Janaka has been practicing Vipassana meditation for 18 years, Dzogchen and dream yoga for nearly a decade. I’ve met many different practitioners over the years, but very few have such depth of knowledge in both Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism. For certain reasons we need to use a pseudonym to be able to share his story at least for now.
Rigpa: tibetan term for awareness, intelligence and the nature of mind.
Sampajanna: pali term for awareness
Jhana: deep and profound states of meditative absorption characterized by pleasure, bliss, equanimity and one-pointedness
Bhava-sankhara: volitional & mental formations which can act as a cause for rebirth. For example, the wish to be reborn in a higher plane is a bhava-sankhara, which acts a cause for rebirth there. Another example would be the karmic seed from a former life coming to fruition when causes and conditions are appropriate for arising
Ryan: What immediately drew me to you was your claim that you could help people go from glimpses of mindfulness and rigpa to 24/7 continuity of awareness by a method called “body witnessing.” You use the pali word sampajanna to describe this. Let’s start with your background as a practitioner. Then we can get into body witnessing and how it’s important for integration and continuity of rigpa. Also please share some critical experiences that arose in the course of that development.
Janaka: I was just born and raised into a meditation family so it's just what I was brought up with that as the thing to pursue in this life to make it worthy of getting a precious human rebirth. And I figured given all the attributes like the right Dhamma, body type, instructions and desire to figure it all out, if I don't in this lifetime then there's no more a foolish person than myself. Some have described me as an earnest seeker and I think that's fairly accurate. I've practiced the "securely attached" development model without knowing that my scope is ever expanding while staying rooted in my cultural inheritance of Theravada. In childhood I did meditation retreats where slightly hard breathing so it's audible is taught. Fast and easy samadhi seems to be characteristic of that style. People really get into a flow and it was encouraged in the name of Anatta (no-self teachings of Buddhism).
However, there were troubling side effects such as Kriya energy releases that were mapped to the 4th out of 16 stages of Nana (Insight), Udayabbaya (Arising & Passing Insight Knowledge) after switching to vedananupassana (Contemplation of Feeling) . My father and uncle would come home with stories of their past lives and repaying karmic debts. I also observed many yogis experiences along with these stories and something felt unbalanced to me, especially since I didn't experience them. One of my cousins was praised for his meditation when in reality he was asleep so I just gathered data but didn't make definite conclusions yet. More importantly, even after all these experiences, I wasn't sure they were better people including the monk teacher.
Ryan: What were your initial experiences like?
Janaka: Then in adulthood, I did a lot of courses within a 2 year period including a month retreat doing cittanupassana (Contemplation of Mind). Vedananupassana was very familiar to me due to childhood practices but sensations approach came even more naturally to me than this life's experience could explain. In fact, I would naturally start doing the next step of instructions before being told as they felt right. Then while I was trying to transition to cittanupassana, to see the forethought before bodily action, I was able to figure out one of the highest instructions they have but didn't know where to rest the mind when there were no gross-level thoughts. In other words, I was still missing a center or maybe the point was to get rid of the center. That was the remaining question at the time.
Ryan: What was your conclusion on this point of centering on a reference point vs getting rid of the center?
Janaka: I've found the center to be critical to maintaining control and my sanity. I think too many people try to get rid of it too early or without mastery first of the flow. Subsequently, I've come up with this methodology and sequencing of the proper way of working with the mind. Let me use the biking analogy to illustrate.
1. Anchoring, usually the primary object of meditation to start training the mind (hands on the handle bar)
2. Grounding, most people mix it up with anchoring or don't even see the value of this (feet on the pedals)
3. Flowing, a lot of people jump to this via OBE, NDE or psychedelics (riding using the whole body on a straight road)
4, Centering, have to add center back in within the flow without it being another anchoring (eyes - where your eyes, your body follows)
Flow is where a lot of unity experience seems to happen also and most don't even want to entertain adding centering back in. They just want to surrender but I've found that without centering, the next step of mastering the flow cannot happen without a control point.
Ryan: Great points here. When did the unexplainable pain in your body begin?
Janaka: Hypersensitivity started in that month-long retreat. When doing walking meditation, all my toes would hurt every step. When changing postures, especially after sitting, the deluge of pain would rush in. The advice was to not let the awareness drop, but it didn't reduce the pain when I opened my eyes. Thinking back it might've been due to the Korean yogi who drew me a photo of my mosquito net with my body and how off center it was. After that I forcefully tried to remain centered instead of letting the body relax. Maybe it caused that imbalance starting then, but the whole body was active from constantly trying to be aware. Then there were piti (rapture) vibrations continually, even at night and it would come in waves. I was praised for it during the meditation Q&A so thought it was all part of the package. Then for a few years, after every retreat, my body would be beat up. I was in constant pain and tried every east/west method to find the cause. There was temporary relief but nobody could find the root cause. So I picked up Bikram yoga for a few years and the body got really flexible and limber. Yet due to the heat, drinking the frozen water likely caused organs to freeze up and I started to breakout with pimples. I was constantly sweating and could not eat any food that has the heat component to them. So anyway, suffice to say my body was a wreck as my meditation practice was getting better.
Ryan: Wow how was this critical to the development of continuous awareness?
Janaka: Constant pain was the great motivator and also a convenient reminder to be aware. With hypersensitivity it became effortless to be aware of the pain. Then I thought if I maintain full body awareness then it's easier when I do different types of meditation whether it's the breath, body scan or watching the thoughts. So reading quite a few pali texts convinced me that Kayagatasati (Mindfulness of the Body) was the route I was taking. Since I was already stuck in that I couldn't go backwards so I just decided to use full body awareness all the time. Then I realized it was the same as rigpa, but with a finite full body frame and this reference awareness itself has different levels. During Piti, it was easy to overlay the pain, but when I looked closer it was still underneath. So I started to transition from piti to sukha (pleasure) and then passadhi (tranquility) levels. It was starting to feel like transparent sheets or a tranquil lake. Yet the pain was still omnipresent though the flow underneath was shifting.
Ryan: What about the hell karma?
Janaka: All hell broke loose first when I realized I wasn't scanning my sexual organ area well and refined my approach. That unleashed even more energies and things to be aware of without giving meditation a bad name. Of course I would define that as the root chakra now, but then I was naive about all these topics. Finally after I had settled my life by getting married to a meditator it was possible to corral all these energies into a manageable state. It was in the middle of the night around 2am I woke up with a pain in the neck. Then that pain overtook the full body awareness I’d been cultivating and the reference level had reached upekkha (equanimity). The accompanying vision showed spaceships arriving at a planet because they dared to rebel. The thought was if they do this one act then I'll return it 2-10x fold to make an example out of them. My heart this lifetime was exactly the same so I knew it was me. Then all the pains millions of beings must've felt during their death in this genocide was felt in my body with every fiber in pain with different types of pains possible throughout. It was only due to having spent 8 years in constant pain, I was able to observe with equanimity and just watch. After probably about 45 mins, it was all gone as mysteriously as it started. The next day, I felt like the cloud that's been hanging over my head was suddenly gone. My body was light and not really in pain anymore. Subsequently over the years, whenever pain came back it was either temporary or at a much lower level of pain. So I knew my Bhava-sankhara (volitional & mental formations as cause for birth) of hell realm was gone, not sure how I knew.
Ryan: Fascinating because I had a similar experience in 2012 at the end of a 90-day meditation retreat in Thailand. I was 19 at the time and was incredibly distraught after failing to attain the first jhana. I had a profound bliss explosion in the body after dissolving the skeleton visualization and abiding in emptiness at the end of the 2nd week on the retreat. The bliss lasted hours. Unfortunately, I spent the remainder of that retreat chasing that experience, switching meditation objects too frequently and overall just not practicing according to instructions.
By the end of the retreat I was in a deep depression it really felt like dark night of the soul level distraught and disappointment. I couldn't shake it and it just became heavier and heavier after the retreat was finished. After a week or so I couldn't take any more of this suffering and prayed to the masters of the Dhammakaya tradition, the higher self, the triple gem and anything that was listening. There was so much despair. Afterwards I meditated. The session was full of distraction, lethargy and confusion. After 30 minutes or so I laid down and closed my eyes. The room began vibrating and shaking. Consciousness transferred to the astral body and I shouted "take me to my higher self!" The ceiling vanished and the astral body was launched into a kind of hyper speed portal. Suddenly, I found myself floating in the sky as if I were resting on clouds. Before me was this immense wall of multi-colored lights, colors I've never seen before. Colors that don't exist in our world. The vibrating vast wall of light was before me. It was sentient, intelligent, indeed a higher self. It sensed my suffering which I could still feel even there. It spoke and said "everything will be ok." At least this is what my consciousness perceived in words. That voice was like thunder through clouds and upon hearing it every particle in my body exploded into fractals upon fractals upon fractals of cosmic bliss. It was like a thousand orgasms in every cell. I would've called it God had I not had a background in Buddhism.
After that experience, consciousness found itself on the edge of space and far out there in the void was a large red mechanical eye. I flew through it and next followed the experience of seeing spaceships leaving a world as the planet proceeded to explode. I appeared in the presence of the Abbott of the Dhammakaya temple before consciousness reappeared in the physical body. It was like 3 out of body experiences stacked in 1.
Janaka: Was the suffering alleviated after that?
Ryan: Yes now that I'm reviewing it that suffering was gone afterwards. For your experience what stage do you think this was?
Janaka: I’m always extra cautious with all the examples I've seen in my life especially with anusaya-kilesas (underlying & latent defilements). What can be said is cula-sotapanna (lesser-streamwinner [first stage of enlightenment]) is being able to hold rigpa 24/7 so they'll only get the very next rebirth in a realm where it's possible to still meditate with rigpa. There's no guarantees beyond the next life if they don't continue to practice. So I believe I've at least achieved that with sankharupekkha-nana (Equanimity of Formations Insight Stage) and ripga.
Ryan: Any subsequent experiences?
Janaka: In mathematics, only when someone gets 3 data points, can we make a line plot. So only after Sukha bhava-sankhara (bliss causing volitional formation) came out that I realized what I experienced before was probably Piti bhava-sankhara (rapture causing volitional formation). So I realize that there was big cycles of ripga which only after it completes, the next bhava-sankhara comes out. The sensual pleasures of Chakravartin (World Turning Monarch) or Sakka (Lord of the Gods) seems crass when the reference is at 3rd level of upekkha (equanimity). These didn't come with past life memories, but just a feeling that I would no longer want to be reborn as such beings if this is the underlying felt experience of such realms.
Ryan: Where does Mara come in?
Janaka: A year after the hell bhava-sankhara, I had a fairly easy retreat. But there was one dream that stuck out where sitting on a couch I was hugging two women (obviously not my wife) and watching TV with porn on it. Then when I looked down I realized the black bikini was more like a snake body with a woman face and I was of course disgusted. Then I woke up but this was the first time I truly felt disgusted with kamma raga (lust) and wanted to transcend it. But it would be another 5 more years until I had more episodes.
First dream was with a woman on top of me who said she can be anyone I want. I replied, "I just want my wife." Then she changed into my ex but I kept shaking my head to get her off me. It changed into a demoness head and said "YOU CANNOT have your wife." So I said firmly then I don't want it and opened my eyes. There on the bed in my room at the retreat, I saw the demoness was actually straddling me on top and took a few seconds to fade away. Subsequently, the whole body was taken over by felt experience of desire driven by rape and friction. It was pure obsession of wanting to get pleasure by pain then after sometime it faded away. Took me total 3 days to cleanse the effect of this episode and return my ripga to the previous level of upekkha I had prior during the retreat.
Second dream was more sexual energy associated with Piti where it felt like being rubbed by sand paper. There was no anger driven as first, but it was still very friction based even though a bit more refined. So during this episode it felt like being in a sandstorm and also took about 3 days to cleanse it off. Third dream was with me being wheeled in a spa bed with eye patches and soothing sheets on my whole body. The pleasure of this can only be described as being lotioned and just really enjoyable. Then at the corner of my eye in the spa, I saw a shadow figure. I had watched the movie the Fountain before the retreat so I turned towards it and asked "First Father?".
It ran and was a figure in full lotus, but in a flash I understood it was Mara and his unique abilities with jhanas. So this pleasurable experience took also 3 days to clear. So again only after 3 such episodes, I realized that Mara's 3 daughters as part of Buddha's enlightenment experience wasn't just an allegory. Just like some tooth have multiple roots, I realized kamma raga (lust) has 3 distinct roots. Then there came in the same retreat, attack of Mara's army (or at least that's how I took it). Various weapons were thrown at the body and different effects were felt. It was definitely less painful than the hell realm experience since it seems to come from outside instead of inner experience. So it lasted for about an hour then it was done but all my experiences started with dreams (at night on bed) and with full body awareness, I was able to bring it back to this reality without letting the anusaya kilesa seed go back down into the subconscious. One theory could be this is related to the anger seed.
Ryan: Can you elaborate or clarify that a bit? On keeping the anusaya kilesa seed from going back down into the subconscious.
Janaka: If we take the seed analogy further, then in the subconscious there are many seeds of potentiality and rebirth. Traditional ways of jhana seem to be to find them all by wading into the subconscious and blasting them away. The methodology I seem to be following is to germinate the seeds by giving them conditions to ripen and suffer the effects but in a contained way. But if we observe and try to nuke them too early while they remain seeds, then due to their slippery nature, they just seem to remain as seed potential and keep hiding in the subconscious. It's only after they start to germinate, we can eliminate them since they are no longer in the seed form. At least this is my experience and more fool-proof way of ensuring that the seeds are being eliminated instead of just repression or suppression at work.
Ryan: Very interesting. Why do you care so much about Nirodha Samapatti (Cessation of Perception and Feeling)?
Janaka: I haven't been able to do any absorption or cessation experiences even with deep meditative sessions. I also have high standards as you about the 5 types of mastery that even the first jhana seem to require to be able to claim the actual attainment. But I do have these experiences with the bhava-sankharas so I think this body witnessing road must end at nirodha samapatti. I also have this theory that for a body-witness anagami (3rd stage of enlightenment via body witnessing) with nirodha samapatti then it might be impossible to deal with the remaining 5 anusaya kilesas, since every time they meditate then they're effectively in cessation of sanna/vedana (perception/feeling). So if I've met the cula-sotapanna requirement with 24/7 rigpa then I definitely haven't gotten rid of kamma raga (lust) totally nor anger despite those experiences so far. It's easy to not fool myself so I keep striving to achieve nirodha samapatti with easy checks in normal consciousness states. Only then perhaps I'll have gathered enough data points to determine where I'm on the Path but it's sufficient for me to know the guarantee for the next lifetime is satisfied, but I've yet to achieve what I've set my goal for this lifetime.
Ryan: This is something you and I have discussed quite a bit. There’s a tendency for westerners to claim high attainments even full enlightenment. What’s your take on this? Why do people do it? You and I also both see the tendency to lower standards to make dharma more accessible.
Janaka: The model of 5000 years of the current Sasana (buddhist teachings and dissemination) is an easy one to use. Past 2000 years, only anagamis are possible and I tend to think that's in all 31-realms, not just humans. Then there's a 500 year regression of the knowledge where at the end of 2500, it's only most book knowledge left and preserved. So the second 2500 year starts with 2500-3000 being the Panna (wisdom) cycle again so enlightenment has always been possible. But if we are to take the Theravada texts as a consistent logical system then there shouldn't be any Arhat monks left, much less any layperson for that. The issue with Sotapanna and Sakagami (first & second level of enlightenment) is that definitions are very fluffy so it's easy to bend those qualifications to fit whatever one wants to be. I think there's a general lowering of the requirements and what something means in general though, not just enlightenment. Take how Bodhisattvas are taken to be even higher than Arhats for example, when technically they should be lower than even Sotapanna. Or any of the Devas, even the terrestrial ones have taken god-like myths to be conflated as Bodhisattvas, which makes it all the more confusing. So why not ariya-ship (enlightenment) for everyone!
To be fair, these ariya claims are also happening in Asia in droves so I think we're just in the era of Fake News. One of the issues is that Commentarial literature isn't self-consistent all the time, especially Abhidhamma. If you try to do any real critical analysis then because it was foretold that disappearance of Abhidhamma is the sign of Dhamma disappearing (as if the regression wasn't already happening), you get all the religious fanatical reactions to it. But let's look at the 8 ariya designation of Magga and Phala (Noble Designation of Path & Fruit). So there are very old suttas that are preserved in all sects that describe relatively higher benefits of merit for each level. Now if we are to take the momentary mind series model of Abhidhamma seriously then you literally have 1 mind moment to make an offering to that being. So in this modern era, you have to basically be ready as they're meditating to catch that moment or else you'll always be dealing only with people who've only achieved the Fruit. It's a little too comical isn't it? So it would be far easier to just take the categorization as someone who's on the Path towards and someone who has reached the destination of such Path, instead of having to do so much mental and logical gymnastics to defend the Abhidhamma position dogmatically. So I can feel the Westerners or scholarly pain of thinking if the commentaries are wrong about some of the basic things then what else are they wrong about?
Ryan: What’s your take on the “Great Jhana Debate?” The differences in the description of Jhana in the commentaries vs the Suttas. Up until recently the majority of the theravadin world adhered to Jhana as defined by the commentaries which emphasizes a nimitta as the basis for absorption. One camp says nimitta is not mentioned in the Pali canon. The other camp says without nimitta we can’t even call it Jhana. From your experience or from what you’ve observed would you agree that the absorption as defined in the commentaries is superior or not?
Janaka: Anyone who cares about this topic knows that nimitta just means sign. So I think of it as a road sign that should appear on the Path whenever you're driving down the right way. But if you stop the car and just keep staring at the road sign then I think you get off-track or even worse, stuck at that place. Yet it's a necessary sign, especially for samadhi. So that brings us to what it means by samma-samadhi (right concentration) and everyone in this debate has staked a claim on some position with the traditional one being the 4 jhanas (material or otherwise). But we also have data that Buddha practiced arupa-jhanas (formless absorptions) even before he became sotapanna and it was just preexisting knowledge of the spiritual scene of the era.
My personal theory is that after about 1000 years of Sasana, even samma-samadhi was lost. So in an attempt to achieve the same states, regression back to Hindu practices happened because at least they can reliably induce trance states. It got incorporated into commentarial literature like Vissudhimagga which then became canonical to the later generations. So as two negatives can make a positive, I think two mistakes can have the same effect but the original method is lost to history, anicca anicca anicca (impermanence impermanence impermanence). There's nothing special about Theravada that we are immune to the entropy laws of the universe.
So I'm sympathetic to both sides of the debate, but my own personal experiences don't jive with either one. The nimitta I see isn't coming from outside but my inner mind shining on the phenomena. Instead of traditional Theravada ekaggata (one-pointedness) samadhi absorption, I experience whole mind/body unification of oneness with a clear center one-point as just one part of the whole. I cannot block out all the sensory inputs, especially the bodily aspects. I cannot enter in any kind of fruition or trance states whatsoever. So it could very well be that I'm just not talented and a failed meditator who cannot achieve these sublime states. I remain open to that possibility of my shortcomings, but I can only report my side of the journey.
Ryan: That's incredible honesty right there. You’ve helped a lot of destabilized practitioners come back down to earth and re-integrate, even very experienced practitioners. What’s the issue on these long term retreats? Have you been able to pinpoint what causes these breakdowns that can happen?
Janaka: Well you and I both know these destabilizations can come anytime, especially with trauma. But it depends on whether the trauma is from adult, teenage, childhood experiences or past lives that I've been jokingly calling soul level. Most Buddhist traditions have this preoccupation with deep dives into the psyche with long retreats to do a serious drive towards Enlightenment. But this only works if one has a stable lifestyle or purposefully a beggar life for renunciation. So I think the modern era householder path is getting confused and people want to detach so much to not prioritize normal aspects like job, money, family or relationships (i.e. missing basic grounding). I myself needed my wife to get through some critical points on my journey and not sure if I could've done it without her. So I always advocate an integrated approach instead of a boom and bust model of practice. The fix usually is to shore up so-called normal life things for these meditators and it solves the problem mostly.
Also, I find that the ekaggata samadhi of pinpoint can lead to instability when people narrow down to the depth but bite off too much and cannot come back all in one piece. One good analogy is for deep cave divers where they cannot see any lights, with that it's well known that going down speed is as important as coming back up speed so the body can adjust to the pressure correctly. Most meditators don't consider their exit strategy from whatever state they can go into especially on a long retreat. Just because you can go deep, doesn't mean you should. But the meditation model seems to imply you should do that so even advanced meditators want to do it. It seems to me that bringing the reference or the body framework down the depths of the psyche is a much safer albeit potentially slower way to descend. But that embodied practice seems to have been lost and only the pinpoint concentration aspect is kept so ultimately it can be an unbalanced practice that lost its wholeness.
Ryan: You have healing abilities through rigpa what exactly is it that you do? Intermediate and advanced meditators have a different set of problems than beginners. Oftentimes energetic. Our western models don’t account for that. How have you helped a person that has had kundalini ripped their body and mind apart?
Janaka: Let's talk about the source of the problem first before we talk about the solution. Non-dual and anatam (no-self) teachings have been used to justify shattering the mind. It can happen intentionally since these meditators think that's the end goal or it happens to them due to energy surges. People can also have forced opening experiences through OBE, NDE, psychedelics or trauma. A lot of meditation techniques harness kundalini as the rising energy to induce forced opening through their spine, which causes electricity to flow through their energy body. So just like when you short circuit anything, sudden high spike current will cause some side effects if not lasting damage. Moreover, whenever people say kundalini it is mostly at the Piti level of ecstatic energy even though Piti itself has 5 types of waves. In Boran Kammatthana, they detail how to use Piti within Theravada context so it's not new technology. However, they're all unfortunately sexual energy based and our resulting rigpa is then laced even more with sexual energy layers to make it evermore ecstatically blissful.
My advice to them would be the same as I even told you to do. Get married, as a way of channeling and giving a solid boundary to the sexual energy. Energy is energy so it'll flow everywhere and especially paths of least resistance. So it's very horrifying to see what it's capable of, instead of thinking we can harness or transmute it. It's like children playing with fire and will usually go out of hand, especially when done over many lifetimes. Our western society is even worse since sexual energy pervades through porn and all attention getting mechanisms for advertising. So everyone is getting that stimulus constantly and their energetic bodies are ready to respond at any moment.
So knowing all these causes, my task is very simple. Just to simply calm the energy and cleanse it with something purer than sexual energy while providing the grounding they may lack. This is where my shortcoming of not being able to enter traditional jhanas comes in handy. I just simply allow my field of awareness to include the other person so we have some sorta superposition. I know what my rigpa reference feels like and what usually happens in my meditation. So most things that are novel or grosser than the subtlety I'm used to likely means it's from them, but I feel as if it's happening on my body/mind. So I just cleanse my own energy body as I normally would and they seem to benefit from that. I'm able to hold the center of my attention without losing the wholeness experience so I can act as a bigger container than they usually have. So any chaotic energy can be dealt with and the body stops overreacting to start to calm down. Then the healing can begin and energy will flow easier for them even afterwards.
Ryan: Talk about your past recall as a Tibetan and how this informed your Vipassana practice. You’re an adept at dream yoga. How did that unfold? The yogic texts and the Vajrayana state one is able to go from dreamless sleep directly into Parabrahman, the Ocean of Light, the Clear Light, the Dharmakaya? Did you find this to be possible through dream practice?
Janaka: My experience is usually that these texts talk about lower levels using only Piti experiences and the same applies here. When I first was dealing with Piti then I hardly slept and it was lit up in sleep even when not on retreat. But the body never got proper rest and it was always on alert to be aware and especially in touch with all the energetic waves. I was told to be aware 24/7 so I did my best to do despite whatever the effects on my mind and body. Somehow I was really good at it and my whole body was ready to be opened already. Then all my experiences with bhava-sankhara that I already told you all started during dreams and with body awareness I was able to bring it back to base reality with full body experience. So now my awareness is there in all the states including dream and deep sleep but my body isn't always alert anymore. So I like to think it's similar energetically like where it peaks at Piti and then falls to go even deeper into subtlety.
So I can say that with fragments of my selves coming back via many experiences about Tibetan practice. When I read the Bon book about sleep and dream yoga, I appear to be doing the higher level practice already. My rigpa was oddly ready-made this lifetime so it all leads to enough data point about my mastery and intentional rebirth into Theravada. In the suttas, there's talk about past life practices coming back even with no direct practice, especially Anuruddha. He supposedly was the top at Divine eye even with just satipatthana practice. Interestingly there's also a Sutta (https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/AN/AN3_131.html) where he asked Sariputra about how to become Arhat despite his ability to contemplate a thousand worlds at once. It was pointed out that he needs to overcome conceit, restlessness and worry still so to reference a previous topic, I think arhatship is a pretty high bar. So through astrology, dreams and meditation visions I reconnected with Tibetan energies. So I guess for me the Tibetian practices weren't sufficient to reach my goals even though from my understanding I even taught it to others. But again this is all based on my own subjective experiences and conjectures since I have no way of replicating others' paths fully.
Ryan: You have direct experience with closing peoples portals, extinguishing past life karmas, and severing connections with spiritual beings. For people who have lingering connections with former teachers, entities or spirits how can people close these doorss? Intention doesn’t seem to be enough. Do you need a master or a teacher like yourself to do it for you?
Janaka: Some people think the whole spiritual process is too complicated and mysterious that it cannot be spoken of or flawed when attempted. I think I just came from the Sariputra school of thought where we can methodically go through these states and experiences so they can be talked about with clear identification. But the key is that it's not only from object or subject side but the whole experience with one part that's still in control to analyze. Not everyone is built for this level of analysis or mastery, but for me anyone who wants to help others needs to have this at minimum. Otherwise, you're just blindly guessing where the student is at in their practice or using some flawed heuristic like some semblance of 16 insight stages without accounting for the actual capability of the student. Of course in Visuddhimagga, it says the best teacher one can hope for is a psychic arhat (after Buddha). But in modern times, the best we can hope for is some type of specialist(s).
In Asia, white magician, esoteric Samatha (tranquility & concentration path) specialists exist to deal with the spiritual realm. Daoist priests are an obvious example of it, but we also have many Theravada monks who do it. Their explicit goal is to help with the propagation of Sasana (Buddhism), but in some ways seem to have devolved to just mundane concerns. I met one such monk and of course I told him I follow the Vipassana path but then he asked me about what I'm trying to do for the world. I described my goals and ideals I'm following and he pointed out simply that I seem to be doing Samatha's goals even though I claim to be Vipassana. That made me reflect that actually since I'm doing the path yoked together, they should converge. So he asked me if I wanted to learn how to use my palms for protection and dispelling of negative energies. So I thought why not and got initiated with him hitting my palms. But having heard of people who have trouble with entities continuously showing up and unable to get rid of them one thing was clear, I didn't want to become a spiritual witch doctor.
I hadn't connected the dots before but your question spurred me to remember a few incidents where these powers started showing up in meditation. In one retreat, I saw the fireplace of a yoga studio I went to with an octopus-being tentacles spreading across as an energetic exchange for some healing for the students. It disgusted me so I stopped attending but in the subsequent retreat, I was instantly transported in front of the fireplace. I simply waved my hand and said it's time for you to go. Grey cloud of smoke then just left the fireplace. I also got dropped into a friend's body in a graveyard type where a demon with horns was feeding. So I decided to get us out by backing away but there was a silly putty type thing keeping the body tethered and I couldn't pull away completely without rebounding. Then the thought of scissors came into my mind and it appeared in this vision. So I just used it to cut the silly putty and rebounded back into my body. The demon was pissed and came to rattle the cage (kinda like shark observation tank feeling) that I was safely in. It still felt jarring but after a few more incidents over the year, I think I even held my hand out to the demon himself to rise above this scavenging life he has created for himself and his descendants. Then I dealt more directly with the darkweb of the universe and saw a demon that I shut the portal on as he watched for someone.
Intention is enough but you need both conscious and subconscious powers all combined. Otherwise, I've seen people inadvertently leave the portal open or allow it to open again. Or playing with powers beyond their current capabilities. So there are plenty of different specialists who can help people with various ailments. People are easily impressed by these magic tricks or low level abilities. But the real master you want is someone who can close the portal to dukkha (suffering) and samsara (cyclic existence). Especially all the dark entities that represent the dukkha of hell realm which might make it impossible to meet the next Buddha. Who knows when the following Buddha will come around again.
Ryan: Many so-called Arahants today when asked how do you eradicate the defilements through Vipassana give non-answers at best. How are they eradicated? And how do we go about extinguishing a sankhara so that it never arises again?
Janaka: Samsara starts from ignorance and I don't think enough people appreciate the difficulty of not-knowing what you don't know. So there are plenty of examples of people with the wrong assumptions of their attainments in the Sutra examples including about being an Arhat even though they're not even a sotapanna yet. There's a counterstory of one guy asking Buddha if he should worry about his future rebirth due to the quality of his mind. Buddha assured him but the commentary says he was sakagami (2nd level of enlightenment). The case of mistaken arhat was with supernormal powers so maybe there's one possible clue. When people can reach some time of abiding and have a lifestyle to keep dwelling on, it seems easy to make the wrong conclusion. Yet for the householder sakagami example, the environment is hard to control so it's much harder to fool oneself and in fact easy to think lower of oneself. So I think it behooves us to come up with metrics (not experiences) that translate to the modern era to see where one's attainments are. Critical self-awareness, analysis and continued practice would be key to know that sankhara are extinguished and not just disappear temporarily or just haven't had a chance to express due to stimuli.
You know and I both have heard fluffy answers because that's all they know I suppose. Dhammanupassana [Contemplation of Dhamma (Mind Objects)] in steps 13-16: impermanence, fading, cessation and relinquishment. There's a lot of debate of what it means in the satipatthana context, but in anapanasati it's very clear. One should be observing the body/sensations/mind based phenomena for steps 1-12. Then seeing the anicca lakkhana (impermanence characteristic), one starts to see how the karmas are playing out. They should be fading out if one isn't adding to the stockpile. Then, I believe bhava-sankharas are when karmas are starting to cease and possible rebirths are being exhausted. Then final relinquishment happens when associated samyojana (fetters) are cut off. In Buddhism, we presuppose ignorance and suffering. So it's much more reliable to track their eradication through some of the examples I've told you earlier. I haven't heard much talk about them but I think they're much more reliable ways of seeing in one's mind-stream what is gone and what remains with as many tests as possible so one can be sure and not be fooled again by Mara.
I can be convinced if someone were to tell me I'm nowhere in my progression. Yet, even for someone like me, I do have telltale examples of where I've eradicated and can see my own purifying process. Anger or sexual energy are much less problematic now compared to when I started and I see no reason they can't eventually be zero in the future based on the data I already have. So I would hope anyone claiming to be higher than me, especially Bodhisattvas or Arhats can point to their own examples instead of just access to non-duality.
Ryan: Absolutely. I would hope so as well because non-duality is quite different from reaching the sankhara storehouse and eradicating the defilements. Can you explain what that is before we finish up?
Janaka: I think rigpa and flow states have been confused with Nirvana. Some people have even admitted to me that in non-duality they are perfectly enlightened, only to come back to normal life with all their brokenness still intact. Well, usually this is at least a good self reflecting case unlike others who use it as an excuse to abuse others and they're just not acting within duality's constricting moral code or bounds. I really like the word defilements because anyone who has a clear mind can see when something else has defiled the purity and the behavior would be considered putrid by a third-party observer. So I think we can or should only claim for eradication when there's no more reaction WITH the same stimulus. So we should practice to keep cleansing but occasionally be willing to test ourselves with real circumstances including dreams.
In step 4 of Anapanasati, we are supposed to tranquilize kaya-sankharas (body formations) so that's the gross body-level sankharas. Then in step 8, it reaches citta-sankhara (mental formations), energy body-level sankharas turn to be tranquilized. These are quite duality concepts and if all one does is imbibe in flow states and come crashing down afterwards because they didn't add centering, then they're just stuck in rigpa. It in itself does not purify, but just a means to reach the energy body to do further cleansing. It is NOT enough to just surrender to rigpa to realize your already enlightened self. There is still a lot of work remaining, but it was already so hard to get there, most people are already satisfied with it. In some ways, the real work just started to clear the sankhara storehouse for real and eradicate the old stock so the defilements are gone once and for all. People have been stuck in the infinite loop of Samsara so they can't see a higher level loop rigpa created. Dhamma is very profound and complex precisely because it can go wrong in many more ways, the closer we get to eradication because the mind will just lie to itself every chance it gets.
Ryan: "It is not enough to surrender and recognize your already enlightened self." This comes back to the point we've discussed about the goals of different paths. Becoming a Brahma (Exalted Deity) is a different goal than eradicating the defilements, the causes of suffering which keep us in samsara. Finally, tell me about your mission and vision for a healing center and also what your thoughts are on the coming Buddha Lord Matreiya.
Janaka: People seem to be over eager for the next savior to arrive and almost all the religions these days seem to be predicting the next coming of their Prophet, whoever that may be. For the next Buddha though, the knowledge and information about the previous Buddha has to be gone from the human realm. So we are still far from it, despite the regression from his era. Even if he were to show up in this fake news era, I think people would just see him as another Narcissist so I don't believe he's coming anytime soon. I also don't see this era as such widespread enlightenment, an actual ariya era, even though it's the return of Panna. After all, as Gotama Buddha after his enlightenment saw that the world was full of ignorance, so how can anyone understand this profound Dhamma.
But it seems even new age circles seem to be predicting a shift in consciousness. So a lot of people can see something arising, but what for? I personally believe this is the era of hard work where people can cleanse the most dirty and dark energies. We should be able to lift the oppression of sexuality that even ruled the spiritual world for the past 1000 years or so. Many people can make meaningful progress even if they don't reach enlightenment in this life. So this is what I want to help with, to reduce human suffering and feeling alone on the path. We can certainly help explain what's happening to them and to lend a hand. A safe space to recover from a spiritual battleground and have knowledgeable guides seem plausible. To help ground and reintegrate which even the most hardy meditators of this era seem to need. Or even know what the hell is happening to them!
Ryan: Thank you. What an incredible discussion we had here. If people have questions or would like to get in touch with you how can they?
Janaka: You and I are both on Clubhouse, Ryan so I think that's the best way. People can find your room/club and the meditation or Buddhism rooms. I think it's a good way to start the conversation for everyone to learn more about these topics in a personal way.