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How to tell 2nd Path Fruition from 1st Path Review Fruition?

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Hi all,

I'm relatively new to meditation practice compared to many of you. Found MCTB in 2015 after messing with some Ram Dass-y type stuff in high school and I've been working with Vipassana off and on ever since. I think I attained to 1st Path as outlined in MCTB back in September, had around 4 weeks of Review before getting shot back down into the early nanas, which seems to be pretty typical. A week later I was meditating before bed and had a fruition. One of the "pop pop pop... gone" type fruitions. I thought I might have hit 2nd Path, but soon afterwards hit a serious slump in my practice and daily life and realized that the last few days had been more characteristic of "A&P-->DN" than "Fruition-->Review."

So I'm assuming that this fruition I had (and the handful more than I've had afterwards) are just more 1st Path Review fruitions, but I feel like I don't have the technical know-how yet to be certain. There definitely wasn't a feeling of "aaahhhh, that's it" like I had after the original 1st Path Fruition, and there hasn't been that feeling of a new Review, more like I can do a "mini cycle" that feels just like they did during Review following 1st Path and get a fruition, while in the macro I'm going through a larger cycle which I feel like I'm in the DN period of.

Is there any sort of "tell" to figure out if a practitioner is experiencing Review fruit vs Path fruit?
Thanks for you time.

RE: How to tell 2nd Path Fruition from 1st Path Review Fruition?
Answer
11/4/19 9:10 AM as a reply to Nathan Bell.
This is a great question, and I appreciate that you asked. Hopefully someone who knows more than I do will reply. In the meantime, I thought I'd tell you what conclusions I have drawn so far. Please take them with a huge grain of salt (or whatever it's called when it's huge).

According to MCTB2, it is fairly easy to get fruitions from the previous path as long as one hasn't crossed the A&P of the new path, but still possible after that. I have found that it can be somewhat tricky to determine whether or not one has crossed the A&P of the new path. It seems like the new insight cycle can start while there is still some review going on in the background (if I remember correctly, that's in MCTB2 as well, but I'm not entirely sure). It also seems like it is possible to start the new insight cycle but then pop back into one's previous path without realizing it, because it seems like a seamless progression (I think that's covered in MCTB2 too, but I never really understood it until I think I experienced it for myself). In other words, it is possible to have the experience of getting out of review and starting the new insight cycle but then jumping back one path instead of dropping down to the lowest nanas directly when one should have "normally" (as one is used to from before stream entry) done so. In my experience, when this happens, then the mapping starts to get really confusing, because after a while one gets back to the lower nanas again and feel stuck there. 

I think I have reached second path, but it hasn't been confirmed by anyone. I don't know if I first had fruitions from the previous path and then the real thing, or if it took me a while to feel like it made a difference. The first few fruitions this time around mainly made me feel strange. I didn't think they could possibly be a new path. Then I had another couple of them shortly thereafter, and they made a huge difference. They had a very tangible afterglow and came with a sense of relief and emotional release. Then I was extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli for a day or so, which was horrible in the mall but fantastic out in the nature. This was followed by a period of strong concentration and great peace and some further nuances to previous perceptual changes and it enabled me to see through some of my earlier interpretations of the dharma. The review phase for me this time was very short, though, so I was confused about the sudden difficulties that came up in my practice. When it dawned on me that it could be the new path starting already, I resolved to get back into review. To my surprise, that actually took me back to the review very easily, with immediate access to both jhanas and fruitions. I don't know if I would have been able to do so on the previous path. I never tried. Anyway, after doing this, after a while I found that the insight cycle had started again, or at least I thought so. Maybe it was just the review cycling that got slower and didn't get all the way up to equanimity. I don't know. What I do know is that for a while I thought I might have crossed the A&P of the new path (heading towards third path), although I wasn't sure whether it was so or whether I had jumped back to the previous path again. At first I made the preliminary assumption that it was the real thing. However, after a while I found myself in the lower nanas again, which is where I am now. Now I believe that I never crossed the A&P of the new path. So I know that this can be really messy. Mapping gets complicated.

I don't know if this helped in any way. 

Best wishes for your practice and wellbeing.

RE: How to tell 2nd Path Fruition from 1st Path Review Fruition?
Answer
11/4/19 4:27 PM as a reply to Nathan Bell.
In my experience, the whole PoI lead up, fruition, and review cycle of First Path are unique to First Path.  Other paths such as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th have unique path moments - they each occur in a unique and variably standardized kind of way, meaning they each occur differently from each other, and often manifest differently for different people.  For example, Daniel mentions in MCTB about how his 3rd path moment felt like a "completion of a thought cycle" or something to that extent.  I also had a very similar 3rd path moment.  That said, this experience was totally unlike the experience of 1st path fruition, save that something remarkable and permanent happened in my consciousness and some noticeable degree of neurotic suffering dropped away.

So, as far as reaching 2nd path, expect it to be a unique insight, and not follow the standardized PoI pattern of 1st path.  Quite honestly, characterizing these attainments by and large is a very slippery task, and it's best to rely on intuition and an honest examination of your experience when evaluating them.  Has something major changed in your awareness?  Do you have a sense that it really was 2nd path?  Sometimes you might have that sense, only for it to fade, which is fine, the important point is to keep at it. 

As well, if you are drawn to the technical side of meditation, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd paths each have some unique confirming factors.  After 1st path we can access the review cycle.  After 2nd path we should have marked jhanic competency, and be able to access the 1st four jhanas without too much trouble.  After 3rd path we should find that the whole range of the 8 jhanas opens up to us, as well as eventually pureland access and nirodah samapatti.

I would also say, re what you mentioned, is that you should generally expect some decent practice time between the 1st 2nd and 3rd path attainments, say minimum 2 - 3 weeks each and for many people probably much longer.  That's not a hard rule, but in general it does take some time to work through the material of each path.  In your case, if you are doubting that the frution was 2nd path and it fits more with the 1st path framework, I would say trust your intuition.