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Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas

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Original post is here.
I really don't want to hijack this nice thread of Bruno's. I will keep it super brief out of respect.

Same.
I mention this only anecdotally, out of deep respect to all awakening beings here and everywhere [...].

I respect that and thank you for your participation.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could take a stab at guessing what the monks might say, without asking you to breach privacy or to specifically put words in anyone's mouth.  I've done a decent amount of personal research on different maps and have highly value traditional data points, as they are so hard to come by.
I should add, U Janaka says his vipassana method is slightly different than U Pandita's.
Their standards of vipassana knowledges are very very high.

Do you think "they" (generally speaking) would say that the technique influences the outcome - does insight technique influence insight knowledge or path attainment?  Or are the latter two independent of the former?  Are "real thing" insight knowledges directly causal of the "real thing" in terms of magga-phala?

Sayadaw U Janaka believes 10 fetters Arahat is attained when the 5 faculties (Panca Indriya) are perfected, and by definition the 3 trainings, perfected simultaneously and automatically. The effect is a an experience that obliterates all the fetters at Arahat's Magga Phala.

Is the idea that this attainment always occurs within a single magga phala event?  Or could there be a gradual reduction of the fetters through systematic training in daily life?  

Also, is it acknowledged that there are different levels of being, thus different levels at which the five faculties manifest?   Meaning, training for the direct-knowing wisdom of the immediate perceptual field not being the same thing as knowing the three marks of existence on grosser levels such as thought, emotion and physical action.  Is it assumed that wisdom on the immediate, perceptual level automatically cascades downwards when the insight knowledges and/or path occur?

Thanks again for the help, Thomas.

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 7:44 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Warning! Long, Detailed reply ensuing.

Considerate questions deserve deep consideration.


Disclaimer:
I try not to adhere to any model of enlightenment too rigidly. I don't share 100% of the opinions of my teacher. He's ok with that since my faith in the Buddha is diamond strong. I'm confident Buddha was a pragmatist.

I am running a slippery slope here with the risk of speaking for Sayadawgyi. He has not given me permission to speak on his behalf. I have been his student for 1 year now. He is very famous, national treasure of Burma and I am lucky and immensely grateful he has given special consideration to me, when I am just a nobody, only ernestly trying to untangle this knot for good and realize the totality of Buddha's teaching. Have had lots of Success with that. And some really tough times too. Like I said, Chanmyay Sayadaw U Janaka has really high standards in terms of grilling the yogis on the clarity of their insight experiences. I guess in his 5 decades of dhamma teaching he has seen and heard it all from the yogis and knows when a yogi is drawing too much on conjecture and lack of clarity.

I have been a long gone time lurker here and at the old KFD forums never posted anything till yesteryday...maybe someday I will get around to posting a practice history when I get back to Canada  (currently in Burma).

Mahasi's book the Progress of Insight is infamous in his circles for hurting a lot of yogis who want it the real thing so bad cuz they read it and imagine what it's like, and then imagining can lead to believing. I have been there too. Its cuz of Sayadaw's compassion he is hard on the yogis. In the end, my own experiences run similar to most of the advanced practitioners in these forums, so I draw no conclusion as to if Sayadaw'said way is the best.

Do you think "they" (generally speaking) would say that the technique influences the outcome -


Good question. Straightforward answer. I'm safe to say, in U Janaka would agree. X technique leads to X result. Y technique leads to y. Cause and effect. X cannot lead to y.

does insight technique influence insight knowledge or path attainment?


U Janaka's (Mahasi) tradition, there is only one true enlightenment, the cessation of suffering caused by rightly understanding all and any mental and physical phenomena in their true nature. They believe other techniques are dead ends. Likewise there is only one technique for attainment (be it sotapanna magga-phala, or the other 3). It is Satipatthana Vipassana. 4 foundations of mindfulness. Each insight knowledge arises sequentially but not automatically. One must always balance and strengthen the 5 faculties, ie. Keep the momentum strong every waking second, constantly and continuously without gap or break -Sayadaw's words.


Are "real thing" insight knowledges directly causal of the "real thing" in terms of magga-phala?


"Real thing" insight knowledges is tough to say. Who has clairvoyant power? Sayadaw is extremely perceptive. He watches your body language, physical movements, tone of voice, your eyes, and more. He really listens to your description and grills you on your experiences. To see just how clear you really are about what it is you think happend. He really cares. He puts so much concern into the experience because, when you are done, you will be the next generation of Buddha's Ariya Sangha. This is no casual matter. It's dead serious stuff. Burmese Buddhism is dead serious about respecting the Fully Self Awakened Buddha. Think of the ramifications his awakening has had on all the beings on earth and how it continues to benefit beings. The true teachings of Awakening rely on the next generation of Awakened beings, ie us. However, the Buddha did predict the pollution of the true dhamma is natural and inevitable.


"Real thing" magga-phala can only be known by Buddha and or at the time of physical death of the yogi. Sayadaw just warns us to not take it lightly, how honest can we be about craving and aversion? The answer to "real thing" attainment lies within this investigation.

I have heard Sayadaw say very clearly and unequivocally, entering strong concentration on the 3 characteristics, anicca, dukkha, anatta will result in magga-phala. He said there is no other way to become enlightened. And there is no other enlightenment besides that. The Buddha himself warned his disciples to discern the efficacy of other traditions compared to the 8foldpath. Do they lead to decreasing in attachment and aversion? If not, chalk it up as fun ride to a cul-de-sac and continued rebirths.

Sayadaw talks about how from the lowest stage (sotapanna) one has a very crude realization that all mental and physical phenomena are anicca, dukkha, anatta. Each stage up to Arahat is the progressive refinement and deepening of that same realization. Arahat has no concept of a person, a being, a soul or self.  Only mental and physical phenomena anicca-ing, dukkha-ing, and anatta-ing. Ie. The 10 fetters cannot possibly arise in the arahat due to lobha,  dosa, and moha (craving, aversion and delusion) uprooted. That is his definition arahat. The fires of Lobha, dosa and moha have their fuel source removed. Ie. Fuel being subtle ignorance of anicca, dukkha, anatta as the sole constituents of every phenomena.

Sayadaw and his senior desciples kind of have the MTCB Theravada 4 path model and the fundamental perception model synergized

Is the idea that this attainment always occurs within a single magga phala event?  Or could there be a gradual reduction of the fetters through systematic training in daily life? 

Some yogis give up at StreamEnterer and do not continue to actively strengthen the 5 faculties. This is very common in Burma. I have met, secretaries, businessmen, taxi drivers who are quite satisfied with the belief that no lower realm rebirths are possible. And so their higher fetters remain intact. Sayadaw  teaches exactly what you said, gradually "chipping" away at the fetters via mindfulness in daily life when not on retreat to keep the 5 faculties "above water" for the next retreat to have a boost of energy to "leave the orbit forever".

Also, is it acknowledged that there are different levels of being, thus different levels at which the five faculties manifest?  Meaning, training for the direct-knowing wisdom of the immediate perceptual field not being the same thing as knowing the three marks of existence on grosser levels such as thought, emotion and physical action. Is it assumed that wisdom on the immediate, perceptual level automatically cascades downwards when the insight knowledges and/or path occur?


Cant speak for him on this. By direct-knowing wisdom do you mean, non-clinging or just acknowledgement of non-dual perception?

What do you mean by "immediate perceptual field"? Do you mean just mulit-sensory grouping while not paying attention to anicca, etc?

Is it your experience that perceptual level cascades downwards at the moment following such an event? If that happens for you at such a moment, that's the truth of that moment.

The arc of Insight knowledges are very specifically attributed to perceptual levels. Perception at each stage is out of anyones control. What we can do is dial in the 5 faculties so to rip through the stages and not get stuck in content. Sayadaw attests to that. He constantly tells the yogis, "do not analyze, to not TRY to figure it out. Just know the experience as it really occurs." - verbatim his words.  

Some people have heightened perceptual levels immediately following frution/and or path events. Sometimes sensory Bliss at that moment can be a little gross and distracting, sometimes bliss suffused with non-dual conscious spaciousness, like the widest, clearest sky in history. Guess it depends.

Metta,
Thomas 

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 8:11 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Thx much.  Will likely post more later.

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 8:35 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
I have heard that the traditional establishment consider third and fourth path  to be vastly different than the first two.  Reading Kenneth & Daniel points to this, as well as Bill Hamilton's book, Brown & Engler's research paper, amongst other sources.  It is also my understanding that Mahasi Sayadaw wrote a huge amount of books that have never been translated from Burmese to English.

Have you heard directly, anecdotally or read anything about how the vipassana-samatha technique must be adjusted to meet the increasingly subtle demands of investigation required by the higher stages of enlightenment?

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 4:36 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Have you heard directly, anecdotally or read anything about how the vipassana-samatha technique must be adjusted to meet the increasingly subtle demands of investigation required by the higher stages of enlightenment?

Isn't this everyone's experience??? As development deepens, is one not forced to look at increasingly refined and subtle material?

If not, I guess we haven't gotten very far from "four cessations and you're an arahant" model, which increasingly looks like a facile treatment of the material, at best.

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 7:01 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Yea I KNOW that out 1st and 2nd hand experience.  But I want to know what the Sayadaws say about it bc that is limited access material and coming across someone who is open and has had some contact is rare.

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 7:26 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Hello Thomas,

I have been reading this discussion with interest. My background is also in practicing with Mahasi-monks. For the past one year or a little more I've practiced with KF. You mentioned Mahasi-monks (or U Janaka Sayadaw) considered MCTB 4th Path as stream-entry. If so, how would he view MCTB 1st Path?

What I've been suspecting was that the traditionalist monks would view MCTB 1st path as genuine stream-entry, but the MCTB higher Paths such as arahantship, not as arahantship but still at a lower level path. 

Thanks for sharing,

Benoit

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 7:54 PM as a reply to Ben V..
I wanted to add, fwiw, that I don't think most people are attaining to Daniels definition of 3rd and 4th path.  Other definitions have emerged on the forums that fall outside of Daniels descriptions.  I would put myself in this bucket, having used alternate definitions in the past.

The point to me saying this is that if the Mahasi establishment has gotten a conception of "MCTB 3rd and 4th path" from reading things other than the few descriptions Daniel has provided or from talking to yogis who have co-opted these terms for different criteria- that may have bearing on this discussion.

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 11:54 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Yes, Mahasi Sayadaw has written over 70 books, mostly in Burmese and Pali. Just a small handful have been translated to English.  And even those are 'abridged'. His Manual of Insight has been translated into full, (over 700 pages) for the first time in English in 2016. Highly recommend it. It has some interesting charts and more details of the path than even MTCB. But it is steeped in traditionalism.

http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/manual-insight

Have you heard directly, anecdotally or read anything about how the vipassana-samatha technique must be adjusted to meet the increasingly subtle demands of investigation required by the higher stages of enlightenment?

Yes I have. But this is another place where I diverge with their beliefs. The monks don't really go into much detail about higher stages of enlightenment in phenomenologic descriptions. Except I have heard Sayadaw say the arahat is not affected by pleasure or pain,  basically to be able to sit there, (or lie there) and take torture without an instance of ill will. Ie. Buddha's simile of the saw parable.

The monks say the 5 faculties and the 10 paramis are the deciding factors if one can go beyond the boundaries of 2nd path. It's said yogis tend to loop around in the environment of a sakadagami's insight limitations. To break out, certain paramis (never specified, probably Nekkhama and Adhitthana, due to the seductive nature of the higher fetters) have to be nearly perfected. The 5 faculties, 1. Confidence 2. Energy 3. Mindfulness 4. Concentration and 5. Wisdom have to be stronger and sharper than before so as to target the remaining fetters and intentionally unravel their grip. That's all I have heard so far. 




To Pawel K

Why not concentrate on permanence, satisfactoriness and self instead?


That's how every object appears initially. The instructions are to 'penetrate' the permanence, satisfactoriness and individuality of whatever arises in mind and body. 

Why concentrate at all?


Concentration is the result of paying close attention to what arises in the present moment.
The instructions are to NOT LOOK FOR anything, only LOOK AT what is most distinct in awareness.


Monastery is not a good place to be open minded.


Dogmatism can go both ways. Ie. My beliefs are the only right ones. Be it, monastic beliefs, or anti-traditionalism. 

The senior monks I have studied with are very open minded. Sayadaw U Janaka specifically. He is very interested in the spirituality of other cultures. Last year I was lucky enough to be his personal attendant on a trip to Arctic Alaska to learn about Inuit beliefs. He loves nature too. And is almost always a very quiet and still person, never talks unless spoken to.

Mind is able to instantly feel better with single unspoken thought. wouldn't it be more valuable to discover mechanisms of work of these experiences, of all experiences, than try to achieve any one experience?

Well said. No conflict here with that.

I am not going to defend my teacher anymore. We are getting lost in jungles of words and views.  Yes he is a traditionalist. Mahasi was too. I am not sitting in any one camp anymore, so who am I defend another?  As I said dogmatism can go either way. "Pragmatism is the best way" vs. "Traditional 10 fetters model's is only way". Buddha's true Dhamma is to not cling to any view whatsoever.

I replied to Noah because the Dhamma is inviting all to come and experience for themselves. I wont withdraw the statement about Sayadaw's high standards, because that's what they are. Come to Burma, have a retreat. Find out for yourself. If your in the US, Chanmyay Sayadaw has a retreat center in Springfield Illinois. U Pandita's Tathagata center in California has high standards too. 

Do whatever works for you attain Equanimity, release all attachment to views and experience, then know the silent truth of Nibbana, the Unconditioned. 

Sincere Metta,
Thomas

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/2/17 8:47 PM as a reply to Ben V..
What I've been suspecting was that the traditionalist monks would view MCTB 1st path as genuine stream-entry, but the MCTB higher Paths such as arahantship, not as arahantship but still at a lower level path. 

Yes.

I was a a bit facetious to say MTCB 4th path is only a Mahasi StreamEnterer, but based on Sayadaw's standards that a Stream enterer has phenomenlogical descriptions similar to MTCB 4th path. Ie. Luminous field of awareness. Dissolved sense of center or reference point (no subject object, only objects conscious of themselves), the ability to still experience positive and negative emotions and be stuck in them (because 7 fetters still remain), the sense of a spiritual urgency being releived, etc.

Sayadaw U Janaka and his senior desciples describe Sakadagami's phenomenology in same terms, only difference is curiousity for worldly activities ie. entertainment, business, family is greatly diminished. Physical pain has much higher threshold, positive and negative emotions don't stick around more than a few seconds, if that. (Still a luminosity to mentality and physicality, still no sense of Centerpoint, subject object dualism does not arise, only objects aware of themselves.)

Higher than that is stock standard Theravada 10 fetters model Anagami, Arahat descriptions.

I share this information to add to the mosaic of Awakening, not to ruffle feathers. I'll say it again, I don't think a perfect map or model exists. We dont have Buddha around anymore to ask him these questions.

The best advice I heard from an Panditarama senior monks is, "no need to over-think enlightenment, just become nobody, the flavor of Nibbana will soothe all uncertainty."



RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/3/17 6:17 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Wonderful thread, thank you. The links to the engler-brown paper, mahasi book, and illinois retreat center are much appreciated -- as is the respectful curiosity in the conversation! 

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/4/17 7:55 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
I think this thread from KFD may be pertinent to this discussion: http://awakenetwork.org/forum/kfd-archive-wetpaint/12843-stream-entry-is-stream-entry

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/4/17 2:54 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
I think this thread from KFD may be pertinent to this discussion: http://awakenetwork.org/forum/kfd-archive-wetpaint/12843-stream-entry-is-stream-entry
Thank you for posting this.  I've seen it before but it was interesting to review in light of everything I've learned.  I've had contact with a variety of data points of both traditional and non-traditional maps in a few years which have helped me unpack the thing into a formula that's "good enough" for me at this point.  FWIW - this it (probably still a pretty shitty map but it gives me comfort lol):

0. conscious (non-effort) ---> conscious (non-results) = precontemplative

1. conscious (effort) ---> conscious (results) = morality (gives access to concentration)

2. conscious (effort) ---> conscious/unsconscious uncovered ("natural method"/meditation) = concentration (access to wisdom/access to "hacks")     

3. conscious/unconscious hacks (techniques) --->unconscious results (insights & path-shifts) = wisdom     

4. unconscious results (insights & path-shifts) --->conscious side-effects (modification to thought/emotion) & unconscious side-effects (modification to perceptual field)     

5.measurement of conscious side-effects (modification to thought/emotion) = 10 fetter model (I would broadly classify both the Thai & Burmese Theravadan traditions in this map category)
   measurement of unconscious side-effects (modification to perceptual field) = Perceptual models (including technical paths, MCTB & those found in Tibetan awareness traditions)

**The real question for me comes at step 4 -- Is there a way to train specifically for shifts which result content-based side effects?  I ask because it seems unlikely that anyone would get very far along the 10 fetter system without optimizing specifically for that.  It certainly seems to be that case that the 10 fetter axis is much longer overall (& slower progress) and that real attainment along it is much less common (relatively speaking) than the perceptual axis.**
 

                                  

RE: Offshoot of Bruno's Thread - Questions for Thomas
Answer
2/5/17 7:48 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Hi Thomas,
Except I have heard Sayadaw say the arahat is not affected by pleasure or pain,  basically to be able to sit there, (or lie there) and take torture without an instance of ill will. Ie. Buddha's simile of the saw parable.
Actually, being able to deal with pain or pleasure without clinging is something that doesn't require an arahat attainment. The trick is to be able to see the emptiness behind the pain or pleasure, that there is no clinging or rejecting in the mind around it, and just letting it arise and pass away as it might. Shinzen Young talks about not having to use analgesics when you have some kind of muscle pain.  Of course, there is a big gap between that and being able to withstand torture where the pain just keeps getting worse, and Shinzen mentions that in his BATGAP interview.
The monks say the 5 faculties and the 10 paramis are the deciding factors if one can go beyond the boundaries of the 2nd path. It's said yogis tend to loop around in the environment of a sakadagami's insight limitations. To break out, certain paramis (never specified probably Nekkhama and Adhitthana, due to the seductive nature of the higher fetters) have to be nearly perfected. The 5 faculties, 1. Confidence 2. Energy 3. Mindfulness 4. Concentration and 5. Wisdom have to be stronger and sharper than before so as to target the remaining fetters and intentionally unravel their grip. That's all I have heard so far.
This is interesting. It almost sounds like Bodhisattva Bhumi practice (with which KimK is more familiar than I). My Mahamudra teacher told me that the Karmpa has said that even though we have a lot of traditional literature on Bhumi practice, there are almost no examples of people who are practicing it. One thing I would assume would probably be missing in a Theravedan perfection practice is bodhichitta, the desire for enlightenment for the sake of all beings, and the vow to remain in samsara until every other being has achieved enlightenment. From the Theravadan philosophical perspective, this simply isn't possible, and maybe a bit grandios.