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TOPIC: How rare is Enlightenment?

Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 10:25 #7948

Laurel Carrington wrote:
I can't really conclude anything here, but I wish I could make sense of what the famous medieval and early modern Christian mystics were up to, people like Meister Eckhart, for example. I cheated and read a few of his sermons on my retreat with Leigh Brasington; Leigh says his teacher Ayya Khema thinks Eckhart got the jhanas on his own. I think he got stream entry and beyond as well. But I'm also interested in some of the female mystics like Julian of Norwich, many of whose experiences tended to be highly visual (in contrast to Eckhart).

I have other questions as well but will end now.

Clearly Eckhart was a highly enlightened being! Those Xtian mystics are *really* difficult to decipher, and require a lot of Biblical knowledge (among other writings) to get the references. In many cases it's unclear what the actual practices were either. How is reading his sermons cheating? What other questions do you have?
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 11:00 #7949

I've got a friend, a Southern Baptist minister, who had what might have been an A&P as a child, and 4 or 5 years ago had a deep opening after despairing and surrendering to the situation of having heart problems and told that basically there was nothing he could do to improve. Although he feels a deeply Christian orientation, he was led to a teacher with both Catholic and Kriya yoga authorizations and received a model of practice and continuing development, and has clearly deepened in his realization since then. At 1st his Christian orientation was up in the air, but now he has re-integrated it. (My 1st A&P was totally Christian but once I found an explanation in Zen, I never re-integrated with Christianiy, but I feel some constipation over that.)

Maybe if you already have an internal process going, it's not hard to place it within the tradition you have an affinity with. Bernadette Roberts seems like a standout example (books on Amazon), lots of spontaneous contemplative experiences that set her on a path not in her control. At first she checked out Buddhism and Advaita for some understanding, but eventually came back firmly to her Catholic orientation. She once pointed out to me that in Catholicism the contemplative traditions have never been entirely lost. But she said they've always attracted a distinct minority and have had to fly under the radar of Church doctrine. But she said even a minority of Catholics world wide is still a pretty large number. And she said over the last few decades the Catholic retreat centers are booked over capacity.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 11:08 #7950

Cheating because I was on retreat, and not supposed to be reading. ;) At least I wasn't looking at cnn.com or something similar.

Other questions mainly have to do with how being awake manifests in different people. I'd like to understand better how much of our personal quirks live on after the fact. In my case, I got 2nd path in July, but still have tons of aversion manifesting. It's easier to see through it and set it aside than in the past, but I'm also wondering how, for example, certain traditions (Christianity) might lead to results that promote aversion. Let's take Bernard of Clairvaux, another highly realized being, who nonetheless preached the 2nd Crusade against the Muslims and got into a slug-fest with Peter Abelard. Or we could look at Ignatius of Loyola, who retained some of his military reflexes after his realization. Certain practices, like focusing intensely on the passion of Christ, can lead to a morbid preoccupation with suffering and a feeling of anger and hatred against those perceived to have been Christ's persecutors (read: Jews). Other Christians (Eckhart, St. Francis of Assisi--who had a very respectful conversation with the sultan) have been much more open.

I'm also wondering about what to expect in the future as I proceed down the path. There's a rather annoying writer named Jed McKenna who has clearly gotten the anatta message, but he's a fruitcake and not particularly admirable in a lot of ways (in my opinion, anyway). I guess a part of me is tempted to lean in the direction of the fetter model, mainly because I think it would be a good thing to clean up one's act as well as see into Things as They Really Are. Hope this isn't too much of a jumble.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 11:37 #7951

so you are basically worried that when you wake up you will either still have the personality traits you dislike or you may gain new ones you like even less? :)

you could meditate on the wish to be in control, have a point by point plan for the future, and worry about outcomes from a perspective that will largely simply no longer be relevant after you wake up.

half teasing, but also serious.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 11:59 #7952

Well, I don't think I'm going to go off and preach a crusade against Muslims, at least :P . I do think any such "worries" (or questions, or what-have-you) are residual effects of beginning this practice as a self-improvement trip. I know none of this stuff will be relevant after awakening. I can't help being curious now, though.

I am, however, still thinking about the fetter model and wondering why Daniel rejects it so soundly. I've been reading Bhante G lately, his autobiography, and he claims not to be enlightened (not an arahant, anyway). I would think he of all people would absolutely be awake according to the standards of the discussion here. I thought of opening a thread about Bhante G, but I suppose here is as good a place as any for me to pose this question (i.e., what do we make of highly realized people who say they're not "there" yet?). And I know the question has been discussed ad nauseam on KFD and elsewhere. But what the heck, let's give it another go here (provided anyone's interested, of course).
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 14:50 #7953

Florian, I'm not decrying the variance in all of our answers here, I'm celebrating it. I think it speaks to how complex and diverse this topic area is.

"But looking for enlightenment at the level of individual beings could be just as misguided, I often think." -- Florian.

I hear this sentiment a lot but I see no evidence for it. It's something spiritual types like to say but don't explain. So I'd be all ears if you would take a shot at an explanation, Florian.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 15:27 #7954

"... what do we make of highly realized people who say they're not "there" yet?" -- Laurel

There are quite a few reasons someone like Bhante Guanarata might say that:

1. It's a taboo to claim any level of attainment in many sects, and in many sanghas
2. It's true, they are not awake
3. They believe they are not awake based on the models they adhere to
4. They're just laying low, or something like that

And so on.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 16:13 #7955

Chris Marti wrote:
"But looking for enlightenment at the level of individual beings could be just as misguided, I often think." -- Florian.

I hear this sentiment a lot but I see no evidence for it. It's something spiritual types like to say but don't explain. So I'd be all ears if you would take a shot at an explanation, Florian.

I wasn't trying to be obscure... I think it's useful to distinguish between the experiences, the process, the memories and so on on one hand, and enlightenment on the other. Maybe "enlightenment" isn't a good word in this context, because it includes the memories of a process and the experiences of an individual. There's "emptiness", so for the sake of my "explanation" here, I'll use "emptiness" to mean "enlightenment" but not "being or becoming enlightened".

So "emptiness" is not in short supply, and it certainly is not confined to any one person or group of persons. It's not a thing, but a property emerging from the way perception works. You know how the "I am" is most strongly perceived in the present moment (and that may be why people think the present is special)? Well, turning that around, the "I am" is just a mechanism for perception to indicate "this is happening now, it's not a memory". Emptiness is similar in many ways to this - it's not emptiness that's perceived by human senses, but human senses which mark every perception with emptiness, maybe to distinguish the perceptions from the extrapolations and abstractions that get built from them as we try to make sense of what we perceive, deluding ourselves in the process.

Thus, "emptiness" or "enlightemnent" isn't a property of any individual, but a consequence of how perception occurs or, if you prefer, "consciousness".

This is just some stuff that came to mind right now. Maybe tomorrow I'll think "what a load of nonsense" when I re-read it.

So what's your take on Buddha Nature?

Cheers,
Florian

(edit: clarification)
Last Edit: 19 Nov 2012 16:18 by Florian Weps.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 16:36 #7956

Florian, I thought you were offering up the old "Universal Mind" stuff. My mistake! I have no idea what is meant by the term "Buddha Nature." I know only a very few things:

- there is no being or entity that runs or controls things in my experience

- everything can be seen from an angle that supplies context and meaning, space and time, and yet from another angle that is pristine and void of any context, meaning, space or time

- I am, from a certain perspective, but even there I am nothing but a cloud of process, like the cloud of dirt around the Peanuts character Pigpen

So, maybe we agree with the possible exception that I think all of what is abides in a particular body/mind.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 19 Nov 2012 17:32 #7958

i like what you said, florian. it sounds true at the moment, anyway, and rather straightforward.

laurel, i dont think there is such a thing as 'just curious'. every thought, question, interest points to movement of mind, etc. always interesting stuff to pay attention to.

re: bhante g, what chris said covers the answers i thought of.
Last Edit: 19 Nov 2012 17:41 by Pia. Reason: added more
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 20 Nov 2012 00:02 #7962

There's another possible reason for more traditional types not making claims for enlightenment, I think: if clarity is the unvarying quality of all of your life, if realization is totally integrated-- there's nothing left to point to.

Of the teachers I've had along the way, the two I had, who claimed enlightenment-- seem dubious to me, at this point, based on their behavior. The third smiled kindly at me when I raised the question-- as if he knew that, in time, I'd outgrow it. I didn't even dare ask the fourth, but he said one time that people he knew in the early days of his practice who were claiming to be "done" with practice made him "purple with embarrassment on their account." I'm gathering that the several heavy-hitter teachers with whom he studied, similarly make/made no claims.

It interests me, what appears to be general agreement in the various traditions: that there's not much use in making claims. On the other hand, perceiving one's teacher as accomplished IS regarded as inspiring and therefore useful. But it seems to be a matter of the student's perception, not the teacher's advertisements.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 20 Nov 2012 04:26 #7963

re: kate's post, i wonder if it's quite common for the novelty to wear off, too? and then you lose interest in talking about your experiences?
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 06:43 #8626

This has been a very interesting conversation. I do not have anything to add, that hasn't already been said. Just want to appreciate the humour.

"Awake-dar" = priceless, haha.Ona Kiser wrote:
the affinity thing has definitely happened a couple times at big events- the spotting someone across the room and seeking each other out. hey, that happened with my husband decades ago! :D. but that connecting thing doesnt always seem to be about 'awake-dar'
{edit} According to Charles Berner (Enlightenment Intensives) someone who has a steady enlightenment can recognise the same in another, so such a radar might(??) exist. :)

I agree with the yogi's who shout NOT FAIR! that some get it via favouritism called GRACE... hahaJackson wrote:
Then consider those who seem to accidentally wake up, like, completely. That's the rarest of all, and has yogis across the Cosmos silently shouting, "NO FAIR!"
:cheer:
Last Edit: 25 Jan 2013 06:52 by All One Planet.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 07:14 #8627

AOP - Thread Resurrector Extraordinaire! :D

I was reading recently that St. Theresa (16th century) remarked on how occasionally she would have a student (nun) join her convent who didn't follow the map. The standard map was that you would spend years purifying the body of attachments through monastic-type living, intensive prayer, etc. gradually letting go of attachment to worldly pleasures, overcoming tendency to sin, and being (maybe) *rewarded* for this by the arising of deep contemplative states, leading to the gradual perfection of the soul.

But she said sometimes a person with no experience would show up, but someone who had been living a very virtuous life, and in just a few weeks or months they would already be having spontaneous deep contemplation, without doing all the years of preliminaries.

And worse, sometimes someone who was a real piece of work would show up, and spontaneously start having deep contemplation, without having overcome their attachments and sinful nature and such at all.

She figured in the latter case it must be that sometimes God steps in to rescue someone who's on the verge of hell, realizing that only by throwing them into deep mystical connection to the divine will they be shaken up enough to finally change their ways.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 10:51 #8630

Ona Kiser wrote:
... sometimes someone who was a real piece of work would show up, and spontaneously start having deep contemplation, without having overcome their attachments and sinful nature and such at all.

She figured in the latter case it must be that sometimes God steps in to rescue someone who's on the verge of hell, realizing that only by throwing them into deep mystical connection to the divine will they be shaken up enough to finally change their ways.

Is there a record of how that would turn out?

Also, did St. Teresa have some way of seeomg through people who scripted their experiences?

Really interesting.

Cheers,
Florian
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 10:57 #8631

It was a second hand reference to her, not a primary source, but I'll dig it up and see if I can find more detail. It is intriguing.

It reminded me of the way there have been debates in (online) Theravada-oriented circles about whether measures of "attainment" based on access to certain states/meditative experiences are valid if there is not the accompany mapped pattern of loss of attachment to certain things as described in the ideal/standard.

I wonder if it is quite within the realm of 'normal' for the interior/meditative experiences to not always line up with expected behavioral/attachment/virtue stuff. That is, quite commonly they do, and ideally within a tradition those things develop in parallel, because the system of training is designed to develop those things in tandem.

But in some cases they don't line up exactly as planned, because there is individual variability.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 13:04 #8634

Ona Kiser wrote:
AOP - Thread Resurrector Extraordinaire! :D

I was reading recently that St. Theresa (16th century) remarked on how occasionally she would have a student (nun) join her convent who didn't follow the map.
.....
But she said sometimes a person with no experience would show up, but someone who had been living a very virtuous life, and in just a few weeks or months they would already be having spontaneous deep contemplation, without doing all the years of preliminaries.
....
I don't believe I was looking up "what does the acronym AOP stand for?" :blush:

On the one hand I can relate to the yogi who feels conned that some people do not seem to need to do make efforts to awaken... With a good amount of chuckling... :)
But I am now also recognising how peeved some of the NKT practitioners must have felt when I breezed in seemingly with zero Buddhist background and advanced very quickly - to such an extent I was told I was one of just 10 practitioners out of the 10,000s of NKT practitioners who could be called a 'yogi'. I mention this snippet because it goes toward the theme of the thread, "How rare is Enlightenment?". Of the ten yogis I guess up to 5 might be stream entry? That was a decade ago, so the numbers may have increased although the %s may not have.

The information for gaining stream entry is certainly more prevalent now, so it possible the number is growing - and then their is those hords of people who seem to trip over it! hahahahah

Florian - I'm wondering if you've discussed "...people who scripted their experiences?" somewhere and therefore could give me a link so I have a better idea of what you mean? Thanks

Colin :-)
Last Edit: 25 Jan 2013 13:06 by All One Planet.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 13:46 #8636

Florian Weps wrote:
Ona Kiser wrote:
... sometimes someone who was a real piece of work would show up, and spontaneously start having deep contemplation, without having overcome their attachments and sinful nature and such at all.

She figured in the latter case it must be that sometimes God steps in to rescue someone who's on the verge of hell, realizing that only by throwing them into deep mystical connection to the divine will they be shaken up enough to finally change their ways.

Is there a record of how that would turn out?

Also, did St. Teresa have some way of seeomg through people who scripted their experiences?

Really interesting.

Cheers,
Florian

Here's the quotes. References follow.

Note: "Contemplation" here means a specific deep state which is "given" (not generated by effort, having no sense of agency) and arises (usually) only in advanced contemplatives.

It tends to include qualities of peacefulness and gratitude and tends to leave one feeling refreshed.

In contemplative Christianity the word Contemplation in the broadest sense refers to what we call meditation (like zen sitting), but is more specifically used to refer to the state above. Meditation is used to mean specific visualization exercises or the study of texts. So sort of the opposite of their common American usage.

The quotes: [occasional clarifications in brackets are mine -Ona]

"To whom does God grant contemplation? Contemplation being essentially a free gift, God grants it to whom He wills, when He wills, and in the way He wills. Usually, however, He bestows it only upon souls well prepared for it.

"By exception, God grants it at times in an extraordinary way to souls devoid of virtues, so as to snatch them from the power of the devil.

"St. Teresa affirms this: 'God knows that He can attract certain souls to Himself by means of divine favours: He sees that they are on the way to be lost, but He does not wish it to happen through any fault of His; therefore, though they are in a bad case and are lacking in goodness, He gives them consolations, delights, and tenderness of devotion which begin to excite their desires; He even sometimes raises them to contemplation, although but rarely, and only for a very short time. This is to prove whether such a grace will induce them to prepare themselves to enjoy His favours more often.
....

" 'Others are brought to it [contemplation] later and make such rapid progress in it as would seem to be out of proportion to their virtues.'

"St. Teresa recounts the following: 'I remember one whom God in three days so enriched that were it not for the several years' experience together with her constant and growing improvement, I would think it impossible. Another one I know who in three months reached contemplation; and both of these were still young. I have seen others receive this grace only after a long time...'

....

" 'But ordinarily God selects for contemplation those who have prepared themselves for it by detachment and the practice of the virtues and of mental prayer, especially affective prayer.'
....

"[St. John of the Cross says] if contemplatives are so few, it is because there are few who are completely detached from self and creatures [worldly things]."

Adolphe Tanquerey(1854-1932), The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology. Book III "The Unitive Way", Chapter 2 "Infused Contemplation", Article 1 - page 661 (kindle location 16510)

His footnote indicates the St. Teresa quotes come from The Way of Perfection C. XVI and Concepts of Divine Love C. VI.
Last Edit: 25 Jan 2013 14:57 by Pia. Reason: clarification
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 19:59 #8640

In a massive coincidence, Daniel just posted something really honest and illuminating on this thread:

www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discu...#_19_message_3944266

About how all those really rigid linear models don't necessarily hold up to scrutiny...
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 22:43 #8641

Chris has told me any number of times that he believes the Theravada paths model does not describe the experience of most meditators, including mine. So, I'm not surprised.

Now this by Daniel even deflates the confidence I've been getting around mapping the nanas to my meditation experience. It does seem like the A&P=> Dissolution =>unstable nanas=> equanimity model sheds some light on and gets some confirmation from practice experience. But it seems impossible that some filtering, de-emphasizing, over-emphasizing, ignoring, subtly or grossly scripting etc, wouldn't happen.

On the other hand nanas are just a little chart compared to maps of the paths, attainments, progress, development etc. And I've been thinking that simplicity might make them more verifiable. But maybe not especially important.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 25 Jan 2013 22:53 #8642

I've always liked the simple karma notions that explain some people seemingly having a free ride to enlightment, actually just picking up where they left off after lifetimes of spiritual work before this one.

At the very least it weakens envy, fosters a wider-view appreciation of other's attainments, and encourages the idea that one's efforts now will eventually bear fruit.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 26 Jan 2013 08:13 #8644

All One Planet wrote:
Florian - I'm wondering if you've discussed "...people who scripted their experiences?" somewhere and therefore could give me a link so I have a better idea of what you mean? Thanks
I'm still reading the book, MCTB, but I thought I'd just check with a seach, and there it is.... references to 'scripting', yeah :-)

Another, related, question is: how many people are there who THINK they are enlightened but are NOT? :P
Although this question is hardly worth the time to ponder.

Thanks Ona, for pointing out Danial's post over at DhO.

Funny, but although I've always declared the 'rules' set by religions are meant to be 'guidelines' I still find myself taking the map of internal meditation progress as a solid, step-by-step, description of how it should be. Glad to bust that bubble!

:-)
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 26 Jan 2013 11:15 #8645

Mark Peacock wrote:
Now this by Daniel even deflates the confidence I've been getting around mapping the nanas to my meditation experience. It does seem like the A&P=> Dissolution =>unstable nanas=> equanimity model sheds some light on and gets some confirmation from practice experience. But it seems impossible that some filtering, de-emphasizing, over-emphasizing, ignoring, subtly or grossly scripting etc, wouldn't happen.

This will probably come up in that Dho thread soon if it keeps going, but Daniel is very much still using the A&P -> dark night -> Equanimity lens, as well as stream entry.
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 26 Jan 2013 14:07 #8649

It seems to me from talking to a lot of folks in various traditions that the biggest factor in how you see and describe your practice as it unfolds is what you expect to see; what you are taught, the maps you use, and so on. If you are Zen you are pushed away from "the crazy." If you are Theravada you are pushed toward the four path model. Knowing how malleable the human mind is this does not surprise me at all.

I'm not sure I'd call this "scripting" but I suppose it is in some way. Maybe "patterning" is a better word....
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Re: How rare is Enlightenment? 26 Jan 2013 14:19 #8650

I agree, Chris. The power of expectations and cultural conditioning is immense. I'm wary of any claims that something is inherent in the mind or universal to all human beings. It's way more complex than that. I don't think that invalidates any experiences we have, but it helps to keep them in context.
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