Sally Gross wrote:
Perhaps a distinction needs to be made between ego (self, atta/atman) and consciousness, which is not-self (anatta/anatman) ...
.... Denial of the existence of ego in ultimate terms (paramattha in Pali, paramartha in Sanskrit) is certainly not annihilationism, any more than using the first-person singular pronoun (the dreaded "I") in conventional terms (sammuti in Pali, sa.mvrti in Sanskrit) is ipso facto eternalism. The Ananda Sutta in the Pali canon is perhaps relevant here. (See http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I hope that this makes sense.
This is good to keep in mind, however one still needs to be careful with the implementation of distinctions like this. As it is, this teaching is already irrefutably predicated on one's intention to establish an authentic distinction between the relative condition of ignorance(avidyā) and one's true nature(vidyā). So distinctions are useful and already clearly present(for it's the purpose of the dharma to take one from ignorance to wisdom). Ignorance and wisdom in and of themselves automatically imply separate and distinctive attributes which define their respective natures; I'm sure most of us agree/understand that avidyā(ignorance) implies identification with an illusory self(ātman, atta), whereas the contrasting condition of vidyā(wisdom) implies non-self(anātman, anattā). So distinctions are obviously helpful, the only issue is that in actualizing the true path which takes one from ignorance to wisdom acquiring the skillful means and discrimination to properly traverse the obstacles and habitual tendencies which create ignorance is of utmost importance.
Not merely understanding that there is in fact a distinction between avidyā and vidyā, but coming to ascertain why and how. Dzogchen is unique in this aspect because it goes straight to the "source" in a sense, and while it could involve itself in establishing the myriad distinctions it actually(in the absolute traditional sense) does not. The reason for this is important and is why Dzogchen can claim to be the swiftest path to liberation.
In the act of establishing and introducing the conceptual dichotomy of the ego(ātman, atta) vs. non-ego(anātman, anattā) there is obviously the tendency to deny the ego. Which is naturally because one comes to understand that the ego is illusory and perpetuates avidyā, therefore the dissolution of the ego would naturally bring the manifestation of wisdom. While this is true and appropriate insight to keep in mind, unless one intuitively understands the nature of the ego then this same insight can tragically reify and strengthen the ego.
For the sake of avoiding this predicament it should be understood how the ego manifests(the nature of it's appearance) and why Dzogchen traditionally avoids reifying this distinction. And this doesn't pertain strictly to ego/non-ego but to any distinction.
Egoic mind is not merely thought(ideas, memory, notions, concepts, belief), but thought that is identified with and/or grasped at. Ego is identification with thought on any level and in any form. So the ego IS thought which is being projected (objectified/subjected) and apart from projected thought ego is absent. Amalgamation of thought is the intellect and what needs to be understood is that the very implementation of making a distinction between ego/non-ego is itself a product of the intellect.
So the denial of the ego is a product of ego, likewise the affirmation of the ego is a product of ego. In either instance the ego is reified and can even be further solidified if one doesn't catch this slip. This property can actually even be applied to the necessary notions of egoless mind and/or consciousness/awareness. Being that egoless mind and consciousness/awareness are concepts they are product of the intellect and are objects to/of the very same ego they purport to contrast. However that isn't to deny the implementation of such concepts(or the intellect itself), it's just something to bare in mind and remember. The reason for this is that unless one has the skill and discrimination to not get caught in ones own projections, notions of egoless mind/awareness/consciousness can become objects themselves and therefore the subject(ego) is kept alive in this grasping and true "seeing" is blocked. Another way this becomes an issue is when the clarity aspect of the nature of mind is mistaken as an apprehending consciousness(or awareness) extending out into space from the pseudo reference point of 'here'.... coupled with the illusion of time, this faculty is erroneously misperceived as a substratum and (as ignorance habitually unfolds) becomes the base of all afflictions(all-ground, kun gzhi). So projected thought plays a huge role in one's experience because it truly is the definitive and delegating factor which decides the manner in which manifestation conforms and appears. Manifestation seemingly alters it's appearance in accordance with the notions projected upon it. This is how the five lights become the five elements and so on... reality has a certain degree of plasticity in this way.
But getting back to the point, creating the distinction between the ego and non-ego actually serves to solidify an ego which in truth isn't there. And further the ego then feeds on this duality of itself and it's absence, in addition to also feeding on the dualistic notions of it's own existence(as a subjective entity) contrasted against that which is posited to be other-than-itself(objects). So things go from 0 to out of control very fast.
Dzogchen avoids this predicament by (at first) abiding in one's natural and spontaneous manifestation of wakefulness that stands prior to seeming arisings of phenomena, and it rests there without humoring the intellect, thus avoiding further dualistic imputation. Thoughts are allowed to self-liberate upon appearance avoiding identification and proliferation. As one gains confidence in this "position" other faculties such as timelessness(previously obscured by thought projection) begin to become more apparent. From there, resting on ones potential laurels graciously revealed by the teacher in direct introduction, the true nature of mind (if cultivated properly) can flower in it's fullness.
The Great Perfection, in a sense, abides prior to imputation because it takes into account that use of the intellect is actually populating experience with dualisms(and time itself) which are inherently absent in it's true form appearing as one's true nature(vidyā). While absolutely necessary, the use of the intellect if uncoupled with skillful means, becomes the very snare one is attempting to escape from.
In the end that which was imputed as "thought" by thought itself, is innately known to be the nature of mind appearing to itself as itself (along with all other previously imputed appearances). "Here the external forms that are perceived are not designated as empty of self. When emptiness is made an intellectual object, the form and emptiness aspects of the object arise in the intellect. However since the perceived forms have no intrinsic characteristics, those forms should not mix with the intellect. Therefore the statement, 'Emptiness is not other than form, nor form other than emptiness,' should be taken as an axiom"
Jigme Lingpa's argument here seems to be that, through analysis, the intellectual method of establishing emptiness generates the concepts of form (gzugs / rūpa) and emptiness, while in fact the form, as it manifests, bears neither the characteristics of form nor of emptiness. The distinction between form and emptiness comes into being only through the application of intellectual analysis to that which manifests.
........Jigme Lingpa paraphrases the well-known lines from the Heart Sutra to argue that the nondistinction between form and emptiness stated there is in harmony with the usual presentation of emptiness in the Great Perfection. The union of form and emptiness is not taken as a goal, but as the already present nature of that which manifests. This is the explanation given for the rejection of a conceptual, dualistic mode of establishing emptiness. A non-dualistic practice of emptiness is also emphasized in YL where Jigme Lingpa writes that in gnosis, "appearances are not cut with the razor of emptiness."
It is suggested that in KGN that the distinction between relative truth and ultimate truth is another false duality. The line is "In the awakened mind there is no relative or ultimate truth." In accordance with this rejection there are very few references to the two truths in any of these Longchen Nyingtig texts.
In SN, Jigme Lingpa enumerates four mistaken approaches to emptiness, which he calls the "four ways of straying (shor sa bzhi)." These are borrowed from the Mahāmudrā tradition, where they are to be found at least as far back as Dagpo Tashi Namgyal (1512-87), who enumerates them in his Legshe Dawai Özer. They are (i) straying into the condition where emptiness is an object of knowledge, (ii) straying into taking emptiness as the path, (iii) straying into taking emptiness as an antidote, and (iv) straying into taking emptiness as a seal. The first three errors are related to the criticism of approaches to Madhyamaka set out in the previous paragraphs.
- excerpt from "Approaching The Great Perfection" - Sam Van Schaik (in italics)