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How to Shikantaza and Mahamudra

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This is a summary of "How to" notes that I have compiled from various books/sources on meditation. Most specifically the "Natural State" or "Ordinary Mind" form the Tibetan Mahamudra practice. While it is based on the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism it is also identical to the Japanese Zen tradition of Soto where the state of Shikantaza is practiced. Shikantaza is also known as "Serene Reflection" or "Silent Illumination" from the Caodong (Chinese version of soto zen) School.


Essentially Mahamudra and Shikantaza are paths of enlightenment in and of themselves. Enlightened states of non-attaining, and non-thought, uncontrived states of mind.


Sometimes they are known as the culmination of Shamatha and Vispashyana, but from the Buddhist world they are their own entity and beast. As Tibetans refer to this state as the The true nature of the mind, original face, natural state, etc. 

These act as mindfulness guides that can be implemented in sitting, walking, or activity through out the day to help stabilize one in the natural state of Mahamudra or Shikantaza:



Attention Revolution (Alan Wallace)

Let your mind be like the sky

The sky never reacts

It doesn't stop anything from moving through it

It doesn't hold onto anything that's present

nor does it control anything


Whatever thoughts or mental images arise, you simply observe them

Without distraction and without grasping

Without being either attracted or repulsed by them

Just let them be


Instead of letting thoughts go, you let them be

Don't prefer one kind of thought to another

Don't even prefer the absence of thoughts to the presence of thoughts

They are not the problem

Being distracted by and grasping onto thoughts is the problem


Let the space of awareness remain as expansive as possible


When thoughts arise, let them play out their course

Regardless of their nature or duration

It is crucial to observe the movement of thoughts without intervention


Mahamudra Teaching (Garchen Rinpoche)

Stay just with your thought as it rises, so as to not give it form, or side with the thought as good, bad, or any reference.

When mindful of giving form to thought or mental happening, just let your mind relax. Don't investigate further (This is to not attach to it).


We establish this view of "nothing to see, nothing to objectify, nothing to project.

We imbue this view with certainty


Don't get discouraged

Simply do not follow after the thoughts

Don't make any commentary on the thought, let it rise then dissolve


As any thought arises, you just see it

Any conceptual thought that arises has no any essence

No essence at all

There is nothing to follow


Not rejecting the suffering, not attaching to the happiness

Whatever comes let it come, just sustain the Mahamudra


Clarifying the Natural State: Dakpo Tashi Namgyal

Undistractedly maintain the natural state of your mind with a naturally aware presence, no matter how it is or what is perceived or felt.

Continue the practice with unbound ease without pinpointing whatever is experienced

Take care not to stray into intellectual analysis, thoughtless calm, savoring a meditative experience or hankering after the ensuing certainty.

Do not entertain any ambitions about what should or should not be cultivated by meditating.

Do not be happy when calm or unhappy when thoughts move; rather, relax your attention loosely.

Do not inhibit one thing while promoting another.

Leave your attention as it naturally is – relaxed and free.


Zazen Instructions (Global

Do not concentrate on any particular object or control your thought.

When various thoughts arise in your mind, do not become caught up by them or struggle with them;

Neither pursue nor try to escape from them.

Just leave your thoughts alone, allowing them to come up and go away freely.

The essential thing in doing zazen is to awaken from distraction and dullness and return to the right posture moment by moment.


Rules for Meditation from Dogen (FUKANZAZENGI)

Cut all ties, give up everything

Think of neither good nor evil, consider neither right nor wrong

Control mind function, will, consciousness, memory, perception and understanding

You must not strive thus to become Buddha



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I could also find similar instructions in all other traditions, too. There must be something to the technique ! Thanks for sharing. 😊 I always knew my “do nothing” attitude would lead to wisdom ! 😀

Edited by Fa Xin
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If you do this, you'll find that your breathing becomes coherent. However, it's quite difficult to get to this place that way via these instructions.

The easiest way to hit the shikantaza sweet spot is via learning coherent breathing.

The practice of coherent breathing precludes discursive thinking and this can be verified scientifically by the use of instrumented biofeedback.

If you went down that route you'd find that the instrumentation shows that as soon as you drop into discursive thinking, you drop out of coherence.

It might also be worth noting that you can carry out complex tasks in this this state as you are fully alert and fully aware. It is not meditation as it's commonly perceived.

And you are correct in your observation that this practice spans many religious traditions. It also transcends them all.




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The true way is universal so why is training and enlightenment differentiated? The supreme teaching is free so why study the means to it? Even truth as a whole is clearly apart from to dust. Why adhere to the means of "wiping away"? The truth is not apart from here, so the means of training are useless. But if there is even the slightest gap between, the separation is as heaven and earth. If the opposites arise, you lose the Buddha Mind. Even though you are proud of your understanding and have enough enlightenment, even though you gain some wisdom and supernatural power and find the way all illuminate your mind, even though you have power to touch the heavens, and even though you enter into the area of enlightenment - you have almost lost the living way to salvation. Look at the Buddha: though born with great wisdom, he had to sit for six years. Look at Bodhidharma, who transmitted the Buddha Mind: we can still hear the echoes of his nine-year wall gazing. The old sages were very diligent. There is no reason why modern man cannot understand. Just quit following words and letters. Just withdraw and reflect on yourself. If you can cast off body and mind naturally, the Buddha Mind emerges. If you wish to gain quickly, you must start quickly.

In meditating you should have a quiet room. Eat and drink in moderation. Forsake myriad relations-abstain from everything. Do not think of good and evil. Do not think of right and wrong. Stop the function of mind, of will, of conscious ness. Keep from meaning memory, perception, and insight. Do not strive to become the Buddha. Do not cling to sitting or lying down.

In the sitting place, spread a thick square cushion and on top of it put a round cushion. Some meditate in Paryanka (full cross-legged sitting) and others in half Paryanka. Prepare by wearing your robe and belt loosely. Then rest your right hand on your left foot, your left hand in your right palm. Press your thumbs together.

Sit upright. Do not lean to the left or right, forward or backward. Place your ears in the same plane as your shoulders, your nose in line with your navel. Keep your tongue against the palate and close your lips and teeth firmly. Keep your eyes open. Inhale quietly. Settle your body comfortably. Exhale sharply. Move your body to the left and right. Then sit cross-legged steadily.

Think the unthinkable. How do you think the unthinkable? Think beyond thinking and unthinking. This is the important aspect of sitting.

This cross-legged sitting is not step by step meditation. It is merely comfortable teaching. It is the training and enlightenment of thorough wisdom. The Koan will appear in daily life. You are completely free - like the dragon that has water or the tiger that depends on the mountain. You must realize that the Right Law naturally appears, and your mind will be free from sinking and distraction. When you stand from zazen, shake your body and arise calmly. Do not move violently. That which transcends the commoner and the sage - dying while sitting and standing is obtained through the help of this power: this I have seen. Also the supreme function (lifting the finger, using the needle, hitting the wooden gong) and enlightenment signs (raising the hossu, striking with the fist; hitting with the staff; shouting): are not understood- by discrimination. You cannot understand training and enlightenment well by supernatural power. It is a condition (sitting, standing, sleeping) beyond voice and visible things. It is the true beyond discriminatory views. So don't argue about the wise and foolish. If you can only train hard, this is true enlightenment. Training and enlightenment are by nature undefiled. Living by Zen is not separated from daily life.

Buddhas in this world and in that, and the patriarchs in India and China equally preserved the Buddha seal and spread the true style of Zen. All actions and things are penetrated with pure zazen. The means of training are various, but do pure zazen. Don't travel futilely to other dusty lands, forsaking your own sitting place. If you mistake the first step, you will stumble immediately. You have already obtained the vital functions of man's body. Don't waste time in vain. You can hold the essence of Buddhism. Is it good to enjoy the fleeting world? The body is transient like dew on the grass-life is swift like a flash of lightning. The body passes quickly, and life is gone in a moment.

Earnest trainees, do not be amazed by the true dragon. And do not spend so much time rubbing only a part of the elephant. Press on in the way that points directly to the Mind. Respect those who have reached the ultimate point. Join your-self to the wisdom of the Buddhas and transmit the meditation of the patriarchs. If you do this for some time, you will be thus. Then the, treasure house will open naturally, and you will enjoy it to the full.

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10 hours ago, lifeforce said:

There is no reason why modern man cannot understand. Just quit following words and letters. Just withdraw and reflect on yourself. If you can cast off body and mind naturally, the Buddha Mind emerges.


Love this part too.

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These are also guidelines I use as I do walking meditations within nature. Given from Clarifying the Natural State in Mahamudra Tradition.


Elevate your experience and remain wide-open like the sky.

Expand your mindfulness and remain pervasive like the earth.

Steady your attention and remain unshakable like a mountain

Brighten your awareness and remain shining like a flame. (Or visualize the light within - or something more powerful such as the sun)

Clear your thought free wakefulness and remain lucid like a crystal.

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The best how to do it is through engaging with a teacher. Yeah I know pretty unpopular opinion, but yeah. Teacher can help you save years of progress or even lifetimes. Why? Well easy, they can point where you have gone off the right track and suggest new way or different practice to develop what is needed. But nice instructions. Thx.

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My favorite definitions of Shikantaza:




One way to categorize the meditation practice of shikantaza, or “just sitting,” is as an objectless 
meditation.  This is a definition in terms of what it is not.  One just sits, not concentrating on any 
particular object of awareness, unlike most traditional meditation practices, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, 
that involve intent focus on a particular object.  Such objects traditionally have included colored disks, 
candle flames, various aspects of breath, incantations, ambient sound, physical sensations or postures, 
spiritual figures, mandalas, teaching stories, or key phrases from such stories.  Some of these 
concentration practices are in the background of the shikantaza practice tradition, or have been included 
with shikantaza in its actual lived experience by practitioners. 

But objectless meditation focuses on clear, nonjudgmental, panoramic attention to all of the 
myriad arising phenomena in the present experience.  Such objectless meditation is a potential universally 
available to conscious beings, and has been expressed at various times in history.  This just sitting is not a 
meditation technique or practice, or any thing at all.  “Just sitting” is a verb rather than a noun, the 
dynamic activity of being fully present. 

… it is objectless not only in terms of letting go of concentration objects, but also in the sense of 
avoiding any specific, limited goals or objectives… just sitting is not a technique or a means to some 
resulting higher state of consciousness, or any particular state of being… 
… [for Dogen] simply just sitting is expressed as concentration on the self in its most delightful 
wholeness, in total inclusive interconnection with all of phenomena… 

Taigen Dan Leighton



The prototype for the unity of practice and enlightenment, as all Dogen students know, is “zazen-
only” (shikan taza).  In a nutshell, it consists of four aspects:  (1) It is that seated meditation which is 
objectless, imageless, themeless, with no internal or external devices or supports, and is nonconcentrative, 
decentered, and open-ended.  Yet it is a heightened, sustained, and total awareness of the self and the 
world.  (2) It seeks no attainment whatsoever, be it enlightenment, an extraordinary religious experience, 
supernormal powers, or buddhahood, and accordingly, is non-teleological [lacks “purposeful development 
towards a final end”] and simply ordinary.  (3) It is “the body and mind cast off” (shinjin datsuraku) as 
the state of ultimate freedom, also called “the samadhi of self-fulfilling activity” (jijuyu zammai).  And (4) 
it requires single-minded earnestness, resolve, and urgency on the part of the meditator. 

Hee-Jin Kim




For Dogen, seated meditation, or zazen, was the very essence of the Buddhist religion… the 
practice of this zazen was not simply an important aid to, nor even a necessary condition for, 
enlightenment and liberation; it was in itself sufficient:  it was enough, he said, “just to sit” (shikan taza), 
without resort to the myriad subsidiary exercises of Buddhist spiritual life.  Indeed (at least when rightly 
practiced) zazen was itself enlightenment and liberation:  it was the ultimate cognition, the state he called 

“nonthinking” (hi shiryo) that revealed the final reality of things; it was the mystic apotheosis [exalted or 
glorified example], the “sloughing off of body and mind” (shinjin datsuraku), as he said, that released 
man into this reality.  Such practice, then (at least when rightly understood) was its own end, as much the 
expression as it was the cause of transcendence:  it was “practice based on enlightenment” (shojo no shu); 
it was the activity of buddhahood itself (butsugyo).  As such, this was, ultimately speaking, no mere 
human exercise:  it was participation in the primordial ascesis (gyoji, continuous practice) of being itself, 
that which brought forth matter and mind, heaven and earth, the sun, moon, stars, and constellations. 

… For Menzan [1683-1769, “the chief architect of modern Soto dogmatics”] and his church, 
Dogen’s zazen is like no other:  it is the practice of “nonthinking,” a subtle state beyond either thinking or 
not thinking and distinct from traditional Buddhist psychological exercises of concentration and 
contemplation; it is “just sitting,” a practice in which… all striving for religious experience, all 
expectations of satori, is left behind.  This zazen is nothing but “the mystic practice of original 
verification” (honsho myoshu), through which from the very start one directly experiences the ultimate 
nature of mind. 

Carl Bielefeldt




Shikantaza…is the mind of somebody facing death.  Let us imagine that you are engaged in a duel 
of swordsmanship of the kind that used to take place in ancient Japan.  As you face your opponent you are 
unceasingly watchful, set, ready.  Were you to relax your vigilance even momentarily, you would be cut 
down instantly.  A crowd gathers to see the fight.  Since you are not blind you see them from the corner of 
your eye, and since you are not deaf you hear them.  But not for an instant is your mind captured by these 
When you thoroughly practice shikantaza you will sweat—even in the winter… Sit with such 
intensely heightened concentration, patience, and alertness that is someone were to touch you while you 
are sitting, there would be an electric spark!  Sitting thus, you return naturally to the original Buddha, the 
very nature of your being.  

Hakuun Ryoko Yasutani 





The style of meditation called “silent illumination” [Ch. mozhao, Jap. mokusho; the early 
Caodong/Soto meditation practice that Rujing and Dogen came to call shikantaza]  is one of the great 
practices of the Chan tradition… This practice originated in India, where it was called shamtatha-
vipashyana, or serenity-insight.  The aim of this practice is a mind unburdened with thoughts.  This leads 
the mind to profound awareness about its own state… 

Silent illumination is a very peaceful style of meditation in which there is not one thought, yet 
your mind is extremely clear.  I use three phases to describe this state:  first, “bright and open”; second, 
“no scattered thoughts”; and third, “not one thought.” 
When the mind drops all use of words, it becomes bright and open; this is the first characteristic.  
Next, “no scattered thoughts” refers to single-mindedness—total concentration on the method.  But when 
you finally forget the method itself, and no one thought remains, that is genuine serenity.  Ultimately, 
Silent Illumination is the method of no method… Silent illumination is just dropping all thoughts and 
words and going directly to the state of Chan. 

I do not recommend this method to people too often… You can be just idling, having very subtle 
thought, and believe you are practicing Silent Illumination.  You can be silent without illuminating 

Sheng Yen





Suzuki Roshi always talked about shikantaza as one’s day-to-day, moment-to-moment life of 
Suzuki Roshi’s simple day-to-day activities—the way he would sit down and stand up, eat his 
dinner, walk, put on his sandals—this was his expression of shikantaza.  Everyday activity with no 
selfishness—just doing the thing for the thing—this was his shikantaza.  We usually say that shikantaza 
means “just sitting.”  And that’s true.  Just putting on your shoes, too.  But this “just” has a special 
meaning.  It means “without going any further” or “without adding anything extra.” 
… But the shikantaza, or the “just doing,” is the selfless activity of just doing within the dream… 
I think about shikantaza as a state in which our thought and our activity have no gap… 

Sojun Mel Weitsman 




Neuroscientists use these words to describe what we call shikantaza:  panoramic receptive non-
judgmental attention.
 This is different than focused attention, which includes such practices as breath

meditation, where the attentional field is narrowed and "pointed" toward an object.  Different parts of the 
brain are activated during these two types of meditation.  

Roshi Joan Halifax 





Katagiri used to say shikantaza isn't anything in particular and that also fits for the Soto school's 
lack of single view on the issue.  Katagiri also called following the breath shikantaza but once I could 
follow the breath, told me to not attach to anything.  At least several of his successors, though, just teach 
following the breath as shikantaza. 
Dogen's brilliant reframe on this practice and reconstruction of the tradition was based on adding 
which changed silent illumination into “earnest vivid sitting” (literal trans. of 

RE: “wholeheartedness,” what I encourage is full devotion to no particular thing. That's a little 
different from seeing wholeheartedness as a state. For one thing, I emphasize the “whole” and “heart” 
parts of wholehearted – nothing left out, including the flowing emotions.  Nothing left out includes 
samadhi states, dhyanic states, and insight/realization as well.  But like a falling maple leaf, showing front, 
showing back.

Dosho Port




I would say shikantaza is natural awareness as is (so that the just sitting is indeed “just” “sitting”).  
Awareness is being human, so there is not a need to “stay aware” (or a particular state that we need to 
add).  Likewise, it is not a matter of making “effort at awareness.”  

Elihu Genmyo Smith 





When we sit facing the wall, there is nothing in front of us as object.  There is only the wall.  We 
have no object in our mind because we don’t visualize anything, don’t concentrate on a mantra, and don’t 
pay any special attention to the breath.  We just sit.  Still many different kinds of thought come and go 
naturally.  It is very clear that thoughts, emotions, and daydreams are illusions like bubbles rising in water.  
We let go of them.  No clinging to them, chasing after them, or pushing them away.  We really do nothing 
but sit. 

This is what Dogen Zenji meant when he says, “thinking of not-thinking.”  We cannot say that 
there is no thinking.  And we cannot say that we are thinking.  “Thinking of not-thinking is the precise 
expression of the reality of mind in zazen.  It is like a car engine idling.  When the transmission is in 
neutral, even though the engine is moving, the car does not move.  Even though thoughts are coming and 
going, we take no action based on those thoughts.  Thoughts are simply idling.  We don’t create karma.  
This is what Dogen Zenji meant in Zuimonki when he said zazen is the true form of the self and non-
doing or not action… 

In Shobogenzo Zazenshin, Dogen Zenji said, “In order to think (shiryo) of not-thinking (fu-shiryo), 
we use beyond-thinking (hi-shiryo).
 This means that what is happening in our zazen is not a matter of 
thinking or not-thinking.  We “do” nothing; neither “to think” nor “not to think.”  We put our entire self 
on the ground of beyond-thinking.  On that ground, sometimes many thoughts come up, sometimes, no 
thoughts arise… 

In our daily lives, we try to study from teachers and books to correct the distortions of self-
centeredness.  But in zazen we let go of all thoughts, even thoughts of making corrections… 

Our practice of just sitting is the practice of the bodhisattva vows and repentance.  Buddhas and 
ancestors’ zazen is the vow to save all living beings… 

Shohaku Okumura




Do not concentrate on any particular object or control your thought.  When you maintain a proper 
posture and your breathing settles down, your mind will naturally become tranquil. 
When various thoughts arise in your mind, do not become caught up by them or struggle with 
them; neither pursue nor try to escape from them.  Just leave thoughts alone, allowing them to come up 
and go away freely.
 The essential thing in doing zazen is to awaken (kakusoku) from distraction and 
dullness, and return to the right posture moment by moment… 

Dogen called his meditation practice shikantaza, which literally means “just sitting.”  In 
shikantaza we sit without the koans used in Rinzai Zen.  In our zazen, body and mind sit without any 
techniques—koans, mantras, visualizations, and so on.  we find an upright posture, breathe through our 
nose quietly and deeply from our abdomen, and keep our eyes open.  We let go of whatever thoughts arise 
within our mind.
 It is simply sitting upright without any expectation or gaining idea.  Dogen’s essential 
teaching is that practice and enlightenment are one.  Practice is not a method to make a deluded person 
into an enlightened being.  Practice without self-centeredness is itself enlightenment. 
This kind of zazen practice teaches us to sit upright wherever we are.  Sometimes our mind is calm 
and sometimes our mind is busy.  Sometimes we feel peaceful, and sometimes we are in the midst of a 
storm.  We neither cling to nor avoid any condition, but keep sitting in an upright posture.  We try to live 
in this upright manner, not only in zazen but in our daily lives
.  When we deviate from uprightness, we 
are aware of it and return to it. 

Soto Zen Buddhism International Center (Sotoshu Shumucho)



Once you realize that you are thinking when you are supposed to be doing nothing, and return to 
zazen, the thoughts which appeared as clearly before as if they were pictures on a TV. screen, disappear 
as suddenly as if you had switched off the TV.  Only the wall is left in from of you.  For an instant… this 
is it.  This is zazen.  Yet again thoughts arise by themselves.  Again you return to zazen and they 
disappear.  We simply repeat this; this is called kakusoku (awareness of Reality).  The most important 
point is to repeat this kakusoku billions of times.  This is how we should practice zazen. 

If we practice in this way we cannot help but realize that our thoughts are really nothing but 
secretions of the brain.  Just as our salivary glands secrete saliva, or as our stomachs secrete gastric juices, 
so our thoughts are nothing but secretions of the brain. 

Uchiyama Kosho






We say our practice should be without gaining ideas, without any expectations, even of 
enlightenment.  This does not mean, however, just to sit without any purpose.  This practice free from 
gaining ideas is based on the Prajnaparamita Sutra.  However, if you are not careful, the sutra itself will 
give you a gaining idea.  It says, “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.”  But if you attach to that 
statement, you are liable to be involved in dualistic ideas:  here is you, form, and here is emptiness, which 
you are trying to realize through your form.  So “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” is still 
dualistic.  But fortunately our teaching goes on to say, “Form is form and emptiness is emptiness.”  Here 
there is no dualism. 

When you find it difficult to stop your mind while you are sitting and when you are still trying to 
stop your mind, this is the stage of “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.”  But while you are 
practicing in the dualistic way, more and more you will have oneness with your goal.  And when your 
practice becomes effortless, you can stop your mind.  This is the stage of “form is form and emptiness is 
To stop your mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind.  It means your mind pervades your 
whole body.  Your mind follows your breathing.  With your full mind you form the mudra in your hands.  
With your whole mind you sit with painful legs without being disturbed by them.  This is to sit without 
any idea of gain… 

Practice does not mean that whatever you do, even lying down, is zazen.  When the restrictions 
you have do not limit you, this is what we mean by practice.  When you say, “Whatever I do is Buddha 
nature, so it doesn’t matter what I do, and there is no need to practice zazen,” that is already dualistic 
understanding of our everyday life.  If it really does not matter, there is no need for you even to say so.  
As long as you are concerned about what you do, that is dualistic.  If you are not concerned about what 
you do, you will not say so.  When you sit, you will sit.  When you eat, you will eat.  That is all.  If you 
say, “It doesn’t matter,” it means that you are making some excuse to do something in your own way with 
your small mind.  It means you are attached to some particular thing or way.  That is not what we mean 
when we say, “Just to sit is enough,” or “Whatever you do is zazen.”  Of course whatever we do is zazen, 
but if so, there is no need to say it. 

Strictly speaking, any effort we make is not good for our practice because it creates waves in our 
mind.  It is impossible, however, to attain absolute calmness of our mind without any effort.  We must 
make some effort, but we must forget ourselves in the effort we make.  In this realm there is no 
subjectivity or objectivity.  Our mind is just calm, without even any awareness.  In this unawareness, 
every effort and every idea and thought will vanish.  So it is necessary for us to encourage ourselves and 
to make an effort up to the last moment, when all effort disappears.  You should keep you mind on your 
breathing until you are not aware of your breathing. 

Shunryu Suzuki 





… These sages universally maintain that absolute reality and the relative world are “not-two” 
(which is the meaning of “nondual”), much as a mirror and its reflections are not separate, or an ocean is 
one with its many waves.  So the “other world” of Spirit and “this world” of separate phenomena are 
deeply and profoundly “not-two,” and this nonduality is a direct and immediate realization which occurs 
in certain meditative states—in other words, seen with the eye of contemplation—although it then 
becomes a very simple, very ordinary perception, whether you are meditating or not.  Every single thing 
you perceive is the radiance of Spirit itself, so much so, that Spirit is not seen apart from that thing:  the 
robin sings, and just that is it, nothing else.  This becomes your constant realization, through all changes 
of state, very naturally, just so.  And this releases you from the basic insanity of hiding from the Real. 
But why is it, then, that we ordinarily don’t have that perception? 

All the great Nondual wisdom traditions have given a fairly similar answer to that question.  We 
don’t see that Spirit is fully and completely present right here, right now, because our awareness is 
clouded with some sort of avoidance.  We do not want to be choicelessly aware of the present; rather, we 
want to run away from it, or run after it, or we want to change it, alter it, hate it, love it, loathe it, or in 
some way agitate to get ourselves into, or out of, it.  We will do anything except come to rest in the pure 
Presence of the present.  We will not rest with pure Presence; we want to be elsewhere, quickly.  The 
Great Search is the game, in its endless forms… 
... it becomes obvious that you are not entering this state, but rather, it is a state that, in some 
profound and mysterious way, has been your primordial condition from time immemorial.  You have, in 
fact, never left this state for a second… 

But if that is so, then why even do spiritual practice?  Isn’t that just another form of the Great 
Search?  Yes, actually, spiritual practice is a form of the Great Search, and as such, it is destined to fail.  
But that is exactly the point.  You and I are already convinced that there are things that we need to do in 
order to realize Spirit.  We feel that there are places that Spirit is not (namely, in me), and we are going to 
correct this state of affairs.  Thus, we are already committed to the Great Search, and so nondual 
meditation makes use of the fact and engages us in the Great Search in a particular and somewhat sneaky 

The essence of Dzogchen… in a nutshell:  If Spirit has any meaning, it must be omnipresent, or 
all-pervading and all-encompassing.  There can’t be a place Spirit is not, or it wouldn’t be infinite.  
Therefore, Spirit has to be completely present, right here, right now, in your own awareness.  That is, your 
own present awareness, precisely as it is, without changing it or altering it in any way, is perfectly and 
completely permeated by Spirit. 

Furthermore, it is not that Spirit is present but you need to be enlightened in order to see it.  It is 
not that you are one with Spirit but just don’t know it yet.  Because that would also imply that there is 
some place Spirit is not.  No, according to Dzogchen, you are always already one with Spirit, and that
awareness is always already fully present, right now.  You are looking directly at Spirit, with Spirit, in 
every act of awareness.  There is nowhere Spirit is not. 

Further, if Spirit has any meaning at all, then it must be eternal, or without beginning and end.  If 
Spirit had a beginning in time, then it would be strictly temporal, it would not be timeless and eternal.  
And this means, as regards your own awareness, that you cannot become enlightened.  You cannot attain 
enlightenment.  If you could attain enlightenment, then that state would have a beginning in time, and so 
it would not be true enlightenment. 

Rather, Spirit, and enlightenment, has to be something that you are fully aware of right now.  
Something you are already looking at right now… 
Meditation rearranges the puzzle; Dzogchen doesn’t touch a thing.  Thus the pointing-out 
instructions usually begin, “Without correcting or modifying your present awareness in any way…”… 

Ken Wilber 




Please train yourself thus:  In the seen, there will be just the seen.  In the heard, there will be just 
the heard.  In the sensed, there will be just the sensed.  In the cognized, there will be just the cognized.  
When for you, in the seen there is just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed, in 
the cognized just the cognized, then you will not identify with the seen, and so on.  And if you do not 
identify with them, you will not be located in them; if you are not located in them, there will be no here, 
no there, or in-between.  And this will be the end of suffering. 
… In this way he abides contemplating the body as body [feelings as feeling, mind as mind, mind-
objects as mind-objects] internally, or he abides contemplating the body as body externally, or he abides 
contemplating the body as a body both internally and externally.  Or else he abides contemplating in the 
body its arising factors, or he abides contemplating in the body its vanishing factors, or he abides 
contemplating in the body both its arising and vanishing factors.  Or else mindfulness that “there is body” 
is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness…. 
Shakyamuni Buddha









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