There are ten distinct benchmarks that indicate our progress, or lack of progress in our practice. These benchmarks also point toward our destiny in the next world.
The first benchmark is knowing for certain that this fabricated personality of ours will not survive death. This we come to understand when we can see the personality for what it is, an invention based merely on thought and memory, a purely material entity that can’t survive physical death.
The second is recognizing the futility of relying on religious rituals, beliefs, or dogma to extricate us from our predicament here on earth, instead of hard work of self inquiry.
The third benchmark is when we no longer have any doubt whatsoever that meditation and self inquiry can free us, not only from physical existence, but from existence itself.
When these three very important benchmarks are reached, and we can’t reach them by thinking that we have reached them but rather after a definite shift in consciousness occurs where we in many ways become a different person and see things in a completely different light, then we will be reborn back into physical existence a maximum of only seven times.
The fourth and fifth benchmarks are a bit unusual in that merely weakening them propels us into a different destiny than conquering them completely. If we weaken them, we only have to be reborn into physical existence and all its complications one more time. When we conquer these two benchmarks completely, then we will no longer be reborn into physical existence at all.
The fourth and fifth benchmarks are anger and sensory desires, which must be first weakened. This is where we still retain some sense of aggravation and annoyance, and also mild desires for pleasurable things appearing in existence. Then, after they are weakened considerably, and with a deepening self inquiry, they are abandoned completely. Now we have no underlying fear that is the root of anger, and no desires for sensual pleasures, We simply eat when it is time to eat, sleep when it is time to sleep, and work when we need to work.
By conquering these first five benchmarks, we become a sage in the eyes of the world, however, in order to become that which no man or woman can comprehend, and go where no man or woman can imagine — beyond existence both in the world of form and the world of none-form, we must conquer the five remaining bench marks.
These five that remain are the residual desires left over after we believe that we have conquered all of our material desires, and they are quite insidious. The five final benchmarks are; wanting to be reborn into the world of form, wanting to be reborn into the formless realm, spiritual restlessness (still searching), pride or self-righteousness (I know), and finally an enduring belief in an eternal self.
These last five are most difficult to conquer because the one struggling to attain them must disappear completely yet somehow remain and function in the world – this is the only way that they can be overcome.
And in order for this to occur, one must be completely enlightened.