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Dealing with the Dark Night

Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream ent

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RE: Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream
Answer
6/13/12 5:26 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
This is where Buddhist ethics becomes important. You might want to put insight practice aside for a while to study karma, the six realms, and the elements as they arise in day to day life.

RE: Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream
Answer
6/13/12 5:27 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Hi bernd,

Wow, I could have written this exact post!! You're definitely not alone. From what I've read, this is very common. And I also just wanted to share what I've thought and read on the topic, in case any of it resonates with you.

I think most people will answer that you're just in dark night, but since it's been a while and you achieved low equanimity at one point, it seems to me that you've had a profound shift in priorities. I once posted something exactly like your post on a different board, and they were like, "Oh, it's just aversion." But I swear it wasn't. I didn't feel depressed or lazy. I was just supremely content. It sounds like that's what you're describing...

Just to sort something out, it sounds like you think that stream entry will make you feel motivated. I haven't achieved SE, so I can't answer that question, but I will say that if that's all you want, all you need to do is just stop meditating completely. Contrary to Daniel's implication in MCTB, Dark Night isn't a perpetual, unending stage until you reach stream entry; it can also just fade away with time (sometimes even in just a few minutes).

However, it doesn't sound like that's what you want to do; it sounds like you want to proceed on the path of enlightenment, but just don't want it to "fuck up your life." If so, then technically, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to pursue life goals while on the path. These life goals don't have to come from ambition; they can come from, for instance, wanting to provide for yourself--the same reason a monk wakes up in the morning and goes on his rounds. If you truly feel that a lack of goals is going to "fuck up your life," then it makes sense to pursue goals to prevent that. And if you find yourself averse to doing the things you truly need to do (e.g. paying your bills), then that's a problem. The Bhagavad-Gita says (not Buddhism, I know, but it still rocks), (something like) "There is no reason to do your duty; there is no reason not to. You just do it because it's your duty." Translated into Zen, I think it would be something like, "Chop wood, carry water."

Or is it that you feel that anything less than going at your top speed in the rat race will fuck up your life?

RE: Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream
Answer
6/14/12 12:52 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I second most of what morgan says. I will add. You can contemplate your priorities and you can contemplate your role in society. You can contemplate society as well. You would then need to seriously reflect on the objective criteria you are using. You can also reflect on your aversions and your desires. There is no end to what you can do.

Here's a possible track. The next time you have spare time observe what you do: the feeling you feel doing it. the feelings you felt beforehand. What you hope to accomplish. Why you want to accomplish it. And how you anticipate accomplishing it will make you feel. and what failure would mean. and on and on.

RE: Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream
Answer
6/14/12 2:16 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
There's an episode of Seinfeld where George starts doing the opposite of what his gut instincts tell him to do (most of which was negative) and his life becomes great. That's sort of what stream entry did for me, though without the drama.

I became a lot more sociable and outgoing after getting the 1st path. In general as a result of this my life became a lot more pleasant. Since then I've enjoyed life a great deal more than I used to. It really does take the edge off of sensations.

I don't know that you'll somehow feel more motivated after attaining the first path, but you will feel happier. Your goals might change, as some of them might be motivated by aversive reactions that will decrease. I'm less of a procrastinator than before, and my tendency towards knee-jerk negativity towards doing things that for some reason I don't care for is decreased and much more conscious and therefore easier to question and dismantle. It's not dramatic, but it is noticeable.

Also, the dukkha ñanas don't need to be a dark night. I've had some of the happiest times of my life while in the dukkha ñanas before the 1st path and the dukkha ñanas after the 1st path on the way to what will hopefully be the 2nd. The key to the ñanas not getting in the way of enjoying life is identifying the moment-to-moment sensations that you're not enjoying and the component parts that make them up.

As for taking an extended break, yes, you can definitely do that.

In terms of stream entry taking several months, not necessarily. If you can sit comfortably for an hour at a time and note most of what's going on non-stop and your technique is correct (try a ping-pong noting session over skype with someone to make sure of that), then a month-long retreat should get you the 1st path.

It's hard to do a disciplined self retreat. In terms of good retreat centers, I like TMC in San Jose. See http://www.tathagata.org/ . They're cheap, the accommodations and food are very good and the Sayadaws know what they're doing (though they do have heavy accents and use certain terms in ways I found confusing until I had a native English speaker explain vipassana to me). The only problem is that you can't note out loud or do any exercise or stretches (which I need to do for my back before and after sitting). For all I know the retreat center you went to for your noting retreat is just as good.

RE: Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream
Answer
6/17/12 7:32 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
bernd the broter:
This sounds interesting, since I don't yet have any idea how this could help. So far I've always thought that this was merely some useless cultural baggege. I may be wrong.


I don't have much use for the cosmology/afterlife aspects of Buddhist culture, either. But they also reflect states of mind which arise in day to day life, and this has been very useful for me.

bernd the broter:
Do you know any resources which explain those concepts with regard to their practical meaning?


The Five Elements.
The Six Realms.
Reflection on death and impermanence is likely to be useful, too.

RE: Influence of stream entry on life goals and stuff? Can I stop at stream
Answer
6/18/12 11:44 AM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
bernd the broter:
At the moment I don't have any real motivation to do ANYTHING. I feel rather miserable than content about that.
This means: I'm not motivated to go out, meet friends or anyone else, do sports, play or listen to music or any games, let alone do my studies. I have found basically NOTHING which would actually motivate me to do it.
There used to be lots of things to excite me, but every single one of them seems to have lost its power.
Thus, this 'mode' is bound to destroy human relationships, my health, money, and prevent me of learning anything which might be useful later on.
...
So, I'm wondering whether the dark night's side effects are known to be that extreme, or if it's probably something else.
Going by your answers, I guess it's the latter.


Ohhhh. In that case, it sounds like straight-up depression, which I've heard that not just dark night, but delving into spirituality in general, has a danger of triggering, but you could also have ended up depressed regardless; it's hard to say.

In this case, people on the other board I was on would suggest just the usual conventional solutions: going to a psychologist, getting anti-depressants, etc.