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Sunyata and Stream entry
Answer
12/1/18 11:48 AM
Hi everybody, I am new in this community and I want to know your opinion regarding to a cessation event experience I had one year ago. But first, you deserve some context and background of myself and meditation experience. I thank you in advance for the patience of reading this. My apologize on my english, I am not a native speaker. Here it comes:

One the other hand, when I was the same age, more or less, I remember sleeping with my mother in her bed and waking up early in the morning. My dad, as a physician, was on duty that day. However, when I woke up, I saw a man standing still in front of me. I was not afraid, I was very calm indeed, so I stare at him and he say hello to me with his hand and outlining a smile. He seemed to me to be a warrior or something similar. Then I closed my eyes and went back to sleep again.
Afterwards, when I definitely woke up, I told my mom that I saw dad standing in front of me, and she told me that it was not possible as my dad was on duty.  Many years after, talking to my dad, he told me that, when I was a child I used to see theses entity “warriors” interacting with me in the house and talk about them.

I went to a catholic school from 3 to 15 years old. Since I was 6 years old, my teacher used to conduct relaxation session after a gymnastics class. When I was 9-10 years old, I had my first OOBE I remember. I was lying down the floor in gymnastics class and my teacher was conducting a relaxation session. I remember following very carefully and ardently his instructions, that I was able to concentrate in my blood stream, my cells and so on. After that I remember going out of my body and float around the ceiling and watching myself and my classmates from the top of the gym. I don’t remember feeling afraid, instead of that, I was completely relaxed and calmed. After several minutes, the teacher was about to end the exercise telling us specific instructions to go out of this state of relaxation by breathing more deep and hard and moving our limbs and so on. But, in spite of hearing his instructions, my will was not able to make me move of feel my body. I was so quiet, happy and warmed in that place that I didn’t want to come back. While all my classmates were able to move and “wakeup”, my teacher realized that I was complexly relaxed and spent several minutes to make me react to his instructions. When I open my eyes again, everybody was staring at me with surprise and my teacher was slightly slapping me on the face. Since that day I don’t remember another relaxation session again. Maybe, the Direction decided not to do it anymore.
That event caused me tremendous curiosity to understand what happened to me. I told my dad, who practiced samatha meditation for many years. He asked me some questions that I answered affirmatively and concluded that I had an OOBE. Since that moment, I develop the curiosity to investigate and know more about that. So, my dad lent me some recordings on how to practice contemplative meditation as taught by Saint Teresa of Jesus.

I practiced some time with that recordings, but I don’t remember to reach any kind of altered consciousness like that day at the gym. Then, I grew up; I was a good student at school. That caused be some troubles with my classmates on my teenage. Even though my school was Catholic, I became an agnostic and I began to go out with my friends and start drinking alcohol. I didn’t like so much, but I felt that it was the only way to fit into the group. To seek for social acceptance. So I gave up listening to the recordings and forget about these stuff for several years during my teenage years.

In my years of university, suffer a profound crisis of existence, so I began to get in contact with the Dhamma again and start practicing Anapana meditation to relief my suffering. I have always considered introspection as a shelter. I also discovered creative visualization, NLP, and Trascendental Meditation. I began lying 30 minutes a couple of days a week until last year of my degree, when I used to practice daily. But I stopped practicing when I began to feel fine. So, my discipline was like a roller coaster.
The next year I started to work in a technological consultancy multinational company and meet my actual wife. She opened my eyes and make me realize with, such love and unattachment, that I should change my behavior and feelings to improve myself and wellbeing, because I was suffering and make others (specially her) suffer as well. So, I decided to become a better human being and change my behavior. Then, I committed to practice 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. I spend several years with this routine until I went off retreat in 2014. I went to a 10-day S.N. Goenka retreat and the experience was completely life-chaining as I was really wanted a real shift in my mindset. That was the best decision I’d ever made in this very life, besides meeting my wife, because I felt that I was not progressing in changing my behavior and suffering less. Also, it supposed to overcome an unusual immunologic disease suffering since I was a child. Then I discovered that that disease was psychosomatic and was inside my unconscious mind.
In that retreat I went through the dark night (but I did not hoy to call it) and reached equanimity and calmed state and experienced samadhi. After the retreat, I took the determination to practice 2 hours a day and, since that moment, I have made 8 more retreats. However, I felt that I was not progressing deep enough with Goenka’s Vipassana technique. I had a lot of doubts and experiences and the answer of the majority of them was the same, like reading a manual: “just observe with equanimity. Everything is annica”.

The fist inflection point was on my 5th 10-day retreat. I experienced very clear the A&P event. I didn’t know how to call the experience, but the progress of insight was amazing. By then, at the half way of my path, I met a guy, who actually is one of my best friends, who recommended me to books: MTCB and TMI. Those had been the best contemporary and scientific dharma books I’ve ever read; and written by western enlightened ones. I followed the teachings contained in these books for about one and a half years and the progress I have experienced has been astonishing in terms of suffering reduction, awareness, compassion, love and joy increasing and wisdom.

The second inflection point was on my 6th 10-day retreat in December 2017. I broke one of the precepts of the discipline code and brought TMI to the Dhamma Center and began to read it secretly chapter by chapter, one by day, and practicing the teachings. At the end of the retreatment, when I was consolidating the 8th stage, I experienced a cessation event while practicing walking meditation (I broke another precept, because in Goenka’s tradition is not allowed) paying attention to the sounds and the perceptions within my mind. I began to experience how my mind was “reacting” to that stimulus adding content to the simple sound, such us mental images, labels and so on. After that I also notice being aware of the ending of all that mental formations and body sensations. My attention was more attracted with the passing away that the previous phenomena. After several minutes, the only thing I can remember is that I was staring at a little stone and, suddenly, some strange occurred: the cessation of concepts, of desire and aversion. I was only the stone as it is. It was empty of meaning, of judgements. Then, I realized that it was empty of “me”. I could not find myself. At this point I cannot remember if a blackout occurred or I was still being with my eyes open. I also could not find any thought. I remember just being aware. I experienced a tremendous freedom, security, stillness, quietness, pace, silence and happiness without limits. This experience took only a few seconds, maybe less. After that instant, I could clearly see the next mental formation: a thought accompanied of craving which resonated inside my head as follows: “I don’t want to stop desiring, to stop thinking. I don’t want to stop desiring my wife”.

Then I understood that everything is created by the mind and it has been difficult for me to assimilate that, until then, I had lived in a fallacy generated by my mind. After this event, I stopped practicing for several weeks because I felt an aversion to meditation. I refused to accept that reality is as it is and that the mind works that way and that the self-ego is an illusion. Once I assimilated it, I went through the dark night again, but, on this occasion, the dissatisfaction (dukkha) was stronger than before because I am much more aware of it than before the cessation event. Which indicates that my ego is not yet eradicated. Now I see and feel clearly that each mental process and each sensation has a component of dukkha associated with it. In every situation of my daily life I feel and observe clearly how the mind reacts and the suffering that generates everything. It was overwhelming. It affected me in my personal and work life. I took a leave of absence from work to dedicate myself completely to practice during a couple of months to free myself from dukkha. Now I have been incorporated into working life for two months. I am calm and serene. Happiness, bliss, joy and joy are present in many moments throughout the day. I am also practicing on Brahama Viharas. It's been a year since I had that cessation experience. I've read a lot since then to complement bhavana maya panna with sutta maya panna. Is it possible that I have experienced sunyata? Or, even, entered into the stream? I have not had such an overwhelming experience again, but, throughout this time, I have also observed how strong my sati is because, as soon as it detects some pernicious thought or emotion, it automatically discards it, which provokes a feedback of continuous happiness. In my daily life, I also realize almost instantly when my mind wanders to the future and the dissatisfaction that accompanies those thoughts and immediately return to the present moment (sati sampajanna).

On a personal and professional level, I am dealing through important changes and my family situation is difficult. But every day I feel grateful to the Dhamma and I am genuinely happy despite the circumstances. I think that, whatever happens in my life, it's fine. I feel that there is still an aversion and craving within me, but, little by little, I am purifying my mind and eradicating defilements. But I have no doubt this is the path to purification. Although I still feel an "I", I can also observe naturally all the mind-matter processes that occur in me and remain equanimous up to 80% of them.
With everything that happened, considering my background meditation (90 days on retreat plus +5000 of daily meditation), is it possible that I have attained sunyata? Or, even, entered into the stream? I feel very deep changes in my perception and gaining momentum to jump to the next step. What are the next steps to progress along the path regarding the practice of vipassana? Which is the proper method to develop in my current progress on the path that leads me to greater insights? I’m planning to enroll on a 20-day retreat and I would like to be as most prepared as possible.

Finally, I would like to apologize again if the language I have used is not entirely accurate, but I find it difficult to express myself in English, which is not my native language.

Thank you very much and lot of metta for you.

RE: Sunyata and Stream entry
Answer
12/1/18 12:56 PM as a reply to nicolasette.
Hi Nicola, welcome to the forum!

If you want to self-diagnose whether what you experienced was a cessation, I suggest you to re-read this passage from MCTB:

https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/32-what-was-that/

_________

If you are looking for external opinions, here is my take. I'll be blunt. In reading this, please remember that this is just an opinion, and I might be wrong. 

The event you described seems to be a very nice peak event of some kind of non-conceptual stillness:
 After several minutes, the only thing I can remember is that I was staring at a little stone and, suddenly, some strange occurred: the cessation of concepts, of desire and aversion. I was only the stone as it is. It was empty of meaning, of judgements. Then, I realized that it was empty of “me”. I could not find myself. At this point I cannot remember if a blackout occurred or I was still being with my eyes open. I also could not find any thought. I remember just being aware. I experienced a tremendous freedom, security, stillness, quietness, pace, silence and happiness without limits. This experience took only a few seconds, maybe less. 

but it does not have any of the hallmarks of a proper cessation, by how you describe it. If it was a cessation, you might be able to repeat the event. If you can repeat it, Check it again against the criteria given in the link above, particularly in the bullet points. In particular, notice that during a cessation there is no experience of anything. If there is anything going on, any kind of even subtle neither-perception-nor-yet-non-perception, it wasn't a cessation. Do notice that thought is something going on, but also "the experience of there being no thought" is something going on, and therefore not a cessation. Meaning and judgement is something going on, but also "the experience of an absence of meaning and judgement" is also something going on, and therefore not a cessation.

My impression that it wasn't a cessation, but rather the A&P or EQ, is strengthened by the following paragraph:

Then I understood that everything is created by the mind and it has been difficult for me to assimilate that, until then, I had lived in a fallacy generated by my mind. After this event, I stopped practicing for several weeks because I felt an aversion to meditation. I refused to accept that reality is as it is and that the mind works that way and that the self-ego is an illusion. Once I assimilated it, I went through the dark night again, but, on this occasion, the dissatisfaction (dukkha) was stronger than before because I am much more aware of it than before the cessation event. Which indicates that my ego is not yet eradicated. Now I see and feel clearly that each mental process and each sensation has a component of dukkha associated with it. In every situation of my daily life I feel and observe clearly how the mind reacts and the suffering that generates everything. It was overwhelming. It affected me in my personal and work life. I took a leave of absence from work to dedicate myself completely to practice during a couple of months to free myself from dukkha
This makes it sound to me like you either:

(1) were just facing difficult situations in your life and work, which would explain the emotional difficulties and the aversion to practice, or

(2) moved into the dukkha ñanas after that A&P / EQ event, with the usual hallmarks of aversion to practice, fallout in your personal life, and so on.

Now I have been incorporated into working life for two months. I am calm and serene. Happiness, bliss, joy and joy are present in many moments throughout the day. I am also practicing on Brahama Viharas. It's been a year since I had that cessation experience. I've read a lot since then to complement bhavana maya panna with sutta maya panna.
Looks like you are again in either EQ or the A&P.



I have not had such an overwhelming experience again, but, throughout this time, I have also observed how strong my sati is because, as soon as it detects some pernicious thought or emotion, it automatically discards it, which provokes a feedback of continuous happiness.

I emphatically advise you against "discarding" pernicious thoughts and emotions, if your goal is awakening. My suggestion is to do the opposite: Know every single sensation for what it is, allowing it to do its thing without interfering with it.

I am also very wary of what you write above about "eradicating the ego": That is a rather ambiguous expression, but it rings a bunch of "spiritual bypassing" alarm bells to me. What is this "ego" that you want to "eradicate"? Insight is about knowing what is there, not about building aversion to what is there, or even destroying anything, really. Aversion gets in the way of seeing clearly. The more layers of aversion you construct, the more layers you will have to see through later, if and when you realise that you were not practicing insight really, but rather repressing and denying stuff that was going on.

The happiness that you can obtain by suppressing thoughts and emotions is not the real deal. It is just a way to bypass psychological "stuff". Please don't do this! This attitude of aversion towards your own thoughts and emotions is probably keeping you from making progress.

_____

I do understand that this is probably not what you wanted to hear. Sorry again if these lines were unpleasant to read.

Perhaps others will chime in with different opinions.

RE: Sunyata and Stream entry
Answer
12/2/18 2:06 PM as a reply to neko.
Hi neko. Thanks for your honest answer. I appreciate it. I assume that you talk from your own direct experience of Nibbana rather that mere intellectual knowledge emoticon

I will take a review to the chapter of MCTB you mention. I read it one year ago so I guess I need to refresh some teachings.

 Regarding these quotes: 
I emphatically advise you against "discarding" pernicious thoughts and emotions, if your goal is awakening. My suggestion is to do the opposite: Know every single sensation for what it is, allowing it to do its thing without interfering with it. 
The happiness that you can obtain by suppressing thoughts and emotions is not the real deal. It is just a way to bypass psychological "stuff". Please don't do this! This attitude of aversion towards your own thoughts and emotions is probably keeping you from making progress

I apologize again for my english. I was trying to mean "automatically let go" instead of react against it.

Also, regarding this quote:
I am also very wary of what you write above about "eradicating the ego": That is a rather ambiguous expression, but it rings a bunch of "spiritual bypassing" alarm bells to me. What is this "ego" that you want to "eradicate"? Insight is about knowing what is there, not about building aversion to what is there, or even destroying anything, really. Aversion gets in the way of seeing clearly. The more layers of aversion you construct, the more layers you will have to see through later, if and when you realise that you were not practicing insight really, but rather repressing and denying stuff that was going on.

I am totally agree with you. Aversion is not the way. Thank you for your warning. What I meant is "purifying the defilments which create the illusion of self". I hope this expression is more accurrate emoticon

Thank you so much for your point of view. 

Now I'm dealing with subtle dullness. Sometimes I feel bored because nothing happens. Sometimes I cannot describe the experience and formations ocurring in words. Some kind of nebuluos experience. May I inner-absorbing to much? 

Thanks again and metta.

RE: Sunyata and Stream entry
Answer
12/2/18 3:13 PM as a reply to nicolasette.
Hi again. I have read the chapter 32 you metioned before. Truly I have not been able to repeat the experience again. But  in MCTB2 says:
MCTB1 used to say: “If the event cannot be repeated, write it off. Those who have attained a path will attain more Fruitions naturally, maybe one to many per day, as they basically can’t help but cycle.” This turns out not to be true of all stream enterers; I shall give an explanation shortly.

Also, similar to this quote happens to me since that event:

As a stream enterer or above, reflecting on reality even slightly will result in a nearly instantaneous shift to a Mind and Body–like state that rapidly progresses to show its more A&P-esque elements, with subtly or more strongly vibrating sensations available for investigation with even the lightest application of attention in that meditative direction. 

On a whim, those who are at least stream enterers can begin meditating at the level of the A&P, beginning with the double-dip state shift at the middle and then end of the out-breath that is the hallmark of that stage. Thus, awakened beings can easily perceive vibrating phenomena. 


Since that day I usually experience subtle vibrations and also can lay on 2nd jhanna while walking, focusing on my eyebrow and feeling happiness and joy on that area and spreads through all body. When I go to sleep and, inmediately after waking up, I feel this flow of vibrations arising and passing away. Also, when focusing on the breath I always feel it as vibrations (different kind than others mention before, which occurs regardless the breath). May be I begin on Mind & Body but I quickly reach A&P and I am not aware of it?

May all beigns be happy.