Message Boards Message Boards

Books and Websites

Getting Back Into Meditation, But Found This Sceptical Review of MCTB...

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..
Answer
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..
Answer
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.