RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/5/23 8:14 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/5/23 8:14 PM

Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
We all know stream entry (SE) is a worthwhile goal, often attained through insight meditation.
We also know there are various stages in an insight cycle to pass through, before reaching equanimity (EQ).

When in EQ, exactly what is it that causes the cessation and fruition to occur?
I'm trying to get a "feel" for this, so I can be successful in the retreat I am planning.
I feel like I can reach high EQ with an hour or two of wet vipassana, but I fail to intuit what is required to get me all the way to a fruition.

Is it caused by:

1) Enough time spent with focus in high EQ, which makes it habitual/automatic - I imagine this as filling a tank until it spills over.

2) Thoroughly investigating all senses with both inner and outer phenomena, until they are known fully - I imagine this as mapping a labyrinth.

3) Reaching a very high state of consciousness, which then breaks through to a new level of experience. The idea of near misses has me wondering about this. I imagine this as trying to jump over a creek or scaling a wall; needing to build sufficient momentum to make it all the way over.

4) A combination of the three aforementioned things - if so in what ratios do you estimate?

@danielmingram @shargrol I venture to guess you two have the largest collections of fruition experiences and stories, so I tag you if you feel like sharing.
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/6/23 5:47 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/6/23 5:42 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Daniel's book describes this in detail. 
Table of Contents – MCTB.org

If you are preparing for a retreat, it's worth rereading the stages of insight, which starts here in Daniel's book: 
30. The Progress of Insight – MCTB.org

The answer to what causes SE is technically going through all of the stages and having a complete experience of the present moment, also called "conformity". Most of the time, what we experience in the present moment is more about what we think about it or what we think we should do next, etc. etc. “The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice" that he describes in the Conformity section might also be helpful.
12. Conformity – MCTB.org
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 3/7/23 1:06 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/7/23 12:56 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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"Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?"

Shinzen young teaches noting meditation he has this to say ...
https://www.lionsroar.com/on-enlightenment-an-interview-with-shinzen-young/
However, for most people who’ve studied with me it doesn’t happen that way. What does happen is that the person gradually works through the things that get in the way of enlightenment, but so gradually that they might not notice. What typically happens is that over a period of years, and indeed decades, within that person the craving, aversion, and unconsciousness—the mula kleshas (the fundamental “impurities”), get worked through. But because all this is happening gradually they’re acclimatizing as it’s occurring and they may not realize how far they’ve come. That’s why I like telling the story about the samurai.

This samurai went to the Zen temple on the mountain and lived there for many years. He didn’t seem to be getting anything out of the practice. So he said to the Master, “I think I need to leave. Nothing’s happening as a result of this practice.” So the master said, “Okay. Go.” As he was coming down the hill one of his former comrades, a fellow samurai, saw him in the tattered robes of a Buddhist monk, which is equivalent to a glorified beggar from a samurai’s point of view, and he said, “How could you be so undignified to join the counter-culture of Buddhist beggars?” and he spit on him. Now in the old days the samurais were extremely proud. Any insult to their personal dignity meant a fight to the death. So the monk who had formerly been a samurai just walked on and after he’d walked a certain distance, it occurred to him that not only did he not need to kill this guy, he wasn’t even angry.

As the story goes he turned around and bowed toward the mountain three times where he had practiced. He bowed in his recognition of all that he had worked through. He recognized he no longer needed to kill someone that had offended his dignity. He noticed how fundamentally he had changed as a human being.

Of course, it’s not just samurai in sixteenth century Japan. The same things apply to twenty-first century North Americans. Maybe they’ve been practicing for ten, twenty, or thirty years and it doesn’t seem that much has changed. And then something big happens like a major bereavement, a major illness like cancer, a serious injury, or their life is somehow threatened. Then they notice how everyone around them is freaking out and how much less they’re freaking out.


There are probably a lot of people who have passed "stream entry" but don't know it - even among student who practice the progress of insight. They are waiting and waiting and waiting for cessation but it isn't necessary and they don't know it. 

In my opinion, instead of focusing attention on cessation and fruition and trying to understand how to make those things happen, folks should be focusing not on stages and attainments but on observing the activity of their mind and observing how dukkha arises and fades, how the sense of self is involved in dukkha, seeing the more and more subtle phenomena over time (this is studying the three characteristics and dependent origination). 

I am not saying people should change how they meditate, I am saying they should change how they measure progress. You should not measure progress by things that happen during meditation, you should measure progress by how dukkha influences you in daily life.

Someone who according to POI is stuck in high equanimity could according to Shinzen Young be more awakened than someone who had experienced cessation/fruition. 

If your goal is to achieve attainments in meditation that is up to you, I am not trying to criticize anyone's goals or motivations, but I think there is a lot of misunderstanding that should stop being perpetuated.
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 12:30 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 12:30 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Sorry for taking your time @shargrol , I don't know how I missed the chapter on conformity knowledge. Must have been reading it when I was sleep deprived so it didn't reach memory. It does indeed explain what I was wondering about, thanks for referring me to it.
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 12:35 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 12:35 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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You have a good point @jimsmith , the end is the goal; to reduce or eliminate dukkha.
I don't know why I have gotten obsessed with cessation, it just seems so fascinating to me, somehow.


Sometimes I wonder if Zen practioners get so good at concentration that they can bust dukkha with it, without needing insight at all.
I mean Shinzen talks about a Soto master who meditated literally all day every day except for bathroom breaks, despite the convulsive pain it caused.
Another Zen master talked about how in Japan he was made to sit still  as a rock in -20C winter weather - and they pulled it off, somehow.
Junpo Roshi had advanced parkinsons disease, went through chemotherapy and was very debilitated in his last years, yet he seemed in good spirits.
Those are some very powerful acts of will they demonstrate.
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 11:58 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/9/23 5:58 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Aeon ........
Sorry for taking your time @shargrol , I don't know how I missed the chapter on conformity knowledge. Must have been reading it when I was sleep deprived so it didn't reach memory. It does indeed explain what I was wondering about, thanks for referring me to it.

No worries! emoticon 

There is also an interesting discussion/diagram in The Path of Serenity and Insight by Henepola Gunaratana on page 169-170, which describes the first glimpse of nibbana/cessation in terms of mind moments. It's pretty esoteric, but I found in interesting/inspiring. 

The other classic description is in Practical Insight Meditation by Mahasi Sayadaw on page 39 in the section "How Nibbana is Realized" that describes it poetically as the mind being like a bird on ship that flys off to land once it comes into view. More pragmatically/descriptively it is described as being in well established equanimity and then very lucidly seeing fundamental imperminance, suffering, or not-self three or four times in a row. 

In my own practice, this inspired me to look very directly at the sensation of experiences themselves rather than trying to think my way into Stream Entry. At a certain point, I realized that all the ways I was struggling to improve or fix or accelerate or "reach the next nana" in my practice were all just thoughts "about" practice. The whole point of meditation is not to be thinking about experience, but rather directly experiencing. So once I felt confidence that this SE thing was real, I gave up strategizing and just simply tried to fully experience whatever occured during sitting with a preference of noticing how sensations occured right at the point of arising in experience. Raw experience. Close and intimate, but without additional struggling "to get even closer" or "be even more intimate" because again that's just extra stuff getting added on.

Experience is already close and intimate... but we seem to be more interested in our thinking about it. We kind of ignore it. One way to say it is that we identify and think that we are our thoughts about experience, so that's what we pay the most attention to. But before thoughts arise, there is the acutal direct and raw act of experiencing. Eventually we realize "hmm, the initial experience is closer to reality than the thoughts that come later. I should be paying more attention to the initial experiences and less to the thoughts about experiences." That's the thing to realize. "All this strategizing and fixing and improving and accelerating I'm trying to do is actually taking me further from meditation practice. I just need to sit and notice things as they are... and if it helps me notice, I can note as well."

Noting practice works well because it let's you know if you have slipped out of direct experiencing mode because you'll stop noting and at a certain point you'll realize "hey, I haven't noted anything in the last minute!" emoticon  No big deal, that's normal and expected. What you then do is notice what chain of thoughts put you in this trance and note that. For example, "meditation mapping thoughts." And then you can smile because as soon as you note what distracted you, you are no longer distracted! Simple. And then you can continue noting again. I found that a gentle noting rate, one note on every exhale (so about 10-12 a minute) was a nice consistent rate that gave me good feedback but also didn't exhaust me. And what noting practice trains is becoming more intimate with experience and less focused on thinking about experience.

So I would say that 99% of developing a solid meditation practice --- and for the purpose of definition, I'll just say that "solid meditation practice" means someone could do well on a week long meditation retreat where there is 12+ hours of sitting and walking practice a day --- is learning to be less facinated with our thoughts about experience and more interested in directly, closely, and intimately experiencing this present moment.

It's a very zen thing, for sure. One way to think of it is that we become "centered" within our experience. So it isn't "concentration" the way we normally define it, it's not working really hard and focusing really close and getting constipated from the effort. It's being balanced and centered, close and intimate, in the experience that is already arising within this moment. A zen teacher might say "a direct experience of suffering doesn't have suffering" or something like that. They way you can endure hard stuff is paradoxically by experiencing it fully, not by developing some strategy to reduce or avoid it.

Of course, we can't just jump to this level of ability, it takes practice to get there. That's why daily sitting is so helpful, especially "the bad sits". We only learn to drop our defenses and become more intimate by feeling how those defenses just cause more suffering. This takes a lot of consistent but low effort practice. Basically sitting practice is always imperfect, we never sit in perfect intimacy and closeness, but each sit weakens our needless defences just a little... and it's surprising how much our psychology and insights can change over time.

Hope this is helpful in some way.


  
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/16/23 8:08 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/16/23 8:08 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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@shargrol It is most helpful!
I had to think it through and tinker with it for a while, but it does all make sense.
It's so odd to learn that wisdom comes out of direct and precise sensate experience, but that is how it works.

In terms of practice, I can now do walking meditation and practice noting fruitfully, thanks to your advice.
Noting always would rub me wrong, as it felt clunky compared to direct nonverbal noticing.
With the pacing you recommend, I can keep the flow of noticing going while walking. Used to be it would always screw my concentration to be moving, but now it works, so thanks for that!
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/16/23 3:25 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/16/23 3:25 PM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Sounds great. Noting practice has been very good for many practioners. Hope it is helpful to you!

The trick is to "notice" between the "notes", but to note at an easy rate to give you feedback on whether you really are present or lost in thought. 

It really is as simple as:
1) note anything that is presently occuring at a easy rate
2) if you are able to notice more aspects about the present, great!
3) if you forget to note, then notice what you were thinking about and note that... and you're present again.
4) return to step 1)

If you are having a lot of problems with meditation it's as simple as just noting the problem... and you are no longer having a problem because you are present again! emoticon  And then go back to step 1.

It sounds so simple but there are classic ways people mess up:
  1. in mind and body, they might focus on body sesations which grow still and become vague and unclear... but "vague and unclear" is mind and so it's just a matter of noting  "vague and unclear"! Or they might focus on noting the mind but the mind grows still and there seems to be nothing to note... but the body is still there and chances are you can at least note the "pressure" of you sitting on the cushion! 
  2. in cause and effect, they might get lost on how they can't see body or mind clearly because the experiences are clunky or changing or "the intention" seems to be messing things up... but it is simple as noting "clunky" or "changing" or "intention" or "messy"!
  3. in three characteristics, the yucky, icky, difficult, uncomfortable, painful sensations tend to become stronger and people can assume that they are doing something wrong... but it is as simple as noting "yucky", "icky", "difficult", "uncomfortable", "painful" etc. 
  4. in A&P things are so interesting that paying attention isn't a problem... and in fact, the moments of experience seem to happen so fast that noting seems to slow. If you are paying good attention, then it's okay to "ride out the A&P" without notes.
  5. in dissolution, things get vague and numb and cloudy and people think they are meditation wrong... but you just need to note "vague" and "numb" and "cloudy" etc.
  6. in fear, people can become so afraid that they forget to note "fear"
  7. same thing with misery
  8. same thing with disgust
  9. in desire for deliverance, there can be so much thinking about practice and and mapping where they are and planning how to make practice better that people forget to note all the "practice thoughts", "mapping thoughts", "planning thoughts"
  10. in reobservation, all of our psychological triggers seemed to get triggered, which feels like the same thing as "I am being triggered"... but people forget that they can simply keep noting how we're being triggered! if experiences of reobs are happening so fast and there is good attention, then sometimes "noticing" is fine and noting can be dropped. but in general, because this stage is so challenging, it's best to keep noting... and it can become kind of comical if we can take a big picture look at it! 
  11. in low equanimity, things are suddenly less insane and in comparison nothing much is going on... people sometimes forget to note the simple stuff all over again. in high equanimity, things become peaceful, calm, tranquil, rich, juicy, intimate... which seems like the goal of meditation all along -- but this is still stuff to note! EQ is very close to what awakening is, but EQ is still a "state" of experience. It has characteristics that stay the same over time (the peacefulness, the calmness, the tranquilness, the richness, the juicyness, the intimacies) so this is not enlightenment, it is a state. A nice state, but still a state. ... and EQ can become kind of hard to pin down and it might even feel like we're not even meditating, daydreams might come back... but people forget to note "normalness" and "daydreaming" etc.
It took me a long time to figure this out when I was working on it. I suspect most people go through something similar, but obviously the notes and the problems and the psychological triggers are very personal and need to be figured out by each meditator for themselves.

Best wishes!!
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Noah D, modified 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 12:28 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 12:28 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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If you're in high eq, setting up a sense of confidence combined with opening to the unknown can help. Confidence to overcome any limiting beliefs like: it's too good to be true; it's too subtle; it can't be this simple; etc. Opening to the unknown sets up the surrender aspect needed. You need to be willing to proverbially "fall off the cliff" without even looking or anticipating .  But also just staying with the panoramic mindfulness in a very precise way, moment by moment - not losing that part.
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 3:07 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 3:07 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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I think I am in high EQ... It feels as if the self behind my eyes and the outer observed world are trying to merge together.
I keep having these short moments of my body filling with light, and everything becoming profoundly quiet .. then the mind distracts me.
Effort seems to lessen this state, letting go of almost all effort seems to enable the spread of self into outer world to continue.
It feels as if there is a pressure bubble in my inner brain that wants to burst but can't quite do it yet.
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 3:08 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 3:08 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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@shargrol I would hope you teach meditation in a professional capacity someday, if you aren't already. You really help a lot of people around here. Noting would have escaped my prickly mind if it weren't for you.
Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 4:47 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 4:47 AM

RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Don't we enter through one of the 3 doors?
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 5:44 AM
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RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Aeon ........ I think I am in high EQ... It feels as if the self behind my eyes and the outer observed world are trying to merge together. I keep having these short moments of my body filling with light, and everything becoming profoundly quiet .. then the mind distracts me. Effort seems to lessen this state, letting go of almost all effort seems to enable the spread of self into outer world to continue. It feels as if there is a pressure bubble in my inner brain that wants to burst but can't quite do it yet.


"merging" "light" "quiet" "distraction" "low effort" "letting go" "spreading" "pressure" "wanting" "anticipating"
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/17/23 5:50 AM
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RE: Exactly what (can) cause stream entry?

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Rousseau Matt
Don't we enter through one of the 3 doors?
We sort of get sucked into the 3 doors, but this is beyond our control/intention. So it's nothing the meditator needs to worry about. There is no way to cause it to happen. But consistent non-heroic daily practice and wise use of retreats makes it much more likely.

In terms of practice, it's more about allowing the dark night to come and go within attention, to get used to dwelling in EQ, and staying curious about how EQ could lead to something "beyond". As Noah says, it's a bit of a leap of faith, afterall we're just sitting in a room with thing "as they are" so where is beyond? But there is also something about this stuff that just seems so right while we're doing it... we have a hunch it's leading somewhere even if we don't know what it is.

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