White Lotus wrote:
the realisation of emptiness is a stage or level on the path. in Dogen's Bukojoji in the Shobogenzo one is encouraged to extinguish own nature and to once again become blind to emptiness. one may have lived breathed and spoken emptiness for a year or so and then renouncing emptiness and all things one sees the great bright pearl within oneself and 'hey presto' one can no longer look within except when the eyes are closed. this Bukojoji is going beyond nature. the ancients such as Zhao Zhu and Keizan among others spoke of the Great Icchantika. one who no longer has any nature.
previously through renunciation and vows and mental gymnastics one had eliminated the personal experience of I and my, that was necessary in order to see own nature and to experience the emptiness within as being one with the emptiness without. this was seeing the dharma within as the dharma without. after becoming icchantika it was no longer emptiness that saw all things as empty. rather it was now seeing mountains as mountains, flowers as flowers again. no longer was emptiness the key word... now it is mind that matters and seeing that that is that. seeing that but no longer seeing this.
after attainment of THAT/Icchantika one becomes aware of the higher self as I AM for the first time. at that time, one is indeed I AM. but following Buddhas path of renunciation one relinquishes the I AM (which incidentally is not an internal experience) the i am hovers around the field of vision like a black vapor that alternately comes and goes in strength.
renouncing the I AM one becomes no self. looking at oneself one sees no sense of I AM any longer. one has become no self and the objective world has become no self, this again is with the hint of emptiness, though it is more accurate to say just no self. having said that no self has been realized long after the elimination of i and mine one gains great respect for the Therevada. it must however be emphasised that there is a subjective experience of self hood that can be relinquished through practice. sutta nippata 761 :"the holy ones know it as highest bliss, the personality's cessation, repugnant to worldly folk, but not to those that clearly see."
still having understood certain things, having once realized emptiness of all things and gone beyond that one is still suffering, but... one is much stronger and better able to deal with it. however, not having reached the attainment of the Buddha: i am still suffering.
one however is not one, nor is one emptiness, nor is one non existence, nor existant. (forgetting words for a while)
sorry to pontificate. i speak as a fool.
best wishes, Tom.
What you said about going beyond the I AM/higher self identification is well said.
However at the same time, 'no self' is not merely a stage of attainment. It is a dharma seal. I do not see Anatta as merely attaining a state of experience where the sense of self is dropped or forgotten (this is merely a peak experience and there might not be any realization/wisdom involved); rather I see it as that a self/agent, a doer, a thinker, a watcher, etc, cannot be found apart from the moment to moment flow of manifestation or as its commonly expressed as ‘the observer is the observed’; there is no self apart from arising and passing. A very important point here is that Anatta/No-Self is a Dharma Seal, it is the nature of Reality all the time -- and not merely as a state free from personality, ego or the ‘small self’ or a stage to attain. This means that it does not depend on the level of achievement of a practitioner to experience anatta but Reality has always been Anatta and what is important here is the intuitive insight into it as the nature, characteristic, of phenomenon (dharma seal).
To put further emphasis on the importance of this point, I would like to borrow from the Bahiya Sutta that ‘in the seeing, there is just the seen, no seer’, ‘in the hearing, there is just the heard, no hearer’ as an illustration. When a person says that I have gone beyond the experiences from ‘I hear sound’ to a stage of ‘becoming sound’, he is mistaken. When it is taken to be a stage, it is illusory. For in actual case, there is and always is only sound when hearing; never was there a hearer to begin with. Nothing attained for it is always so. This is the seal of no-self. Therefore to a non dualist, the practice is in understanding the illusionary views of the sense of self and the split. Through understanding, through direct realization, there is release.