Attentional Nonduality with a Visual Object (“Luminosity”)

 

Jenny

Since you got stream entry, has your perceptual experience of, say, a distant cloud changed? Yes or No. If yes, how so?

Vasily

That question is so fundamentally hard to answer. Okay, let me go look at a cloud real quickly.

Okay, it’s super cloudy, but I got the general gist. So there’s this feeling I get: “Oh, wow, I’m really here, and I was here before but not quite and now here’s this sky, and it’s really here and vivid. It feels like there’s another dimension to it that wasn’t perceived earlier, like I saw the cloud (sky) but didn’t really see it.”

This has been happening with all five sense doors over the past couple months. It is like meaning and dimensionality have just begun oozing out of everything. I’m like, “How have I been missing this this whole time?”

Is that useful?

Jenny

Maybe. Let’s stick with vision for now.

Vasily

There’s more color and brightness to things, like high-definition.

Jenny

You remember all the talks we had with Daniel in the DhU about luminosity?

Vasily

Kind of.

Jenny

The brightness, the vividness, the higher definition . . . those are like secondary effects of luminosity and are truly visual. So it is good that you are noticing all that and can articulate that. This part is easy to articulate. The primary effect of luminosity, on the other hand, is a bitch to describe even when one has it and makes a living off using words.

Andrew

You know, things are just like, right there!

Jenny

Yeah, hahaha. Vasily, in regular dualistic perception, the object viewed is solid, discrete, and over there. And you are over here, and your awareness over here processes the sight experience such that the object is over there, unto itself, separate.

Vasily

Yeah, see,  that’s what’s the hard part about that question. It now feels natural for the space to feel unified. It doesn’t feel as much like I’m looking at the sky as that there just is this colored expansion of space and the colors change and the forms change
but things are really the same, if that makes sense. There’s also something to do with creation. Everything’s being created at once. And it is flowy somehow. That’s harder to explain, but I can go into it if you think it’s relevant.

Jenny

Luminosity happens while looking at an object happens. But the primary effect, as opposed to the secondary effects of clarity, high definition, and color saturation you mentioned, isn’t actually visual. It concerns the “consciousness” part of eye-consciousness.

Vasily

Right.

Jenny

So, in terms of separate Subject and separate Object . . . you say they are unified and in some sense the spatial demarcation of Subject/Object and the extension aspects differ from what they were before luminosity dawned. Yet the experience, you say, is somehow still “flowy.” 

Vasily

Like I flow into the sky/cloud . . . in some way.

Jenny

Specifically, “you” flow out into all this, and the “all this” oozes forth, as well. So the “flowy” aspect of the experience is because, in one sense, there is still an over here and an over there and they are “conversant” with each other dynamically, as it were?

Vasily

Well, not quite. Maybe there’s some part of that is like that. Yeah, there’s an over here and over there, but they really aren’t that different. They’re merely at different spatial locations, and that’s what I was getting at.

Jenny

Good.

Vasily

There’s this kind of “just space” that’s colored. There’s something underneath it.

Jenny

Underneath “just space”? And what is that? What seems to be underneath it?

Vasily

Awareness. Like something underneath the whole experience is immovable, un-understandable, consistent, and comforting.

Jenny

Alive.

Vasily

“Alive” is what I mean by the “creation” aspect: how these solid things seem to be simultaneous creation somehow. I’m still trying to get a better sense of that, however. All of that isn’t 100% finalized for me.

Jenny

So, just to summarize thus far—this attentional experience of an object is nondual, in one sense, because, although there is a dynamically fluid interchange of you with yon object, and hence an over there and over here, there is also one unified field that is vast, still, and pervaded by awareness.

Vasily

Yeah. Exactly.

Jenny

When I was first experiencing luminosity, I thought that my mind was fused with the distant cloud I gazed on outside my office window. It was as though my mind were over there with, in, or even as the cloud. But weeks and weeks later . . .

Vasily

Yeah, but I can see how the outflowing isn’t really positive, because that’s still implying mind over here going into over there.

Jenny

Yes, “flow” might seem to be still implying the unidirectionality of what in Dzogchen is called moving mind, which is the mind that clings to or pushes away objects (via the Three Poisons).

Weeks later, it seemed to me that “awareness” was impersonal, was with/in/as the cloud itself. As is ubiquitously parroted in the prag community, “The cloud is aware where it is.”

Vasily

Ya.

Jenny

However, the overarching truth is that both statements are simultaneously true: Your mind is at the cloud, yet the cloud is always already “processed” into being—without your subjective Perceiver manipulation’s being required.

Vasily

Right. Which is really what I’m trying to get at: Any feeling of nonduality is just another perception, because this awareness is already awakened.

Jenny

Very good, Vasily. Well put. That’s really key to next getting to rigpa, which is a whole higher order of magnitude, so to speak, beyond luminosity.

When you gaze on an object, there is a sense of two fluid streams intermingling. Nevertheless, because awareness is omnipervasive, there is paradoxically a sense of stillness and constancy, meaning some “ground” that is no entity yet is emphatically not impermanence.

Vasily

Yeah. Which is why it feels like the consciousness sensations around my head are kind of flowing into this vast immovable thing, but not flowing into it, because they’re already part of it, just another vibration, wave, color, whatever.

Does that make sense?

Jenny

Yes. That sounds like Emptiness, which isn’t an entity, as nonetheless known as “one taste” or “one flavor” pervading all diversity of experience equally.

So your experience of your cloud is of bidirectional flow, interchange without clear origin on one side, and at the same time vast stillness because always already nakedly aware. Awareness has no arising, no passing, no contour, no edge, no inside, no outside. Realizing this, you are no longer funneling “out there” into “in here” in order to project “out there” into existence so you can take separate credit for its separate thingness. The default setting is about the ego structure’s need to remain the controller. 

Vasily

Yeah, that sounds right. I’m like 90% there, I think.

I’m also trying to notice (and this is more so about emptiness) how all thoughts / perceptions, even subtle ones of me needing to do anything, are empty, are just part of this luminous field.

Jenny

Yeah, okay on thoughts. I tend to address cognitive thoughts last, long after straightforward sense perception. Do you know why?

Vasily

Why?

Jenny

Because nearly everyone in the various Pragmatic Dharma communities has no more than MCTB second path, even when they think they have fourth path, and why? Because they are fixated on the nonduality of “thought” and cannot describe any change in relatively immediate feeling, seeing, or hearing. If you question them, they will say strange things, like that their perception hasn’t changed but their relationship to their perception has changed. To me and others I know, this “change” sounds merely conceptual and psychological rather than a true unbinding of sensory misperception at its root.

Thought is therefore a dangerous category to become preoccupied with first, because it can so easily stray off into mere conceptualization of nonduality instead of experiential nonduality. I believe this is why Daniel tended to overstate that “sensations” were everything: He was trying to correct for this reification of what we are talking about here.

Addressing “thoughts,” we quickly will get into the weeds and get lost and get stuck.

I’ve spent untold hours with my good friend DW because his map treats thoughts like any other sense door in this respect. But he does know and agree that the Pragmatic folk are fooling themselves in exactly this way.

So . . . this is all very complicated and requires we enter into long discussions about Mahamudra and Dzogchen. All we are doing tonight, though, is dealing with Vasily and luminosity. Put thoughts aside for now on this talk.

Let me say just in passing that “thoughts” are not things even in the most superficial samsaric regard. They have no weight, extension, color, size, or other aspect of space. So dealing with thoughts as if they reside in a space, or relate to space, is a categorical error from the outset. The reintroduction of “thoughts” into the vast luminous field has to be addressed with practices concerning time and impermanence, rather than space, which means we have to get into Mahamudra/Dzogchen. Tonight all I have time/energy for is luminosity. It is 3 a.m., after all.

It sounds to me like you have luminosity. This happened a few months ago?

Vasily

I feel like I’ve had this for a while. Just the visual high-definition aspect has been getting more obvious over past few months. Actually maybe I got something at a 1-day Dzogchen retreat a couple of months ago.

Jenny

This is why I wish you all would keep journals, at least for the sake of the unwashed masses who want to  awaken.

Vasily

That retreat did begin opening up some new territory.

Jenny

What did KD teach on that retreat?

Andrew

Thanks for the reminder. Need to restart my journal now that practice is moving again.

Vasily

Just classic Dzogchen stuff.

Jenny

Such as . . . ?

Vasily

Everything is light. Visualize hums burning up the entire field. We did that special Dzogchen breathing for mixing blue and red in each side of the lungs/breathing.

Jenny

Oh boy! That sounds like some tantra. Is he in Nyingma?

Vasily

But also some pointing-out meditation, like how Dzogchen true nature is right here.

DW

Delete the self, just hang in the quietness of the foreground of the mind; then you might see the things that are still noisy. Noise . . . that is where it’s still at if you can tune into that.

Andrew

The ocean is sometimes still, sometimes stormy.

DW

The complete silence of the foreground of the mind leads to opening the background that is awareness.

Jenny

Except that awareness (rigpa, we are now talking about) has no foreground/background or other edge.

Andrew

Using the same practice used to examine individual waves teaches you nothing about the whole ocean.

DW

Well, to me, awareness is hard to open because my heart chakra is noisy.

Jenny

The answer to your heart trouble is relational tantra. And add this mantra: “I release all martyr energies.”

Vasily

But isn’t heart chakra noise just part of it all? Or am I oversimplifying things?

Andrew

No.

Jenny

Vasily, no. Simple is good. Some of us cannot manage an uncomplicated version of simple, apparently. Samsara is self-generated confusion.

DW

So when I can quiet my heart, open it, then I can tune into my thought frequency. Then, quieting that, I can open the background of the mind that is awareness.

Vasily

Why not just cut right to it?

DW

Well, I have a recipe. That is limited.

Andrew

Can’t follow directions.

DW

But without a clue, you’re lost.

Andrew

Open mind. Follow teacher’s pointing-out without trying to second guess or decode it.

DWI’m not willing to do tantra. So I’m doing it the hard way.

Jenny

DW, repeat after me: “I release all martyr energies.”

I’m serious. That’s your mantra.

DW

If my heart were fixed, it would be easy.

Jenny

I release all martyr energies.

Andrew

Two paths. (1) Fix heart: the way to do that is tantra. (2) Direct path: follow the teacher’s pointing out without question.

Take your choice.

DW

OK, Jenny . . . “I release all martyr energies.”

Jenny

You know exactly what I mean. You are indulging in the perverse pleasure of punishing yourself.

You deserve to awaken. You deserve a long happy life full of love.

Now, Vasily, my dear. . . .

DW

“I release all martyr energies.”

“I release all martyr energies.”

“I release all martyr energies.”

“I release all martyr energies.”

I’m cool with it.

Vasily

Okay, Jenny, please continue. I don’t want to keep you too late.

Jenny

Vasily, when you and I got stream entry at around the same time and met, what was and still is super interesting to me is that you said, and I felt myself, that SE brought with it a persistent feeling of j4.j5, the felt boundless space aspect, in everyday life.

Now, most practitioners apparently don’t get that “package deal” at stream entry.

My hypothesis is that people who get the spaciousness early, at SE as defined by MCTB, will move very quickly to fourth path attainment when exposed to decent instructions.

So, although we cannot be sure about others’ attainments, I am convinced that you and I had similar SE outcomes. And I’m inclined to believe you now, somehow, have gotten luminosity. This impression is not just because of your words, but also because of another level on which I’m feeling into you.

So what I would advise you to do next is this:

Get some conceptual/intellectual understanding of basic Dzogchen terminology—chiefly, rigpa, kunzhi, and tsal. I recommend starting with Tenzin Wangyal’s book The Wonders of the Natural Mind.

Then read the post about luminosity versus rigpa. Learn, conceptually, the difference between luminosity and rigpa from that.

Note that Mahamudra is essentially identical to Dzogchen’s first of two paths: Trekchöd. So do your damnedest to scrape together the dough and time to sit a weeklong Mahamudra retreat next summer. Mahamudra has more structure to it than Dzogchen Trekchöd. So it will be more “pragmatic” in flavor. It is very, very precise and structured.

Now, then, during another talk, we can address taking the mind perspective as opposed to the event perspective. That’s step 1 for you. If you have luminosity, you actually already know what this is. But what I want to see is whether the mind perspective is stable, or whether you can flip back and forth. The answer to that will suggest Step 2.

I love you all. Good night.

Dear friends of the Dharma Underground,

Thursday, July 30, 2015, around 11:00 a.m., while sitting on retreat, I attained MCTB fourth path, or what in the Mahāmudrā model/map is awakened awareness. Awakened awareness matches almost exactly Daniel’s MCTB2 criteria for fourth path, and I have commented here on the specifics, and I’ll extract and retrieve later for a Mahāmudrā thread.

The last of four shifts on this retreat happened as I was gazing on the beautiful mantel/altar, which was in a shaft of morning light and ablaze with flickering candlelight and white daisies alternating with butter-colored carnations. I’ll never forget that sight. I think I will always commemorate this moment, that day, with bunches of white daisies and butter-colored carnations.

Later that day, during the ancient oral transmission, into which John interwove modern poetry, I will never forget how, after he called in the retinue of ancestors, lineage masters, and protectors, I literally felt light and warmth blasting through my chest cavity and skull. I felt other beings pass through me, in my head, heart, and body.

John said the following: “You can always recall this moment. It is always right here. The Buddha is under the bodhi tree. Christ is on the cross. Right here.” This was the most moving event I can remember ever having experienced. I was not by any stretch of the imagination expecting a retreat to be this or anything like this, this life-changing, this profoundly magickal and intimate. I was reduced to a quivering puddle of weeping surrender beyond surrender. And that is really what it takes in the end: Surrender and supreme faith. A great teacher will lead you to both, inexorably, and you shall follow.

Going into the Mahāmudrā retreat, I already had what the Mahāmudrā maps call Nondual Awareness, which we have inaccurately been calling luminosity. Luminosity is one metaphor for this Nondual Awareness, the one that goes with the sight sense door. There are other metaphors for the other sense doors–silence coming through sound (sounds within sounds, too) and vast space-like stillness for feeling. The problem that remained for me in what I now know for sure to have been third path was that, even though I was an experiencer of this level of nonduality, called “two oceans mingling,” which is a perfect description of the relationship in luminous experience, it was still an experience that I, as subject, was having. What needed to deconstruct at a higher level of obscuration was the center-point, central processor, central comprehender, the subject.

What I needed and didn’t have were the following:

  • Emptiness-of-Time practice to show me the lack of of arising, passing, enduring, and not enduring that characterizes awareness itself and sets up what is called “the view,” which is a continuous meditation on awareness itself–awareness itself sees itself continuously
  • One practice that broke down the boundaries between the five senses (this was actually made up by Johnny, not part of official Mahāmudrā, but effective)
  • Sealing-Emptiness practice, which involves increasing the speed and range of arising phenomena seen as empty immediately upon arising
  • Automaticity of holding the view and or seeing all as empty (on and off the cushion)
  • Emptiness-of-Totality practice, which identified the last holdout “core process” running in the background and preventing the final deconstruction–mine was doubt in my ability to notice Everything in the Emptiness-of-Totality practice (ha)

What the Pragmatic Dharma community, although not Daniel himself, tends to overlook in getting from third to fourth is the centrality of trust, love, faith, surrender, compassion,  and the God-function–all of which are real although unfindable, empty of inherent essence. You have to take these on as your working hypothesis  at a very, very, very, very deep heart level that goes well beyond your own effort and technical skill, or there will be no full awakening. Along with extremely precise, mapped, stage-specific, realization-specific technique, this is what the Mahāmudrā gave me. In short, rigpa was crucial.

Mahāmudrā, which translates as the Great Seal, which has multiple meanings, including the notion that all is “sealed” with emptiness before or upon arising, has twenty-three steps to follow to awakening, technical map precision that is simply unmatched. If you do the specific meditations for each stage and bring awareness into the heart and radiate it out powerfully to all beings, you will not fail to awaken. It is remarkably easy, so when you are tired of fooling around and want to actually finish, I strongly recommend a Mahāmudrā retreat, with this superb teacher in particular.

As I stared at the floral offerings on the mantel, doing a practice to correct for perceptual “particularization” in the event field, I felt a spin, had a blast-like collapse into Fruition, experienced as I did in August radical decentering of awareness and then layering back into being via Dependent Origination–except faster and therefore not as clear as the one from last August. This time, when the layering back into being was happening, I remembered what Daniel said to do if this was seen again: Don’t resist the layering back into being; instead see those links in the chain of becoming as empty. This I did, and when it was done, the subject was completely gone and still is: Awareness can still focus on particular objects in the field, but without losing the integrated vastness of rigpa and without these objects’ referring back to, implying, creating a subject.

The result is strange and wonderful beyond words. Duality is gone at all the levels I’ve been able to discern. Artificial activity is gone. What happens happens, but the Looker is gone, the Looking is gone. Even if the gain fades or reverses, which I doubt it will, I know exactly how to get it back:

Saraha: So long as you set up the mind’s real nature and this awareness is unobstructed, the Fruition stays…. You won’t fail!

Please, please, please not believe anyone on AwakeNetwork or the DhO, nor any self-styled dharma teacher, who says that fourth path doesn’t involve radical changes in perception. It absolutely and unequivocally does. It involves so much more than those, but the deconstruction of perception is what is most noticeable, at least at first. I asked John point blank, and this was his answer. Ask your teachers to describe their perceptual and other changes phenomenologically. If your teacher can’t, or vaguely says only that the changes are subtle, then he or she is not realized: Find a teacher who is.

Please accept no substitutes; get the real thing, the one Daniel describes in his criteria. An unrealized teacher cannot lead you to realization. Don’t screw around with teachers having only second path or even third. Get a truly qualified teacher, at least on retreat. This attainment is rare, but that is not at all because it is difficult. Find the best guidance, work out your salvation with diligence, stop being so grim about practice, stop conceiving of attainment as loss of the self or loss of anything else but delusion (it isn’t), and then help others to do so.

Back when I wrote this text, after returning home from retreat, I drew the card Temperance. This card indicates my having passed though the death of an important relationship and great work, but it heralds the beginning of an unparalleled period of serenity and joy, a new beginning. It advises me to refrain from bold action but to be restrained and let what unfolds simply do so. The angel wings indicate, too, that Great Protectors are watching over me as the sequela of my recent hard losses continue to unfold. It indicates a happy ending to what currently seems a sad situation. May it be so.

I close with a Rumi poem that I dedicate to Daniel Ingram:

Buoyancy

Love has taken away all my practices
And filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating
No Strength but yours,
But I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.
I saw you and became empty.

This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence.

The sky is blue. The world is a blind man
squatting on the road.

But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man.

A great soul hides like Mohammed, or Jesus,
moving through a crowd in a city
where no one knows him.
To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck
we could have. It’s a total waking up!

Why should we grieve that we’ve been sleeping?
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We’re groggy, but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness
around you, the buoyancy.

Love,

Jenny