Nondual Seeing-Consciousness: The First “Luminosity” Attainment

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.

DW

I’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.

Luminosity Leading to Mahamudra: Colloquy with Daniel

This was an hour-long sit someplace in Equanimity, although I think I have slipped back into a lower phase, probably because I missed some sits, which was dumb to have let happen. This sit went back and forth between jhanas and Equanimity. I felt some strong bodily vibrations at two points, across my face (oddly) and later my hips and thighs. Not much to say about this sit except that it was pleasant, ñ11.j4.j5.j2 today.

Strength

 I drew the card Strength, upright. This is a major arcana card and indicates that courage comes from within. It urges me to stand up to whatever the universe is throwing at me. I should confront antagonism and wrongdoing head-on, out of the power of my convictions and faith. The calm, patient, and gentle nature triumphs over the danger of the wild lion.

Weird Sleep Pattern

I had a nice hour-long sit. I’m manifesting this strange sleep pattern lately wherein I come home and sleep from 9 p.m. to midnight, wake, bathe, and then meditate. It is odd but I guess better than what I was doing before, which was getting only 5 or so hours of sleep. I think I would be happier if I fixed my sleep dysregulation, which is the root of all my other dysregulation.

Resolutions to See the Six Doors to Fruition Clearly

I’m sitting here in a totally blissed-out high from jhanas and fruition out on the P8JP above eighth jhana. I have been resolving strongly every night, per Daniel’s advice, to have Fruitions and to be able to see those six doors very, very clearly, as well as to re-experience clearly the Dependent Origination of the restart-of-reality after cessation. 

The one time I experienced the latter was during stream entry, and it was the most miraculous, mind-blowing event I’ve ever had happen: totally decentered awareness, a spatial turning of that awareness to find Jenny not there, and then a layering of me back into being, link by link of the DO. Nama-rupa was distinct as it came back online. I wept outright after this happened. I knew I had experienced something like miraculous vision into reality.

Well, at least I’m pretty sure now that these things I’m experiencing are Fruitions, not state shifts as Daniel tried to tell me months ago (he was wrong back then, too, and I think that I’ve actually experienced these in clumps, at intervals, years before my supposed stream entry, which maybe explains why I seemed to possibly have picked up an extra path somewhere along the way).

Mahamudra Prep

Anyway, I’m reading only bits of a bunch of different books because I lack time for reading or much of anything else till MCTB2 is done. I’m trying to focus on Daniel P. Brown’s Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition.

I practiced the body points and one-pointedness instructions tonight, and I noticed quickly how sloppy I’ve gotten with regard to those lower jhanas, especially first. I caught myself three times “elaborating” on the mind-stream instead of staying with the orderly arising and passing of each mind moment. So I noted the “elaborating,” returned to my object, which was the breath tonight to begin with, which I’ve not done in a long time because I normally take the jhana factors as objects, or take no object (unsupported), and then I “intensified” concentration without distraction. When I get to second jhana, everything normally becomes much more naturally on task, which is normal, especially if I remember to “tune into the pleasure” at that point, or earlier, as Daniel advises.

(I think it is funny that, in the personality categorization for jhana, which Daniel takes from the commentaries, he and I are both aversive types. This means we don’t readily get into the intensely pleasurable states, like second, but prefer the higher refined states that are more neutral-feeling. But his tips for getting the rapturous ones work usually.)

Jhana-Junkie Jenny

I’m wondering whether the jhanas are going to be obtrusive somehow during the mahamudra retreat. Well, not much I can do about that. Interestingly, MCTB2 posits that the jhanas are hardwired-in human potential. After stream entry, says Daniel, one is basically in some manner of jhana if drawing breath. That perhaps explains why after stream entry I felt j4.j5 constantly, when not j5 outright.

Also, after stream entry it is impossible to do “pure” samatha—some degree of insight is always going to show up in those jhanas. This is true. DreamWalker keeps saying that the jhanas “obscure” insight; this is untrue. Noting—pshaw! For kindergartners! The MCTB2 Mastery part is governed by the jhanas as the entire framework. I don’t recall that noting is invoked after Part I of the book. Noting is where DW wants to be right now, so okay, so long as it is fruitful, but I urge him to experiment more, branch out, and, above all, cultivate some love of the Zen, because otherwise DW is holding up the entire field with his linearly fixated stubbornness! Oh, and move your journal to here in the Underground!

Letting the Jhanas Bloom Naturally

I’m also continuing to work, for the most part, on not manipulating the jhanas but letting them bloom on their own. This means, for example, refraining from “pushing” my presence (or whatever) out into space in j5 and j6. Instead I simply call on the jhana and immediately drop manipulation and just observe what happens. I think that some amount of push or pull is necessary when one is for the first time trying to “find” a new jhana; however, later these things are wired in and all that is necessary is initial inclination, if even that. Even when I am “just sitting” I notice the jhanas unfolding in the background. I notice them unfolding as I sit at my desk at work. I was very much in j4 all day at work. They happen on their own, and they are much more pleasant than the insight stages, which also happen on their own.

Luminosity, Nondoing, Diminished Sense of Center, and j4.j5

Speaking of daily life, I remain enamored of, fascinated by, this luminosity, and I’m thankful that I’ve seen and understood clearly much of what is still not “awake.” For the past two days, I’ve had the sense of no-doer much of the day. I’m noticing that luminosity, increasingly less sense of “center,” and spontaneous unfolding are hooking up somehow. There really must be a brain and nervous system somewhere that is being “rewired.”

Daniel (from Interview with Vince)

“The sense of subject seems to be becoming more integrated with the field, or it seems to become less important, or they seem to see more of what I’ll call “luminosity of phenomena”: that they’re just showing themselves over there. Because that’s showing itself over there, maybe this is just showing itself over here. . . .”

Daniel (after I Showed Him This Quote)

That’s good stuff! Did this twitching corpse say that? I can’t even remember doing that interview with Vince. Perhaps we should try to pull that stuff into the book somehow when we get down the road to that part.

Jenny

Haha! That last sentence is what struck me, about how maybe this side can be luminous too. . . . Why has that not occurred to me?

Daniel

That recognition is part of the key. So: how to recognize that same aspect in the this side memory, dreaming aspect?

Jenny

Does this notion lead to any particular way of practicing?

Daniel

It should. Try seeing this side as part of the whole, as just more stuff, gently identifying patterns of effort and normalcy and me-ness that seem to be so ordinary that it would seem strange to interpret them any other way: Might help.

Jenny

Major gratitude, Daniel!

Postscript Nearly 3 Years Later: The Term “Luminosity”

Daniel uses the word luminosity loosely, I find, meaning different things in different contexts. Here he seems to be using the word in its traditional way, to mean not a whole nondual attainment, but the bright dynamic clarity aspect of the field (tsal) and the bright awake aspect of the practitioner’s mind (quasi rigpa). But in most contexts, and in virtually all conversations I had with him back in 2015, when Daniel has used the term luminosity he means not just an aspect of the post-4th-path unbounded whole, but a specific attainment—namely, permanent nondual sight-consciousness (NSC) as described in this chat with Vasily here:

http://jhanajenny.com/vasily-attentional-nonduality-luminosity/

Because my dharma friends and I have found the use of luminosity to be so slippery and nondescript, when it means the MCTB 3rd path attainment, I’ve replaced it in my own work with “NSC.” The path attainment is experienced only when the practitioner is looking at a visual object. It is sight-specific, although it concerns mainly the consciousness aspect of sight-consciousness. The shift does not include thoughts beyond that consciousness aspect of visual perception.

It also necessarily involves space and awakened paradoxes of space, such as simultaneous stillness and interflow. Memories and dreams certainly can be vivid, bright, high-def., and “visual,” but do they have a spatial relationship vis-a-vis the practitioner? No. Or only if the “subject” is himself or herself represented as an object in the memory or dream in question.

For luminosity to be the attainment that Daniel usually means, it has to (1) involve real subject-object spatial-relationship deconstruction, (2) happen when seeing is happening (not abstracted thoughts, not other senses), and (3) be in itself a complete nondual relationship rather than one aspect among many of unbounded wholeness as known after MCTB 4th path. The sense of hearing and feeling also have nondual counterparts to this attainment, but they almost always happen separately and are as different from “luminosity” as sight is from hearing and feeling in general. I agree with where Daniel maps NSC/luminosity attainment: It is generally well after body and hearing, the final correction of misperception before realization of unbounded wholeness. The vocabulary of Dzogchen—rigpa, kunzhi, and tsal—offers more rigorious aspect distinction for what Daniel seems to be meaning from his post-MCTB 4th path perspective.