Signs of progress

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Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:42 pm

Are there any signs that one is progressing in Mahamudra - signs that can be explained on a forum, that is?

I've had some teachings, but not the pointing out instructions. I've also read a fair amount - the most important book so far has been Takpo Tashi Namgyal's 'Clarifying the Natural State' - it it seems likely that in the end the measure of progress has to be experiential. Annoyingly, most of my practice books are in storage at the moment...

Where I'm at: I think (!) I'm combining shamatha and vipashyana to the extent where there is calm abiding and vivid presence in the 'now.' There is also some physical bliss, which I neither encourage or discourage. I try to let go of everything that arises. The bliss and what I can only describe as a sort of revelatory emptiness/calmness persists for a while after I've stopped, and I'm also finding it easier and easier to slip in and out of samadhi-like states while I'm going about my everyday activities.

Part of the trouble with wondering where I am is my instinct to let go of all such questions. Still, it's tempting to ask: where am I on the path? Am I even on the path? Does it matter?

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby Jnana » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:17 pm

underthetree wrote:Are there any signs that one is progressing in Mahamudra - signs that can be explained on a forum, that is?

I've had some teachings, but not the pointing out instructions. I've also read a fair amount - the most important book so far has been Takpo Tashi Namgyal's 'Clarifying the Natural State' - it it seems likely that in the end the measure of progress has to be experiential. Annoyingly, most of my practice books are in storage at the moment...

Most Kagyu presentations of the four yogas of mahāmudrā include explanations of signs of progress. The main signs of the three stages of the first yoga are explained by Tsele Natsok Rangdröl in the Lamp of Mahāmudrā as follows:

    When a worthy person who has cut attachment to this life and perceives his master as a buddha in person, has received genuine blessings and then rests in evenness, he abides in the states of bliss, clarity and nonthought and acquires certainty. To retain the fixation of thinking, “Meditation is the self-liberation of arising thoughts through recognition” is the lesser One-pointedness.

    Although the forefathers of the Practice Lineage regarded the three stages of One-pointedness as only shamatha, according to my own understanding there must of course be different levels of people. Furthermore, for someone who has recognized the innate state, the nature of things is that shamatha and vipashyana are always present as a unity. Therefore, understand that here shamatha is embraced by vipashyana. The ensuing understanding at this point is dominated by fixation on solidity, and during the dream state you are also not much different from an ordinary person. In short, since at this time you are a beginner, you have various kinds of highs and lows in the ease or difficulty of maintaining the practice.

    At the time of the medium One-pointedness, you can remain in the meditation state for as long as you desire. At times, samadhi occurs even without having meditated. The ensuing understanding grows less fixated on solidity so that perceptions become wide open and virtuous practice sometimes occurs during sleep as well. It is, in short, the time of meditation becoming meditation.

    Following that comes the greater One-pointedness. Throughout day and night, the meditation state becomes, an uninterrupted experience of bliss, clarity and nonthought. Without divisions into ensuing experience, ensuing understanding and so forth, your samadhi becomes continuous. You are free from outer or inner parasites and do not become involved in clinging to sense pleasures. It is taught that you will also attain some superknowledges and miraculous powers. Up to this point, however, you are not free from the experiences of clinging to something excellent and are not liberated from the fetter of conceptual mind fixating on meditation.

    Numerous differences exist in levels of capacity of those who have begun these three stages of One-pointedness as well as in the individual degree of their diligence. That is to say, whether or not you have seen the essence of One-pointedness is said to depend upon whether or not you have attained the confidence of self-knowing within the states of bliss, clarity and nonthought. Likewise, the difference between whether or not you have perfected the training lies in the difference between these experiences being continuous or occasional. Whether or not thought arises as meditation depends upon whether or not all arising thoughts become meditation by merely being embraced by mindfulness. Moreover, the arising of qualities depends upon whether or not your mind-stream has become pliable. The sowing of the seed of the rupakaya depends upon whether or not unfabricated compassion arises during the ensuing understanding. The difference between mastering and not mastering the relative lies in whether or not you have achieved certainty in the dependent connection of cause and effect. There are the measurements taught by the Kagyu forefathers.

underthetree wrote:Where I'm at: I think (!) I'm combining shamatha and vipashyana to the extent where there is calm abiding and vivid presence in the 'now.' There is also some physical bliss, which I neither encourage or discourage. I try to let go of everything that arises. The bliss and what I can only describe as a sort of revelatory emptiness/calmness persists for a while after I've stopped, and I'm also finding it easier and easier to slip in and out of samadhi-like states while I'm going about my everyday activities.

Part of the trouble with wondering where I am is my instinct to let go of all such questions. Still, it's tempting to ask: where am I on the path? Am I even on the path? Does it matter?

The best situation is to find a mahāmudrā teacher. You can then ask them specific questions and follow their advice.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:34 pm

In Mahamudra you find the four yogas and each yoga's three levels. They describe the gradual path. You can find an extended explanation on it in Tashi Namgyal's "Mahamudra: the Moonlight".

Some online sources:

The Song of Distinguishing the Four Yogas by Milarepa
Stages of the Four Yogas of Mahamudra by Venerable Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
Mahamudra 1of 4: One Pointedness - a video lecture by the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:02 pm

The best situation is to find a mahāmudrā teacher. You can then ask them specific questions and follow their advice.


Quite. Unfortunately they are few and far between in my part of the UK. I might get the chance to meet Ringu Tulku quite soon, however, and if I do I'll ask him - hopefully I'll be able to come out with something coherent. I don't have very much experience with dharma teachers and the etiquette side of things seems a bit daunting.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby rai » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:16 pm

underthetree wrote:
The best situation is to find a mahāmudrā teacher. You can then ask them specific questions and follow their advice.


Quite. Unfortunately they are few and far between in my part of the UK. I might get the chance to meet Ringu Tulku quite soon, however, and if I do I'll ask him - hopefully I'll be able to come out with something coherent. I don't have very much experience with dharma teachers and the etiquette side of things seems a bit daunting.


Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is visiting UK very soon http://www.gomde.org.uk/chokyi-nyima-rinpoche-p-60.html :smile:
Disdaining the lower and unable to grasp the higher,
talking of emptiness, such a person will neglect cause and effect,
mouthing on about the view while in a state of self-deception.
It would be better to concentrate on the gradual path.

"Creation and Completion" Jamgon Kongtrul
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:16 pm

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is visiting UK very soon


Good to know. Unfortunately, that retreat is way beyond my means at the moment. But I also just discovered that there's a brand new Drikung centre in Scotland. Even further away from me, but somehow it's good to know that there's finally a Drikung presence in the UK.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:18 pm

Jnana wrote:
underthetree wrote:Are there any signs that one is progressing in Mahamudra - signs that can be explained on a forum, that is?

I've had some teachings, but not the pointing out instructions. I've also read a fair amount - the most important book so far has been Takpo Tashi Namgyal's 'Clarifying the Natural State' - it it seems likely that in the end the measure of progress has to be experiential. Annoyingly, most of my practice books are in storage at the moment...

Most Kagyu presentations of the four yogas of mahāmudrā include explanations of signs of progress. The main signs of the three stages of the first yoga are explained by Tsele Natsok Rangdröl in the Lamp of Mahāmudrā as follows:

    When a worthy person who has cut attachment to this life and perceives his master as a buddha in person, has received genuine blessings and then rests in evenness, he abides in the states of bliss, clarity and nonthought and acquires certainty. To retain the fixation of thinking, “Meditation is the self-liberation of arising thoughts through recognition” is the lesser One-pointedness.

    Although the forefathers of the Practice Lineage regarded the three stages of One-pointedness as only shamatha, according to my own understanding there must of course be different levels of people. Furthermore, for someone who has recognized the innate state, the nature of things is that shamatha and vipashyana are always present as a unity. Therefore, understand that here shamatha is embraced by vipashyana. The ensuing understanding at this point is dominated by fixation on solidity, and during the dream state you are also not much different from an ordinary person. In short, since at this time you are a beginner, you have various kinds of highs and lows in the ease or difficulty of maintaining the practice.

    At the time of the medium One-pointedness, you can remain in the meditation state for as long as you desire. At times, samadhi occurs even without having meditated. The ensuing understanding grows less fixated on solidity so that perceptions become wide open and virtuous practice sometimes occurs during sleep as well. It is, in short, the time of meditation becoming meditation.

    Following that comes the greater One-pointedness. Throughout day and night, the meditation state becomes, an uninterrupted experience of bliss, clarity and nonthought. Without divisions into ensuing experience, ensuing understanding and so forth, your samadhi becomes continuous. You are free from outer or inner parasites and do not become involved in clinging to sense pleasures. It is taught that you will also attain some superknowledges and miraculous powers. Up to this point, however, you are not free from the experiences of clinging to something excellent and are not liberated from the fetter of conceptual mind fixating on meditation.

    Numerous differences exist in levels of capacity of those who have begun these three stages of One-pointedness as well as in the individual degree of their diligence. That is to say, whether or not you have seen the essence of One-pointedness is said to depend upon whether or not you have attained the confidence of self-knowing within the states of bliss, clarity and nonthought. Likewise, the difference between whether or not you have perfected the training lies in the difference between these experiences being continuous or occasional. Whether or not thought arises as meditation depends upon whether or not all arising thoughts become meditation by merely being embraced by mindfulness. Moreover, the arising of qualities depends upon whether or not your mind-stream has become pliable. The sowing of the seed of the rupakaya depends upon whether or not unfabricated compassion arises during the ensuing understanding. The difference between mastering and not mastering the relative lies in whether or not you have achieved certainty in the dependent connection of cause and effect. There are the measurements taught by the Kagyu forefathers.

underthetree wrote:Where I'm at: I think (!) I'm combining shamatha and vipashyana to the extent where there is calm abiding and vivid presence in the 'now.' There is also some physical bliss, which I neither encourage or discourage. I try to let go of everything that arises. The bliss and what I can only describe as a sort of revelatory emptiness/calmness persists for a while after I've stopped, and I'm also finding it easier and easier to slip in and out of samadhi-like states while I'm going about my everyday activities.

Part of the trouble with wondering where I am is my instinct to let go of all such questions. Still, it's tempting to ask: where am I on the path? Am I even on the path? Does it matter?

The best situation is to find a mahāmudrā teacher. You can then ask them specific questions and follow their advice.


This is extremely helpful. Many thanks.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby Jinzang » Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:38 am

From your description, it sounds like you have a good, stable shamatha practice. Best not to worry where you are in terms of the four yogas. Just continue on practicing.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby monktastic » Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:42 pm

underthetree wrote:Where I'm at: I think (!) I'm combining shamatha and vipashyana to the extent where there is calm abiding and vivid presence in the 'now.' ...


(Preface: I know less than nothing; I am just a quote collector who has wondered some of the same things you seem to be asking.)

Have you done much reading of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and his sons? These quotes from Tsokyi R. may be relevant:

Present mind is dwelling on the present moment, but in a fixated sort of way. According to Dzogchen, that becomes an obstacle for meditation practice. From the viewpoint of another vehicle, it may not be an obstacle. There are many spiritual paths in this world and plenty of instructions that say, ‘Don’t worry, just be here now!’ This is basically okay, it can be very helpful—but in the end, you still are stuck with this ‘Be here now.’


That type of practice is called “maintaining the meditation.” You are herding the meditation, keeping constant watch. Dzogchen practice is not like that. Instead, meditate without being distracted at all, and without “keeping” a meditation.


And these two helped me clarify it further:

What is the difference between the real state of rigpa and the imitation? Check whether or not there is any clinging, any sense of keeping hold of something. With conceptual rigpa you notice a sense of trying to keep a state, trying to maintain a state, trying to nurture a state. There is a sense of hope or fear and also a sense of being occupied. Understand? The keeping means there’s a sense of protecting, of not wanting to lose it, in the back of the mind. This is not bad, it’s good, and for some people there’s no way around training like that in the beginning. Through training in this way, that conceptual aspect becomes increasingly refined and clarified. So you practice more, more, more. Now you have more of a sense of openness, but still you’re holding this openness. All right, then, let the openness go. Let’s say that after two months you let it go. But still you’re staying within the openness—so then you practice letting go of the staying. And somehow there is still a remnant of wanting to achieve it again. So you let that go as well, and slowly again let it go, let it go, until you become very much ‘just there,’ and finally very free and easy.


Q: What is the difference between nondistraction and dwelling on nowness?

A: According to the general vehicles, to dwell undistractedly in nowness is to be undistracted. But from the Dzogchen perspective, that is called being distracted. Dwelling on nowness means you are already distracted. Why? Because you are dwelling on something, repeatedly. The awareness is directed towards something which is not rigpa. When there is a split between the rigpa and something other, you are already distracted.


So, although shamatha does indeed translate as "calm abiding," in the Mahamudra sense of shamatha (united with vipashyana), it seems that any sense of "abiding" is a kind of grasping that blocks further progress.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby viniketa » Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:54 am

I probably know less than most, and have no books to quote... my understanding of 'calm abiding' is that it is just that: an 'unflappable tranquility.' It's an 'abiding' because it's not going anywhere, it's right where it needs to be, no grasping needed.

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Re: Signs of progress

Postby monktastic » Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:42 pm

viniketa wrote:I probably know less than most, and have no books to quote... my understanding of 'calm abiding' is that it is just that: an 'unflappable tranquility.' It's an 'abiding' because it's not going anywhere, it's right where it needs to be, no grasping needed.

:namaste:


Viniketa, from the perspective of Mahamudra, "general" calm abiding / tranquility are themselves grasping. See the final quote I posted above. I'm not suggesting that you are confused, but it is a common sticking point (or so I am told).
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:48 pm

Q: What is the difference between nondistraction and dwelling on nowness?

A: According to the general vehicles, to dwell undistractedly in nowness is to be undistracted. But from the Dzogchen perspective, that is called being distracted. Dwelling on nowness means you are already distracted. Why? Because you are dwelling on something, repeatedly. The awareness is directed towards something which is not rigpa. When there is a split between the rigpa and something other, you are already distracted.
[/quote]

This I now understand. Or comprehend... The difference between dwelling on and dwelling in?
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby catmoon » Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:03 pm

underthetree wrote:
This I now understand. Or comprehend... The difference between dwelling on and dwelling in?



I think this is a key distinction. If these two ideas a all mixed up together without distinction, the only result of discussion will be confusion.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:12 pm

Even applying the verb to dwell implies something that isn't really in play.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby Stewart » Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:30 pm

Very generally speaking, the main sign of progress is a decrease of afflictions.

But, a master is essential both in Mahamudra and Dzogchen. If your serious, my advice would be to try and get a one to one interview with Lama Yeshe of Samye Ling, he is a master of both, with many years of solitary retreat behind him, including extensive dark retreats.

He is, imo, one of the most approachable and experienced teachers around. Plus he travels around the UK.

Best wishes.
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby monktastic » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:10 am

underthetree wrote:
Q: What is the difference between nondistraction and dwelling on nowness?

A: According to the general vehicles, to dwell undistractedly in nowness is to be undistracted. But from the Dzogchen perspective, that is called being distracted. Dwelling on nowness means you are already distracted. Why? Because you are dwelling on something, repeatedly. The awareness is directed towards something which is not rigpa. When there is a split between the rigpa and something other, you are already distracted.


This I now understand. Or comprehend... The difference between dwelling on and dwelling in?


You may be misinterpreting the quoted section. "Dwelling on" and "dwelling in" are used interchangeably here. He's saying that dwelling, period, is incorrect practice. It's correct in the general vehicles, but not here. To dwell "in" or "on" something means there's an "out" or "off" it too, which you're trying to avoid.

One way to look at it is: what do you consider a distraction? Is there anything that you consider "intrinsically" a distraction (as opposed to things which happen to pull you out of the natural state)?

Where are the "boundaries" of your meditation? The less there are boundaries, the less you can be said to be dwelling.

As others have pointed out, only a qualified master can really help you here. But to the extent that you notice yourself "doing," "modifying," or "keeping" anything, try to release that. The natural state doesn't need "your" help or recognition :smile:
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby lobster » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:31 am

There is only one sign of progress and that is that one is progressing. :oops:

:thinking:
That is of course a useless platitude . . .
unless one has a means of measurement.

I find a diary or blog, will provide insight over time.
You will learn from your insight, you will develop your way and your will provide wisdom for those who you can provide any insight to when they undergo a similar stage :popcorn:

Sounds like win win. Sounds like progress? :twothumbsup:
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby viniketa » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:57 am

monktastic wrote: He's saying that dwelling, period, is incorrect practice.

Without saying that anyone is confused, sometime misunderstanding is possible, as is linguistic imprecision. 'Abiding' is not 'grasping'. One can grasp at a "state of mind" that one might name "abiding", but that is not the same as "abiding".

lobster wrote:I find a diary or blog, will provide insight over time.


Such things can be helpful to recognizing subtle results in terms of one's behavior and thoughts about behavior. In general, however, striving to "measure" progress can simply turn into another type of grasping.

:namaste:
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby monktastic » Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:31 am

viniketa wrote:Without saying that anyone is confused, sometime misunderstanding is possible, as is linguistic imprecision. 'Abiding' is not 'grasping'. One can grasp at a "state of mind" that one might name "abiding", but that is not the same as "abiding".


Yes, sorry, that is true. I think what confused me about your response was the "unflappable tranquility" part. My understanding has been that even maintaining tranquility is a stumbling block. I'm not saying you're wrong, and words are of course hard here. But it seems many people get stuck in the pre-vipashyana shamatha, where they try to abide in calmness, or tranquility. For such people, it's useful to point out that masters suggest that any resting (or abiding) be on/in mind essence, rigpa, thamal gyi shepa, etc., with no preference for tranquility over any other state.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Signs of progress

Postby underthetree » Thu Sep 20, 2012 7:39 am

Actually I've found a master and my original post almost seems as if it was written by another person.

But thank you all for the input!
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