Cessation events and a unified mind ; Review cycles and progress after 1st path

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Malte Malm 7 years, 4 months ago.

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    In my practice, I have gone from alternating between samatha and dry insight á la Mahasi (inspired by Daniel Ingram and Kenneth Folk) to only doing dry insight. Here’s two reasons I stopped samatha practice: 1. I felt like it was getting harder to concentrate as I started experiencing what I thought of as “vibrations” more and more intensely – and they where not in synchrony. 2. I started to get impatient and frustrated, thinking that “it’s better to finish this (which I at the time thought I could do pretty soon), and work on samatha later.

    I then read the passage below, which raised a lot of questions:

    “The transformative power of a cessation event depends on how unified the mind was. Unification determines the overall size of the “audience” of sub-minds receptive to events in consciousness. Only the parts of the mind-system that were tuned in during the cessation are affected. If the mind were completely unified, then every sub-mind within the mind system would be affected simultaneously, and there would be a complete Awakening of the entire mind-system.” (The Mind Illuminated, page 286)

    Is it better to wait with the first cessation event until strong samatha is developed? Thus making the cessation event more transformative. Or is it easy to “experience” another cessation again after the first one? In which case I could have the first cessation event with weaker samatha, work on developing stronger samatha (which I have heard should be easier after stream entry) and then “experience” another cessation, attaining the transformation that did not occur earlier due to lack of unity in mind.

    Daniel and Kenneth talks about “review cycles” happening after the first cessation, culminating in cessations. If samatha is developed, can these cessations result in the transformation that maybe didn’t occur due to lack of a unified mind? Or can this transformation only happen from “path cessations”?

    I haven’t heard Culadasa talk about review cycles, does his students experience these? I know Ingram and Folk insists that all stream-enterers and beoynd go through these cycles, even if they don’t pay attention to it – what do you think of that? I’ve even read accounts of people experiencing these review-cycles as quite destabilizing, at least some time after attaining path. Any thoughts on that?

    I’d be very interested to hear more on Culadasa’s views on what happens after stream entry. This is how I understand Daniel’s and Kenneth’s models: If dedicated vipassana practice is continued after stream entry, a second insight cycle begins with the same pattern as the first, culminating in a second “path-moment”, the attainment of 2nd path. After that, I believe the “path-moments” get less clear (at least for many). I think Kenneth defines the attainment of 4th path as reaching a point where you feel you’ve “gotten off the ride”. Would this in any way correspond to how a student of Culadasa might progress?

    At the moment I don’t feel as impatient about attaining stream entry as before. Mostly because I feel better now than at the time I dropped the samatha. I believe I was in “the dark night” at that time, and now I think I’m starting to enter equanimity territory (using the 16 ñanas map). If attaining stream entry with weaker samatha means less transformation, and if further fundamental transformation isn’t possible until next “path cessation”, I think I’d prefer to hold off on the investigation a bit, practicing as suggested in TMI. But if further fundamental tranformation is possible during “review cessations” or other forms of relatively-easy to access states for a stream-enterer, I might keep up my investigation, or at least go back to my altering practice.

    Regarding my current samatha skills: I can’t really tell you which TMI-stage I’m at (partly because I’ve only read parts of it yet). Before I dropped my samatha practice I had a period when I could sustain my attention on the breath without much effort, thoughts were sparse and didn’t pull. I had a lot of very pleasant piti at the time, and felt like I was close at reaching some form of jhana a copule of times. Then my life got more busy and stressful, so I practiced less and got less concentrated. I regained some of that concentration during the beginning of a one-month solo retreat, but then I dropped the samatha practice altogether (as mentioned above). When I do samatha now, the same thing happens as when I stopped: I get easily distracted by all the vibrations/piti in my body. But I don’t find them that chaotic, and often the’re quite pleasant. Also I don’t get frustrated with them.

    A summary of my questions:

    1. Would it be a good Idea for me to wait with the first cessation event until stronger samatha is developed?
    2. Is further fundamental transformation after stream entry only possible at the next “path cessation”?
    3. What is Culadasa’s views on review-cycles? Feel free to give your own views too 🙂
    4. How might the progress to “full awakening” look for a student of Culadasa?


    Edit: To be more specific about my insight practice, it has mostly been “freestyle-noting” the way Kenneth teach it. Which I believe might be even a step further away from a more samatha-based practice compared to “breath+distraction-noting” (Mahasi).


    Blake Barton

    Hi Olov,

    I cannot comment on all of your questions, because I have not experienced a cessation event. However, Culadasa recommends developing Samatha first, and then insight. He recommends getting to at least stage 7 before starting insight practices. However, in doing the samatha practices insights are likely to develop along the way.

    Developing the joy, tranquility and equanimity that happens while developing samatha can smooth the transition to Awakening and make the difficult stages of insight easier to manage. If you have not done so already, please take a look at Appendix F.

    The power of mind that you develop in samatha also makes insight much more likely. As you mentioned above, the unification of mind is also more likely to make the cessation event transformative.

    Culadasa would be a better person to answer your other questions, but unfortunately he does not always have the time and energy to respond to forum questions.

    With Metta,
    Blake – DT Teacher in Training



    Thanks for your reply Blake!

    I have now taken up Samatha practice again, working with TMI. My initial goal was to do what you point out Culadasa recommends, and aim for stage 7 before doing insight practice. At the moment I’m considering bringing back some vipassana though.

    I think the reason I wrote this post was that I felt I was getting close to a cessation event and I was starting to have a lot of fears relating to that. I was wondering if I would be able to handle whatever came after that. And if whatever came after actually could be better if I waited a bit, I felt I could wait (especially since I things in general felt a lot better at the time).

    Now I’m wondering if I might have overreacted, and I’m starting to feel like I should welcome insight experiences whenever they happen.



    Malte Malm

    If someone more would like to answer Olovs first set of questions, I too would be super interested in hearing that answer. Extremely interested, Ingram et al have really done some solid work on pragmatically describing Vipassana stages in an accessible way, while Culadasa doesn’t describe those 16 nanas at all, yet, they fit together (I suppose). But how?


    Blaz Simcic

    Malte Malm,

    I’m, not able to answer those questions, but I’m sure you’ll find some information here: http://dharmatreasure.org/teaching-retreats/. Check Meditation and Insight retreat and read Culadasa’s handouts (especially Handout 3) or listen to his talks. Best regard, Blaž

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by  Blaz Simcic.

    Hi Olov,

    I can take a stab at answering your questions based on my experience with having done a lot of Daniel Ingram-inspired Mahasi-style dry insight practice prior to becoming a student of Culadasa =)

    I attained the first two paths (confirmed by both Ingram and Culadasa) using Ingram’s approach.

    After 2nd path, I’ve been pretty much exclusively practicing according to Culadasa’s 10-stage samatha-vipassana approach (about the last 4-5 years).

    Personally, I think both dry insight and samatha-vipassana are fantastic. That being said, I prefer samatha-vipassana because:

    1) it’s much more enjoyable than dry-insight
    2) no dark night (but purifications of mind and manifestations of piti can be pretty intense)
    3) having effortlessly stable attention makes it possible to effectively engage in many other forms of meditation that I was unable to do well before, including jhana practice, metta practice, etc, which is wonderful
    4) insights are much more powerful and profound, and seem to sink in much deeper

    #4 is probably the main reason I’ve made the switch.

    So, with that pre-able, here’s my attempt at answering your questions:

    1. No need to wait for the first cessation event, but no harm in trying for stream entry either. Since you think you might be close to first path, you may want to consider practicing both forms of meditation to really ‘crank things up’ and see if you can attain stream entry. As you mentioned, samatha practice does seem to become significantly easier after stream entry.

    2. Lots of additional transformation occurs during the review period following the attainment of path. In fact, this is the whole point of the review period! Having a unified mind certainly helps the insights “sink in” deeper, but so does lots and lots of repetition. And, not just spontaneous review, but also intentional, careful, systematic review (especially “re-experiencing” the fruition event). In fact, I would say that having both unification and lots of repetition is even better 😉

    3. I haven’t specifically asked Culadasa for his take on review cycles, so I’m not sure what he’d say. From my perspective, the review period was very important and was how I consolidated the effects of the insights gained through the 16 stages and first two paths. You need this integration time to really help these insights sink in and alter your current way of relating to your experience. I’ve experienced the review cycles while practicing samatha-vipassana (Culadasa’s 10-stage system) and they occurred pretty much the same way as when I experienced them while doing dry insight. The only difference is that your perspective is different. Rather than experiencing A&P, dark night, equanimity and fruition, I experienced spontaneous movement through Stages 6 through 9 of Culadasa’s system and fruition. The correspondences between the two systems are definitely there, but the flavour is very different.

    4. Great question! I’d like to know that too! My (current) understanding, based on what I’ve experienced so far as well as discussions with Culadasa is as follows (to be taken with several heaping teaspoons of salt!):

    The insights and path attainments basically provide access to new ways of perceiving and relating to your experience. They show you how flawed your current mental model of reality is and give you the knowledge you need to update your mental model to make it more accurate.

    But, the path attainments alone are not sufficient to completely rewire your habitual tendencies. I say “completely”, because a lot of habitual ‘junk’ does seem to get cleared out after a path attainment, but there’s still a lot of habitual stuff left.

    Now that you have access to a different way of relating to your experience (because of the insights and path attainments), the job is now to integrate that new knowledge by retraining those habitual tendencies.

    So, you train yourself through the repeated holding of intentions and positive reinforcement to essentially perceive all of experience as empty mental formations. Over time, this becomes your habitual mode of perception, and so you relate to your experience with greater and greater equanimity and compassion.

    Thus, “full awakening” requires the path attainments, and is an ongoing process of retraining the mind until equanimity and compassion become your default, habitual modes of relating.

    Again, this is just my current understanding and could be totally wrong!

    Hope that helps =)





    Blaz: I did not know about those recordings. They seem great! Thanks!

    Nick: Thank you for your thorough answer. It’s definitely helpful!


    Malte Malm

    Very awesome answer indeed! Thank you Nick! Very elucidating to hear from someone with thorough experience in the two different schools. I think all of your 4 reasons sounded very compelling and I feel very encouraged to continue with Culadasa type of meditation.

    Also I did not know about the “teaching resources” – so thank you Blaz for that aswell 🙂

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