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"The side Effects of Meditation"

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"The side Effects of Meditation" Gus Castellanos 11/15/18 9:06 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" (D Z) Dhru Val 11/15/18 9:35 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" tamaha 11/16/18 12:05 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Daniel M. Ingram 11/17/18 12:16 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 11/16/18 7:14 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" John Yates Culadasa 11/19/18 1:56 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 11/20/18 8:49 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" John Yates Culadasa 11/20/18 4:04 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Andromeda 11/21/18 6:59 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" John Yates Culadasa 11/21/18 6:39 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Daniel M. Ingram 11/22/18 5:40 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" shargrol 11/22/18 6:16 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Andromeda 11/22/18 6:58 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" neko 11/22/18 7:43 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Noah D 11/22/18 9:37 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 11/25/18 11:48 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 11/25/18 12:24 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Ward Law 11/26/18 11:32 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" John Yates Culadasa 11/21/18 1:24 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Ward Law 11/16/18 7:45 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Daniel M. Ingram 11/16/18 3:32 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Michael P Fortier 11/16/18 1:16 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Daniel M. Ingram 11/16/18 3:38 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Daniel M. Ingram 11/16/18 4:01 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Kim Katami 11/17/18 7:02 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Tashi Tharpa 11/17/18 6:05 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" streamsurfer 11/18/18 4:35 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" JP 11/18/18 7:29 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" streamsurfer 11/18/18 1:43 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 11/18/18 2:47 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" John Yates Culadasa 11/19/18 3:12 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Jason Massie 11/20/18 5:17 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Dream Walker 11/19/18 10:36 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Anna L 11/20/18 2:58 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" neko 11/20/18 6:50 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" John Yates Culadasa 11/21/18 1:59 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Greg Jack Tunting 11/16/18 1:55 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Ward Law 11/16/18 1:36 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" JP 11/16/18 2:51 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Zachary 11/17/18 10:51 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Dada Kind 11/24/18 10:27 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Zachary 6/16/19 10:25 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Dada Kind 11/24/18 3:25 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" JP 11/25/18 4:47 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" T DC 11/25/18 1:14 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Dada Kind 11/26/18 11:27 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" J C 11/30/18 1:34 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 12/3/18 11:39 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" J C 12/3/18 6:24 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 12/4/18 7:22 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Matt 12/5/18 1:22 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Chris Marti 12/5/18 2:04 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" J C 12/7/18 1:06 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Konstantin Alexandrov 11/16/18 4:51 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Anna L 11/19/18 4:14 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" svmonk 11/19/18 10:32 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Ward Law 11/20/18 7:40 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Jason Massie 11/20/18 4:57 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" svmonk 11/20/18 9:36 PM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" heartsutra 11/20/18 11:30 AM
RE: "The side Effects of Meditation" Allan O'Ryan 11/21/18 12:35 PM
"The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/15/18 9:06 PM
Meditation Is a Powerful Mental Tool and For Some, It Goes Terribly Wrong

An article that begins with an interviewee saying, "I just felt shattered. I had a job, a wife, and two beautiful children, and yet I felt that I would never experience joy again.”  David had a hunch about what had caused his panic attack: his meditation practice.He had begun meditating in August 2017. His gateway was a book, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and then Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. He took to it easily. In the first week, he could meditate for about 30 minutes a day, and a month later had a regular practice of two 60-minute sits a day—once in the morning, and once in the evening.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/15/18 9:35 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
Many of the praticipants on this forum were involved in Willoughby Britton's work at Brown University on the Void or Dark Night type phenomenon that is refrenced in the article. I think there is a video of Daniel at Cheetah House at Brown, talking about this stuff floating around somewhere.

Meditation is about inclining your brain's attentiveness in a particular way, it can definitely induce anxiety and other issues.

The transformative effect of stream entry and other attainments is well worth the risk IMO. But each person has to decide for themselves.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 12:05 AM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
If he was familiar with MCTB, wonder why he didn't take the 'warning' and the 'resolution' (in dark night section) seriously. It's like the only meditation book on earth which gives explicit warning before starting. Sounds strange.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 12:16 AM as a reply to tamaha.
Hey, glad there is already a thread on this, but before I saw this thread, here is what I wrote:

”So this article came out in Vice on the 15th: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-powerful-mental-tool-and-for-some-it-goes-terribly-wrong, and it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI. While I am delighted they are talking about the Dark Night in more real-world terms than what it typically gets, I must admit I felt more than a bit slighted, and noted numerous bits of irony that I found irksome.

Irony #1: being mentioned in the same sentence as The Mind Illuminated, which, while a great textbook on meditation fundamentals, is also frankly and irresponsibly dismissive IMHO of the Dark Night stages, giving them only cursory treatment, claiming to be able to often bypass them by just adding in some more samatha with the vipassana, a claim that doesn’t even often work out in students working with the man himself, as I noted during my month co-teaching with Culadasa at his own meditation center Dharma Treasure this September.

Irony #2: Speaking of which, not any mention is made of the fact that I go farther out of my way in MCTB2 to mention the Dark Night stages in excruciating detail and provide more warnings and helpful and normalizing tech for dealing with them than any book I know of on meditation, and yet I seem to being lumped into the camp of those who don’t mention them, something that for years earned me no end of flack from numerous major “don’t talk about it” types.

Irony #3: the fact that no mention is made of the fact that I have run and paid for a free online community of over 6,000 people for over a decade that is largely populated by people who have run into these stages.

Irony #4: that Shinzen is quoted as mentioning the Dark Night stages, when he is one of the ones who is moderately dismissive of how frequently and sometimes how intensely they occur, as evidenced by his recent podcast with Michael Taft on Deconstructing yourself. (Just so I am clear, I am generally a bit fan of Shinzen, but diverge from him radically on this particular point).

Irony #5: the fact that I spend numerous hours every single week answering emails and skype calls and the like for free largely helping to handle people who have run into the Dark Night stages and are struggling with them.

Irony #6: I have also influenced and promoted scientific articles that mention the Dark Night stages, including the work of Drs Willoughby Britton and Jared Lindahl, as well as through my editing work for a meditation journal, and the influence I had on Duncan’s article about the Dark Night stages that went out in the journal that goes to every mental health practitioner in the UK.

Irony #7: that I have been on numerous podcasts and even interviewed by the BBC and other mainstream media sources regarding the Dark Night stages for my work in trying to bring awareness to them.If anyone has any idea how to get in touch with the author of that article, let me know.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my somewhat self-indulgent rant about a pretty ironically distorted article from my point of view.

Daniel”

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 7:14 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Yeah. That.

I found that Vice/Tonic article linked to from FlashBoard this morning in my inbox. I read it and had a similar reaction.

Since when was factual accuracy, fair treatment based on reading all the relevant books, talking to the authors and their audiences, historical actions of the article's subjects and the existence of contradictory evidence a thing the popular media does?


emoticon

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 7:45 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
My take on the article: Its tone is not judgemental or sensational, and it does not single you out. Yes, it is a glaring omission that the author did not interview you or mention your work in this area; but today's journalists seldom go deep enough into any investigation.

If I may make a suggestion: Consider increasing your public exposure so that your message is more widely heard. In particular, you might call Dan Harris back and tell him you are ready to do an interview.

Added: The copy I read says the author is shayla.love@vice.com

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 1:16 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hello Daniel,

Culadasa has 6 talks devoted to the adverse effects of meditation. They are about 1 hour each.

Here are the links to the 6 talks:

1. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-29-may-2014-2/

2. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-14-aug-2014/

3. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-28-aug-2014-dharma-talk/

4. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-11-sep-2014-culadasa-adverse-effects-meditation-4/

5. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-25-sep-2014-culadasa-adverse-effects-meditation-5/

6. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-9-oct-2014-culadasa-adverse-effects-meditation-6/

He argues that one can mostly avoid the Dark Night if one correctly follows the "entire" Noble Eightfold Path .

Kind regards,

Michael

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 1:55 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
Oh, yes, a  podcast with Sam Harris would be great.

Thanks for the links to the talks.

Could someone list any podcasts that Mr Ingram has been on?

I had a dissociative experience after meditating with Sam's app (only 10 minute meditations) for 30 days and then a guided body scan. I felt dissociated for 3 days. It wasn't unpleasnt - quite calming, dissociated from desire, ability to observe desires and thoughts.

I'm using TMI at the moment.

Could someone give any advice, conisdering the VICE article is pretty frightening (even after reading about The Dark Night - permanent or long term psychological issues are not what one considers when wishing to attain streamentry).

I don't have any psychological issues (other than the "average" person has, I guess, or that I know of)


Thanks

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 1:36 PM as a reply to Greg Jack Tunting.
Greg Jack Tunting:
Could someone list any podcasts that Mr Ingram has been on?
Yes, discussing the current subject:

https://youtu.be/kTLr0gqQTuU

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 2:51 PM as a reply to Greg Jack Tunting.
Greg Jack Tunting:


Could someone give any advice, conisdering the VICE article is pretty frightening (even after reading about The Dark Night - permanent or long term psychological issues are not what one considers when wishing to attain streamentry).

I don't have any psychological issues (other than the "average" person has, I guess, or that I know of)


I'd recommend reading these threads (1, 2) on the book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, which does a good job of covering a different facet of what goes on in practice than either TMI or MCTB.  

I discussed it a bit in those threads, but I've had some difficult experiences this year due to retraumatizing myself with meditation.  I'm definitely conflicted by the Vice article.  On one hand, my experience has been difficult and a complete retelling would make it sound like one of the worse anecdotes.  On the other hand, following the path has been very worthwhile and I've still found the benefits to outweigh the drawbacks.  I also did have complete warning that there was a high potential for difficulties, and have been very grateful to have had access to the maps to make sense of certain parts of my experience.  I think my main mistake was essentially a kind of risk compensation and narrow focus -- knowing that the Dark Night existed and could be broken into intelligible stages made me feel like I fully understood the full range of difficult experiences, so I neglected a bunch of warning signs that should have had me backing off and instead ran into trauma-related issues that weren't on my radar at all.   I was also trying to make stuff go faster by improvising a bunch of different practices instead of staying within the "slow and steady wins the race" single-trustworthy-tradition approach like TMI.

One way to figure out whether you might have had past events that predispose you towards difficult meditative experiences is to look at all your relationships and honestly assess whether you're feeling significantly blocked in some of them.  It's especially worth keeping an eye on whether you feel like you're isolating yourself in order to meditate your way out of your problems.  I would have probably not described myself as having had all that many issues before I started meditating, but the signs were probably present in my life.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 3:32 PM as a reply to Ward Law.
Regarding Dan Harris, he only really wants to do it in person, and I just haven’t managed to swing by NYC in a while, but might be able to on my way to France in late March, Norns and finances permitting, but don’t count on it by any means.

Thanks for the contact info, and gratifying that it wasn’t only my narrow perspective that caused that reaction and that other people saw something similar.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 3:38 PM as a reply to Michael P Fortier.
I won’t have time to listen to the Culadasa podcasts, but having just been involved in perhaps 40 hours of Q&A in person with Culasasa where we often debated these topics, sometimes moderately hotly, as well as just recently on retreat with him in Canada (we were all retreating together doing fire kasina), I know his take on these issues pretty well, I think, and we are going to have to agree to disagree, as he truly believes despite obvious evidence that the Dark Night stages are largely avoidable or easily mitigated by just doing things exactly his way, something that only doens’t work out in practice often, but also, IMHO, contains shadow sides that need to be addressed somehow for TMI to really be all it can be, as it does contain some great elements.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 4:01 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I also keep thinking that if my book was instead about extreme sports, and titled something like Mastering High-Intensity Powerlifting, or Mastering Ultramarathons, then, not only would the people reading the warnings have a much higher chance to actually hear and understand them them, but they would have some understanding that a book at Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is basically in that same league, particularly if one wants to do something that extreme fast, and have a much better appreciation for the numerous places that I say brain injuries are possible, real, and not always even recoverable.

MCTB was never meant to be a mainstream, for beginners, everyone-should-do-this-dharma book, just like a book called Mastering High-Intensity Powerlifting or Mastering Ultramarathons hopefully would never in a zillion years be considered by anyone with half a brain as a reasonable book to study from for most exercisers. While it is true it has parts suitable for the meditation hobbyist or the casual dabbler, there is a reason the book has not just a Foreword but something called a “Foreword and Warning”, and a reason that the subtitle is An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book. If someone said to you, “Hey, here’s a book called: Olympic Weightlifting, an Unusually Hardcore Exercise Program,” would you train from that book unless you were up for the risks that getting those benefits would likely entail? Yes, it says that people can do these things, like people can go to high-intensity gyms or practice from high-intensity workout videos or whatever, but it assumes that people will actually read the warnings as real and make good choices about whether or not those risks are right for them and their lives and responsibilities.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 10:51 AM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
There are a few neat diagrams in the appendix of TMI about "The Dark Night", but that's about it. It's the last appendix in the book, basically an after-thought. I really love the diagrams, as they visually spell out all the whole DN stuff pretty cleanly. I was surprised that it was the only mention of it in the book. 

I've uploaded those images here because I like them so much. 

I think there is a term, which eludes me at the moment, for the epiphany one can have when reading a journalistic piece about something they know a great deal about. Basically, "if this journalist is getting stuff not-quite-right, perhaps all the other journalism about topics I know much less about, which I've taken to be well-researched and thorough, are also off the mark in ways I'll never know."

I don't mean to knock the piece really, I was happy to see the subject given treatment and think the general public stands to gain from reading more pieces such as this. When reading something like this through one's "expert" lens, one should be a little forgiving of the shortcomings of it that might not be visible to everyone else. 

I've written journalistic pieces before and recall people who were extremely knowledgable about the subject getting in touch with me, extremely upset about minor details, whereas many "regular" people who'd read it reached out and told me it was a fantastic, well-written piece. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/16/18 4:51 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
Great that the subject of serious meditation practice is widely discussed.
What if to put this or a similar article as the first thing after the title in every meditation book ever published from now on?

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 7:02 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I won’t have time to listen to the Culadasa podcasts, but having just been involved in perhaps 40 hours of Q&A in person with Culasasa where we often debated these topics, sometimes moderately hotly, as well as just recently on retreat with him in Canada (we were all retreating together doing fire kasina), I know his take on these issues pretty well, I think, and we are going to have to agree to disagree, as he truly believes despite obvious evidence that the Dark Night stages are largely avoidable or easily mitigated by just doing things exactly his way, something that only doens’t work out in practice often, but also, IMHO, contains shadow sides that need to be addressed somehow for TMI to really be all it can be, as it does contain some great elements.
That's interesting to hear Dan. I was always sceptical about Culadasa's stand on this.

I have met 2 people who had a streak of insights who, as long as I knew them, didn't have dark nights. However, both of them, had extremely stressful pasts in their life.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 6:05 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
This journalist made an unfortunate, but entirely understandable, ommission here. The fault lies with the source who cited MCTB without explaining that, in fact, this book amounts to the single biggest warning about/collection of advice on the subject of DN.
Overall, this is a thoughtful and thorough treatment of the subject, with a pretty broad range of perspectives presented. I'm sick of people slamming journalists. What other mistakes were made here? In what other ways was this a shallow, MSM treatment of the subject? 

One important point: With the exception of something like Medium, journalists never get to write the headlines for their articles. They routinely have to deal with copy editors writing headlines that get something wrong, like asserting that "no one talks about" these phenomena. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/18/18 4:35 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
This journalist made an unfortunate, but entirely understandable, ommission here. The fault lies with the source who cited MCTB without explaining that, in fact, this book amounts to the single biggest warning about/collection of advice on the subject of DN.
Overall, this is a thoughtful and thorough treatment of the subject, with a pretty broad range of perspectives presented. I'm sick of people slamming journalists. What other mistakes were made here? In what other ways was this a shallow, MSM treatment of the subject? 

One important point: With the exception of something like Medium, journalists never get to write the headlines for their articles. They routinely have to deal with copy editors writing headlines that get something wrong, like asserting that "no one talks about" these phenomena. 

Yes, and in addition to that, I hope the article will at least be one wake up call for the mainstream image of meditation in public media (despite the article drawing some premature conclusions). Since VICE has a broad audience, maybe more people start to recognize that buddhist meditation wasn't originally developed to optimize your capitalistic self, and is instead a source for human development, including shadow aspects, that goes much deeper. And if they research online, they hopefully find these valuable ressources, like Dharmaoverground and such, for guidance.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/18/18 7:29 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
I think the biggest remaining issue with the article is the question of what people in this situation should do. It refers generically to people getting therapy or being admitted to a psych ER. At least for outpatient stuff, I think that there aren’t a ton of therapists who are actually well-equipped to handle meditation-related emotional disregulation.  When I reached out to Willoughby earlier this year, she suggested that I work with a somatic experiencing therapist. That’s been very useful, and I think that would be a good default recommendation for both people in crisis and for meditators who are looking for good therapeutic support. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/18/18 1:43 PM as a reply to JP.
I totally agree ;)
The studies listed in the article may be part of proper research - how the author presents them contextually is definitively misleading.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/18/18 2:47 PM as a reply to streamsurfer.
IMHO, the second I read the phrase "hardcore" in regard to any topic I realize the subject matter being described is not to be dabbled in or taken lightly. What happens in popular journalism is a sort of laziness about a given subject. I think too often journalists approach a topic with a pre-existing POV. In this case, the pre-existing POV was that meditation can be harmful in some cases. So quotes, opinions and other material that might confirm that POV are accepted, even if subliminally, as "true" and get into the article. Those things are not explored in detail for their veracity as much as are those things that don't agree with the journalist's pre-existing POV.

This, I believe, is likely what happened to Daniel in this case. Why explore MCTB further? Because it's taken at face value that the book has been harmful in some way (per the quote), so it doesn't confirm a pre-existing POV.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/19/18 4:14 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
I recently came across this video of Culadasa speaking about:

1. His own bipolar (1 hr 12 mins)
2. His first wife’s schizophrenia, which was triggered by Tibetan tantric practices (1 hr 16 mins)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&t=1h11m59s&v=pYZ7kiIbLWs

I have (finally) finished my Masters thesis which looks at why meditation adverse effects have been ignored in secular settings and addresses some of the issues above. Once it has been marked I will make it public online and will post a link on the forums. Honestly, after 2 years of researching this issue I still have more questions than answers ... especially regarding delineating "dark night" from biologically based "mental illness." 

Cheers
Anna

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/19/18 1:56 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I’d like to make it clear that during Daniel Ingram's stay as Resident Teacher at Dharma Treasure, there were absolutely no instances of any TMI practitioner experiencing anything that even remotely resembled the sort of thing he calls “a dark night.” Perhaps there were with students who were practicing under his guidance and using MCTB. I wouldn’t know, because I had little contact with them. On the other hand, there was a TMI student with serious PTSD that was being triggered by the meditation. This was not by any conceivable interpretation a “dark night” event, and although he ended his retreat early because of it, he was quite comfortable and happy when he left. There were also TMI students undergoing purifications, as described in Stages Four and Seven of TMI; and also the various grades of arising of piti, quite appropriately, as a result of unification of mind. I have long been aware that students of MCTB often interpret those kinds of experiences as indications they are in the “dukkha nanas” or a “dark night" (which mistakenly assumes they've also experienced Insight!). So I suppose it’s only to be expected that Daniel would project the similar assumptions about my students. He is, however, mistaken, and never spoke of this to me, so I had no opportunity to clarify. Some of my students, however, did express to me that they had found Daniel's advice quite confusing.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 8:49 AM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
Hi, John. Welcome to DharmaOverground.

What would you describe as a "dark night" episode? Or is there no just such thing as you see the practice?

Do you notice your students entering into phases in their practice where their newfound realization of the nature of mind and the starkly honest view of "self" students then get can cause some number of negative effects?

Thanks!

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/19/18 3:12 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
having just been involved in perhaps 40 hours of Q&A in person with Culasasa where we often debated these topics, sometimes moderately hotly, as well as just recently on retreat with him in Canada (we were all retreating together doing fire kasina), I know his take on these issues pretty well

With all due respect Daniel, although we spent those many hours in each others presence, you'll recall that after the first few Q&A sessions, I rarely attempted to discuss anything with you directly. Rather responding only to direct queries addressed to me by students. Including a "moderately hot" dinner table discussion, I would estimate that we spent little more than two hours in direct interaction in total. 

The reason was that any attempt to have a discussion with you always quickly became confrontational and you tried to make it into a debate. I prefer open discussion, where both parties are trying to learn something new and to share their thoughts without clinging to their personal views. You and I are different. You enjoy confrontation and debate. I dislike confrontation and avoid it as much as possible, which was the case in our time spent together both at Dharma Treasure and at the fire kasina retreat. I also consider debate useless except in courtrooms, and as a form of entertainment between philosophers, and agree completely with the Buddha where he says "people holding to views just go around annoying each other."

I did repeatedly listen to you make reference to what you thought was being taught in TMI and, and what you believed were my views. I declined to respond, with some regreat, for exactly the reasons I give above plus the fact that I felt such interactions were highly disruptive and even harmful to our students and to other meditators at the retreat. However, and once again with all due respect, as a result of listening to you carefully during those 40 or whatever hours, I can assure you that you absolutely do not know my take on these issues, nor do you understand The Mind Illuminated.

I am continuing to read your book, although I confess I find it quite difficult and I haven't had a lot of time to devote to it. I am doing so because it is personally important to me to know what other people are saying and teaching. I have no intention of publicly critiqueing (beyond what I've said here) or arguing with you. If you are seriously interested in my "take" on these "dark night" issues, I suggest that you listen to the suggested podcasts and read TMI more closely. And I will always be willing to have a discussion, as I have defined it above, with you at any time. Just please don't attempt to engage me in debate. Should you attempt to do so, I'll acknowledge here and now that you have as much right as anyone to broadcast your opinions, but I will not respond to anything confrontational.

My greatest wish is to have some closure here. You've had your say, I've had mine. Let's please drop it.

In the spirit of friendhip,
Culadasa

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/19/18 10:32 PM as a reply to Anna L.
Well that was interesting. emoticon

I am kind of hesitant to comment for fear of getting between two such heavy-weight teachers such as Dan and Culadasa, both of whose books I've found quite helpful in my practice and whom I admire. But I found one particular part of Culadasa's video important, where he says that he does not allow people on meds into his retreats if they are not taking their meds. This is in contrast with Goeka retreats, where they insist that people stop taking their meds during a retreat, which has led to at least one suicide. In my experience from seeing what people write about here on DhO, people with psychological problems sometimes believe, either due to them being told so or otherwise, that meditation practice will allow them to get off their meds, even if their problem is neurochemical. Culadasa also makes a good point about teachers who don't do their own work, end up in leadership positions, then abuse students in various ways (the Sakyong, Richard Baker, Sogyel Rimpoche, Sazaki Roshi, etc. etc.). That is, I think, the other extreme, one of ego inflation.

Having myself gone through two rather extreme psychological breakdowns of the ego inflation sort during and after retreats (one of which you can read about in my memoir here), I think I can speak somewhat authoritatively of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a mind constructing a reality out of what is simply not there and a sense of one's own importance in the universe. What I was missing in both cases was someone who understood what I was going through and could "talk me down" as we used to say in the early 70's about how to help someone having a bad trip. In both cases, the retreats I was on were led by relatively inaccessable teachers, who I did not count as friends, and could not spend time with me. The problems cleared up after a while and I got back to normal life, however boring it may have seemed compared to the reality my mind had constructed.

So count me among those who believe that an upfront warning, as Dan mentions, afrequently repeated in Dharma talks as needed, and training for teachers who lead retreats about what to do if someone freaks out, would certainly help.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/19/18 10:36 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
This has been a well discussed topic over many years. I have found personally that the Progress of insight (as described in mctb) are quite accurate for me. It was suprising when I realized that I was moving thru the nanas and that I was so sensitive to the results of each knowledge of experience. To be truthful it has been very, very challenging.
There seems to be an issue of scale; of sensitivity. If I experience all of the Nanas with great clarity then it may be possible to then experiment with strategies to minimalize the negitive aspects, but if there is not the sensitivity and thus it can be explained with correlation vs causality; well that is an interesting question.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 2:58 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
This has been a well discussed topic over many years. I have found personally that the Progress of insight (as described in mctb) are quite accurate for me. It was suprising when I realized that I was moving thru the nanas and that I was so sensitive to the results of each knowledge of experience. To be truthful it has been very, very challenging.
There seems to be an issue of scale; of sensitivity. If I experience all of the Nanas with great clarity then it may be possible to then experiment with strategies to minimalize the negitive aspects, but if there is not the sensitivity and thus it can be explained with correlation vs causality; well that is an interesting question.

Yes, I have also found that the descriptions in MCTB accurately reflect my own experience with the progress of insight. I have also found it to be extremely challenging at times, perhaps more so than others due to individual differences (high emotional sensitivity). However, I feel MCTB certainly gives more than a fair warning of what can be involved with the dukkha nanas. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 6:50 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Personally, I think of the MCTB descriptions of the ñanas as covering two substantially different aspects of practice:

1) Pseudo-psychological "stuff" that comes up associated with insight into how different our perceptions are than we actually believe. Here I agree that there is a danger of confusing "mundane" psychological phenomena with actual insight, and I know that Daniel agrees with this (we talked about it in person). There are definitely some people out there on the bipolar spectrum who believe they complete a path every time they go through a full hypomanic / depressive cycle. Even though I don't believe I am particularly bipolar, I too find that using the psychological markers from MCTB to diagnose where I am on the insight map is not as accurate as I would like it to be. I try to be extra careful when I do this.

2) Microphenomenological descriptions of the ñanas: Frequencies, panoramicity of the perceptual field, inclusivity of sensations, phase effects, the "Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice" from the chapter on Conformity:

https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/30-the-progress-of-insight/12-conformity/

For me, (2) is where the real gold is. Accurate, reliable, gets me to look in exactly the right place amidst all the perceptual stuff that's coming up moment by moment. The problem is that the microphenomenology is really rather subtle, and not everyone finds it easy to tune into that aspect of perception, and therefore many people try to self-diagnose using the criteria in (1) that, while generally accurate, can get dangerously mixed up with stuff that is completely extraneous to meditation. This is one of the thousands of ways that people can overcall attainments in the fascinating, weird, complex, trippy, magical, dysfunctional, amazing world of mappy meditation. Personally, I don't know any map that is immune from this kind of problem.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 7:40 AM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:
...This is in contrast with Goeka retreats, where they insist that people stop taking their meds during a retreat, which has led to at least one suicide.
I did not know this. It is outrageous, and anyone considering such a retreat needs to be warned. See my post from the other day on the dangers of meds: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/10454204

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 11:30 AM as a reply to svmonk.
...This is in contrast with Goenka retreats, where they insist that people stop taking their meds during a retreat, which has led to at least one suicide.
Are you sure about this? I attended a Goenka retreat in 2012 and was not required to stop taking my SNRI medication (Cymbalta). I agree that those retreats can be problematic, but not in that particular respect.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 4:04 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

What would you describe as a "dark night" episode? Or is there no just such thing as you see the practice?

Do you notice your students entering into phases in their practice where their newfound realization of the nature of mind and the starkly honest view of "self" students then get can cause some number of negative effects?
Hi Chris and thank you for your welcome. I apologize that I don't know how to navigate this site well enough to break my quotation from your post into separate parts.

In reply to your first question, I prefer not to use the term "dark night" at all. 
The misappropriation of this wonderfully and deeply meaningful term from another spiritual tradition to describe frankly pathological states is enormously disrespectful, both a shame and a tragedy. But I realize it has arisen out of ignorance and misunderstanding of what this term truly refers to, and the fact that it "sounds" appropriately descriptive. I could wish for a widespread agreement to abandon this term, but am skeptical that it will happen. Perhaps we can make our apologies to the Christian mystical tradition by restricting ourselves to the two words "dark night", and be careful never to use the full phrases "dark night of the spirit" or "dark night of the soul"?

Having agreed to use this term for the moment, I would then make a clear distinction between "normal" dukkha nanas as they are described in the Visuddhimagga or the more extreme but still "normal" dukkha nanas as described by Mahasi; and the pathological states that are sometimes triggered by Insight in a poorly prepared mind. I would reserve the term "dark night" for the latter only. That's what we need a new word for, not the "knowledges of suffering." 
I would likewise exclude from the dark night term 1) the completely normal but often unpleasant purifications that can and should occur prior to the arising of Insight, including even the cases where the "stuff" being purified is so intense that the process requires appropriate psycho-emotional therapy before it can be resolved through meditation (at least as long as the yogi is directed to get help, rather than being given the disasterous instruction to "keep on practicing and meditate through it! That advice only applies to the true dukkha nanas); and 2) the also completely normal bizarre sensations and involuntary movements corresponding to the 1st 4 grades of the development of piti as the mind unifies.

What that leaves us with are the variety of pathological states that arise as a result of: 
1) Not having undergone adequate purification of psychological and emotional trauma, internalized conflicting value systems, and other forms of unwholesome conditioning. Insight tends to bring these all up at once, so the yogi is working through these at the same time as the dukkha nanas are arising. Triggering all of those buried neuroses at once, especially if some are quite severe, can look a lot like psychosis or even become a kind of psychosis. 
2) Not clearly understanding the illusoriness of the sense of being a separate self, and not having directly experienced the total lack of an independent "agent in charge" during the course of meditation practice leading up to Insight. Some practices are all about what You Do..., so this first hand experiential knowledge hasn't developed in a natural way. In someone so predisposed, Insight without practical experience of "no self in charge" can trigger episodes of depersonalization, dissociative disorder, nihilism, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. 
3) Not having significantly reduced self-clinging and craving through consistently deep practice of sila, virtue. When Willoughby Brittan asked the Dalai Lama why Westerners were having all these traumatic experiences of meditation, he was surprised and puzzled by what she was describing until he consulted with his attendents. Then he explained to her that this is an eight-fold path, and meditation shouldn't be practiced without the other five limbs. The practice of sila, performed properly, involves intentionally refraining from speaking and acting in response craving, and self-denial rather than self-clinging. The cumulative effect is to greatly diminish one's vulnerabilty to both craving and self-clinging. When this has not occured prior to the arising of Insight, craving and self-clinging in the face of Insight knowledge can be so intense and create enough inner chaos to throw someone into a deep hell realm.

So any one or combination of the above are what I would describe as a "dark night" experience.
I believe that answers your second question as well.

In response to your third question regarding students entering into "phases in their practice where their newfound realization of the nature of mind and the starkly honest view of "self"... can cause... negative effects," it depends upon what you mean by "negative effects." Can there be negative (i.e. unpleasant) vedana associated with those? Yes, of course, and I do see that in my students.
In samatha-vipassana practice, depending on where the yogi is in her progress through the Stages of samatha, the dukkha nanas (Buddhaghosa's definition that doesn't refer to actual emotions, not Mahasi's which emphasizes them) may be accompanied by some feelings of anxiety, meaninglessness, restlessness, and ultimately a brief moment corresponding to the fear of death prior to a final surrender into Path attainment. Sometimes there is chagrin and remorse that arises upon realizing how ego-centric and craving-driven their behaviour has been. However, knowing and understanding what these feelings represent, and being trained to allow emotions to arise and pass without identifying with them actually gives the experience a positive tone, even if the vedana of the emotions is negative.
Have I seen in my students anything remotely resembling a "dark night" as defined above? Absolutely not. Nor can I recall ever having seen the sorts of extreme experiences of the dukkha nanas that are appearing so frequently in these online discussions.
The nature of the Ten Stage samatha-vipassana practice pretty effectively precludes the kind of situations I described above as causes of a dark night, and weeds out those whose psychological vulnerability is so great as to give rise to some of Willoughby's extreme cases.
Farther along in the development of samatha, a yogi may pass through the entire sequence of dukkha nanas in a few minutes or even less, barely noticing them other than that final brief moment in which fear of death arises prior to surrender and Path attainment.

I hope this answers your questions and that you and others find the answers helpful.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/20/18 4:57 PM as a reply to Ward Law.
Ward Law:
svmonk:
...This is in contrast with Goeka retreats, where they insist that people stop taking their meds during a retreat, which has led to at least one suicide.
I did not know this. It is outrageous, and anyone considering such a retreat needs to be warned. See my post from the other day on the dangers of meds: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/10454204

This is not true or not true in all cases. I have a friend who takes a lot of psych meds that applied to go. He had to get teacher approval because of the meds and they specifically said to not change his regimen.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 5:17 PM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
I went to the retreat. I got a lot out of it. So much! I want to thank all involved.

I rode to the airport with a tmi'r that described dukkha nana's that broke in equanimity though he didnt really have the mahasi vocabulary. There is a lot to be said for vocabulary.

I had a question that I didn't get to ask you:
If a meditator is doing good with mahasi vipassana, are there a few important points that he could take from tmi?

Question 2: what was your fire kasina retreat experience? 

Thanks!

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/20/18 9:36 PM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Ok, apologies. I was referring to this incident which was discussed at length in this thread last  year on DhO. According to the article, another woman was told to not take her anti-inflamatory medication and had to leave the retreat. From the article it is not clear whether the young woman who killed herself was taking her medication or not. In any case, it seems that some folks on medication have been to Goenka retreats perhaps with special permission.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/21/18 6:59 AM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
Welcome to the DhO, Culadasa!

Thank you for posting here about the dukkha nanas and related topics--this important but difficult subject matter is clearly something we all care deeply about. Just FYI, Daniel is on retreat in Thailand for the next couple of weeks so you might be stuck chatting with just the rest of us for a little while. Sorry about that! He'll be back eventually and will surely respond then.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/21/18 12:35 PM as a reply to Anna L.
Has anyone talked to Culadasa's first wife? It would be interesting to hear her account of the experience and how she coped afterwords.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/21/18 1:24 PM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
John Yates Culadasa:
I’d like to make it clear that during Daniel Ingram's stay as Resident Teacher at Dharma Treasure, there were absolutely no instances of any TMI practitioner experiencing anything that even remotely resembled the sort of thing he calls “a dark night.” [bold and italics added]
I'd like to make a correction here, with apologies to Daniel. I have yet to understand where Daniel draws the line between normal meditation experiences and "dark night", or if he even draws such a line at all. Therefore, not knowing what he calls a "dark night", I should have said "the sort of thing I would ever call “a dark night.” Thank you for understanding.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/21/18 1:59 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Hey, glad there is already a thread on this, but before I saw this thread, here is what I wrote:

”So this article came out in Vice on the 15th: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-powerful-mental-tool-and-for-some-it-goes-terribly-wrong, and it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI. 

Daniel, I have tried to respond in a spirit of friendship but with appropriate directness to your posts subsequent to the Vice article, and to ask for closure. However, upon comparing your response to the article with the Vice article itself, I notice yet another misleading discrepancy that has been introduced in your reply to the Vice article: 

In the Vice article it says:
"
He had begun meditating in August 2017. His gateway was a book, 
The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and then Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha." [bold and italics added for emphasis]

In your response you state: 

"it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI." [bold and italics added for emphasis]

It is not my place to say how this unfortunate reversal and subsequently misleading distortion occurred. However, for the sake of all of those sincere practitioners who are struggling to find clarity, I feel it necessary to point this out as well. 


Once again, my goal is clarification for the sake of all practitioners who follow these posts, not to debate or argue with you anyone else (I will not respond to such attempts). I have simply made three points of clarification regarding 1) TMI students and "dark night" experiences during your month at Dharma Treasure, 2) The actual extent of our interactions and my perception of your understanding of TMI and my "take" on things, and now 3) the sequence of events leading to one unfortunate yogi's experience as described in the Vice article.

None of the above are intended as points of argument, solely as clarification. I wish you well on your retreat, and once again ask that we have closure. 

In joy,
Culadasa

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/21/18 6:39 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda:
Welcome to the DhO, Culadasa!

Just FYI, Daniel is on retreat in Thailand for the next couple of weeks so you might be stuck chatting with just the rest of us for a little while. Sorry about that! He'll be back eventually and will surely respond then.
No problem. I hope he has a wonderful retreat!
Regarding the clarifications I've posted about, that's been intended for the benefit all the rest of you as much as to bring them to Daniel's attention. And there's not really any need for Daniel or anyone else to reply. More of an FYI.

As for my post in reply to Chris Marti, I'm happy to chat with anyone who wants about that, to the extent that I have time. I don't usually spend much time on these forums, but wouldn't want to leave anyone hanging!

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/22/18 5:40 AM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
Dear Culadasa,

Welcome to the Dharma Overground.

I am technically on a solo retreat but this discussion seemed very significant and relevant to actual practice. Also, this type of public conflict can be very upsetting to practitioners, so I thought I might take some time to address these issues one by one as the occurred.

C is Culadasa, D is Daniel.

C: In reply to your first question, I prefer not to use the term "dark night" at all. 

D: I have no real investment in whether or not people use that term, but I do think the range of phenomena it is pointing to should be addressed by language that is congruous with the range of experiences, though clearly there is room for disagreement on what that language might be.

C: The misappropriation of this wonderfully and deeply meaningful term from another spiritual tradition to describe frankly pathological states is enormously disrespectful, both a shame and a tragedy. But I realize it has arisen out of ignorance and misunderstanding of what this term truly refers to, and the fact that it "sounds" appropriately descriptive.

D: “Enormously disrespectful”, “shame”, and “tragedy” strike me as a bit strong, but you are entitled to your feelings on this point. The more important point, beyond the tone of the post, is that I view things a touch more ecumenically, seeing this issue through the lens of various traditions all describing something fundamental about the normal range of development of human attention and insight that is broader than any one individual proprietary tradition, like one comparing diagrams of human anatomy from various countries across the centuries. Curiously, as the phenomena that I call various names, including dukkha ñanas and Dark Night stages, seem to occur to various degrees even in people coming from no tradition, those who, for example, had the A&P happen seemingly spontaneously to them without formal meditative training, it would seem to me that what we are talking about is a more universal human phenomena. I personally feel that, by giving a friendly nod to other traditions that also describe this territory, I am being respectfully inclusive. Clearly, experts disagree here.

C: I could wish for a widespread agreement to abandon this term, but am skeptical that it will happen.

D: I personally can see both pros and cons from a marketing and tone perspective to using either Pali words without any cultural overlay to an English speaking audience, such as “dukkha ñanas”, or using terms that are more happy and benign-seeming, such as “purifications”, I personally do like something in the poetic resonance of the term “dark night”, though something in the possibly occasionally euphemistic term “purifications” does play to my dark sense of humor, if said with the right tone. Now we are obviously into matters of taste and aesthetics, and these are matters that people rarely change their minds on, and I have no problem with people having a preference here. 

C: Perhaps we can make our apologies to the Christian mystical tradition by restricting ourselves to the two words "dark night", and be careful never to use the full phrases "dark night of the spirit" or "dark night of the soul"?

D: I personally nearly always just use the term “dark night” without the qualifiers, and I can see why, from a Buddhist point of view, one might be uncomfortable with words like “spirit” and “soul”, though the terms “of the” seem benign enough to me, though they obviously seem unnecessary without the last term.

C: Having agreed to use this term for the moment, I would then make a clear distinction between "normal" dukkha nanas as they are described in the Visuddhimagga or the more extreme but still "normal" dukkha nanas as described by Mahasi; and the pathological states that are sometimes triggered by Insight in a poorly prepared mind. I would reserve the term "dark night" for the latter only. That's what we need a new word for, not the "knowledges of suffering." 

D: Here we now get into categorical distinctions of something that I prefer to think of more dimensionally, across a nuanced range. While I can appreciate that someone might want to make categorical distinctions, and see their utility when it comes to function and other decisions about practice and instructions, I am not sure it is clear that those categories are exactly as Culadasa says they are, and these gradations seem to me to be at least partly his own system, which is fine, as we all have our systems. It is not clear to me from the descriptions in the Abhidhamma, Vimuttimagga, and Visuddhimagga exactly how intense they mean for those to be, and descriptions as they relate to function are entirely lacking.

For example, what we get from the Abhidhamma, the first straightforward occurrence of the list of ñanas (beyond things like Mara’s Armies, which could be read as an insight stage by some such as myself), is pretty sparse. In A Manual of Abhidhamma, we find only this: “1. Investigating knowledge (28), 2. Knowledge with regard to the arising and passing away (of conditioned things), 3. Knowledge with regard to the dissolution (of things), 4. Knowledge (of dissolving things) as fearful, 5. Knowledge of (fearful) things as baneful, 6. Knowledge of (baneful) things as disgusting, 7. Knowledge as regards the wish to escape therefrom, 8. Knowledge of reflecting contemplation (29), 9. Knowledge of equanimity towards conditioned things (30), and 10. Knowledge of adaptation (31).”

One could clearly read that various ways, as it is ambiguous regarding the broader psychological and functional implications of those knowledges, and I personally find making definite assumptions based on that paragraph alone not straightforward. One could just as easily imagine that if one found every single aspect of experience (as all experience is conditioned) fearful, baneful, disgusting, and generating a wish to escape from all conditioned experience as simply signs of insight or possibly producing strong psychological reactions. In practice, what we see today is a wide range, a topic I will come to more in a bit, as that is clearly part of our disagreement.

From the Vimuttimagga, the next commonly-noted book to contain the stages of insight, we also get descriptions of the stages of insight. However, on careful reading, one will find them described across a wide range of the text in its descriptions of wisdom and the appreciation of “ill”, meaning dukkha, and so it permits no easy summary, and also makes no specific mentions of psychological or functional implications that are easy to parse into modern terms. Thus, while I really like the Vimuttimagga, I don’t find it particularly helpful here.

From the Visuddhimagga, which is like a super-long version of the Vimuttimagga, we get more information, but, again, it isn’t as helpful for resolving our discussion as I wish it was, as, to my eye, it appears to be somewhat contradictory, leading to the possibility of reading it multiple ways regarding how intense such things as the Knowledge of Terror might be. (See Chapter XX1, section 29 on, page 673 in the version I am reading).

Two quotes of relevance, the one starting off the section, and then one further in. One might read these considering the implications for some typical adult layperson with children, a job, etc.

“29. As he repeats, develops and cultivates in this way the contemplation of dissolution, the object of which is cessation consisting in the destruction, fall and breakup of all formations, then formations classed according to all kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode of beings, appear to him in the form of a great terror, as lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, spirits, ogres, fierce bulls, savage dogs, rut-maddened wild elephants, hideous venomous serpents, thunderbolts, charnel grounds, battlefields, flaming coal pits, etc., appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace. When he sees how past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and those to be generated in the future will cease in just the same way, then what is called knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.”

Consider viewing your spouse or children as “hideous venomous serpents”. Perhaps this is all just hyperbolic metaphor, but the Theravada tradition and the commentaries in general are generally known for attempting precision.

Continuing on:

“30. Here is a simile: a woman’s three sons had offended against the king, it seems. The king ordered their heads to be cut off. She went with her sons to the place of their execution. When they had cut off the eldest one’s head, they set about cutting off the middle one’s head. Seeing the eldest one’s head already cut off and the middle one’s head being cut off, she gave up hope for the youngest, thinking, “He too will fare like them.” Now, the meditator’s seeing the cessation of past formations is like the woman’s seeing the eldest son’s head cut off. His seeing the cessation of those present is like her seeing the middle one’s head being cut off. His seeing the cessation of those in the future, thinking, “Formations to be generated in the future will cease too,” is like her giving up hope for the youngest son, thinking, “He too will fare like them.” When he sees in this way, knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.”

Again, a pretty grim and graphic metaphor. What impression would a modern reader get of the stage of Knowledge of Terror from this? I get a pretty strong one, personally, though obviously it perhaps admits of ambiguity.

“31. Also another simile: a woman with an infected womb had, it seems, given birth to ten children. [646] Of these, nine had already died and one was dying in her hands. There was another in her womb. Seeing that nine were dead and the tenth was dying, she gave up hope about the one in her womb, thinking, “It too will fare just like them.” Herein, the meditator’s seeing the cessation of past formations is like the woman’s remembering the death of the nine children. The meditator’s seeing the cessation of those present is like her seeing the moribund state of the one in her hands. His seeing the cessation of those in the future is like her giving up hope about the one in her womb. When he sees in this way, knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.

32. But does the knowledge of appearance as terror fear or does it not fear? It does not fear. For it is simply the mere judgment that past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease. Just as a man with eyes looking at three charcoal pits at a city gate is not himself afraid, since he only forms the mere judgment that all who fall into them will suffer no little pain;—or just as when a man with eyes looks at three spikes set in a row, an acacia spike, an iron spike, and a gold spike, he is not himself afraid, since he only forms the mere judgment that all who fall on these spikes will suffer no little pain;—so too the knowledge of appearance as terror does not itself fear; it only forms the mere judgment that in the three kinds of becoming, which resemble the three charcoal pits and the three spikes, past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease.”

Ok, wait, heads chopped off, dead babies, terror, all these metaphors, but not fear? Clearly, something complicated is going on here. 

Moving on to what the translation I have called Knowledge of Danger, quoting:

“35. As he repeats, develops and cultivates the knowledge of appearance as terror he finds no asylum, no shelter, no place to go to, no refuge in any kind of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode. In all the kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station, and abode there is not a single formation that he can place his hopes in or hold on to. The three kinds of becoming appear like charcoal pits full of glowing coals, the four primary elements like hideous venomous snakes (S IV 174), the five aggregates like murderers with raised weapons (S IV 174), the six internal bases like an empty village, the six external bases like village-raiding robbers (S IV 174–75), the seven stations of consciousness and the nine abodes of beings as though burning, blazing and glowing with the eleven fires (see S IV 19), and all formations appear as a huge mass of dangers destitute of satisfaction or substance, like a tumour, a disease, a dart, a calamity, an affliction (see M I 436). How?

36. They appear as a forest thicket of seemingly pleasant aspect but infested with wild beasts, a cave full of tigers, water haunted by monsters and ogres, an enemy with raised sword, poisoned food, a road beset by robbers, a burning coal, a battlefield between contending armies appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace. And just as that man is frightened and horrified and his hair stands up when he comes upon a thicket infested by wild beasts, etc., and he sees it as nothing but danger, so too when all formations have appeared as a terror by contemplation of dissolution, this meditator sees them as utterly destitute of any core or any satisfaction and as nothing but danger.”

While the practical, psychological implications for the typical practicing householder are unclear, one might presume, as I do, that one viewing things in this way could possibly experience a range of responses with a range of implications, as we see in the real world today.

Quoting the Visiddhimagga again, we find in the section on Knowledge of Reflection, which I typically call Re-observation:

“47. Being thus desirous of deliverance from all the manifold formations in any kind of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode, in order to be delivered from the whole field of formations [652] he again discerns those same formations, attributing to them the three characteristics by knowledge of contemplation of reflection.

48. He sees all formations as impermanent for the following reasons: because they are non-continuous, temporary, limited by rise and fall, disintegrating, fickle, perishable, unenduring, subject to change, coreless, due to be annihilated, formed, subject to death, and so on.

He sees them as painful for the following reasons: because they are continuously oppressed, hard to bear, the basis of pain, a disease, a tumour, a dart, a calamity, an affliction, a plague, a disaster, a terror, a menace, no protection, no shelter, no refuge, a danger, the root of calamity, murderous, subject to cankers, Mára’s bait, subject to birth, subject to ageing, subject to illness, subject to sorrow, subject to lamentation, subject to despair, subject to defilement, and so on.

He sees all formations as foul (ugly)—the ancillary characteristic to that of pain—for the following reasons: because they are objectionable, stinking, disgusting, repulsive, unaffected by disguise, hideous, loathsome, and so on.”

Again, one experiencing reality this way, particularly in a typical lay context, particularly without some heads-up that such modes of experiencing reality this way might occur, might be predicted to have a range of reactions to such conclusions about reality, not all benign, as we see in practice in live meditators today. Most practitioners, perceiving themselves and/or their partner as “stinking, disgusting, repulsive,” etc. might reasonably be expected to experience some difficulties in their relationship, for example. Remember, the path in the Visuddhimagga recommends monastic life to pursue these practices, which is not surprising, given the effects they purport to result from insight practice.

Getting to Mahasi’s descriptions, they are often not that extreme, curiously, with books such as Practical Insight Meditation not being anything like as gory and graphic as the Visuddhimagga, and Mahasi-style practitioners themselves often not having experiences as horrible as the Visuddhimagga describes, though that end is in the range of what can occur, just not commonly that severe.

For example, one can find descriptions along the lines of such unpleasant sensations being generally hard to bear, with one described as a person walking a long, muddy road in the rain. That’s clearly nothing like dead babies and all those other Visuddhimagga-esque descriptions. Still, I unfortunately don’t have my copy of A Manual of Insight with me, or I would provide quotes and do more research to be sure I haven’t missed something that is as harsh as the descriptions found in the Vimuttimagga.

Thus, I find a curious distinction that Culadasa puts the Mahasi descriptions at the far end, when it is hard for me to read them that way. This is simply my take on these things, one of many possible opinions.

That said, I can definitely appreciate the fact that, when experiencing what I would call stage 8, Disgust, that some might, instead, have more of a sense of Dispassion instead, for example, as that sort of thing definitely occurs, so here we are on a similar page, at least when that does occur.

C: I would likewise exclude from the dark night term 1) the completely normal but often unpleasant purifications that can and should occur prior to the arising of Insight, including even the cases where the "stuff" being purified is so intense that the process requires appropriate psycho-emotional therapy before it can be resolved through meditation (at least as long as the yogi is directed to get help, rather than being given the disastrous instruction to "keep on practicing and meditate through it! That advice only applies to the true dukkha nanas); and 2) the also completely normal bizarre sensations and involuntary movements corresponding to the 1st 4 grades of the development of piti as the mind unifies.

D: Well, here we come to some mild complexity. Given that sorting out exactly what is the stage I would label the “Three Characteristics” from the “dukkha ñanas” or “Dark Night” stages is not always perfectly straightforward, as some people’s A&P stage is relatively subtle, we may have to agree to disagree on the degree to which this can always be perfectly delineated. Further, as we might disagree on exactly which stages might involve exactly which types of piti, some resolution might be complicated. While we both agree that some of those early stages can also have some heavy psychological content, I am inclined to suspect that, for some practitioners, we might map differently and delineate the “arising of insight” differently, and this topic might be worthy of further nuanced discussion to elucidate possible disparities.

C: What that leaves us with are the variety of pathological states that arise as a result of: 
1) Not having undergone adequate purification of psychological and emotional trauma, internalized conflicting value systems, and other forms of unwholesome conditioning. Insight tends to bring these all up at once, so the yogi is working through these at the same time as the dukkha nanas are arising. 

D: While I am not as perfectly confident that I precisely know that these are the exact and only causes of difficulty in insight stages, I agree that they may very well be contributory. I also agree that insight and the dukkha ñanas can cause all of these to arise at once, so here, at least, we are on very similar pages.

 C: Triggering all of those buried neuroses at once, especially if some are quite severe, can look a lot like psychosis or even become a kind of psychosis. 

D: Here we are again on very similar pages, at least in terms of effect, while I might admit a bit more wiggle room for being perfectly certain of knowing underlying causes with such assurance.

C: 2) Not clearly understanding the illusoriness of the sense of being a separate self, and not having directly experienced the total lack of an independent "agent in charge" during the course of meditation practice leading up to Insight. Some practices are all about what You Do..., so this first hand experiential knowledge hasn't developed in a natural way. In someone so predisposed, Insight without practical experience of "no self in charge" can trigger episodes of depersonalization, dissociative disorder, nihilism, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. 

D: Here again, we are on very similar pages, in fact to such a degree that I am surprised that there is any real underlying controversy, and wondering if this debate is much more subtle but seeming by the power of language to be more like a dramatic conflict. We might disagree on who “someone so predisposed” is, but regarding the effect, we seem aligned in my reading of what he is saying.

C: 3) Not having significantly reduced self-clinging and craving through consistently deep practice of sila, virtue. When Willoughby Britton asked the Dalai Lama why Westerners were having all these traumatic experiences of meditation, he was surprised and puzzled by what she was describing until he consulted with his attendants. Then he explained to her that this is an eight-fold path, and meditation shouldn't be practiced without the other five limbs. The practice of sila, performed properly, involves intentionally refraining from speaking and acting in response craving, and self-denial rather than self-clinging. The cumulative effect is to greatly diminish one's vulnerability to both craving and self-clinging. When this has not occurred prior to the arising of Insight, craving and self-clinging in the face of Insight knowledge can be so intense and create enough inner chaos to throw someone into a deep hell realm.

D: I have discussed this story with Dr Britton herself, but I, for one, am not sure it is all so perfectly straightforward and, while advocating for training in Sila in the very first part of MCTB2 and at many points later on, given its benefit to the insight practitioner, I don’t believe training well in either Sila or Concentration are perfect prophylaxis against difficult insight stages, and I base this on numerous practitioners I have met and whose stories I have heard and read. I know some extremely virtuous, ethical people who have had significant troubles when these stages arise.

However, if one believes this it is truly the case that one can clearly make that distinction and place the blame on a lack of practicing not-clinging and self-denial, then, given that the effects we are discussing are of a detrimental nature, a risk, if you will, then I, coming from a medical background that is prone to trying at least to discuss the risks and benefits of treatments with patients, one might provide in the introduction to TMI words to the effect of, “If you have not sufficiently practiced self-denial, virtue, and not acting and speaking in response to craving, you shouldn’t practice insight, as it might be so intense as to create inner chaos and throw you into a hell realm.” Perhaps other wording that conveys a similar message might suffice. One might helpfully add additional criteria or a checklist of self-identifiable failings in this regard to precisely weed out those who might end up in said hell realm.

C: So any one or combination of the above are what I would describe as a "dark night" experience.
I believe that answers your second question as well.

D: While I agree that the more extreme things that Culadasa calls “dark night” experiences fall into the far end of what I classify the “dark night stages”, as described in MCTB2, they fall across a wide range, from Fear being just mild tingles and a sense of something mildly creepy that fades rapidly all the way to full-blown unmitigated, dysfunctional terror. Thus, we find that he has a terminological preference for delineating the “dark night” only when it falls to one far end of the range, and I classify it as being more like a bell curve, with the horrible, long-lasting end being much more rare than more moderate experiences. Again, so long as one realizes that we are using such terminology differently, I see no source of conflict on this particular front.

C: In response to your third question regarding students entering into "phases in their practice where their newfound realization of the nature of mind and the starkly honest view of "self"... can cause... negative effects," it depends upon what you mean by "negative effects." Can there be negative (i.e. unpleasant) vedana associated with those? Yes, of course, and I do see that in my students. 

D: Ok, here we go. As we both see the light end of the dukkha ñanas occurring, and we just disagree on whether these are to also be called “dark night” stages, with me being more dimensional and him being more categorical, one can see that we are mostly arguing about language, at least regarding this point.

C: In samatha-vipassana practice, depending on where the yogi is in her progress through the Stages of samatha, the dukkha nanas (Buddhaghosa's definition that doesn't refer to actual emotions, not Mahasi's which emphasizes them)

D: Ok, wait, what? Think about those Visuddhimagga descriptions by Buddhaghosa and see if you can be sure no emotions are involved. After carefully reading these passages a few times, my sense is that a lot of emotion is discussed, mostly of the aversive variety. Regarding Mahasi’s descriptions, I don’t think they emphasize the emotions nearly to the degree that the Visuddhimagga does. I, while mentioning all sorts of emotions and psychological side-effects of these stages across a broad range, actually prefer to focus mostly on key insights, frequencies of perception, phase of attention, width of attention, the sequence of presenting changes in the practitioner, appreciation of the Three Characteristics, and other key perceptual changes as my core criteria.

C: may be accompanied by some feelings of anxiety, meaninglessness, restlessness, and ultimately a brief moment corresponding to the fear of death prior to a final surrender into Path attainment.


D: Ok, here we go, pretty close to agreement, and even some appreciation of what I would call 11.3, what I would label the mini dark night seen very close to path attainment far up in Equanimity.

C: Sometimes there is chagrin and remorse that arises upon realizing how ego-centric and craving-driven their behavior has been.

D: Alright, again, we largely agree here.

C: However, knowing and understanding what these feelings represent, and being trained to allow emotions to arise and pass without identifying with them actually gives the experience a positive tone, even if the vedana of the emotions is negative. 

D: True, if you can train people to do that, or they figure it out on their own, it can be very gratifying for practitioners to learn to perceive experience in the light of insight, so again, we are on a similar page on this point, and this is clearly what we are all trying to accomplish with all of this.

C: Have I seen in my students anything remotely resembling a "dark night" as defined above? Absolutely not. Nor can I recall ever having seen the sorts of extreme experiences of the dukkha nanas that are appearing so frequently in these online discussions. 

D: Alright, here we go, getting to part of the heart of the conflict. I can imagine numerous reasons for the marked discrepancy in our experiences of the range of presentation of the dukka ñanas in the populations we have been exposed to, which I will explain after C makes his next point:

C: The nature of the Ten Stage samatha-vipassana practice pretty effectively precludes the kind of situations I described above as causes of a dark night, and weeds out those whose psychological vulnerability is so great as to give rise to some of Willoughby's extreme cases.

D: Ok, here we go with some frank speculation and attempts to explain what is going on here that gives the two of us, both smart, caring, scientifically-trained meditation teachers and practitioners dedicated to the welfare of others, such markedly different takes on a few aspects of this discussion.

I agree entirely, by the way, that a practitioner, properly trained in samatha with the ability to add a vipassana element, may, if they are skillful and many other beneficial factors converge (which C and I might disagree on to some degree, see above), pass through the stages of insight with very little difficulty or hardly notice them at all. I state this explicitly in MCTB2, particularly with regard to my experience with candle-flame meditation, which will allow a rare few with unusual talent to navigate these stages in realms of sound and light, for example, as C also agrees:

C: Farther along in the development of samatha, a yogi may pass through the entire sequence of dukkha nanas in a few minutes or even less, barely noticing them other than that final brief moment in which fear of death arises prior to surrender and Path attainment.

D: I also agree, and state clearly in MCTB2 that training in samatha can, for those practitioners who don’t get stuck in its traps (which TMI does go out of its way to try to make sure doesn’t happen), make more smooth progress in insight.

That said, there is a lot more going on here, I believe. First, I have a book and community that are very dedicated to frank discussion of these stages. I speculate based on my scientific background that practitioners who experience more difficult stages are more likely to self-select to join a community and email questions to a teacher who is much more into frank, open, and detailed descriptions of the dukkha ñanas. This is commonly called “sample bias”, in that we, based on our different advertising and telegraphing of styles of relating to this topic, are likely to be contacted by practitioners from different ends of the range. This applies doubly to Dr. Britton, who formally studies the farther end of the range of people having difficult experiences.

It is also explicitly true that, in my experiences, dryer approaches to insight can produce rougher rides. I state this clearly in MCTB2, as is well-known. That adults can choose to have a rougher ride in exchange for the other possible benefits of the dry approach is their choice, but I believe again in a frank discussion of risks and benefits. Do I think that TMI is sometimes a bit slower and produces somewhat more vague microphenomenology than Mahasi techniques and candle-flame? Yes, but does it also likely produce a smaller range of ups and downs: also yes.

TMI and MCTB2 are also designed to do some very different things. TMI focuses mostly on the phenomenology of training specifically in that tradition using its specific techniques, emphases, and focuses, and, trying to do what I think of as striking that Holy Grail of balances represented by the optimal balance of simultaneously cultivating samatha and vipassana. While in theory the maps in TMI may apply broadly to a range of other techniques, in practice its maps may make more sense in its particular practice context. It is possible that this approach somehow also screens out some practitioners from following in that traditions, both by ways explicit and more subtle, and some of these practitioners may be more prone in some way to difficulty, thus possibly further skewing the sample.

MCTB2, on the other hand, deals explicitly with a wider range of situations, a wider range of techniques and traditions, and even what happens when people cross the A&P into deeper insight stages outside of formal meditation traditions in ordinary daily life. It spans a range of practices from very samatha-heavy (wet) to extremely harsh, rapid and dry vipassana, and provides a lot of other options. It leaves it to the practitioner to choose how they practice, where they fall on the wet-to-dry spectrum. It also recommends TMI as one of the books that people might choose if they wish to practice in a way that attempts some balance of these.

I also charge nothing for my services, and Culadasa charges something, so perhaps more practitioners experiencing more dysfunction from insight or other factors are more prone to reaching out to me, as financial barriers might preclude access to more expensive services, and those experiencing emotional dysfunction might reasonably be expected to have fewer financial resources, on average.

Regardless of underlying mechanisms that may skew the populations that we are exposed to, the effect is clearly real, as I read post after post and get email after email from people having a very hard time, and have been for the 20+ years I have been online and talking about the dukkha ñanas the way I talk about them. I get a lot of the type of practitioners reaching out to me that Dr Britton does, as evidenced by an hour-long skype call just yesterday with someone who, while previously very functional and accomplished, and a deep practitioner with some deep and lasting insights, had a hard moment that required low-dose antipsychotics, though now luckily is doing very well. They found being able to talk frankly about the range of what can occur on the spiritual path very helpful and normalizing.

BTW, I would also suspect that someone having hard emotional difficulties who goes Googling is more likely to resonate with terms such as “dark night” than “dukkha ñanas”, as Pali just isn’t taught in schools the way it used to be, and this could also skew the sample heading in the direction of the community of practitioners I hang out in, who is more prone to using the term. Further, as discussions of meditation difficulties in online communities are likely to be picked up on in general by search engines, it is entirely possible that Google and the like are herding us into our little information silos, oblivious to the fact that we are experiencing very different worlds from each other. Given that this also appears to be a powerful political and social effect in other domains, it is likely to be occurring here without our clear knowledge beyond just knowing that it can happen in theory.

C: I hope this answers your questions and that you and others find the answers helpful.

D: I hope that this also is a skillful response that helps create more understanding and skillful practice than it creates further drama and complexity.

Responding to the later post:

C: Daniel M. Ingram:
Hey, glad there is already a thread on this, but before I saw this thread, here is what I wrote:

”So this article came out in Vice on the 15th: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-powerful-mental-tool-and-for-some-it-goes-terribly-wrong, and it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI. 

Daniel, I have tried to respond in a spirit of friendship but with appropriate directness to your posts subsequent to the Vice article, and to ask for closure. However, upon comparing your response to the article with the Vice article itself, I notice yet another misleading discrepancy that has been introduced in your reply to the Vice article: 

In the Vice article it says:"
He had begun meditating in August 2017. His gateway was a book, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and then Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha." [bold and italics added for emphasis]

In your response you state: 
"it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI." [bold and italics added for emphasis]

D: I am not sure how you are reading my sentence as you are, but my intent by using the word “after” is straightforwardly “after”, meaning that they picked up MCTB after picking up TMI. Sorry if my sentence is unclear to you. It was my intent to state things as they were in the article. I get that it could also be read the other way, which was not my intent. I have edited the blog post for clarity based on your suggestion to reflect this. The sentence on my blog now reads, “and it mentions that a practitioner picked up TMI and then MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong.” Better?

C: It is not my place to say how this unfortunate reversal and subsequently misleading distortion occurred. However, for the sake of all of those sincere practitioners who are struggling to find clarity, I feel it necessary to point this out as well.

Once again, my goal is clarification for the sake of all practitioners who follow these posts, not to debate or argue with you anyone else (I will not respond to such attempts).

D: As you prefer.

C: I have simply made three points of clarification regarding 1) TMI students and "dark night" experiences during your month at Dharma Treasure,

D: Which to me is largely a discussion of the fact that we use the terms differently, see above.

C: 2) The actual extent of our interactions and my perception of your understanding of TMI and my "take" on things, and now

D: Regarding our interactions and the nightly Q&A sessions, I believe that I attended 27, having missed three nights when I had to return home for my father-in-law’s funeral. These sessions started at 7pm and often ran past 8:30, some as late as past 9:30, so I just rounded them off to about two hours each. Of those 27, you missed a number due to being gone to Tucson, being tired, or having respiratory problems, I recall, and I estimated that you missed at least 7, yielding roughly 20 sessions of about 2 hours, give or take. It is possible that I am a bit off in my calculations, but the general range remains. It was typical during these sessions for us both to give an answer to a question, yielding a remarkable and rare occurrence where two teachers get to hear each other’s take on a question and get to understand each other better. I still have the recording of the one session we all agreed to record on September 2nd, and could post a link to it as an example of the style of the discussions if that would be helpful and clarifying, as it alone is 1 hour and 49 minutes long in unedited form.

C: 3) the sequence of events leading to one unfortunate yogi's experience as described in the Vice article.

None of the above are intended as points of argument, solely as clarification. I wish you well on your retreat, and once again ask that we have closure. 

D: Closure sounds fine by me. I consider this closed if you do.

C: In joy,
Culadasa

D: Best wishes, practice well, and feel free to adopt frameworks and terms that best help you, the practitioners, to navigate the path.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Daniel

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/22/18 6:16 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Much respect to Culadasa and Daniel who clearly communicated their maps and approaches and respectfully allowed differences of opinion to exist without animosity. Thank you for your clear explanations and helpful thoughts. It is clear that both of you are working towards the same goal of empowering meditators in their practice. May we all practice well.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/22/18 6:58 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Much respect to Culadasa and Daniel who clearly communicated their maps and approaches and respectfully allowed differences of opinion to exist without animosity. Thank you for your clear explanations and helpful thoughts. It is clear that both of you are working towards the same goal of empowering meditators in their practice. May we all practice well.

Well said, shargrol!

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/22/18 7:43 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
I reformatted Daniel's reply to make it more readable.

----------


Dear Culadasa,Welcome to the Dharma Overground.I am technically on a solo retreat but this discussion seemed very significant and relevant to actual practice. Also, this type of public conflict can be very upsetting to practitioners, so I thought I might take some time to address these issues one by one as the occurred.
Culadasa: In reply to your first question, I prefer not to use the term "dark night" at all.
D: I have no real investment in whether or not people use that term, but I do think the range of phenomena it is pointing to should be addressed by language that is congruous with the range of experiences, though clearly there is room for disagreement on what that language might be.
Culadasa: The misappropriation of this wonderfully and deeply meaningful term from another spiritual tradition to describe frankly pathological states is enormously disrespectful, both a shame and a tragedy. But I realize it has arisen out of ignorance and misunderstanding of what this term truly refers to, and the fact that it "sounds" appropriately descriptive.
D: “Enormously disrespectful”, “shame”, and “tragedy” strike me as a bit strong, but you are entitled to your feelings on this point. The more important point, beyond the tone of the post, is that I view things a touch more ecumenically, seeing this issue through the lens of various traditions all describing something fundamental about the normal range of development of human attention and insight that is broader than any one individual proprietary tradition, like one comparing diagrams of human anatomy from various countries across the centuries. Curiously, as the phenomena that I call various names, including dukkha ñanas and Dark Night stages, seem to occur to various degrees even in people coming from no tradition, those who, for example, had the A&P happen seemingly spontaneously to them without formal meditative training, it would seem to me that what we are talking about is a more universal human phenomena. I personally feel that, by giving a friendly nod to other traditions that also describe this territory, I am being respectfully inclusive. Clearly, experts disagree here.
Culadasa: I could wish for a widespread agreement to abandon this term, but am skeptical that it will happen.
D: I personally can see both pros and cons from a marketing and tone perspective to using either Pali words without any cultural overlay to an English speaking audience, such as “dukkha ñanas”, or using terms that are more happy and benign-seeming, such as “purifications”, I personally do like something in the poetic resonance of the term “dark night”, though something in the possibly occasionally euphemistic term “purifications” does play to my dark sense of humor, if said with the right tone. Now we are obviously into matters of taste and aesthetics, and these are matters that people rarely change their minds on, and I have no problem with people having a preference here.
Culadasa: Perhaps we can make our apologies to the Christian mystical tradition by restricting ourselves to the two words "dark night", and be careful never to use the full phrases "dark night of the spirit" or "dark night of the soul"?
D: I personally nearly always just use the term “dark night” without the qualifiers, and I can see why, from a Buddhist point of view, one might be uncomfortable with words like “spirit” and “soul”, though the terms “of the” seem benign enough to me, though they obviously seem unnecessary without the last term.
Culadasa: Having agreed to use this term for the moment, I would then make a clear distinction between "normal" dukkha nanas as they are described in the Visuddhimagga or the more extreme but still "normal" dukkha nanas as described by Mahasi; and the pathological states that are sometimes triggered by Insight in a poorly prepared mind. I would reserve the term "dark night" for the latter only. That's what we need a new word for, not the "knowledges of suffering."
D: Here we now get into categorical distinctions of something that I prefer to think of more dimensionally, across a nuanced range. While I can appreciate that someone might want to make categorical distinctions, and see their utility when it comes to function and other decisions about practice and instructions, I am not sure it is clear that those categories are exactly as Culadasa says they are, and these gradations seem to me to be at least partly his own system, which is fine, as we all have our systems. It is not clear to me from the descriptions in the Abhidhamma, Vimuttimagga, and Visuddhimagga exactly how intense they mean for those to be, and descriptions as they relate to function are entirely lacking.For example, what we get from the Abhidhamma, the first straightforward occurrence of the list of ñanas (beyond things like Mara’s Armies, which could be read as an insight stage by some such as myself), is pretty sparse. In A Manual of Abhidhamma, we find only this:
“1. Investigating knowledge (28),2. Knowledge with regard to the arising and passing away (of conditioned things),3. Knowledge with regard to the dissolution (of things),4. Knowledge (of dissolving things) as fearful,5. Knowledge of (fearful) things as baneful,6. Knowledge of (baneful) things as disgusting,7. Knowledge as regards the wish to escape therefrom,8. Knowledge of reflecting contemplation (29),9. Knowledge of equanimity towards conditioned things (30), and10. Knowledge of adaptation (31).”
One could clearly read that various ways, as it is ambiguous regarding the broader psychological and functional implications of those knowledges, and I personally find making definite assumptions based on that paragraph alone not straightforward. One could just as easily imagine that if one found every single aspect of experience (as all experience is conditioned) fearful, baneful, disgusting, and generating a wish to escape from all conditioned experience as simply signs of insight or possibly producing strong psychological reactions. In practice, what we see today is a wide range, a topic I will come to more in a bit, as that is clearly part of our disagreement.From the Vimuttimagga, the next commonly-noted book to contain the stages of insight, we also get descriptions of the stages of insight. However, on careful reading, one will find them described across a wide range of the text in its descriptions of wisdom and the appreciation of “ill”, meaning dukkha, and so it permits no easy summary, and also makes no specific mentions of psychological or functional implications that are easy to parse into modern terms. Thus, while I really like the Vimuttimagga, I don’t find it particularly helpful here.From the Visuddhimagga, which is like a super-long version of the Vimuttimagga, we get more information, but, again, it isn’t as helpful for resolving our discussion as I wish it was, as, to my eye, it appears to be somewhat contradictory, leading to the possibility of reading it multiple ways regarding how intense such things as the Knowledge of Terror might be. (See Chapter XX1, section 29 on, page 673 in the version I am reading).Two quotes of relevance, the one starting off the section, and then one further in. One might read these considering the implications for some typical adult layperson with children, a job, etc.
Visuddhimagga: “29. As he repeats, develops and cultivates in this way the contemplation of dissolution, the object of which is cessation consisting in the destruction, fall and breakup of all formations, then formations classed according to all kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode of beings, appear to him in the form of a great terror, as lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, spirits, ogres, fierce bulls, savage dogs, rut-maddened wild elephants, hideous venomous serpents, thunderbolts, charnel grounds, battlefields, flaming coal pits, etc., appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace. When he sees how past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and those to be generated in the future will cease in just the same way, then what is called knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.”Consider viewing your spouse or children as “hideous venomous serpents”. Perhaps this is all just hyperbolic metaphor, but the Theravada tradition and the commentaries in general are generally known for attempting precision.
Continuing on:
Visuddhimagga: “30. Here is a simile: a woman’s three sons had offended against the king, it seems. The king ordered their to be cut off. She went with her sons to the place of their execution. When they had cut off the eldest one’s head, they set about cutting off the middle one’s head. Seeing the eldest one’s head already cut off and the middle one’s head being cut off, she gave up hope for the youngest, thinking, “He too will fare like them.” Now, the meditator’s seeing the cessation of past formations is like the woman’s seeing the eldest son’s head cut off. His seeing the cessation of those present is like her seeing the middle one’s head being cut off. His seeing the cessation of those in the future, thinking, “Formations to be generated in the future will cease too,” is like her giving up hope for the youngest son, thinking, “He too will fare like them.” When he sees in this way, knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.”
Again, a pretty grim and graphic metaphor. What impression would a modern reader get of the stage of Knowledge of Terror from this? I get a pretty strong one, personally, though obviously it perhaps admits of ambiguity.
Visuddhimagga: “31. Also another simile: a woman with an infected womb had, it seems, given birth to ten children. [646] Of these, nine had already died and one was dying in her hands. There was another in her womb. Seeing that nine were dead and the tenth was dying, she gave up hope about the one in her womb, thinking, “It too will fare just like them.” Herein, the meditator’s seeing the cessation of past formations is like the woman’s remembering the death of the nine children. The meditator’s seeing the cessation of those present is like her seeing the moribund state of the one in her hands. His seeing the cessation of those in the future is like her giving up hope about the one in her womb. When he sees in this way, knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.Visuddhimagga: 32. But does the knowledge of appearance as terror fear or does it not fear? It does not fear. For it is simply the mere judgment that past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease. Just as a man with eyes looking at three charcoal pits at a city gate is not himself afraid, since he only forms the mere judgment that all who fall into them will suffer no little pain;—or just as when a man with eyes looks at three spikes set in a row, an acacia spike, an iron spike, and a gold spike, he is not himself afraid, since he only forms the mere judgment that all who fall on these spikes will suffer no little pain;—so too the knowledge of appearance as terror does not itself fear; it only forms the mere judgment that in the three kinds of becoming, which resemble the three charcoal pits and the three spikes, past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease.”
Ok, wait, heads chopped off, dead babies, terror, all these metaphors, but not fear? Clearly, something complicated is going on here.Moving on to what the translation I have called Knowledge of Danger, quoting:
Visuddhimagga: “35. As he repeats, develops and cultivates the knowledge of appearance as terror he finds no asylum, no shelter, no place to go to, no refuge in any kind of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode. In all the kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station, and abode there is not a single formation that he can place his hopes in or hold on to. The three kinds of becoming appear like charcoal pits full of glowing coals, the four primary elements like hideous venomous snakes (S IV 174), the five aggregates like murderers with raised weapons (S IV 174), the six internal bases like an empty village, the six external bases like village-raiding robbers (S IV 174–75), the seven stations of consciousness and the nine abodes of beings as though burning, blazing and glowing with the eleven fires (see S IV 19), and all formations appear as a huge mass of dangers destitute of satisfaction or substance, like a tumour, a disease, a dart, a calamity, an affliction (see M I 436). How?Visuddhimagga: 36. They appear as a forest thicket of seemingly pleasant aspect but infested with wild beasts, a cave full of tigers, water haunted by monsters and ogres, an enemy with raised sword, poisoned food, a road beset by robbers, a burning coal, a battlefield between contending armies appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace. And just as that man is frightened and horrified and his hair stands up when he comes upon a thicket infested by wild beasts, etc., and he sees it as nothing but danger, so too when all formations have appeared as a terror by contemplation of dissolution, this meditator sees them as utterly destitute of any core or any satisfaction and as nothing but danger.”
While the practical, psychological implications for the typical practicing householder are unclear, one might presume, as I do, that one viewing things in this way could possibly experience a range of responses with a range of implications, as we see in the real world today.Quoting the Visiddhimagga again, we find in the section on Knowledge of Reflection, which I typically call Re-observation:
Visuddhimagga: “47. Being thus desirous of deliverance from all the manifold formations in any kind of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode, in order to be delivered from the whole field of formations [652] he again discerns those same formations, attributing to them the three characteristics by knowledge of contemplation of reflection.Visuddhimagga: 48. He sees all formations as impermanent for the following reasons: because they are non-continuous, temporary, limited by rise and fall, disintegrating, fickle, perishable, unenduring, subject to change, coreless, due to be annihilated, formed, subject to death, and so on.He sees them as painful for the following reasons: because they are continuously oppressed, hard to bear, the basis of pain, a disease, a tumour, a dart, a calamity, an affliction, a plague, a disaster, a terror, a menace, no protection, no shelter, no refuge, a danger, the root of calamity, murderous, subject to cankers, Mára’s bait, subject to birth, subject to ageing, subject to illness, subject to sorrow, subject to lamentation, subject to despair, subject to defilement, and so on.He sees all formations as foul (ugly)—the ancillary characteristic to that of pain—for the following reasons: because they are objectionable, stinking, disgusting, repulsive, unaffected by disguise, hideous, loathsome, and so on.”
Again, one experiencing reality this way, particularly in a typical lay context, particularly without some heads-up that such modes of experiencing reality this way might occur, might be predicted to have a range of reactions to such conclusions about reality, not all benign, as we see in practice in live meditators today. Most practitioners, perceiving themselves and/or their partner as “stinking, disgusting, repulsive,” etc. might reasonably be expected to experience some difficulties in their relationship, for example. Remember, the path in the Visuddhimagga recommends monastic life to pursue these practices, which is not surprising, given the effects they purport to result from insight practice.Getting to Mahasi’s descriptions, they are often not that extreme, curiously, with books such as Practical Insight Meditation not being anything like as gory and graphic as the Visuddhimagga, and Mahasi-style practitioners themselves often not having experiences as horrible as the Visuddhimagga describes, though that end is in the range of what can occur, just not commonly that severe.For example, one can find descriptions along the lines of such unpleasant sensations being generally hard to bear, with one described as a person walking a long, muddy road in the rain. That’s clearly nothing like dead babies and all those other Visuddhimagga-esque descriptions. Still, I unfortunately don’t have my copy of A Manual of Insight with me, or I would provide quotes and do more research to be sure I haven’t missed something that is as harsh as the descriptions found in the Vimuttimagga.Thus, I find a curious distinction that Culadasa puts the Mahasi descriptions at the far end, when it is hard for me to read them that way. This is simply my take on these things, one of many possible opinions.That said, I can definitely appreciate the fact that, when experiencing what I would call stage 8, Disgust, that some might, instead, have more of a sense of Dispassion instead, for example, as that sort of thing definitely occurs, so here we are on a similar page, at least when that does occur.
Culadasa: I would likewise exclude from the dark night term 1) the completely normal but often unpleasant purifications that can and should occur prior to the arising of Insight, including even the cases where the "stuff" being purified is so intense that the process requires appropriate psycho-emotional therapy before it can be resolved through meditation (at least as long as the yogi is directed to get help, rather than being given the disastrous instruction to "keep on practicing and meditate through it! That advice only applies to the true dukkha nanas); and 2) the also completely normal bizarre sensations and involuntary movements corresponding to the 1st 4 grades of the development of piti as the mind unifies.
D: Well, here we come to some mild complexity. Given that sorting out exactly what is the stage I would label the “Three Characteristics” from the “dukkha ñanas” or “Dark Night” stages is not always perfectly straightforward, as some people’s A&P stage is relatively subtle, we may have to agree to disagree on the degree to which this can always be perfectly delineated. Further, as we might disagree on exactly which stages might involve exactly which types of piti, some resolution might be complicated. While we both agree that some of those early stages can also have some heavy psychological content, I am inclined to suspect that, for some practitioners, we might map differently and delineate the “arising of insight” differently, and this topic might be worthy of further nuanced discussion to elucidate possible disparities.
Culadasa: What that leaves us with are the variety of pathological states that arise as a result of:1) Not having undergone adequate purification of psychological and emotional trauma, internalized conflicting value systems, and other forms of unwholesome conditioning. Insight tends to bring these all up at once, so the yogi is working through these at the same time as the dukkha nanas are arising.
D: While I am not as perfectly confident that I precisely know that these are the exact and only causes of difficulty in insight stages, I agree that they may very well be contributory. I also agree that insight and the dukkha ñanas can cause all of these to arise at once, so here, at least, we are on very similar pages.
Culadasa: Triggering all of those buried neuroses at once, especially if some are quite severe, can look a lot like psychosis or even become a kind of psychosis.
D: Here we are again on very similar pages, at least in terms of effect, while I might admit a bit more wiggle room for being perfectly certain of knowing underlying causes with such assurance.
Culadasa: 2) Not clearly understanding the illusoriness of the sense of being a separate self, and not having directly experienced the total lack of an independent "agent in charge" during the course of meditation practice leading up to Insight. Some practices are all about what You Do..., so this first hand experiential knowledge hasn't developed in a natural way. In someone so predisposed, Insight without practical experience of "no self in charge" can trigger episodes of depersonalization, dissociative disorder, nihilism, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
D: Here again, we are on very similar pages, in fact to such a degree that I am surprised that there is any real underlying controversy, and wondering if this debate is much more subtle but seeming by the power of language to be more like a dramatic conflict. We might disagree on who “someone so predisposed” is, but regarding the effect, we seem aligned in my reading of what he is saying.
Culadasa: 3) Not having significantly reduced self-clinging and craving through consistently deep practice of sila, virtue. When Willoughby Britton asked the Dalai Lama why Westerners were having all these traumatic experiences of meditation, he was surprised and puzzled by what she was describing until he consulted with his attendants. Then he explained to her that this is an eight-fold path, and meditation shouldn't be practiced without the other five limbs. The practice of sila, performed properly, involves intentionally refraining from speaking and acting in response craving, and self-denial rather than self-clinging. The cumulative effect is to greatly diminish one's vulnerability to both craving and self-clinging. When this has not occurred prior to the arising of Insight, craving and self-clinging in the face of Insight knowledge can be so intense and create enough inner chaos to throw someone into a deep hell realm.
D: I have discussed this story with Dr Britton herself, but I, for one, am not sure it is all so perfectly straightforward and, while advocating for training in Sila in the very first part of MCTB2 and at many points later on, given its benefit to the insight practitioner, I don’t believe training well in either Sila or Concentration are perfect prophylaxis against difficult insight stages, and I base this on numerous practitioners I have met and whose stories I have heard and read. I know some extremely virtuous, ethical people who have had significant troubles when these stages arise.However, if one believes this it is truly the case that one can clearly make that distinction and place the blame on a lack of practicing not-clinging and self-denial, then, given that the effects we are discussing are of a detrimental nature, a risk, if you will, then I, coming from a medical background that is prone to trying at least to discuss the risks and benefits of treatments with patients, one might provide in the introduction to TMI words to the effect of, “If you have not sufficiently practiced self-denial, virtue, and not acting and speaking in response to craving, you shouldn’t practice insight, as it might be so intense as to create inner chaos and throw you into a hell realm.” Perhaps other wording that conveys a similar message might suffice. One might helpfully add additional criteria or a checklist of self-identifiable failings in this regard to precisely weed out those who might end up in said hell realm.
Culadasa: So any one or combination of the above are what I would describe as a "dark night" experience. I believe that answers your second question as well.
D: While I agree that the more extreme things that Culadasa calls “dark night” experiences fall into the far end of what I classify the “dark night stages”, as described in MCTB2, they fall across a wide range, from Fear being just mild tingles and a sense of something mildly creepy that fades rapidly all the way to full-blown unmitigated, dysfunctional terror. Thus, we find that he has a terminological preference for delineating the “dark night” only when it falls to one far end of the range, and I classify it as being more like a bell curve, with the horrible, long-lasting end being much more rare than more moderate experiences. Again, so long as one realizes that we are using such terminology differently, I see no source of conflict on this particular front.
Culadasa: In response to your third question regarding students entering into "phases in their practice where their newfound realization of the nature of mind and the starkly honest view of "self"... can cause... negative effects," it depends upon what you mean by "negative effects." Can there be negative (i.e. unpleasant) vedana associated with those? Yes, of course, and I do see that in my students.
D: Ok, here we go. As we both see the light end of the dukkha ñanas occurring, and we just disagree on whether these are to also be called “dark night” stages, with me being more dimensional and him being more categorical, one can see that we are mostly arguing about language, at least regarding this point.
Culadasa: In samatha-vipassana practice, depending on where the yogi is in her progress through the Stages of samatha, the dukkha nanas (Buddhaghosa's definition that doesn't refer to actual emotions, not Mahasi's which emphasizes them)
D: Ok, wait, what? Think about those Visuddhimagga descriptions by Buddhaghosa and see if you can be sure no emotions are involved. After carefully reading these passages a few times, my sense is that a lot of emotion is discussed, mostly of the aversive variety. Regarding Mahasi’s descriptions, I don’t think they emphasize the emotions nearly to the degree that the Visuddhimagga does. I, while mentioning all sorts of emotions and psychological side-effects of these stages across a broad range, actually prefer to focus mostly on key insights, frequencies of perception, phase of attention, width of attention, the sequence of presenting changes in the practitioner, appreciation of the Three Characteristics, and other key perceptual changes as my core criteria.
Culadasa: may be accompanied by some feelings of anxiety, meaninglessness, restlessness, and ultimately a brief moment corresponding to the fear of death prior to a final surrender into Path attainment.
D: Ok, here we go, pretty close to agreement, and even some appreciation of what I would call 11.3, what I would label the mini dark night seen very close to path attainment far up in Equanimity.
Culadasa: Sometimes there is chagrin and remorse that arises upon realizing how ego-centric and craving-driven their behavior has been.
D: Alright, again, we largely agree here.
Culadasa: However, knowing and understanding what these feelings represent, and being trained to allow emotions to arise and pass without identifying with them actually gives the experience a positive tone, even if the vedana of the emotions is negative.
D: True, if you can train people to do that, or they figure it out on their own, it can be very gratifying for practitioners to learn to perceive experience in the light of insight, so again, we are on a similar page on this point, and this is clearly what we are all trying to accomplish with all of this.
Culadasa: Have I seen in my students anything remotely resembling a "dark night" as defined above? Absolutely not. Nor can I recall ever having seen the sorts of extreme experiences of the dukkha nanas that are appearing so frequently in these online discussions.
D: Alright, here we go, getting to part of the heart of the conflict. I can imagine numerous reasons for the marked discrepancy in our experiences of the range of presentation of the dukka ñanas in the populations we have been exposed to, which I will explain after C makes his next point:
Culadasa: The nature of the Ten Stage samatha-vipassana practice pretty effectively precludes the kind of situations I described above as causes of a dark night, and weeds out those whose psychological vulnerability is so great as to give rise to some of Willoughby's extreme cases.
D: Ok, here we go with some frank speculation and attempts to explain what is going on here that gives the two of us, both smart, caring, scientifically-trained meditation teachers and practitioners dedicated to the welfare of others, such markedly different takes on a few aspects of this discussion.I agree entirely, by the way, that a practitioner, properly trained in samatha with the ability to add a vipassana element, may, if they are skillful and many other beneficial factors converge (which C and I might disagree on to some degree, see above), pass through the stages of insight with very little difficulty or hardly notice them at all. I state this explicitly in MCTB2, particularly with regard to my experience with candle-flame meditation, which will allow a rare few with unusual talent to navigate these stages in realms of sound and light, for example, as C also agrees:
Culadasa: Farther along in the development of samatha, a yogi may pass through the entire sequence of dukkha nanas in a few minutes or even less, barely noticing them other than that final brief moment in which fear of death arises prior to surrender and Path attainment.
D: I also agree, and state clearly in MCTB2 that training in samatha can, for those practitioners who don’t get stuck in its traps (which TMI does go out of its way to try to make sure doesn’t happen), make more smooth progress in insight.That said, there is a lot more going on here, I believe. First, I have a book and community that are very dedicated to frank discussion of these stages. I speculate based on my scientific background that practitioners who experience more difficult stages are more likely to self-select to join a community and email questions to a teacher who is much more into frank, open, and detailed descriptions of the dukkha ñanas. This is commonly called “sample bias”, in that we, based on our different advertising and telegraphing of styles of relating to this topic, are likely to be contacted by practitioners from different ends of the range. This applies doubly to Dr. Britton, who formally studies the farther end of the range of people having difficult experiences.It is also explicitly true that, in my experiences, dryer approaches to insight can produce rougher rides. I state this clearly in MCTB2, as is well-known. That adults can choose to have a rougher ride in exchange for the other possible benefits of the dry approach is their choice, but I believe again in a frank discussion of risks and benefits. Do I think that TMI is sometimes a bit slower and produces somewhat more vague microphenomenology than Mahasi techniques and candle-flame? Yes, but does it also likely produce a smaller range of ups and downs: also yes.TMI and MCTB2 are also designed to do some very different things. TMI focuses mostly on the phenomenology of training specifically in that tradition using its specific techniques, emphases, and focuses, and, trying to do what I think of as striking that Holy Grail of balances represented by the optimal balance of simultaneously cultivating samatha and vipassana. While in theory the maps in TMI may apply broadly to a range of other techniques, in practice its maps may make more sense in its particular practice context. It is possible that this approach somehow also screens out some practitioners from following in that traditions, both by ways explicit and more subtle, and some of these practitioners may be more prone in some way to difficulty, thus possibly further skewing the sample.MCTB2, on the other hand, deals explicitly with a wider range of situations, a wider range of techniques and traditions, and even what happens when people cross the A&P into deeper insight stages outside of formal meditation traditions in ordinary daily life. It spans a range of practices from very samatha-heavy (wet) to extremely harsh, rapid and dry vipassana, and provides a lot of other options. It leaves it to the practitioner to choose how they practice, where they fall on the wet-to-dry spectrum. It also recommends TMI as one of the books that people might choose if they wish to practice in a way that attempts some balance of these.I also charge nothing for my services, and Culadasa charges something, so perhaps more practitioners experiencing more dysfunction from insight or other factors are more prone to reaching out to me, as financial barriers might preclude access to more expensive services, and those experiencing emotional dysfunction might reasonably be expected to have fewer financial resources, on average.Regardless of underlying mechanisms that may skew the populations that we are exposed to, the effect is clearly real, as I read post after post and get email after email from people having a very hard time, and have been for the 20+ years I have been online and talking about the dukkha ñanas the way I talk about them. I get a lot of the type of practitioners reaching out to me that Dr Britton does, as evidenced by an hour-long skype call just yesterday with someone who, while previously very functional and accomplished, and a deep practitioner with some deep and lasting insights, had a hard moment that required low-dose antipsychotics, though now luckily is doing very well. They found being able to talk frankly about the range of what can occur on the spiritual path very helpful and normalizing.BTW, I would also suspect that someone having hard emotional difficulties who goes Googling is more likely to resonate with terms such as “dark night” than “dukkha ñanas”, as Pali just isn’t taught in schools the way it used to be, and this could also skew the sample heading in the direction of the community of practitioners I hang out in, who is more prone to using the term. Further, as discussions of meditation difficulties in online communities are likely to be picked up on in general by search engines, it is entirely possible that Google and the like are herding us into our little information silos, oblivious to the fact that we are experiencing very different worlds from each other. Given that this also appears to be a powerful political and social effect in other domains, it is likely to be occurring here without our clear knowledge beyond just knowing that it can happen in theory.
Culadasa: I hope this answers your questions and that you and others find the answers helpful.
D: I hope that this also is a skillful response that helps create more understanding and skillful practice than it creates further drama and complexity.Responding to the later post:
Culadasa:
Daniel M. Ingram: Hey, glad there is already a thread on this, but before I saw this thread, here is what I wrote:”So this article came out in Vice on the 15th: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-powerful-mental-tool-and-for-some-it-goes-terribly-wrong, and it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI.
Daniel, I have tried to respond in a spirit of friendship but with appropriate directness to your posts subsequent to the Vice article, and to ask for closure. However, upon comparing your response to the article with the Vice article itself, I notice yet another misleading discrepancy that has been introduced in your reply to the Vice article:In the Vice article it says:
Vice: "He had begun meditating in August 2017. His gateway was a book, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and then Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha." [bold and italics added for emphasis]
In your response you stateemoticonaniel M. Ingram: "it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI." [bold and italics added for emphasis]
D: I am not sure how you are reading my sentence as you are, but my intent by using the word “after” is straightforwardly “after”, meaning that they picked up MCTB after picking up TMI. Sorry if my sentence is unclear to you. It was my intent to state things as they were in the article. I get that it could also be read the other way, which was not my intent. I have edited the blog post for clarity based on your suggestion to reflect this. The sentence on my blog now reads, “and it mentions that a practitioner picked up TMI and then MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong.” Better?
Culadasa: It is not my place to say how this unfortunate reversal and subsequently misleading distortion occurred. However, for the sake of all of those sincere practitioners who are struggling to find clarity, I feel it necessary to point this out as well.Once again, my goal is clarification for the sake of all practitioners who follow these posts, not to debate or argue with you anyone else (I will not respond to such attempts).
D: As you prefer.
Culadasa: I have simply made three points of clarification regarding 1) TMI students and "dark night" experiences during your month at Dharma Treasure,
D: Which to me is largely a discussion of the fact that we use the terms differently, see above.
Culadasa: 2) The actual extent of our interactions and my perception of your understanding of TMI and my "take" on things, and now
D: Regarding our interactions and the nightly Q&A sessions, I believe that I attended 27, having missed three nights when I had to return home for my father-in-law’s funeral. These sessions started at 7pm and often ran past 8:30, some as late as past 9:30, so I just rounded them off to about two hours each. Of those 27, you missed a number due to being gone to Tucson, being tired, or having respiratory problems, I recall, and I estimated that you missed at least 7, yielding roughly 20 sessions of about 2 hours, give or take. It is possible that I am a bit off in my calculations, but the general range remains. It was typical during these sessions for us both to give an answer to a question, yielding a remarkable and rare occurrence where two teachers get to hear each other’s take on a question and get to understand each other better. I still have the recording of the one session we all agreed to record on September 2nd, and could post a link to it as an example of the style of the discussions if that would be helpful and clarifying, as it alone is 1 hour and 49 minutes long in unedited form.
Culadasa: 3) the sequence of events leading to one unfortunate yogi's experience as described in the Vice article.None of the above are intended as points of argument, solely as clarification. I wish you well on your retreat, and once again ask that we have closure.
D: Closure sounds fine by me. I consider this closed if you do.
Culadasa: In joy,Culadasa
D: Best wishes, practice well, and feel free to adopt frameworks and terms that best help you, the practitioners, to navigate the path.Happy Thanksgiving!Daniel

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/22/18 9:37 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Much respect to Culadasa and Daniel who clearly communicated their maps and approaches and respectfully allowed differences of opinion to exist without animosity. Thank you for your clear explanations and helpful thoughts. It is clear that both of you are working towards the same goal of empowering meditators in their practice. May we all practice well.

+ 1

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

I suspect this discussion will be of great practical-awakening use to many.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/24/18 10:27 AM as a reply to Zachary.
I think there is a term, which eludes me at the moment, for the epiphany one can have when reading a journalistic piece about something they know a great deal about. Basically, "if this journalist is getting stuff not-quite-right, perhaps all the other journalism about topics I know much less about, which I've taken to be well-researched and thorough, are also off the mark in ways I'll never know."

I've seen someone reference this before but I didn't know it was a known/named effect. It has stuck with me. If you should remember what it's called, please tell!

Unrelated: I want to make a bit of meta-point in this thread. It has continually struck me how people with high agreement relative to a regular population can disagree so violently on some small point. E.g., people can agree on some niche topic to a high degree like 98%, but become sworn enemies over the remaining 2%.

It's instructive to wonder why.

https://www.reddit.com/r/erisology/

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
6/16/19 10:25 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Unrelated: I want to make a bit of meta-point in this thread. It has continually struck me how people with high agreement relative to a regular population can disagree so violently on some small point. E.g., people can agree on some niche topic to a high degree like 98%, but become sworn enemies over the remaining 2%. 


There is a concept called the "narcissism of small differences" that describes this phenomenon, "the thesis that communities with adjoining territories and close relationships are especially likely to engage in feuds and mutual ridicule because of hypersensitivity to details of differentiation...there can be a need to find, and even exaggerate, differences in order to preserve a feeling of separateness and self.Wikipedia

In my opinion, this process coupled with the format of online communities goes a long way in explaining the increasing bifurcation of ideology we see nowadays.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/24/18 3:25 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Ah, yes I had read that before. Good call. I think the explanation for the phenomenon goes beyond what's written on that Wiki, though.

Now remember what that other phenomenon is called emoticon

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/25/18 4:47 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/25/18 11:48 AM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
Culadasa --

I hope this answers your questions and that you and others find the answers helpful.

Yes, it does, and I appreciate the detailed nature of your response to me.

The substance of your response reminds me that every "negative" effect we experience during our meditation practice is not always caused by the practice. I believe some practitioners get confused by this and mislabel what's happening to them. It would be nice to think that there's an easy way to distinguish between the "downs" we experience in everyday life and the effects of meditation. My recollection of pre-insight stages in my own practice, though it was some time ago, is that the negative effects, what many call "dark night" experiences, were clearly related to the self-examination, facing up to the nature of mind and the like that I'd long been avoiding or ignoring. Luckily, I didn't have any debilitating experiences I but know others who have. It would, likewise, be nice to think that there's a way to pre-screen folks who are at risk of serious pathological effects due to meditation before they end up in trouble but I suspect that's a pipe dream.


RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/25/18 12:24 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I'd also like to add that I think the interaction between both Culadasa and Daniel is likely beneficial to many. It's revealing of the thought processes both employ in thinking about the effects of practice and revealing of what individual perspectives, personal preferences, personality, knowledge, and past experiences play in interpreting the experiences of students and other practitioners. It's healthy and worthwhile to keep in mind that we're talking about subjective experience any time we talk about this stuff. There is little else more open to interpretation.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/25/18 1:14 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Dada Kind:

Unrelated: I want to make a bit of meta-point in this thread. It has continually struck me how people with high agreement relative to a regular population can disagree so violently on some small point. E.g., people can agree on some niche topic to a high degree like 98%, but become sworn enemies over the remaining 2%.

Narcissism of small diferences is definitely the term I thought of when I read this, but it might be a bit more nuanced.  I like that Zachary posted more of the background behind this term - basically, neighbouring tribes seeking to differentiate themselves on the basis of very minor variations.

I get the application to something like different views on the dharma, but I also think that perspective and experience plays a role.  If two high level engineers disagree on a certain point, it's easy for me to call it the narcissism of small differences - from my uninformed, inexperienced perspective, it all looks the same. 

Likewise, if you take two people who are both very experienced meditators, who have each developed unique systems of thought to account for their own unique experiences, it is entirely understandable they might have some disagreements of the finer points of the path.  These differences probably reflect less a 'narcissism' than the strength of opinion that inevitable comes with significant knowledge and experience in a specific field.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/26/18 11:32 AM as a reply to John Yates Culadasa.
In reply to your first question, I prefer not to use the term "dark night" at all. 
The misappropriation of this wonderfully and deeply meaningful term from another spiritual tradition to describe frankly pathological states is enormously disrespectful, both a shame and a tragedy. But I realize it has arisen out of ignorance and misunderstanding of what this term truly refers to, and the fact that it "sounds" appropriately descriptive.
If anyone is interested in understanding The Dark Night of the Soul, as known in the Christian mystical tradition to which Culadasa refers, I highly recommend the classic Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, in which she devotes entire chapter to this phenomenon.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/26/18 11:27 PM as a reply to T DC.
@TDC

As I said in my other post, I think the explanation goes beyond what's on that Wiki. I don't particularly like the term "narcissism" for this either, as I don't think merely narcissism explains it.

The difference, of course, from the engineering example is that there is almost always a clear consensus right or wrong in those situations. An interesting counterexample, although, is Mochizuki and the abc conjecture, recently (Google). It's much less straightforward to reach a consensus on anything having to do with 'meditation', 'the path', 'awakening', etc.
it is entirely understandable they might have some disagreements of the finer points of the path
It's not at all clear to me that both feel that these are finer disagreements. It appears to me that Daniel believes that. It's not clear to me that Culadasa does. Is it to anyone else? Why?

For example:
However, and once again with all due respect, as a result of listening to you carefully during those 40 or whatever hours, I can assure you that you absolutely do not know my take on these issues, nor do you understand The Mind Illuminated.

@JP
Thanks

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/30/18 1:34 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Dada Kind:
@TDC

As I said in my other post, I think the explanation goes beyond what's on that Wiki. I don't particularly like the term "narcissism" for this either, as I don't think merely narcissism explains it.

The difference, of course, from the engineering example is that there is almost always a clear consensus right or wrong in those situations. An interesting counterexample, although, is Mochizuki and the abc conjecture, recently (Google). It's much less straightforward to reach a consensus on anything having to do with 'meditation', 'the path', 'awakening', etc.
it is entirely understandable they might have some disagreements of the finer points of the path
It's not at all clear to me that both feel that these are finer disagreements. It appears to me that Daniel believes that. It's not clear to me that Culadasa does. Is it to anyone else? Why?

For example:
However, and once again with all due respect, as a result of listening to you carefully during those 40 or whatever hours, I can assure you that you absolutely do not know my take on these issues, nor do you understand The Mind Illuminated.

@JP
Thanks

Well, yeah, part of the narcissism of small differences is that you exaggerate the finer disagreements so that they seem like huge discrepancies to you.

With Mochizuki, the consensus of the larger mathematics community is that he hasn't established the abc conjecture - no one but him and his small group of devotees seems to understand his alleged proof. This situation comes up in mathematics once in a while - for instance there's a similar situation with Louis de Branges' alleged proof of the Riemann Hypothesis.

Unfortunately, the meditation community is far more fragmented than the mathematics community. But even here, there's a growing consensus that the Dark Night is a real problem, and I'm glad more articles are pointing it out even with all the errors and omissions Daniel noted in the Vice article.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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12/3/18 11:39 AM as a reply to J C.
 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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12/3/18 6:24 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
 


This showed up as blank for me.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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12/4/18 7:22 AM as a reply to J C.
That was intentional. It was the simplest way to bring the topic to the top of the "Recent Posts" list to make it obvious it was still here. I just inserted a blank space and submitted it.

emoticon

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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12/5/18 1:22 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Since Chris thought to bump this up, I'll comment from my space up in the peanut gallary:

I'm struck that these two greatly educated and experienced guys (DI and C) have such strong opinions and feel oppositional about such a glaring and common area of the path of insight. It's like their conversation is demonstrating a fundamental feature of human nature/experience. I wonder if this demonstrated feature is something else fundamental in disguise?

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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12/5/18 2:04 PM as a reply to Matt.
This disagreement seems pretty simple to me, Matt. It's about whose version is the "right" one. The rest of the words exchanged were wrapped around that kernel of belief. Neither is "right" or "wrong" necessarily. Whichever most agrees with your experience, or who you feel more akin to, is probably how you line up if you feel the need to do that.

emoticon

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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12/7/18 1:06 PM as a reply to Matt.
matthew sexton:
Since Chris thought to bump this up, I'll comment from my space up in the peanut gallary:

I'm struck that these two greatly educated and experienced guys (DI and C) have such strong opinions and feel oppositional about such a glaring and common area of the path of insight. It's like their conversation is demonstrating a fundamental feature of human nature/experience. I wonder if this demonstrated feature is something else fundamental in disguise?

Well, I believe that both are arahats, so I think it demonstrates that being an arahat doesn't mean that you're always gentle, polite, or gracious in disagreements, that you're never oppositional, that you're always right, that you understand the dharma, or that you're an effective teacher. These all fall in the domain of morality. Daniel just has unusual skills unrelated to enlightenment.