Okay, this is just for possible inspiration. I'm not intending to debate any of this.
Ajahn Maha Bua. I am very sure he was an arahat. He said he was an arahat. Some people may take that as a reason to believe the opposite. When you read his books, especially Arahatta-Magga Arahatta-Phala, you can check for yourself if there's something that resonates with your intuition deep inside, or if you think he was just full of himself.
He had some disciples who, so I heard and believe, also became arahats, including the british-born Ajahn Paññavaddho
, who, from what I read of his own talks and teachings, must have been a very wise, eloquent, friendly and inspiring person, with a temperament quite different from that of his teacher, but nonetheless completely content with living there, apparently having arrived in the right place.
I am quite sure, Ajahn Paññavaddho was an arahat, too. Alone from what Ajahn Maha Bua had to say about him. There was nothing but praise, he was without fault in his teacher's eyes, so it seems. And that is truly remarkable, considering that the teacher was Ajahn Maha Bua.
I think Ajahn Maha Bua was quite uncompromising in dealing with his students: Either you do the training to attain Nibbana, or you can leave! Must have been like that, more or less.
He was a rough and tough guy. Ajahn Paññavaddho must have gotten it right pretty fast. He must have been a marvelous person.
I think the remaining western disciples of Ajahn Maha Bua must also have attained some level of realization. Otherwise they wouldn't have been able to endure the rough ride with such a severe teacher for so long. Also I think Ajahn Maha Bua said something to the extent that "he is not worried about his spiritual friends anymore" or something like that in his last short desana before his death, where he just said some things to that extent, that he is ready to go now.
I have met one of them in person. I do not doubt his integrity in the least. And I do not doubt that he is done with the world, so to speak. At least to some degree that is irrevocable. Although he is not the most pleasent, or most inspiring for many, person to meet, I guess. I myself was very intimidated when I first met him, because he really does not come off as the most friendly radiating-metta kind of guy. I can only say that I am sure he would never tell a lie or pretend anything to anyone and that his determination and firmness and his contentment in that speak for him. He can also lighten up and have some humour, when he sees it as appropriate, but he is very earnest and serious and wants people to learn and be mindful when they want to learn from him.
If I had the guts and not so many unresolved problems that I'm entangled in I would try to find him and follow him by the hem of his robes like an annoying little kilesa. I wish him all the best in the forests of Thailand. He has no ambitions to come back and teach more I think.
Pa Auk Sayadaw. I believe he must also be an arahat or at least anagami, I think arahat. Why do I think that?
The first hint came from Sayalay Dipankara, one of his students. In a very long multi-parted interview
on Dhammatube she talked about her own progress in Dhamma, and about stream-entry in a way that leaves no doubt for me that she must have attained stream-entry herself. The way she says things and expresses herself does not run counter to the Dhamma as far as I can understand it, she does not seem to be stupid, or an impostor or false and pretentious and driven by silly pride or something like that in any way that I could identify. So in conclusion I believe that she has attained at least stream-entry. There are some hints elsewhere that she has attained even more.
Based on that I concluded it to be very likely that her teacher Pa Auk Sayadaw should also be very advanced or even at the end of the path. And what I could read, hear or see on the internet, from himself and the accounts of his students, including some western lay disciples whose names I forgot but who gave some good Dhamma talks speaking about their own ways of practice and experience (including their own and, to me, completely believable accounts of remembering past lives by following the practice as they learned it), so as to inspire and instruct in line with their own capacities and abilities, I could not detect any false air or ill-inspired motivation there, but only true, deep and sound confidence. So based on that I believe that Pa Auk Sayadaw is probably also an arahat and showing people the right way, and there are probably some sotapannas and the like among his students.
I've also met one of his disciples, a bhikkhuni, from Germany. Don't know if she has reached stream-entry or anything. But she was a truly good and inspiring person, not given to shenanigans and nonsense, but faithfully and earnestly devoted to the teaching of the Buddha. (And oh, she was so beautiful, and oh such a lovely, soothing voice when she was chanting the Karaniya-Metta-Sutta :p - but that's something different.)
So these are two quite different pairs of shoes (or whatever you call it, excuse my English), even to an extreme in some way: Ajahn Maha Bua and his teachings and his disciples on the one hand, and Pa Auk Sayadaw and his teachings and his disciples on the other hand. But with both of them I strongly feel that this is the real deal. Ajahn Maha Bua came from a rural area in Thailand. And his way of teaching Dhamma was very rough and maybe even rude, as it seems.
But as far as I can tell it was truthful and uncompromising, not driven by false motivations, just in line with his character and his inquiry for truth. Pa Auk Sayadaw on the other hand has a very educated background, having become a novice monk in Burma at the age of 10, where the monastic order is the intellectual elite. He was born, so to speak into the hands of good teachers, more or less, so it seems. He is radiating metta so naturally and with ease, and approaching the Dhamma in a more composed and intellectual (for lack of better words) way, one that is in line with the way he knows and sees.
So there may be wide differences in character and temperament, according to different upbringing, previous karma and so on. And of course such different characters attract quite different flocks of students. But for me, I believe these both to be (respectively have been) arahats.
That's quite interesting. But even the Buddha already remarked something like that, when someone approached him and wondered why it was that these monks follow Moggalana, these monks follow Anuruddha, these monks follow Sariputta and so on. It's really interesting.
Another monk who some years ago passed away of whom I believe that he might have been an arahat was Bhante Ñanavimala
, a German monk living in Sri Lanka. From what there is to be read about him, his solitary, devoted monk lifestyle that he followed with unflinching determination, composure and contentment, free like a bird, following the Buddha's teaching without need for anyone else's guidance or advice, strict and severe but completely content, he must really have been a most remarkable person. If he has not become an arahat, then he must be in the formless realms now with the anagamis, I guess. Anyway, that's what I believe from the little that I've read about him. But maybe can't be so sure about that. Maybe he was only a sotapanna. But for sure, he must have been a sotapanna at the very least. Maybe you want to read about him. There's not very much. Some accounts of various monks who met him, all of whom were very impressed and awe-inspired.
Another recent arahat, as far as I believe of course, was Mae-Chee Kaew, a female disciple of Ajahn Mun and later Ajahn Maha Bua. There's a biography of her, written by Ajahn Maha Bua, that reads a bit like a fantasy novel. But not in the way that I would say it's just fantasy, of course. Don't know if you will find it inspiring or silly.
And of course Ajahn Mun himself, the teacher of Ajahn Maha Bua, of Ajahn Chah (for only some days) and many others back in those days, who was the initiator of the now so-called Thai Forest Tradition, or what it originally was. All these rough cowboy Ajahns on tudong, striving for Nibbana.
There were quite a few later arahats among them, thus I have heard. There are some funny stories. For example one of them stopped eating and decided to starve to death, because he'd had enough and was not able to teach others, didn't want to waste anyone's time. There are so many different characters. Some can teach. Some can not. And they do it in so different ways, according to their character and the circumstances. So I believe in these stories because I heard or read them from monks in whose integrity I believe completely. That's all.
Ajahn Chah, I think, might also very likely have been an arahat, despite his debilitating condition later that seemed to reduce him to a vegetable. The many inspiring students he has taught by the example of his noble conduct and so forth, the Sangha that he raised as it were like a mother her children, to establish them in autonomy and self-reliance, like Ajahn Sumedho or Ajahn Jayasaro, for example, I think they speak for him and his abilities as a teacher. There are so many inspiring stories about Ajahn Chah, you know many of them, no doubt. I think he was probably an arahat. He lived with Ajahn Mun only for a couple of days, as far as I've heard. Then he set out to practice alone I think. Maybe he had heard enough to be on the right track on his own.
Who else? Bhante Ñanadipa
, a danish (I think) monk in Sri Lanka, I guess he's also on a good way, and maybe quite far on that way.
And Bhante Rahula who wrote the text, of course, I think he's also on a good trip. Formerly tripping on LSD now he is tripping on Dhamma. And I think he won't come off that trip until he has attained Nibbana.
Many good bhikkhus going the good way, having found security in that, they can go where they see fit. May the force be with them.
So there are quite some people who are still on a good way I think. A way that will lead them to Nibbana, even today. Some may be in the public sphere to some extent, but probably most rather obscure and unknown. But I believe there are still quite a few, some dozens maybe. When they disappear we will probably hardly even notice. And we are suddenly just left with the noise of impostors.
Like this one maybe?
James the Giant wrote:
Oh, and of course Daniel Ingram. It says so on the cover of his book.
Before we end up with only that, left in only doubt and confusion, we should see that we become sotapannas ourselves dang fast, or see how we can follow the Dhamma to the best of our own abilities and our own understanding, or that what's left of it, as long as there is something left, or something right. Or we must find the middle way between left and right. What a daunting prospect.