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Questions on the Maps
Answer
7/20/14 8:48 AM
Hi All,

I have a couple questions which have been bugging me for a while that arose from reading a variety of different writings on the maps that are hard to reconcile. 

1) Are extended retreats necessary to move through the dark night to first path? Achieving an A/P event seems very achievable from daily practice in my experience and is inevitably followed by the dark night. Thus, once you hit the A/P, is it standard to make little progress unless you seriously ramp up your practice time? 

2) Several sources seem to describe the A/P and dark night as being quite extreme in terms of altered sense experiences, i.e., breaking up sensations into vibrations, clear perception of no self, and energetic phenomenon. These experiences typically come up during extended retreats and can be quite extreme. 
Others claim that the dark night can resemble more traditional psychological conditions, doesn't need to arise on an extended retreat and doesn't need to involve highly altered sense perceptions. and simply result from crossing the A/P. These people claim that if you hit the A/P and have come down, you are likely in the dark night, even if you aren't experiencing vibrations, energetic phenomenon, etc.
Are both viewpoints valid? I'm expecting different answers to this which reflect different personal experiences. 

Thanks!

RE: Questions on the Maps
Answer
7/20/14 2:21 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Howdy Elijah,
There are  many more people who have had A&P experiennces than have achieved Stream Entry.  This is for me prima facie, I don't have statistics or studies but to me it is simply obvious.  It is very common for people to have these experiences without even having a formal contemplative practice.

All of these achievements tend to appear more clearly and more compressed on retreat but there are some people who post here who have achieved SE (and higher paths) without any retreat time.  That is the exception though.  Focused retreat time is unparalleled in its success rate.  My PERSONAL experience is one of consistent practice over years, major jumps during retreat, long periods of practice time in the Dukka Nanas (DN - Dark Night).  That is also a likely scenario painted in MCTB....paraphrase. 'working up to Equanimity Nana and falling back  several times until onecracks the SE thingy'.

The A&P can present in a relatively subtle way or in an explosive fierworky fashion and are much more likely to happen during retreat but when you ask, "are both approaches valid", I'm not sure what you mean.

Bottom Line though is: Retreats bring faster progress.

Good luck

tom

RE: Questions on the Maps
Answer
7/20/14 2:56 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah Smith:
1) Are extended retreats necessary to move through the dark night to first path?


Varies individually, from what I can tell. It takes effort either way. It's possible to dally away a retreat, apparently, and it is possible to buckle down and have stream entry happen off-retreat, as I can assert. Having good friends helps either way, and getting guidance, either from all the resources available or again from good friends or teachers, helps either way.

It's not just practice time (though that is a major bit). Check out the 5 faculties, for example, for a more balanced picture.

2) Several sources seem to describe the A/P and dark night as being quite extreme in terms of altered sense experiences ...
Others claim that the dark night can resemble more traditional psychological conditions ...
Are both approaches valid?


Again, the way this "map territory" presents is highly individual. The descriptions in MCTB are of the more extreme sort. Daniel is a medical doctor, so he listed all the symptoms, risks, and side-effects he knew of. He even makes that comparison.

Explore, observe, attentively investigate, (insert favorite term here) your own living, in-your-face experience (of this territory, for example). The maps help a lot, but don't get trapped into tracing out the journey on paper only, so to speak. While the paper is undeniably part of your living experience, it is only a tiny portion of it.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Questions on the Maps
Answer
7/23/14 9:10 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Hi Elijah,

Fast progress also 
has the prerequisite of the ten paramitas...
Just to highlight e.g. renunciation (being able to stay content whatever you have); patience; energy; determination etc.  
These qualities are essential to face uncomfortable sensations with equanimity (what actually you need to get out from the DN).
People have very different level of perfections. 
Somebody with good paramis maybe can progress faster at home compare to his "bad parami friend" on a retreat. 
So if you do activities are supporting the paramis then it will help the progress also.
(retreat will support all the paramis). 

 
For me DN cause more trouble outside (because I also have to deal with people around me which I personally find very hard).
On a retreat DN is maybe more tense as it is compressed in shorter time but I have less chance to avoid it (use something to entertain myself instead of noting the sensations produced by the dark stuff). So it is easier to come out. 
Out of retreat I always go deep down in DN but this helps me to jump higher on a retreat.  

NM