So I was involved in a discussion with a fellow Buddhist who had reached a point in his spiritual evolution where he wasn’t sure he actually wanted enlightenment. He was convinced he knew what it meant for the mind and spirit to be enlightened, he had tracked down all the Pali terms for the different areas of mind that the suttas said would be affected. The whole idea of cessation rather scared him, and he thought that without cares and worries and anxiety he wouldn’t be the same father for his children.
To this my response was, how do you actually know these things? The Pali cannon has had 400 years of oral transmission, there are many cultural influences visible in the material, it has been translated several times, it has been transcribed again and again, the attribution is not certain, the editing is not certain. It seems an uncertain edifice to build one’s life upon, is it not better to go step by step, each time testing the lore and seeing that its effect on you is wholesome?
He then said, that’s more or less what I do. But don’t you feel that you need to know the endpoint? What you are involved in, are trying to do?
I thought it was an interesting question, which comes down to how you approach the dhamma. Do you see it as a goal-based plan, which will take you right up to arhat-ship, or do you go step by step and you try to cope with the uncertainties as they come?