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Leveraging Attainments: Fruition or Stream Entry

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First, a little background: I've been practicing one form of meditation or another since I was 15 years old. Those were the days of Interview With the Vampire and The Craft, so I was hardly the only kid on the block dabbling in esoteric practices. The only difference, it seemed, was that everyone else was pretending to get results. They'd close their eyes very solemnly and bow their heads and mumble to themselves for about 2-3 minutes or so, and then stand up with the haughty air of some ancient White Lotus Zen Master they saw on TV somewhere. When I sat down to meditate, the world would dissappear. Sometimes, I went so deep that my friends had to hold a mirror under my nose to see if I was still breathing. 

I'd always been strange child, one of those awkward dreamworld kids who's brain can't seem to produce anything but alpha waves. I was one of the first GT kids drafted into of the original 80s test pilot programs co-sponsored by the now defunct OMNI Magazine, in which 80% of the school funding and 95% of the field trips are allotted to the same thirty kids year after year, from 1984-1990. Due to the manifestly unfair nature of human genetics, these same thirty kids also won all the tournaments, all the Science Fairs, May Day prizes, Reading Contests -you name it - every year.

Try to imagine, for a moment, the pure hatred that not only the kids deemed to be un-Gifted and un-Talented directed at these prima donnas, but the resentment of their underfunded teachers as well. The results of this misbegotten national social experiment were so horrific that the program was pulled nationwide in 1990, but the scars never quite heal.  

I had my first existential realization the same year. Isolated moments of non-duality ("I have a hand...wait, a hand, what is a hand? What is an I?") followed shortly thereafter. Those fresh scars may very well have had something to do with it: When you're a kid and the rest of the world froths with hatred for you that you didn't do anything to earn and don't understand, you learn to live in your head. I don't remember any of these mental contortions has ever been difficult for me - strange kid that I was. If there was a practice or method of redirecting the mind, however difficult, I could usually just slip into it. Kensho was never more than a few quick breaths away, though I never bothered to go much further. At 19, I slipped into Tao and managed to stay there for 9 months. After that, my practice fell off and I drifted for awhile, as 20-something will do.

Fast-forward to 2019, when I suddenly found myself in the darkest of the Dark Nights that I have ever experienced. My "self" - once so cocksure and ambitious- had transformed into a wretched, hateful thing.The only option I had left was to embrace the non-duality and freedom of Tao. This time, however, I was determined not to return. I knew koans were the fastest way to break in, so I stayed awake all night solving for "Mu" (or "Wu", depending on who you ask), imagining Master Harada shouting: "Show me Mu! Show me Mu on a mountain! Show me Mu taking a bath! That's not Mu! If you understood Mu, you would be able to answer me instantly!" At around 5 a.m., a smile crept across my face: How ridiculous Harada was acting! Stifling the urge to burst out laughing, I made a certain signed and showed him Mu. Then I showed him Mu on a mountain. Then I showed him Mu taking a bath. At last, there was nothing left to show Harada; he was gone even from my imagination. 

No doubt those of you still reading this know about that wonderful, rapturous buzz that follows Satori. I remember running around the block like a madman when I first slipped into Tao nearly 20 years earlier. It was just beginning to get light outside, though, that icky part of the morning that follows an all nighter. Instead, I decided to keep right on reading. That's when I stumbled across the deathbed Enlightenment letters from Yaeko Iwasaki to Harada Roshi, and my life really began to get interesting. As a followed along each of Yaeko's letters ("I have seen the bull") and read Harada Roshi's responses, the Mu-afterglow began to intensify. I half sat up in bed as my pulse began to quicken.

Something unexpected was happening. I wasn't just identifying with Yaeko's growing attainments, I was actually experiencing them with her. I started pacing my room in circles, but it wasn't really there anymore. Even the pages seemed to become translucent and fade away. I had brief mental flashes of Yaeko pacing the floor opposite of me, looking into my eyes as she read her own letters. My awareness continued to expand until I/We reached the second from the last letter, the one Harada Roshi referred to as proof of shochurai (where awareness of the One is paramount and consciousnes of differentiation has subsided) but to henchushi (wherein one lives in all things with no self-conscious trace of enlightenment) I could not follow. 

By now, there was enough on my plate anyway. For starters, I could no longer differentiate anything: I was This/Not This /Yaeko dying on a bed /David in his room/ back and forth, very fast - flash, flash, flash! I remember stumbling over to the sink and looking into "my" (my? What's a "me"?) eyes in the mirror. The strange man's face was shimmering. His eyes were strange, the blue too vibrant. And then something happened that I don't know how to explain, really: The eyes weren't looking out anymore. Suddenly, they were looking in. My ego hadn't just dissolved, it had completely vanished, along with the stranger's reflection. 

After that, it was just Mind moving now here, now there, sort of free floating. Space had become surreal, dreamlike. I was so very grateful! Time ceased to exist. There was nothing to think, nothing to say, no death, no life....death-life? life-death? Laughter. Yes, compounds were better, not perfect, but they expressed the true nature of the situation. This body seemed to expand and contract in amusing ways. Reality was loud with colors! Too much "aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" radiating off of things. Drifted into my wife's room and woke her up.

Pronouns were so difficult, so wrong! "Wants to share with you something amazing" - how frustrating! It was difficult to want or desire anything. Life, just basking in the sunlight from the window, felt like warm silk. Everything was singing! After groping for expressions without pronouns for three or four minutes, I fininally settled on the Royal "We". We was okay, not perfect, but OK. At least We hinted at the situation. We drifted off again a few minutes later - mouthing the letter "I" over and over again, "We" wasn't going to work, but "I" still made "me" cringe - with my wife still half asleep in bed, hair sticking up and wondering what the heck had just happened.  

"I" drifted back in my room and plopped back down on my bed. This was AWESOME! Suddenly, the Heart Sutra came to mind. Something Thich Nhat Hanh had said: 

"When we listen to this mantra, we should bring ourselves into that state of attention, of concentration, so that we can receive the strength emanated by Avalokitesvara. We do not recite the Heart Sutra like singing a song, or with our intellect alone. If you practise the meditation on emptiness, if you penetrate the nature of interbeing with all your heart, your body, and your mind, you will realize a state that is quite concentrated. If you say the mantra then, with all your being, the mantra will have power and you will be able to have real communication, real communion with Avalokitesvara, and you will be able to transform yourself in the direction of enlightenment.

This text is not just for chanting, or to be put on an altar for worship. It is given to us as a tool to work for our liberation, for the liberation of all beings. It is like a tool for farming, given to us so that we may farm. This is the gift of Avalokita."



What the heck? Why not? But first I took the The Bodhisattva Vow. I'd been meaning to take the vow anyway, but the tragic death of Yaeko Iwasaki just days after she had attained Full Enlightenment and made the Vow had decided my own course of action. Now I was about to see if Thich Nhat Hanh knew what he was talking about. 

Clenching my muscles, my tendons, my very bones I focused all my heart, all my body, and all my mind. In short, I spoke the closing mantra of the Heart Sutra like they were about to die, and these were last words. The words rose up from the pit of my abdomen, low and spoken with so intensity that it felt like they were being wrenched out of me.

"Gate..."

Woah. Something new happening. 

"Gate!"

Flashes of colored light hit my eyes and the world began to drain of color around me. Was I...going somewhere?

"PARAGATE. PARASAMGATE!!!!

There were sounds. Things vibrating...throbbing...I probably would have stopped if at this point I was still saying the Mantra, but the Mantra was saying me. So I closed my eyes. Definitely going somewhere...

"BODHI...SVAHA!!!"


And then I was nowhere. I heard a voice, my voice, weeping, sobbing really, delirious with relief and joy and just balling his eyes out and an echo of the words: 


"So long! SO LONG GONE! I was away for SO...LONG! So long!"


I don't expect you to believe what happened next. I know it happened, but I'm honestly not that invested in how other people choose to believe me. Maybe I hallucinated it. Maybe my overstimulated brain was matching an experience it couldn't quite process in symbolic terms that it could, though I'm skeptical of that interpretation for reasons I'll explain in a moment. One of the wonderful things about Buddhism is that questions of objective vs subjective reality aren't really that critical. We're comfortable with viewing the world as an illusion. 

In any case, I was listening/watching all this from a fly on the wall perspective, but as I came into focus - a younger version of me, maybe 25 or 30 years old - my awareness seemed to switch back to a first-person perspective. There were shadows of what looked like hills in the background and a night sky above, but I honestly can't attest to the reality of whatever this was. I was more focused on the water and the kid sitting in front of me. The water wasn't deep at all, maybe an inch and a half deep and it had a golden sheen on it. The kid had copper colored skin with a sort of loose fitting open robe I'd never seen before. He was smiling up at me mischeviously. I've never seen Gotama, of course, but I knew this boy wasn't him. I didn't care. He was here for me, he'd heard me calling and he had let me cross over. I plopped down in the water about three feet away from him, still shuddering with relief, tears still streaming down my face. 

"Thank you thank you thank you!" The boy just smiled, like he'd seen this sort of reaction a million times. "I was gone so long! So long...it was so hard! It was awful. I thought I'd never get back. I almost..."

The boy tilted his head and put his index finger against the side of his head, with the thumb cocked out. 

"Yeah." I said. 

He dropped his thumb in the "Bang!" gesture, lolled his tongue out and pretended to die with his head slumped to one side. Then he dropped the act and started laughing like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He never said anything, but I knew why he was cracking up.
There's no dying!    


He nodded like he'd heard me and then held up his hand. 

See you later!

 
That's when I bolted up from my bed. The whole safari had lasted only about 20 minutes. A few weeks later, I was thumbing through a bunch of photos of old Buddhists statues when I came across the same kid I'd sat with in the water. Just as I thought, it wasn't Siddhartha Gotama. The caption underneath the photo read: 


Avalokiteshvara 



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I'm telling you guys this story for two reasons: 


1) Has anyone else been able to leverage one attainment to leap to another in the manner I've described? If so, please explain. All these gurus with the New York Times Bestseller! sticker on the cover seem to have had only a single life defining experience, whereas I seem to trip into Satori at least once a week. Also, my experiences are never seem quite as inspiring and fluffy as theirs do. Am I the only one hopscotching here? 

2) I originally considered this trifecta of events to be Sunyata; however, after looking through some of the qualifiers on MTCB I can't be certain. (I've already proved to my own satisfaction that it's not an A&P). I would be interested to hear what the members of DharmaOverground think it signifies.

RE: Leveraging Attainments: Fruition or Stream Entry
Answer
11/21/19 3:48 PM as a reply to David Kyle Spencer.
Entertaining story! I hate to say it, but my time has come for the classic, evergreen Dharma Overground reply: This actually does sound like A&P; at least the meeting with Avalokiteshvara does. I am not a huge POI geek but, if I had to hazard a guess, the big not-self experience in the mirror was some sort of fruition, followed by the restart of the cycle with the wife-babbling and Avalokiteshvara vision.

The reason I say that is because it has a totally distinct character from the first part of the story, most crucially in that it happens "somewhere else" outside of direct sensory experience. In the first part, you look your reflection in the eye and relate to it differently - it's right here. In the second part, you have a vision of some place far away with a deity in it - this, on the other hand, is not right here, it's a separate, exalted environment different from the everyday one. These types of visionary experiences are dead ringers for A&P events. The previous cycle destroyed some old beliefs, which released a lot of energy, which had to go somewhere, so it went into this vision.

My advice would be to take the wisdom you've learned from the vision with you, without placing too much importance on any ideas about the vision itself. Making it too special or set-apart will make it a breeding ground for conceptual fantasies and self-grasping.

I'm not really sure what you mean by "leveraging one attainment to leap to another." As far as I can tell this is the normal progression of the POI map.

RE: Leveraging Attainments: Fruition or Stream Entry
Answer
11/21/19 4:11 PM as a reply to David Kyle Spencer.
Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

RE: Leveraging Attainments: Fruition or Stream Entry
Answer
11/24/19 5:50 AM as a reply to Matthew.
You don't have to hate to say it. Let's assume you're correct - and I for one see no reason to doubt you - there is still the matter of that "relief to be home" aspect (as well as some timelessness, spaciousness aspects I neglected to mention vis-a-vis the wife waking) being product of an A&P. 

However, your description of peaking at some kind of Fruition followed by A&P activity has a certain ring of truth, and I am prepared to accept it, which brings me to a more recent occurrence. A few weeks ago, I listened to a new version of The Heart Sutra chanted by Lama Khenpo Pema Choephel Rinpoche (I'm always looking for different versions, Deva Premal's Gate is my go-to, the sudden tonal/meter shift at 3:33 can be very focusing) when the same out of time, no mind, overpowering to relief to be be home happened again...only this time, I didn't go anywhere.

So, an improvement? 

From what I'm reading here from Meditation and Insight III with Upasaka Culadasa, I should be aiming at "the Attainment of Fruition, which is a repetition of Fruition Knowledge. Having just reviewed the events leading to Emergence, they will often reach Fruition in exactly the same way they did the first time." 

Okay...emoticon Let's do that then!