Introduction to me, with thanks to Daniel; and, finally, a question!

Vajracchedika Ian Vajra, modified 13 Years ago at 4/17/10 3:23 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/10 11:13 AM

Introduction to me, with thanks to Daniel; and, finally, a question!

Posts: 22 Join Date: 4/13/10 Recent Posts
Dear All

I was very glad to be directed to this web-site by a fellow practitioner recently - I have been reading MCTB pretty avidly the last month or so, and have found myself very sympathetic to both the attitude to the Dharma, and the method of practice that Daniel sets forth. I have been on something of a Quest to find a way of talking freely about practice as I find it, without fuss or fear, the last 6 months or so, and this site looks like an excellent opportunity! Well done, Daniel, both in your practice, and in the writing of MCTB - much appreciated! The section about models of the Dharma and the confusion they sow, though in some ways incidental to the book, should be required reading amongst Buddhists everywhere!

I've been meditating for something like 25 years. I've a lot of experience of what might be called hard dhyana I guess, as I trained in a framework in which Samatha was presented as the necessary precursor to Vipassana. No harm done thereby, though there was nonetheless precious little willingness to talk about practice. Essentially I would reflect on the Dharma on the basis of dhyana when in retreat circumstances, and do quite a bit of more discursive reflection when walking and reading at other times. Very enriching and integrating - though not always easy (cf later!). I am at home in the fourth and sixth dhyanas, they being pretty much my abode when sitting the last five years or so - that is, except when 'something else' is going on. I found the fifth jhana of Infinite Space very quickly progressed to that of Infinite Consciousness, and tended to look back to it from the sixth, as it were, but not cultivate it particularly, as it seemed intermediate. More recently, I have appreciated the way to the seventh jhana, and so can stabilise happily enough there, should the opportunity present itself - it is a kind of withdrawing process from the sixth that didn't seem particularly intuitive, I guess - or I had a view that it would somehow be more expansive than the sixth, and was looking in the wrong direction ...

However, the last two or three years have seen dhyana-practice become increasingly incidental. I turned away from the cultivation of dhyana as I had a sense that it was, in short, a cul-de-sac, despite the insights that arose. I felt that the insights were not bedding down in me, and that I was constantly starting from zero or near-zero. Even though I was familiar with states that few people come across, and rich and nourishing as they were, the transience of it all scared me, as I came to middle age. I let go of directed practice, quite quickly saw through the existence of any fixed self-element by reflecting on the Five Skandhas, and began a period of loose Anapana Sati with reflection on the Three Laksanas, a kind of quasi-Formless practice I suppose, which continued fruitfully as my exclusive practice for a couple of years. Great Bliss arose, often during everyday life, for months at a time, with poor sleep, contentment even during quite severe practical difficulties, long periods of minimal inner verbal activity, and no negative emotion to speak of beyond brief bouts of impatience or irritation. I began to appreciate more and more the absence of a director or experiencer in the field of awareness, and I guess have arrived at the point where I am seeing more clearly that phenomena arise self-illuminating, wherever they are, and that an 'I' is as such unnecessary, even in a more fluid and temporary sense. I am currently making the transition quite naturally to Formless Practice, as I become less attached to the breath and more intrigued by the nature of the field of awareness, and my relationship to it, so to speak.

I have long appreciated that there are cycles in my practice. A lively and energetic phase of progress leads to a partially absorbed Insight. This knocks back the Ego, which either resists or comes to terms with this insight, often at a non-verbal level, or (this is going back quite a bit in time in my own practice) in terms of a deeper psychological transformation or releasing that as it were 'answers' the insight. There is then a period of returning to one's-self, in which one is atoned and becomes at peace within one's-self, whole again. I wish I had come across the Vipassana jhanas and Nanas earlier in my practice, as I thought that some of the particularly vicious Dark Nights were 'just me' - 'ass-kicking' is a good word, though it suggests more humour than I had at the time! At times in the fairly distant past, I have been a bit of a wreck with all that, though the insights and deep pleasure that arose from jhana-practice, as well as a profound trust in my own mind's nature that these experiences brought, just about kept me going. I suspect I looked simply like a wreck to other practitioners, who had no way of understanding or valuing the process I was going through. I often had periods of pain in meditation which crippled me for a few days at a time - I couldn't see the cause of their arising, and ended up having quite a few convoluted reasonings about them. Some Dark Nights went on for weeks, and one involving repeated visions of the battlefields of World War I, nearly did for me. None of this has happened in the same way since seeing through Fixed Self - no 'experience' is substantial in the same way, and discomforts dissolve and move on relatively quickly without particular intervention (in fact, the less intervention, the better!).

So, to a question: in February on retreat something occurred which seems to have been Nirodha Samapatti, but at the same time also a path-and-fruit moment, as Ayya Khema would call it. What do you think? It occurred before I had come across Daniel Ingram's book.

A question I came on retreat with was about the nature of an experience I had had on a solitary retreat just a few months before. I had had a bit of a cold, and though sitting well enough, I was a little less involved, or had less expectation perhaps, of any particular outcome. I think I moved into seventh dhyana (I hadn't fully figured it out the way to it then) as I disengaged in a certain kind of way. There was then a sense of unexpected deep relaxing into the core of my being, and then it seemed that someone was switching off the power in stages, like bunches of lights at a time down a corridor. It was quite unfamiliar, and I wasn't so much scared as un-nerved and surprised - and believe me, I have a lot of meditative experience, and am not that easily un-nerved! There seemed to be two stages to it; I lost the power to cognise, and then even to perceive or interpret - I came out of it in bit of a flurry, and was soon rather disappointed with myself, because I felt I had fluffed it somehow. It really was like the the lights going out and the whole Grid being turned off! Thereafter I was in one of the Pure Land states, while sitting and walking in the lovely summer country garden - all was perfect and all manner of things were well ...

So I had this question...what was that, and where would it lead if I didn't fluff it? Well, about three days in, after some very good meditation instruction about one's true nature, and after a day when my heart-area had been particularly sore, I seemed to turn about and fall inward. A great Eye appeared watching me, loving and seeing All - I became smaller and smaller, and had a sense of becoming more and more simply my real nature, which was open and infinite. I receded, not from the Eye, but from the trappings of Self upon which we are crucified, I guess. I fell inward and inward. Then I believe somewhat subsequently, the different phases of the power-failure began as before. This time I was determined not to blow it, and completely gave myself to the annihilation and went out, in three clear stages. When I came back, there was a sense of having touched Infinite Life, with the heart completely released and joyful... This latter state was not like the state before Cessation - more like an experience of dhyana early in one's meditation career, in a certain way - very fresh, innocent, hopeful. It did in fact remind me of the major experience of my mid-teens, but that is another story! So, was this a path moment, as well as nirodha samapatti - this is my question (finally!) The description Daniel gives of the power-failure-like entrance to nirodha samapatti is so distinctive (it made me smile, reading it!) that I feel I can say it was unequivocally this.

I am still in the process of assessing the relationship of my practice history to the Path as portrayed in Daniel's book. I have appreciated seeing how (it's a bit late now!) the Dark Night is a necessary and involuntary part of practice, and how the states I have inhabited in practice the last few years are the Vipassana Jhanas, as I don't cultivate hard dhyana now. I can recognise the Arising and Passing Away as it presents ordinarily in practice - for me it is like a sense of easing into a deeper awareness, almost like going underwater and and falling naturally to the ocean floor, with two releasings on the outbreath. Dissolution and the subsequent stages also clear. I do though experience various releasings and freeing of energy during these stages quite often, rather than fear and so on. It is quite integrating, and is as though various kinks and ripples are being shaken out of one's subtle body. However a recent experience of a Dark Night over a couple of days reminded me how disconcerting this phase can be when its consequences ripple through your everyday personality. Equanimity also clear - I can confirm the sense of the 'tri-ality' mentioned on p.237 of Daniel's book, as one deepens equanimity. However fruition seems in my experience more akin to a momentary experience of (one of) the three samadhis (wishlessness, sunyata, signlessness). One comes to a point of seeing and letting go into stillness and timelessness which seems clearly a completion of a cycle or at least of a process - it is for me a swimming free into Enlightenment briefly, aware and peaceful, through a dharma-door, but not what I would describe as a discontinuity, like the 'experience' I described above. Even though the ego is not there, the true self seems to be there, perhaps as it were holding its breath - but no obvious experience of complete non-awareness. I do not know if my substantial experience of jhana makes a difference here... Along with any comments, I am interested to hear more about the nature of this repeat Fruition thing as directly experienced, and also about the distinction in experience between the initial fruition of a path, and repeat fruitions.

Very best wishes to all reading! My name is Vajracchedika, though the signing-up procedure required more than one name ( so I added my 'street'-name too)
Daniel M Ingram, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/10 11:06 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/10 11:06 PM

RE: Introduction to me, with thanks to Daniel; and, finally, a questio

Posts: 3268 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Wonderful descriptions, work, insights, and all the rest. Wonderful.

All sounds like high-level work, I would guess and as you obviously have surmised for yourself, high-end angami? arahat of some degree? These can be hard questions to sort out with complete precision, and don't mater so much, as, as you know all too well, the thing does itself and leads onward, but at whatever level, sounds like you are having fun and seeing lots of things clearly, and that's what counts.

Most interesting thing to me these days: subtle distinctions of when there is a subtle attention wave, like a slight phase problem, and when there is just perfect sensate directness, which, if you have see things like the triality, should make sense to you.

Anyway, glad you are here, and I hope you will lend whatever wisdom you have to helping others do the same, if you wish.

J Adam G, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/10 2:37 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/15/10 2:37 AM

RE: Introduction to me, with thanks to Daniel; and, finally, a questio

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Welcome to the DhO! Certainly, everyone here will benefit from having someone with so much experience as you, and hopefully you will get much out of it too.
Vajracchedika Ian Vajra, modified 13 Years ago at 4/21/10 3:32 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 4/17/10 3:10 AM

RE: Introduction to me, with thanks to Daniel; and, finally, a questio

Posts: 22 Join Date: 4/13/10 Recent Posts
Thanks very much for your response, Daniel! I must say I have been rather consternated by it, as I really hadn't been thinking in terms of being an anagami ... I had automatically presumed that Nirodha Samapatti had arisen rather earlier than it normally does in my case, in the way that you had suggested it might in your appendix to MCTB... I have also been parsing what I wrote to see if there are any factual errors in it, which may give the wrong impression - and I do want to add some qualifications, so that we are meeting in this way on the basis of the truth, rather than some semi-conscious trip of mine...

The tradition I have practised within has substantial problems in that it is pervaded with both the Perfect Emotion and Perfect Psychology models that you mention in the chapter on Models of MCTB - I'm sure it is improving now as people begin to reflect on their actual experience of spiritual life; but the image of the super-capable Bodhisattva, who doesn't sit very much because all his time needs to be devoted to altruistic activity which is somehow automatically wisdom-enhancing, has cast quite a long shadow across my spiritual life. So when I say, 'no negative emotion to speak of beyond brief bouts of impatience or irritation', I mean to speak in an ordinary and everyday sense, and not in the terribly profound way that someone in my Order might if they said the same thing. I work as a Chemotherapy Nurse, in an intense sometimes rather fraught team of mostly women, and care for a partner who sometimes has quite severe mental health problems - so I have a lot of interaction with others in pretty difficult circumstances, and can trust that this assessment, as far as it goes, is robust. I definitely have tendencies which I still don't understand; love technology, sci-fi, and classical music more than makes sense to me (though an early A&P experience has something to do with that, I'm sure!); can carry irritations around for a day or two in an fairly inward sort of way if I'm too busy to give them due attention; and frequently mismanage situations to some degree. But most of the time I would say that I don't experience emotions as such (they strike me as in fact rather odd split-off phenomena), but am more a flow of energy which focusses and takes this channel and then that, with frequent returns to the field of awareness at large - perhaps, to be rather simplistic, I feel more like a camera that looks closely and then panoramically, driven by a battery which is the wish to see what is there just a bit more clearly... There is usually a pleasant feeling-tone around, and this often spills over into a positive response to this or that, with occasional strong positive events I would really call Emotions with a big E. Given the ragged state in which I spent my first nearly-forty years of this life, it is in fact something of a miracle to be even so ordinarily positive.

Another qualification, to do with the last paragraph. In describing what might be Fruition in my experience, I am here to some extent guessing at what is meant by the term in your book; I relate experiences which are occasional, variable perhaps in kind, of their nature not at all easy to describe (though I do my poetic damnedest!), and which I think might be equivalent.

Since writing this post however, and sitting some more, I think I understand more clearly what Fruition is. I could see the progress over a sit to a kind of a peak, but it was not any sort of Insight, more a sudden coming-together to a still energetic moment of silence, a kind of stopping but not such a profound one - more of the nature of one's consciousness as a functioning organism, and where it naturally tends given half a chance... Coming as it did out of Equanimity, there wasn't much going on at the Insight level at that point. The experiences I alluded to in my first report are more occasional, and would be at the more vivid end of a spectrum. If this is so, perhaps I have also answered my question about the different natures of initial and repeat fruitions...

I am very much enjoying browsing on this site, and reading about so many different experiences and approaches. Anagami or not, I had a heartfelt response to something of Daniel's:

'if you are an anagami: either you saw things are empty, luminous, not you, not self, not other, natural, panoramic, clear, centerless, or you did not. That's the only game in town, really, and that's the challenge to the practicing anagami. Uncovering every single subtle and more subtle and more subtle and closer and more intimate and more you and more near and more vulnerable and more hidden layer of stuff that seems to be pretending to be subject and seeing it how it is: that's the job of the practicing anagami. It can be a long, complex, strange road with many plateaus and valleys along the way. Settling into and syncing with this moment, or better yet realizing it is already synced, regardless of how it presents or any of our ideals for it: that is the work of the practicing anagami.'

The last few days have been quite ordinary, busy at work, thinking about all this, encouraging some colleagues at work to open up, wondering why I seem to identify a cluster of rather changeable sensations around my heart-area as the centre of my awareness ...

Very best wishes
Howard Maxwell Clegg, modified 13 Years ago at 5/1/10 7:42 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/1/10 7:42 AM

RE: Introduction to me, with thanks to Daniel; and, finally, a questio

Posts: 22 Join Date: 4/28/10 Recent Posts
Dear Vajracchedika

Thank you for your post. I didn't understand much of it, but it did make me cry a little, and that felt good.

So thank you