After this Sona later gained enlightenment and came to declare this in the Buddha’s presence, which sparks an interesting additional teaching on the subject of effort from Sona. Sona says; 'Now it may occur to a certain venerable one to think, “perhaps it is entirely dependent on conviction that this venerable one is dedicated to renunciation”, but it should not be seen in this way. The monk whose fermentations are ended, having fulfilled [the holy life], does not see in himself anything further to do, or anything further to add to what he has done. It is because of the ending of passion, hatred and delusion, because of his being free of passion, hatred and delusion, that he is dedicated to renunciation.”
Enlightenment and its qualities are not actually efforts or activities to be maintained. Renunciation and other positive aspects of the spiritual life are not in themselves efforts. This is what we see when we gain enlightenment. It’s more like they are something natural. So one of the teachings here is that you can’t get there just through effort and will power.
This is also what the Buddha found when he remembered his childhood experience of skilful pleasure and left behind his years of extreme asceticism. There are several lessons here; tuning the lute string will be slightly different for everyone and there is no set number of turns on the peg to tell someone. Also, it means effort and relaxation are not two things that can be done separately – as if effort is good but then you need some relaxation to balance it up.
There is no correct effort separate from correct relaxation.
Effort with out relaxation could be seen as the over-tight lute string and relaxation without effort could be seen as the under-tight lute string. Effort and relaxation are not what we may usually think they are; they are not separate things and they do not have any inherent nature. In the West we can be very much like Sona. Trying too hard and then giving up meditation is quite common because we really don’t understand effort very well in the West, which I think is why we struggle so much with relaxation.