How Long Should Enlightenment Take?

Not everyone will reach spiritual maturity at once but it has nothing to do with intellect or aptitude. Buddha understood that people learn and develop at different speeds. That is why he designed the path to inner peace to be practical and to be a gradual spiritual development for each person.  We should not expect quick results. This is because we are training our minds by fundamentally changing how we think and how we view this life.

When beginning down the path towards inner peace, you may find yourself making great strides quickly or you may find the path extremely difficult and slow despite putting in study and practice. If the latter scenario describes you, it may be helpful to compare training your mind with teaching a child (this may be easier for those parents out there).

We all know that children think like children, teenagers like teenagers, and adults like adults. Therefore, we know it would be futile to force very young children (who still hadn’t learned to speak) to learn knowledge that is beyond their capability or to teach them knowledge at a pace that is unnaturally too fast. For example, it would be a complete waste of your time to try and teach a one-year old how to do algebra.

When teaching children new concepts, you can’t get too tough with them or try teaching them more language than they can take in at any one time. We know this because children are unable to hold their attention long enough to focus on what you were saying.  Your mind is similar.

Like children, we all learn at different speeds and through varying methods. Sometimes it’s appropriate to give yourself some praise and encouragement; sometimes it’s more appropriate to be critical. It’s the same with children: if you scold them too often and are too harsh, they won’t progress in the right way and may lose the confidence to even try. Other times, when children show the aptitude, they need to be pushed a little to do their best.

Keep in mind that those who seek the truth path to peace should not expect an easy path or a path made easier by offers of respect or honor. Slight effort won’t get you far.

Sometimes you have to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, but you can’t push the mind to its limits all of the time. As parents are with their children, you and you alone are in the best position to judge your level of effort and to respond accordingly.

But be careful. If you desire and crave inner peace, then this will also prevent you from finding peace just as not putting in enough effort. You can try as hard as you want, practice day and night, but you won’t find peace if it is with a desire to achieve in mind. Wisdom won’t arise from desire. Instead, simply let go: Watch the mind and body mindfully but don’t try to achieve anything. Don’t cling to anything, even the practice of enlightenment.