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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?

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Hi all,

I've been stalking for awhile but have yet had anything to contribute, and now...am just adding a question. emoticon

After a few months of research, self-realizations, and then chancing upon this forum and Daniel's book...I took my spring break and devoted 26 days at Wat Ram Poeng back in February/March.

The experience was phenomenal and I'm still working through a long, long blog post about it that I hope to share here eventually.

I went in expecting to reach or get close to steam entry but didn't really have a plan of any sort. I assumed that if I followed the instructions there (considering how strict a monastery it is), that I'd be sure to come out with good results. First thing I did after finishing, was to check here and compare my experiences...and I was fairly certain that I hadn't reached Stream Entry. But, since then I've been meditating daily and wondering where to go next.

So, as many know, the Thai Forest tradition is to alternate walking and sitting. The walking meditation uses six steps and in sitting, the practicioner works up to twenty-eight touching points plus the inhale, exhale, and sitting.

The last three days of the 26 day retreat are in total isolation. Day 1 is 24 hours of sitting and walking nonstop. Day 2 is 24 hours of sitting and walking nonstop with sitting time decreasing to increase fatigue. A beaded necklace is used to count the times that "nodding off" occurs (I believe they called it arising and passing). The third day is 24 hours again of equal walking and sitting, intending to acheive a very non-descript pleasurable trance state (which I assume is the first jhana?).

My take is that the first day is a sort of prep to get the body and mind in gear. The second day is to get the body used to arising and passing away and the third day is for entering some sort of jhana? I don't think the terms they use correlate with the ones here and in MCTB.

I am not quite sure but on the very last day, I had the experience of "disappearing" and then the very first thought occuring after was that I hadn't heard, felt, seen, smelled, or tasted. As I slowly went through my senses checking that they were still working, I confirmed I was still alive. emoticon

It kinda sounds like Stream Entry but I am not so sure as I definitely haven't experienced a single jhana, and I definitely didn't pass through the zombie stages and dark night from what I can tell. I also don't have extensive experience with meditation. I slowly worked my sitting time up to 1-hour before the retreat (doing mainly concentration) and had never done walking meditation before. I also haven't experienced it since then, which was almost two months ago.

What do you think? What are the requirements, hard facts, for knowing whether stream entry has occurred or not?

And the other related question, do I just keep doing the 6-step walking meditation and 28-point sitting meditation to progress all the way to enlightenment? The instructor there simply said as much on the last day. What about outside of meditation? I'm generally aware but aren't usually noting all day long. Should I be doing more in this area as well?

Thanks!

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
5/7/15 8:09 AM as a reply to David McC.
How many days ago was the last day of the retreat?  Stream entry will probably be proceeded by Review phase, which commonly lasts around a month.  

Meaning, whether or not you have trained to notice the nanas and jhanas separately, when you sit down to meditate, they will happen in a predictable pattern.  Here's an example nana progression: bliss/mania/energy, then boredom, then agitation/restlessness/fear, then calmness, then uber calm/clarity, then extreme agitation again, then boredom again, then energy again, etc.  

Eventually, after a couple more weeks, Review takes on the opposite form, meaning things slow all the way down... it becomes difficult to focus or follow a given pattern of moods/vibrational modes (nanas and jhanas) in a single sit.  You will have no idea how to meditate.  

Then, BOOM, you start over, working your way up through a new cycle... you can tell if you have started over because you won't reach a blissful/energized state (4th nana) again for a couple weeks or months.
__________

Also, try reading descriptions of the different jhanas and asking the mind to perform them for you.  If you can do this, even in a soft or wimpy way, thats a pretty good sign.

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
5/7/15 6:18 PM as a reply to Noah.
Last day of the retreat was March 8th-ish. Can't quite remember...

Skimming through the MCTB book again to find more info on this Review Phase.

I'm fairly certain I haven't experienced any nanas or jhanas at this point. I did experience progressions of calm/restlessness/boredom/anxiety,worry/fear/despair but they came in waves of 24 hour periods during the retreat (not in a single sitting session). So one day starting in the afternoon and continuing into the next afternoon, I would experience one of these emotional/mental states. I couldn't seem to find any reason why they would arise, just suddenly I was despairing unbearably. A day later, it would vanish into thin air and suddenly I would be perfectly calm and at peace with everything. And then suddenly bored out of my mind with something that I was just perfectly fine with a moment ago (and then this would last for 24 hours).

I am also certain that I haven't experienced any of the jhanas (Concentration jhanas). I picked up Ajahn Brahm's book on jhanas after the retreat and the closest I seemed to have gotten was seeing the shy nimitta. I definitely did NOT experience any blissed out states (sadly). And it seems people are fairly certain once they have. Is it a requirement to have experienced the Samatha Jhanas before reaching stream entry?

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
5/17/15 1:30 PM as a reply to David McC.
Hey, sorry for the super delayed reply, I somehow never saw this in Recent Posts.  I hope you're still online sometimes.

Okay, a few things.  In general, how would you classify your moods and mental states/thought patterns during the month of March.  Was there anything different about them?  In particular, were they more erradic than usual?  

If they were, I would consider this a symptom of Review in my personal experience.

The waves of negative emotion followed by calmness that you experienced throughout the day ARE the nanas, in my opinion.  Its the cycling that occurs of the cushion.  On the cushion, it is very possible that you became so good at focusing on your object of meditation that you didn't notice the changes that would indicate the nanas.  It is probably impossible to go on a meditation retreat and NOT experience the nanas in some form.  
_____________________
I definitely think that it is not a requirement to have samatha jhanas before stream entry.  All you need is access concentration, and I would define this extremely loosely (and probably incorrectly); all you need is the ability to focus continuously in a soft enough sense to not totally tense up but a hard enough sense to not daydream.  

Hope to hear back on your current experience,
Noah

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
5/30/15 5:31 AM as a reply to David McC.
Hi David,

Sounds like a good retreat!

I won't try to diagnose anything, but I'd like to expand a little about Thai meditation traditions and hope that's OK.

You described the meditation technique used at Wat Ram Poeng correctly, but this technique is in fact a slightly adapted version of the Burmese meditation teacher Mahasi Sayadaw's meditation technique, and within Thailand, it comes from the lineage of Ajahn Tong Sirimangkalo. The Thai Forest tradition is not the same lineage.

The Northern Thai Ajahn Tong lineage does not emphasize forest walking and dwelling quite to the same extent as the Thai Forest Tradition, whose main meditation masters hailed from North-Eastern Thailand: Ajahn Maha Buwa, Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Lee, Ajahn Chah, and later Western disciples like Ajahn Sumedho, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and Phra Ajahn Jayasaro.

The Thai Forest Tradition tends to be a little more to the samatha side of the path (for example using the 'Buddho, Buddho' mantra along with the rise (Bud-) and fall (-dho) of the breath in order to reach calmer states first), whereas the Ajahn Tong/Mahasi Sayadaw style your retreat was in, is sometimes referred to as 'dry insight' - emphasizing mindfulness and pinning down experience using various directly descriptive inner verbal mantras.

Also, Ajahn Brahmavamso's jhana definition appears to describe a much stronger concentrated state than is typically described as jhana in the Mahasi Sayadaw/Ajahn Tong tradition.

I hope that made things clearer and did not just come off as picking nits.

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
12/21/16 5:39 AM as a reply to Martin Petersen.
Wow, oh my gosh! It's been almost a year and half since the original post date. I don't know why, but I never got updates about the responses.

I'm still in Asia and was thinking about spending the Lunar New Year holiday on retreat again. Wondering about which style to study in and where to travel brought me all the way back to this post (which I completely forgot I had even written.).

@Martin It's very interesting that you mention the different Forest Thai traditions. I just recently was going through different books and materials on the subject and saw a lot of what you mentioned.

@Noah Thanks for the reply. It's very strange. Looking back at my experience from a year and a half ago, it now seems very clear that what I experienced on retreat was very likely stream entry. And if not, that I did experience many many things leading up to it. One of the experiences that I remember most strongly and that still stays with me to this day was nausea and then mind-blowing calm. It was around day 18 of the retreat when I noticed that walking meditation was really difficult. It felt like the ground was moving under me and that I was going to vomit if I continued. I remember going to bed early that night and "sleeping in" (like five hours that night emoticon ). The next night, the same thing returned. I tried walking with and without sandals, and changed locations to see if it would stop. Eventually it got small enough that I could do the walking meditation and then in an instant, my mind just cleared out like I've never experienced before. It was like someone had taken all the mental chatter and garbage and just suddenly tossed it out the door. I don't think I stopped smiling for the next 24 hours. It really was so rewarding of an experience to have a quiet mind.

After that, every sitting session has always been about 40minutes of refreshing/light meditation, extreme restlessness, and then very deep states of calm after (near the 1 hour mark). I think this sounds quite close to what you are describing.

I've haven't meditated very reguarly since that retreat but I try to do sitting every night before I doze off. I started practicing samatha? meditation (focusing on just one point during inhale and exhale) and have seen some very nice results in just relaxing. I try to keep up with the "touching points" practice but for a long time didn't really understand the purpose. I'm starting to see now how different parts of that tradition are helpful. I'm now kinda wondering if I should return to Thailand and continue in the same tradition or travel to another retreat center and study under a different method. I'm kinda afraid that switching styles so early will just set me back. I've also starting practicing Chen Style Taiji and am trying to find how the Thai Forest tradition can work with that and what similarities there are between Daoism and Buddhism.

Anyways, just an update for anyone who was following this thead. I never did finish the post on my stay at Wat Ram Poeng. I have both a journal and a blog post that I never finished editing. If anyone has questions about that experience, just let me know!

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
12/22/16 7:52 AM as a reply to David McC.
David McC:
Hi all,

I've been stalking for awhile but have yet had anything to contribute, and now...am just adding a question. emoticon

After a few months of research, self-realizations, and then chancing upon this forum and Daniel's book...I took my spring break and devoted 26 days at Wat Ram Poeng back in February/March.

The experience was phenomenal and I'm still working through a long, long blog post about it that I hope to share here eventually.

I went in expecting to reach or get close to steam entry but didn't really have a plan of any sort. I assumed that if I followed the instructions there (considering how strict a monastery it is), that I'd be sure to come out with good results. First thing I did after finishing, was to check here and compare my experiences...and I was fairly certain that I hadn't reached Stream Entry. But, since then I've been meditating daily and wondering where to go next.

So, as many know, the Thai Forest tradition is to alternate walking and sitting. The walking meditation uses six steps and in sitting, the practicioner works up to twenty-eight touching points plus the inhale, exhale, and sitting.

The last three days of the 26 day retreat are in total isolation. Day 1 is 24 hours of sitting and walking nonstop. Day 2 is 24 hours of sitting and walking nonstop with sitting time decreasing to increase fatigue. A beaded necklace is used to count the times that "nodding off" occurs (I believe they called it arising and passing). The third day is 24 hours again of equal walking and sitting, intending to acheive a very non-descript pleasurable trance state (which I assume is the first jhana?).

My take is that the first day is a sort of prep to get the body and mind in gear. The second day is to get the body used to arising and passing away and the third day is for entering some sort of jhana? I don't think the terms they use correlate with the ones here and in MCTB.

I am not quite sure but on the very last day, I had the experience of "disappearing" and then the very first thought occuring after was that I hadn't heard, felt, seen, smelled, or tasted. As I slowly went through my senses checking that they were still working, I confirmed I was still alive. emoticon

It kinda sounds like Stream Entry but I am not so sure as I definitely haven't experienced a single jhana, and I definitely didn't pass through the zombie stages and dark night from what I can tell. I also don't have extensive experience with meditation. I slowly worked my sitting time up to 1-hour before the retreat (doing mainly concentration) and had never done walking meditation before. I also haven't experienced it since then, which was almost two months ago.

What do you think? What are the requirements, hard facts, for knowing whether stream entry has occurred or not?

And the other related question, do I just keep doing the 6-step walking meditation and 28-point sitting meditation to progress all the way to enlightenment? The instructor there simply said as much on the last day. What about outside of meditation? I'm generally aware but aren't usually noting all day long. Should I be doing more in this area as well?

Thanks!

I think you know by seeing if your mind is still or not. The brain of a still mind disappears under MRI machine. Harvard neuroscientist cannot see the brain of his two of many subjects.

Eradication of self identity means no more default mode network that all neuroscientists can see on MRI. This is when meandering thoughts occur giving the rise of "I".

Just practice until you get to this point, so you don't produce craving, an obstacle, for stream entry. The mind has its own schedule. Now that you have faith in the practice, you can drop the craving and just practice. It is like the titration experiment in chemistry lab. Change is happening on the inside. Let go and surrender to what is now.

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
12/23/16 9:01 PM as a reply to David McC.
Hi David!  Cool to hear from you.  So many things can change in 1.5 years- they certainly have for me.  It's good to hear that the shift was permanent.

Do you have any meditation goals right now?  Mastering Samatha sounds like fun emoticon

RE: 26 Days at Wat Ram Poeng - Stream Entry?
Answer
12/27/16 1:01 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Hey! Thankfully I got a notification this time (although Christmas kinda delayed my reply a bit). Well, I gotta say I've meditated a lot less than I thought I would over this last year and a half. Really didn't expect it to be so hard to get a daily schedule going. One of the really challenging things to overcome is how unaffective a daily practice feels compared to the time spent in retreat. I've spent a lot of the last year and a half playing with polyphasic and replacing sleep with meditation to try and get a nice amount of sitting/walking in each day. Sadly that's still an ongoing experiment . On a positive note, I did start learning Chen Style Taiji. Maybe it has made up for some of the lost time on the mat. ;D Hopefully 2017 will be the year I get a more regular schedule going. I'm really looking forward to a long-term retreat sometime soon as well.