Did I reach Stream Entry?

J A, modified 1 Month ago.

Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 9/16/21 Recent Posts
Did I reach Stream Entry?
See below for an account of my last meditation retreat (a self-retreat) in which (I believe) I reached SE – have no formal training / teacher so would love to hear if some more experienced practitioners agree.
A&P
At the beginning of my last self-retreat (my 4th 10 day silent), I had pegged myself in the A&P part of the insight cycle – lots of sensations, and a lot of involuntary shaking / physical expression while meditating (as an FYI, I’ve been using MCTB as a guide).
Dark Night
At the end of Day 2, I entered the Dark Night. At the time, I was in a lakehouse in Michigan –  a home I’d been traveling to since I was a child, and an area that felt like my happy / safe place. Despite the serene locale, I found myself in a sudden state of fear. I heard laughing outside (probably neighbors from next door), and was convinced that these were ruffians coming to do me in. Each time I tried to turn my attention towards a comforting object – a cute puppy, for instance – that image would itself turn evil and scary – the puppy was now Cerberus coming at me. I decided to just accept the fear, accept the fact that I was going to die at the hands of the voices outside. With acceptance, the fear gradually faded. A fear of instant death was replaced by more ‘realistic’ fears – an image of myself being alone at my 40th birthday party (I am currently 29), fear of pain as I died of old age, fear of not ‘fulfilling my potential’. I did my best to accept each one, and soon the episode ended – I was left with just a slight tingle of fear, like I had just watched a scary movie trailer, but nothing near the peak level. The intense part of the experience maybe lasted 30 minutes (though seemed much longer).
This would prove the most eventful aspect of my DN. It seemed like it took a few days to pass through the next stages of the DN. I felt some disgust (not a crazy amount though), some deep melancholy (remorse from actions in my younger years – I generally felt this stage was more heart opening than depressing), Desire for deliverance (I felt a little unsettled but mostly energized to keep progressing). I don’t exactly know to describe Re-observation. I had an experience that felt like my brain being ‘torn’ apart (though the word ‘torn’ is hyperbolic. The best way I can describe it: Imagine my mind (the psychic space that exists inside my skull) as a physics diagram. It felt like there were two sets of force arrows, each set starting in the middle of my mind and pointing out towards each ear (hence the idea of being ‘torn’ apart). This sensation was slightly scary, moderately disorienting, and there was a natural resistance to accept it. After this experience, it seemed like I had moved through a gate to another stage.
Fruition (perhaps?)
I found myself meditating with attention focused on sensations my chest (I generally have a lot of energy pool there – and side note: if someone has a suggestion on practices that help facilitate the flow of this energy, I’d love to hear it [more loving-kindness, perhaps?]). At this point in my practice, it felt like there was a place where attention was (my chest), and a place where the ‘I’ that was filtering my attention was (this ‘filter’ was located in my forehead). The ‘attention’ on my chest felt like the size of a closed fist, and slightly curved (like a contact lens), and the ‘filter’ in my forehead felt like a laser pointer on a movie screen, a small dot shaking around a bit. I started to observe this contact-shaped attention move up my neck, up my head, up to the laser pointer ‘filter’ in my forehead, and attention seemed to fuse to the filter. At this time, there felt like there was a neutral silence that consumed my experience. I kept tapping my forehead, because it seemed like I had gained a non-trivial implant (it felt like the same size and shape as my attention – this implant feeling lasted a few days before mostly fading – I still tap my forehead, but it’s quite infrequent).
It was nighttime, and I decided to get up and walk around. I turned on a light in the kitchen, and I observed a soda can. There were a couple of interesting things about this experience. First, the can looked incredibly ‘vivid’ – I was noticing intricacies of the reflection of the light on the aluminum, the many shades of gloss, and felt a bit awe at how ‘loud’ the experience of looking at the can could be. I also felt psychically closer to this can. There was still some discomfort in my chest, which some part of me was focusing on it. I felt these two thoughts arise: “this is can” and “this is discomfort” – they seemed equally a part of ‘me’ – like there was little if any distinction between the closeness of my experience of seeing the can and my experience of feeling discomfort in my body (before this, I would have identified much more strongly with the feelings inside my body than the experience of the can).
What does it feel like with some space from the experience?
I’m 3 weeks or so from the experience. The world still seems more vivid, less separate. I feel more ‘at-home’ – there’s generally less ‘friction’ with my experience of the world. When experiencing something, I find myself rarely (if ever) thinking ‘I am X’, rather, the verbiage that pops into my head is ‘this is X’ – aka ‘I am lonely’ or ‘I am nervous’ has been replaced by ‘this [set of sensations somewhere in my body] is loneliness’ or ‘this is nervousness’. The reframing makes my conscious experience better. There has also been some psychological insight, realizing ways in which I am impatient / over-index on the ideas surrounding being efficient, and getting closer to root ‘why’s’ with my issues. I also find shiela easier to practice, especially right speech – I find myself ‘lying’ to myself (and others) much less (I’ve realized how many white lies I used to sprinkle around in my day-to-day. I also feel like I may have completed at least a couple more insight cycles since my fruition. I’ve had a couple of random moments of ‘more fear than I should be experiencing’, and had some meditations that seemed similar to my fruition, though much much less intense (like a tiny fragment of the initial experience).
Overall, it’s not like all my problems are solved (there are still so many), but there’s an enduring layer of peace and ‘at-hominess’ in my experience, and I feel like a stream has been entered – the wheel seems to keep turning, even when not meditating.
Did this happen?
Would love to get a take on this explanation from someone with more experience! What do you think?
What is next / Why does this matter to me?
 I am spending the next multiple months (maybe a full year) focusing full-time on meditation (will be going on retreats / self-retreats, and trying to build my practice (doing my first 21 day retreat in October). However, I have had very little formal teaching – Goenka centers don’t give any map-based instruction (and almost no specified advice) – my teachers at this point have really been authors (MCTB, Kornfield, Chodran, Goldstein).
I would love to get a sense of if this sounds legit so I can find a teacher who would fit my level of practice.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Would love to get a take on this explanation from someone with more experience! What do you think?

J A, welcome to the DhO.

​​​​​​​Your description is very vivid. Nice narrative! That said, what you describe does not appear to meet the commonly accepted criteria of stream entry/first path as most here would describe it. It's lacking a description of a cessation/fruition experience:

"This is the fruit of all the meditator's hard work, the first attainment of ultimate reality, emptiness, Nirvana, God or whatever you wish to call it. In this non-state, there is absolutely no time, no space, no reference point, no experience, no mind, no consciousness, no nothingness, no somethingness, no body, no this, no that, no unity, no duality, and no anything else. Reality stops cold and then reappears. Thus, this is impossible to comprehend, as it goes completely and utterly beyond the rational mind and the sensate universe. To “external time” (if someone were observing the meditator from the outside) this lasts only an instant. It is like an utter discontinuity of the space-time continuum with nothing in the unfindable gap."

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB+15.+Fruition?p_r_p_http%3A%2F%2Fwww.liferay.com%2Fpublic-render-parameters%2Fwiki_nodeName=Main&p_r_p_http%3A%2F%2Fwww.liferay.com%2Fpublic-render-parameters%2Fwiki_title=MCTB%2015.%20Fruition

​​​​​​​
"Reading through Kenneth's new discussion thread I'm reminded to ask folks here about a recurring experience that I have with some frequency. While observing an object in meditation - let's say the breath entering and leaving my nostrils - I perceive a slow building of energy and focus. The in-breath starts to bring a very fine set of vibrations in the top of the head and an almost giddy mental feeling, sort of like a tiny whiff of laughing gas, that grows as the breath is drawn and until it is at its peak. The peak of the breath brings a sharp distinct break and when the out-breath starts that same energetic and finely vibrating giddy feeling resumes (this not a hyperventilation-like giddiness). Each successive breath slowly increases the intensity of these fine vibrations until a kind of crescendo is reached, at which point all the energy that has built up quickly flows to the observed object, appears to merge with the object and then FLASH!, an image appears, a complex image, for just a tiny fraction of a second, after which everything - and I do mean EVERYTHING - winks out of existence. Pure pitch black, silent nothingness ensues (no sound, no light, no feeling, no self, no perception of any kind) and lasts for about a second or so. Then awareness reappears anew. The impression after the second or so of nothingness reminds me of the rebooting of a computer. Everything is turned completely off and then restarts."

https://www.awakenetwork.org/magazine/10-on-the-cushion/15-chris-journal-part-1
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Ian And, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hello J A,

"Did I reach Stream Entry?"

That might depend upon what definition of stream entry one accepts as defining.

The question I have for you is: Who is your primary instructor? Who do you presume to be
teaching you about the Dhamma? Daniel Ingram? Jack Kornfield? Pema Chödrön? Or
Joseph Goldstein? All the above? Or maybe only one of the above.

I know you mentioned using MCTB as your guide. Why is that? Because it was the only
source that provided you with a map of the terrain needing to be traveled? Are there not
other more explicit and original maps elsewhere to be found and followed?

So which of these authors that you mentioned do you consider to be the originating source
of the teaching of the Dhamma that you are following? Are you following the dhamma of
Daniel, or the dhamma of Jack, or the dhamma of Pema, or the dhamma of Joseph?

I ask these questions in order to put you on the spot to think seriously about whose
instruction you think best to follow. While each of those authors are hightly accomplished in
their own right, wouldn't it be prudent to look toward the one who originated the Dhamma
in the first place in order to learn what he considered to be his doctrine of truth? That way
you could corroborate what he taught with what these others are espousing, and make sure
that you are not being mislead from the true path which leads to the end of suffering. I
mention this because you seem to be a thoughtful and careful person.

Perhaps it's just me and the experiences I've undergone on my personal journey to
liberation in a world that has become increasingly averse to objective truth and relishes
Maya (Māyā in it's sense as a Buddhist term translated as "pretense" or "deceit" that is
identified as one of the twenty subsidiary unwholesome mental factors). I have endured
self-styled "teachers" who I have subsequently learned mislead me along a path that turned
out to be their personal delusion.  And so when it came time for me to walk the path of the
Dhamma, rather than rely on someone else's impression or interpretation of the original
material (instruction or teaching), I wanted to examine what was taught from the horse's
mouth, so to speak.

In my research and due diligent investigation of the original teachings of Siddhattha
Gotama, the most complete and historically reliable text to follow were those of the Pali
Canon. So I come at this practice from a sutta background, which in many ways can
overlap and parallel the instruction of the four luminaries you mentioned above, all of whom
are eminently qualified to assist a weary traveler on his way toward the end of suffering.
Yet, inevitably, there may be differing opinions about the efficacy or necessity of certain
practices, and therein lies the rub.

Traditionally, stream entry entails the dropping of self-identification as a delusive view of the
world and one's experience, seeing the attributes we attribute to "self" (namely, the five
aggregates of form, feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness) as being without self
(anatta). It also entails letting go of doubts about the Dhamma, seeing enough truth in it to
have developed an unshakable faith that what the Buddha has to teach will actually help to
alleviate the dissatisfaction we have with life. A third factor involved is the dropping of
clinging to religious rites and rituals, seeing that in most instances these have little to do with
retraining and reconditioning the mind to be able to see things as they truly are, rather than
as the delusions that we often take events to be.

In your description above, there is evidence of at least two of these factors as having been
at least somewhat attained. The dropping of delusive self-view is evident in passages such
as the following:


I find myself rarely (if ever) thinking ‘I am X’, rather, the verbiage that pops into my head is
‘this is X’ – aka ‘I am lonely’ or ‘I am nervous’ has been replaced by ‘this [set of
sensations somewhere in my body] is loneliness’ or ‘this is nervousness’. The reframing
makes my conscious experience better.

The letting go of any doubts about the Dhamma seems evident in the following statement:

Desire for deliverance (I felt a little unsettled but mostly energized to keep progressing).

As far as what the suttas have to say about stream entry and its attainment, there is the
following from the Anguttara Nikaya AN 6.97.

“Bhikkhus, there are these six benefits in realizing the fruit of stream-entry. What six? (1)
One is fixed in the good Dhamma; (2) one is incapable of decline; (3) one’s suffering is
diminished; (4) one comes to possess knowledge not shared by others; (5) one has clearly
seen causation; (6) one has clearly seen causally arisen phenomena. These are the six
benefits in realizing the fruit of stream-entry.”

From this list of six factors, a conscious recognition of causally arisen phenomena seems
evident in the following statement:

At the beginning of my last self-retreat (my 4th 10 day silent), I had pegged myself in the
A&P part of the insight cycle – lots of sensations, and a lot of involuntary shaking / physical
expression while meditating

In terms of a clear recognition of causality, the following seems to evidence that ability:

There has also been some psychological insight, realizing ways in which I am impatient /
over-index on the ideas surrounding being efficient, and getting closer to root ‘why’s’ with
my issues.

From those six factors, knowledge of the Dhamma is "knowledge not shared by others."
And while that knowledge may not have matured just yet, there is clear evidence that what
knowlege you do possess has definitely produced some changes in your everyday
demeanor and mental experience.  

As far as one's suffering being diminished and being incapable of decline or falling back into
unwholesome habits, the following statements seem to indicate the achievement of those
attainments:

I feel more ‘at-home’ – there’s generally less ‘friction’ with my experience of the world.

. . . it’s not like all my problems are solved (there are still so many), but there’s an enduring
layer of peace and ‘at-hominess’ in my experience.

I also find shiela easier to practice, especially right speech – I find myself ‘lying’ to myself
(and others) much less (I’ve realized how many white lies I used to sprinkle around in my
day-to-day.

You might want to check out the following link about stream entry and how it is viewed
from a canonical standpoint. While it may seem a bit extreme in places, there are very good
reasons why it is defined in this way. You actually have to have made some realizations to
be considered as having entered the stream on the way to experiencing nibbana in your life.

In the end, the only one who can judge your progress from an honest objective standpoint
without being self-deluded about one's accomplishments is oneself. As long as you are
always honest with yourself about any shortcomings you may have (which is not something
that everyone can do), you can use that as a guide with respect to being able to identify
whether or not you have achieved this attainment or that. It allows you to self-evaluate your
performance based on the level of expertise you expect of yourself. And it is best to keep
these evaluations of one's progress to oneself. You're the only one who needs to know
where you fall on that scale of progress.

I hope this helps to provide you with some additional food for thought as you advance on
your journey.

In peace,
Ian
J A, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 9/16/21 Recent Posts
Chris and Ian,

Thank you both for reading and responding!

Chris - thanks for the response! I did feel a stillness and a reset as the crechendo of the experience, though I'm not sure if it (specifcally, the complete blackout) was as dramatic as what you've quoted (and I am wary of the potential effects of 'priming' causing fuzziness in a self-diagnosis). What was more striking to me was the feeling that subject / object merged, and how my perception of the world (especially emotionally and visually) has changed. Will keep practicing and hope that more positive results follow!

Ian - thanks for all the advice and the quotes from source text. Agree that I should be doing more reading of Pali Canon / original suttas. If you have any suggestions on where to start (and specifcally, any particular suttas / discourses on a sutta) that you've found useful, I'd love to hear them.

Best,
JA
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Ian And, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hello J A,
If you have any suggestions on where to start (and specifcally, any particular suttas / discourses on a sutta) that you've found useful, I'd love to hear them.

Before diving into the suttas, and as a valuable prerequisite for their reading and
discernment, it would be very useful as well as instructive to gain a handle on the five main
teachings listed at the beginning of the Essential Books thread (ie. the Four Noble Truths,
the Noble Eightfold Path, the Five Aggregates, the Three Characteristics of Existence, and
Dependent Co-Arising) while learning how to apply them to a practice in satipatthana.
Satipatthana is the vipassana (insight) half of the samatha and vipassana practice strategy
put forth by Gotama.

As for acquiring an appreciation of what Gotama termed the Four Noble Truths, a classic
book penned by Walpola Rahula titled What the Buddha Taught can provide you with the
conceptual insight which Gotama used to justify his low opinion of existential (three
dimensional) life which he expounded on in providing the First Noble Truth. There is a full
chapter dedicated to each Noble Truth, as well as chapters dedicated to the concept of
anatta (without self) and bhavana or mental cultivation. A PDF exists of this book that you
can download. What needs to happen from the practitioner's point of view is a realization
that he agrees with Gotama's reasoned insight with regard to these four truths, which is verified
through the practitioner's direct experience.

There has been no book yet that can top Bhikkhu Bodhi's rendering of the eight essential
concepts of the Path than in his book The Noble Eightfold Path, Way to the End of
Suffering
. This book, too, is a modern classic in its excellent expostion of the meaning and
significance of following the eight prerequisite path practices needing to be followed by any
serious practitioner of the Dhamma who wishes to successfully complete (all the way to
arahant)  the cultivation of the mental training. It too can be found in PDF form and
downloaded. Please do not let other Buddhist websites and forums dissuade you from
aspiring to the highest Dhamma attainment (arahanthood) as your goal. It is possible to
attain to this realization with dedicated practice within three to five years (if not the seven
years that Gotama promised in the discourses). The key is to be consistent in your practice.

As for obtaining a necessary practical understanding of the Five Aggregates from an
experiential standpoint — and by that I mean one in which you can in real time consciously
identify on a minute by minute observation of any one or all of those aggregates impinging
on your experience — and not just an academic comprehension of the terms, there is an
excellent academic book written by Sue Hamilton titled Identity and Experience, The
Constitution of the Human being According to early Buddhism
, which examines each of
these mental aggregates in close detail. Failing being able to obtain that book (which I
believe has become more difficult to find), if you would like to read a sort of Cliff
Notes version and description detailing many of the essential concepts of these mental
aggregates which exposition, still in all, may be quite helpful, you can read my essay titled
"The Five Aggregates of Personality View," which I wrote for my own use during an early
part of my training. Reading Sue Hamilton's book is not a prerequisite; it's just that it can
help cement a conceptual understanding of how the aggregates display within one's
experience.

The Three Characteristics of Existence which are impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness
(dukkha) and without self (anatta) are all derivatives of your own direct conscious
experience that are to be recognized and realized for their truth. All phenomena in physical
existence are characterized as having these three characteristics. Making headway into the
insights these present is key in the process of awakening, in terms of how awakening is
defined within the practice of the Buddhadhamma.

The granddaddy concept of them all, Dependent Co-Arising (what others call Dependent
Origination), is detailed in the Mahanidana Sutta (DN 15) of the Digha Nikaya. And while
that sutta may end up being somewhat opaque for some readers, Bhikkhu Bodhi has
written an excellent commentary on this subject titled The Great Discourse on Causation,
The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries
, in which he takes a decidedly institutional
Theravadin examination of this most important concept taught by Gotama. What is
important is that the practitioner be able to discern not only the twelve factors but also the
dependant co-arising of phenomena within their consciousness in real time.

With at least an acquaintance (if not full understanding) of these five main doctrines of truth
tucked safely underneath your mental wings, you will be set up to progress much quicker in
your practice; as well they will enhance your reading of the suttas such that you are better
able to understand them on first reading. I recommend the Wisdom Books editions of the
four main Nikayas as they are translated by Western practitioners (which means there are
fewer, if any, misunderstood translations or ambiguities of key Pali terms, which is important
for depth of comprehension in terms of the intent of a given passage) and are well footnoted
for practitioner's enhanced understanding. Make no mistake, you will be reading footnotes if
you wish to gain the true intent of many passages.

If you're looking for some focused study/reading material that will help you to make quicker
progress in your understanding and practice of the Dhamma, I posted a thread seven years
ago in the Theoreticians and Traditionalists (T&T) discussion forum on the Essential Books
from Theravadin Resources
.

Don't be overwhelmed by this list. Take it slowly and at your own pace and according to
your own interests. For an explanation of the Dhamma and concentrated instruction on
what questions to ask yourself as you are attempting to learn the concepts that Gotama
taught, the older volumes of discourses are the best to tackle first. That means the
Samyutta Nikaya and the Anguttara Nikaya. For information about meditation and its
practice, the Majjhima Nikaya contains the most suttas on this subject, however others can
be found in both the Anguttara and Samyutta Nikayas. For Gotama's take on ontological
issues and to find out more about him and his integrity as a man and a teacher-guide (in the
Mahaparinibbana Sutta – DN 16), the Digha Nikaya contains several good and important
discourses.

Both Nyanaponika Thera's The Heart of Buddhist Meditation and Venerable Analayo's
Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization are excellent examples of how to get the most
from your time spent in insight meditation. I would recommend reading Nyanaponka's book
first as it contains a lot of good practical advice about the beginning stages of insight
meditation and the practice of satipatthana, while Analayo's book covers a wider view of
additional insights about the practice of satipatthana.

As your practice begins to mature and deepen and you are looking for more advanced
insights into the workings of the mind, nothing can be more valuable than the insights
contained in Bhikkhu Nanananda's two books Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist
Thought
and The Magic of the Mind, An Exposition of the Kalakarama Sutta. Of the two,
read Concept and Reality first as it will open your mind up to obscure aspects of the
teaching (papanca or the proliferation of ideation) that you were never before aware, but
which will enhance your understanding of how the mind works to a greater degree. Yet wait
until you are more mature in your practice before you take up these books as you need to
be able to relate experientially to the material he discusses in these books.

And finally, take it steadily and easily and don't become discouraged. You don't have to
learn everything at once. Things will gradually become clearer the farther you go along.
Follow your own personal interests in pursuing these discoveries; everyone is different and
needs different questions answered at different points in their practice. All the information
and insight is there contained in the discourses just waiting for others to discover it. Just be
consistent in your pursuit, and you will eventually get there.

In Peace,

Ian
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Pepe ·, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi JA, welcome to DhO.

You might found useful these MCTB related resources:

- Shargrol's posts compilation
- Daniel Ingram's posts compilation

For direct path resources (like the subject/object merge you mentioned) check:

- Soh Wei Yu's awakeningtoreality.com  and facebook group Awakening to Reality
- Angelo Dilullo's youtube channel Simply Always Awake and facebook group Awakening, Realization and Liberation 
​​​​​​​
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn55/sn55.030.than.html

Licchavi Sutta: To the Licchavi
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

...As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him: "Nandaka, a disciple of the noble ones endowed with four qualities is a stream-winner, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening. Which four?

...

"He/she is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: 'The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.'

In my opinion the most reliable indicator of stream entry is this "verified confidence in the dhamma". You understand how practice leads to awakening and how continued practice leads to deeper awakening. You don't need to ask people about your progress or path, because these are self evident from your own experiences practicing.

I am not saying you can't learn from others, but you don't need their approval or acknowledgement or recognition because you understand how it works so you can tell where you fit in and what you need to do.

My advice is to watch the activity of your mind, try to see how every unpleasant emotion that arises from thinking is backed by your self-concept, your idea about who you are and the kind of person  you want to be. When reality contradicts your self-concept, you suffer. This phenomenon can be very subtle because we have been living with it for most of our life and we take it for granted, we don't notice it in the way we don't notice air-pressure  even though we are living at 14psi. You have to look carefully and repeatedly at your emotions to understand what is behind them. Once you begin to see this, it still takes time to uncover more and more subtle effects. Over time you learn that adhering to this self-concept, the root of suffering, is optional, and you can remove the ego filter more and more.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 2064 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
 Hi J A,

I agree with Chris that there doesn’t seem to be a cessation description, but I just wanted to say – try not to obsess over it! There’s a thread on reddit where Shargrol quotes Bill Hamilton as saying "SE isn't like finding a pot of gold. It's like finding a pot to carry all the gold you already found during your practice." There’s already some gold in your practice, namely the “nondual” type experiences you describe (closeness of experience, lack of separation between observer & observed). It reminds me of some similar experiences I had in the period leading up to my first cessation. Also, while some people have dramatic cessations and/or many of them, for others they are fewer and less dramatic. Indeed sometimes they are not even sure they had one until afterwards when they observe themselves cycling or in review. (It’s also worth bearing in mind that most traditions/models of awakening don’t give cessations as much importance or even recognize them at all.)

I also agree with what Ian says, that it’s important to be aware of the traditional fetter model, and that cessations don’t necessarily fully dissolve the first fetter of self-identity view (requirement for sotapanna). Self-identity view tends to loosen progressively  as one deepens nondual experience and also deconstructs/disidentifies with mental constructs like the felt sense of body, self, personality/psychology, space, awareness and time. The fetters of desire, aversion and ignorance are also incredibly important and most people will be working with these for the rest of their lives (as well as attachment to meditation states, comparison and restlessness).

So if you find yourself worrying about why you haven’t had a cessation yet, use it as an opportunity to investigate craving and aversion to what is actually happening in your immediate experience. You can’t go wrong with that! Cessation or not, you will still have to get up and meditate the next day and face all the same stuff. The reduction in friction with experience of the world is a positive sign, as well as the disidentification with emotional states (recognizing emotions as emotions, not identity) and also the extension of practice off the cushion. These are very important areas which most people will need to work on far beyond their first cessation (and if they are neglected then cessations can force them to the surface in disruptive ways!)
 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Stream-entry gets reified beyond its real value. It's like the anteroom of awakening. It provides us with our first experience of what's really going on - how much the mind is actually doing to present us with the reality we've been basking in up 'til this thing happens. Some folks pick up on that aspect of it, and some don't. It can be very subtle or it can be like being hit on the head with a hammer. Some of the vectors for the way it plays out is what we expect, what we've heard about it ahead of time, what we focus on in our practice, what our teacher has suggested it is, and so on, as others have said here already.

FWIW, from my personal experience, stream-entry is the end of the beginning of the path. So to speak.
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
     I agree with the notion that stream-entry, understood as the recognition of “silent nothingness” is the beginning of earnest practice. This “silent nothingness” is never far away but the recognition of it, if practice is not correct, can be light-years in the distance. The paradox is that the only thing that matters, once you recognize it, is what it means to you.      
     Everybody starts out the same, noticing the constant rummaging of the mind and identifying with this rummaging as something personal. When you have the direct experience of the complete lack of rummaging and recognize it, the personal view collapses. My experience is that once you've made this recognition it is impossible to disregard.
​​​​​​​     Some people are hyper- rummagers and even after witnessing a complete absence of rummaging will have a hard time applying this knowledge. Others start out with very little identification with rummaging as a personal view and can be destabilized by this knowledge. Dealing with these extremes or anything in between is the lifelong practice.
shargrol, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 1620 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Yeah, I tend to agree with the flavor of what you are saying Angel.

In general, there are two major ways of defining "in the stream".

One is more focused on a more "story like" version of dharma, where we take on/believe/use the framework of 8 fold path, three poisions, 4 nobleworldviews, and structured practice as the framework for our life. This is an important and inspiring phase of development. (It's also can be exclusionary, because it implies that only buddhists can be on their way to enlightenment...) In any case, this framing makes streamentry seem like all around good news from a social and religious view point... and even the sense of self "gains" something in the form of a new identity as a buddhist.

The other is when we really appreciate the mystery of experience, especially the emptiness feature. Not "meaningless" or "unreliable", which is just nihlism, but more along the lines of radical  "groundlessness" or "nebulous".  And especially the experience that the self, the experience that is closer than close, is also groundless and nebulous. So a cessation-like experience, and the insights that come in its aftermath, are profoundly different. In this case, a big part of the certainity of "self" is lost and there can even be a sense of the religious/cultural aspects framework (the "rituals") being seen as not-quite-it. This definition of streamentry is where one truly enters the heart of real practice --- the end of the beginning as Chris said --- and the person is truly on the path of awakening that "does not depend on others".  Not there yet, but this different sense of path that is outside cultural/religious frameworks, is starting to be seen.

So these two ways of defining tend to be the most common ways of defining streamentry. But of course, these are definitions, not necessarily TRUTH, but definitions. The definitions persist in time because someone is finding value in them. 

​​​​​​​If you go into experience itself, it is clear that experiences do not have little tags on them -- no little paper tags with holes punched in them and no pieces of string tying them onto a mind object and no handwritten words written in english or sandscrit or pali --- nothing giving the name of the experience. Experience doesn't come with labels. 
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Oatmilk, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 110 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Beautiful description!
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Shargrol
So these two ways of defining tend to be the most common ways of defining stream-entry. But of course, these are definitions, not necessarily TRUTH, but definitions. The definitions persist in time because someone is finding value in them.

​ If you go into experience itself, it is clear that experiences do not have little tags on them -- no little paper tags with holes punched in them and no pieces of string tying them onto a mind object and no handwritten words written in english or sandscrit or pali --- nothing giving the name of the experience. Experience doesn't come with labels.
​​​​​​​

     I have thought that it's part of the limitations of our mind that we have to give the tagging and labeling a good try before we can back away. Standing on our own two feet in theradical "groundlessness" or "nebulous" without a framework seems impossible. Even the clumsiness of our attempts does little to dissuade us. In the end, we start to borrow meaning from wherever we can just so we don't feel lonely. Buddhism is good in that like you say, it provides a whole identity. But it's not for everyone.      
     It should be simple to just accept the gift of being relieved of ALL the weariness that is built into this being human. This is the takeaway I get from the recognition of groundlessness ( also a tag). And to know that it is always available. Many talk about this nebulousness as if is a definitive one-time experience. But it's actually an ongoing presence that we become aware of in varying depths. Some are so profound that the involuntary response is “MY GOD ! And so the tags begin.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
My view is that how we experience the world is baked into what we are. Tags are completely natural and involuntary, and while we can learn to recognize them as they are being applied, we can't escape the process. This is basic Buddhism, really - dependent origination/experiencing/mind.
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
The root of dependant origination, consciousness > name-form, is pretty self-evident. As has been said, they lean on one another. Consciousness is always of something. It's the tag of a tag of a tag that begins to be problematic. But, after all, even Gautama couldn't stop at “I'm awake”.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
It's the tag of a tag of a tag that begins to be problematic.

​​​​​​​Can you provide an example of this? It sounds like a hall of mirrors. emoticon

Here's the thing I'm trying to articulate: if we say "experience doesn't come with labels" I have to ask what is meant by "experience" In my personal view of this, derived from observation, experience can't be seen without the mind. It's all mind. So it comes with labels and tags and interpretation and such, because that's how human perception works. We can observe the process in snippets and see the pieces and parts in operation - but we can't change the process. Buddhism uses the term "wisdom." I have always thought that wisdom was discerning the nature of this process and seeing it over and over and over until it's "grokked" (literally soaked in) as instinctively as possible.

​​​​​​​Happy to hear discordant views!
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
     It seems to me that “the hall of mirrors” is the problem we all have. Not being able to stop at the consciousness >name-form. I interpreted the statement “experience doesn't come with labels” as meaning that the initial contact of consciousness with objects doesn't necessarily have a tag. One can hear a whistle and immediately the word bird comes to mind. This is a natural function of mind. Although, what if you've never heard a bird or know of the name?  Why is it so difficult to describe the recognition of groundlessness?  "The Tao that can be told......"
    When a sight or sound, or any object, cannot be recognized what is left is that initial impression without a tag/name. Just that. Standing in this position is very uncomfortable for the majority of people. In the hall of mirrors, the mind will run after an explanation and probably get into all kinds of trouble with its misperceptions. I see the result of training as understanding the function of consciousness>name-form and being able to stay in the unknowing when elaboration is not necessary.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
I see the result of training as understanding the function of consciousness>name-form and being able to stay in the unknowing when elaboration is not necessary.

This (not recognizing sensory inputs, like unknown sounds) happens on occasion. What I observe when that occurs is that the mind will seek the next best thing and apply that name to the input, or move from name to name (the hall of mirrors?). Again, I don't ever observe a case where the mind doesn't at least try (seek? scramble? fumble around?) to name that thing. It's built-in. Organic. Yet we can indeed observe the process as it happens and can appreciate the interruptions that come along. They're like exceptions that prove the rule.

BTW, we seem to be using very different vocabularies so I'm not sure but I think we're saying the same thing.
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Pepe ·, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
> This (not recognizing sensory inputs, like unknown sounds) happens on occasion. What I observe when that occurs is that the mind will seek the next best thing and apply that name to the input, or move from name to name (the hall of mirrors?). Again, I don't ever observe a case where the mind doesn't at least try (seek? scramble? fumble around?) to name that thing. It's built-in. Organic. Yet we can indeed observe the process as it happens and can appreciate the interruptions that come along. They're like exceptions that prove the rule.

This is very interesting. Is that short the inability to stay in a non-conceptual perception mode? Are you going in and out of that mode in (say) 10 times per minute (off-cushion)? And so, the ability for others to stay longer in that non-conceptual mode is just an intended (or unconscious) superimposition of concentration abilities?

 
shargrol, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 1620 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
For what it's worth, part of what I was trying to say is that a lot of spiritual labels/phases etc are dogmatically believed in as absolute real things and then fought over bitterly... but none of this stuff comes with pre-determined labels. So it's important to know what framework someone is using when they say things like Stream Entry, etc. 

(There are a lot of good reasons for definitions/labels, so I'm NOT saying they are arbitrary. I'm just saying they are reasoned, but they don't come with pre-existing labels. emoticon )

So "the tags" I'm talking about is more at the level of systems and parts, not at the level of instantaneous experience/meaning in the dependent origination sense. 

Sorry for any confusion I've created.

Bottom line: when someone says "Stream Entry" it's okay to ask, which definition of Stream Entry. And my bias on definition is not the "really believe" version, but tend to like the the [non-experience] "oh!" version. emoticon 
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Pepe --

​​​​​​​Are you assuming people can stay in non-conceptual mode for extended periods? I'm not. The mind works so fast that what we think is going on most often misses that the perceptions alternate many times a second. When a sound (for example) isn't recognized, the possibilities flash through the mind very, very fast. Images, names - all are whirring through mental space. Then poof! Our attention is caught by something else and the process repeats - ad infinitum. We can choose to ignore or, I suppose, not see the quick processing of sensory material and fool ourselves into thinking we're "stuck" in this or that mode. But that assumption - that we stay in any mode for any length of time is part of what eventually disappears as we progress along the path. We live that assumption for years - that everything is stable and moves along at the speed of conceptual thinking. Sorry, but no.

​​​​​​​emoticon
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Pepe ·, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Chris, 

Amazing that you can see in real time how fast the mind "offers" you patterns/tags for every phenomena. So you can't fool yourself. Others may ignore it or have been tunned not to perceive it. Or is just a (long) learning curve that every yogi must travel, as I guess is what you are trying to say.  
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Did I reach Stream Entry?

Posts: 4073 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Shargrol --

Bottom line: when someone says "Stream Entry" it's okay to ask, which definition of Stream Entry. And my bias on definition is not the "really believe" version, but tend to like the the [non-experience] "oh!" version.

I'm trying to get what you're saying but missing something. Can you describe the two versions a little more?

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