As a lay Buddhist, I know it is almost impossible for me to attain Enlightenment in this life. So if I keep enlightenment as a goal in mind it creates frustration, as I am not progressing in meditation and, life seems hopeless as Enlightenment is an impossible pursuit. However, if I don't think of enlightenment then I don't have any good motivation to do meditation and keep the precepts.

How should I get out of in this confusion? Life as a Buddhist seems almost unpracticle. Any advise?

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    It has occured to me that the solution to my dilemma is to not think of enlightenment but go step by step as given in Ajahn Brahms book. So probably now I should just be aiming at present moment awareness. That ways I have reason to meditate and reason not to get frustrated. – user13135 Mar 4 '18 at 14:07
  • Such transient doubts are inevitable. Just step past them, as you said. – user2341 Mar 20 '18 at 0:32

The goal in Buddhism is the end of suffering. But why do you want to reach the end of suffering? The reason is to attain the only permanent happiness, which is Nibbana.

So, the mission in Buddhism is really the pursuit of happiness. The Buddha discovered that both over-indulgence and over-asceticism are not conducive to the path to the end of suffering. So, he prescribed the middle way through the Noble Eightfold Path.

If you follow the middle way, you can have long term, medium term and short term goals of happiness.

The long term goal associated with this mission is attaining Nibbana (permanent happiness). It might take multiple births, maybe even aeons to achieve this.

The medium term goal would be to try to achieve: at least stream entry for Theravada and strong cultivation of Bodhicitta for Mahayana. You can also get more info on stream entry in this YouTube video talk.

The short term goal would be to try to achieve and maintain happiness in this life and future lives (which includes avoiding unfortunate rebirths). At the very minimum, you need to keep the five precepts with heedfulness (appamada). Going a little further, you need to practise more of virtue (sila) with heedfulness (appamada).

This short term goal is described in the Ittha Sutta:

Long life, beauty, status, honor, heaven, high birth: To those who delight in aspiring for these things in great measure, continuously, the wise praise heedfulness in making merit.

The wise person, heedful, acquires a two-fold welfare: welfare in this life & welfare in the next. By breaking through to his welfare he's called prudent, wise.

For lay followers, there is plenty of advice on achieving the short to medium term goals in the Gihi Sutta (or Discourse to the Householder), Sigalovada Sutta, Dighajanu Sutta and Anana Sutta. The minimum training rules imposed on lay followers are the five precepts.

For those in a hurry to Nibbana, there are the more advanced training paths of anagarika (sort of a pre-monk or pre-nun), novice monk or nun, and fully ordained monk or nun. Please see this answer for details.

  • I don't agree that "the mission in Buddhism is the pursuit of happiness", but perhaps I misunderstand your intent. I thought that words like 'equanimity', 'dispassion' and "knowledge and vision of things as they are" were more to the point. – user2341 Mar 20 '18 at 0:31

Don't focus on suffering as it is the reason for suffering. You can have a goal of reaching that eternal freedom. But, make sure you enjoy the journey without too focusing on the end...


Did you kill your mother or father?

If the answer is no, you cannot say for sure that it is impossible for you to attain enlightenment within this life.

So when you are meditating if this worry arises, simply remind yourself worrying... worrying... worrying... or doubting... doubting... doubting... until it goes away. Then get back to your meditation.

  • So you mean it is possible for me to attain enlightenment in this very life? – user13135 Mar 4 '18 at 12:32
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    It could be if you practice the correct technique with dedication. It will take at least 7 days and at most 7 years. – Sankha Kulathantille Mar 4 '18 at 12:37

If you are not practising to end suffering, I'd suggest to quit Buddhism. Its like you hear about a fantastic doctor who is a miracle worker & you are so inspired by the doctor that you decided to visit the doctor, even though you are not even sick. The doctor asks you: "What is your problem?" and you answer: "I don't have any problems but I heard you are a miracle worker". Mass-market Buddhism is the similar. It advertises meditation & enlightenment, similar to advertising I-Phones, even though you might have no self-perceived need for an I-Phone.

The Buddhist teachings are for the prevention & eradication of suffering. If there is no self-perceived suffering in your life, there is no point in practising Buddhism & meditation.

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    So I have to be suffering to be a Buddhist? In that ways, only depressed and stressful and anxiety-ridden sad people will be following Buddhist teachings. There is no self-perceived suffering in my life. Since I have started following Buddhism all my loathing, self-pity and sadness are gone. Now it is replaced by confusion. – user13135 Mar 4 '18 at 12:30
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    Since you have started following Buddhism all you loathing, self-pity and sadness are gone; then why are you complaining? – Dhammadhatu Mar 4 '18 at 20:30
  • I am not complaining...i was confuced about right attitude towards my practise which I guess is cleared by other friends who answered. – user13135 Mar 5 '18 at 6:33

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