I’ve been thinking about the usual presentation of the Buddha’s quest for, and eventual attaining of, enlightenment, and how that compares with what we see him teach others, as well as the kinds of enlightenment experiences that are recorded in the Theragatha and Therigatha. It seems like the way the Buddha’s path played out is quite different from everyone else’s. I mean, the Buddha’s path is always presented as,
- Seeing the old, sick, dead, and an ascetic
- Leaving his comfortable life
- Practicing under various teachers and mastering their teachings
- Engaging in extreme austerities
- Abandoning them in favor of moderation and the form jhanas
- Going through the 4 form jhanas, then attaining the 3 knowledges, then attaining enlightenment
The connection between the jhanas and the three knowledges was obviously key to the Buddha’s enlightenment. So why isn’t that, and only that, taught to others as the path to enlightenment? I mean, is there anywhere in the suttas where the Buddha said, “And then I meditated on the body as the 4 elements, had a minor insight into anatta, and became a stream enterer. Later I had a deeper insight when contemplating eye consciousness as impermanent and became a once returner,” or something like that? And why is the Buddha’s experience of enlightenment so different from other’s who attained stream entry by simply hearing a phrase spoken? Or some other random event, like we see in the Theragatha and Therigatha where enlightenment happens when someone was about to kill themselves? I’m just wondering if there is an explanation of this in the suttas themselves.