiggy is, however, exactly what I meant by acquiescing too soon to the formula that it’s all the same anyway. You could have done that before you ever started studying or meditating or whatever else you’ve been doing with your time, and save yourself a lot of it. But that wouldn’t make you enlightened, now would it.

      If you ask me, and I know you haven’t, the reason you consider the neti neti thing an obsession is because you can’t seem to escape the consideration of truth in terms of phenomena. Your buddha mind is stuck in a self-contained paradigm, and I know it takes a bit of a leap to break away from that. But first that takes a willingness to consider that such a leap is actually possible.

      Failing all else, what’s the problem with doing too much neti neti? If you’ve reached bedrock with your formula then surely erring on the side of caution can’t hurt. You can’t ‘fall off’ of infinity. Well… Yah… But anyway, it seems to me that you’re erring on the side of comfort instead. Again it’s your call, but maybe just maybe, that’s not where it’s at, is all I’m saying.

      Then again, you ask where is the problem, and I agree there is none. There wouldn’t be if you were the most deluded and unspiritual dipshit in the universe, and there wouldn’t be if you stopped halfway towards truth at whatever comfort zone you fancy. Everything is fine as it is, so there’s no problem unless you consider it a problem. If you don’t, then voila. You are where you want to be, and you’ll have no argument with me.

      As for me, I happen to consider delusion a problem for myself, and I don’t intend to err on the side of comfort. Don’t ask me why because I have no idea, it really doesn’t make any sense at all, but that just seems to be the case and I’ve found that I could not live in denial of that any longer. To each their own, right?

      So I’m not interested in anything spectacular. Utterly normal and mundane and unadorned will do just fine for me, and the gods willing, that’s exactly where I’m headed. Auspicious indeed.

      Thank you Chris. This is gonna sound corny as hell and maybe patronizing or whatever, it certainly feels a bit icky to say, but I do love you in a weird way. I wish you all the best. And me too :D

  42. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark, I love you too — you have a genuine heart, the best soil for the flower of knowing to bloom.

    Well, purely from a comfort point of view, I still sit ‘on the cushion’ as long as the day’s schedule permits it — sometimes only 2-3 hours, sometimes more. Now you can frown upon this as “what ignorance! – to meditate!” a la neo-enlightened people. Or you can see that there is no difference in comfort and ease sitting on the cushion or going through your day being kind to all beings (on weekends I like collecting snails and slugs from footpaths and delivering them to the grass; my wife thinks that’s just insane).

    Having said this, such comfort and relaxation do not emerge from striving but from recognition. The direct introduction of the Great Perfection unveils the natural state. This is called the base. Then there is the conduct. And from this follows the fruit. All this happens in the ease of the natural state that the practitioner has already recognised.

    The problem with our tradition is that it prohibits sharing too much of this — otherwise I would be jumping from forum to forum — because as you said, each to his own. There is no convincing to do.

    But you have such a beautiful mind already, therefore I think you should really explore it. Perhaps it will resonate!

    Jagaama sa yathaagatam — he went as he returned!

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      That’s not the kind of comfort I’m talking about. Right now, for you, as well as for me, saying form is emptiness and emptiness is form is just another mental position for the mind to grasp at, to take refuge in, and to tell itself that it doesn’t really need to abanon any of its favorite positions. It’s comfort for the mind.

      It’s a nice, solid, good understanding of things, maybe strictly theoretical or maybe much deeper insight, but that’s still a perception, not truth. It would much rather sit in a pretzel every day or do whatever other technique to make it seem outwardly committed in its own eyes, than actually take a nose dive in unknowing. It will even talk about how we can’t really know anything, without actually giving up any of its hard-earned knowledge. Just look.

      The problem I have with that is not ‘ugh meditation’ or some such, but that it’s actually inwardly dishonest. It’s the automatic denial of the relentless self-preserving machine of identity at work. It’s delusion 101.

      Yes it’s buddha mind, but not awake buddha mind. Telling yourself otherwise won’t change a thing, except to get you further entrenched in that self-contained paradigm to keep the mind feel nice and spiritual and well on its way.

      Neo-enligtened people, as you call them, say there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, etc. That’s not what I’m saying, it’s what you’re saying. And it’s only the appeal it has for the mind that makes you, and them, accept the formula prematurely. Mistrust everything that is appealing to the mind.

      The mind wants the goodies, and the only way it can get them is to reduce the infinite down to its own size. I honestly have no problem with you settling for that, but it’s just not my thing. No doubt I would have fallen for it if given the chance, but somehow I couldn’t help but acknowledge that it just didn’t sit well with me.

    • Mark says:

      And that’s the kind of honesty that will end up making all the difference!

  43. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark,

    I fully agree that for people outside of the tradition these may be just statements.

    But, as the Upanishad says, “aacaaryavaan purusho veda”, “the person who has a teacher knows”.

    Reality is self-evident — you are seeking ‘it’ in ideas of non-phenomena. These ideas are themselves phenomena. What, therefore, is your (and most nondualists’) problem with phenomena?

    Relaxing completely is not laziness, a mental concept or any reification. It means relaxing from all conceptualising, all statements and ideas, all knowing and non-knowing. It is not a grasping for a truth. This is the natural state. Only a teacher can introduce you to the natural state directly. All other approaches are gradualist and renunciation-based.

    Yet you have already had glimpses of it, but you weren’t sure this is the ‘final’ thing. A teacher would have helped you and confirmed that it was and is. Realising this, instead of grasping for another truth, is the treasure. The natural state is like the sound of a tiny bell in a hall where a thousand people are shouting at each other.

    I think your biggest issue may be that you have a strong conviction that there is a truth to know and that as long as “…” doesn’t happen, truth is not known. What is this “…” you are waiting for? The idea of truth is an Abrahamic tool of weilding power over others. Many nondualists continue on that track. Yet there is no non-truth.

    From one of our sacred scriptures (may the deities forgive me for posting it here):

    “When you realize the clear light of mind’s nature,
    the pundit’s words of wisdom are redundant.
    How relevant is another’s description of the taste of treacle
    when your mouth is full of it?”

    “Now listen further, all my best beloved sons and daughters!
    No matter what system of mind-training you practice,
    unless you realize the nature of your mind, severing its root,
    you miss the point of the Great Perfection.

    The errant aspirant blind to this imperative
    is like the archer who places his target to the front
    only to shoot off his arrow in another direction.
    He is like the houseowner who searches outside for a thief
    who is still in the house;
    like the exorcist who sets his spirit-trap at the west door
    when the demon lives in the east;
    like the poor man who begs,
    blind to his hearth-stone of gold.

    Therefore, my beloved children,
    you who wish to resolve life’s frustrations and anxieties
    by the direct method of discovering the nature of mind,
    examine your minds in the following way:


    …”

    I cannot tell you more. It would be against tradition. Please find out for yourself.

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      “The person who has a teacher knows.”

      =

      “The person who sees a buddha doesn’t need to kill him.”

      In the days that you believed in santa clause, you could not have simply “relaxed” that belief out of you by sitting on a cushion. And that’s just a minor one, not even worth mentioning.

      You can’t relax from conceptualizing. It’s not a willful act, and if it is, it’s something else. I’m not saying you should take my word over your teacher’s, but what I am saying is that anyone who really wants to know for themselves will try to find out one way or another.

      It’s not that I’m not sure whether this is the final thing, it’s that I’m sure it’s not the final thing, even though it can’t be anything else. Logical contradictions notwithstanding. I know teachers would be all too happy to tell me this is it, and that’s why I’m happy to give them all the finger. Your mileage may vary.

      It would be dishonest on my part if I would simply agree with them and leave it at that. Yes, it makes no sense, but if I can’t be true to myself, I can’t be true to anything. I know perfectly well where this is headed, and I know perfectly well that I’m not there yet, even though I must be wrong.

      That’s delusion for ya, and I find it much more helpful to admit my delusion than to cover it up. You say please find out for yourself, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

      So yeah, let’s not fall into endless repetition, I think we’ve reached the end of this.

      Cheers to you, and thanks again.

  44. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark,

    I totally agree — by the way, the word ‘I’ appeared sixteen times in your post. That is auspicious because the moon of realisation is said to have 16 kalas or phases.

    By the way, I really have no particular teacher (so am not doing fishing on a guru’s behalf here) — but I simply have respect for the tradition as a whole, for the tradition’s teachers as a whole.

    To close, here is a poem for you which I composed in Sanskrit some time ago, along with with a translation:

    Křpā-kusuma-daśa-ślokī
    Ten Verses on the Flower of Grace

    křpā-vegena bharitā
    cetanā’nanda-harşitā
    sva-samvedanam āśritya
    svādarśe svam samīkşate

    Filled by the force of grace,
    awareness is elated with joy
    and by resorting to look directly at itself
    perceives itself in the mirror of itself.

    *

    svānanda-magna-hřdayam
    yonau tūşņīm-sthitam yadā
    svārtha-śūnya-nididhyāsāt
    paramārthah prakāśyate

    As the heart is immersed in its own joy
    it becomes relaxed at the source.
    Now meditating one’s own reality as emptiness
    ultimate reality shines forth.

    *

    tatra śrī-lalitā-devī
    kāmeśvara-samanvitā
    śiva-śaktyaikya-rūpeņa
    parā samvit prabhāsate

    Here the sacred Playful Goddess
    united with the Lord of Desire
    as the union of the peaceful and the dynamic
    radiates as parā samvit, supreme awareness.

    *

    śuddha-sphaţika-varņābhā
    sarva-varņopaśobhitā
    saudāminīva jhaţiti
    prādurbhavati sundarī

    With the luminous colour of a pure crystal
    beautified by all possible colours
    the Beautiful One appears suddenly like lightning.

    *

    samudra iva sampūrņā
    vyomavad vyāpta-śūnyatā
    paramānanda-lasitā
    hřdayākāśa-hamsikā

    Completely full like an ocean
    pervasively empty like space,
    shines as supreme bliss
    the lady swan in the space of the heart.

    *

    koți-koți-sahasrāņām
    rayīņām arņavā divah
    ekatreva ca samjātā
    loka-lokātma-yonijāh

    Billions and billions of waves of light rays,
    as if come together in a single spot,
    born of the source and true nature of all the worlds.

    *

    amuşmād adbhutāt tattvād
    astitvam sarvam udgatam
    viśvam tad-ātma-vad dŕşțam
    ananta-bhuvanodgamam

    From this wonderful reality
    all beingness has sprung forth,
    All is permeated by her nature
    whence infinite worlds arise.

    *

    tato’nantā virūpāś ca
    lokā lokāh pravāhitāh
    agni-leśā yathā vahni-
    samudrād iva sarjitāh

    From her, endless and varied
    worlds after worlds flow forth
    like drops of fire
    emerging from an ocean of fire.

    *

    kāla-pravāho na jñāto
    ghațī yāmā dinam tu vā
    satyam ekam anekam vā
    sarvam devīmayam jagat

    The flow of time unknown
    a minute, an hour, or a day –
    truth may be one, or many,
    but the world consists of the Goddess.

    *

    sarvāvasthāsu sā jyotsnā
    komalā śaraņam bhavet
    etān yaś ca pațhecchlokān
    so’pi hŕcchāntim āpnuyāt

    In all states
    may she, the tender moonlight, be the refuge.
    And may the one who reads these verses
    attain the heart’s peace.

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      Thanks. I’m afraid all I have to boast is an old, abandoned facebook account named Pratityasamutpada. ;)

      May all be asparagus!

  45. Chrisinbliss says:

    …an account that I just liked!

    But only green asparagus! The white one is too boring.

  46. Chrisinbliss says:

    Yes, your teacher is great.

    In my case, I have decided to ski on that very mountain!

    May all be auspicious!

    • Mark says:

      Then let’s hope the mountain doesn’t vanish.

      By the way, raw uninterpreted experience is not essentially different from the interpretations that we pile on top. The latter are what you call conceptualizations, but both are actually conceptual in nature. What else would it be, if all this is buddha mind.

      You might think them to be distinct just as you might think visual perception is fundamentally distinct from sound or thought. But if it’s all mind then it’s all thought, and none more true than another. There is no actual difference between red and blue, or between the world of sight and the world of imagination. It’s all imagination, of buddha mind.

      “… an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks …”

      So even here within the dream there is not such great multiplicity as thought implies. And indeed, how could there be, if multiplicity can’t actually exist.

      Salute

      P.S. If a person with a teacher knows, and you are not a person with a teacher… then who are you defending.

      P.P.S. Citing scripture as an argument against privacy is not the same as investigating your own assumptions. Taking tradition as the final word is not the same as finding out for oneself.

      P.P.P.S. Gah… When does the hurting stop… Feel free to ignore me, remember I’m just an asshole and proud. Such is the hypocrisy of the identity machine. May all be asparagus.

    • Mark says:

      Hey! I just saw your picture on facebook of father and son…

      You know what, I’m so sorry to meddle. I should just butt out.

      Forgive me, for I know not what I do.

      It was nice to meet you, Chris. Now I humbly bow out.

      Much love,
      Mark

  47. Mark says:

    “One can’t transcend opposites if one can’t face extremes.”

    – Mark Pratityasamutpada, asshole and proud.

  48. Chrisinbliss says:

    Mark,

    Sorry for the late reply.

    Yes indeed that is my son and me. His name means “immortal” in Sanskrit.

    I didn’t fully understand the above comments — objectless space is keeping me too occupied.

    You are absolutely right that one needs to find out for oneself. Scripture, tradition and teachers are only assistants, no doubt.

    I take the “ācāryavān puruşo veda” – “the person who has a teacher knows” in the following sense. The “me me” nonduality (where it’s all about me and me finding out for myself, etc.) can lead to a state of isolating oneself from reality, people, phenomena, whereas the “we all in the same boat of grace” nonduality allows the realisation that the minds of all the great teachers are all-pervasive like space. Simply isolating oneself from this sweet truth by denying it all and withdrawing into oneself from everyone for no proper reason other than ‘finding out for oneself’ can lead to severe narcissistic tendencies that haven’t much in common with a compassionate enlightened mind.

    Now off to the East! (I will probably be unable to respond for a while)

    May all be auspicious and may you be happy!

    • Mark says:

      Then go ahead, be a noble, blissed out, politically correct, socially responsible, goody two-shoe, all-pervasive spacegoat of grace, if you really think that’s not “me me” nonduality, if you really think that’s not narcissism, if you really think that’s the sweet truth. YUCK! Gimme a break.

      (sorry, I can only tolerate so much sugary sweetness before I start bouncing)

      You may insist on wrapping a warted witch in a flower dress, but I wouldn’t want any babies with her. You’ve been on a feelgood high and you just want it to last. You’ve been had, don’t you know. The warted witch has you by the balls singing hallelujah and begging for titty. Don’t you have any self-respect?

      I’m not talking about narcissism, I’m talking about inward honesty. I’m not talking about a lifestyle, I’m talking about truth. I’m not talking about isolation from reality, I’m talking about finding reality. And you haven’t found it yet, or did you really think you had.

      In case you didn’t know, waking up and being awake are two entirely different things. All that misbegotten compassion of yours is not doing you any favors. Unless of course you don’t really want reality, but just a lasting compassion high. Phenomenal filth. Sweet dreams in sweet company. Circle jerking like there’s no tomorrow, because what if there really isn’t.

      Always the same boring, tired, deluded, babbling, fearful little objections that don’t actually make any sense whatsoever except to the mind that refuses to get real (oh the irony). Way to ignore everything I’ve been saying. And you know what? You’re absolutely right. Why mess with such a nice dream.

      So fuck it, how about I stop trying to save you, and you stop trying to save me, and we call it a week. I wouldn’t blame you if you just wrote the whole thing off and went skiing with your family. Good on you. And drop all that luggage in a ravine while you’re at it. And mine too, please take it, I don’t want it anymore.

      May auspicious extremes visit upon you and yank you out of your local minimum.

    • Mark says:

      Compassion for others seems pretty silly if there are in fact no others, don’t you think? You’ve already agreed that there can only be one truth. Only be one nothingness. The nothingness behind my eyes must be the exact same nothingness behind yours. Same consciousness, different content. One sentient being, FOR REAL, and any number of dreams.

      That’s how close it is when I say you are me. None of this bullshit interconnected business and compassionate enlightened minds. All of that is “other”. There is no other.

      What if you’ve been sold a bill of goods. And what if the only reason you bought it, is because you don’t really want to wake up. What if your mind has its own agenda. What if you’re the one isolating yourself from reality, from yourself, and from everyone that you pretend to be compassionate for. Such a big mouth, and nothing to back it up but empty gestures. What a miserable pretentious fucking flake you must be then!

      What if the only thing preventing you from knowing this directly, is the real narcissism. What if the only compassion worth the name is to find this out for yourself, by cutting the crap and going as far inward as inward goes. What if this is the sweet truth. Would you have the guts to go after it…

    • Mark says:

      This guy is probably one of the most spiritually correct teachers out there who I nonetheless believe to be enlightened, and most people in this arena will probably know this video already. But you might want to watch it again in the light of everything I’ve been saying. It’s all in there, for those who have the guts to listen without re-interpreting everything into their own pre-existing framework of what they think enlightenment should be all about.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbbCkdrAdeI

    • Mark says:

      And yes, I know all this talk is ridiculous. Why the hell can’t I just shut the fuck up. I’d like to think that someone out there might somehow benefit from all this vomit I’m spewing, but I also know that’s just my little ego talking. It’s that bitch Maya, keeping me compromised.

      But I’m not calling the shots here. I can try to fight it, and I certainly have, more often than I’d care to remember, but that’s clearly not the way out. The only way out is through. And that’s my only priority.

      So bring it on, bitch. Do me a favor and show me what you got.

    • Mark says:

      “The first step towards enlightenment is to admit delusion.”

      – Mark of Narcissus

    • Mark says:

      “Every part IS the whole!”

    • Mark says:

      Q: “Why can’t I stop shouting about this shit?”

      A: “Because I think they’re wrong and I’m right.”

      Case closed.

    • Mark says:

      (by which I mean it’s just another trick of ego to maintain itself – myself – arguing for its own sake… and besides that, I’m not right and you’re not wrong… sorry I called you a flake, I’m the real flake… thanks again Chris, have a good one)

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