Ways to Stop Sidetracking Buddhahood

Get a Highly Qualified One-on-One Teacher

In this past Thursday’s intense talk with my teacher, I gained more understanding of the variety of ways nonduality, in the domain of perception, can manifest in a given student. Catching the ways someone can go off too far in one direction requires a teacher with extensive knowledge of the tradition, extensive exposure to all kinds of student personalities and contexts, and true talent for teaching. I’m blessed to have such a teacher. You cannot go further with just books, maps, and dharma friends. The path becomes extremely individualized at this point, and navigation is a delicate undertaking.

Get Over the Delusion That You Are “Done”

At this point on the path, after one has slipped out of the suffering of individual consciousness and the tyranny of attention (as opposed to awareness, rigpa), one can easily believe one is fully awakened. The seeking has stopped, after all. If this is you, then the first point is to understand that you are not done. For example, MCTB fourth path attainment is not done. There is still far to go. The good news is that this next leg of the journey requires none of the striving and suffering that the earlier phases did. The true agent of awakening has been recognized, so all one has to “do” is be open and undistracted. You might practice just 15 minutes in the morning, a very simple sit, and then take that into your day. Awareness beyond individual consciousness will to the rest. But see my next subsection – on getting out of your own way.

Let Go of Maps, States, Stages, Siddhis, and Highly Artificial Techniques

This being the truth, why do some with MCTB fourth path not go further? Well, there are plenty of ways to get sidetracked from the natural state: 

  • If you keep micro-mapping every state, experience, stage – sidetrack.
  • If you start cultivating siddhis – sidetrack.
  • If you start employing “techniques” to gain lucidity in dreams – sidetrack.
  • If you chase after visionary experiences – sidetrack.
  • If you meditate with artificial means, as in jhana practice or even liveliness-of-rigpa practice – possible sidetrack

Accept That the Natural State Is All You Need

Artificial meditative activities and map mongering disrupt rather than stabilize the natural state. Keep to the Prime Directive: Ride the natural state to enlightenment, which is buddhahood.

There are three phases students go through with regard to Dzogchen:

  1. First experiencing the natural state,
  2. Coming to believe that the natural state is all that is needed, and
  3. Stabilizing the natural state so that it is the way of life every moment.

Get Out of Your Head and under the Feminine

What you need to do, after the subject perspective of individual consciousness has dropped away for good, which is where Dzogchen begins, is stabilize rigpa, the crystal clarity aspect of nonduality. But it is easy to overshoot fruition precisely by trying too hard from within your head.  If you are living in your head still, as many very masculine partly awakened practitioners do, you are likely to get stuck and stay stuck until you begin relating to your body and emotions, until you drop down out of your successfully dissociated head and into embodiment. Maybe this is why, traditionally, it is said that women are at an advantage for fully awakening.

More on the fruits of this talk in a few subsequent posts.

Percentage of Awakening and Confounded Maps: To Daniel

­­­­April 2, 2015

Dear Daniel,

I hope you are all right. I’ve been enduring some super creepy vj3/fear sensations since late yesterday, so just checking in OCD fashion on everyone who has gone dark.

I won’t be writing you that letter I had planned. Maybe DW is a blockhead, after all, haha! Just kidding, I think, but Tuesday’s video conference with Jim and Jamie (and DW and Steph) pretty much convinced me that 3rd-to-4th is unmappable. At the end of the discussion, in fact, Jamie told DW, “If you want to work on deleting a list of core processes, then start with what you are holding so close to your heart now—start with your need for this territory to be mappable and mapped.”

DW seems to be driven to treat vipassana as a “deletion” machine, a kind of meat grinder, and he wants to run all the possible “selfing processes” he can identify through that machine until each is not only dissolved but “deleted,” destroyed. However, if we want to link up techniques to paths, then this technique seems to me more like something I might do very early on, say before stream entry.

DW thinks that there are many, but a finite number of, “selfing” processes going on, and that the Big Flip to nondual may occur well before 4th Path for some. Alternatively, it may occur at 4th Path, depending on the person and what he or she has or hasn’t done according to some master list in the sky.

His hypothesis, if I’m understanding it, is that when the right combo and number of selfing processes has reached some critical mass, then the Big Flip to “everything arises where it is” happens. But that alone may not get one all the way to MCTB/Ingram 4th. In fact, he thinks that is why some people who claim 4th don’t have all the pieces done and keep seeking—they have just the critical mass needed for the Big Flip, the most major piece. He thinks you, by trial and error, got all done—or at least many more—of the master list items in the sky.

For months we’ve gone looking for lists. There are the chakras, and there are the core processes (and how many of those?). DW is even trying to go through the Derived Material Qualities list from the Visuddimagga. He has assigned parts of that list to the four different paths, a proposed map. For example, he worked on “selfing processes entangled” with male/female sexual identity while on retreat during Second Path. However, I have never worked through anything like that, so his path-specific assignments do not match up with my experiences and therefore don’t make sense to me as a map.

(Of course, I can’t even account for all three paths in my case: I am aware of only two path fruitions, but I definitely match up, insight-wise, with the fifth stage in the Simple Model, so my best guess is that, somehow, I have attained to Third Path. It doesn’t seem to much matter anymore where I am: the maps from MCTB have largely done all the good they can, I think, and now it is about cutting my own path through a mysterious and tangled vastness before me. The only “map” is where my feet happen to tread.)

All these schemes, maps, models—they aren’t going to work for me. I’m not even paying attention to fruitions anymore—whether I have them and the “right” kind—and really couldn’t care less about them. Same with cycles—I pay attention to them to cope with my relative situations as morally skillfully as possible, and that’s really all. I don’t think fruitions are that important, frankly. All of this is just background noise anymore.

Currently, I also don’t sense that my awakening, which I’m convinced is happening, has anything to do with “deletion.” There is something wrongheaded about that word and concept to me, as if strong-willed methodical demolition were it. I feel intuitively that so long as I’m struggling to “get rid of X” then that is a move in the wrong direction somehow. When I’m formally sitting or just walking around, I’m trying to comprehend more, not less, if that makes sense. Setting out to destroy my “self” and arising of what suggests that self seems kind of like the “just let go” bypass—it is attempting to skip the entire insight needed.

One interesting question in all this, though, is that about the Big Flip—the one that accounts for being at least “almost” done. DW thought that you got the Big Flip at the very end of your journey, in India, during your last retreat. However, I pointed out to him that you consistently characterize yourself as having been 95% done well before that point in time. Nevertheless, that 5% of X that was missing, not seen, apparently did something pretty dramatic at the very end.

So . . . this leads me to wonder, were you already nondual in Third or not? Are there degrees of nondual, like being a little bit pregnant? How there could be degrees of such a shift is beyond me. Or is it that nondual was still a kind of mode in Third, one that hadn’t permanently and pervasively touched everything? Is that is what is meant by the 5%—the going beyond nondual a a mere mode, a special one?

I asked Jim if he saw 3rd-to-4th as 95% done, the way you characterize it for yourself. Interestingly, he said no, that right before our video conference he had in fact been sketching out a timeline on his kitchen table, and he figured that where Steph, DW, and I think we are was at most 50% done, probably less, probably only a third of done. Both he and Jamie have been very consistent on the DhU that “being awake” is like day from night to “awakening.” So, however much percent is not done, it makes a 100% difference somehow. So, again, is the nondual of Third Path in any sense really nondual?

All this percentage-of-awake/nondual talk is fundamentally confusing to me. So next I asked Jim, “Okay, so if Third Path was, say 45% of done for you, then did you, over several years after reaching Third, continue to experience little shifts? (“The Arahat fractal is vast, after all.”) He said, “You are asking if I inched up on being awake; the answer is no.” Now, he does say that everything he did up until the 36 hours over which the Big Flip happened did, he senses, help ensure that the Big Flip would happen. He doubts that he would have awakened had he never taken up meditation—even though he stopped meditating a couple of years before the Big Flip happened and pretty much renounced Buddhism.

So if there is no inching up on the thing, whatever it is and however characterized, then what’s with giving the percentages of “done”? Man, I’m just not getting any of this. . . .

Jim did go on to say some things that were compelling to me and made me sense that he is indeed enlightened, has pretty far-reaching insight. Like me, he doesn’t conceive of awakening as a deletion process. However—and this is key, I think—he stated that extreme disenchantment was, he suspects, important in Third. He said he started hating Buddhism, hating MCTB, and hating his Dharma teacher. He thought doing all this work was just folly, nonsense. He quit meditating and went instead on all kind of transformative adventures along the axes of magick and relative reality. So he moved out of New Jersey to the West Coast, he connected deeply with friends, and he started devotional practices to Inanna.

Jamie chimed in with agreement in response to my question—if you want to “map” anything in Third, then the one constant seems to be this disgust, this disenchantment with being a meditator meditating. However—Jim was quick to jump in and say, “It nonetheless pisses me off when everyone on Awake Network tells DW to stop meditating to get Fourth; it makes me hope he’ll go on a 3-month retreat and get Fourth just to screw with them.” In other words, Jim is hardcore on the notion that the path to Fourth is fundamentally unmappable, and deleting X, Y, or Z, including deleting meditation just isn’t enough, or even part of it necessarily.

The disenchantment is not pointing to deletion or even necessarily deconstruction as a mode.


Between Something and Something: The No-Mapping Zone

Equanimity or Crap

Well, I’m oscillating between something and something. DreamWalker recently told me that he doesn’t really drive himself crazy trying to pin down what part of the Dark Night (DN) is showing up: It is just “crappy” or its “equanimity.” I’m finding that perspective less stressful thannhyper-mapping. 

Mapping Difficulties after Stream Entry

It seems that after first path, things become much harder to map much of the time. If I had to guess, though, I’d say I’m oscillating between Low EQ and Mid- or High EQ. All those itchy, pin-prickly things and boredom occur for me in Low EQ, and I’ve been there enough times to clearly see that pattern. Low EQ is surprisingly kind of crappy—for me, anyway, but it is much, much better than DN, which goes to the bone. This crappiness is much more superficial, with a lot of thoughts just roiling on the surface and with the feeling that I don’t know how to meditate anymore.

Reobservation Seldom a Thing for Me

The odd thing about Reobservation is that it tends to be the one part of the DN that doesn’t show up clearly for me. Dissolution, Fear, Misery, Disgust, and Desire for Deliverance are very clear—they were especially so prepath, crystal clear. But after Desire for Deliverance, I just sort of experience a weird mixture of mild ordinariness/boringness and crappy feelings. The alternating “good” sessions are based in Boundless Space and feel very much like Mid-High EQ.

The Confusion of Second Path

Second path is confusing. I had a brutal DN in the last prepath stage, but at least what was going on was clear. This feels much more like I’m just on a ride, and it is usually a surprise where a sit takes me. I seem unable to plan or predict how a sit will go, whereas my sits were consistent and progressively skillful prepath; I really did plan how they would go. Aha! Something interesting there, no doubt.

Diminishing Delusion of Control

I’m guessing that there is some utility or usefulness to the crappy-feeling sits, and to the oscillation, feeling that I’m not in control of this thing. Prepath, I was so, so resistant to the DN that I stopped practicing, went on antidepressants, and tried to blot out what was happening to the extent possible, which wasn’t very possible. I never learned any “lesson” from that DN except that suffering can make you want to do
anything to end it. I never developed any equanimity toward it, never even tried,
because that would have been laughable.

This time, I’m trying hard to go into whatever pain and suffering presents, but this is hard work. It is amazing how strong the impulse is to recoil from shame, humiliation, rejection, and just plain aches and pains.