Attaining to Level 3 Non-Self

Copyright 2022 Sam Bartko, PhD

The Attainment of Level 3 Selfless Perception

This attainment is a much rarer attainment because not many people in modern practice are doing a practice where renunciation is valued. It seems to be the case that renunciation as an attitude is a required prerequisite for anyone looking to attain to the level 3 selfless perception. The deeper insights into non-self only come about when we investigate and fully disidentify from intention and agency. The SigmaTropic systematic practice develops conscious intentions and visualizations and these we learn are intimately interwoven into the fabric of “reality”. In the process of developing these visualization faculties, students perceive how intention and agency are constructed, in real time.

The meditator looking to attain level 3 will be advised to practice jhana and continue to notice dependent arising and cessation in the jhanas. The Formless Realms can start to become more accessible when a person attains the level 2 non-self attainment. These states allow the practitioner to see the basic building blocks of perception and see the way the mind takes a sense contact and manufactures a self-concept from it. The immaterial jhanas are a good way of seeing very subtle fabrications that underlie simple things like space and consciousness. We can see directly through our cessation and jhana practice how the mind is an impersonal process.

For a level 2 practitioner in the SigmaTropic system, the ideal conditions to attain the third level of awakening may look different for different people. A key shift at this stage, is the shift from the mind doing the meditation, to the mind automatically deconstructing reality. The same shift that occurs when moving from Stage I samatha to Stage II samatha. At stage II samatha, we seem to have ongoing mindful awareness to the degree that no conscious moment in the day is totally heedless or without presence.

Our mindfulness is starting to permeate our entire lives, and inevitably in that process the meditator will notice that their behavior and everything they do and events in their lives affect the events that happen while applying some meditation technique. There is a clear interrelated nature to everything we do- and this stage- to get mindfulness and presence to be a baseline default state, we have to gradually show the mind that there is no use in suffering and that craving and aversion are not necessary. It’s helpful to have a holistic perspective on it, and realize that everything we do affects the path, and we can frame everything we do in the context of the path, and when we have this view then everything becomes a practice. The only thing keeping the subject-object duality going is the craving and clinging to things. There is an effort and an engagement that is required to participate in suffering.

When we renounce the outside world and turn into our own perception and develop directly the qualities of mind that lead to awakening, then we can start to experience ourselves as interrelated to the process of everything else. Standing meditation can be quite helpful at this stage, to take advantage of the jhanic ability of the mind and provide an outlet for the energy. Each of the approaches mentioned below are a different way of engaging with intention, up to and including the key development to arrive at the later stages of awakening. We start to confront the direct fact that intentions may in fact be flawed unless we put our faith in a higher power or a higher order to things. This is why we try to develop a “Divine Pride” by envisioning the ideal figure we aim to embody.

  • mantra
  • visualization
  • prayer
  • prostration
  • Brahmacharya
  • jhana
  • standing

Phenomenology of Stage II samatha

Phenomenologically this stage is very pleasant. The meditator has released attachment to sensuality and they are not swayed by craving and aversion for things, experiences, and accumulation from the world. Your mind simply does not crave for thing in the world of form the way it did before. You have a different relationship to pain and pleasure both from the unified mind and also from the effect of insight into non-self. There may be conditioned habits in place and there will be a gradual release of those as the mind unifies. Things can get in the way of the process but the insight this person has is their guiding direction. They want freedom and they know how to get it.

When a level 3 practitioner sits to meditate, they will usually be in stage II samatha, which is equivalent to stage 9 of TMI. They will have easy access to states of absorption and bliss. There can be broad, open, crystal clear states of luminosity and things take on a different feel when the mind is unified. At this point the practice of Brahmacharya and other renunciation techniques no longer feel like renunciation- the mind has no attachment to sensual pleasures and sees the energetic cost and the suffering in deliberately pursuing a mate, or any suffering on account of their interactions with others. As such there can be a lot of confusion around sexual identity, and identity in general at this stage.  Someone who is meditating at this level has direct experience that jhana and calm abiding is way better than any sensual pleasure.

At stage II/stage 3 non self insight, the mind is fully tamed, you lead it around by intention. Anything you want to deconstruct simply appears in full perfect clarity and dissolves into subtle vibrations. There is a subtlety and nuance to all the sense perceptions and a level 3 practitioner has a developed mind that has abilities that normal people do not have.

This entire process and developing the meditation mind is like you’re building something- you’re building those neurons to fire in the most direct way and cut out the suffering. You build it with all this intention and now that you have that mind, you put it to good use. A thing that happens a lot in level 3 non-self territory is that you being to see that reality is all mind. Every single little thing- mind. You can experiment with narratives and experiment with your perception as you go from different states of self-identification. The SigmaTropic system uses visualization and deity yoga to deliberately develop these faculties. The SigmaTropic cycle of manifestation starts to become quite salient in experience, and we see that we need guidance for the intentions we have.

Your mind deconstructs reality on it’s own, and there is less and less of a sense that you are doing anything at all. You see that all reality is mind. All the fruits of the practice and the developed mind- you renounce any ownership of that, and that’s a key transition to get to level 4 attainment.

When the meditator sit down, they don’t do anything, let the breath breathe itself. You may feel a symphony of electric pleasurable sensations rolling through your body with each breath. You seem to just resonate right into any state with the lightest intention. The power of observation is very strong and every sense perception has this clarity to it and freshness. There is lots of pleasurable sensations, the energy flowing through the body, the mental pleasure, the vibrational feelings in the body- it’s very pleasurable.  If you sit for longer than a few minutes your body enters a state of pliancy.  This is a very distinct process and shows you directly the emptiness of your sense perceptions.

You see that mind is reality is mind. You want to talk about it but you keep a poker face because you don’t feel any ownership over that state. The level 3 practitioner soon finds out that the mind works best when it’s blissful, and they start to see they can encourage calm-abiding to bleed into their everyday life. The meditator has a distinct sense of freedom and bliss, their mind has a reliable non-sensory pleasure and peace apart from conditions of the world. You condition your mind by doing that and the mind seeks more and more refuge. What happens with pleasure is you get so much that you start to develop equanimity and you start to see that you can choose to be blissful and aware. It’s a conditional state and you know how to put the conditions in place.

The transition from stage 3 to stage 4 is an emotional fundamental change in perception. You see the emptiness of the self fabrications playing out in your daily experience. There seems to be some rock in the perceptual shoe. In stage III samatha, the synchonization stage, we learn to enter the eternal flow of the present moment and the mind locks into presence and automatically experiences pervasive non-dual bliss. There is a gradual releasing of attachment to identity that starts when we attain disillusionment and concludes when we attain stage 4. Often, at this stage, the meditator’s faculties are developed and their skills in jhana and cessation are powerful. At this point in my own practice, I noticed clear cycling through various perceptual modes, and I often had dramatic, extended cessations that would occurs when the mind was stressed or otherwise overwhelmed with an identity attachment. I wrote about some of the experiences I had on my awake network log,

Leave a Reply