The Three Inverse Characteristics
This is a repost of something I wrote recently on the Dharma Overground, which is the forum run by Daniel Ingram, the author of MCTB. It therefore uses a lot of terminology from MCTB — which in turn is mostly based on Theravadan Buddhism. So, those familiar with Theravada will probably grasp most of what I’m saying here. 🙂 I’m sorry to say however that if you don’t know anything about Theravada you probably won’t know what the hell I’m talking about. 😛
For information, I got First Path, also known as Stream Entry, just after Christmas. Since then my practice has taken on a life of its own, and I’m coming up with all kinds of new stuff literally every day. The below experience happened spontaneously on Tuesday night last week. I have now begun codifying my practice of “pondering the fractal”, as I since discovered that by repeating that thought process I can enter the “right brain trance” (as I call it in the below), the “omniscient mind”, and get fruitions (cessation; “reality blinking out”; one definition of Nirvana/Nibbana) very rapidly. Once I’ve got that thought process written up, I’ll throw it up here and get your feedback on whether it has “done anything” to you.
My goal now is to get the entire process of enlightenment down to just one day so it can be taught en masse, and easily passed on.
I had four fruitions yesterday. The first was done the usual way, but the next three were done in the polar opposite way.
The usual way – noticing the Three Characteristics in every sensation – involves exploding the universe to nothing by realizing there is no self in any of it.
The new way – actually easier way, for me – involves experiencing the inverse of each of the Three Characteristics. Before I get into what that means exactly, it’s important to know that this practice arose spontaneously as a result of pondering the Fractal (the idea that everything is in everything else). The Fractal is the same at all levels – so, if I’m in Desire for Deliverance, I want the cycle to end. I want cessation. At that moment, the entire universe (the Fractal) wants to end. There is no time – reality is exactly what it is at that moment, and “you” are it. This is not as solipsistic as it sounds, when you notice that solipsism is based on the idea that there “should” be something else. There is just unity. Unity is incomprehensible to a self because it invalidates the very notion of a self.
This is why this method works. And it does work. Instead of exploding the universe infinitely to zero, you contract the universe so that, in that one moment, “everything is everything”. Please note I am not talking about samatha jhana (of which I have 8, and extensive experience), and I am NOT doing the samatha jhana process of “contraction”. I want to nip that in the bud early because I predict it will be a common objection.
An analogy you might have heard before is that of looking at your hand. If your hand was big enough – infinitely big – it would be all around you and you would not be able to perceive it, so it would effectively become nothing. That is the exact premise of this “method”. Be a “self” but be everything in that self, so it is so “big” it becomes everything and effectively nothing (no self). And it is effective. I got three fruitions doing this yesterday seemingly far easier and more consistently than doing it the other way (but that almost certainly depends on the practitioner).
I will reiterate. I was not “looking for the inverse of the Three Characteristics” in systematic fashion. I was noticing the Fractal in everything. This actually does experience the inverse of the Three Characteristics; my point is that it is not simply the “same method” inverted, even though it does end in an inversion. Here is what the process might look like:
– Notice verbal thinking.
– Instead of breaking down thinking into sensations (which will “strobe” that verbal thought), actually say the words in your body. “Enter the stream” – the nervous pathways – of those words.
At this point I noticed that all verbal thought is actually the body trying to correct its own posture. The words are an interpretation made by the left hemisphere in response to the pain being experienced by the right hemisphere. Instead, experience the pain (in reality it has you dip into it with your breathing – but words will begin to fail me here).
Similarly, rather than noticing the sensations that make up, say, fear, actually choose to experience fear itself in the body without observer but only experiencer. This is a qualitatively different experience of fear, and is non-dual.
– This usually leads to spontaneously experiencing other senses “as they are”. So, my eyes become open. It’s like I’m “drawing in” vision, and it “is me”. Repeat this on the other sense doors, as the fancy takes you (it will run on autopilot, if you let it).
Here are the notes I made after the first fruition:
thinking every thought, feeling every feeling, seeing every sight, hearing every sound
You break down duality by not ever having an observer and an observed. You experience the sensate universe as it was intended – at the time of experience, not after the fact (as it is in the regular “Three Characteristics in each sensation” schtick).
The normal Stages of Insight do occur during this. For example, upon noticing a verbal thought is literally a breathing or pain response in the body, I immediately get an impression of my body in all its sinewy, muscly, corporeal glory. It is disgusting. I then experience the disgust “directly” in the same way – in the body – and consequently get through the cycle much quicker.
When experience and awareness of that experience are overlaid exactly upon each other at the exact time of experi-awareness, the self breaks down. It is 1:1 = 1 = 0 (because it’s so much “everything” that it is “nothing”. Numbers are a consequence of dualism anyway). At this moment reality does indeed blink out. The hand has become everything and therefore nothing.
Here are the inversions of the Three Characteristics I am experiencing (but not intentionally noticing):
– Self. There is a self. It is everything. There is no separateness. So, it is not surrounded by void, because void does not exist. (Pondering a “self beyond a self” is dualism.) This is one of the Three Inverse Doors that presents itself while pondering the fractal: self. You consider the void (Misery) around the “self” (the universe/Fractal). Then you realize that that was “you” experiencing the concept of void, separateness and thus Misery, and you are back to being everything, and everything “is” Misery in that moment. Then you notice that you noticed and there’s a separate self again, but you experience the experience of pondering a separate self and are back to everything again. This regressive process eventually “gives up” trying to find no-self (void) and reality does indeed blink out through the Inverse Door of Self.
– Permanence. There is a permanence. Because there is permanent change. Therefore you stop seeking an end (whereas in the regular Three Characteristics you endeavour to NOTICE the end of each sensation). Because there is no end to this permanent changing, you stop seeking one spontaneously (simultaneously also abandoning the search for a start to this permanent changing), and exit via the Inverse Door of Permanence.
– Satisfaction. There is a satisfaction in direct experience. There is satisfaction in fruition else you would not seek it. Fruition is the moment of direct experience – the 1:1 experi-awareness ratio that equals 1 and therefore equals 0. There is satisfaction here. In this moment you exit via the Inverse Door of Satisfaction.
Please note this is not “theory”. The theory came after the fact. I actually experienced each of these Three Inverse Doors last night, with reality blinking out each time.
Experiencing the above combined with my knowledge of neuroscience has led me to make the following model.
The “usual way” uses the left brain as a laser to penetrate or “shoot” each sensation passed to it from the right brain – and notice the Three Characteristics in each. Its modality is primarily left-brained, as a result of left-brainers writing all this stuff with their left brain, for other left brains, and thus packaging it for the left brain.
The “inverse” way is primarily a right-brain modality. It does not work with “sensations” while in operation (though it starts out that way because you have to exit the left-brain prison to get into it). It is a process of stripping back experience (not sensations) to a point before the left brain got involved. I believe this method is only really accessible to serious “body workers” (I do incessant daily posture work, and have come to realize that problems with posture – and duality itself arising – is entirely down to the involvement/interference of the left hemisphere).
It is interesting to notice that what is packaged as “Ultimate Reality” in Buddhism is actually just the right brain’s experience of reality. It has lost its shine for me now – though noticing that in itself is a left-brain perception, and to make peace I merely have to “experience things as they are” (right brain) and we are back to that paradoxical and utterly irreconcilable swing between perspectives that underpins all of human endeavour and frustration.
Finally, duality–non-duality itself is completely normal and is a product of the two-brain system. So, animals are in the right brain primarily, and therefore experience no-self most of the time. When something jars them and requires “their” attention, the left brain zooms in on that “thing” and creates a dualistic split. Once that “thing” is dealt with, attention returns to the right hemisphere and self bleeds back out to infinity.
Humans are stuck in the left-brain mode for a few reasons. In fact, making up reasons for stuff is specifically a left-brain thing and I won’t indulge it too much right now, except to point towards culture generally encouraging and reinforcing the left-brain mode. Humans are stuck in that “do something about X” mode that is the left brain, and are failing to return to right-brain awareness. The entire “notice the Three Characteristics in each sensation” method itself is entirely a left-brain modality (no wonder it seemed long-winded and never sat right with me), as is samatha jhana (artificial creation of a permanent, separate, satisfying object – which is quite clearly also the methodology of the left brain and ALL addictions, and clearly does not sit right if you bring a moment’s sanity to it). What I would like to be able to do with all of this is to show people how to strip back to experience-before-the-left-brain and therefore beat the dualistic split before it ever arises.
During my above method, my experience of reality is indistinguishable from a trip on psychedelics (of which I’ve done many), despite my not being on any drugs. This is the way the right-brain experiences reality – hence the constant perception of interconnectedness and noticing the Fractal in everything. I am omniscient at this time (within human limits – I cannot escape the two-brain system and explore the nothingness). You can ask me literally any question and a moment’s glance at it will formulate the answer (which, if allowed to complete, will itself regress back infinitely and cause an exit through one of the Three Inverse Doors — the Stages of Insight are in EVERYTHING).
Some of the many notes I make during these “sessions” (which last for hours) would make your hair stand on end as they strike right at the heart of what you believe it means to be human. I get knowledge I don’t even want at times – for example I can now see, literally visually, how a human is a bigger fractal form of a DNA helix. And how the DNA helix is a winding of the contractive and expansive forces, and is also Yin & Yang. And how that becomes your left and right brains. I think you should ask me a question to test this “power”, if you want. I would prefer if you didn’t because writing is extremely difficult at these times as it is a left-brained act – and necessarily creates duality by separating an idea out of the “fuzz” that is EVERYTHING (the “unified” Fractal). The act of separating out that idea itself is paradoxical and counter to the understanding behind it (hence the “symbol” getting confused for the “thing”). I’ve written enough today so will stop here.