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How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?

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Alright so I have been doing concentration meditation off and on for the past week. I've resolved to do a sit in the morning and another in the evening as of this week and have done so. My object of concentration is the breath and I seem to be able to focus on it fairly well.

I haven't been timing my sits, just letting them run there course until I feel it's time to get up. They've been running between 20-35 minutes.

How to describe it....It takes me a few minutes to quiet the mind and move deeper into concentration. I would describe this shift as going from a vast empty space to focusing directly behind my forehead. The "view" here is black and as I get more and more into it it gets seems to get darker and darker.

The deeper I get into this state the softer the breath becomes and it seems to slow down as well. An interesting thing I noticed tonight is I can hear my heartbeat in the exhale. The breath pulses!

There seem to be a couple levels here with each one being "darker" the previous. Random thoughts come in and out during this time..I just notice them and let them go. They seem to be whispers more than full fledged notions.

Finally there is a last transition which gives me a slight buzzing sensation. When I cross into this area I get visuals...some based in reality some not so much. This morning I had a parade of celebrities go through my head, but after that I saw the most beautiful black orb with intense white light wafting around it. Like a solar eclipse with a white sun.

This stage tonight had some nice fractal imagery.

This mornings sit was the deepest I have ever gotten...deep to the point I was no longer aware of the breath or breathing in general. I was entirely "inside".

Does this sound correct? I am not clear on whether I should be relaxing into these states or sticking more with the breath or what.

Thanks!
Andrew

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/9/10 11:54 PM as a reply to Andrew M.
A B:
Does this sound correct? I am not clear on whether I should be relaxing into these states or sticking more with the breath or what.

Your description overall sounds as though you are making progress. I wouldn't make too much out of any visual phenomena that you may come across. It's just more "stuff" to observe and let go of. Other than that, it "sounds" as though you are able to achieve some level of concentration. (Without personally questioning you in order to gain more clarification about what it is that you are experiencing, though, can't really be sure from just a random posting on a forum.)

I'm a little surprised, though, that you have not been able to explore these states for longer than 35 minutes at a time. For instance, when you report: "This mornings sit was the deepest I have ever gotten...deep to the point I was no longer aware of the breath or breathing in general. I was entirely 'inside'." Did it feel as though you could have gone on sitting there for an indeterminable time period? Or was it important that you came out when you came out?

As for making further progress with the Dhamma with all this, it all depends upon what your intent and focus are. If you are able to bring the mind to a relatively stable level of concentration, then you are ready to perform satipatthana. You may wish to look into that possibility and to read more about it.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/10/10 8:22 AM as a reply to Ian And.
I wouldn't make too much out of any visual phenomena that you may come across. It's just more "stuff" to observe and let go of.


Gotcha. Some of it is really beautiful though! I have basically zero artistic ability as far as creating something from scratch, so I was surprised to see that kind of imagery.


I'm a little surprised, though, that you have not been able to explore these states for longer than 35 minutes at a time...Did it feel as though you could have gone on sitting there for an indeterminable time period? Or was it important that you came out when you came out?


My answer here is going to be a mixed bag. These have been untimed sessions and I stop when I've completed what I would call a cycle. Basically, I go deeper and deeper until I stall...then I stay there as long as I can before coming back out. I haven't tried sticking it out for a while to see if I can go back in though...

That said, I do get the distinct impression that with more practice this is a something that I could settle into for an indefinite amount of time. The real question I have is whether staying in such a state for multiple hours really useful.

The 35 minute session was the deepest one. Time is relative in that place so I can't say whether I was "there" for 1 minute or 15, but I do know once I became aware of being there that was the beginning of the end. "this is so cool" thoughts started up and that was that.

As for making further progress with the Dhamma with all this, it all depends upon what your intent and focus are.


That's a good question. If you are willing to spend a few minutes please read through this thread. The first few posts will tell you how I got here and the last few will tell you where I am trying to go. How you would phrase that in buddhist terminology is beyond my expertise.

I have read through Daniel's book. His descriptions of the various insight stages matched up so well with what I was experiencing on on my own that it became clear there is a repeatable process at work. So here I am, doing concentration meditation. emoticon I have read repeatedly that everything hinges on mastering concentration states.

I do, however, doubt that concentrating will be enough to resolve the Fear I am looking to confront.

Without personally questioning you in order to gain more clarification about what it is that you are experiencing, though, can't really be sure from just a random posting on a forum.


Please ask away. The reason I posted here is an admission that I have no idea what I am doing beyond whats at the end of that thread. How many times have I read about someone hanging on to something thinking it was one thing...and it wasn't? Or being certain a state was "it" and it wasn't?

I've made a commitment to do this and there enough obstacles without my pride getting in the way!
Andrew

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/11/10 11:32 PM as a reply to Andrew M.
Hi Andrew,
A B:
IanAnd:
As for making further progress with the Dhamma with all this, it all depends upon what your intent and focus are.

That's a good question. If you are willing to spend a few minutes please read through this thread. The first few posts will tell you how I got here and the last few will tell you where I am trying to go. How you would phrase that in buddhist terminology is beyond my expertise.

I took some time to read through the suggested thread and learned a bit about you and your background in this. As far as it indicates from what you've written, you don't seem to be coming from any clear cut background in having studied or applied many of the mental development exercises that the Buddhadhamma recommends (other than what you have read recently with regard to Daniel's book MCTB ). From my perspective, that book (as well as others like it) is only a beginning in the effort to establish a rapport with what the Buddha taught, if you are actually and sincerely interested in exploring these teachings. Without some background in this study, though, I'm not certain how much help I might be able to provide you.

I can clearly see where you are at. It's just that we need to be speaking on the same page before anything I might suggest to you will take (be effective). In other words, you need to be able to see what I'm talking about within the context of the teachings in order to begin making further progress. (This would be true of anyone whose advice you were seeking in making progress in these or similar studies.)

Very briefly, I started from a spiritual background in all this (became a monk and priest in a Western contemplative religious order for nearly a decade). I have practiced meditation for over 30 years, the last ten of which have been in intense study and development of the Buddhadhamma so that I might be able to teach others about this practice in the same way I came to know it. I must confess, though, that I am not, nor do I consider myself to be, a Buddhist. I don't adhere to any man-made religion (although I have studied the major religions of man). And over the years, my perspective of involvement with these issues has changed and transformed into a more grounded effort to just explore the simple Dhamma that Gotama was endeavoring to teach to those who came to him for help.

A B:
I've gotten the fear down to it's basic component...which is the fear of death. Both physical and a more ethereal one that I'm going to lose myself i some la la land of no identity.

This statement is indicative of a person undergoing basic existential angst. This is the same or similar angst that occurred to Gotama (if you have read about the early experiences he had that led him to take up the life of a homeless mendicant and samana, a Pali term which literally means "one who strives"). It is what all serious and sincere people undergo who come to the Buddhadhamma looking for answers to these questions about life.

This "basic existential angst" or dukkha (literally, unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction; while also translated as "suffering") is what troubled Gotama such that he decided to devote a portion of his life to discovering an end to this perception about life which he had. Unfortunately, in all his striving, he was unable to arrive at a satisfactory method for removing dukkha from the extrinsic life that he knew, and soon came to the view that all existence was composed of three basic characteristics: that of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and selflessness (anatta). The realization of these three characteristics of existence was one of his major accomplishments. He then set about devising a method for removing dukkha from the intrinsic life that he experienced.

This was the beginning of his journey into the interior of his own individual psyche and into what made up the phenomena he perceived there. This is what the study of Buddhadhamma is all about. If you read the translated Pali discourses of the Buddha, you come away with a clearer idea about the many simple things about which he spoke. Some people want to take this into an arena of what they term as spiritual development and eventual one upmanship (i.e. comparing one spiritual practice or endeavor to another). But really, what he talked about were actually very simple mundane observations that any of us, with some training, can make.

The only way successfully to realize the truth of these subjects is to study them on their own terms, meaning from within the context in which they were originally taught. If any of this rings a bell with you, then perhaps we may have some common ground on which to carry this discussion further.

A B:
The reason I posted here is an admission that I have no idea what I am doing beyond what's at the end of that thread.

This is why, if it is at all possible, it is best to have a personal guide or teacher help you. I'm talking about someone with whom you can sit down and talk with face to face; not just a few anonymous people with whom you converse on the Internet. Some may think that using the Internet is all they need, and that to go further might impose an unnecessary hardship on them, yet that would be a shortsighted view. Even Daniel sought out physical instructors with whom to train. He traveled to them and underwent the programs they suggested.

Don't misread what I'm saying here. I'm just saying that the personal touch can go a long way toward assisting one's understanding of what was taught and completing final realization. The key is: to be on the same page as whomever is instructing you, in whatever way that may come about. I'm not saying that there is nothing to be gained from Internet interaction. Just that it is very helpful to have someone with whom you are able to sit and talk.

A B:
I have read repeatedly that everything hinges on mastering concentration states. I do, however, doubt that concentrating will be enough to resolve the Fear I am looking to confront.

It is good that you have this impression about states of concentration, because it is a true impression. This kind of practice is called samatha which means "calmness" practice. Calmness practice brings the mind to a state of calm, to stillness, to quietness, to tranquility. Once in a state of calm and undisturbed concentration on its object, the mind is ready to practice insight or vipassana. In order to dispel the "fear" spoken about you must look it straight in the face and see it for what it truly is: a delusion or illusion based upon the dispelling of the illusion (or delusion) of a personality. This is called penetrating your object with wisdom (panna). Seeing the object for what it truly is and thus dispelling ignorance about it.

The Buddha taught a three tiered path to the truth based upon the development of three simple faculties or abilities: the abilities of sila or virtue, samadhi or concentration, and panna or wisdom. The practice of the first of these three faculties assists in the development of the latter two faculties. A virtuous mind is a mind free of guilt. A mind free of guilt is relatively calm, unagitated, and stable. A calm and stable mind is free to develop concentration upon its object, and thus to see the truth of that object free from personal biases and prejudices which may have conditioned the mind's perception of that object. Seeing the truth of the object and recognizing it as such is the development of wisdom, the last faculty of the trio of faculties. Developing wisdom dispels ignorance.

The mind is thus set free of its delusion of personality view by penetrating the truth of its adherence to greed, hatred, and delusion and the subsequent cessation of clinging to such. This dispels ignorance about phenomena and lifts the mind, helping it to transcend phenomena through seeing and realizing what it (i.e. whatever phenomenon is being examined) truly is.

Put in the simplest of terms, this is what the practice of the Buddhadhamma is about. What I have left out of this equation are the exact steps and other teachings that the Buddha taught in order to accomplish this feat. A few of the other main teachings that one needs to become familiar with are, first, the teaching of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Five Aggregates (the pancakkhanda [1]), the aforementioned Three Characteristics of Existence (the tilakkhana), and Dependent Co-Arising (or paticca samuppada). Armed with these five understandings, one is able to make one's way toward final awakening.

If this sounds like something you might like to pursue, then perhaps we can have a discussion and be on the same page.

Footnotes:
[1] Or the "five clinging aggregates" known as the pancupadanakkhanda; upadana being the Pali term for "clinging," panca being the Pali term for "five," and kkhanda being the Pali term for "aggregates." Panc + upadana + kkhanda = pancupadanakkhanda. It helps to be familiar and to understand a few of the more significant, and therefore important, Pali terms.

In peace,
Ian

P.S.
A B:
At the time, I still didn't have a firm grasp of the concept of "no self. Out of nowhere a few days ago it just clicked. I can't really describe it, but for the first time in my life I "got" it.

The relief was instant and profound. The realization was this- All the pain and suffering in my life up to this point...was being experienced and carried by a personality which simply does not exist outside of my head.

The above mentioned realization might seem to indicate that you may have reached what is quaintly known in Buddhist circles as "stream entry." In my humble opinion, for this realization to be auspicious, it should rightly be accompanied by the dispelling of doubt about the Buddha and the Dhamma he taught. In other words, one should have the beginning of confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the sangha of practitioners who are able to help one make one's way along the Path. Traditionally, the Theravada also indicate that clinging to religious rites and ritual also come to an end. These three (the realization of selflessness, the cessation of doubt about the Dhamma, and the non-clinging to religious rites and ritual) indicate the extinction of the first three fetters of existence. In conventional Theravadin thought this would indicate the achievement of "stream entry" or entering the stream of the Dhamma.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/15/10 12:57 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Hello Ian,

Let me start with some unsolicited praise! IMO That was one of the easiest to understand overviews of Buddhism I have ever read. I truly appreciate you taking the time to write that out and if there was a way to give you a five star rating here I definitely would. emoticon

Now I will shift gears and go into an apology for taking so long to respond. Given the subject matter and the depth of your reply I needed some time to sort out what I would say. I have no intention of wasting your time by simply responding with what I think you want to hear/what I think I want to say. That does neither of us any good. So in that spirit I've done some serious soul searching and a bit of reading over the past few days.

What I am going to attempt in the next few paragraphs is to describe more about my "method" and what I am experiencing in the hope that together we can work out the best course of action. If it turns out it fits well within an established Buddhist tradition of some kind, then great. If it fits better somewhere else then great. If it fits no where and I am on my own (so to speak) then that's OK too. All I can promise is that everything below is from the heart and as true as I can relate it.

I also come from the christian tradition. Somewhere in my teens the questions I was asking outpaced the ability for the teachers to explain resulting in them leaning on the crutch of "have faith." By 20 I was gone. This began a multi-year period where I chased a lot of things and eventually found myself on the "mind expansion" track of mental exploration. I'll skip the details but at a certain point my psychedelic experiences reached a level of being "google-able". IOW On a few occasions I would experience something, then type it as best I could into google, and find a reference to it. Mainly buddhist writings, but some hindu stuff as well. This is how I stumbled upon this site.

I found this extraordinary, especially when one considers my aversion to reading about the subject. My belief then and now is that if Truth is True and universal...then any person, any where, at any time should be able to find it for themselves. If not, then what is passed on as Truth is really just rambling conjecture. Due to this I literally went out of my way not to read books about spirituality because I wanted anything I discovered to be "mine". Pure, unadulterated insight into the true nature of things.

That is my history and method of inquiry. Keeping that in mind:

Moment I realized "no self"-
(To dispel any confusion about what did/didn't happen)

It was as if I looked up and saw the sky was blue for the first time. I cannot think of any better way to say it. that said- It wasn't the removal of self...just the acknowledgment that it was an illusion.

Along with the realization came some benefits. The first thing to go was regret. A total loss of regret. I can look back and see mistakes I've made, choices I would do differently...but there is no regret. Other responses left as well. There have be more than a few occasions since where something happens or I am doing something and I actually notice the lack of emotional response. Sometimes I have even gone through the motions of getting angry for example, all the while aware that I am doing this only because I "feel" like it is what I am "supposed" to be doing. (I've put a stop to that for the most part.)

More importantly it put a lot of things into perspective for me. A constant theme of my life has been a nagging doubt about reality as presented. I love movies like the Matrix or Donnie Darkko and from my second shroom trip I was a full fare passenger on the "reality isn't real" trolley car. As it turns out, my heart was in the right place but I was barking up the wrong tree. All this time I spent asking if reality was real...I was really asking if "I" was real. I just didn't know it yet.

Buddhism/The Buddha
Having spent a good amount of time reading about buddhism over the past few days and having watched a few documentaries previously my impression is a bit of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, the buddha and I have come to startling similar conclusions in more than a few areas. My brother had previously watched one of the docs and told me I would like it. We watched it together and I kept turning him and saying "How many times have a I told you this same thing?" It was...uncanny.

On the other hand I can't say I find how the information is laid out to be that great. I realize that monks don't talk much, so they write but I have never seen so many lists in one place! There's 4 of these and 12 of those and 7 of these etc etc etc ad nauseum. Then when you read them, they are basically common sense stuff. I'm still a little confused on how certain terms (like- object) are used, but overall they seem to be more or less what I do anyway, just in list format.

If pressed, I'd say it seems like a scientific method approach to evaluation of life. There are certain questions that you ask, depending on the answer you ask another or try harder. Something like that. I do like the idea of using the 3 characteristics to evaluate things, but once again I don't really see much new here.

All that being said-

Last night I read the Samaññaphala Sutta and some of a few others. I didn't notice anything too special in the first few, but for some reason locked into the Samaññaphala Sutta. As I was reading it I became exceptionally tired. I found it enjoyable but not earth shattering. When I was done I laid down for a bit.

I kept drifting in and out of sleep and every time I became aware I noticed my mind was going over the sutta. Analyzing it, testing it, etc. I was putting in much more effort asleep than I did awake!

At any rate, I woke up this morning in a weird head space. The last week had been so "normal" that I wasn't sure what to think. Lots of thought followed, but eventually my mind settled on the concept of life. I was laying on the couch, listening to music and I suddenly understood the relationship of all life on earth.

I'd love to tell you all about it but to be frank I can't remember. At all.

Reeling from this I reached over to pet my dog. As soon as my hand touched her head the illusion of boundaries between us disappeared. I was nothing and I was everything all at the same time. To put it more plainly, I understood that when I pet the dog I pet myself. Following this line of thought I extrapolated that when I love others I love myself. When I show compassion to others I show it to myself. Except it's not "me".

This state...it could be defined more by what wasn't there than anything else. Doubt- not there. Ignorance- not there. "Me"- not there.

When I say "me" I don't mean it in a roundabout way, I mean it in as literal a way as possible. In that place my family was an important/not important to me as anything else. Literally no attachment.

This concept scares "me" to death. I may realize there is no "me" but I haven't let go yet. And yet this seems to be the destination of this train I am riding.

Whether this was kicked off by the reading of the sutta, the self examination of the last few days, or as part of the weekly cycle I am going through I don't know.

To conclude this novel length post- What I am looking for is really quite simple. A way to let go. More to the point- A way to be OK with letting go.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/15/10 11:55 PM as a reply to Andrew M.
A little follow-up. I was still reeling a bit from the morning ego-loss experience when I wrote this last night. I stand by what I wrote, but I may have been a little harsh when describing my impressions of the bureaucracy of Buddhism.

My dissatisfaction does not change the fact that in a very many ways the Buddha and I are on the same page...and that I still have no clear plan of action for proceeding.

My instinct tells me to go into the wilderness and somehow confront and transcend my fear. It's the "somehow" that's the problem. Up until now I have always relied on something external like drugs or fearful situations to get into these states. I need to learn how to do it myself.

The experience from yesterday morning happened on it's own for the most part, all I did was let a thought process run it's course.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/16/10 1:45 AM as a reply to Andrew M.
A B:

My dissatisfaction does not change the fact that in a very many ways the Buddha and I are on the same page...and that I still have no clear plan of action for proceeding.

My instinct tells me to go into the wilderness and somehow confront and transcend my fear. It's the "somehow" that's the problem. Up until now I have always relied on something external like drugs or fearful situations to get into these states. I need to learn how to do it myself.

No need to take drastic action just yet in order to overcome your fear. There is a perfectly reasonable path already laid out for anyone to follow based on study in the Dhamma and meditation. And, yes, you should be able to accomplish this yourself.

I'm tied up with some other writing project at the moment, but as soon as I'm finished (which may take a couple of days or so), I will respond to your post.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/16/10 4:24 AM as a reply to Andrew M.
A B:

I was laying on the couch, listening to music and I suddenly understood the relationship of all life on earth. (...) I'd love to tell you all about it but to be frank I can't remember. At all.

As soon as my hand touched her head the illusion of boundaries between us disappeared. I was nothing and I was everything all at the same time.

To put it more plainly, I understood that when I pet the dog I pet myself. Following this line of thought I extrapolated that when I love others I love myself. When I show compassion to others I show it to myself. Except it's not "me".


As a side-note to this thread, maybe you will find the following report of my own experience interesting:

I have, over the past few years, had many occasions to experience altered modes of perception, both "feel-gooders" and "feel-baders." The feel-gooders were often some variation of the unity experience you describe. In the course of these experience, I frequently came to the belief of having had some sort of insight, understanding, deepening, etc, of a spectacular nature --- "I am everything," "the universe is an act of love-making," "I am the silence between phenomena," etc, etc, etc.

After all is said and done, these experiences faded, and the so-called understanding was forgotten. Just like your inability to remember the "relationship of all life on earth."

Have you had the experience of being in a dream, and in that dream you make a terrific discourse, or play piano marvelously, or discover the secret to flying with the power of sheer will, or some such, and when you wake up, it turns out that you can't really speak that well, play piano or fly, nor can you remember the words, the music, or superman's secret?

My own conclusion about these experiences is that they work in a similar way: one does "feel that one understands something," but that feeling is actually just a feeling, and the "understanding" is completely devoid of actual content.

---

Maybe when you pet your dog, you are just petting your dog :-) Maybe you aren't everything after all! Would there be anything wrong or bad about that? Could it be that "I am everything" is the last line of defense of your illusory personality? Could it be the ultimate escapism from the fact you will one day die?

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/16/10 8:17 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Thank you for sharing that Bruno! You raise some good points...if it was a trick of the ego, boy what a trick. Of course, I've spent the past 29 years sure "i" was a separate thing so it certainly seems in the realm of possibility.

Some reflection is in order. emoticon

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/16/10 11:56 PM as a reply to Andrew M.
Well guys it seems like I had a fundamental misunderstanding of buddhism.

Along with posting here I sent off a description of this latest experience to some friends who are more into yoga and the like. I got pointed in the direction of Advaita Vedanta and as it turns out, I was very confused.

My understanding of buddhism was that you lose the ego or "self" and see the truth of non-dual existence. I was basing this non-dual existence in the framework of some kind of universal consciousness which in Advaita Vedanta is of course- Brahman

Buddhism bases this non-dual experience in non-sentient particles of some kind, right?

I ran a search here on Advaita Vedanta and found a thread that you (Ian) started last year about it. Daniel gave you a bad time for writing it but I am glad you did. I read it this morning...didn't really understand much...spent the day reflecting on it and read it again tonight along with reading up on Advaita Vedanta. I like this quote from your thread.

From the perspective of the Theravada tradition, any quest
for the discovery of selfhood, whether as a permanent individual self or
as an absolute universal self, would have to be dismissed as a delusion,
a metaphysical blunder born from a failure to properly comprehend the
nature of concrete experience.

According to the Pali Suttas, the
individual being is merely a complex unity of the five aggregates, which
are all stamped with the three marks of impermanence, suffering, and
selflessness.


For whatever reason correcting this mistake in how I view buddhism has resulted in it all making an infinitely greater amount of sense to me. The noting, scanning, etc makes sense. The 5 aggregates, 3 characteristics etc seem much more relevant.

I think a big hang-up for me was how I defined insight. I would put my definition of insight more along the lines of "getting it" and having knowledge that doesn't come from books. The ability to answer any question in a life shattering manner.

Anyway, now that I know what the teaching is really trying to do it all becomes much clearer.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/17/10 12:31 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:

Maybe when you pet your dog, you are just petting your dog :-) Maybe you aren't everything after all! Would there be anything wrong or bad about that? Could it be that "I am everything" is the last line of defense of your illusory personality? Could it be the ultimate escapism from the fact you will one day die?


I thought about this a lot today. I can definitely see the logic in the argument.

Now that I have spent some time reading up on Advaita Vedanta and also seeing the "true" goal of buddhism I can honestly say that I don't know which one is correct at the end of experience.

I find both ideas to be equally plausible.

I've dicovered over the course of my research today that my experiences up to this point fit much more closely with Advaita Vedanta. Even so, I can see that my most memorable trips and experiences may really just have been forays into the formless realms and, as Daniel warns, without any context that area can seem like the ultimate.

My process is to follow where the evidence leads me. So in that vain I am going to work on my practice and see where it takes me. Regardless of where I end up I don't see that I have to choose at this moment. (if ever)

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/17/10 12:54 AM as a reply to Andrew M.
A B:

Buddhism bases this non-dual experience in non-sentient particles of some kind, right?

Incorrect. The Dhamma that Gotama taught explains this Middle Way between the wrong views of eternalism and annihilationism which is taught by others, to be a correct (or Right) view of phenomena based upon a penetration of the teaching on paticca samuppada or dependent arising. The only catch here is that you must do the work yourself in order to arrive at this realization.

One of the clues to this was stated in the quotation you quoted from the Non-Dual thread. "According to the Pali Suttas, the individual being is merely a complex unity of the five aggregates, which are all stamped with the three marks of impermanence, suffering, and selflessness." Penetrate and understand the five aggregates that make up personality view, and you begin to make the journey necessary in order to further penetrate paticca samuppada. When you understand that the five aggregates make up a kind of "fictional character" rather than a substantial being, then you are beginning to go down the right track (Right View).

A B:

For whatever reason correcting this mistake in how I view buddhism has resulted in it all making an infinitely greater amount of sense to me. The noting, scanning, etc makes sense. The 5 aggregates, 3 characteristics etc seem much more relevant.

That's good. That's the correct area to focus upon. This is what satipatthana practice is all about. You examine form, feeling, mind states, and mental phenomena in order to see (and verify) the three characteristics in each of these. Then you can contemplate the twelve (or middle eight) factors of dependent co-arising in order to penetrate the truth of that process. As the Buddha explained: "Seeing dependent arising, one sees the whole of the Dhamma. Seeing the whole of the Dhamma, one sees dependent arising."

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/17/10 1:33 AM as a reply to Andrew M.
A B:

My process is to follow where the evidence leads me.


That's great A B, (what's your first name by the way?) that's part of what self investigation is all about. Just make sure that your evidence isn't a figment of your imagination, and make sure you ask every possible question that can be asked, particularly the difficult ones, so that you get all the evidence, rather than just part of it. Sincerity and thoroughness (I have failed doing this in numerous occasions by the way, but one can always make up for it later).

And keep us informed of what you find out emoticon

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/18/10 10:46 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:
(what's your first name by the way?)


Andrew. Changed my screen name to reflect that. emoticon

I have continued reading and trying to sound like less of a moron here. I admit it was slow going at first, I was trying to force feed myself a ton of information which was presented in a style I am not used to, but I'm getting there.

I know it is no ones job to convince me otherwise, but I would be lying if I did not say I have grave misgivings about the idea that a mind can only see "whats going on" after several thousands of hours of training...if then. What other option is there though? I've tried to move on and forget about it, but it seems like a door has been opened and all I can do I keep walking towards it. The usual "reality" is OK when I am immersed in it (friends,work, etc) but give me 30 minutes alone and my dissatisfaction becomes obvious. Enough whining.

My concentration seems to be improving. My mind goes quiet more or less immediately when I close my eyes and I can shut it down at will during the day...at least for a little while. I was using earplugs but have stopped. I have not been able to go as deep without them yet...except for this evening when I did my first insight session.

Some Observations-
After my heaviest (dose wise) trip ever I had a few days where I was acutely aware of my internal dialogue. This seems to be returning in a big way. Typically I notice a feeling and then shortly after I will notice some mind-words to describe it. For example I got an email I didn't like and was annoyed. A split second later comes "Chris is pissing me off." through my head. I told myself I already know and didn't need to hear it too. It's almost like having 2 personalities in there.

Also, there have been a few occasions when on waking I've watched myself go through some orientation questions like "what day is it?" or "What time is it?" Pretty interesting and useful for seeing whats on my mind as well.

At any rate, during the day my mind is quieter overall and when it does run it "sounds" like a conversation I'm listening too from across a room instead of a drill instructor standing behind me.

Some more questions-
Reading back through Daniel's description of the Jhanas my "unity" experience matches up pretty good with some aspects of the 6th jhana. Would I be wildly inaccurate by assuming that I somehow managed to hit that...more or less spontaneously? That will be a cool story to tell, read my first sutta then hit a jhana the next morning listening to shpongle. (no offense intended Ian, I know you take this stuff very seriously)

Also, just so I am clear a state is something like a jhana or similar which is cool but only lasts briefly. A stage is something like 1st path which is a more permanent thing. Is that correct?

I look forward to your reply to this and that other monster thread. As you said-

If this sounds like something you might like to pursue, then perhaps we can have a discussion and be on the same page.


I think I'm ready.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/19/10 1:01 AM as a reply to Andrew M.
Hi Andrew,
Andrew M:

Some more questions-
Reading back through Daniel's description of the Jhanas my "unity" experience matches up pretty good with some aspects of the 6th jhana. Would I be wildly inaccurate by assuming that I somehow managed to hit that...more or less spontaneously?

Assuming that the description you gave ("My concentration seems to be improving. My mind goes quiet more or less immediately when I close my eyes and I can shut it down at will during the day...at least for a little while.") is accurate, it would not be out of the question that you did hit the sixth jhana. It's not that difficult to do; it's just a matter of inclining the mind.

It's also not that unusual to be able to accomplish such a mind state after having just read something about it, given your ability to quiet the mind, that is. I have often used this kind of "priming of the pump" technique in my own practice. Reading about something just prior to attempting to achieve it often helps to "prime the pump" toward its attainment. It helps position the attainment clearly in your mind before you make the attempt to achieve it. It works in the same way that making a mental resolution does (e.g. telling yourself just before dozing off to sleep that you will awaken refreshed, alert and focused) by placing a suggestion into the subconscious mind. I do this all the time, and it's never failed. I usually awaken with a clear and ungroggy mind the next morning.

Andrew M:

Also, just so I am clear a state is something like a jhana or similar which is cool but only lasts briefly. A stage is something like 1st path which is a more permanent thing. Is that correct?

If you're asking this in reference to Daniel's definitions and descriptions, it would seem that you are on safe ground with your assumptions.

A "state" refers to a "mind state" such as a level of samadhi or some such. Without a context for "stage," I'm not certain what you are referring to. If "stage" is referring to a path attainment, then you're on safe ground.

RE: How am I doing? / Am I doing this right?
Answer
11/22/10 6:18 PM as a reply to Andrew M.
Andrew M:

I found this extraordinary, especially when one considers my aversion to reading about the subject. My belief then and now is that if Truth is True and universal...then any person, any where, at any time should be able to find it for themselves. If not, then what is passed on as Truth is really just rambling conjecture. Due to this I literally went out of my way not to read books about spirituality because I wanted anything I discovered to be "mine". Pure, unadulterated insight into the true nature of things.

That is my history and method of inquiry.

So far we're on the same page. I'm right there with you regarding your emboldened statement above. And if I may be so bold as to speak for Gotama, my view of his teaching is that he's there also.

Andrew M:

Moment I realized "no self"-
(To dispel any confusion about what did/didn't happen)

It was as if I looked up and saw the sky was blue for the first time. I cannot think of any better way to say it. that said- It wasn't the removal of self...just the acknowledgment that it was an illusion.

Along with the realization came some benefits. The first thing to go was regret. A total loss of regret. I can look back and see mistakes I've made, choices I would do differently...but there is no regret. Other responses left as well. There have be more than a few occasions since where something happens or I am doing something and I actually notice the lack of emotional response. Sometimes I have even gone through the motions of getting angry for example, all the while aware that I am doing this only because I "feel" like it is what I am "supposed" to be doing. (I've put a stop to that for the most part.)

More importantly it put a lot of things into perspective for me. A constant theme of my life has been a nagging doubt about reality as presented. I love movies like the Matrix or Donnie Darkko and from my second shroom trip I was a full fare passenger on the "reality isn't real" trolley car. As it turns out, my heart was in the right place but I was barking up the wrong tree. All this time I spent asking if reality was real...I was really asking if "I" was real. I just didn't know it yet.

That's a good beginning toward the penetration of anatta. There's more work to do, though. Having to do with the elimination of what are called the asavas (the influxes having to do with impressions of sensual passion, states of being, views, and ignorance).

The realization you describe elsewhere (re: the realization of oneness with the universe) is descriptive of a typical Advaita Vedanta awakening. And while it is recognized in certain Buddhist quarters, it has little to do with the awakening that the Buddha of the Pali suttas spoke and taught about. The realization of "oneness with the universe" is one thing with regard to existential reality, but the insight of dependent arising transcends even that existential insight.

Andrew M:

Buddhism/The Buddha
Having spent a good amount of time reading about buddhism over the past few days and having watched a few documentaries previously my impression is a bit of a mixed bag.

Here is one area where you have to be careful in your research. Unless you know the source real well and trust that it can back up its authoritative stand, don't trust someone else's impressions of what the Buddha taught until you have had the opportunity to read for yourself what he taught in the discourses.

Andrew M:
On the one hand, the buddha and I have come to startling similar conclusions in more than a few areas.

I've had the same impression as yours. When I realized that what he was talking about were subtle mental impressions about the way phenomena acted and reacted, and that not many people I had ever met had ever noticed those insights, it confirmed for me the validity of what he was talking about. I don't think this impression is necessarily unique among human beings; yet, on the other hand, it's not one that just anyone can corroborate, either.

Andrew M:

On the other hand I can't say I find how the information is laid out to be that great. I realize that monks don't talk much, so they write but I have never seen so many lists in one place! There's 4 of these and 12 of those and 7 of these etc etc etc ad nauseum. Then when you read them, they are basically common sense stuff. I'm still a little confused on how certain terms (like- object) are used, but overall they seem to be more or less what I do anyway, just in list format.

The lists can be a bit overwhelming, to say the least. I've had the same impression. But, really, this is just the result of the "religion" (the various schools and sects) of Buddhism attempting to categorize the teachings into bite-sized portions for easier consumption. Once you begin to understand what the lists contain (i.e. you have penetrated the truth of what they are pointing at), they cease to be so overwhelming.

Andrew M:

If pressed, I'd say it seems like a scientific method approach to evaluation of life.

That's a fairly common impression. S.N. Goenka, a prominent lay practitioner and teacher of the Dhamma, once mentioned in an interview that he viewed the Buddha as having been a "spiritual super-scientist." He also mentioned that in his view (which I share) the Buddha did not (nor did he have any intention to) found a new religion called "Buddhism."
S.N. Goenka:
In the thirty-one years since I started teaching I avoid using the word “Buddhism.” I never use the word “religion,” so far as Buddha’s teaching is concerned. For me Buddha never established a religion. Buddha never taught Buddhism. Buddha never made a single person a Buddhist.

One can receive quite a few odd looks from so-called "Buddhists" for holding such a view, almost to the point of being seen as some kind of outcast. But that's only because most people don't take the time to really consider the facts about this view, or to read the discourses with a discerning eye. They have a knee-jerk reaction based on their mental conditioning.


Andrew M:

Reeling from this I reached over to pet my dog. As soon as my hand touched her head the illusion of boundaries between us disappeared. I was nothing and I was everything all at the same time. To put it more plainly, I understood that when I pet the dog I pet myself. Following this line of thought I extrapolated that when I love others I love myself. When I show compassion to others I show it to myself. Except it's not "me".

This state...it could be defined more by what wasn't there than anything else. Doubt- not there. Ignorance- not there. "Me"- not there.

When I say "me" I don't mean it in a roundabout way, I mean it in as literal a way as possible. In that place my family was an important/not important to me as anything else. Literally no attachment.

This concept scares "me" to death. I may realize there is no "me" but I haven't let go yet. And yet this seems to be the destination of this train I am riding.

The reason it "scares" you is because you haven't fully penetrated this truth yet. And, it is not quite the way that you are presently viewing it. If viewed from an existential framework, then, yes, it is liable to be very "scary." But the Buddha did not view such phenomena from an existential framework. That's the difference.

Andrew M:

To conclude this novel length post- What I am looking for is really quite simple. A way to let go. More to the point- A way to be OK with letting go.

That is what this study and practice is all about. Only time will tell whether or not you will arrive there. I'm betting that you will.