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My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami

My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
jhana stream entry vipassana kundalini zen dark night jhanas 5-8; arupa; stream-entry mental illness vision out-of-body experience depression cancer illness sakadagami
Answer
3/20/14 8:05 PM
Hello all,

I'm a 36 year old male who thinks he is likely to be a Sakadagami. I think I am not attached to this label, but it becomes a useful marker to find next steps and to know what to expect. I am not very sure of my theoretical grasp of Buddhism, Hinduism or any ism, so I've tried to keep the longish narrative in plain language, without using too many theological terms.

Any suggestions are of course welcome.

I've had a tendency to engage in self directed philosophical inquiry since childhood. This led me to feel very depressed for the world at age 24; and till age 34 I was in depression of one sort or the other. Occasionally in the forefront, in a life debilitating manner, but mostly in the background. I had thought it was the garden variety depression of the modern life, until experiences proved otherwise. I'd perhaps call it my dark night or dark decade, though I learned a lot and don't think of it as that dark, though people who know my life often say I've had a tough life.

Before 2012 I'd have never described myself a believer in anything supernatural or other worldly. I was a firm believer in modern science, and an atheist. I hadn't read any spiritual books or seen any real promise in things spiritual.

I've meditated since 2010 - accidentally at first during long distance runs and hikes, and then deliberately using mindfulness techniques of Jon Kabatt Zinn.

Since 2009 I started to appreciate a very deep mind-body connection in me that at the time I didn't know to be related to anything I knew of. Just special things like waking up one morning at 5am with a message from my thighs saying they wanted a nice hike up the hills. It wasn't a mental desire to go hiking, as much as an order from my thighs. It seemed as if there were two voices in me, my mind and my body. I could make my heart slow down for example by requesting it.

Around mid-2011 the set of such experiences was compelling enough that I decided to commit seriously to finding out more. So I sold or donated most of my possessions, and quit my really cushy job a year later in mid-2012 to get to the bottom of what was happening. The cover story at work was that I was going to travel the world, take photos and write a book.

Quite accidentally (fortunately?) I signed up for a 3 week zen retreat starting from my first day of unemployment.

I gained stream entry (Sotapanna) after those 3 weeks in Plum Village, France - June 2012. I didn't know any of this of course, I was just getting started. I knew I suddenly felt religious, and it felt good. I knew it felt very different in my brain. Extremely calm and peaceful. I later reconstructed that it's likely to have been stream entry.

The retreat was my introduction to Buddhism, and within the first few days it was clear that what I had spent the last two years trying to piece together was already quite well understood in Zen. I felt my book idea was now quite unnecessary, I already knew the answer only 3 weeks after quitting my job :-)

After my Zen retreat at PV (2012) I knew I had changed at a very deep level. I lapsed into silence mostly for a month. It felt like my brain was full - like there was no room for new thoughts, only silence. I described the experience then as someone taking a scrubbing brush to my brain and scrubbing it clean. There was now overwhelming positivity, cheer and compassion quite in contrast to the depression of the past decade. The depression has since stayed gone. People around me definitely noticed. I was calmer and gentler, kinder and more compassionate, and I always seemed to have the right word to cheer people up.

Two months later, in August 2012 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, it looked pretty serious. There had been no indication anything was amiss, since I was in excellent shape physically. However it was remarkable that there was no fear, or panic, just clarity and action from the first moment I heard the news to all through my recovery. The positivity if anything grew stronger, with me consoling my friends and family.

It even seemed that I had voluntary control over my pain; I was able to put it to the test many times - where I could enter a meditative state of awareness of what was being done to me without feeling pain.

The intense awakening experiences I was undergoing at the time made surgery and chemo look insignificant in comparison.

Of my cancer,
- I was aware of what was happening, but I was no more than an observer.
- I never felt attached to my cancer, or my suffering
- I'd actually describe the days when I was laid up in bed after surgery and chemo very enjoyable.
- I mostly went about most things unaided - displaying remarkable control over circumstances that I'd have not thought possible.

I had many moments of bliss and about 3-4 months of perfection - perfect concentration, absolute stillness of mind, perfection in action, and absolute clarity coinciding with my chemo.

It appeared I could turn off my brain at will to complete silence and fall asleep like a baby. Some of the best sleep of my life was had at a time when usually people need strong sedatives.

This sort of dreamless sleep is mostly normal for me now.

The perfection seemed to turn off in two stages a month apart each - to a lower level of concentration. It really did feel like gears changing in my head.

Still it was very quiet and calm, but nothing in comparison to the perfection.

I'll interrupt the narrative here to add that I've had numerous kundalini / jhana / concentration experiences big and small since Aug 2012 that I can't ascribe to anything I've experienced in normal life.

I initially wondered if it was the chemo drugs or drug induced hallucinations, but these weren't on any known list of side effects.

I used to be very skeptical of things like Kundalini, I thought it was fiction, until I went through the experiences myself.

I've had out of body experiences, visions, and jhanas. The most spectacular Jhana at the time was absorption into a large white orb - (4th jhana?), and the next day when I was too weak to meditate because of chemo, I had a 30-40 minute jhana meeting with a Hindu god, Murugan that was as real as anything in the world. I was lost to the world for those 30 minutes. The incidents stood out in my memory for a very long time, months. Even now if I recall those mind states in meditation the bliss returns.

Now, coming back to the narrative, the roller coaster of spiritual awakening went on in the background constantly while I'd pop out to the hospital for a review, chemo, MRI or something or the other. It appeared when it came to my health, no matter what spiritual drama I was in the middle of - I could interrupt it at will to get things done.

After my perfect attention phase ended, for a while I lapsed into sorrow because of the clinging to the perfect experiences. I also underwent some grief because I was managing a few stormy personal relationships spoilt by lies uttered by me before stream entry. When I decided to finally fix them, the guilt and consequences over the lies laid me up good. Even if these were lies I had committed to before stream entry, the karmic baggage had to play out.

I came out of the guilt after a few months. In this period I resorted to visualizations since I found them easier than concentrating. I had kundalini experiences of yantras, tantras, mantras, colors, energetic sensations in the spine and the body and head. I had spontaneously assumed yogic postures hitherto unknown to me quite regularly since 2010, but now their rate increased. I seemed to know many yogic meditation techniques not taught to me.

I had no idea any of these were known side effects of Kundalini, so it had me puzzled for a good while.

I am likely now a Sakadagami since Jan 2014, after a 10 day Vipassana course in Chennai, India. I went into the formless Jhanas and beyond. A state where I could ask any question of the Atman (just a black void like experience really), and get back an answer. I used the time to ask questions about the nature of reality, existence and the like and got back plenty of information in a very small window of time. To verbalize the download would then take me a few days. I realized I was getting the shared essence of many religions Taoism, Hinduism and Christianity handed to me. Since then the religious texts of these religions have really spoken to me clearly and intimately.

I've also had third eye experiences of being able to pick up on people's thoughts and even mould them - always positively because this only works if I have very serious intent to help. Since stream entry my negative thoughts have reduced greatly and since January they are practically non-existent.

The most precious thing for me in all this is the flowering of goodness in me that seriously started around 2008 and has since made my old self unrecognizable to me.

I've not meditated a lot - certainly not anywhere close to most of you here. I meditate daily, but often it is 1-2 hours. I call it a lucky day if I cross two hours. Though on retreats I have no problem being in meditation all the time.

I've been hesitant to put down any of these experiences in writing because it seems like there's so much - and yet, so little to say.

I've read MtCTotB and found it very useful, though I can't say I agreed with everything. It did give me the courage to think of myself in terms of being a Sakadagami. Till then I had firmly believed that let alone such exalted states, even jhanas were far beyond my level.

It's the rare text that I find myself in total agreement with. I'll hold off on commenting on the book more until I've read it a few times, but thanks very much Daniel for the book and the forum. I am somewhat familiar with the vocabulary of the text, but I need to hunt down the references sometimes to follow along on this forum.

I don't know what's next - but I can't shake the feeling that I'd really like to meditate for 100 days in solitude and silence. If you know of any good places in and around India that you recommend, please let me know.

It took me a while to be completely confident that I was not engaged in any manner of auto suggestion or mind games, or having cancer drug side effects. Especially when there are visions of snakes chasing me down, or something wild it is unwise not to wonder.

Since a lot of my experience is autodidactic, I find I have terms for experiences that no one else does. This is problematic when I try to communicate with others. Please bear with me if I need clarification on your comments.

Thank you so much for reading so far, my heartfelt thanks and metta to you.

May all beings be happy and peaceful.
Cheeni

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/20/14 8:02 PM as a reply to Che.
The three specific chains or fetters (Pali: saṃyojana) of which the Sakadagami is free are:
1. Sakkāya-diṭṭhi (Pali) - Belief in self
2. Vicikicchā (Pali) - Skeptical doubt
3. Sīlabbata-parāmāsa (Pali) - Attachment to rites and rituals
The Sakadagami also significantly weakened the chains of:
4. Kāma-rāga (Pali) - Sensuous craving
5. Byāpāda (Pali) - Ill-will


I just wanted to add that I believe the above holds true for me. I was never attached to rites and rituals, but skeptical doubt and belief in the self really went away sometime during my cancer.

4 & 5 were always low, but they have greatly diminished for me since January.

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/20/14 9:46 PM as a reply to Che.
Hello Cheeni,

Thank you for your contribution and welcome. The external symptoms you describe surrounding what you are referring to as stream entry sound more like what occurs around what is known as the a & p, for ex. "feeling religious" "cheerful" "scrubbed clean". What else would you say about the experience you are referring to? It is great that you are seeing improvements, and while the maps are majorly limited in some ways, they are also useful at times in terms of practices that may be more useful than others at certain stages.

Bill

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/21/14 4:57 AM as a reply to Bill F..
Dear Bill,

Thank you for helping me.

During the Zen retreat itself the only remarkable thing was my brain - it felt like I was a child again, innocent, content with playing with twigs and mud - scrubbed clean. In a safe place like a retreat you are unlikely to have arguments, or any of the unsavory experiences of life, so this was all I observed. I've since observed this happens with any serious stretch of meditation, so I guess it's not very uncommon.

In the year following the retreat I've observed the following things.

- Total absence of fear of death, and greatly reduced fear of life:
Fear of death had mostly left me since 2009 or so. I had a couple of mountaineering accidents that would have left most in some shock; I was amazed I never felt anything. After the Zen retreat in 2012 it was totally gone.

If fear is like a fire, and courage is like a bucket of water to douse it - in my case there was no fire, so need for water - nothing to do when threatened except act. Concern and desire to act if possible yes, but not fear. Only acceptance if action was not possible.

I still feel the tiniest of fears sometimes over my life, my future but never over death. The old me who was mostly competent and stable would have panicked about 100 times more. I think this too will go away like it did during my 3 month phase of perfection.

- A great reduction in ego (arrogance, defensiveness) clashes. Needing to be right, or liked, or popular.

- Greatly improved and healed personal relationships:
Made possible due to an understanding of the other person's fears and vulnerabilities. For example, I had a stormy relationship with my parents being angry with them for many things even though it was silly - so I mostly used to avoid them. A year later I had started to love my parents like I did when I was a child, innocently and without expectations. The downside of this is the tendency to fall in love with everyone. Quite tricky when women are interested in you and you feel like you love everyone equally and no one in special.

- Dramatic increase in maturity:
I've found myself a few times coaching old people on death and dying or acceptance of reality as it is. People in trauma over dying relatives have told me that speaking to me in their moment of agony was like speaking to a guru. I found the right words to heal people just came to me.

- Holding onto life lightly - I could lose things dear to me, or even a loved one and not be too upset. This has been proved a few times.

- Greatly reduced all addictions - I never had any big ones, but I did toss the need to check emails, or feel reassured by social media, or needing ego strokes. I had also quit alcohol a few months before the zen retreat so that remains quit.

I think I've mentioned the major points. There were many minor things that either stayed with me or came and went in phases.

Like for example, I went through a phase of nothing shocking me - loud sounds, being in accidents - it was as if my mind was already on top of events before they occurred.

Many times when my intellect was razor sharp, or other times when thoughts would fade away mid thought, where I could completely observe the thought attenuate into a thin strand and completely vanish even as I was watching.

Moments of physical perfection, where every movement was precise with no waste of energy - almost graceful like a martial artist.

There must be more. I never kept a good record of these things - but when I read lists of achievements here and elsewhere I find myself remarking, oh yeah that happened too.

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/22/14 2:58 AM as a reply to Che.
I am not sure it is a good idea for me to call myself Sakadagami or claim this or that, even with fig leaves of humility. I have never believed in such labels - I am content in just being, whatever that is. I believe adding a label to myself perpetuates my self identity, which is exactly what I've tried to shed for many years now.

I had a low moment when I started this thread, because I felt lost and needed to recollect old experiences to trust in them. I have never written down my experiences before because no matter how hard I try I will only put out a weak and possibly warped report. What is not of the intellect can scarcely be represented by mere words, a product of the intellect.

Here's a story that may be of interest:

A few years ago I had a breakthrough of sorts in understanding myself in the middle of a dark phase of life. My marriage and my career was on the rocks despite my best efforts.

If hard work, intelligence and good intentions alone could have saved the day things should have been different. Yet I was sad, glum, lonely, depressed, outraged, ... manifesting every self loathing adjective in the dictionary because it just seemed so unfair. A very low point in my life.

This spurred me to make quite a few positive changes to my life, but for the purposes of this report, I will speak of two independent realizations that fundamentally transformed me.

The first was the piercing of the illusion of duality. It happened quite accidentally.

Without meaning to, I acted quite compassionately in a situation where being angry was 'absolutely' the right thing to do. I didn't intend to really be compassionate, just give the appearance of it because it was very obvious that anger would get me nothing. To my surprise I saw that even faking compassion brought about a huge positive change in circumstances that no amount of anger could have produced.

This really shook me - because I had lived my life till then with a view of duality, of right and wrong. I believed in rewards for doing the right thing, and punishment for wrongs. Yet, it had gotten me no happiness, for I would feel sad every time life was unjust to me. This led me think that, well, firstly, if compassion works, why fake it? Why not really be compassionate always? Second, why judge events as just and unjust? Why label? Why not understand? Why not be happy? Why not just be?

It took me a few years of marinating in the realization before I could apply this to every moment of my life.

The second realization was the understanding of interconnectedness through the piercing of the illusion of self identity.

Having any self identity is tantamount to setting oneself up as different from others. Yet most will commonly even take pride in it.

For example a man may call himself husband, father, son, CEO at ..., PhD. from ..., Cyclist, Photographer, Caring, Ambitious, <long list of value adjectives> and take pride in all or most of it.

It is useful to think of self identity as a table with many legs - the table is only as stable as its legs. Unfortunately life always keeps yanking those legs from under you. You can get a divorce, lose a loved one to an accident, be fired from your job, be bankrupted, or lose your identity in some other unavoidable way. Commonly the solution is to grieve for a suitable amount of time, and then replace the broken leg of the table with a new leg to stabilize the table. If you are lucky this only happens a few times, and you can usually replace the broken leg. However life comes with no guarantees, and it is very possible that all identity can get calamitously wiped out like it often happens in floods, wars, pandemics, that one survives with no family, no possessions, no health, no job, no country, no nothing. Is one lucky or unlucky for having survived such a disaster?

So what then is a very stable table? One with even thicker legs? Or no legs? Choosing thicker legs gets you people like billionaires who attach to ever more money so they will never feel poor.

Or it is possible to just - not feel poor, i.e. choose to have no legs.

Expect very little and you won't be disappointed.

I found these two realizations chiefly allowed me to view the events I had labelled as "unjust" were really teachers.

It allowed me to see those and other events in my life very positively, and appreciate why they happened, and feel very calm, happy and equanimous.

Perhaps this is a kind of enlightenment, where life was my teacher.

Thanks for reading.

May all beings be happy and peaceful.

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/22/14 3:37 AM as a reply to Che.
Thank you for sharing your experience :-) Very inspiring!

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/22/14 1:29 PM as a reply to Che.
Hey Cheeni,

Just got a chance to read all your posts. It seems to me you have experienced a large number of benefits as a result of your experiences so why not just keep moving in the same direction, and not be spending time on a label. If a difficult period should enter, it would be useful then to describe what's going on for you in terms of your practice and if it should correlate to a number of people's experiences at a similar point along the developmental path, then they could offer suggestions at that time. You seem to already know this, I'm just putting my thoughts down. Kenneth Folk wrote a short essay a while ago about horizontal and vertical development that may be of use to you as well. Be well.

Bill

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/24/14 7:06 AM as a reply to Albin Hagberg Medin.
Albin Hagberg Medin:
Thank you for sharing your experience :-) Very inspiring!


Thank you for reading, I am very glad it was useful, and not some ego outpouring. I explain my experience and insights much better in one on one conversations, so I am surprised I managed to put any of it in words. This is something I've meant to do for 2 years, and for the first time I've managed to write any of it down.

In itself, this is out of the ordinary for me: before supposed stream entry I could write volumes on any topic, I always had an overactive throat chakra - but after said event I realized my writing was a way of compensating for emotional deficiencies. I would write in order to feel appreciated, or clever, or superior, or in some way seeking wholesomeness from outside in order to fill the inner void. Now there is no inner void, so no coping mechanism :-)

Much peace and love.

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/24/14 8:49 AM as a reply to Bill F..
Dear Bill,

William Golden Finch:
[...] why not just keep moving in the same direction, and not be spending time on a label.


Thanks Bill, this is good advise, I think that is what I will do.

I remember when I first came across the ten fetters model in late 2012, I was obsessed for a bit about the stream entry criteria as described there, and what it meant for me since I had for a while matched up with the description of SE. Then in time I forgot all about it, and even forgot about the ten fetters model, and just lived life.

In 2014 January, after returning from my first Vipassana retreat I started to dig up any material that would explain the various ñanic states I had experienced. In hindsight, I have experienced the ñanas before, but had confused them with the side effects of chemo, or something, because I never gave it any thought, or connected it to awakening.

In any case, this time I did pay attention to them because they happened in quick succession, progressing up rapidly. A detailed description of what happened on the retreat won't be relevant here and would be too long, so I'll skip it.

But in searching for explanations I came across the ten fetter model again, and it was like an old memory revisited, except now I felt very confident that I definitely met the criteria for 2nd path. I immediately pushed it away keeping in mind the lessons in humility and non-desiring I'd picked up last year.

However a few days later I discovered MCTB and dived straight into chapters 23-32; and then wandered around the rest of the book and couldn't help again wondering about my 2nd path attainment. Now that I knew a little bit more about the ñanas, I began to start piecing the experiences together. I'm still in the dark about the location of certain experiences I've had on the map, so maybe I will post on DhO shortly for help.

I experienced a mild phase of fear and misery last week (not as tough as it was on days 3/4 of the retreat, so I don't know if this is the review phase) and a moment of insecurity prompted me to get online and start this thread. It's now passed, and I seem to be meditating quite easily with some old and new Kundalini experiences of tinnitus (old) followed by sounds of waves in my ear (new, and not as loud as I had expected them to be) and a bright fluorescent green light (somewhat old - this shade of green is new) followed by stiffness in my heart chakra (old).

My mind is largely empty and stable now, it feels good.

I am yet to read MCTB in a linear fashion, but I expect I will be hanging out here more often. Thank you very much for your kind support.

William Golden Finch:
Kenneth Folk wrote a short essay a while ago about horizontal and vertical development that may be of use to you as well. Be well.


This is interesting, I'll try to find it, if you have a link to share I'd appreciate it for myself and future readers.

I came across his (Kenneth Folk's) views on the three speed transmission the day before, and began wondering about whether the prolonged state of perfection I experienced in 2012/13 was caused by my then Zen practice.

It was a state of absolute clarity, no doubt, a feeling of omniscience, no self, no mind, just perfect speech, and perfect action without any apparent intent. This would even today be my best guess of what enlightenment feels like. It seemed too good to be true, and in some ways I even felt I didn't deserve it. In any case, I didn't have to worry for too long, it soon stopped being so perfect. I intensified my practice hoping to get it back: I only got visions and other things, but not the perfection I desired. I soon realized lusting would get me nowhere, and it wasn't very Zen anyway, so I soon stopped wanting it. I just felt happy I had had a chance to experience it once in this life.

To this day I remain 99.9% of the time free of any disturbing thought and 80-90% of the time of any thought. However I don't exhibit the same physical perfection or omniscience or clarity. Of course, I am not complaining, what I have is still very much better than my normal state from a few years ago, but nowhere close to perfection.

In Vipassana practice I read about experiences of visions, powers, jhanas and the like but not the sublime perfection of a normal life where one is just a perfectly balanced human. Nothing out of this world, except the very perfection of living the human condition makes it so extraordinary and so attractive to me.

I haven't yet read about experiences such as this here on this forum. So I wonder if Zen is in anyway a different kind of enlightenment. Or is enlightenment a state that one can briefly attain to abandon? I've read in the introduction to the translation of the Dhammapada by Eknath Easwaran that a preview of perfection is often offered to aspirants to strengthen their resolve. I've not read anything more on this preview theory elsewhere. Would you happen to have a view on this?

Thanks, and peace. Be well.

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/24/14 3:27 PM as a reply to Che.
Cheeni Cheeni:
I'm a 36 year old male who thinks he is likely to be a Sakadagami. I think I am not attached to this label, but it becomes a useful marker to find next steps and to know what to expect.

This is always awkward...your descriptions are wonderful but they are missing very key pieces that describe stream entry or beyond. I tend to think of myself as very liberal when evaluating claims compared to most on this forum. If you follow the fetters model only then I would say you are exactly where you want to be on that model.
Cheeni Cheeni:
I've read MtCTotB and found it very useful, though I can't say I agreed with everything. It did give me the courage to think of myself in terms of being a Sakadagami. Till then I had firmly believed that let alone such exalted states, even jhanas were far beyond my level.

You have read MCTB all the way thru?...I'd recommend rereading it....I got a lot more out of it the second time.
Cheeni Cheeni:

It took me a while to be completely confident that I was not engaged in any manner of auto suggestion or mind games, or having cancer drug side effects. Especially when there are visions of snakes chasing me down, or something wild it is unwise not to wonder.
You have definitely had many concentration/jhana/powers experiences... It also sounds like you have had a wonderful A&P phase. Sounds like your well traveled in the dark night phase and some descriptions sound very much like Equanimity. That means one of two things...you're very close to stream entry or you are not so hot at reading MCTB and describing what happened at your stream entry and again at 2nd path. If what you experienced was temporary....it was not it.

What you have gotten so far is totally fantastic and sounds like it has changed you for the better in many ways. If you are at 2nd path I'd love to point out some things to help you get to third but it won't help much if you are misdiagnosed. What is your current daily practice?
Good luck,
~D

RE: My Introduction, likely a Sakadagami
Answer
3/24/14 7:05 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
What you have gotten so far is totally fantastic and sounds like it has changed you for the better in many ways. If you are at 2nd path I'd love to point out some things to help you get to third but it won't help much if you are misdiagnosed. What is your current daily practice?


Thanks very much D, I am grateful for your help.

[I don't know how to write shorter; apologies]

My guess at being on the 2nd path is solely based on the fetters model. Until I read MCTB a couple of months ago, I didn't even think I'd experienced a true Jhana. Most of the material out there doesn't even mention Jhanas, and when it does, it is always spoken of in such hushed reverential tones that I thought this was far beyond my ability. Somewhere along the line, I think from Ajhan Brahm's book on Jhanas where for the first time I encountered details of Jhanas I picked up the idea that to be in a Jhana means to be lost to the world. He describes a student who was thought dead and brought to the ER to be defibrillated and he still didn't wake up from his Jhana.

I've only lost track of time like that once or twice and never for more than 30-40 minutes and I'd have certainly noticed if I was wheeled away to the ER.

MCTB was the first book I'd read that said if you put in the effort you are going to get jhanas and progress. That it's not some cosmic 8-ball that depends on your karma, good birth and other factors outside your control. Now this gave me confidence to trust the ten fetters model because I could certainly see I was ticking the boxes on that list.

Of course, I know now that I too have experienced Jhanas. For example, the magick and visions and such are their byproducts. I just hadn't figured out I was having them. In the last couple of days that I have been reading DhO posts regularly I seem to be getting a hang of what are termed Jhana experiences, A&P experiences and the like. Their range is certainly wide. I've certainly had them; heck I'd say I've had them all the time, almost every day or every week for the past 2-2.5 years. It's just never as wild as the descriptions, and I am never very keen on paying attention to them, viewing them mostly as a distraction from concentration.

Even my fear phase of the Dukha ñana which I always remember when I encounter it is mostly either a comical or an annoying interruption. The physical symptoms of fear emerge without any accompanying fodder from my brain because my brain is almost always empty. Of course they are quick to feed on anything in the external environment. So far I have been lucky to have only had them when I was alone in a quiet place. I just wait them out usually, except at the last Goenka retreat when it happened on days 3&4 and prevented me from meditating properly. I tried some breathing nadi yoga and it helped; but it came back on the 4th night preventing me from sleeping. I sincerely prayed for it to go away so I could keep meditating. I kept viewing in my mind's eye the image of a holy symbol, and suddenly a beam of light emerged from the symbol and pierced my heart and then the energy shot up with great force from my heart chakra to my crown chakra, and then all of a sudden it was over. I was calm, rested, still vibrating heavily, but I was able to meditate and then sleep peacefully.

I still don't have a good sense for what the dissolution, fruition and advanced stages are like. I am looking to read a good description, and I will re-read MCTB a few times. All I know is I've had helluva lot of strange experiences, but in general I tend to go - ok, the jazz is all nice, but what is the net effect?

And that I've seen in my kindness, compassion, near total loss of anger, no hatred or desire for conflict, great diplomacy, no interest in perpetuating self view, total cessation of boredom and loneliness, understanding of human emotions, and therefore of the world, total positivity with no room for any depression, non-reaction to pain and other unpleasant sensations, near total lack of addictions, lack of laziness (though I may appear lazy when I am in a meditative haze), great reduction in or control over sexual desires and so on. The list is long, and it only seems to get added to - and I've had most of this for 2+ years. So it doesn't appear to be a flash in the pan.

A couple of things that seem to be happening of late:

1. A great increase in frequency of what I think are called kriyas or hypnic jerks, though they could also be kundalini related. Basically an orgasm like shiver up the body often coupled with a sudden exhalation of breath either through the nostrils or mouth and sometimes also accompanied with a movement of the limbs in a controlled arc of motion.

The motion is predictable since it is always one of a few movements. A simpler version of this has always happened to me over 3 years whenever I haven't meditated for a while - the shiver then would be barely perceptible. That was certainly a kriya I think.

Since the last 3 months it happens multiple times a day. The movement is more elaborate with limb movements and jerks that can wake up whoever is sleeping next to me if I am in bed. I can faithfully reproduce this every time I do a Vipassana body scan, I can sense the tension building up and then boom, it jerks. I wonder if it isn't my neural centers getting overloaded with sensations, because when I do a body scan I become aware of a cacophony of sense information. Yet I've had very profound body scan experiences with swirling balls of fire going wherever in my body my mental gaze went and it never jerked then. The jerking in fact prevents me from doing body scan Vipassana, limiting me to concentration practice.

I can't really focus on mind elements any more because at least on days like today, my mind is so empty I can't find a single mind element to focus on.

2. No mental images at all when meditating. Until last year when I closed my eyes to meditate I would hit a phase a few minutes into the session where images of people would flash before me. Many unknown, some known, some who I'd seen on TV and then this would have to subside for me to delve deeper. These days there are no pictures, I seem to go straight into deep meditation - maybe 4th Jhana?.

The process is like so: I concentrate by observing breath, and slowly my head tilts forward on its own until my chin is firmly pressed on my sternum, and my tongue is automatically pressed hard against the roof, and my eyes are facing downwards. Then I know I am in a deep state of meditation where everything is still. It's just dark, calm and sensation free. I can still tell what is happening around me from the sounds, but I don't have to. I use this state to reflect on the dharma. Many dharma questions get solved for me by contemplation during this state.

My problem is I can't discern one Jhana from the other, I just have no sense of jhanic topology. I usually have a current favorite Jhana and seem to keep hitting it by default. There almost seems to be no agency to my meditation most times. I close my eyes, and whatever happens happens.

Spontaneous meditations:

I have a habit of spontaneously sinking into meditation whenever I sit with nothing to do. Sometime last year there was strong bilateral ear pain for about three weeks that no doctor or MRI scan was able to reveal. I think it was due to some kundalini experience. I was waiting in the crowded waiting room of the ENT clinic, and I sank into deep meditation, even stopping my heart for a good minute or so. I woke up when my name was called to quite a few odd looks from the others in the room. I tend to watch out for this habit now whenever I am in public.

On thinking back, when in University 13 years ago I was insanely sleep deprived and I had stood on my feet and slept at a bus stop for 5 hours. I remember leaving University at 3PM and reaching home at 9PM with very sore legs. I had remained perfectly still, standing for 5 hours. Now I am not so sure it was sleep; maybe it was spontaneous meditation. In any case it didn't happen ever again until I started meditating 3+ years ago.

My daily practice:

Maybe 1 hour daily, sometimes more, sometimes less. However I tend to meditate now and then when doing something, and even when speaking. I tend to meditate more when I am on my own, or in long plane rides and such. I know I should be meditating more; and I am working on it.

Thank you so much for reading and helping, I really must learn to make my posts shorter if anyone is going to read them.

Much peace and love,
May all being be happy.

Better be careful than confident
Answer
11/28/16 5:54 PM as a reply to Che.
Hello Cheeni,
it's very nice to hear from you your sincere report of your meditation.

In my opinion, meditation report should be told to a meditation teacher, not in a forum. That is because your meditation teacher can give you further instruction right away, and - because he is your meditation teacher - it is very likely that you can (and will be willing to) apply it right on the spot, you know, in the meditation center or monastery.

Attainments in meditation are very "confusing", simply because "attainment" is what your mind either makes, or what happens to the mind. The most unfortunate case is, if somebody's mind "makes" an attainment, but the meditator believes that this is what "happened" to the mind. In other words, if you want to have a spiritual attainment, really want it, then it is easy for your mind to fake it in such a wonderful way, that you will be convinced of its genuinity even for decades. There is this nice story from Visuddhimagga about that case -

"Here is one story as an illustration. The Elder Dhammadinna, it seems, who lived at Talangara - one of the great ones with cankers destroyed who possessed the categories of discrimination - was the instructor of a large community of bhikkhus. One day, as he was sitting in his own daytime quarters, he wondered 'Has our teacher, the Elder Maha Naga who lives at Uccavalika, brought his work of asceticism to its conclusion, or not?'. He saw that he was still an ordinary man, and he knew that if he did not go to him, he would die an ordinary man. He rose up into the air with supernormal power and alighted near the Elder, who was sitting in his daytime quarters. He paid homage to him, doing his duty, and sat down at one side. To the question 'Why have you come unexpectedly, friend Dhammadinna?' he replied 'I have come to ask a question, venerable sir'. He was told 'Ask, friend. If we know, we shall say'.  He asked a thousand questions.
The Elder replied without hesitation to each question. To the remark 'Your knowledge is very keen, venerable sir; when was this state attained by you?' he replied 'Sixty years ago, friend'. - 'Do you practise concentration, venerable sir?' - 'That is not difficult, friend.' - 'Then make an elephant, venerable sir.' The Elder made an elephant all white [by his psychic powers]. 'Now, venerable sir, make that elephant come straight at you with his ears outstretched, his tail extended, putting his trunk in his mouth and making a horrible trumpeting.' The Elder did so. Seeing the frightful aspect of the rapidly approaching elephant, he sprang up and made to run away. Then the Elder with cankers destroyed put out his hand, and catching him by the hem of his robe, he said  'Venerable sir, is there any timidity in one whose cankers are destroyed?'
Then he recognized that he was still an ordinary man."
(Visuddhimagga, The Path of Purification, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, p.740-741 .

The defilements of insight (upakkilesa) are very good to know. They are not any kind of attainment, and they have nothing to do with enlightenment either. In fact, they hinder the meditator from any further progress, from any attainment in Vipassana. From your description it seems, that you have had one or more of them, and there you have stuck. They are these ten: (1) illumination, (2) knowledge, (3) rapturous happiness, (4) tranquillity, (5) bliss (pleasure), (6) resolution, (7) exertion, (8) assurance, (9) equanimity, and (10) attachment. These ten defilements (or "imperfections") of insight are described in detail in The Path of Purification, pp.739-743. I believe that it would help you if you read them.

The problem of "enlightenment" as "made" by one's own mind is very deep, and it should not be measured only by the upakkilesa. There is a serious point of obstruction right along the Vipassana Nanas. The wrong perception of attainment is technically called "adhimana" ("over-confidence", or "super-conceit"), and its nature is explained in the Pali Commentary to Vinaya Pitaka (this forum doesn't allow to paste from an external source, so I have made use of the attachment feature. If you are interested, you may see the original Pali text in the attachment.) :
"The man who is given to over-confidence is he who has already possessed good conduct and who has entered samadhi. Having attained samadhi, he enters vipassana before he has discriminated Name and Form. He has attained [the discrimination of] the Three Characteristics and has become extremely bold. Or, he has attained quiescence (samatha) and for twenty years or for thirty years, does not emerge from it and so he becomes bold. And because of the strength of having practised vipassana, he thinks within himself: "I have attained the Path of a Sotapanna, or that of a Sakadagami, or that of an Anagami". The over-confidence is like this. Because he is able to stick to quiescence and because not only for twenty years, thirty years, but even upto eighty or hundred years, no taints arise, an over-confidence springs up in him and he thinks: "I have attained Arahatship."
(translation from "Sha-Chien-P'i-P'o-Sha, A Chinese version by Sanghabhadra of Samantapasadika, Commentary on Pali Vinaya translated into English", by Prof. P.V. Bapat and Prof. A. Hirakawa, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1970, pp.340-341.)

Well then, so far I have told you what you "might have", but I have not yet explained what you "need". So, let's see whether there is an ability of a Stream-Enterer (as well as a Once-Returner), which may prove the attainment of enlightenment itself -
Visuddhimagga explains that Stream-Enterer (and the other three - Once-Returner, Non-Returner, and Arahant as well) should be able to enter the Phala Samapatti, the Fruition, at will. You may need some samadhi (calm and peace) for the experience, but I guess that at this point you are able to enter certain levels of peace.

The instruction is this:
"In the first place its attainment comes about for two reasons: with not bringing to mind any object other than nibbana, and with bringing nibbana to mind, according as it is said 'Friend, there are two conditions for the attainment of the signless mind-deliverance; they are the non-bringing to mind of all signs, and the bringing to mind of the signless element' (M.i,296).
Now the process of attaining it is as follows. A noble disciple who seeks the attainment of fruition should go into solitary retreat. He should see formations with insight according to rise and fall and so on. When that insight has progressed [as far as conformity], then comes change-of-lineage knowledge with formations as its object. And immediately next to it consciousness becomes absorbed in cessation with the attainment of fruition. And here it is only fruition, not path, that arises even in a trainer, because his tendency is to fruition attainment.
... This, firstly, is how attaining comes about.
It is made to last in three ways, because of the words "Friend, there are three conditions for the persistence of the signless mind-deliverance: they are the non-bringing to mind of all signs, the bringing to mind of the signless element, and the prior volition' (M.i.296-7). Herein, the prior volition is the predetermining of the time before attaining; for it is by determining it thus 'I shall emerge at such a time' that it lasts until that time comes. This is how it is made to last.
Emergence from it comes about in two ways, because of the words 'Friend, there are two conditions for the emergence from the signless mind-deliverance: they are the bringing to mind of all signs, and the non-bringing to mind of the signless element' (M.i,297). Herein, of all signs means the sign of materiality, sign of feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness. Of course, a man does not bring all those to mind at once, but this is said in order to include all. So the emergence from it should be understood in this way: emergence from the attainment of fruition comes about in him when he brings to mind whatever is the object of the life-continuum."
(The Path of Purification, pp.822-823)

The most important thing, however, which comes with Stream-Entry and Once-Return is the profound understanding of "not-self". This understanding is so profound, so clear, so vast, so mind-blowing, that there is no way how to omit it in one's report. However, I didn't see such a great amazement regarding "not-self" in your report, and therefore I have the feeling that you simply didn't have the profound, clear, vast, mind-blowing vision and understanding of "not-self". The vision and understanding should encompass the body and mind, of oneself and all other beings. Again, although you mention bits here and there, which seems to touch upon this, I believe that if you had the true "break-through", your description of not-self would be much much clearer, much more direct and explicit. You would be able to express your "turning-point" in terms of opening eyes and seeing the Four Noble Truths in such depth that you have never ever thought of.

Regarding Jhanas, let me tell you that most of the jhana concept in Buddhism as known today comes from a single scripture - the Tipitaka. Tipitaka is the Buddhist main scripture, and there are also Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries, written many centuries ago, by great meditation masters, and many of them Arahants themselves. They contain the mainstream opinion on jhanas as remembered and accepted by those who have memorized all or most of the Tipitaka (40 volumes in Burmese script), and thus understood it much better than the Western scholars who make their own assumptions, who have, unfortunately, often-times no experience of any true attainment. Do you want to follow attainment-less scholars who make their assumptions, or rather experienced meditation masters, who have memorized thousands of pages of the Buddha's teachings and themselves became Arahants? As for me, I follow the latter.

The concentration levels that you describe are coming to the upacara-samadhi, so called "access concentration". This is concentration that comes before the first jhana. (I feel very awkward when I read your assumptions of fourth jhana, because you yourself hinder your progress by inappropriate assumptions, and in a forum like this your assumptions may have misleading effect to the readers who do not study the topic in depth.) The light which you have seen is called "nimitta" and it arises with the upacara samadhi. Unfortunately, becoming the prey of this attainment, it was not possible for you to let go of it, and overcome that level into jhana, at least according to your report. The light that arises, the nimitta, serves as the gate to your subconscious, and it may help you to harvest some of the extra-sensory abilities. It is unfortunately very misleading, and it often yields nonsenses. In the West it is called "Astral Travelling", and in the East it is known as "Divine Eye", Dibba Cakkhu. This "divine eye" is however very different from the "divine eye" attained with the fourth jhana. The main difference is in the veracity, in the quality of the information.

There are many people in the world who attain the upacara-samadhi, Buddhists and Non-Buddhists, either with instruction of a teacher, or simply themselves watching breath before falling asleep. Because of its poor quality and very low trustworthiness, I do not recommend to take this attainment seriously, at all. Some of them go through the white light and visit planets and aliens (this applies to those from USA etc.), and those who are from Asia, interestingly, go through the white light and visit heavens and gods. It will be useful to note, that those from USA etc. who visit planets and aliens are in the environment and country where they hear about planets and aliens. The Asians who visit heavens and gods simply believe in heavens and gods. Because of that, I believe that one's personal opinions and believes may seriously affect the experience of astral-travelling. I say "affect", not "undermine", because there are still a lot of pieces-of-information, that you may get by astral travelling, and be perfectly correct.

Alright, if you have any further comments or questions, you may contact me at - monksarana at gmail dot com - or here, whatever you wish :-) .
I think that little bit more instruction from an experienced meditation teacher would help you in your progress,
and I will be glad to help you in finding such a teacher, or even, if you appreciate it, giving you suggestions myself.

May you be happy :-)
mS

RE: Better be careful than confident
Answer
7/19/18 4:36 PM as a reply to monk Sarana.
monk Sarana:
Hello Cheeni,
it's very nice to hear from you your sincere report of your meditation.
  
In my opinion, meditation report should be told to a meditation  teacher, not in a forum.       That is because your meditation teacher can give you further instruction right away, and - because he is your meditation teacher - it is very likely that you can (and will be willing  to) apply it right on the spot, you know, in the meditation center or monastery. 
       
Attainments in meditation are very "confusing", simply because "at   tainment" is what your mind either makes, or what happens to the mind. The most unfortunate case is, if somebody's mind "makes" an attainment, but the meditator believes that this is what "happened" to the mind. In other words, if you want to have a spiritual attainment, really want it, then it is easy for your mind to fake it in such a wonderful way, that you will be convinced of its genuinity even for decades. There is this nice story from Visuddhimagga about that case -

"Here is one story as an illustration. The Elder Dhammadinna, it seems, who lived at Talangara - one of the great ones with cankers destroyed who possessed the categories of  discrimination - was the instructor of a large community of bhikkhus. One day, as he was sit ting in his own daytime      quarters, he wondered 'Has our teacher, the Elder Maha Naga who lives at Uccavalika, brought his work of asceticism to its conclusion, or not?'. He saw that he was still an ordinary man, and he knew that if he did not go to him, he would die an ordinary man. He rose up into the air with supernormal power and alighted near the Elder, who was sitting in his daytime quarters. He paid homage to him, doing his duty, and sat down at one side. To the question 'Why have you come unexpectedly, friend Dhammadinna?' he replied 'I have come to ask a question, venerable sir'. He was told 'Ask, friend. If we know, we shall say'.  He asked a thousand questions.
The Elder replied without hesitation to each question. To the remark 'Your knowledge is very keen, venerable sir; when was this state attained by you?' he replied 'Sixty years ago, friend'. - 'Do you practise concentration, venerable sir?' - 'That is not difficult, friend.' - 'Then make an elephant, venerable sir.' The Elder made an elephant all  white [by his psychic  powers]. 'Now, venerable sir, make that elephant come straight at you with his ears out  stretched, his tail ex    tended, putting his trunk in his mouth and making a horrible trumpeting.' The Elder did so. Seeing the frightful aspect of the rapidly ap proaching elephant, he sprang up and made to run away. Then the Elder with cankers destroyed put out his hand, and catching him by the hem of his robe, he said  'Venerable sir, is there any timidity in  one whose cankers are destroyed?'
Then he recognized that he was still an ordinary man."
(Visuddhimagga, The Path of Purification, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, p.740-741 .
  
The defilements of insight (upakkilesa) are very good to know. They  are not any kind of attainment, and they have nothing to do with enlightenment either. In fact, they hinder the meditator from any further progress, from any attainment in Vipassana. From your description it seems, that you have had one or more of them, and there you have stuck. They are these ten: (1) illumination, (2) knowledge, (3) rapturous happiness, (4) tranquillity, (5) bliss (pleasure), (6) resolution, (7) exertion, (8) as surance, (9) equanimity, and (10) attachment. These  ten defilements  (or "imperfections") of   insight are described in de tail in The Path of Purification, pp.739-743. I believe that it would    help you if you read them. 
 
The problem of "enlightenment" as "made" by one's own mind is  very deep, and it should not be measured only by the upakkilesa. There is a serious point of obstruction right along the Vipassana Nanas. The wrong perception of attainment is technically called "adhimana" ("over-confidence", or "super-conceit"), and its nature is explained in the Pali Commentary to Vinaya Pitaka (this forum doesn't allow to paste from an external source, so I have made use of the attachment feature. If you are interested, you may see the original Pali text in the attachment.) :
"The man who is given to over-confidence is he who has already possessed good conduct and who has entered samadhi. Having attained samadhi, he enters vipassana before he has discriminated Name and Form. He has attained [the discrimination of] the Three Characteristics and has become extremely bold. Or, he has attained  quiescence (samatha) and for twenty years or for thirty years, does not  emerge from it and so  he becomes bold. And because of the strength of having practised vipassana, he thinks within himself: "I have attained the Path of a Sotapanna, or that of a Sakadagami, or that of an Anagami". The over-confidence is like this. Because he is able to stick to quiescence and because not only for twenty years,  thirty years, but even upto eighty or hundred years, no taints arise, an over-confidence springs up in him and he thinks: "I have attained Arahatship." 
(translation from "Sha-Chien-P'i-P'o-Sha, A Chinese version by Sanghabhadra of Samantapasadika, Commentary on Pali Vinaya translated into English", by Prof. P.V. Bapat and Prof. A. Hirakawa, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1970, pp.340-341.)

Well then, so far I have told you what you "might have", but I have not yet explained what you "need". So, let's see whether there is an  ability of a Stream-Enterer (as well as a Once-Returner), which may prove the attainment of enlightenment itself -  
Visuddhimagga explains that Stream-Enterer (and the other three -   Once-Returner, Non-Re turner, and Arahant as well) should be able to enter the Phala Samapatti, the Fruition, at will. You may need some samadhi (calm and peace) for the experience, but I guess that at this point you are able to enter certain levels of peace.

The instruction is this:
"In the first place its attainment comes about for two reasons: with not bringing to mind any object other than nibbana, and with bringing nibbana to mind, according as it is said 'Friend, there are two conditions for the attainment of the signless mind-deliverance; they are the non-bringing to mind of all signs, and the bringing to mind of the signless element' (M.i,296).
Now the process of attaining it is as follows. A noble disciple who seeks the attainment of fruition should go into solitary retreat. He should see formations with insight according to rise and fall and so  on. When that insight has progressed [as far as conformity], then comes change-of-lineage knowledge with formations as its object.   And immediately next to it consciousness becomes absorbed in ces  sation with the attainment of fruition. And here it is  only fruition, not path, that arises even in a trainer, because his tendency is to fruition attainment.  
... This, firstly, is how attaining comes about. 
It is made to last in three ways, because of the words "Friend, there are three conditions for the persistence of the signless mind-deliverance: they are the non-bringing to mind of all signs, the bringing to mind of the signless element, and the prior volition' (M.i.296-7). Herein, the prior volition is the predetermining of the time before at taining; for it is by determining it thus 'I shall emerge at such a time' that it lasts until that time comes. This is how it is made to last. 
Emergence from it comes about in two ways, because of the words 'Friend, there are two conditions for the emergence from the signless mind-deliverance: they are the bringing to mind of all signs, and the non-bringing to mind of the signless element' (M.i,297). Herein, of all signs means the sign of materiality, sign of feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness. Of course, a man does not bring all those to mind at once, but this is said in order to include all. So the emergence from it should be understood in  this way: emergence from the attainment of fruition comes about in him when he brings to mind whatever is the object of the life-continuum."
(The Path of Purification, pp.822-823)
  
The most important thing, however, which comes with Stream-Entry and Once-Return is the profound understanding of "not-self". This  understanding is so profound, so clear, so vast, so mind-blowing, that there is no way how to omit it in one's report. However, I didn't see such a great amazement regarding "not-self" in your report, and therefore I have the feeling that you simply didn't have the profound, clear, vast, mind-blowing vision and understanding of "not-self". The vision and understanding should encompass the body and mind, of oneself and all other beings. Again, although you mention bits here and there, which seems to touch upon this, I believe that if you had the true "break-through", your description of not-self would be much much clearer, much more direct and explicit. You would be able to express your "turning-point" in terms of opening eyes and seeing the Four Noble Truths in such depth that you  have never ever thought of.

Regarding Jhanas, let me tell you that most of the jhana concept in  Buddhism as known today comes from a single scripture - the Tipitaka. Tipitaka is the Buddhist main scripture, and there are also Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries, written many centuries ago, by great meditation masters, and many of them Arahants themselves. They contain the mainstream opinion on jhanas as remembered and accepted by those who have memorized all or most of the Tipitaka (40 volumes in Burmese script), and thus understood it much better than the Western scholars who make their own assumptions, who  have, unfortunately, often-times no experience of any true attainment. Do you want to follow attainment-less scholars who make their  assumptions, or rather experienced meditation masters, who have  memorized thousands of pages of the Buddha's teachings and themselves became Arahants? As for me, I follow the latter. 

The concentration levels that you describe are coming to the up acara-samadhi, so called "access concentration".  This is concentration that comes before the first jhana. (I feel very awkward when I read your assumptions of fourth jhana, because you yourself hinder  your progress by inappropriate assumptions, and in a forum like this your assumptions may have misleading effect to the readers who do not study the topic in depth.) The light which you have seen is called "nimitta" and it arises with the upacara samadhi. Unfortunately, becoming the prey of this attainment, it was not possible for you to let go of it, and overcome that level into jhana, at least according to your report. The light that arises, the nimitta, serves as the gate to your subconscious, and it may help you to harvest some of the ex  tra-sensory abilities. It is unfortunately very misleading, and it often yields nonsenses. In the West it is called "Astral Travelling", and in the East it is known as "Divine Eye", Dibba Cakkhu. This "divine  eye" is however very different from the "divine eye" attained with the fourth jhana. The main difference is in the veracity, in the quality of the information.

There are many people in the world who attain the upacara-samadhi,  Buddhists and Non-Buddhists, either with instruction of a teacher, or simply themselves watching breath before falling asleep. Because of its poor quality and very low trustworthiness, I do not recommend to take this attainment seriously, at all. Some of them go through the white light and visit planets and aliens (this applies to  those from USA etc.), and those who are from Asia, interestingly, go through the white light and visit heavens and gods. It will be useful to note, that those from USA etc. who visit planets and aliens are in the environment and country where they hear about planets and aliens. The Asians who visit heavens and gods simply believe in heavens and gods. Because of that, I believe that one's personal opinions and believes may seriously affect the experience of astral-travelling. I say "affect", not "undermine", because there are still a lot of pieces-of-information, that you may get by astral travelling, and be perfectly correct.
 
Alright, if you have any further comments or questions, you may contact me at - monksarana at gmail dot com - or here, whatever you wish :-) . 
I think that little bit more instruction from an experienced meditation teacher would help you in your progress,
and I will be glad to help you in finding such a teacher, or even, if you appreciate it, giving you suggestions myself.

May you be happy :-)  
mS
From my opinion, after reading your state without meditation,  Im sure you already have the attainment from the way you describe first fetter, the identity , no more judging, no fear
in for death or anything.

Yes you may not have experienced anatta, while I had, which is the most shocking things in  life, sensing the emptiness of the self. But monk, is it required for stream-enterer?
  Though it is true , after the first fruition ,one will automatically use nirvana as an object. And as medotation goes on, one will aim for the source of dukha, seeing impermanence, and sensing emptiness of the self.
 
Well, though  the state of mind, of holding no identity, no doubt and no fear. 
Such a wonderful life. Im happy for you. For such a person, you do really live a life. 
 
Question for monk : 
How does one not mistaken if he does go on solitary retreat and when he reenter the fruition , he reenter the upekha kilesa instead? 

I still agree with the first story of the venerable, life will come and give you the test. Just dont be so unfortunate that the test come from maggots and it’s too late to practise further.