Questions From A New Guy On DhO

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Ident Silence, modified 10 Years ago.

Questions From A New Guy On DhO

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Evening folks,

First up, awesome site and a tremendously encouraging, supportive community. I've got a few questions regarding where I am in terms of progress on the Path and I hope that some people will be able to clarify some things since I'm new to this model of experience. I'd better explain where I've come from so far....

I've been inclined towards altered states of awareness/consciousness since childhood although a Catholic upbringing, in my opinion, stunted my explorations of these states and the understanding of them. Fast forward to my early teens, I had been dabbling with basic meditation but without any base for understanding it when I was struck by what I now understand to have been an A&P experience. I studied various martial arts for ten years or so and had developed high levels of concentration which, combined with my natural inclination towards these states and meditation, now look to have been what brought me to the A&P.

This was followed by approximately four years of the dark night, I knew it wasn't just the emotional upheaval of puberty as it felt distincly different, even to my young mind. As I had no conceptual framework to understand what was going on I had no means, at least consciously, of dealing with it. This led me from blind faith in organised religion to blind skepticism, I denied any possibility of a spiritual dimension to life and saw no point in anything anymore, even though in my heart I knew what I had experienced only a short while beforehand.

Anyway. I came across the Western Mystery Tradition in my late teens and realised that I was being brought back to the Path once again in this life. This is where I started seriously studying and practising magick but my view has shifted considerably since those days. I'm just condensing this here 'cause I've no doubt bored you already with my life story....Ha!

Fast forward again....I've only just started reading Daniel's work and this site as I had no interest whatsoever in Buddhism due to my own ignorance. I've been deliberately away from magick for the last three years as I've been through yet another dark night phase with all it's wonderful lessons, introspection, crushing despair and pain. Basically, I came across this site via 'The Baptists Head' which was the first ever place I read about the actual experience of attainment in terms which aren't shrouded in bullshit and elitism! From there, I was directed here and now everything has changed.

The way that this site discusses attainment in such plain, simple and understandable terms has been a revolution in my understanding and had led me to believe that I've experienced stream-entry, and possibly 2nd Path although I'm dubious that I'm deluding myself on that point. My familiarity with this model makes it difficult to express myself in the terms used here so I hope that I'm not coming across as some completely deluded newbie to this area.

So, after all that......I have experienced various key insights, based on what I understand from this site, such as the time/space framework, accessed several jhanas and nanas involountarity and volountarily, and had that 'blip' characteristic of stream entry. I am very skeptical of making any claims to attainment here as I don't have full knowledge of this model and am basing my claims on what I understand from what I've read on here. I know I could be wrong at any point and have no problem being criticised by those more experienced than myself.

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to participating on the site.

All the best!
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Questions From A New Guy On DhO

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Welcome to the DhO, Silence.

Ident Silence:

First up, awesome site and a tremendously encouraging, supportive community. I've got a few questions regarding where I am in terms of progress on the Path and I hope that some people will be able to clarify some things since I'm new to this model of experience. I'd better explain where I've come from so far....

I've been inclined towards altered states of awareness/consciousness since childhood although a Catholic upbringing, in my opinion, stunted my explorations of these states and the understanding of them.

Yeah, Catholicism can have that effect. Been there, done that also. I think many here can relate to your skepticism of organized religion. It's organized alright: organized to keep the masses in the dark! Lord forbid that any one should break free of the conditioning and rise above it.

Ident Silence:

So, after all that......I have experienced various key insights, based on what I understand from this site, such as the time/space framework, accessed several jhanas and nanas involuntarity and voluntarily, and had that 'blip' characteristic of stream entry.

I am very skeptical of making any claims to attainment here as I don't have full knowledge of this model and am basing my claims on what I understand from what I've read on here. I know I could be wrong at any point and have no problem being criticised by those more experienced than myself.

What exactly did you mean by "blip characteristic of stream entry"? What is the definition you use for stream entry?

As for the second highlighted area, have you considered reading more about the discipline and practice in order to find out more about it? One very good book to start with is Walpola Rahula's [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/511TNCG4XML/thomelio-20 title="What The Buddha Taught">]What the Buddha Taught. It breaks down the teachings pretty well, as well as addressing and dispelling some general misunderstandings that people unfamiliar with the Dhamma may have. It's an excellent place to start.

Along with that would be Rupert Gethin's [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/0192892231/thomelio-20 title="The Foundations of Buddhism">]The Foundations of Buddhism which provides a bit of historical background to the development of the "religion" of Buddhism as well as some nifty descriptions of the teachings. Gethin is an British scholar in Buddhism, yet despite this seeming shortcoming, he has a pretty good grasp of the basics and how to explain them.

Anyway, hope you find what you're looking for.

In peace,
Ian
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Ident Silence, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Questions From A New Guy On DhO

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Cheers for the recommendations and advice there Ian, really appreciate it. I think my understanding and acceptance of Buddhism, Buddha and the Dhamma has changed dramatically in the last few months so I'll definitely check out those titles.

As for the "blip" I referred to, the choice of word is based on the way I've seen the same thing described on here. I know language is limited when it comes to this but I'll try my best to explain. As I understand it, stream-entry brings understanding, not simply an intellectual comprehension, of the impermanence of all things and the illusory nature of self, the abandonment of dogmatic, conditioned systems of thought, and the disappearance of some of the baser emotional reactions such as jealousy. That's how I understand it through what I've learned from my studies so far in the dhamma. Again, I stand to be corrected if I've misinterpreted what I've read so far and through comparison with my own experiences. At that time, I was involved in Hatha and Raja yoga and practising tratak, dharana, and shavasana etc.

The 'blip' I was talking about was, for me, experienced while noting (although I didn't know it as such at that time and automatically did this while meditating) when I became aware of the space between thoughts, the pause between thought and action. I knew immediately that thoughts were not self, that self was another mental construct and how thought was the root of suffering. This was around three years ago before I entered into what I now know to be yet another dark night, a period of tremendous upheaval, and personal loss which has passed for now but, unlike my other experiences with this phase which I've struggled to understand in alchemical terms (i.e. nigredo stage) previously, this time I understood the impermanance of all things, the truth that all is change. This became my life-raft and it carried me through what occured. I'll spare you the details (too late!) as I'm sure my day-to-day life is of no interest to anyone here. On seeing that the dark night was passing, I experienced what I've read on here as equanimity. The phrase "Life starts here" seems to sum up what occured, it was as if that simple Zen phrase became a reality which has now become a constant state of awareness for me since that time. I say that in the knowledge that, even if I have attained stream-entry, I know that my work is FAR from over.

I find it difficult to explain this at present but I hope that it makes little more sense to those who'll read my posting. I ask out of interest in where my studies and practice take me next, not to make any egotistical claims to exalted grades or whatever since I place no importance on this. My goal is firmly fixed and has been since day one: To become enlightened. By acheiving this goal, I can benefit humanity and, whether in this incarnation or some subsequent one, bring our fellow beings to experience this too. Looking back I now see how in line my intentions have always been with Buddhist aims, it was only my own ignorance, prejudice and idiotic conditioning that shrouded it. My girlfriend has always been interested in Buddhism and found my aversion to it (I'll explain what I mean if you need it) to be strange given that I was so heavily involved in studying, practising and LIVING magick. Now, she's astonished by my newfound enthusiasm and passion for Buddhism, it's elevated our relationship to a whole new level, physically and emotionally. Literally, it's been a complete and total shift in perception for me and has been noticed by the people closest to me.

I know that only work and more work will answer my questions but I'm grateful for the feedback so far as it's led me to examine things more closely again. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to reply. As you'll probably have guessed, I'm prone to leaving these lengthy posts so my apologies for taking up your time.

Cheers!
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Questions From A New Guy On DhO

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Dear IS,

Glad you are getting something out of all this, and I hope you continue to do so.

Criteria for stream entry are straightforward, but seeing if they actually fit is a complex process and can vary depending on the training and talents and conceptual frameworks of the person being evaluated.

Big things:

1) You should be able to get into some sort of altered/meditative state at will within about 1/2 a second just by deciding to investigate something or look at reality carefully or incline your mind that way 100% of the time you try this.

2) Once you become familiar with the insight stages as described, you should be able to sit down in a brief version of 4th, progress down in to 5th, hit the Dark Night, progress to Equanimity, and then, maybe, depending on a number of factors, get a Fruition: note: not everyone can do this last part, even if they are a good meditator. Some can and some can't. Criteria for a Fruition are given in MCTB, as well as common mimics listed. Even if you are a stream enterer, if you haven't exercised this ability or done it only once, it may not be that easy to do it again until you have had some practice and maybe not even then. This is particularly true of those who have come up in other traditions where that particular ability was not the focus of practice.

3) Your life should be completely different in some ways: problem is, the A&P can do this on its own, so this is insufficient criteria in and of itself.

4) Talk with someone who has stream entry about this, particularly someone who is familiar with the variability in presentation and abilities that can occur.

5) Try to have repeat Fruitions: incline, incline, incline, and practice. Resolve, resolve, resolve and practice. Pay attention. Learn to navigate through the Vipassana Jhanas, learn their qualities, learn how to shift to each new level and know what they shift was and how it occurred: this is the foundation of the solid practice that causes progress and clarifies what was what.

I have no idea if you actually have stream entry, but do the experiment for yourself: see if you can get real, honest-to-goodness Fruitions or at least progress through the stages of insight up to Equanimity sit after sit, and watch for the changes, and, again: talk with someone about this: as trying to figure out things across traditions is complex. Best to get in touch with someone who knows the magickal frameworks you are coming from so they can translate that into vipassana terminology, if only for communication and criteria application purposes.

Helpful?

Welcome to the DhO,

Daniel
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Ident Silence, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Questions From A New Guy On DhO

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hi Daniel,

Extremely helpful! Thanks so much for taking the time to explain this so clearly and for your suggestions. I know what you mean about the differences in frameworks and my intention is to abandon what I've learned elsewhere, focus on the techniques in MCTB while studying Buddhism as a whole in far greater detail. What I've learned on here, and through your book, has already been enough to confirm that this is the right way for me.

What you've said about the general indicators of stream entry certainly seem to fit with what I've experienced myself:

1. I enter into states of intense concentration regulary, even if not while formally meditating. I am confident that I can do this at will although, due to my inexperience with identifying specfic stages of insight, I'm not yet able to say confidently exactly where I am. I know that further study and practice is the only way to examine this more.

2. Again, more study and practice before I could confirm this but your guidelines are very helpful.

3. My life has definitely changed considerably since that time although I know that this may not be related to stream entry. I maintain a healthy skepticism of my own flawed perception, I know that I could be totally deluded but the changes which have occured in my life have been at a level I couldn't begin to have predicted.

I hope this doesn't sound like a silly question, but what sort of changes in my life could be considered to be indicative of stream entry? In my case, the changes have been mainly perceptual, psychological, and emotional. Although major changes in my personal relationships, employment, and finances have also occured since that time. I don't want to seem like I'm trying to tick boxes here though, I just wanted to give an example of changes which may or may not be due to stream entry.

4. This is part of the reason I joined the forum on DhO, my work has been very much as a sole practitioner due to a lack of seekers in my area. I know that online communications aren't as important as real-life communication but I hope that, until I can find a teacher or at the very least someone in my area who's engaged in hardcore Dharma practice, I can make the most of the experience and advice of other seekers on the site.

5. Again, practice, practice, practice!

I am totally willing to accept that I may have only dipped my toe in the water and be nowhere near stream entry, only my own experience and practice will tell in the end. I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to this, it means a lot to me and I will certainly report back anyway. Hopefully I'll be able to contact someone who help with the differences in terms too but I'll be studying this myself in the meantime. I think I'll take a break from posting until I actually have something more solid to discuss but I'll still be here daily reading and learning.

Thanks again and all the very best to you.

Tommy