sunnuntai 23. joulukuuta 2018

Discussing Awakening and Two-Part Formula at Dharma Overground

Discussing Awakening and
Two-Part Formula at
Dharma Overground

Parts of discussion copied from this thread at DhO-forum.

JP wrote: My general impression is that this is a situation where there's not much consensus on here about the accuracy of the attainment claims for Kim's students. I think there are a few different reasons why this is the case, most of which generally apply to the question of how accurate it's possible to be with remote dharma diagnosis.

- Unless I'm missing something,
there aren't any detailed practice logs being kept here by Open Heart practitioners other than Jehanne.  Diagnosing stream entry requires a fair amount of information about people's sits over the course of the weeks prior, in-depth discussion on the exact phenomenology of what happened when they think cessation occurred, and maybe even some information on how daily life and their regular perspective in the world changed between before and after.  Very few people, including me, post frequently enough to provide the necessary level of detail.

- It seems to take people several paths to have confidence in definitively saying that a certain event was fruition as opposed to a mimic for it.  So it's probably only DhO posters who're on at least third path who are going to be able to assess this.

Kim's method of diagnosing path attainments based on assessing the energy body through pictures/videos of practitioners is non-standard, at least among the experienced pragmatic dharma practitioners here.  Maybe it works and maybe it doesn't -- this is probably something where we'd need him to teach Daniel Ingram or other experienced practitioners how he does it and have them tell us whether it lines up with their judgment.

Most of us just have our own experience to go by, and are going to judge other tradition's maps and timetables accordingly.  So both "awakening is nearly impossible and takes your whole life" and "awakening is super-easy and you can do it in a weekend" don't line up with most of our experiences.

I haven't tried it, but the technique itself seems like it could be a useful technique, especially as a corrective to over-efforting in the dark night. 
I also think that this is a question that's going to continue until there's a large group of Open Heart practitioners who are also familiar with MTCB and The Mind Illuminated, who start regularly posting detailed phenomenomological practice logs, and who are very open to their Open Heart attainments being questioned or mapped differently

I'd encourage you to think seriously about how you feel about the technique and whether you'd want to be involved in Open Heart as an organization, rather than just about whether it can "get" you an attainment.  I personally really like the analytic framework by
David Chapman in Approaching Aro as a guide to how to consider different spiritual traditions.  It's also a great example of how a non-traditional Tibetan Buddhist lineage can address outside concerns respectfully, and I'd love to see a similar effort by Open Heart.
Kim wrote: Hi JP and thanks for a well composed post.

Before matters presented in the above post, I'd like to say that as there is much more to buddhism than the first shift/awakening/kensho, there is also more to Open Heart as a method. It's a small piece in a big puzzle. Just a reminder.

I've presented a lot of material reg. 2PF and awakening it generates. You can find them, for free, for example from Awake-ebook. Dialogues and photos in the book, gives the reader some sense what happens to these people.

In OH, we mainly use our own terminology, instead of theravadan or other, that has developed over the years. It's still based on common buddhist theory and meditative experiences but also has distinct features because we do some things differently. I am confident that this is one of the reasons why there seems to be a wall of sorts between traditional buddhists, as here, and those who in OH have had the experiences and know first hand what the terms point to.

I guess a lot theravadans consider cessation, if not the most important, then at least very important indicator of stream-entry, and the way how the analysis proceeds is to consider the specifics of the event. Because of the difference in the way we look whether or not the shift has occurred, I have never really looked it that way, although I know well what cessation is. I just don't look at it that way. My way of looking at it, is closer to rinzai zen-style, where the teacher asks the student questions and meters his or hers energetic feel, and a possible change in it. This is typical in rinzai zen. I guess all teachers use this to some degree, knowingly or unknowingly. The point is that there is not only one way to measure shifts that deal with lessening of self-based suffering.

The only reference I have seen about seeing attainments from photos, is from Shinzen Young. Here:
”I was at a student's house and I saw this book. Its one of these photo books that people would put on coffee tables. What's interesting is that there's nothing by the photographer, the author of the book, but there is an intro, a preamble by Tony Morrison who is a fairly important person in the world of art and literature. This tells you that this is a significant book but there is nothing by the person who actually took the photos, in other words the photos have to speak for themselves. Its this huge book of photographs (indicates a large size) and I start to look through these photographs. These are allportraits and I'm freaking out because its very evident to me what this book is about and I had never seen a book like this, ever.

I go to my friend and say, ”This book is amazing!” and she says, ”The photographer, is a distant relative of mine”. ”Well, can you get his telephone number?”, I asked. We called him up and he was there. I told him what I thought his book was about and he freaked out. He said that I was the only person who ever understood what the book was about, of all the people that had seen it at exhibitions or whatever.

The name of the book is A Kind of Rapture by Robert Bergman. He went through the rust belt of United States, the old decaying cities, photographing street people, who for whatever reason, usually a combination of hard life and physical, and mental illness, had been thrust into a no-self state, in other words, people for whom the blows of life had driven them to a rapturous no-self experience. He went around the country looking for those kind of people, catching them at the moment when they manifested non-ego, that their hard life had taken them to. You know, if you see one or two pictures like that it doesn't have an impact like that but if you see 50 pictures like that, picture after picture after picture, then it hits you, what the whole thing is about.
The reason why I thought they were so extraordinary is that although there is a lot of books about enlightenment or no-self coming about through practice, and there are number of books written by people who have had spontaneous enlightenment experiences, what no one has looked at is this whole thing, this whole other aspect. In terms of a subject matter it is very unsual and the message and the medium is very unsual. Instead of writing a book, talking about this phenomena, he shows it to you and you either get it or you don't.”

-Shinzen Young in Shaktipat or Energy Transmission in Buddhism, 25:00 minutes:

Curiously Shinzen Young has a history in rinzai zen. He says at the end of the quote (underlined) that it is extraordinary to display enlightenment from a photo and states that no one has looked into this way. I have emailed Shinzen's assistant about this but I don't know if he ever got or read my email. Daniel said he'd like to join one of our retreats next year, so maybe he has some interest towards bhumi analysis.

Years ago when it occurred to me that awakening and post-awakening stages should by reason be detactable from a good photo, I didn't know whether it was actually possible or not. After many hundreds of photos and thousand live analyses, and many mistakes, it turned out to be. Before this thought ever occurred to me, I had done many years of healing arts, like shiatsu and reiki, as well as zen calligraphy, which all have the common denominator of reading or sensing subtle energy. I can understand how to someone who doesn't have any such experience all this can be nonsense, just like it is to most OH-practitioners in the beginning. Well, that also is a learnable skill and while myself I don't have a theravada background and am not fluent in using that terminology, some in our sangha do, and are working on their own texts and materials. Why so few OH'ers are in DhO, I think there are few reasons to this, which I won't list here, but just wanted to mention that in our sangha we have people who have focused on theravada practice for up to two decades.

I recommend reading MCTB to my students, because of it's general education, but like I said we don't use that method, nor use the techniques that people here commonly do. So there is a communication gap there, even if some OH folks showed up and were ready for the scrutiny of people here. A similar gap exists between hard ass rinzai zen teachers who demand demonstrations of shifts in traditional zen poems and abstract language. A similar gap could be if I started to demand a description of kundalini shooting up above the head and descending down to the heart, which is something that both buddhists and hindus mention, but perhaps not all students can detect, despite of theoretically knowing about it. Maybe it has been unskillful of me to present non-theravada style expositions on mostly a theravada influenced forum. 

I like David Chapman's expositions but I doubt I can ever produce expositions like his simply because I am not an intellectual, nor a native English speaker. My teaching-style and expression is work in progress. I am also aware that despite of my efforts in trying to be as polite and politically correct as possible, I don't always succeed but nevertheless at the moment I am happy that at least some get what I'm trying to say.

Samvega wrote: I wonder if there is any short cut to enlightenment, atleast the first stage of enlightenment (sotapanna).
I went through this blog:
The author claims to have helped hundreds of yogis get awakened with a 98% success rate. That too in just a few days? Really? I mean, what the!!
It looks so damn attractive for someone like me who's struggling in dark night for years.
Here I am, thinking of taking a sabbatical and go backpacking to Thailand or Burma in search of good practice and hopefully stream entry, even if it takes a year or so..
And here is this Author promising stream entry (aka 1st bhumi opening) within days of practice!!
I couldn't push it aside either, as I didn't feel it was a complete scam.
I just started wondering if something like a short cut really do exist? I'm very scared to even start the practice, because the results look scarily quick! I'm just worried I shouldn't go crazy and unknowingly become part of a cult.
But I agree that I am quite attracted to try out the practice once, which he calls the two part formula aka open heart practice.
It looks like the Author (Kim) is quite a known face on this forum? But why don't I find many people talking about this technique here except for one person who's recommending it? Why haven't many tried it yet? Could you throw some light on this technique if you ever tried it once especially if you had an Insight meditation (Vipasana) history? Why did you feel the need to shift from Insight meditation and what did you gain through this practice?
I'm also wondering if these practitioners are confusing themselves the A&P phenomenon for actual awakening, considering how varied and vague the A&P can be.
This is definitely not put out in a bad intention, with all due respects to the Author. He looks like a good man to me. I'm just genuinely concerned and any help is appreciated. It's a desperate attempt of a dark night yogi to get done with this shit ASAP!


Kim wrote: Hello Samvega,

I believe some OH-practitioners have contributed to this thread but just to clarify that Two-Part Formula is not a
short cut. Out of 138 guidances that I've given so far, many had to haul ass for more than two weeks, and when I say haul ass, I mean they were exhausted afterwards, although also greatly relieved. There has been few people to whom awakening dropped on their lap, so to speak. One lady in our sangha got the nickname Page 12, because she woke up by getting to page 12 of Awake-book. A few people woke up on first or second day of email guidance. These people got it easily, but most had to work hard, and I had to work hard to make them work hard. Getting awakened quickly in not unknown in buddhism. Particularly in zen buddhism, there are many cases who woke up on their first retreat.

Reg. the relation between dark night and awakening. Maybe Culadasa's approach does nullify all tough emotional rollercoasting, that I cannot confirm becaue I don't follow his system but I am not aware of any other system that accomplishes that. There are more and less smart ways of dealing with dark nights, but a single or even a whole bunch of shifts doesn't prevent that. In my view, one isn't free from waves, unless one is fully liberated, a buddha.

I have never
promised awakening or stream entry. I have presented statistics, which as you can read from the book, does contain a fail margin of 2% within the first 100 cases.

You ask, "But why don't I find many people talking about this technique here except for one person who's recommending it? Why haven't many tried it yet?". DhO isn't the only place where 2PF and Open Heart is discussed. I can say that based on wesbite stats, roughly 15 000 people have seen the instructions but why only about 1% took it up (based on the number of guidances that I was asked to do), I can only guess.

Some people get really pissed off because we ask for financial compensation, that might be one reason. People reason that because it has a price tag, even when it's a sliding scale and one can still take it up if one doesn't have any money, it's a hoax because they think that real dharma doesn't cost money.

Another train of reasoning, that has been a huge surprise to me, is that buddhists of all traditions are so fixed with the idea that there is no technique that can literally generate an awakening and that there is no one size fits all technique for it, that it prevents them from taking a good look. I have come across and collected direct quotes from a handful of renown zen masters, who specifically deny such a thing but little did they know, like most other traditions.

Here is a teaching given by Daniel Brown, the author of Pointing Out the Great Way (mahamudra/dzogchen):

Now bring to mind your usual sense of self, your personal identity. You can evoke this and use it as an object of reflection. For example I would evoke Dan, Danness, and look squarely at Danness. The thing about self-presentation is that you can evoke it and you can observe it... So evoke your sense of self and observe it. Notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self. Familiarise yourself with the target of your search... And now take your awareness... And let your awareness roam thought the regions of your body. See if you can find any thing in itself, any independently existing thing that is that personal identity, anywhere in the field of bodily experience. You have to actively search... And the more you search anything  independently existing, any thing in itself, the more what you search for will be seen from your awareness as unfindable.
Emptiness practice... is in the unfindability of the target... If you think you find the independent basis for that sense of self, if you
find any thing that's substantial, roam around in that area and break it down to smaller units of analysis... OK, now evoke your sense of self, your personal identity once again... Familiarize yourself with the target of the search. Evoke your personal identity and notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self... Now, take your awareness and let it roam through mental content. Do you find any independently existing thing that is that self?... As you continue to search at some point there is a shift in your basis of operation. What remains right here is the awareness itself, no longer obscured by the empty construction of the personal identity. You open up to the level of awareness that is cleaned up of the cloud of self. And you start operating from that instead of operating out of self-mode.”

The quote can be found from ”Meditation on Insight Training or ”Emptiness” at

Now, if you understand what is done in the two modes of the Two-Part Formula, you can see that it is almost the same instruction, with the greatest difference being that in 2PF one uses the affirmation of "me/I/mine", instead of one's own name, as in Brown's instructions. Personally, I find that Brown's instructions could be clearer but anyway.

If you wish to find out exactly how Brown learned this practice, and whether it is part of age old vajrayana tradition he is part of, you can contact him and ask. However, it is my understanding that techniques like this, and very similar to 2PF (that I didn't learn from any living teacher) has been taught and used within some traditions of Tibetan buddhism, particularly kagyu and nyingma traditions, for many centuries. Why they weren't shared openly with others, I don't know who made that call, but a lot of Tibetan buddhist teachings are guarded by a vow of secrecy.

The key point is that, like it or not, there is and has been for centuries specific techniques that do specifically generate awakening. They have been hidden away but existent nonetheless. I didn't know of such a thing during the first several years when I started practiting, and would have probably been keen to deny and fight for the views I had been fed with, but little did I know. And yes, I am happy to (again) say that I haven't invented anything new.

This bits are from an exchange with a teacher from Tibetan buddhist tradition, who shall go anonymous:

"The equivalent to kensho in TB is known as sem-ngo tropa. Your style of teaching in the two-steps is almost the same as the one I use. I added something from you into a teaching in --- (on a retreat he taught). It works very well. Usually I introduce the questioning attitude with gentle presence, but this time I said to chant silently me-me-me, in their own language. Very good. What I shared in the retreat is the practice received from --- (his teacher, one of the most famous dzogchen masters of recent times) and other masters, which is pretty much identical with yours. The process of combining inquiry with simply resting is not common, most teach one or the other, but some of my teachers used it."

When you asked, "Could you throw some light on this technique if you ever tried it once especially if you had an Insight meditation (Vipassana) history?", I thought of one particular student of mine who practiced Goenka diligently for 20 years, and woke up with 2PF. I wish I had his written account but I don't, at least not this time. He has been one of the most enthusiastic promoters of 2PF since he woke up earlier this year.

I find that it is rather easy to discern between A&P and a shift. Well, we use bhumi analysis, along with verbal descriptions, which indicates that any bhumi center does not open up unless the student has had an insight, it only happens with an emptiness insight. These centers do not open through A&P-like experiences. Closedness and openness is the key discerning factor.