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Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep

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Hi all!

I've been working my way through Rob Burbea's book Seeing that Frees and I came upon this chapter about the fading of perception as craving around the objects of perception subsides during emptiness practice. For about the last year and a half, I've had something like this happen to me in some of my meditation sessions. Basically, I start the meditation by kind of moving the awareness around my body and noting sensations and the feeling tone, noting whether there is any craving associated with the feeling (for example, if there is pain and associated aversion wanting it to go away) and focusing in until the craving subsides, and then focusing on the breath. The noting has no cognitive aspect like Mahasi noting, it is simply a qualitative assessment of the sensation and its associated feeling (vedena). The breath also becomes something not to be clung to, and then sensations gradually fade away. Shortly before the 40 minute session is up, hearing returns and I hear the chime of the meditation timer. I interpret the return of hearing as due to my intention, going into the session, to sit for 40 minutes, which sets up clinging to completion of the session. Burbea's point is that perception requires a certain amount of clinging to the object in order to function, and when this clinging weakens, the perception begins to fade until it disappears. The classical texts call this sarvopalambhopasmah, which he translates as "pacification of perceptions".

I've noticed that this is actually completely different from beginning to fall asleep, which happens sometimes too, especially during the evening session if I have had a particularly strenuous day. The difference is that I cannot maintain my upright posture if I start falling asleep and begin to fall forward, then I catch myself, then fall forward again, etc. until the session ends (or, very rarely, I cut it off early and go to bed). With the fading of perception, I always end up in exactly the same upright sitting position I started my session with. Though I haven't experienced a lot of these, the feeling is completely different from the magga/phala (path/fruit) moments as well. For those, perception simply extinguishes suddenly then reboots just as suddenly, and some of the magga/phala moments I have experienced were when I was walking around. And afterwards, you have this tremendous feeling of energy and good feeling. With the fading of perception, afterwards there is simply a quiet feeling of comfort, the mind is quiet and centered, and it never happens when I'm walking around. I've never experienced niroda samapati,  but from the reports I've read it seems to be quite different as well.

I was curious if anyone else has experienced this? I'm also interested in the connection between intention and clinging. Intention of course creates karma and Burbea spends one chapter discussing karma, but it is basically around karma's emptiness, and how to navigate the difficult terrain between purification and catharsis and karma's emptiness. I think it might be interesting to experiment with intention and clinging and try to tease out whether there are any deeper connections. Has anybody done this? Is it possible to have an intention without clinging to it? Though I haven't found it helpful for me, I'd also be curious what practitioners of magick might have experienced around the connection between clinging and intention.

Maybe Burbea goes into these points later in the book, I am not finished with it yet.

Thanx!

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
7/30/18 6:36 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Yes, I've had that kind of experience. Keep reading because Burbea goes deeper in the last few chapters.

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
7/31/18 6:41 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I haven’t read the book but sounds interesting. My experiences nirodha, can someone tell me what it is.  In my meditation, my mind would go big, expanded. Feels very blissful, not the feeling types from rupa jhanas. Theses feels like arupa. Then st some point, the energy gathered, into one pointed like 4th jhanas, but here my consciousness started to thin out and finally gone.  I fall unconscious. This happens every single time I meditate for 2 years.  Now my mind feels empty . Feels like nothing stick...and many other changes too .
Any thoughts?

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
7/31/18 10:43 AM as a reply to Keshin lu.
How do you know if it is entirely different from magga/phala?

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
7/31/18 9:25 PM as a reply to Keshin lu.
Hi Van,

What is your meditation practice? Shamantha or vipassana? If the latter, do you use the Mahasi noting technique or something else?

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
7/31/18 9:50 PM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
Hi Henry,

My experience of magga/phala is that preception disappears quite suddenly then also reappears just as suddenly. The first time I had such an experience, I was buying gas in LA after a retreat with Shinzen Young. I came out of the gas station after having paid, put my hand on the door handle of the car, and the next thing I realized I was sitting behind the wheel of the car staring at the dashboard with no memory of having climbed into the car. There were a few seconds when I got into the car where perception was shut down. I've had similar experiences a few other times, but not often, and they have always been during or after very intensive retreats (Shinzen's retreats tend to be quite intense). I've also had magga/phala experiences both while in meditation and while walking around.* In addition, I've found a magga/phala experience tends to be followed by a tremendous upsurge of energy, almost like kundalini but not painful, more blissful. Many other practitioners report this too.

In contrast, in a sarvopalambhopasama experience, perception seems to gradually fade then gradually return and it only happens during meditation. It seems to be a result of cultivating a view of emptiness around perception of a particular sense; in my case, the body sense, but according to Burbea different people will find different senses that work for them. For me, there's also not the tremendous upsurge of energy afterward, just a quiet feeling of comfort and ease. Actually, when it first started happening, I thought I might be falling asleep, but there is a definite difference, in that your muscles don't lose tone and you stay in the upright sitting position. When I start falling asleep, I end up leaning forward and then have to catch myself or wake up with my face on the carpet. That doesn't happen with sarvopalambhopasama, just like it doesn't with nirodha samapati or magga/phala. I puzzled over this for about a year, until I encountered Burbea's book.

*Shinzen tells a story about driving across LA on the freeway and going in and out of phala. Given the LA freeway traffic, not something I would be eager to try. emoticon

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
7/31/18 10:09 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Hi,

I’m not familiar with all the terms. I’m more Theravadan.  I practice jhanas 1-8. The cessation that I described only in meditation, but I have many similar disappeared experiences where I lost myself, but still have sensory...as in Bahiya sutta.  

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
8/1/18 12:21 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Ok so the difference is the gradual gone and return of consciousness.
Yes when I had magga also suddenly, but never had when Im not meditating, its so weird to be walking or driving then suddenly fruition, while fruition should be entered by three doors.

And is there head noding/bowing the moment you return?

Please let us know further if you found something

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
8/1/18 1:24 AM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
In cessation, it’s always big expansion flows by strong energy squeezed. Consciousness then starts to fade and I fall unconscious, my head nodded.  I have 2 years to study this phenomenon and I notice that I can’t stay conscious because the energy is extremely strong. According to Theravadan views, at that stage, consciousness is by itself, all the other aggregates have already fallen away. Consciousness is impermanence and it’s dependent on others to exist. So when it is alone , it loses energy and extinguished. 
In the other experiences where I lost myself in the day, there is still senses but no control of the body...I can’t move. Or I don’t know who I’m.....

RE: Sarvopalambhopasamah, Niroda Samapati, Magga/Phala, Falling Asleep
Answer
8/1/18 9:38 PM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
And is there head noding/bowing the moment you return?

No, nothing like that. I hear the sound of the meditation timer, open my eyes, and my head is in approximately the same position as when I started, eyes slightly downcast.

I'll keep you informed if I find anything further.

svmonk:

I've noticed that this is actually completely different from beginning to fall asleep, which happens sometimes too, especially during the evening session if I have had a particularly strenuous day. The difference is that I cannot maintain my upright posture if I start falling asleep and begin to fall forward, then I catch myself, then fall forward again, etc. until the session ends (or, very rarely, I cut it off early and go to bed). With the fading of perception, I always end up in exactly the same upright sitting position I started my session with. 
I can do what you describe too, using the procedure that you use. My guess, however, is that I / you / we are actually... just falling into a special kind of sleep.

We can train ourselves to keep some parts of our brains awake while we fall asleep. Some soldiers in war zones learn to "keep their hearing on" while they sleep. Similarly, in my late teens and early twenties, I have trained myselves to fall asleep voluntarily while "keeping the posture on". There is no slouching, people from outside would not notice that I am sleeping. It is a lighter form of sleep.

The reason I say it is a light form of sleep is that, if I am extremely tired, the "posture-keeping function" will shut down too, and I will start slouching.

This being said, I did not finish Burbea's book, so I am open to changing my mind and deciding that I am not actually falling asleep, but accessing some kind of cool state that I can brag about, as some of my friends suggested it might be. However, I am positive that it is not 7th / 8th jhana and it is not fruitions (as I can access those too, and they are markedly different). Based on Daniel's descriptions, I am also certain that it isn't Nirodha Samapatti.

Hi neko,

Yeah, I hear where you are coming from. I thought it was some kind of sleep state too until I ran across the chapter in Burbea's book. Then I started paying attention to it, and realized that there are some precursors, like separating out the vedana from the clinging and noticing the emptiness of the clinging around bodily sensations (which Burbea recommends in his book as a practice) that aren't there if I'm falling asleep, and perception gradually fades out, with the awareness of the fading clear until it too disappears. If I'm falling asleep, typically my mind will be wandering here and there, with gaps, and if I'm practicing shamantha in meditation, it will start kind of grasping at the meditation object but losing it. And awareness is just kind of confused during falling asleep, until it disappears.

With regard to claiming attainments: I'm claiming none. emoticon One of the requirements of the bodhisattva path. I'm just trying to get a sense of how common it is, and in particular, the issue of clinging around intention. Seems other folks have had the same experience, still don't have much of a sense regarding my question about intention though. The reason I try to use the Sanskirt or Pali words rather than English is because I find them more precise. I get kind of irritated by all the talk around "energy" when what folks really mean is piti. Energy for me is what comes out of a battery or an electrical socket. emoticon Guess that's because I'm an engineer by profession.

Hi svmonk,

looks like I will have to get back to Burbea's book... which chapter are you referring to exactly?

Chapter 19. I'm on the chapter about time at the moment, Chapter 26. Kinda interesting, I need to try out some of his meditation instructions.

Ta!

I guess I will have a look after I finish MCTB2.