Sotapannahood: Discussion

Hi, all. For this thread, I intend to focus on Sotapatti Maggaphala topics and will ask questions from time to time. I hope it benefits newcomers and those who not so knowledgeable in the Sasana (that includes me) that aiming for Sotapanna stage in this very life.

Please share your canonical answers, understanding, and even personal constructive ideas too. Thanks in advance.

My first question in this thread:

In the Suttanta, it was taught that once people eradicated the first three fetters, Sotapannahood is achieved.

The three fetters are:
(1) Sakkāyadiṭṭhi
(2) Vicikkiccha
(3) Silabbata paramasa

May I know in either Suttanta or Atthakatha, these three fetters will be eradicated together at once or one-by-one?

(A) “Eradicated together at once” means with by putting away Sakkāyadiṭṭhi, both Vicikkiccha and Silabbata paramasa are put away too.

(B) “Eradicated one-by-one” means first putting away Sakkāyadiṭṭhi, then proceed to the latter two.

Which one is correct?

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Ratanasutta:
sahāvassa dassanasampadāya , tayassu dhammā jahitā bhavanti;
Sakkāyadiṭṭhī vicikicchitañca, sīlabbataṃ vāpi yadatthi kiñci.

Together with his attainment of seeing Emancipation
there are three things that are given up:
embodiment view, uncertainty, and
whatever grasping at virtue and practices there is.

Ratanasutta Atthakatha:
Tattha sahāvā ti saddhiṃyeva.
Therein sahāvā means together with itself. (simultaneous with seeing Emancipation)

Saradasutta
Evamevaṁ kho, bhikkhave, yato ariyasāvakassa virajaṁ vītamalaṁ dhammacakkhuṁ uppajjati, saha dassanuppādā, bhikkhave, ariyasāvakassa tīṇi saṁyojanāni pahīyanti—sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāso.

In the same way, when the stainless, immaculate vision of the teaching arises in a noble disciple (with the coming of that vision), three fetters are given up: identity view, doubt, and misapprehension of precepts and observances.

  1. First point:
    Above Suttas say it happened at once.
    Strengthening:
    Since the Dassanasampada (seeing Emancipation) is a single mind-moment (According to the Abhidhamma and Commentary theory), the eradication of the three fetters happened in that very moment. Therefore the eradication of the Three Fetters should be happened at once.

Furthermore the Ratanasutta Atthakatha says:

Dukkhadassanasampadāya cettha sakkāyadiṭṭhi samudayadassanasampadāya vicikicchitaṃ, maggadassananibbānadassanasampadāya sīlabbataṃ pahīyatīti viññātabbaṃ.

Therein, it should be known that the eradication of sakkāyadiṭṭhi is by Dukkhadassanasampadā, vicikicchā by samudayadassanasampadā and sīlabbata by maggadassananibbānadassanasampadā.

The above passage relates the Fetters to the Four Noble Truths.

The question of whether the Four Noble Truths are penetrated simultaneously or separately, is solved in Kathāvatthu using the above mentioned sutta quotes.

Kathāvatthupāḷi-Anupubbābhisamayakathā:
[PARAVADI] dukkhe diṭṭhe cattāri saccāni diṭṭhāni hontīti?
[SAKAVADI] Āmantā.

[SAKAVADI] Tena hi na vattabbaṃ – “Anupubbābhisamayo”ti.


The controversy on the Gradual attainment of realization:
[PARAVADI] Are all the four noble truths seen, when the Dukkha is seen?
[SAKAVADI] Yes.

[SAKAVADI] So, it should not be said that there is a Gradual attainment of realization.

  1. Second point:
    Since the Four Noble Truths are penetrated simultaneously and not separately, the eradication of the Three Fetters should be happened at once.

Thank you very much !

Another question, being a Sotapanna, is he/she still capable of anger, playful, and sexually active (like has urge to get a husband or wife, busy themselves with “village practice”)?

How can we notice if we meet a Sotapanna in real life?

Is there any guideline in Atthakatha for how we recognise Sotapanna in real life?

By definition, a sotāpannā is still capable of doing the acts with the remaining 7 samyojanas out of 10. (kāmacchanda, byāpāda, rūparāga, arūparāga, māna, uddhacca, avijjā)

For examples: Anathapindika Setthi, Visakha migaramata and many other
married upasakas. Better one is the story of Visakha who married after attaining sotāpanna.

Aggaññasutta atthakatā
Jātakāle tassā visākhāti nāmaṃ akaṃsu. Sā yadā bhagavā bhaddiyanagaraṃ āgamāsi, tadā pañcadāsisatehi saddhiṃ bhagavato paccuggamanaṃ katvā paṭhamadassanamhiyeva sotāpannā ahosi.

Aparabhāge sāvatthiyaṃ migāraseṭṭhiputtassa puṇṇavaḍḍhanakumārassa gehaṃ gatā. Tattha naṃ migāraseṭṭhi mātuṭṭhāne ṭhapesi. Tasmā migāramātāti vuccati. Patikulaṃ gacchantiyā cassā pitā mahālatāpiḷandhanaṃ nāma kārāpesi.


After born, she was named “Visakha”. When the Bhagava came to Bhaddiya city, she, having going out to meet the Bhagava with 500 girls, became a sotāpanna at the very first meeting.

Later, she went to the home of (married) migāraseṭṭhi’s son in Vesali. Therein migāraseṭṭhi kept her in the place of mother. That is why she is called migāramathā. When she was going to the husbands home, her father got an ornament called mahālatā made for her.

Anguttaranikaya Etadaggavagga commentary says that she went to meet the Blessed One at the age of 7 and attained sotāpanna with the 500 girls.

According to my memory and what I have heard and read,
there is no such criteria to identify other’s Ariya attainments.

According to the following sutta and what many learned-people say, no one other than a Buddha can clearly identify Ariyas (or may be anyone?).

Migasālā Sutta AN6.44, AN10.75

“Sir, Ānanda, how on earth are we supposed to understand the teaching taught by the Buddha, when the chaste and the unchaste are both reborn in exactly the same place in the next life?

“Ānanda, who is this laywoman Migasālā, a foolish incompetent aunty, with an aunty’s wit? And who is it that knows how to assess individuals?

Judgmental people compare them, saying: ‘This one has just the same qualities as the other, so why is one worse and one better?’ This will be for their lasting harm and suffering.

So, Ānanda, don’t be judgmental about people. Don’t pass judgment on people. Those who pass judgment on people harm themselves. I, or someone like me, may pass judgment on people.

And I have read somewhere long ago (I don’t remember whether in Atthakata or in some other book) that even venerable Sariputta was one time advising the arahant Lakunthakabhaddiya thinking that he is Sotapanna (or Puthujjana?), and then the Blessed One stopped it.

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Thank you for the answer ! Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu !

Additionally, it seems their remaining fetters are not very strong as in commoners.

Bahudhātukasutta
‘It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to take any condition (samkhara) as pleasant.

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There are many signs that one is not a sotāpanna.
There is more to say, but I’m not sure I be able to find the references to back it up… Below are quotes that are easier to find or previously I have questioned this with @AriyadassanaBhikkhu or others.

Ratanasuttaṃ :

"Those who realized the Noble Truths well taught by him who is profound in wisdom (the Buddha), even though they may be exceedingly heedless, they will not take an eighth existence (in the realm of sense spheres).[6] This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

  1. "With his gaining of insight he abandons three states of mind, namely self-illusion, doubt, and indulgence in meaningless rites and rituals, should there be any. He is also fully freed from the four states of woe, and therefore, incapable of committing the six major wrongdoings.[7] This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

  2. "Any evil action he may still do by deed, word or thought, he is incapable of concealing it; since it has been proclaimed that such concealing is impossible for one who has seen the Path (of Nibbana).[8] This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

The sotāpanna cannot fall to lower births other than human as the lowest.
Therefore, he/she cannot do any such kamma that will bring such lower realm paṭisandhi vipāka.

For a monk, this is very important. Using money will bring one to the lower realms. Sayadawgyi’s favorite quote:

‘‘sāpattikassa, bhikkhave, nirayaṃ vā vadāmi tiracchānayoniṃ vā’’ti
One (who dies with) offence with go to the hell or animal realm.
Sāratthadīpanī-ṭīkā (mm para 222)

dve puggalā abhabbā sañcicca āpattiṃ āpajjituṃ – bhikkhū ca bhikkhuniyo ca ariyapuggalā. dve puggalā bhabbā sañcicca āpattiṃ āpajjituṃ – bhikkhū ca bhikkhuniyo ca puthujjanā. ( Parivārapāḷi 322)
two types of puggala cannot intentionally commit offense bhikkhu and bhikkhuni that are ariya.
two types that can… puthujjanā

A sāmaṇero (or bhikkhu) who attains as a monastic cannot disrobe. The stream only flows forward, not back unless a bodhisatta’s bowl is floating the night of the enlightenment.

Tato thero cintesi – ‘‘sāmaṇero sotāpattiphale patiṭṭhito, abhabbo dāni sāsanato nivattituṃ (Pārājikakaṇḍa-aṭṭhakathā)
Then he thought the sāmaṇero has sotāpattiphale and is firm. He cannot give up (go back from) the sāsana life.

sotāpannānaṃ sīlesu paripūrakāritāya samādinnasīlato natthi parihānīti āha ‘‘abhabbo dāni sāsanato nivattitu’’nti. (Sāratthadīpanī-ṭīkā)
The sotāpanna’s sila is complete and it cannot diminish. It is impossible to give up (go back from) the sāsana.

Below is taken from A Life Free From Money By U Dhamminda (now called Greg).

Upakkilesa Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fours, Rohitassa Vagga, sutta no. 10)

Rāgadosaparikkiṭṭhā, eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā;
Avijjānivutā posā, piyarūpābhinandino.
Suraṃ pivanti merayaṃ, paṭisevanti methunaṃ;
Rajataṃ jātarūpañca, sādiyanti aviddasū;
Micchājīvena jīvanti, eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā.
Ete upakkilesā vuttā, buddhenādiccabandhunā;
Yehi upakkilesehi , eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā;
Na tapanti na bhāsanti, asuddhā sarajā magā.
Andhakārena onaddhā, taṇhādāsā sanettikā;
Vaḍḍhenti kaṭasiṃ ghoraṃ, ādiyanti punabbhava’’nti. dasamaṃ;

The next quote from the end of demonstrates that accepting money leads to continued rebirth.

`Stained by lust, anger, and blinded by ignorance
some monks and brahmins take delight in sense pleasures.
Those foolish monks and brahmins drink alcohol,
engage in sexual intercourse,
accept gold, silver, and money,
and obtain their requisites by wrong livelihood
All of these are called corruptions by the Buddha who shines like the sun.
Those foolish monks and brahmins who are corrupted by these corruptions,
impure, and defiled, do not blaze or shine.
But instead bewildered, blinded, slaves to desire, and full of craving
they increase the size of cemeteries by taking birth again and again.´

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Sotapanna is said to have five spiritual characters: Saddha, Sila, Suta, Caga, and Paññā.

(1) Here, the Saddha I understood as : the unwavering confidence towards Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. But in what way it can be known as “unwavering confidence”?

Puthujjanas believe Dhamma either by “Amulika-Saddha (blind-faith)” or by “Akaravati-Saddha (reasoned-faith)”. Sotapannas believe Dhamma by “Acala-Saddha (unwavering-faith)”

  1. The “Amulika-Saddha” is not based on wisdom. It is based on some “other-thing”. When this “other-thing (the base for Saddha)” changes “Amulika-Saddha” changes.

  2. The “Akaravati-Saddha” is based on “inferential-wisdom”. This inferential-wisdom is unstable. When some strong opposite-causes are met, this inferential-wisdom changes. That means “the base for Saddha” changes. Then inevitably Saddha changes.

  3. “Acala-Saddhā” is based on “stable-wisdom”. This stable wisdom is gained by realizing Dhamma practically up to a certain degree. Even when strong opposite-causes are met, there is no possibility of a change in this stable-wisdom according to the Blessed One. If the “base for Saddhā” does not waver, then the Saddhā does not waver.

For example, both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhists, devoted and faithful to the Buddha Sakyamuni, are they the same in terms of gaining ‘unwavering confidence’?

(According to Theravada:) Any Non-Theravadin interpretation of Dhamma is not Dhamma. So they have faith in Non-Dhamma. It is not Buddhist Saddhā. By such a faith, no one can realize the Paticcasamuppada. They can not gain at least the “Refuge of Triple Gems (Tisarana/ Upāsaka-status)”, let alone Stream-entry.

(2) Sila here is Pancasila or Atthangasila?

Because there were many married Sotapannas, their permanent Sila can not be Atthangasila.

Can Sotāpanna unknowingly breaks the precepts?

Yes, but never intentionally. (according to the Vinaya)

(3) Suta is knowledge of the teaching. Is there any rule that how much needed to be learned ? Or just up to personal capacity?

No rule can be found. But it is implied that the more one learns the more he gains a support for wisdom.

(5) What is the exact difference between this Sotāpanna Paññā and later Arahant’s Paññā? What is the limitation of this Sotāpanna Paññā ?

  • A Sotāpanna can’t see the drawbacks of Tanhā fully. An Arahant can see the drawbacks of Tanhā fully.

  • A Sotāpanna can’t see the drawbacks of Avijjā fully. An Arahant can see the drawbacks of Avijjā fully.

  • A Sotāpanna has understood the amount of truth necessary to stop the Samsāra within 7 life times. An Arahant has understood the amount of truth necessary to stop the Samsāra in this very life.

The surprising simile given to understand the difference between the results of their wisdoms:

If the size of whole suffering is “Earth+Nail”, then a Sotāpanna has liberated from the “Earth” while an Arahant has liberated from both “Earth” and “Nail”.

Nakhasikhāsutta
Then the Buddha, picking up a little bit of dirt under his fingernail, addressed the mendicants: “What do you think, mendicants? Which is more: the little bit of dirt under my fingernail, or this great earth?”

“Sir, the great earth is certainly more. The little bit of dirt under your fingernail is tiny. Compared to the great earth, it doesn’t count, there’s no comparison, it’s not worth a fraction.”

“In the same way, for a person with comprehension, a noble disciple accomplished in view, the suffering that’s over and done with is more, what’s left is tiny. Compared to the mass of suffering in the past that’s over and done with, it doesn’t count, there’s no comparison, it’s not worth a fraction, since there are at most seven more lives. Such a person truly understands about suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path.

That’s why you should practice meditation …”

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Thank you for the answers.

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Also, I have heard my teacher mention that sotāpanna (or ariyā) cannot have adhimāna
I found the quote and checked with the teacher.
Ovāda happens to be on the sallekha sutta these days and this commentary from that sutta is below:

Evaṃ bhagavā ādimanasikāreneva diṭṭhīnaṃ pahānaṃ hoti nu kho noti āyasmatā mahācundena adhimānikānaṃ vasena pañhaṃ puṭṭho sotāpattimaggena diṭṭhippahānaṃ dassetvā idāni sayameva adhimānikānaṃ jhānaṃ vibhajanto ṭhānaṃ kho panetantiādimāha. Tattha adhimānikā nāma yesaṃ appatte pattasaññāya adhimāno uppajjati, svāyaṃ uppajjamāno neva lokavaṭṭānusārīnaṃ bālaputhujjanānaṃ uppajjati, na ariyasāvakānaṃ. Na hi sotāpannassa ‘‘sakadāgāmī aha’’nti adhimāno uppajjati, na sakadāgāmissa ‘‘anāgāmī aha’’nti, na anāgāmino ‘‘arahā aha’’nti, kārakasseva pana samathavasena vā vipassanāvasena vā vikkhambhitakilesassa niccaṃ yuttapayuttassa āraddhavipassakassa uppajjati. Tassa hi samathavikkhambhitānaṃ vā vipassanāvikkhambhitānaṃ vā kilesānaṃ samudācāraṃ apassato ‘‘sotāpanno ahanti vā, sakadāgāmī, anāgāmī, arahā aha’’nti vā adhimāno uppajjati, talaṅgaratissapabbatavāsidhammadinnattherena ovādiyamānattherānaṃ viya.

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compare B.Bodhi tr. because the difference is astonishing:

"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. Compared to the former mass of suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated, the latter is not calculable, does not bear comparison, does not amount even to a fraction, as there is a maximum of seven more lives. He is one who understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering’. … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’

“Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: 'This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.”’

a clear effort of discernment has been interpreted like “you should practice meditation”

“That’s why you should practice meditation …”” = “Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, ‘idam dukkhan’ti yogo karaṇīyo …pe… ‘ayaṁ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yogo karaṇīyo”ti.”

IMHO really out of context, because the Sutta talks about a person accomplished in view.

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Bhikkhu Bodhi much clearer here - as usual.
Thanks for picking up on this.

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