I remember a talk given by Chanmyay Sayādaw at Chiswick Vihāra many years ago. He said, “There is one person here who cannot attain nibbāna. Shall I tell you who it is?” Those in audience who were lacking in pāramī no doubt became alarmed, thinking that the Sayādaw would name and shame them. The Sayādaw continued — “One person here is hopeless. The lazy person is incapable of attaining nibbāna.”
Accumulated past kamma (pāramī) is like the seed. Present effort is like the soil, water, sunlight, and cultivation of the plant. Without a healthy seed, no amount of cultivation will bear fruit as a healthy plant. However, without soil, water, sunlight, and cultivation, even the best of seeds will not grow.
Past kamma only accounts for 1/16th — present kamma (hard work) accounts for 15/16ths. Unless one makes strenuous, unrelenting efforts to cultivate insight throughout the remainder of one's life without taking a break and without losing faith, one could not attribute one's failure to attain nibbāna to lack of pāramī. It is much more likely to be due to lack of effort or lack of skill.
None of knows what our full potential (pāramī) really is. Who knows what might be achieved with a good teacher and a powerful kick up the backside from life's vicissitudes?
Although I offer the facility to practise meditation for the whole day (12 hours) free of charge, I get very few customers. Most say that it is too long. I say, “It is only half a day.” To gain any significant insight one would need to practise much more than half a day. An average person would need to practice strenuously without talking for at least a week or two — that is at least 18 hours a day, without stopping during meals, and only sleeping for six hours at most out of 24.
Check out the Ledi Sayādaw's for more inspiration.
• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)