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What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.)

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What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.) Kenneth Folk 9/15/09 11:48 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Chuck Kasmire 2/15/09 1:37 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 2/15/09 3:12 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Eric Calhoun 2/15/09 4:39 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 2/15/09 5:35 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Eric Calhoun 2/15/09 6:24 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 2/15/09 6:48 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/16/09 3:10 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/16/09 3:53 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/16/09 4:03 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/16/09 5:03 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# tarin greco 2/16/09 6:29 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/16/09 6:55 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/16/09 7:20 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/16/09 7:31 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# John Finley 2/16/09 8:01 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Wet Paint 2/16/09 8:05 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Vincent Horn 2/16/09 10:55 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Vincent Horn 2/16/09 10:56 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Eric Calhoun 2/16/09 12:36 PM
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RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/16/09 4:10 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/16/09 4:34 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/16/09 4:42 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/17/09 5:07 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/17/09 5:44 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/17/09 6:11 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Eric Calhoun 2/17/09 7:35 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/17/09 2:05 PM
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RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/17/09 2:48 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Chuck Kasmire 2/17/09 2:49 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/17/09 2:55 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/17/09 3:06 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Wet Paint 2/18/09 12:57 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/18/09 2:20 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Kenneth Folk 2/18/09 2:30 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/18/09 3:43 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/18/09 3:44 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/18/09 3:45 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Eric Calhoun 2/18/09 4:22 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Wet Paint 2/18/09 4:37 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/18/09 4:50 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 2/18/09 5:02 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Wet Paint 2/18/09 6:13 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 2/19/09 12:47 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Andrew P 2/19/09 12:11 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Wet Paint 2/19/09 1:35 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 2/19/09 2:23 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# C4 Chaos 2/19/09 3:46 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Dark Night Yogi 5/8/09 11:38 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# tarin greco 5/9/09 3:46 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Dark Night Yogi 5/9/09 5:27 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Jackson Wilshire 5/9/09 5:41 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# tarin greco 5/9/09 7:09 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 5/9/09 7:49 AM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# tarin greco 5/9/09 1:20 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Trent S. H. 5/9/09 2:36 PM
RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&# Amr El-Nowehy 7/1/09 10:15 AM
Dear David,

Yes to all of that! I'd love to talk with you about my practice, your practice, and practice in general. And I could definitely use some help birthing the book that has been gestating inside me for some time.

Meanwhile, the Western Buddhist mushroom factory continues to operate (keep 'em in the dark and feed 'em s--t). I lay most of the blame for the mushroom phenomenon at the doorstep of Joseph Goldstein. Joseph is a great man, and I am, generally speaking, a big fan. He has done more to promote Theravada Buddhism in the US than anyone I could name. But his personality does not lend itself to straight talk. And nearly everyone in the Western Buddhist scene seems to have emulated his indirect approach. In addition, there is Joseph's chronic inability to reach the highest levels of attainment, which creates a glass ceiling for nearly everyone: "If even the great Joseph Goldstein, with his massive intellect, his access to the best teachers on the planet, and his decades of practice cannot master this practice, then how can I?" The obvious conclusion is that it cannot be done, along with its corollaries, it has not been done, and it will not be done, least of all by me. All of this is demonstrably false, about which I will have more to say later on.

As an example of Joseph's defeatist attitude, consider his oft-repeated remark, delivered with his characteristic charm and good humor to a packed meditation hall at IMS, "Are there any arahats in the house? If so the place is yours." The oldtimers, thoroughly conditioned to accept defeat, chuckle knowingly and the newbies look around nervously, intuitively understanding that they have just been given their baptism and their prognosis; this is a project destined to fail.

As for straight talk, it's not just that the IMS teachers don't speak clearly about attainments and maps of progress; it's that they are ashamed to talk about them, as though it were somehow socially unacceptable, something akin to looking up ladies' skirts. By contrast, some Asian teachers, and a few maverick Americans, of which my late mentor, Bill Hamilton was one, have adopted the simple expedient of telling the truth.

After my first long retreat, the '91 IMS three-month retreat, I returned home to Southern California and went over to Bill's house to give him my report. He listened to my story, then very clearly showed me how my experiences lined up with the Progress of Insight map, concluding that I had reached the 11th ñana (equanimity), and had been poised to attain First Path when the retreat ended. "Too bad the teachers didn't point that out to me," I complained. "Maybe I wouldn't have slacked off at the end."

"Welcome to the mushroom club," he said. "It's time for you to start planning a long retreat in Asia. It will be good for you to get First Path under your belt." That was typical Bill. He approached practice with a very goal-oriented, can-do attitude. He came to think of me as his protege, and he made it clear that he expected me to progress rapidly through the ñanas and the Paths. Soon after I met Bill, he let me know through broad hints that he had attained Second Path and was working toward Third. As you know, Third Path is considered by mainstream Western Buddhism to be extremely rare and not something to which a reasonable yogi would aspire. It is, so the thinking goes, the exclusive province of robed ascetics who live in caves, or saintly figures like the legendary Burmese woman Dipa Ma. Bill, however, was undaunted. He took a very mechanistic approach, wielding his vipassana as a tool to deconstruct the current phenomenon and move on to the next. "Whatever is here now is the door to the door to the door," he said.

While on his deathbed in 1999, Bill revealed to me that he had attained arahatship. "If I get better," he said, "I'm going to write a book. I'm thinking about coming out of the closet." He was going to tell the world that he had attained what many consider unattainable, in the process risking whatever credibility he had within the Buddhist community, where such revelations are unwelcome to say the least. He did not recover, so we will never know how the close-knit dharma community would have received his revelation. But before he died, he helped me to see that arahatship, the vaunted ideal of Theravada Buddhism, was perhaps not quite so rare as we had been led to believe. He pointed out that some of the Burmese monks, for example, were "hiding in plain sight."

A great example of this is Sayadaw U Pandita. There has always been much speculation about his attainment, of course. A monk since he was a small boy and an acknowledged expert on the vipassana technique, it is reasonable to assume that if the technique is sound, U Pandita of all people might have carried it to the highest levels. But even the half-whispered rumors generally stopped short of arahatship. Some dared to suggest that U Pandita may have attained Third Path, that of the anagami, or non-returner.

Bill, on the other hand, actually listened to what U Pandita said. Bill told me that while on retreat in Burma in the late 90s, he heard U Pandita give a talk about the Buddha's enlightenment. Speaking through an interpreter, the old monk told of how the Buddha had sat down under the Bodhi tree, resolving never to get up until he was fully enlightened. "I have practiced like that," said U Pandita.

Bill paused in the telling of the story and looked at me with a twinkle, waiting to see if I had understood the full import of Sayadaw's confession. (I hadn't, and stared back stupidly.) Bill connected the dots for me: "He got up." He got up! By telling that story, U Pandita was admitting that he was an arahat. A monk like U Pandita does not take a resolution lightly. If he made the resolution, it was because he knew he was close. If he got up from the sitting, it was because he was done.

Another teacher that makes his confession by way of innuendo is Christopher Titmuss. Two different people have told me that when asked about his own attainment, Titmuss said, "This Christopher doesn't suffer." While this is coded speech, it is not hard for a Buddhist to decipher. Using traditional language, the only person who does not suffer is the arahat. It's interesting to me that Titmuss is no longer welcome at IMS. I know that the official reason has to do with allegations of misconduct with students, but I also wonder if the IMS folks were happy to get rid of him given that he is so politically incorrect regarding his attainment.

It seems that arahats are not so rare after all. I've mentioned several who have come clean, at least for those willing to read the not-so-subtle code. Surely there are more hiding in plain sight who haven't seen fit to say anything. By the way, what is an arahat? Whether there are few arahats or many, or for that matter, any at all, depends entirely upon what the definition of an arahat is. By one popular definition, an arahat is a kind of superman who does not experience human emotions. He has "overcome greed, hatred, and delusion." In other words, he does not experience fear, anger, hate, lust, envy, nor any other "negative" emotion. By this definition, it's not surprising that there don't seem to be many around. In fact, I doubt there has ever been a person like that, Siddhatta Gotama Buddha included.

My own preferred definition is much less ambitious and, I believe, much more useful. Moreover, I believe it is what the people who originally coined the word meant when they said it. An arahat is someone who has come to the end of a particular developmental process. The process of which I speak is familiar to anyone who has had a spiritual opening. Once it is set in motion, there is a kind of visceral pull that propels one to practice more. There is the feeling that one is moving toward...something...one knows not what. But there is the pull. It will not be denied, and you ignore it at your peril. Almost all yogis know this pull. But some yogis also know the end of it. These yogis are arahats.

An arahat is not a superman. An arahat is off the ride. Viewed through this lens, the old stories suddenly make sense. According to the suttas, it was fairly routine for someone to walk up to the Buddha and say something like "Done is what needs to be done. There is no more becoming in this or any future life." Why did they say it like that? Because that's what it feels like. How do I know? Because it happened to me on June 13th, 2004, while walking under a pepper tree in New Mexico. A circuit was completed that day. A palpable energy that had been working its way through my body for 24 years completed its circuit and has been recycling ever since, stable, without any sense that anything else needs to be done.

It would be impossible to overstate what a profound change this caused in my understanding of my own life. The pull I spoke of earlier, the sense of "being on a ride" and needing to see it through to its conclusion had been the overriding fact of nearly my entire adult life. Suddenly, it was over. What should I do now? At the very least, I would have to find another project. All of this was clear in a moment. I chuckled, turned to an imaginary Buddha standing next to me and said, "Done is what needs to be done. You got nothin' on me now." I understood that there was not, had never been a Buddha outside of me. I was finally free...but it wasn't me. It was just a constellation of thoughts and sensations that had grown used to thinking of itself as Kenneth.

There is infinite opportunity for misunderstanding here, so I want to be as clear as possible. Being done refers only to that particular physio-energetic development involving an energy that the Indians call kundalini. It doesn't mean, contrary to hyperbolic legend, that the arahat has "erased all karma," "perfected him or herself," etc. Those are children's stories, told by charlatans or starry-eyed apologists. Here we arrive at the realm of the "enlightened asshole" you mentioned earlier. As Ken Wilber so brilliantly points out, if you want to be a good person, you will have to do the work that leads to that. Simply being enlightened will not make you a nice guy. The evidence for this is all around us, as we see that it is not exceptional, but rather the norm for enlightened teachers to get caught with their pants down. If we were to give up our childish expectations of saintly behavior from our sages, we would not be at all surprised when they succumb to the same human temptations that plague all of us.

I understand that many will not accept my definition of arahat. They will mumble something about "higher standards" and go on believing in superheroes. But I think there may be some people ready to take a mature and realistic look at what enlightenment can and cannot do for us as individuals and as a society. For them, the empowerment of knowing that enlightenment even to the level of arahat is possible for anyone, will outweigh the disappointment of having to give up the myth.

In this letter, I've just talked about one half of what I see as the big picture, i.e. the developmental half. The other half, the big half, ha, ha, is Realization of what is already the case. Realization does not require any development at all.

Development is something that happens to somebody. Realization happens to no one.

Also, on the developmental front, there is a world of things to say about the nuts and bolts of the Four Paths, the sixteen ñanas, the samatha jhanas, and the details of my own experience with all of that.

David, I know that when my wife and I first met, she wrote to tell you that I claimed to be an arahat, so I wanted to get that elephant out into plain sight as soon as possible. You should have a fair chance to distance yourself from me and my politically incorrect ideas if you are so inclined, ha, ha. But seriously, I think it would be hard for me to write a book without including that little detail, even though the non-dual part of the book would downplay the importance of any individual attainment. Whereas the Theravadans would say that the important thing is development, and the advaitists and zen people would say that the important thing is Realization, I agree with the Tibetans that the ideal is both development and realization.

Who?

David, I invite your comments, and am especially interested to hear about your own experiences with regard to development and awakening.

More later,

Kenneth Folk

December 2008

***

I've started this thread as a place for people to respond to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.)" page. Let 'er rip!

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/15/09 1:37 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Sadu, sadu, sadu! Thanks for posting that. It really helps all of us - and I mean everyone!

My own first words were: 'This is not at all what I expected' and then I remembered Buddhas words 'house builder, you will build no more' - and for the first time, I understood what he meant.

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/15/09 3:12 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Thanks for posting that, Kenneth. I've found so much motivation from hearing hearing your story and Daniel's (similar) story a few nights ago. It seems as though the common theme is "the pull stops and you just know it's done, it's entirely different" which is both inspirational and also frustrating as all hell right now, haha.

Cool nonetheless.

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/15/09 4:39 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
"Using traditional language, the only person who does not suffer is the arahat."

Hey Kenneth -

Thanks for posting! Sorry if this is a little silly to narrow down to one sentence in such a long heartfelt piece, but I'm really interested in this question of suffering along the different paths, and as a marker of the stages and different paths.

So, is this an accurate statement? That to me is hugely important, and really the core of the 4 Noble Truths right there. I'd particularly appreciate hearing from folks (ha! pun not intended, and I'm sure you've heard that a million times dealing with southerners) who have completed the first path. My understanding is that one who does has a fundamentally different conception/experience of suffering and identity.

Along these lines, is one who has completed First Path and is cycling thru the review stages suffering when they practice vipassana? Does doing vipassana require one to attach to a separate self, and thus inherently cause suffering while it is practiced, with relief from suffering experienced during fruition (or during a time when one is actively experiencing non-identity with the separate self)?

Thanks!

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/15/09 5:35 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@2birds1stone

Hi. The suffering being referred to is the inherent suffering of duality, not to be confused with the conventional "suffering" that may occur when the arahat stubs their toe against a wall and howls like a stuck pig! The path of insight is about fading the line between subject and object (duality) and as this fades, so does the suffering which is caused by that split.

This is a big reason why "the non-duality model of awakening" makes the most sense from a pragmatic point of view. There can be tons of openings throughout each arbitrarily segregated path, and so each opening that lessens duality also lessens suffering and in a sense could also be labeled "a path."

Doing vipassana practice is, in most cases, to break the sense of a separate self in one way or another. The suffering present when a big breakthrough is encountered is sub-stage specific or perhaps state specific. So rom a macro, relative perspective, the stream winner suffers less than the pre-stream winner, but more so than an anagami. In this sense, there is suffering until arahatship because there is still a relative degree of duality. The phrase "the arahat does not suffer" is to say that duality has been seen completely through, and the suffering caused by duality has been completely diffused as a result.

Cool?

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/15/09 6:24 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@Yabaxoule -

Thanks for your opening thoughts, and I hope you'll post again after a distinction or two. What you speak of here is more like the goal or aim of practice which is, as you say, breaking the sense of a separate self. I am inquiring about the experience of practice, if it requires attachment to a separate self, which is an illusion and creates suffering.

Also, have our advanced practitioners experienced an incremental-like decrease in suffering, or like much of the path does it get "worse" before it gets "better" (at least for those of us deeply attached and who need to really get shaken loose)?

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/15/09 6:48 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
I'm not quite sure I understand the original question, may need to be fielded from another person or more distinctions made. That said, I think my short answer would simply be "no." Practicing vipassana is the same exploration of reality regardless of whether or not one has an attachment or has seen completely through the thing.

As for your second question, it is a mix of both while one is between stream-entry and arahatship. From my experience, it is very tricky to view the path on a micro scale and say/feel "this is where big amounts of suffering dropped" until you have been distanced from it a while. However, looking back over it with a birds-eye view, there are obvious places where large amounts of suffering dropped away. In other words, perspective is skewed the closer we are to the opening in question due to relativity and the organic nature of the cycles & sub-cycles.

That said, something getting "worse" before it gets "better" could just be a rough spot in the macro insight cycle, such as the dark night, and also may not be correlated at all with anything easily perceivable. In my own experience, the toughest time I had was somewhere between 2nd and 3rd path, for reasons unknown to me. To summarize and actually answer your question: in the moment I could not perceive an incremental shift due to being immersed in the relativity, but when looking back, I can see which shifts were the big ones, and those stand out as being "incremental-like."

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/16/09 3:10 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@kennethfolk:

You wrote:

"The process of which I speak is familiar to anyone who has had a spiritual opening. Once it is set in motion, there is a kind of visceral pull that propels one to practice more. There is the feeling that one is moving toward...something...one knows not what. But there is the pull. It will not be denied, and you ignore it at your peril. Almost all yogis know this pull. But some yogis also know the end of it. These yogis are arahats."

I have been trying to articulate this very concept to myself for a couple weeks now, as it has been my experience. I am by no means an arahat (I'm not being modest), but my practice has accelerated immensely and the further I go the stronger the pull. I wonder sometimes why the process of awakening is not a part of everyone's life. Why don't more people (i.e. my co-workers, family members, friends, etc.) get in to this stuff?

I know one short answer is, "Well, they must not have ever crossed the arising and passing away." True. But the practice seems to be such an integral part of my life that I almost don't know what it would be like without it, and I wish there was a way to talk about it without sounding crazy, creepy, fanatical or preachy.

Anyway, thanks for posting the letter. It was beneficial for me, as I'm sure it was to the others as well.

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/16/09 3:53 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi 2birds,

This is a very profound question. Hopefully some of our more philosophically-minded friends will weigh in. As a practical matter, vipassana is both possible and valuable. (I'm not trying to be cute, just simple.) And the fact that arahats can still do vipassana would indicate that no subject/object delusion is necessary. In any case, life after enlightenment is still life, so arahats spend most of their day behaving as though duality were real. They go to work, have relationships with "other people," and try to fill their days with interesting and pleasant experiences, e.g. meditation. But here's an interesting point that probably wouldn't have occurred to me if you hadn't asked the question: I no longer consciously do vipassana. Vipassana just happens. Objects naturally deconstruct themselves with continued attention. And the avanced jhanas, those beyond the first eight, seem to be vipassana/samatha hybrids. I haven't thought through the implications of this, I'm just reporting my experience. Am I getting to the heart of the question? If not, let's keep at.

As for the discussion between you and Yabaxoule, I've been enjoying it, and I think Yaba has done a great job of addressing some of the points you raised.

Kenneth

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/16/09 4:03 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hey Hipster,

That short answer is unlikely to satisfy (sounds like dukkha to me :-)), but it might the best intellectual answer available.

I think the solution to the your dissatisfaction is to keep practicing until those other people are you.

I certainly know what you mean about the crazy, creepy, fanatical, and preachy thing that happens when we try to talk about this to people who don't dig it. Try to find out what people are really asking. If they aren't sincerely asking for dharma, talk about sports.

Kenneth

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/16/09 5:03 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth,

first of, thanks for going of the closet and posting that letter. very ballsy emoticon oozing with non-idiot compassion.

one of the things that attracted me to Ingram's MCTB is his courageous (or foolish?) proclamation of his arahatship, in a matter-of-factness way. by doing what he did, Ingram demystified the path and made it more tangible.

in my case, i didn't start my seeking with Theravada Buddhism. i've dabbled with Zen, Tibetan, and Advaita so even if i have some deluded notions on what it means to be "enlightened" in the back of my mind i intuitively understand that people can do it right here right now if they devote and surrender themselves to practice and/or get lucky (due to some statistical probability).

in a way, i'm thankful that i didn't start with Theravada. my approach was intellectual (e.g. Wilber's integral theory, Shinzen's vipassana style, etc.) and i lean more on the scientific end of the spectrum--zero tolerance policy on dogma.

however, i recently embraced the Theravada style (e.g. vipassana) because of its science-like approach to enlightenment. i credit this to my favorite teacher (at the moment): Shinzen Young.

i find that Shinzen's approach appeals to my temperament. no BS. no dogma. and uber-scientific. although Shinzen doesn't talk about being an arahat, you can read between the lines as if he's saying: "i've done it, and so can you! and this is how to do it."

and this also one reason why i love being in this forum. there are people here like you, Kenneth and Daniel, who are talking the talk and walking the walk. i look to you as Dharma Big Brothers. i'm looking forward to learn as much as i can and see for myself how deep the rabbit hole goes.

kick ass and be still.

~C

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/16/09 6:29 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
i agree with kenneth about something there.. keep going and you may find that other people's ignorance bothers you less. i could be wrong, but i think this because its no longer important to me if other people do spiritual investigation*, whereas before it was. a lot of it (wanting other people to share these beliefs and interests) came from some kind of frustration at not having been able yet to realise them for myself. also, it seems that, over the years, the desire for enlightenment had seeped into everything else i did and felt in my life and was subverting those things. for example, if i had a conversation with a friend, i would be subconsciously assuming the conversation was about some aspect of duality, or if i wrote a love poem to a girl there would be references to the 3 characteristics in every line. its hard to explain and i didnt really know it was happening at the time, but looking back, it was really obsessive and a little schizophrenic. i mention this though, because it's only stopped now that i've got path. and what a relief. 'a chair doesn't have to be the buddha', as a friend of mine put it once.

*except i also find now a desire for people who are already interested and sufficiently self-motivated to keep going (it feels different from the above kind of want). also, sometimes i get lonely and want to be distracted by thinking about and talking about dharma stuff.

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2/16/09 6:55 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Thanks for the reply.

Though, I don't really see other people's disinterest in the dharma as "bothering" me. It's more that it's so important to me, so much of an energy of my being, that I wonder how I ended up that way when so many others have not.

I've never tried to evangelize the dharma in the same way I used to evangelize Christianity when I was a teenager. It can be frustrating, though, to not be able to talk about what I'm in to without people thinking that I'm weird, or that I'm going to suggest that they see things my way. Maybe I'm just hypersensitive to this because of my upbringing. In any case, it's nice to have the DhO around, so I can talk with you guys about insight without sounding like a nut job.

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2/16/09 7:20 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
welcome to the club emoticon i think most of us here in this forum had experienced this one way or the other. in my case, i grew up in Catholic country where Buddhism (and other religions) are looked at as "weird." it was also almost impossible to find a good dharma teaching, not to mention teacher. thank godness for books and the internet emoticon

anyway, i also experienced the enthusiasm that you're describing. but over the years i've learned to balance it. like Kenneth said, if they want to talk about dharma, then talk to them about dharma, otherwise just to talk them about what they want to hear emoticon

this is the reason why "Sangha" is one of the jewels of Buddhism. it's really important to have some people to talk to who are on the same (or similar) path. in my case, my primary sangha has been cybersangha (like DhO). i don't have close friends in "meatspace" whom i can regularly talk about the path, but at least i'm connected to people online who are openly talking about it without being too fanatic.
this is why i think DhO would have a purpose to serve for people out there who are looking for other "nut jobs" like us emoticon

~C

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2/16/09 7:31 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
"Meatspace" huh? I like it.

I agree that it's important to have a Sangha of some kind, however one can get it. I can't even begin to express how great it is to be able to participate in discussions with other meditation practioners on a regular basis, but I'm sure we all feel this way.

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2/16/09 8:01 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hey folks, I just want to weigh in here and say that these responses and the original post, coupled with the thread on meditating on impermanence have been for me the most informative and useful readings I have seen in the short time I have been meditating and trying to progress along the path. To a novice like me, having concrete descriptions of what to do and what to look for is more helpful than I can describe, and the open, honest sharing of experiences and levels of attainment is unbelievably inspiring. Thank you all for your input - well done!

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2/16/09 8:05 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Author: Travis80

Hello Kenneth & All,

I'm new here so let me say thanks for sharing the letter and thanks to those who run this site. It and Daniel's book have forced me to completely reevaluate my motivations and expectations for practice.

I've realized my own practice is in some sense motivated by fear of death and the desire to understand and confront it.

Coming to the end of the whole thing how has it affected your view of death? Your fears? Anxiety etc. ?

Thanks, Travis

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2/16/09 10:55 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
This is an important topic and Kenneth's article does hit on some really crucial points. I largely agree with his assessment of the culture surrounding IMS and the way that it negatively impacts people. That said, I wouldn't go so far as to say that Joseph isn't an arhant himself, just because he says he isn't. Nor am I saying he is. But what I am saying is that his conception of arhantship (along with many other folks at IMS) has to do with "limited-emotional range models." In other words they have a model of full enlightenment that precludes certain negative emotions arising. Given that model how could any of them ever claim arhantship (unless they were brain-dead perhaps)?

So, what I'm saying is that perhaps Joseph has in fact "done what needs to be done" in terms of fundamental non-dualistic understanding. Some of the things he says, and has said to me in interviews, seems to indicate that he is at least an anagami. That much is clear. The question then is can people be fully enlightened (in the non-dualistic sense) and still not believe that they are not enlightened (cause they're models of enlightenment point toward unachievable models)? I think the answer is yes, and may be so in Joseph's case.

[cont below]

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2/16/09 10:56 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
As an illustration, just because someone gets stream-entry doesn't mean they necessarily understand what has happened. In some cases, they may not even notice fruition, but nonetheless they will be cycling. Their realization doesn't require that they have any particular models about what it means, what will happen next, etc. It will have some fundamental psycho-physiological changes, but I think those changes can be interpreted and understood in a multitude of different ways. I suspect this is a large part of what is happening in the Insight Meditation Society, and though it frustrates me to no end, I don't equate their poor models w/ a lack of realization. To do so would be to buy into a model of enlightenment that says that people must have the non-dualistic model of enlightenment. We then judge their attainment based on their model, not on their core realization.

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2/16/09 12:36 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Very much to the heart, and many thanks again. Perhaps this is intimately related to the feeling of completing a circuit, and nothing further needing to be done?

I still would appreciate anyone's thoughts who has been through this on the experience and patterns of suffering between fruition and becoming an arahat.

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2/16/09 3:46 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
So, if one wants to follow Kenneth's example (or that of Daniel), other than reading Daniel's book and following his techniques or going to a forest monastery in Thailand for a long retreat (difficult as householders with families), what can we do?

Are there any groups here in the States that are working in a manner consistent with what Kenneth is talking about and which will give the kind of feedback and support necessary to follow the process through? Anyone running retreats on an ongoing basis to support working in this manner?

I mean, I could go to one of Goldstein's centers but it seems like the proper support isn't there. My own practice is mostly Zen these days, sitting meditation in that style and then koans, but I'm, personally, open to whatever will work to achieve the fruition of the path.

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2/16/09 4:10 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi Albill,

I think there is a lot you can do. The first thing would be to use whatever daily meditation time you have to develop a strong vipassana technique, as described in Daniel's book. Then schedule a retreat, preferably in a place that encourages and supports serious practitioners. I haven't been to Spirit Rock, but my friend Vince Horn assures me that it is an excellent place to practice, with teachers who do not play the mushroom game and who believe that their students can succeed.

Alternatively, you might try Bhavana Society in West Virginia. It is run by a delightful Theravada monk named Bante Gunaratana. You probably won't get much time with him, and when you do he probably won't want to talk directly about your progress, but if you can be a light unto yourself for a few days or weeks, I'm told that Bhavana Society is a nice place to practice. There are probably other good places to practice in the USA, so I'm hoping some of the other members will chime in about their favorite places. Having said that, don't rule out Malaysia for long term practice. Once you get there, it's very inexpensive to stay, so the longer your retreat is the more sense it makes to go there as the airfare is amortized over more retreat days.

The two most important things are to know that enlightenment is possible and to resolve to find out for yourself what all the fuss is about. Your determination to succeed will open all kinds of doors for you. Meanwhile, we are here to give you encouragement and guidance as needed.

Kenneth

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2/16/09 4:34 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi Travis,

Welcome aboard. Your question is clear. How does one understand death?

I could tell you that I do not fear death, and that is true, but I'm more interested in what's going on with you. Let's walk through this together. What happens when you turn this question back on itself? Who is this "I" that fears death? If we can answer that, maybe we can get some perspective on the problem. Ask yourself, in all sincerity, "Who is this I that I keep referring to?" And who is it that knows about "me," anyway? Is there some other "I" that knows about "me?" Who is watching whom? Hmmm?

This is not an idle question. Stay with it, and see where it leads. There is an awareness that has no stake in whether Travis lives or dies. While that awareness is not you, neither is Travis.

If you follow this pointer to its conclusion and you still want to be an arahat, we'll start working on your vipassana. Keep us posted.

Kenneth

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2/16/09 4:42 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
In addition to the Dark Night that comes on the way to each Path, there is a larger cycle. I've heard people say that the dukkha often gets worse after Second Path, when you are in the dukkha nanas before Third Path. This was my experience as well.

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2/17/09 5:07 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
ok, now that the Arahats are out of the closets, i'll start asking questions i've been wanting to ask of awakened people emoticon

i believe that "enlightenment" is not the end game. like eveything else it's also a beginning of another, that is, in the relative world. in this sense, i agree with Aurobindo that awakening is only a first step in becoming a "superman." in Shinzen's lingo enlightened beings are like "super-adults". this means that after classical enlightenment, the super-adult begins another developmental process. in Ingram's lingo this is called "Training in Morality." for example, there are enlightened beings who return to *mastering* the samatha jhanas. in Shinzen's example, he used meditation techniques to learn mathematics and science. in Eckhart Tolle's example, he stood up from sitting on benches, stabilized his realization and started writing books.

my questions to all the Arahats in the house:

1) do you agree with the above statements i've made? what's your take on it?

2) as far as development (in the relative world) is concerned, what aspects of your relative life are you working on?

3) what's your take on Aurobindo's uber goal of bringing down the supermind?
see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermind

that's all for now. now, let her rip! emoticon

~C

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2/17/09 5:44 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi C,

I agree with you on this point.

I think of two axes. The vertical axis is progress upward through the Progress of Insight. It is finite, and culminates in arahatship. At that point, a circuit is completed, signaling the end of a process of physioenergetic development. One a circuit closes it's closed. It can't be any more closed than closed. At that point the kundalini energy recirculates in a stable pattern.

The horizontal axis represents development at each stratum of mind. This development is infinite. How much can you learn, for example, about mathematics, or language, or surfing, or love? It never ends. How much can you manifest compassion and wisdom and spontaneity in the world? How much can you learn to accept and forgive your own human failings? In this sense, arahatship can be seen as a new beginning - a more stable platform from which to learn how to be a human being.

There is a third perspective which belongs to neither axis. Prior to the arising of the universe, prior to the invention of time, prior to the self/other split, there is what we might call primordial awareness. It is here now. You can find it by following your own mind upstream.

I am uncomfortable with talk of supermen. I have never met one, nor do expect to. No one has accused me of being one, nor do I expect that they will. My hope is that enlightenment can be normalized, and that the superman myths can fade into the ignorant past from whence they came.

Thank you for your provocative questions. They make for fun and useful discussions.

Kenneth

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2/17/09 6:11 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
in most spiritual traditions, pursuing psychic abilities is considered as distractions, and rightly so. however, the general understanding is not to deny those "powers" altogether but to master them *after* realization so that one can own the powers instead of the powers owning them. btw, "powers" in this context are those perceptions beyond what is considered to be "normal". i believe that those so-called powers are inherently natural and available to us should we choose to cultivate them (like singing, driving, martial arts, etc.) via advanced stages of concentration.

i see Aurobindo as someone who wanted to master a certain perception beyond our "normal" perception of things. a "superman" is someone who is both awakened and is cultivating these so-called powers (maybe there are some Aurobindo enthusiasts here who could expound on this. but anyway...).

in Carlos Casteneda's writings Don Juan said (i'm paraphrasing):
"There are those without power but who can see.
There are those with power but who cannot see.
There are those with power and who can see."

in your honest opinion, what kind of Arahat are you?

what makes different Arahats pursue different things even if realization is one and the same thing? i'd like to hear you riff on this emoticon

thanks again.

~C

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2/17/09 7:35 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Awesome. Totally with you on the manifest world secretly being the infinite realm.

I am very interested in the relationship of those other 2 axes to each other. So you do see the "Always-Already" as distinct from vipassana. Is it fair to say that there is still a skill to develop, to access and rest in this state? And is there suffering in this state? Also, what is the relationship between primordial awareness to fruition?

I'll stop there, as a professional interviewer, I've learned you can't ask too many questions in a row if you actually want to hear answers!

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2/17/09 2:05 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Well, now that you mention it, I do have two superpowers. I listed them on my profile page:

1. I don't believe my thoughts.
2. Training dogs. :-)

But seriously, you asked what makes arahats pursue different things. It reminds me of an old joke. "Doctor, will I be able to play piano after the surgery?"
"Certainly."
"Great. I've always wanted to play the piano."

The immense train of karma that you bring to your enlightenment is decoupled from the caboose at that moment. But they keep on rolling down the tracks together. If you played piano before your enlightenment, you'll probably keep playing it. If you are a geek before, you're a geek after. To paraphrase Jack Engler, enlightenment and 65 cents will get you your can of diet soda.

Enlightenment doesn't change your personality, it just frees up more energy for your personality to express itself.

Psychic powers do happen from time to time, and can even be cultivated, but they are a function of concentration, not enlightenment. They are unreliable, often unrepeatable, and although they are fun and interesting, they don't do much to help others. I think of them as I think of having a glass of wine, or watching a television show - pleasant diversions.

Kenneth

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2/17/09 2:26 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hey 2birds,

You wrote: "Totally with you on the manifest world secretly being the infinite realm. I am very interested in the relationship of those other 2 axes to each other. So you do see the "Always-Already" as distinct from vipassana."

Yes. The "always-already," as you so beautifully put it, is the unmanifest reality from which the universe arises. Vipassana is squarely in the manifest realm. It is a technique that we do in order to systematically deconstruct the apparent solidity of the world.

You wrote: "Is it fair to say that there is still a skill to develop, to access and rest in this state?"

I wouldn't say that. Primordial awareness is what is there when you stop being distracted by everything else. Stopping does take some getting used to though, so in some ways it's similar to a skill.

"And is there suffering in this state?"

No.

"Also, what is the relationship between primordial awareness to fruition?"

Experientially, not much. Fruition is total cessation of the mind/body process. Subjectively, it's very much like being asleep. Primordial awareness is pure awakeness. Philosophically, I'd like to hear what Hokai would say to this question. I don't like to strain my brain so much. :-)

Great questions, thanks.

Kenneth

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2/17/09 2:48 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
thank you for entertaining my question. for the most part i do agree with your attitude towards development of psychic powers. personally, i hope they never arise in my practice so that i won't distracted emoticon

however, the inner geek in me, still believe that there are enlightened beings out there who are probably mastering the powers of samatha jhanas (as par of their Training in Morality) and using them for good. (think of someone who is a cross between Eckhart Tolle and Edgar Cayce who can access the "Akashic" record at will emoticon)

~C

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2/17/09 2:49 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
-what's your take on Aurobindo's uber goal of bringing down the supermind?

Sri Aurobindo was an amazing guy – I wouldn't put it past him :-) All I can say is that this process (awakening) seems to bring about an ever greater sense of wholeness. Does that lead to Aurobindos supramental? My sense is yes. Can you supramentalize all matter as he suggested? No idea.

I think I can address your other questions here:

-as far as development (in the relative world) is concerned, what aspects of your relative life are you working on?

What ever comes up. Prior to 4th path, I had the convenience of duality. It allowed me to hide 'my stuff' all over the place in order to avoid dealing with it (this is not actually true but I would need more space to discuss it). After 4th – no more duality and no place to hide. I experience this as what Shinzen Young is talking about as impermanence - just that after 4th path you can't turn it off. Actually, you couldn't turn it off before – just tune it out. The sense is something like a letting go of tension while at the same time what I let go of allows me to me more what I am (a sense of completeness) or to allow what I am the freedom to express itself. Also, all this just happens - and life happens – it is the same thing.

-Chuck

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2/17/09 2:55 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
thanks for your answer and sharing your first-person awareness. looking forward that someday that i could relate with every fiber of my being. this bodymind is still stuck in duality but this bodymind is workin' it emoticon

~C

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2/17/09 3:06 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Though my experience with Fruitions is quite limited (as having only attained to stream entry about a week ago), I can attest to this description. The first time around was creepy; less like sleeping and more like what dying must feel like. The other Fruitions have been much less creepy.

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2/18/09 12:57 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Author: Travis80

@ awouldbehipster

How long had you been practicing before attaining stream entry?

Travis

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2/18/09 2:20 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@Travis80

I've been practicing meditation for 4 years, but I didn't really have a structure. I started practicing vipassana about a year ago, and have devoted significantly more time to it than I ever did any other practice. So, I guess I could say five years, though the last year or so was where things started moving.

To give some perspective, I crossed the A&P in July of 2008, and stayed in the Dark Night (dukkha nanas) until January of this year. I spent a month going back and forth from 10th to 11th nana and so on until the night of February 3rd.

That was a little more information than you asked for, but I thought I'd share my experience. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Jackson

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2/18/09 2:30 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi Jackson,

I think you underestimate our thirst for information. Please tell us more. What exactly is your practice, e.g. mental noting, body sweeping, etc. Which instructions did you use? Did you experiment a lot? Did you do any retreats? How many hours a day/week do you practice? Did you have a teacher? What does it feel like to have attained First Path? Are you different than before?

Thanks,

Kenneth

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2/18/09 3:43 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Here it goes:

1.) What exactly is your practice? Which instructions did you use? Did you experiment a lot?

Mental noting, following (as closely as possible) the instructions in Mahasi Sayadaw's Practical Insight Meditation. I do some sort of body sweeping occasionally, particularly when I am having a hard time locating the sensations that arise with questioning, ease, and lots of different pleasant feelings. Sweeping helps me to locate the sensations in order to see in to their impermanence (i.e. feel them flicker).

I'm very emotionally inclined, which made the many months of Dark Night territory arduous. I'm also A.D.D., which made it very difficult to notice subtle vibratory sensations in this stage (yet another reason to work on concentration and samatha jhanas). In order to work with difficult feelings/emotions and painful body sensations, I borrowed a sort of mental "bowing" practice I learned from Jack Kornfield. I would bow to the difficulties in respect, in a way that would allow to come closer to them. This allowed me to sit with such feelings and sensations until I was able to observe their characteristics. I still use this technique when I want to speed through the Dark Night stage of my cycles.

(continued)

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2/18/09 3:44 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
2.) Did you do any retreats? How many hours a day/week do you practice?

I did not do any retreats, as my schedule will not allow me to at this point in my life. I have been practicing meditation for 5 years or so, but I've only been doing vipassana for the last year. When I first started vipassana, I only sat for 30 minutes or so each day. Over the last couple months, I've been practicing at least 2 hours per day, and as many as 5 hours per day. I slip away to empty conference rooms at work during breaks and lunches, and even note sensations while sitting at my desk at work (when things are slow). It's become a major part of my life.

I think that going on retreats would have been incredibly useful. I probably would not have spent such a long time in the Dark Night if I had made time to practice non-stop for 10 days or more. My concentration would probably have improved as well.

(continued)

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2/18/09 3:45 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
3.) Did you have a teacher?

I didn't work with anyone in person. I've emailed Daniel quite a few times when things got confusing, and he's been kind enough to write back with some pointers. I also consider all of you here at the DhO as my teachers, as I have gotten more useful advice here than ANYWHERE. I love that many of you are not afraid to call me out on my s**t. I urge you to continue to do so.

4.) What does it feel like to have attained First Path? Are you different than before?

I was just thinking about it this morning. One of the biggest differences for me is that I am no longer "stuck" in the Dark Night of first Path. Cycling through it is much less painful than drudging through it like I did for so long. This is a big relief. I know that more Dark Night stages will appear in the future as I start new paths, and that I will have to learn new ways to navigate the territory. I now have a much better understanding of how the insight cycles work, and I am less afraid of getting stuck or not progressing.

Just knowing the territory from my own experience has changed how I practice and how I set goals for myself. It has also made it quite clear that I have a long way to go. My concentration is quite weak compared to where I would like it to be. I'm sure I will be asking lots of questions in the forum about samatha jhanas in the coming months.

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2/18/09 4:22 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@awouldbehipster - Hooray!

Couple of questions - 1) what is your experience of suffering now, and when cycling thru the stages? 2) Has your access to the "always-already" awakeness changed? 3) Are the new fruitions as deep as the initial (I'm thinking of how the first A&P event is such a big wow)?

Keep on rockin' in the free world

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2/18/09 4:37 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Author: Travis80

@awouldbehipster

Wow, five years is really encouraging. I understand from your blog (if I remember correctly) that you're married and going to school full time. One thing I'm dealing with as a beginner is getting discouraged from reading stuff by monastics as their standards seem so high and conditions of their practice so well suited that I wonder how I can possibly do this living a life in society with a fiancee, job, limited resources for retreats etc. Do you feel that your relationship and school has made things more difficult? How have you dealt with these obstacles?

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2/18/09 4:50 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@2birds1stone

As far as my experience of suffering goes, it isn't much different. The only time I've notice an end to my suffering is during the split second fruitions. During regular life, which takes up all of the time in-between fruitions (basically my whole waking experience) is still subject to just as much fundamental suffering, as far as I can tell. Now, there is a reduction in some conventional levels of suffering, such as the agony of the Dark Night. But that's only because I cycle through it more quickly now.

My access to "always-ready" awakeness hasn't changed much. I can say that as I cycle, the perspective from which the cycling is noticed is more apparent. So I guess the answer is yes and no.

The subsequent fruitions that have occurred after the initial experience vary in intensity. I think this has more to do with my ability to pay attention to them than it does with the actually intensity of the event, but I could be wrong. The first one wasn't really pleasant, but the others have been more so. Another way to put it is that the first one seemed dark, and the subsequent ones light. I don't know if that makes any sense. I'm still trying to sort through it all.

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2/18/09 5:02 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@Travis80

Yes, I am married. I'm not in school full time right now, but I do work full time while going to school half-time. I'm a busy person, like most of us.

Having a busy life without much time for retreats does make things more difficult in regards to practice. I have to wake up really early so I have enough time to practice before work. I have to find empty conference rooms to practice during work. I shut off the TV every chance I get and examine the hell out of my experience. It's not easy, especially with limited time.

That said, it isn't impossible either. If I can recommend anything to you, it would be this: take whatever discouraging thoughts or feelings that come up and really notice them. Where do they occur in your body? What do the sensations feel like? How long do they last? Are they "you"? I tend to get caught up in discouraging feelings, and the only way I'm able to break through them is to notice their characteristics. That's what insight practice is all about!

It can be done. Use whatever you can to practice. Use your everyday life. And when the Dark Night shows up, acknowledge it with your whole being, and don't let it bleed out on the rest of your life. This is extremely important for those of us who are married or have kids, and hold steady jobs.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. There are a lot of wise people in this forum who have mastered this stuff beyond my wildest comprehension, so if you need guidance you're in the right place.

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2/18/09 6:13 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Author: Dan_K

@the arahats

Is it weird to live your life, or watch it happen, knowing completely that it is not "your" life, and that you are not that human which is seen? Does it change personal relationships? Biological appetites?

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/19/09 12:47 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
I'm not quite an arahat, but I'm going to answer you anyway.

"This life" of ours is the only life of ours-- there is no radical subjectivity which the highly realized being inhabits, the thought of which I feel is a bi-product of some true self / no self teachings. I would argue that intimacy with my conventional self has unfolded in a bell curve of sorts-- with the top of the curve being a disconnected sense of radically relative subjectivity somewhere in 2nd path. That means as I have moved further, a sense of deep intimacy evolved, not only with my conventional self and life, but also with all of life and reality itself. In other words, realization is not necessarily a "moving away from" your conventional self, but a realization that you are "more than just that self" and then a balancing of perspective as that understanding unfolds. To get that balance, you must shed attachments to your conventional self (first half of the curve), but that doesn't mean that the fundamental mammal that you are somehow radically changes or ceases to exist, nor does it necessarily change that mammal's relationship with other mammals and their duties as human beings!

Although much could be said about the "changes," the only thing I would feel safe saying is: things change based on realization, but those changes are still controlled and based upon one's interpretation of the realizations themselves, not an automatic reaction or necessity which stems from enlightenment itself. In that, it is just like any micro shift in perspective: everything changes and nothing changes; unless you changed it yourself.

The bell curve "theory" (and much of the other stuff) I just tossed out was on the fly and I haven't given it tons of critical thought, so please read with a critical eye and doubt where it arises.

Helpful?

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/19/09 12:11 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
It is incredibly inspiring to find people in realistic laypeople settings realizing true attainments. Thank you for your honesty and it provides much needed motivation to examine this reality.

With Appreciation
- Andrew

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/19/09 1:35 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Author: Dan_K

@Yaba

Thanks, that reply is helpful. As I have been drawn into meditation more deeply there is a growing sense of detachment in the sense of not feeling like the doer. Seeing things become more and more "automatic" with the body/mind has made me wonder about how the sense of participation is resolved through full enlightenment. The difficulty is that the logical move would be to suppose that there is none (fully automatic or spontaneous), yet somehow at the same time there is no one to NOT participate, in that radically subjective sense that you pointed to. Dualistic language complicates everything, so excuse the contradictions, but I wonder if the arahats here feel "human" or not most of the time (for them specifically, not as general rule) as it seems like it could go either way (more intimacy/more emptiness) pychologically, not absolutely (where there is no difference?). Sorry I'm in way over my head here emoticon

Dan

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/19/09 2:23 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Well, although this is probably not the elegant answer you're hoping for, I would say that it goes both ways. This is one of the more paradoxical feelings of the later paths of realization. Realizing that the body (senses + thoughts) are IT. That there is absolutely nothing beyond the senses which is knowable to us, and because of that realization and a sense of losing hope for any sort of trans-reality salvation, we realize that this body and this human life is an amazing gift.

Any realized being will feel "human" as much as they allow themselves to. The most important thing I have ever been told that was dharma related came from Daniel. To paraphrase, he said: "look, how it is now is how it has always been." To say that you would lose any sense of your humanity is to limit realization, and that does not jive with how it is in reality. To answer the last question in the paragraph: not only can it go "either way," it goes BOTH ways if one allows it. Emptiness IS form and form IS emptiness, they are the same thing. Depending on what I want to look at, I can choose to see the emptiness of something, or I can choose to immerse myself in form. They need not be mutually exclusive, and although it may be argued, I say that they go hand in hand.

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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2/19/09 3:46 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
not (yet) an arahat but here's something from someone who's been there and done that. check it out. i think it address your questions in detail.

via Shinzen Young: "Have contact with people who have made it through" - http://bit.ly/QwWo

here's a quote:
"What the heck does he mean by making an object of the self, and what the heck does he mean by making an object of the world? When the ideas and body sensations that produce the sense of self are experienced with less-than-perfect mindfulness and equanimity, the sense of self appears as a thing, an object. And when the six senses that produce the sense of an outside world are experiencing with less-than-perfect mindfulness and equanimity, the outside self appears as a thing, rather than a flow. So you don’t need to make an object of the self or world” means the compulsion to solidify the six senses into subject and object has been worked through. It doesn’t mean you don’t make an object of self or world, it just means you don’t have to."

"All around the world there are individuals who have come to the point where their relationship to the sense of self - their ideas and body sensations - has gone from being a relationship of a prison to being a relationship of a home. They don’t need to make an object of those ideas and body sensations. When they experience those ideas and body sensations that produce the sense of self fully, then the sense of self doesn’t exist as an object and they’re not limited, they’re not limited to be only that."

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/8/09 11:38 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi all.

Are arahats reborn?

I was searching Daniel Ingram's book but couldn't really find the answer.
I think this is whats important to me, rather than, non-duality and wisdom.
If one is an arahat, can they rest in peace

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 3:46 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
hi mindful,

its an interesting question, for sure, im not sure being an arahat means you know the answer to that. but say if an arahat said he did know the anwer to that, and told you ... would you believe him if it wasnt the answer you wanted? ;)

edit: my personal best guess is some arahats are reborn.. sometimes (ha ha)

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 5:27 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
perhaps, i need motivation to practice, as it seems if that is not sure, then what's the point, wouldn't it be more practical to focus on morality and compassion and doing good, rather than gaining insight into reality. if i practiced 10 years of insight meditation, compared to dedicating 10 years to helping people.

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 5:41 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
hey there, mindful.

Traditionally, as I'm sure you know, the arahat enters in to final nirvana at death and is not reborn. But what's so important about not being reborn? It sounds like helping others is something that you value, so why not do do insight practices and be compassionate to others? It can be a both/and rather than an either/or.

In my opinion, a lot of these existential and metaphysical dilemmas get more or less cleared up if one is able to make sufficient progress on the insight path. Making progress is simply a matter of following instructions and being open to the truth of things. Whatever conclusion you come to, it will more than likely be what you were looking for.

Practice well,
Jackson

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 7:09 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
well, if arahats *are not* reborn, you can become an arahat and find a final resting peace in having no more rebirth, and can also be assured that others will find that same peace as well if they were to seek it. or, if arahats *are* reborn, that should motivate you to become one so you can be reborn countless times so you can help millions of people ;)

sounds like a win-win situation to me!

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 7:49 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
What could be reborn? Anatta & Anicca damnit! Right here, right now.

PS. Mindful1983, progress on the path of insight generally increases one's ability to be compassionate and selfless. There's no reason to not train in all 3 trainings (concentration, insight, morality), as they all support each other.

Trent

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 1:20 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
jackson and trent, we just did a 1-2-3 on the three-turnings of the wheel (hinayana, mahayana, buddha-nature), and in order too!

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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5/9/09 2:36 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
This must...this must mean soooomething *looks around suspiciously then closes his eyes to meditate*

RE: Responses to the "What is an arahat? (A letter to a friend.&#
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7/1/09 10:15 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
What is the implication of closing that circuit then? If we exclude the possibility of becoming a perfect human being, I can think of the following:

1. Sense of self (ego) dissolves completely. But that means that certain vices which are the product of the illusion of self will be completely eliminated as well. Things like hunger for power, arrogance, ...etc will disappear without a trace while other vices could remain, e.g. lust, impatience, ..etc.

2. sense of self (ego) dissolves to a certain limit then hits a permanent ceiling. The implication will be a reduction of the above vices but not elimination.

3. sense of self (ego) dissolves completely but some reactionary residuals remain, e.g. the emotional and sensational part is eliminated but habitual thinking patterns remain.

4. ???