Super/Natural: A Choice between Magick and Enlightenment
The following conversation is a somewhat edited excerpt from my current (private) practice journal. –Jenny
I’m not even documenting my practice in Heartlighted anymore.
Well if nothing is happening. . . . “This page left blank intentionally.”
I feel that something interior has to work itself out and take me to a new level of nongrasping, naturalness. Something is “happening,” but not what you would think. It is a release of the spectacular, the special, the magickal. It is a letting go of magick and pointed intention as any part of the goal, which is enlightenment.
What’s the boundary that keeps the special and normal from merging?
See, that is a mechanical question. At this level of practice, I’m done with analysis of mechanisms. In other words, here is the mechanism, haha: The boundary is that between will and naturalness.
Okie-dokie. . . .
My practices, including visions and dreams that are sought, feel highly artificial now.
Let the effortlessly natural mix with the naturally effortless. . . .
Just let be.
For I’m sitting in the stupid bathtub, surrounded by lit candles, and wondering what is supposed to happen next and why whatever that is isn’t actually happening . . . analyzing.
Desire is being burned out of me.
Hmm . . . okay.
Desire for the next stage
Desire for a teacher to cling to
Desire for magickal powers
Desire not to desire all of the above, because all that is not “enlightenment,” which is what I chiefly and rightly desire . . .
That don’t sound like too much fun.
Desire for “fun”. . . . That desire for the supernatural wow factor is the boundary. Desire for beautiful novel visions and spectacular lucid dreams is the boundary. Desire is the self-alienated state of nonpresence.
Ah, I see. . . .
So how the fuck is the thing supposed to sync with itself if I’m desiring (a thus future) synchronization? And so begins and circulates ever to its own beginning this practice level’s Analysis Trap.
Now, truly, this desire has, most of the time, been exceedingly subtle. But I now have to acknowledge that it has been operative since the inception of my main current practice. And when the insight-stage cycling reemerged around Thanksgiving Day, it was because I proceeded from that subtlety to plunging down the rabbit hole of experimenting with magical transmissions, astral traveling, and similar feats of identity solidification. If I were already fully enlightened, those actions wouldn’t introduce errors, but I’m not, so they do.
Desire is at the attention level rather than the awareness level of mind, right?
I don’t know that desire is attention to the exclusion of awareness. Awareness and attention are not opposed but stably interpenetrating for me in everyday life. You are taking some split that is more fundamental and dragging it back under a duality subframework that has already been resolved for me by an earlier level of practice.
At my current practice level, your question is too much mechanization of my experience for me to work out. Desire is simply desire. It is the fundamental state of all imperfection and alienation, which I believe is what Gautama Buddha taught. If I am desiring a preliminary result of completion practice, then I’m living in the future, which I cannot. This split is what keeps time segmented, linear. In other words, I have not brought the Fourth Time (timeless time) online. This is the point: I believe that the final boundary is Time.
What is grasping?
Desire on steroids.
Desire is grasping? Nah. . . . Grasping is patterns.
Desire-feeling that amounts to personal neediness, narcissism, is grasping.
Programmed patterns of desire and grasping are directing attention.
Yes, fair enough. But even in my attention to particulars, there is awareness in its usual breadth and clarity. Maybe it is just not complete, which accords with doctrine since rigpa cannot be at full measure until third vision has reached culmination.
The funny thing, given this understanding of the need for rigpa to come to full measure, is that I currently intuit that I need to pull back on the rigpa pole and reemphasize the Essence, the Mother, Emptiness pole. And I’m sensing on the periphery of my mind that this return to emptiness practice will be through body-based modalities.
Perhaps you are needing more karmic release.
Well, that release happens on its own in the causal dimension. So nothing to do with anything I do at this point here. You are searching for a comfortingly mechanistically distancing label, such as “patterns,’ for what is experienced nonmechanistically and naturally as a feeling of lacking. But, yes, if you like, grasping is desire that is patterned into identity and its sustaining identification processes.
My higher-level counterpoint is that analyzing things mechanistically is one of the key forms of grasping that has to go at this level, for me, for you, for everyone. Maybe not at your current level, but at this level. We are both saying that I have to work with the narcissistic wound, the feeling of lacking, the feeling of being incomplete.
Sounds good to me. How do you do that?
Probably some bodily reengagement with Trekchö, but this is a question for the teacher. And, at least for motivating theoretical context, probably understanding deeply what Almaas is pointing out. Trekchö feels natural; all other, including my main “special” practice, is now feeling fake. Think about it: I’m sitting and cultivating the conditions for some extraordinary states, getting high on the jhanas that unfold as a result, but all this feels strangely wrong.
It is like when you are making love and suddenly see yourself and your partner as two mindless bog frogs humping mere flesh-form mechanistically and you feel your naturalness as a higher-level human being peel off and evaporate. There is a split there, a loss of authenticity when humping is divorced from agape.
Hmm. . . . Wonder if J’s Gonna recommend a trip to R for you.
Doubt that. J doesn’t have time to answer me until late March, anyway.
Does that nonresponse make you feel abandoned?
I’m not exactly emotionally spinning about it, because I trust J’s good heart, implicitly and always. I know his plate is full to overflowing. However, the motivation-analyzing thought-habit does sometimes arise, “Hmm, is he cutting me off on this plane? Why?” So sometimes I wonder if it is intentional even if I don’t question the basic total goodness of the motives behind any such intention of his.
No, I don’t feel abandoned by J, just sometimes a fleeting twinge of impatience at having to wait, which is good fodder for practice. Nothing like the depth and extent I felt with Daniel, which was Kalpa-Extensive Abandonment as High Betrayal. A twinge is just enough to wonder, have that thought-form arise, and see it evaporate.
I experience the same sort of twinge with my family, but it is more difficult with them because they are not sane, whereas J is the exemplar of sanity. I’m looking at them and their defensiveness as the setting that is expected from all family members when we meet, a collective, mutually reinforcing neuroticism. Then I feel myself start to be entrained by their energy and crazymaking. So I stop. I go silent. I disengage. I watch them continue to be obnoxious, but I ground my own energy as though slamming a stake through the center of the Earth. I’m there, and my twinge of defensiveness melts into feeling sad for them. This is genuine sadness, a love-compassion that, right now, I cannot respond to with speech or action in a way that will help them. I cannot fix this burning world, despite my longing to, my desire.
I tried to explain all this to Kurt. And all he said was reductive: “All that is because you feel holier than thou.” So I had to stop right there, stop with him, too. Shut my mouth. Same thing: not defend territory but generate the entirety of space in silence. And if a gulf gapes open between us meantime, then that gulf is a matter of Time, linear time, mean time indeed.
All I have to do, haha, is overcome Time.
Right. . . .
Not to be understood even by my husband: This central lack in me is not being understood, not being known even by my closest loved ones.
This is the wound that alienates us from ourselves across a gulf of defense mechanisms. And it is the boundary that is keeping me from enlightenment.
I’ve got that wound . . . not being seen.
Right. It is common as rain. But I’m figuring it out. This being unable to share even the most precious thing I’ve found: the path to liberation. It hurts.
Well, spontaneous perfection in action sounds pretty good.
If I knew what that was like. But I understand now what I didn’t even a month ago: that my chronic retreat to solitude is about this. I find it very hard to be around people since the Mahamudra awakening. It is easier at work because at work everything is superficial, transactional, polite. But with my family it is difficult. With my friends, close ones who aren’t spiritual, it is hard. With dharma folk who I see as spinning and not getting through gates that ought to be easier to cross . . . hard. It is like being on this other side and the deep gulf that divides is horrifying. Because I cannot help them. And they think they don’t even want or need help. So where is the boundary between holier than thou and effective compassion? Hard.
Bunch of psychological stuff coming up as though now is second path at a deeper level. What is prominent is mental echo, past tense itself as personal patterning. That boundary is a gap in time, and it has to close. That is why J keeps telling me to hold these people in my heart outside of time. To see them as the buddhas they will be but now.
Ahh. . . .
But I’ve not quite figured out how. Maybe J can specify the practice. I’m not good at it yet.
About your telling me that maybe N should skip Mahamudra and go directly into Dzogchen, tell me who you know that got awake awareness by starting with Dzogchen.
Who is that?
I’m asking you.
Dzogchen begins after MCTB 4th path. So how does one use a method whose prerequisite is 4th path to get 4th path? How does one actually practice Trekcho? Out of the blue? With no ground realization? What is the instruction for that?
No idea how it is done.
Okay, LOL! So why did you say that Dzogchen and skipping Mahamudra might be better for N?
Oh my. This bird thing is a bit off from exemplar tantra. I cannot tell from N’s writing where he is “seeing” all this. Is it during a sit? Is it out in front of him with eyes open? Is it behind closed eyes in his imagination? Is he really flying through the actual sky, circling in for a landing at Amazon?
He seems to be caught up in an entire story, narrative that is not part of the meditation instructions.
You aren’t feeding him shamanism stuff are you?
Who me? Nooooooop.
LOL! No more than I feed you.
Because we are not practicing shamanism. We are practicing tantra.
Don’t confuse your spewing with my swallowing.
Tom Campbell’s My Big TOE!
That book isn’t going after what I’m after.
Well . . . kind of. Speculation. But simulation as holographic universes, and the bounding egg cracking. . . .
Does Campbell have nondual enlightenment? If he did, he would write about that.
Yes. He is nonduality.
But told from the objective side of things because he is a scientist. Campbell is a buddha? Monroe isn’t.
But his model is for basics of understanding the theory of everything.
That stuff doesn’t matter until after buddhahood. It is a distraction.
Monroe wasn’t in life.
Lots of people can be open in weird ways without being enlightened.
Right. Apparently, Monroe continued after death.
Unless you visit him.
My current theory is that focus on magick subtends duality. Hence, magick’s being a hindrance, a major one. Western magick users will try to tell you that what they are doing leads to the same end, enlightenment. Not true. Because it objectifies at the level of mode: The self via intent versus the world as the manipulated.
So best to lay off all that, which is essentially what I wrote on that post Daniel deleted because, deep down, Daniel knows it is true and feels threatened by his own approach to that truth. Because magick is for control, just like the Overlord’s Delete button is, a major detour back up own ass. It is a tool of the deluded identity structures, a toolbox filled with defense mechanisms.
It is best to put away your tool and wait for marriage.
In N’s case, he has publicly claimed a mental illness. So another reason not to pump magick into him. Tantra can be dangerous, after all, and requires prior stabilization to avoid danger.
The reason I logged on is because there is something in the back of my mind, something about the four visions mapping to the four vipassana jhanas and therefore to the four paths. So Dzogchen really is the fifth path, the echo that is the formless realms.
I’m thinking more and more about this. Because fourth vision ends in what? Cessation and fruition.
And there is something creepy about third vision, with the wrathfuls and intensity. Fourth vision is Equanimity. It is like shedding the jhana factors as one moves to j4 and the formless realms.
Magick at the level of attention traps you. Thus cycling.
Even if you have awake awareness, maybe especially then, magick is a trap. The only place where it is not a trap is buddhahood. This thing about needing naturalness to permeate all “attainments” is predominant. So it goes around again: I’m back to looking at Sid’s Suffering 101.
Unguided: Disintegrated DMI
In every story, every secret told
You are not the first to wake up
To learn your lines before you have the part
You woke up early and you woke up torn
You the temporary boarder
The heat wave humming in the house of cards
You spun chapter into rapture there
Yeah, you were as brave as traffic
You chased the spotlight into her arms
And you forgot that you could fly, but not
That you were still the person sleeping
The heat wave humming in the house of cards
A play for the girl
A cross for a hook
Sinking into the green sea wonder
Under the sea
Walking the floor
Over the waves that we lived under
Something’s unguided in the sky tonight
There is something unguided in the sky
You wrote yourself into a corner, safe
Easy to defend your borders
A fallen saint into a whispered time
Killing time because I have to, why?
Because it isn’t mine, remember?
Killing time because it wasn’t mine
You’re earning your stripes
You’re counting the stars
You’re winding your barely working watch
You’re lucky to be on the lam like you are
Lucky you’ve already been caught
There’s something unguided in the sky tonight
There is something unguided in the sky
What’s Wrong with Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: A Living List
I’ve decided to begin a “living” list of all that Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, including the version I myself worked on with Dan (MCTB2), has gotten so terribly wrong. I’m writing here as someone who actually attained what Dan incorrectly characterizes in a recent interview as having “taken awakening as far as it can go.” And since then I’ve attained significantly more, as confirmed by my highly qualified personal teacher.
I will try to confine my refutations of MCTB2 to in the list proper, which begins after all the intervening paragraphs to MCTB2(J). However, you may as well expect spillover; I certainly do. To the end of confining my list to this topic, I will first dispense with Ingram himself and his discussion board.
Daniel Ingram as No-Arahat
Daniel has some issues that disqualify him from even his own watered-down description of requirements for being an arahat.. The term arahat has a specific history dating back to the suttas and early commentaries, and means saint. Dan Ingram is no saint. My personal voluminous correspondence with him substantiates what I’m here only obliquely going to summarize.
Daniel has carefully crafted a false public self that you will see, if you watch him closely, is incongruous in affect with the situations and contexts in which he finds himself (or, rather, fails to “find himself”). He is one way in public, relying on morally codified virtue-signaling, while being a very different person behind the scenes. He is, in short, a person with an unusually high degree of fear, fear that stems from psychic wounds he suffered in childhood, which I will not detail or discuss here or anywhere. I will say this: Daniel’s constitutional fear is of affect, intimacy, and vulnerability. His gruff manner is to shore up defenses against these experiences that cause him deep suffering. These defense mechanisms exist to fend off what triggers his own reactivity, but his blind spot is that he doesn’t acknowledge that those defense mechanisms are themselves calcified patterns of reactivity. They cause him continual suffering, and they cause those around him who care about him suffering. I was one of those people.
How did I come by the ugly behind-the-scenes exposures to the real, frightened, vulnerable, and compensatorily ill-tempered Daniel? By getting as close to him as anyone in his so-called community ever has or likely ever will. I was his friend, editor, site advisor, and confidant for almost a year. He was my mentor and helped me with my practice with frequency and depth. I have thousands of in-depth, lengthy email exchanges with him in my files. He told me things about himself that he stated he never conveyed even to his estranged best friend of several decades, Kenneth Folk. That’s how.
Although much, or most, of the faulty theory and advice in MCTB stems directly from Ingram’s patterns of reactivity (dukkhas) and defense mechanisms, I won’t write beyond what is necessary to clarify, or hint at, the nature of the problems in MCTB2. What I don’t say is in order to hold space for Daniel personally and spiritually. For I believe that he can go further up the path and reach buddhahood. I believe he will. I believe he will figure out what he lacks and find the resources he needs to address that lack. Almost every time that I sit, when I call the Third Guests into my mandala, I call him. May he find his way. May he reach true enlightenment in this lifetime and continue to help others do the same.
The Dharma Overground: A Dharma Wasteland
Initially, I thought to take on the Dharma Overground and its cultural sickness in my list, but why? I can dispense with that discussion board summarily: It is poorly run, ineptly and nuttily “moderated,” participated in by about 99% males only, and reinforces a disturbingly masculinist (anti-feminist) culture that not only alienates and silences real women, but infects the membership against the feminine principle that is so critically necessary for gaining the higher realizations.
Daniel Ingram is directly responsible for failure to clean up the DhO as he many times promised me he would. But because one of his habit patterns with me was breaking promises, this failure is not exactly incongruous with the rest. If you are a woman, please don’t subject yourself to what goes unchecked at this site.
As if this weren’t enough to wreck the DhO as a legitimate vehicle for buddhadharma and communion, then its content ought to be. The site is overrun with men, or boys, mostly immature, who identify with Ingram for his false militaristic “male locker room” machismo rather than for Ingram’s actually rather traditional engagement with Buddhist practice and maps. In other words, the bulk of the active membership lacks knowledge of even basic Buddhist theory and doctrine. In fact, a cavalier disregard for actual knowledge pervades the DhO, a culture that my friend DreamWalker, one of the moderators that I asked Daniel to assign to that role, admits is “like a noisy college bar.” Is this where you want to discover how to awaken? Really?
Where are the members with high attainments for inspiration and sound guidance? Where are those who can enjoin the young ones to get a clue by cracking a dharma book? Other than a few Pali-heads who post there during rare spurts, the site is the blind leading the blind. Earnest practitioners who have honest realization are largely absent, many apparently having fled after the Second Schism, when the ridiculous cult of so-called Actual Freedom ran its course through the “community.” (By the way, Daniel has now taken down the Actual Freedom audios he recorded with Tarin, audios in which he renounced MCTB1, saying he was not really “done” with his awakening.) I agree that practice needs to be pragmatic, but pragmatism in the dark leads to communally reinforced endarkenment, not enlightenment.
If you aspire to enlightenment yet spend much of your time on the Dharma Overground instead of reading or listening to a gazillion better resources, actual authorities, or instead of following a qualified teacher’s direct practice instructions, then I daresay you have the wrong end of the enlightenment stick. My advice? Seriously contemplate how you spend your precious short lifetime available for true dharmic theory and actual rigorous and diligent practice.
And if you are one of the multitude there playing guru to others, then consider salubrious acknowledgment of the psychological stuff that thus compels your role-playing rather than adherence to time- and student-tested precision. Consider the harm you do others by misleading them out of a base of ignorance rather than personal realization. The DhO exists primarily for rigor avoidance and narcissistic supply. Check in with yourself. Be honest with yourself. And when you see that this is so, construct a better project plan, for life is short, death is certain, and the time of death is most uncertain. Practice discernment.
Uses and Limitations of MCTB
Why is this post in the Book section of my site? Because much of what I list here as shortcomings and outright erroneous, ignorant modeling in MCTB2 will be corrected in my own book. So this list informs my research agenda.
There is much that is helpful in MCTB2. Specifically, Ingram offers the best, most phenomenologically detailed map of the Theravadin Progress of Insight stages in the world, hands down. Ingram gives some helpful advice for navigating these stages and attaining first path, stream entry. You can use the same basic strategies to gain second path, which is usually a comparatively short path.
Beyond MCTB second path however, MCTB2 cannot help you, and the DhO damned sure can’t. This is why so many people are stuck at the second path in that virtual community, including many who honestly believe they have MCTB fourth path but don’t.
In 2015 Daniel Ingram admitted on a Skype video call with me, DreamWalker, Steph S., and Vasily that he didn’t know how he himself got MCTB fourth path. I asked him, “You don’t know how you got fourth path, do you?” And he answered, “No, I really don’t.” I have some retrospective theories of how, theories based on my hearing his descriptions many times, reading his draft memoir closely and repeatedly, and learning much additional theory and practice from my current teacher. But the fact remains that Ingram himself admitted to us all that he hasn’t a clue. Ingram is not a dharma teacher; he is an emergency physician. He lacks access to repeatable results based on higher maps for his population. Daniel also stated to me in writing that he really doesn’t know the Indo-Tibetan Essence tradition maps. Apparently, he hasn’t attempted to know them, either.
Despite Ingram’s admitted cluelessness in this small Dharma Underground setting, he elsewhere wrote to me, his former collaborator on MCTB2, that he was putting out the new edition of that Book to “help those stuck in the middle paths, especially them.” In other words, he claimed that MCTB2 would offer guidance to attainment of fourth path, even while he admitted to the Dharma Underground coterie that he had no idea how even he himself got fourth path. Moreover, Daniel himself wrote an email to me insisting that “there are no path-specific practices.” Basically, he advocates just repeating what you did in for first path over and over again. Actually, there are plenty of stage-specific goals and practices, and that is largely what my own work will provide.
So how best to use MCTB2 when it comes out? Read Parts 1 and 2 (if they resemble what he and I worked on together, which is a big “if”). But forget his “revised four-path model” and his simple model. Those models are thin, at best, with nearly zero specifics. And realize that the advice given in Parts 1 and 2 will get you to second path and that is about it. After that point, it is best to turn to Indo-Tibetan Essence Traditions, particularly Essence Mahamudra.
So here begins my list, which I will keep amending as inspiration and remembered facts emerge over calendar time. As time goes by since I left Daniel, I move further away from defining what my book will contribute by what his lacks. Nonetheless, life’s expensive lessons are often the best organizing principles. So it goes, and here I go.
1. The terms arahat and anagami have been gutted.
Why cling to these status signals? What obscurations are you short-cutting, bypassing, and denying by doing so and needing to do so? These terms have a specific history beginning thousands of years ago. The are closely associated with the Ten-Fetters model of release and enlightenment espoused by traditional Theravada. Daniel took these terms and gutted them of their main import: the ending of all emotional reactivity and the perfection of compassionate conduct. Yet he appropriated the terms to mere changes in sensory perception. If you are not a saint, then please drop the pretense of announcing that you are one by adopting these appellations. And if you are in fact a saint, with no suffering and with completely nondefective conduct, then the sign of that will be humility and service to others, not Ingram-style grandiosity.
2. “Agencylessness” is not part of fourth path, let alone third path.
At buddhahood, one sees that there is absolutely no causality. Causality is the Big Lie, according to Dzogchen doctrine and theory. That means, when the causal model is seen through, so is karma. In second path I had profound insight into the nature of agency, and by that I mean not just my own agency but causality, the arrow of time.
Agency is causal by definition. The causal model works until one realizes the Emptiness of Time. It is philosophically incongruous to hold to a causal model of reality while saying that own-agency has been completely seen through. Yet this is what Daniel does in his list of criteria for MCTB fourth path, which he claims is as far as enlightenment goes for anyone, not just for himself.
One thing doesn’t lead to another if time is truly empty of own-nature, logically speaking. So positing your own lack of agency while maintaining that someone or something else is directing manifestation via “causality” indicates lack of realization of Emptiness of Time. You may well have insight into what still needs to happen for agency to collapse, for time to synchronize with itself, but so long as you have any sense of having personal intentions and decisive actions, you don’t have realization of philosophically pure no-agency.
Neither does Daniel. As mentioned, Daniel is one of the most frightened, defensive, and controlling people I have ever known. He has a significant level of awakening and much contribution toward helping others gain the same. But no one as obsessed with own-will-to-power magick as he can have shed belief in his own agency. In fact, if you read Daniel’s criteria for third path closely, then you will see that he says agencylessness isn’t “always in the forefront.” That means, by Daniel’s own admission, the sense of agencylessness he places at third path is incomplete. He is honest about at least that much.
At stream entry, or early on the third path at the latest, one should have and be able to describe profound correction of misperception in terms of the senses. These changes are so obvious and dramatic that you can readily describe them for others. After that level of attainment, Daniel is correct in placing luminosity, the taste of rigpa, at attainment of third path. He is mistaken about placing agencylessness there, though. That doesn’t mean he lacks insight into agency or that you do. It just means that it isn’t a done deal until causality itself is seen through, meaning opening of the Fourth Time, all-at-once-ness, which happens at the culmination of the Fourth Vision of Togal. It is impossible before that moment.
There is nothing subtle or uncertain about attainment of MCTB Fourth Path. If the center has dropped out permanently, then that is indeed attainment of fourth path, and it has profound consequences for how you experience via bodily, visual, and auditory sense spheres. Again, these corrections of former sensory misperception are readily described by those who have fourth path. And they are attained before and enable later true “agencylessness.”
When practitioners come consult me and state only that they now “understand” through everyday perception that they are not an agent, not-self, yet they cannot describe any permanent changes to sensory perception itself, then I’m skeptical. In the domain of philosophical inquiry, agency means merely the ability to decide to do something, to take one action over another deliberately. That is the definition.
Now, if one is practicing western magick, then one is indulging in the delusion of agency by such definition. One believes that one can direct a personally desired outcome over other possible outcomes by means of his own power, yes? That belief and sense of the efficacy of will is philosophically adequate to fulfill agency. If Daniel had no sense of agency, he would lay down his entire expensive collection of custom ACME magick wands and do something less childish with his remaining sense of linear time. . . .
I don’t know what people mean by “agencylessness,” and I don’t think they do either. Without phenomenological description, it sounds like an understanding that is conceptual, philosophical. But If you can intend, plan, choose, and take action, then you meet the academic philosophical definition of an “agent.”
If there is still causality, an arrow of time, then who or what is shooting that arrow, so to speak? What decider-planner has taken over your job of making everything unfold causally? Because causality is linear. It is this-leads-necessarily-to-that. What doer intelligence is driving this decision-tree of forward consequence, of determinate directionality?
I ask because Daniel lists as fourth-path criteria both direct perception of one’s own agencylessness and direct perception of unfolding of reality as lawfully causal. By contrast, Dzogchen view is of spontaneous, noncausal reality, “all-at-once-ness.” The ultimate realization is that “causality is the big lie.”
One may begin to let go of delusions of personal control by mid-second path. But full realization of emptiness is not until the culmination of the third Togal vision, which is far beyond MCTB fourth path. True freedom from the delusion of agency is at Buddhahood and not a moment beforehand. Delusional self-agency is folded into freedom from time itself. Agency and causality are synonyms, in this ultimate sense, not antonyms. It therefore makes no sense to say your agency has ended but another one has taken over the God job. That is to make the field a residual entity, a remainder.
No-self applies to both yourself and all phenomena in a true emptiness model. Buddhahood is realization that karma, all of it, is not the ultimate truth. The ultimate faith is nothing to purify. The entire causal model at that realization implodes in a cessation event. Meantime, so long as you are perceiving causality, there is delusion to uproot.
The term “agencylessness” is not one I’ll be using in my book. It is a strange coinage that causes confusion from the perspectives of both theory and phenonomenologically accurate attainment description.
TBC. . . .
Post Daniel Ingram Deleted from the Dharma Overground
Someone today pointed me to a thread on the DhO, where I don’t ordinarily go, and there was Daniel going on about how Progress of Insight cycling continues after MCTB 4th Path. I had a DhO sockpuppet that I never used, but I thought someone, chiefly Daniel, might benefit from what I had to say about cycling, its stopping, and its restarting. So I posted. He is supposedly on retreat, but he swiftly deleted it. I had copied my work, thank goodness, and tried reposting it. Again, he swiftly deleted the post and banned the poor declawed Bodhi Cat. Meowwwww! Not to let a good post go to waste, I’ll paste it here, where the “Overlord” holds no scepter. Good information ought to be welcome on the DhO, but then that wouldn’t be characteristic of that space. I wish I were kidding. Below is my reply to Daniel’s comments in the “5th Path” post on the DhO, a reply addressing his claim that insight stages continue to cycle after MCTB 4th path is attained, “at least for me,” he writes. After he deleted and banned Bodhi (which means enlightenment), there ensued some texts and emails with him. I remained calm, but his envy and ill-will are, well, apparent. His current retreat is not doing much opening or lifting, it seems. Maybe that is because he is spending it closely monitoring the DhO. I truly hope he finds his way to someplace higher. Comrad Bodhi concurs, or would had he lived.
R.I.P. Bodhi Cat
* * *
I attained MCTB 4th Path. There is certainty about this attainment, unmediated direct certainty. For whatever it may be worth in terms of credibility in this conversation, I underwent months of my teacher’s probing for any sign of the contrary, and this attainment was confirmed by the teacher, as well. I was doing awareness practices on retreat when the center dissolved permanently almost 2 years ago.
Since then, I’ve experienced a deepening and deepening and deepening that is not a series of distinctive “shifts,” but instead is what feels like a continuous slow seeping into every nook and cranny of the self (which does exist but as pure presence without identity content and without the identification process that makes people normally experience even their own subjectivity as an object, a representation). I cannot say what the nooks and crannies actually are, or were, but the feeling is of a continuous sonic booming to greater oceanic depths of that original awakening.
I cycled hard before 4th path, with intense A&P stages and some devastating, ruinous Dark Nights. But the day the center dissolved, that cycling stopped. To be completely honest, I did occasionally notice mild A&P emergence. Whenever that happened, I would actually try to track whether the Dark Night stages followed. But I could never tell that they did, even when I looked for them. And the A&P stages were much milder than they were before 4th, and rare. I stopped identifying with insight stages. They ceased to be interesting in any way. As patterned experience, they paled in the blazing light of rigpa (clarity) and the one taste of emptiness.
Incidentally, I have a friend in this community who I’m convinced reached 4th path, and this is the only other person I know whose descriptions seem absolutely credible to me. He also stopped cycling at 4th path.
Oddly enough, recently, the cycles seemed to restart for me, after a year and a half of not being able to discern any cycles (other than rare and mild A&P). What was I doing or experiencing that made them restart? I’m still trying to sort this out, which may require time to give perspective, but I had at the time gotten into some pretty weird spaces with esoteric practices. I became extremely antisocial and locked myself in a bedroom for many hours every night, talking to nonphysical beings and practicing. I also was at a point at which I was rebelling against Buddhism, against the very lineage that got me so far. Part of this is the natural shedding of the Path as some new Fruition nears, but I don’t think that’s all of it.
This topic is too complex and personal to go far into here, but the rebellion was apparently in part a resurgence of narcissistic stuff from early childhood (and late childhood, too, most likely). According to some mapped psychological correlates of awakening, essential (not necessarily neurotic or pathologica) narcissicism (neurotic in me, though) intensifies before major new levels of awakening. It might manifest, for example as idealizing transference with one’s teacher, along with mirror transference (intensified need to be seen as special and to be appreciated as uniquely talented by the teacher).
It was like 2nd path turmoil, but at a much deeper fundamental level of bare existence and without spinning me out into reactivity. Speaking of reactivity, even though reactivity is rare and mild when I’m pulled out of rigpa by something intimately connected with said childhood stuff, this is the domain (childhood trauma) that remains an identity barrier or obscuration. This is fine, because I have a highly qualified teacher, and the practices are doing themselves at this point in a way that is clearly progressing and deepening the former awakenings toward ultimate fruition, by which I do not mean MCTB 4th. path.
I no longer think of things in terms of four paths, and I certainly no longer believe revised 4th path is “done.” I don’t identify myself as “arahat.” What is missing, or deficient, in my view and experience, when cycling persists or resumes is rigpa, and, specifically, the emptiness-of-time realization. There is a deeper surrender necessary after 4th path, one that requires giving up magick, for starters.
There is a deeper magick than that of the tantrikas. It is the magick that unfolds when you do not do magick. It is the magick of simply being present as pure being, a vessel through which cosmological-scale magick happens. It is best to lay off deliberate magick and wait for omniscience, in my view and experience, and according to my teacher. Practicing magick is one surefire way to derail the path to Buddhahood, I’m told, and my preliminary assessments are that my cycling reemerged largely because I began casting spells. The spells were nothing dark by any means, but I was “sure” about the ends and was rebelling against lineage cautions about the “means.” I became increasingly pulled out and ungrounded, and the cycles emerged. Magick is a side track, a derailing, golden chains. And when sufficient depths of surrender have been reached, magick will naturally lose all allure. This is a sign of progress.
I don’t have time right now for rigpa wars or omniscience debates, for treading that conceptualized territory that consumes, unfruitfully, so many forums. Such theoretical debates are of little use and can actually cause confusion for those who are not ready for, say, the completion practices in Tibetan Buddhism. I can certainly have those discussions at a separate time, but not today and probably not publicly.
So what can help the cycling to stop? Practices beyond Mahamudra, and certainly far beyond ordinary vipassana. For example, your mind may indeed be liberated, and there is no more “doing” at the level of identification and perception (those processes have unknotted), but the attainment of 4th has to be allowed to unknot the rest, including the subtle body, including psychodynamic (second-person relationship patterns set in early childhood). This requires certain specific allowing/surrender practices beyond Mahamudra if one is aiming for Buddhahood in this lifetime. Buddhahood, not just 4th path “arahatship,” is absolutely possible in this lifetime. And buddhahood means to be nondefective on all “axes,” as no “axes” of the person are actually separate from pure nonrepresentational Being, and that means on the level of personality disturbances, neuroticism, and even the defects of “normal” psychological health. What I’m saying cannot be proven. No debate will show the truth of it where communion has failed. It isn’t subject to third-party verification processes, as you know. But, for whatever it is worth, I promise you that it is so, that there is more territory beyond MCTB 4th, that miraculous deepenings are so very possible, that complete healing and magick beyond your imagination are in the offing.
Tantra can help with subtle body and psychodynamic duality at specific trouble spots for the practitioner, but Dzogchen is the only tradition that has the means to buddhahood without the need to go through the dying process to reach it. It requires very deep surrender, total naturalness, beyond what sustains the Two Truths as two truths. There are not true truths; there is only wholeness for those who realize it.
There are many ways to maintain and deepen surrender to the Unbounded Whole, adjuncts to Dzogchen. For example, when my recent reemergence of cycling started causing me to drink vodka martinis and eat beef after esoteric practices, I knew I had a problem, that I was trying to ground magick energies that had got too pointed and hot. My teacher prescribed, along with a certain prayer/invocation, yin yoga, which quickly calmed everything down again by rebalancing energies and emphasizing surrender at the bodily and energetic (meridian) levels (fascia, and even bone structure is altered). I assume each asana, which is intense, for 3 to 5 minutes and continually release into gravity (these are passive stretches, yin). I meditate in the poses, folded over in full surrender even to the pain.
One is not fully enlightened until subtle remaining exteriority of vision is corrected via Togal visions. Rigpa (luminous awareness) doesn’t reach full measure until third vision is completed. Fourth vision apparently ends with a massive cessation-singularity and “return” to life. Everything stops and restarts, just as in an MCTB “fruition,” which is extremely interesting in the context of this discussion about insight stages. The visions are not “magick” that you “do”; however, they open up omniscience eventually, the height of rigpa, the completeness of Unbounded Wholeness. No other tradition has this, not even Mahamudra.
MCTB 4th path can be a trap, velvet handcuffs. It feels so, so “done.” And it is done, as far as what can be done via vipassana (ordinary special insight) and Mahamudra (extraordinary special insight) goes. Dzogchen maps call for stabilization and deepening of what you so far think cannot be deepened, namely MCTB 4th. In Dzogchen, this first level of deepening is Trekchod (“cutting through all solidity and reactivity”). Then there is is the Path of Togal. Until you have gone through all four visions, had that fruition, and are lucidly aware throughout both dreams and dreamless sleep, you cannot say that you have taken awakening as far as it can go in this lifetime. It can indeed deepen – and how.
Another sign that deepening is occurring via these other maps is that moral codes are shed, hyper-classification notions like “separate axes of development” are dissolved into Unbounded Wholeness. This is because ultimate compassion-love is arising spontaneously and all codified behavior is abandoned as the exteriorized identity crutch that it is. Of course, one has to be cautious, have discriminating wisdom, for apparently I shed too much too fast. . . .
A book that I’m currently reading that maps awakening from a western depth psychology and object relations theory perspective is A. H. Almaas’s The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization. I cannot put this book down, and I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than his phenomenological descriptions of what seems equivalent to MCTB 4th, but in much different language than yours, and from a linguistic perspective of the former Subject rather than the Field of sensations. A very, very nuanced treatment. My qualifications are that this book misunderstands Dzogchen as method. This is a old book, and Almaas states that he thinks westerners will be alienated by Eastern methods. His own methods seem to be inquiry with students that goes to far more subtle depths than psychotherapy but, to me, resembles it. So this is not a methods book. It is a phenomenological description over against developmental psychology, so it is a correlate map. The guy is a genius, and his precision is a huge theoretical help. This book addresses central narcissism in awakening. Next I’m going to read the Pearl beyond Price and The Void, which I think address other psychological disturbances/disorders and barriers. Despite his method that looks a lot like therapy, Almaas states that therapy cannot actually resolve narcissism or other psychological patterns; only realization can.