Counterpart sign?

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 11 Years ago.

Counterpart sign?

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Hi, I'm very new here, and this evening I had my first abnormal meditation experience.

I've not been doing any previous meditation worth mentioning, but I have done some very uninformed mindfulness of breathing in the past. The last few months have been spent absorbed in goal-oriented teaching and I've finally gotten to the point where I feel comfortable with my understanding.

Tonight I sat down with the wish of entering the first jhana (as far as I know, the first samatha jhana) with virtually no previous experience. This was a very sincere wish and was based on and the fact that I have been lead to believe, through reading and self examination, that I am a Dark Night yogi, have been so for quite some time, and have good concentration skills otherwise.

After having read O, so many times that the trick, initially, is to "follow the breath", I decided to do that with the resolve of a maniac. I found myself so determined that if the house suddenly caught fire, I would say to myself: "I don't have time for that. I need to follow my breath!". Strange things started to happen - for the first time I might add - but I will be brief and keep to the highlight:

At some point, after having exerted a certain (in the way of "angle", "strength" and "duration" - if it helps) form of "pressure" or effort on what I perceived as a point of contact of the breath (not really confined to some bodily place, but maybe "behind" my face somewhere), I had a very intense feeling rise from the bottom of my spine and up to my head. It was a white, puffy/fluffy, cloudy kind of energy. I was caught very off guard by this and thought something along the lines of: "Bullshit. This is impossible, this ain't happening - not with so little practice!". Also because of this surprise, I can see in retrospect that I tried to categorise the feeling/experience so that it would correspond with the feelings of the first jhana. Of course I see now that this thinking was totally wrong to do and, probably as a consequence of this, the feeling/experience ended and I was not able to conjure it up again.

After this there was a lot of thinking "what is different", "what happened" and the like, but I'm pretty sure I can say that, following this, it was easier to keep with the breath.

My question is if this experience was the counterpart sign or something else. I am reluctant calling it anything else because it seems utterly crazy to think it was something "higher/deeper", even despite my enormous craving for deliverance. If needed, I can explain more about the other strange things that happened.
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Counterpart sign? (Answer)

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Stain,
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

My question is if this experience was the counterpart sign or something else. I am reluctant calling it anything else because it seems utterly crazy to think it was something "higher/deeper", even despite my enormous craving for deliverance.

The quick and short answer to your question is: no, that "white, puffy/fluffy, cloudy kind of energy" was not a counterpart sign. It's not even important in the overall scheme of things, either. Just more stuff to let go of. If it helped to give you confidence in the efficacy of meditation, then use that confidence to try and accomplish something of more lasting significance.

If deliverance is what you are after (and this would be of more lasting significance), you would need to be practicing contemplation on the constituent parts of your mental experience in order to see it as it actually is. As impermanent, dissatisfying, and ultimately without self (or as the Buddha was fond of saying: "this is not me", "this is not mine", "this is not myself"').

I've discussed my take on "access concentration" (and hence, counterpart signs, since a counterpart sign is said to foretell the emergence of access concentration) in the following thread "the difference between Access Concentration and the 1st Jhana," if you care to read an expansion on the subject.

When people first take up a practice in meditation, all sorts of weird experiences can occur, leaving the practitioner to wonder what just happened. In most cases it was only the mind attempting to maintain control over your experience of awareness by presenting you with a distraction which might keep you going around in circles for who knows how long. In other words, just stuff to let go of. Once you begin to clear all that "stuff" out of your system, then you can get down to the business end of meditation/contemplation. Which means, then you can begin to concentrate on achieving something of lasting significance aimed at relieving the mind of dukkha, recognizing and letting go of delusions, and bringing the mind to tranquility and peace. In the case of these latter three pursuits, it would be most efficacious to practice satipatthana (or the four establishments of mindfulness) as this is explained in the two Satipatthana suttas of the discourses of the Buddha.

An excellent book on this ancient practice can be found in Ven. Analayo's treatise on the subject titled Satipattana, The Direct Path to Realization. Another book on this same subject which is aimed at some very eye-opening practical instruction on bringing the mind to quietude through the use of a practice called "bare attention" is the book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, by Nyanaponika Thera. Both of these books are classics in Buddhist meditation and well worth reading and investing time in.

In peace,
Ian