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Some Good Old Reflections on Paths

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Some Good Old Reflections on Paths
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5/4/18 4:26 AM
I don't have a good TLDR for this thread, sorry in advance.

I'm going to go out on a limb here & make a map post outside my sandbox thread.  I'll just try to succinctly freestyle some thoughts that may be worth sharing.  This thread is mostly about the MCTB map & since we are in the DhO, I think that is appropriate.  I want to add a disclaimer, as someone who tends to spam these scenes a lot, that the most important thing is feeling each moment, as it is (not mapping!!).  So please, readers (myself included), be mindful of the present (including any conceptualization) before, during & after reading this.

On this thread, RE: Should I Change My Technique To Get 4th Path?, Daniel wrote to us about his 3rd path definition.  On another thread (too lazy to find right now) he says something to the effect of "third path is a set-up for fourth path."  I didn't understand this until very recently. 

Since my shift in August 2017, I have thought that I had MCTB 4th path  (at least until recently).  I have had a lack of success in relating my experience to MCTB's Simple Model, as shown by my claim to MCTB 3rd path at a time when I was just slightly past 2nd (which is a much, much wider territory than most people think, based on everything I've seen in in-person sanghas & the forums). 

That said, the qualities of my experience since August have been characterized by enough of the core elements described by Daniel, described by non dual teachers, Tibetan awareness books, etc to convince.*  Also, this shift stuck out as a real "kick in the balls" to the effects of the mood disorder that's been a major presence in my life. 

Anyways, last month I was describing all of this to an experienced dharma friend & how it is difficult to imagine anything past this, simply because the "structural integrity" of my waking perceptual field pretends to be complete, really well (all objects inhabit themselves, the space around the objects is filled with knowing, these two elements are always seamlessly intertwined).  This dharma friend suggested that the confidence in my description mirrors Daniel's descriptions of 3rd being a set-up for 4th & having many of the qualities of 4th which leads to a sense of increasing certainty that one has it.  This also matches up with other iterations of this sequence, such as one map which posits a strong nondual awareness (but with a subtle self) & a later phase in which that self drops out.  Although I don't have a lot of eggs in this particular mapping basket (but do find it interesting to talk about), I do think this event was likely MCTB 3rd path.

Anways, lately I've been experimenting with how to expand & refine my sensory experience (just waking & dreaming at this time).  Playing with what is beyond the space I can easily perceive at any given time (a space beyond space).  Also with the simultaneity of attention & object (meaning, it seems impossible to be sure what arises first, which interferes with taking causality as the highest order phenomenon & seems to hint at "agencylessness" which has been mostly elusive to me). 

The spontaneity piece seems to be really juicy.  It leads to an unpacking of pure knowningness at all objects which is somehow more flexible than my previous 2 luminosity shifts.  It is an ultimately fluid & effortlessly arising witness at multiple points in space, at once.  At times I get into a sense of pure pleasure related to the workings of the sensory apparatus & within which the dukkha nanas, the symptoms of bipolar & tense life experiences could take place (some weird super-surrender).  Within this ultra-equanimous stance, there seems to be a fusion & balance of all the other forms of nonduality, such that there seems to be no need to explore further (yet the field keeps tricking me).  This is too new to say anything more about.

*Note: The change in relationship to sensation (not the direct sensations themselves) in the sense of letting go of basic striving/preference for experience occurred over 2 years earlier & is included in this experience.

Thanks for reading, remember to be mindful right now!

RE: Some Good Old Reflections on Paths
Answer
5/4/18 6:07 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Good stuff Noah.

For what it's worth, going into the spontaneity/agencyless aspect can feel oddly "wrong" for a while, simply because of the old habit of analysizing/investigating. Conversely, sometimes non-spontaneity/agency can become demonized as less awake but there really are times we need to think things through/take ownership and be careful.

The middle path is to trust that the really is an intelligence that leads onward and let yourself fall into spontaneity and non-spontaneity as the mind chooses and experience all of it mindfully/intimately. Doubt is probably pretty minimal now, it should be clear that awareness itself is sensitive/intelligent and learns to see things that we never could have anticipated or made to happen.

Paths tend to be described by something that is absent or something that is present, that's just the nature of language and can be helpful to point out when someone is blind to something absent or something present. But the later paths are much closer to seeing "what is the mind that experiences both absence and presence" or "what knows?" regardless of the content of experience.

The pleasure of this domain often comes from moments without greed, aversion, or ignorance -- just the clean pleasure of knowing this moment and accepting this moment without greed, aversion, or ignorance. You are absolutely encouraged to enjoy this state. (I want to jokingly caution: don't vipassina the shit out of it emoticon because when we let ourself be at ease we become even more sensitive to the subtlest greed, aversion, and ignorance that still exist by first dwelling in ease, not pre-emptively and blindly trying to eradicate dukka).

So the path forward is a lot less intentional renunciation and a lot more simple guilt-free appreciation of the moment, as an expression of the renunciation you have already developed, which will then allow subtle dukka to be subtly detected, almost like a slight "haze" or "scent", which leads to the next subtle dropping of dukka, etc. There is more and more of a sense that sitting practice is only one aspect of this and practice and life starts fusing together more and more.

And of course normal life goes on, which requires all the normal kinds of doing, the laundry, the grocery, the dating, the working... Bringing practice into all of those thing (awareness, appreciation and dealing with the difficult life stuff) is high-level practice.

Hope this adds to the thread in some way! 

RE: Some Good Old Reflections on Paths
Answer
5/4/18 7:16 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Great topic and really nice coment, Noah.

Let me just offer one thing from my own experience -- while in the later 3rd path "region" in the MCTB maps it was very obvious and clear to me that there was only some one "thing" I was missing. I was sure of this mainly due to my talks with those who were beyond that last "thing." You seem to be in that general area, and that's a really, really strong indicator.

It was that mystery that drove my practice from then on. I will agree with shargrol that one shouldn't focus so much on vipassana at this stage, but rather the fruits of this view of the universe as it comes to us.

RE: Some Good Old Reflections on Paths
Answer
5/4/18 6:11 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Maps!  Nice post Noah, I appreciate how open you are about your journey, it's interesting and provides a unique perspective.

Here's some unsolicited advice.  Personally I break the path into three sections - the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.  I delineate these sections based on level of attainment, and key practice characteristics.  I place MCTB 4th Path as the end attainment of the Hinayana, and the entrance attainment to the Mahayana.  

During the Hinayana we are struggling to gain basic insight into emptiness and impermanence, and gradually make progress in that direction - 4th Path marks the first major attainment of emptiness on the path, our first deep and true opening to ultimate reality.  During the Mahayana we work to deepen our experience of emptiness, and reconcile it with our conflicting perception of the solidity of experience.  

When we reach the Vajrayana, we enter an experience of panoramic and luminous ultimate space - we begin to perceive that all of experience (panoramic) shares a fundamental energetic quality (luminous) while simultaneously being empty of any conceptually applied characteristics (ultimate).  The end of the Vajrayana path is full enlightenment - the final end of dualistic perception.  Having read your log and listened to you describe your experience, I would place you squarely in the Vajrayana.

Take or leave the above, here's what I think may be particularly relevant to your experience.  Naturally, we all progress at our own pace, via our own methods, and place a unique emphasis on certain qualities of experience.  Nevertheless, I do think we all inevitably encounter certain 'non-negotiable' attainments on the path, and I lay these out here simply for your reference.

In my experience, on the Vajrayana path, we progress gradually toward a clearer and clearer state of mind - our ultimate perception is ever enhanced.  Often, it seems as though we have come so far, and our awareness seems to be so ultimately perfected, that it seems we may have reached an end - and then inevitably we continue to progress.  This seems to be what you are describing (perhaps).

As we continue to progress in this manner, we come to the first major 'non-negotiable' attainment - Seeing-Though-The-Self.  In this attainment, the root structure of the conceptual self, which we have already come so far in deconstructing, arises in our awareness, is seen to be naught-but-a-thought, and passes away forever.  In this major, capstone attainment, the last major obstacle on the path is overcome, and our ultimate vision appears fully unclouded.

Practice from the attainment of STTS to full enlightenment represents the gradual destruction of our final residual dualistic ignorance, and can be tracked in the Four Visions of Thodgal.  The Four Visions are (from the link): 
  1. manifest intrinsic reality
  2. increasing of experience
  3. rigpa attains its full measure
  4. exhaustion of phenomena, beyond the mind
STTS represents the entrance to the first vision - ultimate reality is now fully manifest.  The first vision is also marked by the awesome and overwhelming occurrence of major visionary perception.  In the second vision, our experience of ultimate reality gradually increases in intensity; in the third vision our experience of ultimate reality peaks.  In the fourth vision, our experience declines until, in the moment of full enlightenment, consciousness witnesses its own ultimate extinction.  In this final attainment moment, our mind is blown, dualistic perception is finally overcome, and full enlightenment is clearly and obviously attained.

The path continues beyond full enlightenment with 2 to 3 more 'non-negotiable' attainments and a myriad of unique and interesting processes of progression, but that's probably good for now!  

All the best! -Tim