Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Percy J, modified 10 Years ago.

Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Post: 1 Join Date: 7/25/10 Recent Posts
Having just attained stream entry which in one sense is rather easy to diagnose it brings up the question; How does one define the other three stages according to the classical Theravadan 4-path model? From what I’ve understood the next cycle will be 2’nd path but then Anagami and Arahant seem to have different definitions not so strictly tied into the cycles of the nãnas. I tried looking around but found no real good answer so I posted it here in the claims section because I’m guessing that those who are active here will have knowledge about this. I also realize that there could be many different definitions so feel free to say it like you see it.

Also if anyone has any input on how practice changes focus (if it does?) through the stages and other relevant information I should take into consideration, I’d appreciate it. I’m currently practicing Mahasi style noting.

Pavel O., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 88 Join Date: 1/20/10 Recent Posts
Hmm. I can give you a personal answer but I am not certain that it can always be applied. Perhaps for a noting practitioner it may for the most part.

There has been a full insight cycle for the first three paths followed by a short review phase during which the previous cycle was gone through repeatedly. There was a pretty clear perceptual change (reality was perceived more accurately), as well as a deeper understanding and appreciation of the three characteristics after each path event. I think that this perceptual change and the direct, experiential knowledge of the three characteristics is the best indicator of whether a path has been attained.

The perceptual changes that I remember very clearly were: noticing that all sensations arise and pass away moment-tom-moment without fault (no experiential or intellectual doubts about this being the case) after first path, noticing sensations occurring of their own volition to no one after second path, as well as clearly noticing the aspect of experience that may be called suffering (unbearableness) and that this sensation is separate from the preceding sensations (ie. seeing that all sensations are fundamentally fine as they are). I don't think that these perceptual changes always occur in this fashion or in this order but the 3 characteristics should become obvious in ones experience in a new way after a path has been attained (I believe). I also suspect that these things may be glimpsed during practice but they should be pretty apparent (permanently) after a path and in a new way.

As for third path, emptiness became noticeable for the first time. It was first observed behind sensations and only through forcing my attention to see it, later it was perceived co-existing with sensations rather than being separate (ie. sensations are the same as before yet empty at the same time, there is no ground or solidity to them, they are see-through, clear and pristine, more so if I specifically look for this aspect of them; also this emptiness is permanent in that it is unchanging - yet perceived within the experience of changing and impermanent phenomena). Later still the attention itself was seen to contain a sense of self, after which experience was observed to arise independently of my attention to it. Also, whereas the cycles were useful and in a way foolproof for gouging progress (if they were diagnosed accurately) within prior paths, this is not the case with third path (there is a lot of them, some seem like full cycles with review phases and perceptual shifts, yet none of them grant fourth path).

And that's more or less where I am now, so I can't report on further perceptual changes. Will gladly fill in when I make it to the fourth path.

As for practice, just doing it and doing it well (there is always knowledge of what is not being done well I think) does the trick. Also, not being too fascinated, or invested in the symptoms of practice is useful I think. Having strong intention to get it done helps shitloads, if one can differentiate between being determined and being obsessed.

All the best and I hope that I wrote this somewhat sensibly, I find it hard to express myself well most of the time. Congratulations on stream entry, it's a big step! Yay!!!!!!!!

max name, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 2 Join Date: 9/19/10 Recent Posts
hello pavel!

your description seems very accurate to me.

how would you describe the stages in connection with craving, aversion and unconsciousness – the “impurities”?

Pavel O., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 88 Join Date: 1/20/10 Recent Posts
Hey Max,

What exactly do you mean by the stages? Do you mean paths?

I would not be able to answer this path by path as I never paid as much attention to this as I did to other things (perceptual changes, maps,...). Craving and aversion still occur (this has not changed) but there is a huge difference in how they are perceived, they have lost a lot of their power (based on the inaccurate perception of them) and are perceived with greater accuracy and intensity than ever before (and this has noticeably increased after each path). There is much less solidity to these and other sensations, while the intensity and clarity of the perception of such things is heightened.

Unconsciousness also slowly fades as more and more of ones experience is more or less automatically noticed. Mindfulness becomes more common and more and more of ones experience is noticed. This can be quite unpleasant as a lot of old habits and attitudes, as well as their consequences are noticed moment-to-moment, a lot of them being based on a habit developed before the acquisition of an ability to see things as they are with some degree of clarity.

I am not completely certain how much of this is caused by the acquisition of a new path and how much it is based on on-going, daily practice, as both of these seem to affect things. What is perhaps more noticeable is the change in the unbearableness of ones experience, especially after third path. Even though I still go through Dark Nights and tough periods in my life (both of which are currently the case), they simply do not impact me in the same way they used to, I still am affected in terms of my behaviour and the predominant emotions experienced, but there is less of a buying into the experience and more of an automatic acceptance and knowledge that things are okay, there is an experiential certainty that human experience can never truly be unbearable.

Does this answer the question?
Ident Silence, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Just trawling the forum and devouring the content just now, but I felt obliged to thank Pavel here for such a clear and unambiguous explaination here. You've clarified a good few things for me and really helped my understanding of Theravada.

Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 3183 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I talk about the classical definition and the tensions between it and other interpretations of the models at length in a work often referred to here as MCTB but fully called Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, found in the wiki for free on-line, also can be ordered in paperback from the standard sellers, etc.

I won't rewrite all of that, as I go on for many pages, and you may have already found it, but that is one place to look.

Bodhi Yogi Dharma, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 6 Join Date: 9/1/11 Recent Posts
As I understand the pre-Theravada movements: 90% of the Buddha's word was lost, and two radically different understandings of what was remembered had arisen before any suttas had been written down. Theravada has inconsistencies and it does not appear to be the most accurate understanding of what the Buddha said or was teaching.
What most people say is Arhat, is not Arhat, both in modern times and throughout much of history. Most yogis who think they are Arhats have created a mental fabrication of extinction, when it is actually a non-extinction, they still have mental defilement in the form of deep-seated habit energy, moreover the Arhat claimants here say they still experience unpleasantness like pain, which is removed before Arhatship is attained on the path of Sravikahood.
The Sravika path should be divided into 8 categories, by the 7th, the yogi has eliminated 99% of all unpleasantness. No pain or fatigue at ALL, no sorrow etc. save trace amounts of delusion. This is not the Arhat path that is espoused on this website, where forms of unpleasantness are allowed. Suffering is a poor translation, a much better is unpleasantness.

The Sravika path isn't the path to tathagatahood. A distorted Sravika path seems to be majorly followed here. Out of compassion for the sentient beings I am taking time out of the retreat that has lasted the past 4 years to speak what I know. I do not wish for debate, yet it may arise as I am speaking against convention. I will speak a dharma which is superior to this distorted Sravika path.

Different causes will produce different effects, thus different paths lead to different enlightenments. Some paths result in the mind being smashed, even though lower 'enlightenments' have been attained. It is a falsehood to say all paths lead to the same enlightenment. During the breathless-samadhi called Buddhas-from-worlds-in-the-ten-directions-all-standing-before-one, it was revealed to me that there are 84,000 types of enlightenment.
Nipuna Ross A., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Clearing up the Theravadan 4-path system

Posts: 123 Join Date: 6/15/11 Recent Posts
you have a lot of specific numbers for things. try explaining this in your own language.

peace - Ross