Old Days and New

I’ve recently been wondering what the difference is between the time when the suttas were written and now, in regards to the amount of people reaching awakening, developing various abilities, and speaking to and seeing devas. I’ve thought that it maybe had something to do with the level of dedication that more people had back then, but even so, there are still people today that go away for 5-10 years of retreat. So then I thought that maybe there still are a lot of people experiencing these things but they just don’t say anything. The main aspect of this is the number of people, not whether people still attain these things. I am quite sure that people still reach arahantship. It’s just the number of people seems to be far lower than back in the day. I was searching through the suttas today and over and over and over again you see the phrase “and he became one of the arahants.” Of course I could be totally wrong about this. To be fair, I unfortunately do not have much personal face to face experience with highly advanced practitioners, although I hope to one day. It’s just what it seems like, not necessarily how it is. And you know, regardless of reaching awakening, I am sure I’m relatively new to practice (compared to a lot of people here at least), and I would love to just hear from people about how much the practice has changed their life for the better, regardless of “attainments.”

This is a fairly common thing to ponder over I think. One day, our Buddha’s teachings will not be found in the world. Because of impermanence, it is a natural fading out, a gradual decay. According to one perspective, there comes a time when ‘attainments’ of any kind are no longer possible - Some people believe it is impossible to become an Arahant today; others are claiming they are in fact Arahants (famously, even non-monastics). I personally believe that the path to enlightenment is still with us.

-The Buddha was the perfect teacher of the Dhamma - hearing it straight from him would have been an exceptional thing. He knew how to help individual people understand the Dhamma.

-There are past life stories of some notable Arahant disciples of the Buddha in which they are living alongside the Bodhisatta, sometimes I think devoting their whole lives to spiritual development. So it might also be the case that many of the Buddha’s disciples had been cultivating an incredible amount of merit, and had already purified their mind streams to a signifiant degree in previous lives. It is a very favourable rebirth indeed to be born as a human being while a Buddha is teaching, and to encounter him, and to go forth under him…So you need a lot of merit to end up in such a situation…

Buddhism has changed my life for the better - I enjoy sober, clean living. I enjoy whatever peace I get from meditation. I think that, generally speaking, my ability to just be of service to others has increased. It is hard to measure the true impact though, because it’s not as if I can realistically talk about how my life would be now had I never encountered the Dhamma - that would be speculation about something that isn’t real. Nonetheless, I am immensely grateful.