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Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?

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Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/20/15 9:28 AM
Just like the topic title,

Can pure samatha, one pointness on the breath with full hard jhanic absoportions OR without lead to stream entry (and climbing up the nana levels) without doing any kind of insight practice such as noting?

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/20/15 12:15 PM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
the dogma says emphatically: no.

vipassana, or clear seeing, is considered, in the buddhist tradition at least, as the way leading to wisdom.

the question for me is: can one reach the final goal without shamata?

obviously some other traditions don't posit either of those practices as requirements.  the buddha himself went through austerities and deep shamata practice before his breakthrough VIA shamata and vipassana.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/20/15 9:06 PM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
Hi MangaDesuYo,

I think you need a bit of samatha/samadhi to be able to do vipassana well. Concentration is one of the seven factors of enlightenment:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Factors_of_Enlightenment

   

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/20/15 9:22 PM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
MangaDesuYo:
Just like the topic title,

Can pure samatha, one pointness on the breath with full hard jhanic absoportions OR without lead to stream entry (and climbing up the nana levels) without doing any kind of insight practice such as noting?



No, but in practice most people don't only do perfect and always fully absorbed samatha while training to get that good at samatha. It takes a lot of moment-to-moment noticing to develop even the most basic versions of the jhanas. This leads to going through parts of the progress of insight map for many people whether they like it or not. I didn't even start formal vipassana practice until I was at Equanimity and I had no idea that that was the case until long after. Also, if you get that good at samatha, given a small variation in the technique, you can get stream entry.

The interaction between samatha and insight is explained in detail in Culadasa's book The Mind Illuminated, which is the best practical guide I've read on samatha practice. The book also explains why and how people get different effects from stream entry (assuming you count the first time you get a fruition as stream entry), besides for the fruition itself. By fruition, I mean the moment of cessation that comes after Equanimity in the first cycle of the progress of insight.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/20/15 10:13 PM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
Almost. But at some point you must question the makeup of your experience. Whether that comes later or earlier, I cannot say which is more effective.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 3:28 AM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
I personally can't answer that question. But I recently read the following quote from Ajaan Fuang Jotiko:
The breath can take you all the way to nibbana, you know.

Ajahn Brahm said similar things. Of course it leaves room for interpretation.

There are teachers out there that don't demarcate vipassana and samatha as strongly as we here at Dho. Hence, some teach a meditation style that is more inclusive and tries to bring both methods into one (not judging here). Maybe then it's just a matter of interpretation and samatha can lead to SE.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 6:59 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:
MangaDesuYo:
Just like the topic title,

Can pure samatha, one pointness on the breath with full hard jhanic absoportions OR without lead to stream entry (and climbing up the nana levels) without doing any kind of insight practice such as noting?



No, but in practice most people don't only do perfect and always fully absorbed samatha while training to get that good at samatha. It takes a lot of moment-to-moment noticing to develop even the most basic versions of the jhanas. This leads to going through parts of the progress of insight map for many people whether they like it or not. I didn't even start formal vipassana practice until I was at Equanimity and I had no idea that that was the case until long after. Also, if you get that good at samatha, given a small variation in the technique, you can get stream entry.

The interaction between samatha and insight is explained in detail in Culadasa's book The Mind Illuminated, which is the best practical guide I've read on samatha practice. The book also explains why and how people get different effects from stream entry (assuming you count the first time you get a fruition as stream entry), besides for the fruition itself. By fruition, I mean the moment of cessation that comes after Equanimity in the first cycle of the progress of insight.

Thanks, what a shame though, I was passioned to read that book but it's unavilable in my country and in any other site that sells it, same with the ebook edition... oh well...

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 7:41 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:
MangaDesuYo:
Just like the topic title,

Can pure samatha, one pointness on the breath with full hard jhanic absoportions OR without lead to stream entry (and climbing up the nana levels) without doing any kind of insight practice such as noting?



No, but in practice most people don't only do perfect and always fully absorbed samatha while training to get that good at samatha. It takes a lot of moment-to-moment noticing to develop even the most basic versions of the jhanas. This leads to going through parts of the progress of insight map for many people whether they like it or not. I didn't even start formal vipassana practice until I was at Equanimity and I had no idea that that was the case until long after. Also, if you get that good at samatha, given a small variation in the technique, you can get stream entry.

The interaction between samatha and insight is explained in detail in Culadasa's book The Mind Illuminated, which is the best practical guide I've read on samatha practice. The book also explains why and how people get different effects from stream entry (assuming you count the first time you get a fruition as stream entry), besides for the fruition itself. By fruition, I mean the moment of cessation that comes after Equanimity in the first cycle of the progress of insight.
if you get that good at samatha, given a small variation in the technique, you can get stream entry.
Care to explain this line more? emoticon

Does Culadasa's book provide a combination of samatha practice with insight as ONE practice? does one apply the whatever insight practice he introduces also in sessions when one doesn't get into some form of jhana?

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 8:00 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
re: Jigme Sengye(11/20/15 9:22 PM as a reply to MangaDesuYo)

"No, but in practice most people don't only do perfect and always fully absorbed samatha while training to get that good at samatha. It takes a lot of moment-to-moment noticing to develop even the most basic versions of the jhanas."

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Than-Geof / TG) has described two different ways of approaching stream-entry, which, I find, illustrate the two alternative ways of using focally samadhi or vipassana (this being all paraphasing of places in his talks):

1 ) Going through successively deeper stages of concentration, where at each plateau – degree of increased stillness -- one carefully evalutates to see where there's still dukkha to work on. So this seems using samadhi, for instance jhana (Than-Geof doesn't specify other than"concentration"), and then vipassana to evaluate the concentrated mind. He says that after much work along these lines, though levels and levels, the remaining duhhka gets increasingly subtle, to the point where the mind realizes that whatever direction it moves will still find dukkha (perhaps the fact that room for movement is still there is the dukkha?). At that point, the mind simply ceases intending altogether, where, he says, it all opens up, the deathless emerges. This would seem to be using primarily the samadhi-vehicle as the basis for the releasing vipassana.

2 ) The other way goes through examining moment-to-moment mental activity as conditioned phenomena, deconstructing each to see more exactly the progression of conditioned flow of mind moments. (The use of abhidhamma-like terms here is mine, not Than-Geof's.) The aim is to continue this exhaustively to the point where conditionality is fully grasped. He says that only with thoroughly understanding the conditioned does itbecome possible to comprehend "unconditioned". This description is a bit less vivid (IMO) than his depiction of (1), but seems to point to a more vipassana-vehicle approach, following constantly changing objects, and the mind is using vipassana-khanika-samadhi (to use Mahasi Sayadaw's term), observing each mind-moment in conditioned arising and passing with such intensity (the samadhi aspect) that it becomes directly, fully grasped – "noted" in the strongest sense, of gnosis, or direct knowledge and seeing.

These two descriptions I find practical as modes to pursue (alternately on an informal basis) in my own practice – rather than trying to orient to some mapped progression of stages of nyanas or whatever. Could be because the practice isn't yet far enough along to recognize such things; or maybe because I've listened / read so much of Than-Geof's teachings that I've adopted his Thai-Wilderness style framework (rather than the more structured Burmese-style); although I have trained in Burmese-style (Pa Auk) jhana-s, which are more specifically defined than Than-Geof's discussions of concentration.

However, Than-Geof's teacher's teacher, Ajahn Lee, discusses more detailed jhanic practice, and integrated with insight -- as in the second part ("Lessons in samadhi") of Than-Geof's book (Keeping the Breath in Mind) of translations from Ajahn Lee. I've yet to find Than-Geof himself gointo detail about jhanic-stages of concentration (1st, 2nd, etc…). Perhaps he does that only in advanced, one-on-one teaching.

Also, though there are clearly stylistic differences, from what I've seen of TG's Thai-Wilderness approach, and Burmese styles (Mahasi and Pa Auk), I find no fundamental difference between their paths.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 10:00 AM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
Stream-entry purely from samadhi may be possible, but I've never heard of it happening in practice. What's often forgotten on Internet meditation forums is that Buddhism never was a meditation-only tradition. The presence of a teacher and good companions are also important factors, as are the non-meditation parts of the N8FP. For example:

"Sappurisasaṃsevo hi, bhante, sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ; saddhammassavanaṃ sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ; yonisomanasikāro sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ; dhammānudhammappaṭipatti sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ" (Saṃyuttanikāya, 5. Mahāvaggapāḷi, 11. Sotāpattisaṃyuttaṃ, 1. Veḷudvāravaggo, 5. Dutiyasāriputtasuttaṃ).

"Association, Sir, with good people is a factor of stream-entry; hearing good teachings is a factor of stream-entry; wise reflection is a factor of stream-entry; practicing the teachings in accordance with the teachings is a factor of stream-entry" (SN 55.5).

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 3:41 PM as a reply to Derek.
Than Geoff has a very nice book that collects relevant passages from the canon regarding stream entry. It's called Into the Stream, and the ebook version is freely accessible here. It includes this quote and many others. I find it quite inspiring.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/21/15 10:00 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:

1 ) Going through successively deeper stages of concentration, where at each plateau – degree of increased stillness -- one carefully evalutates to see where there's still dukkha to work on. So this seems using samadhi, for instance jhana (Than-Geof doesn't specify other than"concentration"), and then vipassana to evaluate the concentrated mind. He says that after much work along these lines, though levels and levels, the remaining duhhka gets increasingly subtle, to the point where the mind realizes that whatever direction it moves will still find dukkha (perhaps the fact that room for movement is still there is the dukkha?). At that point, the mind simply ceases intending altogether, where, he says, it all opens up, the deathless emerges. This would seem to be using primarily the samadhi-vehicle as the basis for the releasing vipassana.

Chris, you know I was so taken with Than Geoff's description of this and how it related to stream entry that I also took on the effort of transcribing from the same talk that you had already last year transcribed. It was around this time that I was also reading Ajahn Amaro's book Small Boat Great Mountain. There's a chapter in the book called The Place of Nonabiding, in which Ajahn Amaro recounts Ajahn Chah's last missive to Ajahn Sumedho in a letter. It reads:
Ajahn Chah:
Whenever you have feelings of love or hate for anything whatsoever, these will be your aides and partners in building pārami. The Buddha-Dharma is not to be found in moving forwards, nor in moving backwards, nor in standing still. This, Sumedho, is your place of nonabiding.

This whole book is worth a look, it details a retreat that Ajahn Amaro co-led with Tsoknyi Rinpoche at SR some years ago. This particular chapter, I found quite important... If you ever entertained the thought that koans were the sole province of Zen minds, this will help disavow you of that notion emoticon A ripe mind is a ripe mind, and teachers of Buddhism have been using these types of pointed teachings to liberate since the Buddha himself.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/22/15 6:09 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
What a nice Achaan Chah quote. Thanks for that.

As to integrated vs split approaches to samatha and vipassana, nearly nobody can keep it really clean to one side or the other anyway, and basically everyone except the rare star or those with unusual wiring oscillate between experiences that are more heavily samatha-esque (smoothe, stable, peaceful, enjoyable, etc.) and experiences that are more heavily vipassana-esque (fast, moment-to-moment clear, analytical, vibratory, sometimes harsh and violating).

Practitioners doing either tend to slip into the other side often, and staying to one side takes real diligence, with either jhana or insight almost always breaking through peoples' attempts to prevent them, or at least if they do the side they are tryin to stick to well.

So, practically, even if you really try to differentiate them in terms of practice, it almost never happens in totally in reality.

Thus, those who do differentiate them are saved by reality. Those who integrate them are saved by the same reality.

I agree that, with just a subtle tweak at the end, even practice that somehow verges far to the theoretical and asymptotical extreme of "pure samatha" can land stream entry with just a subtle adjustment in focus.

I also know for a fact that you can try to run really dry and attempt to be jhana-free and yet have strong samatha jhanas creep in even despite your best efforts.

Some clearly do better with jhana first, others with more dry techniques first, and there are those who can fuse the two together to something that still does good to move them along.

That also said, this place is just chock-a-block full of stories of people who tried to run too dry for too long and just fried themselves, so hopefully people will read more carefully, study with better people (friends or formal teachers), and learn how and when to modify one's approach so as to stay on The Middle Way.

RE: Can Samatha Lead to Stream Entry?
Answer
11/23/15 2:22 AM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
The Mahasi point is valid, but it must be taken in context (traditional, political, etc.) and must be properly qualified.

It is true they prefer insight-first, which means momentary concentration.

That said, and as note above, to really do jhana well, you actually need serious momentary concentration, just with a certain filter, one that notices the middle of sensations rather than from the beginning all the way down to the very end of them. Still, the skill sets are very, very similar in some ways, though, as is often mentioned, the bliss and the like that can come from not attenting heavily to the full range of the rise and fall of those momentary phenomena is sticky.

Still, just because it is sticky doesn't mean that everyone will get stuck in it, though some definitely will.

So, you can just note and investigate and get stream entry: definitely true, and definitely fast for many, but some will get pretty edgy from that.

Also, you can learn to concentrate in a more jhanic way and then turn that to the Three Characteristics and get stream entry.

You can do a more fusion style, as the Thai Forest and Tibetans often do, and still get stream entry.

In truth, the Three Doors manifest at a level of attention that is actually like a perfect fusion of both samatha and vipassana, as both must converge for you to make that door open, and there are multiple different methods by which people can develop those.