Is the DarkNight optional?

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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 8:42 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 8:42 AM

Is the DarkNight optional?

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
After listening to a debate with Ingram, it would seem Dhammarato is of that opinion.

He said we can start insight from the equianimity stage, if we will simply avoid hindrances with anapanasati.

After being mauled by re-observation for the last week, that sounds good to me!

Thing is, I wonder if that might obscure or hinder true progress of insight. Perhaps the DN has value that I don't understand from experience.
Add to that, Thai forest as Dhammarato is from don't seem to care or talk about attainments like insight stages.
It seems as EQ matures for me, I re enter DN with increased intensity, then something releases, then another round.
Maybe I'm just a shit meditator tho.

What's your opinion on all this?
‎ ‎Nihila, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 8:57 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 9:26 AM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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I think you hit the nail here.

Aeon ........
Perhaps the DN has value that I don't understand from experience.

You can't just bypass negative emotion, it's an inate part of being human, and negative emotion has valuable information, without which we'd have a hard time surviving.

Gonna drop this here from Shargrol's Post Compilation:

– A last point: as developing humans, we can become very paranoid about these difficult mind states because we don't see the good in them. Why on earth should we sit on the cushion and go through all of this? What does it get us?

– All these difficult mind states will also have a piece of wisdom connected to them, sort of hidden within the noise. There is a >positive intention< that is within each state: 
· Fear just really wants to keep us safe. 
· Misery really wants the world to be more fair and just. 
· Disgust really wants us to make better choices and care for ourselves. 
· Desire for Deliverance really wants us to work carefully toward improving. 
· Reobservation really wants to give us a guided tour of all of our silly trigger thoughts/feelings so that we see that freaking out isn't helpful. 


Hope it's helpful.
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 11:58 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 11:58 AM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
Actually...

Bypassing difficult insight stages with strong concentration. As to the question of can one bypass the difficult insight stages with very strong concentration and still make progress in insight, the answer is a definite "yes". In particular, it is possible with, say, candle flame meditation, my personal favorite kasina, to get concentration so strong that one cycles through the vipassana jhanas to Fruition in realms of light and color and sacred geometry and tantric beings and vast landscapes and hyper-real psychedelic fluxing patterns and the like with nary an adverse bodily feeling or emotional upheaval of any kind. I got to this level of practice on a 17-day retreat at Bhavana Society over Christmas break in 2001. This level of strong practice typically requires a mix of great conditions, enough time, and talent. Easy to do? No. Can it be done? Absolutely. (DhO)
https://danielpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#bypassingdifficultinsightstageswithstrongconcentration


I know a lot of people who think exercise, working, sex, stretching/massaging, rejection and failing is categorically tied to pain or suffering - yet I have found ways to abolish that pain in all those areas.
Why not insight meditation too?

I guess what I'm really wondering is... Can it be as easy as Dhammarato said, and still lead to new Paths?
‎ ‎Nihila, modified 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 12:57 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 12:57 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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I'm not doubting it's possible, I just don't know why it would be desirable. I mean, unresolved stuff will still be there.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 1:12 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 1:12 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
The dukkha ñanas are mandatory, the way I see it, but the amount of suffering can vary. It's not the suffering that counts, but the insights around it. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 3:40 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/28/23 3:35 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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Also, like Nihila said, I wouldn't want to bypass issues. The dukkha ñanas don't cause suffering. They just point you very tangibly to what is already causing you suffering. 

I think it's important to bear in mind that the concept "Dark Night" is used very differently by different people. If one means "an endless abyss of existential dread and agony", then yeah, it's optional. If one means "insight stages during which we learn about how our conditioning and misconceptions cause unnecessary suffering", then no. 

I don't understand the fear people so often display with regard to the dukkha ñanas. To me it seems like that's just how life always was before I took on a regular practice. 
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 5:57 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 5:57 AM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I think it's important to bear in mind that the concept "Dark Night" is used very differently by different people. If one means "an endless abyss of existential dread and agony", then yeah, it's optional. If one means "insight stages during which we learn about how our conditioning and misconceptions cause unnecessary suffering", then no. 


Well said. 
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 8:21 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 7:34 AM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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Aeon ........
...

What's your opinion on all this?


It really depends on how you define dark night. I don't think it's helpful to use that term in reference to meditation, it is not used in the original description of the  progress of insight - it is a modern/western invention. 

​​​​​​​But when you start to observe the activity of the mind you often release unpleasant suppressed thoughts and emotions and that can be difficult. Depending on the person and what is suppressed it can be mild or traumatic - some people wish they had never started meditating to begin with and will stop, other people don't notice much difference from the normal ups and downs of life. Samatha meditation can help to relive some of the emotional pain and sometimes I think it is wise to take a break, do less of the kind of practice that leads to releasing. I don't agree that there is a particular stage where this is likely to happen. As one continues with their meditation practice they perceive subtler and subtler mental phenomena and uncover more and more strongly suppressed thoughts and feelings. POI followers may call this "cycling" I don't see it as circular I see it as a kind of linear progress, not related to other "stages" - as deepening. (In my opinion, cycling is a way to force a preconceived idea onto a system that it does not really apply to - like epicycles were used to explain retrograde motion of planets. People can have repeat experiences during meditation but I don't see that as orderly progression of stages - in my experience it has to do with combinations of factors that influence the meditative experience: nutrition (fluctuating biochemistry stress hormones, neurotransmitters, blood sugar levels), sleep, stress or lack of it in daily life, amount of meditation done, etc etc. These things vary and produce repeated experiences but are random not cyclic. Those factors can produce A&P type experiences as well as "dark night" experiences when you meditate but are due to chance events in life and have nothing to do with meditation stages.

Also when you start to see that the mind and self is not what we think it is, that can turn your worldview upside down and cause problems too. But it depends a lot on the individual person. Some people are flighty and react strongly to things and other people are stoical and are not phased by anything. Three people can have the same experience and one person will say they dissociated and go to a psychiatrist, another will post here to discuss their enlightenment, and a third will think it's a better alternative to getting high.

I don't agree that there is a stage where it will definitely happen because people are different and they wake up differently.  Some people wake up without meditating at all - skipping all stages of the path. If that can happen, then it seems likely that some meditators will skip any particular step that can be hypothesized.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Night_of_the_Soul
The Dark Night of the Soul (La noche oscura del alma) is a phase of passive purification of the spirit in the mystical development, as described by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross in his treatise Dark Night (Noche Oscura), a commentary on his poem with the same name. It follows after the second phase, the illumination in which God's presence is felt, but this presence is not yet stable. The author himself did not give any title to his poem, which together with this commentary and the Ascent of Mount Carmel (Subida del Monte Carmelo) forms a treatise on the active and passive purification of the senses and the spirit, leading to mystical union.[1] In modern times, the phrase "dark night of the soul" has taken on the broader meaning of spiritual dryness and existential doubt and loneliness.
...
Dark Night of the Soul

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

...
The dark night of the soul is a stage of final and complete purification, and is marked by confusion, helplessness, stagnation of the will, and a sense of the withdrawal of God's presence.[note 1] It is the period of final "unselfing" and the surrender to the hidden purposes of the divine will. The final stage is union with the object of love, the one Reality, God. Here the self has been permanently established on a transcendental level and liberated for a new purpose.[7]
T DC, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 12:39 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 12:32 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

Posts: 521 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
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I don't understand the fear people so often display with regard to the dukkha ñanas. To me it seems like that's just how life always was before I took on a regular practice. 

​​​​​​​A good point and also how I generally think of it - I came to the path driven to overcome my suffering in daily life / perception, the dark night stages were just another flavor.

Re OP: another way to look at the dark night is as, most basically, a perceptual issue.  In crossing the A/P we gain an initial insight into the impermanence of our mental perceptions and projections, but still remain subject to them.  It's like we're been trapped the whole time, only now we realize it, which naturally spurs a kind of existential crisis and serious need to solve the problem.  This perceptual issue is both the root cause and that which is overcome via the "fix" of stream entry.  The dark night stages are just texture along the way, and if anything, their variance can be helpful for us to track our progression.

Aeon - for your case specifically, reading your log it seems like you also have some past traumas and depression etc which create additional struggles for you on the path.  To some degree I would caution that although insight can provide some relief from our general psychic issues, it's really only best at solving, very specifically, our innate issues of perception - insight is not a silver bullet.  For people struggling with a greater range of personal issues, insight is probably best approached with tempered expectations and in conjunction with other tools such as therapy, etc.  

Re can the dark night be alleviated / skipped by different types of meditation - vipassana is definitely one of the more mentally "harsh" feeling forms of meditation, much more so than something like shamatha-vipassana (classical breath centered meditation, not strict shamatha / concentration).  Due to this harshness, the mental irritation of the duka nanas may be felt to a greater degree, which has pluses and minuses - it feels bad, yes, but it also allows for a more subtle perspective on the stages which can be helpful.  Regardless, even if you practice shamatha-vipassana, the suffering that drives us on the path, perceptual or otherwise, will nevertheless be present, if in other forms, simply because that's the whole point - only genuine insight can overcome perceptual suffering, pleasant meditation (i.e. the jhanas) is just a temporary alleviation. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 3:53 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 3:53 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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T DC basically said all the things I wanted to say but lacked the energy to phrase. 
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:04 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:02 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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T DC
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
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I don't understand the fear people so often display with regard to the dukkha ñanas. To me it seems like that's just how life always was before I took on a regular practice. 

​​​​​​​A good point and also how I generally think of it - I came to the path driven to overcome my suffering in daily life / perception, the dark night stages were just another flavor.

...


This is partly why I don't think the dukkha nanas are a real thing. If people experience what they always were experiencing, then what are the grounds for attributing it to meditation? What I think is happening in some cases is that if you tell people "if you do this meditation you will feel unpleasant emotions", the next time normal life brings them unpleasant emotions, they attribute it to meditation. Especially if it means it looks like progress. Many people will be naturally want to advance on the path and if calling a normal everyday funk "dukkha nanas" why not?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:39 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:10 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I'm not attributing it to meditation. I'm attributing the suffering to the human condition in ignorance and acknowledging that there are no quick fixes but will be backlashes, in spite of the meditation. I attribute the eventual emptying out of it to meditation. 

The backlashes are pretty predictable because of the basic structure of the human mind, with all the typical moves of resistance it goes through. If we are mindful enough of what is going on when that happens, there are specific lessons to learn. If we don't get it the first time around, there will be plenty of new opportunities. 

For some people, starting to notice what's going on is painful. Maybe they used to be in denial about it, and the more they pay attention to it, the harder it gets to deny it. Tough shit. Defense mechanisms are usually there for a reason. We might need to let go of them one babystep at a time. That's what the warnings are about. 
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:52 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:38 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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Jim Smith


​​​​​​​But when you start to observe the activity of the mind you often release unpleasant suppressed thoughts and emotions and that can be difficult.
...

Also when you start to see that the mind and self is not what we think it is, that can turn your worldview upside down and cause problems too.
...


Another source of problems is that some types of meditation are actually harmful, or maybe harmful to some people.
This link describes some of the problems that can occur that are not normal "progress":
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2021/04/willoughby-britton.html

...
And then temporal disintegration can kind of go even further beyond that where people almost like they’re waking up in a new reality every several minutes. And they don’t really have any way of describing the reality that came before that and it can be very disorienting. You can wake up and really have to study your environment to figure out who you’re talking to and what the conversation is about.
...




I find that intense concentration causes suppression of thoughts and emotions that causes irritability so for me that type of meditation doesn't lead to progress, it's harmful. I think it might happen to other people too because there are a couple of threads here about monks being irritable and intolerant, ie they lack the equanimity they ought to have from the practice:

Theravada monasticism and western values
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/9570391

"Never argue with Sayadaw. He simply can’t tolerate it."
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/21393142

And in some cases, I think just doing too much meditation (or too much of some types of meditation) can cause problems. Especially for beginners who don't have a lot of experience in how a technique will affect them. They should not jump into a retreat when they don't really know what they are getting into and especially if there is either explicit pressure or implicit peer pressure to finish the retreat even if it is causing them problems.
T DC, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:54 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 4:53 PM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
T DC basically said all the things I wanted to say but lacked the energy to phrase. 

Thanks Linda, I'm glad it resonates!
Michal, modified 1 Year ago at 4/4/23 11:58 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/4/23 11:57 AM

RE: Is the DarkNight optional?

Posts: 33 Join Date: 6/9/20 Recent Posts
Actually, strong concentration can have both effects. If you do it right, you can have easier time in dark night. If you accidientally ruminate on negative stuff while very concentrated it can get pretty bad.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​So maybe run through a few samatha jhanas before your Vipassana practice? That is what I used to do. You will still experience DN, just more manageable.