So I've been reading "In the Buddha's Words" which is an anthology of excerpts from the Pali Canon.
It's a very, very cool book and it's on the recommended readings list for Treeleaf.
What's nice about it is that it is divided up into chapters based on subject and in a logical fashion so it's less overwhelming than simply trying to read the Middle Length Discourses cover to cover.
I came across a great passage called The Four Ways to Arhantship in which the Buddha explains the four ways that monks or nuns can attain the final knowledge of arhantship.
They are as follows:
1) Developing Serenity and then Insight
2) Developing Insight and then Serenity
3) Developing Serenity and Insight simultaneously
And then number four is very curious.
The Buddha says:
"Or again, friends, a monk's mind is seized by agitation about the teaching. But there comes a time when his mind becomes internally steadied, composed, unifies and concentrated; then the path arises in him."
His mind is seized by agitation about the teaching.
This passage struck me as poignant.
According to the author, "This statement suggests a person initially driven by such intense desire to understand the Dhamma that he or she cannot focus clearly upon any meditation object."
But I think I have to disagree.
Some people are quick to make decisions. They are incisive and direct and make their choices intuitively.
Other people are cerebral and experienced. They can sum up a situation with wisdom and experience.
Some people are both wise and sensitive.
Other people (like me for instance) tend to get all caught up with important decisions. We fret and worry, sometimes bound up for days or weeks or even years before finally committing to a decision.
This process has been called "analysis paralysis" and it stems from an overdeveloped sense of "getting it right".
But once we make up our minds after this long, agonizing process, we commit FULLY. We are unshakable in our faith.
I'm going to go out on a limb here (at Treeleaf...) and say that I think this is the kind of thing the Buddha might be referring to in his discourse.
If my suspicions are correct, this would be a comfort for those of us who struggle with concerns that we're never going to "get it".
It's not like buying a car; you can take as long as you need to in making the decision to follow the Buddhist path.
In fact, in some schools of thought, you have (literally) infinity to "get it right"!
So RELAX! Don't be so hard on yourself. Continue to be the diligent, sincere person that you know yourself to be and when the time is right, "the path with arise within you".
Isn't that great news?
Well, I thought so anyway, which is why I posted this in the first place!