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. . . .

I drew, in reverse, this Page of Wands featuring Joan of Arc the other day here: http://jhanajenny.com/post/140320710502/alone-journey-individuation. This must be where the rose-fabric imagery came from in my recent dream: http://jhanajenny.com/post/140614078562/sex-death-fabric-dream

“Suddenly, he and I were in an old-fashioned piece goods shop. There were some bolts of fabric on a shelf. I pulled one down that had a white background covered with a pattern of red roses. I told Wayne, “I’m going to buy this and make myself a new party dress.” Wayne always loved me in my dresses, so he approved of this plan. However, I was lying: I didn’t plan to make any dress, for I can’t sew and I knew this in the dream. I was deceiving him, telling him what he wanted to hear.”

I read up on Joan of Arc. She was only 19 when she was burned at the stake. The flowers suggest her father’s garden, where she experienced the visions that led her to be a warrior against England’s aggression. She didn’t actually kill anyone but instead carried her banner into campaigns. The sword is her warrior aspect; the wand represents her prescience and powers. Crossed, they hold her banner.

Current Practice Goals and Means

John has urged me to write down my dreams and to notice how the “I,” or ego-self, is moving through the dream. He pointed out that in one of my recent dreams the “I” was gullible and being led along by others I should have not followed, or at least should have questioned. 

The lucidity of awakened awareness must be established and stabilized throughout dreams and even deep sleep. One of the many books I’ve had open is B. Alan Wallace’s Dreaming Yourself Awake: Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga for Insight and Transformation.

I have too many books open, but I feel particularly called to do dreamwork next. I need to go back to working on dream recall, for it is foundational for lucid dreaming, as well as providing ways to see how my ego is still asleep. What makes it nonlucid in dreams will clue me in during the day about when and how and why awareness is obscured. 

I will likely put chöd practice back on the shelf for a while to focus on this. I have the third chakra work going really well, so I will keep that up. I’m sitting a weekend retreat at the end of March with John to learn more somatic, grounding, embodiment practices. 

I’m annoyed that my jhana practice has sort of fallen off since July. I think I should really work on mastering concentration. It is important for so much that I want to do, on the cushion and off, including lucid dreaming.

My current marching orders are to untangle the victim/perpetrator polarity on the emotional reactivity level by the following means:

  • Physio-energetic meditations, especially opening third chakra
  • Tantric chöd practice
  • Dreamwork

I’ll write more about the victim/perpetrator duality another time. One of the most fascinating conversations I have had with John is about this topic and how I’m identified with being a victim. 

Dream of Time

This morning I had a simple, clear dream. As in most of my dreams for months now, I was traveling. This time I was driving my red Honda Accord coupe, frantically trying to get from my old workplace in Durham (why my old workplace?) to UNC Hospitals, or some hospital near Chapel Hill. 

I was late for surgery. I had impulsively decided to have a breast reduction, which in real life I’m thinking of doing. I took out some paperwork at a red light, but I could not read the time I was supposed to be there, nor the address. I also couldn’t read the car clock for the current time. This inability to read is common in dreams and should have alerted me that I was dreaming. Instead, I kept rubbing my eyes, frustrated that I failed to see clearly and had to rely instead on memory.

Finally, I arrived at the hospital and figured out after some false starts that I was supposed to be on the second floor. I went up there and saw Kurt, with his shirt open, sitting in a lounge chair in the corner of the waiting room. He was trying to suckle a tiny baby girl dressed in pink. I said, “What are you doing?–You don’t got the goods for her.” He had some chicken from KFC or some such place, with gravy. He kept dabbing gravy on his nipple and then letting the baby suck it off. He said it was just to comfort her. I said that he was feeding her delusion, which would not sustain her. He said, “Nonsense–look how much gravy I have!” I just winced and shook my head. 

I realized that I was somewhat surprised to learn that I had a baby daughter. That is the second thing that should have alerted me that I was dreaming. I only wondered what I was forgetting. 

I had to wait a long, long time, even though I had been running late. Finally some male doctor with white hair came in and talked to me briefly about the operation. I wanted to discuss what cup size I should be, how my pain would be controlled, and how long recovery would be, but he said he knew best and rushed me into surgery without really answering my questions. He was behind schedule, he said. The next thing I knew, I was being put under general anesthesia.

I have no profound reading of this dream, but Kurt and I had a rocking belly laugh tonight when I told him about the gravy-suckling attempts he made! I had been talking to my neuro Friday about addressing the body as part of the path, and possibly having this surgery. 

How did I move through the dream? Well, not lucidly. It was my idea to have the surgery, and I was the one driving, but I had to hurry up and wait, so I was sort of a victim of time, others’ schedules. The baby was the second child, little girl I often regret not having had after my son. The doctor didn’t answer my questions, was patriarchal, but I felt I had to go ahead with the surgery immediately or I would chicken out forever.

I had a dream this morning. Parts of it were clear, but the transition from scene to scene was missing, the effect being one of simply appearing elsewhere by magic. There were three basic scenes.

Third Party to Myself

In the first one, I was young and slim. I was at a party or gathering of some kind, outside a wooded home with terraced landscaping. I think it was near the ocean, for the air was thick as with warm salt billows of air. There were Japanese lanterns lit.

As the dream began, I was descending down the terraces as though they were giant stairs to the street level where I could leave. I am an introvert, and I had the feeling in the dream that I wanted to get away from the crowd, from the demands placed on me to interact with gusto. In this scene, I was not just in my body but alternately watching me descend. So the “I” was hard to locate, slippery, shifting.

As I was almost at the bottom of the yard, at street level, a man caught my eye in the periphery, and I certainly caught his eye. I’m not positive who the man was. I didn’t have a clear view of him, but something suggested that it was Wayne, my old alcoholic boyfriend. 

Piece Goods Shop and Rose-Covered Fabric

Suddenly, he and I were in an old fashioned piece goods shop. There were some bolts of fabric on a shelf. I pulled one down that had a white background covered with a pattern of red roses. I told Wayne, “I’m going to buy this and make myself a new party dress.” Wayne always loved me in my dresses, so he approved of this plan. However, I was lying: I didn’t plan to make any dress, for I can’t sew and I knew this in the dream. I was deceiving him, telling him what he wanted to hear.

Funeral Procession, First Person, and Fake Weeping

Then the scene changed again. I was standing in a church with others. We were all facing the back of the sanctuary. It was a funeral. Men dressed in black were proceeding into the sanctuary, toward the altar. I never turned and looked at the altar. I looked at the men. They were in double-file. There was no casket, for I kept looking for it. The men all had their heads hung and were crying. I was in my own body now, and I hung my head and pretended to be sad and weep. I could see that I was wearing the rose-covered sundress that I didn’t and couldn’t make. In actuality, I was not sad at all and perhaps even secretly glad that I was getting away with some kind of deception in only seemingly blending in and doing what I was supposed to.

What the… .?