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Dealing with the Dark Night

What the dark night actually consists of......

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Hi, I appreciated Daniel's discussion about the dark night. However, I find that my capacity to cope with things is enhanced by an understanding of what they actuallyt are, even if this has no apparent practicall application. And so I would like to as what the dark night actually is. Is it that because we are practicing, the ego structure breaks down and that unleashes havoc or is it that because we are practising, pockets of negative karma are released into consciousness so that we hvae to experience that or a bit of both?

Regards

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
11/28/11 8:33 AM as a reply to Graham Linker.
The mind observes the process of craving, which is responsible for the sense of 'I', in great detail...and, since craving is suffering, and the sense of 'I' is suffering, the experience sucks.

With strong vipassana skills, one can see that the sense of 'I' (experienced during the phase of the attention wave during which sensory experience is fading out) is greatly exaggerated in the Dark Night, and that this is in fact the main characteristic of the Dark Night, and that this is the thing that makes it suck.

This is not to say that other explanations are wrong, just that this one is accurate at the pure experiential level. It also happens to be practical to confirm it for oneself.

What can be learned from the Dark Night: suffering is caused by craving (the second noble truth).

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
11/28/11 9:12 AM as a reply to Graham Linker.
This post by Culadasa does a great job of explaining it. Relevant excerpts below (emphasis mine).

Culadasa:
1. Whether or not the Insight Knowledges occur in the same order depends very much upon the method of practice.
They occur in the order given in the Vissudhimagga and in Mahasi's Progress of Insight if a) one is practicing "vipassana (Insight) before samatha (tranquility)" (cf. the Yuganaddha Sutta, AN 4.170), and if b) one is using a method that is designed to make Insight into anicca (impermanence) the first to arise while Insight into anatta (emptiness of Self) is left to the very end.
[For those who might be puzzled about the Samatha that follows what they may have thought of as a "pure" Vipassana practice, please note that the Knowledge of Equanimity Towards Formations is Samatha.]
...
With regard to b):
Knowledge of Dissolution followed by the Dukkha Knowledges is an order that is quite specific to a practice geared towards anicca as the first Insight. Knowledge of Dissolution is the entry into actual Insight with Insight into anicca being the first, and Insight into dukkha being the second. Practices oriented towards a different "entry" into Insight will, of course, not follow this order at all.

2. Insight into Dukkha is a miserable experience if a) one launches into Insight without the "lubricating moisture", i.e. piti (joy), passadhi (tranquility), and upekha (equanimity) of Samatha; and if b) Insights into anicca, sunyatta, and dukkha precede insight into anatta. Deepening Insight into impermanence by someone who still has a strong intuitive sense of being a real, separate Self can be a terrifyingly miserable experience. A "Self" in a world of impermanent and empty "things" to which that Self tries to cling is the very definition of dukkha.

With regard to a):
A mind imbued with piti, passadhi, and equanimity can navigate this voyage of discovery with far more... well..., joy, tranquility and equanimity to mitigate the fear misery and disgust of confronting the reality of the way things are.

And with regard to b):
Of course, to the degree to which the emptiness of Self has been both intellectually realized and intuitively assimilated, to that degree one is effectively immunized against the experience of dukkha during the process of further deepening of Insight into the nature of dukkha.

So to restate your question, "Who in their right mind would follow a method that broaches Insight without first cultivating Samatha, or plunge into the Knowledge of Dissolution and Insight into Impermanence without first properly addressing the issue of emptiness with regard to the perceived Self?"

Here are a few answers that come immediately to mind:
With regard to why someone would not first cultivate Samatha;
- Someone might be unaware that there is any other approach.
- Someone might have been taught that Samatha practices are useless or difficult or dangerous or are to be avoided for some other reason or combination of reasons. eg. "Concentration practices are a waste of time. The only real Buddhist meditation is Vipassana."
- Someone might have been unsuccessful in Samatha practice due to lack of proper instruction, and so has abandoned it in frustration.
- Someone might have practiced Samatha incorrectly in a way that has led to dullness, and so has abandoned the practice as fruitless.

With regard to why someone would pursue Insight into anicca before anatta;
- Anyone who is resistant to and cannot accept the idea that what the Buddha meant by anatta is that there really is not, never has been, and never will be a separate Self other than these conditioned, impermanent, suffering aggregates. This is part of what makes anatta so much more inaccessible than anicca. There are countless Buddhists, Western and Eastern alike, who think, "Buddha just meant that the Self was not in the aggregates, not that there is no Self at all." They feel like they are a Self, and they fully expect to have the mystery of the doctrine of anatta solved and their "True" Self revealed through the practice. You know the one they are thinking of: the Self who has lived countless previous lives, the one that accumulates merit and kamma, the one that is going to be reborn in the future. These are the closet "eternalists".
- Anyone who craves non-existence, who embraces the Dhamma as the path to an ultimate end to the endless cycle of suffering and rebirth, but who can only conceive of liberation in terms of oblivion. The rebirth they wish to escape is, of course, that of a Self that for them does exist, although admittedly in a mysteriously relative and mind-dependent way, but a Self that is all too painfully and undeniably real none-the-less. Since this Self exists in some mysteriously mind-dependent way, it is the mind that must put an end to it. Insights into impermanence and suffering are seen as the path by which the Self will be destroyed and become a No-Self that will not be reborn. These are the closet "anihilationists".
- Anyone who is aware that Insight into anicca is in fact much more readily attained than Insight into anatta. This is quite true and is perhaps the best of all possible reasons for seeking Insight into Impermanence.


I almost feel that post should be stickied...

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
11/28/11 12:13 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
So in practical terms, what kind of Samatha/Vipassana mix does Culadasa advocate? As I understand lots of people do some Samatha before each Vipassana session and still go through the dark night, so that's not it. Does he want a few years of Samatha before starting Vipassana? Full mastery over the jhanas or something like that?

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
11/28/11 12:49 PM as a reply to N A.
N A:
So in practical terms, what kind of Samatha/Vipassana mix does Culadasa advocate? As I understand lots of people do some Samatha before each Vipassana session and still go through the dark night, so that's not it. Does he want a few years of Samatha before starting Vipassana? Full mastery over the jhanas or something like that?


I'm not certain. He didn't state his opinion in that piece I linked, and I haven't read anything about him advocating one particular approach over another... perhaps someone else can chime in.

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
6/25/15 8:44 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
This discussion is so important! Culadasa's explanation makes sense on the face of it, but it doesn't seem to explain why dry vipasanna practictioners would have relatively worse Dark Nights after first path (if this is indeed the case). They surely have a solid insight into no-self at that point. Maybe it's about the relative levels of insight into anicca vs anatta, no matter how far you are on the path? So if your practice is always pushing insight into anicca deeper than insight into anatta, it doesn't matter how much insight you have into anatta in an absolute sense? Daniel talks about spending roughly 60% of his time in Dark Night territory as he cycles in each sit and each day (http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2007/03/bg-011-models-of-enlightenment/) which some people seem to think is not representative of the well-being that most enlightened people live with (http://shinzenyoung.blogspot.com/2011/11/dark-night.html)

Or maybe this is all BS and dry insight practice/Mahasi technique doesn't produce worse Dark Nights than other practices.
Maybe Mahasi practicioners are just more practical or honest and more willing to admit that enlightenment still involves a lot of suffering?
Maybe it has more to do with the individual's personality? Maybe Mahasi practices attract more rational people with stronger egos who want to get enlightened as fast as possible, and those kind of people would suffer worse Dark Nights no matter what kind of practices they do?

Let's figure this out!

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
6/25/15 12:08 PM as a reply to Graham Linker.
My take on things is a bit different from most people on DhO, but since you ask, I'll put it out.

What these practices actually do is that they de-condition the mind, and in particular they dissolve the defense mechanisms.

Once you remove a defense mechanism, you will be exposed to the underlying feeling -- a feeling you have been suppressing for as long as you can remember. Since you're unfamiliar with it, it will feel like something new. You just need to feel it fully, and it will work its way through your system.

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
6/25/15 12:24 PM as a reply to Derek.
Your post reminded me of a talk by Shinzen about opening the 'primal feel system' where he expands on this somewhat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvcGvR_gnBE

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
6/28/15 5:55 PM as a reply to The Poster Formerly Known As RyanJ.
The Poster Formerly Known As RyanJ:
Your post reminded me of a talk by Shinzen about opening the 'primal feel system' where he expands on this somewhat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvcGvR_gnBE


great video, thanks for that Ryan, hadnt seen it before. That makes me feel a lot better about my unexplained newly aquired habit of giving other drivers the finger, which has been bothering those who know that I am on a journey to be kinder and more compassonate and awaken!! haha. good old Shinzen, saved me there, big time! 

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
6/28/15 11:57 PM as a reply to Derek.
Derek Cameron:
My take on things is a bit different from most people on DhO, but since you ask, I'll put it out.

What these practices actually do is that they de-condition the mind, and in particular they dissolve the defense mechanisms.

Once you remove a defense mechanism, you will be exposed to the underlying feeling -- a feeling you have been suppressing for as long as you can remember. Since you're unfamiliar with it, it will feel like something new. You just need to feel it fully, and it will work its way through your system.
Yeah that's what I think, basically the dark night is the upsurgance of your crap that you have been keeping under the carpet sometimes even from your own awareness.  Tear off the carpet and the shXt hits the fan, the more crap under there, the worse it is.    Just need to tackle that crap in small bites at a time sometimes so you don't get overwelmed and wacked out.  Of course to take it from another perspective, yes, the ultimate source of all of the crap can be said to be craving/desire/clinging.  Early one, I am just not sure how much deep knowledge/insight of dukkha will clean up all issues of the psyche, might be that you need to get a reasonable amount of that straightened out first before you can reach the deepest insights.  Could be wrong but it seems that way. 
-Eva 

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
6/29/15 12:04 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
This post by Culadasa does a great job of explaining it. Relevant excerpts below (emphasis mine).
With regard to why someone would pursue Insight into anicca before anatta;
- Anyone who is resistant to and cannot accept the idea that what the Buddha meant by anatta is that there really is not, never has been, and never will be a separate Self other than these conditioned, impermanent, suffering aggregates. This is part of what makes anatta so much more inaccessible than anicca. There are countless Buddhists, Western and Eastern alike, who think, "Buddha just meant that the Self was not in the aggregates, not that there is no Self at all." They feel like they are a Self, and they fully expect to have the mystery of the doctrine of anatta solved and their "True" Self revealed through the practice. You know the one they are thinking of: the Self who has lived countless previous lives, the one that accumulates merit and kamma, the one that is going to be reborn in the future. These are the closet "eternalists".
Makes it sound like Buddha did not believe in karma and reincarnation but my understanding is according to the texts, he did believe in those things.  Of course, the texts were written long after his death so seems to me we don't know any of his beliefs for sure, karma, destruction of sense of self, or whatever.  I have yet to hear any of the enlightened ones start speaking like a borg drone, they still use the word 'I,' so not sure what to think on that one. 
-Eva

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
7/9/15 4:06 AM as a reply to Graham Linker.
Dear all,
 
It is here, in relation to this delicate matter, that I found the teaching of RECENTLY FULLY ENLIGHTENED MEDITATION MASTERS much more real and heart-reaching than 2500-year-old scriptures.

The two masters who could face and cross and destroy fully the dark night, are Phra Ajahn Maha Bua (mistakenly written Boowa on the Web), and Sunlun Sayadaw.
Both of them had to face repeatedly strong painful sensations during height-to-twelve-hour sittings.
Both of them went to a very personal practice, and finally reported about their experience. In many instances, what they report do not figure in the scriptures but sounds extraordinary real and true.
 
Ajahn Maha Bua, in countless sermons, duly recorded and written by his most fervent disciples, speaks about AN AUTOMATIC STAGE, that obviously occurred after repeatedly fighting and overcoming those very strong sensations.

“ Body contemplation is the best antidote for sexual attraction. Successful body practice is measured by a reduction in the mind’s sexual desires. Step by step, wisdom unmasks the reality of the body, cutting off and destroying deep-rooted attachments in the process. This results in an increasingly free and open mental state. To fully understand their significance, meditators must experience these results for themselves. It would be counter-productive for me to try to describe them—that would only lead to fruitless speculation. These results arise exclusively within a meditator’s mind, and are unique to that person’s character and temperament. Simply focus all your attention on the practical causes and let the results of that effort arise as they will. When they do, you will know them with undeniable clarity. This is a natural principle.
      When body contemplation reaches the stage where reason and result become fully integrated with wisdom, one becomes completely absorbed in these investigations both day and night. It’s truly extraordinary. Wisdom moves through the body with such speed and agility, and displays such ingenuity in its contemplative techniques, that it seems to spin relentlessly in and out and around every part, every aspect of the body, delving into each nook and cranny to discover the truth. At this stage of the practice, wisdom begins to surface automatically, becoming truly habitual in manifesting itself. Because it’s so quick and incisive, it can catch up with even the most subtle kilesas, and disable even the most indomitable ones. Wisdom at this level is extremely daring and adventurous. It is like a mountain torrent crashing through a narrow canyon: nothing can deter its course. Wisdom bursts forth to meet every challenge to crave and to cling that is presented by the kilesas. Because its adversary is so tenacious, wisdom’s battle with sexual craving resembles a full-scale war. For this reason, only a bold and uncompromising strategy will succeed. There is only one appropriate course of action—an all out struggle; and the meditator will know this instinctively.”
 
And here is what is reported about Sunlun Sayadaw:
“Practicing the Sunlun way, sensations (pain) arise more quickly and intensively, providing the chance of cleansing off the effects of bad deeds more expeditiously
Khanti: forbearance. Bearing the onslaught of painful sensations that arise upon maintenance of the same sitting posture during the many continuous hours of proper meditation, is the most responsible factor for reducing and finally eliminating bad karmas due to past misdeeds.
The essence of this meditation is to grapple with sensations to overcome them. We can of course make the sensations disappear by simply moving our legs, our arms, or our body, but in this way we are not grappling with our sensations. We are trying to escape from them and in doing so we come up against new sensations. We have to know that we cannot escape from any sensation, that what we cannot escape from is the suffering inherent in our body, and that the only way is to face up to it and win through to insight, to liberation.
Patience and perseverance are the qualities required to face sensations, however intense they may be, and to overcome them. Be mindful, and sensation will disappear, even the most intense sensations.
No matter how colossal the sensation is, there is always an end to it.
The more intense the sensation which has been overcome, the clearer will be the resultant mind…
Continue focusing on the most prominent sensation until the sensation is consumed, shed, extinguished completely, it can snap or taper off gradually - whatever way the sensation takes it course, you follow it with intense mindfulness until there is no more.
This is how you cross a full cycle of sensation.
Once you have completed a full cycle of a sensation, you will definitely come to know the factor of impermanence at a very deep level. “

Again, Sunlun Sayadaw reported a very unique experience that does not figure anywhere in the scriptures:

“In september 1920, he had to face a most severe attack of painful sensations (extraordinarily severe pains arising within him, feeling as if all the sinews broke off) and finally experienced an emission of semen, marking the end of all sexual interest.(The Sayadaw said that only when a meditator had overcome such attack, he would say: "well done!")”

Nevertheless, both of them, on becoming arahant, apparently because of the thorough cleansing they had achieved, reported being able to see all their past lives, and all the different planes of existence.

This explains why, in the Mahasi Technique, which is very unique and immensely interesting for all of us, these dramatic happenings do not occur. Because there is never the challenge of sitting through the pain for countless hours… Yes and no actually!
A wonderful book called “dhamma therapy” is also worth reading concerning this matter…
Some extracts:
http://woopwap.jimdo.com/dhamma-therapy/
(please be indulgent, this site is being updated little by little since I give more time to my practice before reporting and explaining what I do, but this page is OK)

Finally if any of you show some interest in what I tried to report today, I may spent some time to explain my own path which is intimately related to these two masters and to two thai masters that teach amazing hand movements which are able to trigger those very painful experience in a much more vivid way than ever reported, as far as I know.
Yours in the Dharma.

Woop wap

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
7/4/15 8:56 AM as a reply to woop wap.
woop wap, thanks for this post.

There was much for what you posted and that link: http://woopwap.jimdo.com/dhamma-therapy/

I went there and found some of your ideas interesting. I found some of the finger and breath excercises worked for me. Thanks for sharing this.

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
7/5/15 3:50 AM as a reply to Don Merchant.
Hi Don,

Thanks so much for giving it a trial.
To tell the truth, I am afraid I may die tomorrow and all these amazing discoveries will have been made for zero.
The amount of work and the number of self-retreat to come up with this were huge indeed.

To avoid overloading this beautiful forum, feel free to email to me for more detailed descriptions. Please check your private messages.
Of course, more detailed feedback and questions from you will be most welcomed.

If more people were to show a real interest for more explanations and descriptions, I may write something here as well, but since I know that sitting progressively (I insist here! Progressively) for longer periods of time is not the cup of tea of our fellow-members,  I prefer communicate in a more private way.

Finally I wish to add that to fully face this content of our dark night, and destroy huge amount of it, there a few more important features that need to be taken seriously into account.
This include reasonable fasting, one day eat ( a favorite fruit followed by a most nourishing self-prepared meal), one day  no eat, a perfect sitting posture, preferably the lotus posture, and some body exercises. (chi kung, yoga and…SWIMMING MEDITATION!)
All these to be described in full detailed in that woop wap website, if I don’t die too early!!!
Yours in the Dharma
Woop wap

RE: What the dark night actually consists of......
Answer
7/5/15 5:05 PM as a reply to woop wap.
Emails sent.