The 5th point to appraise our spiritual progress is to examine our effort in learning Dharma. This is slightly different from effort in practice.
As long as we have not experienced the ultimate Truth (Dharma), we should constantly try to learn. We can listen to more teachers (qualified ones), read more and also contemplate more. Meditate more.
If we find ourselves being complacent, that means we have fallen into the trap of laziness and pride in our practice. That’s the end of spiritual practice.
Many people (including myself), confuse gaining knowledge as realisation of Dharma. We think we knew when we know nothing.
For example, many people have heard the four noble truths. We think we know because we can memorise the 4 truths like a parrot. Some people may go the extra steps of memorising the commentaries and detail explanations. Hardcore Buddhist would even memorise the 4 noble truths in ancient language (such as Pali)
The question we should simply ask ourselves is, “Do I still experience sufferings?” If the answer is yes, then WE DO NOT KNOW.
If we really know the 4 noble truths, then we would have been freed from Sufferings. Just like the first disciples of Buddha when they heard Buddha explain the 4 noble truths for the first time.
In reality, we are just knowledgeable.
Therefore, if we stop learning because we falsely believe that we know; Then that is the end of our spiritual practice.
Do you still have a thirst to learn something new? Do you still experience joy when you gain new understanding of Dharma? If so, then you are still in the game.
However, we should not confuse this with craving for novelty. That is another mistake.
For example, when we study the 4 noble truths. We should seek out the Truth behind the knowledge. We may listen to the explanation of 4 noble truths by various teachers. We study various commentaries and contemplate consistently. We meditate on it. As we progress, we will have new understanding on the 4 noble truths within us. We verify our newfound understandings with teachers and continue to learn new things about the 4 noble truths; until we gain enlightenment.
If we get bored with the 4 noble truths and decide to learn something new. Then that is just our monkey mind seeking novelty. Consequently, we jump around looking for something fresh to entertain our craving for new knowledge but never mastering or realising any one of them.
This does not mean we cannot seek new knowledge. Only we know ourselves best.
Are we craving for new knowledge as a form of entertainment? (BAD)
Are we seeking new knowledge to realise the Dharma? (GOOD)
Have fun with this self appraisal and revisiting your knowledge. May allbe well and happy.