Gap between Magga and Phala: Yes Or No?

I often see online Buddhist articles by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Piya Tan saying that there is a gap between Magga and Phala (eg: Sotapattimagga and Sotapattiphala), means there will be a period for the aspirant to train further. One argument presented by Bhikkhu Bodhi is the sutta statement whereby Buddha said one who makes offering to a Sotapattimagga person will generate tremendous merits.

And if we are to follow classical commentary tradition, Sotapattiphala person is only existing at a mere moment as Sotapattiphala consciousness and will immediately succeeded by Sotapattiphala consciousness. Which mean it could be quite impossible to make an offering to Sotapattimagga person.

Kinda confused… Any thoughts?

Please see this old post:

From Dhammandando Bhikkhu:

the commentary to the Dakkhi.naavibhanga Sutta (MN. 142); this is one of the suttas in which these persons are described as potential recipients of offerings.
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The commentator then asks if it is possible to give a gift to a maggasamangii, considering that such a ‘person’ only exists for a single mind-moment. He answers that it is and gives the example of an aaraddhavipassaka bhikkhu who goes to a layman’s house for almsfood, the people there take his almsbowl from him and then emergence of the path ( magga-vu.t.thaana) occurs in him at the same moment that they are putting food in his bowl. There are a few other examples given, but they are essentially the same, differing only in the manner in which the food is given.

I think the scholars who doubt such matters are forgetting that in reality there are only momentary elements- no people at all in the truest sense.

I guess that is where Pa-auk Sayadawgyi got his answer from. I remember asking him ages ago because others didn’t believe, but I too had a difficult time to answer as well. Saydawgyi had the power to make us all laugh hard when he described this. There might even be a talk on this. In sri lanka, I knew all of the suttanta questions and asked him… The question leader didn’t bring all the questions, but I did. I cleaned up in that public talk. There is a video on youtube somewhere. It might be on that. I was asking him for the sake of clarifying for the nonbelievers.

There are also those who attain within one stanza. When is magga and when is phala if one “has to work” or “walk the path” to get to phala?

It is momentary. I think this was discussed in Authenticity of the texts category… building a document.


Understand the points of momentary lapse of consciousness.

But how do we reconcile with the fact that Buddha mentioned the possibility of making offering to Sotapattimagga person?

Wouldn’t that be impossible if Sotapattimagga is just a moment?


Remember that there are only momentary dhammas, arising and ceasing.
The action of giving in conventional terms seems to last for seconds - but when broken down to ultimates is countless processes.

And in the same way no person who is attaining sotapattimagga or phala- there are just these conditioned elements arising.

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Sotapattiphala could be referred to somebody who attains Sottapana although he/she remains without a further active search for nibbana again. This period can last less or more time depending the circumstances. This person could be referred in the sources like a Sotapattiphala. While the Sotapattimagga would be a sotappana who is again actively engaged in searching nibbana.
If I remember well, there is some discussion around knowing if sotapannas can experience nibbana more than one time in life before sadakagami and the weakening of fetters in a substantial way.

Such distinction wouldn’t be so rare, specially in the case of lay followers. The examples with lay people in the sources fits very well. The case of bhikkhus is different because they have the environment and the available guide all days. The situation can be very different in the case of lay life.

At least I understand this doubt wouldn’t be directly related with moments and these doctrinal things but with real people, who can be in these different circumstances (more passive or active in the path) after entering in the stream.

To clarify better my humble view: we find the issue of realizing nibbana explained with magga and phala like the path to go, and the fruits. And also we can find Sotapattimagga refered to a sotapanna like somebody actively engaged in the Path, and Sotapattiphala referred to somebody who got the Sotapanna fruits. Both are possible depending the context…

Just my view. Better if you can extract your own conclusions.