Thank you both for sharing your thoughts. It is heartwarming to see the effort and determination and also the willingness to share ideas and offer encouragement.
lodonyo asked: “What I need to know now is, what exactly reaches over to another birth assuming there is one, as per proper planning of a trip.”
Nibbana is all about “ending the trip from one birth to another.” But I understand what you mean.
– What reaches over to the next life is one’s REMAINING gati,anusaya, samyojana, anusaya, avijja, etc.
– It is CRITICAL to get rid of the worst form of “apayagami gati” that could bring rebirth in the apayas.
– That essentially requires an understanding of the anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature of this world. From your description, you seem to have that understanding. It is important to understand how births in various realms (especially apayas) can arise via the Paticca Samuppada process.
– We may have even done “apayagami deeds” earlier this life; they may try to bring rebirth in an apaya at the dying moment. However, as long as one does not have such “apayagami gati” left NOW, one’s mind WILL NOT grasp such a rebirth.
I think most of your concerns can be addressed in the above way.
Wallasmulle Abhaya Thero emphasizes jhana, but he has made it very clear that one MUST first comprehend anicca, dukkha, anatta, and Paticca Samuppada (PS), i.e., the Four Noble Truths about how suffering arises.
– Cultivating jhana is a SECONDARY step. But, of course, it is good to cultivate jhana AFTER one has completed the first step.
– The Buddha encouraged cultivating jhana for “stress relief” in this life. Furthermore, he mostly encouraged bhikkhus to cultivate jhana. I have not seen a Tipitaka sutta where he encouraged lay people to cultivate jhana.
– Make effort according to the priorities. Cultivating anaraiya jhana (i.e., without comprehending Tilakkhna/PS/Four Noble Truths) is a waste of time. There is no jhana in the Eightfold Noble Path, only Samma Samadhi.
– P.S. When the Noble Path is complete (i.e., at the completion of Samma Samadhi), it will be easy to get all jhanas at the Arahant stage. Of course, some people AUTOMATICALLY get to anariya jhana even before becoming Sotapanna Anugami due to Samsaric habits. That is good, but one must not be fooled that one has magga phala.