Stream Entry?

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Elish Le, modified 9 Months ago.

Stream Entry?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
Hi All!

This is my first post on DhO and I want to first thank you all for taking any amount of time and energy to sift through this experience with me, as I believe I had my first fruition a couple of weeks ago.

Some background, I have been meditating on and off for abour 4 years, but I don't come from any specific tradition, nor am I well versed in any of them and have not done any retreats, so I apologize if my use of terminology is off.

Despite that, I have lived the last few years in very deep self inquiry and dedicated my life to understanding and reconditioning my relationship with myself and reality in an attempt to free myself of over 15 years of depression (I'm 30yo now), which I have successfully attained through meditation, spiritual, philosophical, psychology and behavior studies, psychedelics, and all in all honining in my perceptual and analytical skills to become conscious of very subtle aspects of my mind and shift my own patterning. I guess I mention this to say that though I am new to Buddhism and truly formal meditation practice, I have acquired skills and other sorts of attainments related to understanding the self through personal and professional work that made diving into true meditation (primarily insight practice and fire kasina) quite smooth and fruitful so as to temper the idea that I'm some overzealous noob who had a couple big meditation moments and now claims something so serious as Stream Entry...though I'm also very open to that being the truth haha.

Anyways.

Leading up to what I believe was a fruition, I had been practicing with MCTB as reference for a month. Putting in about an hour or so of formal practice daily of both fire kasina and insight practice, and then informal inquiry and smaller practice sessions whenever I had free time throughout the rest of my waking hours simply out of habit and passion for understanding more about how I relate to the world and others.

After reading MCTB I gathered that I had already attained access concentration and had many meditation experiences that closely resembled at least the 1st-4th shamatha jhanas though I had no clue what the hell they were before reading the book. They were just cool, super deep meditation experiences, but now I realized that meditation was a much bigger, more complex and serious landscape to explore. So I dove in as hard as I could.

It was tough for me to matchup my experiences with the models laid out in MCTB, which I believe was because I both just didn't study them enough and hadn't spent enough time really trying to familiarize myself with the qualities of those states as I didn't realize there was more there to be familiarized with heh. To deal with this, I just set a goal to spend more time just being present with my practice rather than trying to fit them to the descriptions and this took me through a roller coaster. I experienced some intence A&P phenomena, some really rough Dark Night stuff, and then brief periods of really gentle, clear, focused, easy practice that was very equanimous by nature.

I had just gotten out of some really dark stuff the week before my supposed fruition, and had a nice opportunity to get out of NYC, USA to a very quiet space in Vermont, USA for a week where I decided I was going to treat it as a personal retreat. Going into this time, I was already in a nice state of equanimity overall, and practice was very pleasant, absent of peaks, and a nice sense of relief that the dark stuff was over. I was feeling very refreshed and hopeful and was just going with the flow with insight practice only.

On the day I had this experience, I had set my timer for an hour and did my thing when about 35 minutes in a memory of a very painful trauma came up, and I somehow had the balls to turn towards it instead of what I assume was normal for me which was to suppress it. Once I noticed it in my body, I just rested my attention on it as completely and gently as I could and it all started to breakdown smoothly and next thing you know I was cruising in this really spacious awareness, very panaromic, clear, peaceful and then some sence of rapid warping happened, and then the "lights went out" really quickly and then boom the lights came back on brighter than ever, but in a luminous darkness kind of way, rather than bright visible light, I was completely refreshed, energized, and then after a few seconds a wave of really nice bliss started to fill my body from the inside out. It truly felt like I had just gotten closure on something, and was left so surprised at this massive contrast and felt as if I was in a completely different mind. I stopped practice and just sat there in this state of subtle bliss, smiling ear to ear, and saying "What the fuck was that?" I sat in this feeling for a while and paced around my hotel room thinking it would pass, but it didn't. Something deep definitely shifted, and then immediately I needed to take this outside and went on a hike. It was like the world I was living in was just slightly foggy, and now that fog was lifted. It wasn't euphoria, or anything big, but I was so at peace and felt like a different person.

From that moment on, practice became very different, but what I noticed most was a near 180 flip when it came to dealing with my own or other's suffering. I work as a movement and breathwork coach and recently have been working with a lot of terminally ill clients and those with chronic pain and fatigue and usually being around them requires me to very diligently keep my wits about me so as to not get overwhelmed by emotion, as I tend to react strongly as a protector and problem solver. However, ever since then, I've been able to see them as their own people, and their suffering I can empathize with without taking them on myself like I used to. At most, I would notice quickly that I was beginning to lose my sense of presence, at which point I'd notice the sensations of my body and be able to quickly and effortless ground myself and continue listening or working. My mental space is nowhere near as hectic, practice has been much stronger and I began going through the cycles again. As of right now, I'm in some dark night territory, but managing it well.

If that wasn't a good tell tale that something was different, my mom stopped pissing me off with her usual antics that would trigger the living hell out of me in the past lmao. I hope many of you can relate.

I want to continue to point out that this experience was following dark night stuff and there was no A&P like stuff leading into it. I wasn't feeling supercharged or anything like that, practice was very neutral, no bells and whistles, nothing like that which is why I'm thinking it was fruition. Though its only been a couple weeks, this shift has stuck, I'm much happier overall, compassion comes much more easily, judgment is significantly down, life is more consistently great. As it relates to practice, I'm sharper and faster, can sit for longer without issue (currently at 4 hours a day), and unless I'm really tired or otherwise busy, I am much more attuned to subtleties and have been able to shift through states with a greater sense of flow, letting go is easier, softening and broadening attention both is easier and I seem to be able to pick up on when I need to open up with more precision. I guess I'm getting stuck less (except this current dark night has been a kick in the ass).

For anyone that's stuck around to this end, I would be very grateful for any input and questions to help me better understand what happened and to test this for certainty.

Thank you again.

May you all be well,
Elish
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 985 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Elish Le:
Hi All!
...
For anyone that's stuck around to this end, I would be very grateful for any input and questions to help me better understand what happened and to test this for certainty.

Thank you again.

May you all be well,
Elish


This video is only about 3.5 minutes long I think it will help with your question.

Diagnosing Stream Entry
Daniel M. Ingram
https://vimeo.com/372228348
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Elish Le, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
Jim Smith:
Elish Le:
Hi All!
...
For anyone that's stuck around to this end, I would be very grateful for any input and questions to help me better understand what happened and to test this for certainty.

Thank you again.

May you all be well,
Elish


This video is only about 3.5 minutes long I think it will help with your question.

Diagnosing Stream Entry
Daniel M. Ingram
https://vimeo.com/372228348
Thank you, Jim! I've watched the video, but I don't think I'm familiar enough with the material to be able to conclude much from there. However, what I have taken from it and my general attitude is that whether it is or isn't much of a concern for me. Gonna keep on keepin' on regardless.
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 985 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Elish Le:


Thank you, Jim! I've watched the video, but I don't think I'm familiar enough with the material to be able to conclude much from there. However, what I have taken from it and my general attitude is that whether it is or isn't much of a concern for me. Gonna keep on keepin' on regardless.



That's good. Since you mentioned you read MCTB and are posting here I thought you would be interested in the video. Personally I don't practice MCTB or a similar type of vipassana and I don't really believe that cessation/furition is necessary or sufficient for stream entry.

One piece of good advice, I think it is also from Daniel ( I can't find a reference) is if you think you might have stream entry,  wait a year and see if you still feel the same. It can be confusing because some people will say that when it's really stream entry you know it. But at the same time people, like in the video will list all sorts of other phenomenon that people confuse with stream entry. So even if you think you know, you still have reason to doubt ... so you can't know it. And there are respected authorites like Shinzen Young and others who say it is possible to be awakened and not know it.


Since you are interested in other views, my personal (unconventional) views on awakening are on my blog here:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/04/my-views-on-gradual-awakening.html
This is probably not what you are looking for since the one sentance summary is that stream entry is an arbirtary milestone that doesn't have useful meaning so you shouldn't worry about it. Daniel's definition of stream entry in the video is based on phenomena that occur during meditation, it is a practical, fairly objectively measurable definition that applies when you practice vipassana meditation and the progress of insight, so in that way it is good. But if you aren't practicing that way, his definition is not really useful and it is not the same as the way stream entry is defined in the Pali canon which uses freedom the ten fetters to define the stages of awakening. In that context I think my way of looking at stream entry is best. 


In case anyone reading this thread is interested in Daniel's video which I linked to above and wants to see a transcript to make studying it easier here it is

https://vimeo.com/372228348
Hey.

Welcome to a video about diagnosing stream entry.

Well, I routinely get questions which are basically, "Will you diagnose me?" or "See if I have stream entry." or "Confirm that this is stream entry" or "What do you think of this experience, was that stream entry?"

Regardless of the specifics, there are four basic cases.

The first is they do not have stream entry, and some person on a forum, or me, or whoever else says, you don't have stream entry. Ok. Good. No problem.

The next case is they do have stream entry, and someone says, you have stream entry. Okay. Now you can identify with an attainment or whatever, or maybe that can cause some hiccups. Not that much of a problem.

The next case is that they do have street entry and someone says, you do not have stream entry. Well, they have stream entry so while that can cause a little bit of confusion, it's relatively minimal, and the attainment is what it is, regardless of whether or not someone calls it that.

But the last case is the serious problem, and that's where they do not have stream entry and someone says: you have stream entry. And in this case, they've just been totally screwed if they believe that.

And not only have they been screwed, they will go around spreading this crazy to other people and they will call things like the arising and passing away, which is by far the most common mimic, stream entry. And they will call equanimity stream entry.  And they will call some momentary opening into some formless realm or something else stream entry. Or a momentary taste of boundless consciousness or boundless space or nothingness, or neither perception or non perception, they will call that stream entry. 


But stream entry should perform like stream entry. It should do all the things that stream entry should do. and if it doesn't do that well, then what is it? 

So it would be if someone said to me, "Oh yeah, I've got a car." And I said, "Ok, let me see your car." And they took me out back, and there was a burned out old shell of a car on blocks. And you can call it a car, maybe, but it doesn't do all the things a car is supposed to do. And there are actually things that do what cars are supposed to do. 

And so linguistically, I think of stream entry is a question of function. If it doesn't function like stream entry, well then pragmatically or practically, it's not stream entry, just like a burned out shell of a car is not a car. And so if whatever you think of a stream entry is not performing like stream entry should perform, with natural cycling, with rapid access to states, with hopefully repeat fruition, maybe even multiples, maybe even if you're lucky duration, and clear presentation of doors that eventually become easily distinguished from random state shifts or random formless realm things. Then, there's no point in calling that stream entry, because it's not doing what stream entry should do.

So I hope this video has helped, and I hope that there is a whole lot more terminological sobriety and skepticism and reasonable performance testing in the world of path and state and stage diagnosis. 

Good luck. 
Practice well. 
Best wishes. 
Thank you.
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Elish Le, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
This was tremendously helpful and I like your view on awakening. It makes a lot of sense and validates for me that I need to continue to let go of the linear thinking I've been accustomed to. Something that I've been working on and has clearly manifested here. The goal is to suffer less and to help others suffer less and I think perhaps the only thing really left to say if someone were to say yes or no is to keep practicing, experimenting, learning, and let how life unravels dictate what's needed rather than what titles I can claim. This is all very much in line with what I've been working with anyway but I guess I've been dancing around because of my own attachments. Its funny it seems like I knew this was the case somewhere beneath the surface but needed someone else to contribute some weight to it. Thank you so much for your input, I'm excited to keep digging into this, there's clearly a lot there.
agnostic, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Elish,

I have no idea if it's SE or not, but you seem like a relatively sane person with a strong practice and some impressive results so congratulations! I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

Cheers 
George 
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Elish Le, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
Thank you George!
shargrol, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 1577 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Great practice Elish!

As far as Stream Entry goes, it's possible that was it --- but if I had to give odds right now, I would say that it is 5 to 3 odds that it wasn't a cessation. Or another way to say it is, 3 to 5 odds that it was cessation.

Things that says it likely isn't:
* short period of time before practicing with intent for SE
* short time spend in EQ
* still dealing with very painful trauma in EQ which lead to opening up experience
* lights went out and came back stronger sounds more like a dropout than fruition
* already in dark night after just a few weeks
* sitting 4 hours a day now

Things that likely says it is:
* feeling of closure on things, new attitude
* new instinct to go >into< the experience to relieve suffering
* stronger faith in practice

Here is my best guess based on my own experience. I had a very very clean experience that was exactly as you described: a period of meditating, focusing on a psychological knot, a not-knowing experience, and a radical change in my awareness, sensitivity, and insight. I thought for a long time that was stream entry, but I can now say that it was actually an A&P event. 

From MCTB:

"Finally, at nearly the peak of the possible resolution of the mind, at the peak of the A&P, some (but not all) meditators cross something called the “Arising and Passing Event” (A&P event) or “Deep Insight into the Arising and Passing Away”, sometimes just called “Deep Insight”, a term that may often generically be applied to this whole stage. For those who do have a specific event, it, or this stage in general, marks a profound shift in the practice, and from then on they will be somewhat changed by what they have seen, with this being the point of no return that I mentioned in the Foreword and Warning. The intensity of this A&P event can vary, though it tends to be quite clear and memorable, particularly the first time we cross it during that cycle."

Lots of other good information here: https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/30-the-progress-of-insight/4-the-arising-and-passing-away/

When I finally got this diagnosis, I freaked out thinking that "oh, I thought I had dark nights in the past, now I'm fucked because I'm entering the real dark night..." but this turned out to be a false concern. I had been touching on dark night stuff all along and this A&P event didn't mean dark night/trauma was going to get worse.

So, I guess my advice would be to consider this an A&P event and focus on learning to accept/be with your current experiences in the Dark Night. In the Dark Night, we learn that if we can become intimate with intense sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts, they become less "who we are" and more like experiences that arise and pass. The dark night also brings up or reminds us of all the partially digested trauma from our past that we still need to fully experience before we can let go and truly feel "it was in the past". Don't try to rush through this important phase of practice. Dark night is where most of our real improvements occur and it's where we truly let go of unhelpful habits.

The fact that you are already sitting a ~4 hours a day might also mean that you are mostly finished with dark night. Many times there can be A&P events when someone is working on EQ. (The mind sort of goes backwards in the nanas and has a powerful A&P before setting again in EQ.) So who knows what the future might bring!

Hope this diagnosis isn't too disappointing, but it seems like your practice is strong and you're doing all the right things. Keep going!


 
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Elish Le, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
This is not dissapointing at all! Thank you so much for your input and encouragement, this is exactly what I was hoping for. I see what you mean and am going to reflect on it. The journey continues as it was meant to!
Tommaso Tommasi, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: Stream Entry?

Posts: 12 Join Date: 5/29/20 Recent Posts
Hi Elish,

I found your account of your journey quite moving. Whether stream entry or not is not my place to say, as I am in the relatively early stages of my own journey (meditating diligently for a year following some gnarly psychological issues as a "wake-up call"), but I saw much of myself in what you said, and recognised many of the same milestones and characteristics of my path.

I was moved by your diligence, your faith, your fastidiousness and your passion with what is truly an incredibly fun and deep exploration that so many of us here on DhO are hooked by. I guess since getting so into it myself I've felt somewhat bereft of companionship, as it can be profoundly alienating to one's social circle that isn't "initiated". Maybe this is why I found your post so particularly touching.

I shed a few tears (which, if you read my previous posts on this forum, is not entirely unsual for me at this point :-P) when you described your occupation and the role you find yourself automatically adopting as protector and problem solver, as well as the enmeshment around this which would ensnare you. Not to mention your mother -- I know that feel, brother!

​​​​​​​As a fellow "all-rounder" who has plunged fearlessly into the worlds of psychology, spirituality, meditation, philosophy, behaviour and psychedelics, I warmly wish you happy practicing and thank you for the inspiration emoticon