The Ultimate Goal of Dharma practice is the state of perfect Wisdom and Compassion, combined, that is known as Buddhahood. On the way to that goal, there are certain stages that we can pass through. As a practitioner, we accumulate basic skills such as mindfulness, meditation, contemplations, study and we accumulate certain understandings such as impermanence, and interdependence. With that as the basis, we develop until we become stream enterers, where we are developing virtue and abandoning non-virtue constantly. From there we can seek personal liberation as a Once-Returner, Never-Returner, and Arhat, or we can work towards liberating all beings by following the path of the Bodhisattva which ultimately leads to full and complete Buddhahood.
The Stages Are As Follows:
|Practitioner||Through Study, Contemplation, and Meditation, one begins to understand why and how to develop and expand virtue (things that eliminate or avoid suffering), and eliminate and avoid non-virtue (things that create or perpetuate suffering)|
|Stream-Enterer||A Stream-Enterer develops confidence in the nature of the self, confidence in the teachings, and understanding of the correct role of rules and rituals. Once we are a Stream-Enterer, we naturally, instinctively and continuously walk the path to Buddhahood and, because of that, we are guaranteed no further rebirth in lower realms.|
|Once-Returner||A once-returner develops non-attachment and Loving-kindness. One more human rebirth remains after this current one, and then birth is attained in a Pure Buddha Realm until personal liberation is achieved.|
|Never-Returner||A Never-returner eliminates gross Longing, Anger, Pride, Jealousy, and Indifference. This becomes the Last human rebirth. Next rebirth is in a Pure Buddha Realm until personal liberation is achieved.|
|Arhat||We become an Arhat when we have developed Mastery over the mind-states of all realms of existence, including the formless realms. We attain Nirvana, Personal Liberation, complete purification of karma.
(In order to achieve ultimate liberation, the “personal” part needs to be eliminated – hence the need to follow the Bodhisattva path)
|Bodhisattva||A Bodhisattva takes rebirth in the realms of suffering in order to
1) Free other sentient beings from suffering and lead other sentient beings to the path to their own Buddhahood.
2) Perfect the Buddha qualities of Generosity, Morality, Patience, Enthusiasm, Concentration, Insight, Skillfulness, Resolution, Power, and Transcendence
|Buddhahood||Complete perfection of the 10 qualities of a Bodhisattva, and Complete Transcendence of Samsara and Nirvana.|
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Rely on the Teachings, not just the Teacher.
Rely on the Meaning, not just the Words.
Rely on the Actual Meaning, not just the Interpretation.
Rely on the Experience, not just the Idea.
– The Buddha
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