How can someone be sure they are a stream entrant?!

Although Judeo-Christian religions and Buddhism both promote ethical behavior, one relies on the notion of a soul and the other does not. In MN44, we see that identity is defined by the grasping aggregates. Literally, we are what we crave.
In contrast, in Judeo-Christian religions, the soul is the essence, the immortal essence that is uplifted to heaven or downcast to hell. If one casts away the sins that would weigh us down, the soul ascends. Indeed, those weighty sins are basically unwholesome cravings, grasping aggregates.

To understand what the soul is, one might ask about what ascends to heaven. Does my blindness ascend? What about my love for chocolate? And what about my love for others? Given impermanence, all these questions flounder as stated.

Therefore, for a stream enterer to relinquish identity view is quite significant, since it pivots on one’s notion of a soul, the essential identity. Notice that arahants disappear.

“Oh! The perfected ones are happy.

Craving is not found in them,

the conceit ‘I am’ is cut off,


I recall hearing an analogy for stream entry, it’s like a rocket overcoming earth’s gravity and achieving orbit - does that sound right?


I don’t think it is a state or an identity. It is more like passing the nibbanic event horizon on the path. A convergence of developed mental factors such that eventual liberation has become inevitable. Which factors can vary between individuals. I also don’t think it is worth worrying about, since if you are faith follower or dhamma follower, the suttas teach you will attain stream entry before you die, and in my opinon most serious dhamma practitioners are at least faith followers or dhamma followers.

I personally also believe that there are plenty of stream entrants in most sanghas, and most of them have no idea they are, simply because they cannot imagine enlightenment actually having happened to them, and also because Buddhists in general seem to have a huge problem with attainments without the Buddha around to say who has or has not attained something. EDIT: Meaning, if you know you are a stream entrant you will most likely keep very quiet about it :wink:


It might be helpful to recall that “stream entering” is a metaphor that is designed to convey an abstract concept, much like the many metaphors in Buddhist teachings. In order to conceptualize ideas, the human brain makes reference to that which is experienced through sensory inputs. For example, time as a concept is experienced through human locomotion, specifically, walking forward. This leads to metaphorical expressions such as “moving forward in life.” A near universal conceptual metaphor is “light is learning,” as in when people say “I see the light,” i.e., they have come to understand something and express that understanding metaphorically based on the notion that visual senses are enhanced by the presence of light. If dogs could speak, when they want to express the idea of learning, they might say “Oh, I smell what you are saying” instead of what humans say which is “I see what you are saying.”

Anyway, to enter a stream literally is to immerse oneself in an element that surrounds one’s body. It is a metaphor meant to express immersion, which as a concept can only be expressed metaphorically. To use a metaphor to measure or quantify an immeasurable and non-quantifiable idea is to try and make a literal set of facts out of an abstract idea. In other words, it’s no easy task.

For more on metaphors in Buddhist thought, see for example:


In everyday language ‘follower’ could be interpreted as ‘energetic and ardent follower’ or ‘lazy follower at a distance’ (to invent two extremes) :slight_smile:. Can you define ‘faith follower’ and ‘dhamma follower’ please? Are they described in the EBTs?

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there is a meditative attainment of absorption not dependent on elements and it’s duration depends on prior development but given that there is no perception of time it’s duration does not matter because the realization of the escape from the conditioned phenomena is discerned in the same way.

Before this attainment one has not yet attained the Path and does not have verified conviction. Stream enterer attains this knowing and seeing of release and is obviously not unsure about his status, if he was unsure then he wouldn’t have had the verification.

  1. Foremost of wrong views is “Maybe phenomena are self, maybe they are not self”
  2. Faith Follower has faith in “Phenomena are not self”, that is his right view
  3. Dhamma Follower has come to agreement “Phenomena are not self” after studying and pondering this position, that is his right view
  4. Stream Enterer both realizes the ultimate meaning of the Noble Truths with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment, seeing that “such are phenomena, such is their origination, such is the escape and their cessation”.

When a Dhamma-Follower attains the Path, in him the Path is born, at that time his Right View becomes a Path Factor of Noble Right View as it is accompanied by 7 other factors and one of them is Noble Right Concentration which is not any of the Jhana but is on the treshold of the unsurpassed release implying cessation of conditioned phenomena, a supramundane state beyond the planes of existence.

if there are requests for sources, meaning and other details, i will provide them.


To summarise (without giving the EBT quotes), those who contemplate the dhamma and agree, (dhammanusarin) and those who have Faith that the dhamma must be correct (saddhanusarin), are all said to be practicing the dhamma and have developed the five faculties. I think they are mentioned in the MN in Kitagiri sutta and the Okkanta samyutta.

One of their knowledges is that they understand that pretty much everything is impermanent. However a materialist could believe that too.

A materialist wouldn’t believe that they have no self. Understanding that phenomena arise from previous fleeting phenomena, in a cause and effect manner is connected with the understanding of no self or selflessness. When there is no arising of the previous phenomena the effect (or anything we might consider to be a Self won’t arise). Understanding the insubstantial mirage like nature of experiences or phenomena, also augments it.

I like the analogy of wading into an actual stream as then then that person actually experiences the faith, effort, mindfulness, unification, and insight as tangibles. The used the eight tool boxes of the N8FP to give rise to those faculties, and more, specifically wise reflections or reflections on the root (yonisomansikara), as well as faith, generosity, humility, discipline and many other supportive wholesome qualities.

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One thing id mention is that discernment of cessation X requires discernment of not-X.

Normally people do not discern the cessation of conditioned phenomena in sense of the Noble Truths, because their perception and understanding of the arising and passing of phenomena is itself conditioned.

Therefore the Asoka state, the unconditioned is said to have been overlooked for myriad of eons.

Any person is capable of watching feelings arise and cease, this does not mean that they have realized the cessation of conditioned phenomena in sense of the escape from them because as i said such perception and understanding do not transcend the field of the conditioned.

To truly discern the cessation of the conditioned there needs to be an unconditioned element to discern.

There is, monks, an unborn[1] — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.[2]

There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished,[1] unevolving, without support [mental object].[2] This, just this, is the end of stress.

It’s hard to see the unaffected, for the truth is not easily seen. Craving is pierced in one who knows; For one who sees, there is nothing. Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (2)

"Now, as long as I did not have direct knowledge of the fourfold round with regard to these five clinging-aggregates, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening in this cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, in this generation with its brahmans & contemplatives, its royalty & common people. But when I did have direct knowledge of the fourfold round with regard to these five clinging-aggregates, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening in this cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, in this generation with its brahmans & contemplatives, its royalty & common people.

"The fourfold round in what way? I had direct knowledge of form… of the origination of form… of the cessation of form… of the path of practice leading to the cessation of form.

"I had direct knowledge of feeling…

"I had direct knowledge of perception…

"I had direct knowledge of fabrications…

"I had direct knowledge of consciousness… of the origination of consciousness… of the cessation of consciousness… of the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness.
Parivatta Sutta: The (Fourfold) Round


We could say that the distinct insight which separates worldly beings from dhammanu and saddhanusarins, is insight into no self, and not just acceptance of impermanence:

Then the thought occurred to Ven. Channa, "I, too, think that form is inconstant, feeling is inconstant, perception is inconstant, fabrications are inconstant, consciousness is inconstant; form is not-self, feeling is not-self, perception is not-self, fabrications are not-self, consciousness is not-self; all fabrications are inconstant; all phenomena are not-self. But still my mind does not leap up, grow confident, steadfast, & released[1] in the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the ending of craving, dispassion, cessation, Unbinding. Instead, agitation & clinging arise, and my intellect pulls back, thinking, ‘But who, then, is my self?’ But this thought doesn’t occur to one who sees the Dhamma. SN22.90

If so, the logical next question is: is insight into no self synonymous with a glimpse of nibbana.


Does “entering the stream” have the sense of being carried towards the ocean, ie Nibbana?

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even in the case of a faith-follower there is the inevitable coming to agreement and realization with body and the seeing with discernment of the escape.

after the realization of escape one has the knowledge of destruction of taints and on account of the knowledge of release, one’s inclinations and lines of reasoning will eventually result in complete destruction of defilement but not without exertion even tho exertion is also inevitable.

So one is not carried there by an external force as in a current but as a figure of speech it can be said to be so in a sense of inevitabile, although i have not seen in thus expressed in the Sutta.

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In this EBT the 8-fold path is likened to a river, carrying the practitioner down to the ocean (extinguishment).


As far as i know the expression “a glimpse of nibbana” does not occur in the Pali texts and it’s meaning is open to interpretation.

Nibbana as word is in the texts used in a great variety of context and takes on a variety of meaning.

As an example Nibbana in definitive and in a qualified sense;

Extinguishment Is Visible in This Very Life

“Reverend, they say that ‘extinguishment is visible in this very life’. In what way did the Buddha say extinguishment is visible in this very life?” “First, take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures … enters and remains in the first absorption. To this extent the Buddha said that extinguishment is visible in this very life in a qualified sense. … Furthermore, take a mendicant who, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements come to an end. To this extent the Buddha said that extinguishment is visible in this very life in a definitive sense.” SuttaCentral

Furthermore Nibbana can be explained as destruction of Taints;

“Venerable sir, it is said, ‘the removal of lust, the removal of hatred, the removal of delusion.’ Of what now, venerable sir, is this the designation?”

“This, bhikkhu, is a designation for the element of Nibbāna: the removal of lust, the removal of hatred, the removal of delusion. The destruction of the taints is spoken of in that way.” SuttaCentral

These are just a couple examples and furthermore there is the distinguishment between Nibbanadhatu with and without a residue fuel but i won’t get into that here.

Therefore it is hard to tell what people mean by “A glimpse of Nibbana” because in a sense even a worldling can realize first Jhana and experience a glimpse of Nibbana in a qualified sense and here any sense of release is qualified to be called release.

Talking about Nibbana in a definitive sense refers to the unsurpassed release without a sequel, final freedom which can not be surpassed.

I would say Stream Enterer experiences Nibbana in the sense that he discerns the unconditioned state void of delusion which is the unsurpassed release and therefore it is Nibbana in definitive sense but “the glimpse” can be explained in various ways ie his incomplete removal of fetters but removal nonetheless or a glimpse in sense of having discerned the cessation of the unconditioned he discerns the arising of the conditioned after emerging from the attainment.

I think it is a very vague term and needs quite a lot of clarification and if one was to stick to the Sutta definitions it is a stretch to call insight into non-self a glimpse of Nibbana because even in the qualified sense the Sutta restrict the use of the term and mere understanding or realization of non-self seems to be beyond the scope provided by the Sutta.

Either way the expression can take on various meanings so one can make pretty much anything work with clarification but some expressions are going to be misunderstood more than others.

I am pretty sure i know some people who basically managed to quit smoking and think they have attained at least a glimpse of Nibbana on account of that or something like that. I personally try to be a bit more orthodox in the way i express myself to avoid confusion.


The ‘glimpse’ is the unconditioned (asankhata) nibbana dhatu!

Do you have any proposals to how this can be differentiated from falling asleep or deep state of jhana?

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SN 25,1

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, the eye is impermanent, perishing, and changing. The ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind are impermanent, perishing, and changing. Someone who has faith and confidence in these principles is called a follower by faith. They’ve arrived at inevitability regarding the right path, they’ve arrived at the level of the good person, and they’ve transcended the level of the bad person. They can’t do any deed which would make them be reborn in hell, the animal realm, or the ghost realm. They can’t die without realizing the fruit of stream-entry.

Someone who accepts these principles after considering them with a degree of wisdom is called a follower of the teachings. They’ve arrived at inevitability regarding the right path, they’ve arrived at the level of the good person, and they’ve transcended the level of the bad person. They can’t do any deed which would make them be reborn in hell, the animal realm, or the ghost realm. They can’t die without realizing the fruit of stream-entry. Someone who understands and sees these principles is called a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening.”


It is a completely different mode of reality which can not be rightfully described in terms of mundane reality.

There is no room for a sense of anybody experiencing it nor any phenomena in it which can be taken to be a self.

When one emerges from the attainment one’s faculties are bright, ie establishing mindfulness becomes a lot easier and this effect does not fade entirely.

It is also known as cessation of perception as we know it, because even when talking about immaterial jhana there is delineation of the perceived and that which perceives and even in case of “neither perception nor non-perception” it can not be spoken of in terms of cessation of perception as the cessation of perception is brought about only by the 8FNP.

There is no sense of it being attained by a person because no part of a person remains after extinguishment of the conditioned, actually no part of the world/universe comes into play at all and there is only a single element and it is not some dark void.

The whole world disappears so i don’t think there is an opening to mistake it for jhana let alone sleep.

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For a long time I was a materialist of exactly this type. I would have insisted that this material/phenomenological body was self. But of course I knew that the body had to die eventually, and that the longer and harder I clung to it, the worse I would consider this event to be.

I wish I could say that I have fully abandoned that view, but then… every day I still act like a normal, run-of-the-mill human being with a job and a family. I worry considerably less about death, and even about my career, which is nice. But I feel as though I still enjoy sensual pleasures, which I know I should not do. I’m not a stream entrant because, while self-view seems untenable to me, I still like chocolate cake.


I also like chocolate cake. But in my investigation of chocolate cake, I realized I like chocolate. And in my investigation of chocolate I realized I like dark chocolate. And in my investigation of dark chocolate, I read that chocolate helps high blood pressure, which I have. So in this odd small way, chocolate is indeed medicine. :thinking;

Go investigate that chocolate cake! :laughing:


Oh, I already know it’s impermanent. Doesn’t help.