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Redefining the A and P

Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/15/15 8:46 PM
Traditionally in the DhO community, the experience of the A and P is defined as one of great energy, and rapture, and perhaps an almost manic state of mind.  Having experienced this personally, I very much resonate with this description, and this not what I want to discuss here.  What I want to re-define, or perhaps define clearly for the first time is the mechanism by which the A and P state is triggered.

In my opinion, the A and P is triggered by the genuine comprehension of the three characteristics.  While 'the three characteristics' may seem to imply a range of phenomena, I believe comprehension occurs in a very specific and definable manner.  I have heard people say on here before that they know they were in the three characteristics because they saw suffering, impermanence and no-self in sensations, but what does this really mean?

In essence, comprehension can be thought of as a mini-attainment (aka the A and P path moment), a gate that we open that allows us into new and uncharted territory (the dark night), and triggers the A and P state.  Like all attainments, comprehension occurs in a universally predictable and obvious manner.  Genuine comprehension is an experience in which we realize unequivocally the impermanent nature of our thoughts, and the ultimate nature of our awareness.

Genuine comprehension is likely a common and well-known, or easily recalled experience for the serious meditator.  Comprehension occurs this way: as we are sitting in meditation (or in daily life) a thought arises in our minds and is seen clearly and irrevocably to be naught but a thought; utterly impermanent and transitory, and not us (not self).  As a result of perceiving the thought in this way, our mind naturally releases and it passes away entirely, never to arise again.  In essence, in comprehension we have seen a thought for what it is, and as a result have naturally released all attachment to it.  In doing so we gain the permanent knowledge (attainment) that thought is impermanent, transitory (cannot provide lasting satisfaction), and not us (not self), and enter the stage of the A and P. 

Comprehension of the three characteristics represents a leap foreword in overcoming the delusions of mind (aka conceptual fixation), as we have genuinely overcome a barrier in perception.  As a result of this accomplishment and the destruction of delusion, mental energy that was formerly tied up in our delusional perception is released, resulting in a massive surge of mental (or psychic) energy which creates the well known symptoms we associate with the A and P (i.e. a massive rush of energy and wild psychic phenomena).  In addition, comprehension brings on the dark night situation; we have seen thoughts to be false but we remain trapped in the illusion of their solidity.
 

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/15/15 8:50 PM as a reply to T DC.
I like this description, and it reminds me of the ways that shaktipat and/or kundalini awakening can occur.  I personally consider all three things to be basically the same.  

I recieved shaktipat from Amma, the hugging saint, at a retreat in 2010, which was also my first a &p.  There was certainly a momentary shift in the mind which seemed to act as a gateway into my spiritual adventure.

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/15/15 10:47 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
I like this description, and it reminds me of the ways that shaktipat and/or kundalini awakening can occur.  I personally consider all three things to be basically the same.  

I recieved shaktipat from Amma, the hugging saint, at a retreat in 2010, which was also my first a &p.  There was certainly a momentary shift in the mind which seemed to act as a gateway into my spiritual adventure.
Hi Noah, thanks for the comment!  I just want to point out that I posted this in order to steer the definition of A and P away from other vauge but exciting spiritual expriences.  In my mind, the A and P is clearly differentiated from a shaktipat experience in that it is a specific perception that triggers in turn a certain set of expreinces, just as 1st path and 4th path are wholly unique and definable expriences.  This is not to say that Kundalini and Shaktipat are not valid or valuble experiences, I just think it is important to seperate the two from the A and P. 

An example here is your post about the PCE you just had, which Daniel immediately suggested might be A and P related.  In this case, I belive the PCE is in essence a glimpse of enlightenment and thus needs to be treated differently.  Shaktipat or kundalini or PCE experiences are each unique and have their own spiritual ramifications, and my view is that the A and P should be treated in this way as well (i.e. with great specificity).  In essence, posting this thread was my attempt to differentiate the A and P from other types of energetic experiences.

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/16/15 7:59 AM as a reply to T DC.
I agree that AP and fruition has to do with comprehension.

But I don't think there is "genuine comprehension of the three characteristics" in AP.

For me, at least, AP means full comprehension of one of the three characteristics (usually impermanence) and some basic understanding of one of the rest.
Fruition is full comprehension of two (I also agree on the three doors). With full comprehension of two, the other is a given.

Paths are a refining process as we apply that comprehension from gross phenomena to subtler and subtler phenomena.

But yeah, I agree that AP has to do with comprehension of the 3Cs, and everytime my practice is stalled, I try to notice the 3Cs and get results.
Everytime.

However, there is resistance to the 3Cs, even in their simplicity. It's like there is a strong force (delusion?, mara?) trying to make things more complicated that they are. It requires a lot of mental power to keep noticing the 3Cs.

This force for me is not delusion because delusion is the opposite of comprehension. This force is based in fear, in avoidance of suffering.

MCTB places a lot of emphasis on the 3Cs, maybe it should also stress more why, if they are so simple, it's so difficult to keep noticing them.

Just my opinion.

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/16/15 4:23 PM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Ernest - Thanks for the comment.  My personal opinion is that using the idea of the three doors unneccesarily complicates matters.  If we really look what impermennce, suffering, and no-self describe, we will we that they all simply refer to differently to the same phenomena.  This phenomena is our ultimate nature, aka emptiness, or pure awareness. 

As you said it is difficult to keep noticing the 3 characteristics.  In my experience, there is a great difference between conceptualy noticing the three characteristics in sensations, and genuinely perciving them, as in genuine comprehension.  When we are conceptually noticing, there is consiouc judgement as to whether sensations are impermenant, suffering, or not-self.  When genuine comprehension occurs however, it is beyond conceptual apprehension; awareness sees concept to be false in a moment of genuine recognition of concepts true nature.  Genuine comprehension occurs only once in a cycle of insight, at the peak of the Three Characteristics, and precipitates the A and P.  Genuine comprehension is a genuine moment of insight and indeed not to be taken lightly.

Noah - I'll post in your thread to add my opinion to that discussion.   emoticon

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/17/15 8:11 AM as a reply to T DC.
I agree with what you say about the 3Cs, ultimate reality, comprehension, etc.

I don't agree about the stages, at least from my experience.

For me at least, AP involved energy and, while there was comprehension, there was what you say as "conceptualy noticing" the 3Cs.
Fruition on the other hand, was quiet, luminous, calm. Like perceiving the 3Cs differently.

I can relate to two very different experiences:

1. Noticing everything, panoramic awareness, evaluating thoughts, watching them go by, etc. This requires some effort to sustain.
2. Focusing on vibrations, usually in the middle of the head. This results in luminosity. It changes perception a lot more. It seems more similar to the moment before fruition to me.

It could be useful if you could describe the experience of genuine comprehension, basically if there is a blip or not.
If there is not a blip, if similar things that occur before the blip happen.

And you have to admit that even if the 3Cs all refer to emptiness, the way you experience things is what counts. You have to work with what you have (and understand) as you progress in the path. Trying to do or relate to something beyond your reach can stall your practice.

I can only talk from my experience, which is not that much emoticon.

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/18/15 4:27 PM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Ernest Michael Olmos:
I agree with what you say about the 3Cs, ultimate reality, comprehension, etc.

I don't agree about the stages, at least from my experience.

For me at least, AP involved energy and, while there was comprehension, there was what you say as "conceptualy noticing" the 3Cs.
Fruition on the other hand, was quiet, luminous, calm. Like perceiving the 3Cs differently.

I can relate to two very different experiences:

1. Noticing everything, panoramic awareness, evaluating thoughts, watching them go by, etc. This requires some effort to sustain.
2. Focusing on vibrations, usually in the middle of the head. This results in luminosity. It changes perception a lot more. It seems more similar to the moment before fruition to me.

It could be useful if you could describe the experience of genuine comprehension, basically if there is a blip or not.
If there is not a blip, if similar things that occur before the blip happen.


And you have to admit that even if the 3Cs all refer to emptiness, the way you experience things is what counts. You have to work with what you have (and understand) as you progress in the path. Trying to do or relate to something beyond your reach can stall your practice.

I can only talk from my experience, which is not that much emoticon.
Hi Ernest, thanks for the comments.  I agree with you that there is conceptual noticing of the 3 C's, but what I am really trying to define here is the mechanism by which we switch from the 3C's stage into the A and P.  The first three stages in the cycle of insight seem to have a natural progression over time, but the transition to the A and P is special because it represents the entrance to the dark night.  Since the A and P represents the entrance to a new and higher stage of practice, I think it makes sense to treat it as a 'mini' path moment. 

IMO, part of the reason people come to the path of meditation is that they are seeking more than simply 'better thoughts'.  Meditators have likely realized they cannot simply think their way into a greater state of happiness, and instead they are seeking a genuine change in mind, or perception.  The reason meditation is special is because it allows us to gain access to mind beyond the normal veils of conceptual thought.  So while I agree that we do conceptually notice the 3 characteristics, any genuine path moment involves more than simple conceptual noticing, it involves genuine perception beyond conceptual thought.

So to put these things together, I clearly remember early in my meditative exprience having an experience in which a thought (conceptuality itself) arose in my mind, was seen clearly to be naught but a thought (not me, impermenant, and not capable of providing lasting satisfaction), and then passed away, out of my mind forever.  As I read over the traditional (Mahasi Sayadaw) description of the A and P, I realised that this experience of seeing a thought for what it was could very well be an experience of genuine comprehension; the peak of the 3 C's stage, and the entrance to the A and P. 

I thought I would share this insight on here, because it seems that in the DhO community, the A and P is defined chiefly by its strong after effects, rather than by the experience that triggers it.  A focus on the A and P stictly as an energetic experience may miss the significance of it somewhat, and also err by painting a differing energetic experiences with too broad a brush.

Regardless, all of this is in some sense a very subtle experience.  If we are to use the cycle of insight as a dyagnostic tool to help us practice according to our own specific level, it is helpful to have a wide varietey of criterisa for each stage.  I don't think my definition of the A and P should replace that which we already have, but simply be added to consideration. 

I fully believe in the veracity and usefullness of the cycle of insight, and of the 4 paths of MCTB, but for many meditators these experiences are too perhaps subtle to serve as major indicators of experience.  I have great interest in the Tibetan Buddhist meditative tradition, in which it is very difficult to find a comparable path to that outlined in MCTB.  The 4th path experience of MCTB seems to line up with the initial attainment of emptiness in the Tibetan tradition, which serves as the completion attainment of th Hinayana, and entrance attainment to the Mahayana.  The Hinayana path of progression in Tibetan Buddhism is simply characterised as 'repeated glimspes of emptiness', until one day genuine attainment is gained.  When I compare the Mahayana path of attainment in Tibetan Buddhism to the MCTB 'Hinayana' path of attainment, it is frankly unsuprising that Tibetan Buddhism does not establish a path of attainment for the Hinayana, because the Mahayana attainments are much more clear and easily described in their effect on perception.  This is to say the the MBTC path is both unique and special, but also extremely subtle and difficult to discuss.
Noah:
First path would then represent the first (small) stage in overcoming our delusional fixation on thought, while 4th path represents a major breakthrough in perception of thoughts true nature (seeing that thoughts are empty of inherant existance or meaning).


I felt like your OP had a strong voice in defining the mechanistic-conceptual significance of the 4th nana, and that D was asking for a similar level of rigor in regards to how you view the other milestones.  So what is second path?  Is it just a repeated cycle, or could this shift of perception be modelled/represented in a way that is inherently different from 1st?  And why does 3rd path happen after an indeterminate number of cycles?  What is it that must shift inside for 3rd path to occur?  

Noah - I'm not sure what DW wants, but if you would like a description of these path I would be happy to discuss it.  I gave give a brief outline.

As I said above (see the paragraph just before your quote emoticon ) the MCTB paths are very subtle, and I'm not sure there is even much agreement on them among those who claim them, but here is my view:

0. Our starting point is complete conceptual fixation.  There are three components to this - awareness, thoughts, and ignorance.  Due to the presence of ignorance, our naturally timeless and ultimate nature has become utterly fixated on relative conceptual thought such that we believe coneptuality to be utterly solid and inherantly real.

0.5 At the A and P, we glimpse the (true) immaterial nature of thought and are thrust into the Dark Night, where though we have seen conceptuality to be false, we are still utterly bound in our perception of thoughts as solid and inherantly real.

1.  At first path we overcome a small subset of ignorance, and thus gain a small measure of freedom.  The mechanism for first path seems to be a moment in which wo completely cease our striving (aka the peak of equnimity), and as a result gain a new freedom of perception.  After words we feel light and happy as though some small burden has been released.

2.  Second path is very ill-defined, but for me it occured as a visual/ perceptua distiurabance, and afterwords I felt somewhat more mature regarding the path athought there was no clear frution or subsequent review cycle.  After 2nd path we should have stable access to the first 4 Jhanas.

3.  The cycle of insight between 1st and 2nd path is extrememyl indestinct, and this is also true for that between 2nd and 3rd.  Eventually we have some kind of seemingly-logical conclusion to a stream of thought, where we may feel/think something like, 'the cycle is complete'.  This is a relatively well deffined path moment (experientially).  After the 3rd path the main shift in perception is greatly increased confidence.  I know I read about this on here - this thread - , and also this was my personal experience as well as that of a friend of mine.

After 3rd path we should have stable access to all 8 Jhanas, and as well be able to attain Nirodah Sampatti.

After 3rd path we do go through many noticible cycle of insight, first slowly i.e. one every couple of weeks, then faster, i.e. one every couple of days, the very fast, up to several cycle in a single session of meditation.  At this point when we are just speeding through the cycles, each competed cycle seems to make less and less of a difference to our perception, and we begin to look for something beyond the cycles.  Rapidly completing cycles is a sign we are getting close to 4th path. 

4.  When 4th path occurs it is as though a great space has opened up in our minds.  We now experience a contrast between relative thought, and ultimate space (or awareness).  When a thought arises in our minds, it is seen in relation to our percetion of ultimate space, and its relative truth is negated, or seen as it is; relative, and not ultimate true.  Thus, in the Mahayana this first attainment is described as seeing that form is emptiness, aka form is empty, or form is negated by emptiness.

Cheers!  Long post, but interesting stuff! Sorry for the spelling issues ;)

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/19/15 8:17 AM as a reply to T DC.
OK. Lets go item by item:

1. If the whole idea of this post is to give more importance to AP, I agree with that. AP is the first breach, and, from that moment, there is no turning back. AP is a very, very important experience, not because of what you attain, but because of what it changes.

2. Language is useful for talking about things. The moment we get too abstract, there no use for it. And comprehension is too abstract. So its useful to identify stages, physical things that happen with them. Blips, jerkiness, panoramic vision, vibrations, locations, etc.

3. Related to 2nd point. Communication should be in person, or at least via skype. There are lots of details that indicate level of attainment.

4. Related to 3nd point. I've not met many meditators, and I believe that to work with models you have to be a lot with them. While most models were made by people who have met many meditators, I don't think you can draw many conclusions about them without putting them to the test with many people yourself.

5. You go on and talk about 4th path and the Mahayana. I don't know what to say about that. I haven't attained 4th path but it is said to put and end to the quest started by the first AP, to the seeker that is born after AP. So, it may be related to AP.

So, in conclusion, I agree that AP is very, very important and should be more discussed here.
About the maps and stages, the discussion is going nowhere (at least with me, maybe because of my level of attainment).

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/19/15 3:21 PM as a reply to T DC.
@T DC:  Word, thanks.  There will always be questions and differing opinions on the nanas and paths, but this helped to elucidate your view.

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/16/15 3:20 PM as a reply to T DC.
T DC:

An example here is your post about the PCE you just had, which Daniel immediately suggested might be A and P related.


Pawel:

ps. Daniel comment to Noah about his experience being A&P is imho spot on imho.


Since there seems to be some continuing interest in that discussion in the other thread, I'll adress it.  It would probably be best, for the sake of advancing discussion (in general, on this forum), if Daniel, or another participant, were to address the specific differences I identified between this experience (which I think was a PCE) and past A&P's I have had, as well as more common differences between typical PCE descriptions by others, and corresponding A&P descriptions.  I posted these differences immediately following his comment.  

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/16/15 5:14 PM as a reply to T DC.
T DC:
Traditionally in the DhO community, the experience of the A and P is defined as one of great energy, and rapture, and perhaps an almost manic state of mind. Having experienced this personally, I very much resonate with this description, and this not what I want to discuss here. What I want to re-define, or perhaps define clearly for the first time is the mechanism by which the A and P state is triggered.
That would be awesome. Be specific

T DC:

In my opinion, the A and P is triggered by the genuine comprehension of the three characteristics. While 'the three characteristics' may seem to imply a range of phenomena, I believe comprehension occurs in a very specific and definable manner. I have heard people say on here before that they know they were in the three characteristics because they saw suffering, impermanence and no-self in sensations, but what does this really mean?
Range of phenomena will be narrowed I presume

T DC:

In essence, comprehension can be thought of as a mini-attainment (aka the A and P path moment), a gate that we open that allows us into new and uncharted territory (the dark night), and triggers the A and P state. Like all attainments, comprehension occurs in a universally predictable and obvious manner. Genuine comprehension is an experience in which we realize unequivocally the impermanent nature of our thoughts, and the ultimate nature of our awareness.
1. A&P is a mini attainment path
2. Causation-
...a) realizing the impermanent nature of our thoughts
...b) realizing the ultimate nature of our awareness.
Is this the narrowed down version of phenomena?
T DC:

Genuine comprehension is likely a common and well-known, or easily recalled experience for the serious meditator. Comprehension occurs this way: as we are sitting in meditation (or in daily life) a thought arises in our minds and is seen clearly and irrevocably to be naught but a thought; utterly impermanent and transitory, and not us (not self). As a result of perceiving the thought in this way, our mind naturally releases and it passes away entirely, never to arise again. In essence, in comprehension we have seen a thought for what it is, and as a result have naturally released all attachment to it. In doing so we gain the permanent knowledge (attainment) that thought is impermanent, transitory (cannot provide lasting satisfaction), and not us (not self), and enter the stage of the A and P.

ummm, ya. How is this new information? You could have said go from 3rd Nana to 4th Nana. You're kinda adding a little bit of the end of EQ to it too.

T DC:

Comprehension of the three characteristics represents a leap foreword in overcoming the delusions of mind (aka conceptual fixation), as we have genuinely overcome a barrier in perception. As a result of this accomplishment and the destruction of delusion, mental energy that was formerly tied up in our delusional perception is released, resulting in a massive surge of mental (or psychic) energy which creates the well known symptoms we associate with the A and P (i.e. a massive rush of energy and wild psychic phenomena). In addition, comprehension brings on the dark night situation; we have seen thoughts to be false but we remain trapped in the illusion of their solidity.
What specific delusion? what fixation? what barrier?
How/why does the dark night happen again?


This is all too vague. Replace A&P with first path second path etc....how would you distinguish the difference? You can't hold the 'half path of A&P' in a vacuum. If you can't define the mechanism of each path and the differences thereof, how is what you wrote explaining what you want to explain?
Thanks,
~D

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/16/15 11:36 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:

ummm, ya. How is this new information? You could have said go from 3rd Nana to 4th Nana. You're kinda adding a little bit of the end of EQ to it too.

T DC:

Comprehension of the three characteristics represents a leap foreword in overcoming the delusions of mind (aka conceptual fixation), as we have genuinely overcome a barrier in perception. As a result of this accomplishment and the destruction of delusion, mental energy that was formerly tied up in our delusional perception is released, resulting in a massive surge of mental (or psychic) energy which creates the well known symptoms we associate with the A and P (i.e. a massive rush of energy and wild psychic phenomena). In addition, comprehension brings on the dark night situation; we have seen thoughts to be false but we remain trapped in the illusion of their solidity.
What specific delusion? what fixation? what barrier?
How/why does the dark night happen again?


This is all too vague. Replace A&P with first path second path etc....how would you distinguish the difference? You can't hold the 'half path of A&P' in a vacuum. If you can't define the mechanism of each path and the differences thereof, how is what you wrote explaining what you want to explain?
Thanks,
~D
Dream Walker - Good questions!  Let me try to break it down for you.

The problem, at the very begining of the path, is that we are totally fixated on concept as solid, such that we believe ourselves and the rest of the world to have inherant existence and genuine separation.  This the delusion I refer to is the delusion of solidity and permenance.

When we begin to meditate, as we begin to work through the first few layers of our experience, first we experience great calm of mind (nana 1), then a torrent of thought (nana 2), then we start to get the hang of meditating and dealing with thoughts (nana 3).  At the peak of nana 3, we have an instant where we truly get it (i.e. genuine comprehension); we see thoughts for what they truly are; utterly insubstantial and utterly impermenant.  This realisation signals the end of nana 3 and the entrace into nana 4 (the A and P).

As I said, upon the instant of genuine comperhension, we overcome a certain base illusion of mind, and are then thrust into a state of torment in which, though we have witnessed that thoughts are utterly false, our minds are still utterly ruled by them (aka the Dark Night). 

First path would then represent the first (small) stage in overcoming our delusional fixation on thought, while 4th path represents a major breakthrough in perception of thoughts true nature (seeing that thoughts are empty of inherant existance or meaning).

Does that help?  Do you have any more specific questions?

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/17/15 1:25 AM as a reply to T DC.
First path would then represent the first (small) stage in overcoming our delusional fixation on thought, while 4th path represents a major breakthrough in perception of thoughts true nature (seeing that thoughts are empty of inherant existance or meaning).


I felt like your OP had a strong voice in defining the mechanistic-conceptual significance of the 4th nana, and that D was asking for a similar level of rigor in regards to how you view the other milestones.  So what is second path?  Is it just a repeated cycle, or could this shift of perception be modelled/represented in a way that is inherently different from 1st?  And why does 3rd path happen after an indeterminate number of cycles?  What is it that must shift inside for 3rd path to occur?   

RE: Redefining the A and P
Answer
11/17/15 4:18 PM as a reply to T DC.
Dream Walker - Good questions!  Let me try to break it down for you.

The problem, at the very begining of the path, is that we are totally fixated on concept as solid, such that we believe ourselves and the rest of the world to have inherant existence and genuine separation.  This the delusion I refer to is the delusion of solidity and permenance.

As I said, upon the instant of genuine comperhension, we overcome a certain base illusion of mind, and are then thrust into a state of torment in which, though we have witnessed that thoughts are utterly false, our minds are still utterly ruled by them (aka the Dark Night). 

First path would then represent the first (small) stage in overcoming our delusional fixation on thought, while 4th path represents a major breakthrough in perception of thoughts true nature (seeing that thoughts are empty of inherant existance or meaning).

Does that help?  Do you have any more specific questions?
So A&P and paths 1-4 are all - "delusion I refer to is the delusion of solidity and permenance." and 'overcoming our delusional fixation on thought'

So you agree with  three marks of existence . anatta, anicca, and maybe dukkha?
ok cool.
~D