Awake Awareness to Open Ground

Part 2

I’m finally getting to this post. I spent this weekend transferring many entries to my older practice journal, Dharma by Dark of Night, I need to keep hammering away at transferring the many entries of that most remarkable year (2015).

Tonight I did a “Sky Gazing” meditation that I learned from my teacher’s teacher (via a recording of pointing-out instructions). Actually, I’ve done this one several times in the past week, followed by some chakra work that I’ll have to write about separately … someday.

I will not detail what each of the following steps entails. You really have to have a Mahamudra master enter meditation with you and point out these elements of awakened awareness from within the meditation, as a tour guide might. Transmission of master to student is central to the essence traditions, and I don’t mean just spoken communication. Moreover, Mahamudra and Dzogchen are basically “branded” by the lineage. In our society, the equivalent is intellectual property. So, out of respect for the lineage, I will definitely not presume to teach method. 

Sky Gazing

So the stripped-down high-level outline of Mahamudra as leading to sky gazing is as follows.

Drop into emptiness of self so that you are operating out of awareness purified of personality characteristics and the stories that subtend those characteristics.

Establish emptiness of time; recognize the changeless, timeless, aspect of awareness.

Now notice the lucidity, the brightness, of the empty awareness that pervades everything. Reality is transparent and vivid for being directly known as not solid, not entity. It is functionally bright but unfindable–brighter for being unfindable, in fact, paradoxically.

View all particulars that arise and pass away via the six sense doors as if they were a vast ocean’s waves, from the viewpoint of being that ocean (being the vastness, silence, stillness). Ocean-and-waves meditation integrates what arises and passes away with what doesn’t, nondual.

Orient to an inward, mind perspective on “out there” so that all of that vast space and its objects are seen to be mind only. Also, or alternatively, mix your own awareness out into space, and space into awareness, so that all is nondual without a shred of duality remaining.

Get into the range of automatic emptiness of totality, either by “sealing” all as empty as it arises, at the instantaneous “speed” of awareness, or by simply dropping into the emptiness of the totality (with immediacy and full range).

Ease up off concentration and effort; allow the mind to be simple.

Allow the lucidity to be nonconceptual, such that every mind moment is fresh.

Imagine being at the peak of a mountain on a cloudless day, sky gazing; See 360 degrees, in all directions at once, the vast and nonparticular expanse. This is the mind resting as contented

Finally, allow the spacious awareness to behold itself uninterruptedly. At this point, individual consciousness can “slip out.” This step is usually known as Lion’s Gaze, because if you throw a stick, then a dog will chase the stick, but a lion will keep its gaze on the thrower’s hand, the source. No location or reference point.

Checklist for the Natural State

  • Does everything spontaneously arise as empty moment-by-moment?
  • Is all tendency toward doing seen as empty upon its arising, termed simple?
  • Is all tendency to conceptualize seen as empty, termed fresh?
  • Is it lucid, bright, transparent?
  • Is it completely nondual, without inside/outside or any edge?

Key Terminology

Here I introduce some key terms before applying them to my own whereabouts on this path .In Bön Dzogchen are two potent metaphors, which I touched on in my recent entry on the recent embodiment retreat: the Mother (the empty, or open, ground of all) and the Infant (the knowing, lucidity, acuity).

Mother

The Mother is experienced after awakening as the vastness (in vision), stillness (in sensation), and silence (in sound) that is the functional (but unfindable, nonlocalized) “ground” from which all arises and into which all dissolves moment by moment. It is the “one taste” of emptiness of inherent existence, interdependent co-arising. It is unchanging space but also matter (etymologically, the same root as maternal) . In the framework of the Five Buddha Families, its unenlightened manifestation is dullness (ignorance, avidyā), like a dense rock. Illuminated from within by rigpa, however, it is experienced as unbounded spacious freedom.

Infant

The infant aspect of unbounded wholeness is the knowing. It is rigpa. What does it know? Mother. When true knowing reaches its full measure, which occurs with the third stage of Togal visions, then the mother is completely saturated with knowing, and the knowing is then itself vast, still, silent mother. The inseparable union of mother and infant is the true nondual enlightenment, buddhahood. Before that point, to at least some extent, the mother and rigpa are separate tracks. They may each be quite nondual in themselves, so to speak, which is to say that oscillation emphasizing one over the other is an approximation that points to the real full thing. But when the final click occurs, then another boundary, the last one, is cracked and shaken off. One emerges a buddha, enlightened. Rigpa is the male principle, so “infant” is often translated as “son,” and plays on the word “sun” are ubiquitous because the sunlight is inseparable with the sky. Rigpa has to permeate all of space, silence, and stillness – at all times, at the same intensity, even in deep sleep, for fruition to be had. The lucidity never flags for an instant. The resulting inseparable union of the infant and the mother is a higher attainment than the outcome of Mahamudra, which is awake awareness.

Note that the unbounded-wholeness level of realization is therefore far beyond Daniel Ingram’s revised fourth path, or what he (wrongly, misleadingly) terms arahatship. Dzogchen as a tradition in fact begins after MCTB Fourth Path. By all means, attain MCTB Fourth Path, which is essentially Mahamudra awake awareness, but know that the Path is not at that point “done.”

Tsal

There is a third aspect, Tsal, which is simply energy, or information, everything that appears to arise  and pass in the spontaneously self-manifesting phenomenal world, which includes thought. It has numerous sub-aspects that I’ve read about but am far from having memorized. My teacher thinks of the pre-Mahamudra-proper emptiness practices as being the best way to address tsal, specifically all the worldly suffering that obscures our seeing the natural state.

My Wherabouts on This Path

As I head into Dzogchen from Mahamudra, what my teacher is wondering is whether I have rigpa perfectly stabilized even during the day (apart from in sleep). Ripga differs from holding the very subtle level of mind via Mahamudra in that rigpa is not even subtly a “view” that is deliberately “held.” It is automatic: This means it fires up at the same intensity at all times, never clouded, never obscured even during torture, never dulled. The only one of the above-listed aspects of the natural state that varies, ever, for me is rigpa, the intense lucidity of my knowing the all-self-knowing. And that makes sense because the Mother cannot vary, logically; only one’s relative intensity of knowledge of it can.

Now, as I am beginning to understand it, knowing the ground can be thought of as (1) a level of practice, or (2) the fruition of all practice. I’m practicing within clear knowing of ground, but I do not have the fruition. Again, the fruition depends on completing the third stage of the Togal visions, which brings rigpa to full measure and corrects a subtle exteriority meantime remaining in the visual sense sphere. 

As my teacher says, I’m constantly “chilling with the Mother,” which has been and is healing; however, rigpa has some variability in illuminating the Mother. My teacher says that the Mahamudra he teaches is designed to unpack rigpa, not so much the Mother, which is why its fruition is called awake awareness, I guess, as opposed to anything about the “ground.” I don’t understand this assertion, however, because the main gain from my Mahamudra retreat of July 2015 seemed to be the full extent of limitless Mother. Can rigpa alone be realized, apart from the Mother characteristics? If so, then I think that would be “luminosity” of particularized objects in the field. I will have to remember to ask my teacher this question. It is important.

I do understand from him that Mother and Infant are really only aspects, never separate things. My favorite passages on the Mother and the Infant, from a book translated by John Reynolds (see Reynolds’ Bon Dzogchen book) form an ingenious chiamus: The passage on rigpa begins with rigpa’s (unfindable) characteristics but then by the end sounds just like the Mother; and the Mother passage begins with vastness, stillness, and silence, but moves toward an ending that sounds identical to rigpa! Brilliant!

My teacher says one can simply meditate on the Mother and that experience will be dull. When we fall asleep at night, we are falling into the dullness of the Mother, into the ground. That is not what is happening with me, though, at least during the day. I think I have rigpa flaring most of the time; it is just that rigpa is much harder to talk about than is the Mother. It has no overt qualities or characteristics, after all. In trying to describe it to someone who has not realized it, one is continually thrown back on saying idiotic things like “Hey, man, it is the unfindable knowing-ness aspect of awake awareness.” Unhelpful, I know!

The Very Subtle Level of Mind (View) as Opposed to Rigpa

How does one know whether one is still subtly having to “hold” the very subtle level of mind steady? Well, does any point in the Mahamudra setup above make the lucidity of knowing flare more than before? Does the spacious aspect become more emphatically and vividly spacious, for example?

Tonight, no. The vast nondual field of awareness was the same high intensity at all points in the meditation, right from the beginning to the end. As I told my teacher, pretty much all I have to do is sit down for the rigpa to flare up. The list of instructions above is much too much doing for what is already there for me. The list my teacher individualized for me is much simpler. The irony in Mahamudra is that, the more you advance, the simpler and shorter the practice instructions become, the more Dzogchen-like.

Now, the other night I did some grounding exercises that involved lying down on my back. I noticed in that position that the mother aspect (vast, silent, still) was dull. As soon as I sat up and took upright posture, rigpa blazed up. Why? Another question for my teacher next time we meet. Probably just conditioning, like everything else.

My other sense of dullness is when I become very, very focused on a work task or on a list of things I need to do to help someone. Well, sometimes this happens. I’m focused right now while typing, though, and the rigpa is blazing fine and high. 

I’ll have to keep studying and recording the situation. DreamWalker seems to think I need to identify what situations cloud rigpa and why. But he tends to approach practice more analytically than I do, whereas I respond to the poetry of metaphors. My teacher seems to suggest that simply “holding” the right view the whole fucking time is the answer, regardless of what causes obscuration. 

At any rate, a bit of effort in the practice is coming back into my life. My teacher cautions that pouring on the effort is dangerous at this point. This path is natural, after all. Well, yes, from the ultimate point of view, but this paradoxical caution is really no different than the one delineated throughout Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, Second Edition, which many people wrongly assume is jacked up on effort alone. The paradox and rebalancing is covered in the classic Buddhist Five Spiritual Faculties teaching, as well.

Time may be always already empty, but I’m now nonetheless emphatically out of it for writing. .

Understanding Awareness-Space in Advance of Mahamudra

This entry is a transcription from an audio recording I made right after the sit of June 19.

This was another sit much like the one from the night before it—I could literally see and feel fluxing, huge swaths of literal movement. These are much bigger than the “blooming nimittas” that I saw before August path [stream entry in 2014]. These are huge, and I can actually “see” space itself moving, undulating, rocking. I feel it go through me, all of one piece.

This was a great sit—judging my sits again. I set the timer for only 30 minutes, but it felt like only 10, so I set it for another 30 minutes.

The stage was definitely Equanimity. There was some mini-Dark Night components, but they were subdued under a really luscious Equanimity. I’m noting this sit as ñ11.j4.j3.

Space was moving, the walls, the carpet—big, slow, rocking movements. Yes, I could actually see space moving, which is such an odd thing to say, but it is true.

There were certain moments when something seemed to flash through everything, through it all, not making it something homogeneous but still of a piece somehow. It was not a syncing-up so that I could have a fruition. This was something different. It was almost as if something formless—something akin to the formless realms, the upper two, flashed through everything—as if it nothingness zipped through everything, was the same everywhere, yet everything in all its diversity was still there.

Even thought this was clearly Equanimity, since the formations are a dead giveaway, there is still something A&P-like about the way I am feeling. It is funny, too, because Daniel has three different subsections in MCTB2 on trying to distinguish the A&P from Equanimity and Fruition. Anyway, I am feeling massive amounts of gratitude toward Daniel and feeling High Destiny feelings—as if all this were always meant to happen, that I would meet him, that I would edit his book, that all this was predestined and is magical, that enlightenment can and will happen.

I noted in my recording that I need to document here Vince’s interview of Daniel from early Buddhist Geeks days, regarding luminosity and the Simple Model. This is the transcription of that interview portion that is Daniel’s:

And so as people start to go through more insight cycles and new territory, they may get into what I’ll call second path or the second stage [of enlightenment] which is now they’ve completed a whole new progress of insight. They’ve abandoned the previous stages and started looking at more layers of mind and re-gone-through the process of seeing the true nature of those and a new set of insight stages, vipassana jhanas or ñanas or whatever you want to call them, and has gotten a new fruition, and gone, “Okay. So now I know how to abandon previous territories, start looking at new territory, new layers of mind,” and they are now what are called second path, or the second stage in the simple model. And their experience is all about “Oh, this fractal and this territory; oh, this new thing and this experience,” particularly if they’re geeky people like myself. Now some people who are not geeky model-based people may not label it like that, but it’s what their experience may be. They cycle and they are seeing deeper levels and deeper integrations of the mind—its not doing some things it used to do and doing some new things that it didn’t do before.

Then they begin to go, “Well it still seems like the point of my practice is to get my fruition and get my hit, sort of reset my mind, but walking around I’m not really seeing what I think I should be able to see,” and that gets more and more frustrating. So people begin to incline their minds toward what I’ll call a less cycle-fixated approach and a more right-here-right-now and it’s-got-to-be-now-or-never kind of dharma-awakening approach, and they begin to see more and more of what I’ll call emptiness in real time. Whereas they go deeper into more cycles and stages and more really investigating how things are, just moment to moment, same good, old foundation technique stuff, they begin to notice, “Wait a second. The center point really doesn’t seem to be such a big deal anymore. The sense of subject seems to be becoming more integrated with the field, or it seems to become less important,” or they seem to see I’m seeing more of what I’ll call luminosity of phenomena: that they’re just showing themselves over there. Because that’s showing itself over there, maybe this is just showing itself over here, and they begin to make those connections in terms of their experience and begin to notice as an obvious living, direct, nontheoretical but just sort of baseline sense processing experience, “Wow, this field really seems to be more and more integrated. There seems to be more and more just a sense of this is just what’s happening and it’s all wide open and it’s all just part of the field of attention and the sense of subject and center-point and watcher, or me, whatever you want to call it, at that level is not such a split off thing.” So you can get to anagami stages. They tend to be a lot like that, and as you get toward the high end of the anagami territory, you start to notice, “This seems to be really pretty complete and kind of done.”

I remember when I was a late anagami, I don’t know how many stages I went through thinking I was an arhat and was so wrong. I would walk around for a few weeks and everything seemed centerless and luminous and like it was happening on its own in some completely nondual way, and then I’d cross another Arising and Passing Away and hit a new Dark Night and realize I was completely delusional, but it was kind of nice while it seemed to last, and it sort of gave me hints of what would come next.

So one begins to have more integration, and one’s experience becomes more and more completely like that, and then finally one can get to a place where one simply understands it has to be now and it has to be all the time and there must be some truth that I’m missing, and one finally begins to see through the subtle anagami traps of wanting a superspace—that some transcendent space they can come into, or wanting this to be some super-watcher or wanting everything to be luminous in a wondrous “Oh it’s all luminous, wonderful kind of way.” As the golden chains of the high levels, or mid-high levels of realization start to fall away and they end up coming back down to earth, finally they abandon even those subtle things and subjects and wanting to be the subtle watcher that is simultaneously empty and luminous and wanting to be the subtle enlightened being that is the whatever . . . the transcendent super-being or something.

And as that all finally falls away and is seen through as being just preposterous and unrealistic, one understands, “Oh. this is it,” and when one finally comes all the way back down to earth, the split can dissolve. That usually takes good work and strong concentration and all the standard supports for insight and investigation and all that. But finally one knows, “Oh yeah. This is done.” And the sense of subject-object duality does not arise again once one is stabilized in that. And the whole field is just happening and life is just going on, bodies just moving, thoughts are just coming, all aware or just manifesting where they are, and concepts like luminosity and awareness even seem extraneous. There’s just the sense field, really, at a basic, ordinary, human level. And yet there is something remarkable about that. But it’s way more down to earth than everybody thinks it’s going to be.

I wish I had time to crosswalk this with the mahamudra book I’m reading, alas, because it is toe-to-toe with Daniel on the traps, the characteristics, the wisdom-compassion level of nondual, the works.

Another King card, this time of cups, which is emotions. This card represents someone creative, intuitive, and witty. There are sexual overtones, but that appeal is through the heart nonetheless.

The Arising and Passing Awake: Rapid Cycling

I meant to head this entry “The Arising and Passing Away,” but I’m going to let the way my hands typed it abide.

Just 15 hours after that remarkable Cause and Effect, all signs point to the beginning of an A&P. Confusing. I had an A&P dream in the middle of what seemed a protracted Equanimity-in-Review stage. Still Equanimity seemed to persist. I do remember having a few minutes of mind-body review. Then C&E today. Why would I be cycling this fast? Am I definitely out of Review now because starting from the bottom? Even though I can call up insight states now, which I thought happened only in Review?

The Magician

I lit my fancy oil lamp, meditated gently for a few minutes, feeling like I could sit all night, and drew the Magician card. This card represents positive new progress, a new direction, a new path (apropos). At the same time, this card represents an individual of high intelligence, self-understanding, and wit: an adept, a community leader, or teacher. This person could be new; in an established relationship, however, this card represents a new and positive beginning. The upright Magician in the card is moving boldly forward. He holds a straight staff upright, showing his absolute conviction in his direction and in his power. He commands all 4 elements of the minor arcana, which in the card he holds the signs of:

  • Cups for water: emotion, relationships, creativity, and love;
  • Pentacles for earth: the physical plane, career, money, and resources;
  • Swords for air/wind: intellect, thought, reason, and power;
  • Wands for fire: spirituality, energy flow, intention, will, creativity.

The images of paths and hands in the background suggest the specific unseen forces behind and undergirding the Magician. The upward flight of the white dove in the background suggests liberation (insight) and creation (magic). The Magician’s hand is open toward the sky, indicating both the release of self (insight) and creative expression (magick and other expressive pursuits).

The card is telling me to tap into my attainments, talents, concentration, intuitive ability, and other fortunate resources. It is telling me to very simply and directly stop holding back. The Magician is inviting me to step forward confidently into the spiritual transformation I otherwise desperately seek.

ñ5.j3.j1

Woke with a migraine. Sleepy and mildly headachy all day. A&P seems to be subsiding into Early Dissolution (man, that was too short of an A&P!). Whatever has recently happened to me seems to have made the cycles much faster.

The First and Last Training

I was reflecting today on ways I need to improve my life and conduct, starting with exercising restraint. These cycles make me (and others) pretty nutty, and I need to be mindful of this as a fact to be always expected to manifest. In work situations I am mindful of it, but that doesn’t mean that I should let loose everywhere else.

Part of my shortcomings in this regard is that thinking in terms of conduct alone won’t work for me. I need to take it all the way to heart: what is at stake, what these forces do, and what I want to be from the silence of my heart out to others. I like to think of myself as pretty smart and precise. And I’m a person whose intentions are normally good, virtuous; however, it is humbling to see that I too easily get completely lost in these forces. It is not enough to recognize them and determine to control my words and actions: I have to plumb the counter-thoughts at heart, work from the deep level of self-purification, which seems to be this new trip I’m on. I’ll look into some simple rituals to do.

I’m going to go into magick pretty seriously, I feel. It is in my future. I was in many stage productions in college, a theatre major. Ritual is much the same thing. Magick is much the same: By becoming otherwise, you more completely become who you are.

What Daniel said about keeping renunciations private, in my own mind and heart, is resounding in me—not just the restraint aspect of it, but the heart aspect, the returning to the heart and reflecting from that interior more thoroughly, without neediness. I’m a shy but needy woman who wants to love and be loved by everyone. This collection of traits and habits, shyness and neediness, leads to my being hurt by my own over-expression. Not everything should be expressed. Most should not be, even the good should be restrained. If I had less of an open wound where a backbone should be, then it would be enough for me to sit with my mouth shut, my hands still, and my heart open. I might then not be so greedy and demanding, and ultimately hurt.

I’m also working with food, movement, schedule, sleep—although notice how terrible a job I’m doing on the sleep part at the moment, which is the root of my problems, just as Aparna said. A lot of my life and practice is on hold because work on MCTB2, but there are adjustments I need to make to self-scheduling. I can and will stop my life for MCTB2, but I do not need to further stop my life because I am on this Path. I do not need to obsess. I need to return some attention to the relative, to the training in uprightedness. I need to turn mindfulness in toward my heart.

The sit tonight was fine, my usual jhanic arc up and back down. Entering fourth came with this odd tingling up my legs. It spread to cover my entire lower body. That was a bit weird, because, otherwise, I was very neutral and slow.

Nine of Wands Upright

This card is asking me to reach within myself to find the strength remaining to finish the battle or quest to the end. The dragon in the background is one showing defiance. The end may be nearer than I think. I need to persevere despite difficulties ahead. 

Signs of Readiness for the Natural State via Essence Mahamudra

What a weird sit—fascinating and far from the usual, to the extent there is such a thing in one who looks forward to the jhanas immensely. I sat for an hour and 20 minutes and had to make myself stop because of duties. I could have sat all night.

Daytime Restlessness and Impatience

Which brings up the question, where am I? I was irritable today—incredibly impatient and antsy. I was working on MCTB2 and becoming cross for no good reason. I wanted and intended to go for a long walk to work off the edginess, but then I got an upset stomach and couldn’t. It felt almost like I was in Disgust, but last night I was in Equanimity, so that wouldn’t make sense unless some fractal nesting of one stage inside another.

So I calmed myself down through reasoning self-talk and proceeded with my work. Today I have to go to the office to make up missed work there. I’m always hunched over a computer. I need to move, need to resume massage therapy, need to return to the body, need to ground, need to renounce and turn. I’ve no idea why, but some weird switch was flipped during that last big, intense cycle. It is like the magic has gone out of the dharma. Like I want to be alone. Like I’m no longer dream-seeking, thrilled, and fascinated. Maybe this is good, but it feels like loss of magic. Disenchantment. Like something is ruined now and will never be the same again.

DW says, “Welcome to third path.” Haha.

I feel like an impostor about claiming third path. But, hey, luminosity!

Reduced Fabrication in Jhāna

Oh, the sit. First jhana was distinct. Fourth was the center of gravity again. I stayed in it an unusually long time, looking for something, as it were. There was no nimitta. But there was a sense of flux—not fine vibrations, but roiling. Space roiled through body. I was aware of awareness itself roiling through the room, body, sight (when I opened eyes) and everything. I spent a long time here, waiting for something to show up, but I don’t know what I was waiting for.

Fifth, Boundless Space, which for so many months was my favorite and compelling jhana is now one I tend to rush through and find problematic to hold. Interestingly, I am lately having a really hard time telling it from sixth. Boundless Space and Boundless Consciousness—I’m trying to figure out the difference. The problem is that Boundless Space feels like consciousness to me now. Boundless Conscious does come with this subtle shift from the lower body field to the head. So my head space seems sacrosanct, radiating out.

DW says this is a problem! Party pooper!

Okay. So I tried to exert less energy in sixth, to just let the jhana be. That was interesting. When I’m not pushing my “own” consciousness “out,” it seems to be a roiling sheet of sorts, but 3D. It fluctuates more, sometimes with body fields, sometimes with vision, sometimes with subtle thought. It is less homogeneous when less forced outward, moving more. Fascinating!

Nothingness (j7) has become this really nice resting place for me. Really cool and dark, like the Underground! Just as I have had to learn not to push out so much in fifth and sixth, so here I’ve had to learn to ease into the black pockets instead of forcefully contracting a self. Forcefully contracting oneself—what a weird inny-out! Just a few weeks ago, I felt air hunger in this state. Now it is like a soft bed.

Same with eighth about relaxing and easing up on the effort. My advice, once you manage to push yourself into eighth, is this: Soon after those sits are reached, stop pushing. Just tune into Nothingness, don’t rush, don’t push, but instead just let it happen. Eighth is now a subtler thing. I’m not always even sure I got in it. It is like a black hole to memory.

The Let’s-Not-Fabricate-Jhanas P8JP Jhana

I came out and resolved for nirodha samapatti (NS(. I tried to forget about the resolution, but that will have to become so routine that I really really forget about it. Interesting—at the post-eighth junction point (P8JP), I seem nowadays to be in another state, a strange one. It is formless but lucid, pure, and restful. It is kind of like fourth, but more refined, thinner, but not as contracted and black as Nothingness, and not utterly discombobulating like NPNYNP (j8). In this state, all urge to fabricate jhanas goes. I feel I could sit forever, and it is extremely hard to end the session. At one point, I felt I might be powering down, as if toward NS, but false alarm. The body did power down—I mean completely. But mind kept going and definitely a sense of time, which was about 4 to 6 minutes. This Whatever state was so neutral, restful, and compelling that I couldn’t exit. I finally opened my eyes and could see things mildly fluxing with the turn of attention. Maybe this is what Daniel means by “attention wave”?

Watching attention “itself” is a weird experience that seems to induce that sense of immediacy that I guess is what Daniel calls “agencylessness.”

States were not vibratory, but rolling and so neutral that they were nearly numb physically and blank emotionally.

Dan Quote

I’ve gone on previously about how, when Daniel told me that “ultimate reality” is just the Three Characteristics but without the Suffering one, I had an opening that led to this path shift known as luminosity. Well, today, working on the book, I was telling him that he needed to add that to the book. He wrote back to me with this:

Want to get really crazy about it? You could actually get very, very out there and say that all three vanish, but that is likely to just totally confuse nearly everybody.

Whoa!

Postscript 2.5 Years Later: Guidance toward MCTB Fourth Path

This statement by Daniel indicates to me, from where I sit now, that he opened rigpa and oriented to the Mother (kunzhi) sufficient to drop the Subject. So it continues to baffle me that (1) he never went beyond the 3Cs in our version MCTB2 to explain what ultimate reality actually is, (2) he never stopped insight stage cycling whereas I and reportedly others stopped cycling when rigpa opened, and (3) he denies having experienced the affect purification from dharmakaya release. What is most dumbfounding is that dharmakaya release automatically begins upon the realization of the Ground, which is in essence MCTB Fouth Path. It certainly began for me and others I know at that same point. Why not for him? It is an interesting mapping quandary, and so far I’ve not come up with or heard from others any theory that makes sense.

This post and the one before it mention the beginning of my inability to tell j5 from j6. These days I consider j5 a conditioned and limited pointer to the kunzhi, and consider j6 the same for rigpa. Moreover, I think j7 is akin to absorption into the central channel from where masters used to practice Mahamudra, and j8 is a model for the space-time travel of a fully realized buddha. Detail on these correspondences will appear in my book.

For now, if you are practicing jhana and are in the neighborhood of MCTB Third Path attainment, I suggest paying a lot of investigative metacognition to the difference between Boundless Space and Boundless Consciousness. Can you notice and document the difference between these two states phenomenologically? Conversely, can you notice and delineate all the characteristics between the two that are identical? Over calendar time, watch for (1) the point at which Boundless Consciousness rather than Boundless Space becomes the center of gravity in your daily practice, and (2) the point at which the two states become increasingly hard to distinguish from one another.

When you have felt spaciousness in daily life and luminosity as baseline, and then you begin to notice the difficulty in distinguishing j5 from j6, then my advice is to seek out a retreat in the Essence Mahamudra methods. Note the term Essence, which is to say, not sutra and not vajrayana. Essence Mahamudra is equivalent to Dzogchen Trekchöd. 

Reobservation into Low Equanimity of a Dramatic Insight Cycle

Yesterday I tried to do metta for a mere 20 minutes. But I just sat, staring at the candle, emotionally numb and unable to wish even myself well. Vibratory body continued. Insight stage notation from new MCTB2 notation system: ñ10.j3.j4. This is the fourth jhanic aspect of the third jhanic aspect of Reobservation insight stage. Actually this specific notation may apply more to Thursday. On this day I was moving into Equanimity.

This has been a particularly dramatic insight cycle. I never get A&P Events anymore, but I did this time. And I almost never even notice Reobservation, but this one has kicked my ass. Intense bodily vibrations have been prominent, and a very heavy and seemingly irresistible renunciation trip—especially toward everything Dharma.

But I think Friday night I was already drifting into low Equanimity. Now it is early Sunday morning, and I just finished a sit for an hour and 20 minutes. My best guess is n11.j3.j1, per the new notation system, which will be featured in MCTB2. (I urge all practitioners learn this notation system. It may seem off-putting to begin with, but you really need to be able to see the fine differences between substages and between subjhanas for mastery, and this system aids in that discernment greatly. So when you get your hands on MCTB2, learn it and apply it and encourage others to do so. It aids communication and journaling, and it helps you in awareness of your current insight stage, which may help prevent bleed-through, although I’ve had some significant bleed-through this week, unfortunately, despite my precision in knowing where I am.)

My concentration felt poor tonight, and jhanas were soft except for Boundless Consciousness (j6) and some portion of my time in Nothingness (j7). My bodily vibrations have calmed down into something finer, subtle, and slower. My mind is babbling while I sit, but I still sat more than an hour. I had bodily irritation, such as annoying itches, restlessness, and fleeting aches. This is a mimic of Three Characteristics stage, which is typical for me when I’m in low Equanimity. Eighth was hard to hold.

The “custom” jhana is weird. This is such an easy state for me to get, but tonight, for some reason, I didn’t feel I would get it. But I did. There is equanimity, then a bliss wave from the navel up to the heart and then everywhere, and the gratitude-y emotion. This time, however, the bliss-gratitude wave reached my heart, flipped over like a dead sea lion, and I started sobbing—completely unexpected, completely out of nowhere and nothing. It was the crying of grief, and the feeling that I cannot go back and undo consequences. So bright gratitude brought on deep black grief, without warning.

After I stopped being such a ninny, I sat long enough to get the purer gratitude wave generator going, but none of my samatha was impressive today. The insight stages are dominant.

There was a strong j3 element throughout all else in the sit—meaning my back was cold and I was creeped out a bit. The cold back is feeling of abandonment, as when a parent abandons a child, or a friend abandons or betrays one.  I almost alway get the creepy frozen back (“cold shoulder”) in j3. Practice highlights were that Nothingness was very rich and long, NPNYNP was definite but not lengthy.

Reobservation does seem to be calming down and heading out, thank goodness. This was a baddy. I bled-through on someone I care for; it was not pretty. There are legitimate issues I need to straighten out with this person, but I absolutely wanted to torch him and everything conceptually related. I went into a heavy-duty renunciation trip.

I didn’t sleep much, but then stayed in my pajamas and in bed most of the day, dozing lightly, dreaming, and being like one post-illness or hung over—washed out and blah. My back and neck hurt all afternoon and evening, which is associated more with Reobservation than with Equanimity, so I’m not sure where I am.

Emotionally, I feel flat and professional; but underneath I feel ashamed for having lost control during Reobservation. Daniel gave some interesting advice that Kenneth gave him once, which is to renounce everything privately, not publicly, in heart and mind, and then to stop practicing for a few days. He got second path without warning that way.

Anyway, I’m crawling under a rock in a way, but sitting up straight, sober, professional, and flat-neutral in another way. This doesn’t feel like Equanimity so much as just Spent. Very sleepy before sit, but my concentration was better than last night’s, but then last night’s was shit.

Postscript 2.5 years later—I remember this particularly dramatic insight stage cycle well. The bleed-through I mention was onto Daniel. At one point I drew the Ten of Swords, pictured left, for outcome of the MCTB2 work we were doing together. When Daniel saw the card, he wrote only Alea iacta est, “the die is cast,” and indeed it was. Luckily, I don’t recall having another insight cycle this intense ever again. I was to have a Mahamudra awakening 3 months after this point, and, with the exception of occasional mild A&P-like episodes, the insight stage cycling ceased with that awakening, which is also when the Subject dropped out. Another 8 or so months later, even the mild A&P-like periods had faded out completely. It turned out that more than the opening of rigpa happened on that retreat: rigpa was fairly stable, stable enough for me to orient to the kunzhi naturally. It is interesting that, although Daniel’s descriptions to me and others about his own level of awakening sound just like this orientation to the kunzhi, he still experiences continual insight stage cycling, including kickass Reobservation stages, he claims. This continuation of the cycling indicates that something is incomplete in the realization of timeless awareness and unbounded wholeness, but what or why is not completely clear. I wish for him the ending of the cycling, for that is the cessation of  much unnecessary suffering. Awakening is indeed incomplete without that cessation. I don’t know anyone who cycles who wants to continue to do so; quite the contrary. This is a hint, as well as a wish.