Arahant after one teaching

Wasn’t it common at the buddhas time that people became arahants or lower ariyas after listening to one teaching? Are there many examples in the suttas?

The first sermon of the Buddha SuttaCentral. “Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in motion”.
The five ascetics Kondanna (he attained it first after the Buddha), Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji attain Arahantship.
As far as I am aware they attained stream enterer after the first sermon and then straight Arahantship after the second sermon. Both sermons close to each other.

I could live with that :grinning:

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My understanding and impression is that the five ascetics, or at least some of them, were on a similar trajectory of awakening as the Buddha. Which is why he went to them, because he knew that if anyone would understand the Dhamma, it was them.

In A Meditator’s Life of the Buddha, Ven. Analayo writes:

"According to the Mahīśāsaka and Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinayas, these five former companions had been sent by the Buddha’s father to look after the bodhisattva. A discourse in the Ekottarika-āgama reports that they had been following the bodhisattva since his birth. An alternative perspective emerges with the Lalitavistara, according to which the five, who were formerly disciples of Uddaka Rāmaputta, had witnessed how the bodhisattva quickly achieved what they had not reached after much practice. The fact that he was not satisfied with what he had achieved was what motivated them to follow him and also leave Uddaka.

Given that these five left the bodhisattva when he gave up his ascetic practices, the presentation in the Lalitavistara fits the narrative context well. Had these five been friends from his early youth or sent by his father to look after him, the fact that he decided to change his mode of practice would not really furnish sufficient reason for them to leave him. Such a decision makes more sense if they had followed him in the hope of benefiting from his realization. In such a case, once he had given up asceticism and thus what they considered necessary to reach realization, it would be natural if they decided to leave him and proceed on their own."


This first discourse or sermon by The Buddha took place over a long period of time. The five took even turns going for alms while the Buddha went into depth with the Dhamma and exactly how he moved from his ascetic practices (they they were all too familiar with) to awakening.

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According to “Great Disciples of the Buddha” by Nyanaponika Thera, Sariputta and Maha-Moggallana entered the stream after hearing just a few words of the Dhamma (not from the Buddha, btw!). But they were on a trajectory to chief discipleship. Certainly no average Joe, either of them. Like the Buddha, they had mastered the teachings of the best teachers around and remained dissatisfied.

So this is a case where we know the background of someone transcending doubt after hearing just one teaching.

But a lot of the times, no background is given. So we don’t know how long the person had practiced before, in that life or previous ones. And then there’s this famous verse from the Therigatha to confirm that it did take a long time for some of the Buddha’s disciples.

So based on this, it’s hard to conceive of a definite “yes” or “no” answer to the question quoted above.

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It’s pretty common for stream-entry in the suttas. When someone is described as attaining stream-entry in the suttas and means is given, it is almost invariably listening to a dhamma talk or teaching (though I think there are at least one or two cases where meditation is the route). From what I can recall, I think that in cases where people are described as attaining once-return or arhantship through listening to a teaching, then they are almost always already a renunciant of long standing (though not always a Buddhist renunciant).

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One of my favorite lines.

‘aññāsi vata, bho koṇḍañño, aññāsi vata bho koṇḍañño’’ti. Iti hidaṃ āyasmato koṇḍaññassa ‘aññāsi koṇḍañño’ tveva nāmaṃ ahosi.

Sorry… only one monk attained Stream Entry. The others followed later that week. The Vinaya Mula says that the monks took turns collecting alms while the Buddha was teaching the others. Much of this “Teaching” is not explained. This is used as a Mula argument in one youtube talk by ven. aggadhammagavesaka that we should not reject the commentaries.

The Brahmas and Devas who attained were numerous in number.
It was not until Anattalakkhana sutta where they attained full enlightenment.
This is stated in the vinaya texts.

The explanation on why they could attain so quickly is that of past life connections and learning. The disciples of The Buddha often make similar determinations of that of a Bodhisatta, but rather, they determine to be a great disciple when The Bodhisatta reaches full maturity to a Buddha. It takes 2 asankhaya to be a chief disciple of the Buddha like Ven Sariputta and Ven Mahamoggallana

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Here’s a little more from Ven. Analayo’s book that can shed a bit more light:

Unlike Upaka, who at least was quite inspired initially, the five former companions believed that the Buddha had abandoned striving, a situation that needed to be addressed skilfully in order to convince them to place trust in what the Buddha had to offer. The Madhyama-āgama parallel to the Ariyapariyesanā-sutta depicts their attitude in the following way:

“Then the five monastics saw from afar that I was coming. They established a firmly set agreement with each other, saying: “Venerable friends, you should know that this recluse Gotama is coming. He is of many desires and of many wants, he partakes of exquisite food and drink, fine cereals, rice, flour, ghee, and honey, and he applies sesame oil to his body. Now that he is coming back, you stay seated and take care not to rise up in greeting and do not pay homage to him. Keep a seat for him but do not invite him to sit on it.”

The Ariyapariyesanā-sutta and a partial parallel in the Ekottarikaāgama report a similar agreement made among the five. This episode shows that it was not going to be easy to convince them that, rather than being one who has reverted to a life of luxury, the Buddha had reached the final goal of liberation. Even though the five eventually did not keep their earlier agreement and were more welcoming to the Buddha than they had planned, when he claimed to have reached awakening they were not easily convinced. Here is the Madhyama- āgama version of their reply:

“Friend Gotama, formerly your conduct was in such a [determined] way, your following a path was in such a [determined] way, and your ascetic practices were in such a [determined] way, yet you were unable to attain a superhuman state, a distinction in noble knowledge and noble vision. How could this be the case now, when you are of many desires and of many wants, partaking of exquisite food and drink, fine cereals, rice, flour, ghee, and honey, and when you apply sesame oil to your body?”

In the Ariyapariyesanā-sutta they even object three times. Evidently the topic of the inefficacy of asceticism had to be tackled in order to clarify that the Buddha had given up his earlier conduct because it was not productive of awakening, not because he had lost the inspiration to continue his quest for liberation. At the same time, the Buddha also had to make it clear that his change of approach did not imply a reverting to sensuality and a life of luxury. In other words, he had to clarify that there is more than just these two alternatives of either asceticism or else sensual indulgence; he had to reveal to them the middle path. This fundamental clarification of the middle path, the first part of the teaching with which according to tradition the Buddha set in motion the wheel of Dharma, has been preserved as a discourse on its own in the Ekottarika-āgama. Here is a translation of the relevant section:

“Then the Blessed One said to the [five] monastics: “There are these two modalities that one training in the path ought not to become involved with. What are the two modalities? That is, they are the state of being attached to sensual pleasures and their enjoyment, which is lowly and the state of the commoner, and the assemblage of these [self- inflicted] pains with their manifold vexations. These are reckoned to be the two modalities that one training in the path ought not to become involved with.

“Having left behind these two modalities in this way, I have myself reached the essential path that leads to the attainment of full awakening, to the arising of vision, to the arising of knowledge, [whereby] the mind attains appeasement, attains the penetrative knowledges, accomplishes the fruits of recluseship, and reaches Nirvāṇa.

“What is the essential path that leads to the attainment of full awakening, that arouses vision, arouses knowledge, [whereby] the mind attains appeasement, attains the penetrative knowledges, accomplishes the fruits of recluseship, and reaches Nirvāṇa? That is, it is this noble eightfold path, namely right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.”

The first part of the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta proceeds similarly, so that the main difference is that the Pāli version continues right away with the delivery of the teaching on the four truths, which in the Ekottarika-āgama features in a separate discourse. The Madhyama- āgama parallel to the Ariyapariyesanāsutta also just reports the teaching on the two extremes, without proceeding to the four truths. The implication of this difference appears to be that, after the Buddha had first delivered the teaching on the two extremes, a break occurred that would have afforded the five monastics time to reflect and digest this for them rather new perspective, after which only the Buddha disclosed to them the four truths. Two biographies preserved in Chinese translation in fact report that the Buddha, having clarified the two extremes, examined the minds of the five to see if they were ready for the teaching he was to give them next.

In view of the earlier defiant attitude of the five monastics, it would indeed be meaningful if the Buddha were to portion out what he had to teach them in such a way that they could first mentally assimilate the notion of a middle path, before receiving further teachings. Such a suggestion need not be seen as standing in contrast to the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta, which might simply be presenting the entire teaching together without explicitly marking that a break occurred between the clarification of the two extremes and the teaching on the four truths.

The nuance of a middle path aloof from the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self- tormenting appears to be well suited to the present occasion, enabling the five monastics to settle their doubts and realize that giving up asceticism does not equal giving up the path to liberation.

At the same time, however, the notion of a middle path of balance has wider implications. An illustrative example is the famous discourse to Kaccāyana, which takes up the two extremes of existence and non-existence. This teaching was apparently of such renown already in early times that it was quoted on another occasion by Ānanda. This quote is addressed to Channa, who up to that point had been unable to gain deeper insight into the teachings. At the end of the discourse by Ānanda, however, Channa attains stream-entry.

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AFAIK, there are 2 ascetics who attained Ariya Puggala after just hearing one teaching from the Buddha:

1. Bahiya

2. Pukkusati

I’m not sure what this has to do with the quote from my own response about the monks taking turns with alms.

When you give a quote from a book, you should say what you are trying to prove. .This does not really mean anything to me or what the topic is about.

Rather… to really shed more light on what I said, I will give the exact quote from the translated text. I will give quote repeated in MN85 instead of the vinaya which is more relevant to the users of this group even though they are pretty much the same as the vinaya as I remember.

As I said before, this sheds light on how there were more teachings that are really mentioned in the brief suttas which are meant for memorization and a brief outline. This is relevant to the topic because the question was about those who attain quickly. It is not really the case for most. It can be due to past life determinations. Below is the quote which shows that the Buddha stayed behind while the others took turns learning to become Stream Winners. After that, they became arahants from the Anattalakkhana sutta.

I was able to persuade the group of five mendicants. Then sometimes I advised two mendicants, while the other three went for alms. Then those three would feed all six of us with what they brought back. Sometimes I advised three mendicants, while the other two went for alms. Then those two would feed all six of us with what they brought back. MN85

I think what I contributed to the conversation is spot on topic. I’m not on this forum to try and prove anything to anybody, just here to read friendly conversations about the Dhamma, chiming in when I think I have something valuable to add. I wish you the best in your time spent here!

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great… then explain your post quotes and what each paragraph means in relation to my post. I was quoted and it was supposed to add more to what you quoted me saying.

According to the discourses by the senior monks in our country, no one can achieve stream-enterer stage without practising.
Suttas record only a brief account retold by Ven. Ananda.
For example, the first teaching Damacakya by the Buddha to 5 monks is described only in a few pages but in reality it took five days to deliver that discourse.
So, those who became stream-enterers at one listening during Buddha’s time mean they did practising while listening. So explained the monks.
Hence, “observing at own nama and rupa with wisdom eye while listening to the Dhamma teaching by ears” is a common method of meditators.

Thanks and regards,

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Certainly it seems common that some monks realised one of the four fruits of enlightenment during a teaching, but it wasn’t by listening alone that this took place.

There’s no magic in the Buddha’s words - they’re just words. Those monks applied themselves to what was being spoken of; they searched the heart-mind for its meaning and in some cases were released entirely.

In modern day society, there is an abundance of extra conditioning offloaded onto the unsuspecting human. Now, one must trawl through this extra conditioning before developing the correct application of mind, quite simply because society’s values are in opposition to the kind of gentle introspection that is encouraged in Buddhist practice. That is why we look upon religious text as some marvelous spectacle; we have been left in a permanent state of immaturity.

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