If this site provides value to you and your practice, please consider donating a small amount to help with the hosting fees.
Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me

TOPIC: Development of metta on the path

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 14:07 #107306

Hi, all! I'm Flum, and a few of you might know me from r/streamentry. By way of background I began practicing with The Mind Illuminated in early 2016, tumbled through the Progress of Insight starting in TMI's Stage Four, and now I'm all up in this rabbit hole. Nice to burrow with you!

I've just been getting to know Andy and he suggested bringing up this topic here. The overarching question is: what has your relationship to metta/compassion been on the journey?

This is something that comes up from time to time on SE with very different perspectives. I am generalizing here, but the wet insight group usually promotes metta practice; some feel it's integral to making progress, while others say it's just for smoothing out the bumps in the road (dark night, etc.). The dry insight group seems to lean toward metta and compassion being inevitable results of insight into emptiness, so it's not necessary to develop them explicitly. But there's another catch: there have been stories from dry noting practitioners who clearly had reached 1st or 2nd technical path and felt metta was still quite undeveloped, that it hadn't grown in tandem with insight. At least one of them has been profoundly successful of late with off-cushion practice, constantly working with the Eightfold Path and using metta and compassion to cope with challenging life circumstances. From where I'm sitting, I can't imagine someone being so successful without having those prior insights into emptiness, but at the same time it took these life circumstances for metta and compassion to blossom. In my own practice, I've used metta as a way to smooth out the path and to grease the wheels of insight, but insight itself has unleashed stronger and deeper wells of metta and compassion than I was familiar with before, on cushion and off.

So, clearly there are tons of possible approaches and experiences here. I'd be very curious to know how things have unfolded for you in this department, with your different practices and teachers and paths, if you find this an interesting topic as well.

Thanks for reading!
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Andy, Shaun Elstob, Johnny W

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 16:43 #107307

Hello, Flum. Welcome to Awakenetwork.

Can you please help me understand what you're asking for by explaining what you mean by the word "emptiness?" In particular it would be nice to know how you believe emptiness relates to metta. I'm inquiring because of these two comments in your post:

The dry insight group seems to lean toward metta and compassion being inevitable results of insight into emptiness, so it's not necessary to develop them explicitly.
From where I'm sitting, I can't imagine someone being so successful without having those prior insights into emptiness, but at the same time it took these life circumstances for metta and compassion to blossom.

As for my practice, I found metta, at first, to be a form of concentration practice. After 1st path it seemed to lead to the jhanas, almost automaticaly. During the latter part of 3rd path metta became a way of life as during that time there was a huge opening of the heart and a prominent appreciatoin for what I'd call "authenticity," which I felt was very much related. Still do. In that way metta came along naturally, as part of the entire practice/path experience. At first it was something I had to deliberately try to "do" and then all of a sudden it wasn't that way any more. It would just happen. Compassion and wisdom seem very much to be oposite sides of the same coin. That may be what you're saying when you talk about emptiness and metta, but I'd like to hear it from you.

Thanks
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2017 16:43 by Chris Marti.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shaun Elstob, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 17:08 #107308

Hey Flum!

This is going to be a drive-by kind of post, but I just wanted to say that this lecture series really broadened my appreciation for some of the key terms used in early buddhism, including metta, karuna, upekkha and mudita:

www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2602/

Will post more later....
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shaun Elstob, Kalle Ylitalo, Johnny W, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 17:51 #107309

Chris, thanks for the welcome and reply! In those sentences I was primarily thinking of the insight into emptiness that is (at least potentially) a result of cessation. I've seen people say that completing a technical path essentially will result in increased metta and compassion -- so that's maybe one really specific way of looking at compassion and wisdom as being two sides of the same coin. My experience, while I'm earlier on the path, has been similar to yours. For me and at least a couple of friends, after first path (and further), on-cushion metta practice became more compelling, supercharged. But once in a while someone mentions that it's not working that way for them, or it's been a very minor difference for them, and that makes me wonder what the personal or practice variations are that lead to that. It's quite possible that in some of the cases I'm thinking of, it's just that on-cushion metta practice never became powerful or compelling, while off-cushion practice was speeding right along with wisdom. But even that difference is interesting.


shargrol, I do enjoy a good John Peacock talk. Thanks for the drive-by. I shall listen!
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2017 18:29 by Flumflumeroo.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shaun Elstob

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 19:12 #107311

I notice you're using the word 'successful' a lot - what does it mean though? Different people need different things on the path, and these will come into existence through the path's own momentum, so it's hard to generalise.

I was pretty scornful of metta as a bit of a hippie practice when I started out with dry insight, and then later came to appreciate it. I don't think it necessarily goes hand in hand with insight in any automatic way, though. And I'm not sure that the experience of cessation gives an insight to emptiness per se - to me, though I think Chris will disagree, there's no insight-difference between cessation and dreamless sleep, i.e. there's an interval of time where consciousness isn't present. No biggie.

The important thing is, I think, not to see metta or compassion in an instrumental way, as something that may or may not get me somewhere, but to encounter it completely on its own terms - i.e. it's a beautiful thing for me to feel and develop loving-kindness for beings, and that is the end-in-itself of the practice. A side-benefit is likely to be a nicer experience for me, or other nice experiences in my spiritual development, but that's not the point. Of course, we also need to be honest with ourselves about our own desires for 'success' on the path.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shaun Elstob, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 19:38 #107312

Like Chris, I too found metta practice to induce concentration early on, but I also found mantra practice did that too, whether aloud or silent. At that time, I didn't stick with metta long enough to start seeing results off-cushion.

Flumflumaroo wrote:
In those sentences I was primarily thinking of the insight into emptiness that is (at least potentially) a result of cessation. I've seen people say that completing a technical path essentially will result in increased metta and compassion -- so that's maybe one really specific way of looking at compassion and wisdom as being two sides of the same coin.

Maybe gaining compassion from a path cessation results from practicing a certain way, and maybe TMI is more suited to that. I did not have ready access to jhanas until after stream entry, so my path was dry in that sense--I didn't use jhana to smooth things out, nor did I do metta practice more than just becoming familiar with it.

My experience was that, for me at least, compassion did not automagically come from stream entry. In retrospect, I now see that I in fact had a real lack of compassion sometimes. I'd find myself thinking, "Well, why can't you see that those are just feelings and that they come and go?" It was also borne out by comments that I had made during that timeframe. It was a bit later that I started to see (and feel horrified by my behavior), and later still that I stopped reacting that way. Clearly compassion had not grown on its own as a result of path.

... completing a technical path ...

I'm curious about your use of the word "technical" when describing paths. I've heard that used when describing fourth path, mostly as a way to refer to some post-3rd path insight that apparently completed the Path of Insight, but one that wasn't judged strictly by Daniel Ingram's definition. I'm not sure I've ever understood what exactly entailed technical fourth path.

However, I've never heard that term used when talking about 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Can you say more about that?
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2017 19:45 by Andy.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shaun Elstob, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 19:44 #107313

shargrol wrote:
Hey Flum!

This is going to be a drive-by kind of post, but I just wanted to say that this lecture series really broadened my appreciation for some of the key terms used in early buddhism, including metta, karuna, upekkha and mudita:

www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2602/

Will post more later....

Someone on DHO came up with this Google Docs outline and notes of those recordings:
docs.google.com/document/d/1oIy1Cu7cN8co...A14/edit?usp=sharing

I no longer have the link to the original document, and so I don't know who to credit for this amazing piece of work.
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2017 19:49 by Andy.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 20 Jul 2017 20:39 #107314

Andy wrote:
I'm curious about your use of the word "technical" when describing paths.

Ah, I may not be using it properly; I don't pay as much attention to path language as many. I mean to generally differentiate between paths attained and defined by cessation / perceptual shifts, and path attainment defined by the dropping of fetters, which may or may not correspond depending on who you ask. The people I've been hanging out with lately usually mean the former unless they specify the latter, so I wanted to use a qualifier; I don't know how much hubbub this kind of thing might cause around here. :silly:
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2017 20:45 by Flumflumeroo.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 00:38 #107316

Hi Flum! :) A good topic for conversation.

I started meditation with some somatic practices. After that I did noting practice as my main practice for a couple of years and after what I would describe as stream entry, switched completely to practices that stem from Tibetan meditation traditions. During intense noting practice, I would do somatic and metta practices, which seemed to make it a bit easier to handle the intense energy of the practice. After switching practices tonglen seemed to be a very helpful practice in many ways, especially during difficult times, but also as a perspective into emptiness and boundlessness.

I would say that during the intense periods of noting practice, my whole experience would be rather imbalanced from time to time. Lots of painful experiences and grief, and on the other hand lots of wonderful, blissful feelings of connection. I think there was a feeling of being special and doing this special thing that everyone should be doing. I fear I was more arrogant than compassionate sometimes. :)

I would say that everythings a bit more integrated now. I still do tonglen practice almost daily, but compassion seems to be integrated in the flow of life and decision making. When trying to figure out the best possible way to handle a situation, I find myself often making suggestions that would benefit the largest possible group of beings as far as I can tell. On the other hand, I seem to have a better sense of my own resources as well, so I don't harm myself trying to make other people happy (which I think I did pre-meditation).

There have been some surprising turns on this path. I remember telling my friend: "I don't feel like meditation is making me a more balanced person. Maybe more temperamental." and my friend (very wisely) pointed out to me that: "Maybe that's what balanced means in your case." :D I really don't know what to expect anymore, so I'm just enjoying the ride. :)

Sometimes it's hard to know what the most helpful/skillfull way to act is. I find myself very aware of how vast the experience of every being is and how little I can know of it. This leads to a more respectful attitude and conduct, because it's very hard to know what other people are going through and what's the best way to be of service. It seems that trusting the spontaneity and openness of experience that is developing in these practices can lead to making surprising decisions that turn out to be very helpful or at least not harmful. When it's possible to see ones own "stuff" as just empty ideas without reactivity and get a sense of a boundless, interconnected field of experience that you share with others, it seems like a natural thing to take others into consideration. From that perspective there's no difference between the benefit of others and yourself.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Andy, Shaun Elstob, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 01:16 #107317

Hi Flum,

Great to see you here! I think you will benefit immensely from the veteran view points on this site. Here are my thoughts on OP.

Metta, karuna & mudita each exist on a spectrum from standard/conventional human emotion to boundless, special state of consciousness. An instance of any of the 3, on any part of the spectrum, can be either naturally occurring, or purposely induced. My 'relationship' to them has included moving towards this understanding & away from one in which I see them as meditation techniques.

I am part of the dry insight group. The completion of what I was told were 4 'technical' paths produced a plate or foundation or ground upon which I have been able to develop the paramis. I'm using the term 'parami' loosely to include mudita & karuna, as well as other components of positive psychology. Of the list of 10, only 3 emerged for me as a result of Mahasi noting: insight (panna), endurance (khanti) & upekkha (equanimity). At 'technical' 4th path, the bipolar symptom of flooding agitation disappeared for me, leaving me mental space that I did not know how to use at the time. It was not until I received many hours of instruction in another tradition (Thai Forest- Buddhadasa lineage) that Iearned how to consciously develop the other positive psychology aspects, including metta.

I would theorize that, in general, the more conventionally happy & healthy one is via genetics, lifestyle choices & upbringing, the more the paramis naturally emerge as a result of the completion of 'technical' paths. In contrast, the less predisposed one is, the more they will need to manually develop these skills. Then there are exceptions in which someone explodes in growth after a deep insight experience, having come from a relatively unhealthy place. I believe both of us know examples of each of these 3.

From a summarial/operationalized point of view, my takeaway is this: regularly remember & appreciate naturally arising fruits of insight; prepare & implement contingencies to supplement one's organic growth; always balance with a high dosage of self-acceptance & surrender.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shaun Elstob, Kalle Ylitalo, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 08:08 #107324

And I'm not sure that the experience of cessation gives an insight to emptiness per se - to me, though I think Chris will disagree, there's no insight-difference between cessation and dreamless sleep, i.e. there's an interval of time where consciousness isn't present.

I think I generally and sort of agree with you, and that's whay I would like for Flum to define what she means when she uses the term "emptiness." She has not yet done so.

Flum?
Last Edit: 21 Jul 2017 08:11 by Chris Marti.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: every3rdthought

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 09:30 #107325

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions so thoroughly, everyone. You really know how to jam-pack a reply full of good stuff. :cheer:


Re: emptiness and the insight difference between cessation and dreamless sleep, I find Culadasa's explanations of these the most useful at this point. I don't believe I can describe them as well as he does and it is probably silly for me to try, but here's the best I can do right now. In his model, cessation is the ultimate insight, and quite different from what would happen in deep sleep, a coma, or under anesthesia, because while unconscious sub-minds are still alert and receptive to the contents of consciousness, none of them are projecting any content into consciousness -- producing what we later interpret as a cessation. The mind recognizes that "all phenomenal experience, including the self, are merely mental constructs, and therefore empty of any real substance."
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 10:36 #107329

The mind recognizes that "all phenomenal experience, including the self, are merely mental constructs, and therefore empty of any real substance."

Okay, thanks. In my personal experience cessation did not lead to the immediate recognition of the emptiness of all objects. That came from a long series of realizations, some brought on by experiencing cessation, some not. I don't think cessations are the beall/end all of practice. I suspect that version of the path is a Theravada buddhist belief not necessarily borne out by facts and certainly not borne out by the experiences of people in other buddhist linneages - and I was "raised" in the Theravada linneage! No other buddhist linneage puts much, if any, emphasis on cessation.

Anyway, thanks for providing a definiton.

My personal experience tells me that knowing how our experience is constructed (how objects are "created" by mind - emptiness/dependent origination) is the key to knowing what we are and how we operate. As this slowly soaks over a period of time we come to realize this is the foundation of literaly EVERYTHING, including the self, and that becomes the master key to awakening.
Last Edit: 21 Jul 2017 10:37 by Chris Marti.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: every3rdthought, Shaun Elstob, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 10:55 #107332

Oh, just an FYI:

I've had many cessations and have been under full anaesthesia a few times. I'd be hard pressed to be able to distinguish between the two from an experiential POV. In both cases the mind/brain is totally shut down, like flipping its on/off switch. I think the difference is that cessatiohn is self-induced and causes us to first freak out (like I did) and then to question what the f*ck we've just done to ourselves. It helps to have access to someone who's had the experience at that point and that's when cessation can lead to insight. I'd call that the introduction of knowledge and context. I suspect anaesthesia doesn't lead to insight very often as there is no context - we expect to be lights out as a result of it.

Just some meandering thoughts....

:)
Last Edit: 21 Jul 2017 16:39 by Chris Marti.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: every3rdthought, Flumflumeroo

Development of metta on the path 21 Jul 2017 13:13 #107335

Chris Marti wrote:
During the latter part of 3rd path metta became a way of life as during that time there was a huge opening of the heart and a prominent appreciatoin for what I'd call "authenticity," which I felt was very much related. Still do. In that way metta came along naturally, as part of the entire practice/path experience. At first it was something I had to deliberately try to "do" and then all of a sudden it wasn't that way any more. It would just happen.

Yes! Yes! There's something important and deep and nourishing about that genuineness, whether it's as complex as really connecting with someone during a conversation, or as simple as opening to the experience of a cup of tea in the morning.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Flumflumeroo
Time to create page: 0.181 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum