Why is enlightenment so hard for monks?

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Why is enlightenment so hard for monks?

Postby kkrotu » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:53 am

I can understand why it is hard for lay people because of the way they conduct their life.A lay person spends most of their life developing and reinforcing attachment and craving, they also have none or very little meditation practice so I can see how it is hard to quiet the mind to the point of experiencing direct perception of anatta.
But most monks enter the temple and monastic life while they are children, they don't develop attachments and they have extensive meditation practice. It seems to me that it should be a lot easier for them to reach nibbana. I would think that 90% of the buddhist moks should become enlightened in their lifetime. The fact that this is not happening makes me think that something is horribly wrong with the present day dharma since it is described in the pali canon how in the time of the buddha most of his followers became enlightened.

Also the Buddha always made it clear that he was enlightened and that he reached nibbana so I see no reason why present day enlightened people wouldn't state this clearly and without hesitation.
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Re: Why is enlightenment so hard for monks?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:28 am

kkrotu wrote:But most monks enter the temple and monastic life while they are children, they don't develop attachments and they have extensive meditation practice.


Not necessarily. Most monastics don't meditate regularly. They also have their own unique problems and institutionalized monasticism can lead to politics.

You should read this work:

http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... dhanew.pdf

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Re: Why is enlightenment so hard for monks?

Postby kirtu » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:31 am

Why is enlightenment so hard for anyone?

Because sentient beings are deeply enmired in delusion and have been forever.

I think most of what you have written isn't correct. Many lay people are very capable practitioners with serious meditation experience and have seen anatta directly (or essentially directly). But they are still not there yet.

Many monks develop very serious attachments and have little time for practice much less meditation. The actual purpose of a monastic life from the standpoint of the monastic themselves is to practice virtue and accumulate merit. Along the way one hopes that they can also cultivate wisdom.

kkrotu wrote: It seems to me that it should be a lot easier for them to reach nibbana. I would think that 90% of the buddhist moks should become enlightened in their lifetime. The fact that this is not happening makes me think that something is horribly wrong with the present day dharma since it is described in the pali canon how in the time of the buddha most of his followers became enlightened.


Most of Shakyamuni Buddha's followers did not become enlightened. Out of all the monks mentioned in the Pali suttas only a minority attained Non-Returner and Arhatship. It's arguable that a majority attained Stream Entry (as did many lay people too) but that is unclear.

Today it's much more difficult for beings to attain any of the levels of enlightenment outlined in either the Theravada or Mahayana. Delusions are too strong.

Also the Buddha always made it clear that he was enlightened and that he reached nibbana so I see no reason why present day enlightened people wouldn't state this clearly and without hesitation.


It has become established that people do not declare that they are enlightened. At least in Tibetan Buddhism people are warned about such declarations. For one thing, the Pali Suttas have several stories about people who genuinely thought they had some attainment only to find out later that they had fooled themselves (although these stories also usually have good endings with the person often attaining Arhatship). In some Zen Buddhist circles it used to be common to declare kensho or even minor satori. People have wised up.

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Re: Why is enlightenment so hard for monks?

Postby plwk » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:03 am

Perhaps these...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .vaji.html
But if, Subhadda, the Bhikkhus live righteously, the world will not be destitute of Arahants.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Then Ven. Maha Kassapa went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "What is the cause, Lord, what is the reason, why before there were fewer training rules and yet more monks established in final gnosis, whereas now there are more training rules and yet fewer monks established in final gnosis?"

"That's the way it is, Kassapa.
When beings are degenerating and the true Dhamma is disappearing, there are more training rules and yet fewer monks established in final gnosis.
There is no disappearance of the true Dhamma as long as a counterfeit of the true Dhamma has not arisen in the world, but there is the disappearance of the true Dhamma when a counterfeit of the true Dhamma has arisen in the world.

"These five downward-leading qualities tend to the confusion and disappearance of the true Dhamma. Which five?
There is the case where the monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers live without respect, without deference, for the Teacher.
They live without respect, without deference, for the Dhamma... for the Sangha... for the Training... for concentration.
These are the five downward-leading qualities that tend to the confusion and disappearance of the true Dhamma.

"But these five qualities tend to the stability, the non-confusion, the non-disappearance of the true Dhamma. Which five?
There is the case where the monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers live with respect, with deference, for the Teacher.
They live with respect, with deference, for the Dhamma... for the Sangha... for the Training... for concentration.
These are the five qualities that tend to the stability, the non-confusion, the non-disappearance of the true Dhamma."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Even I myself, before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, thought: 'Renunciation is good. Seclusion is good.'
But My heart didn't leap up at renunciation, didn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace.
The thought occurred to Me:
'What is the cause, what is the reason, why my heart doesn't leap up at renunciation, doesn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace?'
Then the thought occurred to Me:
'I haven't seen the drawback of sensual pleasures; I haven't pursued [that theme]. I haven't understood the reward of renunciation; I haven't familiarized myself with it. That's why My heart doesn't leap up at renunciation, doesn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace.'

"Then the thought occurred to Me:
'If, having seen the drawback of sensual pleasures, I were to pursue that theme; and if, having understood the reward of renunciation, I were to familiarize myself with it, there's the possibility that my heart would leap up at renunciation, grow confident, steadfast, & firm, seeing it as peace.'

"So at a later time, having seen the drawback of sensual pleasures, I pursued that theme; having understood the reward of renunciation, I familiarized Myself with it.
My heart leaped up at renunciation, grew confident, steadfast, & firm, seeing it as peace.
http://www.cttbusa.org/shurangama/shurangama3.asp
The Buddha said, “Very good, Ananda. You should all know that all living beings are continually born and continually die, simply because they do not know the everlasting true mind, the bright substance of the pure nature. Instead they engage in false thinking. It has been so since time without beginning. Their thoughts are not true, and so the wheel keeps turning
http://www.cttbusa.org/shurangama/shurangama16.asp
”Ananda, you now want to cause your seeing, hearing, sensation, and cognition to return to and tally with the permanence, bliss, true self, and purity of the Thus Come One. You should first decide what the basis of birth and death is by relying on the perfect, tranquil nature which is neither produced nor extinguished.

”The second resolution is this: if you definitely wish to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi and to be especially courageous and dedicated in your cultivation of the Bodhisattva Vehicle, you must decisively renounce all conditioned appearances.
You should carefully consider the origin of affliction and the beginningless creation of karma and perpetuation of rebirth - who creates it and who endures it?
”Ananda, if in your cultivation of Bodhi you do not carefully consider the origin of affliction, you cannot realize the empty falseness of the sense-organs and sense-objects or the location of delusion. If you don’t even know its location, how can you subdue it and reach the level of the Thus Come One?
”Ananda, consider the ordinary person who wants to untie a knot. If he can’t see where the knot is, how can he untie it?
The Buddha told Ananda, “You study and learn much, but you have not yet extinguished outflows. In your mind you know only the causes of being upside down.
But when the true inversion manifests, you really cannot recognize it yet.
http://www.cttbusa.org/42s/42sections.asp
Section 12 A List of Difficulties and an Exhortation to Cultivate
The Buddha said, "People encounter twenty different kinds of difficulties:
It is difficult to give when one is poor.
It is difficult to study the Way when one has wealth and status.
It is difficult to abandon life and face the certainty of death.
It is difficult to encounter the Buddhist sutras.
It is difficult to be born at the time of a Buddha.
It is difficult to be patient with lust and desire.
It is difficult to see fine things and not seek them.
It is difficult to be insulted and not become angry.
It is difficult to have power and not abuse it.
It is difficult to come in contact with things and have no thought of them.
It is difficult to be vastly learned and well-read.
It is difficult to get rid of pride.
It is difficult not to slight those who have not yet studied.
It is difficult to practice equanimity of mind.
It is difficult not to gossip.
It is difficult to meet a Good and Wise Advisor.
It is difficult to see one's own nature and study the Way.
It is difficult to teach and save people according to their potentials.
It is difficult to see a state and not be moved by it.
It is difficult to have a good understanding of skill-in-means."

Section 27 One Attains the Way after Letting Go of Attachments
The Buddha said, "A person who follows the Way is like a floating piece of wood that courses along with the current. If it does not touch either shore; if people do not pluck it out; if ghosts and spirits do not intercept it; if it is not trapped in whirlpools; and if it does not rot, I guarantee that the piece of wood will reach the sea.
If students of the Way are not deluded by emotion and desire, and if they are not caught up in the many crooked views, but are vigorous in their cultivation of the unconditioned, I guarantee that they will certainly attain the Way."

Section 36 The Sequence that Leads to Success
The Buddha said, "It is difficult for one to leave the evil destinies and become a human being.
"Even if one does become a human being, it is still difficult to become a man rather than a woman.
"Even if one does become a man, it is still difficult to have the six sense organs complete and perfect.
"Even if the six sense organs are complete and perfect, it is still difficult for one to be born in a central country.
"Even if one is born in a central country, it is still difficult to be born at a time when there is a Buddha in the world.
"Even if one is born at a time when there is a Buddha in the world, it is still difficult to encounter the Way.
"Even if one does encounter the Way, it is still difficult to bring forth faith.
"Even if one brings forth faith, it is still difficult to resolve one's mind on Bodhi.
"Even if one does resolve one's mind on Bodhi, it is still difficult to be beyond cultivation and attainment."

Section 40 The Way Is Practiced in the Mind
The Buddha said,
"A Shramana who practices the Way should not be like an ox turning a millstone.
Such a one walks the Way with his body, but his mind is not on the Way.
If the mind is concentrated on the Way, what further need is there to practice?"
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