Outshining Ignorance

by Michael Damian

From horizon to horizon
a strange noise is bounding.
Thunder, it is thunder you say,
for you are older now, you know
the name of this sound.
Rain has been coming steady
while you sleep, surrounded
by your dream.

Think you that you know
what thunder is, and rain,
because you have names?
Yet you can hardly say what it means
to wake in the night and listen,
suddenly so nakedly alone
in your senses,
rapt beyond all reason.

You know then the great silent thing
that empties you between each rumbling—
You are not what you think,
nor the world what it appears.

As consciousness is unchanging, enlightenment is not, strictly speaking, a process of altering, increasing or expanding consciousness. It is a process of subtracting ignorance.

When a thick layer of clouds dissolves, we can see and feel the sun that was always shining behind them. Yet the sun never changed. The turning of the earth brings a new morning and the apparent rising of the sun. In the same way, when we turn our attention toward our true nature, the felt presence of awareness seems to appear anew. Of course it has always been there, but our attention was directed elsewhere.

By turning the light of attention upon itself, awareness seems to grow and expand. Its presence feels more lucid, rich and vast. Thoughts receive less fuel and slow down. The neutral space of stillness allows the mind to relax and may catalyze a powerful release of emotion, energy, laughter or mystic visions and insights. Yet nothing is being added to us. No matter how dramatic the mind states are, it is only the impact of shedding ignorance.

Spiritual ignorance does not imply a lack of intelligence. Ignorance is simply the condition of ignoring or not being aware of the actual nature of reality or Self. When we have never heard of enlightenment, we tend to see the symptoms of ignorance as natural and unavoidable. We fail to appreciate that we are suffering the effects of basic, pervasive delusion. Ignorance can therefore be likened to being lost without knowing you are lost.

This type of lostness only reveals itself through increasing struggle and bewilderment. Eventually we grasp that we are suffering because of a fundamental confusion about life that we have never dealt with. Knowing we are existentially lost can be called the beginning of the spiritual search. We can also see that this search has always been with us, albeit in an unconscious mode.

The search for fulfillment is built into the struggle and process of human existence. Right from the beginning, we misidentify our being and our happiness with external things and circumstances. We cannot help this process of identifying with mental and physical conditions. Many substitutes for truth are accepted along the way, and substitutes always lead to disillusionment. This is the natural process of growing up.

The real meaning of growing up is to become conscious, an awake being. We become conscious through the dynamic of identifying ourselves with something, only to later disidentify and realize a new wholeness and independence from that thing, activity or situation. To outgrow something means consciousness got tired of identifying with something less than its own fullness and potential.

We outgrow not only interests and activities but entire paradigms and modes of being. When the defining theme or logic of a developmental phase has fulfilled itself, its main limitation is revealed and becomes increasingly uncomfortable to live with. The mind endures instability and uncertainty as it seeks its next foothold.

From birth onward we move through stages of unconscious identification, increasing discomfort and disidentifcation. This is the game of consciousness played out in each individual mind. The toys of childhood give way to the more sophisticated amusements of adulthood. Whereas the play of childhood was spontaneous and vital for learning, our adult games often continue long after the joy of discovery has passed.

When disillusionment continues into adulthood without revealing a new horizon of discovery, it is easy to rationalize that this must be all that life offers. If we do not break new ground of wisdom we easily fall into the trap of cynicism and despair. Perhaps we expected that growing older would lead naturally to clear-headed wisdom, but instead of shedding our illusions we find we have only exchanged the simple illusions of childhood for more complex ones.

The game of realizing wholeness is still on, but as life presents us with seemingly unsolvable riddles and contradictions it may seem like senseless torment. Not knowing where to find clarity, we develop conflicted, chattering minds distracted by the routines and amusements of materialism. Eventually, our basic ignorance catches up with us and triggers a crisis of some kind.

The spiritual game is serious, although its goal is the revelation of lightness. We could say that in its quest to actualize the infinite lightness of its own being, consciousness makes our ignorance feel heavier and heavier.

According to the materialistic outlook, we just have to add more novelty and spice to our lives to maintain the façade of being fulfilled by things and experiences. Enlightenment offers an entirely different possibility. We can wake up out of the game of identity altogether.

This is the last disillusionment, the final frontier, and what a refreshing vista it presents. At last, consciousness uses the mind to question the primal sense of separateness. At this juncture we realize that gaining new and better experiences cannot add anything to us. We can accept and enjoy positive experiences while no longer expecting them to deliver lasting peace and fulfillment. As our understanding becomes more sharp and subtle, we lose interest in the identity project that has been driving us our entire life.

When our mental-emotional energy no longer fuels the restless distraction and seeking of the separative mind, the mask of persona has no support and crumbles. We no longer know who we are. We find it difficult to sustain the image we and others have had of ourselves. Our former vanity and self-absorption are exchanged for a refreshing authenticity and genuine contact with other beings. We cease to live for the story we are telling, preferring the raw flow of life unmediated by superfluous, self-conscious narrative.

The sense of self is a process defined by the movement and investment of energy. It becomes very shaky in moments of neutrality and stillness. Such moments are typically felt as an intolerable emptiness and boredom, to be quickly escaped. But when consciousness is ready to know itself, we will be helpless and unable to direct attention away from the truth. The seemingly awful truth we are being forced to confront is actually love—not the image we have made of love, but love as pure presence. Real love is unconditional because its nature is empty, free of conditions.

The quality of having one’s mental-emotional energy suspended and nullified is the experience of death. All death is psychological. Death is the absence of any experience or object to cling to. It is the agonizing inner voidness of loss. It is primal uncertainty and destabilization.

Sure, you see the room full of familiar objects around you, but when you are psychologically removed from them, your surroundings cease to bring you the familiar comfort and security. You are not going crazy, you are going sane. Consciousness is having its day, but what is day to consciousness is experienced as night for our long-held ignorance. The soul, consciousness, does not go through a dark night—only our ignorance does.

The purpose of death is not to end life and bring a new one. It is to reveal eternal life, the timeless. When you move through the final threshold and outgrow all mind-made identities, you are reborn in spirit. Of course, this is what you have always been. Pure being, pure awareness, pure knowing. Then you live the divine game as consciousness itself. You have always been one with life, but now you know it. Having outshined the former ignorance, you are now just the shining.

Michael Damian is a direct path teacher

36 thoughts on “Outshining Ignorance

  1. Hi Michael,

    I really enjoyed your post, thank you.

    “No matter how dramatic the mind states are, it is only the impact of shedding ignorance.”

    Yes! It took me more than 40 years of “seeking” to come to the conclusion that all my efforts to chase epiphanies, expand consciousness, enter “deeper” trance states, and produce mystical experiences was only serving to reinforce the false sense of separation which I was trying to overcome in the first place.

    Best Regards,

    • Hi Charles,
      I’m glad you enjoyed this piece, and most importantly that you’ve found clarity about the essential. Very happy to meet you here!

  2. How true it is!! UG told me 40 years ago that everything I was doing was taking me away from what is.

    Charles, if this is really the case for you, what is your interest in reading and posting here and discussing all of this philosophy?

    • Anon,

      I might ask the same question of you! 🙂

      I dropped the long search only after discovering Vedanta and realizing that I had been looking for the glasses that were already sitting atop my head. So naturally I am fond of Advaita, enjoy reading the texts and discussing it here on AV. There is really nothing more to it than that!


      • For me, it is an experiment of engaging conceptual thinking and dissolving it in the here and now, in present awareness. I really have no interest in Advaita or any other philosophy. Perhaps this has something to do with my association with UG and what transpired there.

        You mentioned the reinforcement of the false sense of separate self. Doesn’t the engagement in conceptual thinking also reinforce it? If all your efforts of sadhana never touched that sense of separate self, then what could? Advaita? Dzogchen? Ramana? UG? This sense is reflexive and happening in the body and mind simultaneously no matter what you are doing. It is one thing to stop seeking any experiences that will stop the reinforcement of a separate sense of self based on a clear understanding that you cannot ‘undo’ this, and quite another to take up another activity ‘innocently’ as if it weren’t more of the same movement.

        • Anon,

          I realize you have no interest in Advaita. That’s precisely why I’ve never understood why you post here on A/V. 🙂

          All your talk about dissolving conceptual thought is, itself, just more conceptual thought, part of the movie I was referring to above. You’re trapped by your own conceptual constructions too, except you never seem to acknowledge this point.

          I’ll answer your question a different way. I have a deep vasana for Advaita Vedanta, and see no point or purpose to doing anything about trying to “remove” said Vasana. Who cares? I am not trying to “undo” anything at all!


          • What I meant by dissolving conceptual thought is simply letting it be and not giving energy to its continuation. Being present outshines conceptual thinking. No one is trapped. This is just more thinking. Doing or undoing is the same movement of thought fighting for its ‘continuity’. Non duality is the unitary nature of mind in which all arising is allowed to be and allowed to dissolve effortlessly into its source. No resistance to any of it. It is about what we are without any interpretations, names, reference points. There is no person doing anything or being anything. Perhaps this is the most basic and important point of all.

  3. A good piece of writing Michael. Evidently, your teaching method being ‘direct’ you don’t have to have recourse to other authorities, which is alright. In the end everyone is his/her own authority (but see below). Does it mean that one can ignore or forget everything one has learned before from so many sources: great thinkers of the past from East and West, too many to start mentioning here? (even though your method, Michael, is direct teaching you don’t mention teachers with that same or similar approach or denomination: Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon, Jean Kein, etc.; again no objection).

    Contrary to Anonymous expected reaction (which often sounds as an ex-abrupt or, alternately, to a ‘master dixit’) to what precedes, I take the opportunity hereby of paying tribute to many of those older and brilliant earth (or mind) movers and shakers – the likes of Plato and Aristotle in the West and Shankara and Gaudapada in the East.

    If I interpret Charles correctly, he is not, cannot be, repentant or sorry for his 40 yrs search (similar to mine!). Would he have arrived at good port without having traversed the deep and perilous seas as Odysseus did? For, verily, one’s life is in it, as in the case of that exemplar Greek hero. The following is my reply to a recent question in Quora which is relevant to what we are discussing here. I would welcome Michael’s – and any others’ – thoughts on it.

    QUORA. How can I start applying Plato’s maxim “know thyself” in my life?
    What do I have to do? How do I start to know myself?


    • Hi Martin,

      You asked, perhaps rhetorically: “If I interpret Charles correctly, he is not, cannot be, repentant or sorry for his 40 yrs search (similar to mine!). Would he have arrived at good port without having traversed the deep and perilous seas as Odysseus did?”

      You interpret me correctly. I have no regrets about the search and am not sorry about it. Why should I be? That was my sadhana, that’s all, just karma playing out in the totality of the dharma field. I have never been anything other than That, and the search was just part of the movie that is the apparent life of an apparently separate individual as it plays out on the screen. Why should the screen care what images play on its surface or how long the movie may last? Comedy, tragedy, romance, drama — it’s all just Isvara’s show anyway.

      Best Regards,

    • Hi Martin,

      You asked, “Does it mean that one can ignore or forget everything one has learned before from so many sources: great thinkers of the past from East and West?” and you also noted that I didn’t mention other direct path teachers.

      There is no need to ignore or forget those great teachers and their works. However, their teachings may not be enough to realize one’s true nature, so one needs to go further. With relation to the direct path of self-inquiry and realization, sometimes I mention other teachers but mostly I don’t. This is because the focus is on the message and not the messenger.

      Regarding your question about how to start to know yourself, the first step is to find a living teacher and a teaching to work with. For your own process of realization, working with a teacher is vital. I welcome you to be in touch with me if you’d like to explore further.

      Kind regards,

  4. M. Other than going by your own wits – a hard task which even the brilliant Descartes did not complete or achieve – I would read one of Plato’s Dialogues, for instance ‘Apology’, or ‘Phaedrus’. But, even better, try to get your teeth on what, to me, is the highest body of knowledge (definitely self-knowledge), and which most people will refrain from doing due to its seemingly counter-intuitive nature and difficulty: that is Advaita Vedanta. Yes, it will take effort and perseverance, but there is no greater (intellectual, and spiritual) challenge and possible rewards – if you do really want to know yourself no matter what, to know your own nature. However, I think, a predisposition is required for it, another hurdle being our Western mind-frame, which is inimical to words such as Wisdom (with capital W) and anything to do with Eastern culture and philosophy.

    Note. The Western philosopher Schopenhauer, who came after Descartes, had the great advantage over the latter of having come across texts such as the Upanishads from India – that was the first seed, concerning Eastern Wisdom and experience, being implanted in the European mind.

  5. Thank you Michael, but I am not looking for a living teacher. There are a number of teachers that are living in me, so to say, like the ones (from East and West) that I mentioned above. Is the teaching of Sri Atmananda, for example, not alive right now – or even that of Plato? Evidently you did not read the second part of my post, which was separated by the ‘system’ from the first due to my (wrongly) adding <> signs between them. You will see that the second part was in reply to a question in Quora, where I frequently participate. Greetings, Martin

    • Ok Martin, thanks for explaining. Please note that I did not say that the teaching of a “non-living” teacher is useless or dead. I only claim that the direct personal guidance of a living teacher is usually very helpful for a seeker. Others do not need it.

  6. To begin with, ‘experience’ is a concept, and to try to unpack it is like opening a can of worms, especially when dealing with metaphysical concepts; which means it is not that simple. The term ‘experience’ can work as a generic or as a particular concept, as in ‘experience of life’, and ‘experience of a piece of music’ (like listening to Debussy’s Clair de lune) respectively. Not to talk about ‘intellectual experience’, ‘esthetic experience’, etc. As a concept, ‘experience’ clearly refers to some ‘reality’, either outside or ‘inside’ the subject, whether ‘real’ or imaginary. It implies duality, unless one uses the word ‘experiencing’. An account of non-dual experience/experiencing can be given (but not here), as with Knowledge/Knowing.

    The notion of “experience” has been criticised. Robert Sharf has pointed out that “experience” is a typical Western term, which has found its way into Asian religiosity via Western influences.

    Insight, following him, is not ‘the “experience” of some transcendental reality, but is a cognitive event, the (intuitive) understanding or “grasping” of some specific understanding of reality, as in kensho or anubhava.’

  7. Martin,

    I can see how the question ‘Is experience a concept?’ could give rise to all sorts of interpretations. But, what I was trying to get at is the fact that every moment, the body/mind is engaged with living and there are all manners of processes going on, namely the senses that are stimulated through contact with ‘objects’ like the sound of the boats on the river, the seeing of movement by the eyes, and then the involuntary processes that take place within the body like the heart beating, the breath, the blood moving through different parts of the body. All these processes are physiological. Are these concepts? It seems to me that concepts are mental creations that come about through thinking about these processes and using memory to identify, name, and pursue them for pleasure and meaning.

    If you are engaged in conceptual pursuit, you cannot be engaged in the moment, the present awareness of the actual processes that arise moment to moment which are very simple and need no fixing, figuring out, or other manipulation/arrangement that takes place when thinking about the past moment(s). For me, experience is being what you are, not what you conceptualize. Conceptualization, which in its current form seems more like an aberration of a natural process, becomes a tool for survival and comfort of the species, not a process that takes one into speculation, what ifs, and any separating activity that has no basis in non duality which seems to be the actual nature of experience when conceptualization is not present.

  8. Anon you seem to be confused about terminology. What exactly is non-dual about a body-mind experiencing ‘the sound of the boats on the river . . .’?

    And how do you KNOW that the sense impressions that you feel are any less conceptual than the concepts that you talk of? After all sense impressions are also mental creations. The only difference from a concept, is that you believe (a concept) that there is an object ‘out there’ that corresponds to your sense impression.

  9. Martin, I just wanted to say that I strongly concur with you, that the fundamental question is to know oneself, and that can best be done by relying on your own wits. Yes, perhaps get ‘guidance’ at the outset, or even along the way, to challenge your thinking / understanding, but ultimately you need to find the answer for yourself, otherwise its not yours and it has no value. And I’d agree with you that the likes of Shankara, Gaudapada, Ramana, Atmananda, and Nisargadatta are far more reliable sources, and with far greater subtlety and depth.

  10. Just came across these two quotes in FB – very pertinent about ‘experience and experiencer’. Bob Adamson says essentially the same thing.

    ‘Absence of Self-Consciousness
    Imagine vivid experiences occurring but absent of any self-referencing thoughts that affirm or claim that the experiences relate to “you”.
    Imagine never thinking thoughts about how experiences seem to “you”; a complete absence of self-referencing preferences for or against what’s happening.

    In this way life flows friction free, suffering free and stress free. No more thoughts that tie experiences to a “me” as an experiencer.
    That’s exactly how our primary default awareness experiences in every moment already. It’s only the secondary mind that relates experiences to an imaginary “me”.’
    –Jackson Peterson

    “What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are “coins” for real things.”
    ― Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

  11. Martin,

    That seems to be what I have been saying in my posts.


    It’s all in the experiencing, not the analysis of the experience.

  12. What is evident in Martin’s quotes – and comments from anon, and indeed the general run of modern non duality teachers – is that they are prescribing an egoless living (‘living in the now’), which is light and free from individual suffering and pain. As is evident in the quote about primary awareness and the secondary mind that then goes on to interpret. There may well be value in this level of teaching.

    However, it still retains a subtle sense of being a body-mind that is experiencing life, implicitly ‘in the way it was meant to be lived’. And that provides a powerful stall to attract seekers who are disillusioned with the ups and downs that they experience as a result of likes and dislikes, but are unprepared for death. It also explains how many of these teachers can charge fees for their wisdom – as just another self-help methodology, a proliferation of which (spiritual or material) is evident on Amazon.

    However, as I noted previously, advaita, and jnanis, are actually non-compromising in the negation of all that is, of neti-neti. There is no differential made between thought-concepts and sense perceptions. There is no world, there is no body, there is only that which exists in deep sleep. All else is an illusion, a superimposition, that is irrelevant, unimportant. Hence why throughout the scriptures, jnanis have renounced all and live by what comes to them by chance.

    It is not that they enjoy the world. moment-to-moment, ego-free; it is that it is not paid attention to; it is but an illusory shadow.

    MK2.15: Those that exist within the mind (as mere subjective imaginations) and are known as the unmanifested, as well as those that exist without, in a manifested form (as perceived objects) – all are mere imaginations, the difference lying only in the sense organs (by means of which the latter are cognised).
    MK4.80: The mind, thus freed from attachment (to all external objects) and undistracted (by fresh objects) attains to its state of immutability. Being actually realised by the wise, it is undifferentiated, birthless and non dual.

    Shankara, in Upadesha Sahasri:
    19.5 When thou (mind) has ceased to function there is no notion of difference, through which one suffers through illusion, the delusion that there is a world. For perception (of difference) is the cause of the rise of illusion. When sense of difference is absent (as in dreamless sleep), no one experiences any illusion.
    19.12: I neither possess anything nor am I possessed by anything. For I am non-dual and what is merely imagined does not exist. I myself am not imagined for I am evident prior to all imaginations. Only duality is imagined.

    Ramana Maharshi in Nan Yar:
    “If the mind, which is the instrument of knowledge and is the basis of all activity, subsides, the perception of the world as an objective reality ceases. Unless the illusory perception of the serpent in the rope ceases, the rope on which the illusion is formed is not perceived as such. Similarly, unless the illusory nature of the perception of the world as an objective reality ceases, the vision of the true nature of the Self, on which the illusion is formed, is not obtained.”

    “Just be. Do nothing. Be. No climbing mountains and sitting in caves. I do not even say: “be yourself”, since you do not know yourself. Just be. Having seen that you are neither the “outer” world of perceivables, nor the “inner” world of thinkables, that you are neither body nor mind, just be. ”
    “Throw away every thought, every experience, everything that happens after this consciousness has come. Other than throwing it away as useless, there is nothing to be done beyond this firm understanding in which you become more and more absorbed.”

  13. Venkat,

    One important facet that seems to be omitted in all these statements that you quoted and that perhaps is not commonly addressed is ‘That is also This’. The statement that everything is Brahman has to include all arisings which have the common nature of pure mind/awareness/being, and without a self. It is only a self that is divisive and comparative. With its absence, there is unity in all movement. Whether there is form or the formless, there is no division. Ultimately, Life is not negated, but lived in a different way. This is where the body undergoes a radical change that is irreversible as evidenced in UG’s and Ramana’s death experiences. One can live egoless and still not be transformed. Dzogchen teachings contain evidence of this as well as Taoist and Yogic sources. The Ascension of Christ is the only public record that I know of besides Tibetan accounts of Dzogchen masters and the transfiguration of the body. The problem is a lot of this is missing from public knowledge and cannot be induced through practices. The physiological transformation of individuals has been pointed to in most traditions. Without it, that subtle sense of being a body-mind that you mention, remains as a reflexive mechanism and the transformation is not complete. The natural state is much more radical than the nouveau advaitins think it is. I was lucky enough to meet and witness someone like this. It is a life changing event that sends shock waves through your being. As Nisargadatta says, ‘Just be’. Being has no reference points.

  14. Anon

    You seem to agree with me about the subtle sense of being a body-mind, and yet also contradict yourself by talking about the ‘physiological transformation of individuals’. Ramana never waxed lyrical about the physiological transformation of his body, or of it being a goal; nor did Nisargadatta; and nor does Advaita. That is why the quotes do not mention this ‘facet’ of yours.

    Advaita certainly does talk about all sorts of experiences and powers that may come to a person on the path, but these are all to be dismissed and ignored – as just another illusory experience, which is a distraction from the ultimate truth.

    The advaita formulation that you refer to is “Brahman is real; the world is unreal; the jiva is non-different from Brahman”. If advaita ever says “everything is Brahman”, it is only in the sense of a preliminary teaching statement. The ultimate truth that is expounded is ajata vada: the world is unreal, is an illusion, was ‘never born’. That is the context in which the quotes I set out above need to be understood. Reifying physiological experiences of the body is nowhere extolled; if you have ever read Nisargadatta, he constantly says you are not the body.

    Hence the quotes are pointing out the illusoriness of everything – the world, the body-mind, and the sense of ego. Once all these are negated, what remains is it.

    • Ilusoriness of everything, doesn’t mean the negation of everything. Once you see the ’emptiness’ or insubstantiality of what arises, form becomes formless, but it doesn’t disappear. That is Nirvikalpa which I am not talking about but which nonetheless is one of the processes that the body can undergo. Hence, my reference to ‘First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is’.


      In my emptiness, there is no structured field,
      and my radiance cannot be asserted or negated;
      my presence of mind is infallibly retentive,
      my appearances a process of direct perception;
      I cannot be evoked by verbal elaboration,
      and engendered by mantra, I am already perfect;
      I am completely free of any cause or condition,
      and, free of dogmatic and experiential distortions,
      I am nonreferential, zero-dimensional.


      There is no way of understanding and there is no beyond.
      As long as you are reaching out, you are moving away from yourself.
      When this movement comes to an end,
      It results in an explosion, and that changes the whole structure
      Of your physical being.

      All the glands that have been inactive are suddenly activated.
      Instead of mind directing the body, there is a gland,
      Here on the forehead called the pineal gland
      That takes over and gives instructions to the body.
      The self is no more there, nothing, it is pure consciousness.
      You are born again, that is what the bible says; the seed must die
      In order to be born again.

      Venkat, there is much we have no idea about. UG never talked much about the so called ‘esoteric’ processes of the natural state because they are not the point that human beings need to be cognizant of. They are not the way to uncover the illusions we are under. Emptiness, the absence of self, which is the natural state of the mind, its essence, is not a thing and does not remain. As Lonchenpa guides us to not conceptualize it because it is not referential or dimensional. And, UG reminds us that there is no way to understand and no ‘beyond’.

    • Hi Venkat,

      Just to clarify here: Shankara (the ‘advaita formulation’) does not say that ‘the world is unreal’ or that it is ‘an illusion’. The term used is mithyA. This specifically does NOT mean that it is either unreal or an illusion. What it means is that its ‘reality’ is borrowed, as it were, from brahman. It has no reality of its own. The metaphor often used is gold-ring or clay-pot. The ring has no substantiality of its own, the actual substance is gold. The ring is merely name and form of the gold. Similarly, the world is only name and form of brahman or Consciousness.

      You can even regard the world as eternal, in the sense that it exists now in manifest form, whereas (before the big bang) it previously existed in unmanifest form. It has never been born, because it is not an entity in its own right. It is brahman, always has been, always will be.

      Best wishes,

      • Hi Dennis,

        Good to hear from you – and thanks for the clarification. But can I just check . . .

        In Nikhilananda’s translation of Mandukyakarika, v.2.15 seems to be clearly equating the waking state with the dream state and saying that it is no more than an imagination.

        For Upadesha Sahashri, I took Alston’s translation. But even Swami Jagadananada’s translation of v.19.12 reads “The world which is superimposed does not exist. My existence being known to be anterior to superimposition, I am not superimposed”.

        Also, SSSS in Heart of Sri Samkara states:
        33: The reality and the permanence of the waking world cannot be established.
        34: There is no distinction between the waking world as external and dream as mental

        The point seems to be that the world is a false appearance of the substratum, as the snake if of the rope. SSSS explains this in his Misconceptions about Shankara:

        Quoting SBH 2-1-14, 434:
        “Therefore it would be understood that all this universe of manifold things such as the experienced and the experiencer, does not exist apart from Brahman, in the same way as pot-ethers and jar-ethers, etc are not distinct from ether in the general, and just as mirage water, etc are not distinct from a sandy desert”
        He comments: Hende the experiencing selves are illustrated by pot-thees and experienced things are compared to mirage water.


        • Venkat,

          You are simply trying to fit these quotes into your own framework of conceptual knowledge. It is not the same thing as direct experience and in fact, prevents it. If you cannot see that these ideas and reference points are not your direct experience, but they are only IDEAS about direct experience, then you are only grasping at straws.

          You are waging a kind of war with yourself and others, using dialectic, scripture, and the accounts of others. You give me the sense of someone who has armed himself with all this ‘protection’, this ‘belief’ that will somehow save yourself.

          There is no one to save, no one to understand. This is the only illusion you need to see. Just let it go and breath.

        • Yes, these are all pretty much saying the same thing in slightly different ways.

          But you say: “The point seems to be that the world is a false appearance of the substratum, as the snake if of the rope.”

          This is the wrong metaphor to use because the snake has no reality at all. It is not correct to say that the snake is name and form of the rope. No one would try to claim that there really is a snake. The rope is real; the snake was a mistaken superimposition.

          Contrast this with the ring and gold metaphor. Here, the ordinary person, who has not previously encountered these ideas, would indeed claim that there really is a ring – she can hold it in her hand and put it on a finger. It takes a bit of convincing to explain that it is really only name and form of gold. The gold is real; the ring is mithyA.

          • Dennis,

            This is a very good point you make. Somehow, the mistake is easily made to think that Maya is somehow to be rejected in favor of the Unmanifested.

            In the Introduction to Longchenpa’s FINDING COMFORT AND EASE IN ENCHANTMENT, the translator writes;
            ‘The non dual reality of our immaculate original state manifests as the dualistic space-time world that we know in our everyday experience and which physicists and scientists examine in their laboratories.
            This Maya of our ordinary experience rests upon the structure that our intellect imposes. This is a diverse and complex system of concepts and beliefs that not only determines the quality and nature of our experience but also of the natural, and seemingly external world. This belief system and the Maya of experience that it manifests, is never cloven from the vast expanse of compassionate clear light in which it arises. The Maya of ‘false conception’ and the basic immaculate Maya of our natural state are one.’

            There is no real and false in Dzogchen. Everything is seen as Brahman as the Advaitins say. Nirvana is Samsara. It is all a play that has no beginning or end. Let us rest in that.

            BTW, Longchenpa’s view is considered to be the pinnacle of Dzogchen and all Tibetan teachings by the Tibetans themselves. Worth a look/see.

  15. Atmananda is similarly clear and uncompromising:

    “An experience is composed of two parts: (i) the background which is Reality itself; and (ii) the expression which is only a superimposition of the mind and senses upon the background Reality. In examining any experience to see what it is, we must give up the expression part of it as belonging entirely to the mind and senses and take only the background which is permanent and real. Thus examined, every experience reduces itself to the ultimate Reality”

    There is no ‘life flows friction free’ or ‘living as consciousness’ or of ‘a life changing event that sends shock waves through your being’. All of this is duality, still ego-ridden, however subtle.

  16. Venkat,

    It’s impossible to explain any of this in a way that is acceptable to all and ‘practical’ to all. No pointer or explanation is going to suffice. It’s just the way concepts and words are. That is why I say it is in the actual experience. If you don’t like the word experience, you can substitute something else that you feel comfortable with, like being.

    Duality is not a problem to one who is present in the moment. What is that ‘one’? No one knows and it can’t be found. You can put any name to it. Any reference points don’t suffice. That is it’s nature. Whatever arises needs no interpretation. If you think that somehow nothing manifests, this would be an incorrect view. There is both form and formlessness and not form and not formlessness. The Buddhists call this Suchness.

    If you remember the Zen saying, ‘First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is’. In Dzogchen, they call it The Roaring Silence. There is paradox associated with all this. You can’t get lost in the words and content of explanations. It’s a kind of sinking in to the space between thoughts where all the chatter subsides and the nature of mind is made clear. There is no reason to call it non-duality or anything else. All those opposites are empty concepts. They are not real, but they are there nevertheless.

  17. Anon

    Since you like to quote Dzogchen, you may wish to carefully consider the words of Padmasambhava, its founder – which are no different from the words of Advaita masters above:

    Since you do not see the natural condition of the real disposition of things,
    You do not know that appearances come from mind, and so you are thrust once again in to Samsara.
    By not seeing that your own mind is actually the Buddha, Nirvana becomes obscured.
    With respect to Samsara and Nirvana, the difference is simply due to ignorance or to awareness respectively.

    If you are not aware that the fundamental error or delusion comes from the mind,
    You will not properly understand the real meaning of the nature of reality.

    As for this diversity of appearances, which represents relative truth
    NOT EVEN ONE OF THESE APPEARANCES IS ACTUALLY CREATED IN REALITY, and so accordingly they disappear again.

    Everything that appears is but a manifestation of mind.
    Even though the entire external inanimate universe appears to you, it is but a manifestation of mind.

    Even though various kinds of purity appear o you, they are but manifestations of mind.
    Even though the experience of remaining in a state of one-pointed concentration without any discursive thoughts appears to you, it is but a manifestation of mind.
    Even though a state without characteristics and without conceptual elaborations appears, it is but a manifestation of mind.

    There exist no appearances whatsoever that can be understood as not coming from mind.

  18. As I said Anon – it is not just concepts that are creations of mind – so are all the phenomena, states, enlightenment events, transfigurations, physiological transformations. Everything is a creation of mind, and only at the level of relative truth. Dzogchen says nothing different.

  19. Venkat,

    And, once again, you divide yourself by introducing the concept of ‘relative’ truth. This is a dualistic concept. If you pose relative, you introduce absolute. Only from the standpoint of your own dualistic view can there be this distinction. These terms are always misleading as they are not accurate descriptions. There is unity in non duality, not division. But how does one discuss it? You are either living it or not.

    Unfortunately, we are drifting into conceptual debate and interpretation of what others have said. In my own view, what others have said is always good to consider, but one always returns to one’s experience in the moment. Tell a woman in labor that all this is only in her mind and she will kick you as hard as she can.

    Do you live moment to moment knowing that all phenomena, events, transfigurations, etc., are creations of the mind? These seem to be the words of others and part of the conceptual world of ideas that we toss around as reference points. Personally, I don’t want the descriptions of others to be how I interpret existence. In fact, the best thing for you is to forget everything I’ve said and never give it another moment of thought. I will also try to refrain from quoting anyone past or present.

  20. “And, once again, you divide yourself by introducing the concept of ‘relative’ truth”
    – No actually, those were the words of Padmasambhava, the founding master of Dzogchen, which is a tradition you claimed articulated your experience closely. Oops.

    “Unfortunately, we are drifting into conceptual debate and interpretation of what others have said”
    – Every time you have written a sentence you are entering into a conceptual debate
    – Unfortunately you don’t seem to understand this, as you don’t seem to understand that your reification of physiological transformation of the body and its experiences is still ego-ridden and a mind creation, no different from concepts
    – The whole point of this website is to debate and interpret what advaita seeks to communicate. You really shouldn’t trouble yourself with your musings on this website, since it is full of foolish people having conceptual debates.

    “Do you live moment to moment knowing that all phenomena, events, transfigurations, etc., are creations of the mind?”
    – That is my concern, not yours
    – The point is your contention that there is a transformative event, blah, blah, blah is wholly dismissed as mind creations by both advaita and dzogchen

    “Personally, I don’t want the descriptions of others to be how I interpret existence”
    – Understandable since we now have established that neither advaita or dzogchen captures the luminosity of your experience. I doubt any other tradition does either.
    – Perhaps you should consider establishing your own teaching tradition, since every other person seems to do so nowadays?

    “In fact, the best thing for you is to forget everything I’ve said and never give it another moment of thought. I will also try to refrain from quoting anyone past or present”
    – Perhaps just refrain?

  21. I could continue with a response to everything you’ve said, but there is no point in dragging this kind of absurdity out any longer. I wish you well………..

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