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TOPIC: Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book

Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 06 Jan 2016 10:37 #101989

I suspect that if we were to ask Jon what he would call it he would choose a word more like interrogation than conversation :-)
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 06 Jan 2016 11:38 #101990

Chris Marti wrote:
I suspect that if we were to ask Jon what he would call it he would choose a word more like interrogation than conversation :-)

Maybe, "cross-examination" ?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 06 Jan 2016 12:47 #101991

That works for me.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 06 Jan 2016 20:51 #101995

My recollection was that he was eager to talk about it, as was Daniel. I am into the overview of the stages chapter and I think it's a different map from Daniel's progress of insight map. I also know I never gained the level of concentration he asks for, yet I access jhanas (or did, last time I checked, which was awhile ago). There are different definitions of SE, and there also are different views of what constitutes jhana. Anyway, I am going to read some more and see what I think.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 07:28 #101998

Laurel Carrington wrote:
My recollection was that he was eager to talk about it, as was Daniel. I am into the overview of the stages chapter and I think it's a different map from Daniel's progress of insight map. I also know I never gained the level of concentration he asks for, yet I access jhanas (or did, last time I checked, which was awhile ago). There are different definitions of SE, and there also are different views of what constitutes jhana. Anyway, I am going to read some more and see what I think.

What strikes me about the cross-examination now, in retrospect, was that it was an attempt to line up the MCTB map with Culadasa's/Asanga's, and I don't think such a thing exists. Different roads up the mountain.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 09:14 #102000

I also remember it ultimately focusing around whether there was a dark night on Culadasa's map or experienced by those practioners. It struck me that there was a lot of dark night/desire for deliverance going on, but a bit of denial about it. Of course, if desire for deliverance or other dark night nanas don't appear in C's map (I don't know) then maybe that explains it.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 09:33 #102001

C's map doesn't contain the dark night. It's mentioned in a relatively brief appendix, the main idea of which is that it shouldn't be a huge problem if you've got your concentration together. When I first read this, it made me wonder, because I recall Willoughby Britton saying in an interview that they were finding that people doing concentration practices had the most side effects. For myself, I can't deny that using C's techniques to ratchet up concentration have seemed to make my dark night cycles much easier to manage (although this could also have to do with where I am at overall). It does make me wonder if brute-force, willpower-centered concentration is a problem whereas using C's more relaxed, "incentivize the mind" techniques are the way to go, and if when we say "concentration", we're talking about many things to many people....
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 10:04 #102002

I think the source of the "side effects" is not the same for concentration practice as for dry insight. In the latter case, the dismantling of the solid self in the A and P leads to potentially severe discomfort as the mind is experiencing the pain of being suspended between two realities (there's a better word, I'm sure). Concentration, on the other hand, can give rise to disturbing, unprocessed stuff in one's background that is typically obscured in the subconscious or unconscious mind (to borrow Freud's topology) as people make their way through daily life. Of course, having painful, unprocessed stuff can cause trouble in either case, especially as insight practice is destabilizing even to someone who has faced many demons over the years.

Culadasa maintains that the separation between concentration and insight practice is invalid, that there is always interpenetration because each begets the other. There seems to be convergence between his map and the progress of insight map at the point of Equanimity, in which even dry insight practitioners become deeply concentrated.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 10:10 #102003

Laurel Carrington wrote:
I think the source of the "side effects" is not the same for concentration practice as for dry insight. In the latter case, the dismantling of the solid self in the A and P leads to potentially severe discomfort as the mind is experiencing the pain of being suspended between two realities (there's a better word, I'm sure). Concentration, on the other hand, can give rise to disturbing, unprocessed stuff in one's background that is typically obscured in the subconscious or unconscious mind (to borrow Freud's topology) as people make their way through daily life.

Yes -- this makes a lot of sense! BTW Laurel, I'm like you -- haven't been able to maintain concentration states as described by Culadasa (which comes straight out of Mahamudra "mind that stays", I think), but can still hit jhanas. Having used his techniques for around a month now, I can see a whole lot more possibility in that area...
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 10:43 #102004

Laurel Carrington wrote:
Culadasa maintains that the separation between concentration and insight practice is invalid, that there is always interpenetration because each begets the other. There seems to be convergence between his map and the progress of insight map at the point of Equanimity, in which even dry insight practitioners become deeply concentrated.

I think the convergence at EQ is a key point. Even before TMI, when I was doing jhana-based sitting, my goal was to get to EQ using jhanas as opposed to noting. This seemed easier for me, and I have often wondered whether the DN stuff that I never seemed to get in the dramatic MCTB way was somehow exacerbated by the shooting-aliens-hard-core-noting approach. Once you are in equanimity, with the necessary mental muscle to stay there, what happens in both techniques is probably common. This, speaking as someone who has not got the "what happens" yet.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 12:28 #102005

My understanding of Mahamudra attentional practices is limited, but having worked with it for over a year now, here's how it's worked out for me. First, the term that my teacher and I use is stability of attention, not concentration. Concentration is used to refer more to the brute-force, willpower-centered approach that Jim mentions. We use the term stability to describe a different approach. In the method I use, I make no attempt to hold attention on anything.

The instructions that I use are as follows:
1) I place attention on my experience of choice and just rest.
2) When I notice I've strayed, I return to what's already there and rest.

Typically, I rest attention on the body. What's the body? Whatever surrounds the experience of breathing.

Stability usually takes a little time to develop, but when it does it feels way more organic and natural than effort-based practices. It's based more on intention, and letting your body/mind work out the details of how to stay stable. I like C's analogy of throwing darts. You throw darts at the target, watching the result. As you keep practicing your body figures out how to correct and become more accurate. "You" just need to stay out of the way.

I've also found subtlety and depth in the instructions. Returning to what's already there has taken on a variety of interpretations as I've explored this practice: breath, body, the space that experiences seems to float in, the stillness that experiences seem to arise out of, the shift that happen after inquiring, etc...

Once stability establishes itself, I use intensifying and easing up practices to gently nudge it back if necessary. C refers to working with subtle dullness and that's what intensifying practices address. Easing up addresses subtle restlessness.

Helpful? Questions? Comments?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 13:17 #102006

Tom Otvos wrote:
Even before TMI,
As far as TMI,

I just want to say that TMI is a *spectacular* choice of an acronym.
Last Edit: 07 Jan 2016 13:17 by nadav.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 13:28 #102007

Andy wrote:
My understanding of Mahamudra attentional practices is limited, but having worked with it for over a year now, here's how it's worked out for me. First, the term that my teacher and I use is stability of attention, not concentration. Concentration is used to refer more to the brute-force, willpower-centered approach that Jim mentions. We use the term stability to describe a different approach. In the method I use, I make no attempt to hold attention on anything.

The instructions that I use are as follows:
1) I place attention on my experience of choice and just rest.
2) When I notice I've strayed, I return to what's already there and rest.

Typically, I rest attention on the body. What's the body? Whatever surrounds the experience of breathing.

Stability usually takes a little time to develop, but when it does it feels way more organic and natural than effort-based practices. It's based more on intention, and letting your body/mind work out the details of how to stay stable. I like C's analogy of throwing darts. You throw darts at the target, watching the result. As you keep practicing your body figures out how to correct and become more accurate. "You" just need to stay out of the way.

I've also found subtlety and depth in the instructions. Returning to what's already there has taken on a variety of interpretations as I've explored this practice: breath, body, the space that experiences seems to float in, the stillness that experiences seem to arise out of, the shift that happen after inquiring, etc...

Once stability establishes itself, I use intensifying and easing up practices to gently nudge it back if necessary. C refers to working with subtle dullness and that's what intensifying practices address. Easing up addresses subtle restlessness.

Helpful? Questions? Comments?

The term used in the book is also "stability of attention", or samadhi. I like that. But you say "I make no attempt to hold attention on anything", but then follow with "I place attention on my experience of choice...". So, don't you want to be stably-attentive on a particular thing, your experience of choice? I think we are saying the same thing, except for your "no attempt" comment.
Last Edit: 07 Jan 2016 13:30 by Tom Otvos.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 14:32 #102008

I liked Culadasa's book, The Mind Illuminated. One of the things I liked about it was his description of the jhanas in Appendix D, where he describes the "whole-body (very lite) jhanas", the "pleasure (lite) jhanas" and the "luminous (deep) jhanas". His description of these jhanas seem to fit my own experience.

I also liked Leigh Brasington's book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas. Very accessible, reminded me of Kenneth Folk's teachings about the jhanas.

Michael :)
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 15:32 #102010

Tom Otvos wrote:
The term used in the book is also "stability of attention", or samadhi. I like that. But you say "I make no attempt to hold attention on anything", but then follow with "I place attention on my experience of choice...". So, don't you want to be stably-attentive on a particular thing, your experience of choice? I think we are saying the same thing, except for your "no attempt" comment.

I used to work at concentration by placing and holding my attention on something. Now, once I place attention on an experience, I make no further attempt to hold it there. Once I notice that I've strayed, I then repeat: I place my attention back on the experience and rest. There's no holding on, no monitoring, no second-by-second checking, no fighting with attention. If it falls off, it falls off. Once I notice, I put it back and rest again. Sometimes that noticing is sooner, sometimes later. As the sit goes on, it typically lasts much longer than initially. I do want to be stably-attentive, but the difference is that this way stability grows organically and spontaneously, rather than from effort and willpower. It also tends not to be fatiguing.

Does that make it clearer?
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 16:20 #102011

There's no holding on, no monitoring, no second-by-second checking, no fighting with attention. If it falls off, it falls off. Once I notice, I put it back and rest again. Sometimes that noticing is sooner, sometimes later. As the sit goes on, it typically lasts much longer than initially. I do want to be stably-attentive, but the difference is that this way stability grows organically and spontaneously, rather than from effort and willpower. It also tends not to be fatiguing.

Perfectly described!

JMHO - but "concentration" is a terribly unhelpful word to use in the context of this kind of meditation practice. I think terms like "stability of mind" are far, far more appropriately descriptive.
Last Edit: 07 Jan 2016 16:20 by Chris Marti.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 07 Jan 2016 17:46 #102012

Chris Marti wrote:
JMHO - but "concentration" is a terribly unhelpful word to use in the context of this kind of meditation practice. I think terms like "stability of mind" are far, far more appropriately descriptive.

I agree. The word is nearly synonymous with "effort", at least in western culture.
Last Edit: 07 Jan 2016 18:22 by Jim. Reason: Edit: not sure why this formatted like that.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 08 Jan 2016 04:40 #102016

Hello everyone! First post. Many of you "know" me online from the DhO. Same username, same person. You can find a lot of stuff about my practice there, I hope that this is enough of an introduction.

About the Culadasa "map" and the questions about awakening in TMI, I have the impression that some of you are skipping the footnotes while reading the book. Most of the geeky information is "hidden" there, so I suggest not skipping any footnotes!

In paticular, footnote 11 of the introduction specifically says that Culadasa's 10th stage is equivalent to the Equanimity nana. Since he also says that this is the entry point to (Tibetan) shamatha and roughly equivalent to the last stage of the Kamalashila / Asanga map, you could say that, on the Mahamudra map:

1) Motivational practices.
2) Preliminary practices.
3) Gampopa's first yoga of Mahamudra (of calm / one-pointedness = shamatha).
4) Gampopa's second yoga (non-discriminatory / of unelaboration = guided vipashyana).
5) Gampopa's third yoga (one-taste / one-flavour = pointing out).
6) Gampopa's fourth yoga (nonmeditation).
7) Post-enlightenment practices.

Culadasa is putting his 10th stage somewhere around step 3, the first yoga. I will have to read more of the book before I can say exactly whether that corresponds to before the first yoga of Mahamudra or at the end of it.

This also means that Culadasa is saying Stream Entry ~ First Yoga.
Last Edit: 08 Jan 2016 06:36 by neko.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 08 Jan 2016 07:59 #102021

neko wrote:
About the Culadasa "map" and the questions about awakening in TMI, I have the impression that some of you are skipping the footnotes while reading the book. Most of the geeky information is "hidden" there, so I suggest not skipping any footnotes!

I am glad you bring this up, because that is one of my beefs about the book. I am reading it electronically, and it is a royal PITA to keep flipping back and forth between the notes. It is one thing when a note gives some reference in the Pali canon, but quite another when the note is a paragraph or more of parenthetical remarks. If you need to say so much parenthetically, add it to the body because it is clearly of some importance. One of the reasons I am re-reading up to where I am currently in my practice is to see what I have missed, including those notes.

I cannot comment on the yoga part, but I will have a keen eye out for precisely where this process lands on the insight/path model we are all familiar with. Maybe we can focus on that here and nail it down (with references)? Neko opens with S10 == Equanimity, referencing footnote 11 of the intro.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 08 Jan 2016 14:22 #102026

Having just re-read this thread, I see that Jim started out by very helpfully pointing out that this practice is intended to culminate in "awakening" and that "awakening" is used (in the text) as being equivalent to First Path. So that makes Stage 10 the groundwork leading up to SE. But it is also not strictly necessary to master Stage 10 before SE, as evidenced by this from the Introduction:

Culadasa wrote:
In this sense, Awakening is somewhat unpredictable, almost like an accident. Although the possibility of Awakening exists at any time, the probability increases steadily as you progress through the Stages. Therefore, Awakening is an accident, but continued practice will make you accident-prone. You’re training your mind throughout the Ten Stages, cultivating all the qualities of śamatha. As you progress, the mind inevitably becomes more and more fertile for the seeds of Insight to ripen and blossom into Awakening.
Last Edit: 08 Jan 2016 14:23 by Tom Otvos.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 09 Jan 2016 12:43 #102033

Tom Otvos wrote:
Having just re-read this thread, I see that Jim started out by very helpfully pointing out that this practice is intended to culminate in "awakening" and that "awakening" is used (in the text) as being equivalent to First Path. So that makes Stage 10 the groundwork leading up to SE. But it is also not strictly necessary to master Stage 10 before SE, as evidenced by this from the Introduction:

Culadasa wrote:
In this sense, Awakening is somewhat unpredictable, almost like an accident. Although the possibility of Awakening exists at any time, the probability increases steadily as you progress through the Stages. Therefore, Awakening is an accident, but continued practice will make you accident-prone. You’re training your mind throughout the Ten Stages, cultivating all the qualities of śamatha. As you progress, the mind inevitably becomes more and more fertile for the seeds of Insight to ripen and blossom into Awakening.

...Reminds me of this, from Daniel Brown's Pointing Out the Great Way:

"Few take their meditation practice seriously enough that during every meditation session they approach each and every moment of meditation with a deliberate carefulness based on the assumption that any single moment of flawless practice could establish the conditions to awaken the mind fully."
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Jan 2016 11:22 #102111

So here are the correspondences, the way I see them. Caveats:
1) The MCTB definitions of jhanas are lax and broad, so as to include as many different experiences as reasonably possible, whereas Culadasa describes one specific path inside the MCTB definitions, with very high standards for concentration and mindfulness. This means that it is possible to map Culadasa's stages onto MCTB, where they form a "very hard" subset of the MCTB jhanas, but not the other way around, because soft jhanas do not qualify as Culadasa jhanas.
2) Culadasa describes a path merging vipassana and samatha, while the two are largely separated in the MCTB discussion.
3) Culadasa differentiates three different types of e.g. "first jhana". The distinction has its own merits, but it is fair to say that all the three things Culadasa calls "first jhana" are variants of MCTB "hard first jhana".
4) I will be using the hard/soft distinction but, as Culadasa clearly elucidates, many different skills go into the "hard" quality: narrow focus of attention, stability, immunity to both gross and subtle distraction and dullness, metacognifive awareness, and so on. The typical MCTB practitioner will not have all these skills as well developed as the average Cualdasa practitioner, and, more importantly, the average MCTB practitioner will not be developing these skills in the order Culadasa prescribes. Hard & fast noting à la Mahasi / Ingram, for example, cultivates strong metacognitive inner awareness but does very little for the stability of attention. So don't be surprised if you have already developed some skills from Culadasa's higher stages, but are lacking from the point of view of the lower stages.

Here goes.

- I personally believe that Culadasa Stage Two is already a decent level of Momentary Concentration, and with that level of skill one could already start practicing dry vipassana techniques such as Mahasi noting.

- Culadasa Stage Three is already roughly MCTB Access Concentration. One could already start working on MCTB soft jhanas from this level, but it is postponed by Culadasa until much later.

- Culadasa Stage Six is a very "hard" form of Access Concentration. Piti and sukha start to arise spontaneously, so it probably already borders on MCTB 1st or even 2nd jhana.

- Culadasa Stage Seven gives access to hard first jhana. It already has several of the qualities of the first three nanas. In particular the jerky movements of MCTB 2. Cause and Effect and the pain of MCTB 3. The Three Characteristics. Interesting, Cualadasa calls these a form of light piti.

- Culadasa Stage EightMCTB hard Second Jhana and A&P.

- Culadasa Stage NineMCTB hard Third Jhana.

- Culadasa Stage TenMCTB hard Fourth Jhana & Equanimity

- Culadasa Awakening = MCTB Stream Entry.

Or, to put it more simply: For N>6, Culadasa Stage N = MCTB hard version of Jhana (N-6).


_____________________


EDIT: used the symbol "⊂" (subset) to clarify that the Culadasa Jhanas are one specific substate in the spectrum of the corresponding broad definition of an MCTB jhana.
Last Edit: 14 Jan 2016 11:27 by neko.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Jan 2016 13:27 #102114

In reference to Culadasa calling jerky movements and pain at the seventh level "light Piti"--Leigh Brasington made a similar comment in a discussion on retreat. I asked him about the sensation of fire ants all over my face, and he called it "Piti without Sukha." It's an energetic phenomenon that isn't pleasurable on its own. It seems to make sense.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Jan 2016 13:39 #102115

It makes sense, Culadasa explicitly acknowledges Leigh Brasington as a source materiale for some of the things he writes on jhana.

It is a phenomenon that regularly comes up chronologically right before piti-sukha so it make sense. Probably just semantics after all. There are advantages to calling it piti 1 (because it comes before piti 2) and disadvantages (because it would be the only version of piti that is not enjoyable). I am fine either way. There are almost certainly scriptural / commentarial reasons why LB and Culadasa call it piti, I would be curious which.
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Discussion Thread: The Mind Illuminated book 14 Jan 2016 14:43 #102117

neko wrote:
So here are the correspondences, the way I see them. Caveats:
1) The MCTB definitions of jhanas are lax and broad, so as to include as many different experiences as reasonably possible, whereas Culadasa describes one specific path inside the MCTB definitions, with very high standards for concentration and mindfulness. This means that it is possible to map Culadasa's stages onto MCTB, where they form a "very hard" subset of the MCTB jhanas, but not the other way around, because soft jhanas do not qualify as Culadasa jhanas.
2) Culadasa describes a path merging vipassana and samatha, while the two are largely separated in the MCTB discussion.
3) Culadasa differentiates three different types of e.g. "first jhana". The distinction has its own merits, but it is fair to say that all the three things Culadasa calls "first jhana" are variants of MCTB "hard first jhana".
4) I will be using the hard/soft distinction but, as Culadasa clearly elucidates, many different skills go into the "hard" quality: narrow focus of attention, stability, immunity to both gross and subtle distraction and dullness, metacognifive awareness, and so on. The typical MCTB practitioner will not have all these skills as well developed as the average Cualdasa practitioner, and, more importantly, the average MCTB practitioner will not be developing these skills in the order Culadasa prescribes. Hard & fast noting à la Mahasi / Ingram, for example, cultivates strong metacognitive inner awareness but does very little for the stability of attention. So don't be surprised if you have already developed some skills from Culadasa's higher stages, but are lacking from the point of view of the lower stages.

Here goes.

- I personally believe that Culadasa Stage Two is already a decent level of Momentary Concentration, and with that level of skill one could already start practicing dry vipassana techniques such as Mahasi noting.

- Culadasa Stage Three is already roughly MCTB Access Concentration. One could already start working on MCTB soft jhanas from this level, but it is postponed by Culadasa until much later.

- Culadasa Stage Six is a very "hard" form of Access Concentration. Piti and sukha start to arise spontaneously, so it probably already borders on MCTB 1st or even 2nd jhana.

- Culadasa Stage Seven gives access to hard first jhana. It already has several of the qualities of the first three nanas. In particular the jerky movements of MCTB 2. Cause and Effect and the pain of MCTB 3. The Three Characteristics. Interesting, Cualadasa calls these a form of light piti.

- Culadasa Stage EightMCTB hard Second Jhana and A&P.

- Culadasa Stage NineMCTB hard Third Jhana.

- Culadasa Stage TenMCTB hard Fourth Jhana & Equanimity

- Culadasa Awakening = MCTB Stream Entry.

Or, to put it more simply: For N>6, Culadasa Stage N = MCTB hard version of Jhana (N-6).


_____________________


EDIT: used the symbol "⊂" (subset) to clarify that the Culadasa Jhanas are one specific substate in the spectrum of the corresponding broad definition of an MCTB jhana.

Wow! Great analysis. This actually clears some things up for me.
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