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Does the term"noble disciple" have specific meaning?


#1

I imagine this has already been answered previously but can’t find it. My sense is that the term Noble has to do with at least a stream winner - true? Does it have other meanings?


#2

It has the specific meaning of a disciple who has arrived at one of the ariyan attainments, starting with stream-entry. But in some contexts it seems to indicate a broader range of persons and so would mean something like “dedicated Buddhist”. To quote one of the endnotes in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Numerical Discourses:

The Nikāyas often set up a contrast between the “uninstructed worldling” (assutavā puthujjana), the common person of the world who lacks training in the Buddha’s teaching, and the instructed noble disciple (sutavā ariyasāvaka), who has learned the teaching and undertaken the training. More broadly, a puthujjana is anyone who has not yet reached the path of stream-entry (sotāpatti). An ariyasāvaka is not necessarily a “noble one” in the technical sense, but any disciple, monastic or layperson, who has learned the teaching and earnestly takes up the practice.

The broader sense of ariyasāvaka is also supported in some of the commentarial glosses on the term. For example, “A disciple of the noble one, the Buddha” (ariyasāvako ti ariyassa buddhassa sāvako) and “One desirous of arriving at the state of a disciple” (sāvakabhāvaṃ upagantukāmo).


#3

Thanks!