bodom wrote:In the first edition of this book I stated here that the four paths have to be passed through sequentially, such that there is no attainment of a higher path without first having reached the paths below it. This certainly seems to be the position of the commentaries. However, the suttas sometimes show individuals proceeding directly from the stage of a worldling to the third or even the fourth path and fruit in rapid succession, the canonical texts themselves give no indication that this has transpired but suggest an immediate realization of the higher stages without the intermediate attainment of the lower stages. - Bhikkhu Bodhi The Noble Eightfold Path
Yes this is what I meant, although some of the individuals actually attain full released with sudden and immediate realization. If this is to be the case, I wonder how does it happen?
Bhikkhu Bodhi's amended statement above is actually indicative of how this process can truly occur. If you read the discourses carefully, there are a number of different individuals to whom this occurred in the suttas. Sariputta, Mahamoggallana, and Bahiya are just three who are mentioned. A good book to read about the events surrounding these first two would be Great Disciples of the Buddha
The first two of these individuals, according to the impressions of them given in the suttas, were highly intelligent, capable, and discerning individuals who achieved arahanthood rather quickly after having met and become disciples of the Buddha.
The third individual, Bahiya, encountered the Buddha just once, was given some advice, and according to the sutta, achieved liberation just before he was killed by a cow that attacked him. That story is in the Udana (Ud. 1.10; John D. Ireland translation)
, a volume contained in the Khuddaka Nikaya. It is well worth reading and studying if you have an interest in this process. It may give you some insight into that process.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV