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Sudden and Gradual Paths

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Sudden and Gradual Paths
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6/22/09 8:04 AM
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

In the thread titled "The value of silence," Chuck (Chelek) wrote, "The sudden school is great – provided you have put in 5 or 10 years preparing yourself for your 'sudden awakening' :-) "

This reminded me of something I've been thinking about lately. In my opinion, one's Buddha Nature (Original face, Pure Awareness, the Unconditioned, Nibbana, etc.) can be pointed out by a good teacher, even if that person receiving the instruction has not put in a lot of training. Returning to this place, and really dwelling AS this Awareness, is another thing entirely. It would seem to me that the gradual path consists of trainings used to calm the mind (samatha) and free up much of the clinging that keeps the mind in a cloudy state which is not conducive to seeing things the way they are (vipassana). Thus, one who has trained their mind may more easily access this pure awareness once they have trained their mind to incline in that direction (or non-direction, if you will).

For me, this way of looking at sudden and gradual paths harmonizes them without mushing them together. It also helps shed light on the No-Self vs. True Self debate, making both essential to Right View.

I'm interested to hear any comments on this particular presentation of the sudden and gradual paths. Offering perspectives that are different from my own are welcome as well.

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 9:22 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Author: msj123

Jackson,

I agree. I don't know how many times it was pointed out to me, but I thought, "No, it's too simple." So like most, I had to go a long, hard way to find something very simple. To put it in a Zen language, it was as though I had to experience of series of small insights before a very big one, but the big one was not different from the small one. What was different was not the insight, but the depth of the insight. Having discovered the true north, it is easy to cultivate. It is also easy to understand scriptures of all different traditions.

I like how Chinul describes it:

"If a real teacher points out a way of entry for you, and for a single instant you turn your attention around, you see your original essence. This essence originally has no afflictions, uncontaminated wisdom is inherently complete in it. Then you are no different from the Buddhas, thus it is called sudden enlightenment.

As for gradual practice, having suddenly realized fundamental essence, no different from the Buddha, beginningless mental habits are hard to get rid of all at once. Therefore one practices cultivation based on enlightenment, gradually cultivating the attainment to perfection, nurturing the embryo of sagehood to maturity. Eventually, after a long time, one becomes a sage, therefore it is called gradual practice. It is like an infant, which has all the normal faculties of birth, but as yet undeveloped, only with the passage of years does it become an adult."

--- Chinul, Secrets of Cultivating the Mind, trans. Thomas Cleary

Matt

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 10:12 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hey Matt,

This is perfect. I was hoping someone would quote Chinul in reply, as I don't own any of his literature and couldn't do so myself. His take on the sudden and graduals paths is the most eloquent I've come across. I know that others will benefit from reading this.

~Jackson

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 10:49 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Yes, of benefit... and in agreement.

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 11:02 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
is there anyone here who thinks that a person crossing the a&p for the first time *wont* at least get a glimpse?

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 11:11 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Interesting question, Tarin.

Do you mean "get a glimpse of ultimate reality?" If so, I'm not so sure. I think there are aspects of the path that give clues about ultimate reality, but I can't say I experienced anything quite like it from crossing the A&P.

And before anyone objects, I know that experiencing the A&P is experiencing "it" from a high dharma point of view. But this wasn't clear to me at the early stages, and I think it's the same for most people.

Thoughts?
~Jackson

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 11:15 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
ok, how about at least first path?

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/22/09 11:34 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Yes, I think that First Path is the first actual, momentary glimpse of ultimate reality for many people. Though, I would be hesitant to conclude that having had a non-dual experience is synonymous with attaining First Path. If that was the case, simply going through the Big Mind process successfully would do the trick. The Progress of Insight is its own animal in some ways, especially early on.

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/23/09 9:28 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Sudden and gradual are woven differently (and defined somewhat differently as result) in various schools of Buddhism, plus the distinction specifically applies to insight (i.e. recognized awakened wisdom), and not every aspect of buddhahood. There is the question of the individual practitioner and his or her traits (i.e. intelligence, recognizing and correcting problems, distribution of constructive and destructive traits, level and range of meditative experience/skill etc.), then there's the question of method used (some methods don't even assume the instantaneous path), then there's the qualification and capacity of the teacher (instrumental in sudden paths of transmission, pointing-out etc.), and also the nature of the teachings i.e. their clarity, depth, sophistication, richness of means etc., and finally the overall context which refers to the degree of harmonization of all these into a seamless organic relationship, wherein the dharmic happening takes place naturally and spontaneously (or else every single occasion and action requires clarification and elaboration to even make sense). In short, there are quite a few obstacles to instantaneous realizations, and these obstacles require a reliable, gradual path that produces predictable, definable stages leading eventually to the end-state. No amount of glimpses will do the work, though these may help greatly at crucial moments, when outer circumstances and inner poise are favourable. If by "sudden" we mean just a glimpse (no matter how strong), then every gradual path is preceded and initiated by such a sudden glimpse, even unconsciously, but that's not the traditional meaning, namely *instantaneous full realization*.

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/23/09 9:50 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
excellent post hokai. what do you see as other aspects of buddhahood?

thank you for pointing out that you think that 'every path is preceded and initiated by a sudden glimpse', as that was what i meant by asking whether anyone thinks that a person crossing the a&p for the first time wont at least get a glimpse? glad im not alone in thinking so.

im starting to suspect a friend of mine actually had 'instantaneous full realisation' (some aspect of insight, cant put my finger on it) not long before she started on her path (the entirety of which, she says, including the path-attainment she's done thus far, has been something like 'figuring out there was homework to do, and learning how to do it').

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/23/09 12:11 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
To go along with the "get a glimpse" thought, I like to think similarly through an analogy.

1st vipassana jhana: find a calculator, paper and a pencil (gather the tools)
2nd vipassana jhana: sit in front of a math teacher and see how it's done (get a glimpse)
3rd vipassana jhana: actually figure out how to solve the problem for yourself, which seems conceptually easy after 2, but ends up being really damn tough. (do the work and really learn it)
4th vipassana jhana: yay you can do math and are nice and peaceful. (relax in your knowledge and apply it wherever)

Edit. Wow, I hadn't read the second half of Tarin's post before posting that. That is kind of creepy.

Trent

RE: Sudden and Gradual Paths
Answer
6/23/09 12:35 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Love and power come to mind, or, more precisely, (1) the labor of loving itself, and (2) unleashed endless creativity. We could say these two aspects never cease to unfold because of the very nature of world (which we now know is *evolving* and could argue is thus *going somewhere* beyond itself), but in addition, because they increase and amplify the wisdom itself, we can also say understanding never ceases to grow and unfold.

To these two traditionally recognized aspects of buddhahood, I would add exceptional, balanced, comprehensive understanding (instead of the usual "omniscience") that does not arise from insight on its own, but is dependent on learning, education, a variety of skills, cultural uplifting, and psychosocial development, all of which take place throughout our lifetime, and the overall level of which keeps evolving, just as life expectancy does. An awakened individual cannot fulfill his/her social function completely without such understanding.