Training in Higher Discriminating Awareness

Training in Higher Discriminating Awareness 

Removing the Obscurations to Liberation and Enlightenment

The discussion of training in higher discriminating awareness starts with the second half of verse 41: 

(41b) However, if you have failed to apply yourself to far-reaching discriminating awareness, you will be unable to deplete the obscurations. 

The concentration, a stilled and settled mind by itself, and the advanced awarenesses by themselves, are not enough for gaining enlightenment. To gain enlightenment, we have to get rid of the two sets of obscurations. The first set refers to the various disturbing emotions and disturbing attitudes that we have, and their seeds − karmic seeds or legacies. These obscurations prevent our liberation from samsara. They obscure our ability to see reality clearly. 

The second set of obscurations is regarding all knowable phenomena. This second set of obscurations was what we were referring to in terms of our periscope vision. They prevent us from gaining enlightenment in the sense that they prevent us from being able to see all sentient beings, all the karmic connections, all the influences of everything on them, and the effects that all our teachings will have on various people and so on. We need to get rid of this second set of obscurations in order to achieve enlightenment. 

In order to eliminate each of these sets of obscurations, we need this discriminating awareness of voidness. 

Pairing Far-Reaching Discriminating Awareness and Far-Reaching Attitudes 

(42) Therefore, in order to rid yourself of all obscurations, without exception, regarding the disturbing emotions and knowable phenomena, always meditate on the yoga of far-reaching discriminating awareness together with methods.

If we speak of the obscurations preventing liberation as basically our ignorance or unawareness of voidness and the disturbing emotions and attitudes that come from that and the legacies from our previous unawareness that cause these to recur, then the obscurations that prevent omniscience refers to the habits of that unawareness. The habits are what cause things to appear as if they were truly existent or solidly existent; they go with the unawareness itself, where we grasp at and believe things to exist in the way that they appear. 

To get rid of both these sets of obscurations, we need this discriminating awareness of voidness to get rid of our unawareness. We need this in conjunction with the methods. Just sitting and gaining this discriminating awareness by itself is not sufficient. 

(43) This is because discriminating awareness lacking methods as well as methods lacking discriminating awareness have been said still to be bondage. Therefore, never abandon having both. 

If we have just this discriminating awareness of voidness, but we don’t actually involve ourselves with the methods for helping others and actually help others, then that just remains intellectual knowledge. We don’t actually apply it in a practical way. In order for that discriminating awareness to get deeper and deeper, we need some positive force behind it; otherwise, we’re not able to really get deeper insights. That discriminating awareness by itself, if we just approach it in a very dry way, without actually doing anything to build up positive energy, is not going to get deep enough. 

Similarly, “methods lacking discriminating awareness” in other words, if we just try to help others as much as possible, but without that discriminating awareness in terms of what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate, how they exist, how we exist, and so on, then we can easily have our help degenerate into a big ego trip; that is also not going to bring liberation or enlightenment. In either case, it’s “said still to be bondage.” We need both, it says, “never abandon having both.” 

The Difference between Far-Reaching Discriminating Awareness and the Other Far-Reaching Attitudes 

What actually is this division between discriminating awareness and methods? Atisha elaborates in the next two verses: 

(44) To get rid of doubts concerning what is discriminating awareness and what are methods, I shall clarify the actual division between methods and discriminating awareness. 
(45) The Triumphant One has explained that leaving aside far-reaching discriminating awareness, all networks of constructive factors, such as far-reaching generosity and so forth, are the methods. 

What’s usually called “method and wisdom” is defined in terms of the six far-reaching attitudes or perfections. The sixth of these, discriminating awareness, is obviously the discriminating awareness or wisdom side, and the other five are the method side. Those five are far-reaching generosity, ethical self-discipline, patience, perseverance and mental stability or concentration. 

(46) It is by the power of having meditated on the methods that, through meditating thoroughly on something with discriminating awareness, someone with a (bodhichitta) nature can quickly attain enlightenment. It does not come about by having meditated on the lack of (self-establshed) identities alone. 

For our meditation on discriminating awareness to cut through our unawareness, its legacies, habits and so on, it needs to have a strong amount of positive force behind it. We need a great deal of patience, discipline, perseverance, obviously concentration and generosity, and we’re going to use this understanding to help others, give it to others. 

If we have all of that, a strong positive force from that, then by “meditating thoroughly on something with discriminating awareness,” it will cut through the unawareness and habits. Then, if we have this “bodhichitta nature,” this Buddha-nature to achieve enlightenment, we can “quickly attain enlightenment,” in other words, if we have this bodhichitta motivation. Just “meditating on the lack of (self-establishing) identities” by itself is not going to be sufficient, is not going to bring us enlightenment. 

Impossibility of a Self-Established Identity

When we talk about a self-established identity, often called an “inherent identity,” this refers to there being something inside an object – self-established inside the object – that by its own power makes the object what it is, gives it its identity. An example that I often use is: if we are driving a car or riding a bicycle and there’s somebody in a car on the road trying to pass us and beeping the horn very wildly and so on, then it seems to us that “this person is an idiot,” that there’s something wrong with this person, there is a self-establishing nature on the side of the person that, by its own power alone, makes them into an idiot. 

It doesn’t appear to us at all that being an idiot arises dependently on the concept of “an idiot,” the situation that we’re in, and all these sorts of things. It seems that there’s something wrong with this person, established inside them; they really are an idiot. That’s what we mean by a self-established identity, and that’s an impossible way of existing. Nothing exists as what it is by the power of something self-established inside it, making it what it is, independent of anything else. 

Even if we look at it on a very basic level, the person in the car is made of atoms, and the atoms are made of little particles and energy. What’s inside there that’s making this person an idiot? Nothing. That absence of impossible ways of existing, that’s what voidness means. Voidness means there’s no such thing as this, it’s completely absent, and there never was this type of an impossible existence. 

(47) Awareness of the voidness of self-establishing natures that has come to realize that the aggregates, constituent components, and cognitive stimulators lack (a self-established) arising has been fully explained as discriminating awareness. 

Now, we have to go a little bit quickly because we don’t have so much time, so I can’t explain absolutely everything here; “aggregates, constituent components, and cognitive stimulators” are referring to everything that we experience in terms of body, mind, emotions, various sights, sounds that we hear, and so on.

When we speak about voidness, “voidness of self-establishing natures,” that there’s no such thing as these impossible ways of establishing the existence of something, then we’re talking about the lack of self-established existence of everything that we experience. For example, we were talking about this idiot in the car next to us. Now, that’s an impossible way of existing that this person truly exists as an idiot, a self-established idiot. Let’s use an image here: it’s the image of an idiot, somebody with a solid line around them, like out of a child’s coloring book, that isolates them from everything else and, so, there they are, a solidly existent, self-established idiot.

There’s no such thing, so obviously such an idiot couldn’t arise; we can’t have the birth of a self-established idiot, because there is no such thing as a self-established idiot. How could somebody like in a coloring book be born? Nobody exists that way. That total absence, which is what we mean by voidness; and the discriminating awareness of that voidness is what we’re talking about here as far-reaching discriminating awareness. 

(48) If (things had self-established) existence, it would be illogical for them to have to arise. Further, if (they were self-established as) non-existent (at the time of their cause, they could not be made to arise), like a flower out of space. Moreover, because there would be the absurd conclusions of both these faults, things do not come about from having both (self-established existence and non-existence) either.

That’s filling in a bit from the actual words of the text. If we leave out what’s filled in here, then the verse would just read: 

(48) If existent, it would be illogical for them to have to arise. Further, if nonexistent, they would be like a flower out of space. Moreover, because there would be the absurd conclusions of both these faults, things do not come about from being both either. 

This is saying that in order to really gain this discriminating awareness of voidness, we need to have certainty about it, certainty that there is no such thing as these impossible ways of existing. We gain that certainty through logical conviction, through a process of inferential understanding, through logic. The logic is what’s called “the exclusion of the middle” in Western logic. It’s like, if something had self-established existence, it would have to be either this, or that – two sides of a dichotomy – or both, or neither. If it’s none of those, then there’s no alternative, so it’s impossible. 

It’s saying, “If (things had self-established) existence, it would be illogical for them to have to arise.” In other words, we’re looking now in terms of causation. If that person already existed self-established as an idiot at the time of, for instance, their birth, then there’s no reason for the person to actually have arisen and be born. They already existed and so they would not need to be born in order to establish their existence. 

We’re talking about, on a more general level, what establishes that something exists. Self-established existence would be that there’s something inside it that makes it exist by its own power alone. If something had self-established existence – there’s something already on its own side that is making it exist, independent of anything else – then the question is, how could it ever arise? If something already existed by its own power at the time of its cause, then how could external circumstances and things bring about its existence? It would already exist. 

The usual example is a sprout and a seed: if the sprout already existed at the time of its cause, at the time of the seed, then how could the sprout ever arise? There would be no need for it to arise, as it already existed. At the time of the seed’s existing, if we say that the sprout doesn’t exist at all and that it is self-established as nonexistent, that there’s something inside the sprout that, by its own power, makes it not exist, and so the sprout could never arise at all; it would have to be a seed always. Nothing could make the sprout arise because there’s something already there that, by its own power, is making it not exist, so nothing could affect that. Its creation would be like a “flower” magically appearing “out of space;” it couldn’t happen. 

We’d have these “absurd conclusions of both these faults,” if we said, “Well, in one way it has self-established existence because we can see it, but from another, deeper point of view, it really doesn’t exist either.” That’s impossible as well. 

(Participant): How can someone with special powers, like Sai Baba, make things materialize, like a flower out of space, without a cause?

Well, things arise not on the basis of self-established existence, as there’s no such thing as self-established existence. He’s not making a self-established flower appear in space. There’s nothing on the side of the flower that makes it either have self-established existence before he’s materialized it or have self-established nonexistence before he materializes it. Because there’s nothing on the side of that flower that makes it have either self-established existence or self-established nonexistence, then through a combination of various methods, his concentration and ability to control the elements and so on, he’s able to materialize something or cause something to appear that does not have self-established existence. Its existence is established by dependent arising, and not by a self-establishing nature inside it. 

Do Things Arise Based on Self-Established Existence?

This first line of reasoning is that things don’t have either self-established existence or self-established nonexistence, or both or neither, at the time of their cause. Then, how do things arise? 

(49) Phenomenal things do not arise (self-established) from themselves, nor from something different, nor from both. Neither do they (arise) from no causes at all. Because of this, by their essential nature (everything) lacks a self-establishing nature.

Let’s say, in the case of a sprout, does it come from a seed? Well, is the sprout already in the seed, and so it’s arising from itself? That’s not possible. If something were already there, then how could it arise? That again doesn’t make any sense, that the cause would be the same as the result. 

Furthermore, it can’t arise from something self-established as different. If the cause has a big solid line around it and the effect has a big solid line around it, and they exist totally by themselves by their own powers, then the effect couldn’t possibly arise from the cause. The cause couldn’t do anything; an effect can’t arise from something absolutely separate and different from itself that would, therefore, be unable to affect it. 

Things don’t arise from either both themselves and something different, something that’s both itself and yet something different. Also, things don’t arise from neither, in other words, “from no causes at all.” Because of that, there’s no such thing as self-established existence in terms of things arising from self or other. 

(50) Furthermore, when you analyze all things if they are (self-established as) one or many, then since their essential nature is the lack of anything that can be aimed at, you can become certain of the total nonexistence of self-establishing natures.

This is the argument of “neither one nor many,” and this is saying that if there were such a thing as self-established existence, there would have to be either just one thing or many things that had self-established existence. 

If we talk about “me” and “my identity,” let’s say as a father – I’m not a father, I don’t have children – but let’s say my identity is as a father, and if these had self-established existence, me and father, with solid lines around them, then if there were such a thing as self-established existence, there’d have to be either only one thing that had self-established existence or many things that had self-established existence. If there’s only one thing that has self-established existence, then me and father would have to be absolutely identical, just one thing, which would mean that I would have to be a father even before I had children, which is absurd. 

If there were many things with self-established existence, then me would be one self-established thing, father would be another self-established thing, and they’d have to be able to exist totally separately by their own power. Then, who’s the father? It couldn’t be me. This means that that also is an impossible way of existing. 

Recognizing that Self-Established  Existence Is an Illusion

From all these different logical reasonings, we gain conviction: we’re convinced that although things appear to have self-established existence, although this person in the car appears to be an idiot, established by some self-establishing nature findable inside them, that’s impossible, as that’s not referring to anything real. Although it appears to us as though there’s self-established existence, nevertheless, as Atisha says, our mind “lacks anything that it can be aimed at.” It’s like an illusion; it appears to have self-established existence, but it’s not. We’re not actually aimed at something that really has self-established existence, because that’s impossible. 

Therefore, we “can become certain of the total nonexistence of self-establishing natures.” That’s voidness, that there is no such thing as self-established existence. When we focus on that absence, “there’s no such thing,” with the conviction that it’s impossible, that’s the understanding and the discriminating awareness of voidness. When we’re really familiar with that, we no longer believe that things actually exist in the way that they deceptively appear to us. 

Stopping Disturbing Emotions and the Illusion of Self-Established Existence

Although that person appears to be like an idiot, a self-established idiot, we know that they don’t really exist like that. They are acting in a way that we consider to be like an idiot in terms of our concept of an idiot and all the circumstances and so on. That understanding helps us to avoid getting angry; we don’t get angry. This is the way we get rid of the disturbing emotions. 

The more familiar we become with not believing in self-established existence, not being fooled by it, eventually, our minds will stop making that appearance of self-established existence. Then, we’re rid of the obscurations preventing omniscience; we are enlightened, an enlightened being. 

However, for our conviction to be totally convinced that this is an impossible way of existing, self-established existence, we need to rely first on valid lines of reasoning, because our ordinary perception is not going to indicate that at all. These lines of reasoning come from texts, so Atisha says: 

(51) Furthermore, the lines of reasoning in The 70 Stanzas on Voidness and from The Root Text on the Middle Way and so forth explain as well how the self-nature of phenomenal things is established as voidness. 

He mentions some of the sources. Then he goes on: 

(52) However, because this text would have become too long, I have therefore not elaborated here. What I have explained has been for the purpose of meditation on merely a proven system of philosophical tenets. 

Atisha just mentions these things in brief; he says that it’s “for the purpose of meditation,” in other words, one has to meditate on this, really think about it, become accustomed to it and so on. This is an explanation of reality which has been “proven;” in other words, it has been proven logically by experience, by valid experience. Once one is convinced that this is so, that gives us the opportunity to actually perceive this, to perceive things in this way. Thus, it has been proven; it’s not just an invalid set of philosophical tenets. 

He summarizes: 

(53) Thus, since you cannot be aimed at the self-establishing nature of anything, without exception, meditation on the lack of (self-established) identities is meditation on discriminating awareness. 

The Voidness of Voidness

No matter what we focus on, nothing has self-established existence, and nothing has a self-established identity. Then, what about voidness itself? Does that have self-established existence? How do we actually go from a conceptual to a non-conceptual cognition of voidness? Those two questions are very much related to each other. 

(54) With discriminating awareness, a self-establishing nature of any phenomenon is never seen; and it is explained that the same is true regarding the actuality of discriminating awareness itself. In this (way), meditate (on voidness) non-conceptually. 

When we meditate on voidness, first we would gain a conceptual cognition of it. That conceptual cognition would be to focus on voidness through the conceptual category “voidness.” We meditate, “There’s no such thing as self-established existence. That’s impossible, so there’s a total absence of it.” How do we focus on an absence? Well, we have some sort of mental representation of it: it’s sort of like empty space, an absence of everything. We focus on voidness conceptually, then, through the category “voidness” and an idea, like a mental hologram, that represents voidness, namely a mental hologram of some sort of empty space. That’s a conceptual representation of, “there’s no such thing,” a total absence. 

Nevertheless, when we’re focusing conceptually like that, although the mental representation of voidness appears as having self-established existence, that appearance does not correspond to an actual self-established voidness. An absence of self-established existence can’t, itself, be self-established; it can’t have a self-establishing nature inside it that, by its own power, makes it a total absence. It’s not a self-established nonexistence of self-established existence. 

Shantideva says it very nicely in his text, Bodhicharyavatara, Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior. He says that when a mind is not focused on the self-established existence of self-established existence, it can’t be focused on a self-established non-existence of self-established existence. When the mind isn’t aimed at anything like that, at neither of those two extremes, that’s non-conceptual cognition of voidness. In other words, the non-conceptual cognition of voidness, in focusing on the lack of self-established existence of what the mental representation of a total absence of self-established existence refers to (actual voidness), cannot be focusing on a self-established nonexistence of self-established existence, since it has negated self-established existence.  

However, the non-conceptual cognition of voidness has the conviction that there’s no such thing as self-established existence – this is absolutely one of the most important points here. In other words, to just be blank with no conviction, that’s useless. It still has that conviction remaining, that there’s no such thing as self-established existence. That’s the non-conceptual cognition of voidness. When we get this non-conceptual cognition of voidness, that cognition is what really will get rid of our unawareness, the cause of our problems and suffering. 

Moving Beyond Conceptual Thoughts and Beyond Sorrow

(55) This compulsive existence, which has come from conceptual thoughts (grasping for self-established existence), has an identity nature (merely fabricated) by conceptual thought. Therefore, the state of being rid of all concepts, barring none, is the supreme Nirvana State Beyond Sorrow.

When we talk about grasping for truly established existence, for self-established existence, this is something that occurs in a manifest way only with conceptual cognition. Everybody accepts that. However, the habits of that grasping for self-established existence are there while we have just sense perception, where it is still making an appearance of self-established existence. We’re not rid of the habits of grasping by just getting non-conceptual sense cognition. 

We have that grasping in a manifest form conceptually, then, with conceptual cognition. Grasping for self-established existence means to grasp at things as existing in the way that they appear to us, which is with self-established existence, so it means believing them to exist in that way. Our “compulsive existence” in samsara, with all its problems, “has come from these conceptual thoughts,” this grasping for self-established existence. 

Samsara “has an identity-nature (merely fabricated) by conceptual thoughts.” In other words, conceptual thought makes up that things exist in this impossible way in which they appear – mind you, all conceptual thoughts have this grasping for self-established existence – and the habits of that is what makes the appearances of self-established existence. That is also indicated here, that our samsara is “(merely fabricated) by conceptual thoughts.” So, “the state of being rid of all concepts, barring none, is the supreme Nirvana State Beyond Sorrow.” Here, it’s referring to not just the nirvana of liberation, but enlightenment. 

Atisha now supports his explanation with quotations from the Buddha: 

(56) Like this as well, the Vanquishing Master Surpassing All has said, “Conceptual thought (grasping for self-established existence) is great unawareness, that which makes you fall into the ocean of uncontrollably recurring existence. 

That’s samsara.

By abiding in absorbed concentration devoid of such concepts, you will make clear, like space, a non-conceptual state. 

The “Vanquishing Master Surpassing All,” that’s the meaning of the word bhagavan; vanquishing in the sense of one who has gotten rid of all the obscurations, mastered all the good qualities and surpassed even Brahma. 

Buddha said that when we have this conceptual thought, that is unawareness. Conceptual thought is not merely thinking verbally; it can be non-verbal as well. The main problem with conceptual thought is that it has grasping for self-established existence. That’s what is meant by “conceptual thought is great unawareness.” 

It is very important to identify what is the fault of conceptual cognition. The fault of it is not that it focuses on something through a category of it, which is what conceptual cognition does. If we have no idea or concept of what the category “voidness” means, how could we actually focus on it? That’s not its fault. Its major fault is that it has grasping for self-established existence with it. That’s the troublemaker aspect of it. It’s this grasping for self-established existence that comes with conceptual cognition – that conceptual cognition has as part of it – that makes us fall into samsara. 

Atisha says to “abide in absorbed concentration devoid of such concepts,” and that the only way it can be devoid of this conceptual thought is with the understanding of voidness – not only voidness, but the voidness of voidness. By staying with this non-conceptual cognition of voidness, that will clear the mind, so that it is “devoid of such concepts”; in other words, it will be without grasping for self-established existence, “like space” is free of that. 

The second verse that Atisha quotes: 

(57) Also, from The Dharani Formula for Engaging in the Non-Conceptual, he has said, “If the Offspring of the Triumphant 

that means bodhisattvas

involved in this pure Dharma practice were to contemplate this state of no conceptual thoughts (grasping for self-established existence), they would transcend these concepts that are difficult to pass beyond and would gradually attain a non-conceptual state.” 

That means that if we’re on the bodhisattva path, we really have to think about – that is, “contemplate” – what it means to be non-conceptual, what actually is the point of non-conceptuality. When we really understand what it means to be non-conceptual, then, through meditation in accordance with that correct understanding, we’ll be able to break through this level of conceptual cognition and “attain a non-conceptual state,” the state of non-conceptual cognition of voidness. 

Remember, when we talk about non-conceptual cognition, there are two types. There’s non-conceptual sense cognition – seeing, hearing, etc. These things are automatically non-conceptual, but they’re still accompanied by unawareness. We’re unaware that the way that what we’re seeing appears to exist is a false appearance; it does not correspond to how things actually exist. That’s not what we’re aiming for, to just have non-conceptual sense cognition; we have that anyway. What we’re aiming for is non-conceptual cognition of voidness; and that’s only attained by refuting and thus getting rid of grasping for self-established existence. We have to understand very clearly what it means, this “non-conceptual state.” 

(58) When you have become certain, by these quotations and lines of reasoning, that all things are devoid of self-established existence and without a (self-established) arising, meditate in a state of no conceptual thoughts (of self-established existence). 
(Participant): Isn’t voidness of voidness also a conception?

We could have a concept of it, that’s true, the category “voidness of voidness,” and something to represent it when thinking about it, but what we’re talking about here is not the conceptual thought of the voidness of voidness; we’re talking about what we actually experience in meditation. When we have actually rid ourselves of grasping for self-established existence, we also have rid ourselves of grasping for the self-existence of the absence of self-established existence, and so because all conceptual thought has grasping for self-established existence, there is no conceptual thought left. Then, we get non-conceptual cognition of voidness. He’s talking about the actual process in meditation. 

That completes the section on higher discriminating awareness. 

Manifesting the Result 

(59) When you have meditated on the facts of reality like this 

this is referring to voidness

and have gradually attained the heat (stage) and so forth, you will then attain (the stage of) extremely joyous one and so on, and the enlightenment of Buddhahood will not be far. 

In the stages to enlightenment, one passes through five paths; these are the pathway minds, the five different levels of mind, of understanding. We achieve the first of these, a pathway mind of accumulating or building up, when – if we’re following this in a Mahayana way – when we have uncontrived bodhichitta; in other words, we don’t have to build up to it with all the meditation lines of reasoning. We’re able to just automatically have it. 

Then, we’re building up or accumulating, basically, the two enlightenment-building networks more and more, and we’re working to gain shamatha, the stilled and settled state of mind and vipashyana, an exceptionally perceptive state of mind, which has a correct understanding of voidness. That’s what we’re working on in this first path. 

When we actually gain that shamatha and vipashyana, in other words, when we gain the perfect concentration with the correct understanding of voidness, it’s first going to be a conceptual cognition of voidness; then we achieve the second path, which is the path of application or a path of preparation. We’re applying the skills that we’ve learned in the first path, that we’ve developed in the first path, going deeper and deeper with the understanding of voidness. That second state or path has various stages, and the “heat (stage)” is the first of these. 

What it’s saying is that “when you’ve meditated on the facts of reality (voidness) and then have gradually attained the heat (stage),” that means the conceptual cognition of voidness; then, we achieve non-conceptual cognition of voidness and we start progressing through the ten bodhisattva stages, the ten bhumis. The first of these is the “extremely joyous one.” He says, “then,” after we achieve the conceptual cognition of the heat stage, the conceptual cognition of voidness, “you will attain (the stage of) extremely joyous one,” that’s the non-conceptual cognition of voidness, and then, it says, “the enlightenment of Buddhahood will not be far.” 

Then, we have to proceed to the fourth path, which is the path of meditation or accustoming ourselves to this non-conceptual cognition of voidness so that we’re able to have it all the time, not just in meditative absorption, and then we are able to cut through everything that’s blocking enlightenment. 

Buddhahood will not be far” – the fifth path is the path of no more training, when we actually achieve Buddhahood. Although it’s possible to achieve enlightenment in this way, it’s going to take a very, very long time. We have to build up positive force over what’s called “three countless eons,” that’s three zillion eons of time. 

The first set of zillion eons is to get the non-conceptual cognition of voidness. When we first get that, then we no longer have grasping for self-established existence that’s based on conceptual frameworks. Nevertheless, we still have automatically arising grasping for self-established existence. The second set of a zillion eons is required to get rid of that. When we’ve gotten rid of that, we are rid of the obscurations preventing liberation; in other words, we’re liberated and we’re an arhat.

However, we’re still left with our mind making appearances of self-established existence due to the habits of grasping for self-established existence. That appearance-making of self-established existence is what prevents enlightenment or omniscience. It takes the third set of zillion eons of building up more and more positive force so that our non-conceptual cognition of voidness will get rid of those obscurations. Because if we’re always able to stay focused non-conceptually on voidness, absolutely forever, then there is no more appearance-making of self-established existence; it’s finished.