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Stream Entry terminology
Answer
8/31/20 11:38 AM
In the wake of a few posts I've seen here and on Reddit w.r.t. the semantics and use of the term Stream Entry:

Is Stream Entry the same thing as a 'direct realization of emptiness'?

If so, why the use of the term SE and not the more generic "direct realization"?

For the record, the term Stream Entry doesn't bother me but it does seem to cause others to get upset from time to time (especially those coming from the more traditional Theravada backgrounds) which is something to consider.
I could see pros and cons to either side though.

-JW

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/30/20 1:29 PM as a reply to J W.
i too have some misunderstandings wrt stream entry.

for me, an emptiness experience is different than realization.

experiences fade, realization sticks

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/30/20 2:34 PM as a reply to J W.
Good question! Is Stream Entry the same thing as a 'direct realization of emptiness'?

I'd say yes and no.

Like getting one bite of the pie of all pies (Worlds #1 ranked pie) and assuming this is what the total pie would taste like whereas the truth is you have only had a glimpse/taste. Problems arise when the SE confuses that small or large portion of tastyness with the eating of the whole pie.

Same pie but not the whole pie.

Best, Rob


RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/30/20 2:55 PM as a reply to J W.
I believe it depends on whether one's attention follows something the whole way into the source or just stays at the threshold. 

Stream entry does not mean that it sticks, but it seems to involve locking in some change of the mind's infrastructure. My working hypothesis is that the practice is like a very slow download of an upgrade. Conformity knowledge and the door moment are the installation. The cessation is the restart of the systems that enables the shift to materialize. None of those elements can be skipped for stream entry to take place. Also, just like with software upgrades, one will usually need some bug fixes, and eventually there will be new upgrades to download as the first one isn't perfect. As the system is used in daily life, there may also be negative influences that get through the fire wall, and eventually the hardware will get old and die. 

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
9/1/20 11:36 AM as a reply to J W.
POST DELETED DUE TO POSSIBLY OFFENSIVE CONTENT
~ DhO self moderation

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/30/20 6:02 PM as a reply to J W.
John W:
Is Stream Entry the same thing as a 'direct realization of emptiness'?


It's all in how you define direct, realization, and emptiness -- right?  emoticon


Just to make sure, have you read MCTB? --- if you are really interested in how the term is used by most folks here, that book will answer your question. There not just a few sentence answer, it's a whole system for describing meditation practices and experiences.  

https://mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/30/20 7:49 PM as a reply to Bismuth.
Well, thanks for all the interesting responses, all.  I'll try my response but forgive me if I fail miserably.

Bismuth:
It is best to remove this notion that one experience which you cannot even explain without a book or dozen makes you in to anything.


Whole systems use terms such as "direct realization of $something" and there is a method in this madness. My advice however is: this all doesn't need to be confusing and the way out of feeling confused is not through forcing yourself to think in term of pure experiences as somehow representing whole concepts. This is just the easy way that leads to ignorance.

Well said, Bismuth, and I tend to agree with you here on most points.  A couple things I would clarify, there is no book that can explain emptiness as emptiness cannot be explained.  Probably, if you read every book in the world, they still would not be able to define it.  I can't say for sure though, since I haven't read them all emoticon

So, any way that we talk about emptiness, it's going to be limited.  Nevertheless, here we are, blabbing away, using our dualistic minds to attempt to do the impossible.  Language itself is dualistic, there's no way around that (but if you find one, let me know).  This is a point I see made here on D.O. pretty often. I like Rob Burbea using the term 'provisional' to describe the limited ways we can talk about singular aspects of emptiness.

My choice of the term 'direct experience' or 'direct realization' (which is impossible, since if it's experience, or realization, that ain't It), was more based on the generic quality of that term (which I see used in several traditions).  Conversely, "Stream Entry" I think of as being a term derived from the Theravada first stage Sotapanna.
"this all doesn't need to be confusing and the way out of feeling confused is not through forcing yourself to think in term of pure experiences as somehow representing whole concepts"

This is the whole reason I bring it up.  There seems to be, what I perceive as, a decent amount of confusion about the term Stream Entry.  Judging from the responses here, Stream Entry means a lot of different things to different people.  Which is not a bad thing.  But Stream Entry (sotapanna) in the Theravada tradition has a pretty specific set of requirements (the fetter model, etc), so I can see why there is confusion especially among those coming from a more traditional background.

(I can say from my experience, the term Stream entry has been a little confusing and ambiguous to me.  But ultimately, I think it's been a really beneficial model so far regardless.)

It seems that simply finding/replace all "Stream Entry" with "direct realization" would likely cause even more confusion.  So then, why not something else - let it be "blah" or perhaps "path/fruition" (though those terms may have their own connotation).  The point I was getting at is why use a term which is specific to one historical tradition when this is not actually that tradition, it's Pragmatic Dharma. (Which doesn't mean that you can't also be a practitioner of X, Y, Z lineage).





@Shargrol - good to hear from you my friend.  I have read MCTB, parts of it several times.  I find it one of the best books I've ever read.  It took me several read-throughs to pick up on the idea that there was a connection between Stream Entry and Emptiness.  I finally found it in a very short chapter, "Was That Emptiness?".  IMHO, it's a bit confusing to have to read through 3 times to get that.  But then again, I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed emoticon  And it might have been right in front of my face this whole time in some other chapter that I didn't see.

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/30/20 11:14 PM as a reply to J W.
John W:
In the wake of a few posts I've seen here and on Reddit w.r.t. the semantics and use of the term Stream Entry:

Is Stream Entry the same thing as a 'direct realization of emptiness'?

If so, why the use of the term SE and not the more generic "direct realization"?

For the record, the term Stream Entry doesn't bother me but it does seem to cause others to get upset from time to time (especially those coming from the more traditional Theravada backgrounds) which is something to consider.
I could see pros and cons to either side though.

-JW

Stream-entry is a stage of awakening. Direct realization is a method of awakening.

Direct realization refers to Satipatthana which is translated as "foundations of mindfuilness" or "frames of reference".

In the sturas Satipatthana is said to be the direct means of realization:


https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.than.html

Satipatthana Sutta: Frames of Reference
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
...
The Blessed One said this: "This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, & for the realization of Unbinding — in other words, the four frames of reference. Which four?

"There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.



I believe stream-entry should be defined according to how the term is used by it's authors, the authors of the Pali Canon, and so it should be based on 1) the fetter model (freedom from the first three fetters: identity view, attachment to rites and rituals, and doubt about the teachings) and 2) on the character of the person who should have qualities of conviction, virtue, generosity, and discernment. 

I don't believe stream-entry can be identified by experiences or attainments in mediation alone because attainments in meditation do not necessarily end doubt about all the teachings or cause the necessary quaities of character. Trust in the teachings is based on insight but not from any particular attainment in meditation. The qualities of character depend not just on insight but also deep convictions of karma and rebirth.

And the third fetter, doubt about the teachings means what is says you can't pick and choose which of Buddha's teachings to believe.

I don't necessarily find fault with other systems that define awakening differently, and I can understand why some people would think the Pali Canon is not pragmatic, but I don't think they should redfine its terms because that creates confusion. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_enlightenment#Path_and_Fruit
A Stream-enterer (Sotāpanna) is free from:

1. Identity view (Pali: sakkāya-diṭṭhi), the belief that there is an unchanging self or soul in the five impermanent skandhas[4][5]
2. Attachment to rites and rituals
3. Doubt about the teachings

A Once-returner (Sakadāgāmin) has greatly attenuated:

4. Sensual desire
5. Ill will

A Non-returner (Anāgāmi) is free from:

4. Sensual desire
5. Ill will

An Arahant is free from all of the five lower fetters and the five higher fetters, which are:

6. Attachment to the four meditative absorptions, which have form (rupa jhana)
7. Attachment to the four formless absorptions (ārupa jhana)
8. Conceit
9. Restlessness
10. Ignorance


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotapanna
Skeptical doubt - Doubt about the Buddha, his teaching (Dharma), and his community (Sangha) is eradicated because the sotāpanna personally experiences the true nature of reality through insight, and this insight confirms the accuracy of the Buddha's teaching. Seeing removes doubt, because the sight is a form of vision (dassana), that allows one to know (ñāṇa).

https://accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/into_the_stream.html#character
Virtue, as practiced by the stream-enterer, is also a function of a deep trust in the principle of kamma, and of a sympathy for others that arises from that trust. Although stream-enterers may still break the minor rules of training, the depth of insight that informs their virtue ensures that their adherence to the basic principles of morality is unshakable.

"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones reflects thus: 'I love life and don't love death. I love happiness and abhor pain. Now if I — loving life and not loving death, loving happiness and abhorring pain — were to be killed, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me. And if I were to kill another who loves life and doesn't love death, who loves happiness and abhors pain, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to the other. What is displeasing & disagreeable to me is displeasing & disagreeable to others. How can I inflict on others what is displeasing & disagreeable to me?' Reflecting in this way, he refrains from taking life, gets others to refrain from taking life, and speaks in praise of refraining from taking life. In this way his bodily behavior is pure in three ways.

"Furthermore, he reflects thus: 'If someone, by way of theft, were to take from me what I haven't given, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me... If someone were to commit adultery with my wives, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me... If someone were to damage my well-being with a lie, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me... If someone were to divide me from my friends with divisive speech, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me... If someone were to address me with harsh speech, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me... If someone were to address me with idle chatter, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to me. And if I were to address another with idle chatter, that would be displeasing & disagreeable to the other. What is displeasing & disagreeable to me is displeasing & disagreeable to others. How can I inflict on others what is displeasing & disagreeable to me?' Reflecting in this way, he refrains from idle chatter, gets others to refrain from idle chatter, and speaks in praise of refraining from idle chatter. In this way his verbal behavior is pure in three ways."

— SN 55.7

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
8/31/20 11:29 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Hey Jim, thanks man.  Just wondering, do you consider yourself a Theravada practitioner? 

I don't necessarily find fault with other systems that define awakening differently, and I can understand why some people would think the Pali Canon is not pragmatic, but I don't think they should redfine its terms because that creates confusion.
For the record here, I do think the Pali Canon is pragmatic, the allure of Buddhism to many is that it IS pragmatic.  When I say Pragmatic Dharma (capital P, capital D) it is not meant to convey that traditional Buddhist paths are not pragmatic.  Rather, this is referring to specifically this movement which has begun over the last 20-30-40 (?) years here in the West but really I view as an international movement.  
    What defines Pragmatic Dharma?  Can you define Pragmatic Dharma?
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6030105
  • pragmatism over dogmatism: what works is key, with works generally meaning the stages of insight, the stages of enlightenment, states of deep concentration, freedom from suffering in what ways are possible, the criteria for various attainments, actual discussion of one's experience and the results of practice, etc.
  • openness regarding what the techniques may lead to and how these contrast or align with the traditional models
  • personal responsibility: you take responsibility for the choices you make and what you say and claim
  • a lack of taboos surrounding talking about attainments
  • the assumption that the various aspects of meditative development can be mastered in this life
  • the spirit of mutual, supportive adventurers on the path rather than rigid student-teacher relationships
  • and the notion that the collective wisdom of a group of strong practitioners at various stages and from various traditions and backgrounds is often better than following one guru-type.



The way I see it is, there are 4 possibilities:
1. one considers themself a Theravada practitioner, with a positive view of Pragmatic Dharma  
2. one considers themself a Theravada practitioner, with a negative view of Pragmatic Dharma
3. one does not consider themself a Theravada practitioner, has a positive view of Pragmatic Dharma
4. (this one is not really relevant) one does not consider themself a Theravada practitioner, has negative or neutral view of Pragmatic Dharma

What I am talking about here is how groups 1 and 3 affect group 2 when the Pragmatic Dharma contains jargon that is specific to the Theravada.  If 'stream entry' is being used as defined by the Pali Canon, like you say, I don't see any reason for conflict.  When it or other terms are not, conflict seems to arise.  Conflict creates confusion. Confusion prevents progress.  Why not try and avoid conflict?

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
9/3/20 2:01 AM as a reply to J W.
John W:
Hey Jim, thanks man.  Just wondering, do you consider yourself a Theravada practitioner? 

I don't necessarily find fault with other systems that define awakening differently, and I can understand why some people would think the Pali Canon is not pragmatic, but I don't think they should redfine its terms because that creates confusion.
For the record here, I do think the Pali Canon is pragmatic, the allure of Buddhism to many is that it IS pragmatic.  When I say Pragmatic Dharma (capital P, capital D) it is not meant to convey that traditional Buddhist paths are not pragmatic.  Rather, this is referring to specifically this movement which has begun over the last 20-30-40 (?) years here in the West but really I view as an international movement.  
    What defines Pragmatic Dharma?  Can you define Pragmatic Dharma?
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6030105
  • pragmatism over dogmatism: what works is key, with works generally meaning the stages of insight, the stages of enlightenment, states of deep concentration, freedom from suffering in what ways are possible, the criteria for various attainments, actual discussion of one's experience and the results of practice, etc.
  • openness regarding what the techniques may lead to and how these contrast or align with the traditional models
  • personal responsibility: you take responsibility for the choices you make and what you say and claim
  • a lack of taboos surrounding talking about attainments
  • the assumption that the various aspects of meditative development can be mastered in this life
  • the spirit of mutual, supportive adventurers on the path rather than rigid student-teacher relationships
  • and the notion that the collective wisdom of a group of strong practitioners at various stages and from various traditions and backgrounds is often better than following one guru-type.



The way I see it is, there are 4 possibilities:
1. one considers themself a Theravada practitioner, with a positive view of Pragmatic Dharma  
2. one considers themself a Theravada practitioner, with a negative view of Pragmatic Dharma
3. one does not consider themself a Theravada practitioner, has a positive view of Pragmatic Dharma
4. (this one is not really relevant) one does not consider themself a Theravada practitioner, has negative or neutral view of Pragmatic Dharma

What I am talking about here is how groups 1 and 3 affect group 2 when the Pragmatic Dharma contains jargon that is specific to the Theravada.  If 'stream entry' is being used as defined by the Pali Canon, like you say, I don't see any reason for conflict.  When it or other terms are not, conflict seems to arise.  Conflict creates confusion. Confusion prevents progress.  Why not try and avoid conflict?


I am not Theravada practitioner. (Anyway Therevada contains very different styles: samatha, vipassana of the commentaries, forest tradition that sticks to the Pali Canon etc)  As far as I can tell I am doing my own thing - I have my own biological model of awakening that involves 1) understanding the jhanas in terms of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, 2) learning to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which shuts down the body's stress response, and 3) activing the empathic brain network that produces spiritual feelings of compassion, and connectedness etc, and 4) optimizing ones diet to best support these things.  I am not motivated by the prospect of a realization about the ultimate reality of consciousness (I have different spiritual beliefs that satisfy the need for a cosmology), I want to control my nervous system to end suffering and express spiritual qualities. I think samatha is very important in addition to vipassana. 

The closest thing I have found in print to what I am doing is Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's "Insight by the Nature Method" while I have a regular meditation practice I consider practicing in daily life very important too. I also respect Bhante Vimalaramsi because he recognizes the role of relaxation and he recognized the commentaries don't lead the to the emotional changes specified in the Pali Canon and he went on to find a way to produce those changes by studying the Pali Canon. I also like Thanissaro Bhikkhu because he follows the Pali Canon which includes high standards of viture in it's definition of awakening. Not all my "heroes" are Theravadan. I also admire Shodo Harada Roshi who practices Zen and demystifies awakening and emphasizes practice in daily life.


I have a postitive view of pragmatic dharma and the progress of insight because they seem to produce results and seem to be internally consistent ...
... except I think they are wrong and when they compare their stages of awakening (based on attainments in meditation) to the stages in the pali canon (based on freedom from fetters and attainments of virture) which causes confusion. I think Daniel's book is very opinionated and is not really about the core teachings of the Buddha, it is about Daniel's opinions. Nothing wrong with that ... maybe Buddhism needs a Reformation ... except the title is misleading, his style of writing creates an impression of authority that he uses to push opinions, and these things can also create confusion. 

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
9/3/20 1:18 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

Stream-entry is a stage of awakening. Direct realization is a method of awakening.



I think this is right, stream entry is a stage of awakening and direct realization is a method of awakening.

But there are various different practices that are called "direct" - such as self inquiry.  In this case it is contrasted with gradual methods (which I don't consider gradual).

There seem to me to be many people who say their system is best and most direct. I think different systems are best for different people.

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
9/3/20 1:18 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

There seem to me to be many people who say their system is best and most direct. I think different systems are best for different people.
Yes, I would agree and I think Dan Ingram would agree with you here too (probably most people here on D.O. for that matter).  After all, this is one of the stated tenets of this website and of MCTB (at least that's what I got out of it).

Personally I don't have anything against his writing style or his opinions, I think that's part of the appeal as so many people, like myself, have been traumatized by these toxic 'mushroom factory' situations.  Dan seems to be highly aware of it though, and while I can't say I fully understand the reasoning behind all of it, I'm sure he's thought about it more than I have.

So to clarify I'm not trying to 'call out' Dan or anything like that.  I also happen to think this system works very well (the MCTB system, and Pragmatic Dharma in general), in my limited experience it can work a hell of a lot better than some of the more fundamentalist systems.  And because of this, there's going to be significant backlash to it no matter what.

At the same time, I can't help but notice what seems to be almost a constant barrage of backlash from more traditional communities.  And yeah, I think that a lot (most) of it is immature and misguided.  And ultimately all this backlash is probably beneficial to our D.O. community, but I can't say the same for the other side.  I think it could be quite harmful to them actually.
As Pragmatic Dharma continues to grow this backlash will likely continue and get worse until there is some sort of change. (who knows?)

So this is my attempt at providing some constructive feedback on it, just based on what I've perceived so far.  My apologies if it seems like I'm trolling or whatever, that is not the intent.

I don't blame Dan for the way certain terminologies seem to take a life of their own, I blame human nature.  (Well, they do have a certain catchiness to them, for that perhaps I do blame him emoticon - or rather, the authors of the Pali Canon)  I love hearing about peoples' experiences with the MCTB paths and/or Theravada and any combination of the above.  DhO is bigger than just Dan Ingram or any one system of awakening though and this is something that sometimes seem to be misunderstood especially from the outside.

RE: Stream Entry vs. "direct realization"
Answer
9/3/20 3:53 PM as a reply to J W.
     Regarding jargon, or terms. I would like to know what is
understood as “free from” when used in
relation to the four stages of enlightenment. The impression I
receive is that these fetters are believed to disappear in some way.
The examples of highly regarded teachers who fall prey to these
fetters seems to contradict this belief.
     I like to think of this differently. Stream Entry or, being descriptive,  
the blip when the sense of self disapears, flips the faith or
trust one has. From trust in the power of self, what I can do, to
trust in the unexplained vastness of awareness. When it is
described as “ vast emptiness, nothing holy” there is no metaphor
intended. And when we say I take refuge in the dharma, it means literally,
that from this refuge, the center of the cyclone, we can see the fetters,
life conditions and “the full catastrophe” and make a free
choice. But make a choice we must, as Yoda would say. This faith
grows, and when it does, becomes a great healing force that seems
like a superpower. I know many of the people on this forum can attest
to this. So maybe the search for better agreed upon definitions of
what this whole process entails is called for.