I think this whole "arahant" thing can be a source of doubt to many practitioners:
"They say Bhante X is an arahant. Is he really? What about when he did Y. Bhante A has been in the robes for 40 years and he's not an arahant, we know that for sure... Is there any arahants left at all? There are so many doubts! Can we still get enlightened? Maybe... Probably not. Oh, well why is that? Mustn't have enough parami...All the arahants are gone! What am I going to do? Well what's the point if I can't get enlightened, maybe I'll just keep the 5 precepts and meditate every so often and that will be okay!"
But this is just papanca, this is the mind wandering off and proliferating about unnecessary things. We know that life is Dukkha, that's self evident, we know that our suffering is caused by craving, that too we can see. So it must therefore follow that if these first two of the Four Noble Truths can be experienced by all humans, even on the superficial and conceptual level of our understanding, then the cessation of Dukkha (Nibbana) must be possible, and the way to reach it must also be possible.
Ajahn Jayasaro puts it like this:
- Transcribed from 'Anatta and the sense of Self' - Ajahn Jayasaro, England (2005) emphasis partially mine.The Buddha teaches us, that we don't really know what's what, but we do have the innate capacity to know what's what. The faith and the confidence that we have in the Buddha and his enlightenment is one and the same thing as our faith and confidence in our capacity to know what's what. This is because the Buddha was enlightened as a human being, and through his enlightenment he demonstrated and proved the capacity of human beings for enlightenment. We can say he became enlightened as a 'representative' of the human race, as it were. If we have faith in the Buddha's enlightenment, then we also by implication have faith in the human capacity for enlightenment. Therefore the next logical step is that we have faith in our own capacity for enlightenment. So faith in the Buddha means faith in ourselves, faith in our capacity to realize the truth of things. Not only can we realize the truth of things, but we should.
So really we should put a side all of the questions about attainability, and who's got it and who doesn't and why not etc. Putting all the proliferations a side we should come to see things as they really are. The Buddha encourages us to put the Dhamma to the test, but so often people can't find an Arahant in their back yard and so they give up striving saying: "It's impossible". In fact, finding an ariyan isn't the point, what are you going to do when you find one anyway? You're going to practice the Dhamma. As Venerable Pesala pointed out a while back, the only person who can't reach nibbana is the lazy person.