Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

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Merijn De Haen, modified 8 Years ago.

Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Hi all,

As you can see from my post count, I'm new to this place. I have read Daniel M Ingrams book last week and lurked here for a day or two.

I can't begin to explain what a joy it is to have my recently stagnant practice invigorated by all this new and open information.

A little bit of background
My practice up to now has been serious for the most part, starting around three years ago and encompassing two 10day retreats. About a year ago, I stopped sitting daily, feeling dissatisfied with my progress, unclear about how to proceed and being more involved with the mechanics of my daily life. I did however start meditating with others, 2-3x weekly. A biweekly meeting nearby and a weekly self-organised one in my living room. Since then though, meditation has been mostly a reflective tool that has allowed me to more closely look at some of my psychological and emotional stuff coming up. More of a daily life and concentration practice than an insight practice, I would say.

But... not anymore! I've rebooted my daily practice, setting aside an hour at the start and end of each weekday just for practice and three-four hours on weekend days for practice and study. I've determined that I'm quite capable of concentration - probably due to all this concentration ("mindfulness") meditation I've been doing, it does generally seem effortless - and that I'm approaching the Mind & Body nana, although some intimations of 2,3 and 4 may have already been felt. Only time will tell if this is accurate, and I'm resolved not to worry that much about it right now.

I'm confident I can take around 20-25 days off next year for retreats, as I'm self-employed and don't mind the loss in income so much as the loss in mental acquity that will inevitably deter me from achieving Enlightenment as the years wear on. Also, I'm very lucky to have a SO who's a lot younger than me, so having children can be deferred a few years down the line.

To be short, I've a four-year window to get to the big E.

My SO and me have discussed this plan of mine over the past few days and she is on board. Not big on the material things in life herself, and a very warm and too-good-for-this-world caring person, she's resolved to being my rock when practice becomes hard. I on the other hand have resolved to 1. keep her in the loop about what's going on with me in my practice and otherwise, and 2. not let the negative effects of practice bleed through into our life together

I will start rereading MCTB next weekend or even sooner, perhaps once I get my bearings around DhO. I do have one question that I hope someone may be able to answer.

How do I find a teacher who can help me on this path, and be as open with me as I'm willing to be with them?

I'm from The Netherlands and have a reasonable command of English, German and French, although Dutch is my mother tongue. I've been doing choiceless awareness for the past week or so - as this comes naturally - but I'm not really committed to any one practice so far.

Hope anyone can help or give me some tips!
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
I think Dan's book is great for noting. Just make sure that when you note it's not a "self" that is watching another "self" to note. Thinking about your self is just thinking. Seeing is just seeing, hearing etc. The Bahiya Sutta describes this very well.

I posted some links to Rob Burbea's Dharmaseed talks on cessation so you can get some good descriptions on what that is and how senses can fade with concentration. His description on how we use time in short term memory are quite good.

You want to get to the point with your noting practice that 95% of the note is just being aware of what's happening and 5% is the word label. The trick with all mindfulness practices is that you need to see your intentions to pay attention and volition as also part of the 3 characteristics. This must include your goal of enlightenment and any other mental striving.

Kenneth Folk has a succinct description of what the goal really is:

Kenneth Folk Dharma

3rd Gear in the 3-Speed Transmission is the moment of surrender. From this point of view, there is nowhere to go and nothing to get. The happiness you seek is your own true nature and it is only your attempt to become or to create or to investigate that distracts you from seeing this.

You can stop now. Stop trying to figure it out. Stop trying to get enlightened. Stop concentrating. Stop investigating. Stop meditating. Stop trying to stop.

Be as you are.

Your true nature is not "you." Neither is it other than you. It is not the "Witness." It's not your True Self, or a Big Self that subsumes your small self. Your true nature is the true nature of everything. You don't have to do anything to be it; nothing you could do would make you other than it. You can't mess it up or tarnish or stain it. You've never been apart from it. In order to recognize it, you have only to stop adding "yourself" to it. To even refer to this most fundamental of realities as "it" or to call it anything at all is to risk reducing it to a concept and thereby missing it.

Nothing you can do will lead to this. Nothing you can do or not do will lead you away from this. No amount of meditative attainment or achievement will get you any closer or any further away. The very act of doing or intending anything is something you are adding to this moment; when you are actively doing something, even something so seemingly innocuous as investigating your experience, you are "compounding" or adding something extra to your experience. Surrender now.

May you be happy.

Kenneth Folk


I don't know if you got through the dark night or not but basically it's not so bad if you understand that it is withdrawal symptoms from letting go of addiction to self-referencing. As you get good at dwelling in equanimity where you've let go of obsession with both likes and dislikes the relief should be very enjoyable and create a lot of faith and hope.

I also really like this site for practical guidelines that can be used in daily life:

TWIM meditation

Craving

Anatta

I would also mine Shinzen Young's site:

Shinzen Young

The manual is very technical in his particular method, and the student section on the left has some great instructions on Shikatanza.

EDIT:

An Eternal Now's ebook is also incredible. It's a great reminder of how realization has to be a part of any practice:

Awakening to reality

Good luck!
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Hello Richard Zen and thanks for your response. You make some strong points about including the mental and volitional states in practice, and I will keep that in the back of my head - for later. I will take the time to check out all the links you've provided. It does sound like much of it is too advanced for me right now - I wondered when reading MCTB whether I should even read about the really advanced states as I thought they would probably just confuse me but this turned out to be an exaggeration on my part. I'm really just out of the gates as an insight meditator, notwithstanding my 3yrs of practice. To me, at this point in time it's helpful to just keep practicing and hold the concepts and maps "lightly", keeping a very beginner's mind.

What I'm really excited about in this community and in Daniels book is the tantalising possibility that enlightenment just may be possible for any dedicated practitioner. I like to think of myself as an explorer, always wanting to know what's over the next hill. What can be more exhilarating to explore than one's mind and the nature of reality?

I'm coming to meditation squarely from this perspective. There is nothing I'm running from, or nothing much I'm desperate to add to my life. Exploration of the possible, that's my interest here. That said, I'm not relishing the prospect of having fear, disgust and desperation engulf me. I've experienced loss of relative perspective before and it's not a pretty sight. For that and other reasons, I'm looking for a teacher or a guide that can help me in certain stages; either by the application of their own experience or by the pointing out of blind spots in my own practice. Even with such a guide, the task at hand remains daunting.

Perhaps a community like DhO can be a substitute for having a good teacher. I sincerely, and maybe a bit naively, hope that it can be. I aim to get my feet wet gently, lurking, following others' progress, asking stupid questions, maybe having a laugh or two.
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
I know this is a HUGE amount of information but I would recommend that you read and practice, read and practice. Trial and error is the way. Too much practice without understanding and too much understanding with little practice can be frustrating. It's the realization that nothing in your phenomenological experience is permanent and any attachment to those things will lead to emotional suffering and your actual personal experience that will inform you. There are many Buddhist traditions and some are more practical and others more intellectual. They all have their specialties. I would compare a gradual path of noting with the Direct Path and see if there is anything you can add. There will be times where you just want to do lots of practice to improve your skills and other times where books and maps will be helpful. Sometimes noting will feel like just what the doctor ordered and other times where it's just abrasive and just hanging out in what is automatic in your senses and thoughts (Shikatanza) will be a relief. When you start getting shifts in your habits (staying more present) you'll want to see what is next. I purposely showed you the end game precisely because people ATTACH to enlightenment and when I saw what enlightenment is supposed to be, it at first felt counterintuitive. The noting practice will get you far as long as you are consistent. Kenneth Folk likes outloud noting to keep your brain honest when there are gaps where you are lost in thoughts, but at some point you should be able to let go of these training wheels and understand the 3 characteristics with labeless noting.

Use noting during practical situations like driving or walking which also helps with concentration. The more you do it throughout the day the less compartmentalized it becomes in sitting meditation. I've had many early experiences where I was doing well on the cushion but as soon as I was done I dropped what I learned in daily life. It felt like I didn't get it. emoticon

Keep noting throughout the day (except in work situations that demand lots of computation and high level thinking) and you'll notice shifts where it's easier and easier to stay with it.

The most important thing when noting is to be aware of the 3 characterisitics and even more important to notice mental pain when there is attachment and to let go of the obsessive thoughts into your natural AUTOMATIC senses. When you notice the relief after letting go while you're noting it will help your brain much faster. Be vary wary of being irritated with a lack of progress and trying to force your experience. All experiences can be noted and noting negative mindstates is great stuff to practice on. Be wary of stopping thoughts in insight practice. The more you stop thoughts the more it turns into a pure concentration practice. That's okay if you want to develop that but it's not insight. Basically your amygdala will have craving or aversion and thought bubbles will quickly appear (clinging) before you can "stop" them so having craving or aversion to mind states or emotions is just more of the same suffering. You want to look at those thought bubbles as something arising and passing away. They lose energy on their own so there's no need in wasting energy in stopping them for insight purposes. For example. I could tell you to not think of pink elephants and your brain will quickly think of them. That's all people can do to you mentally. But the choice you can have is to not cling to those thoughts. Don't add or subtract from experience. Remember that an Arhat is someone who doesn't cling to any experience so practically when you start feeling any mental stress there's some clinging already and it's okay to practice letting go right now. Make it practical and after letting go it's great to get busy and deal with important responsibilities you have. "Chop wood, carry water". Meditation shouldn't prevent you from duties that need to be taken care of. Plenty of meditators make that mistake. The 2nd foundation of mindfulness (feeling pleasant, neutral or unpleasant sensations) is really important. You can feel a lot of freedom if you can get a handle on that one.

I'm just laying out some trap doors I've fallen into over the years. Knowing this ahead of time will save time. Try to have fun doing this (because a lot of it is sublime) and take periodic rests from practice. Some people get burnt out with too much striving.

Check out Daniel's Hierarchy of Vipassana practice and some of his thoughts on being attached to a "future of enlightenment". It's something that can be added to reading his book:

Hierarchy of vipassana practice

What is the biggest mistake you made as a practitioner?

Have fun!
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Richard, wow, what a wealth of information! You bring up a great many interesting points, and I will attempt to be aware of as much of them as possible, coming back to your posts here many times, I suspect.

As for combining theory with practice, I'm a thinker as it is, so I doubt we'll have much problems on my being too low on theoretical underpinnings. It's the default way my mind has to control its surroundings, and therefore one of my personal pitfalls in this practice. Not that theory is bad, but as you say, balance really is the most important thing. I'm kind of wary of influencing my meditation experience by reading too much about the path ahead, as my mind already feels more sensitive and I wouldn't want to steer it in any direction (except more clarity about moment-2-moment experience), however subliminally that may happen.

On noting, it has actually helped me a lot to stay present and disassociate from the perifery of what's happening as I meditate. For instance, this morning's sit had me noting "rising, falling, hearing, itchy, rising, unpleasant, thinking, intention, restless, uncomfortable, .." It has kept me much more involved with what's happening right now. I do find that, apart from the itching sensations, having a wide focus prevents me from seeing very clearly into the vibrational reality that exists. Even the breath - my primary object - remains largely solid for now. The only way I actually know about this vibrational reality is through the miraculously versatile itches I get. These are the only sensations that I can know at that level, where I can see mind and body and cause and effect taking place and where I can sometimes deduce something of a non-self characteristic. The impermanence and suffering characterics are easier to see here, as they just manifest. The anatta characteristic still has to be interpreted by me at this stage, and so I guess that's as far as I've gotten in terms of the Progress.

Practice during the day. I try not to - for now - although the momentum is there. I feel like I'm holding myself back somehow, to keep from plunging head-first into this practice and shattering the delicate life balance (between work, sports, love, friendships, relaxation and practice) that does largely exist by virtue of compartmentalisation. This may of course change, and a good place for it to change would be on retreat. I realize that this may hamper my progress, but that's not such a bad thing as I'm not in any great hurry and the worst thing - in terms of long-term progress - to have happen now is to upset the balance in my life. That said, I do take little morsels of time to do a short formal meditation in between. For instance, I've been doing metta practice on my daily bicycle commute to and from work, which has done great things for my relative equanimity and for the amount of ill will I experience.

On obsessive thoughts, I've not run into any of those yet, but I know from experience they can happen and I will heed your advice when they do appear. The explicit awareness of negative experience is a very good point and I have tried to accommodate this in my past two meditation sessions.

As for stopping thoughts, I don't have any inclination to try this as thoughts are part and parcel of my experience. This is something that I have been able to really learn during the past three years of regular meditation practice. As any scientific observer knows, it's impossible to not add to or subtract from the object that is observed (I think your KFD quote mentioned that too), but I do think it's important to try to be as clean as possible about the whole thing. I am very thankful to have this pointed out to me once more, as there are some lessons I for one really need to have hammered home. Ultimately, only experience can really do the hammering, but having come across the concept really really helps!

I'm also very thankful for the links you've provided and the generous and compassionate tone in which you impart your knowledge and advice. The "Have Fun" imperative in my mind is paramount, as I think no-one climbs Mt Everest solely for the reason that it is So Hard. Most grueling sports events and styles have pundits commenting on the joy of being on the path to achievement and mastery (triathlon comes to mind) and why on earth would anything else apply to the very demanding Exploration of mental and experiential Terra Incognita?
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Sounds like you're on the right track. emoticon
Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
Hey Maryn,

A tiny interjection:

Meryn DeHaen:
...the loss in mental acquity that will inevitably deter me from achieving Enlightenment as the years wear on.

I'm not sure precisely what you mean by acuity, but at 48 I am the most "acute" I have ever been mentally. I have a much higher degree of precision in my thinking than I had in my 20's; I am more adept mathematically; my language is stronger; my ability to handle abstractions far superior to before. I think faster, reason more finely, and in general have a better brain than I had twenty years ago.

I'm not saying that stuff goes on forever, and it seems quite plausible there *will* be a peak and a decline will follow. But in my case, mental capability certainly didn't peak before 40, so I'd caution against too much pessimism on that front. Or, perhaps better put, I'd encourage greater optimism emoticon

Just my 2c.
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Hi Robert,

Thanks for your 2 cts ;) (I'll put em to good use!)

I guess the real context of my statement was that in a few years I will have much less free time due to the addition of children to my life, with the added burdens of tuition and retirement savings. Once the kids are grown up and out of college, my mind will be going ever so slowly, or at least I can't bank on it being as strong as it is now.

You're right though!
Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
Meryn DeHaen:
I guess the real context of my statement was that in a few years I will have much less free time due to the addition of children to my life...

Ah, well I definitely hear you there. I've only just started meditating now, but it's with my kids grown and married (my wife and I started fairly young). I can imagine it being somewhat harder to establish a practice with kids at home. Good luck.
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Jane Laurel Carrington, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 196 Join Date: 12/29/10 Recent Posts
I started meditating seriously at the age of 57, and am planning to be done by the time I'm 60 (a little over a year from now). Now obviously no one can know for sure how fast these things will go, but I'm basing this estimate on how far I've come in the past year or two, my motivation, and the state of my practice now. In short, the old brain is still capable. BTW, I have an adopted 11-year old son (keeps me young), a husband, an aged mother, and a full-time job. I also have an assortment of health problems that I've picked up over the years. I sit on a chair, for example--no cushions on the floor for this girl! Anyway, all the best to you; wish I'd done it years ago because I could have spared myself a lot of nonsense. But better late than never. I don't want any other old timers out here to be discouraged.
Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
Jane Laurel Carrington:
I started meditating seriously at the age of 57, and am planning to be done by the time I'm 60 (a little over a year from now). Now obviously no one can know for sure how fast these things will go, but I'm basing this estimate on how far I've come in the past year or two, my motivation, and the state of my practice now.

Good to hear. And not to wallow in our ancient-ness, but I was listening to some more Shinzen Young last night and in one of his videos he mentions how he has even seen meditation have a positive effect on Alzheimer's sufferers. I think it was the series of 5 starting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0A6Rw7KnvA

Jane:
...Anyway, all the best to you; wish I'd done it years ago because I could have spared myself a lot of nonsense. But better late than never. I don't want any other old timers out here to be discouraged.

I feel the same. Sometimes, especially when I hear some people (like Young) talking about their "decades" of practice, it can feel daunting. But as you say, better late than never. Also, I reckon that having lived a good chunk of adulthood without meditating does give one a specific experience unattainable by those who start early -- namely, the experience of not having started until later. Yes, I know that kind of argument could also apply to those -- Noah Levine comes to mind -- who reach meditation after years of drug problems and other such traumas. But it's true! Levine is especially well placed to help others with drug problems. If oldies like you and I get to a teaching stage, we'll be especially well placed to help those like us.

Besides. If you're into computer programming in any way, you'll know that you're not really in your late 50's. In fact you're only just leaving your mid 30's. :-)
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Hi Jane and Robert,

Thanks for chiming in about the age thing. It certainly never was my attention to disparage anyone. Let's just say that I chose the words unwisely and that I really just should have that I've got the time now and should make the best use of it that I can.

One is never too wise to learn anything new. On that note, I do find it especially encouraging to hear your story, Jane. I guess the mind really is a "use it or lose it" proposition. Here's wishing anyone that reads this (in addition to anyone that doesn't) lots of milage from their mental capacities!
Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
Meryn DeHaen:
Let's just say that I chose the words unwisely ...

Nah, your words are fine. Don't worry about it; you didn't disparage anyone bro. (Hey, look how young I am -- I said "bro") emoticon
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Jane Laurel Carrington, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 196 Join Date: 12/29/10 Recent Posts
I agree; no worries! emoticon Maybe some day Robert and I can start a pragmatic dharma sangha at a retirement home! Seriously, though, it might be interesting to get a group of 4th-pathers together from all age groups and compare notes on what it's like to go through this process at different points in the life cycle.
C C C, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 953 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Meryn, you've made enlightenment into a goal, and not only that, you've put a time frame on achieving that goal. The ego has performed a very subtle subterfuge, locking you into a state of endless seeking. The whole thing is wrong. The whole thread.
Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
C C C:
Meryn, you've made enlightenment into a goal, and not only that, you've put a time frame on achieving that goal. The ego has performed a very subtle subterfuge, locking you into a state of endless seeking. The whole thing is wrong. The whole thread.

Isn't the story told that Ananda decided to meditate his ass off just before the first Buddhist council, with the specific aim of getting to arahant so they'd let him in? If that's not time-limited goal-seeking behavior, what is? And, by all accounts, he made it.

Also, from the DhO home page (emphasis mine):

In general our basic principles and attitudes favor:
...
* the assumption that the various aspects of meditative development can be mastered in this life
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Brian K., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
There has to be the middle way between trying to get somewhere you're not (which is in fact pretty opposite of why we practice meditation), such as saying, I need to be enlightened by age 40. That implies a 'you' that will attain 'something'. And then u have to balance with 'there's no self, why even practice because there is no one to enlighten' or whatever. Because even if that may be true that's still denying the fact that there are some people who are enlightened and some who are not, you can't deny reality either. I think it comes down to just following the practice instructions for your particular technique or tradition, and just resolve to practice as much as u can until it's done. For me, saying, "I need to get jhana, or I need to get stream entry" has only brought me farther away from it and often resulted in discouragement when my expectations weren't met. But, in my opinion, saying "I need to get enlightened before the age of forty" may just create more grasping. I think that is a little different than ananda exerting himself all night to become enlightened (or when the Buddha did for that matter). I remember hearing a talk one time where the monk said something to the extent of, "there comes a time when a bhikkhu (substitute practitioner) must meditate through the night, must resolve not to get up from his seat until he conquers the kilesas (defilements), must say that he will conquer the kilesas or he will lose his life" this is just an example of a practitioner resolving to exert themselves until they make progress, and that there is a time for such a thing and a time that is not for such a thing. When in doubt, I think finding the middle way is usually a good start.
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Dear CCC and Brian K.

Thanks for your replies and for giving me an opportunity to reflect on what my beliefs surrounding this path are.

I think you may be caught up in the appearances of things. There appears to be a prevalent dogma that it's somehow wrong to strive for enlightenment or to have the desire to get enlightened. The founder of this site has a lot to say about this dogma, which I happen to agree with. DhO is one of the few places where striving for enlightenment is not seen as bad, and that is actually why I chose to start my thread here.

By virtue of being here and your respective post counts, I'd expect the two of you to at least have some passing understanding of the founding motive of DhO (dare I say dogma?) that enlightenment actually is possible and that, yes, striving for it, planning for it, finding out your true motivation for it are actually good things which help you get to where you want to be sooner rather than later. (As is true in most of the rest of life, actually.)

This begs the question how hanging out here and NOT subscribing to one of the key motivations for the founding of this discussion forum is helping you. How is it helping you in your quest, for whatever it is you're questing?

Brian K.:
When in doubt, I think finding the middle way is usually a good start.


I like this ending.
C C C, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 953 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
No worries. That's just how I see it.

Daniel has so far been very open and accepting of differing views and opinions - (I'm full of them). I get quite a bit of value from others posts and research and experiences, and occasionally I contribute something that I feel might be useful to others. Basically the same as most others here.

I suspect Enlightenment may be possible for those who are already fairly close and willing to surrender their individuality. I just don't think striving, effort, goal-seeking and will power is a workable approach.

By the way, my high post count just means I talk a lot. emoticon
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Ok, this does seem like quite the reversal from your earlier statement that the whole thread was wrong, but I'm glad that you now feel differently.
C C C, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 953 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Only my tone is different... a bit less "know-it-all".

The premise of setting up Enlightenment as a goal and striving to attain it with a time limit is still wrong imo. By wrong I mean it can't work.
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

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C C C:
I suspect Enlightenment may be possible for those who are already fairly close and willing to surrender their individuality. I just don't think striving, effort, goal-seeking and will power is a workable approach.

Only my tone is different... a bit less "know-it-all".

The premise of setting up Enlightenment as a goal and striving to attain it with a time limit is still wrong imo. By wrong I mean it can't work.


Then I would need to ask how in your opinion people get to be "fairly close" to enlightenment. Are they just born that way? Or do people just suddenly, magically find themselves "fairly close"?

Or might there be some element of dedicated searching involved, such as a consistent meditation practice? How do elements like will power, concentration, having some understanding of the process, curiosity fit in there?

I'm genuinely curious how you view this, as more differing view points make for a better understanding of the whole thing. Thanks.
C C C, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 953 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
The ego-mind can only work a certain way. It's a goal seeking mechanism. It's directive is "more pleasure, less pain". By "pleasure" I mean money, sex power, status, intellect, achievement, recognition and so on. The more pleasure it achieves, the more enhanced the sense of self. The ego-mind comes across the idea of Enlightenment and views it as another goal - one which will result in more pleasure and greater sense of self. As an individual, why else would you seek something out.... even Enlightenment.... why seek it? So long as you are an ego-mind, then your reason must be for personal gain.

But Enlightenment requires letting go of self-concern, self-preservation and self-gratification.

The ego-mind thinks it can have the great experience called Enlightenment and not have to give anything up, but of course the two things are incompatible.

Some people seem to come to the Dho when they have experienced great pain and suffering with life as an individual/ego. Life as an individual can be very fulfilling, joyful and exciting. It's just not the end point, that's all. Nowhere near it.

IMO, people come to meditate properly when they have first fully enjoyed the human experience as an ego. Because only then are you willing to give up everything - all your possessions, all your relationships, all your beliefs about what is real.

There are quite a few teachers who advocate letting go of striving as opposed to engaging in it. Adya, Osho, Khyentse ...
John Wilde, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
The ego-mind can only work a certain way. It's a goal seeking mechanism..


An alternative (but probably not incompatible) way of looking at this:

Un-enlightenment might be conceived as a sense of separateness, a feeling of being a finite, discrete, self-enclosed entity with all the neediness and vulnerability that this entails. Any effort that is based on striving to bridge the gap between 'self' and 'whatever', any quest to become something non-separate, is actually firmly rooted in that sense of separateness, and it can even reinforce it.

But recognising the illusory basis of that fundamental sense of separateness is possible. It doesn't turn you into something that you weren't already; instead, it reveals something about what was already the case, something that you just weren't understanding, weren't seeing clearly.

So while there's some value in recognising that striving for a projected goal can reinforce the illusions that you're trying to dispel, practising in a way that is known to undermine the misperception/ misconception of the problem (in ways that might be currently unforeseeable to the practitioner) definitely is useful; and is better than waiting for grace or wisdom to descend out of the blue.
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
C C C:
The ego-mind thinks it can have the great experience called Enlightenment and not have to give anything up, but of course the two things are incompatible.

IMO, people come to meditate properly when they have first fully enjoyed the human experience as an ego. Because only then are you willing to give up everything - all your possessions, all your relationships, all your beliefs about what is real.


So, in your view, the only way to meditate properly is to come to it after a period of full enjoyment with the pure intention of leaving everything behind. I'm wondering how that in itself is not striving, but let's leave that aside for a minute as I'm certainly no scholar and this is not the point you called me on. So let's get back to that.

In my view, relinquishment-up-front may be a choice but it is most certainly not the only one that you can make in order to meditate "properly". I think John Wilde makes a good point. Also, I think that the mythical dimensions that have accrued to meditation practice can blind people from seeing that meditation is essentially "just" mind training. Exploring the depths of your experience makes your mind more sensitive to the experiences outlined in the ancient and modern texts, causing it to undergo certain processes that end up at enlightenment.

It's all in MCTB. I'm not saying that this book holds all the truths - I for one feel that the practice of metta bhavana and the other three Brahma Viharas receive too little attention while they may be (this is my working hypothesis) good for softening the Dark Night's edges. Nevertheless I think most people on DhO are here because of the non-mythical, approachable, stage-like progression that Daniel's book has outlined.
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Nikolai ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
The ego-mind can only work a certain way. It's a goal seeking mechanism. It's directive is "more pleasure, less pain". By "pleasure" I mean money, sex power, status, intellect, achievement, recognition and so on. The more pleasure it achieves, the more enhanced the sense of self. The ego-mind comes across the idea of Enlightenment and views it as another goal - one which will result in more pleasure and greater sense of self. As an individual, why else would you seek something out.... even Enlightenment.... why seek it? So long as you are an ego-mind, then your reason must be for personal gain.

But Enlightenment requires letting go of self-concern, self-preservation and self-gratification.

The ego-mind thinks it can have the great experience called Enlightenment and not have to give anything up, but of course the two things are incompatible.

Some people seem to come to the Dho when they have experienced great pain and suffering with life as an individual/ego. Life as an individual can be very fulfilling, joyful and exciting. It's just not the end point, that's all. Nowhere near it.

IMO, people come to meditate properly when they have first fully enjoyed the human experience as an ego. Because only then are you willing to give up everything - all your possessions, all your relationships, all your beliefs about what is real.

There are quite a few teachers who advocate letting go of striving as opposed to engaging in it. Adya, Osho, Khyentse ...


Though I do think there is a fine line between desire and effort benefiting one's progress versus possibly becoming an obstacle, CCC's opinion differs from my own initial experience of putting in the required effort that resulted in the 1st of a number of profound perceptual and behavioural baseline shifts. Further down the track, it made sense to question 'effort' and 'desire', as the desire to become and not become lead to simply more becoming. But craving for success is how we begin to fabricate our own paths. Desire lays the ground work in my own experience.

Here are some other links and quotes that seem quite contrary to the whole "give up all effort" view (which in my experience is more a beneficial piece of stage specific advice as opposed to general advice for a practice as a whole.)

http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2008/03/30/craving-for-nibbana/

“‘This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, ‘The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the preparations, has entered & remains in the preparations-free deliverance of the mind & deliverance through wisdom, having known & realized them for himself in this very life.’ The thought occurs to him, ‘I hope that I, too, will — through the ending of all preparations will enter and remain in the preparations-free deliverance of the mind & deliverance through wisdom, having known & realized them for myself in this very life..’ Then, at a later time, he abandons craving, having relied on craving. (So aparena samayena taṇhaṃ nissāya taṇhaṃ pajahati) ‘This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said. AN 4. 159


"Many popular Western writings criticize the four qualities listed in the bases of power — desire, persistence (effort), intent (will), and discrimination (the discriminating mind) — as enemies of proper meditation, both in that they interfere with the calming of the mind and are antithetical to the goal of the Unfabricated, which lies beyond desire, effort, and the categories of discrimination. The first part of the extended formula deals with the first of these criticisms.

There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion, thinking, 'This desire of mine will be neither overly sluggish nor overly active, neither inwardly restricted nor outwardly scattered.' (Similarly with concentration founded on persistence, intent, and discrimination.)

This passage shows that the problem lies, not in the desire, effort, intent, or discrimination, but in the fact that these qualities can be unskillfully applied or improperly tuned to their task. If they were absent, the practice — if it could be called a practice — would stagnate from loss of direction or motivation. If they ran wild, they would interfere with mindful concentration. So the trick is not to deny them, but to tune them skillfully so that they will help focus the mind on the present moment. Thus, for instance, in the practice of meditation, as with any skill, it is important not to focus desire too strongly on the results one hopes to get, for that would interfere with the mind's ability to focus on giving rise to the causes leading to those results. If, instead, one focuses desire on putting the causes in proper order in the present moment, desire becomes an indispensable part of the process of mastery." Thanissaro Bhikkhu



" I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Ananda was staying in Kosambi, at Ghosita's Park. Then the Brahman Unnabha went to where Ven. Ananda was staying and on arrival greeted him courteously. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Ananda: What is the aim of this holy life lived under Gotama the contemplative?

Ananda: The holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire.

Unnabha: Is there a path, is there a practice, for the abandoning of that desire?

Ananda: Yes, there is...

Unnabha: What is the path, the practice, for the abandoning of that desire?

Ananda: There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion. He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence... concentration founded on intent... concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion. This, Brahman, is the path, this is the practice for the abandoning of that desire.

Unnabha: If that's so, then it's an endless path, and not one with an end, for it's impossible that one could abandon desire by means of desire.

Ananda: Well then, Brahman, let me question you on this matter. Answer as you see fit... Didn't you first have desire, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular desire allayed?

Unnabha: Yes, sir.

Ananda: Didn't you first have persistence, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular persistence allayed?

Unnabha: Yes, sir.

Ananda: Didn't you first have the intent, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular intent allayed?

Unnabha: Yes, sir.

Ananda: Didn't you first have [an act of] discrimination, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular act of discrimination allayed?

Unnabha: Yes, sir.

Ananda: So it is with an arahant whose mental effluents are ended, who has reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who is released through right gnosis. Whatever desire he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular desire is allayed. Whatever persistence he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular persistence is allayed. Whatever intent he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular intent is allayed. Whatever discrimination he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular discrimination is allayed. So what do you think, Brahman? Is this an endless path, or one with an end?

Unnabha: You're right, sir. This is a path with an end, and not an endless one... ": SN 51.15


"Monks, whoever neglects these four bases of power neglects the noble path going to the right ending of stress. Whoever undertakes these four bases of power undertakes the noble path going to the right ending of stress. Which four?

There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion. He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence... concentration founded on intent... concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion.
Whoever neglects these four bases of power neglects the noble path going to the right ending of stress. Whoever undertakes these four bases of power undertakes the noble path going to the right ending of stress." SN 51.2



* "Monks, I have known two qualities through experience: discontent with regard to skillful qualities[1] and unrelenting exertion. Relentlessly I exerted myself, [thinking,] 'Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.' From this heedfulness of mine was attained Awakening. From this heedfulness of mine was attained the unexcelled freedom from bondage.
"You, too, monks, should relentlessly exert yourselves, [thinking,] 'Gladly would we let the flesh & blood in our bodies dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if we have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing our persistence.' You, too, in no long time will reach & remain in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for yourselves in the here & now.
"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will relentlessly exert ourselves, [thinking,] "Gladly would we let the flesh & blood in our bodies dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if we have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing our persistence."' That's how you should train yourselves." The Buddha Appativana Sutta



Nick
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Nick,

Thank you for your contribution. I've been investigating your Yogi Toolbox articles and am very grateful to you for sharing such wisdom. Can't say that I understand all of it, having only just set out from the trailhead, but I'm sure I will return to this site again and again to read up on practical tips for rapid progress on the path. I really do feel that - with all this information freely shared and out there for all of us seekers - we have only ourselves to blame if we don't follow along.

Your "fuel for the rocketship" analogy speaks to my imagination and I will make some strong resolutions for my upcoming retreat from the Jan 5 til Jan 19 at Dhammacari in Southern Germany, as I'm already starting each sit at home with a resolution to practice insight meditation for this period however long I intend to sit. It does seem to help stay concentrated longer and to get back sooner after chasing after some thought or feeling.
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Brian K., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 142 Join Date: 4/18/12 Recent Posts
Brian K.:
I think it comes down to just following the practice instructions for your particular technique or tradition, and just resolve to practice as much as u can until it's done.


Im not anti striving, I'm just anti over striving. I just think setting a time where " I should be enlightened by this time " will not really do any good, because you never know how long this could take. Some people progress quickly and some people don't, and some are in between. There doesn't necessarily need to be this concept of duality between not striving and striving,they should probably be balanced.
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James Yen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 270 Join Date: 9/6/09 Recent Posts
Hey Meryn,

Truly is dharma is mysterious, hard to fathom, even by the wise.

I have no idea how the whole thing works really, realization, all that, it's something that's difficult to understand.

You would probably be better off asking a Sammasambuddha, but hey the last one be chilling in nibbana right about now.

Good luck!

Fuck luck, you don't need that shit.

Work hard.

See you on the other side.
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Meryn DeHaen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Enlightenment before 40yo; an introduction

Posts: 15 Join Date: 11/17/12 Recent Posts
Thanks, friend! I do need to work hard and I resolve to do so.

As for expectations, they are just there for a framework, as I'm sure you've guessed from reading the opening post.

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