No Dog, Some Dog and the Simplest Thing
No Dog, Some Dog, and The Simplest Thing. by Daniel Ingram
There has been a lot of reference to these three in various discussions, so I thought it might be good to have a page dedicated to exploring them. Please feel free to lend your thoughts.
No Dog is a term coined by Kenneth Folk and used to describe a state that we consider trans-jhanic, in that all the other jhanas can move through it. It is a very different perspective on them, and gives the whole thing a very different feel. It is almost like a profoundly skillful dissociation, or another quantum level of equanimity, in that, when one is in No Dog, there is no investment in which jhana or ñana is manifesting, or, as the term implies, you have no dog in that fight. In this way, No Dog imparts a very high level of feeling one has transcended the ordinary fascination with cycles, states, stages, qualities of experience, etc. They cycle through, and we feel largely untouched by their coming and going. We use the term No Dog as it is as good as anything else we could come up with and because we do not see a precise correlate in the standard texts, sort of...
I remember the first time I chanced on to No Dog, and it happened to be just a few seconds after the Fruition that got me arahatship. When the mind flipped into that way of perceiving things, it was for me that that time everything I was looking for. As an anagami, I had become so sick of cycles and cycles and cycles that the transcendence of No Dog was absolutely amazing. Cycles occurred, and the only thing of relevance was staying in No Dog. I associated it with the term Wisdom Eye, and my whole goal at that point was keeping in that state. The only problem was it didn’t last...
No Dog would fade back into a state that we have come to call Some Dog, which is the default state for those who are not in No Dog. In Some Dog, one cares about qualities, even subtle qualities, and cycles, and stages, and states, and the specifics, whereas when on is in No Dog, No Dog is the best game in town and what cycle or stage or whatever happens to be going on within the framework of No Dog is basically irrelevant.
Thus, on that retreat, I would fade back to Some Dog, get frustrated by the cycles, realize this, find No Dog again, which was just a question of looking for it, and for a few hours would be ok, until Some Dog would set in again, and so forth and so on for about a week. The problem with No Dog is that it is conditioned, in that it comes and goes, I only found it after attaining arahatship, and thus, while amazing in its way, was not quite what I was looking for.
Luckily that was not the end of the story. The retreat went on, and then this very strange convergence of things occurred. It was hard to explain, but during it, I realized something very important: Some Dog and No Dog are both of the same nature, both are conditioned, both are empty, both are just variations on the basic theme of perception, or manifestation, or luminosity, or suchness, or whatever you wish to call it...
The Simplest Thing is what it has been called here recently. The Simplest Thing is one way of saying those other things. I like the old line, “In the seeing, just the seen. In the hearing, just the heard,” etc. I think it makes its point very clearly and concisely. It doesn’t get any more simple that that, and that was what I realized on that retreat.
Now at times the mind inclines to No Dog and that is what shows up. At other times it inclines to Some Dog, and that is what shows up. These are conditioned phenomena, and they come and go.
There will likely be debate below about exactly when one can attain to No Dog and exactly when one can attain to The Simplest Thing. I suspect that those with a somewhat more Vedantic perspective (see Vedanta and The Immediate Approach) will try to argue that The Simplest Thing is always available, which is sort of true. I suspect that there are those who will try to say that No Dog can be attained by those below arahatship, and perhaps it can, though I had not seen anything that had its complete set of qualities before that.
Those things said, I realized the deep truth of The Simplest Thing in all its ordinary glory when I got over my fascination with No Dog and my dislike of Some Dog and found that they are finally not the point. Noticing things as they are is the point, directly, clearly, completely and in a way that is not bound up in specific perspectives that are conditioned was what got me to the thing that has lasted for years now, and so I advocate simply giving No Dog its due, realizing that its true nature is the same as Some Dog, and finding that common ground that all things share.
I spent some time this afternoon checking both out, going back and forth from No Dog to Some Dog, from the transcendent to the immersed, and was pleased to come to the same conclusion: they are different, but both have their points, and neither has a more elevated place from the point of view of The Simplest Thing.
I am going to weigh in on when The Simplest Thing can be attained, and I will claim that really knowing it completely as one’s baseline is synonymous with The Goal, whatever you wish to call it. Thus, while aspects are obviously available at all times, really knowing it is the end of the path of insight.
I have debated the merits of taking No Dog as the path to The Simplest Thing, which has been talked about on the DhO. While fascination with No Dog is probably inevitable, and perhaps should be considered a distinct stage of development, beyond that, I don’t think that it is, in and of itself, the key to The Goal, except for seeing the common elements between it and Some Dog.
I do think that No Dog is a very important attainment, just like I like the Formless Realms, The Pure Land Jhanas and Nirodha Samapatti, and No Dog is even one better, but I think that one must finally come to a place where even that is seen as just one more variation or motif on the basic theme that phenomena manifest in various ways and realization must be found in a way that is not bound up in any specifics, and that includes No Dog.