Attentional Nonduality with a Visual Object (“Luminosity”)


Since you got stream entry, has your perceptual experience of, say, a distant cloud changed? Yes or No. If yes, how so?


That question is so fundamentally hard to answer. Okay, let me go look at a cloud real quickly.

Okay, it’s super cloudy, but I got the general gist. So there’s this feeling I get: “Oh, wow, I’m really here, and I was here before but not quite and now here’s this sky, and it’s really here and vivid. It feels like there’s another dimension to it that wasn’t perceived earlier, like I saw the cloud (sky) but didn’t really see it.”

This has been happening with all five sense doors over the past couple months. It is like meaning and dimensionality have just begun oozing out of everything. I’m like, “How have I been missing this this whole time?”

Is that useful?


Maybe. Let’s stick with vision for now.

There’s more color and brightness to things, like high-definition.
You remember all the talks we had with Daniel in the DhU about luminosity?

Kind of.

The brightness, the vividness, the higher definition . . . those are like secondary effects of luminosity and are truly visual. So it is good that you are noticing all that and can articulate that. This part is easy to articulate. The primary effect of luminosity, on the other hand, is a bitch to describe even when one has it and makes a living off using words.
You know, things are just like, right there!
Yeah, hahaha. Vasily, in regular dualistic perception, the object viewed is solid, discrete, and over there. And you are over here, and your awareness over here processes the sight experience such that the object is over there, unto itself, separate.
Yeah, see,  that’s what’s the hard part about that question. It now feels natural for the space to feel unified. It doesn’t feel as much like I’m looking at the sky as that there just is this colored expansion of space and the colors change and the forms change
but things are really the same, if that makes sense. There’s also something to do with creation. Everything’s being created at once. And it is flowy somehow. That’s harder to explain, but I can go into it if you think it’s relevant.
Luminosity happens while looking at an object happens. But the primary effect, as opposed to the secondary effects of clarity, high definition, and color saturation you mentioned, isn’t actually visual. It concerns the “consciousness” part of eye-consciousness.



So, in terms of separate Subject and separate Object . . . you say they are unified and in some sense the spatial demarcation of Subject/Object and the extension aspects differ from what they were before luminosity dawned. Yet the experience, you say, is somehow still “flowy.” 


Like I flow into the sky/cloud . . . in some way.


Specifically, “you” flow out into all this, and the “all this” oozes forth, as well. So the “flowy” aspect of the experience is because, in one sense, there is still an over here and an over there and they are “conversant” with each other dynamically, as it were?


Well, not quite. Maybe there’s some part of that is like that. Yeah, there’s an over here and over there, but they really aren’t that different. They’re merely at different spatial locations, and that’s what I was getting at.




There’s this kind of “just space” that’s colored. There’s something underneath it.


Underneath “just space”? And what is that? What seems to be underneath it?


Awareness. Like something underneath the whole experience is immovable, un-understandable, consistent, and comforting.




“Alive” is what I mean by the “creation” aspect: how these solid things seem to be simultaneous creation somehow. I’m still trying to get a better sense of that, however. All of that isn’t 100% finalized for me.


So, just to summarize thus far—this attentional experience of an object is nondual, in one sense, because, although there is a dynamically fluid interchange of you with yon object, and hence an over there and over here, there is also one unified field that is vast, still, and pervaded by awareness.


Yeah. Exactly.


When I was first experiencing luminosity, I thought that my mind was fused with the distant cloud I gazed on outside my office window. It was as though my mind were over there with, in, or even as the cloud. But weeks and weeks later . . .


Yeah, but I can see how the outflowing isn’t really positive, because that’s still implying mind over here going into over there.


Yes, “flow” might seem to be still implying the unidirectionality of what in Dzogchen is called moving mind, which is the mind that clings to or pushes away objects (via the Three Poisons).

Weeks later, it seemed to me that “awareness” was impersonal, was with/in/as the cloud itself. As is ubiquitously parroted in the prag community, “The cloud is aware where it is.”




However, the overarching truth is that both statements are simultaneously true: Your mind is at the cloud, yet the cloud is always already “processed” into being—without your subjective Perceiver manipulation’s being required.


Right. Which is really what I’m trying to get at: Any feeling of nonduality is just another perception, because this awareness is already awakened.


Very good, Vasily. Well put. That’s really key to next getting to rigpa, which is a whole higher order of magnitude, so to speak, beyond luminosity.

When you gaze on an object, there is a sense of two fluid streams intermingling. Nevertheless, because awareness is omnipervasive, there is paradoxically a sense of stillness and constancy, meaning some “ground” that is no entity yet is emphatically not impermanence.


Yeah. Which is why it feels like the consciousness sensations around my head are kind of flowing into this vast immovable thing, but not flowing into it, because they’re already part of it, just another vibration, wave, color, whatever.

Does that make sense?


Yes. That sounds like Emptiness, which isn’t an entity, as nonetheless known as “one taste” or “one flavor” pervading all diversity of experience equally.

So your experience of your cloud is of bidirectional flow, interchange without clear origin on one side, and at the same time vast stillness because always already nakedly aware. Awareness has no arising, no passing, no contour, no edge, no inside, no outside. Realizing this, you are no longer funneling “out there” into “in here” in order to project “out there” into existence so you can take separate credit for its separate thingness. The default setting is about the ego structure’s need to remain the controller. 


Yeah, that sounds right. I’m like 90% there, I think.

I’m also trying to notice (and this is more so about emptiness) how all thoughts / perceptions, even subtle ones of me needing to do anything, are empty, are just part of this luminous field.


Yeah, okay on thoughts. I tend to address cognitive thoughts last, long after straightforward sense perception. Do you know why?




Because nearly everyone in the various Pragmatic Dharma communities has no more than MCTB second path, even when they think they have fourth path, and why? Because they are fixated on the nonduality of “thought” and cannot describe any change in relatively immediate feeling, seeing, or hearing. If you question them, they will say strange things, like that their perception hasn’t changed but their relationship to their perception has changed. To me and others I know, this “change” sounds merely conceptual and psychological rather than a true unbinding of sensory misperception at its root.

Thought is therefore a dangerous category to become preoccupied with first, because it can so easily stray off into mere conceptualization of nonduality instead of experiential nonduality. I believe this is why Daniel tended to overstate that “sensations” were everything: He was trying to correct for this reification of what we are talking about here.

Addressing “thoughts,” we quickly will get into the weeds and get lost and get stuck.

I’ve spent untold hours with my good friend DW because his map treats thoughts like any other sense door in this respect. But he does know and agree that the Pragmatic folk are fooling themselves in exactly this way.

So . . . this is all very complicated and requires we enter into long discussions about Mahamudra and Dzogchen. All we are doing tonight, though, is dealing with Vasily and luminosity. Put thoughts aside for now on this talk.

Let me say just in passing that “thoughts” are not things even in the most superficial samsaric regard. They have no weight, extension, color, size, or other aspect of space. So dealing with thoughts as if they reside in a space, or relate to space, is a categorical error from the outset. The reintroduction of “thoughts” into the vast luminous field has to be addressed with practices concerning time and impermanence, rather than space, which means we have to get into Mahamudra/Dzogchen. Tonight all I have time/energy for is luminosity. It is 3 a.m., after all.

It sounds to me like you have luminosity. This happened a few months ago?


I feel like I’ve had this for a while. Just the visual high-definition aspect has been getting more obvious over past few months. Actually maybe I got something at a 1-day Dzogchen retreat a couple of months ago.


This is why I wish you all would keep journals, at least for the sake of the unwashed masses who want to  awaken.


That retreat did begin opening up some new territory.


What did KD teach on that retreat?


Thanks for the reminder. Need to restart my journal now that practice is moving again.


Just classic Dzogchen stuff.


Such as . . . ?


Everything is light. Visualize hums burning up the entire field. We did that special Dzogchen breathing for mixing blue and red in each side of the lungs/breathing.


Oh boy! That sounds like some tantra. Is he in Nyingma?


But also some pointing-out meditation, like how Dzogchen true nature is right here.


Delete the self, just hang in the quietness of the foreground of the mind; then you might see the things that are still noisy. Noise . . . that is where it’s still at if you can tune into that.


The ocean is sometimes still, sometimes stormy.


The complete silence of the foreground of the mind leads to opening the background that is awareness.


Except that awareness (rigpa, we are now talking about) has no foreground/background or other edge.


Using the same practice used to examine individual waves teaches you nothing about the whole ocean.


Well, to me, awareness is hard to open because my heart chakra is noisy.


The answer to your heart trouble is relational tantra. And add this mantra: “I release all martyr energies.”


But isn’t heart chakra noise just part of it all? Or am I oversimplifying things?




Vasily, no. Simple is good. Some of us cannot manage an uncomplicated version of simple, apparently. Samsara is self-generated confusion.


So when I can quiet my heart, open it, then I can tune into my thought frequency. Then, quieting that, I can open the background of the mind that is awareness.


Why not just cut right to it?


Well, I have a recipe. That is limited.


Can’t follow directions.


But without a clue, you’re lost.


Open mind. Follow teacher’s pointing-out without trying to second guess or decode it.


I’m not willing to do tantra. So I’m doing it the hard way.


DW, repeat after me: “I release all martyr energies.”

I’m serious. That’s your mantra.


If my heart were fixed, it would be easy.


I release all martyr energies.


Two paths. (1) Fix heart: the way to do that is tantra. (2) Direct path: follow the teacher’s pointing out without question.

Take your choice.


OK, Jenny . . . “I release all martyr energies.”


You know exactly what I mean. You are indulging in the perverse pleasure of punishing yourself.

You deserve to awaken. You deserve a long happy life full of love.

Now, Vasily, my dear. . . .


“I release all martyr energies.”

“I release all martyr energies.”

“I release all martyr energies.”

“I release all martyr energies.”

I’m cool with it.


Okay, Jenny, please continue. I don’t want to keep you too late.


Vasily, when you and I got stream entry at around the same time and met, what was and still is super interesting to me is that you said, and I felt myself, that SE brought with it a persistent feeling of j4.j5, the felt boundless space aspect, in everyday life.

Now, most practitioners apparently don’t get that “package deal” at stream entry.

My hypothesis is that people who get the spaciousness early, at SE as defined by MCTB, will move very quickly to fourth path attainment when exposed to decent instructions.

So, although we cannot be sure about others’ attainments, I am convinced that you and I had similar SE outcomes. And I’m inclined to believe you now, somehow, have gotten luminosity. This impression is not just because of your words, but also because of another level on which I’m feeling into you.

So what I would advise you to do next is this:

Get some conceptual/intellectual understanding of basic Dzogchen terminology—chiefly, rigpa, kunzhi, and tsal. I recommend starting with Tenzin Wangyal’s book The Wonders of the Natural Mind.

Then read the post about luminosity versus rigpa. Learn, conceptually, the difference between luminosity and rigpa from that.

Note that Mahamudra is essentially identical to Dzogchen’s first of two paths: Trekchöd. So do your damnedest to scrape together the dough and time to sit a weeklong Mahamudra retreat next summer. Mahamudra has more structure to it than Dzogchen Trekchöd. So it will be more “pragmatic” in flavor. It is very, very precise and structured.

Now, then, during another talk, we can address taking the mind perspective as opposed to the event perspective. That’s step 1 for you. If you have luminosity, you actually already know what this is. But what I want to see is whether the mind perspective is stable, or whether you can flip back and forth. The answer to that will suggest Step 2.

I love you all. Good night.

Pragmatic Dharma Movement Manifesto 

Under the moniker Pragmatic Dharma, a movement has emerged in the West since the early 2000s to evolve the Buddha-dharma in alignment with American Pragmatism. American Pragmatism, the quintessentially American philosophical movement dating back to the the late nineteenth century, holds that the truth and meaning of any idea is solely a function of its practical outcomes.

The historical Buddha of our Degenerate Age, Siddhārtha Gautama, in teaching not abstract ontology or epistemology, but human “suffering and the end of suffering,” was a model pragmatist. He was concerned foremost with experiential results that make a difference to our human lives. With the historical Buddha as our model, then, our movement proclaims the following emphases:

Laity empowerment. Contemporary western laypersons with busy lives can and do awaken in this lifetime.

Goal-based practice. Awakening depends on goals codified as a map of expected progressive attainments.

Diligence. Attainment requires daily meditation practice—not the following:

– specific socioreligious trappings

– aspirations to merit awakening in some future life

– other untested traditional dogma

Eclecticism. Efficient and effective practitioners mine an array of traditions for practice methods.

Innovation. Skillful practitioners reality-test maps and methods to assess worth and limitations, and then innovate improvements.

Scientific tooling. Western sciences and technology are important adjuncts to personal reality-testing.

Grassroots sanghas. Contemporary western practitioners benefit from open peer-to-peer discussion of attainments.

Table 1 contrasts the emphases of traditional Buddhism with those of Pragmatic Dharma.

Table 1. Comparison of Traditionalism with Pragmatic Dharma 

Note: Since the time I first drafted this table, my views have been modified in some respects by experiences in my own practice and by encounters with certain others. First, although reality-tested maps and methods are sufficient for traversing early path terrain, transmission is a very real phenomenon that one who has some opening can feel as it is taking place. It will speed and deepen results, especially at the high end of the path, and is therefore pragmatic. Secondly, I now understand the necessity for terma and other secret teachings. Currently, this planet is spiritually lost. There are false teachers everywhere, sociopaths and those with other serious personality disorders. These people prey on practitioners with realization in order to co-opt the teachings and turn a profit, if not commit outright abuse. They all commit abuse at least in that they are not trained and lack realization, and therefore move off ignorant greed and pervert the teachings. Aside from questions of these charlatans, certain esoteric practices, if broadcast, would confuse, sidetrack, and sometimes even destroy earnest practitioners who are not ready for them—meaning the vast majority of practitioners. For those who are ready for these practices, it is also best and actually part of the practice to keep silent, Secrecy protects such practitioners from their own residual central narcissism, as well as prying attention from others. These teachings are sacred and are to be respected as the deepest intelligence of reality, a grace grown into and not a commodity to bandy about the marketplace. 

The Importance of  Journaling to Practice and as Practice

Dear K—

Regarding your stated difficulty in keeping a practice journal because you feel it reifies practice—in the dharma book I’m writing, I urge practitioners to keep a practice journal even when they don’t feel like writing. Daniel Ingram told me to keep a journal as soon as I met him, that it would be important, and he was right.

I’ve been able to discern and therefore tweak the course of my practice skillfully because I could see larger insight “trends” emerging in and from practice sessions recorded in my journals across months and years.

In addition, often in specific formal practice sessions I will have direct insight—see—but until I am able to transmit that to the page or to others and say, I don’t sense that I have the fruit: wisdom. In fact, often it has been the saying that led in formal practice to the next seeing.  From the perspective of the causal model, I see insight leading to wisdom, and wisdom leading to next insight.

Yes, I agree that it is important to be spontaneously in the moment during formal practice, not conceptualize, let go, and so forth, but then it is important to contemplate what that seeing brings up and forth in your everyday life and in planning your next formal practice.

What do I mean by “planning” next practice? I am thinking mostly about my earlier Theravadin-stage practices, when I was doing vipassana applying the Three Characteristics across Six Sense Spheres, how one characteristic or sense sphere would entail insight suggesting the next sense sphere or characteristic to emphasize in a formal practice session.

But even now—if something is coming up over calendar time as a pattern I wasn’t seeing clearly into before, that can suggest a practice emphasis for me to pursue. Last night offers an example.

Last night I stayed up practicing some esoteric stuff until 5 a.m. I’m now off Cymbalta and past the wicked withdrawal syndrome, and am lately confronting this twinge of anxiety I feel as times, especially before falling asleep. I have a history of phobias around traveling in cars and airplanes, and around everything Kerry in general. Kerry was planning to drive to Charlotte today, and I tend to be especially anxious when he is driving out of town. 

During my esoteric practices, I was tuning in to that “Kerry traveling” anxiety. I had sudden insight into my attachment to Kerry as keen suffering. I saw exactly why my protective love for him is suffering. It is a love that is particularized to him as special beyond everyone else on earth. I contemplated and felt in my heart center and solar plexus how I could not bear the feeling of any harm coming to him. I felt fear because family members of a couple of friends have recently suddenly died, including a son Kerry’s age who was killed in a car accident. This overprotection I feel for Kerry is extreme suffering.

Yesterday, too, one of my authors wrote me on Skype: “To be a mother is to know suffering.” I had stared at that sentence for a long while. This author narrowly escaped being a casualty last week in the Manchester attack that killed so many innocent children. He was telling me he is afraid for his son, who is Kerry’s age and traveling to Berlin.

So last night after contemplating and seeing all this, I saw this tiny booklet I have on daily purification from back when I was practicing in the Gelugpa tradition. Seeing that caused me to read it for the first time in a long time and to remember that phrase “mother sentient beings” and how in Tibetan Buddhism a mother’s love is the template and intensity standard for universal love. The book mentions, in particular, Vajrasattva’s “unbearable compassion.” That is what I feel for my child, particularly when he is confused or blind: unbearable compassion.

I suddenly began to see clearly how to end this surviving anxious preoccupation that is my pet locus of suffering. I saw that expanding that love I have for Kerry to all beings would be to dissolve a boundary that is currently still my identity-view based on super-special attachment and therefore suffering.

Furthermore, I understood the urgency of purification anew, because I understood that I have to extend that love to myself to release guilt, which is the backward-looking form of worry. My worry over Kerry comes from my believing Little Jenny deserves punishment and is unworthy of love. This insight led me to contemplate reviving some practices JC suggested to me for healing Little Jenny, who was abandoned by her parents and who therefore keenly feels hyper-vigilance against losing more family and being banished by peers.

Like Atiśa, who wrote it, I did that purification practice in that little book on the spot, to forgive myself for wrongs I’ve done others, for my shortcomings in being of service. Although I’m normally not one to take vows, I suddenly vowed to the depth of my being to stay. I vowed to stay here until everyone knows the joy of liberation. As I journal my practice over weeks and months, I’ll see what wisdom results from renewed practice emphasis on attachment-as-suffering and on purification as release. Then I’ll see what boundary remains and deal with that. This is all I mean by “planning” practice.

I believe that practice, like any project, should be guided by discernment. Setting intention is a formal part of meditation practice, after all.. That means that practice goals and documentation of which methods lead to which results is important, perhaps even critical. It may not be Zen or Dzogchen of me to say so, but I do say so even while currently being a Dzogchen practitioner. Structure is a tool. The causal model is a tool. As each rung is attained and integrated, you can throw off that bit of scaffolding as just artificial scaffolding, finally just abiding in the natural state (Trekchö). But my view is that abandoning the causal model from the beginning, or even in the middle of the path, is almost always disastrous, or at least unnecessarily inefficient.

People often mistakenly believe that one must first think in order to write. But practiced writers actually write in order to discover what they have seen and think. Thought is not an enemy to be permanently shut down, but to be integrated into the natural state. We are thinking, feeling creatures, after all. Back decades ago when my husband invited others to his Native American–style sweat lodges in North Florida, everyone would take off their clothes, sit in the pitch dark, sweat until there was no felt resistance, and then take turns speaking from the heart. Truth of experience is what matters, you see, however it unfolds, however “its” intention both reflects and informs “ours,” eventually merging.

So my advice is to just write, just as you speak truth from the heart during our retreats. Open your heart and be a hollow conduit for whatever speech-stream flows forth—without planning, organizing, or editing as it flows. Automaticity of writing without identity-investment in the result is in itself profound practice.



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. 

The List 

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. . . .

Unbounded Wholeness Analyzed

I had a phone conversation with DreamWalker last night, and I want to make a few notes, clarifications of my experience.

What It Means to Lose the Centralized Subject

First, about the central processor’s dropping out last July for good – I mentioned to DreamWalker that, when I told John that my roaming my body fields endlessly had stopped, John had said that was because seeking had ended. DreamWalker said tonight, “I think there is more to it than that.” DW said that he thinks the dropping-out is a shutdown of the fight-or-flight system. 

I think there is something to DreamWalker’s observation. I think that the roaming is seeking, yes, but it is not so much desire per se as a kind of hyper-vigilance, which is fear. Right before stream entry, I had profound insight into the way that my body creates objects and objects create the embodied subject. The constant roaming of attention is in order to keep all this going, to keep matching a particularized section of the body with a particularized section of the field. One Subject : One Object. This compulsion begins in very early childhood as a survival mechanism. It is root delusion, ignorance of our true nature and identification of limited constructs as “self.”

How would I discuss this in a book? Well, I will discuss it within a larger discourse on the Four Noble Truths. Enough said about that for now.

What Loss of Subject-Object Perception Means for Emotional Reactivity

But this is not just about perception gone over to apperception. It is also about feeling, emotion, reactivity. I explained to DW that now if I’m “worried” about my son’s driving back from Ohio at 4 a.m., then the worried thought-articulation goes through me and my speech may convey my habitual words of caution and protest; however, no emotion accompanies these habitual acts. It is as if the habitual script is waxed floss pulled through my brain and disposed of immediately: there is nothing for it to grab onto. 

This whole erosion of emotional reactivity has been just that: a slow erosion. It wasn’t sudden in the way the deconstruction of perception was July 30, 2015. It was a deepening, until one day I noticed that one experience was valued essentially like any other. This isn’t just a philosophical conclusion; it is an actual change in emotional processing. Actually, the emotions aren’t processed, because they don’t even arise, for there is nothing for them to hook onto sufficient even to arise. Empty thoughts, empty words born of habit. That is all.

This is so odd, now that I think about it analytically, but true. I can think worry, I can speak worry, but I’m not feeling it. It is sunk into and drowned by the vast depth of field before it can even arise. 

I suspect that, after some more time, even the worry-thought and the worry-words will just stop. After all, I pay a lot of energy into them with no return on that kind of investment. More and more, I’ve simply withdrawn.

I’d like to find a cave, one with a reading light and a nearby mango tree.

The Vast Expanse beyond the Visual Sense Sphere

Secondly, my main descriptor of the July awakening is “vast.” John links space with the visual sense door; however, DW is correct again when he says that it seems to him that the vast expanse I’m always on about is less about anything visual and more proprioceptive mechanosensation. In other words, the vastness I mean, when I try hard to analyze it, which is hard to do, vastness being vast and all, concerns my sense of body fields, bodily interior, and movement through space. Because some delusional boundary has dissolved that was between my interior and surface, between the body fields themselves, and between space and any of this – the result is this extremely expansive unboundedness. 

Why is this so clear to DW, who says the center has not dropped out for him, while it has been so difficult for me to figure out and articulate? Well, again, because vastness tends to drown analysis, because to analyze means to break things down to explain how they contribute to a whole. But the experience isn’t the analysis: The experience is vast. The experience is whole. The experience is all. 

DreamWalker, when he is frustrated with my lack of articulation says, “Yes, Jenny, everything is everything . . . so helpful.”

If one wants to teach or write, one must try to work up words from the perspective of one who does not yet have the realization. One must describe all the colors of the rainbow to one born blind.

Rigpa as (Visual Field) Luminosity

One other reason it has been so hard is that I do have the visual unbinding too: This is actually the sense of vivid directness that we call luminosity (rig pa). My mind is fused to yon juniper bush on which I gaze. Conversely, yon juniper bush is as aware as it is manifest over there, and that there awareness is this here awareness simultaneously. The time it takes to perceive has dropped out. This can seem like spatial bridging, or vastness, but it is not really about space so much as it really is about immediacy. A time-consuming centralized perceptual process has stopped with regard to any “object.”

Even though here we are talking about rigpa, Infant Consciousness, rather than Mother Consciousness, and this realization is one separate from Mother-Space vastness, I think if you are following my words faithfully, you easily can discern why this opening of awareness while seeing would also effect a kind of relative vastness: Delusional locational  polarization of awareness has deconstructed. So even though the focus may be on one object, such as the juniper bush outside my office, and even though there is still a subject on some metalevel who is having a wondrous nondual experience, the locational polarization of subject and object has dissolved – while one is engaged in vision – into “two oceans mingling.”

So, DreamWalker, I have a new theory: Mother is chiefly the unbinding of proprioceptive mechanosensation, and Infant (rig pa) is the directness, intimacy, of the visual field.

Difficulty in Analyzing Unbounded Wholeness

Yikes. This is actually a really good analysis, a breaking-things-down for the sake of discussion.

But here is the thing: When you put these two together – visual awareness and spatial awareness – then you have the infant lying in the arms of the mother. And that inseparable union is so very vast yet direct and intimate that one might be forgiven, especially if these shifts come in quick succession, for being unable and even unwilling to analyze this unbounded wholeness.

Thank you, DreamWalker. 

I’m too sleepy to write about hearing. Maybe tomorrow.