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TOPIC: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model

Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 05 Nov 2012 08:43 #7669

More properly the name is the "20 Major Strata of Mind" by which Kenneth Folk intends that there are minor strata not accounted for by the model, which is based on the 31 realms of existence in traditional Theraveda Buddhism.

This is a topic which was proposed by Jackson Wilshire in "Coaching Post-Stream Entry" I believe - and I think it is an important one.

I think this model has a number of strengths - the main one being that it elegantly demonstrates the relationship between samatha and vipassana practices, thereby demonstrating a unity between insight and concentration (2 of the 5 spiritual faculties, or 2 of the seven factors of enlightenment). One gets the sense that we are like the three blind scientists describing an elephant and that vipassana and samatha are simply two different viewpoints of the same thing.

For a person who was mostly DIY, emphasis on concentration style practices, it was indispensable for diagnosis.

I'm interested in other people's viewpoints in how it lacks though I will mention that there is less of an emphasis on the kinds of existential insights that characterize realization than I might like, and it also suggests a rather mechanical mode of practice. I have other criticisms as well, but so far, this is the best model I've seen...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 05 Nov 2012 19:03 #7671

I don't have any answers, but I want to confess that I have a question that I hope will be answered by the time this thread is finished: is it really necessary to know and penetrate all 20 strata before one can hope to fundamentally awaken AKA 4th path?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 05 Nov 2012 19:37 #7672

I'd offer an answer but I have no idea what the 20 strata are. Which answers Shargrol's question. :)

I have not noticed that there is one particular method which works best, mostly because the particular approach each person will find accessible depends so much on their personality. Some people are very detail oriented and geeky, others devotional or creative, some like ritual, some are into the supernatural, others very secular, etc. The key is to help a student find an approach that is motivating to them yet also nudges them into investigating things. Most systems are decent at the latter. It's the former that's the bigger variable, particularly in the earlier stages.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 06:34 #7673

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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 06:46 #7674

As Kenneth has explained it to me, it is not necessary to access all 20 strata of mind in order to progress through the Theravada 4th path. The models we all know from being associated with Kenneth Folk have evolved over time to match Kenneth's own practice, so while they're based on simpler, older Theravada models they gained what I'd call a sort of Byzantine complexity over time. My experience has been that there really are 20 strata than can indeed be experienced by some practitioners but that all those those aren't the real story. They're like mile markers on the highway; no one sets out to drive to mile marker 275 but they do set out to drive to Grandma's house. It's likely that a lot of folks will be with Grandma and pay no attention to the mile markers along the way, and may not even know they exist. Being with Grandma is what matters.
Last Edit: 06 Nov 2012 06:47 by Chris Marti.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 08:31 #7675

This model is the one that convinced me that our mind wasn't conforming to the maps rather the way water conforms to the shape of a cup. Kenneth challenged me and said, ok do jhana work, and tell me what happens, and I described the entire model to him without knowing it (the model) over a period of a week or two - incuding a few territories he knew about but aren't explicitly stated in the model (minor strata of mind if you will - for instance a small unstable jhana between Neither Perception nor yet Nonperception [J8] and PL1). Before that I wasn't convinced any of this had any objective reality - though I definitely believed in the 'stable changes to the structure of my consciousness.'

I think that the main utility of this model lies in 1-11 which include the first 4 jhanas and the nanas up to equanamity - all you really need to get enlightened. I've adapted this map to the method I used - which was to go as deep in trance as rapidly as possible and then switch to mindfullness. My experience is that with samatha type exercises, one can go deep quickly, but with Vipassana, it's taking the scenic route every time...

So now for instance, I'm coaching yet another magician who has not yet reached stream entry. He's a good magician, so I know he's done the A&P. So I told him to jhana work and tell me how far he got. He did, and was able to stabilize 3rd jhana (and reported "energy experiences" and then "vibratory" stuff along the way, just as we would expect - note that he is not familiar with this model). It seemed like he was having trouble going farther in samatha after about a week. At this point, I told him, "Ok, get to 3rd jhana as quickly as possible, then switch back to body awareness and do noting without losing concentration." This put him directly into Dissolution, and over the next couple of days, he's gotten through Fear, to Misery. The idea is that one can tunnel through to these jhanas and then by switching to Vipassana, one vaults into either the dukka nanas (in his case) or if one is able to achieve 4th jhana - directly into equanamity. This has the effect of shortening the overall time on the cushion thus increasing the bang for buck ratio - because what we are really interested in is the effects of the practice, rather than the experience of doing the practice.

The other part of the theory I'm operating on with Brian is that the reason he was having trouble getting to 4th jhana was that he hadn't experienced the existential insights of the dukka nanas - or perhaps these are like energy barriers in his mind that have to be opened up through the experience of these states. My theory is that once he traverses through this territory with Vipassana, it will be much easier for him to access 4th jhana.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 11:35 #7676

Having read the link, I see what you all mean by strata.

One weakness is in focusing on them, I think, is the danger of overemphasizing these strata as something to be achieved by the effort of the yogi, rather than something to be observed and investigated when they arise by themselves. The former lends itself to a trap of "achievement/attainment/I'm in charge here" view. This is not terribly bad for beginners, since they are ego-driven and need to feel motivated and successful.

It becomes rather nasty in later stage yogis, where it puts too much emphasis on "me, me, me" and undermines a healthy recognition and view of awakening. I think this sometimes leads to arrogance, lack of compassion, problems with surrender, support for persistence of attachment/aversion patterns after awakening and other problems.

All of these mental states/experiences will arise naturally as a person sits in meditation. As long as this is emphasized (especially post stream entry), a good view can be developed and a good relationship to the exploration of the mental states can be had.

(ETA: obviously this problem can crop up in various approaches. The ego can co-opt just about any practice or teaching...)
Last Edit: 06 Nov 2012 11:58 by Pia.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 14:15 #7677

Another used of the model is diagnosis of complicated individuals - that is, supposedly only people at a certain level of development can achieve some of the states - so it "rules in" certain levels of attainment. For instance, supposedly only anagamis and arhats can access the PL states (but there are probably arhats who are also unable to do so).
Ona Kiser wrote:
. I think this sometimes leads to arrogance, lack of compassion, problems with surrender, support for persistence of attachment/aversion patterns after awakening and other problems.

This is definitely the case for me!
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 15:49 #7678

"All of these mental states/experiences will arise naturally as a person sits in meditation." -- Ona

I think this is only generally true. There are people who do not have access to some of the 20 strata even though they are very advanced in terms of the Theravada 4 path model. I also think that when we create and use intricate models like Kenneth's we are in danger of ruling out exceptions that always exist, especially within something as complex as the workings of the mind among thousand and thousands of practitioners. For example, I have a student who can report very advanced realizations in detail, obviously from personal experience, yet cannot describe any of the mind strata in this way. Is he not realized? I fear that if this model is the only test we are in danger of missing a lot of things.

JMHO
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 15:55 #7679

David wrote:
Another used of the model is diagnosis of complicated individuals - that is, supposedly only people at a certain level of development can achieve some of the states ...

True!
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 16:02 #7680

Chris Marti wrote:
"All of these mental states/experiences will arise naturally as a person sits in meditation." -- Ona

I think this is only generally true. There are people who do not have access to some of the 20 strata even though they are very advanced in terms of the Theravada 4 path model. I also think that when we create and use intricate models like Kenneth's we are in danger of ruling out exceptions that always exist, especially within something as complex as the workings of the mind among thousand and thousands of practitioners. For example, I have a student who can report very advanced realizations in detail, obviously from personal experience, yet cannot describe any of the mind strata in this way. Is he not realized? I fear that if this model is the only test we are in danger of missing a lot of things.

JMHO

I guess I'm saying that as someone who did a grand total of about 3 weeks of jhana practice (and that was after awakening, at the instigation of a friend who thought I should gain some understanding of what was involved; I lost interest after a few weeks, having a preference for spirit work), so I've had very little engagement with the definitions of experience the strata of mind describe. BUT, in conversations with people who know these states (such as Kenneth) it seems evident that I've experienced a good number of them as incidental or passing things. Like the spontaneous (and rather unusual) long lasting stable bliss state I had during meditation today. To me, doesn't matter what it's called. Such things happen. But if I ran it by an expert in those strata, it's probably a pureland jhana or something.

But I agree, it doesn't make sense to shoehorn all practitioners into one system.

I find that the questions and obsessions of a practitioner can give away their "level" pretty well, as they point to which attachments or aversions are predominating and need to be worked on, too. But this can require some poking around if a person is not very self-aware or can't express themselves very well.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 16:40 #7681

David wrote:
...
Ona Kiser wrote:
. I think this sometimes leads to arrogance, lack of compassion, problems with surrender, support for persistence of attachment/aversion patterns after awakening and other problems.

This is definitely the case for me!

David, curious what your strategy/ies have been for dealing with that stuff?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 18:07 #7682

Ona Kiser wrote:
David wrote:
...
Ona Kiser wrote:
. I think this sometimes leads to arrogance, lack of compassion, problems with surrender, support for persistence of attachment/aversion patterns after awakening and other problems.

This is definitely the case for me!

David, curious what your strategy/ies have been for dealing with that stuff?

Honestly, I was joking a bit :silly: - I don't think these are huge problems for me, but certainly have come up to some degree or another - generally speaking compassion is less of a problem than the others but sometimes comes up for me professionally when people are actively blocking or resisting my attempts to help them or using me in one way or another - the trial identification stuff can help with that when it arises...

The other stuff I look at as getting "sucked in" (the most prominent problem might be the patterns of aversion/attachment) - so an attempt to be mindful on some sort of constant basis helps a great deal, and recently I figured out that a regular meditation practice helps quite a bit.

What do you do?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 06 Nov 2012 18:28 #7683

:D

I was thinking in terms of mentoring others, too - when such problems come up, what are strategies you use for helping point them in a better direction.

I had a fairly fraught relationship with sitting the first year after I woke up (couldn't stand it). I did a lot of spirit invocations and vision work instead. Not really meditating per se, but it was what needed to work itself out. That gradually transitioned into devotional prayer.

For the last six months or so I've generally done a combo of sitting once a day in silence for 30 minutes, ongoing mindfulness, and a couple hours a day of devotional prayer and ritual (Catholic).

I think the surrender practice that comes from the devotional work has been particularly important for me, probably why it's been so central lately.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 07:45 #7685

This might sound funky but I wish we could lean toward defining realization as a function of how we manage our relationship to the world, not as a function of how many mind strata we can visit. The "bad" part of using these models is that they focus us on achieving a kind of status as opposed to dropping habits and veils and becoming more honest and aware in every moment.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 08:27 #7686

Chris, I think that what you say is important. But I think it's important to take into account the "hook" that helps a person engage with practice. I have students who are obsessed with magickal work, altered states practices, etc. Do these practices really matter? I don't think they do in the big picture. But for a that person, where they are in their practice, that might be what keeps them motivated, gives them a sense of accomplishment, starts to open up their mind and awareness enough that there's room to get around the rigidity and doubt and start introducing some real investigation.

Ideally methods or techniques of any kind are introduced and taught in a larger context of wholesome view. And Lord knows you can tell a person Important Things and it can go right in one ear and out the other, until they reach a place in their own development where it can lodge in the mind and be recognized as relevant. I know that's been true for me a hundred times over.

Alan's take, which I've found true, is that you have to let people run down the wrong road sometimes, until they exhaust themselves and realize that that other way you were pointing to is available and relevant. The whole process, in a sense, is that seeking down the wrong roads, exhausting one after the other until you realize you don't have to run anywhere, just sit down where you are and be with what already is.

Thoughts?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 09:33 #7687

Ona, I think you are addressing a different point than the one I'm making. I'm not talking about what hooks people into a practice and I'm not addressing techniques. I'm simply wishing that when we get to the real meat of how to measure the effects of a practice over time that we use the appropriate yardsticks, and my vote is the most important yardstick is the one that measures how we engage with the world.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 09:48 #7688

I think I agree on that. :)
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 12:02 #7689

Chris Marti wrote:
my vote is the most important yardstick is the one that measures how we engage with the world.

Is there any way to quantify something like that? That's the only downside I see. (I'm not advocating for strata models by saying that.) Does a "fetter removal" type approach make sense to you or are you thinking more along the lines of "living well is it's own reward"?

I tend to be leaning toward some kind of paradoxical taoist freedom/wholeness/in communion/ kind of idea as the endzone, but the yards on the field aren't very clear at all.
Last Edit: 07 Nov 2012 12:03 by shargrol.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 12:56 #7690

There's no way to quantify this that I know of. I think trying to quantify everything is s trap that I'd try to avoid. What I'm referring to is very observable in a qualitative way, though. It's observable by watching how self-aware a person is at any time, how much the engage with the authenticity of what's happening right here and right now, how much they are not driven or filled by their internal dialogue, how much they do not bring that dialogue into life situations and think that's what's going on everywhere. I'm not sure this is the same as "dropping the fetters" model but I have to think about that some more.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 13:34 #7691

Re: quantifying...

I'll be interested in seeing if Daniel's D&D approach to quantifying dimensions of attainment takes off. It's potentially interesting, but also potentially endless. I find his argument convincing though, if humans will sit around and draw microscopic pollen spore shapes... then they'll probably find ways to characterize the different aspects of the "interior" dimension as well.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 07 Nov 2012 21:25 #7693

Chris Marti wrote:
There's no way to quantify this that I know of. I think trying to quantify everything is s trap that I'd try to avoid. What I'm referring to is very observable in a qualitative way, though. It's observable by watching how self-aware a person is at any time, how much the engage with the authenticity of what's happening right here and right now, how much they are not driven or filled by their internal dialogue, how much they do not bring that dialogue into life situations and think that's what's going on everywhere. I'm not sure this is the same as "dropping the fetters" model but I have to think about that some more.

Now I like this, and it's very much the way I assessed my friend George - this is, as you point out, more of a principle than a model and as such it applies more to self assessment and people at higher path attainments. Were we to use this with a beginning meditation student, it would not turn out to be very helpful in telling them how to practice.

As far as the strata - I think they are interesting - while the point is to spend time with Grandma, it can be fun to go on a drive with her too.

You probably remember my endless diatribes about models... At the end of the day, they are still models, but they have some utility at some points in the process. All I'm saying is that it's not bad, as far as models go - it makes predictions and can inform technique, and describes some common features of the inner landscape in a reasonably accurate way that allows yogis to talk about certain common aspects of meditative experience. Ultimately it is a construct though...

All models have to be abandoned at some point, eh?

As a sidenote (to pretend again for a moment that this model is "real") I think I figured out why there is an unstable jhana between J8 and PL-1 - because in Neither Perception Nor Yet Nonperception the only thing left is the Witness, and that is what is deconstructed to get to the PL states...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 08 Nov 2012 09:02 #7697

David, yes, if the 20 mind strata model is used appropriately as a teaching vehicle then I think it's applicable. I have used it myself, compared myself to it and evaluated others by it. I agree that it's most useful in early practice, less useful as one goes deeper. I've developed a bias over time that leans toward results in daily life. I've seen many an advanced practitioner (advanced in the 20 mind strata model, among others) act out in ways that are concerning. I have seen an over-dependence on models and maps that leads to pushing development in one dimension to the exclusion of others, resulting in great attainments that are very narrow.

Awakening appears to me to have so many facets, with almost unlimited possible paths and outcomes, that classifying those, making and tracking maps and models, becomes a fascinating but endless exercise ;-)
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 08 Nov 2012 09:22 #7698

Good point. What do you think works best for promoting results in day to day life?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 08 Nov 2012 09:31 #7699

The way I try to stay present is to pay attention to the body. I've developed a habit that pushes attention to where my ass hits the chair I'm sitting in (if I'm sitting) or the feeling of my feet on the floor (if I'm standing). This has over time been useful to bring me back here/now when experience starts to tighten up around mind generated stories, reactions, emotions and thought loops. The body is like the north star. It unerringly points the way no mater what's happening elsewhere.
Last Edit: 08 Nov 2012 09:32 by Chris Marti.
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