Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Oatmilk, modified 1 Year ago at 10/29/22 1:03 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/29/22 1:00 PM

Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 141 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Hey all, 

it's been a while since I've looked into Buddhism, please for give me if I confuse things, or do not get the terminology right. 

I recently came across Dan P Brown again. In his interviews he often talks about how students progress along the path in the Dzogchen tradition, with the goal being the eradication of all negative mind states. Coming from a pragmatic background in the Theravada tradition, like I assume a lot of people here do, this sounds all very promising since suffering is rarely talked about (at least in Dan's interviews). I therefore wonder if the insight path in the Mahasi tradition is leading down a totally different path with the same goal just much more complicated and much more conflicated with the insight stages. 
Maybe someone here who is more knowledgeable could explain me if the sometimes quite painful stages of insight could have been avoided by following the approach of many Tibetan lineages. 

*forgive me it this question was asked before, in my quick google search I didn't anything related
Pepe ·, modified 1 Year ago at 10/29/22 8:21 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/29/22 1:54 PM

RE: Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 730 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Oatmilk,

Seen from 30.000 feet above, I see two different goals there: Perfection (edited: mostly found in Mahayanas /Tibetan schools but also seen in Theravada ones too) vs Authenticity (edited: seen here, there and  everywhere, but perhaps more in pragmatic dharma and other western approaches, either connected or not to Tibetan schools). 

An example of a Perfection advocate, described by Soh Wei Yu (who used to post in DhO). 

Can you imagine living every moment in purity and perfection without effort, where grasping at identity does not take hold, where there is not a trace or sense of 'I' as a seer, feeler, thinker, doer, be-er/being, an agent, a 'self' entity residing inside the body somewhere relating to an outside world, and what shines forth and stands out in the absence of a 'self' is a very marvellous, wondrous, vivid, alive world that is full of intense vividness, joy, clarity, vitality, and an intelligence that is operating as every spontaneous action (there is no sense of being a doer), where any bodily actions, speech and thoughts are just as spontaneous as heart beating, fingernails growing, birds singing, air moving gently, breath flowing, sun shining - there is no distinction between ‘you are doing action’/’you are living’ and ‘action is being done to you’/’you are being lived’ (as there is simply no ‘you’ and ‘it’ - only total and boundless spontaneous presencing).

This is a world where nothing can ever sully and touch that purity and perfection, where the whole of universe/whole of mind is always experienced vividly as that very purity and perfection devoid of any kind of sense of self or perceiver whatsoever that is experiencing the world at a distance from a vantagepoint -- life without ‘self’ is a living paradise free of afflictive/painful emotions, where every color, sound, smell, taste, touch and detail of the world stands out as the very boundless field of pristine awareness, sparkling brilliance/radiance, colorful, high-saturation, HD, luminous, heightened intensity and shining wonderment and magicality, where the surrounding sights, sounds, scents, sensations, smells, thoughts are seen and experienced so clearly down to the tiniest details, vividly and naturally, not just in one sense door but all six, where the world is a fairy-tale like wonderland, revealed anew every moment in its fullest depths as if you are a new-born baby experiencing life for the first time, afresh and never seen before, where life is abundant with peace, joy and fearlessness even amidst the apparent chaos and troubles of life, and everything experienced through all the senses far surpasses any beauty previously experienced, as if the universe is like heaven made of glittering gold and jewels, experienced in complete gapless directness without separation, where life and the universe is experienced in its intense lucidity, clarity, aliveness and vivifying presence not only without intermediary and separation but without center and boundaries - infinitude as vast as an endless night sky is actualized every moment, an infinitude that is simply the vast universe appearing as an empty, distanceless, dimensionless and powerful presencing, where the mountains and stars on the horizon stands out no more distant than one’s breath, and shines forth as intimately as one’s heartbeat, where the cosmic scale of infinitude is actualized even in ordinary activities as the entirety of the universe is always participating as every ordinary activity including walking and breathing and one’s very body (without a trace of an ‘I’ or ‘mine’) is as much the universe/dependent origination in action and there is nothing outside of this boundless exertion/universe, where the purity and infinitude of the marvellous world experienced through being cleansed in all doors of perception is constant.

A short example of an Authenticity advocate by Bruce Tift (my wording, he refers to Freedom instead. He learned under a tibetan teacher):

Added paragraph: Freedom lies in how we relate to our experience—whatever that experience is, whether we like it or don’t like it. So it’s not about whether we feel depressed or happy; rather, it’s about our willingness and ability to participate fully in any and all of our feelings. The experience of freedom arises not from acquiring our preferred lifestyle and our preferred state of mind but from a willingness to stay with ourselves—to be completely committed to experiencing our lives—regardless of circumstance.

Since the shift, my baseline has been an experience of open awareness, freedom, and well-being. Coming from this new basic ground, it makes sense to be kind to oneself, to everyone. I no longer have to approach this as a practice; it simply takes place spontaneously. I still get captured by historically conditioned issues at times and disturbing emotions continue to arise, but they happen less and less frequently and are difficult to take too seriously. This shift has been so powerful for me that, especially as a therapist, I’m endlessly interested in how I might invite others to experience a similar change. How can we investigate our experience in a way that ends our constant postponement of experiencing freedom? How can we cut to the chase and see what’s true, right now, in the present moment? How can we discover whether there’s actually a problem in our self or in life?

My experience is that waking up seems to happen along a continuum. It’s usually not some sudden, black-and-white change. I have found that my own conditioned history hasn’t stopped displaying itself. I still have my personality style, my core vulnerabilities that I don’t like to feel. But I don’t seem to be adding the drama anymore. I don’t really mind that I still have to work with my familiar patterns, my confusion, and my messiness as a human being. In fact, it’s actually very interesting. In the environment of freedom, it turns out that there’s no problem with being fully human. There is no goal of transcendence or of invulnerability in the fruitional view. We’re not trying to rise above our humanness. In fact, in this environment, it’s completely the opposite. The intention is to go so deeply into our confusion, our panic, our joy, our rage, our boredom, and our fear that we find out for ourselves that there’s no essential nature to any of these experiences, as vivid as they may be. This discovery not only strengthens our confidence in the workability of being another confused human, but it also gives rise to a spontaneous sense of compassion for, and interest in, others. We see that others not only have real pain in their lives, but that they, too, are creating unnecessary suffering on top of it. We realize we’re all in the same boat. We begin to ask how we can help ourselves in order to better help others. Are we ready to stop pretending to not be fully present and engaged at every moment? To stop waiting for some future enlightenment, or for our past wounds to heal, before we’re fully committed to, and available to, life? We find that pain is a valid part of life, but that it’s completely workable. It is difficult to have pain, but it’s not a problem.
T DC, modified 1 Year ago at 10/29/22 11:45 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/29/22 11:41 PM

RE: Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 516 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Personally, I see stages on the path as being uncovered, vs created through practice.  Whether you practice insight meditation in the style of Theravadan vipassana or Dzogchen open-awareness, although your perspective on the path may be subtly colored by the teachings you follow, ultimately the stages of attainment you pass through will be the same.  

To expand on that idea, the advanced nature of certain teachings is best understood as optimizing meditation practice at different stages on the path.  The tight focus quality of vipassana is helpful for combating rampant mental distraction when we are relative beginners on the path.  Likewise an "advanced" Dzogchen style focus on open and unconditioned awareness is more suitable once we have gained deeper insight into the empty and nonconceptual qualities of experience. 

As far as achieving a specific result, be that stream entry or deep insight into rigpa, in my experience these things occur in a gradual and linear manner regardless of practice style employed.  Beginning meditators are unlikely to achieve the end fruits of the Vajrayana path regardless of how esoteric a meditation style they use, best case scenario they gain initial insight on the path, aka stream entry.  

Whether eradication (vs integration) of certain "negative" mind states is actually a thing - negative in what context and says who - , or whether certain techniques can truly smooth over rough patches on the path such as the dark night (see vipassana vs shamatha-vipassana / TMI debate) are another couple cans of worms.
Noah D, modified 1 Year ago at 10/30/22 2:04 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/30/22 2:01 AM

RE: Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 1211 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
Dan Brown studied with mahasi sayadaw. In one of his interviews he discusses how cessation-fruition knowledge is basically an aspect of rigpa/nature of mind.

The doctrinal answer would include the fact that the goal of arahantship is to eliminate the emotional afflictions whereas the goal of buddhahood also includes eliminating the knowledge obscurations . In terms of how these distinctions interact with the "pragmatic dharma movement", I think that's still an evolving situation.


My current personal take is that in a system of dzogchen where the goal is to glimpse the nature of mind relatively early in one's path, this glimpse is likely taking place within the insight knowledge of arising & passing.  However, without direct introduction, a standard vipassana yogi would not glimpse Rigpa within a&p.  But regardless of approach one would still need to pass thru the various strata of mind that correlate to the spectrum of insight knowledges.
Adi Vader, modified 1 Year ago at 10/30/22 8:31 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/30/22 8:31 AM

RE: Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 297 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
I have two views:

1. The insight stages are 'knowledges of' not 'experiences of'. When observational skills are highly trained in terms of the 7 factors of awakening, and samprajanya or Metacognitive Introspective Awareness - The mind meditates, experiences arise, the mind gains knowledge of the experience - this is insight - and this moves really smoothly. An extended duration tour of the dukkha nanas where experience of dukkha-vedana or the suckiness arises but the mind does not learn from it, is basically an indicator of a skill gap, which needs to be corrected. The Mahasi method is not suitable for titrating the 7 factors fo awakening, judging and correcting skill gaps. But when the Mahasi method is done in a retreat like setting with a Sayadaw - meditation master taking interviews every two or three days, and meditation doseages are high and maintained for exptended durations - the method will probably work reliably for a large percentage of yogis at a retreat. But in an at home setting the Mahasi method is not an optimal method. It just simply is not optimal. So yes, there is the knowledge of suffering as well as the experience of suffering in the Mahasi  method

2. Any method will involve establishing mindfulness in one or more of the 4 foundations of mindfulness. Whether one creates an imaginary diety and contemplates its glory, or creates a mental position and associated nice feelings like metta - one is still engaged with the foundation of the citta - the heart mind and the foundation of vedana. The insight stages as mapped out in Buddhaghosa's map will happen - they will not happen in order, the associated phenomenology will not correspond to Buddhaghosa's map. But the insight stages will happen. Including the Dukkha nanas. One read of historical posts in the TMI subreddit will reveal a whole lot of people doing excellent concentration practice, cranking out jhanas by the numbers suddenly feeling utterly miserable, afraid, disgusted. The tragedy is that this experience is normalized as 'purifications' of psychology. Those people arent told that this is part and parcel of 'spiritual' development. This TMI does not do! Unfortunately.

So basically in my opinion, for what its worth to you emoticon. Dan Brown may or may not talk about suffering - but suffering is going to happen. Forewarned is forearmed.
Oatmilk, modified 1 Year ago at 11/1/22 4:20 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/1/22 4:20 AM

RE: Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 141 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Thank you all for sharing your knowledge. It was quite helpful! 
Dream Walker, modified 1 Year ago at 11/4/22 12:02 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/4/22 12:02 AM

RE: Pith instructions vs Insight Stages

Posts: 1733 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
If you dig into Mahamudra/Dzogchen traditions you will find that there are preliminary practices/stages before the end practices. If you dig into this you may find that there are very similar things happening but they might not be talked about until after you experience what happens. Even then you may not be told about anything mappy as that is for the monks/teachers to know and judge your progress, not for common householders to know. Although the elephant path is a map but they will not talk about jhanas even though it is obvious that it is happening. If you have a good teacher you don't need to know stuff as much as following directions well. Different methods but similar paths up the mountain.
Good luck,