The Ten Stages of the Buddhist journey

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Stiphan
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The Ten Stages of the Buddhist journey

Post by Stiphan » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:55 pm

All we need to do to achieve a certain goal is two things: gain the theoretical and practical knowledge through learning and then put that knowledge into practice through effort. The result will be the attainment of our original goal.

The Buddha summarised this into the threefold division of the Dhamma: pariyatti (study), paṭipatti (practice) and paṭivedha (realisation).

But then he also said that once we gain knowledge, we have to contemplate it, ponder it, reflect upon it, in order to understand and comprehend it, before putting it into practice. Thus he gave the threefold teaching of "wisdom born of learning" (suta-mayā-paññā), "wisdom born of contemplation" (cintā-mayā-paññā), and "wisdom born of mental development" (bhāvanā-mayā-paññā).

So, so far, we have 4 stages: learning, contemplation, practice, and realisation.

In terms of practice and realisation, he taught the Noble Eightfold Path, but also the "Tenfold Path", which after the usual 8 factors of practice (from Right View to Right Concentration), follow two factors which signify the effect of practice, namely: Right Knowledge (sammā-ñāṇa) and Right Liberation (sammā-vimutti).

In other words, he divides the Goal into, (1) realisation and (2) attainment (of liberation).

This brings the number of stages to 5: learning, contemplation, practice, realisation and attainment.

I believe implicit is the fact that once one achieves this goal, one must go forth and teach in order to help others, for the Buddha said:

"One may be a believer, virtuous and learned, but not a teacher of Dhamma, and to that degree one is incomplete. One must remedy this defect by thinking: "How can I be a believer, virtuous, learned and a teacher of Dhamma also?" When one has all these, then one is complete."
—Jhāna Sutta [aka Saddhā Sutta] (AN 10.8 / A V 10), transl. S. Dhammika

Thus far we have 6 stages: learning, contemplation, practice, realisation, attainment and teaching.

But, going back to the beginning, we gain knowledge through learning either by reading (suttas, books, articles, etc.), listening to, watching or attending Dhamma talks, or through discussion and asking questions. If one wants, one can then separate discussion and asking questions as a separate stage, or as a substage of learning.

Either way, we need a kalyāṇamitta, a "Good Friend", which is preferably a qualified teacher, or simply a learned and virtuous friend in the Dhamma. One can also have that as a whole separate stage which I will call "Association with superior people." (See Upaḍḍha Sutta, SN 45.2 / S V 2).

But, to begin all this one needs most of all saddhā, or faith and confidence in the Triple Gem. Therefore, I like to believe that this is the first stage.

And to cap it all off, if one successfully completes all the necessary stages and becomes an Arahant (or a Buddha), then the very last stage is Parinibbāna.

Thus, for my own uses and purposes, I have divided the whole Buddhist journey into these 10 stages:

1. Faith and devotion
2. Association with superior people
3. Study and learning: gaining theoretical and practical knowledge
4. Discussion and asking questions
5. Contemplation and reflection for the purpose of full and clear comprehension
6. Practice and development
7. Realization, direct knowledge and full comprehension of the Truth (Dhamma)
8. Attainment of the final goal; deep inner peace, freedom, happiness and bliss; liberation from suffering through the cessation of all defilements
9. Teaching, instructing, helping and caring for others
10. Parinibbāna, final passing away as an Enlightened being


The crucial step here, the key to the final goal, is #6: practice and development. One could also say that all steps #1 through #6 (+#9) are practical in some way, including the gaining of knowledge, with steps #7, #8, and #10 constituting results, effects or fruits.

So I really like thinking in terms of these stages, but for simplicity's sake, and just as I began, one could just say all you need is the knowledge and then, most importantly putting that knowledge into daily practice — consistent, strict, and good, doing a good number of practices (quantity), doing it to the best of your ability and doing it well (quality), and doing it at the right speed (sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes in between, depending on the practice).

Practice begins slowly and gradually, then as one goes through successive stages of development, one gains momentum, and the great thing about it is that anyone can achieve anything — as long as they do it all correctly (practising Dhamma in line with the Dhamma). Thus, at last, anyone may realise even the highest goal — Nibbāna, the highest happiness and cessation of all suffering.

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DNS
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Re: The Ten Stages of the Buddhist journey

Post by DNS » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:22 pm

:thumbsup: I like it. The only thing I'd change (for me) would be that #9 "Teaching, instructing, helping and caring for others" would come earlier or perhaps mentioned that it can be simultaneous with earlier stages. One need not wait until full enlightenment before helping and caring for others. I am a Theravada Buddhist, but also like the wisdom from Mahayana too, so maybe that's some of the Mahayana in me speaking.

And certainly there are some monks and lay people in Theravada who teach and help others who have not reached full awakening.

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Re: The Ten Stages of the Buddhist journey

Post by Stiphan » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:25 pm

On seconds thoughts, I can see the possibility of inserting two further important stages, namely, Right View (in between #5 and #6) and "Letting go of, abandoning, eliminating and overcoming all defilements, taints, fetters, etc." in between #7 and #8 (though these happen gradually, and in stages themselves...).

Thus the list would be twelvefold:

1. Faith and devotion
2. Association with superior people
3. Study and learning: gaining theoretical and practical knowledge
4. Discussion and asking questions
5. Contemplation and reflection for the purpose of full and clear comprehension
6. Acquiring Right View
7. Practice and development
8. Realization, direct knowledge and full comprehension of the Truth (Dhamma)
9. Letting go, abandoning, eliminating and overcoming all defilements, taints, fetters, etc.
10. Attainment of the final goal; deep inner peace, freedom, happiness and bliss; liberation from suffering through the cessation of all defilements
11. Teaching, instructing, helping and caring for others
12. Parinibbāna, final passing away as an Enlightened being


Furthermore (although I won't include it as a stage), one must always bear in mind that the basic necessary prerequisite for ALL of these stages is basic honesty with oneself, i.e. basic truthfulness and acceptance of and adherence to Truth AND basic integrity in terms of body and speech, i.e. basic moral scruples.
Last edited by Stiphan on Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Ten Stages of the Buddhist journey

Post by Stiphan » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:30 pm

DNS wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:22 pm
:thumbsup: I like it. The only thing I'd change (for me) would be that #9 "Teaching, instructing, helping and caring for others" would come earlier or perhaps mentioned that it can be simultaneous with earlier stages. One need not wait until full enlightenment before helping and caring for others. I am a Theravada Buddhist, but also like the wisdom from Mahayana too, so maybe that's some of the Mahayana in me speaking.

And certainly there are some monks and lay people in Theravada who teach and help others who have not reached full awakening.
Definitely so, David! Definitely so. Teaching, instructing, helping and caring for others needn't come after personal liberation. These four things are related but also can be separated, with helping and caring for others coming earlier, while "proper" teaching and instructing later on in terms of stages. Although teaching itself is best done after having gained realisation of Dhamma (to whatever extent have you), isn't it? But many monks teach — and teach well — without having attained supramundane states, which is, of course, great.

Please bear in mind that the stages are not necessarily sequential.

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Re: The Ten Stages of the Buddhist journey

Post by SarathW » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:44 pm

Good Dhamma talk Stephen.
I just tried to compare it to 37 factors of enlightenment.

https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title= ... ightenment
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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