I think you forget that those first disciples had extraordinary kamma and a stock of paramitas that not only gave them direct access to the Buddha, but a mind so developed that with the vipassana developed while listening to one discourse, liberation.
I think its also a mistake to compare ourselves with the Buddha's first disciples. Not only for the reason I gave above. These people who arose in a culture very similar to the Buddha, spoke his language, and were given discourses tailored to their state of mind and their personal inclinations. We are far removed from those particular contexts and we view the words of the Buddha through a matrix of conditionings, translation problems and our own delusions.
Having said that, let me add that the commentarial tradition began while the Buddha was alive. Often when monks approached the Buddha, He would give a brief discourse which would then be elucidated by Sariputta and MahaKaccana. On a number of occassions, the Buddha praised the explanation of the Dhamma by his senior monks and said that if he were to explain it himself it would not be any different. Nyaniponika Thera in 'Abhidhamma Studies' also asserts that while the core of the Abhidhamma Mantikas were probably composed by the Buddha, it was Sariputta and Sariputta's students who fleshed it out. The Commentarial tradition began with the Buddha and his senior disciples as a method to explain the Dhamma to those who were less realised or did not have the paramitas to penetrate the Dhamma unassisted.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725
(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •
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