The Six Stages or Divisions of Dhamma

I am copying something I wrote to someone privately, asking whether this division of the Dhamma that I have come up with is valid. I now ask the forum. Then, I am writing my explanation to someone else, which I am also copying. I will ask my teacher, too, but I can’t at the moment.

The question is: is this a valid division of the stages of Dhamma?

There are these three divisions of Dhamma:

Study (pariyatti)
Practice (patipatti)
Realization (pativedha)

Then there are these three stages leading to wisdom:

Study (suta-maya panna)
Contemplation (cinta-maya panna)
Meditation (bhavana-maya panna)

Then there are these four factors leading to stream-entry:

Association with superior persons
Hearing the true Dhamma
Careful attention
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma

(In other words, discussing Dhamma with wise people is crucial).

Finally, the Buddha has said:

“One may be a believer, virtuous and learned, but not a teacher of Dhamma, and to that degree one is incomplete. One must remedy this defect by thinking: “How can I be a believer, virtuous, learned and a teacher of Dhamma also?” When one has all these, then one is complete.” - A V 10

Can we, therefore, draw the conclusion that, essentially, Dhamma, from start to finish, can be divided into these stages:

  1. Study
  2. Discussion
  3. Contemplation
  4. Practice
  5. Realization
  6. Teaching

The preliminary stages (which I have omitted) may be said to be: coming across the Dhamma, realizing its truthfulness, and generating faith;
Then we learn more about the Dhamma by reading suttas, books, articles, listetning to Dhamma talks;
Then we engage in discussion with Buddhist monks, teachers, and fellow Buddhists;
Then we contemplate, reflect, ponder, think about, examine with the mind everything we have learned and discussed;
Then we start putting all of that into actual practice, particularly meditation, 37 aids to enlightenment, 40 kammatthanas, etc.;
As a result of this long course of practice, there comes realization, and we attain the Paths and Fruits and Nibbāna;
Then once we have attained Nibbāna we come back to teach and help others along the Path.

Is this correct? Is there any such “alternative” division as mine above, or is it flawed in some way? Can I use it for my own purposes to divide the Dhamma in these 6 stages to give me a better, more convenient way to look at the way progress is to be unfolded?

(1) Study and learning: reading suttas and other classical literature (Pāli Canon, commentaries, works like the Visuddhimagga, etc.), reading Dhamma books, articles, essays, and websites about Buddhism, listening to Dhamma talks and lectures (on the Internet or at a temple/monastery), and observing life, the world around us, people, etc (there is a lot to learn from nature, and many great monks have gained a lot of insights by observing nature). Also learning Pāḷi to understand the suttas better.
(2) Discussion: discussing Dhamma and life with Buddhist monks, teachers, and fellow Buddhists, asking questions.
(3) Contemplation: contemplating, reflecting, pondering, thinking about, examining, and evaluating all that we have studied and discussed, in order to make sense of it and to check that it is true in our own experience.
(4) Practice: once we have done all of the previous steps, we put everything into practice, we follow, develop, cultivate, walk the Path: the Noble Eightfold Path, the 37 aids to Enlightenment, particularly meditation (samatha and vipassanā), the 40 kammaṭṭhānas, and all the other practices. This is the most important and crucial stage, but we have to develop it in a gradual way. Basically, we do, we work hard, we put forth effort and energy, and we do our very best.
(5) Realisation and attainment: As a result of gradual, consistent, strenuous practice, we eventually reach the four stages of enlightenment, the paths, fruits, and Nibbāna. (Even if we don’t we would have made great merit, done lots of good kamma, and become happier, and we could have a fortunate rebirth and continue developing the Path in future lives.)
(6) Teaching and helping others: Once we have become accomplished in Dhamma, we must come back and teach others by example and share our realisations of what we have learned so that we help them alleviate their suffering and help them live happier, more fulfilling lives and deal with problems.

I welcome constructive criticism. If anything should be changed, added, or removed, feel free to offer your ideas.

One formulation of this which uses similar categories is MN 70:

Here one who has faith in a teacher visits him; when he visits him, he pays respect to him; when he pays respect to him, he gives ear; one who gives ear hears the Dhamma; having heard the Dhamma, he memorises it; he examines the meaning of the teachings he has memorised; when he examines their meaning, he gains a reflective acceptance of those teachings; when he has gained a reflective acceptance of those teachings, zeal springs up in him; when zeal has sprung up, he applies his will; having applied his will, he scrutinises; having scrutinised, he strives; resolutely striving, he realises with the body the supreme truth and sees it by penetrating it with wisdom.

In any case, the Gradual Training structure should probably be the template for this sort of thing:

AN 5.159:

“It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?

“[1] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak step-by-step.’

“[2] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause & effect].’

“[3] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak out of compassion.’

“[4] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.’

“[5] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak without hurting myself or others.’

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