560Re: Hi, Im new here and a question...
- Feb 5, 2004It is tempting to answer this kind of question with something clever
like, "If you're really advanced, you no longer try to measure your
progress" or "Don't worry, just keep on practising, and you will
eventually gain enlightenment."
However, these answers are not intelligent unless they are coming from
an enlightened master. It is stupid to practise with blind faith for
years and years without ever questioning one's practice to see if it
is working as it should. The right method is vital. It doesn't matter
how hard you practice, if the method is wrong, you won't succeed.
Ajahn Sucitto, the abbot of Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, is a very
determined practitioner. When he went on pilgrimmage to the holy
places in India, he travelled everwhere on foot, as the Buddha would
have done. He once related a story of how he was trying to start a
chainsaw. You know how tough it can be sometimes. He pulled and pulled
on the start cord for ages. Eventually, he checked and found that the
petrol valve was not open.
The Visuddhimagga is very thorough. The chapter on wisdom described
the progress of insight and various insight knowledges in some detail.
The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw's Progress of Insight is much shorter and
perhaps easier to understand. If one is practising without the regular
guidance of a teacher it is helpful to study that, though not if one
is just beginning the practice. A beginner might be intimidated and
feel quite hopeless of ever gaining the goal, which seems so remote.
You can read it on my website:
On a more general level, one can gauge one's progress in other ways by
asking a few basic questions. For example:
1. How long do I sleep? Is it any less than I used to?
2. How much time do I spend doing useless things like watching TV?
3. How attached am I to my possessions and money? Do I give more in
charity than I used to?
4. How attached am I to my companions? Wife, children, friends. Am I
able to keep myself happy when they are not around?
5. How attached am I to my views? If I don't get my own way, can I
adjust to doing things the way that others think is best?
6. Do I delight in solitude? Is meditation a chore or a constant
source of delight and rejuvination? Do I still look for excuses to
avoid doing it?
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