Can one of these beings sometimes break the 5 precepts?


I’m wondering if a faith-follower, a dhamma-follower, and a sotapanna can sometimes break the 5 precepts, or if it’s totally impossible for them to break the 5 precepts?

If you have references to suttas and commentaries, please don’t hesitate to share them.

In SN 25, the Buddha explains that the faith-follower and the dhamma-follower cannot commit actions that will lead them to the lower worlds. However, AN 8.40 says that breaking the 5 precepts is an action that leads to the lower worlds. This could be used to say that a faith-follower and a dhamma-follower are incapable of breaking the 5 precepts.
But AN 8.40 also says that breaking the 5 precepts does not necessarily lead to the lower worlds, as this sutta speaks of the mildest result a person can suffer while living in a higher world. So maybe a faith & dhamma-followers can sometimes break the 5 precepts so that it doesn’t lead into the lower worlds?

Thank you in advance.

May all beings never break the 5 precepts.

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I think the faith follower and dhamma follower are describing the path moment. The dhamma follower had a little more wisdom and the faith follower more saddha.
In a mind moment both will experience fruition and be sotapanna. And hence incapable of breaking the precepts.

@bksubhuti explained it here
Becoming Faith follower or Dhamma follower - General Theravada topics - Classical Theravāda (


Thank you very much

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A quote that I am missing in all these references may better illustrate the firmness of ariyakanta sīla (“the ethics cherished & loved by Noble Ones”) of a Stream-Enterer. This quote is from the Commentary to DN5. Kūṭadanta Sutta. I can’t imagine how someone can understand this quote without the related Sub-Commentary. Some of the clarifications from the Sub-Commentary are given within slash-brackets. The translation (just like the original Pali) is hard to read, so I provide a paraphrase below to avoid misunderstanding.

Ariyasāvakānaṃ pana maggasampayuttā virati setughātavirati nāma. Tattha purimā dve viratiyo yaṃ voropanādivasena vītikkamitabbaṃ jīvitindriyādivatthu, taṃ ārammaṇaṃ katvā pavattanti. Pacchimā nibbānārammaṇāva. Ettha ca yo pañca sikkhāpadāni ekato gaṇhati, tassa ekasmiṃ bhinne sabbāni bhinnāni honti. Yo ekekaṃ gaṇhati, so yaṃ vītikkamati, tadeva bhijjati. Setughātaviratiyā pana bhedo nāma natthi, bhavantarepi hi ariyasāvako jīvitahetupi neva pāṇaṃ hanati na suraṃ pivati. Sacepissa surañca khīrañca missetvā mukhe pakkhipanti, khīrameva pavisati, na surā. Yathā kiṃ? Koñcasakuṇānaṃ khīramissake udake khīrameva pavisati? Na udakaṃ. Idaṃ yonisiddhanti ce, idaṃ dhammatāsiddhanti ca veditabbaṃ.” (Dīgha Nikāya Aṭṭhakathā - SīlakkhandhavaggaA - par. 352, MM DNA 1.272)

“The refraining of the Noble Disciples that is comprised in the Path is called the refraining of destroying the bridge (setughātavirati). The first two (kinds of) refraining /refraining by possession, sampattavirati and refraining by undertaking samādānavirati/ such as from destruction (of life) are matters of life-faculty, (life-faculty) is taken as an object and (thereby the precepts) are maintained. The last /i.e., refraining by the destruction of the bridge, setughātavirati/, however, (takes) the object in Nibbāna. There (in refraining by possession, sampattavirati), if someone takes the five precepts as one, by breaking a single (precept), all of them are broken. Whoever takes (the precepts) one by one (as refraining by observance, samādānavirati, which pertains to lay people), whichever he transgresses, that alone is broken. In destroying the bridge (setughātavirati), there is no further division; indeed, a Noble Disciple neither kills life nor drinks alcohol even for the reason of life in existential danger. If (people) mix alcohol and milk and throw it into their mouth, only the milk will enter (the mouth), not the alcohol. Like what? Does only milk enter (the mouth) of sarus cranes (Antigone antigone) from water mixed with milk? Not water. It should be known that this is an occurrence (caused) by birth, this /the impossibility to break the rules by a Noble Disciple/ is caused by Nature (Dhamma).” (tr. by Ashin Saraṇa)

In other words, there are two kinds of following precepts:

  1. By non-Enlightened beings. Further divided to two: (a) by possession sampattavirati (all are broken upon breaking just one of them, if someone took them as one complete bulk) and (b) by undertaking samādānavirati (only the one that is broken is broken, the rest are maintained, if the person took them separately one by one). These precepts are followed by taking the object of life-faculty. /This is further explained by Dīgha Nikāya Abhinava Ṭīkā MM p.321 as that the precepts are not broken because the one who observes these precepts does not break them for the sake of other living beings (here called “life-faculty” in the ultimate sense)./
  2. By Enlightened beings (starting with a Stream Enterer, Sotāpanna). For them there is only this one kind of refraining from breaking precepts, also called as “destruction of bridge” setughāta. They will not break any of the five precepts even if it costs their life. These precepts are followed by taking the object of Nibbāna.



We discussed this alcohol thing in our vinaya class as a side note to precepts. It was good to see this brought up.