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A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/10/12 11:49 PM
Hi everyone.

When I first read MCTB, I was working under the assumption that it was impossible to have landed stream entry without knowing it. I assumed that the most important event in my meditative history, which I'll describe in a moment, was the A&P. Lately, however, I'm not so sure, and I'd like some opinions about it.

First of all, I can clearly remember cycling before the event in question - which implies I have crossed the A&P before, something I never doubted. This may lend evidence to the possibility that this particular event was something more.

It happened 9 months ago. I was sitting shikantaza (open awareness) at night for 30 minutes. Early on in the sit I felt a small rumbling in my hara region, accompanied by thought "hold on, here we go" - and, despite a small amount of trepidation, I held on. My vision darkened briefly, and then, in a split second, my perception was fundamentally altered forever. I say "fundamentally" because the shift was so complete that I could no longer remember how I ever perceived differently, and still cannot. It is ultimately indescribable - and, without doubt, the greatest gift that has been given to me in this life. Anyway, the timer sounded the end of the sit even though it only felt like 5 minutes had passed. I got up and explored my new world with a shit-eating smile.

In MCTB it talks about the A&P being the point of no return, and I assumed that this indicated a similar fundamental shift in perception that could not be reversed. Is this, in fact, the case, or is it simply saying that there will be perpetual cycling after the A&P? When I think about cycling in the past, there was nothing like this; changes in perception most certainly, but not fundamental shifts.

The effects of the shift, as I can best describe them, are:

-The body feels incredibly light and flexible, as if there is no tension or stress located anywhere in it. Very pleasurable.
-Very significant decrease in suffering. When I hit the dark night later on, I related to it in a much more positive and workable way than I remember doing with dark nights before the shift.
-Everything is more textured and colorful. Nature is immensely more beautiful and awesome.
-Significant decrease in egoic perception and narrative thinking.
-The past is the past; events do not linger in my mind, but rather seem to pass immediately into nothingness. Every moment is fresh and new, not bound by previous moments.
-Meditation skills significantly improved.
-Much increased ability to converse about the Dharma; after the shift, I joined a number of Buddhist forums and contribute regularly.

My question is: is this typical of crossing the A&P, or is it probably stream entry? I've been in Equanimity for a number of months now, and I practice generally for 2 hours a day along with intensive retreats. If it was in fact stream entry, is it more difficult to attain the next path?

Any input would be much appreciated. Thanks!

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 2:54 AM as a reply to Sam S.
I wish it was always easy to give good answers to those questions.

The phenomenology of what you are experiencing and how it behaves and performs, and what it has transformed, and what it hasn't, and all of that are vastly more important that what you call it, obviously, but it is possible to try anyway.

That is not typical of the A&P, I can tell you.

This sort of thing is better sorted out over time with continued practice and an open mind, as well as conversations with those who are familiar with territory like that. It is hard to do in a forum, but I suspect some good replies will result anyway.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 7:04 AM as a reply to Sam S.
I'm also one of the yogis on these boards who can't quite figure out how to use MCTB's map for my personal experience.

I feel as if with a just a few tweaks, your story could be my own, and I can tell it with any flavor so as to convince anyone from experienced yogis to eager neophytes of any angle; I could be a sotapanna (stream-enterer), forever equanimous, or just a simple A&Per.

But here's a line of questions I think is apt:

Do 'you' care?
Is there really a one of the stories that is true while the others are false?
What are the ramifications of figuring this out or not?
Will you ever be sure?



If the answers are no,no,no,no, maybe you have a good case for stream entry. Maybe not. But who cares? If any of them are 'yes', I'd probably vote A&P.
More importantly:
It sounds like your sits/practice is going well.

Typically, second path is quicker than first path, but if you are constantly 'expecting' and 'trying to figure out where you are' then you could be post stream-entry and stalling out... or it could simply be equanimity for the first time.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 7:19 AM as a reply to Sam S.
-The body feels incredibly light and flexible, as if there is no tension or stress located anywhere in it. Very pleasurable.
-Very significant decrease in suffering. [...]
-Everything is more textured and colorful. Nature is immensely more beautiful and awesome.
-The past is the past; events do not linger in my mind, but rather seem to pass immediately into nothingness. Every moment is fresh and new, not bound by previous moments.


This seems to me a little extreme, even if that was stream entry...

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 10:53 AM as a reply to m m a.
m m a:

Do 'you' care?
Is there really a one of the stories that is true while the others are false?
What are the ramifications of figuring this out or not?
Will you ever be sure?


Well, I'm not personally invested in the 4 path narrative like I make it seem. I am curious about what my experience was because having that knowledge will help me determine what to do in my practice. If it was A&P, which seems less likely now, I will continue doing open awareness until I get path. If it was stream entry, I can drop open awareness and sit with my koan - I'm more interested Mahayana, non-dual realisation than developmental enlightenment at this point in my practice.

I am also interested to know if other peoples' experience matches up with mine, and what that experience indicated for them.

Another thing that I'm curious about is fruitions. I don't know what a "blip" is supposed to feel like, but I do remember going through the same general series of sensations as the event in question, but without the massive bliss wave. Slight rumbling, vision darkening, then sudden perception of shifting. This has happened a few times, but is out of my control as far as I know.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 5:35 PM as a reply to Sam S.
Hey Sam,

I knew I recognized your name from somewhere, it's interesting to see you come back with a similar sort of question but I also suspect that I may know why. You mention in this post that this shift happened 9 months ago, and, given the fact you're first post was 2 months ago and described something 7 months before that, I'm assuming we're talking about the same experience again?

If so, the way I see it is this: You might have gotten Path and have been in Review when you posted, hence the Dark Night cycling stuff and the continual recurrence of Equanimity with little effort. Also, as Daniel says, what you describe phenomenologically is unlikely to be down to an A&P Event, especially since those changes and improvements in your quality of life, and practice, have remained the same since.

It may be that trying to align your experience with the MCTB and Theravadan models is only adding to the confusion, especially if you're more interested in a Mahayana perspective. In that case, I highly recommend Thusness and An Eternal Now's blog, especially this article on Thusness' model of awakening. It's the guys own take on it but it's very useful for another way to analyze these experiences and has been of immense use to me over the last year.

I got Path without even knowing what the hell a Path was so I can totally understand where you're coming from, it's not that I didn't notice this incredible and utterly unquestionable, sustained and effortless change in experience - the instant it happened it was crystal clear that something was very, very different - but it wasn't until I came to the DhO and MCTB that I learned it was most likely Path. Also, having not come from a Buddhist background it took me a long time to understand what those perceptual changes were and what was now apparent in experience, especially subtle aspects of the subject/object duality which still remained and how to penetrate deeper into not-self and impermanence.

Your practice is solid and I remember commenting on the quality of your descriptions before, I don't doubt that you've attained some sort of permanent shift at a fundamental level but it'd be interesting to know how things are for you in terms of how you experience a sense of existing.

How would you say things were in terms of a sense of Self still existing?
How do you experience sensations from moment-to-moment, i.e. how do they appear?
Do you notice anything still implying a subject/object split in the field of perception?
Does there seem to be a background to experience of any sort?

Just a few things to look at to see what's still there to be seen clearly. Either way, kudos on whatever the hell it was and it's great to know that, regardless of what it was, you're happier and more content in life now. It's worth keeping a practice journal of some sort if you don't already, even if it's just writing it down at home after a sit, just so you've got something to refer back to 'cause, in my experience, sometimes these shifts take away stuff you didn't even notice till you realize it's not happening anymore! emoticon

You still mainly doing shikantaza?

T

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 7:50 PM as a reply to Sam S.
John B.:
Sam, is there something that's happened that's made you reconsider what you posted here?
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3278450


That's a more detailed description of the event and what happened afterwords. What has made me reconsider that post is learning more about the A&P and discovering, as several people have confirmed here, that it does not imply a fundamental shift in perception like what I experienced. However, that post is somewhat misleading in that it describes the event in terms of an experience, when it was actually just a shift. There was no energy, colors, or any other kind of perceptual noise. Just a split-second shift. The oceanic feeling that I mentioned was a way of describing my immediate interpretation of the new field of experience, which has not left me since.


This post is a really different take on the same thing, no? A split second is very different than a vast ocean.


It is indeed a different take, but I believe it is more accurate.

I should also note that when I experienced A&P it also fundamentally altered my perceptions and gave insight into anicca dukkha and anatta that was pretty mind blowing.


This is good to know, thank you.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 8:25 PM as a reply to Sam S.
I have no idea why the formatting is not working on that last post...

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 9:35 PM as a reply to Sam S.
Let me try posting this again...

Tommy M:
Hey Sam,

I knew I recognized your name from somewhere, it's interesting to see you come back with a similar sort of question but I also suspect that I may know why. You mention in this post that this shift happened 9 months ago, and, given the fact you're first post was 2 months ago and described something 7 months before that, I'm assuming we're talking about the same experience again?


Indeed. Also, thank you for the advice that you gave me in that thread. It has been very helpful.


If so, the way I see it is this: You might have gotten Path and have been in Review when you posted, hence the Dark Night cycling stuff and the continual recurrence of Equanimity with little effort. Also, as Daniel says, what you describe phenomenologically is unlikely to be down to an A&P Event, especially since those changes and improvements in your quality of life, and practice, have remained the same since.

It may be that trying to align your experience with the MCTB and Theravadan models is only adding to the confusion, especially if you're more interested in a Mahayana perspective. In that case, I highly recommend Thusness and An Eternal Now's blog, especially this article on Thusness' model of awakening. It's the guys own take on it but it's very useful for another way to analyze these experiences and has been of immense use to me over the last year.


Thanks for this; I'll take a look. I'm very interested in the connections and dis-connections between Mahayana and Theravada enlightenment experiences. The Kenneth Folk website has a lot of information regarding this, but I'm still very curious about a number of things. I'm also interested in the connection between PCEs/AF and Mahayana enlightenment. This is partially why I'm so interested in knowing where I am on the Theravadin (or, I suppose more specifically, the Visuddhimaggan) maps.


I got Path without even knowing what the hell a Path was so I can totally understand where you're coming from, it's not that I didn't notice this incredible and utterly unquestionable, sustained and effortless change in experience - the instant it happened it was crystal clear that something was very, very different - but it wasn't until I came to the DhO and MCTB that I learned it was most likely Path. Also, having not come from a Buddhist background it took me a long time to understand what those perceptual changes were and what was now apparent in experience, especially subtle aspects of the subject/object duality which still remained and how to penetrate deeper into not-self and impermanence.


This all sounds very familiar. I imagine part of the reason I have not been very quick in making it to the next level of practice is because I don't do any sort of Noting work (no specific examination of the three characteristics, etc.). This might also have something to do with the inability to readily access fruitions. Not to mention that open-awareness style practice is very good for eliminating phenomena related to the attention wave, which seems to be a crucial component of the progress of insight. However, I'm quite comfortable taking my time. Lately, more and more insights into these things have been arising on their own regardless.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 9:36 PM as a reply to Sam S.

How would you say things were in terms of a sense of Self still existing?


I spent a while practicing with the huatou "Who am I?", and I noticed that the question was difficult to make sense of because there was no particular reference point upon which the inquiry could anchor itself. It did reveal some subtle tensions related to the identification process, but these were seen through quite quickly and no longer seem to arise. So, in terms of Self as ego, it has been mostly destroyed. In terms of Self as witness, however, there is still some identification going on.


How do you experience sensations from moment-to-moment, i.e. how do they appear?


This is a bit vague; I'm not sure how to respond, other than to mention again that when sensations arise, they are very fresh and immediate, not bound by previous moments. And when they pass, they don't "remain" in perception as something held onto to give experience a sense of continuity, but rather pass into total nothingness (I should say that this doesn't actually make experience feel discontinuous, however). It's as if, instead of events being stored in short-term memory for a period of time, they are immediately encoded into long-term memory - not to say that's actually what happens, but that's one way of describing it.


Do you notice anything still implying a subject/object split in the field of perception?


Yes, but it is much more subtle. Sometimes, when the split is more weak, there will be some bodily tension and also awe at the immediacy and unfixed quality of the perceptual field. This is definitely related to the identification process in terms of the Self-as-witness.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/11/12 9:39 PM as a reply to Sam S.
>Does there seem to be a background to experience of any sort?

I would say no, but I can't be sure. To be accurate: while I don't actively contextualise events in terms of location, time, or narrative background, there still must be a passive process of work that gives perception a sense of continuity and coherence. I would imagine that this passive process is not an obstruction, but a necessary feature of human perception, yes?

>It's worth keeping a practice journal of some sort if you don't already

I started a practice journal here a while ago, but got lazy, to be honest. I've been thinking about firing it back up. You may have convinced me.

.You still mainly doing shikantaza?

No, I've been working on the "Mu" koan for the most part.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/12/12 8:18 AM as a reply to Sam S.
Thanks for taking the time to reply to those questions, it makes it a bit easier to get an idea of where you're at.

In terms of Self as witness, however, there is still some identification going on.

Cool, it's good that you're able to notice that process of identifications still happening. Some people cling to that sense of a witness which makes it more difficult to investigate cleanly, but if you're still aware of it then you're not likely to be as 'embedded' in those sensations.

This is a bit vague; I'm not sure how to respond, other than to mention again that when sensations arise, they are very fresh and immediate, not bound by previous moments. And when they pass, they don't "remain" in perception as something held onto to give experience a sense of continuity, but rather pass into total nothingness (I should say that this doesn't actually make experience feel discontinuous, however). It's as if, instead of events being stored in short-term memory for a period of time, they are immediately encoded into long-term memory - not to say that's actually what happens, but that's one way of describing it.

Apologies for being vague, I could have probably worded that better although your reply is pretty much exactly what I was getting at. Your descriptions are clear and I can get where you're coming from with this, have you tried investigating the sensations and beliefs that still cause a sense of continuity or linear progression to happen?

Yes, but it is much more subtle. Sometimes, when the split is more weak, there will be some bodily tension and also awe at the immediacy and unfixed quality of the perceptual field. This is definitely related to the identification process in terms of the Self-as-witness.

Excellent, this all sounds good. I'd say you've got some strong insight skills and, as I said before, your practice is solid so it's just a matter of investigation and clear seeing now. Try looking at what still implies that sense of a split, whether weak or strong 'cause it's exactly the same patterns of sensation that lead to that identification; you might notice something like a 'bouncing' of attention between the sense-field and what seems to be a point in the center of the head, stay with that and watch how, even though it seems to imply that there's this eternal witness or observer, those sensation are neither I, me or mine, and how they also arise and pass just like anything else.

Something else you might find useful is to look at how the senses operate without any input from "you" or this witness, notice how sight and the object perceived in the visual field, in their direct experiencing, coalesce as "seeing" itself. No distinction other than via imputation, usually based on the assumption or belief that there is someone who sees, rather than seeing occurring due to causes and conditions outwith your control. Try this with all the senses and see if you can clearly experience what it means for there to be no observer, no witness or doer, just bare sensate awareness experiencing itself, if that makes sense.

I would say no, but I can't be sure. To be accurate: while I don't actively contextualise events in terms of location, time, or narrative background, there still must be a passive process of work that gives perception a sense of continuity and coherence. I would imagine that this passive process is not an obstruction, but a necessary feature of human perception, yes?

That sense of a witness is basically what I was talking about, it's like there's someone or something that's observing experience occurring "in" awareness. That perception of continuity and coherence should also be investigated, it's likely that, at some subtle level, you're still identified with these basic perceptual processes and so they need to be emptied. It's not that the relative experiencing of continuity or coherence vanishes completely, it's hard to describe as it's impossible to imagine what it's like to live without them, but those processes are also mental fabrications and can be deconstructed in the same way as anything else.

RE: A&P vs. Stream Entry
Answer
9/12/12 8:40 AM as a reply to Sam S.
No, I've been working on the "Mu" koan for the most part.

Something that just came to mind there which I thought you might find useful, look at what "not knowing" is like and the way the mind moves in that moment. Look at how it feels to know that you don't know, it can be quite paradoxical but just notice how the question causes the mind to move in a certain way.