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The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
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The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Daniel M. Ingram 11/26/11 6:11 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Morgan Taylor 6/27/11 2:12 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice C C C 6/27/11 9:15 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Daniel M. Ingram 6/28/11 1:04 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice C C C 6/28/11 6:17 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 6/28/11 9:59 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice C C C 6/28/11 9:17 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice . Jake . 6/29/11 5:04 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Tommy M 11/26/11 8:10 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Neem Nyima 3/31/12 7:58 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice J Adam G 4/1/12 1:26 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Mike Kich 6/28/11 5:55 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Neem Nyima 1/1/14 8:39 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Bagpuss The Gnome 11/27/11 4:53 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Hazel Kathleen Strange 11/27/11 10:59 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice . Jake . 11/27/11 2:19 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Bagpuss The Gnome 11/27/11 3:12 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice . Jake . 11/27/11 3:35 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Daniel M. Ingram 11/28/11 5:14 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Bagpuss The Gnome 11/28/11 5:24 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice  Tarver  11/30/11 11:36 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Alan Smithee 1/12/12 6:48 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Daniel M. Ingram 1/13/12 6:47 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Alan Smithee 1/14/12 6:14 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice End in Sight 1/14/12 1:40 PM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice The Xzanth 1/4/13 9:51 AM
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice . Jake . 1/30/13 8:28 PM
The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/26/11 6:11 PM
After a number of conversations recently with various people, I realized that my conception of the hierarchy and essence of vipassana practice wasn't written down anywhere I could remember, so I thought I would write it down here. This is more geared to the type of concentration one develops on retreat, but may apply just as well in daily life for those who are diligent and skilled or aspire to be.

It would be nice to start at the top, even though people don't generally seem wired to do that, but just to keep it in mind:

At one's best, one attains to Conformity Knowledge, Insight Stage #12, in which one comprehends simultaneously two of the Three Characteristics of one's entire sense field completely including space, consciousness, and everything else in that volume as an integrated whole. That's what you are shooting for if you are going for stream entry at least, and it even works well for the sort of continuous complete mindfulness that works well for higher paths.

However, I will go back to the bottom, which is where most start and often return, and work back up from there:

1) Not trying to practice, lost in one's stuff, spacing out, mindfulness weak.

2) Mindfulness weak, lost in one's stuff, but at least attempting some technique at times, even if one can't actually do it. People spend whole retreats at this level, unfortunately.

3) Able to actually practice and follow basic instructions somewhat, such as noting, body scanning, or whatever you are trying to do. I'll go non-technique specific here, as this is a guide to the essence of the thing. Basically any technique or object or posture that moves you up this hierarchy and keeps you there is what matters, and nothing about the specifics of what you are paying attention to or how you are trying to pay attention to it is important so long as it serves that fundamental goal.

4) Able to actually do a specific vipassana technique or set of techniques well with few interruptions.

5) Able to actually do that with no interruptions.

6) To be able to directly perceive the Three Characteristics of objects in the center of attention consistently and directly whether or not one is using a more specific technique or not. In short, if you can do this, at that time and for however long that lasts, whether or not you use a more formal technique is irrelevant.

7) To be able to directly and continuously perceive the sensations that make up the coarse background components also in that same light of strong, direct vipassana awareness, meaning direct comprehension of the Three Characteristics of not only the foreground objects, but things like rapture, equanimity, fear, doubt, frustration, analysis, expectation and other sensations in the periphery, as well as other objects as they arise, such as thoughts and the component sensations of feelings as well as the primary object or objects, assuming one is even using primary objects at this point, which is not necessary.

8) To be able to do #7 very well and then add core processes such as the sensations that seem to make up attention itself, intention itself, memory itself, questioning, effort, surrender, subtle fear, space, consciousness, and everything that seems to be Subject or Observer or Self all the way through the skull, neck, chest, abdomen and all of space such that nothing is excluded from this comprehensive, cutting, piercing, instantly comprehending clarity that is synchronized with all phenomena or just about to be.

9) Able to do #8 naturally, effortlessly and clearly due to one's diligent efforts to write that wiring on the mind as one's new baseline default mode of perception.

10) We are back where we started: one comprehends simultaneously two of the Three Characteristics of one's entire sense field completely including, space, consciousness, and everything else in that volume as an integrated whole and so attain to Change of Lineage, Path and Fruition. That's what you are shooting for if you are going for stream entry at least, and it even works well for the sort of continuous complete mindfulness that brings on higher paths.

Keeping this hierarchy in mind, many questions are answered either directly or with small amounts of additional information.

Q: Does it matter what object I use?
A: Only if that object at that moment in time helps you at least stay above the lower few levels of the hierarchy and hopefully progress up them.

Q: Does it matter if my concentration is really focused or broad?
A: As all you have to do is comprehend the Three Characteristics of one's sum total reality for 3 moments, you only need really limited objects if you haven't gotten automatically fluent enough with other objects to attain to Conformity Knowledge on them. By way of example: if you can get your attention focused exclusively on the breath and comprehend the sensations that make it and the attention focussing apparatus, as that is all there is, that's all you need to understand. If you can't get it that focussed but have attained through diligent work a natural fluency in a wider array of other sensations, then broader attention will do you just fine.

Q: Does it matter what technique I use?
A: I would say scramble up the hierarchy however you can using any object you can and whatever dose it takes to get there, changing objects, focuses, techniques, postures, or whatever other factors need to be changed if those help you rise higher and stay there. This is the pragmatists approach to vipassana rather than the dogmatic traditionalists approach to vipassana. If a dogmatic and traditional approach gets you up the hierarchy, there is no conflict between these at all. If your dogmatic and traditional approach is not working at that moment, sit, walking period, hour, month, or year, try switching things around, preferably with the help of good guidance if available, to see what does get you up a notch.

Q: When should I stop noting and just pay attention?
A: You can definitely stop when at that particular time you are at stage #6 or higher, but you could also continue so long as it didn't slow you down or restrict your ability to comprehend whatever arises in its rich and comprehensive entirety.

Q: Which technique is better: Noting, Body Scanning, Zen Koan Training, or what?
A: Whatever at that time helps you progress or at least stabilize above the bottom levels of that hierarchy. Note: techniques take time to learn, so continuous abandoning of one poorly-learned technique for another poorly-learned technique is unlikely to do much of anything good, but if you have learned a few techniques well, they anything that works goes. One should realize that this is for most people a very dynamic and non-linear progression, with many risings and fallings up the ranks of the hierarchy, and learning how to shift focus or approach at the right time is a learned skill that requires constant vigilance and practice, but having the basic goals in mind should help guide you.

For instance, say one had decided to use noting practice, and had gotten to stage 2, Cause and Effect, with steady, slow noting, but then bad back pain began to derail one's attempts at noting in stage three, Three Characterisics, during which time one fell back to poor practice. One might reflect: "Ah, I am no longer able to do slow noting, at least I should try to do slow noting, and perhaps choose a different posture that wasn't so painful for a time in a mindful way."

Or, one might have been doing noting up through the Three Characteristics stage, but then began to notice energetic phenomena, heat and kundalini stuff show up that was too fast to note, at which point one might think, "Ah, I was really good at blasting through the A&P using more Goenka-style body scanning on a previous retreat and know how to do that, maybe I will give that a try, as it worked well before."

Or, one might have been rockin' it in the A&P by rapidly and directly perceiving fast vibrations and tingling interference patterns, but when one got to Dissolution notice that one's practice was completely derailed and one was just spacing out. One might reflect, "Ah, whereas before I was rockin' it in the A&P, now my practice has fallen to the bottom of the barrel, and perhaps attempting to do slow noting and build back up to more direct methods when I can would be better than floundering." Good plan.

Or, one might be high up in Equanimity and yet not be able to land a Fruition. One might ask oneself, "What core process, subtle background or foreground sensations, or other patterns of experience are not yet brought into the clear light in the way I have done for so many objects?" In this way, one sees what one is missing and, having learned to see those objects naturally also, lands it.

Working thus, one gets a sense of how one may adjust one's practice to accommodate what is happening and keep one riding the waves of changes that vipassana in all its forms can throw at one.

I hope this is helpful,

Daniel
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/27/11 2:12 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks so much for this clear explication! So helpful! emoticon
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/27/11 9:15 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi Daniel et al.,

If one was stuck at stage two (because of mood problems), when might psilocybin or other drugs be helpful in progressing to stage three and beyond? Anti-depressants help a bit but not enough.

Thanks.

CCC.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/28/11 1:04 AM as a reply to C C C.
One of the basic problems with the hallucinogens, aside from many being illegal, is that their effects are not predicable, and crossing the A&P on them doesn't mean that that territory is mastered or understood, or that one can necessarily cross it again on one's own power, or that one will necessarily be able to handle the Dark Night if one does actually manage to cross the A&P.

What have you been doing in your practice that you haven't managed to get out of the early stages? Are you sure you haven't crossed the A&P at some point? You have been here and participating a while.

Daniel
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/28/11 6:17 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
If I had crossed AP, wouldn't I be able to experience at least M&B when I do vipassana? As it is, I have never experienced M&B. I have read through your post on A&P and I can only say it's possible I've been there, but I don't feel at all confident about saying that because the symptom list is so broad and variable.

My sticking point is if I meditate when I feel low in mood, which is 99% of the time, I feel quite a bit worse, sometimes horrible. If I have reasonable mood, I can elevate it further by body scanning. My starting mood gets amplified, in other words.

edit: Just been reading about the brahma viharas. I'm going to try the brahma viharas before concentration practice. Never done that before. Does that sound reasonable?
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/28/11 9:59 AM as a reply to C C C.
C C C:
My sticking point is if I meditate when I feel low in mood, which is 99% of the time, I feel quite a bit worse, sometimes horrible. If I have reasonable mood, I can elevate it further by body scanning. My starting mood gets amplified, in other words.

have you tried just meditating for a while to see if the mood ever changes? start when you're in a reasonable mood so it's not so painful to keep going, then.. keep going. maybe sit for 30 mins, walk for 10 mins, sit for 30 mins, walk for 10 mins, etc, for a few hours, see what happens.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/28/11 5:55 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I don't know if it's a Dark Night thing or a lack of serious practice thing, but objects I perceive such as sensations, etc. seem less and less clearly distinct from one another as I go along. Instead it seems like sensations are melding into one another, just barely there and barely recognizable and then disappearing, etc. That's one reason why I keep coming back to Zen style sitting when I do, because the Mahasi stuff seems like a way faster path, but I could never figure out, "well now wait, what the deuce would I call that sensation, or how would I categorize it?" as I was going along with noting. The strange thing is that this pattern of perception started out strong and keeps getting stronger in daily life despite my best efforts, so that I see the point in very little that people think is necessary and do. That part is very Dark-Nighty; I'm essentially turning into The Big Lebowski without the pot. I don't think I can clearly distinguish at this point between apathy and equanimity in myself. I would say it's good in that I'm content to surf along for years with this whether I get stream entry or not.

Just my two cents emoticon
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/28/11 9:17 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beo, I've tried to watch the mood with a complete openness and acceptance and I'm stunned that it doesn't alter. Shouldn't a good 10 minute sit see some movement and changes? I can't do much more than 10 minutes at a time.

As for reasonable moods, I have to wait until one happens (tends to happen as a reaction to circumstance). But yeh I'll try what you say and going much longer at it when that happens next.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
6/29/11 5:04 AM as a reply to C C C.
C C C:
Beo, I've tried to watch the mood with a complete openness and acceptance and I'm stunned that it doesn't alter. Shouldn't a good 10 minute sit see some movement and changes? I can't do much more than 10 minutes at a time.

As for reasonable moods, I have to wait until one happens (tends to happen as a reaction to circumstance). But yeh I'll try what you say and going much longer at it when that happens next.


Hey CCC... rather than watching the mood and waiting for it to change, have you tried looking to see if it is changing in the present? In other words, identifying the sensations (perhaps in the chest area) and the images and words connected to them, and watching how that's all changing and un-solid even if the "mood" is stable-- it's a process not a thing? A lisghtly different take on impermanence.
-Jake
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/26/11 8:10 PM as a reply to C C C.
CCC, give me a shout via PM if you want to talk about anti-depressants and practice.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/27/11 4:53 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel thanks for this.

One thing I find a little confusing here and elsewhere is the concept of "directly perceiving" the 3C's. What does this mean? Does it mean:

  • Generally being aware that these sensations are not self, unsatisfactory, impermenant?
  • Being aware that every tiny pinprick sensations (of which there are 100's at minimum at any given moment) is 3C's individually?
  • Something else entirely?


I've made progress without intellectualising this stuff too much and just noticing the impermanence of sensations as I do Goenka style scanning in practice as well as anapana / full body awareness (and have intuitively been mixing up technique and posture as and when required) but but find other than the obvious unpleasantness of some of the DN stuff, and the clear impermanence (they arise, they pass) of the tiny sensations I don't have any "aha!" kind of feelings about these thngs.

Im not certain I've made this clear, but I don't think I can make it any clearer. Does that make sense to anyone? And can anyone help me understand better?

Many thanks,

/BTG
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/27/11 10:59 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Thanks for asking this, Bagpuss - I would also like this sort of clarification

Many thanks Daniel for the heirarchy - I knew it couldn't begin with Mind and Body!!
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/27/11 2:19 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:


I've made progress without intellectualising this stuff too much and just noticing the impermanence of sensations as I do Goenka style scanning in practice as well as anapana / full body awareness (and have intuitively been mixing up technique and posture as and when required) but but find other than the obvious unpleasantness of some of the DN stuff, and the clear impermanence (they arise, they pass) of the tiny sensations I don't have any "aha!" kind of feelings about these thngs.


I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're asking so I'll paraphrase then offer my two cents to that. Please correct me if I've misunderstood you. Sounds like you are simply saying that you notice impermanence clearly as a fact about sensations, but are confused because you also expect a strong reaction of "aha" or "wow, isn't that amazing!" to accompany such noticing. Is that right?

If so, the answer to your confusion may be simple indeed! As I understand and have experienced it, the strong (positive) emotional reactions to noticing the three characteristics are part of what is meant by "the ten corruptions of insight", or, mental-emotional commentary added to the bare noticing of sensations and their nature of empty impermanence. These strong positive reactions of "wow, how amazing empty impermanence of sensations is!" often accompany A&P phase for instance, and the corresponding negative reactions like "oh my god, how horrible, frightening, miserable etc. empty impermanence is!" obviously come up during DN phases.

But the point is that these reactions are beside the point anyway-- what you want is a steady consistent stream of noticing sensations as they are, and the less that noticing is interrupted by such mental-emotional commentary whether positive negative or neutral the better (in fact, it's important to see these evaluations/reactions as empty impermanent movements of sensation as well).

What changes mind is consistently noticing how sensations actually are empty and impermanent, which over time challenges and debunks mind's deeply held presuppositions about the solidity, permanence, and substantiality of subjects and objects. With critical mass of gathering such impressions of how sensations actually are mind can drop some of these presuppositions/filters and one's experience of life can undergo baseline shifts in the direction of greater more effortless clarity about sensations as they are.

I apologize if I misunderstood what you were asking and hope this helps.

--Jake
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/27/11 3:12 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Jake:
Sounds like you are simply saying that you notice impermanence clearly as a fact about sensations, but are confused because you also expect a strong reaction of "aha" or "wow, isn't that amazing!" to accompany such noticing. Is that right?


Not really. But your response is extremely helpful Jake, thanks!

Jake:

But the point is that these reactions are beside the point anyway-- what you want is a steady consistent stream of noticing sensations as they are, and the less that noticing is interrupted by such mental-emotional commentary whether positive negative or neutral the better (in fact, it's important to see these evaluations/reactions as empty impermanent movements of sensation as well).


This is great news for me, as it's pretty much what's going on!

My confusion is just in the term "directly perceive" when Daniel and many others here talk about the 3C's. I wondered if I was missing some trick or some insight into individual sensations --like maybe it should be something like "hey, there's a sensation. It's impermanent, unsatisfactory and not self", "hey look, another..." like there should be some kind of deep understanding that is re understood each time something is noticed. Whereas I just have pretty much what you described. A (from my limited perspective...) pretty good feel for the impermanence of sensations in general as they arise and pass (tens per second) and sometimes dukkha and annatta as well on sensations that stand out from the rest.

Jake:

I apologize if I misunderstood what you were asking and hope this helps.


Not at all. And thanks for answering, it's much appreciated.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/27/11 3:35 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Jake:
Sounds like you are simply saying that you notice impermanence clearly as a fact about sensations, but are confused because you also expect a strong reaction of "aha" or "wow, isn't that amazing!" to accompany such noticing. Is that right?


Not really. But your response is extremely helpful Jake, thanks!





LOL ha! Glad it was helpful, I see better what you were asking now. Sounds like you're on the right track ;-)
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/28/11 5:14 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Daniel thanks for this.

One thing I find a little confusing here and elsewhere is the concept of "directly perceiving" the 3C's. What does this mean? Does it mean:

  • Generally being aware that these sensations are not self, unsatisfactory, impermenant?
  • Being aware that every tiny pinprick sensations (of which there are 100's at minimum at any given moment) is 3C's individually?
  • Something else entirely?


Specifically:

Generally is a vague term in this context, as you must know it clearly, directly and precisely for whatever sensations occur then, one after the other, with all the subtlety, speed, precision and inclusiveness you can come up with.

Every single pinprick sensation: definitely yes, until things get wider and more spacious, and even then, pinprick stuff is gold. These are easy, fast, clear things to gain insight using, and insight is insight regardless of where you get it, so rock it on those and then when you get good at that, subtly sync in other things: this is the real key.

By subtly sync in more things, I mean keep your primary objects going, and add in other things to the fluxing mix, such as whatever seems next in the background, what I will call the close background, obvious stuff, like effort, or other bodily sensations, or whatever seems close and easy, and do this with a little back and forth flexibility that slowly includes those, and then add more stuff, or simplify as you feel is appropriate to what is going on and whatever interests you, and then, if you get stuck, figure out what you are missing either by feeling around or by looking at the standard lists of things that people generally miss, and don't be afraid to include the unpleasant things, as those make for easy objects from a certain point of view and are probably part of what needs to be seen clearly.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/28/11 5:24 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
That's very clear. Thanks Daniel. Much appreciated.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
11/30/11 11:36 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thank you, this is extremely helpful. I am going to start recording the "HVP Level" in my practice thread. With this hierarchy on one axis, and the stages of the progress of insight on another axis, the "map" starts to look very map-like indeed.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/12/12 6:48 AM as a reply to  Tarver .
I am a little confused by #s 4 and 5.

#4 says "Able to actually do a specific vipassana technique or set of techniques well with few interruptions," and #5 says "Able to actually do that with no interruptions."

Now, if I am doing noting practice, and I'm focusing on the breath, I don't want to exclusively focus on the breath to the exclusion of all other things, otherwise I'd be doing samadhi meditation, so I want to kind of "look around" mentally for the sensations which are occuring in elsewhere in my mind and body as well, right?

So what would constitute an "interruption" in this case? I guess totally zoning out into a fantasy and losing the primary object (breath) as well as the entire field of mindfullness (sensations in body and mind). But you do want to be open to all experiences and sensations as they occur, right?

How tightly should one focus on the breath (exclusive focus) and/or how wide/panoramic should the field of awareness go to be successful in noting/insight practice? If I go "hunting" for sensations, I can find them. Is that what I want to be doing?

Should I be focusing hard on the breath trying to break it down into pulses/sensations, or should I use the breath as a concentration anchor and make my focus wide and open to all sensations as they occur, where ever they occur?

Then I also have some questions about the vipassana jhanas.

1) You can't hit mind and body, cause and effect, and the three charactersics, without first entering the first vipassana jhana. Is that correct?

2) Is the first vipassana jhana characterized as containing all the same jhana factors as its "hard" samatha jhana counterpart, but in lighter, lesser quantities? So, for instance, the first vipassana jhana should contain bliss (piti), happiness, etc., but it won't be as crazily blissful as the 1st samatha jhana. Is that right?
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/13/12 6:47 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Back to first principles:

As whatever arises from a vipassana point of view is the sum total of the universe of concern at that time, and as all object demonstrate the Three Characteristics, then:

If it arose and vanished and this was comprehended, all is well.

This is different from presuming some sort of focus or exclusion of other things presumed to exist at that time but not actually manifesting in that moment.

If attention is narrow, on the breath, on a sound, on a sight, on another sensation, and that sensation is comprehended as it is, all is well.

If attention is seemingly more wide, then whatever arose in that moment should also be comprehended as it is.

However, you will find that what appears to be narrow is actually wide, as those sensations encompassed the whole of that experience if it was clearly understood.

And, vice versa, what you thought was wider than something else wasn't, as you just happened to notice wideness or what seemed to be lack of focus in that moment, but really there was still whatever moment that came and went, and to say one whole moment is wider or more narrow than some other moment is a) problematic and b) missing the essential point of what vipassana is concerned with.

Thus, if you comprehended what arose, you were doing the technique, and what the previous or next moment was or will be focused on is irrelevant. How could those matter? One is gone, the other not yet arisen, and the present moment, regardless of how you choose to judge it, is the the first and only basis of insight regardless of all other considerations, obviously and by definition. This is simplicity itself, and yet so easy to forget.

Anchoring in concentration brings the rewards of concentration practices. Comprehending whatever object you choose, which actually just arose on its own without any choice or anyone to choose it, is the path of insight.

As to the first three ñanas, they are all part of the first jhana, in this case vipassana jhana, but the core territory is the same, just how it is understood. The vipassana jhanas often feel different from their more pleasant counterparts, but not always. The closest correlations are the 1st, 4th, 5th and 11th insight stages, but remember: to comprehend the Three Characteristics is to comprehend, among other things, Suffering! How often this point is missed.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/14/12 6:14 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Back to first principles:

As whatever arises from a vipassana point of view is the sum total of the universe of concern at that time, and as all object demonstrate the Three Characteristics, then:

If it arose and vanished and this was comprehended, all is well.

This is different from presuming some sort of focus or exclusion of other things presumed to exist at that time but not actually manifesting in that moment.

If attention is narrow, on the breath, on a sound, on a sight, on another sensation, and that sensation is comprehended as it is, all is well.

If attention is seemingly more wide, then whatever arose in that moment should also be comprehended as it is.

However, you will find that what appears to be narrow is actually wide, as those sensations encompassed the whole of that experience if it was clearly understood.

And, vice versa, what you thought was wider than something else wasn't, as you just happened to notice wideness or what seemed to be lack of focus in that moment, but really there was still whatever moment that came and went, and to say one whole moment is wider or more narrow than some other moment is a) problematic and b) missing the essential point of what vipassana is concerned with.

Thus, if you comprehended what arose, you were doing the technique, and what the previous or next moment was or will be focused on is irrelevant. How could those matter? One is gone, the other not yet arisen, and the present moment, regardless of how you choose to judge it, is the the first and only basis of insight regardless of all other considerations, obviously and by definition. This is simplicity itself, and yet so easy to forget.

Anchoring in concentration brings the rewards of concentration practices. Comprehending whatever object you choose, which actually just arose on its own without any choice or anyone to choose it, is the path of insight.

As to the first three ñanas, they are all part of the first jhana, in this case vipassana jhana, but the core territory is the same, just how it is understood. The vipassana jhanas often feel different from their more pleasant counterparts, but not always. The closest correlations are the 1st, 4th, 5th and 11th insight stages, but remember: to comprehend the Three Characteristics is to comprehend, among other things, Suffering! How often this point is missed.


Your response was the height of clarity and will surely help me in my practice. You have a way, sir, of making the ineffable...um, effable. Big heaping piles of thanks!
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/14/12 1:40 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
If attention is narrow, on the breath, on a sound, on a sight, on another sensation, and that sensation is comprehended as it is, all is well.

If attention is seemingly more wide, then whatever arose in that moment should also be comprehended as it is.

However, you will find that what appears to be narrow is actually wide, as those sensations encompassed the whole of that experience if it was clearly understood.

And, vice versa, what you thought was wider than something else wasn't, as you just happened to notice wideness or what seemed to be lack of focus in that moment, but really there was still whatever moment that came and went, and to say one whole moment is wider or more narrow than some other moment is a) problematic and b) missing the essential point of what vipassana is concerned with.


There is more than one way to interpret this, and, further, the point is very relevant to the pursuit of vipassana in particular and understanding experience in general, so would you care to expand upon it for the sake of future reference (for readers of this sticky-d thread)?
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/1/14 8:39 AM as a reply to Mike Kich.
A link to a noting thread with a comment by Ingram.
Mike Kich:
I don't know if it's a Dark Night thing or a lack of serious practice thing, but objects I perceive such as sensations, etc. seem less and less clearly distinct from one another as I go along. Instead it seems like sensations are melding into one another, just barely there and barely recognizable and then disappearing, etc. That's one reason why I keep coming back to Zen style sitting when I do, because the Mahasi stuff seems like a way faster path, but I could never figure out, "well now wait, what the deuce would I call that sensation, or how would I categorize it?" as I was going along with noting.

Just my two cents emoticon


I had that problem in my first long retreat -10 wks- with the noting, don't be so uptight about it. I mean look at Ingram's Definitions of practice above, they're much more open than in his initial descriptions in MTCB, which is more straight U Pandita. Read, 'Living Dharma' by Jack Kornfield, 10 different teachers descriptions of how to practice Vipassana. And I love what Ajahn Chan says about samadhi & wisdom being two ends of the same stick, and Maha Boowa says wisdom develops samadhi and samadhi develops wisdom. You need to have some samadhi going to be in high equanimity there has to be a lot of that calm nowness of being.
Jack Kornfields descriptions of noting in 'A path with a heart' is very simple and generalised, the noting is just to keeping you with the object, there is so much time in-between each note for non-conceptual awareness of the object: time to note in a non conceptual manner, all the other indescribable constantly changing phenomena. Just my two bob mate, metta Neem
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
3/31/12 7:58 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Can u practice while taking antidepressants? Is there a link to a specific discussion.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
4/1/12 1:26 PM as a reply to Neem Nyima.
Yes, you can. I'm not aware of a specific discussion on it, but you might find one using the forum's search function. But trust me, you can practice on antidepressants.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/4/13 9:51 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I have found that it is better for me to do less and be successful than to ask the world of myself and fail and fail again. I can easily build on success... failure is a little harder to deal with (especially at the beginning of a cycle). So to move myself from #2 to #3 I might start with sillyness such as

change a little habit (make my bed, wash my dishes immediately,etc) Something I am ready to do.

Sit completely still for 10 minutes (+1 minute/day) Something I can probably already do.

Read at least 1 page of the MCTB / day Something that I want to do.

I'm a big fan of the journey of a thousand miles starts with one tiny step.

I also find that sometimes one is trying to compensate or atone for something by desperately wanting a spiritual practice. In those cases I believe that it is inevitable to fail until one actually deals with the underlying insecurities or guilt.
RE: The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice
1/30/13 8:28 PM as a reply to The Xzanth.
The Xzanth:


I also find that sometimes one is trying to compensate or atone for something by desperately wanting a spiritual practice. In those cases I believe that it is inevitable to fail until one actually deals with the underlying insecurities or guilt.


With luck, you fail. Unfortunately it seems quite possible to 'succeed' in such cases! Spiritual bypassing can look a lot like good practice from behind one's blind spots. I'd venture to say just about every advanced practitioner has some experience with this sort of 'success'.