are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Mark L, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 3:35 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 3:35 PM

are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 90 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

I believe Daniel's book suggests that working with body sensations is easier than working with mind objects. Similarly, Shinzen's teaching explicitly sticks to nothing sensory experiences. I realize that the senses can be a gateway to stream-entry, but can one completely ignore noting elements of cognition, space, time, etc.? It seems like 'subtle cognition," which I'm using loosely, is a key component of subject-object duality.

I ask, because I'm basically trying to figure out what meditation objects to pay attention to. If I can break down a continuous sound into vibrations, is that enough for stream-entry? Or, should I take a break with gross sensory objects and look really hard at the pre-verbal "knowings", barely-there-not-yet-imagery, and so forth? Does the object matter? Should I eventually be picking apart the "feeling of I," the "feeling of effort and volition," time, and space? Or can I stick to going ever-deeper into touch-sensations, sound, etc.? Do the objects matter?
Mark L, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 3:42 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 3:42 PM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

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Last point: Kenneth writes about "set them up and knock them down." To me, that sounds like, "get into jhanic states and apply insight to the objects you find there. So this seems like another vote towards "meditation objects matter."

Are some objects more important than others to see deeply into? I mean, I know, intellectually, that everything is empty. But what's the practical thing to do in terms of how I allocate my attention?
Mark L, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 3:51 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 3:51 PM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 90 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
One more thought. I have noticed that working with gross objects helped to prepare me for more subtle objects. There does seem to be a progression in that objects that were essentially non-existent slowly became available, in that I would notice them for the first time, and I was then able to find them thereafter if I looked. So do I push? Do I pay the closest attention to the objects that are just on the edge of my awareness, and then as those become easier and even more subtle objects arise, do I keep pushing the envelope? There's a feeling of going "up and in" with sometimes a sense of clicking into something with a deeper level of mind becoming available. Should I care? Is that the "direction" to travel? Or should I anchor myself in the real world, hang out with gross objects and look into them ever more deeply?
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 5:57 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 5:57 PM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Alex002

The U Ba Khin/Goenka method works exclusively with body sensations and there are people who have reached stream entry using this technique only. I know from personal experience that this technique is extremely effective in getting you past the "A&P event". However, I recall having read in some older posts here that some people consider Mahasi-style vipassana (which does not exclusively focus on body sensations) more effective in geting you to stream entry. It would be interesitng to know if any of the stream enterers on DhO have reached that stage by using body sensations only as meditation object.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 6:08 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 6:08 PM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

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Hello MarkL4,

This is a great question, so thanks for posting it. I'm sure that there are others who are wondering about this very topic.

Leading up to stream entry, I used the Mahasi method to note both body sensations and mental objects. In my opinion, what matters most is that the object being noted is manifesting in that very moment. If one is able to focus on body sensations alone, than I don't see why that wouldn't work. For me, however, many thoughts (mapping, expectation, hoping, wishing, disappointment, longing, etc.) arose in the Equanimity stage (11th nana), so it would have been unwise for me to ignore them and stick to body sensations. Ignoring an 'object' that is manifesting in the present moment is no way to get stream entry, at least not in my opinion.

Stick to what is clearly presenting in the moment, and penetrate the object with the vipassana technique. Whatever sensations arise are the ones you need to be aware of.

I hope that helps.

Jackson
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 8:07 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/24/09 8:07 PM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
nor in mine.

i did the goenka technique for the better part of 8 years and didn't get path from it, and personally know of only 1 person who did, and on her very first 10-day course in fact (she is on retreat at the moment and i will direct her attention to this thread when she returns). now, that's not to say that there aren't others, of course, as the restrictive and taboo nature of the topic within the tradition (as well as lack of general knowledge about the maps) can cause it to simply never get assessed or discussed, for good reason, but with serious detriment as well.

personally speaking, i tried to stick as much to body sensations on my first path-retreat, but eventually (late dark night/equanimity), when formations are what start to be predominant, i just couldnt ignore things like consciousness, space, mind objects or little mind movements/imagery anymore.

i think you're on the right track asking this question mark, so encourage you to keep following your sense of things that has gotten you this far already.

one more thing i'd like to suggest is seeing the very elements of cognition and space and time and volition etc as being themselves made of sensory impressions. see if you can unify the physical and mental fields by seeing them as they are (rather than forcing them to change to fit in, for example).
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Kenneth Folk, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 6:03 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 6:03 AM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
You've really captured the essence of this question, Mark.

The object of awareness is always whatever is predominant in the mind. As one object is seen clearly, another presents itself. But it isn't a linear progression towards ever more subtlety. It's more of a spiral towards subtlety.

Example: As U Pandita says, you can follow the breath all the way to arahatship. That's because the breath object contains all possible levels of subtlety. But you don't have to strain to see anything. At any given time some physical or mental sensation will predominate. As you deconstruct that object (simply by seeing it clearly), it will naturally become ever more subtle until it is completely seen through. Then, Poof! You are back to a gross object. You have entered a new stratum of mind, which must be deconstructed systematically, from gross to subtle, just as before. This happens many, many times. That's what I mean by a spiral and also what I mean by setting them up and knocking them down. You are setting up strata of mind and penetrating them. The object is only the vehicle you use to master each stratum of mind in turn. There is no need to jump from one object to the next, e.g. breath, thoughts, pains, sounds, if it is possible to stay with the breath.

The reason the Mahasi technique teaches this jumping around is because at first the yogi doesn't have enough concentration to stay with the breath. The method makes an ally of the mind's natural tendency to wander by incorporating all of these stimuli as objects. Eventually, you can just stay with the breath and ride the gross/subtle spiral all the way to enlightenment. In the highest stages of following the breath, the entire field of awareness is within your purview, with breath simply serving as anchor.
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Kenneth Folk, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 6:44 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 6:44 AM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

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To further clarify my post #6 (above):

How can a physical object like the breath contain all possible levels of subtlety?

At the physical level, the breath object (in the Mahasi system this means the rise and fall of the abdomen) can be seen to contain physical sensations such as movement, expansion, contraction, heat, coolness, softness, etc. Each of these physical phenomena can be experienced at various levels of subtlety.

But there is more to the breath than physical sensations. There is also a mental representation of the breath. There may be a picture in the mind of the body and of the rising and falling of the abdomen. These "mental sensations" are inherently more subtle than physical sensations, and are legitimate objects of awareness, IF they are predominant in the mind and not something you have to strain to see. You can't manufacture this, you just deal with things as they arise. Whatever is here now is the door to the door to the door. (Thanks, Bill Hamilton)

Another level of subtlety is your state of mind as you observe the breath. Is there calm? Happiness? Anxiety? Anticipation? Obsession over maps? These are objects of awareness. Note them until the mind settles down and return to the breath.

Then there is the curious fact that all of these phenomena are somehow known. Known by whom? It is possible to be aware of awareness itself and to be aware that awareness is somehow self-aware. This becomes increasingly more subtle as an object of meditation, until there is no meditator--there is just awareness knowing itself.

Finally, awareness can be seen as not separate from what is known, including the entire mental and physical universe. At this point, "observed" and "observer," gross and subtle, physical and mental are fully integrated. They are seen as "not-two."

All of this can be seen simply by following the breath.
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 8:27 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 8:27 AM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: yadidb

Thanks for that Kenneth.
Going through a rough patch and your post certainly served me with some well-needed inspiration for tonight's sitting.
Mark L, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 10:57 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 10:57 AM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 90 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
>> All of this can be seen simply by following the breath.

Thanks everyone, this has all been very helpful. I have one more related question. In Daniel Ingram's interview on Buddhist Geeks, the transcript (http://bit.ly/XhjkI) says:

"until you can see the space and your entire body arising and vanishing and thus you know synchronize that with the sense of strobbing attention and get stream entry"

I know that 1) this is a rough transcript, 2) he was speaking quickly, informally, and off-the-cuff, but this is one of the things that led to my original question.

Not to put words in people's mouths or to try too hard to interpret something I simply don't have access to yet, but, to me, this reads as 1) have enough concentration and insight to note whatever is in a particular moment, 2) if everything in that particular moment vanishes at the same time and you manage to catch it happening, then 3) stream-entry necessarily follows.

So, if I become excellent at seeing gross objects vibrate, and only gross objects are present in a particular moment, and I manage to catch the vanishing of that moment, then stream-entry will follow? It seems like I would want to be able to work with subtle objects, because, if I don't, and subtle objects happen to be present in a particular moment, then that moment couldn't be a gateway to stream-entry for me.

Sorry if this is being nit-picky. I'm just trying to work out the contradictions in my mental model, though my time might be served better by just meditating.

Thanks again, everyone.
Mark L, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 11:02 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 11:02 AM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 90 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
>>> "But there is more to the breath than physical sensations. There is also a mental representation of the breath. There may be a picture in the mind of the body and of the rising and falling of the abdomen. These "mental sensations" are inherently more subtle than physical sensations, and are legitimate objects of awareness, IF they are predominant in the mind and not something you have to strain to see. You can't manufacture this, you just deal with things as they arise. Whatever is here now is the door to the door to the door. (Thanks, Bill Hamilton)"

Maybe this says it all. Don't strain. You see what you see. "Subtle" is relative.

The only thing is that, the Ingram interview makes it sound like there's a "trick" to it: with a practiced flick of the wrist, "synchronize that with the sense of strobing attention". But maybe that happens all by itself with careful, consistent practice.
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Kenneth Folk, modified 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 11:37 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/25/09 11:37 AM

RE: are body sensations sufficient for stream-entry?

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
@Mark:"The only thing is that, the Ingram interview makes it sound like there's a "trick" to it: with a practiced flick of the wrist, "synchronize that with the sense of strobing attention". But maybe that happens all by itself with careful, consistent practice."

Mark, I like the way you keep at this until it makes sense to you. Here's one way to think of it:

Although it can be said there is a trick to it, as an advanced practitioner can call up cessations and jhanas at will, there is some underlying development that must take place before it can happen. Just knowing how to do it isn't enough; you have to have the hardware on which to run your program.

Vince Horn was just telling me about the difference between technical challenges and adaptive challenges, as defined by psychologist Robert Kegan. A technical challenge would be one you could overcome just by learning a technique; you already have the mental and physical hardware in place. An example would be, for an adult, assembling a child's toy. You already have the dexterity and the spatial skills to do the job, so you just need to read the instructions and get to work.

An adaptive challenge would arise if a small child tried to assemble the same toy. Lack of dexterity and spatial skills, not to mention the inability to read the instructions, would make the task impossible. In order to complete the task, the child has no choice but to wait for further development.

Developmental enlightenment, at whatever level, is both a technical and adaptive challenge. Even if you master the technique, you have to wait until the mind/body has adapted or developed sufficiently to do the job. Luckily, the techniques are designed in such a way that development results from the attempt to apply the technique at whatever level one is able.

And yes, the synchronization Daniel refers to happens by itself with practice.

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