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gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?

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The threads on here about Actual Freedom were interesting. Interesting that there seems to be another mechanism of doing this "stuff" that leads somewhere else.

I was curious about another distinction, though not as great between Buddhism and Actual Freedom. I heard someone talking about gradual path to enlightenment, which was doing the insight practices, going through the nyanas, etc. They also spoke about an "instant" method. I think it was the "Who am I?" self-enquiry style of practice. The idea was that you would do self-enquiry, and then at some instant, you woudl get it. I think Xabir on www.thetaobums.com was talking about it. Here's a quote:

xabir2005:

On the other hand the direct path (emphasized in Zen, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Advaita etc.) requires awakening to the 'I', and then the whole path is just the unfolding of this pure presence. One then does a koan, or practise vipassana, to bring the background awareness (the 'Self') into all foreground sensations to give rise to non-dual insights. But either way, gradual (vipassana) or direct (first through self inquiry, awareness watching awareness, etc. leading to the 'I AM' insight, etc.), if gone all the way results in the same realisations.


Does anyone know anything about this? Does it have the same cycling through aspect quality of nyanas? This is purely out of curiosity, as for now... well, for now I'm going to work on my concentration skills, but I'm sold on noting for the moment.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 1:20 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Beo Beoman:

xabir2005:

On the other hand the direct path (emphasized in Zen, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Advaita etc.) requires awakening to the 'I', and then the whole path is just the unfolding of this pure presence. One then does a koan, or practise vipassana, to bring the background awareness (the 'Self') into all foreground sensations to give rise to non-dual insights. But either way, gradual (vipassana) or direct (first through self inquiry, awareness watching awareness, etc. leading to the 'I AM' insight, etc.), if gone all the way results in the same realisations.


Does anyone know anything about this? Does it have the same cycling through aspect quality of nyanas? This is purely out of curiosity, as for now... well, for now I'm going to work on my concentration skills, but I'm sold on noting for the moment.

Sorry to spoil any enthusiasm about this which you may have developed, but with all due respect, xabir2005 does not know what he is talking about in terms of this subject's relationship to the practice of Buddhadhamma. It is very easy to be led off the path that the Buddha trod if one begins to fall for all the so-called "short cuts" that others claim to be possible avenues to awakening. This, unfortunately, is not one of them, that is, if what you seek is the nibbana of which Gotama spoke.

Anyone who has had any personal and direct insight into these matters will agree with what Ven. Analayo has written about this in his book [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/0861714911/thomelio-20 title="Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization"]Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization.

Analayo:
XIV-4 Nibbana: Neither All-Embracing Unity Nor Annihilation

In order further to clarify the distinctive character of the Buddha's conception of Nibbana, in the remainder of this chapter I will set it off against the realization of all-embracing unity (as envisaged by the "non-dual" religious traditions), and also against annihilationism. While early Buddhism does not deny the distinction between subject and object, it does not treat this distinction as particularly important. Both are insubstantial, the subject being nothing other than a complex of interactions with the world (object), while to speak of a "world" is to speak of what is being perceived by the subject.

Unity, in terms of subjective experience, entails a merging of the subject with the object. Experiences of this kind are often the outcome of deep levels of concentration. Nibbana, on the other hand, entails a complete giving up of both subject and object, not a merger of the two.[58] Such an experience constitutes an "escape" from the entire field of cognition.[59] Although Nibbana partakes of non-duality in so far as it has no counterpart,[60] its implications nevertheless go far beyond experiences of oneness or unity.[61]

Experiences of oneness were actually not unknown to the early Buddhist community, but even their most refined forms, experienced with the immaterial attainments, were not considered to be the final goal.[62] Just as the Buddha himself did not feel satisfied with what he had experiences based on the indications received from his first teachers,[63] so he admonished his disciples to go beyond and transcend such "transcendental" experiences.[64] Some of his disciples had achieved various non-dual experiences, while others had realized full awakening without experiencing any of the immaterial attainments.[65] The latter were the living proof that such attainments, far from being identifiable with Nibbana, are not even necessary for its realization.

In order properly to assess the early Buddhist concept of Nibbana, it needs not only to be distinguished from other views based on experiences of unity, but also has to be differentiated from the theories of annihilation held among the deterministic and materialistic schools of ancient India. On several occasions the Buddha was in fact wrongly accused of being an annihilationist.[66] His humorous reply to such allegations was that he could rightly be called so if this meant the annihilation of unwholesome states of mind.

A consideration of the discourses shows that Nibbana is described in both positive and negative terms. Negative expressions occur frequently in a practical context, indicating the work still to be done. Other passages, however, refer to Nibbana with a variety of positive epithets, calling it a state of peace, of purity, and of freedom, sublime and auspicious, wonderful and marvelous, an island, a shelter, and a refuge.[68] The happiness of freedom contingent upon having realized Nibbana constitutes the highest possible form of happiness.[69] Described as the source of supreme happiness, as a state of freedom, sublime and auspicious, Nibbana seems to have little in common with mere annihilation.

In fact, according to the Buddha's penetrating analysis the attempt to annihilate self still revolves around a sense of selfhood, though being motivated by disgust with this self. In this way annihilationism is still in bondage to a sense of self, comparable to a dog moving in circles around a post to which it is bound.[70] Such craving for non-existence (vibhavatanha) forms indeed an obstacle to the realization of Nibbana.[71] As the Dhatuvibhanga Sutta explains, to think in terms of "I shall not be" is a form of conceiving as much as the thought: "I shall be".[72] Both are to be left behind in order to proceed to awakening.

To maintain that an arahant will be annihilated at death is a misunderstanding, since such a proposition argues the annihilation of something that cannot be found in a substantial sense even while one is still alive.[73] Therefore any statement concerning the existence or annihilation of an arahant after death turns out to be meaningless.[74] What Nibbana does imply is that the ignorant belief in a substantial self is annihilated, an "annihilation" which has already taken place with stream-entry. With full awakening, then, even the subtlest traces of grasping at a sense of self are forever "annihilated", which is but a negative way of expressing the freedom gained through realization. Fully awakened to the reality of selflessness, the arahant is free indeed, like a bird in the sky, leaving no tracks.[75]

58. e.g. SN IV 100 speaks of a cessation of all six sense-spheres, an expression which the commentary explains to refer to Nibbana (Spk II 391). Another relevant reference could be the standard description of stream-entry (e.g. at SN V 423), which speaks of the insight into the fact that whatever arises will also cease, an expression that may well hint at the subjective experience of Nibbana whence all conditionally arisen phenomena cease. Similarly the declarations of realization at MN III 265 and SN IV 58 point to a cessation experience.

59. MN I 38; this "escape" from the whole field of cognition is identified by the commentary with Nibbana (Ps I 176). Similarly Thi 6 refers to Nibbana as the stilling of all cognitions.

60. The question "what is the counterpart of Nibbana?" (at MN I 304) was a question which, according to the arahant nun Dhammadinna, cannot be answered. The commentary Ps II 369 explains that Nibbana has no counterpart.

61. This much can be deduced from a statement made by the Buddha (MN II 229-33) that with the direct experience of Nibbana all views and standpoints related to an experience of unity are left behind and transcended. Cf. also SN II 77, where the Buddha rejected the view "all is one" as one of the extremes to be avoided. Furthermore, according to AN IV 40 and AN IV 401, in different celestial realms either unity or diversified experiences prevail, so that a categorical statement like "all is one" would not accord with the early Buddhist description of cosmic reality.

62. The immaterial attainments are explicitly identified with "unity" at MN III 220. In fact the whole series begins with the injunction not to pay attention to diversified cognitions as a basis for developing the sphere of infinite space (e.g. at AN IV 306), which clearly indicates the unitary character of these experiences. At MN III 106 the four immaterial attainments are again qualified as "unity" (ekatta), each of them forming part of a gradual "descent" into emptiness. The culmination of this gradual descent is reached with the destruction of the influxes (MN III 108), at which point the qualification "unity" is no longer used. This passage clearly demonstrates that full awakening goes beyond even the most refined experiences of oneness. This discourse also indicates that there may be various types of "emptiness" experiences, but that it is the complete destruction of the influxes that determines whether (or not) an experience of emptiness does indeed constitute full awakening.

63. Cf. MN I 165, where the Buddha remarked about Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta that their teaching was not conducive to complete disenchantment and therefore not sufficient to realized Nibbana.

64. e.g. MN I 455-6, where the Buddha commented on each of the meditative absorptions in turn: "this is not enough, abandon it, I say, surmount it."

65. These were the arahant "freed by wisdom", who according to their canonical definition (i.e. at MN I 477) had destroyed the influxes without having experienced the immaterial attainments.

66. Vin III 2; AN IV 174; and AN IV 183. Cf. also Vin I 234; Vin III 3; MN I 140; and AN V 190; where the Buddha is also called a "nihilist."

68. SN IV 368-73 gives a long list of such epithets. A similar but shorter list occurs at AN IV 453.

69. Nibbana as the highest happiness occurs e.g. at MN I 508; Dhp 203; Dhp 204; and Thi 476. These expressions refer to the arahant's experience of the happiness of liberation, cf. e.g. MN II 104; SN I 196; Ud 1; Ud 10; and Ud 32. The superiority of this happiness over all other types of happiness is stated at Ud 11. However, it should be pointed out that Nibbana itself is not a felt type of happiness, since with Nibbana all feelings cease. This is documented at AN IV 414, where Sariputta stated that Nibbana is happiness. When questioned how there could possibly be happiness in the absence of any feeling, he explained that for him it was precisely the absence of feeling that constituted happiness. Similarly at MN I 400 the Buddha explained that he considered even the cessation of feelings and cognitions to constitute happiness, since he did not limit the concept of "happiness" to happy feelings only. Johanssen 1969: p. 25, explains that Nibbana is " 'a source of happiness' and not 'a state of happiness.' "

70. MN II 232.

71. Since it is one of the forms of craving included in the second noble truth (cf. e.g. SN V 421)

72. MN III 246

73. At SN IV 383, the destiny of an arahant after death posed a dilemma for the monk Anuradha, which he attempted to resolve by stating that it could be described in a way other than the four standard propositions used in ancient India in such discussions. After dismissing this (according to Indian logic impossible) fifth alternative, the Buddha led Anuradha to the conclusion that even while still alive an arahant cannot be identified with any of the five aggregates or with anything outside of them. The same reasoning can be found at SN III 112, where Sariputta rebuked the monk Yamaka for presuming that arahants are annihilated at death.

74. Sn 1074 compares the arahant to a flame which, once gone out, can no longer be reckoned in terms of "flame". Sn 1076 explains that there is no measuring of one who has thus gone out, since with all phenomena removed, all pathways of language are also removed. The only acceptable declaration to be made about arahants at death (cf. DN II 109 and DN III 135) is that "they enter the Nibbana element without remainder." This declaration is further explained at It 38 to imply that in the case of an arahant passing away, all that is felt and experienced, because it is no longer delighted in, will simply cool.

75. Dhp 93 and Th 92.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 9:05 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks for the passages! It's nice to hear this stuff reinforced in a new way.

I don't think xabir was saying the "I AM" realization is the goal - just that it's a step along the way. Let me re-phrase to ask about self-enquiry in general, not just xabir's small paragraph that I took out of context (He can probably better explain what he meant than I anyway). The idea I heard was.. first have the "I AM" realization, then if you hold the sense of the "I" well enough, you realize that it can't exist without an object to look at, and that'll lead to breaking down that distinction. This Wikipedia article has more. I don't think they're trying to attain 'unity' as an end goal. Is there any merit to that idea?

Analayo:
Other passages, however, refer to Nibbana with a variety of positive epithets, calling it a state of peace, of purity, and of freedom, sublime and auspicious, wonderful and marvelous, an island, a shelter, and a refuge.[68] The happiness of freedom contingent upon having realized Nibbana constitutes the highest possible form of happiness.[69] Described as the source of supreme happiness, as a state of freedom, sublime and auspicious, Nibbana seems to have little in common with mere annihilation.


Heh this makes me wonder about the Actual Freedom thread again. Daniel seems to have attained what's described in this quote... yet he at least seems to be thinking that his Arahat state was not the highest possible form of happiness, but that PCE seems better. (Not trying to put words in his mouth, but just my interpretation of what he was saying: "Cycle Daniel, being able only to draw on memory and also yet being more keenly aware with each passing trip back to Cycle Mode of how much better PCE mode seems on retrospect, is generally quite keen to get back to PCE mode, as there is this amazing gravity to the PCE, it being exceedingly compelling at this point." "PCE Daniel does everything it can to try to figure out how to stay in PCE Mode[...]" etc.).

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 12:12 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Beo Beoman:

I don't think xabir was saying the "I AM" realization is the goal - just that it's a step along the way. Let me re-phrase to ask about self-enquiry in general, not just xabir's small paragraph that I took out of context (He can probably better explain what he meant than I anyway).

Yes, well, that's the problem with taking quotations out of context. It can make them seem to be saying more than they are. On re-reading it, I think I see the point xabir was making and which you are inquiring about. Hence. . .

Beoman Beo Beoman:

The idea I heard was.. first have the "I AM" realization, then if you hold the sense of the "I" well enough, you realize that it can't exist without an object to look at, and that'll lead to breaking down that distinction. This Wikipedia article has more. I don't think they're trying to attain 'unity' as an end goal. Is there any merit to that idea?

There's a well worn adage in spiritual circles that goes: "First you have to have enough of a sense of "self" in order to eventually be able to see beyond that mirage." Meaning that one needs to be able to have built up enough of a self-worth sense impression (to have confidence in oneself and one's unique personality) before you are able to break it down into smaller pieces until you finally arrive at the full-blown not-self realization. So, in that sense, yes, xabir was correct in this impression.

While I don't have time at present, I'll return later to address the second part of your inquiry (the comparison of the Actual Freedom experience to that of nibbana and what the differences entail). It requires a bit more time to put together an understandable and coherent response.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 3:22 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Does anyone know anything about this? Does it have the same cycling through aspect quality of nyanas? This is purely out of curiosity, as for now... well, for now I'm going to work on my concentration skills, but I'm sold on noting for the moment.

I reached enlightenment through what you're referring to as "instant path" practice. In one sense the term is correct because you're not enlightenend until BAM you're enlightened and then it's really obvious. In another sense the very term "instant path" is a misnomer because there were definite developmental stages I went through that were presumably insight stages or paths. They didn't really look like paths at the time though, not the way vipassana practitioners describe paths.

I experienced nyanas and the joy that is(n't) dark night, but without a map at the time I paid little heed to them and just kept practicing. It took me 14 years to go from A&P to enlightenment. Maybe it would have been a lot quicker with the maps. But also I went on no retreats, only practiced during daily life.

The biggest issue, for me, is that these two approaches don't line up that well for comparison, even though in an ultimate sense they should line up. The things that stood out to me were not being spoken of by vipassana practitioners, and vice versa.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 4:04 PM as a reply to My Fragile Ego.
Yeah in a sense the vipassana path is "instant" in that, you don't have stream entry, then BAM you do. But you make gradual approaches until there. I guess you have at least 4 separate paths to go through, but seems like you have more levels on 'instant path' too.

Craig N:
The biggest issue, for me, is that these two approaches don't line up that well for comparison, even though in an ultimate sense they should line up. The things that stood out to me were not being spoken of by vipassana practitioners, and vice versa.


Yeah it makes me wonder... is the insight path just one way of programming our minds to work? It's perhaps a brutal way, looking at all the Dark Night stuff. One might say it is the only way, but maybe there is a different way of programming our minds (instant path, Shamanism, Actual Freedom, w/e) that is 'nicer'.

I do like the goal-oriented aspect as laid out by MCTB, though. Gives me some idea of what to do, instead of just 'ask "Who am I?" until you get it.' Granted, I'm just "noting until I get it," but I have some context I'm doing it in.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 4:36 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Beo Beoman:
Yeah it makes me wonder... is the insight path just one way of programming our minds to work? It's perhaps a brutal way, looking at all the Dark Night stuff. One might say it is the only way, but maybe there is a different way of programming our minds (instant path, Shamanism, Actual Freedom, w/e) that is 'nicer'.


This is often termed "view". Different traditions lead to differing views in my experience. Actualism involves a view but what sets the goal of AF apart, for me, is freedom from all views. This can be experienced for yourself as an abeyance in a PCE.

Craig

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/4/10 5:37 PM as a reply to My Fragile Ego.
Craig N:
Beoman Beo Beoman:
Yeah it makes me wonder... is the insight path just one way of programming our minds to work? It's perhaps a brutal way, looking at all the Dark Night stuff. One might say it is the only way, but maybe there is a different way of programming our minds (instant path, Shamanism, Actual Freedom, w/e) that is 'nicer'.


This is often termed "view". Different traditions lead to differing views in my experience. Actualism involves a view but what sets the goal of AF apart, for me, is freedom from all views. This can be experienced for yourself as an abeyance in a PCE.

Craig


Freedom from all views? That is still a view =P. I know I'm playing linguistic gamse here, but you get where I'm coming from? I actually remarked that reading the little AF stuff I had makes it sound to me like what I thought Buddhist Enlightenment did, before I read MCTB. My view on Buddhist Enlightenment was changed by the "Models of Enlightenment" chapters in MCTB which refuted them, but AF seems to embrace many of those things, e.g. limited action, limited emotional model. It's still a model, is it not?

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/5/10 2:31 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Beo Beoman:
Craig N:
Beoman Beo Beoman:
Yeah it makes me wonder... is the insight path just one way of programming our minds to work? It's perhaps a brutal way, looking at all the Dark Night stuff. One might say it is the only way, but maybe there is a different way of programming our minds (instant path, Shamanism, Actual Freedom, w/e) that is 'nicer'.


This is often termed "view". Different traditions lead to differing views in my experience. Actualism involves a view but what sets the goal of AF apart, for me, is freedom from all views. This can be experienced for yourself as an abeyance in a PCE.

Craig


Freedom from all views? That is still a view =P. I know I'm playing linguistic gamse here, but you get where I'm coming from? I actually remarked that reading the little AF stuff I had makes it sound to me like what I thought Buddhist Enlightenment did, before I read MCTB. My view on Buddhist Enlightenment was changed by the "Models of Enlightenment" chapters in MCTB which refuted them, but AF seems to embrace many of those things, e.g. limited action, limited emotional model. It's still a model, is it not?


I've had this discussion with others also and it seems to me that until the PCE is experienced for oneself and examined to make sense of the proposition of actual freedom, this topic is remains a theoretical one and is subject to the inherent view-producing mechanism.

I hope that reply doesn't sound dismissive. I suggest finding out for yourself if you're interested.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/5/10 7:34 AM as a reply to My Fragile Ego.
Craig N:
I've had this discussion with others also and it seems to me that until the PCE is experienced for oneself and examined to make sense of the proposition of actual freedom, this topic is remains a theoretical one and is subject to the inherent view-producing mechanism.

I hope that reply doesn't sound dismissive. I suggest finding out for yourself if you're interested.


Not at all. I feel that way about lots of talk going on here =).

I would think that you could replace PCE and AF with Arahatship and make the same claim. Probably true.. but I guess Arahats have tried PCE and shown it is different, so that's a big clue.

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
11/5/10 11:37 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Yeh, I've been wondering lately whether 4th path, as talked of here, is not really the Arahat of the pali canon. There is very little if no clinging, but stuff still arises. A suffering in the form of "emotions" can still be quite unsatisfactory, as the Buddha expressed. Although, those emotions can be seen as completely ephemeral and not the "self" and they don't stick like they once did. But then there seems to be something left to see. A subtle sense of attachment to "being", which I have been experiencing to be all affective feelings as they arise. This is something which becomes very clear when from a PCE, where the sense of "being" is absent, all of that "being" arises. That is how one sees that there may be something left to objectify and see.

The arahatship being talked of a lot here and KFD, is obviously not exactly like it is talked of in the Pali canon. There seems to be some similarities...the feeling of having done what needs to be done, off the ride, no more insight disease, the knot of perception untied, no more centrepoint of self being put up on a pedestal...all sensations, the same status.The relationship to all phenomena has permanently shifted. And this is great. Much of the fundamental suffering that plagued me for years has gone. But 4th path didn't eradicate any of the phenomena that arose previously, such as the emotions/ formations of mind and body. What was put right was the ignorance of how all sensations are the same, including the "self" ones. And there is now no tendency of the mind to stick to phenomena like before. There is now a real effortless ease in the "letting go" of everything.

But in a PCE, it becomes clear, there is more to the puzzle. Affective feelings still arise as phenomena. But they also bring a sense of "being" with them. And there seems to be a subtle attachment there to them, to the sense of "being". Not to a centrepoint of "self" like pre-4th, but a subtle attachment to "being". And the PCE is like the light that shines on that little fact making it ever so obvious. The PCE is basically seeing in the seen, hearing in the heard, feeling (sensations) in the felt without any type of sequence of evaluation, identification, contraction, reaction resulting. There is no self-contraction arising. When self-contraction arises it arises as an affective feeling AND sense of being at the same time. They seem to be one and the same. There is no room for self-contraction in a PCE. No room for the sense of "being" i.e. affective feelings. All consciousness experience is now being experienced apperceptively. Just the senses, without the mind turning back on itself to create the self-contraction. That is why it is talked of as going into abeyance. Without having experienced a PCE enough times, in my opinion, the fact that all emotions are "me", the sense of "being", the sense of "I AM", you aren't going to notice that it can be seen to be separate from the organic body operating just fine without it.

I don't know. A lot of suffering was done away with at 4th path. No real "self" to place a finger on. Things arise and pass, arise and pass, and one can "be ok" with this. Without having experienced a PCE, I would have been fine with it all., living my life observing things arise and pass away with no "self" there. But once a few PCE's were experienced, the things that are seen to disappear in the PCE become kind of "annoying" when they arise once again. In the PCE, those things don't arise. Those things are emotions i.e. the sense of "being". And it makes it clear that there is perhaps some more suffering that remains.
I don't think the pali canon arahat would still be experiencing that self-contraction still. So it makes me reconsider what we call 4th path here as Arhatship. There still seems to be something to do. And thus, I keep on keeping on.

I feel like this guy, Khemaka: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.089x.wlsh.html


Nick

Edited a few times and to say: All my opinons and interpretations of my experiences are subject to change at the drop of a hat. ;)

RE: gradual path vs. instant path to enlightenment?
Answer
3/22/11 2:41 PM as a reply to Ian And.
This passage from Zenkei Shibayama's book "A Flower Does Not Talk" shows that the "instant model of Enlightenment" doesn't equate Oneness with Enlightenment. It's part of a biographical sketch of Zen Master Hakuin (1685-1768):

At twenty-four, he was in Eigenji in Takada, Echigo. His training had advanced to the spirituality of Oneness - the identity of subject and object. One day in January, as he was sitting as usual throughout the night in Zazen samadhi, the bronze temple bell sounded to announce dawn. At this moment, all of a sudden, he had his awakening. It is recorded that he jumped up with joy.


Now, it is also clear that Hakuin's practice had already progressed very far before he became awakened at this moment. However, the final leap to happens all at once. So there's really not much of a contradiction: "gradual" and "instant" are really just two ways of looking at the same thing.

That's what non-duality means; the subject/object thing is just one example. Non-duality means moving beyond misleading conceptual mind. In our discriminating, conceptual logic, "gradual" and "instant" are opposites. But in reality, they are the same.