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Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB... Mindspace M 3/6/13 9:36 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. m m a 3/6/13 10:15 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Mindspace M 3/6/13 11:46 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 3/6/13 12:23 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Mindspace M 3/6/13 1:22 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Jigme Sengye 3/6/13 1:21 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Mindspace M 3/6/13 1:28 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. K. O. 3/13/14 2:40 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/13/14 2:52 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 3/6/13 12:13 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Mindspace M 3/6/13 12:19 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 3/6/13 12:26 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Bagpuss The Gnome 3/6/13 12:39 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Ian And 3/11/13 12:09 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Simon T. 3/7/13 2:14 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Ian And 3/7/13 4:58 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/10/13 12:38 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/10/13 3:14 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Brian . 3/14/13 9:48 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/15/13 1:13 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 3/15/13 1:20 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/16/13 3:55 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 3/16/13 8:44 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Brian . 3/15/13 7:35 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/16/13 3:50 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Jigme Sengye 3/21/13 9:07 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 4/8/13 2:14 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Brian . 4/6/13 10:29 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 3/16/13 8:42 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Alesh Vyhnal 3/17/13 2:30 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Jane Laurel Carrington 3/17/13 7:23 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Alesh Vyhnal 3/18/13 4:56 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Some Guy 3/7/13 7:32 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Change A. 3/7/13 9:40 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Alan Smithee 3/8/13 11:52 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Darrin Rice 3/8/13 2:22 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Change A. 3/9/13 10:48 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/9/13 11:25 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Change A. 3/10/13 11:03 AM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Eric B 3/10/13 1:00 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 3/10/13 1:01 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Some Guy 3/10/13 2:08 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Change A. 3/10/13 2:09 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 4/8/13 2:21 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Darrin Rice 4/8/13 3:37 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Rob Wynge 4/8/13 4:11 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Daniel M. Ingram 4/8/13 4:23 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Chuck Kasmire 4/12/13 6:04 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Fitter Stoke 4/12/13 6:51 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. fivebells . 4/12/13 10:29 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Roger that 4/12/13 10:45 PM
RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB.. Mindspace M 3/25/14 10:01 AM
Hi all,

New poster here. I'm just getting back into meditation after first trying it out about a year ago. Came across the "Mindfulness in Plain English" book, and then later found MCTB. I was immediately hooked, and read the whole thing cover to cover in about two days. I like the rational approach, and how it exposes some of the weaknesses of other training styles.

(Actually, it most reminded me of the book/fitness programme Starting Strength, which shows how mainstream ideas of fitness often don't lead to good results).

Anyway, life got in the way and I dropped my habits, only to start up again recently.

I've learned from other fields that when starting out its generally best to stick with just one book/teacher/methodology, rather than try and confuse yourself with too much conflicting advice. (Once you've mastered the fundamentals, you can then start to explore and experiment).

The only thing that puts me off MCTB is this Amazon review.

Pertinent quotes:

The product of Ingram's practice as recommended in this book is a state of endless cycling through something which Ingram, borrowing from St John of the Cross, calls the Dark Night, some of whose stages are Fear, Misery, Disgust and Desire for Deliverance (as well as nicer sounding states like Equanimity). There is no end to be reached, just a state of endless repetition of these stages at four succeedingly higher levels which are called by the same names as the Buddha's four stages of awakening, although they are clearly not the same thing at all. Rather than being the end of dukkha which the Buddha taught, this is more "being OK with dukkha made worse by the practice". It seems difficult to understand why anybody would want to do this, unless it's to get the same kind of satisfaction that you get from ascending the levels in a computer game. Ingram even has the term "technical meditator" for someone who can call up these stages of the Dark Night at will, almost as a show of skill. It seems to have little to do with the end of suffering, which is supposed to be the whole point of meditative practice.


Ingram himself has recognised that he has further to go (which "sutta arahats" don't) and a couple of years ago started practices inspired by a teaching called Actual Freedom, coached by some of his former pupils. Part of this practice is attaining states called "Pure Consciousness Experiences" ("PCEs") and Ingram has written freely about his attainment of these states and the fact that the experience of "PCE Daniel" is far preferable to that of "cycling Daniel". More recently he has written about a "veil" being torn away that had existed unknown between him and the world.


Would greatly appreciate hearing other people's comments on this review. Are these points valid?

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 10:15 AM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Ingram's ideas are not radical or new, its just that the no-frills, all business approach offends some people. Tell me why you've taken up meditation, and I'll tell you if that review is relevant to your practice.

the no-frills, all business approach offends some people


OK, but that review isn't really about his "no-frills approach" (which I like) -- instead its criticism is that a lot of the negative stuff (the Dark Night, etc) is specific to his style of practice, and isn't at all necessary. I'd appreciate someone responding to that.

---

Reasons I'm doing meditation: started out just trying it out, found it useful, thought it was worthwhile carrying on. Reading MCTB got me more motivated.

I've just started getting into regular exercise again, and I see meditation as equivalent training for the mind. A deeper motivation is that, if gaining enlightenment is actually possible (in the way that MCTB describes), practising meditation should be a main priority for pretty much anyone.

One thing I find interesting is that despite Daniels scientific background, he doesn't really delve deep into a possible scientific basic for meditation working the way it does. (Maybe he thought it would be a distraction). IE, why are there 8 jhanas, and not more, or less? My gut feeling is these are different neurological states, similar to those caused by mind-altering substances, but self-controlled. And modern neurology (as far as I understand it) pretty much agrees with the Buddhist idea that the ego is an illusion created by the mind, and that perception consists of discrete units which the mind stitches together, etc - in which case, meditation is training the mind to actually undo these illusions.

In which case, there are likely other practices that achieve the same or similar results, and possibly faster or with less negative side effects. e.g, this thread on Lesswrong (the forum which introduced me to MCTB ) has an individual who appears to have achieved some of the stages of insight meditation (maybe not full enlightenment, as they claim), without ever having practised meditation. I find this extremely interesting.

Maybe I am just showing my ignorance in the above two paragraphs - I do believe that when starting out learning a new skill, you shouldn't experiment too much, but diligently follow one methodology until you at least leave the beginner stage.

So I'm happy to just focus on following MCTB, if someone can answer the questions raised by that review. Is the "aggressive noting" the review warns against as bad as made out? What is the "more recent and apparently more productive practice" that Daniel has been working on that the review hints at?

Thanks!

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 12:13 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Isaac L:
(Actually, it most reminded me of the book/fitness programme Starting Strength, which shows how mainstream ideas of fitness often don't lead to good results).


That's funny you mention that, because I started following Rippetoe's programming not long after I got into MCTB-style hardcore Buddhism. In fact, both strength and meditation were vying for the coveted first-thing-in-the-morning slot last summer and fall. Meditation eventually won after I hurt my shoulder and had to take a break from lifting.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 12:19 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Hehe, actually, when I started strength training again recently (after a 2-year lull), I was like "why the hell did I ever stop doing this?" Then I asked myself, "hmm, I wonder if there's anything else that seemed good when I tried it but I stopped doing..." Hence, back to meditation.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 12:23 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Isaac L:
the no-frills, all business approach offends some people


OK, but that review isn't really about his "no-frills approach" (which I like) -- instead its criticism is that a lot of the negative stuff (the Dark Night, etc) is specific to his style of practice, and isn't at all necessary. I'd appreciate someone responding to that.


Meditation is not always pleasant. The dukkha ñanas ("the dark night") are emphasized more in the Burmese tradition and those derived from it, but other traditions still have things like the hindrances that you have to work through in order to reach awakening. A lot of the versions of Buddhism I've heard of deal with some kind of process of disenchantment and disillusionment. It's not like you just wake up one day and you're totally disidentified with sensual pleasure and totally happy about it. It's frequently painful to realize that the ordinary world can't offer up the happiness we expect from it. It's not like Daniel Ingram came up with that.

That being said, I think these things get a lot more emphasis in hardcore dharma than they deserve. The dukkha ñanas are scapegoated for people's personal problems. You get people thinking they're a lot further down the path they are, because they think they're "in the dark night". So they meditate more, thinking that's going to end the problem, when really they probably need to work on ordinary coping strategies.

The impression I've gotten from people who have talked to Burmese teachers is that the dukkha ñanas are part of the path, but they're not that special, they don't take that long to cross, and their effect does not linger after one has stopped meditating. This matches my experience almost exactly - I do think they are "special" in the sense that there are important lessons to be learned from them, especially what they have to teach about disenchantment, dispassion, and disidentification.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 12:26 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Isaac L:
Hehe, actually, when I started strength training again recently (after a 2-year lull), I was like "why the hell did I ever stop doing this?" Then I asked myself, "hmm, I wonder if there's anything else that seemed good when I tried it but I stopped doing..." Hence, back to meditation.


There are actually a lot of similarities between the culture that's built up around strength training and the culture that's built up here around meditation. Some people have problems with people bragging about attainments, jhanas, and the like, but it seems to do more good than harm. It's a lot like lifting in a gym where the strongest person is deadlifting 700 lbs. You're like, "Okay, that's a human possibility." Whereas a lot of the retreat centers are like lifting at the Y where you're surrounded by people walking on treadmills and doing Nautilus circuits, and the "strongest" person is working the Smith Machine. You'd have no idea at all what a person was capable of if you worked out there, and if you did know, people would treat you like you were crazy.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 12:39 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Fitter:
The impression I've gotten from people who have talked to Burmese teachers is that the dukkha ñanas are part of the path, but they're not that special, they don't take that long to cross, and their effect does not linger after one has stopped meditating. This matches my experience almost exactly - I do think they are "special" in the sense that there are important lessons to be learned from them, especially what they have to teach about disenchantment, dispassion, and disidentification.


This is my experience also. The DN stuff rarely affects activities outside of meditation, bar occasionally being a bit short tempered for a short time (10's of minutes at most). I've never really understood how anyone can claim to be "in the DN" or "in Equanimity" during daily life (retreats are different). Unless it's really quiet here, I start from zero, or maybe the A&P each sit and work my way up again. So maybe this relates to Fitters point about duration of stages.

By the way, I have Rippetoe's book as well!

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 1:21 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Isaac L:
the no-frills, all business approach offends some people


OK, but that review isn't really about his "no-frills approach" (which I like) -- instead its criticism is that a lot of the negative stuff (the Dark Night, etc) is specific to his style of practice, and isn't at all necessary. I'd appreciate someone responding to that.


It isn't specific to his approach to Mahasi-style vipassana. You'll also see it documented in other works, such as Mahasi Sayadaw's works. See Practical Insight Meditation: http://bit.ly/YA57nS The description of the dukkha ñanas starts on page 26. Plenty of people get to these unpleasant states doing other styles of vipassana or even samatha. Vipassana is about paying attention to changing sensations. I suspect that any style of concentration that doesn't quickly end up in a hard trance, in other words, paying attention to continuous pleasant sensations, will cause a meditator to move forward on the Progress of Insight map, thus getting a person to and past the dukkha ñanas. I got to these unpleasant states while doing qigong and vajrayana, long before I ever went near vipassana. Nobody ever explained to me that meditation would cause unpleasant and deceptive states, not even later when I took Goenka's 10-day body-scanning vipassana class.

The beauty of MCTB isn't that it gets you to the dukkha ñanas, but rather that it explains experientially and in plain language what the dukkha ñanas feel like, how the structure of the Progress of Insight map works and how to use it to get to equanimity (which readers may already have gotten at times, only to dip back into the dukkha ñanas) and most importantly how to get past this whole mess and get the first path and then repeat the trick to get the other paths. People who find the book useful tend realize that they've been bouncing between the dukkha ñanas and Equanimity for years. Reading about a regular person getting this stuff done makes it clear that it's entirely practical and possible to get path attainments without having to give up a regular life and go be a monk.


One thing I find interesting is that despite Daniels scientific background, he doesn't really delve deep into a possible scientific basic for meditation working the way it does. (Maybe he thought it would be a distraction). IE, why are there 8 jhanas, and not more, or less?


Probably because no one knows the hard scientific answer to that question yet.



In which case, there are likely other practices that achieve the same or similar results, and possibly faster or with less negative side effects. e.g, this thread on Lesswrong (the forum which introduced me to MCTB ) has an individual who appears to have achieved some of the stages of insight meditation (maybe not full enlightenment, as they claim), without ever having practised meditation. I find this extremely interesting.


As mentioned, I got those insight stages, actually up to the Equanimity ñana, through practices other than vipassana. I just didn't know that at the time. It's easy to miss what those stages feel like until you've had them explained to you. When I first hit the dukkha ñanas, I thought that my practice had fallen apart. If someone had explained to me what was going on, I would have done a much better job of doing the meditative practices I was doing at the time.

Also, the word enlightenment implies different things. I got the realization of emptiness by accident, very early on in my practice and I suspect that it had nothing to do with any meditation I had done. It didn't last more than one night and I haven't gotten it since. I know one other person who had a much more profound and lasting version of the experience out of the blue while jogging one day without any prior meditative experience. It may be that vipassana practice does eventually lead to emptiness, but it hasn't yet for me. It has for other people on this forum. The 2 or 3 path attainments I've had have reduced suffering quite a bit and made daily experience more pleasant, but I can't characterize them as enlightenment by the standard I believe in and briefly experienced. All this work has still been worthwhile.



Maybe I am just showing my ignorance in the above two paragraphs - I do believe that when starting out learning a new skill, you shouldn't experiment too much, but diligently follow one methodology until you at least leave the beginner stage.

So I'm happy to just focus on following MCTB, if someone can answer the questions raised by that review. Is the "aggressive noting" the review warns against as bad as made out? What is the "more recent and apparently more productive practice" that Daniel has been working on that the review hints at?

Thanks!


Fast noting is optional. Some people like it, some people don't. I think you'll find that at certain stages in Equanimity that sensations show up and go away really fast and that concentration is quite strong. At those points, you may enjoy noting quickly or you may even find that your concentration is strong enough to drop noting entirely and just notice the mental and physical sensations without wandering. It'll be easier and more natural to do at those points anyway. There's no need to force fast-paced noting if it feels stressful. Also, at first, it's best to start with out loud noting. It's hard to note out loud faster than twice a second for a long stretch of time. Once a second is fine, as is once every two or three seconds as long either your mind doesn't wander or you note the mental wandering.

Keep in mind that Daniel didn't invent this stuff. The technique in his book is Mahasi-style vipassana (plus jhanas and a few other fairly standard things that arise naturally during the practice anyway). The advice I was given by Burmese monks in the Mahasi tradition was more or less the same.

Also, the book is being revised. There are threads on the forum that explain why and what's going to be included in the new edition. Among other things, it's been found that the path attainments after stream entry that are gotten through the styles of practice discussed on this forum aren't the fetter model paths. The fetter model is more profound. All the same, the practice is worthwhile and suffering is reduced.

As for what Daniel has done more recently and what some other people have done and gotten good results with, you can take a look at Actual Freedom. I haven't done this practice at all.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 1:22 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Thanks, that's comforting to know. Will get meditating later emoticon

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/6/13 1:28 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Thanks for your detailed reply, this is all gold. Good to know this forum is so active, I'll probably have a ton more questions later emoticon

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/11/13 12:09 AM as a reply to Mindspace M.
From the TC Review::

Ingram himself has recognised that he has further to go (which "sutta arahats" don't) and a couple of years ago started practices inspired by a teaching called Actual Freedom, . . .
. . .and the perceptual instabilities and vibrations that he calls the Three Characteristics (the Buddha actually never used this term, and meant something different by the term Three Perceptions which he used) and it's what pushes people into the Dark Night. The Buddha taught a very different whole-body awareness practice that did not separate samatha (calm and concentration) and vipassana (insight) and he described nothing remotely resembling the Dark Night.


Isaac L:

IE, why are there 8 jhanas, and not more, or less? My gut feeling is these are different neurological states, similar to those caused by mind-altering substances, but self-controlled. And modern neurology (as far as I understand it) pretty much agrees with the Buddhist idea that the ego is an illusion created by the mind, and that perception consists of discrete units which the mind stitches together, etc - in which case, meditation is training the mind to actually undo these illusions.


From the X Review::

The author talks about reaching the peak of insight practices, and then only says that at this point concentration can be cultivated or one can sit in pure egolessness. Seeing as the author basically stopped here, the reader is left to assume that the author does not have practice beyond this point. When truly, the Yogic Journey is no where near complete until both paths are mastered. The Buddha DID in fact teach this, yet this idea is not discussed in the book at all.

The general attitude of the Author in regards towards some of the concentration states and their associated features is reflective of that of ignorance and lack of practice. It is almost as if he tries to downplay their importance in regards to obtaining full liberation. The funny thing is, the book is all about the teachings of the Buddha, while 98% of the book is about insight practices, although the Buddha himself obtained enlightenment through concentration practices combined with insight practices, while also teaching both paths.


Hello Isaac,

While Fitter and Jigme do an excellent job of explaining and defending the methods of practice recommended in MCTB, your own intuitions about it vis a vis the review (or reviews) you've read and your personal understanding (as related in the above quotation of yours) are also well to consider.

The answer to your question about "why are there 8 jhanas, and not more, or less" has more to do with what has been recorded about the history of what Gotama is said to have taught than anything else. If you've never read widely the suttas, then you can be excused from knowing why and being able to answer this question yourself. Apparently (we are told in the discourses), Gotama was aware of the first six levels of dhyana meditation before (or as) he met Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta who taught him the seventh and eighth levels respectively, as outlined in the following passage:

Siddhattha studied meditation under two famous teachers, Alara-Kalama and Uddaka-Ramaputta.

The state attained by Alara-Kalama was that of a much higher formless world where physical matter no longer exists. [The sense base of nothingness.]

Uddaka-Ramaputta reached an even higher state at which neither thought nor non-thought existed. [The sense base of neither perception nor non-perception.]

Siddhatha did not find it difficult to attain either state. Attaining these states of mind did not ease his mental anxieties, because once he stopped meditation, he returned to the mental state of depression.

He knew that the true liberation from the attachment of ignorance and suffering could be attained only by reaching a state of absolute tranquility.

He left his teachers to continue his search for the ultimate truth.


The preceding passage, by the way, contains some interesting insights all its own, if one has the clarity of vision to be able to see them.

There is also a so-called ninth dhyana capable of attainment that is known as the "cessation of perception and feeling," or sanna-vedayita-nirodha. One's perception of attainment to this level of quietude, however, can only be assessed once one has come out of the attainment itself and is reflecting on one's experience afterward. I know this from personal experience.

If you are concerned that you may not have access to someone (on this forum) who has learned this path from the perspective of the sutta practice and not from MCTB, you can put that concern to rest. There are people here who can provide answers to those questions too. So, the forum accommodates the best of both worlds.

Best to you on your journey to reestablish your meditation practice.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/7/13 2:14 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
The cycles and stages have been documented in the Buddhist tradition for a while...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visuddhimagga

The cycles and stages have been documented in the Buddhist tradition for a while...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visuddhimagga

Thanks for the link, Simon.

Aahh. Another cynic after my own heart. Someone else who has noticed the work of a fraud in the Sangha: Buddhaghosa!

Kalupahana notes that the Visuddhimagga contains "some metaphysical speculations, such as those of the Sarvastivadins, the Sautrantikas, and even the Yogacarins". Kalupahana comments:

Buddhaghosa was careful in introducing any new ideas into the Mahavihara tradition in a way that was too obvious. There seems to be no doubt that the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries are a testimony to the abilities of a great harmonizer who blended old and new ideas without arousing suspicion in the minds of those who were scrutinizing his work.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/7/13 7:32 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
People will argue about the merits and shortfalls of MCTB forever. What is a fact is that it has inspired many people to practice effectively, and find peace and happiness.The evidence of that is available for public view here and on other fora. If historical authenticity is your thing, have fun down the rabbit hole of philology. (That sounded dismissive. I mean it, though: have fun.) But if you are looking for evidence-based spiritual practice, this is pretty much the only game in town.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/7/13 9:40 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
You can ask Daniel himself whether he thinks these points are valid or not.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/8/13 11:52 AM as a reply to Change A..
You should practice the techniques and system taught in the book if you want to develop "insight" -- in the classic Theravada/Visuddhimagga/Burmese/Paths of Insight-style -- since that is what Daniel teaches. If you want some other result, practice something else. If you want a PCE, practice AF; if you want energy stuff, practice Kundalini Yoga or Qigong; if you want jhanas, practice concentration techniques; if you want to bake a vegan cake, use the recipes in a vegan cookbook; if you want to fix your Honda Civic, don't read a manual on Ford Escorts. Some people seem to get all butt-hurt that practicing techniques taught in MCToB don't take their fetters away and make them shiny happy people, even though Daniel clearly states in the section of the book titled "Models of Enlightenment" that his system is a non-Dual System which provides insight but nothing in the way of making it easier to resist touching your penis or getting crabby when someone treats you like dirt. I've always been more interested in the phenomenological and insight aspects of meditative practice than in producing a permanent mental state where I won't cry anymore, so I'm good with MCToB, but that's just me, ya dig?

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
Answer
3/8/13 2:22 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
You should practice the techniques and system taught in the book if you want to develop "insight" -- in the classic Theravada/Visuddhimagga/Burmese/Paths of Insight-style -- since that is what Daniel teaches. If you want some other result, practice something else. If you want a PCE, practice AF; if you want energy stuff, practice Kundalini Yoga or Qigong; if you want jhanas, practice concentration techniques; if you want to bake a vegan cake, use the recipes in a vegan cookbook; if you want to fix your Honda Civic, don't read a manual on Ford Escorts. Some people seem to get all butt-hurt that practicing techniques taught in MCToB don't take their fetters away and make them shiny happy people, even though Daniel clearly states in the section of the book titled "Models of Enlightenment" that his system is a non-Dual System which provides insight but nothing in the way of making it easier to resist touching your penis or getting crabby when someone treats you like dirt. I've always been more interested in the phenomenological and insight aspects of meditative practice than in producing a permanent mental state where I won't cry anymore, so I'm good with MCToB, but that's just me, ya dig?


I just found this and have to say preach it Brother! I find it amazing how a system that is based on eliminating suffering by removing attachment to craving, has so many folks who get attached to their opinions to the point of OUTRAGE.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/9/13 10:48 AM as a reply to Mindspace M.
I agree with the points that are made in the review as that is the impression I get from reading the posts on this forum. But I think things have changed since this review was written and now Daniel is practicing straightforward attention than the attention that is advocated by the Actual Freedom folks (their article about attentiveness, sensuosness, apperceptiveness is modified with a change of few words here and there from Bhante G.'s book Mindfulness in Plain English).

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/9/13 11:25 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Dear Isaac,

Hey, there are actually quite a number of skeptical reviews out there, so look around if you find them interesting and you will find them.

If you have any questions about this stuff I will be happy to answer them or talk or whatever. Skype name is dan i el m in g ra m without the spaces.

Other thoughts: check out the original source material, or Mahasi, or something else and see what those things say, and realize there will be some tensions between all of those things if you look closely. You will find sutta-heads who can't stand the Visuddhimagga, Visuddhimagga-heads who can't stand the limits of the sutras and those who are down on some of the better commentaries, Tibetans who don't like any of that stuff, considering it low-brow hinayana primitive Buddhism at best, and those who will freak out at anything that is not Buddhist, as Buddhism must be best at all things.

Does what Achaan Chah teaches really look the same as the old Suttas?

What to do with Chogyam Trungpa? His stuff is clearly brilliant, and a lot of people have gotten a lot out of his work, and yet he was clearly a consummate screw-up in so many ways.

Can wisdom be gained from imperfect sources? My imperfections are many and I hope obvious. Can we draw what we need from a number of authors that don't all agree? Do authors always even agree with themselves? What do we do when people's practices end up going off in various directions we don't like or other's don't like? I have gained wisdom from reading Rumi, a non-Buddhist! I also have learned from Kabir, from Rilke, and from sources much stranger. The Buddha studied with a bunch of non-Buddhist before he became the Buddha, obviously, and he learned useful things from them that he later taught. Further, what I talk about is very, very Buddhist.

Has the author of that critique of the book had a full PCE? They are so compelling that it would seem hard for anyone who had had one to argue against them, and what, prey tell, is wrong with appreciating them? Is it a given that Buddhism will have terms and maps that include all possible meditatively-induced mind states?

Why would the author criticize me when I started spending more time investigating emotional/feeling territory, something my Mahasi practice didn't emphasize much? It seems a strange critique. I saw something that needed flushing out, and so I gave that aspect of life more attention: the problem is what? Why criticize exploring what PCEs have to teach? It seems a bizarre and limiting view. I hope their practice is not similarly limited, as it will be poorer for it with that sort of mentality. I continue to expand and integrate my practice, continue to explore what it has done and what it hasn't. This is wrong somehow?

Also, if you read the lives of the arahats, you will see that they continued to grow, explore, learn things, and develop. They had various skill-sets, some had jhanas, some had powers, some were really good at remembering things, some had various issues from their past to learn from and deal with, and they continued to practice, continued to mature, as I hope I slowly am.

The Buddha himself was clearly a very different creature 45 years after his first moment of awakening. Why did he spend weeks after his awakening checking things out if there was no possibility of further development or learning: he learned all sort of things, perceived more clearly all sorts of things, gained lots of wisdom, and further clarified what he had done and accomplished and its implications for others.

As to Dark Night cycling: it is a problem, but it is not a unique problem to this particular strain of meditation or even tradition. I have met and/or read the accounts of literally hundreds of people who have crossed the A&P, had it derail their lives, and most didn't have it happen during anything related to meditation, and the vast majority had no idea what it was, so it is something inherent in the developmental process of the mind, sort of like puberty is part of the developmental process of humans, so I assert and would be happy to back up, and it may just be that the author of that critique hasn't crossed it yet, or has and didn't realize it, or did and doesn't want to admit it, or got freaked out by their own dark night and ran screaming off to something else to help them (which I can understand), or something else I haven't thought of.

As countless testimonials here will tell you, people do a hell of a lot better when they have a heads up about this stuff.

Further, as to Dark Night cycling being a problem that needs further work, yes, that is true. I think that we need better technologies for helping people get through the consequences of what happens just by paying a whole lot of attention to reality, as that is what causes it. Concentration can help, but it can also gunk things up, so must be used carefully. There are other solutions, such as some of the AYP techniques that were bounced around here a while ago.

I read the rest of the review and it has many problems with it. One gross one is here:

"Well, Parts II and II are largely not teachings of the Buddha, core or otherwise. The meditation practice that Ingram teaches ("noting") was developed in the twentieth century in Burma. It wasn't taught by the Buddha. The "Progress of Insight" that Ingram teaches comes from a document called the Visuddhimagga written in Sri Lanka in the fifth century AD, more than eight hundred years after the Buddha's death in Northern India. The Buddha didn't teach that either. So the title is misleading, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the practices are not helpful. Or does it?"

This is clearly from a sutra-head. Ok, fine. There are thousands of them and they are as they are, and if you like them, well try their way and see what it leads to. However, this is a sutta-head who clearly hasn't read this particular sutta, namely MN 111 One by One as they Occurred, where Sariputta clearly does noting practice.

MN 111

Further, as anyone who has gone on a good Mahasi retreat knows: it works and works well. Do other things work also? Yes, definitely. This debate keeps coming up perennially, and you will find thread after thread here on the DhO where similar points of view are expressed. However, go see for yourself, if you really want to answer the question: do a serious Mahasi retreat around serious Mahasi practitioners, really actually practice, and also listen to the reports of those around you, and see what happens to them, and notice the staggering degree of precision, awareness, penetrating insight, and deep wisdom that the better ones have, and see if you really think that this is so horribly un-Buddhist that that sort of very sectarian and limiting review is merited.

I would stick to what works rather than spending too much time listening to the old sectarian battle-cries and tired old ignorant debates, and instead stick to the fundamentals and practice well and see for yourself. Notice the number of strong Western teachers that came from various sources, such as Mahasi and Thai Forest, and Zen, and all sorts of other places, such as Advaita and the like. They don't all have the same skill-sets or abilities, nor all the same perspectives, nor would they all give you the same advice about how to practice, nor would they all agree with each other all the time, even if they came from the same tradition, and this is an important point.

Anyway, these are my thoughts this evening. Basic practices, fundamental practices, simple practices, applied well, done again and again, can transform the mind: do the experiment and see for yourself. If you don't like noting, or don't like MCTB: try any of a wide range of other good practices: there are many, many out there. If you somehow think noting is good, you will be in the company of hundreds of thousands of people who have tried it and found it very powerful and revealing.

Good luck sorting this out, and let me know if you want to talk sometime. I can find a little time here and there, but it usually takes scheduling.

As to those who think that Buddhaghosa, presumed author of the Visuddhimagga, came up with the stages of insight on his own, it should be noted that they can be found in the Vimuttimagga, whose origins are in India, we think, and presumed to have been written by the Arahat Upatissa a few hundred years earlier, and it is very unlikely that they were made up by him either, but instead likely reflect something in the living tradition of Buddhism from before that time. One gets the sense that these authors meant to convey things they found useful, to describe what wisdom their traditions had to offer, and that they cared deeply about their own tradition. Consider the staggering expense of producing such monumental works back them: the paper (or leaves or whatever), the copy time, the ink, the safe storage. These were labors of love, not the work of cunning deceivers, and they were preserved for many centuries by the same labors of love by those many, many Buddhist monks who knew how extremely valuable and useful they were, representing basically the pinnacle of achievement of Buddhist scholarship at the time. What sad and stupid paranoia there is around this stuff.

I presume that those commentarial bashers never bothered to read the commentaries they critique, and certainly never bothered to verify what they talked about, but just got some edgy buzz of arrogant foolishness off the caustic smoke of some lie some other ignorant and dogmatic sutta-head unfortunately blew up their aging nostrils, somehow wiping out the part of their brain that can pattern recognize what countless people here have reported and go, "Wait a second? Is it that all these people just made this stuff up, or is it that there really is something to these stages that I was raised to think were blasphemy in the church I grew up in? Huh, maybe I am totally missing something here..." Duh!

Further, the stages of insight are so uncannily predictable, so freakishly reproducible, so amazingly useful, as anyone who has gone on a good insight retreat or taught one knows like they know that the sun rises in the morning, that criticizing the stages of insight is sort of like criticizing some early anatomist that noticed that we humans generally have 7 cervical, 12 thoracic and 5 lumbar vertebrae. You could say it was not the authentic teaching of some ancient anatomist who never mentioned them, but who cares, as it just happens to be right in the vast majority of cases (there is rare mild anatomic variability here).

Imagine if in practicing medicine I had to rely on textbooks from thousands of years ago that arbitrarily cut off at a certain period regardless of whether or not there was valuable, accurate, useful, curative, diagnostic or otherwise pragmatic information found in them? Who in their right mind would go to that doctor? I think the same of the sutta-heads.

It is like arguing with fundamentalist Christians who think the earth is 6,000 years old: why bother? They have a fixed cognitive deficit that can't accept new information despite evidence, and I would even assert that this is very old information, and very authentic, very useful information, information that can be verified for one's self, information that has been verified again and again by hundreds of my friends and countless thousands on retreats.

For them, their arbitrarily limited tradition trumps truth, trumps pragmatism, trumps even historical fact, and leaves them so dazed as to be unable to comprehend the functional, well-established technical language that has allowed me and so many others to do such amazing work and navigate such interesting territory to great ends, as were they to give even an inch, they would have to step outside their hyper-defended comfort zones of sacred writ, and gosh, what would happen to them then? What if their heads exploded? What if they had to admit they spent years being totally fucking wrong? Ouch! Wouldn't want pain on this path, Dark Night or otherwise. Got to be all wrapped up pretty in a nice suttic wrapper, all sweet and jhanic, all perfect and black and white. Sutta good. Commentaries bad. It is such childish bullshit!

What a bunch of ignorant, confused, narrow-minded, artificially-limited, tradition-worshiping, dogma-bound, stuck-up blow-hards. I so wish I could just take them on a retreat, prescribe specific practices, and have them practice and see what happened and have them write it down, and, at the end, compare the pattern to the maps, and also those descriptions of their colleagues on that same retreat, and then they, like basically everyone else who has done the experiment well, would know that they were simply totally full of crap.

I must be feeling better, as I was too tired for this sort of rant earlier today. This, this is healing...

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/10/13 3:14 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
These represent basically two totally different universes of attitude.

Imagine an evangelical cleric of the High Church of the Holy Ford Model-T walked into a modern high-performance custom car shop and started spouting off about how the Original, the One True Car, was the Model-T. Not only is this obviously historical nonsense, it is just barking crazy.

Imagine if said zealot started ranting to the boys in the blue shirts with their air-wrenches and cutting torches about how they couldn't use engines that were not original Model-T engines in their hot rods, couldn't use tools that weren't described or used by Henry Ford himself, were not authentic car mechanics as they weren't fixing Ford Model-T's, using only terms used in the days of the Model-T, and that terms such as "supercharger", "traction control", and "roll-bar" were improper terms to use and improper parts to install, being Unauthentic, Blasphemous terms and parts from the Unauthentic Present, a time that is clearly inferior to the great days of the Model-T, that being specifically 1908 to 1927, with no other years of auto-engineering being valid years for any True and Holy Auto-mechanic to honor as being possibly contributing to the car industry.

The zealot clearly feels a dear and true love of the Model-T, and something about that True Conviction Feeling, that Feeling of Original Authentic Rightness clearly really gets their blood going.

That said, how do you think the guys building the hot-rods are going to take it? They are pragmatists, performance-junkies, lovers of speed, control, precision, innovation, beauty however old or new from Lister to Lamborghini, from Pontiac to Porsche, relishing anything old or new that works with their aesthetic of making things that work and work really, really well to perform at levels that the vast majority of car drivers can barely dream of. Bring them a new, custom-built innovative faster engine with more torque that runs smoother and longer and put it on their dynamo, and if it measures up, you can bet that if they can afford it they will use it. That is the spirit that I have always practiced the dharma in, and I have always envisioned the DhO as having much more of that feel than some place to have a High Church of Ancient, Immutable Dogma.

So, true believers, Model-T-heads, sutta-thumpers, commentary-bashers: any interest in stepping into the 21st century? Or even the 2nd? How odd that my appreciating some of the information in some really good ~1800-1500 year-old texts is considered too modern! It is not that they commentaries don't have their less-than-pragmatic or useful aspects, they do. I don't mean to erect a High Church of the Commentaries either! However, they do have some really good stuff in them, and throwing it out just because you can't verify their "authenticity" the same way you can verify the Pali Canon's perfect "authenticity"... I mean.... Uh, never mind...

(It should be noted that, by way of full disclosure, that my Great Grandfather apparently housed some original Model-T prototypes in his barn in Detroit, so says my historian Aunt Calla.)

The Beck-Lister: now, that's a car! Model-T: really?

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/10/13 11:03 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Has the author of that critique of the book had a full PCE? They are so compelling that it would seem hard for anyone who had had one to argue against them, and what, prey tell, is wrong with appreciating them? Is it a given that Buddhism will have terms and maps that include all possible meditatively-induced mind states?

Why would the author criticize me when I started spending more time investigating emotional/feeling territory, something my Mahasi practice didn't emphasize much? It seems a strange critique. I saw something that needed flushing out, and so I gave that aspect of life more attention: the problem is what? Why criticize exploring what PCEs have to teach? It seems a bizarre and limiting view. I hope their practice is not similarly limited, as it will be poorer for it with that sort of mentality. I continue to expand and integrate my practice, continue to explore what it has done and what it hasn't. This is wrong somehow?


Omega Point (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/4065423):

"I have experienced PCE (rejecting loaded notions) moment by moment, persistently, for several years."

"Remember that buddhism is a dynamic social-memory informational complex (not a static defined complex like you have incorrectly projected during many conversations). Being a dynamic non-dogmatic contemplative science of mind (accepted by large swaths of the academic community), it literally formed theories of everything that consolidated all contemplative and non-contemplative traditions through logical principle (not cheap opportunism) etc . All the functional axioms of AF have been completely worked out, with all sides being taken and addressed through rigorous argumentation etc."

You could label Omega Point as a Vajrayana-head. I practice some Vajrayana myself and I have practiced AF as well and didn't find much of value there. So I agree with Omega Point.

Also, comparison of Ford Model-T and modern high-performance custom car is not a good example because our brains and bodies have not changed much in the 2500 or so years whereas the brains and bodies of cars have.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/10/13 1:00 PM as a reply to Change A..
Change A.:

Also, comparison of Ford Model-T and modern high-performance custom car is not a good example because our brains and bodies have not changed much in the 2500 or so years whereas the brains and bodies of cars have.


I think the point of comparison was meant to be with regard to evolving meditation methodology, its application, and results/effects.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/10/13 1:01 PM as a reply to Change A..
@Change A: Ah, but the meditative technologies have changed, adapted, grown, expanded, been improved upon, been rediscovered, been recombined, and it is those technologies that change our plastic, moldable, re-workable, re-writable brains, so it really is a great analogy.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/10/13 2:08 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Great vicariously cathartic rant. Maybe there is some raw material there for MCTB 2? "To my critics...."

I had some tangential thoughts that I put in a new thread here

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/10/13 2:09 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Ok, in that sense, yes I think that noting is a good meditative technique.

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/14/13 9:48 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel-- one disanalogy between the car example and the meditation thing is that the sutta Buddha is arguably presenting something that is supposed to represent a pinnacle or absolute of meditative / mental training perfection. Just to present a few familiar turns of phrase along these lines-- "end of suffering," "unsurpassable," "gone thoroughly beyond," ... There is a sense of finality, perfection, unsurpassability, nothing left to do, etc etc. I can't whip out specific citations, but I just have the general feeling from reading stuff over the years that there are multiple passages where the Buddha is supposed to have said that his attainment is the supreme, ultimate, absolute top of the hill, and so on, and the mythology of Brahma and the like bowing in honor of his achievements is consistent with this kind of imagery. Contrast this with the case of building cars, where it's clear that there's a wide range of possible advances and no clearly discernible, in principle limit to what can be achieved. So to use a different analogy, it's kind of like you're saying "why should 10 billion degrees be the highest possible temperature? We can always go higher!" whereas I get the feeling a sutta Buddhist thinks s/he is not arguing for something like "10 billions degrees is the highest possible temperature, even if it seems arbirary," but rather thinks s/he is arguing for something more like "zero kelvin is the lowest possible temperature"-- a limit to development that, in principle, can't be surpassed. It's this supposed in-principle insurpassability that makes the sutta-Buddhist claim different from saying that, say, the Model-T is the Only True Car, since in the Model T example there's no plausible in-principle reason why that should be the case. So that analogy might be a bit of a straw man.

I'm not saying the 'sutta heads' are right, just that their position might not be as inherently backwards as you make it out to be. I think it depends a lot on the assumptions one makes as to what possibilities exist for mind cultivation, and what values accrue to those various possibilities. To the extent that the MCTB approach deviates from a literal suttic approach, it does seem like a legitimate possibility that different territory is being explored, with different potentials for depth and breadth of various kinds of cultivation. Is it possible that some part of this territory explored by suttic Buddhism but not MCTB really does correspond to something completely and fundamentally unsurpassable in terms of the satisfaction (or freedom from dissatisfaction) it gives (in the same kind of way that absolute zero is fundamentally unsurpassable as a minimum temperature)? There does seem to be some kind of sentiment like that even in this community, e.g. the whole thing about MCTB 4th path being 2nd path on the suttic fetters model or whatever.

There are difficulties in asserting both views. If you hold the view that there is no fundamental pinnacle of development, it's possible that it's out there and you just haven't seen it. You can't prove a negative, seeing a million white swans doesn't prove there is no black swan, etc. But if you hold that there is something that is unsurpassable, it's possible that your reason for thinking it so is mistaken. Maybe the principle on the basis of which we think it is impossible to go below absolute zero is actually mistaken.

I say all that having gained a lot from both the MCTB approach and the more literally suttic approach, while also having a sense of the shortcomings of both approaches and owing no special allegiance to either. I'm not interested in pushing an agenda one way or the other, but the debate itself is interesting to me. It also has some relevance to how I practice in that it has caused me to do some flip-flopping here and there as my view vacillates between the ideal of suttic perfection and the more pragmatic approach of trying out different things and seeing what works. The dynamic tension between the two has gotten me stuck in some instances but unstuck in others.

My own experience is definitely in the direction of things not being as absolute, clear cut, final, or permanent as they are supposed to be even on the lower / intermediate reaches of the MCTB model (i.e. at least post stream entry and maybe more, not sure about the fine details of the whole mapping thing but that's another story), let alone anything about a grand unsurpassable perfection. And I think there are infinitely many ways in which the mind can be cultivated, just because there are infinitely many ways the mind can practice and train itself. And yet, I still can't totally reject the idea that there really might be such a total, complete, unsurpassable escape from all dissatisfaction, in part because it makes sense that there should be some absolute limit for the mind's capacity to transcend itself, to how thoroughly beyond it can go, etc.

Consider the Tibetans or Shingon Tantric Buddhists who consider simple suttic practices to be just the primitive foundations of their traditions...

Consider the energy-based practices that have helped quite a number here: totally unmentioned in the suttas...

Consider the rapid drop-off in the rate of people getting enlightened in the later half of the Buddha's teaching when the Vinaya was laid down: can you be absolutely certain that without some additional tips, tricks and meditative technologies some of them couldn't have gotten farther than they did?

How much do we know about the physiology of these things? Given the track rcord of the undstanding of the function and mechanism of things leading to better control of results and outcomes, I personally hope that in 100 years we look back on today the way we look at the state of science in the late 1800's: yes, they discovered very important things, but oh how far we have come...

Daniel

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/15/13 1:20 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Consider the rapid drop-off in the rate of people getting enlightened in the later half of the Buddha's teaching when the Vinaya was laid down


I did not know about this - do you have a source for this claim?

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/15/13 7:35 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Again, I'm inclined to agree with you, but just to play devil's advocate:

In this community it's not uncommon to hear advice to the effect of, "yes, getting your psychological stuff together, exploring concentration states, exploring the powers, doing energy work, etc are helpful, but enlightenment is the Big Thing. You're better off getting enlightened first. All else being equal, you're better off focusing on clearing the Aegean stables first, etc, then doing everything else."

This attitude takes the point of view that there are many valuable things to cultivate, sure, but enlightenment is easily the most valuable, and enhances your ability to tackle the others, and should therefore take priority. There's certainly a valid logic to it, something along the lines of not being penny-wise and pound-foolish with your mind and life.

Now, *if* someone believes that the suttas describe a super-mondo enlightenment that is literally unsurpassable by its very nature, in the same way that absolute zero is literally unsurpassable, then applying the same MCTB-ish attitude described above would seem to generate the same kind of approach that is being denounced here. i.e. proclaiming that even though XYZ might be good in "mundane" or "relative" or "sort of enlightened but not-super-unsurpassable-enlightened" ways, ultimately you're better off focusing on E. It's just that they say instead of XYZ you should do sutta-E, whereas here people say instead of XYZ you should do MCTB-E. Different E, but similar pattern, or at least it seems that way.

(In fairness, I gather that part of what is supposed to be irksome about this group is that they are perceived as having a particularly evangelical approach, e.g. being insistent and intrusive rather than advisory while keeping a distance. But if so that's a separate issue from their view on enlightenment and how one should practice. Though yes, while conceptually seperate things, in practice they might tend to be interrelated, as unshakeable faith that one possesses the true way can lead into fundamentalism.)

So what it seems to come down to, at bottom, are just different views on what the highest reaches of enlightenment are (if a 'highest reach' even exists at all) and how to get there. It's not clear to me that the suttas really describe a fundamentally unsurpassable enlightenment, but it's not clear to me that they don't either-- so I can see things from both sides. On balance, an agnosticism like this favors an open, exploratory attitude to practice of the sort you're endorsing, but (for me at least) it also means acknowledging that the 'sutta-heads' might be right too. Perhaps their approach to interacting with others can be denounced, but you can't really categorically denounce their view on enlightenment without presupposing the kind of certainty about these things that was supposed to be the problem with the sutta-heads to begin with. And if you can't say their view on enlightenment is completely unreasonable, you have to make allowances for the consequences it has for their views on how to practice, if not for whatever problematic attitudes they might carry along with it.

Ok, that is one way to look at the analogy, but consider it in terms of Vehicle rather than Destination:

The Model-T would get down the road, and do all sorts of other stuff: drive farm equipment, drive a washing machine, etc. There were all sorts of early labor-saving devices that used the Model-T as the power plant.

That said, ignoring where things all end up, consider you get there....

Mahasi Noting is fast, really fast, for those who do it. There are more modern concentration exercises that are really fast for various other things. Energetic stuff: not really even mentioned in the suttas, but still useful, still interesting, still possibly very skillful. I could go on.

So, leaving aside the question of the Supreme Endpoint, consider how you get to it, whatever you think of it as being, and then we have what I am talking about. If there is some Supreme Endpoint, wouldn't you want the fastest, most reliable method of attaining it? Are you sure that for all comers in all times and in all places that no additional meditation technology of any value was ever created in any other tradition beyond the Pali Canon that would make that journey in any way better or faster or more interesting or appealing or reliable? That would be quite an assertion, but in fact that is the very assertion of the sutra-heads.

It would seem a hard assertion to prove except based on faith, as there is much evidence to the contrary, huge amounts, in fact.

Thoughts?

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/16/13 3:55 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Yeah, the reference is eluding me at the moment.

I am pretty sure it is in the Vinaya, and in it there is this trouble-maker monk who is giving the Buddha grief, saying basically, "When there were no rules and we just wandered around, back in the early days, lots of people got enlightened, but now there are all these rules and not nearly as many people get enlightened," to which the Buddha replies something like, "Yeah, the rules are a result of all the low-quality students I have to try to teach, and because of them being low-quality, they are not getting enlightened."

I will try to find the reference. Perhaps some more sutticly gifted will remember it.

Brian .:
It's just that they say instead of XYZ you should do sutta-E, whereas here people say instead of XYZ you should do MCTB-E. Different E, but similar pattern, or at least it seems that way.


The destinations aren't that different, though. Read descriptions by people who have gotten to what we call "4th path". Doesn't it sound an awful lot like the sutric version of stream entry? Let's leave aside whether it really is stream entry or something else. The fact that the outcome is that similar to what's described in the suttas - to a result that was repeated over and over again by the Buddha's followers and is now attained, over and over again, by people following the "hardcore" methods - should tell you that, regardless of how much or how little we're following the letter of the sutric practice, we're getting an outcome that is pretty darn similar.

As for the territory beyond "4th path", Daniel, Kenneth, and many of Kenneth's students have seen progress there as well, and some of it - not all of it - looks a lot like what's described of the 2nd path in the suttas. People are getting there by a variety of techniques, some of them AF-inspired, some of them Vajrayana-inspired. But you're seeing broadly similar outcomes. And indeed, long-time practitioners in a lot of traditions tend to report the same sort of stuff. (It would be great if Mahasi had written a Progress Of Insight for the territory above stream entry.)

In psychology, there's this idea of the "good enough mother". I think Winnicott came up with it. The idea is that a mother doesn't have to be perfect, she just has to be "good enough", and the child will grow up without awful personality disorders. (Or something like that.)

There's probably a threshold of practice where it's "good enough", and just doing it will cause the brain to do its normal developmental thing that we call "enlightenment". Maybe it's not unlike learning to play music, where if you put the practice in, you'll get up the skill, though people's styles will not all be the same.

If you'll allow me a small tangent, I watched this video on brain training yesterday, in which the scientist said that training a brain is not like training muscles, because training one part of the brain might result in resources being taken away from another part of the brain. So it could be that "becoming enlightened" (which I doubt is one, specific thing anyway) will take away from other faculties. And not just bad things like your ability to get worked up over stupid stuff, but maybe things like memory (which some people here have reported already).

Anyway, just more food for thought...

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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3/16/13 8:44 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
"Yeah, the rules are a result of all the low-quality students I have to try to teach, and because of them being low-quality, they are not getting enlightened."


Behind the relatively even tone with which the Buddha responds to everyone, I can detect the faintest hint of how put-upon he must have felt those long, 40-some-odd years! When students ask him questions, you can almost hear the intake of air between clenched teeth.

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3/17/13 2:30 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
"... scientist said that training a brain is not like training muscles, because training one part of the brain might result in resources being taken away from another part of the brain."

One friend of mine, who is a neuroscientist, told me that meditation shrinks or deactivates amygdala. He said that it is a positive thing.

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3/17/13 7:23 AM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
Do you have any references or documentation? I'm still waiting for mine to settle down. Maybe it's the type of meditation that matters.

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3/18/13 4:56 AM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Please try www.pubmed.gov Search "meditation amygdala". I am an absolute beginer as far as meditation is concerned. I also have brain tissue damage from neuroborreliosis so I don't expect any great attainments but meditation helps me lessen the permanent localized pain I have in my head-after an hour of meditation the pain is almost gone so I try to meditate as often as possible.

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3/21/13 9:07 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:

Mahasi Noting is fast, really fast, for those who do it. There are more modern concentration exercises that are really fast for various other things.


That sounds interesting. Which modern concentration exercises did you have in mind?

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4/6/13 10:29 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Ok, that is one way to look at the analogy, but consider it in terms of Vehicle rather than Destination:


That analogy proceeds on the assumption that all techniques are leading to the same destination. A person committed to the sutra vision of things might hold that there are some similarities, but also some differences, in where one ends up with e.g. a pure sutra approach vs. a pure Mahasi noting approach, or somesuch. In fact, this view seems consistent with the fact that the MCTB perspective disagrees with the sutra perspective on things such as e.g. what consequences enlightenment should have for one's mental states and behaviors (the fetters), and that some people sympathetic to the MCTB perspective have gone on to claim further post-MCTB-enlightenment developments in regards to things like mental/emotional states.

Bracketing the specifics of MCTB vs sutra for a moment, to me it does seem more plausible that the effects of various spiritual training regimens are more specific than might generally be appreciated. I say this in large part due to some passing familiarity with the scientific literature on training mental capacities and perceptual abilities. For instance, studies that try to find training effects for general intelligence often have difficulty demonstrating 'far transfer.' That is, it is relatively easy to show improvements on intelligence-related measures that are directly related to the training modality (say, performance on a working memory task) but relatively hard to demonstrate that these training benefits generalize to other intelligence-related measures that are not directly related to the training task (say, pattern completion). Similarly, in perceptual learning, improvements in perceptual performance due to training are often surprisingly specific to the training task, e.g. increasing your ability to detect a stimulus in the upper-left quadrant of the visual field might not even generalize to similar improvements in other areas of the visual field.

I don't think spiritual training is likely to be an exception. I don't dispute that various spiritual practices can have similar results, but at the same time, I think the similarity in results between different practices is likely to be over-emphasized, and that the results of a given technique are likely to be idiosyncratically unique and specific to that technique in subtle and perhaps surprising ways. I don't really buy the 'one jewel, many facets' conception. A better metaphor for understanding the similarities and differences between the results of various spiritual practices is probably the notion of family resemblances, i.e. a network of similarities and differences without there necessarily being any core or necessary elements common to all. This kind of complex and variegated view of development seems to jive better with what we know about the mind and brain in general.

Of course, that doesn't entail that the sutra approach is necessarily the best one. But at the same time, it doesn't seem implausible to me that a specific set of training techniques might have important differences in outcome, compared to other techniques, even if there is also substantial overlap. To the extent that that is true, and to the extent that one specifically values outcomes that one believes to be somewhat specific to a given set of training techniques, it's defensible that they should uphold that specific training technique over others. (Of course, it's a further question whether they're really justified in believing that their specific training technique is really uniquely associated with a unique outcome; I don't know if there is good evidence for that, but I don't think it can be a priori ruled out as a possibility either.)

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4/8/13 2:14 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Re: more modern concentration exercises, here "more modern" being relative: consider Tibetan Tantra or another similar Vajrayana strain, such as Shingon, which combines view, intent, visualization, mantra, bodily positions, and resolutions to arrive at something very comprehensive and, for some, rapidly transformative, as it works with aspects of body, speech and mind simultaneously.

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4/8/13 2:21 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
While I am talking about whether or not what Mahasi teaches is traditional and sutra-based, read the instructions in Practical Insight Meditation, then read the Satipatthana Sutta, or in the opposite order, as you like, and tell me what the significant practical difference is? When is walking they know "I am walking"... When breathing they know "I am breathing"... It is amazing how people get their panties in a wad when they clearly haven't sat down with the core source material and just looked at it and gone: "Wow, that is nearly identical!"

Is not the Satipatthana Sutta routinely mentioned even by the likes of people such as Bhante G (whose stuff I generally really like, BTW) as being the core of practical instructions for awakening? Seems that was what the Buddha was saying it was in that sutra...

The clouds of ignorance and dogma swirl around, but if people would just read the basic stuff, practice simply as instructed, think and pay attention, then it all gets so much easier and fictitious debates vanish as being clearly absurd.

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4/8/13 3:37 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
When I was first learning about Theravada I read the Satipatthana Suta first, then I read MCTB, then because Daniel recommended it I read Practical Insight Meditation by The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw. As I was reading PIM I thought it came directly from Satipatthana. Mahasi found a way to take what the Buddha taught and boil it down into a system that gives you all 4 Sati's without having to even know what they are.

I've actually been confused about the issue until I read what Daniel said below:

While I am talking about whether or not what Mahasi teaches is traditional and sutra-based, read the instructions in Practical Insight Meditation, then read the Satipatthana Sutta, or in the opposite order, as you like, and tell me what the significant practical difference is?


I did not know that anyone did not consider Mahasi style noting to be Suta based.

Now I've gone from confused to baffled.

I'll say again, how is it possible to follow the Buddha's Path to LIBERATION and be so caught up in petty BS.

I left Christianity because of stupid shit like this (that and because I like my beliefs to make sense). It does makes more sense in a theology based system where your salvation may depend on what you believe, but I guess you can cling to your views in any system, even one that rejects holding onto views. I may be wrong but It seems that in Buddhism your "salvation" depends on the results of your practice, not what you believe. That is what I love about it. The Buddha said straight up the Satipatthana's are the direct path to liberation. How much more direct can you get than "Practical Insight Meditation".

"that's all I have to say about that"
The eminent philosopher and scholar, Forrest, Forrest Gump

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4/8/13 4:11 PM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Darrin,

the issue was actively debated in Mahasi Sayadaw's lifetime, actually. You can read Mahasi Sayadaw's bio in various places and the controversy is mentioned. People seemed to specifically object to the mental labels, not the mindfulness itself (as far as I can tell). I have also read more contemporary concerns that putting labels on the objects of one’s awareness is "conceptualization", which, according to some, we're not supposed to do, since they say Buddhism is about dropping concepts.

Echoing Daniel's comments, I would note that many Tibetan practices are openly acknowledged to come from Padmasambhava, not the Buddha himself, but it's not clear to me anyone within Tibet argues over this in the way the Theravadan world debates Mahasi noting. The Tibetans seems to adopt a "whatever works" approach, which is similar to the pragmatic Dharma movement's philosophy.

Except that if you actually go into the tradition and practice in that style and are taught by teachers in that tradition, you realize that not only does noting really work well, but at points when you get faster and more clear you drop the noting, just like you would drop training wheels, or you could keep noting in a very general fashion while your directly comprehensive mind takes on many rapid sensations directly far faster than the noting mind ever could, so it does get way beyond concepts and labels, as Practical Insight Meditation and the living tradition both say.

Clearly most or perhaps all of the people who are debating on the other side either never read the book and/or never practiced in the tradition beyond the most basic level.

This is like having to go back to the kindergarden level again and again with people who think they know something about Mahasi practice and theory and yet clearly just know their own ignorant prejudices. The technique and tradition is simple, straightforward, well-tested, traditional, pragmatic, utilitarian, very direct and very, very rapidly effective for many.

For those who haven't read it: Practical Insight Meditation

RE: Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB..
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4/12/13 6:04 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
While I am talking about whether or not what Mahasi teaches is traditional and sutra-based, read the instructions in Practical Insight Meditation, then read the Satipatthana Sutta, or in the opposite order, as you like, and tell me what the significant practical difference is? When is walking they know "I am walking"... When breathing they know "I am breathing"... It is amazing how people get their panties in a wad when they clearly haven't sat down with the core source material and just looked at it and gone: "Wow, that is nearly identical!"


Gets more complicated my friend. First of all, let me just say that I have read Practical Insight Meditation at least a couple of times over the years. The last time was yesterday – on your recommendation.

I have been interested in Pre-Sectarian Buddhism for a while now – basically, what did Buddhism look like before the various schisms kicked in.

With regard to comparing Practical Insight Meditation with the Satipattana Sutta - the first question is: Which one?

Ajahn Sujato has come across some 7 different early versions of this sutta. Apparently as different schools focused on certain aspects of the teaching or on certain approaches they modified the sutta to meet their needs. So the Theravadans have their version, the Sarvastivadans another and so on. Obviously, to compare a Theravada meditation technique like Practical Insight Meditation (PIM) with a sutta that may already have been altered to be more inline with the Theravada view (or another school) is hardly a way to compare PIM with what the Buddha might have taught using the original version.

In The History of Mindfulness (On his blog he presents an overview of this work ) Sujato works through the various versions to derive what he feels is probably close to the original. You can find his version on page 310 of that document. On page 315 he looks at the practical application of the sutta:

If this is coming close to the original form of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, what does it tell us about the satipaṭṭhāna method? Textual analysis only takes us so far; the real test is whether the teachings make sense as a way of practice. I’ve been using this understanding of satipaṭṭhāna in my own practice, and here is how I apply it.


He then gives a quite detailed description of his own approach and experience. Mahasi Sayadaw was no doubt a master at Practical Insight Meditation - his presentation seems very clear. Ajahn Sujato is also a master at meditation – from the Thai Forest Tradition. It is therefore very interesting to see how these two view the underlying source material and work with it.

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4/12/13 6:51 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
He then gives a quite detailed description of his own approach and experience. Mahasi Sayadaw was no doubt a master at Practical Insight Meditation - his presentation seems very clear. Ajahn Sujato is also a master at meditation – from the Thai Forest Tradition. It is therefore very interesting to see how these two view the underlying source material and work with it.


That is very interesting. The method of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta now looks uncannily like the method of the Anapanasati Sutta! At least the way Sujato practices it.

I'm going to look at this more closely. Thanks for sharing.

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4/12/13 10:29 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
You might find Thanissaro's book Right Mindfulness interesting. It goes into the connections between the anapanasati and satipattana suttas in occasionally excruciating deptth. Just skip over chapter four, but the rest of the book is good.

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4/12/13 10:45 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Once again, I believe that most of the points presented in those two reviews are valid. However, it would be a fallacy to believe that most of the techniques presented by Ingram simply "do not work at all". This is not an "either or" situation, from what I have gathered, there are plenty of people here making progress here in terms of classical Buddhist practices. As such I would recommend hanging around here as, from what I have seen there really is no other place (on the internet) that offers the opportunity to practice and discuss it.

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3/13/14 2:40 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.

..it's been found that the path attainments after stream entry that are gotten through the styles of practice discussed on this forum aren't the fetter model paths. The fetter model is more profound.


More info or links about this?

I would say: practice well, gain deep insights, investigate sensate reality clearly, avoid expectations or models about what might occur, but instead clearly comprehend what is, see where doing this again and again leads, make up your own mind, report back, and from that point of view compare the dogmas and models and doctrines to your own attainments and see what is what.

Anything else is not going to satisfy you like that will, so asking the question without doing the experiment is not very helpful.

I think that those who believe in the fetter models and those who think they have problems yet still agree on more basic things: 7 Factors, Noble Eightfold Path, Samatha, Vipassana, Morality, lots of practice, grounding attention in the present sensate reality, Three Characteristics, and the like. Follow these well and in high dose and see for yourself whose models most clearly fit what you find when this is done.

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3/25/14 10:01 AM as a reply to Mindspace M.
For the curious, I've just realised it's been roughly a year since I posted this thread, and I just came back from my first meditation retreat last week.

Didn't get into meditation straight after making this post - at the time I was reading guys like Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary, and endlessly philosophising, conceptualising, making models and frameworks, trying to make sense of reality and my life - before realising that such an approach wasn't going to succeed.

Messing with psychedelics gave me some interesting experiences that I can only describe as mystical - but made me realise that mysticism isn't the answer, either.

All this pushed me back towards the disciplined path of meditation. No attainments yet, but from reading other people's experiences I believe I'm most likely floating between the dukkha nanas and low equanimity, and probably have been doing so for the last few years. I'll start writing up a practice log!

[I've also changed my screen name, just because I prefer not to use my real name].