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A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System

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A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System T DC 9/19/17 9:44 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Bigbird 9/20/17 4:29 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System junglist 9/20/17 4:39 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System T DC 9/20/17 6:03 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Lars 9/20/17 6:58 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System T DC 9/20/17 10:27 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Lars 9/21/17 2:11 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System curious 9/21/17 6:10 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System T DC 9/21/17 11:17 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Alesh Vyhnal 9/21/17 6:12 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System shargrol 9/21/17 9:16 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Chris Marti 9/21/17 7:29 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System seth tapper 9/21/17 9:51 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Chris Marti 9/21/17 9:59 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System T DC 9/21/17 4:27 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System seth tapper 9/21/17 6:09 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System T DC 9/21/17 11:30 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Alesh Vyhnal 9/21/17 8:59 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Chris Marti 9/21/17 9:53 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Alesh Vyhnal 9/21/17 10:44 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Chris Marti 9/24/17 7:59 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System Alesh Vyhnal 9/22/17 11:20 AM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System seth tapper 9/21/17 3:05 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System seth tapper 9/21/17 6:12 PM
RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System junglist 9/22/17 7:02 AM
A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
 
Reason:  I found the MCTB four path model to be extremely helpful in my own meditative development, for introducing both an intensive, goal-oriented approach to practice, as well as a system of attainment that clearly bore out in practice.  Regarding the system of attainment, just as knowledge of it helped me, I’m sure it can help others, so I present here my best idea of the four paths and their confirmation for purposes of clarification.  The basic structure ultimately comes from MCTB, but what is presented here is based wholly in my own personal experience.

            I endeavor to provide here; clear descriptions of attainments, ways in which the veracity of attainments may be determined, and reasons for differing experiences.  It’s a long read, but there’s also a TLDR at the end.
 
Regarding time of progression and clarity of experience: Progression on the path is highly variable between different individuals, depending on factors including drive to practice, and clarity of purpose, among many others.  Depending on the tradition in which one practices, the technique practiced, the expected result, individual variation and so on, certain experiences may appear in a more or less obvious manner, and may conform more or less to a given norm.  This map worked for me, and I have reason to believe it works for everyone, but that may be more or less the case in any given person’s experience.
 
The A+P:  When we begin to meditate, after some period of practice, likely some months to a year, we develop the realization that we are not our thoughts.  Technically speaking, in meditation or daily life, a thought arises in our mind, and is spontaneously seen to be distinctly separate from a perceiving awareness; as a consequence we spontaneously cease all grasping at this thought and it subsequently, naturally, passes away. 

The insight of thoughts’ separation from awareness represents a simultaneous insight into the three characteristics; thought is separate and therefore not-self; as it is separate, and passes away, it is not a permanent feature of our awareness (impermanent); and as an impermanent phenomenon it cannot be relied upon for lasting happiness (unsatisfactory). 

The A+P insight represents an initial attainment on the path; this insight into the nature of a single thought is intuitively understood to apply to all thought.  In gaining this initial attainment, some small delusion is permanently overcome; as a consequence, our power of mind is boosted.  The resulting energetic high is responsible for the oft characterised immense mental effects of the A+P.
 
The Dark Night:  Following the A+P we enter a period in which, though we are aware of thoughts’ non-self, impermanent, and unsatisfactory nature, thoughts continue to dominate our minds.  This is an uncomfortable experience we may feel strongly driven to overcome through the practice of meditation.  If we are aware of the latter stages of the cycle of insight (the dark night stages) we may note them in our experience, and may note our progression through them; such familiarity can act as a strong boost to practice. 
 
First Path (Stream Entry):  In one year (to multiple years) after crossing the A+P, which may or may not be noted, we approach the territory of First Path, specifically the stage of Equanimity, which is characterised by an even and equanimous attitude toward our objects of perception; thoughts, emotions, and general experience.  In Equanimity our mindfulness is extremely strong; in meditation we are as an unbiased ruler of mind.

            After we have become strongly familiarized with Equanimity, there comes a moment when we become wholly lost in thought.  In the instant we realize our loss of attention and regain it, a very brief “blip” gap occurs in experience, an instant devoid of anything at all save naked awareness.  Following this gap, known as a fruition, a wave of bliss courses through our body; we have gained Stream Entry.
       
     In the time following Stream Entry we will note a pervading and permanent lightness of experience, as though some fundamental problem has fallen away forever.  This lightness includes bliss and joy, as well as newfound strength of awareness, and is wholly stable, neither increased nor diminished – attainment represents a permanent shift in baseline experience.  Eventually, as we move into new territory following Stream Entry and encounter new obstacles of mind, the bliss and lightness may seem to recede relative to our new mental difficulties, but it remains as a background presence regardless.

Following Stream Entry, technically speaking, we should be able to work through the previous cycle of insight at will to call up repeated fruitions, producing strong bodily bliss. Different people may have more or less aptitude for this technical type of practice, similar to the Jhanas, but for those who are able, “fruition practice” represents a clear confirmation of the attainment of Stream Entry.
 
Second Path:  Second Path is ill-defined, save to say it serves to eradicate some post First Path awareness based issue and to move us farther down the path.  Second Path can occur anywhere from a month to years following the attainment of First Path.  The Second Path moment may occur in conjunction with physical sight, such as a rippling of vision, and may have the effect of increased seriousness regarding the path; going beyond some of the lightness of stream entry toward a darker and more mature vision of experience.

            After Second Path, abilities of concentration are heightened; access to the first four Jhanas (the Material Jhanas) may be developed with a minimum of effort.
 
Third Path:  The Third Path moment and its effects are more well defined.  Similar to above, Third Path can be attained anywhere from a month to years following the previous insight attainment.  The Third Path moment occurs as a semi-logical insight into subtle mental conditions, resulting in a clear and permanent resolution – Daniel Ingram reported such an experience, saying something to the effect of “the cycle is complete”, I had a very similar experience, and a friend had the strong insight of “this is how to meditate!”  The mental effect is greatly boosted confidence; this was my own experience, and was clearly observed in the experience of my friend.

            As with Second Path, the Third Path attainment results in heightened concentration abilities; now, with a minimum of effort, a meditator who is so inclined can develop access to the latter four Jhanas (the Immaterial Jhanas) (following mastery over the Material Jhanas).  By mid to late Third Path, one so inclined should have mastery over the Material and Immaterial Jhanas, as well as reliable access to the Pureland Jhanas and Nirodha Samapatti.
           
The stages of the cycle of insight are most obvious in experience at three times on the path; between the A+P and First Path, post First Path when practicing the review cycle, and between Third Path and Fourth Path.  I personally found no obvious cycles between First Path, Second Path, and Third Path.  However, following the attainment of Third Path, the cycle of insight re-emerges and may serve as a useful guide to our progress toward Fourth Path.

            Early in Third Path we struggle to progress through new insight territory and  with new obstacles of mind.  In mid Third Path, we enjoy the completion of a new cycle of insight, the fruition of which is pleasing, if somewhat anticlimactic.  In late Third Path completing new cycles of insight becomes a near non-event; we may cruise through several new cycles of insight in a single 30 minute session of meditation.  The Fourth path moment is ultimately unrelated to the completion of cycles of insight, save occurring only when progression through them has become perfected.
 
Fourth Path:  The Fourth Path moment is utterly distinct from anything that has occurred in experience up until that time.  Relatively speaking, the first three paths are minor attainments while Fourth Path is a major attainment.  At Fourth Path we crack open our limited awareness, gaining, for the first time, an access to the ultimate nature of mind; unconditioned awareness, or emptiness.  Similar to the naked awareness witnessed in the First Path fruition, Fourth Path awareness contains a wholly open, empty element which relegates the fixed conceptual structures of mind to the level of obviously relative and ultimately false.  Fourth path is the opening of awareness to perceive our true ultimate nature.
 
TLDR:  The descriptions of attainments above may prove useful for diagnosis as well as revealing a target for which to aim.  In relation, they provide a clear path to understanding the Pragmatic Four Path System: 

1.  First Path is a clearly delineated attainment with an obvious confirmation (fruition practice). 
2.  Second and Third Path are less well defined, but Third Path at least has some unique aspects cohesive in collective experience. 
3.  Increasing attainment is correlated with increased access to the Jhanas and related concentration attainments. 
4.  Progression between Third Path and Fourth Path may be delineated by rate and ease of completion of new cycles of insight. 
5.  Fourth Path represents the entrance to a wholly unique and formerly unknown realm of perception. 
 
Discussion:  As I tried to clarify early on, for various potential reasons, this map may conform more or less with different peoples’ experience.  Nevertheless, given the conformation I have noted, I see no reason this map could not apply, at least implicitly, to universal experience.  Here’s the argument: Daniel Ingram followed a traditional map, experienced four successive attainments and recorded them.  Myself, following his instruction via MCTB, experienced dramatically similar results, as have other posters on the DhO.  What’s more, I observed the same progression of attainment in a friend who has never read MCTB, has no interest in pragmatic dharma, and practices in a different tradition (Tibetan vs Theravadan). 

One person experienced it via ancient tradition, a second also experienced it following the first persons’ instructions, and a third experienced it as well wholly independently.  The first person could be deluding themselves, the second person could also be deluding themselves, but what do we say to the third person?  Clearly there’s something there.  Mass similarities of experience coupled with clear conformation mechanisms point to a path that should, based on the evidence, be universal.
 
I would love to hear what people think about this, and I am happy to go more in depth on anything I have mentioned.

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/20/17 4:29 AM as a reply to T DC.
My A&P was the result of insight into the material aspect of phenomena (Rupa). So i dont relate to your experience of A&P.

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/20/17 4:39 AM as a reply to T DC.
Thank you very much for posting this T DC, when I read this the difficulty of making a universal map like this struck me, as well as the importance of this undertaking for each meditator and their colleagues, since I guess each of these stages just happen to a person once in a lifetime – not many data points to collect! I think this is also great for providing a framework for reflection, discussion and comparison.

Seems like you've chosen a good range of types of people to compare your experience with. Obviously the number of people would ideally be in the thousands for a universal model, but it made me wonder about the number of subjects necessary to create a scientifically and statistically verifiable universal model, I think there are some statistical systems used for experiments in physics to create a model (I found this about the Higgs boson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson#Experimental_search – although that probably requires more data than there have been 4th path practitioners) and medical studies, yours being of the retrospective observational study (nice example here: http://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i6355).

In my case, I am more confused from reading this about where I might be on the map(s), although certainly many paths behind you. I'd say that this confusion is good, since it's helped me reflect on my own past experience and but means I can ignore the maps to focus on my own present experience as well. I'm afraid I'm very far from being able to comment on the truth of your system since you've clearly gone far deeper than me, so sorry about that, but I just have a few questions about some things I found tricky to understand:

1) It says in the title "attainment system". Is there any specific reason that you choose "system" instead of "map" or "model"? This seems to suggest something I could use to organise my practice, rather than a description of what happens.

2) I was interested in what you said about the relationship to thoughts – am I correct in understanding that in your system this awareness of thoughts is the essence of what marks the A&P? It sounds like investigating thoughts rather than physical sensations would therefore be the best practice, if we can avoid getting lost in thoughts. 

3) I think Daniel Ingram says that each cycle after Stream Entry begins with the A&P. Does that match your experience? Does that mean that this relationship with thoughts becomes predominant at the beginning of each cycle?

4)
a) I'm struggling with understanding the concept of "path". Obviously I would be in a much better position to do so if I had anywhere near your level of Insight, but one thing I'm trying to understand is exactly what marks the point each new path starts. It sounds like there is a realisation that happens, and then things are different. It also sounds like A&P is quite significant – why is this, especially the first time it occurs, not considered the first path?
b) You mention that the events that mark the new path are difficult to pinpoint (I think I've heard something about a number-of-paths debate), from your text I've understood them to be as below – is this correct? I don't know if it is a good idea to pay a lot of attention to the specific events rather than the characteristics of what precedes and follows, but it might help to delineate things.
First path: "We become wholly lost in thought. In the instant we realize our loss of attention and regain it, a very brief “blip” gap occurs in experience, an instant devoid of anything at all save naked awareness. Following this gap, known as a fruition, a wave of bliss courses through our body"
Second path: "a rippling of vision" 
Third path: "a semi-logical insight into subtle mental conditions, resulting in a clear and permanent resolution" (I assume by "resolution" this means something similar to "conclusion", rather than a firm decision to do something.)
Fourth path: "we crack open our limited awareness, gaining, for the first time, an access to the ultimate nature of mind; unconditioned awareness, or emptiness. (In contrast to your descriptions of the previous paths, the description here seems to be much more about the moment than what follows, I suppose there is a reason for this, such as the permanent nature of the effect of this moment.

Thanks again for your post and I would be grateful to learn from your thoughts.

[P.S.: Sorry, this post seems to have got a bit too long – I seemed to have got quite interested in your post and I am in bed with a cold at the moment I've also had the time to not restrain this reply from getting too long – sorry about that! Thanks for providing me with your insight to while away my hours of illness!]

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/20/17 6:03 PM as a reply to junglist.
Hey good questions junglist!
junglist:
Thank you very much for posting this T DC, when I read this the difficulty of making a universal map like this struck me, as well as the importance of this undertaking for each meditator and their colleagues, since I guess each of these stages just happen to a person once in a lifetime – not many data points to collect! I think this is also great for providing a framework for reflection, discussion and comparison.

Seems like you've chosen a good range of types of people to compare your experience with. Obviously the number of people would ideally be in the thousands for a universal model, but it made me wonder about the number of subjects necessary to create a scientifically and statistically verifiable universal model, I think there are some statistical systems used for experiments in physics to create a model (I found this about the Higgs boson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson#Experimental_search – although that probably requires more data than there have been 4th path practitioners) and medical studies, yours being of the retrospective observational study (nice example here: http://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i6355).

Statistically speaking, probably more than three, but as far as my logic it seems alright.  ;)
In my case, I am more confused from reading this about where I might be on the map(s), although certainly many paths behind you. I'd say that this confusion is good, since it's helped me reflect on my own past experience and but means I can ignore the maps to focus on my own present experience as well. I'm afraid I'm very far from being able to comment on the truth of your system since you've clearly gone far deeper than me, so sorry about that, but I just have a few questions about some things I found tricky to understand:
Definately a literal application of maps to one's own experience may not always work.  A general sense of one's own practice and gut feelings can often provide the best clues.  Maps do help explain progression and provide some direction to practice, but often some interpretation may be needed in applying them to one's own experience.  Just to say take it with a grain of salt perhaps. 
1) It says in the title "attainment system". Is there any specific reason that you choose "system" instead of "map" or "model"? This seems to suggest something I could use to organise my practice, rather than a description of what happens.

I think the one reason to say system over map is that there seems to be lots of moving parts, such as practicing the review cycle, accessing the jhanas, and so on.  True, a system would seem to imply a more practice than results based orientation, perhaps map does fit better.  emoticon

2) I was interested in what you said about the relationship to thoughts – am I correct in understanding that in your system this awareness of thoughts is the essence of what marks the A&P? It sounds like investigating thoughts rather than physical sensations would therefore be the best practice, if we can avoid getting lost in thoughts. 
The way I see the A+P is strongly thought oriented, but I am aware this is not the concensus.  Generally discussion of the A+P is marked by attention to crazy energetic effects.  I largely buy that idea, but I see the causal mechanism as an attainment based on thought.  The traditional (Mahasi Sayadaw - Access to Insight) descritpion of the A+P lines up very well with the meditative experience I described, and still leaves room for all more common explanations such as seeing the three characteristics and the energetic high (all as I described above). 

One important idea with this is that we do not generate attainment (such as the A+P, or Stream Entry), we just lay the groundwork and optimise our practice for it.  The most important practice as far as optimization is simply a strong attention to mindfulness, in meditation or daily life.  This can take the form of attention to sensations, attention to present moment awareness, or perhaps investigating sensations or thoughts.  The point here is that attainment occurs seperately from volition - we can't will ourself to expereince the A+P.  So investigating thoughts may be a sort of halfway point; yes, mindful investigation may certainly help, but as an attainment is an unbidden experience, it could just as well hapen when our mindfulness is strong enough from doing some other type of practice.


3) I think Daniel Ingram says that each cycle after Stream Entry begins with the A&P. Does that match your experience? Does that mean that this relationship with thoughts becomes predominant at the beginning of each cycle?
Good question!  As I said, I found the cycles after First Path and after Second Path to be pretty murky.  It's possible this occurs, however Daniel has said, I believe, that he went through all sorts of cycles, and cycles within cycles.  My main point in the OP was just that progression is not quite so orderly between some latter paths as prior to Stream Entry.  Again I am working from a limited memory, as you well pointed out we only go through the path once, it is possible clear A+P's are experienced, but I think it is telling that this is unclear in recolection.  In some ways the A+P really functions as the recognition of the object
to be investigated and overcome, and so we could say this happens after
every path.

4)
a) I'm struggling with understanding the concept of "path". Obviously I would be in a much better position to do so if I had anywhere near your level of Insight, but one thing I'm trying to understand is exactly what marks the point each new path starts. It sounds like there is a realisation that happens, and then things are different. It also sounds like A&P is quite significant – why is this, especially the first time it occurs, not considered the first path?
It could be in a way, I think it really is the first attainment on the path.  However, the attainment of the A+P serves not to remove anything from expereince, but instead to open us up to the latter stages of insight - to a more advanced realm of practice.  In this the A+P is like a gate we open - our experience is expanded, but the early stages can still arise.  First Path is the first true attainment because it results in the permenant overcoming of some ignorance and neurosis, thus genuinely improving our awareness.  First path would be like a door we open and then shut behind us, we enter new territory and leave the old behind.
b) You mention that the events that mark the new path are difficult to pinpoint (I think I've heard something about a number-of-paths debate), from your text I've understood them to be as below – is this correct? I don't know if it is a good idea to pay a lot of attention to the specific events rather than the characteristics of what precedes and follows, but it might help to delineate things.
The reason I included both is that it provides just that much more evidence.  If the path moment lines up and the effects also line up then we can be that much more sure.  Path moments may certainly be dificult to pinpoint and experinces can vary between people, so if this lines up with someones' expereince, great, but if not, don't try to stick a round peg in a square hole kind of thing.  I found this approach to be very useful, but some do not - other approaches will work better for some people.
First path: "We become wholly lost in thought. In the instant we realize our loss of attention and regain it, a very brief “blip” gap occurs in experience, an instant devoid of anything at all save naked awareness. Following this gap, known as a fruition, a wave of bliss courses through our body"
Second path: "a rippling of vision" 
Third path: "a semi-logical insight into subtle mental conditions, resulting in a clear and permanent resolution" (I assume by "resolution" this means something similar to "conclusion", rather than a firm decision to do something.)
Fourth path: "we crack open our limited awareness, gaining, for the first time, an access to the ultimate nature of mind; unconditioned awareness, or emptiness. (In contrast to your descriptions of the previous paths, the description here seems to be much more about the moment than what follows, I suppose there is a reason for this, such as the permanent nature of the effect of this moment.

To comment on this, First Path seems pretty well defined in the general community, Second Pat does not, Third Path I at least see some coherance, and Fourth Path is endlessly debated but seems to share the general characteristics of openess, non-self, and beyond the cycles.  I do think what I have presented is a workable model though.

Thanks for the questions, and if anything is unclear let me know! 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/20/17 6:58 PM as a reply to T DC.
T DC:
In Equanimity our mindfulness is extremely strong; in meditation we are as an unbiased ruler of mind.

After we have become strongly familiarized with Equanimity, there comes a moment when we become wholly lost in thought. In the instant we realize our loss of attention and regain it, a very brief “blip” gap occurs in experience, an instant devoid of anything at all save naked awareness.


While in equanimity, if mindfulness is so strong and we're "ruler" of mind, how do we find ourselves "wholly lost in thought"?. And what separates this recognition of a moment of lost attention from previous ones (by this point in practise the meditator should be fairly used to recognizing distraction and drifting of attention).

Always interesting to see different versions of the maps.   emoticon

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/20/17 10:27 PM as a reply to Lars.
Lars:

While in equanimity, if mindfulness is so strong and we're "ruler" of mind, how do we find ourselves "wholly lost in thought"?. And what separates this recognition of a moment of lost attention from previous ones (by this point in practise the meditator should be fairly used to recognizing distraction and drifting of attention).

Always interesting to see different versions of the maps.   emoticon


Good question!  After we have been in Equanimity for some time, and we are in 'high' equanimity, our mindfulness is extremely strong, but it is not perfected - we are not completely equanimous.  There is still a subtle sense of searching for resolution, for fruition: there is still a sense of effort.  At the very peak of equanimity, we relax a little bit - we could say we develop equanimity toward meditative striving - and we become distracted by thought.

Subtle distraction is always present in meditation, but much less so in Equanimity.  This specific distraction is seperated from prior moments of distraction in its completeness and its location in the stage of Eqaunimity.  The subsequent moment of frution, abscene of experience, represents the perfection of equanimity, the overcoming of a certain obstacle of mind, and the attainment of Stream Entry. 

So we can say that distraction may be bad, or undesirable, but this specific instance of distraction represents both the consequence of peak, right meditative effort, and the causal mechanism by which Stream Entry is attained. 

------------------------------------------------------

Another take:  Attainment involves genuinely overcoming an obstacle; in practice, in meditation, our problems are all ignorance, or repression based and require simply a complete understanding and acceptance of the issue, of which we were previously ignorant and repressed, in order to overcome it.  We could also say our problems are aquisition based in the sense that mindfulness - our power of mindfull awareness - must be strengthed, or aquired, to an appropraite extent in order to wholly percieve and thus overcome our obstacles.

In the case of Stream Entry, the obstacle overcome seems to be a certain tendency toward gross mental distraction.  Up until the peak of Eqaunimity, our meditative striving prevents us from relaxing enough to wholly percive, understand, and thus release and overcome this obstacle.  Only at a peak of mindfulness are we fully open and receptive toward the obstacle (here distraction), which thus arises in full.  As it has fully arisen, we fully understand and see through it, and it thus passes permenantly away.  Please forgive the allusion to the A+P, at Stream Entry the obstacle does not simply fade away, but when recognised ushers in, instantaneously, the complete cessation of fruition. 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/21/17 2:11 AM as a reply to T DC.
T DC:
Up until the peak of Eqaunimity, our meditative striving prevents us from relaxing enough to wholly percive, understand, and thus release and overcome this obstacle.  Only at a peak of mindfulness are we fully open and receptive toward the obstacle (here distraction), which thus arises in full.  As it has fully arisen, we fully understand and see through it, and it thus passes permenantly away.


This part in particular seemed to clear that up a bit more, thanks.

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/21/17 6:10 AM as a reply to T DC.
[quote=]I would love to hear what people think about this, and I am happy to go more in depth on anything I have mentioned.Well, it is really interesting.  I have stuggled a bit with the noting and vibrational practice in MCTB because that is not how I have progressed.  But some aspects of your description really ring true. I don't know when I passed A&P, but in my teenage years I had some occult and visionary experiences, and moments of luminious clarity of percpetions in my early twenties.  When I was fourteen I wrote an essay at school aruging against "I think therefore I am" as it seemed to me that all you could say was that there were thoughts.  So I guess A&P was in there somewhere, but not in a meditative fashion. Certainly the next 30-40 years showed many of the characteristics of being a dark night yogi, including latent spiritual yearning.

When I took up the dharma I initially had fairly light meditation, but quickly found easy access to the first and second jhanas following some online advice on uncorking piti. By contrast, the traditional advice on accessing those two jhanas now seems really ponderous, and unnecessary, even counterproductive.  

But I did put a huge amount of effort into studying first memory and then self, from a pyschological and philosophical perspective.  After finishing a book on consciousness I had all the experiences you describe under stream entry, although the bliss wave was fairly light at first (some massive ones came later). I had ongoing fruitions (moments of mental contradiction and discontinuity arising from study of the three characteristics) and bliss waves, and a number of additional A&P events (or Kundalini?) such as pulsating cosmic bliss waves, followed by several more insights. I have now gone back to develop TMI concentration to try to handle these better, and maybe progress over time.  One of these experiences really resonates with your description "darker and more mature vision" as well as a vision change. All of them together seem to add up to improved perception and further reductions in attachment.  

When it gets to third, your description of only makes a little bit of sense to me. The description of fourth even less (although I can hint at it). I suspect that is my lack of experience rather than your descriptions!

For me the insights seemed to continue to come from study, interspersed by meditation, rather than from vipassana noting. I do think they relied on concentration and mindfulness, but not necessarily in formal sitting sessions. So I struggled for a long time to try to relate my experiences to the traditional maps. I would say I have had four insight experiences (non-self, non-self again, non-duality, empitness) plus a near miss (suffering), but I would put myself at second path at the most on your system although maybe with hints of higher insights.  However, I'm not too worried whether I am at A&P, 1st, 2nd, or Bhumi 10000, as I have realised the paths are as empty as everything else ... I am just concerned now to unify the mind, improve my insights into non-duality, work through my karma, reduce my remaining mental attachments, and at some point get more insight into suffering and impermanence.  Any maybe eventually to live in that non-dual perceptual world that I can almost glimpse.

My questions would therefore be - does your map rely on vipassana noting, or can it cover and provide advice for experiences like mine?

Peace and love

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/21/17 6:12 AM as a reply to T DC.
Thank you. I like your guide and your descriptions of the paths. I admire your effort in your meditation. Tell me, now after this "mental training", are you still affraid or anxious when you have to go to a dentist, before an examination or before you have to present to a large audience? How would you feel if you were in the death row in the cell just day before your execution? Would you walk over a 0.5 m wide board if it were 100m high from the ground just as you would walk over it if it was lying on the ground?  

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
Answer
9/21/17 9:16 AM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
"1.  First Path is a clearly delineated attainment with an obvious confirmation (fruition practice).  
2.  Second and Third Path are less well defined, but Third Path at least has some unique aspects cohesive in collective experience.  
3.  Increasing attainment is correlated with increased access to the Jhanas and related concentration attainments.  
4.  Progression between Third Path and Fourth Path may be delineated by rate and ease of completion of new cycles of insight.  
5.  Fourth Path represents the entrance to a wholly unique and formerly unknown realm of perception."  

TDC, This is meant to be a constructive comment... but I don't think this map is quite right.

My TLDR version:
*  A&P is all the big "spiritual experiences/insights" people have.
*  1st is marked by moving through the nanas and a cessation. Although sometimes it isn't obvious.
*  2nd is marked by another slightly more confused path through the nanas and cessation, with the confusion created by much more access to jhana and vipassina jhana, making the nana terrain much less obvious.
*  3rd is marked by a real-time experience of emptiness... instantly accessible. Third is where perception becomes very different. Plus lots of clarity of nanas and jhanas...which eventually leads to the realization the nanas are jhanas are simply states and can't be the answer. No state is an answer and yet everything seems to be a state.
*  4th is marked by a return to normalcy. No desire to use "spirituality" or "perceptions" as a refuge, maybe for fun, but not for refuge. It's actually a very known realm of perception, the most shocking thing is we realize that we've always been in it but never quite noticed it. The closest description is that it is like an equanimity that isn't tied to a state. There isn't an argument with experience. THIS is IT. Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to be confused about whether we've found it or not. It's as subtle as it is deep.

Daniel does a much better job of describing the nuances in his book, it's worth another look.

 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 7:29 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Yes indeed. Thanks, shargrol.

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 8:59 AM as a reply to T DC.
I have read Daniel Ingram's book MCTB. "Vibrations" are mentioned about 50 times. In my meditation practice I have never sensed, felt or observed any single "vibration" so far. So perhaps each brain is different and this method is not for me. I also think that this method cannot be universal due to its emphasis on the bodily sensations--as if quadruplegics could not attain englightenment. emoticon 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 9:53 AM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
To be fair and accurate, the word "vibration" is a bit misleading. What Ingram is describing in MCTB by using that word is the very fast flickering/undulation/on-off nature of the perception of objects using any sense organ - eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell, mind. This takes place very, very fast, and when concentration is strong and adept enough one can indeed perceive these "vibrations" occurring. They are always occurring, but not noticed, because we don't have the precision of observation required in "normal" life. It takes decicated practice to get to that point.

Helpful?

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 9:51 AM as a reply to shargrol.
I am coming at this in a pretty different way and have some questions. 

1.  How does Nirvana or the Unfabricated relate to this map?  Is it a state that you have easy access to after one path or another?  
2.  I see that my mind is actually a compound thing with many different personalities with many different states of realization that hot swap "control" based on circumstances and stimuli, does that resonate at all with the realizations along this path? 
3.  Do you experience a complete unification of mind into a single realized being, or does the realization continue to come and go - say if a guy punched you on the street? What about sense of will, are you always in the flow or zone ? 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 9:59 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
Nothing changes about the way you perceive and experience things - your anatomy and biological processes are what they are. You will, however, know and understand what's going on (what's "really" happening, as you may have heard people say). So you'll understand the processes that cause perception and generate your experience, at first slowly and in glimpses, then more and more often and ultimately in a "felt" manner. It will "soak in," to use a common phrase.

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 10:44 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thank you for your kind answer. What I do in my practice is this: I try to concentrate on the feeling caused by the air in the nostrils. When some distraction occurs I call it. In the past I tried to call every possible kind of thoughts but my vocabulary grew beyond all bounds. It was like: arguing, planning, remorse, expecting, self-assertion, speculation, doubting, concerns,..., so I just put them all in one class of "thinking". Next it is the class of "memory" and "seeing". In the third class, which doesn't emerge so often is everything else, like "swallowing, pain, anger, craving--I smoke, hunger). Then it indeed seems to me to be strange like: Who is directing the attention constantly to the nostrils? Who is having this sensation in the nostrils? But: These are again thoughts! In general, sometimes I just try to concentrate on the nostrils and ignore anything else, sometimes I do a kind of Mahasi noting and sometimes I ask the questions related to the nature of "self".

But please take into account that I suffer from an organic brain disease, I take medications influencing my brain so perhaps my brain isn't fast enough to notice the flickerings.



 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 11:17 AM as a reply to curious.
curious:
I have stuggled a bit with the noting and vibrational practice in MCTB because that is not how I have progressed..

For me the insights seemed to continue to come from study, interspersed by meditation, rather than from vipassana noting. I do think they relied on concentration and mindfulness, but not necessarily in formal sitting sessions. So I struggled for a long time to try to relate my experiences to the traditional maps. I would say I have had four insight experiences (non-self, non-self again, non-duality, empitness) plus a near miss (suffering), but I would put myself at second path at the most on your system although maybe with hints of higher insights.  However, I'm not too worried whether I am at A&P, 1st, 2nd, or Bhumi 10000, as I have realised the paths are as empty as everything else ... I am just concerned now to unify the mind, improve my insights into non-duality, work through my karma, reduce my remaining mental attachments, and at some point get more insight into suffering and impermanence.  Any maybe eventually to live in that non-dual perceptual world that I can almost glimpse.

My questions would therefore be - does your map rely on vipassana noting, or can it cover and provide advice for experiences like mine?

Peace and love
Thanks for sharing curious!  As I said to junglist, often we have to interepret maps somewhat to apply then to our own expereince, and it sounds like you are doing that well!  What you mentioned in the paragraph I quoted above reminds me of a Tibetan approach to realizing emptiness (4th path in my book) which is, "many glimpses often repeated".  People may progress differently, and one map may not account for the full variety of expereince, but to the degree it does it can be helpul.

As to your question, I see this map as applying to a broad sphere of meditative practice vs just vipassana - the friend I mentioned in the OP was practicing Tibetan Shamatha Vipassana,   The take away as far as practice is concerned is that strong mindfulness is the determining factor in insight, so whatever practice or combination of practices works best for you, by all means pursue that.  I see this map as a universal meditative path of progression (to the extent it applies to ones' experience).  emoticon

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 11:30 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
My TLDR version:
*  A&P is all the big "spiritual experiences/insights" people have.
*  1st is marked by moving through the nanas and a cessation. Although sometimes it isn't obvious.
*  2nd is marked by another slightly more confused path through the nanas and cessation, with the confusion created by much more access to jhana and vipassina jhana, making the nana terrain much less obvious.
*  3rd is marked by a real-time experience of emptiness... instantly accessible. Third is where perception becomes very different. Plus lots of clarity of nanas and jhanas...which eventually leads to the realization the nanas are jhanas are simply states and can't be the answer. No state is an answer and yet everything seems to be a state.
*  4th is marked by a return to normalcy. No desire to use "spirituality" or "perceptions" as a refuge, maybe for fun, but not for refuge. It's actually a very known realm of perception, the most shocking thing is we realize that we've always been in it but never quite noticed it. The closest description is that it is like an equanimity that isn't tied to a state. There isn't an argument with experience. THIS is IT. Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to be confused about whether we've found it or not. It's as subtle as it is deep.


 


Thanks for the comment shargrol!  It seems we may see some differences here, but also strong similaritys. 

As far as differences, mainly I would focus on the A+P.  As you have defined it, and as I see it defined often on here, it becomes a catchall for any random spiritual experience. 

I disagree with this approach because I see it as too general, and potentially unhelpful - there are a wide variety of spiritual expereinces out there, and to call them all A+P may not only be misleading but disingenuous to a deeper examination of their meaning.  I see the pragmatic ( MCTB ) four path model as extremely helpful, but by no means applicable to the entirity of meditative, spiritual experience.

Additionally, in looking at the traditional notes on the A+P and comparing them to my own expereince, I find it corelates very well with the thought based insight I have described, which I think provides a more exact definition of what is occuring, and a clear mechanism for why it results in certain states (i.e. energetic effects/ the dark night).

Just my two cents. emoticon

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 3:05 PM as a reply to T DC.
As a follow up, I am still not sure I understand where Nirvana figures into the path.  Do you not believe in it or are you always in it or can you get there during meditation, etc? 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 4:27 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I am coming at this in a pretty different way and have some questions. 

1.  How does Nirvana or the Unfabricated relate to this map?  Is it a state that you have easy access to after one path or another?  
2.  I see that my mind is actually a compound thing with many different personalities with many different states of realization that hot swap "control" based on circumstances and stimuli, does that resonate at all with the realizations along this path? 
3.  Do you experience a complete unification of mind into a single realized being, or does the realization continue to come and go - say if a guy punched you on the street? What about sense of will, are you always in the flow or zone ? 
Hey Seth!

1.  By Nirvana, do you mean the end state of the Buddhist path, aka Buddhist Enlightenment (per Pawel K's comment)?  In this case, I see 4th path as approximately the half way point on the path in terms of effort, and the first third of the way through the myriad of attainments leading to final enlightenment. 

Progressive attainment entails a gradual overcoming of ignorance and neurosis, and a gradual reveal of the ultimate (unconditioned) state.  We increase our perpective with each attainment, but 4th path is the first real contact.  4th path is but an initial reveal however, seeing the ox.  At enlightenment/ nirvana, we become the ox (so to speak).

2.  The basic and most profound idea about attainment/ realization on the path is its permenance.  Attainment represents a genuine and final overcoming of suffering, albeit in progressive steps (progressive attainment).  The seeming mental chaos you characterise here is descreased by attainment.

3.  This follows my answer to question 2, genuine attainment always represents a permenant shift.  The emotional effect of attainment is a whole 'nother can of worms, but no realisation itself does not come and go, it is permenant.  Atributes of attainment such as effect on a percieved will, or 'being in the flow' are likewise permenant; attainment represents a permenant baseline shift.

I hope that helps!

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 6:09 PM as a reply to T DC.
Thanks.  I still cant quite map my own experience to this map, but it clears some stuff up for me.  I appreciate your forthrightness! 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/21/17 6:12 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
Thanks, I need to think about this some and how it relates to what I see. 

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/22/17 7:02 AM as a reply to T DC.
Paweł K:
where in this model was Buddha at day of his enlightenment?
I've been interested in this question as well for a while, what was his trip through ñanas like, etc. 

Also, in Buddha's model, what would happen if you were born as a stream-enterer/winner or a once returner? Anyone heard of such a person these days?

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/24/17 7:59 AM as a reply to Alesh Vyhnal.
Alesh --

What I do in my practice is this: I try to concentrate on the feeling caused by the air in the nostrils. When some distraction occurs I call it. In the past I tried to call every possible kind of thoughts but my vocabulary grew beyond all bounds. It was like: arguing, planning, remorse, expecting, self-assertion, speculation, doubting, concerns,..., so I just put them all in one class of "thinking". Next it is the class of "memory" and "seeing". In the third class, which doesn't emerge so often is everything else, like "swallowing, pain, anger, craving--I smoke, hunger). Then it indeed seems to me to be strange like: Who is directing the attention constantly to the nostrils? Who is having this sensation in the nostrils? But: These are again thoughts! In general, sometimes I just try to concentrate on the nostrils and ignore anything else, sometimes I do a kind of Mahasi noting and sometimes I ask the questions related to the nature of "self". 

I used to use the breath coming in and out of the nostrils as my object, too.

I learned to pay close attention to how I perceived my nostrils and breath -- how did I experience this thing called "nostril" happening? What was occurring such that "nostril" was perceived, or "breath in" and "breath out"? When/where did the perceiption of "nostril" or "nose" begin, and when/where did it end? Did I know "nostril" immediately after returning from a distraction? Or was there some initial perception and then the assigning of a name, and then the assigning of a mental image of that object?

I found that when I experienced the object "nostril" there was indeed a series of more detailed but fast occurring processes that I had always assumed was all one process. It wasn't. The inference/insight gained from this applies to the experience or perception of all objects. "Self" is just another compound object but a very, very difficult one to start this deconstruction project with. I'd recommend something simpler and easier to observe, like a touch sensation (as you are doing with your nostrils), or a sound.

If you Google "dependent origination" you can research and learn more about this process.

RE: A Guide to the Pragmatic Four Path Attainment System
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9/22/17 11:20 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris, thank you for the useful suggestions. Dependent origination: In the normal life I sometimes notice a chain of thoughts. I am talking with somebody and I say something. Then I go back in the memory and I see there was first some thought in my mind, it caused a second thought, the second one a third one and this one I formulated as a speech. emoticon