Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha samap.

Daniel B, modified 12 Years ago at 9/10/11 7:48 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/10/11 7:48 PM

Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha samap.

Posts: 11 Join Date: 9/10/11 Recent Posts
I respectfully disagree with Dan Ingram’s premise that magga-phala or phala must be a condition without any mental awareness.

In regular phala, what happens (at least according to the Vis. Magga) is that you experience emptiness in some degree of jhanic attainment. This means that there is some residual degree of subtle mind door perception along with mental factors that maintain jhana (we are talking deep/hard jhana here). Phala/fruition is the cessation of vedana and mental formations (I actually read this in the Suttas somewhere but I failed to record the source). It not the cessation of perception. Even in the Mahasi tradition you will hear some of the official descriptions as “consciousness became submerged” or “consciousness became shrouded”; we also routinely hear people describing phala as very close to deep sleep etc. In all these scenarios there is a subtle sense of surrounding darkness or of a perceptual mechanism in a formless state of potentiality. The problem is that many people are not sufficiently acclimated to the experience so as to detect this, or they do not have sufficiently developed discriminative faculties to detect the residue of mind that is present, or they are afraid to say it because others will pronounce their attainment as false.

In those frequent scenarios where the nirodha is absolutely complete, and even the subtle residue of sensory potential is gone, we would be looking at nirodha samapati. And it is indeed my contention that in many cases, the Mahasi experience is actually nirodha samapati. Now to clear up the confusion about “only arhants and anagamis” can experience this: a friend of mine who would likely not want me to name him here, is a scholar of ancient Chinese languages, and he has read and translated many of the suttas from ancient cannons from schools of Buddhism that no longer exist. Some of these used Pali Tripitikas, and had their own commentaries. Think of it! Entire Tripitikas and their commentaries, only available to Chinese scholars! Well, in at least one of these, he was able to identify sources claiming that ALL noble disciples are capable of nirodha samapati if their minds have experienced the formless jhanas.

Now many people who have been sitting in sankhar upekkha ñana for awhile have gone through the formless formless jhanas spontaneously. They may not have mastery, and given the tight fisted nature of those Burmese teachers, were surely not told about it, but their minds have thereby acquired the necessary degree of subtlety to qualify for nirodha. Think about it. If you your mind can experience the formless jhanas, and you are ripe for magga-phala, why should you not be able to experience nirodha samapati? There is nothing magical about being an anagami. This is especially apt to happen if the path you have worn to phala goes through the formless realms spontaneously when you sit in sankhar upekkha nana!

This explains a lot!!!

Metta to all my new friends here. This is my first post.

Daniel B.
Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 9/10/11 9:39 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/10/11 9:39 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 3264 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Interesting ideas.

I agree, we will have to agree to disagree.

So you are saying that my early Fruitions, including the time I attained stream entry the first time, when the whole darn thing completely vanished and reappeared, were not Fruition, but actually Nirodha Samapatti, me, with jack squat for jhanic abilities at that time, basically no experience with anything like stable formless realms, happened onto that, and managed to attain to Nirodha Samapatti multiple times in the weeks that followed while doing things like walking and eating? Really? I hardly think so.

We have very different definitions of these things then, as well as what is require to attain them.

Then I would also ask what you call the whole other thing that I managed to attain a year later that makes a Fruition seem like something relatively trivial and has such a massive, heavy and long-lived afterglow as to set it wildly apart from ordinary Fruitions and doesn't ever seem to happen while doing things like walking or eating or driving much less (thank goodness it doesn't) that I call Nirodha Samapatti and do get when I set the thing up correctly by the standard recipe for Nirodha Samapatti.

I checked out these things for about 1.5 decades many, many times over, thousands of times for Fruition, not sure how many for Nirodha Samapatti but quite a number, and I am really quite convinced they are two completely different balls of wax and that Fruition is always a real, honest-to-goodness vanishing of the whole thing and anything else is some close mimic, such as the A&P, a momentary blip into something like 7th or 8th jhana, a strong state shift into some other ñana, etc, but not a Fruition, and this high standard worked just fine for me. I am also quite convinced that Nirodha Samapatti is a whole other entity with the specific exits and entrances as described and requiring the standard setup as described and with much heavier consequences.

What do you know personally about this from your own practice that would speak differently, and also, why do you advocate such a lower, looser and less well-tested set of criteria? What do you feel their practical benefit to be? How do they work for you and why? I am honestly quite surprised that someone would take on this particular point, and it will be interesting to see where you are trying to go with this and what your motives are.

Nikolai , modified 12 Years ago at 9/10/11 11:07 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/10/11 11:01 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 1675 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
I'll add some more speculation for fun:

All of Us: Beset by birth, decay, and death by Sister Ayya Khema

"The path and fruit moments recur for the once-returner (sakadagami), the non-returner(anagami) and the Enlightened One (arahant). Each time they are not only deepened, but can be lengthened. One could compare this to having examinations at the university. If one is going through four years of university study to get a certain degree, one has to pass examinations at the end of each year. One has to answer questions each time, based on one's previously absorbed knowledge. But the questions become deeper, more profound and more difficult with each subsequent examination. While they are always concerned with the same subject, they require more depth and profundity of understanding each time. Until one finally graduates and doesn't have to return to university. It's the same with our spiritual development. Each path moment is based on the previous one and is concerned with the same subject, yet it goes deeper and further. Until one passes one's final test and need not return again."

"The path moment doesn't have any thinking or feeling in it. It is not comparable to the meditative absorptions (jhana). Although it is based upon them because only the concentrated mind can enter into a path moment, it does not have the same qualities. the meditative absorptions have — in their initial stages — the ingredients of rapture, happiness and peacefulness. Later on, the mind experiences expansion, nothingness and a change of perception. The path moment does not contain any of these states of mind."

"It has a quality of non-being. This is such a relief and changes one's world view so totally that it is quite understandable that the Buddha made such a distinction between a worldling and a Noble One. While the meditative absorptions bring with them a feeling of oneness, of unity, the path moment does not even contain that. The moment of fruition, subsequent to the path moment, is the understood experience and results in a turned-around vision of existence."

"The new understanding recognizes every thought, every feeling as stress (dukkha). The most elevated thought, the most sublime feeling still has this quality. Only when there is nothing, is there no stress. There is nothing internal or external that contains the quality of total satisfactoriness. Because of such an inner vision, the passion for wanting anything is discarded. All has been seen for what it really is and nothing can give the happiness that arises through the practice of the path and its results."

"The Nibbanic element cannot be truly described as bliss, because bliss has a connotation of exhilaration. We use the word "bliss" for the meditative absorption, where it includes a sense of excitement. The Nibbanic element does not recognize bliss because all that arises is seen as stress. "The bliss of Nibbana" may give one the impression that one may find perfect happiness, but the opposite is true. One finds that there is nothing and therefore no more unhappiness, only peace.
To look for path and fruit will not bring them about, because only moment to moment awareness can do so. This awareness will eventually culminate in real concentration where one can let go of thinking and be totally absorbed. We can drop the meditation subject at that time. We need not push it aside, it falls away of its own accord, and absorption in awareness occurs. If there has to be an ambition in one's life, this is the only worthwhile one. All others will not bring fulfillment."

What does the path and fruition moment according to Ayya Khema sound like? The PCE as talked of here by the actualists? At least a full blown one?

Another important quote by Ayya Khema:

"The initial fruit moment needs to be re-lived, one has to resurrect it over and over again, until the second path moment can arise. It's like repeating what one knows and not forgetting so that one can build upon it."

What does this quote seem to point to? the actualist instruction to stay as close as possible to the PCE?

I have experienced and still do experience fruitions as talked of by Daniel Ingram and have experienced what Ayya Khema seems to point to.

And I have experienced two types of NS. One NS as described by Daniel Ingram and another which is conscious and seemingly described in the pali canon as just the cessation of vedana and sanna. I can still call the cessation of the senses up at will, but my default mode is more or less the PCE now, but with some slight shadow residue to clean up. I think there are differing experiences being give the same name depending on tradition. But having seemingly experienced both these possibilities myself, I can see that both sides have something to argue for.

Edit: Hi Daniel B,

Is this you?

The advantages to training animitta samadhi, or full on phala samapati, are, as I understand them from my teachers as follows:

Mind and insight are acclimated to emptiness, bringing subtlety to the faculties.

It is true rest for the mind, and true refuge.

Develops concentration in a manner that is very harmonious to the development of insight. All three of these first points contribute to the development of higher paths and fruitions.

As clarity develops regarding the nature of the experience, one will be able to differentiate the "real thing" from other types of experiences that might fool one into believing one has supermundane attainment.

As one gains control over the process, one is less likely to slip into involuntary moments of phala when training for higher path and fruition. This avoids the confusing experience of "Was that phala, or was that magga-phala?" This is a very common problem among Theravada yogis. Naturally this presumes that you accept the standard model and commentarial interpretation.

Daniel B, modified 12 Years ago at 9/11/11 12:47 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/11/11 12:47 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 11 Join Date: 9/10/11 Recent Posts
Hi Daniel!

Thanks so much for taking an interest in my post. I realized after I wrote it that the tone was a bit cold, and not at all what I wished to project. For example, I did not acknowledge the fact that this is a working hypothesis and instead sounded rather declamatory. And for some odd reason I took you as the focus of my disagreement, when in fact what we are discussing is the standard Mahasi doctrine. Perhaps I was carried away by the refreshing directness I find in the tone of these boards. At any rate, I take full responsibility, and apologize to any who might have been offended.

Now to your points:

So you are saying that my early Fruitions, including the time I attained stream entry the first time, when the whole darn thing completely vanished and reappeared, were not Fruition, but actually Nirodha Samapatti, me, with jack squat for jhanic abilities at that time, basically no experience with anything like stable formless realms, happened onto that, and managed to attain to Nirodha Samapatti multiple times in the weeks that followed while doing things like walking and eating? Really? I hardly think so.

You might be underestimating your own abilities, or overestimating how hard all this business is supposed to be. To defend my first point, let me say that all my meditation life I have experienced things that were rare for most yogis, or at least rarely recognized: jhana was (relatively) easy for me, minor siddhis arising in sankhar upekkha ñana (do you guys have an abbreviation for this? I use SUN). Also, my SUN would produce spontaneous jhanas, cycle around the seven factor, often an oceanic experience at times etc. etc. When I would ask my teacher why I never heard of others describing any of this, and everyone always seemed to progress so slowly and painfully, I was told, “you have good paramis.” Now I am not sure if I accept this model. I question it the same way I question karma and rebirth, but it is provisionally acceptable to me. Now I can see very plainly from your history that you have greater ability than I. So now I offer you the same explanation. If my “paramis” are “above average” then what must yours be? So yes, what you describe could be possible. Some people make progress in the manner that is both “fast and easy.” Lucky you!

Now my second point, as to the ease or non-ease of these things was made to me by one my western teachers, David L. (again, I am not sure he would want his name on the internet). He spent several years as a monk in the late sixties and early seventies at the Mahasi monastery in Kanduboda, in Delgoda, Sri Lanka, under the direction of Somatiphala Mahathera (now deceased). He is actually one of the few westerners that have received the teacher training, which he passed on to me. One of the things he observed was that if you can get to students before they pick up a lot of erroneous information about how hard the progress of insight is supposed to be, they will usually progress fairly quickly and easily if the teacher knows his or her stuff and the student gets daily face to face interviews. Lamentably, it is rare for either condition to be met these days. He believes that at teacher cannot properly care for more than ten students at one time on a retreat, not if you want them to make rapid progress and watch over them with vigilance. My point here is only that the process need not necessarily be difficult, or protracted, and he has the same model you have for phala. Hence my claim that we might be overestimating the difficulty involved.

Another thing I would add to this train of thought is that most yogis, as far as I can tell actually do go through the formless jhanas in SUN, although not in a reproducible or organized manner. The resulting state of “phala” or possibly nirodha that we are assessing, is usually of short duration and highly unstable in most students beginning phala training. This is consistent with the state being nirodha samapati, otherwise, quite possibly it would not be so hard to reproduce.

Now let me ask you if you have fully factored in the following possibilities, besides the issue of parami:

§ There are seven grades of sotapans. Not all maga-phala experiences are equal, apparently.

§ What you get is what you get. If you have two states, and they are subjectively identical, and the only difference is the after effect, why would you say they were different if you have no difference is the actual experience? Perhaps we can look to other factors to explain the difference in after effects, such as length of attainment, power of belief, even depth of the jhana etc.?

§ If these two states are what you say they are, then what is it that is present in terms of mind or mental factors in phala that is absent in nirodha? In otherwords, how do you account for the difference? Given the difference, would the added extra not be experientially verifiable in phala?

§ There is also the samadhi of unconsciousness to be considered. I question if even nirodha is cessation of consciousness, in the most transcendent sense of the word consciousness. Neither the scriptures nor commentaries say this. Cessation of perception and feeling could be just what it says, and not cessation of consciousness. If you remember the Visuddhi Magga image of placing a jewel in a box. If the jewel is consciousness, then it continues to exist without aggregates of mind. If there is true and complete cessation of consciousness then what we have could simply the realm of the unconscious gods.

§ Lastly, have we accounted for the power of faith + concentration? The power of the mind steeped with samadhi and energy is great. It can produce all sorts of experiences it decides it believes in. This includes in my opinion putting itself out completely. I am not convinced of any theoretical limit to the power of the human consciousness.

Now my own experience has been similar to yours (although not I am sure in quantities of repetition of these experiences) in that I have noticed two types of “going out.” One is what I have come to call hyper-sleep. It is the standard phala experience that is so close to deep sleep. Upon review, there is something very subtle present in that state, in the same way there is something present in deep sleep, only more subtle still. It is very hard to describe. I asked U Silananda about this many years ago: “Bhante, if as the Visuddhi Magga claims, bare insight workers attain to phala with first jhana, why are most yogis unaware of the mental factors of first jhana present?” His response to me was “Perhaps because they are not habituated to it. Perhaps they lack the development of pañña.” This is my paraphrase of an old memory. Now this version of phala, I don’t see it coming at all. It us only upon emergence that I say: “Oh, everything disappeared.” This state does leave behind it a condition of coolness and tranquility, but not nearly as powerful as the second one. Now this second one that I am calling nirodha S. is really zero, like being under a general anaethetic, but without the torpidity going in or coming out, and also this one, you do kind of see something coming. When it first came along, I was mistaking it for a mini-magga-phala, a category I invented to explain the intense paccavekana ñana (much more so than regular phala) but not as intense as my previous magga-phala. I eventually realized this could not be so, because I was having to many of them. If they had been magga-phala I would be an arhant several time over! This is clearly not the case. But I did not have the idea in my head that this might be nirodha, so I did simply started questioning the entire model of either magga-phala or phala, and one magga-phala “moment” as defined by Mahasi equals one stage of the path. There is nothing to my knowledge in the scriptures that supports any this. I suspect the entire condition is more flexible and the boundaries are not as defined as the scholastic fathers of the commentarial tradition would have us believe. I find myself becoming increasingly critical of this stream of thought in the Dhamma. It has imposed a lot of concepts onto the basic practice that are not organic to it.

I could of course be dead-wrong about all this. I admit it. And in a certain sense it does not matter. This model is my way of accounting for the spectrum of supermundane voidness phenomena that I have experienced. We continue developing until we are done. Yes? So who cares. The value of these things as you so rightly asked is only the influence that they have upon the mind’s development, purification and subtlety. The ashtanga yogis also have a model of nirodha and they claim that its value is to purify/cook out the samskaras, or latent tendencies within the mind. If they are correct, then it is this only the immersion in voidness that matters for destroying the unwholesome roots in the mind. All the rest of it is scaffolding.

My motives you ask: to explore and understand reality, to grow and develop in any and all ways that this exploration tells me are possible or necessary. I have had since my youth a very multi-dimensional model of awakening.

Daniel, thank you for being patient with my long windedness. In fact it is a pleasure to be able to share these reflections with a group of people who can actually understand what I mean. My path in life and practice has been a fairly isolate one.

With metta to all,

Daniel B, modified 12 Years ago at 9/11/11 1:09 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/11/11 1:09 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 11 Join Date: 9/10/11 Recent Posts
Hi Nick!

LOL ! You have discovered my past. That did not take long! I no longer post on that board nor follow it, but there are a lot of old materials from me on there. I have moved on a bit in my views since. In fact as a point of humor, I was googling “phala” a few days ago, and came across this guy Nick, who had quoted a piece of an old posting of mine, and that is how I discovered this group! When I am in environments where people tend to disparage or criticize Mahasi practice, I invariably end up defending it, because it is so very serviceable. So I always end up sounding like a die-hard Mahasi-ite, which I am not! So I am hoping here, I can play on the other side of the discussion. But only if the arguments are based on both sound practice and possibly even scripture. Too many critics of Mahasi have not really practiced seriously the way he has advised us to! They have failed in practice so often because they have failed in following the instructions. So one of the first things I ask when people complain about Mahasi practice is “Did you use mental notation?” I also ask “Did you maintain meticulous and continuous mindfulness? Did you practice at least 13 hours of formal a day? Do you slow down? Did you maintain noble silence? Did you follow you teachers’ instructions? Did you refrain as much as possible from moving during sitting? Etc. etc. usually I get multiple “no’s” to these questions. Then I say “go back and do all those things, and then tell me the practice does not work.”

Nick, thank you for these lovely quotes, which I mostly agree with but not in every point, as you might guess. This strict equation with phala and jhana I question, and I also question the equation of phala with the sense of non-being which I would assign to nirodha, according to my present working hypothesis. I will talk more about separating jhana from phala in a later post. Right now I am overwhelmed with all this typing!

My very best wishes for you!

triple think, modified 12 Years ago at 9/11/11 2:33 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/11/11 2:33 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
You may find this thread interesting, we discussed possible differences resulting from jhana vs insight approaches to and realizations of NS or "the deathless" about half way through the thread.
Daniel B, modified 12 Years ago at 9/13/11 2:40 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/13/11 2:40 AM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 11 Join Date: 9/10/11 Recent Posts
Thanks so much for this link! The information is fascinating, and I resonate with much of it. Since the experience in my life that I am calling second path, the direction of my practice started moving towards transparency, luminosity, non-duality etc. I actually floundered for some time because although this had arizen from my regular samatha-vipassana practice, there was not model for it in Theravada to my knowledge and I had no help on hand. This was 1998. So, I bailed on the Theravada and started looking towards teachers in the Vedantic tradition that spoke a language that made sense of my evolving experience. I suppose I could have gone to Zen or to the Tibetans, but both were very foreign to me culturally. Somehow I am really plugged into south Asian culture and language.

At any rate, I read the thread from the beginning and I am still reading it slowly. In the interim I am very interested in learning more about your own process. How you path evolved, stages etc. I don't want to make you so a lot of typing, so I am hoping you might already have some posts up somewhere that I could check out.

Again, thanks,


PS: interesting about your experiences with the supernatural. I have had a number of these myself, but usually (not always) they occur during periods of intensive practice: seeing non-human beings, receiving information psychically, visionary experiences etc. I even had a spontaneous regression of memory once, through my entire life back through my birth, to my death in my last life and then skipped backwards some more. The problem that I have with all of these experiences is how can I distinguish projections born of strong samadhi from actual "real" experiences? The deeper the mind's concentration the greater is its power to project its own experiences. I am inclined to think that many of these experiences are just such projections, but of course I can't be sure. This would explain all the passages in the suttas where the Buddha is said to recollect a past life, or to know someone else's. Funny how all these people and places always have Magadhi names and how some of them supposedly existed millions of years ago, like Varanasi.
triple think, modified 12 Years ago at 9/13/11 3:04 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/13/11 3:04 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Sometimes appearances are mundane and sometimes appearances are exceptional. A Mahathera, the abbot at a monastery I have attended would often respond to concerns of these kinds with this pithy statement, "The mind is delusional", which is generally a suitable summation.

Just continue "bailing". Let go, mindfully attending, of whatever.

Gone to the beyond of becoming,
you let go of in front,
let go of behind,
let go of between.
With a heart everywhere let-go,
you don't come again to birth
& aging.

Dhp 348

Bhaddekaratta Sutta - Access to Insight
You shouldn't chase after the past or place expectations on the future. What is
past is left behind. The future is as yet unreached. Whatever quality is present
you ...

Khandha Sutta - Access to Insight
"Whatever form is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle;
common or sublime; far or near: That is called the form aggregate. "Whatever ...

Khajjaniya Sutta - Access to Insight
But in the past I was also chewed up by form in the same way I am now being
chewed up by present form. And if I delight in future form, then in the future I will
be ...
triple think, modified 12 Years ago at 9/13/11 3:30 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/13/11 3:30 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
There is wandering on in the past, wandering on in the future, wandering on in the present and there is cessation.

Maybe pick up this thread if it seems suitable.

Done and Done-er
Ross A K, modified 12 Years ago at 9/14/11 9:41 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 9/14/11 9:41 PM

RE: Phala need not be cessation of perception Mahasi phala often nirodha sa

Posts: 123 Join Date: 6/15/11 Recent Posts
I think the suttas mention in a couple places how one can pre Stream entry hit nirodha samapadhi and go straight up to the level of anagami or arahant. I don't know the exact sutta, but I recall the Thanissaro Translation mentioning after NS one would be Unbound, or if there is any remnant of clinging non-return. (?)