Vajra Fist

Delson Armstrong - Kriya Yoga, Dzogchen and Theravada

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This is a fascinating interview (also available as a podcast).

 

I like all the Guru Viking interviews, but I think I've listened to this about three times.

 

Delson mastered three different systems of kriya yoga, realised rigpa in dzogchen, and eventually attained the status of anagami in the theravada tradition of Bhante Vimalaramsi (tranquil wisdom insight meditation).

 

He talks about past lives and entering nirodha (cessation) for periods of six days. Amazing dude and fascinating interview. Very inspiring.

 

https://www.guruviking.com/ep120-meditation-virtuoso-delson-armstrong/

 

 

 

Edited by Vajra Fist
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Got better and better as I kept listening. Thanks for sharing this.

 

Six days straight in cessation is quite impressive, dismissed any doubts I had about "moving the goalposts".

Edited by Creation
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Interesting interview. I would say that his understanding of rigpa is quite off, but the Theravada theory based stuff was interesting. 

 

On 11/13/2021 at 12:59 PM, Creation said:

Six days straight in cessation is quite impressive, dismissed any doubts I had about "moving the goalposts".

 

It is interesting because he is practicing Sutta jhanas, or so-called "jhana lite." If true (which it may be--- his willingness to be tested scientifically is something), I would wonder if it is based on his own capacity. 

 

Edited by forestofemptiness
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33 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

 

It is interesting because he is practicing Sutta jhanas, or so-called "jhana lite." If true (which it may be--- his willingness to be tested scientifically is something), I would wonder if it is based on his own capacity. 

 

I found this particularly interesting also. A little digging suggests Bhante V has other students who can do this though, it just took them longer to get to that level.  Very interesting indeed. 

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8 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:


 

Quote

During your few minutes with the monk, you get questioned.

  • Did you have any meditative joy come up? Great, you are in the second jhana.
  • Did you feel loving kindness coming from your head, not your chest? Great, you are in the fifth jhana.
  • Did you feel any equanimity? Great, you are in the eighth jhana.

 

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Interesting thread here. The general consensus is that people have been known to be kicked off retreats for (reportedly) not following instructions. But then some other people have experienced what they believe to be path attainments. For instance I don't believe its possible to enter nirodha, let alone for that long, without at least stream entry. So I guess individual mileage may vary.

 

 

I'm doing a 10 day online retreat with them next month (it's free anyhow, not really much of a gamble). Will report back to the Bums.

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5 hours ago, freeform said:


 

Quote

During your few minutes with the monk, you get questioned.

  • Did you have any meditative joy come up? Great, you are in the second jhana.
  • Did you feel loving kindness coming from your head, not your chest? Great, you are in the fifth jhana.
  • Did you feel any equanimity? Great, you are in the eighth jhana.

 

 

I thought this might be an exaggeration, but I looked at Delson's book and it does seem that the descriptions of jhana are fairly watered down, even for Sutta jhanas. 

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Just riffing on some thoughts. 


I've heard two uses to the jhana state: 1) you attain jhana and then apply vipassana to it (sutta jhana approach); and 2) you cannot analyze in jhana, so the vipassana takes place upon exit (hard jhana approach). The second one I've come across in both some Theravada and also Zen schools. 

 

Interestingly, in Hindu schools, one might use samadhi states to strip away the kosas in real time, leaving only the atman. So remaining in samadhi for periods of time make sense. According to some commentators, the Samkhya goal is to remain in nirvikalpa samadhi at the point of death. 

 

However, for the Buddhist approach, it doesn't. What's the point of staying in a jhana state for a several days if the insight is to be had on entry or exit? It sounds like the Buddhists essentially repurposed Samkhya teachings. 

 

It is also interesting that Mahayana schools went on the develop methods to invoke shifts in consciousness without intense jhana, allowing one to take advantage of the insight provided by state shifts without having to achieve high levels of samadhi. 

 

 

 

 

 

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@freeform However they define jhanas (about which there is no small controversy), they are claiming several people who have trained their method can sit for 6-7 days straight and enter into states without breath or heartbeat.  If true, that seems like real attainment, though maybe still not "attaining jhana" as your lineage defines it. 

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7 minutes ago, Creation said:

they are claiming several people who have trained their method can sit for 6-7 days straight and enter into states without breath or heartbeat.  If true, that seems like real attainment, though maybe still not "attaining jhana" as your lineage defines it. 


Yeah it does.

 

Though from what I could tell the teacher is (or was?) in a wheelchair because he ruined his legs through prolonged sitting. Not something that should be happening if he’s attained samadhi and breath cessation…

 

Maybe this happened before that attainment?

 

One thing I found funny about the article that @forestofemptiness linked is the harsh attitude and the writer getting kicked out for not meeting expectations… Both are pretty common in Asia for Buddhist teachers :)

 

 

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34 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

Just riffing on some thoughts. 

I'll riff off of your riffing.

 

The Suttas talk about dependent origination in terms of a specific process of links (usually twelve, the exact list varies), but Mahayana emphasizes the import of dependent origination is emptiness - the absence of intrinsic existence.  So there is less emphasis in Mahayana on clearly perceiving the particular causal links in the chain of suffering, and more on removing perceptual distortions/projections.  Armstrong, for instance, specifically mentions experiencing brief cessation, and as the mind restarted, clearly seeing the causal process behind experience, and that this is what really stopped craving in him.  This has a different flavor from Mahayana accounts of awakening to the truth of emptiness, as I'm sure you know. 

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The emphasis on sitting for long periods sounds right though.
 

Next time I see my Burmese teacher, I will need to be sat for 72hrs in absorption if I’m to continue getting instruction from him. Which is not a problem at this stage.

 

I remember a few months ago on the forum someone reporting of their breakthrough with alchemy… they described the process they used - which sounded completely made up… but then they also explain the sitting in stillness for 12hrs a day for a period of 9 months I think.

 

Which made me laugh because they clearly achieved samadhi as a result of the sitting and despite the made up alchemy process… (though I think the member might have understood their samadhi experience to be some sort of awakening or enlightenment).

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12 minutes ago, freeform said:

The emphasis on sitting for long periods sounds right though.
 

Next time I see my Burmese teacher, I will need to be sat for 72hrs in absorption if I’m to continue getting instruction from him. Which is not a problem at this stage.

 

I remember a few months ago on the forum someone reporting of their breakthrough with alchemy… they described the process they used - which sounded completely made up… but then they also explain the sitting in stillness for 12hrs a day for a period of 9 months I think.

 

Which made me laugh because they clearly achieved samadhi as a result of the sitting and despite the made up alchemy process… (though I think the member might have understood their samadhi experience to be some sort of awakening or enlightenment).

72 hours in samadhi!!???? Wow !! 😲😲

My deepest respect! 🙏🙏

Just being in samadhi or "doing" some alchemical work there?

 

Any idea what instructions you are getting after that? (Just in general)

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Say @freeform, what is the role of insight in your Theravada lineage?  Insight into, say, the three marks, or links of dependent origination?  As far as I can tell from the Suttas, this is what the Buddha said allowed the final end of samsaric suffering, and was different in his teaching from other teachers of his time, some of whom were quite accomplished at jhana/samadhi. 

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26 minutes ago, Creation said:

Armstrong, for instance, specifically mentions experiencing brief cessation, and as the mind restarted, clearly seeing the causal process behind experience, and that this is what really stopped craving in him.  This has a different flavor from Mahayana accounts of awakening to the truth of emptiness, as I'm sure you know. 

 

This insight may arise after a brief or long cessation. The length of the cessation accordingly irrelevant. I would also suggest that cessations of various lengths may be invoked without any jhana or samadhi at all, although perhaps not as consistently. There is also a correlate using the dream and sleep state for similar insight. 

 

I guess the point I was trying to make earlier is that Theravada and Samkhya tend to follow a nirvikalpa samadhi model, although how they use the model is different. In fact, I really see no difference between the complete cessation of "nirvana" and nirvikalpa samadhi. Even the prefix is similar. However, the nirvikalpa model seems to be limited to full time monastics and renunciates given the limitations of the model (i.e. it has to be cultivated on long term retreats, with lots of hours spend in sitting). 

 

Mahayana and Advaita on the other hand may use these methods, but appear to me to be more modeled on savikalpa samadhi models. 

 

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46 minutes ago, freeform said:

Which made me laugh because they clearly achieved samadhi as a result of the sitting and despite the made up alchemy process…

 

You're generous. I just presume that 99.99% of what's posted online is made up, delusional, a product of mental illness, or some combination. :lol:

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2 hours ago, MIchael80 said:

72 hours in samadhi!!???? Wow !! 😲😲

My deepest respect! 🙏🙏

Just being in samadhi or "doing" some alchemical work there?

 

Any idea what instructions you are getting after that? (Just in general)


Oh no no!
 

Undeserved respect!!

 

First of all I’ve not achieved this yet - that’s the next ‘test’ - the previous one was 36hrs or so.
 

And not all of that time is in samadhi - usually various depths of absorption - though samadhi does have to arise for the sit to be possible past the first 8hrs I find. And I’m sure I get transmission from the teachers. I’ve only ever achieved samadhi proper outside of that setting twice.

 

With this teacher it’s solely concentration that I do - no alchemy (though there were some ‘herbal pills’ and things that were given to me early on)
 

No idea what’s next - I guess it depends how my test goes. Though I’m confident (especially since our meeting has been delayed by over a year - so I’ve had longer to prepare :)).

 

2 hours ago, Creation said:

Say @freeform, what is the role of insight in your Theravada lineage?  Insight into, say, the three marks, or links of dependent origination?


My relationship with this teacher is an unusual one. I came across the monastery years before I met my alchemy teacher… I did a standard silent retreat - and then a more lengthy retreat before leaving.


But after a couple of years with my alchemy teacher he told me to go back there for instruction. This time they placed me with a different teacher outside the monastery.

 

As far as I understand most of the other monks and lay practitioners practice Samatha and Vipassana with the aim of attaining Path Knowledge…

 

But they also have a teacher who came there from a Weizza tradition - and my instruction is now exclusively from him. I’m not meant to take part in the day to day activities, sits and lessons with the others in the main monastery. 
 

He rarely teaches Dhamma - most of the time we just sit. I’ve been told what the Jhannas are, the various samadhi states, some of the mechanics behind transmigration etc. From this teachers perspective insight into causation, dependant origination etc appear as a result of and within jhanna states.

 

He has a couple of other lay practitioners (no monks) that also follow this ‘alternative’ syllabus - but there’s no space for chit chat unfortunately. I’m very much in the dark about it all. Just do what I’m told :)

 

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1 hour ago, forestofemptiness said:

 

You're generous. I just presume that 99.99% of what's posted online is made up, delusional, a product of mental illness, or some combination. :lol:


His description of the unfolding of the state was completely aligned with genuine samadhi - mentioning details that are rarely mentioned (but certainly experienced).

 

I’ll see if I can find the post :) 

 

I think he wrote a book about it…

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18 minutes ago, freeform said:


His description of the unfolding of the state was completely aligned with genuine samadhi - mentioning details that are rarely mentioned (but certainly experienced).

 

I’ll see if I can find the post :) 

 

I think he wrote a book about it…

 

Taiji Bum?

 

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