Sariputta is a great example of: “yea, that guy is better than me.” I'm reading the book Great Disciples of the Buddha because it was recommended in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha.
Reading about Sariputta fills me with a wholesome, slightly overwhelming, sense of pressure because of the debt I owe to all of the people working for the truth and spreading the truth. Sariputta was such a serious dude, I can't even compare. Every day I need to be more diligent and I'll still never live up to the example he set. And time is running out, there's not that much time to do the work, and there's no excuse for waiting until I'm old, when I'll have less energy and strength to apply to winning my freedom.
I think about Goenka, the example he showed and the standards he set, not to mention the gratitude, benevolence and incredible service he rendered to his students. And Goenka was just a regular guy, he was a businessman for the first half of his life.
I love finding people who really set the bar high. I try to only compare myself to myself, but it's good to look around for inspiring examples of what real standards and real success can look like.
Sariputta's death was impactful for me to read about. After reading about how great he was and how the Buddha loved him and how he skillfully brought so many to stream-entry, I felt sad reading that he was going to die. I've already created an attachment to someone who doesn't even exist anymore and I don't want him to die. The book spends a lot of time describing past lives. I don't even believe in reincarnation, aside from taking the Buddha's words on faith and remaining open-minded about learning the truth for myself one day. However, after reading about Sariputta's past lives, I at least want him to die and then be reincarnated, but that's not what he was working for, he was working to stop the wheels of becoming and to cease entirely. So with full knowledge of his impending death and absolute cessation, Sariputta is completely at peace.
Realizing a hint of the truth of cessation as it's illustrated in Sariputta's death makes me a little sick to my stomach with dread. That's when I realize that Sariputta was worlds beyond anything I've achieved. I guess that's why there are the knowledges of dissolution, fearfulness, misery and disgust. If I feel aversion to cessation, then I'm not certainly not going to attain cessation, so I've got to spend some time observing passing away with full awareness and equanimity. There have been times in meditation when I thought I really was embracing cessation, but it seems clear now that I was just scratching the surface and still holding on to a big chunk of delusion.
If you want to read more, subscribe to my personal newsletter.