Monday, September 16, 2013

The Enlightened American (Daniel Ingram)

Self-proclaimed arhat, author (Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha), and Site Administrator Daniel Ingram founded the Dharma Underground, which lead to the Dharma Overground, which culminated in The DhO.
Frustrated with the world of online Dharma blogs that are all about dogma, hierarchy, disempowering views about how it can't be done, mindless blind faith in absurd ideals, and texts that are wildly out of touch with reality, and a whole host of other absurdities, Ingram founded The DhO to form a safe haven.

It is for people who are into hardcore practice, real attainments, helping people out in the spirit of mutual noble friendship, open conversations about topics related to actual practice, and the like.
Ingram's website,, is home to a distinct voice in the wilderness. He is boldly making the following claims to attainments:
  • I am an arhat, having attained [full enlightenment] in April, 2003.
  • I have mastery of the [traditional eight] samatha jhanas [meditative absorptions], including Pure Land One and Pure Land Two, The Watcher, and Nirodha Samapatti [the "extinction of feeling and perception," a meditative state said to only be possible for arhats].
  • I have some experience with some other traditional attainments.
  • I can access the state [The DhO] calls No Dog

The face of enlightenment (DhO)
Ingram wrote the book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book, often abbreviated MCTB, which has influenced the practice of many members of The DhO.
He is an emergency medicine physician who practices in emergency departments in Mississippi and Northeast Alabama, where he lives with his wife, Carol, and his cats Boris, Mavis, and Elvira (Mistress of the Dark), along with a number of relatively tame raccoons, two of which his family calls Scruffy and Ramona.
Ingram gives a whole lot more biographical information in MCTB.
He states, "I have many outside interests, including green building, cooking, dancing, playing, and listening to music, the writings of Jack Vance, and a good deal more. Updates on my current practice, whatever it may be, can be found at Current Practice Blog."
It is his sincere hope that The DhO will serve to add to the available literature and support of hardcore, empowered practice. He further hopes that through the collective work of a group of dedicated, skilled practitioners that meditation technology and culture will be advanced, enhanced, and adapted to this post-post-modern world.

Financial Disclosure
A brief disclosure of finances: Renting the server space and bandwidth for The DhO costs me about $179/month from Omegabit. There are also other expenses in running The DhO, such as developing the PM feature (which Liferay 5.2.2 didn't have), which cost me about $1,500 out of pocket for the programming, and recent attempts to upgrade to Liferay 6.1, of which the total bill so far has been over $3,000. I also get a small royalty on my book, MCTB, which generally runs roughly $400-$800 every 6 months. Thus, after paying for The DhO server time and miscellaneous expenses, I lose money on all of this, which is just fine by me and consider it my small dana [act of generosity] to the world of meditation. I hope this community benefits every interested person in some way. 

Wisdom Quarterly (EDITORIAL)
Daddy, is this an enlightened being? (Eighteen for Life/
Do we believe Ingram's claims about attainments? Yes.
The problem, of course, is that traditionally the belief has been that one who attains non returner or arhat stages would immediately want to ordain and live according to monastic guidelines, which are regarded as the perfection of the "high life" or brahmacariya. To live otherwise entails blameworthy harm being done to others. This would not suitable for a person of perfected view. (Enlightenment does not perfect personality; it perfects view).
A person with right view does not do harm while engaging in a livelihood. Outside of the Sangha it may be that one "goes along to get along" in the world. The arhat, unwilling or unable to stray from what is right/virtuous, would fall by the wayside. There is no example that we could find of a layperson becoming an arhat at the time of the historical Buddha who did not immediately ask for admission into the Sangha. It is not generally believed that a layperson can even attain that distinction to begin with except in exceptional cases. Monks scoff at the notion since they themselves, under ideal conditions, have so much trouble remaining motivated and reaching the goal, particularly in the city.

Falsely accusing the Buddha
Traditional Theravada teachers would probably not keep advancing a stream enterer or once returner who did not intend to ordain. But the question is, Is it possible? We do not see a necessary reason why it would be impossible. Tradition says that this or that is what happens, and it may be the strong inclination of an arhat to live in peace as a harmless contemplative. But we do not see where it says that has to happen. (Of course, there is the issue of sex and sexual motivation, procreative or strictly based on lust; it would not, as we understand it, be something an arhat would be drawn to. Then again we would not have thought a stream enterer would still break precepts, but they do. How do we know? We've seen it, and the texts say so. Look at the Ratana Sutra. Apparently, what they are incapable of doing is keeping it a secret, but they can live heedlessly. This would seem to be impossible for an arhat).
The systematic commentarial work by Buddhaghosa, The Path of Purification, may seem like a set of hard and fast rules about the Dharma, meditation, attainments, and norms (niyamas), but there are so many examples of exceptions in the texts that one would be hard pressed to defend any definitive view. Buddhaghosa was not giving his opinion, which is how we define "comment" and "commentary." Expanding on and systematizing sacred texts is a sacred Indian tradition; one may need the commentary as much as the original text to make sense of most things great sages have taught.

It is easiest to believe that Daniel Ingram is mistaken or has misestimated his attainment. But how can we say with certainty? How can anyone say? One way to say is to become an arhat and then go meet Ingram. "It takes one to know one" is literally true in this case. If it is his experience, and he is being honest in reporting his experience, who will accurately judge the accuracy of his claims? To doubt it, if it is correct, is unskillful karma. Skeptical doubt is a major hindrance, so it would be better to believe or to leave it undecided until one can check.

An awakened heart of wisdom
We would only advise any person about to make such claim of enlightenment to check with a known arhat (such as Ajahn Jumnien, Pa Auk Sayadaw, the Western monk Ven. Dhammadipa, or other masters who would know) to confirm the attainment. It is easy to be mistaken even when one is personally "sure." What would be worse than living mistakenly thinking oneself liberated -- and convincing others of that -- if, in fact, one were wrong?
But Ingram has a mission to bring attainments out of the shadows where teachers imply they have attained things they may have not, and they never have to directly state one way or the other, or conceal what they are thought to have attained. The "defeat" offense (parajika) for monastics everyone seeks to avoid or ever be accused of in any way is to knowingly falsely claim attainments and/or distinctions in meditation for the sake of some worldly gain; if it is merely the result of misestimation, that does not fulfill the factors of defeat. There are, indeed, laypeople who have attained the stages of enlightenment alive today in America. We have met them. Until one learns what enlightenment actually is and meets examples of it, one may never "believe." This is a path of knowing-and-seeing, not of faith, for the wise and sincere. People may not be wise, but they will go a long way so long as they are sincere.
Before anyone judges this potential arhat or any other, we highly recommend reading Ingram's written work FREE: Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, an Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book. Thank you for teaching, venerable sir.

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