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Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/22/19 9:13 AM
The "map" that I have tried to understand is the Theravaden map.
At one time I thought that was THE map but now I know it is just one of many ways of understanding a enlightenment path.

I studied this map and practiced meditation of breath for about four years before this experience that I am about to describe.

I present this in the hope that someone who understands this map can help me understand the experience...

For ten days I experienced blissful feelings and a clear mind.  It started on its own with a lot of intensity and did not require any effort on my part.  I say it was a clear mind because there wasn't any inner talking going on.  I still could think but there was no proliferation of thoughts.  

I felt like I could see things, including myself just the way they were because I did not wish for them to be anything that I wanted them to be.  It was perfect for people and things to be just the way they were.

My senses also seemed more clear and enhanced.  I could smell the air.  I lifted a paper napkin and I could feel the details of the roughness of the paper.  

The bliss and the clarity and the non-discursive thinking was going on all by itself.  I was even waking up with this!. I would open my eyes in the morning and it was just there.  I could see that the blissfulness was there because I wasn't being dragged down by any hindrances.  

During this time I did not do any meditation.  I just observed and tried to understand what was happening.  Occasionally insights would appear. For example, I took my recent past as a thing to investigate and I realized why, in buddhism, there is karma and no feeling of guilt.  I could see that the self that was "me" years before was a different self and that the self that I am now is impermanent and empty.

After about three days of this I felt that I would have to make some effort to keep this going.  Up to this time I did not have to make any effort at all.  

I didn't want to return to the "old" me.  The me that existed before this.  I began to see hindrances creeping in, but I restrained myself to avoid falling back into them and into the old "me".  If a negative thought arose I didn't attach to it.  I didn't take ownership of it.  I was able to do this because there was enough space between me and the thought that allowed me to make a choice.

The same thing was true about self-critical thoughts.  Those thoughts would have wedged themselves between me and the positive feelings that I was having.  But I felt that I needed to continue to turn my attention to those positive feelings, sort of like nurturing a baby in order for it to grow.

I felt the same thing was true about critical thoughts of other people or of wanting things to be different from what they are.  Those negative feelings tainted the positive feelings that I was trying to cultivate.

During this time I saw that if I hurry though anything it will create another negative state.  A state of wanting to be "done" with whatever it was that I was doing.  I could be doing something as simple as stirring cream in a cup of coffee and if I rushed through it then it was tainting the positive feeling and separated me from the positive feeling and the clarity.  I felt this was true because by rushing through something I would lose my connection with the present moment.  I felt the positive feeling and clarity can only be experienced in the present moment.

During all this time I felt more connected with people.  Before this state I could be critical of people or have expectations from them.  But during this time I felt that I could almost read their minds, I could definitely feel their emotions and see every detail of expression on their faces and this was what informed me of what they were feeling and perhaps thinking.

I felt more compassion for people.  It was real compassion and not some sense of sympathy or pity or that I was different or better because I was in some better state.  Instead I felt more compassion because I felt that we were sharing this human state of being alive.

And then a day later I must have been falling back into hindrances because I found them arising and when they did arise, they would start to carry me away with them.  I made efforts to not be carried away. I still had enough ability that made it possible to place my attention or mind on something and leave it there.  When I did that there was no proliferation of thoughts and I was still clear.  

Over the next ten days I descended back into the "old" me.  My mind is scattered.  My emotions have dropped from being felt in my heart area to being felt in my stomach.  And then while driving home along a road that I had driven on for many years the blissful feelings that I had experienced before returned.  These are the same feelings that are not tied to anything in the past or to something anticipated in the future.  The feelings are not tied to anything outside of myself.  I turned my attention towards the feelings and the sense of mental clarity was there.  I enjoyed this state for the rest of the drive home.  I noticed how the same drive that I have been doing for the last twenty three years looked new again.  Later that evening the clarity and the feeling of being free of the hindrances was gone.

After this and even now there is no doubt about the existence of a path and the truth of different states of consciousness.

Then a couple months later I woke up from a dream.  A woman was asking me if I had a moment of "fruition", as in Path-Fruit.
I didn't answer, but I though, yes, the day was spent on the path.

The clarity of no hindrances, not wanting anything, not pushing anything away, no concern for the future no regrets of the past and no me to doubt, was perfect.

But now that feeling is gone.  The self-concerned feeling that I now feel in my gut has returned.

The thing about all that I have explained here is that I don't feel like I did anything to cause any of it.  I cannot explain how anything I've done meditation wise or practice wise was directly a cause of it.  I can't reproduce this by my own effort.

My question is:  Is this first path, sotapanna, stream entry?  

Thank you for your comments and observations.

RE: Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/22/19 7:59 PM as a reply to Gerry T.
I’m not qualified to make a dharma diagnosis, and even if I were, diagnosing based on text-based descriptions is hazardous. However, I would recommend that you read this chapter to reflect yourself if this could be a case of the arising and passing away, since it’s common to mistake that stage for stream entry. https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/30-the-progress-of-insight/4-the-arising-and-passing-away/

RE: Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/23/19 6:25 AM as a reply to Gerry T.
Gerry T:

I could see that the self that was "me" years before was a different self and that the self that I am now is impermanent and empty.

 Up to this time I did not have to make any effort at all.  

The same thing was true about self-critical thoughts.  Those thoughts would have wedged themselves between me and the positive feelings that I was having.  But I felt that I needed to continue to turn my attention to those positive feelings, sort of like nurturing a baby in order for it to grow.

I felt the same thing was true about critical thoughts of other people or of wanting things to be different from what they are.  Those negative feelings tainted the positive feelings that I was trying to cultivate.

During this time I saw that if I hurry though anything it will create another negative state.  A state of wanting to be "done" with whatever it was that I was doing.  I could be doing something as simple as stirring cream in a cup of coffee and if I rushed through it then it was tainting the positive feeling and separated me from the positive feeling and the clarity.  I felt this was true because by rushing through something I would lose my connection with the present moment.  I felt the positive feeling and clarity can only be experienced in the present moment.

I felt more compassion for people.  It was real compassion and not some sense of sympathy or pity or that I was different or better because I was in some better state. 

And then while driving home along a road that I had driven on for many years the blissful feelings that I had experienced before returned.  These are the same feelings that are not tied to anything in the past or to something anticipated in the future.  The feelings are not tied to anything outside of myself.  I turned my attention towards the feelings and the sense of mental clarity was there.  I enjoyed this state for the rest of the drive home.  I noticed how the same drive that I have been doing for the last twenty three years looked new again.  Later that evening the clarity and the feeling of being free of the hindrances was gone.

After this and even now there is no doubt about the existence of a path and the truth of different states of consciousness.

The thing about all that I have explained here is that I don't feel like I did anything to cause any of it.  I cannot explain how anything I've done meditation wise or practice wise was directly a cause of it.  I can't reproduce this by my own effort.

My question is:  Is this first path, sotapanna, stream entry?  

Thank you for your comments and observations.
 
Yes. Imo, your mind experienced aspects of stream-entry, namely, clearing seeing with your heart what the path actually is, namely, of how abandoning unwholesome mental states, giving up craving & giving up attachment brings well-being & happiness. The wholesome "fear" or "recoiling" towards negative, judgmental &/or hurried mental states shows your mind was very sensitive to the path. Thus, the fetter of doubt about what the path is was clearly broken. 

In addition, related to the above, your mind discerned how the path is one of "letting go" or no need to use "effort" (apart from the effort of simply being simply conscious & non-attached). 

However, it seems the mind did not have any compelling insight into not-self (anatta) to break the fetter of identity view. Generally, this fetter is broken when the breathing, feelings, etc, are seen as "alien" to any sense of self remaining in the mind. The mind sees: "the body is breathing" rather than "I am breathing" or "rapture is a element and not me". In deep stream-entry, consciousness should drop into the body & the breathing should become lucidly clear; where the subtles nuances of the cause & effect relationship between the mind, breathing & body are clearly discerned. In other words, the continuous calming of the breathing & purifying of the body following the letting go of the mind is pervasively & continuously experienced; so it actually feels like a "stream" of purification. 

But, yes, there is no point craving the positive experience you had because you already know it did not occur from craving. 

In summary, imo, two fetters were broken, namely, doubt about the path and wrong views about the role of precepts, kamma, etc. However, I think the fetter of self-identity was not severed very much. Possibly, doing an extended meditation retreat may allow the flow ("stream") of discerning sensitive consciousness that is naturally developing to develop much more & clearer. 

Kind regards 

RE: Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/23/19 8:07 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda,
  Thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment.  That chapter link sounds very much like what I described, though I didn't have any of the difficult problems described in that chapter. 
  I have one follow up question.  Why is it called the Arising and Passing Away?  Arising and passing away of what? 
With kind regards
Gerry

RE: Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/23/19 8:15 AM as a reply to Nicky.
Nicky,
  Thank you for your comments.  That makes a lot of sense to me.
Is the following quote that you site from the sattipathana sutta?

"the body is breathing" rather than "I am breathing" or "rapture is a element and not me".

In the following comment that you mention, I gather that you suggest I continue longer meditation periods and continue with the breathing meditation?

"In deep stream-entry, consciousness should drop into the body & the
breathing should become lucidly clear; where the subtles nuances of the
cause & effect relationship between the mind, breathing & body
are clearly discerned. In other words, the continuous calming of the breathing & purifying of the body following the letting go of the mind"

with kind regards
Gerry

RE: Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/23/19 7:12 PM as a reply to Gerry T.
Gerry T:
Nicky,
  Thank you for your comments.  That makes a lot of sense to me.
Is the following quote that you site from the sattipathana sutta?

"the body is breathing" rather than "I am breathing" or "rapture is a element and not me".

In the following comment that you mention, I gather that you suggest I continue longer meditation periods and continue with the breathing meditation?

"In deep stream-entry, consciousness should drop into the body & the
breathing should become lucidly clear; where the subtles nuances of the
cause & effect relationship between the mind, breathing & body
are clearly discerned. In other words, the continuous calming of the breathing & purifying of the body following the letting go of the mind"

with kind regards
Gerry

Thank you Gerry. I did not cite from the Satipatthana Sutta however the insight of 'There is a body' and 'There are feelings' is certainly found in this sutta. Personally, I subscribe to the Anapanasati Sutta as the relevant sutta for higher training. Particularly, the very last paragraphs of the Anapanasati Sutta, which explain the Factors of Enlightenment, including mindfulness, are dependent upon "non-craving" ("viraga") and mature when they have the quality of "letting go" or "relinquishment" ("vossagga"). 

The experience in the more secluded environment of driving your car gave the impression the momentum of stream developing could benefit from a more secluded environment of meditation retreat. 

As for "breathing meditation", I subscribe to the view it should occur naturally, without any deliberate effort or willfulness to direct the mind towards the breathing. I think if we carefully read the Anapanasati Sutta, we will find there are no instructions to direct the mind towards the breathing. The sutta appears to simply say the meditator brings mindfulness (of letting go) to the fore and the mind simply "knows" when the body is breathing in & breathing out. 

Keep in mind, to enter the stream, the mind must remain quiet yet naturally flexible or fluid. If the mind is too rigid or ambitious, it cannot flow. "Letting go" is "quiet present moment surrender". 

In your original post, the practise of the path was described very well. Stick to what you were doing or, more accurately, "non-doing". 

Kind regards 

RE: Is this Sotapanna?
Answer
3/23/19 11:19 PM as a reply to Gerry T.
Hi Gerry, just to add to what Linda and Nicky have said ... 

The way I see it is that we use concentration to strengthen the mind and insights to free it.  We then get access to various jhanic and perceptual states from a combination of both concentration and insight.  And then to complicate things, we can use those jhanic and perceptual states as objects for concentration practice, or as objects for insight practice!  And then to further complicate things, when we first get insights, they can temporarily strengthen our concentration and give us access to states that we haven't otherwise yet developed.  And just in case you thought that was it, some insight moments are so strong they tip us into a new path, and others are less strong or less effective, yet still  steadily peel back another layer of the onion of self (TM Shargrol).  And of course the subconcious is another powerful factor in the mix, and often sends us messages, although we don't always understand them.

Confused?  So is buddhism, as people try to find different skilful ways through these interactions !  emoticon 

So given this muddled set of interactions, it is impossible to confidently identify the cause of what you have described.  However, I would say is that you are describing a state, rather than an insight, although it as state that is usually more readily accessed from higher paths with insights into emptiness and non-duality. However, many do get glimpses of it earlier on, and it can even be a form of A&P event.  You are on the right track to think that your absoprtion in this state was so strong that it didn't require much to maintain it at first, but as your concentration dropped you needed to make more effort and eventually lost it altogether.

How to get it back? In Tibet, they talk about seeing this kind of stuff initially, then increasing the experience, then having it reach its full measure, and then going beyond it.  So you have had the first glimpse and could increase the experience.  But how to do that?  Well from a Theravadan point of view, I think you have to go back and do the hard insight work to peel away the onion of self.  That means finding a concentration object, developing jhana, and then looking at the three characteristics of phenomena  (not-self, impermanent, unsatisfactory).  Later, you can extend that to being mindful of what arises in daily life (physical sensations, feelings and perceptions, mind objects, construction of reality). Next you can move on to the three characeristics of those things that arise. And further seek to watch the dependent origination of the urges that fabricate the ongoing painful self. 

It's not just about the verbal formations. I suspect their supression was just a side effect of pushing your attention far more into your other senses, and in to spacious awareness.  You only need do enough to quiet verbal formations, and do not need to suppress them altogether.

So you have had a glimpse, but maybe the hard work remains?  Not sure, as I don't know enough about your history and practice to be accurate. But hopefully this gives you some guidance, even if I have made some wrong assumptions about where you are.

And of course, it is just my opinion.  Good luck!  And great to have that input from Linda and Nicky too.

Malcolm