Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Nerdspeak D, modified 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 3:10 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 3:06 PM

Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 5/24/21 Recent Posts
Whenever I practice a lot (3-4 hours) and/or on retreat, the practice culminates in me paying attention to the borders of see-hear-feel space until it makes sense to ask "who feels? who hears?" and then at that point, the thing that hears is not my ears or a person, but is the whole auditory field, the thing that feels is all of space, the thing that sees is just space. It's kind of a cessation, in the sense that I lose any sense of self distinct from space and everything is just like flowy energy. It could be a fruition or it could be just a jhanic thing, I am not sure. As retreats progress I start to access it within 20-30 seconds of starting the sit.  I asked Shinzen about it a couple times on retreat and he seemed a bit excited about it but won't give me any kind of real answer about what it is, he kind of resists talking about attainments especially in front of other people, and getting 1:1 interviews with him is kind of hard these days as he's become a celebrity.  On a short (2-day) Mahasi retreat with a nun in Mahasi's lineage, the nun just said that's good and suggested metta practice.  Maybe it doesn't really matter but I'm kind of curious where I'm at. 

For context: I have been practicing for almost 14 years although I've only done two 7-day retreats and a couple 2-day ones. That said, I started when I was 20 and thus very neurally plastic and practiced a huge amount the first year, 3-4 hours per day. I mostly use Shinzen's stuff these days -- see-hear-feel and then transition to self-inquiry. In my early days I did a lot of his "expansion and contraction" technique, which he doesn't teach anymore.  
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 5:51 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 5:51 PM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 2297 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
This state sounds like classic equanimity, which is also the 4th jhana. 

Here's some stuff to ponder:

27. The Concentration States (Shamatha Jhanas) – MCTB.org

11. Equanimity – MCTB.org 

Probably the most important thing is that it is a state, i.e., has knowable characteristics and can be recognized when it occurs. Because it is a state it still involves a degree of contraction, albeit very subtle. So the challenge is to investigate what aspect of "selfing" is still occuring, even in this refined state. 

Hope this is helpful in some way, definitely feel free to ignore!
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Pepe ·, modified 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 6:24 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 6:24 PM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 711 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hey, just a beginner here, and though what Shargrol said (EQ + 4th Jhana stuff) is pretty solid advice, as you're practicing self-inquiry, maybe you'd like to check "One Mind" stuff too (search "boundless space"), at least as inspirational text, in particular as Shinzen's GONE noting is a method to trigger that (DO Nothing too, if done just as told).   
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 12:51 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/24/23 9:10 PM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Below is a video by Daniel Ingram and a full transcript of it on "Diagnosing Stream Entry"
​​​​​​​The key quote is:
And so if whatever you think of a stream entry is not performing like stream entry should perform, with natural cycling, with rapid access to states, with hopefully repeat fruition, maybe even multiples, maybe even if you're lucky duration, and clear presentation of doors that eventually become easily distinguished from random state shifts or random formless realm things. Then, there's no point in calling that stream entry, because it's not doing what stream entry should do.

My own views are somewhat different. One way of defining stream entry is that you lose identity-view and doubt about the teachings. There are a lot of things that can be confused with stream-entry but some things that indicate you don't have it. Doubt is one of them.  (Yes there are always exceptions - often due to confusion about what stream-entry is.) Identity view is when you think of the self as a thing, or think of the self an an observer or experiencer separate from the five aggregates. Shinzen Young describes the aggregates as like pixels of an image, at first the image looks like a thing, but if you look closely you see it is just see pixels. Stream-entry is when you understand how the pixels (aggregates) form the image (cause identity-view).

Personally, I don't think it is that useful to measure progress in terms of things that happen during meditation like cessation. I think progress should be measured by what happens in daily life. If you feel like you don't have a self but you act like you do have a self then it's just a delusion in my opinion.

I have a list of perceptual shifts that I think indicate progress on the path but I don't refer to any milestones like stream entry.
https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2023/10/perceptual-shifts-caused-by-meditation.html

I also think for the most part awakening is gradual. The sutras support this view. Shinzen Young says most of his students awaken gradually. People do have discrete experiences they feel indicate awakening but just because they like to talk about it and it sounds wonderful, doesn't mean it is the most common way of awakening. I wrote more about this here:
https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/09/gradual-enlightenment.html
and here
https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/04/my-views-on-gradual-awakening.html


Here is what Daniel has to say:
https://vimeo.com/372228348
This is a transcript:
 Hey.

Welcome to a video about diagnosing stream entry.

Well, I routinely get questions which are basically, "Will you diagnose me?" or "See if I have stream entry." or "Confirm that this is stream entry" or "What do you think of this experience, was that stream entry?"

Regardless of the specifics, there are four basic cases.

The first is they do not have stream entry, and some person on a forum, or me, or whoever else says, you don't have stream entry. Ok. Good. No problem.

The next case is they do have stream entry, and someone says, you have stream entry. Okay. Now you can identify with an attainment or whatever, or maybe that can cause some hiccups. Not that much of a problem.

The next case is that they do have street entry and someone says, you do not have stream entry. Well, they have stream entry so while that can cause a little bit of confusion, it's relatively minimal, and the attainment is what it is, regardless of whether or not someone calls it that.

But the last case is the serious problem, and that's where they do not have stream entry and someone says: you have stream entry. And in this case, they've just been totally screwed if they believe that.

And not only have they been screwed, they will go around spreading this crazy to other people and they will call things like the arising and passing away, which is by far the most common mimic, stream entry. And they will call equanimity stream entry. And they will call some momentary opening into some formless realm or something else stream entry. Or a momentary taste of boundless consciousness or boundless space or nothingness, or neither perception or non perception, they will call that stream entry.

But stream entry should perform like stream entry. It should do all the things that stream entry should do. and if it doesn't do that well, then what is it?

So it would be if someone said to me, "Oh yeah, I've got a car." And I said, "Ok, let me see your car." And they took me out back, and there was a burned out old shell of a car on blocks. And you can call it a car, maybe, but it doesn't do all the things a car is supposed to do. And there are actually things that do what cars are supposed to do.

And so linguistically, I think of stream entry as a question of function. If it doesn't function like stream entry, well then pragmatically or practically, it's not stream entry, just like a burned out shell of a car is not a car. And so if whatever you think of a stream entry is not performing like stream entry should perform, with natural cycling, with rapid access to states, with hopefully repeat fruition, maybe even multiples, maybe even if you're lucky duration, and clear presentation of doors that eventually become easily distinguished from random state shifts or random formless realm things. Then, there's no point in calling that stream entry, because it's not doing what stream entry should do.

So I hope this video has helped, and I hope that there is a whole lot more terminological sobriety and skepticism and reasonable performance testing in the world of path and state and stage diagnosis.

Good luck.
Practice well.
Best wishes.
Thank you.
Nerdspeak D, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 4:59 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 4:59 AM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 5/24/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for the thoughtful responses. You're right that it doesn't really matter / is kind of arbitrary, and I found Jim's articles helpful.

This morning I crashed into this super neurotic mood with freaked-out dissolution-type experiences, so pretty safe to say that it was something like equanimity, because I don't think you crash into "dark night" after stream entry. 

Equanimity sounds like not such a big deal, and yet the experience itself is almost like complete ego death on high does of psychedelics. However, the difference is that there is still a bit of craving for duration, whereas I recall in ayahuasca ceremonies (it's been a while, not really my thing anymore) a more complete sense of release.

This weekend during the Mahasi retreat, I found myself feeling almost enraged whenever the nun would ring the bill to enforce the transition to walking, and during the experience itself, there was some sense of wanting to hold it and make it continue and progress.

So, I guess that grasping during equanimity is the next thing to investigate. The problem is it takes quite a bit of time and work to get there! Maybe that's what I need to work on --
improving concentration so I can get to equanimity faster, without having to spend a full day sitting. Or I should suck it up and do a longer retreat of 3-4 weeks, it's just a bit difficult in present circumstances. 
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 6:22 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 6:00 AM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 2297 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
As mentioned in 11. Equanimity – MCTB.org , "... “the standard pattern” involves people crossing the A&P, learning (if reluctantly) many deep and essential lessons in Re-observation, getting to Equanimity, but then falling back to Re-observation, learning more lessons of a similar nature, getting back up to Equanimity, and so on until the lessons hit deeply and finally Equanimity really predominates in its unobtrusive way. So, if this happens to you, be as grateful as you can be to go back and learn something that you clearly needed to learn more fully or deeply, such that when you get back to Equanimity, that lesson will endure and be better rounded."

So, for example, when you got triggered by the nun ending the session -- that's kind of the flavor of being all chill in EQ and then falling back to being emotionally triggered in Re-obs. Reobservation is very tricky, it pushes all of our buttons, makes us fight and resist what is already happening, etc. We definitely need to recognize this sneaky state and just notice it AS as state. If we are mindful enough, we can just watch our mind freak out and it's interesting and kinda funny too. emoticon

If stream entry is a serious goal, then the very best thing you can do is maintain a consistent, daily, non-heroic practice. In other words, an hour or two a day, every day, using enough structure so that you are developing centering and mindfulness, and not relying on big-ego reasons for motivation (i.e. non-heroic). You can get very far with this and several people on this board have reported SE during home practice. And a strong home practice also helps ensure that when you go on retreat, you hit the ground running so to speak. On the first couple days of retreat, you will already be where you were after several days during previous retreats. 

It sounds too basic, but a lot of what is needed for SE is the ability to relax into the experience of the present moment without falling into planning, hoping, striving, intellectualizing. All those things that seem like "me, the meditator" need to be witness in real time and just seen as a display of more sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Unlike A&P, SE doesn't happen by having a single pointed mind that "penetrates" a momentary experience. It's not about going "into" a sensation and seeing that it is made up of many sensations, which is made up of many more sensations... It's much more about being able to sit in the vastness and vagueness of flowy energy and let things happen in a very organic kind of way. 

People can also get excited when things turn open and spacy and flowy... "oooh, this is it! this is what I've been searching for!! awakening is so close!!!" -- which kicks them out of the calm, relaxed, and deepening of EQ. There is a lot of letting go of control and ambitions in EQ.

While most people first touch on EQ during a retreat, it is COMPLETELY POSSIBLE to access it again during home practice. A good way to think about it is equanimity is equanimity with whatever arises -- so it doesn't need special retreat conditions. Daily practice with the right "view" can turn any sit into an equanimity sit. This is hard to understand at first, but soon it becomes very obvious. The _insight_ of equanimity is that the display of mind needs no special control or special awareness. It's already happening. There is nothing to push away, grab more, or ignore as unimportant. Equanimity is very close to the absense of aversion, greed, and ignorance.

Fine tuning equanimity is all about letting things be and then noticing the lingering body/mind tendencies to resist or manipulate or reject this moment as not good enough. EQ really becomes established when you kinda fall in love with being a body/mind and allow this moment to happen. 

SE happens when we can soak in this EQ and even let it get kind of daydreamy --- we're still aware of everything, we aren't confused or in a trance --- but we allow that flowy state to be in charge and we let go of our clinging and accept the experience as it is... 

At this stage, many people will have another A&P experience, as if the mind is searching for SE and A&P is the next closest thing. Or it will drop into a formless jhana, 28. The Formless Realms – MCTB.org , which seems like a cessation but is simply a concentration state. 

Serious meditators will typically have 10 or 15 near misses or even more. So eventually through many near misses, they even get bored/chilled out during this stage. They have gone through this many times and they finally get that this is all completely beyond their control. No one knows how to make SE happen, no one knows when SE is going to happen, and no one knows if SE happened until afterwards --- so you really can let go of attempting to make it happen.

And with consistent, daily, non-heroic practice, and perhaps wise use of retreats, it does happen.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 9:43 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 9:39 AM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 2641 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
"because I don't think you crash into "dark night" after stream entry. "

This is correct. However initial stages might already show up very early and the 3 C's Nana can feel like a bad trip happening again. However this is not DN and one will re-learn this again (just from a different angle, so to speak). 

Nice of Shargrol to lend a helping hand! I would led him my ear if I were you emoticon 

you say ;
"So, I guess that grasping during equanimity is the next thing to investigate. The problem is it takes quite a bit of time and work to get there! Maybe that's what I need to work on --
improving concentration so I can get to equanimity faster, without having to spend a full day sitting. "

first part Yes! emoticon investigate grasping or even in my case fear from falling back to DN. Once I could see this aspect for what it is high equanimity developed. 

Second part you wrote is a no-no at this stage. Instead of powering up to EQ go more with Curiously and lovingly Accepting all the arise-passings. All is already there anyway. Matter of fact noting the states and stages, feeling tones, body sensations, attitudes ...  No desiring and no avoiding. Or if these arise note/notice them. Acceptance of ALL matter of fact arising experience. 

Best wishes for you practice! 
Ben Sulsky, modified 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 11:18 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/25/23 11:18 AM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 169 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
Agree with others.  Keep letting the field notice itself with as little conscious effort as possible.
Adi Vader, modified 4 Months ago at 10/26/23 7:36 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 10/26/23 7:36 AM

RE: Stream Entry or Some Jhanic Thing?

Posts: 267 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
The skill progression of attention follows a general pattern:

1. We suck at it
2. We start to get better at it
3. Attention starts to engage with objects
4. Discernment starts to improve - objects start to get classified as belonging to one of the sense doors

We now have to build the ability to do 'upasana' or Tracking. We need to learn how to track objects while we know them

5. We start to do upasana
6. Attention starts to stick to objects

Upto this point we can say that we are basically doing a serenity practice, and not an insight practice. In this serenity practice the mind starts to create hallucinations which have to be ignored. Excessive interest in these hallucinations do not help.
Vipashyana or a reflexive ability of attention starts to naturally emerge. If it doesnt then we need to train for it.

7. We start attending to the attention that is tracking objects
8. We start attending to characteristics of objects - sounds become loud, shrill, soft, loud etc - same for other sense doors
9. We start attending to universal characteristics across objects either change/unreliability/painful/impersonal

The universal characteristic that we start attending to is a function of our sensitivity. Most people are very sensitive to change. Attention is usually discontinuous so uptil now we were engaged in punctuated attentiveness with 'object' object' 'object' object' 'object' .... and so on. This punctuated attentiveness once it gains momentum is very powerful as powerful as steady attention in samadhi practice using a steady object that is always available.

This punctuated attentiveness as it gains momentum may lead to the first jhana with piti/ sukha and all of that. But when it shifts to Universal characteristics, its pretty strange ..... 'object' object' 'object .... becomes 'change' 'change' change' 'change .... and now we are in Insight territory. when the perception of 'change' is highly developed and the punctuated attentiveness lasts long enough to track the change in one or more objects as long as the object undergoes its entire life cycle - we ge the insights into Nama-rupa or (named appearances) onwards to the arising and passinng away. And at the same time we may very well be in one of the jhanas! enabled by the apparent continuity of the punctuated attentiveness!

The experience that you are describing to me seems like attention is now deeply engaged with change. Because of its reflexive nature it is also picking up the fact that the arrow of attention itself changes, it is also picking up that the hologram of a 'me' sitting at the nock end of the arrow also changes.

Eventually attention will move on from tracking change to tracking unreliability. We discover that we have affective investments in what objects do and change basically makes short work of our affective investments. If this flip from change to unreliability doesnt happen, then we train for it. I mean you need to train for it. By using slightly different practice techniques.

So basically - my understanding is that you have attained to the knowledge of arising and passing away. An insight into emptiness or Shunyata or construct nature of conscious experience including the construct nature of the one who experiences.

Some people are deeply fascinated with phenomenology and not the 'knowledge' or 'nana'. They attend to and give importance to completely peripheral stuff. My suggestion is get deeply curious about the object and what happens to it and about the faculty of observation/awareness/attentiveness and what happens to it. Get curious about the heart and how it responds to what happens with the object and with attention. 

P.S. All I have to go by is what you have written here. which means I am most probably wrong emoticon

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