Thus I have heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Saavatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anaathapi.n.dika’s Park. Then the Blessed One took up a little bit of soil in his fingernail and addressed the bhikkhus thus:
“Bhikkhus, what do you think, which is more: the little bit of soil that I have taken up in my fingernail or this great earth?”
“Venerable sir, the great earth is more. The little bit of soil that the Blessed One has taken up in his fingernail is trifling. It does not amount to a hundredth part, or a thousandth part, or a hundred thousandth part of the great earth.”
“So too, bhikkhus, for a noble disciple, a person accomplished in view, who has made the breakthrough, the suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated is more, while that which remains is trifling. The latter does not amount to a hundredth of the former mass of suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated, as there is a maximum of seven more lives. Of such great benefit, bhikkhus, is the breakthrough to the Dhamma, of such great benefit is it to obtain the vision of the Dhamma.”
The “breakthrough to the Dhamma” and “to obtain the vision of the Dhamma” are metaphors for the attainment of stream entry – sotapanna. This is a very important stage of development.
Many lay followers obtained this breakthrough and vision during the lifetime of Gotama Buddha. Strive with diligence.