Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

Daniel M Ingram, modified 2 Years ago at 1/22/22 9:02 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/22/22 12:47 PM

Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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A Reply to MCTB: An Evaluation & Implications for Practice Delicious-Mixture-4-8 (DM48 hereafter)

By Daniel M. Ingram (DMI hereafter)

The original post appears here on Reddit:

DM48: I’ve been doing a lot of re-evaluation of Ingram's ideas and works and how they may be impacting people's practice. I've researched through enough Suttas myself, and, I believe, being an "accomplished" enough practitioner of the Noble Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths, I feel comfortable enough pointing out some positives while also fleshing out critiques of the book.
DMI: I would suggest re-reading MCTB2 again, as clearly you missed much about it or didn’t remember it (or barely read it) which is understandable, as it is long and complicated. It probably takes a few reads to get a sense of how each section contributes to the others. I will help you out by pointing out the more glaring things you either missed, didn’t remember, or didn’t understand. I will also think about how MCTB2 contributed to any misunderstandings besides being really, really long. Speaking of really long, those familiar with my point-by-point style will have expected this very long reply, and hopefully it will not disappoint.

DM48: This has direct implications for practice, especially people following a Therevada-inspired Buddhist path. Although I think there are some relevant points here for any kind of contemplative.
DMI: Worth knowing that my inspirations are quite wide, and, while, yes, clearly in some ways “Theravada-inspired”, in others aren’t, as noted numerous times in MCTB2, including in the first few pages.

DM48: The positives:Firstly, I think the positives are that Ingram's book Parts I and II are great.
DMI: Ok, thanks. Wish you had remembered them and understood their implications for later Parts, as I will point out below many times, but will take the honest complement.

DM48: They elucidate the core teachings in a very open carefree way that gets people seeing that the path is simultaneously a very serious thing and fun thing. Being moral is happy. Having a unified mind is happy. Being wise is happy.
DMI: Ok, those three lines are one of the more trite and superficial summaries of those parts I have seen, and I have seen some bad ones. One of the key points of MCTB2 is that it is nothing like that simple, which you clearly missed, so the question is, “Why?”

DM48: Practicing one aspect helps the others and vice versa in whichever order you want to start with.
DMI: Well, actually, not necessarily. One of the key points is that you can’t entirely count on any of the Three Trainings to necessarily help the others, and sometimes they can actively interfere with each other. They have different assumptions, agendas, frames, activities, etc. There is a whole goofy play about this that people typically do remember. How did you miss that point?

DM48: Next, I think his exposition on how serious meditation can get (as opposed to the tone he presents as "should get") is great; people who want to do a deep dive on eradicating suffering should have an outlet here in the West and not washed down Dhamma.
DMI: Uh, no. It very specifically starts of with statements to the effect of “This is not necessarily for you! Be warned! This is definitely not for everyone!” The notion that practice “should get” serious is a gross misreading. In fact, I think that probably 1 in 10 people I end up talking with meditation were really ready for the level at which MCTB2 hits, and most needed some of the more basic books it references instead as preliminary training and preparation for it. How did you miss this?

DM48: Nor should meditation teachers discount people's natural inclinations towards seeing things this way or that way; part of being a great teacher is being able to take another's perspective and speaking to them in their language in order to convey the core points of the teachings.
DMI: Ok, yes, that is a fair summary of one little point somewhere in the section about teachers. Ok, that at least seems on the mark to me.

DM48: If a person is struggling with some aspect, having a manic ego trip, or generally exhibiting some dysfunctional patterning they're worried about, then a teacher has a duty to throw away theory/dogma and speak person-to-person (that's the application of compassion anyways).
DMI: Ok, another reasonable point.

DM48: Ingram opens a good discussion on not pathologising or dismissing people's subjective experience of their content; there's a middle way.
DMI: It is good that you noticed that point, as plenty don’t, so good job.

DM48: Third, I think Ingram makes a great case of Buddha vs Buddhism, which does demonstrate how people cling to the religious/worship aspect and can't apply what the Buddha says (Simile of the Raft is a great example of this point).
DMI: Thanks.

DM48: His tone, again, conveys this is how things should be rather than how things can be. That's my personal reading of it. These are great positives, and expand the realm of possibilities for people who take the path seriously: people just wanna meditate to relieve stress, some do it do have wahoo experiences, and some do it for the practice of the Four Noble Truths. Great, let the teachings meet the students half way. That's how it all happens.
DMI: Ok, thanks.

DM48: Fourth, I think his general exposition of the 3Cs are very good and very accessible.
DMI: Ok, thanks, but we will come back to that one in a bit, actually, as I think you missed some of its key implications. That is easy to do, as they are profound.

DM48: Some Buddhist texts have a lot of artifacts of history in them which aren't relevant to us today. Ingram's words really do shine a modern light on timeless concepts.
DMI: Again, thanks.

DM48: The criticisms:1. Arhat or Ingramhat? Ingram's model of the Arhat just runs into a very big problem.
DMI: Actually, it runs into lots of big problems, most of which are anticipated in MCTB2 and explained as part of the background or commentary on the models.

DM48: Namely, he talks about non-dual models as being best and that Arhats are characterised by their perception of the world.
DMI: Interesting. Most people focus on lots of other aspects (ideals of emotions, behavior, thoughts and the like) that they don’t like about my models, so it is curious that you picked those two. It makes me wonder about your background and training, about which I know basically nothing, and what conditioning would result in picking those two aspects. Curious.

DM48: And each different attainment being some other perceptual landmark. This calls into question a major part of what the Buddha teaches, and that is, that the aggregates are non-self, including perception (which does roughly align with how Ingram talks about perception too -- the way things are cognised or formed to the mind directly).
DMI: Here is where you clearly profoundly misread what I am saying. It is the causal, natural occurrence of clear perceptions that illuminates the straightforward perceptual truth that none of the aggregates can constitute a stable, independent, a-causal, graspable self: this is one of the core points of MCTB2, made again and again. There is no stable thing called “perception” or “awareness” to constitute a stable, continuous self. How could you have read it 180 degrees from the numerous places where this is explained?

DM48: If perception is not self, then why base one's attainment on the basis of perception? Seems fishy.
DMI: Ok, wait, what? It is the clear, naturally arisen perception of all intentions arising and vanishing causally that dismantles the ability of them to be taken as a self. It is the clear, naturally arisen perception of all mental impressions arising and vanishing that dismantles the possibility of mistaking them for a true, stable knowing self. It is true of all physical sensations, emotions, and all other qualities. It is clear perception, having causally and naturally arisen, that does the transformation from one existential mode to the other. This is explained again and again in MCTB2. It is the end of an illusion through clear perception that sees through Ignorance. It is not that perception is a self, but that the natural, transient, causal arising of clear perceptions of phenomena that dismantle any sense that anything in experience could be a stable, continuous, self. How could you have possibly missed this? I will spare you the relentless quote-fest that I am known for, and allow you to re-read MCTB2 yourself if you wish to see how grossly wrong you got this.

DM48: It seems very strange to re-write canon to suit some sort of model that on deeper inspection doesn't align with the Buddha's core teachings about self.
DMI: Typically, when one critiques MCTB2 against the Canon, one is doing based on their reading of the Ten Fetters, and not at all your line of reasoning and reading of MCTB2, which is a gross misreading.

DM48: If he truly believes the Pali Canon is dogma or not cool, why not create a new word? "Fully realised"? "Awakened being"?
DMI: Actually, that is an extremely helpful and reasonable suggestion. Yes, fighting over ancient terms does cause lots of problems, as we see with other terms like “jhanas” and the like.

DM48: I don't know I'm not a Pali Canon re-interpreter. But I think Ingram kinda sorta knew what he was doing. He didn't want to use a new word because it's new agey and cringe-worthy, so he took a word with serious gravitas and mystique.
DMI: Well, more of, “Sometimes, in the Pali Canon, it really seems like it is saying what I think it means, and sometimes it isn’t, and some of the times it isn’t it yet seems to be directly contradicted by the actual stories of living people back then,” so taking it in that spirit.

DM48: Last point, there's an issue of cultural appropriation here, and not in the hand-wringing-concerned-humanities-student-policing-microagressions-on-campus way either, it's in the fact that he's deliberately taken a word because he thinks it has value, and then redefined it to such a way that it is totally divorced from its original context, and, arguably, is in contradiction with the source material from which it is based.
DMI: Actually, the source texts it is based on are super-complicated, and there is non-trivial disagreement on what the terms originally meant. Even Bhikkhu Analayo and I agree that some of what appear to be the very late criteria, such as dying if you don’t join the order after becoming an arhat, is clearly problematic, but some notions of what an arhat are include such things. Is that cultural appropriation by later generations on the earlier stuff? Such debates are found in places such as here: Should we accuse whomever wrote those later texts of cultural appropriation? Redefining arahatship in ways that make them seem selfish, ignorant, or unusually prone to dropping dead is something of a common practice in Tibetan Buddhism and even Zen occasionally, so are you willing to level the same critique, at, say, the Dalai Lama, or Pabongka Rinpoche? Happy to provide examples if people really want them. If so, ok. If not, why not?

DM48: This is no mere re-formulation. It's a complete re-write using a word which has a definition, whether we like it or not.
DMI: A different interpretation from the ones you like but based on traditional Pali texts and modern day reports, yes. A complete re-writing: no.

DM48: Yesterday I made tacos, but they're not the traditional "Mexican Tacos" which are dogmatic and narrow-minded. My tacos are actually a piece of toasted bread, with butter, tomatoes, cheese, and ham on them. Some will say I'm disrespecting Mexicans by serving this at my restaurant and calling them tacos, but they're just jealous that I've discovered what real tacos are. And if you don't agree, just go hang out with the so-called "real Mexicans" who have made the rules to protect their sense of taco-ownership.
DMI: Not your best work.

DM48: 2. Cycling? Oh and when you reach Arhatship in his model, you're still cycling through the ñanas?
DMI: It is funny, but back in 1997 or so I asked Bhante Gunaratana about this topic while on retreat at Bhavana Society, such as would arhats have a Review Phase, or do they need to pass through the stages of insight to get Fruitions, and he replied yes directly to both. So, it is not just me that thinks this, but also at least one serious scholar-practitioner monk whom I respect greatly. Clearly, experts disagree here. What is your basis for not agreeing?

DM48: Ñanas = "knowledge of" not "experience of" meaning that as an Arhat, we'd have full knowledge of what our experiential reality is, no? If you're an Arhat, you fully understand fear, misery, A&P, equanimity, so why cycle?
DMI: The question of “why” misses something crucial, the question of whether stasis is an option, and, I will claim, stasis is not. Change is the only game in town. States of mind shift. Stages shift. Jhanas shift. Things move on. Nothing is static. It is a key point. It is also like asking, “Why did the Buddha attain to jhanas in order at points?” or “Why does the weather change?” They are similar questions from this point of view.

DM48: What new knowledge is there to gain? One becomes disenchanted with any formation, thought, etc., that could arise from the ñanas. So why would there be cycling through things whose conditions have been uprooted in an ongoing manner? This is a minor point but it seems fishy too, given that Arhatship is ending the Samsaric cycle. No more trolling in the mud through unwholesome thoughts, no more trying to resist what is or wanting what isn't. Just peace with what is now.
DMI: Ok, that is actually a key point that was also missed in MCTB2, that meta-equanimity with what occurs, cycles or not, emotions or not, jhanas or not. That is also a key point. I will bother to quote here, just in case you don’t believe that I actually wrote about that: from MCTB2, page 341: “For the arahant who has kept the knot untangled, there is nothing more to be gained on the ultimate front from insight practices, as that axis of development has been taken as far as it goes. That said, insight practices can continue to be of great benefit to them for a whole host of reasons. There is much they can learn just like everyone else about everything there is to learn. They can grow, develop, change, evolve, mature, and participate in this strange, beautiful, comic, tragic human drama just like everyone else. They can integrate these understandings and their unfolding implications into their general way of being. Practicing being mindful and the rest still helps, since the mind is an organic thing like a muscle, and how we condition it affects it profoundly. These practitioners also cycle through the stages of insight, as with everyone beyond stream entry, so doing insight practices can move those cycles along.I commonly get questions about the fact that arahants still cycle, and thus must go through the Dark Night stages. The Dark Night stages are not the problem that they were before, as they relied on the knot at the center of perception for much of their disturbing power. With the knot of perception gone, the stages’ unfortunate aspects vanish, and the skillful aspects that engender growth, keep us real, and promote fascinating spiritual adventures, remain. It is amazing to call up the stages of insight and go deeply into them while in this untangled perceptual mode and watch how they just don’t stick as they did, don’t catch us in the same way, and yet still take us on a rich tour of ourselves in so many different, human facets. This sort of formal Review practice can yield rich treasures of development and amusement. Enjoy!”

DM48: 3. Nanas Are "Knowlegdes of", Not "Experiences of" . Ingram talking about the progress of insight is very wild. Compare his writings to the commentaries he based it off. Fear/misery/disgust are no big deal in the Vissudhimagga.
DMI: Ok, misspelled “Visuddhimagga”, but that is a small error in comparison to the much larger one, which appears to be not having read it, understood it, or remembered what it had to say on those stages. Some fun from the Visuddhimagga, as translated by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, and found courtesy of Access to Insight here:
  • Part 3, Chapter XXI, page 674, regarding Fear: “31. Also another simile: a woman with an infected womb had, it seems, given birth to ten children. [646] Of these, nine had already died and one was dying in her hands. There was another in her womb. Seeing that nine were dead and the tenth was dying, she gave up hope about the one in her womb, thinking, “It too will fare just like them.” Herein, the meditator’s seeing the cessation of past formations is like the woman’s remembering the death of the nine children. The meditator’s seeing the cessation of those present is like her seeing the moribund state of the one in her hands. His seeing the cessation of those in the future is like her giving up hope about the one in her womb. When he sees in this way, knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.”
  • Part 3, Chapter XXI, page 675 regarding Danger: “36. They appear as a forest thicket of seemingly pleasant aspect but infested with wild beasts, a cave full of tigers, water haunted by monsters and ogres, an enemy with raised sword, poisoned food, a road beset by robbers, a burning coal, a battlefield between contending armies appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace. And just as that man is frightened and horrified and his hair stands up when he comes upon a thicket infested by wild beasts, etc., and he sees it as nothing but danger, so too when all formations have appeared as a terror by contemplation of dissolution, this meditator sees them as utterly destitute of any core or any satisfaction and as nothing but danger.”
There are lots of others with similar bite, but is that really “no big deal”? Clearly, your notion of “no big deal” differs from mine in significant ways, and I would encourage readers to read the whole section to determine for themselves if the descriptions really match with “no big deal”?

DM48: A&P is no big deal either.
DMI: Ah, well, open the .pdf of the Visuddhimagga and read the section on the The Ten Imperfections of Insight, starting on page 660 and see if it is truly “no big deal”. I will add an illustrative quote from that section, this from Part 3, Chapter XX, page 661, ““Likewise, when he is bringing [formations] to mind as impermanent, knowledge arises in him ... happiness ... tranquillity ... bliss ... resolution ... exertion ... establishment ... equanimity ... attachment arises in him. He adverts to the attachment thus, ‘Attachment is a [Noble One’s] state.’ The distraction due to that is agitation. When his mind is seized by that agitation, he does not correctly understand [their] appearance as impermanent, [634] he does not correctly understand [their] appearance as painful, he does not correctly understand [their] appearance as not-self” (Paþis II 100).107. 1. Herein, illumination is illumination due to insight. 34 When it arises, the meditator thinks, “Such illumination never arose in me before. I have surely reached the path, reached fruition;” thus he takes what is not the path to be the path and what is not fruition to be fruition.”

DM48: Ingram seems to overstate the impact each ñana has in general.
DMI: Having read thousands of forum posts on the Dharma Overground about people who got into this territory through all sorts of Buddhist (and non-Buddhist) practices from a wide range of Buddhist traditions, including a wide range of Theravada Buddhist practices, and similarly talked with thousands of people about these topics over some 28 years, I simply have to disagree. Are you basing your opinion on your own practice? What is the dataset you use for your expert opinion?

DM48: And I truly believe this is an artefact of how he interpreted and practised the Mahasi method.
DMI: How do you then explain the wild and powerful experiences I got into on my initial retreats, which were taught mostly by a Thai Forest teacher? How do you explain the wild and powerful experiences I got into long after I stopped doing anything that looked anything like Mahasi-based based practices? Same for so many others who got into them who had never even heard of Mahasi. This is a weak and nonsensical argument. Did you even bother to read Part VI where I go through the sequence of how these things unfolded and describe the phenomenology and the techniques and retreats I was attending and what they taught on them?

DM48: The Buddha said his path is good at the start, middle, and end.
DMI: Yes, but his conception of “good” clearly involved perceiving the lay life as a source of suffering to be renounced by the wise, for example, which he described as a natural outcome of investigation. I agree that this insight routinely arises in contemporary contexts as it did then, but this can be seriously disruptive to the average person who wasn’t expecting this, and not always labeled as “good” by those going through divorce and bankruptcy, nor by their partners, creditors, kids, aging parents, friends, etc. I am not saying that might good can’t come from this disruption, but it is important to acknowledge that it is disruption, and not all just “good”.

DM48: Again, this may be because Ingram think that ñana = "experience of". But experience is not the same as knowledge AKA insight. We gain insights through experience, but some experiences produce no insight.
DMI: Well, this could really use more solid research, that being specifically on the degree to which what I think of as insight stages operate outside of conceptual contexts. I actually help fund and run a research group dedicated to this and many, many other questions in the same general territory, found here:, and the charity to fund it, found here: Really want to have these questions answered? Help us to do high quality science that helps end these debates once and for all, put us all on much more solid footing, and fulfill the requirements of contemporary medical ethics, as articulated here:

DM48: And some insights only arise when they are properly contextualised within a tradition which supports their nutriment.
DMI: Are you really suggesting that it is only in certain orthodox contexts that one can perceive things as they actually are? That is a level of hardcore traditionalism that I find it hard to argue with, only because our underlying assumptions about what insight is and where it can be found are so radically different. Ok, there it is.

DM48: A case in point is how he characterises the A&P as crazy blissful highs and kundalini rushes, etc... And while the commentaries do suggest this can happen, they do not say this is the actual A&P stage.
DMI: Yes, it is true that, at least in the Visuddhimagga, those Piti categories are listed immediately before the A&P, but some traditions count them as part of the A&P, and some differentiate various stages of the A&P, as does the primary tradition I came from, which was through Bill Hamilton.

DM48: The knowledge of Arising and Passing is what makes the A&P. Experiences are conduits, and, with the right understanding of the teachings, completely irrelevant to the actual insight.
DMI: Ok, clearly missed part of my A&P section where I described my mildest A&P, a quick but extremely clear zip of energy down my “central channel” that arose when rapidly contemplating where and what the “watcher” actually was. Yes, I agree, those experiences are not necessary for the A&P’s key insights, as I state, but they are common occurrences in that territory, as I also state, and you clearly missed.

DM48: Think about it this way, imagine I'm a maths teacher and I've made a map of learning maths. When you memorise the multiplication table you should feel joy and happiness, with crazy blissful highs of mastery of the sublime art of maths. However, some people learn their multiplication tables without any fanfare because it's just whatever. The most important thing is that we learn the maths, not care about the before or after. There might be really groovy mindstates happening, or not. They're not necessary.
DMI: Yes, again, I stated all of that not necessary part, but you are writing as if this is news to me and not in MCTB2. Again, seriously consider re-reading it. I include a quote here, just in case readers don’t believe me, as it appears from the comments that, in general, other r/streamentry readers were very quick to believe DM48 without bothering to check MCTB2:
“There can be an extremely broad range of variability in the A&P, and so it is not possible to match perfectly anyone else’s description of it to what happens or happened to you. For example, timing can vary widely; it can go on for seconds or months. Intensity can vary widely; it can occasionally be subtle, but the general trend is for it to be very intense, high definition, and dramatic. The A&P works the same way functionally in terms of insight and of moving practice along, regardless of intensity and duration, so don’t worry about those factors.Just to make this point clear, I will give two brief examples from my own practice. One time my entire body and world seemed to explode like a fireworks display in a powerful lucid dream with my whole sensate world zipping around like fragmented sparks through space for a while until things settled down. Another time I had a small, second-long zap of lightning-fast energy through the back of my head while lying down on a couch in daily life, which was the whole of that A&P. My longest A&P phase was about three days of powerful shaking, sniffing, and energy craziness during a retreat, but I know people whose A&P stages lasted at the longest for a month or two.”

DM48: We want the knowledge.
DMI: Reasons to read MCTB2 then. emoticon

DM48: And if you're told that having groovy blissful sexy mental states = mastery of the multiplication tables, you're maybe not going to actually learn the multiplication tables for the sake of maths, but for some feeling, so the knowledge becomes irrelevant to you and disposable. See what I'm saying here? Cause and effect.
DMI: I actually know of nobody who went into this and got that far purely for sexy states, but I admit that it is likely such people exist. I do know plenty who went in for the promise of bliss, but that is an age-old problem typically related to the way jhanic practices are advertised, and I address this elsewhere in MCTB2, particularly in the section on Rapture in Chapter 7.

DM48: So all these descriptions that Ingram gives beg the question: what does this practically mean or contribute to the knowledge of arising and passing away if there is no supplementary knowledge beforehand?
DMI: I actually don’t really understand that question. By supplementary knowledge do you mean experience or other theory? If experience, long before I got to describing the POI I highly encourage people to investigate their experience. Even in the chapter on the POI I highly encourage people to read the other texts that describe the POI and list many of them for a broader view on them from multiple perspectives, some of which are at least partially contradictory to mine, such as Jack Kornfield’s in A Path with Heart. However, I believe that a diversity of perspectives helps, hence the encouragement and book list.

DM48: How does this move the needle forward on our development on insight?
DMI: There is a whole chapter on that found here:

DM48: How does some random dude dropping acid and having this crazy kundalini rush bliss wave actually learn anything?
DMI: Well, that is an exceedingly complicated question, one of the many to be addressed by high-quality research, and described in its basic form here:
I pour my time and retirement money into trying to get us answers to these questions, but find myself occasionally distracted from this important work by things like DM48’s posts: clearly need to get over that and get back to focusing on the EPRC/EB project.

DM48: Hmm..? Again, seems like he's pushing stuff into realms where they may not be relevant. Maybe you just had a great time on LSD. Maybe that was it. And that's good enough too. You don't have to retrofit it with some grand mystical meaning unless you came into the experience with philosophical/theoretical notions stemming from the Visuddhimagga.
DMI: Again, the notion that psychedelics or other non-Theravada practices could never produce deep insights into the fact that sensations arise and vanish on their own is a very strictly orthodox one that is very hard to argue against, so I won’t bother, as don’t remember ever winning that one. If you are among those who hold this view, well, may it help your practice somehow.

DM48: 4. Not Everything Is a Ñana. Ingram's also extrapolates the progress of insight to include basically everything we experience;
DMI: Actually, no. Remember Part II that you said you liked? Here’s a quote from it: MCTB2, page 108-209: “In the West, this translates to people “practicing Buddhism” by becoming neurotic about being “Buddhist”, accumulating lots of fancy books and fancy props, learning just enough of a new language to be pretentious or misleading, and sitting on a cushion engaged in free-form psychological whatnot while doing nothing resembling the meditative practices the Buddha and subsequent disciples taught. They may aspire to no level of mastery of anything and may never even have been told what these practices were designed to achieve.Thus, their “meditation” or “dharma practice” is largely a devotional or social set of activities—something that externally may look like meditation but achieves relatively little. In short, it is just one more spiritual trapping, though one that may have some personal and social benefits. Many seem to have substituted the pain of the church pew for the pain of the zafu with the results and motivations being largely the same. It is an imitation of meditation done because meditation seems like a good and evolved thing to do. However, it is a meditation that has been designed by those “teachers” who want everyone to be able to feel good that they are doing something “spiritual”.It is good for a person to slow down to take time out for silence. There is some science coming out that seems to show that small doses of not particularly good practice may confer various physiological and psychological benefits. Yet, I claim that many who would have aspired to much more are being shortchanged by not being invited to really step up to the plate and play ball, to discover the profound and extraordinary capabilities hidden within their own minds that the Buddha realized and pointed out.This book is designed to be just such an invitation, an invitation to step far beyond the increasingly ritualized, bastardized, and gutless mock-up of Buddhism that is rearing its fluffy head in the West and has a stranglehold on many a practice group and even some of the big meditation centers.To be fair, it is true that spiritual trappings and cultural add-ons may, at their best, be “skillful means”, ways of making difficult teachings more accessible and ways of getting more people to practice correctly and in a way that will finally bring realization. A fancy hat or a good ritual can really inspire some people. That said, it is lucky that one of the fundamental “defilements” that drops away at first awakening is attachment to rites and rituals, i.e. “Buddhism”, ceremony, certain techniques, and religious and cultural trappings in general. Unfortunately, the cultural embeddedness and resulting inertia of the religions of Buddhism is hard to circumvent.It need not be, if the trappings can serve as “skillful means”, but I assert that many more people could be much more careful about what are fundamentally helpful teachings and what causes division, confusion, and insufferably sectarian arrogance, which could be reduced with the proper attention to and training in the practice of morality. Those who aren’t careful about this are at least demonstrating in a roundabout way that they themselves do not understand what the fundamental teachings of the Buddha are and have attained little wisdom, much less freedom or the ability to lead others to it.”
That is the complete opposite of everything being insight, and, instead, most of what I see in the mainstream meditation world is that.

DM48: again, this boils down to what I think may be him overreaching in the fact that ñanas = "knowledge of" and not "experience of". Oh you had a sudden crazy energetic experience as a non-meditator, that must have been A&P. Seems a little implausible, the person would have no knowledge of the 3Cs, which are the basis of the progress of insight.
DMI: Here is we couldn’t disagree more. Let’s break this down. The Three Characteristics are universal characteristics of experiences, not just experiences that people who follow certain religions have. The Buddha didn’t say, “Buddhist sensations by those Buddhists who have studied Buddhism are impermanent, prone to suffering, and happen due to impersonal causes,” but instead said that they apply to all sensations of all living beings at all times. (As an aside, should I accuse DM48 of “cultural appropriation” by radically redefining the Three Characteristics to be theoretical rather than experiential?) Note what he said as his example by parts:
  • “Sudden crazy”: implies that the person had no sense of willing the experience into existence, or it being them, but instead seems to imply that this arose due to causes, out of their control, unexpectedly, and “crazy” implies possible suffering.
  • “Energetic”: nearly all people who use this word, if asked what they mean by it, will describe a very rapidly oscillating set of intricate sensations perceived with a high degree of clarity about fine-grained impermanence regardless of any theoretical knowledge.
In this way, I assert that is the direct knowledge of the Three Characteristics, and he clearly disagrees, and, in that, I see no common ground or possibility of reconciliation. Thus, you will have to see for yourself, in your own practice, which way works better for you, regardless of what two people arguing on the internet think of it.

DM48: Could it be that Ingram is retrofitting his experiences within this model and committing a blunder in terms of reifying experiences to this model?
DMI: Could it be that DM48 is missing the pragmatic, clinical utility of being able to use reasonable phenomenological methods to do functional diagnosis of states such that, should a person be falling into the common pitfalls of that stage, they might have some normalization and supportive technologies generated across thousands of years to help support their actual practice?

DM48: The Buddha would call this papañca (the proliferation of ideas).
DMI: Again, we find ourselves in a situation where we both think the other is doing that, proving yet again the more profound Buddha quote from MN75 that people with views just go around bothering one another. ;) Thus, be a light unto yourselves, and see if sensations are, in fact, impermanent, and that you can actually perceive that or have ever in your life perceived that, regardless of whether or not anyone ever told you they came and went.

DM48: And it is entirely possible. No experience is special, yet Ingram talks about magic, special powers he has,
DMI: Actually, no, I talk about experiences that have arisen and vanished, not that I “have”. Crucial difference.

DM48: and other stuff which seem to reify these experiences as being "more than" (what can be more than the immediate present moment and the satisfaction it brings when fully comprehended?).
DMI: We agree on this point, but disagree on it not being made in MCTB2, so, a link about the notion of “special” and how it can be a problem:
Perhaps DM48 missed or didn’t understand that section. It happens.
He also appears to have missed or not understood this section, which again talks about the many traps that come with discussing the the powers, traps he appears happy to fall into:

DM48: Lastly, I am 100% ready to believe that the progress of insight is a ubiquitous feature for people when they pay attention to how awareness works, but only if we can get some empirical data.
DMI: Interesting, as just a few sentences ago he seemed deeply skeptical. Perhaps I misread his “Hmm..?” as skepticism when it was instead simply a representation of a neutral yet inquisitive vocalization without other meaning? Regardless, again, I work diligently on projects trying to organize, promote, and fund the exact science he wishes to see in the world. I take this invitation to ask DM48 to put his money where his mouth is, metaphorically of course, and help spread the world that such science is in progress at a number of institutions, and the charity Emergence Benefactors, found here, is working hard to fund it. If you, dear reader, would prefer a much higher level of evidence quality than various texts and internet posts based on expert opinion, then please help support this project.
I refer you to the EPRC white paper:
  • etc.

DM48: Add to this scripting and expectations (i.e., "researcher bias" and other confounding variables) and it seems hard to empirically verify in people without suggesting the model to begin with.
DMI: Actually, that is curiously easy to do with phenomenology, properly applied, and the charity I help run currently has hired a phenomenologist to work on The Phenomenology Project of the ERPC:

DM48: That leaves one at a dead end, and leaves the Buddhist commentaries where they are: as Buddhist and not ubiquitous. And that's okay. I truly believe Ingram is trying to pay the PoI the highest compliment by saying it's a universal feature of all contemplation and practice of awareness, but why not try and create a more modern way of saying things?
DMI: Again, that is what I spend at least 50 hours per week and much private money doing:

DM48: Not wanting to come across as new-agey? Who knows. Plenty of researchers out there building models of alternative states of consciousness via cross-cultural studies, incorporating data from many traditions as possible. It's just reasonable science to do so...
DMI: Again, since you seem to support this sort of science, there are numerous ways to support the EPRC and Emergence Benefactors in this work:
Easy to just post about it, but how about we go that next step and all help make this happen. This is now my more than full-time job. If any of you out there want to join with us and raise the level of the discussion globally, do let us know. emoticon

Here’s a long discussion of with Atlas why this project is so important:

DM48: 5. Encountering the Hindrances is not a Passive Thing. In either case, I think there's some merit in acknowledging that the fear/misery/disgust "dark night" stuff can happen.
DMI: Ah, good. Here, at least, we agree.

DM48: But there are still issues of scripting and major issues of what is and isn't proper practice.
DMI: Yes, scripting is an issue, which is mentioned in MCTB2, as stated here on page 296 and 297 in some detail: “One other very valid criticism of the maps, as I mentioned already, is that people are often very susceptible to suggestion, called “scripting”. Describing these stages can cause people to report having experienced something that resembles what the maps describe. Bill Hamilton’s favorite example was that if you mentioned that some stages of meditation involved an itch in our elbow (there is no stage I know of that does, by the way), then suddenly everyone would start reporting lots of elbow itching. The part of the maps that deals with emotional side effects is notorious for causing this kind of mimicry. For example, it is basically impossible to sort out what is just fear and what is insight stage six, Fear, based upon the presence of fear alone, as fear is a very common emotion. The aspect of the maps that deals with unusual raptures (both physical and mental) is less suggestible and is a more reliable indicator of the stage of practice.However, the fundamental increases and shifts in perceptual thresholds are extremely hard to fake, particularly if you have access to a map that goes into the extensive details presented here. Shifts in perceptual thresholds are the most reliable markers on the path of insight, the Gold Standard by which these stages are defined. For example, if you recently saw very fine vibrations that changed frequency with the breath, then had a big zap-through, spaced out for a while, now feel paranoid, and notice some relatively steady shamanic drum–beat like pulse that quickly leads to chaotic, edgy vibrations with complex harmonics, that’s very likely the insight stage of Fear.”
Considerations of what might be effective practice are also mentioned in great detail. Notions of “proper” practice sound a bit snooty and orthodox to me, but perhaps that is just my ear reading elements into it that aren’t there.

DM48: Ingram's writing makes it seem as if the fear/misery/disgust/etc., stages are just stuff you have to endure (stuck in 1st Noble Truth).
DMI: Curious. Perhaps you failed to understand these words (and others found elsewhere, as there are many possible examples) from MCTB2 on pages 226 to 227: “Now, I am about to describe all sorts of emotional or psychological manifestations that can sometimes happen in Re-observation. The more extreme the description of a possible side effect of this stage, the rarer that side effect is likely to be, particularly those that sound like descriptions of severe mental illness. For someone who is staying at the level of bare sensate experience, as I strongly recommend, the only difficult manifestations that seem to be quite common at this stage are a strong sense of aversion and resistance to formal meditation and experience, and a deep sense of primal frustration, though these tend to fade quickly in the face of good practice. If our concentration is strong enough and our other factors are in balance, we may move through this stage with no problem at all at the level of vibrations or even pure, abstract patterns of light and/or sound, bypassing all the potential complexity I am about to describe.”
If you read that as being inevitable, perhaps consider training in the things in MCTB2 mentioned again and again to help facilitate easy passage, such as Sila, Samadhi, Loving Kindness, and the like.

DM48: You can see that in his writing ("As Fear passes and our reality continues to strobe in and out and fall away, we are left feeling …") which suggest that the process is very passive, you just wait and get new feelings as you explore them.
DMI: No. Many possible strategies are explored in the sections describing the Dukkha Ñanas, a brief selection of which is here: “My advice: if careful analysis of your insight practice leads you to the conclusion that you are in Re-observation, resolve that you will not wreck your life through excessive negativity. Resolve this repeatedly and intensely. Follow your heart as best you can, but try to spare your- self and the world from as much needless pain as possible. Through sheer force of will, and with the assistance of whatever skillful supports you can connect with, keep it together until you are willing to face your sensate world directly and without anesthesia or armor.” If that sounds “very passive” to you, I would like to hear what you call “very active”.
Many more exercises and approaches to difficulties were detailed in Part I and II, which, you stated liked, apparently either didn’t read or didn’t think applied to the rest of the book and practices, as was warned against here in Chapter 6, page 38, on the Five Spiritual Faculties: “This list sounds simple and perhaps obvious, but there is much more to this than meets the eye, and on the spiritual path it is worth checking up on ourselves regularly to determine if the first four are strong and in balance and if we can be just a bit more mindful. Later, if you find yourself caught up in the insight and concentration maps, the stages to attain, etc., and find yourself having problems, remember to return to and reread these sections, as the answer is probably found here.” Obviously, you don’t have to follow my advice, but don’t say it isn’t there when it is.

DM48: The commentaries actively point the way out in a very plain and simple way to start working through the fear/misery/disgust/etc., (i.e., the 2nd/3rd/4th noble truths) I'll just use one example here but you can check for yourself (Vissudhimaga p.672 - 682)
DMI: Again, misspelled Visuddhimagga. Probably should add it to your spell checker. BTW, MCTB2 highly recommends that people read the Visuddhimagga, particularly those insight stage sections, so pointing them out, while perhaps helpful here for those who can’t or won’t follow that instruction, may also be redundant.

DM48:: "does the knowledge of terror fear or does it not fear? It does not fear." So there's nothing to the fear other than itself. "It is simply the mere judgment that past formations have ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease." We're seeing things as impermanent, and we form a negative judgment, but that judgment itself is not negative (it's positive -- we're treading the path of insight!). And then later, we see some more good antidotes "Knowledge of the state of peace is this: despair is terror, non-despair is safety". This highlights the point about path vs not-path, if we despair, of course we're re-habituating old negative responses; if we're restraining despair, we're learning path knowledge on actually eradicating suffering.
DMI: While good and reasonable points, they are being made here with the implication that MCTB2 doesn’t make them, yet it does in numerous places, one of many examples of which is here, from pages 231 to 232: “Those who do not know what to do with this stage or who are overwhelmed by the mind states can get so swept away in the content that they begin to lose it. This is the far extreme of what can happen in this stage. Fear is frightening, Misery is miserable, and seemingly psychotic episodes are confusing and destabilizing. In the face of such miserable experiences, we may swing to the opposite extreme, clinging desperately to grandiose or narcissistic images of ourselves. These reactions can easily perpetuate themselves, and this can become a blatantly destructive mental habit if people persist in wallowing in these dark emotions and their deep and unresolved issues for too long. It can be like cognitive restructuring from hell. Do not do this to yourself…Specifically, if you continue to be strongly identified with content, without perceiving its true nature, and your strongly concentrated mind dives down that pathway of focusing entirely on the story, particularly negative interpretations of the story without seeing those thoughts as thoughts, then the mind can spiral down and down into madness and despair, and more madness and despair can lead to a horrid feedback loop. I call this “dark jhana”: like the exact reverse of jhana. In skillful jhana, we skillfully use positive qualities to attract and stabilize attention, which then reinforces those positive qualities in a positive feedback loop. In dark jhana, we unskillfully reinforce horrible mind states by obsessing about horrible mind states from within horrible mind states while being freaked out by horrible mind states.If you recognize dark jhana is happening, put the brakes on it right then with everything you have. Seize control. Refuse to lose that control. Find a way to get a grip on yourself. Splash cold water on your face. Eat grounding food. Exercise or take a walk in nature. Take a warm bath. Listen to soothing music. Sing. Dance. Play a video game. Watch a funny movie or funny cat videos on YouTube. Read the section in Part One where the Buddha talked about the removal of distracting thoughts and apply those instructions with full force: this is when they really come in handy. Stand with your legs planted firmly on the ground, your hands gripping something like a sink, countertop, or the back of a chair, and figure out where the actual problem is in your body and the space in which you stand. Note physical sensations of restlessness and irritation with precision and bravery.Dark jhana sucks and should be avoided at all costs. Wire your brain in a positive way, not a negative way, and you will do much better. Go into that territory at a bare sensate level that remembers there is space and you will do much better. Go into it divorced from the senses and lost in the content, and badness will likely result.”

I guess he kinda skimmed that part, didn’t understand the words, read it a long time ago, or has some other agenda, which obviously has become something of a recurring theme in this review. For those who commented that you thought it was helpful, still have that impression it was all that accurate or helpful?

Oh, yeah, does that sound “very passive”? Really?

DM48: "Arising is suffering. Non-arising is bliss." We're starting to see that by proliferating views about our experience create the suffering, nurturing wholesome thoughts cease that arising (despair vs non-despair). There's more to it all, but the Vissudhimagga is very clear on antidotes all along the way.
DMI: Which is one of the reasons that MCTB2 keeps on recommending it, as well as advice similar to what you find there, as well as similar advice from the Vimuttimagga (which has two t’s, just in case you start to notice that important text also), and, again, it has two d’s —if you read the cover and remember what you read, you will see that.

DM48: And this boils down to my earlier point of proper scaffolding when developing knowledge; there's a traditional base of knowledge for how to handle each phase with built-in framing and exposition so that the meditator isn't stuck being a victim of their (so-far) untrained mind.
DMI: Again, solid point, made again and again in MCTB2.

DM48: Of course, if your model of awakening is only seeing experience in some non-dual way as Ingram says, then of course there'll be no attention given to how we're actually learning to understand leaving suffering behind.
DMI: Remember that thing about Part I being the part he liked but seeming to forget entirely about it for the rest of the review? Let’s see what is has to say on this: MCTB2, page 10, Chapter 1: “One more great thing about training in morality is that it is indispensable for the next training: concentration. So, here’s a tip: if you are finding it hard to concentrate because your mind is filled with guilt, judgment, hatred, resentment, envy, or some other harmful or difficult thought pattern, work on the first training. It will be time well spent. Further, if and when you start doing more intensive training, you will very quickly realize that whatever good mental and psychological habits you have will be a great support, and whatever unskillful mental habits you bring will definitely slow you down or even stop you. Do spend your non-retreat time cultivating a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a skillful and mature set of coping mechanisms.”
I could totally blow this up here with many other quotes that make the same point, so how in the world DM48 missed this I can barely fathom.

DM48: Basically, in his version of the Mahasi method, all you're doing is just seeing Dukkha, seeing suffering, we're stuck in the 1st Noble Truth only.
DMI: If one wants to attempt to narrowly read MCTB2 as just some basic Mahasi instructions and ignore everything else it says, you can almost kinda imagine how one could squint funny and get that sort of reading, but it is an extreme stretch, and entirely misses not only the other two characteristics, which are mentioned at length, but also the other two trainings, about which I go on for hundreds of pages. Remember how he said he liked Parts I and II? How could you read them and imagine that his interpretation was true? It is mind-boggling at this point.

DM48: But there are another three that we have to follow!
DMI: Oh, really? Perhaps read about the other three here, in that Part I he says he liked but apparently entirely forgot, Chapter 9, The Four Noble Truths:
Seriously, did you read the book?
DM48: See the Dukkha and learn to get out ASAP! Another way to say it is that Ingram feels like meditation is being a police dog sniffing for drugs.
DMI: Ok, wait, what?

DM48: You sniff and find the drugs. Great. But what now? Well, there needs to be a policeperson with the dog getting the drugs and impounding them. Otherwise the sniffer dog is just there barking "Hey, the drugs are here, come and get them!"
DMI: At this point, the level of even basic comprehension of point after point in MCTB2 is so low that I am starting to wonder why I am bothering to reply to this, but, hopefully, it will keep DM48 from grossly misleading people about what MCTB2 is and says.

DM48: Meditation has a level of activity to it, mindfulness (Sati) is about remembering the 4 Noble Truths and 8fold Path and bringing them to bear on the present moment.
DMI: Oh, really? You know, I think MCTB2 said something about that somewhere, again in that chapter on the Four Noble Truths, which also talks about the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the framework for the entire book, and it goes through meticulously in order from beginning to end.

DM48: We don't wait around for suffering to disappear on its own, we work with right effort to stop unarisen unwholesome states from arising, and to remove arisen unwholesome states. Very simple and clear.
DMI: Again, from MCTB2, which, again, I am going to start presuming he didn’t bother to read, and give one of countless sections that makes that same point, just this one being largely dedicated to it:

DM48: 6. Mastering Whose Core Teachings? Lastly, and I think this is a minor point, but something that is worth noting. MCTB could be called "Mastering the Teachings of the Commentaries".
DMI: Perhaps you should check out the Pali Canon, as you will find that MCTB2 references it and the teachings found therein countless times. Too many possible quotes, but, if interested, just read it, and you will see.

DM48: How would you like to watch and episode of a TV show. Okay, so instead of watching the TV show, would you like me to write out a synopsis with commentary? Now, instead of either, I write a synopsis and commentary of the synopsis and commentary? MCTB is based on the commentaries, which are supplementary information to the original source materials (the Pali Canon Suttas).
DMI: Again, the countless references to the Pali Canon instantly disabuse anyone who bothers to read MCTB2 of this absurd notion. I think at this point I have read somewhere around 8,000 to 10,000 pages of the Pali Canon, so, while certainly not all of it, is a hefty chunk of it, and I can tell you for certain that MCTB2 is highly grounded in the Canon and its complexities, which are many.

DM48: So you're reading a commentary of a commentary, made by someone who may or may not know exactly what all the information is for, who it is for, and when it should be used. I think that is a suitable reason to treat the MCTB with some caution. Go to the source material.
DMI: As MCTB2 recommends again and again, and is filled with references to the original material. One of countless possible examples, from page 44: “…Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (or Majjhima Nikaya [MN], very worthwhile reading)…”

Again, MCTB2 is presuming a serious practitioner who is also seriously up for reading a ton of the other books that MCTB2 recommends (such as the Pali Canon), as noted in the Foreword and Warning, page xvii: “Thus, I will often refer you to other excellent sources for more details on those topics that I feel have already been covered quite well (and probably better than I could) by other authors. I strongly suggest checking out at least some if not all of those other sources.”

DM48: Read the Suttas, understand them. Then progress slowly and surely. The Visuddhimagga is not overly complicated, Mahasi Sayadaw's "The Manual of Insight" is also quite well written. Neither of them suggest that fear/misery/disgust last long, and they provide immediate antidotes and ways to properly frame the knowledge in the Buddhist tradition from which they arose. In short, they thought through this stuff already, they were experts, and the knowledge is there (I'm very certain Mahasi's Manual of Insight and the Visuddhimagga are both available for free online).
DM48: What does this mean for me and my practice?
DMI: Uh, first suggestion: if you are going to bother to read a book, actually try to understand what it said and try to remember that…

DM48: Glad you asked. Practice can get tricky at times when we're getting to deep reactive emotions embedded in our minds. We've purified the top layer but now there's an iceberg of shit tearing our mind apart.
DMI: Ok, wait, you are criticizing MCTB2 making too much of the darker stages of insight and yet you just wrote “there is an iceberg of shit tearing our mind apart”? This gets weirder and weirder as we go.

DM48: Firstly, we're not this emotion, they don't control the ship. There's no chooser. But there is a choice to make.
DMI: Yep, actually, these are some relatively decent points. Ok, two points for DM48 so far.

DM48: And this is where mindfulness really pays off. Mindfulness is about remembering to wake up in the moment of a hindrance and then to recall the relevant teachings (Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path) to get out of it.
DMI: Again, said as if MCTB2 didn’t say that, which it does in countless places.

DM48: The way noting is taught is just observe, observe, observe. And no remembering.
DMI: A limited view that one can’t observe the sensations that make up memory. Yes, beginners often have a hard time with this, but, eventually, once one isn’t a beginner, being able to deconstruct thoughts of past and future and perceive them as just more causal, impermanent, non-self immediate occurrences is important for later development, and is a learnable skill.

DM48: That's something that can be emphasised in teachings to make sure we're not being caught up in this unwholesomeness and self-directed negativity. The first step to changing stuff is to accept it. So, I'm not saying you should ignore these unwholesome things. I'm saying you should do something about them!
DMI: Yes, that one should do something about unwholesome things is a point we agree on, and is made countless times in MCTB2.

DM48: Next, not every thought you have is Ñana-connected.
DMI: Again, definitely very much absolutely never said anything like that in MCTB2. Again, that Part II he said he liked? There is already a quote from it that makes this exact point above, and it is made countless times elsewhere. Tons of people not in insight territory, as is all too common, even among people who think of themselves as insight practitioners who instead are just focused on valid first training issues like psychology.

DM48: You had a thought about wanting to be a monk. Must mean you're in the desire for deliverance.
DMI: This is a horribly bad reading of MCTB2, which again ignores entirely points made therein, such as this one from page 297: “”For example, it is basically impossible to sort out what is just fear and what is insight stage six, Fear, based upon the presence of fear alone, as fear is a very common emotion.” Again, perhaps read books you post reviews on, or, if you read them, don’t grossly misrepresent the points they made and then try to pretend they didn’t make them and then take it even one step worse and claim the points for your own. It is hard to tell if DM48 is merely ignorant and sloppy or actively malignant and plagiaristic at this point.

DM48: Where you being mindful of the 3Cs when this was happening? If not, chances are they're just thoughts doing their thing on their own thing, maybe you're starting to admire the dedication of monks because you're doing intense meditation yourself, so you're projecting these values out. Oh you had some really nice soothing waves of relaxation while watching TV? Must mean you're in dissolution.
DMI: Again, a horrible reading of MCTB2, and directly contracted by numerous statements in it.

DM48: Again, might just be a nice feeling connected to the relaxation of it all, where you actively observing the 3Cs of the moment? If not, maybe put down the map and enjoy the relaxation itself.
DMI: Yes, as MCTB2 advocates in numerous places where it talks about the problems with maps and analysis getting in the way of progress, with so many possible examples, I will just list some key page numbers, many of which occurred in Parts I and II, which he said he liked, but apparently didn’t remember or understand: 31, 36, 93, 124…

DM48: Lastly, have fun, be a friend to yourself, and love each and every moment. Don't torture yourself, that's not the path, it's an extreme.
DMI: I agree with those, but, again, they are said in the criticism section, implying that MCTB2 didn’t make those points many, many times, but here are a few brief examples for the skeptics, this from Chapter 1, page 10, which he appears to have forgotten: ““It is so much fun to try to live a good, healthy, and useful life! What a joy it is to find creative ways to do this!” There are few things more helpful on the spiritual path and for life in general than a positive attitude.”
Or this one, again from Part I, page 56: “If you are frying yourself on the path of insight, as evidenced by becoming uptight, wound up, reactive, cranky, angry, frustrated, edgy, or nervous, then it is time to ease up, back off, learn concentration practices, do some loving-kindness or similar practices (described later), and cultivate the skillful aspects of the last three factors and perhaps a bit more rapture in the “stop and smell the roses” sense. Many hardcore meditators will ignore this piece of advice to their detriment…”

DM48: Don't indulge yourself, that's another extreme.
DMI: Again, another point made in MCTB2, one example of which is here from page 51, again in those sections he praises but apparently forgot: “I’m not advocating hedonistic Epicureanism here (nor particularly condemning it either, if done skillfully), but to walk the spiritual path with a sense of joy, a sense of wonder, a bit of a smile and especially a sense of humor is good for you and everyone who must be near you. Sure, there will be hard times and difficulties that can have good lessons to teach us, but be open to the joy and happiness life can bring.Natural wonder really helps many things, including and specifically investigation. Reality is simply amazing. Our minds are amazing. The vast intricacy of what happens in each moment is truly remarkable. When you sit, sit with amazement at what is going on, like a vast, complex, rich work of moving, fluxing art. When you walk, walk with a sense of wonder at all the little aspects of movement, of balancing, of a body moving through the air, through a changing land- scape, with all the little facets that make that up. The feel of our foot touching the floor, earth, sand, grass, moss, leaves, stones, or whatever we are walking on is simply amazing. Air is amazing. Breathing is amazing. That we think is amazing. Food is amazing. Have you really looked at a glass of water lately? When tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, feeling, thinking, speaking, eating, and doing anything else, really tune in to how fascinating it is to perceive all these things. This natural curiosity, this enchantment with the experience of the ordinary world, is total gold.”

DM48: We in the West typically have a hard time relaxing because "money = time" or something. It's deeply embedded into our culture. "Do X for Y minutes per day to get Z!" If you were totally satisfied and happy right now (opposite of Dukkha being dissatisfaction-stress), what good would getting something in the future be? What good would awakening be? You've got everything you need right now. You're free from these self-imposed chains. You're free from these ideas you borrowed from others to become mental habits. That's the essence of no-self, you're a series of ongoing mental-bodily habits that either strengthen or weaken. And every moment there is a choice on what habit gets acted upon and strengthened.
DMI: Yes, reasonable points, echoed in various ways in MCTB2, so here we at least agree, but, again, as he makes them in the critique section, one could imagine that MCTB2 didn’t say them if one hadn’t read or understood it.

DM48:  Yeah I'll think about how good my life will be with a PlayStation, or I can wake up and really see that everything is fine right now and this moment is grand because it's the only one I'll get. This dark night stuff can turn this suffering into a badge of honour, which is another form of this Western mentality of paying now to receive later. Why pay to receive, when you've got everything you need right now? The negative emotion you feel is okay, it's there to serve a purpose, you've just trained the mind to react negatively because it feels unpleasant. That's okay, remember that each of these emotions are a part of your process playing out as an organism. Fear has a purpose to protect. Misery has a purpose to grieve. Disgust as a purpose to disengage. These aren't bad things to be reviled, they're actually quite compassionate emotions trying to help you be yourself.
DMI: Again, as they appear in the criticism section, one could imagine that MCTB2 didn’t make these reasonable points, but, instead, one finds them made in Chapter 22, page 131: “Notice that fear has in it the desire to protect us or those we care for.Anger wants to right a perceived wrong, wants us or the world to be happy and work well, or for justice to be done. Frustration comes from the caring sensations of anger being thwarted. Desire is rooted in the wish to be happy. Judgment comes from the wish for things to conform to high standards. Sadness comes from the sense of how good things could be and from the loss of something cherished. I could go on like this for a whole book, so don’t turn these into dogma; each has much more nuance that you can explore.”
This repeated pattern of dismiss what is in MCTB2 and then make the points it actually says is clearly something of a habit with DM48.

DM48: Don't passively accept this habit which causes you pain.
DMI: I am not passively accepting your habit which causes pain, and, instead doing this point-by-point reply. ;)

DM48: Don't passively accept this thought of low self-worth, because why would you hold a belief that hurts your own feelings? Be a friend to yourself. I'm not victim blaming here either, some people will have legitimate trauma that'll need therapy, go see a therapist.
DMI: Again, yet another point made in MCTB2, an example of which is here, page xxi: “There are plenty of gentle techniques and schools of practice available for people for whom it would be more skillful and constructive to apply those techniques. There are also many skillful healing modalities available today to help those who need to heal psychological trauma or clear up barriers to more intense practice.”

DM48: Some people will have hard time removing unwholesome thoughts and bringing up the wholesome, go see your sangha (I like to think of r/streamentry as a sangha of it's own) and talk it out.
DMI: Unfortunately, it appears to be a Sangha that has the unfortunate trait of praising terribly done book reviews. Perhaps could work on that?

DM48: The Buddha says that friendship is half the path (SN45) and associating with those wiser than you will accelerate your faculties (AN3).
DMI: Again, from MCTB2, page 103: “We need support, friends who are into what we are into, good teachers, and places to practice. We wish to be in the company of fellow adventurers rather than be lone wanderers in strange lands. The Buddhist term for this is that we want sangha, a community of like-minded people. Unfortunately, much of what we find is not particularly conducive to healthy adventure and deep exploration at all.” Was this extremely low quality book review really conducive to deep exploration? You will have to decide for yourself.

DM48: Let me pre-empt some stuff before you comment:You hate Ingram and trying to discredit him. Nah, I think he's a pretty cool guy who has moved the needle tremendously for serious meditators. I also think there are some points in his book that need serious revision and more adherence to the core material from which he sourced his ideas.
DMI: Just as your book review needs serious revision and to actually read the book.

DM48: I'd love to sit and share a tea with him, talk about meditation (although I think he'd have much more to say than I do).
DMI: You will correctly surmise and hopefully understand the reasons why I didn’t come away with that same warm fuzzy feeling. Still, if for some reason you want to talk about these topics, you can find my contact information on my website, but expect me to open with a request for an apology.

DM48: I have no ill will towards him.
DMI: Interesting. It would be interesting to see how you related to those you did have ill will towards.

DM48: I think those Analayo papers directed at him were 95% unfriendly and basically hit-pieces not designed to move the needle forward, but to simply bash a guy for trying do help people the best way he knows how.
DMI: Well, thanks for that. However, I am wondering what the 5% of those articles you thought was friendly was, as they seemed 100% designed to destroy on my careful reading of them.

DM48: You had a bad dark night and are now projecting your stuff. Part of me writing this is out of care and love for us all. Why would I want someone to needlessly suffer? If you get all your advice from one source rather than integrating a compendium of knowledge, you'll be stuck following that one source.
DMI: From MCTB2, Foreword and Warning, page xvii: “However, the spiritual life is vast beyond measure and cannot possibly be adequately covered in a single book, so I haven’t even remotely tried to make this the complete encyclopedia of meditation or spiritual practices. Thus, I will often refer you to other excellent sources for more details on those topics that I feel have already been covered quite well (and probably better than I could) by other authors. I strongly suggest checking out at least some if not all of those other sources.”
You will forgive me if I did read this review and think, “I wonder if DM48 had a particularly bad dark night and is now projecting all of their stuff?” Glad to know that couldn’t possibly be any part of this mix at all.

DM48: Like I said, I think the book has merit, and some downsides. My own experience was growing out of the Westernised notions of Mahasi passive method and growing into reading the commentaries and Abidhamma and moving to the Suttas themselves in order to integrate vast interconnected series of knowledge.
DMI: Weird. One would hardly expect comments like MCTB2 being a commentary on just the commentaries if one actually had some significant knowledge of the Pali Canon. Must have read it with the same level of retention and understanding as you read MCTB2.

DM48: I learned that any negativity can and should be thrown out as soon as it is noticed. I learned the hard way that the "dark night" is an obstacle you can basically walk around. I learned the hard way that the Western hustle-grind culture has been overlaid on the Buddhist method. Why would I want others to do something easy, loving, and fun the hard way? We live our lives so that we accrue experiences for the benefit of others.
DMI: Ok, I get that you went through some processes that were unpleasant, and hope you are doing better now. Still, totally misrepresenting MCTB2 in the ways you did isn’t likely to be helpful, I believe.

DM48: MCTB isn't responsible for any of this. It has a part to play. I'm not here to judge how much, just to point out that there is an impact. How many posts do we see here in our sangha of people saying they've been in the dark night for weeks, months, or years? Ingram's book suggests this happens, so it becomes normalised.
DMI: Normalization has two sides to it, and it was primarily designed to help validate that such things can occur, which many mainstream teachers entirely dismiss, as does basically the whole of the Mindfulness industry. MCTB2 also points to many, many ways around it, and describes levels of practice that flow through that territory without problems at all, as quoted above. Did you entirely miss the whole Jhana section, Part III? How is it that you don’t even comment on it?

DM48: Obviously, we should never stigmatise people's troubles. But we should also let people know there is a way to train the mind out of this self-imposed cage.
DMI: The suggestion that MCTB2 doesn’t suggest literally hundreds of times through numerous traditional methods is entirely unsupportable.

DM48: This is about balance. Not giving clear, open, and direct messaging about how to work through these difficult mindstates creates problems of this normalisation, and it becomes a vicious cycle where people start wearing their dark night stuff as badges of honour.
DMI: MCTB2 actually makes a similar warning, as well as provides countless tools to figure out how to attain balance and work through difficult mind states, as well as referencing numerous other books that help with this also, and which it is expected that people will read. From the section on the hindrances: “Each of these states of mind will inhibit meditative progress if we are not aware of them as sensate objects for investigation as they arise. If you need more advice on them, you can go online and find much information on them, or read any great text on insight meditation, such as Venerable Bhante Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English, or Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart. For one of the most extensive and methodical step-wise discussions of the fine details of how to cultivate attention and deal with the gross and subtle hindrances ever written, see Culadasa’s excellent and very popular The Mind Illuminated, often abbreviated “TMI” in my social circles. There is no need for me to reproduce all the excellent advice you will find in these top- notch and widely available books. Read at least one if not all of them.”
Also, how did you miss these paragraphs, from p238: “One of the more bizarre potholes we can fall into in the Dark Night is to become fascinated by and identified with the role of The Great Spiritual Basket Case. “I am so spiritual that my life is a nonstop catastrophe of uncontrollable insights, disabling and freakish raptures, and constant emotional crises of the most histrionic nature. My spiritual abilities are proven and verified by what a consummate mess I am making of my life. How brave and dedicated I must be to screw up my life in this way. Oh, what a glorious, holy, special, and saintly wreck I am!” Both my sympathy and intolerance for those caught in this trap are directly related to the amount of time I have spent in that trap being just like them. While we should not try to pretend that the Dark Night hasn’t made us a basket case, if it has done so, neither should we revel in or wallow in being a basket case, nor use the Dark Night as an excuse for not being as kind and optimally functional members of society as we can possibly be.Try to navigate the Dark Night with panache, dignity, self-respect, decency, gentleness, poise, and if possible, a sense of humor, which often seems to be the first thing to be sacrificed at its bloody altar. Even a cutting, cynical, and dark sense of humor about your current experience would be better than none at all, but avoid hurting people with it. Feel free to use humor on yourself as much as you wish. Remember to balance all that with some honest humanity. It is actually possible to have fun with the Dark Night, just like it can be fun to go on a scary roller coaster or see a scary movie, like the alleviating feeling of a really good cry, like the weird thrill that comes from primal scream therapy. Remember that.”

DM48: That's not a very charitable reading of MCTB.
DMI: It barely appears to be a reading of MCTB2 at all, charitable or otherwise. It fixated on a few sections and focuses so selectively as to be absurd, as well as entirely lacking the ability to apply the advice from one chapter to the material in another, and even seems to miss advice from paragraphs very close to lines it chooses to misread. It cherry picks quotes to make its points as badly as other really poorly done reviews of it do, as this reply demonstrates point by point  and one by one as they occurred.

DM48: Let's look at some of the meta-language being used to convey Ingram's message. "The duration of Fear, like the other stages, varies widely." This suggests passivity, you have no control over the duration of these stages.
DMI: We covered the passivity thing above and how preposterous this reading is, so not going to beat that dead horse again.

DM48: "Like the other stages", suggests they're all like this, not just fear. That's in the first few sentences, which immediately signals and frames the reader with the idea: "buckle up sonny, you're in for a ride, fear is taking the wheel", not fun!
DMI: Again, a reading of passivity is super-selective and missed countless passages that are empowering on numerous fronts with lots of practical, active advice, nearly all of which is found in the standard Pali and modern sources.

DM48: Next up, some promising active responses to fear: "Reality testing, noticing that we are generally in a safe place (assuming we are, and not in a war zone, running for our lives), have access to food, water, and shelter, and that we are okay: these can help a lot. Grounding attention in trying to gently synchronize with the sensations of things vanishing, falling away, and shifting can help. It is very important to recognize that Fear is not dangerous unless we make it so [...] If we fear the fact of fear, indulging in telling ourselves stories about it, we can amplify this stage. If we ride it, flow with it, welcome it, dive down into it, play with it, revel in it, dance with it, and dissolve with it, letting it tear down the illusion of permanence and control as it begins to do so"
DMI: Ok, it gets even weirder. DM48 is actively aware of some of these passages, but still attributes passivity. So odd.

DM48: While a lot of this passage suggests we have active rememedies to fix it and quite similar to the Vissudhimagga
DMI: Again, two d’s there…

DM48: in some respects it still lacks a way to turn the unwholesome into wholesome.
DMI: You mean the entire sections on the first two trainings and the numerous ways they are directly applied to the third? You mean literally hundreds of pages of the book that you apparently entirely missed?

DM48: The overall message (italisized) is that fear is still driving the entire experience (to me seems to contradict not-self teachings?).
DMI: Again, an extremely selective and gross misreading.

DM48: And given that the opening paragraphs strongly suggest "the duration varies widely", you are still not in control of what's happening in the mind. Basically, it doesn't really tell us much about how we should immediately recognise fear (unwholesome) and replace it ASAP with wholesome thought as the Buddha suggests (MN19, MN20).
DMI: Again, the vitally important instructions from MN20 are repeated nearly verbatim in Part I, so extremely weird that you would mention them as if MCTB2 doesn’t. Freakish at this point.

DM48: I'm not going to dissect every page,
DMI: Ah, ironic euphemism. Perhaps would be better as, “I am not going to read, understand, or remember every page, or even that many of them.”

DM48: but there is a clear impression given that the Nanas are the things that drive the car, which doesn't line up with the core teachings of the Buddha himself.’
DMI: Again, that you managed to get that impressions despite countless direct counterpoints might possibly, just possibly, reflect on you.

DM48: You are wrong.
DMI: Well, as demonstrated again and again above by direct quotes from MCTB2, yep, largely wrong.

DM48: Maybe. But over 2500 years' worth of Buddhist practice and scholarship probably isn't.If you've read this far, you made it. This is the end. No this is. This is.Be happy and be well
DMI: If you have read this far, hopefully you have come to the conclusion that you should be careful believing everything said in book reviews, and instead will be a light unto yourself. Best wishes, and may you understand and remember what you claim to have read.
Michael Hirt, modified 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 2:04 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 2:04 AM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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Damn Daniel
Griffin, modified 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 4:41 AM
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RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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I laughed so many times while reading this response/roast emoticon

At the same time, I assume that a more concise and diplomatic style of response would be more effective practically speaking, in terms of people actually reading the whole thing and not being upset about the argumentative tone.
Chris M, modified 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 8:59 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 8:59 AM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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Daniel M Ingram, modified 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 11:07 AM
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RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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Regarding the long response, yes, it is extremely tedious, but it is respectful of the material and meticulously contemplates each point made by the author. In this, it models the sort of reviews I would appreciate on MCTB2. How can I expect them to give a review of MCTB2 that level of care and respect if I can't even give their vastly shorter review that level of care and respect?
Dream Walker, modified 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 8:43 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 8:43 PM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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I still wish there was a "cliff notes" version of the POI with a sprinkling of Jhana and the map relating how they intersect. Most people that I have recommended MCTB to read, have failed to do so. I still use the wayback machine to dig up the aloha dharma version that is short and concise. Chopping down to the bone and pre-chewing might help those (who have whatever problems that make it impossible to read or remember) that otherwise will miss out on being introduced to valuable knowledge, especially the beginners to meditation.
I think that a version that was short, concise and written for a basic high school level education would be valuable and a lot less intimidating. I can see how this endeavor would not be very satisfying to you personally, but think of all the time wasted to go over the POI with beginners, as you have done countless times. It might even help in cases such as this posting.

Noah D, modified 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 10:24 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/23/22 10:24 PM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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I said it over on SE Reddit & I'll repeat it here- the gap seems to be others selectively reading or misinterpreting MCTB rather the book itself.
shargrol, modified 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 5:47 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 5:29 AM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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+1 totally agree Noah.

Ironically, the author said he was motivated to prevent people from mis-reading/using MCTB in their practice, but by blaming the book itself and selectively quoting MCTB in his critque he basically was guilty of a similar mistake. emoticon

Sometimes I think posts like that are a kind of hidden cry for help -- not the extreme version of "a cry for help", but more like a "I think I understand all of this, but I feel like I'm missing something. Rather than ask about what seems confusing, which will make me feel vulnerable, I'll talk about what I do know (and I unconsciously hope somehow this leads to me learning whatever I'm missing.)" That seems to happen a lot. I think sometimes the act of sitting with an uncomfortable feeling and formulating a question is very difficult and people jump to using these kinds of indirect methods. It's immature, but we've all been immature at some point. I've done it, too.
George S, modified 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 7:42 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 7:41 AM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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Yeah, while the reviewer makes some valid points, I feel like they are also reacting against Daniel's (20-30 year old) personality style.

Reading MCTB for me was like walking into a church and finding Led Zeppelin playing. Mature? Not particularly. What I needed at the time? Absolutely.

The book is encyclopedic. I'm sure there's something in there to offend everybody emoticon

And like they say, where there is reaction there is usually projection ...
shargrol, modified 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 7:47 AM
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RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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George S
..where there is reaction there is usually projection ...

! I hadn't heard that before. Nice.
George S, modified 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 11:58 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/24/22 11:58 AM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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I made it up ... but I wasn't willing to own it XD
J W, modified 2 Years ago at 1/25/22 2:59 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 1/25/22 2:59 PM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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shargrol, modified 2 Years ago at 1/25/22 3:35 PM
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RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 1 Year ago at 1/8/23 4:54 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 9/3/22 5:18 PM

RE: Response to MCTB2 review on Reddit

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Go on YouTube and type in aloha dharma.  Tell me if you found it