After reading Mahasi Sayadaw's The Progress of Insight, I got the impression that it is pretty easy to attain stream-entry by merely spending some time (weeks?) doing insight meditation, and that advancing further even up to arahantship is also straightforward and only involves repeating the same steps again. From chapter 19:
"When the meditator has thus become skilled in achieving the fruition attainment, he should resolutely set his mind upon the task of attaining to the higher paths and fruitions. What should now be done by one who has set himself that task? Just as before, he should carry out the practice of noticing (anything occurring) at the six sense doors."
My questions are these: (1) Is it really that straightforward? and (2) suppose one reaches enlightenment after devoting one's life to the task - then what? Is life then just happy ever after, or will the arahant seek new challenges for himself?
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Easy and difficult are relative terms.
For example, for an athlete, running a mile in five minutes is not at all difficult. For me, it would be impossible. For a few, running a mile in four minutes is not difficult. Others cannot even walk a mile unaided.
So developing all of the progressive stages of insight right up to the first Path and beyond may only take a few weeks for rare individuals, while a dedicated average meditator would need at least a few months or a few years. An average Buddhist might need a few lifetimes. For those with obstructive kamma, wrong views, or strong defilements, it may be impossible in this lifetime however hard they strive. Of course, I have no powers to know the perfections of others. Only a Buddha, or one like him, could know an individual's potential for realisation. The best I can do is make an educated guess based on learning and hearsay.
The Puggalapaññati defines four kinds of individuals:
The consensus seems to be that only the latter two types exist nowadays.
- Those who attain the Path on hearing a short verse (e.g. like Sāriputta and Moggallāna)
- Those who attain the Path on hearing a longer exposition of the Dhamma
- Those who attain the path after striving for some period (7 years, or 7 months, or 7 weeks, or 7 days, or 1 day, or half a day according to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta)
- Those who cannot attain the Path (e.g. Ajātasattu or Devadatta)
If you are intent on becoming an Arahant you should prepare to become a monastic because it is the nature of an Arahant to like a monastic way of life.
An Arahant lives for the welfare and happiness of beings, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of devas and humans. So he is happy about attaining the highest goal. He is happy with the dhamma.
With the abandoning of 3 fetters, one is no longer subject to rebirth in hell, no longer subject to rebirth as an animal, no longer subject to rebirth as a peta ghost, fixed in destiny with enlightenment as destination.
Buddha instructed his monks in Long Discourse of the Buddha #22 and Middle Length Discourse of the Buddha #10 that whoever practices the 4 foundations of mindfulness for a range of 7 years...6 years...5 years...7 months...6 months...7 days may expect either final knowledge in this life or if there be a trace of clinging left the state of a Never Returner.
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