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Stream Entry

Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?

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In the scriptures, there are many situations where people attain to stream entry simply by listening to the Buddha's teachings, even for the first time. Yet here on this forum and in MCTB it is understood that stream entry is when you experience the cessation in meditation practice for the first time. I'm not sure this is what was meant by Buddha. Do you think those people experienced cessation just by listening to the teachings?

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 5:51 AM as a reply to Michał G..
To me it seems like cessation is a thought construction anyway. There can be an apparent cessation of the character and the storyline of time and space. But then that storyline of "someone having experienced it" and "it having happened in time and due to some practice" etc. comes back and creates the experience of progression, time, space, someone etc. All that being absolutely false. False in a sense that it's all just thought and can't be proven to be anything else. The illusion is great, contains ideas about wisdom and buddhas and attainments etc. But the idea of illusion and bondage is also just thought. Either it is seen somehow, or it isn't. And not seen by anyone in particular. Any particulars are in the apparent storyline. Hmm, maybe "seeing" isn't the best word to use but anyway... Not seeing and not unseeing might be a better clumsy description of nothing.

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 11:17 AM as a reply to Michał G..
The "stream-entry" most people here talk about is based on the Visuddhimagga, as modified by Mahasi Sayadaw, as modified by Bill Hamilton, as modified by Daniel.

The Visuddhimagga and Mahasi Sayadaw both claim that their "stream-entry" turns out to be the same as the "stream-entry" defined in the suttas.

It was Bill Hamilton who discarded entirely the sutta definitions (of the four stages) in favor of purely Visuddhimagga / Mahasi Sayadaw / Bill Hamilton understandings of "stream-entry," etc.

His justification was that the sutta definitions were, according to him, "unscientific."

See previous discussions:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5747266

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5761718

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 6:33 AM as a reply to Michał G..
you are right.  in the scriptures there are descriptions of people attaining to sotapanna by hearing dhamma talks etc.  the descriptions of SE in the suttas mostly describe unwavering faith in the triple gem.

the practices here, as noted above, are derivative refinements of the visuddhimagga, bill hamilton and daniel and are a pragmatic approach to achieve certain results which can be phenomenologically described in a more objective way than the suttas do.

some people move unfailingly through the stages of insight and see all stages clearly until they reach a clear cessation / fruition.  others do not.  i am one of those others.

nevertheless, my consistent practice, largely based on the noting and vipassana practices in the mahasi tradition have brought me much success even if not strictly in line and lock step with the 16 stages of insight.

the standard measures of sotapanna, ie:  diminished reliance on rites and rituals, diminished self view, and removal of sceptical doubt, were a solid measure of that particular level of success in my case.

i like ajahn succito's rather informal take on SE which is basically that irregardless of your life situation you will always tend to move toward the dhamma and its successful practices and ethos.

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 6:48 AM as a reply to Michał G..
Michał G.:
In the scriptures, there are many situations where people attain to stream entry simply by listening to the Buddha's teachings, even for the first time. Yet here on this forum and in MCTB it is understood that stream entry is when you experience the cessation in meditation practice for the first time. I'm not sure this is what was meant by Buddha. Do you think those people experienced cessation just by listening to the teachings?
It's thought by some that those "sudden" situations involved people who had probably already been doing things like Vedic or Jain practice for maybe up to a lifetime, so that the Buddha's teaching would bring it all to click together in a new way, and on the spot. That is to say, these people were already very close.

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 8:50 AM as a reply to Michał G..
Michał, yours is a question of semantics. There are different definitions of what Stream Entry is, and I think we have to live with that, being careful to specify what we mean when we use that expression.

You ask what the Buddha actually meant. Well, given that a large portion of the suttas is not historical, but rather later material attributed to Gautama, and given that it is very hard to establish what is authentic and what is an addition in the canonical texts, since it was all written down centuries after Gautama's death, this question will most likely never have an answer. What he actually meant by "stream entry", if ever he actually used this specific expression, is anyone's guess.

As for people having cessations while listening to Gautama's speeches, extreme psychological reactions to powerful "spiritual" public speakers happen daily. Just look for videos of faith healers on the internet. The Buddha was very likely a very powerful orator, otherwise he would have been forgotten shortly after his death. I don't find it hard to imagine that some people's lives were deeply affected after meeting with him or just hearing him speak.

_____________

EDIT: Just to be clear, I do not mean to say that the Buddha was a faith healer, of course. I am just pointing out that extreme psychological, emotional, spiritual reactions to powerful figures are very common in our day too - mostly to scammers and psychopaths, unfortunately, but the potential to be affected is there in our minds.

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 8:46 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:

the Buddha's teaching would bring it all to click together in a new way, and on the spot.

Essence Mahāmudrā! emoticon

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 1:35 PM as a reply to Michał G..
Michał G.:
In the scriptures, there are many situations where people attain to stream entry simply by listening to the Buddha's teachings, even for the first time. Yet here on this forum and in MCTB it is understood that stream entry is when you experience the cessation in meditation practice for the first time. I'm not sure this is what was meant by Buddha. Do you think those people experienced cessation just by listening to the teachings?
The two are not mutually exclusive I don't think.  I do remember reading, I think it was in MCTB, that cessation can be missed if you are not paying attention.  If cessation is not much mentioned in some texts, that does not mean it did not happen with the 'old school' type of stream entry, could be they just thought it was of less importance than many other aspects and did not spend a lot of time concerned with it.  I could easily imagine that quality of life from that moment forward might be considered much more important that an easily missed temporary little blip in consciousness.  I also do not recall any requirements about any specific thing you have to be doing at the time of stream entry happening.  Many are meditating at the time but some are not.   

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 1:41 PM as a reply to Robert.
Robert:
To me it seems like cessation is a thought construction anyway. There can be an apparent cessation of the character and the storyline of time and space. But then that storyline of "someone having experienced it" and "it having happened in time and due to some practice" etc. comes back and creates the experience of progression, time, space, someone etc. All that being absolutely false. False in a sense that it's all just thought and can't be proven to be anything else. The illusion is great, contains ideas about wisdom and buddhas and attainments etc. But the idea of illusion and bondage is also just thought. Either it is seen somehow, or it isn't. And not seen by anyone in particular. Any particulars are in the apparent storyline. Hmm, maybe "seeing" isn't the best word to use but anyway... Not seeing and not unseeing might be a better clumsy description of nothing.
Well isn't everything a thought construct anyway?  If being a thought construct precluded talking about something as being potentially useful, then we may as well just shut down the internet and cut out our tongues as they have no use.  I guess it could be that we are all totally random accumulations of robot stuff or it could be there is a reason we come here to life, learn stuff and talk..
-Eva

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/24/16 3:37 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva Nie:

Well isn't everything a thought construct anyway?

Yes but even that is a concept and ultimately holds no real value or meaning. The reminders were for the divided and seeking mind-state though.

Eva Nie:

If being a thought construct precluded talking about something as being potentially useful, then we may as well just shut down the internet and cut out our tongues as they have no use.

That would be action coming from a thought being believed. And the usefulness is in breaking the habit of thinking and the habit of taking thoughts to be something real or actually important. Some concepts/thought can point out the fallacy of the seeking habit. But in the end those pointer-thoughts are seen through as well. They have nothing to do with anyone in the end. And thought still happens, apparently, but thought happening is not the same as thinking. The belief in thinking is based on another notion of there being an actual thinker behind the thoughts.

Eva Nie:

I guess it could be that we are all totally random accumulations of robot stuff or it could be there is a reason we come here to life, learn stuff and talk..
-Eva

Both are relative points of view. Ideas, assumptions etc. Some people have the robot-view and some other people have that life-view. And some shift between ideas. All that is thought phenomena though. Not saying any of it is wrong or right. Just pointing something out with these concepts. Pointing out that there is the possibility for the backward step from the thought-stream of me, my life and my problems, hopes and fears.

edit:

I'm not saying that thoughts should be gotten rid of or that everyday life should be neglected due to believing a concept that says "everything is just thought". I don't mean any of the writings to be taken on as a belief to (un-)live from. But there can be the recognition which is beyond all thoughts, including what was written here.

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/25/16 3:43 AM as a reply to Robert.
Dear James,

thanks for sharing! Really interesting read. The link to the other four parts on your blog is broken (it redirects to a backend page which only the blog's administrator can see) so I have taken the time to dig up all the links through google:

Part 1 http://levekunst.com/reality-and-existence/

Part 2 http://levekunst.com/nonduality-the-problem-of-perspective/

Part 3 http://levekunst.com/on-naturing-and-why-it-matters/

Part 4 http://levekunst.com/duration-is-the-formal-appearance-of-reality/

Part 5 http://levekunst.com/the-decisive-experience-of-now/

More comments later probably emoticon 

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/25/16 4:33 AM as a reply to neko.
Ok, since this thread is about playing the game of comparing different models of awakening, and in particular the game of "is the blip (cessation) really a necessary part of every awakening experience?", I will try to put James' description of his path(s) onto the Theravadin maps as usually understood in this community.

From the point of view of what has shifted in James' "perspective", and in what experiential / phenomenological order, it looks like everything fits in very nicely with the MCTB maps:



James M Corrigan:

One day, I had the most amazing experience. I dissolved into utter perfection and love too brilliant to be anything at all. Nothing but unseen loving light.
[A&P] I remember it happening one cold evening in late October the year I was 15. It was drizzling rain, and I was staring into a crack filled with moss, debris, insects, and small weeds between two walkway pavement stones on a street next to some railroad tracks. My friend was asking me if I was alright, except he wasn’t saying anything at all, he was just staring at me with concern in his heart, which I heard clearly. It was like that for me then. I had been doing something, as a way of comforting myself after the death of my mother, at the age of five, that I much later learned was a form of meditation. It was something that I spontaneously started doing. I was using what the Indians call the anāhata nāda, unstruck sound. And although focusing on those unborn sounds, which became increasingly complex over time, was comforting, it was really messing with my head. [ DN ]

One day, while meditating, I saw that there is no observer that endured through my experiences.[1] Which raised a question in my mind: “If there is no observer, then how does experience happen?” Another day, while meditating, I saw that there is nothing that has a single, permanent, independent, truly existing self.[2] Which raised a question in my mind: “If there is nothing to observe, then how does experience happen?” And on yet another day, while meditating, I watched as experience arose and saw it nakedly as a spontaneously creative, and illusory, evanescence that seemed to be its own conductor, weaving a rich tapestry of convoluted folds of light, sound, feelings, sensations, emotions, thoughts, and judgments. [3] Which raised a question in my mind: “If there is nothing at all with any true reality, then how does experience happen?”

I contemplated these questions for almost thirty years  [12]

[...]

Having the habit of sitting for long periods, abiding, with hardly a thought, as the luminous naturing of Dharmata—the reverberations, arising as sounds and colored light, of the naturing of all appearances—I was amazed one day when something unusual happened. Suddenly, I realized where I was. It arrived like a flash of intuition, only not as a thought, for this was different. It was not so much something added, as something suddenly no longer there. It was that bare perspective that normally abided, a characterless perspective which didn’t so much disappear, as clarified, no longer lost immanently within the sounds and light, but present clearly, and that clearing was remarkably familiar. That bare perspective, that abided as the luminous naturing of Dharmata, suddenly paused, unmoving, unabiding, unhitched, just clearly there, present, holding all that was arising as a mother holds her newborn child still attached, lovingly, while the luminous naturing continued, not separate in any way, as if stillness and motion were the same, and this is when I realized it was the Now—the pure unchanging, unmoving presence immanent in the naturing. This clear Now that is the “ing” of all possible descriptions of what is happen-ing. The quality that all the words I tried to use to name it, ending in “-ness,” were after.

And I realized that this was definitive. This was the pure truth, at least as much as would ever show its face on this side of the Event Horizon. [4]

[A&P] 4th nana, Knowledge of the Arising and Passing Away.

Entrance into the Dark Night.

Then, a succession of path-moments:

[1] First Path, through the no-self gate.

[2] Second Path, further insight into emptiness.

[3] Third path, obsession with luminosity and clarity.

[12] Unclear what to do next, futher progress which is hard to pin down, so-called "twelfth path"

[4] Fourth path.

__________________

Now, back to the question of Cessation. Was there a 'blip' in these shifts? This is probably for James to answer. But the problem is that, while we have a long list of properties a blip has and hasn't, given the essentially subjective notion of it, it is very hard if not impossible to set objective criteria for whether a 'blip' was there. In fact, a subjective recollection of "no blip" can alway be explained in a couple of ways:

1. The practitioner had a 'blip', but cannot remember it, either because the level of concentration was not high enough [this does not seem to apply to James], or because he had no previous knowledge that a 'blip' is a possibility, so he did not pay attention to it and did not notice it.

2. The practitioner describes a shift in perspective; the shift is profund, to the point that "the two sides of reality" are like mismatching pieces of a puzzle, gradual transition from one to the other is impossible (just like you cannot see the duck and the rabbit at the same time in the duckrabbit), the 'blip' is the instant that separates the two sides in the perspective shift.

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/25/16 11:19 AM as a reply to neko.
James M Corrigan:

I'm not exactly sure of the intended meaning of "blip," I'm taking it as a "fault in the matrix" kind of sudden disjointedness in direct experience.


Pretty much, yes. "Blip" is this forum's jargon for "cessation" or "fruition". I guess people like to use it because it sounds less dramatic - and it acknowledges the possibility of wrong self-diagnosis in the practical dharma, often teacher-less community. I like to read it as a shorthand for: It certainly was some kind of "blip!", but was it really a Fruition? Let's talk about it!

More technically, it is the "nibbana instant" in the chain of events that complete a cycle of insight according to the Visuddhimagga, the fast chain of nanas commonly numbered 12-15, 16 being review and 11 being [knowledge of] equanimity [about sankharas].

http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/506fcc5c84aefb9a79a610b3/1349504092518/Pathways.jpg

Daniel Ingram's description is probably the best one available around from the point of view of putting together traditional descriptions, personal experience and second-hand descriptions from fellow meditators; it even has a checklist for self-diagnosis.

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB+Was+that+Emptiness




I've ruminated at times about what I do actually experience at these moments and an expression used too frequently in phenomenology, which I studied at university, would always come to mind: "always already there," except in these cases it was of the "not there" variety, so "(something) already gone" or "(something) was never there, but I felt it was."

Not 100% sure what you mean there. But if you mean "was this thing I am seeing now all the time there and I am just noticing for the first time? Or is it an entirely new phenomenon / quality / perspective / experience?", yes, that is always one of the big questions --- and points of contention among practitioners. I am suspecting that it is not much more than semantics, though, and both things are true / false depending on what we are talking about exactly:

- If it wasn't noticed before, then for all practical purposes it didn't exist before phenomenologically (so it must be new).

- Yet "reality" does not appear to be dramatically altered (or altered at all), it is just a shift in perspective, and it feels natural and spontaneous now (so it must always have been there).



The character is of noticing (duh) suddenly that some aspect that I understood to be (there/true/occuring) is suddenly noticed to be missing, but the content of the direct experience is coherent, without a gap, it's the understanding (maybe "standing under" is better, signifing the visceral aspect of the experience) suddenly "starts" at the noticing. It's the understanding that is blipping. I tried to describe this in that "Decisive Experience of Now" piece, this way:
Suddenly, I realized where I was. It arrived like a flash of intuition, only not as a thought, for this was different. It was not so much something added, as something suddenly no longer there. It was that bare perspective that normally abided, a characterless perspective which didn’t so much disappear, as clarified, no longer lost immanently within the sounds and light, but present clearly, and that clearing was remarkably familiar.

The Theravadin model supposes that just before the "flash of intuition" you are talking about there should be a drastic discontinuity in the perceptual / cognitive continuum which, with enough clarity, should be seen at the very least as a "missing frame". In most (if not all, potential point of contention) cases, the missing frame cannot be experienced directly, but only after the fact. Depending on one's disposition, curiosity and background, the attention can either go

1) to the flash of intuition in itself,

2) to how the flash of intuition compares to what was before it, and how it came about. The two mismatching pieces of the puzzle I was talking about before.

In the second case, the "blip" is realised, in the first case, it could be easily missed. Of course not knowing about this model is another reason one might just not notice the "missing frame" phenomenon. Either way, according to the Theravadins, the "blip" should be a repeatable experience, even after 4th path, as not all blips are created equal. The "big ones" are associated with Path moments:

regular dude -> big blip -> sotapanna -> big blip -> sakadagami -> big blip -> anagami -> big blip -> arahant

but in most cases from sotapanna on, and in all cases from sakadagami on, there will be repeatable "small blips" on or even off the cushion, at predictable places in the cycles of insight. So in theory you could look for yourself whether you do or can get those "small blips" while practicing.

More explicitly, on this map:

http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/506fcc5c84aefb9a79a610b3/1349504092518/Pathways.jpg

See the junction points that ask "Review?" and "Insight Mature?" A big blip passes through numbers 12 (conformity), 13 (change of lineage) and 14 (path). A small blip skips those stages and takes you directly to 15 (Fruition) through direct realisation of one or two of the Three Doors (no-self, impermanence, dukkha).

This is the theoretical model, and as such it is an abstraction, and not everyone will recognise every little bit of it in their practice.

Helpful? Any of this makes sense?

n

RE: Are you sure you have the right idea of stream entry?
Answer
3/29/16 5:45 AM as a reply to Michał G..
Here is a sutta passage that I think could support that a path moment could be a cessation, just as described by Mahasi and others following him:

~“Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, formations, and
consciousness, he sees those states as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumor,
as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self.
He turns his mind away from those states and directs it towards the deathless element
thus: ‘This is the peaceful, this is the sublime, that is, the stilling of all formations, the
relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation,
Nibbana.”
MN 64.9

So here we have insight into the 3 Cs followed by the mind turning away from these states and towards... the stilling of all formations...cessation. I think such passage is repeated more than once in the suttas.