Ben wrote: The way I look at it is that we should be focused on attaining (at least) sotapatti in this life.
I can't honestly believe that I, personally, have even the remotest chance of achieving stream entry in this present lifetime. I feel mocked by the idea. (Not by you, of course, but by the idea - that it is possible for me
Why is it that you "feel" or think that way? Is it because of what you have been told by others and have accepted as belief simply because so many others are telling you this? Or for some other reason?
Laurens wrote: Focus on this life, its the only one you can be 100% certain of having
Good advice but I must be practicing wrongly, or something. My efforts at practice have resulted in feelings of isolation, anxiety and being trapped in some cosmic game of chance. Then comes, not equanimity, but a desire to be rid of those feelings.
What you describe here is not abnormal for beginners. Something about what you are doing must be working, or you wouldn't be having these insights into your mental world. And, of course, no one wants to have feelings of isolation or anxiety or of being trapped in some cosmic game of chance. But unless you continue on to observe these phenomena more deeply, you will never find out how to overcome or transcend them.
The best antidote that I can recommend for this is to delve more deeply into a study and reading of the suttas as well as studying the important teachings in more depth. While you can find the discourses online at no cost, I would recommend obtaining the Wisdom Publications editions
of the Nikayas (links to which can be found in that post) and reading and studying them one at a time, one sutta a day at a time. The Anguttara Nikaya
is not yet fully translated, but the anthology published by Nyanaponika Thera some years ago is still available and very accessible.
What is good about these publications is that there are plenty of excellent explanatary footnotes available which add tremendously to one's correct understanding of these discourses, which footnotes are available nowhere else that I have found. You have to spend the time reading the footnotes in place as you read the suttas for better comprehension. It really is
worth the time to do so.
Begin your focus on learning more about and delving deeper into the Five Aggregates. There are some suggestions for reading material in the link above to the Wisdom Publication editions. Once you begin to gain some insight into the workings of the five aggregates and to see how they present in everyday life, the isolation and the anxiety you feel should begin to diminish if not fade away completely. Studying the five aggregates and the teaching on dependent co-arising are two of the most important concepts to be able to grasp if you wish to diminish dukkha
. It takes some effort, but once the insights begin to arise, it is well worth it.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV