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Suffering and the Stages of Awakening

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Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/8/20 4:50 AM
I am wondering if anyone can describe how suffering is reduced during progress through stages of awakening?

How is a stream-enterer's suffering reduced?

How is a once-returner's suffering reduced?

How is a non-returner's suffering reduced?

How is an arahant's suffering reduced?

MCTB explains the Revised Four Path Model in terms of perception of duality:
https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-v-awakening/37-models-of-the-stages-of-awakening/a-revised-four-path-model/

In the chapter on the Theravada Four Path Model, MCTB makes a distinction of conventional suffering and the kind of suffering that can be ended by awakening. 
https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-v-awakening/37-models-of-the-stages-of-awakening/the-theravada-four-path-model/

But I am not aware of MCTB explaining how suffering is reduced during progress through the four paths.

I am hoping people, whether they practice according to MCTB or not, will contribute to this thread specific examples of the kinds of problems people face in life and how the experience of those kinds of problems is changed as they progress through the stages of awakening

Thanks in advance

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/8/20 6:25 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
It's all "suffering less yet noticing it more" until you see the nature of being a self. The rest depends on the individual person.

Why do you ask Jim? How will this help your actual practice? 

If you are just pursuing this for intellectual purposes, MCTB already has lots of words in it --- what aren't you understanding? Could you tell us the sections that you don't understand?

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/8/20 9:44 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
@OP- I don't really find it useful anymore to frame my practice ark in the traditional stages of awakening, but I've definitely had a series of major perceptual shifts that map to descriptions in MCTB.  Some levels of agitation arising from mood disorder disappeared automatically with these perceptual shifts.  However, insight practice has, for me, always been encased in a larger path of therapy, philosophical contemplation, behavior mod, etc that I was undertaking before I started insight practice.  The unique contribution of these shifts is that they made it possible for me to change.  They gave me an internal space so that I wouldn't just be constantly agitated by life & instead I could begin to methodically change behaviors, bit by bit.

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 12:59 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
@OP- I don't really find it useful anymore to frame my practice ark in the traditional stages of awakening, but I've definitely had a series of major perceptual shifts that map to descriptions in MCTB.  Some levels of agitation arising from mood disorder disappeared automatically with these perceptual shifts.  However, insight practice has, for me, always been encased in a larger path of therapy, philosophical contemplation, behavior mod, etc that I was undertaking before I started insight practice.  The unique contribution of these shifts is that they made it possible for me to change.  They gave me an internal space so that I wouldn't just be constantly agitated by life & instead I could begin to methodically change behaviors, bit by bit.

I also don't consider insight alone to be the totallity of the path.

And I also don't consider identity view to be the only source of suffering to be reduced by "practice".

People need to understand this because they can work on suffering from different sources in parallel. They shouldn't have to wait for awakening to understand the limits of freedom from identity view before they can start working on reducing suffering from other sources using other approaches.

That is in part what motivated me to start this thread: What kind of suffering does awakening reduce and what kinds of suffering does awakening not reduce? That way people can work on different kinds of suffering in parallel.

But only saying awakening reduces suffering caused by misperception of self, doesn't really help. People need real world examples of the kinds of problems they have that will be reduced by awakening and those that won't be reduced by awakening. 

I don't expect people to reveal deeply personal information about their problems, but they could make up hypothetical examples to explain what I am asking about.

 

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 2:54 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
At some point in the practice I started taking any pain as an opportunity to train my skills in reducing pain. This alone reduced suffering dramatically because it didn't feel like I was experiencing pain and did not get anything from it. Then with some practice it becomes easier to actually deal with pain.

Really the worst kind of suffering is when it is completely pointless and if you also have all this self apparatus still going on it is even worse because mind then generates stream of even more pointless thoughts and emotions related to how it is bad because you suffer and which not only do nothing to provide solution for actual pain but even hinder mind from finding solutions.

I'd go with: practice more

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 5:29 AM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
Ni Nurta:
At some point in the practice I started taking any pain as an opportunity to train my skills in reducing pain. This alone reduced suffering dramatically because it didn't feel like I was experiencing pain and did not get anything from it. Then with some practice it becomes easier to actually deal with pain.

Really the worst kind of suffering is when it is completely pointless and if you also have all this self apparatus still going on it is even worse because mind then generates stream of even more pointless thoughts and emotions related to how it is bad because you suffer and which not only do nothing to provide solution for actual pain but even hinder mind from finding solutions.

I'd go with: practice more
Hi, 

Thanks for replying ... Would you mind clarifying, do you mean physical pain or psychological/emotional pain?

Can you give examples to illustrate? Hypothetical examples are okay, I'm not asking for personal information.

What are "skills for reducing pain"?

What is "pointless suffering"? How does it differ from other types of suffering?

Thanks

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 6:09 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


That is in part what motivated me to start this thread: What kind of suffering does awakening reduce and what kinds of suffering does awakening not reduce?


 


Theoretically speaking, awakening reduces the pain of believing that there is a thing called self that needs protecting. That's it.

But the reality is that awakening involves psychological developement as a foundation for awakening. Psychological development reduces needless emotional and intellectual suffering.

The reality is also that most meditative practices involve an element of bodywork, because to be able to sit and walk on retreat for 12 hours a day, there needs to be good spinal alignment and a looseness in the body.

There is no forumula for optimizing awakening, psychological, and bodywork ---- this has to be done on a case by case basis, tailored to the specific person. Some people can just meditate and it all works out. Some people need psychological tools or therapy as part of the process. Some people need physical training or yoga or physical therapy for their body.

The most important thing is for each person to own their practice, be responsible for their life, and be honest about what kinds of support they need to develop maturity, sanity, and health.

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 6:50 AM as a reply to shargrol.
The most important thing is for each person to own their practice, be responsible for their life, and be honest about what kinds of support they need to develop maturity, sanity, and health.

Huge +1!

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/11/20 4:04 AM as a reply to shargrol.
But only saying awakening reduces suffering caused by misperception of self, doesn't really help. People need real world examples of the kinds of problems they have that will be reduced by awakening and those that won't be reduced by awakening. 

I completely resonate with your question. 

It seems that all this awakening stuff belongs to a realm of perception that is very sophisticated, subtle or "transcendental". It is hard to talk about it: teachers either speak about it in mystical-shmystical poetic metaphors (which sounds like quackery) or they try to explain it phenomenologically/scientifcally/pragmatically, which sounds overly abstract. When a teacher says: "Awakening will free you from the pain associated with the illusion of self", 99,999% of people would not understand what are they talking about. It just sounds abstract and philosophical.
Shinzen Young once said that the curse of awakening is that nobody will understand what are you talking about. I suppose that it's like trying to talk with a fish about the water that it lives in. Someone said that the "fundamental suffering" is like a large burden that you carried all of your life so you are not aware that you carry it (because you don't know how is it to be without it).

I think that, fundamentally, there are no "real world examples" for this. Any concrete examples (such as eliminating some addiction etc.) are just anegdotes, not universal for all awakened people. And they belong to the realm of psychology, not awakening.

I like the explanation given by Kenneth Folk (you can google it): he says that awakening brings "meta-okayness" - anything can arise in your mind, as before awakening, but now there is "more space" around it, a background okayness. So, everything is the same, but, at the same time, everything is different, because things are now in this different, better context.

In several of his recent interviews, Daniel was directly asked what are the benefits of awakening, and each time he answered with a long list of things, to name a few: all negative emotions last much shorter, you can see thoughts as thoughts (you see that they are not objective reality), there is more spaciousness so suffering feels smaller in comparison, reality feels much more pleasant etc.

However, this all sounds abstract. I guess that subtle and paradoxical nature of awakening just makes it necessary to talk about it in that way.

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 7:35 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Jim Smith:


That is in part what motivated me to start this thread: What kind of suffering does awakening reduce and what kinds of suffering does awakening not reduce?


 


Theoretically speaking, awakening reduces the pain of believing that there is a thing called self that needs protecting. That's it.

But the reality is that awakening involves psychological developement as a foundation for awakening. Psychological development reduces needless emotional and intellectual suffering.

The reality is also that most meditative practices involve an element of bodywork, because to be able to sit and walk on retreat for 12 hours a day, there needs to be good spinal alignment and a looseness in the body.

There is no forumula for optimizing awakening, psychological, and bodywork ---- this has to be done on a case by case basis, tailored to the specific person. Some people can just meditate and it all works out. Some people need psychological tools or therapy as part of the process. Some people need physical training or yoga or physical therapy for their body.

The most important thing is for each person to own their practice, be responsible for their life, and be honest about what kinds of support they need to develop maturity, sanity, and health.
This is so very well put! My personal experience is that the formal meditation practice interplays with other parts of my life and they nourish each other. I see my practice as integrated. It's all practice, and it's all life. I'm one of those people who need the yoga in order to be able to meditate, but I also need to meditate in order to be able to do the yoga. I'm not in therapy now, but I have been, and even outside of therapy I have done a lot of psychological work. I just had to do that, because of traumas and because I'm differently wired than what this society mainly caters to. I think that has been very helpful both for my insight practice and for dealing with it, and it's also part of the morality work that is its own practice. I can also see that insights from the insight practice are very helpful for that work. 

Suffering less and noticing it more, until one realizes that there isn't a thing called self that needs protection - yes, that's very spot on. The phases where that realization is stronger, there is a huge reduction in suffering. Words aren't enough to describe that relief. However, that realization is not stable for me yet. Sometimes outer conditions and dukkha nanas and personal conditioning interact in a way that makes the space seem restricted, and in those phases, I feel like I suffer a great deal. Still, when I look at the facts of how I'm behaving and what is possible for me, how much I'm able to laugh and enjoy life, and how fast I recover from a really shitty day, there's no denying that my baseline is very different from before I started my practice, and that there have been some significant shifts in that baseline. On a really shitty day I still just take stuff for granted that I wouldn't even dream of a couple of years ago. But do I still have really shitty days? Yes. For the record, I'm definitely not an arahant. I'm beyond stream entry. I think I'm working towards third path. 

If people find that other stuff than formal meditation is helping them, I think it goes without saying that it's good to integrate that in their practice. Whatever works! 

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 10:08 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
IME, the early stages of awakening involve the loosening of the identity to thoughts, emotions and general suffering. Throughout those perceptual shifts and the gradual removal of the onion layers, on one hand there's a great freedom and spaciousness to experience. On the other hand, you start to see your deep-seated psychological bullshit in terrifyingly exquisite detail, hence the saying "suffering less, noticing it more".
Bad habits and lazy solutions to them have greater consequences. I've been shocked by the amount of suffering that can occur later on down the path by my own bullshit that I thought I could "insight" my way around. With insight comes responsibility and if one hasn't developed sila, what insight reveals can be very, very ugly. The good news is that all that insight work gives you the skills and spaciousness to work on this stuff. 

To answer your question: It depends because the description of these "levels of awakening" are vague and not agreed upon with their relation to the different axis of development - and what it says "in the suttas" or "what the Buddha said" doesn't mean much against the complexity of your own personal psychology, cultural background, history of trauma, etc.   

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/9/20 12:25 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
The essence of practice is the same in the beginning the middle and the end. The end of suffering is not an abstraction, it is very much an embodied fact.  When you try to fit it in to concepts of "progress" a great disservice is done to the beginner.  There are two aspects that have to be harmonized, they are initially perceived as two, but are really one, body and mind.  In the body, serenity, relaxation, in the mind, expansion of attention, reflection, understanding.  As the interaction of these two aspects grows and eventually unifies, suffering is reduced. The amount of turmoil experienced during the steps of growth will depend on how much emotional and physical baggage is brought initially and how determined the person is in practicing how to get rid of it.  Breaking with the emotional, imaginative causes of suffering, that are given so much importance by us, is the gist of meditative practice. Calmly feeling the reaction in the body, observing calmly the reaction in the mind, is what reveals and dismantles the whole process. With the expansion of attention we notice more and more of this interaction between body and mind, we include environmental observations, and into the ever widening circle of awareness "we" one day disappear in a flash.  

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/10/20 7:06 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Meta-analysis of issues of sense of self and 4th do not belong here so it was moved to 21686002
Besides contain content references to things I promised Chris to avoid posting.
I hope he won't mind it when I keep it one place.

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/10/20 12:45 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim:
That is in part what motivated me to start this thread: What kind of suffering does awakening reduce and what kinds of suffering does awakening not reduce? That way people can work on different kinds of suffering in parallel.


I would use the term "awakening" ("bodhi")  to describe the benefits of therapy, ego development, behavior mod & insight practice all as one bucket.  That is my understanding of how it is described in the traditional maps, such as the 4 theravada paths or the 5 mahayana paths.

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/10/20 4:34 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Jim:
That is in part what motivated me to start this thread: What kind of suffering does awakening reduce and what kinds of suffering does awakening not reduce? That way people can work on different kinds of suffering in parallel.


I would use the term "awakening" ("bodhi")  to describe the benefits of therapy, ego development, behavior mod & insight practice all as one bucket.  That is my understanding of how it is described in the traditional maps, such as the 4 theravada paths or the 5 mahayana paths.

Okay. I think I see how therapy can be helpful. It seems obvious that we might have a hard time letting go of those aspects of self we want to protect: the body, our opinions, social status. But what is less obvious is that to let go of the sense of self, we have to be conscious of it, and often those apsects of our sense of self that we don't like, our faults, failures, and unpleasant experiences etc sometimes get pushed away out of the forefront consciousness. So some of the big things we need to let go of (surrender to) are hidden or pushed to the side unless we really go looking look for them. I suppose that hidden aspect of the sense of self is one of the things that makes awakening such a big undertaking, and facing the emotional pain of acknowledging our faults, failures and unpleasant experiences is one of the things that causes dark nights, and difficulty in maintaining a consistent and continuous meditation practice.

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/10/20 2:04 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

Okay. I think I see how therapy can be helpful. It seems obvious that we might have a hard time letting go of those aspects of self we want to protect: the body, our opinions, social status. But what is less obvious is that to let go of the sense of self, we have to be conscious of it, and often those apsects of our sense of self that we don't like, our faults, failures, and unpleasant experiences etc sometimes get pushed away out of he forefront consciousness. So some of the big things we need to let go of are hidden or pushed to the side unless we really go looking look for them. I suppose that hidden aspect of the sense of self is one of the things that makes awakening such a big undertaking, and facing the emotional pain of acknowledging our faults, failures and unpleasant experiences is one of the things that causes dark nights, and difficulty in maintaining a consistent and continuous meditation practice.


Yes! Exactly!

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/10/20 5:53 AM as a reply to Griffin.
Griffin:

I like the explanation given by Kenneth Folk (you can google it): he says that awakening brings "meta-okayness" - anything can arise in your mind, as before awakening, but now there is "more space" around it, a background okayness. So, everything is the same, but, at the same time, everything is different, because things are now in this different, better context.

This sounds something like how I understand surrender. When you surrender to something unpleasant: a feeling or a situation, you don't necessarily end the unpleasantness (it stays the same), you end your resistance to it. You accept it psychologically, you accept reality, stop trying to deny reality, so it doesn't produce secondary, additional, (meta) mental anguish (so at the same time everything is different). You realize a lot of the suffering was not the actual problem but your rejection/resistance to it.


In several of his recent interviews, Daniel was directly asked what are the benefits of awakeing, and each time he answered with a long list of thins, to name a few: all negative emotions last much shorter, you can see thoughts as thoughts (you see that they are not objective reality), there is more spaciousness so suffering feels smaller in comparison, reality feels much more pleasant etc.


Can you post a link to one of these interviews?


Thanks

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/11/20 5:04 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Sure:

About 30 minutes in:
https://m.soundcloud.com/daneilmingram/maxante-and-daniel-discuss-dharma

Part one, in the beginning and again about 20 minutes in:
https://anchor.fm/daniel-hill6/episodes/An-Interview-with-Daniel-Ingram-Part-One-ebvrtn/a-a1penf0
(shownotes: https://monkonamotorbike.com/show-notes/daniel-ingram/show-notes/)

Enjoy ;)

RE: Suffering and the Stages of Awakening
Answer
10/11/20 6:04 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Jim Smith:

Okay. I think I see how therapy can be helpful. It seems obvious that we might have a hard time letting go of those aspects of self we want to protect: the body, our opinions, social status. But what is less obvious is that to let go of the sense of self, we have to be conscious of it, and often those apsects of our sense of self that we don't like, our faults, failures, and unpleasant experiences etc sometimes get pushed away out of he forefront consciousness. So some of the big things we need to let go of are hidden or pushed to the side unless we really go looking look for them. I suppose that hidden aspect of the sense of self is one of the things that makes awakening such a big undertaking, and facing the emotional pain of acknowledging our faults, failures and unpleasant experiences is one of the things that causes dark nights, and difficulty in maintaining a consistent and continuous meditation practice.


Yes! Exactly!

Nice Jim, well said!