Āsavas vs Fetters

Āsavas vs Fetters
During the last part of the night of his Awakening the Buddha-to-be dealt with the āsavas.
Two questions:

  • now the model to follow is the Fetters model. When did this model appear and why instead of the āsavas ?
  • where in the Suttas is it said that the Buddha-to-be passed through the four Stages of Awakening?
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AN 10.13…

“Bhikkhus, there are these ten fetters. What ten?
The five lower fetters and the five higher fetters. And what are the five lower fetters? Personal-existence view, doubt, wrong grasp of behavior and observances, sensual desire, and ill will. These are the five lower fetters.
And what are the five higher fetters? Lust for form, lust for the formless, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. These are the five higher fetters. These, bhikkhus, are the ten fetters.”

MN 118…

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who are arahants with taints destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and are completely liberated through final knowledge—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, are due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna, without ever returning from that world—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of three fetters and with the attenuation of lust, hate, and delusion, are once-returners, returning once to this world to make an end of suffering—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

“In this Sangha of bhikkhus there are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the three fetters, are stream-enterers, no longer subject to perdition, bound for deliverance, headed for enlightenment—such bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of bhikkhus.

āsavas, inadequately translated as “taints”…eradicated under arahantship.


Thank you. Would be good if you could answer my questions.

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Fetters, known as Samyojana in Pali, are described as those which yoke beings to the ocean of life, (Samsara). (Narration to Verse 31 of Dhammapada by Ven Narada) These are the ones that we need to break-free from! Fettered by craving & blinded by ignorance!!
Taints, the Asava, are the conditions that give rise to unarisen fetters or increase the arisen fetters. (1st section of Sabbasava Sutta MN 2 -Taints to be abandoned by seeing)
Taints give rise to Ignorance -Asava pachchaya Avijja. (Section on Ignorance in Sammaditthi Sutta MN9). Taints include the Taint of Ignorance. In turn, the Ignorance give rise to more Taints (Asava)(Section on Taints in Sammaditthi Sutta MN9 & the explanatory note no.132). So, as I understand, the Taints, (the Asava), start & re-start the whole cycle of births & deaths. They give rise to fetters.
This is how I understand those two groups.

Re. the 4 stages of Enlightenment. in the Dhamma­cakkap­pa­vat­ta­na­ Sutta, (SN56.11), Lord Buddha explains the different stages of enlightenment. I think the inference is that the Lord Buddha himself attained the enlightenment by these stages. It has also been mentioned that Ven Sariputta attained to Stream Entry on hearing the four line Stanza, " Ye dhamma heuuppabhava …" from Ven Assaji, (who was one of the first five Arahant disciples of the Lord Buddha) & subsequently attained the other 3 stages. Also, in the final section titled ‘In the Dhamma’ of Alagaddupama Sutta, MN22, Lord Buddha discourses on the four stages of enlightenment & also on the pre-sotapanna stages of Dhamma Followers (Dammanusari) & Faith Followers (Saddanusari).

Perhaps, we need the guidance on all above from Ven Ajahn Brahm or Ven Ajahn Brahmali or Ven Bhante Sujato.
With Metta,


These are just alternative models, and both are found in the suttas. The Buddha was a master at presenting the same thing in different ways, thereby giving us a more complete and well-rounded picture of his teachings. Also, it caters for people’s different inclinations.

It doesn’t say anywhere that the Buddha passed through the four stages of awakening. It is quite possible that he became an arahant in one go. Alternatively, he may have passed through the four stages in quick succession.


Thank you Ajahn.
Everything you said resonates with me.


I couldnt remember which text but buddha mentioned when he was a bodhisatta before awakening and at the edge of awakening , this early awakening part probably is the first ariya stage , and by destruction of all the taints he attained complete enlightenment ie the arahant stage .

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Are you suggesting that being a bodhisattva is equivalent to being a streamenterer? Or do you mean that he became a streamenterer at some point while he was a bodhisatta? If it is the latter, then you would have to provide some reference from the suttas and we might then discuss that. If it is the former, then there are all sorts of problems.

First of all you would need to define what you mean by bodhisatta. Are you referring to the developed idea, where the Buddha is supposed to have practised the ten pāramīs for an enormously long time? Or do you mean bodhisatta as it is found in the EBTs? I consider the developed idea to be deep mythology, and so there is no way this can be related to any actual state of awakening. As for bodhisatta as it appears in the EBTS, it refers mostly to the time after the Buddha-to-be left the household life in search of an end to suffering. I don’t think it is reasonable to think he was a streamenterer during this entire period. Why would he be a streamenterer simply because he left the life of a householder? Streamentry is a powerful experience that is based on profound meditation. It needs the right circumstances to come about.

I am not entirely sure what you mean.


Bhante , the word bodhisatta found in sn12.10 , though bhante sujato didnt translate it .
I take the term simply as in between Gotama started the quest for liberation till his early awakening (although i still have question on how Gotama was able to achieve enlightenment in just 1 life )
in which i understand it as stream enterer the ariya first stage as quoted below .


“Mendicants, before my awakening—when I was still unawakened but intent on awakening—I thought:
“Pubbeva me, bhikkhave, sambodhā anabhisambuddhassa bodhisattasseva sato etadahosi:


‘Origination, origination.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in me regarding teachings not learned before from another.

‘Cessation, cessation.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in me regarding teachings not learned before from another.”

Actually he did. This is it:

intent on awakening

To my mind this should fit quite nicely with your interpretation. :grinning:


Bhante ,
Haha , but i would caution if that is the term actual meaning .


This document (from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi) gives an excellent correspondence between Saṃyojana, Anusāya, and Āsava