I was thinking about this comment ...

Yes, my target is to abandon the three fetters completely. I can make sense of 'Doubt' and 'grasping at precepts+practices', getting rid of the identity view is the hardest.

... and wondering about what "completely" means. I thought this answer implies that identity view (abandoned at first stage) and conceit (abandoned at last stage) are somewhat on a continuum.

In the context of the four stages of enlightenment would it be right to say that, without identity-view, there's no such thing as an "enlightened person": instead there are maybe "enlightened moments" or moments of enlightenment?

I think that the Abhidhamma talks of "moments" (thought-moments), but that the suttas don't, so ... (knowing little of the Abhidhamma) I'm not sure whether this ("enlightened moments") is a good description.

There was also this ...

The definition of a path is: A virtuous mind conjoined with renunciation.

... which, put me in mind of different moments (places, instants) along a path.

If "enlightened moments" is a good metaphor e.g. for a sotapanna, I was wondering what the difference is between that and the "higher" stages of enlightenment -- and how to achieve or progress towards those, what (what practice and/or realization) is required?

Is it right to say that the difference is more a matter of degree than a matter of kind? Something like ...

  • A Once-returner (Sakadagami) has greatly attenuated:
    1. Sensual desire
    2. Ill will
  • A Non-returner (Anāgāmi) is free from:
    1. Sensual desire
    2. Ill will

... suggests this may be gradual, progressive?

Does the "dhamma-eye" being associated with stream entry imply that "the Dhamma" is already seen at that stage, and thence can only become more ever-present (more of the same)?

Is it 'only' that 'enlightened moments' become more continual, regular, longer, normal, without intervals?

If that's so then is that related to so-called "mindfulness" -- which I imagine might mean "the ability to (more or less continually) remember the dhamma" and also "guarding the senses (to avoid getting carried away)".

So, lastly, why does Right Concentration (samma samadhi) talk exclusively about jhanas? Are they, how and/or why are they, at what point or stage are they, relevant and necessary for any (further) progress?

Can you outline any connection between practising jhanas and living/acting/thinking in the world? Or are they unrelated, is a "seclusion" the only path and the ultimate goal (or at least through, i.e. up to and including, non-returner)?

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    Voting this up as I would like to see some good answers, this is a well asked question! I may have said "Abandon" in a previous question, but come to think of it, it may not be the best perception in understanding the way to attain stages of enlightenment. – Krizalid_13190 Aug 9 at 2:02
  • I'm struggling to figure out how to answer this question as it presupposes a few different ideas from different tenet systems. IOW, it is mixing concepts and teachings from the first turning of the wheel of dharma with the second turning in I think a confused manner. Theravada and Mahayana give different accounts of the "stages of the path" and what is accomplished at different points. I think the question here is trying to reconcile them. @ChrisW what do you think? – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 14:02
  • For instance, 'stream-entry' according to some Mahayana is synonymous with the First Bhumi or becoming an Arya being. That is, it is marked by the direct perception of emptiness while in meditative equipoise. I don't believe this is the Theravada account at all. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 14:05
  • What many Theravada call stream-entry I think corresponds with the first two paths of preparation and accumulation which is decidedly not what Mahayana calls for. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 14:08
  • @YesheTenley I was trying to reconcile the Pali canon's description (because perhaps I know that better than, I have read more of that than, Mahayana descriptions) with my own understanding -- where my own understanding may be influenced by (and/or may parallel some of the views of) Mahayana practitioners. Even so I left this topic untagged (e.g. not tagged 'theravada'), and therefore open to answers from any (or several) schools. I was hoping some answers might be practical (practice-oriented). – ChrisW Aug 9 at 14:14
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Phew, big question! Let's see if I can address some of that...

"The process" definitely gets harder to talk about as it progresses. This is true not only in my personal experience, but is also substantiated by the tradition. Indeed, if Enlightenment was simple and straightforward to explain, wouldn't everyone be enlightened by now? More seriously, would Buddhism evolve so many different schools with their unique ways to talk about it?

According to most schools, the mind of Buddha is indescribable. Some schools insist Buddha is completely mindless (the consciousness ceases), while others posit that while Buddha does have awareness, it is completely beyond concepts. Buddha himself said:

A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with.

If the above does not explain, it at least provides some justification for why the talk about Enlightenment can hardly not be metaphorical, beating around the bush, and involving multiple mutually contradicting descriptions.

Is it gradual?

Yes and No. It is gradual in the sense that it involves work and unfolds increasingly over time... It's not "gradual" in the sense that it can not be achieved by doing the same thing again and again mechanically, and waiting for it to just happen. (Google "Zen polishing the tile" story.)

One of my teachers said: "Enlightenment is a choice we keep on making". This highlights one aspect of it, that it's not necessarily asymptotic nor is it irreversible, but because it's "a choice" we must learn to "keep on making", there is a sense in which Enlightenment is a skill that is developed over time.

You do know that this very question (gradual vs. sudden) was the main point of debate between the schools of Chan, as well as between Chan and Tibetan Buddhism? Although, some modern scholars conclude that such a reified distinction between schools was more like a rhetorical device used by the subsequent schools, and that none of the historical schools (to an extent that we can even talk about distinct "schools") were in fact fully "sudden" or "gradual".

Is it more and more moments?... there's no such thing as an "enlightened person"...

I would rather characterize it as "less and less" rather than "more and more". In my experience, it is less and less grasping/attachment, less and less overgeneralization, less and less confusing abstractions with reality, less and less losing emotional balance. And yes, less and less "enlightened person", less and less thinking/worrying about oneself in general, less and less trying to characterize oneself as something specific (enlightened or whatever). Less and less thinking of oneself as one distinct entity or agent. Less and less conflict, less and less suffering. It's like, the tangle gets progressively looser, until it's barely in a single piece anymore. Or, a fire that is pulled apart, into individual pieces of wood...

I was wondering what the difference is between [sotapanna] and the "higher" stages of enlightenment -- and how to achieve or progress towards those, what (what practice and/or realization) is required?

I think it requires the kind of practice that Buddha metaphorically described as leveling of the earth, starting from the mountains, then hills, then progressively smaller features, until even the ground itself is "flattened away", followed by space and the very mind itself. The way I understand this, we should keep looking for obstacles to suchness - the sources of existential conflict that generate the experience of suffering.

The sense of "I" is just one of such sources (albeit a major one). Another big source of suffering, recognized in Mahayana, is the idea of Enlightenment itself (aka the idea of Nirvana as goal "over there"). At some point the practitioner is supposed to "get over" (to quote my Zen Master) the notion of the goal, because the very notion of the goal dependently co-creates anxiety of not having reached the goal. Just another "bump" to be "leveled". Then there is this idea of reincarnation or rebirth, which is really just the good old Self in disguise. And then there are myriads other "bumps" not necessarily as universal but equally important for an individual practitioner. Someone is hung up on the unrequited love, someone has a problem of being self-conscious and shy in the social setting, someone is passive-aggressive etc. Every one of these is supposedly rooted in some sort of attachment/overgeneralization that must be transcended on the way to complete Enlightenment.

In this light, achieving progress towards the higher stages definitely requires going beyond the basic morals/meditation/philosophy and into the nitty-gritty of our everyday life situations and hang-ups. Like, definitely, 100%.

Does the "dhamma-eye" being associated with stream entry imply that "the Dhamma" is already seen at that stage...

As I said in other answers, I think that stream-entry is by definition the point when one gets more or less clear about the problem, the goal, and the method - and hence "enters the stream" of right practice solving the right problem, leading to the right goal. With stream-entry, suffering has been directly recognized as subjective condition, relationship between craving/attachment/overgeneralization and suffering has been directly seen, the cessation of suffering has been directly realized in at least one real case, and -- most importantly -- the overall way "things work" has been intuitively grasped.

Practice subsequent to stream-entry may certainly involve new discoveries and realizations, it's not like you stop learning - but all these discoveries and realizations should all fit within / feed back into, this basic framework of 4NT and "the way things work".

In a recent answer I said, stream-entry is when a student is supposed to completely get it 100% with no doubts, unlike Buddha who has to figure it out from scratch having doubts until the last moment. But in practice that 100% point-in-time understanding was only possible back when Buddha was still alive and Dharma was delivered straight from the source. As time passes between the lifetimes of Buddha and the student, the Dharma gets gradually more "corrupted" (diluted, mixed-up), and the phenomenon of stream-entry gets gradually less straightforward. The future students of Buddhism must do more and more work by themselves to figure out the puzzle, which makes their paths increasingly closer to that of the Buddha, at least in this one sense.

, and thence can only become more ever-present (more of the same)? ...is that related to so-called "mindfulness"?

In my experience, as Dharma is internalized, and the habit of grasping is reduced, what I call "hard mindfulness" (keeping a constant watch over oneself) gives way to something much more fluid, more like the effortless ice skating. So, if we can speak about "more of the same" - it's more of the same fluidity and effortlessness. It's not that due to mindfulness your "moments of enlightenment" keep growing until it's one continuous Enlightenment. It's more like, due to the letting go and non-grasping, the GAPS between samsaric moments occur more and more frequently, until the whole thing gets so loose that it's not there anymore. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche spoke about this at length, the porous nature of reality, the soda-bubbles, the ping-pong, the gaps, and the space dancing with itself. I think it's a nice way to describe it. In fact, one of the biggest virtues of Tantra (in my opinion) is providing a language to talk about these indescribable experiences in a way that can be shared and understood.

Why does Right Concentration (samma samadhi) talk exclusively about jhanas? Are they, how and/or why are they, at what point or stage are they, relevant and necessary for any (further) progress?

My teacher said that in the Eightfold Path, concentration (Samadhi) is not your regular "concentration" as in focusing on an object. It's more like ability to shift your attention of your subjective world to achieve a particular perspective on things. For example, we can look at things from a biological standpoint, or a sociological standpoint, or a semiotic standpoint, or a Buddhist standpoint. According to my teacher, in the Eightfold Path, concentration (Samadhi) requires developing an ability to control our perspective/attention of how we see the moment and life at large.

Specifically in Buddhism, first we develop ability to see the world phenomenologically as The Six Senses, Five Skandhas etc. Then we step it up a notch and develop ability to see Emptiness of all phenomena and the subject. Finally, we develop ability to let go of any position and sustain nirvikalpa-jnana, which is a completely unreified / unovergeneralized mode of awareness. Apparently this is what's actually referred to as Samadhi in the Eightfold Path.

Can you outline any connection between practising jhanas and living/acting/thinking in the world?

This is a big topic, but basically, the practice of jhana manifest in the everyday life as positive, upbeat attitude. You are supposed to understand the mechanisms of mind enough to be able to always maintain yourself in a good mood.


So there's all that on one hand... Now, let's put all this aside and talk about the following. In one sense, everything is already perfect. This includes the world and all sentiment beings including yourself (myself) in whatever state they are. Everything is perfect just as it is, with all its imperfections, that's a fact. Achieving a direct clear vision of this is known as the Sudden Enlightenment. It has an effect of completely liberating one from all suffering. After all, what suffering can there be, if everything is perfect? So when the Sudden Enlightenment schools make fun of gradualists, they understandably contrast the never ending perfectionism of gradualists with their own nice and simple way to be free, if only one can see it directly. Everything is perfect. Enlightenment is a choice we keep on making.

There's an opinion that Anuttara-Samyak-Saṁbodhi of the Buddha entails having both views of Enlightenment, gradual and sudden, coexist in one mind at the same time, with no cognitive dissonance whatsoever. I guess this is why Buddha's mind is said to be indescribable?

  • Some schools insist Buddha is completely mindless Whatever that means?! I imagine, instead, "perceiving" (not unconscious), and responsive (but, according to scripture, not desirous of further becoming, e.g. to become enlightened - even 'becoming a teacher' was a response, to a request (from Brahma)). A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. Yes, the title of the question was misleading, but I didn't mean to ask about the end state (arahant) -- I meant to ask about the way towards "once-returner" and "non-returner", especially the method[s] of practice. – ChrisW Aug 9 at 13:50
  • You do know that this very question (gradual vs. sudden) was the main point of debate...? Yes I read that Tibetans decided on "gradual". I didn't mean to ask about gradual or sudden. I meant to ask whether further progress is progressively more of the same, or (instead) something discontinuous or different in kind. Your remark about polishing a tile implies that merely more of the same might be ineffective (but to follow that up with another question, "what else instead, then?" seems like more just grasping though, so, fine, that does answer that). – ChrisW Aug 9 at 13:50
  • Another big source of suffering ... is the idea of Enlightenment itself Yes, not news to me though it does bear repeating. nitty-gritty of our everyday life IMO it isn't concepts or doctrine that troubles me (like "will I be reborn?"), rather it's hindrances (like sensuality, "say, can you find something sweet to taste?", or torpor, "hey, how can you concentrate when you feel slight physical weariness?"). In everyday life, with so much having and discarding distracting thoughts, 'executive function' feels like wading through molasses: slow, torpid, distracted, handicapped, not effortless. – ChrisW Aug 9 at 13:51
  • it's more of the same fluidity and effortlessness "It" doesn't seem effortless to me -- more like some kind of hindrance. But I suppose it should (feel "effortless") -- so, thank you for that advice. It's not like I have Parkinson's disease (which interferes with the mind's controlling the body), i.e. there isn't (or shouldn't be) really anything stopping me from getting things done (even though the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta suggests that "my body" and "the perceptions" and so on are disobedient). – ChrisW Aug 9 at 13:51
  • Enlightenment is a choice we keep on making. I think that echoes my thesis that it's some matter of (somehow) remaining perpetually (or more and more continually) conscious (mindful, or awake) -- rather than e.g. getting swept away by a flood of sensuality, by trains of thought, like memories and daydreams, by feelings ("I'm not sure I like interacting with bureaucracies, so I won't, but I must, I'll delay, oh no!"), etc. – ChrisW Aug 9 at 13:52

Some thoughts from the Theravada perspective.

... and wondering about what "completely" means. I thought this answer implies that identity view (abandoned at first stage) and conceit (abandoned at last stage) are somewhat on a continuum.

Completely means that even the potential to 'fill in the fetter' has been abandoned, uprooted. For instance, in daily life you find yourself looking at things the usual way. Then you correct yourself intellectually: "Ah no, although I experience this the normal, mundane way, I know it to be wrong." Well, this is not it. Once a fetter is uprooted it wouldn't even be possible to experience things in a normal, humane, mundane way. The experience of seeing Nibbana for the first time, aka. becoming a stream enterer, is so strong that a definitive shift has taken place in the mind. It's just such a powerful experience. It's like trying to walk with one leg. An you fall over. That experience is so clear and awakening that you will never, ever try to walk with one leg again. Not only the thought of it would no longer arise. And later on the impulse doesn't either. That's what's meant with completely.

Also: there is a clear difference between identity view and conceit. Those are qualitative two different experiences. It is therefore correct that there are different times needed where those things get uprooted. As a sotapanna the experience of a sense of self still arises. But you will never, ever again think that this sense of self is correct. The conceit sits on a deeper level, so to speak. Steam entry get's only rid of higher level.

I think that the Abhidhamma talks of "moments" (thought-moments), but that the suttas don't, so ... (knowing little of the Abhidhamma) I'm not sure whether this ("enlightened moments") is a good description. ...

If "enlightened moments" is a good metaphor e.g. for a sotapanna, I was wondering what the difference is between that and the "higher" stages of enlightenment -- and how to achieve or progress towards those, what (what practice and/or realization) is required?

The difference between the Abhidhamma and the sutta's, as far as I understand it, is that the Abhidhamma explains everything from the viewpoint of ultimate realities. And the sutta makes use of conventions.

Since in ultimate reality there is only one moment of experience followed by the next moment and so on, it makes sense that the four stages are also only moments.

In meditation it is very possible to reach a stage where one will experience reality as moment to moment. In daily life you can't penetrate that deeply. Daily life experience will always be a stream of water, not the individual drop followed by the next drop. This is why we say that anatta hides in compactness (dukkha hides in change and anicca in continuity).

So, let's say that the road towards enlightenment has trees along the side. 4 large ones and a lot of little ones. You pass those trees. The little ones represent minor enlightening, awakening thoughts, ideas ("Oh, now I get it."). Those correct view, the way you look at things. And then you pass the first large tree and that experience is mind altering. That doesn't mean you're finished, on deeper levels there is still a lot to learn and understand. And you move along the path. And you go deeper and deeper. And with clearer understanding the mind is ready to let go of the next things (pass the next large tree). And so on.

Yes, it is a matter of degree of understanding. That's where the practice of vipassana comes in.

So, lastly, why does Right Concentration (samma samadhi) talk exclusively about jhanas? Are they, how and/or why are they, at what point or stage are they, relevant and necessary for any (further) progress?

There is a difference between the mundane, preliminary eightfold path and the noble, supramundane eightfold path. The latter leads to reaching nibbana. (I don't say enlightenment by choice. Since we need to reach nibbana four times in order to be enlightened. Also 'reaching' is conventional speech, not what's really happening.) The supramundane path is, again, a mind moment which needs momentary concentration focussed on ultimate reality. Jhana, the once we associate with samatha practice, use a concept. Concepts will never let you see anicca, dukkha, anatta the way it is needed for the mind to let go: moment by moment on a deep, deep level. Samatha jhana do not lead to understanding and the development of wisdom. The understanding needed for letting go, the wisdom that is not intellectual, but intuitive.

I myself don't practise the deeper samatha jhana at all (only metta). They are not necessary to see Nibbana or get enlightened. They can be supportive however. So, there are teachers who teach both: to first train in samatha jhana and later on in vipassana jhana.

Hope this helps a bit.

Answering some questions from the post:

Does the "dhamma-eye" being associated with stream entry imply that "the Dhamma" is already seen at that stage, and thence can only become more ever-present (more of the same)?

Is it 'only' that 'enlightened moments' become more continual, regular, longer, normal, without intervals?

Since I believe that everyone of us has Buddha nature and ability to experience true nature of things I will stress that we get in touch with "Enlightenment" more often than we think. To me it is just a matter of gradually removing little obscurations of already perfect mind. All of us can see moments of clarity everyday, signs of Enlightenment as they spontaneously emerge even among non-practising people. So, ultimately there is nothing to attain and everything to attain at the same time.

The excerpt may not be Pali canon or anything but highlights some points practically.

From Dudjom Lingpa's Vajra essence:

The enlightened awareness lineage of the buddhas is so designated because the minds of all the buddhas of the three times are of one taste in the absolute space of phenomena. The symbolic lineage of the vidyadharas is so designated because the symbolic signs of ultimate reality, the treasury of space, spontaneously emerge, without reliance upon the stages of spiritual training and practice.

Jhana or primordial consciousness (or put any another term here) in this context is nothing else than getting in touch again with suchness, that is "absolute space of phenomena". This space is nothing else than ultimate truth (and thus Nirvana) that Nagarjuna speaks of for that matter.

And so yes, the more refined we are, the more in touch with ultimate we would be on daily bases. By removing those little obscurations I mean of course Self and reification of it:

The primordial, originally pure nature of existence, which is great, intellect-transcending, ultimate reality, free of conceptual elaboration, is obscured by conceiving of a self and grasping at duality.

Furthermore, gradual releasing oneself from cyclical existence improves clarity of vision and experience:

When their previous karmic predispositions stir, they directly see the truth of ultimate reality, and they emerge from the realm of wisdom. Pure appearances arise for them, but these are neither the mind nor mental processes. Rather, these appearances are by nature the play of the manifest space of awareness. They are not the eight kinds of consciousness, but they are not otherwise, so they are called by these names.

I hope it shed some interesting light on your questions, although it is not too technical.

  • To me it is just a matter of gradually removing little obscurations Yes. I hoped my question was asking after (the?) practical method[s] of gradually (actually) removing obscurations, as if that's possible. And, this answer appears to be, "Be free of conceptual elaboration"! – ChrisW Aug 8 at 23:35
  • I don't know what "grasping at duality" means by the way in this context (unless he's talking about "self-versus-other" duality maybe). From the comments under this answer I inferred (perhaps incorrectly) that "non-duality" isn't even a thing , that instead there are "conventional dualities" ... and "emptiness". – ChrisW Aug 8 at 23:37
  • It is indeed this kind of duality where subject is not different with object. Having an insight into ultimate this way simply is looking at things before slicing them in concepts and distinctions. The concise explanation that helps might be found here in the citation: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/26696/13383 – user13383 Aug 9 at 7:26
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    @ChrisW There is a lot to like in Andrei's answer. In fact, I'm struggling to understand if we have any real differences rather than mere misunderstandings of emphasis. However, I think Andrei's answer is very personal to him and reflective of his particular mix. The "everything is already perfect" is I think a statement of complete pacification of the mind. IOW, it is a description of an experential feeling that might be encountered among the 10 Bhumis. Anyway, as for non-duality and emptiness... I think you should ask a question about this as I have my own answer but I'd like to hear others. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 14:19
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    I guess two bits of this answer seem practical -- mainly, maybe, a hint towards combining "free of conceptual elaboration" with what Andrei called "effortless"; secondly, pointing out that "jhana" may have other (Mahayana not Theravada) usages ... and may be equated with perception of mundane space (or is that not what you mean by "absolute space"?), and that that perception (when untainted) is enlightened awareness. – ChrisW Aug 9 at 17:31

In the context of the four stages of enlightenment would it be right to say that, without identity-view, there's no such thing as an "enlightened person": instead there are maybe "enlightened moments" or moments of enlightenment?

The book Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions does a very good job of explaining the differences between the Theravada and Sanskrit regarding the explanation of the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. There are similarities between the two, but some major differences as well. The two share a common vernacular (stream-entry, once-returner, arahant, etc.), but have different definitions for these terms or different viewpoints of exactly what has been achieved. The Sanskrit tradition (aka what many call Mahayana) places the stream-enterers, once-returners, non-returners, and Arahants as having already achieved the Path of Seeing. This is the demarcation line between Arya beings and regular beings. What is an Arya being? Someone who has directly perceived emptiness in a completely unmistaken and non-conceptual way while in meditative equipoise. When someone has achieved this there can be no question coming from the side of the person who has achieved it. When you arrive at this ... you'll incontrovertibly know it. I can honestly say that I have not achieved this. What's more, my teacher tells me that very few modern human beings on earth have achieved this it is so rare. This is a big difference with the Theravada as I think stream-entry is generally thought to be fairly common among modern people.

In other words, I think from the Sanskrit/Mahayana view virtually no one on earth following the Sanskrit/Mahayana (let alone Theravada) have achieved stream entry. What's more virtually everyone who has is most likely well beyond believing that any of these categories are real inherent things. In other words, anyone who believes they have achieved stream entry without studying Nagarjuna's treatise and then meditating in single pointed concentration and directly seeing what Nagarjuna was on about is fooling themselves from Mahayana perspective.

That's why it is so hard to answer your question from Mahayana perspective as any of the four stages - from Mahayana perspective - is so far beyond what modern Theravada practitioners normally posit. You can't have achieved stream-entry from Mahayana perspective until you've gone quite beyond the coarse meaning of shunyata found in the Theravada tenet systems.

As for your question about "enlightened person" ... there is definitely enlightened persons. Eliminating the 'identity-view' does not negate or refute the existence of enlightened persons. Rather, it just puts 'enlightened person' in its proper place: a completely conventional existent without the slightest bit of inherent existence. Again, I'd say someone who has eliminated the 'identity-view' is someone quite beyond past the point of believing there is the slightest bit of inherent existence in any person. Why? Because they've seen the absence of this existence directly in a completely non-conceptual way. Nevertheless, an Arya being would not refute completely the existence of a "enlightened person."

If "enlightened moments" is a good metaphor e.g. for a sotapanna, I was wondering what the difference is between that and the "higher" stages of enlightenment -- and how to achieve or progress towards those, what (what practice and/or realization) is required?

I don't think this is a good metaphor for any person on the path past the point of seeing. An Arya being is completely convinced that inherent existence is absent in everything yet the appearance of inherent existence still appears to them. This is true of once-returners, non-returners as well. Only a Buddha has no perception of inherent existence at any time. The only time when inherent existence does not appear to a non-Buddha is when an Arya being is in meditative equipoise on emptiness. In this sense, I guess you could say that "enlightened moments" are those moments when an Arya being is in meditative equipoise on emptiness. For any non-Buddha (let alone non-Arya being) no moments of enlightenment occur.

Is it right to say that the difference is more a matter of degree than a matter of kind?

I think there must be a world of difference between the moments an Arya being is in meditative equipoise on emptiness and normal everyday moments when inherent existence appears to them. However, the former moments leave the Arya being absolutely sure that when inherent existence does appear in subsequent moments that they are not fooled by it in the slightest.

Does the "dhamma-eye" being associated with stream entry imply that "the Dhamma" is already seen at that stage, and thence can only become more ever-present (more of the same)?

The Path of Seeing is arrived at when we directly perceive emptiness so yes. It becomes ever more present as an Arya being continues to abide in meditative equipoise and the moments between them become ever more illusory like. The appearance of inherent existence shakes and shimmers and its illusory nature becomes ever more apparent. I think this is what it must be like, but mind you I'm not claiming to know!

So where does that leave us non-Arya beings on the path? Well, we are on the Path of Accumulation marked by:

  1. Detailed knowledge and understanding of doctrine
  2. A strong and heartfelt desire to be free from samsara with clear and lucid understanding of our predicament ie., dhukka/samsara and the 4NT's
  3. For Bodhisattva's #2 is said to be marked by a genuine (as opposed to contrived) Bodhicitta which is #2, but solely concerned for others welfare

And/or we are on the Path of Preparation marked by:

  1. A clear and lucid understanding of emptiness with the growing conviction that things lack inherent existence
  2. This is a conceptual or inferential understanding and is not the same thing (although a necessary prerequisite) as having a direct perception of emptiness

Personally, I think non-Arya beings that have taken refuge in the Triple Gem are somewhere among the two with imperfect achievements of some/all of the above. That is, I don't think that it's an either/or between Accumulation and Preparation. We're mostly in the muddled middle.

I think I'll stop there. I know you were looking for practical advice, but I guess I've given the presentation of doctrine. Suffice to say that until you've achieved the direct perception of emptiness (an extremely rare and uncommon occurrence among modern humans on this earth) I think a lot of this is theoretical. What we have are the accounts of people who have achieved this like Nagarjuna.

Hope this helps!

I have heard, from a Bhikkhu teacher that, Jhana is not a dependency for attaining the first three stages of enlightenment: basically, the first stage (Stream enterer), second stage (Once-returner), and the third stage (Non-returner), can be attained intellectually and as a layperson. If you have Jhana capabilities, it makes everything quicker. However, Jhana is required to remove the top 5 fetters.

Let's talk about the 5 lower fetters. In a sense, these fetters can be seen as "locks" for reincarnation. Each lock is a type of "suffering". If you can open these locks, you will no longer have these 5 types of suffering. Put it this way, these five aspects will no longer cause you any trouble mentally.

So, the term "abandoning" may not convey the best meaning. A better description would be "to disable the effect of those five fetters on our mental states".

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