[quote=“daverupa, post:14, topic:2987”]“one aspect of cultivating the six types of superknowledge is gaining knowledge of one’s past lives.”
…but of these six, how many are necessary for final liberation? How many must a noble disciple attain?
Necessary schmessasary. The better question is, what’s useful?
Say someone asks a question about why the mass of objects increases as they approach the speed of light. If I’m Albert Einstein, no worries, I immediately give them a pithy and accurate answer. Einstein worked out questions of the fundamental nature of the universe just with thought experiments; he needed relatively little information to reach his conclusions.
But if I’m Sujato, I stumble and umm and err, and try to give some sort of answer. Even though I’ve known the general ideas of relativity since high school, I still don’t have a really clear and firm understanding of them. I’d probably need to check an article and brush up on details before I could answer reasonably.
But perhaps I’ve never heard of the theory of relativity, and have no knowledge of modern science at all. I have to go away and study physics for a long time before I can even understand the question.
The point is, what’s “necessary” to answer such a question is not a given or a universal. It depends.
Now, if we are to generalize, we could say there are two main factors:
- Innate intelligence.
- Knowledge and experience.
Obviously these things are not entirely separate, but that’s good enough.
Suppose I have a great deal of intelligence. With only a little learning, I can quickly grasp a difficult concept. Just a quick explanation of the principles is enough.
If my intelligence is not so great, I can still understand, but I need to work harder. I have to look at, not just the abstract principles, but at many real life examples. I have to work through the problems, again and again, until before I really get it.
So think of dependent origination as the abstract principle. An advanced meditator, with a high degree of wisdom like Sāriputta, can investigate and understand this principle, and they know how rebirth works.
But a meditator with less wisdom can’t really grok the problem based just on the principles of causality. They have to go over real world examples, again and again, for example by reflecting on their past lives. There they will see the principles of dependent origination playing themselves out. They will see how they get attached and crave, and how the cravings and desires of one life will manifest over and over in subsequent lives.
How often must they do this? Well, it depends. The deeper your samadhi, and the deeper your wisdom, the less information you need. You only really know how much is “enough” when you let go. And that process is different for everyone.
The Buddha taught the recollection of past lives and the power of clairvoyance on dozens, probably hundreds, of occasions, and made them into core parts of essential teachings. He didn’t do that just on a whim. He did it because they’re incredibly useful for attaining awakening. Are they absolutely 100% necessary for everyone? Well, if you’re an Einstein of meditation, probably not. But for the rest us, we need all the help we can get.