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Book review - Vimalaramsi method

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Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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8/22/19 10:13 PM
Just finished reading The Path to Nibbana by David Johnson, a long-time student of Bhante Vimalaramsi (B.V.) who also extensively practiced the Mahasi method before. 

I have found helpful in the past V.'s emphasis on relaxing muscles during meditation. Otherwise I have stayed away from V. in the past because of his "my method is the right one and others are wrong" aspect. 

But I nevertheless found this book very pragmatic and practical. One thing I found fascinating is that although V. claims to have abandoned the Mahasi approach and the 16-nanas model after having mastering them but finding them inadequate, the method he proposes to replace it seems to re-invent the wheel in some way. He proposes the 8 jhanas ( as defined by him which he claims is the true meaing of sutta jhanas) instead. But looking at the last 3 formless jhanas as he describes them, one can almost word for word see descriptions given here (DhO, MTCB, nana chart) of formless aspects of Equanimity nana. 

He uses metta to enter jhanas. In each jhana one can be aware of phenomena arising and passing. If hindrances come, one is to not only observe them but to relax the physical tension accompanying them before returning to the main field of attention. 

In 4th jhana, one will begin radianting metta in all directions to get to 5th jhana. At this point the metta naturally turns into the next Brahmavihara, compassion.

In 6th Jhana, this is where things became fascinating to me, both in terms of thinking theoretically about the map and recognizing some of my own experiences. In 6th as described by B.V., one sees individual moments of movements of consciousness. These mind movements are seen effortlessly and with immediacy. All is just a series of consciousness. At this point he says the compassion of the previous jhana is turned into sympathetic joy, and this is a part I don't understand (how he matches various brahmaviharas to specific jhanas). Anyways, this is not the main thing that caught my interest in this book/method.

In jhana 7, one's mind inclines toward the blanks between each arising consciousness, the space of "nothing" in between them. It feels as if the whole world of phenomena, including mind, arise and pass within this "nothing". One may get moments of prolonged "nothing" in between each arising consciousness. He equates this jhana with the equanimity brahmavihara.

Jhana 8 is beyond equanimity (but to me seems like High Equanimity in our map here). 8th feels dreamy yet one is very aware. But what one is aware of isn't clear. Whatever arises has no momentum or time to develop into an identifyable "thing". I'm thinking: Formations in MCTB map? The mind is in pure dispassion in 8th, losing interest for any mind movements or vibrations. 

Another thing mentioned often in the last 3 immaterial jhanas is tiny vibrations of mind. 

After 8th comes cessation. Immediately after cessation is described a very pure mind state, like a chalk board upon which everything was just erased so that any first new writing on it is seen very clearly. What one sees according to B.V., after a cessation, is the links of dependent origination. After the mind went blank, the first mind-movement is the one re-creating the world, which is the formation link. Then consciousness, and so forth down the link of dependent origination. Curiously, V. doesn't see cessation as nibbana, but rather the moments after cessation where DO links are seen, as being nibbana. He also says that not everyone is aware of seeing the links of DO, but yet they are seen and all meditators will understand DO intuitively at least after stream-entry. 

Another curious thing in his approach is his understanding of path and fruition. The first cessation is path. And one can be a stream-entry pather but can lose this attainment if fruition is not attained. Fruition is when cessation is obtained a second time, which locks in the attainment of stream-entry. Same thing for the higher paths and fruits. 

There are some sutta supports for this. The notion that path and fruit succeed each other at high, mind-moment speed is a commentarial understanding. The suttas talk of offering donations of food to monks who are on the path of SE and to those who obatained fruition. If path is a mind-moment, it is hardly possible to offer food to someone while being in a state that lasts a mili-second. The Buddha also talks of 8 noble individuals: Those at path of SE, those at fruit of SE, and so on for the other stages. 

In any case, what fascinated me is how he rejected the Mahasi style and 16 nanas, yet the same territory is described almost exactly the same in his 8 jhana + cessation model. 

Overall I find the book very practical. Many are attaining paths and fruits, it seems, using this model. But I struggled a bit with the overt critique of Mahasi dry insight. 

Personal reflections in relation to my practice: 

I tried his method in the last few days. Memories of my practice years ago came back. There was a time in the early 2000s where many sits were a settling into bliss. I had completely forgot this but the book's practices brought back that memory somehow. The bliss and concentration I experienced seem, in retrospect, to match 1st and/or 2nd jhana. Then at some point I experienced a calmer state in which parts of my body felt completely gone, disappeared. B.V. described 3rd jhana like this. I'm thinking also, dissolution nana, which of course is in 3rd jhana territory.

Then later in my practice came bouts of anxiety and depression. I always atributed them to personal past trauma with clear triggers but now wonder, dukkha nana? Both could be mingled. Those came hard the first time when I was on a retreat, after all... If that was dukkha nana, then I must now realize that for very long years I was a dark night yogi.

Then came my contact with Pragmatic Dharma. My teacher helped my get into 4th jhana/equanimty territory, in which I'm hanging into to this day. Each sit gets there quickly (about 10 minutes, sometimes less, sometimes immediately).

Infinite space of 5th is not familiar to me, unless a sense of expansion of 2 feet around me can count as it. What B.V. describes in jhanas 6, 7 and 8 feel very familiar to me in many of my sits in the last 2 years or so. I would say they are formless aspects of 11th nana (11.4.6, 7 and 8) rather than pure formless levels.

As I try his method, the physical piti which is the hallmark of 1st jhana is getting stronger, but with a background anxiety. I then said to myself (advised by Shargrol in another thread of mine) that "these feelings are noble and healing for myself and others..." to counter any guilt that may be lurking in the background. But it seems there may be someting else now in this anxiety: I have felt with Mahasi noting a quick settling into equanimity territory in the last 2 years. But in applying his technique, it feels like I'm forcing myself into an earlier phase of my practice some 15 years ago. So the anxiety seems to be saying: "why are you forcing yourself into regression??" You can go quickly to 4th with noting as usual!!"

After a few days of this I am giving thought to the idea that I should trust that the noting technique of Mahasi does get one through the same territory that B.V. describes, despite his rejection and criticism of the so-called dry-insight model. So perhaps I should just continue what I'm normally doing.

This may seem like I'm re-inventing the wheel here, vipassana jhana being well described here. But this has just been my experience since reading the book.

I apologize for any misenterpretations I may have here, either of B.V.'s model or anything else.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
8/23/19 8:42 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:

One thing I found fascinating is that although V. claims to have abandoned the Mahasi approach and the 16-nanas model after having mastering them but finding them inadequate, the method he proposes to replace it seems to re-invent the wheel in some way. 


This caught my eye. Not claiming mastery of the 16 nanas; It just seemed like the cycling was going nowhere and the heavy investigation I was putting into them was just dragging me through rough seas unnecessarily. Moving more into jhana practice / model and investigating from a place of joy (as B.V. does with metta) there has been much more fruitful allowing for cultivating well being and peace in daily life. 
Another curious thing in his approach is his understanding of path and fruition. The first cessation is path. And one can be a stream-entry pather but can lose this attainment if fruition is not attained. Fruition is when cessation is obtained a second time, which locks in the attainment of stream-entry. Same thing for the higher paths and fruits. 

There are some sutta supports for this. The notion that path and fruit succeed each other at high, mind-moment speed is a commentarial understanding. The suttas talk of offering donations of food to monks who are on the path of SE and to those who obatained fruition. If path is a mind-moment, it is hardly possible to offer food to someone while being in a state that lasts a mili-second. The Buddha also talks of 8 noble individuals: Those at path of SE, those at fruit of SE, and so on for the other stages. 

Here's a theory and I'd love to hear other's take on this as this was a discrepancy that caused me confusion for some time. I don't think the Buddha was pointing to paths, fruits or even attainments as "moments" (except possibly with sudden awakenings). The 16 nana model (or in this case the 8 jhana model), with it's cyclic pattern and progression and a moment of "cessation" at the end was phenomenon later explored, discovered and written about centuries later in the commentaries.

From a sutta point of view, to see whether someone has the "path" and "fruit" of sotapanna (or higher stages), as I've been discussing recently with my teacher, is more analogous to distingushing a great violin player from a virtuoso. There's a time where a violin player is skilled beyond making horrible scratching noises on the strings and can play certain pieces with ease. They become satisfied and confident in playing the violin and this gives them the enthusiasm to practice more on their "path" to becoming a virtuoso (akin to dropping the fetter of doubt). Years later, they become more and more skilled but there is no "moment" when they attain "virtuosoship" (the fruit of sotapanna). One day, they land that first viloin chair in the big orchestra as they gain more attention. Over time, they are more widely regarded as a virtuoso (or having the fruit of sotapanna) as they wow audiences.

This can also explain why the fetter model does not at all map cleanly onto the technical paths. The fetter model points to what fetters are dropped in mindfulness of the "here now". The practitioner aims to be free of all fetters during life and practice, but only as an immeditate goal in this present moment (Not applicable to cycles over time and cessation "moments"). She makes the Right Effort to hold the Right Attitude to practice Right Sati to discern between suffering and not suffering (Right View). When the violin player is performing, do they display the qualities of a virtuoso?

The path and fruit of the suttas can not be equated to the path, fruit, cessation (as moments) of the 16 knowledges (commentaries) model. Again, would love to hear thoughts on this.            

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
8/24/19 2:17 PM as a reply to Nick O.
The emphasis on relaxation as he teaches has definitely improved my practice as well. But I wonder if the samatha aspect he brings in could be used without abandoning noting; he felt compeled to give it up entirely. Did you too? I like to deeply relax the body and from that place do noting. I also often do metta for 10 minutes, which generates what seems to be piti (physically pleasant sensations such as warmth in hands, and other physical sensations), and then move into noting.

Concerning gradual development vs moments, I think both are real. DhO is full of testaments to how moments, usually involving cessation, have brought on sudden and important changes. From a sutta perspective, there is support for maps at least in the form of the 8 jhanas, and for cessation.

I think there's also many cases of people that have not noticed events or key moments in their practice and yet deep transformation has occured over time, as you describe.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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8/25/19 10:08 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
The emphasis on relaxation as he teaches has definitely improved my practice as well. But I wonder if the samatha aspect he brings in could be used without abandoning noting; he felt compeled to give it up entirely. Did you too? I like to deeply relax the body and from that place do noting. I also often do metta for 10 minutes, which generates what seems to be piti (physically pleasant sensations such as warmth in hands, and other physical sensations), and then move into noting.

Concerning gradual development vs moments, I think both are real. DhO is full of testaments to how moments, usually involving cessation, have brought on sudden and important changes. From a sutta perspective, there is support for maps at least in the form of the 8 jhanas, and for cessation.

I think there's also many cases of people that have not noticed events or key moments in their practice and yet deep transformation has occured over time, as you describe.
Yes, I've pretty much abandoned noting. Occasionally, while in jhana, I'll lean slightly towards investigation , "noticing" or "knowing" phenomena in the field of awareness.

In my experience, eventually the heavier investigation techniques just took me round and round in unpleasant cycles. What has been much more fruitful is the cultivation of joy as right sati, clearing out suffering moment by moment, always returning to being here now, relaxed and content. Insights into no self, no doer, no seeer, no agent are deepening still, with less effort, but with the goal of attaining wisdom shifting towards the goal of peace. 

Moments of change in perspective and gradual development are both very much real, as you say, but the "cessation" of suffering can and does happen in any moment; we just have to check back again and again and again to see to it that it has ceased. 

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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11/15/19 11:29 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V,  I have found your summary to be most helpful as I have done nearly the same analysis of bhante Vs system with the same kinds of conclusions. I would only add that it seems like BV was just super burnt out by the mahasi style and needed some balance so he's really fanatical about people taking the soft and joyful way.

I like it, it's less of a macho approach and has all sorts of hidden benefits (like it makes you want to practice more because it feels good). But I also find the noting practice to be helpful too. I find it a little weird that BV is so adamant about going EXACTLY his way. It's off-putting for sure. 

I have found that using Shinzen Young's modular meditation system, I could derive the gist of BVs technique and fold it in with the rest of the noting practice.

I also could not make sense of how the Divine abodes correspond successively with the jhanas but l still currently looking into it. Assuming you're still investigating  it, let me know if you are able to make any sense of that.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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11/15/19 12:55 PM as a reply to Chloe Parker.
Makes a lot of sense to me when you mention his method as a reaction to being burned out with the Mahasi style. This makes me thingk of another teacher close to Mahasi. There is another teacher, the late Shwee Oo Min Sayadaw, who used to be a top student of Mahasi, who broke away and founded his own approach. His approach is also a response to the hard core dry noting of Mahasi. His approach is gentle. He emphasized relaxation of the body and constatntly focusing on what the mind is doing.

It was even said that his center was once like a "hospital" for meditators recovering from Mahasi retreats because they were so tense.

I still think the Mahasi approach is awesome and it remains the core of my own practice, but with an added emphasis on deep relaxation.

BV's insistence on doing EXACTLY his way seems the only element he faithfully kept from the Mahasi lineage, as some teachers in this lineage have this mentality as well, though not all. Mahasi himself seemed to have been flexible and even allowed students to experiment with other vipassana styles. 

I continue to do more metta in some of my sits and it really gets the physical responses he describes in 1st jhana going. The noting gets me quickly to what seems 4th.

I have begun a while ago to look into Shinzen stuff. I'm not super familiar with it but found what I read very practical and inspiring.

I have not made much sense either of how he matches the divine abodes with the jhanas.

One more thing, I found in his description of one of the immaterial jhana, the 7th I think, mention of moments of fear that can come up. I wrote down "ah ha! dukkha nana!" when I read that. Again giving some credence to my hunch that the same territory is covered in his approach.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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11/20/19 7:46 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Earlier this year, I attended a retreat guided by Bhante Vimalaramsi and his assistant teacher Khanti Khema in India.

Overall impression: SHOCKING, to say the least!

It was a 7 day retreat.
I was excited at the opportunity to practice Brahma Viharas for a whole week, which I was dreaming to do for a long time. More so because Bhante V had said in numerous videos that his 6R version of Brahma Vihara practice is the best and the fastest way to enlightenment and that this technique is infact Shamatha-Vipassana technique, and not just Shamatha.
I can't comment on the technique because I haven't used the technique for a long period well enough to produce some significant progress as it was just a 7 day retreat.
The concept of 6R was fine and I had no issues on that.

Note that Bhante V constantly kept criticizing the Mahasi technique. I knew he had some issues with Mahasi folks in the past while he was in Burma, and hence I had expected him to be critical of Mahasi. That was fine.

The practice went all good and I slowly started feeling bits of joy during some of the sits by the end of 2nd day.

The actual shocking thing about the retreat was about how they did their interviews.
With each interview, they kept on diagnosing my experience with a higher level attainment which I knew for sure I hadn't attained. Calling it just "Overdiagnosis " would be an understatement.

Please note that, Bhante V was sitting right next to Khanti Khema for all the interviews. And he let Khanti Khema do most of the interview. Occassionally, he would chip in and give some suggestions. Apart from that, she did most of the interviewing.

On 2nd day's interview( technically it was the 1st day since we didn't do much meditation the previous day as it was late), she said I was in 1st Jhana. I was quite happy and excited to know that I'm making progress and motivated me to work more.

On 3rd day interview, she started asking closed ended questions. It went something like this:
Khanti Khema: "so now, you must be experiencing joy throughout the body. I think your body must be filled with joy by now."

Me: "Not really. Joy is showing up rarely and just during some sits"
(And explained whatever I was experiencing)

Khanti Khema: "Are you not experiencing the joy produced in the heart area and witnessing it travel to the surface of the head like a bubble getting to the surface and then get dissipated?"

Me: "No..."

KK: "Then you're not doing it the right way. Okay, now this is what you're supposed to do. Follow these new instructions and you'll definitely progress. "

I followed her new instructions to a T.

In the 4th day interview, she pretty much asked the same questions as the previous day's for which I again said "No".
By then I had developed a bit of restlessness during my sits and I reported it to her. She then asked me a couple of other closed ended questions which I dont exactly remember now, and asked if I experienced that atleast once in my sits in last 24 hours.
As I was unsure, I replied "umm, may be yeah, may be once something like that happened. But I'm not sure..."
For which she didn't wait to reply "Great, that's 2nd Jhana!".

Though I didn't want to stop practicing nor did I lose faith in this technique, their desperation to overdiagnose me started make me lose it. It started affecting my concentration and restlessness increased. The interview went on similarly for the next 2 days and according to her I was progressing one Jhana per day.

Whatever I report to her, she somehow made it look like I'm progressing very rapidly. On 6th day she told I was in "infinite space". I stopped taking the interviews seriously from 4th day because I knew something (infact everything) was not right there.
I had anyways given up on the interviews, and hence didn't go to make my point. All I replied during the interviews was 'Thank you' and come back to my cushion.
There were many other closed ended questions like "did your body disappear?", etc. As though she was desperately waiting to hear "Yes" from me. Later I got to know that she had asked all of those questions to almost all retreatants.

After the retreat, I came to know that they labeled almost everyone as being atleast 6th Jhana or above, with 4th Jhana being the minimum attainment. In one of the talks on 5th day, she said "as evident in the interviews, most of you have experienced infinite space by now. Continue the nice work".
It was evident that they just wanted to somehow create an impression that their method works and works at the speed of light.

Please note that there were many retreatants who were not at all serious. They were chit chatting the whole day in groups, they laughed, they roamed around the centre, took pictures and spent their time like a picnic. Literally they did everything but meditate.
According to the teachers, even they were in Infinite space or 6th Jhana at the end of the retreat!!

Bhante kept on reiterating that 2 weeks of this practice would make us reach 8th Jhana which leads to stream Entry. And he also said that 32 out of 37 people in their previous 2-week retreat in Malaysia attained stream Entry, most of them being first time retreatants!! Holy shit!
By then I understood what their standards of stream Entry were. According to them, just few more days of practice would make me a stream enterer. How nice! Haha!

Bhante was sitting right there the whole time during the interview, smiling and giving occassional instructions which clearly meant he approved whatever Khanti Khema said.
They were either fooling us or deluding themselves. Most of the retreatants were happy and excited that they made such a great progress in just 6 days. According to the teachers, one more weak of practice would have taken almost all of us to reach Stream Entry. Wow!

It was a shocking experience to witness something like this.

The only take away from the retreat was that I learned to meditate in a relaxed way, relaxing any tension that was created on the forehead and scalp region (it is true that I tend to stress and tense my head region a lot while doing 'noting' practice).
Also, I liked the concept of "smiling" everytime, which would ease up a lot of tensions.

The technique might still be great, but I really didn't understand the intention behind their desperation to label everyone with some cool attainment so fast. For me, they lost all credibility. I can't think of any reason why I should believe in what they say about anyone or on their own flawless technique.

After the retreat I spoke to one guy who has been practicing Bhante's technique for last 10 years and attended many of his retreats. I asked him if he thinks he attained Stream Entry long time back given the fact that many attained SE in their very 1st retreat just few days back in Malaysia. With lots of confusion and hesitation he said "that was what I was told a few years back, but I'm not sure about it". After few hours of interaction with him, I understood he was one confused man who didn't know where he was and where is he trying to get to from his practices.

Well, If someone wants to progress one Jhana per day and attain Stream Entry in 2 weeks, Bhante V's retreat is the answer! emoticonemoticon
All the best.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/20/19 11:23 AM as a reply to tamaha.
One of those stories that are both tragic and comic at the same time. But seriously, it sounds more tragic.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/20/19 1:16 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Sounds more likely that perhaps the picnic retreatants were in infinite spaced-out "jhana".

Seriously though, this is unfortunante, because there's a lot that's very good in the method. Maybe B.V. is overly ambitious to "prove" the "superiority" of his method over others, hence leading to the situation you described.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/20/19 2:31 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Well, that's going to prove the opposite, take credibility of the method, which is unfortunate if there are valuable things there. I've heard some zen roshis verify kenshos even when it hadn't taken place, for various reasons. For teachers to make mistakes with verifications is normal but to not do one's job well, is sheer crap.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/21/19 1:42 PM as a reply to tamaha.
This is my first post although I am a member on this forum for a long time. I really enjoy reading and I am greatful for this tremendous place. I've been hesitant to write anything on this board because it's very hard for me to fully express myself in english. Let me introduce myself. I've been practicing buddhist meditation for more than 20 years, and from 2012 consistently, in 2014 I started practicing TWIM breath meditaton (Vimalaramsi's acronym for his type of meditation) and from the start it was very successful. Breath meditation started to give results after long time and siting started to feel pleasant, I meditate longer and gone deeper. I took online retreat in 2014 with sister Khema, she insisted to swich from breath to metta meditation and it was hard form me to adjust myself, they said that metta meditation is easier then breath meditation but for me it wasn't. She didn't even validate first jhana in those 9 days emoticon  But I continued to sit for one houre every morning and metta started to show success. After couple of weeks I hit very strong first jhana, I felt all my body melting with joy and pleasure like whole body orgasm or something like that. And that's it, I fell in love with TWIM emoticon I really love simplicity of the twim. But I don't like ''my way is the only real and true method''. I don't know where am I at the moment on jhana map and it doesn't matter, but I love ven. Vimalaramsi approach and twim certainly works for me. I have some doubts about teachings though.   
@tamaha
Thank you for your detailed post about Bhante Vimalaramsi's retreat, it was very eye opening and certanly shocking. I am going on his retreat in 2020 and to be frank, I am a little bit concerned is it worth it and I am thinking of not going, I'm not sure if it's going to be a waste of time and effort. I've been on 3 retreats so far. One 3 day zen retreat and two times 7 day retreat with ven. Kammai Dhammasami, that was great experience but painful one emoticon 

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/21/19 11:32 AM as a reply to tamaha.
Thank you Tamaha for doing the groundwork on this one and coming back for a more honest report. I have benefitted from the technique myself but I think it has more to do with the technique being a pretty standard formulation of metta practice, rather than it being some super secret panacea that has been rediscovered as BV  depicts it.

Other more useful places to approach it may be in Ajahn Sona's talks on Metta and i think one can interpret leigh brasingtons right concentration or ajahn brahm's formulations as essentially crossing the off the same boxes. Basically they are using restful states, metta, or joy, as positive feedback loops for higher concentration. And they emphasize not straining oneself doing it. BV is not a luminary for sorting out that we shouldn't pop a blood vessel when we're trying to concentrate. I'll admit to getting sucked into his worldview for a bit but if you read around a bit, you'll see that everyone else is saying the same kind of thing but in a more reasonable manner. 

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/21/19 12:18 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
In jhana 7, one's mind inclines toward the blanks between each arising consciousness, the space of "nothing" in between them. It feels as if the whole world of phenomena, including mind, arise and pass within this "nothing". One may get moments of prolonged "nothing" in between each arising consciousness. He equates this jhana with the equanimity brahmavihara.

Ben V.:
I have begun a while ago to look into Shinzen stuff. I'm not super familiar with it but found what I read very practical and inspiring.


That's Shinzen's Gone -his most preferred method-, noting vanishings/passings instead of arisings. The Power of Gone  and What is Mindfulness (pages 37 to 46). I switched to this method, but kept BV's 6R at the start of each sit (or when days are rough) mixed with some taoist stuff. Be aware that SY's Gone is a self-inquiry method dressed up as a vipassana one. Or better stated, a rare link between self-inquiry and vipassana. Lately, I've found Katami's 2PF (other self-inquiry method) as a very useful tool when 'nothing happens' and I may drift into dullness. In SY's combo, you go back to standard noting in that situation, while with 2PF you stay in wide/openess while at the same time pointing to anatta. With 2PF you keep in 'focus' while with Gone you get the 'diving moments'.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
11/21/19 2:24 PM as a reply to Chloe Parker.
Chloe Parker:
Other more useful places to approach it may be in Ajahn Sona's talks on Metta and i think one can interpret leigh brasingtons right concentration or ajahn brahm's formulations as essentially crossing the off the same boxes. Basically they are using restful states, metta, or joy, as positive feedback loops for higher concentration. And they emphasize not straining oneself doing it. BV is not a luminary for sorting out that we shouldn't pop a blood vessel when we're trying to concentrate. I'll admit to getting sucked into his worldview for a bit but if you read around a bit, you'll see that everyone else is saying the same kind of thing but in a more reasonable manner. 


Maybe Thanissaro Bhikku also, his jhanas are ultra light and whole body breathing reminds me of Vimalaramsi breath meditation, and he relies on suttas not commentaries

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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12/21/19 8:44 PM as a reply to Pepe.
Thanks for sharing this Pepe. I like the pragmatism of using different approaches when helpful, and I find vipassana and inquiry methods definitely compatible, or complementary. I have never tried much noting gones, although there's much interest and inquiry into the sense of space in which things come and go. I have also done 2PF and found it effective too. 

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
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3/24/20 10:58 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Background: I've been meditating with increasing regularity and length of sit for about 4 years. I had run into TWIM online, and had experimented with it a bit. I found some of the terms a bit silly, so I didn't follow the instructions exactly, but I still had some remarkable experiences. Thinking that Mahasi noting might be better, I did a two-month retreat at Panditarama Lumbini, and it was a great experience, but I don't feel as if my practice progressed that much.

For some reason, I went back to TWIM, and followed the instructions much more closely. And the results have been incredible. I regularly have extremely powerful ecstatic experiences that I find very beneficial, but I don't crave the experiences when they're gone. I feel as if I'm steadily training myself to be joyful, day by day. TWIM is really working for me.

That said, I think many of the criticisms that have been made are fair.

First, I think Ven. Vimalaramsi makes some strange statements. I find it somewhat disturbing. I rationalize it that this process is about becoming free from suffering by seeing some important truths about how experience works -- not necessarily figuring out anything about what we think of as the normal world. I don't personally feel drawn to him like I do some other monks who seem to have all the saintly qualities. For example, in one dhamma talk video, he gives a student a direct order without any of the normal politeness words, and I just don't understand why.

Second, I agree with tamaha that something is definitely wrong in the TWIM world with over-assessment of attainments. Over in the Panditarama Lumbini world, there were very few leading questions. Praise was given very sparingly. Honestly, I don't want to hear that I am an "advanced meditator". What could be the benefit of this? Ven. Vivekananda was careful to emphasize to me that things were happening, but nobody was doing them, not to get a big head, not to think of oneself as gaining a skill that sets one apart from others, etc.

However, I can truly say that Ven. Vimalaramsi's suggestion to relax is the thing that has helped my practice more than anything else. Then, reading The Path to Nibbana, about cultivating metta and so forth, has helped even more. That book alone made something click in my mind. Meditation, at least TWIM-style meditation, should be regarded as common sense. It's all about weakening and strengthening various associations in the mind, exploiting the brain's plasticity. It's no more weird than purposefully damaging muscle fibers by lifting heavy objects.

One piece of the puzzle is to simply spend more time in wholesome states, like feeling joy from wishing someone else well, while not wanting anything from them. Another piece is to use your strengthened metta muscles to "send" it to people you wouldn't ordinarily, including people you have aversion for. After I held someone I had aversion for in my metta chest-oven for a while, wishing them well, after my sit, I honestly could say I didn't dislike them, I just think they have some harmful ways of thinking and harmful behavior.

That's the strengthening side. But what about the weakening side? My explanation here is a bit hand-wavy, but I think it may eventually be shown to be true by neurologists, or whatever discipline is appropriate. The key observation is that craving seems to be accompanied by muscle tension. Well, you are an electrical system. Your muscles and your brain are literally hooked up. So when you counter-intuitively relax muscles when craving occurs, the corresponding synaptic network or whatever it is seems to lose some of its weight. You're also forming a habit: when stress arises, relax, smile, and bring up something wholesome.

Surely "right effort" is ancient CBT. Deliberately strengthening beneficial brain networks and weakening the ones related to craving, ones which are also causing perceptual distortions.

There's also something very Pavlovian going on. I find myself "linking" things in my mind in a way I've heard Thich Nhat Hanh do. For example, during sitting, I might do some kind of helpful self-talk like "smiling, relaxing, enjoying loving kindness". Then when I'm out walking, my self talk might be "taking a walk, smiling, relaxing, gently radiating loving kindness". During sitting, smiling gets linked with relaxing, relaxing gets linked with loving kindness. When walking, you can choose to link walking with feeling loving kindness. Or with relaxing, or both. It's uncontroversial that this works, it's just not usually done deliberately to oneself.

Now, I don't know if my practice is going to continue to happen like they've said in the book. I don't know if I'm going to see dependent origination in amazing clarity, etc. But, now that I have a decent start with their process, they say that you start with metta, broadcast it, and, when it changes, broadcast that, and so forth. It seems plausible, because when you're radiating metta, you do see it change to some other wonderful but different feeling that can be radiated using the same process.

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
3/24/20 8:45 PM as a reply to Branko N..
Branko N.:


Jhana-lite is unrelated to the suttas. 

RE: Book review - Vimalaramsi method
Answer
3/25/20 12:41 AM as a reply to Nicky.
Nicky:
Branko N.:


Jhana-lite is unrelated to the suttas. 

Did not Uncle Sid exhort his followers to keep improving the Dharma?  Did not the suttas say explicitly that first jhana is sufficient for liberation?  ... Just some food for thought.