How to attain to level 4 Selfless Perception
For practitioners in stage II samatha as a baseline, they are likely at level 3 non self insight working on level 4. The mind of a level 3 practitioner is significantly different than a normal person due to the training and practice they have done. They have distinct mental and physical pliancy in meditation. The insights release mental afflictions your mind becomes more unified. This has a direct effect on the ability of a meditator to settle the mind and experience calm-abiding. This is like all the different parts of the mind starting to get on the same page, and conflicting intentions coming into line.
Calm abiding and stage II samatha arise dependent on causes and conditions. Someone who is in stage II will tend toward sukkha in a broad and microscopic sense. In a broad sense they will recognize that they want to live a life of peace and making logistical changes in the world is part of this practice of coming into harmony with the world and ourselves. You need to have an environment that promotes awakening and if there are factors that lead away from awakening you will get rid of them.
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,
Stage III samatha and Level 4 Selfless perception
Stage III is fully developed samatha, and it is not as exciting as the stages before. The main goal of a level 3 practitioner looking to attain level 4 is to bring calm abiding to all of their activities. In this stage the meditator has broad spacious knowing and vivid clarity, and a deep sense of peace, fundamental rightness. The body always seems to be pleasantly buzzing or if there’s pain going on it seems equally valid and the mind does not discriminate based on pleasant or unpleasant. It’s a very clear shift and it is one of those things you just feel this fundamental mismatch has been resolved, but you experience it “in” your sense perceptions. It’s hard to describe but really interesting. Meditation is not fundamentally different than any other activity we do. Spiritual searching is no different than any other activity we do.
You sit down and there is pervasive, deep equanimity toward all sense arisings. There are no hindrances, ever. With the last two fetters cut. there is a distinct difference in the orientation of self to objects and it breaks. There is no perceptual separation between self and other. Everything is perceived clearly and nothing causes clinging. There is no timer, no planning, you sit for as long as you want. There is a gentle slide into pristine spacious knowing and a deep sense of tranquility and contentedness. Time takes on a different feel, and the equanimity and mindfulness of arisings is automatic, matter of fact. It’s almost like everything is so directly- matter of fact known to be right where it is all the time without even trying. The mind can rest in an objectless state and perceptually it feels like somehow I’m now actually “in my body” and I’m fully experiencing this moment, for once. You can simply sit, with no intention or goal whatsoever, and your mind will abide in non-duality. Mental objects are not perceived to be fundamentally different than any other object, and since all objects are seen clearly, everything appears to have a perfection and “rightness” to it. Everything is mind. You see through objects completely and you will directly perceive non-duality moment by moment. That is a direct moment by moment knowing for a level 4 practitioner. It appears that stage III samatha requires the level 3 selfless attainment, and level 4 selfless perception locks in stage III samatha as a baseline state. Level 4 selfless perception and stage III samatha, and the uprooting of suffering permanently are co-arising related phenomena. One leads to the other and comes with the other they are inseparable. The causes and conditions that lead a person to stage III samatha are the same causes and conditions that lead to awakening.
To maintain stage III samatha requires certain causes and conditions, and the person at stage III will tend to maintain the conditions they can control that lead to mental peace. The objective at stage III is getting the state of tranquility to permeate very facet of life. The seem to always present and engaged with whatever they are doing with a gusto and there is no stress holding the mind from what it intends to do. A person at stage III samatha will not engage in useless things that lead to dukkha. A person at stage III has a feeling of automaticity with everything they do, there is no sense of fundamental strain between self and reality and thus they can get on with being an effective useful person. These perceptual qualities are available as a default state for a level 4 practitioner. They may fall back to the lower stages of samatha if they don’t do formal practice, but they attain an ongoing pervasive peacefulness and sense of effortless automatic flow in everything they do. Suffering on a personal level is ended.