We, here are most likely quite familiar with the suttas. We read stock phrases over and over again or listen to them( thanks Karl).
We have loads of sutta information, and experience in various applications of trying to overcome dukkha or reach Nibbana.
So we can simply ask ourselves " after everything that I have practised so far, after all the information I have gathered, am I free from the POSSIBILITY of suffering ever again?"
If someone had to insult me, would I suffer?
If I lost a friend, would I suffer?
If we are honest enough to admit that we still are in the realm of the POSSIBILITY of suffering, then we can continue to strive for freedom, we can choose to investigate deeper.
But if we believe that we are free when we are not, then we will not strive further, this belief is clearly a dangerous obstacle.
If however one is free to a degree but notices that there is still some work to be done or is unsure if there is work, then, if one continues to strive, one cannot lose anyway.
One might consider that oneself is an ariyasavaka due to certain descriptions of ariyasavakas in the suttas, or through certain mystical meditation experiences. There might be contentment even in labelling oneself a sotapanna etc but if you still know that you have the possibility of suffering, then considering yourself an ariyasavakya is of no real consequence and it will not get the job done.
Am I free from dukkha or not? Do I still have work to do?
I mention this because I see quite often in our Buddhist circles a major concern over defining ones status, which I believe misses the point of practice.
Maybe I can prove through various sutta descriptions my ariyan status, but if I am still a victim of suffering, then who cares what I call myself, and why do I care?
The Buddha encouraged sotapannas not to rest, even though in 7 life times at most they will finish the job quite naturally, but why wait? Why rest content with an identity label?
Again, we are familiar with the suttas and if we knew what they meant, it would result in freedom from suffering forever.
We might have read: SN.22.99
"But the instructed noble disciple … does not regard form as self … nor feeling as self … nor perception as self … nor determinations as self … nor consciousness as self…. He no longer keeps running and revolving around form, around feeling, around perception, around determinations, around consciousness. As he no longer keeps running and revolving around them, he is freed from form, freed from feeling, freed from perception, freed from determinations, freed from consciousness. He is freed from birth, ageing, and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; freed from suffering, I say.”
So if we know what ‘feeling’ is, for example, we would be free, we would see what it is. Yet when we read the word ‘feeling’ in the sutta we take it for granted that we DO NOT understand what feeling is; we most likely, casually move on to the next sentence etc and then try and focus on some cool sounding meditation technique.
However, If we truly discerned the thing that the Buddha was designating, we would be free.
We could try to understand feelings through the scholarly approach by gathering information or consulting dictionarys, reading various scientific reports etc
Or we could go all mystical by just intuitively conjuring up ideas about feeling, or write poems and songs about it, or just intuitively go along practising this or that thinking that ‘feeling’ will be magically understood through our good intentions etc
I suggest that both the scholarly and mystical approaches are both inadequate to discern the aggregates.
We can speak about the aggregates from a third person point of view, providing sutta references etc or like a mystic just say what ever we feel is right to say about them. Both ways are divorced from the actual direct discernment of the aggregates, which would free you from suffering forever.
The way to discern and know ‘feeling’ for what it is, is to discern it in your present experience from a 'first person’point of view.
You can read about feeling/vedana all you want, but to know it directly, so to speak, is the only way to discern it. To discern it, one must try and discern it.
This might sound quite obvious, but let me challenge you to a Vipassana experiment:
Try to write down, from a first-person point of view, a first-hand DESCRIPTION of what it is that you presently designate as a PRESENTLY-ARISEN-FEELING( or whichever aggregate). Use your own words, try as much as you can not to use Buddhist terminology. Try not to speak from a third person point of view and do not provide any sutta references.
I encourage you to write your descriptions down on this thread also, so that I ( and anyone who is interested) can see if it’s a 1st or 3rd person description, or can then maybe see what I am pointing to by the creation of this thread.
Hopefully, no claims to higher attainments or condemnations of ignorance will be made?
By seeing and knowing the aggregates as they are, presently, you will undo all wrong notions in regard to them. By discerning them correctly, repeatedly, ignorance of what they are will fall away.