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

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Make yourself happy with ice cream, but also know the escape from ice cream! :slight_smile:

“Now, consider the pleasure seeker who seeks wealth using legitimate, non-coercive means, and who makes themselves happy and pleased, and shares it and makes merit. And they enjoy that wealth untied, uninfatuated, unattached, seeing the drawbacks, and understanding the escape. This pleasure seeker may be praised on four grounds. What are the four grounds for praise? They seek wealth using legitimate, non-coercive means. This is the first ground for praise. They make themselves happy and pleased. This is the second ground for praise. They share it and make merit. This is the third ground for praise. They enjoy that wealth untied, uninfatuated, unattached, seeing the drawbacks, and understanding the escape. This is the fourth ground for praise. This pleasure seeker may be praised on these four grounds.”


I’m afraid I jumped on the convenient “dark chocolate as medicine” argument some years back too! :grin: Another random related fact I came across once too was that Jeanne Calment (the French woman who lived to 122) was a bit of a chocoholic (sometimes evidently eating up to a kilogram of the stuff a week! ). Probably wouldn’t be terribly scientific to infer too much from a single example though ! :wink:


The issue I have with this is faith is fickle… How can one know for certain that their faith in the Triple gem is going to last? I would argue that lack of faith is more reliably discernable to determine who isn’t a stream entrant - yes, I have changed my mind about the approach…

Well for arahanths it is impossible to break precepts, while there’s some ambiguity or certainty that a stream entrant’s precepts aren’t that strong, as there are some suttas suggesting they may break minor rules/do not habitually break the precepts in a sustained manner. As for judging stream entry I find this criteria is hard to be certain about, as those below stream entry might not break precepts either.

‘Virtues dear to the noble ones’ are about the five precepts, and not generosity but yes, again very subjective and unquantifiable to accurately determine stream entry.

Miserliness is said to stop someone from attaining stream entry (Maccariya suttas) but this is again quite subjective to say if someone is miserly or not, and also the miser isn’t likely to think that they are miserly.

I was looking at how its possible to verify stream entry, but its now looking more likely we might be able to actually verify someone isn’t a stream entrant much more accurately!

Yes again, but with so many people claiming stream entry with different ‘realisations’ it’s impossible… Perhaps you could say if their understanding of the dhamma is static, there’s no stream entry.


The way I see it consciousness is a conditioned (sankhata) dhamma. The ceasing of conditioned phenomena (sense bases…) can only be ‘experienced’ as an absence in time… This of course isn’t great for verification of such experiences (this is not to say great rapture, bliss do not occur around such events but are non specific, including visions of the Buddha/arahanths).


Thanks @suaimhneas and @Mat for your thoughtful reflections! It makes some sense to use the sotapatti criteria in order to rule out someone’s or one’s own attainment.

that reminds me of Job in the Old Testament where God kinda says (I’m paraphrasing) ‘Job has unshakable faith’ and Satan counters ‘well, only because he’s comfortable - take away his comfort and then see if his faith is really unshakable’ - which leads to a fascinating investigation of faith. In short, I doubt that we have the tools to distinguish ‘strong’ and ‘unshakable’ faith.

Regarding the faith- and dhamma-follower. If we take them to be old/original, why don’t we consider them as proper stream-enterers in their own right? Why only ‘pre’-sotapatti? After all they would be free of lower rebirth which is the biggest deal of stream-entry anyway. The attached mathematics of max ‘seven’ rebirths is not convincing anyhow. If the faith is so strong that it will forever prevent a lower rebirth it kinda makes sense to assume that one would continue practicing / following the dhamma in the next life until eventual liberation.

One could argue exactly that ordaining does not necessarily imply strong faith and that people ordained already in the early days for all sorts of reasons (the Vinaya is full of stories that makes the reader wonder ‘why are they a monastic again?’). But even real faith often enough leads to divine rebirth and not to stream-entry…

I’m not sure if we need to harmonize the positions. I at least am okay with assuming that for some sutta composers strong faith (i.e. conversion) was enough, while others set the bar higher. Obviously the underlying theory or teaching was not compelling enough to create a consistent position - so why should we hammer it out?

I can also imagine a simple set-up by the Buddha which then got theorized. The set-up could have been for example “Once you enter the stream of dhamma you are bound to attain liberation in this or a future life”. And the next generation could have asked “What exactly are the characteristics of someone who has entered the stream?” - to which various teachers would have had various conceptualizations.


Perhaps faith isn’t the best word. For SN12.41, Bhante Sujato uses the term “experiential confidence” in the Triple Gem. Perhaps it should be more “knowing” from experience than “faith” (like we know many things in daily life are true from experience without having to believe in them). There will always be some people, in almost any religion, of deep faith and fairly spotless morality. I suppose one issue with a convert based definition of stream entry is that the only real difference then with other religions is merely the content of the belief system. Supposedly, stream entry is far more profound, ending the fetter of doubt permanently (at least for at most seven lives anyway).

Yes, there does seem some scope for some wriggle room. For the most part, the statements on a stream entrant’s morality do seem quite strong, e.g. AN 3.85 where a stream enterer is fully accomplished in virtue but needs only be more modestly accomplished in concentation and wisdom, but there are also passages like in MN 115 where one accomplished in view (a stream entrant?) is only described in terms of being incapable of the six wrong actions: killing a parent or injuring an arahant etc. And I guess a stream enterer is still subject to defilements like anger and desire. I suppose he/she can still get angry or annoyed or experience sexual desire towards another person. I suppose in general one would expect someone accomplished in moral virtue to be able to still control their outward actions or speech in spite of the anger or desire. But how about in real extremity?

I guess hopefully another requisite minimum virtue would be at least self-honesty! I suppose the first step in overcoming a problem is to recognize that there is a problem! :slight_smile: Accurate self-application of the Mirror of Dhamma would probably necessitate some minimum level of self-honesty.

It’s always easier to disprove something in mathematics (just need to come up with one counterexample). Proving something is always true in all circumstances can be trickier! :slight_smile: I guess it does make a lot of sense to use these criteria to rule stream entry out.

How does one even judge statements about such things from other people (particularly if one hasn’t experienced these things oneself)? Maybe there’s a chance one could judge this about oneself. I suppose if a person finds they have gained a deep experiential knowing about some of the things described in the suttas like conditionality or non-self etc. from practice and they find this has led to a experiential confidence in the triple gem and that adherence to basic morality has become very natural, then I suppose they might reasonably begin to suspect the Mirror of Dhamma might apply. Convincing anyone else though of all this (and that they are not self-deluded) might be a bit of a problem though (assuming they would even want to)!


Job is a good example. It’s a tricky one. We may think we have it, but how do we really know we have solid faith? Also, as I said earlier, maybe “experiential confidence” or “experiential knowing” might be more what is meant than “faith”. Of course, that brings up the philosophical question of how do we really know anything! :slight_smile: But I suppose raw experience is about as base line as it is possible to get.

They might be (or on the path to stream-entry anyway). A few suttas in the SN do give a guarantee that faith-followers and Dhamma-followers will end up as stream enters within this life. It’s just one Nikaya and in only a limited number of suttas IIRC. Also, since we are talking about stream-entry criteria, it’s even less clear if some of these criteria apply to these pre-stages (just didn’t want to complicate things even more).

I suppose there’s no real rationale in evidence for the seven life limit (I guess maybe no matter where he looked back at other beings’ past lives the Buddha saw empirically there were never more than seven from stream entry? :man_shrugging: ).

Again, maybe “faith” isn’t quite the best word, and perhaps some kind of “experiential confidence” is more a symptom rather a a cause of stream-entry.

That seems a fair statement. I suppose it’s still interesting to try to see if there is actually some minimum consistent core.

Yes, there’s probably some of that trend in evidence in some of these sotapanna-related passages.


Visaka became a Sotapanna when she was seven years old. She got married and had 20 children. She enjoyed the most luxurious life.


Are you sure this is not the propeganda of chocolate makers similar to red wine health benefits?


I think the suttas mention that they have ‘transcended the plane of ordinary beings’, which means they are noble ones! The have faculties developed through practice of the Noble 8FP. They seem to have counterparts of dittipatta -‘attained to view’ and ‘released through faith’ or saddhavimutta on the other side of attainment. This suggests the dhamma and faith followers must be at least sotapatti magga and the latter sotapatti phala.

But we cannot be certain as I haven’t come across a text directly stating it, but it seems a good enough ‘fit’, which reduces the complexity.

There’s some evidence that meditating on the faith of the Buddha (buddhanussati) will lead eventually to nibbana, in the suttas. I would say the fetters being broken, is more of a reason to escape the ‘gravitational pull’ of worldly existence, at the point of becoming sotapatti (magga). However this is all in the knowledge domain of the Buddhas (budda vishaya), though with knowledge of the theory we can piece it together- the Dhamma is like a shattered china bowl, isn’t it? It needs to be lovingly put together!


I think we can not just read the headlines and ‘jump to conclusions’- because we like the results!

The authors were themselves pretty reserved about their findings, from about half way point of the article to ending with that more research is needed! It reminds me of the finding that a little bit of alcohol was good for the heart, while neglecting to research of the wider implications.


Meditative bliss followed by ice-cream is rather nice though. :yum:


A purified mind is purified of craving and therefore everything is sharper, and more pleasant.
But since avijja about sensual pleasures haven’t been removed, and the mind is more ‘maleable’ in this stage, it is more likely IMO to develop an attachment to pleasant stimuli!:laughing:


Spoil-sport! :yum:


If you want sport :softball: :basketball: try the Sports channel! If you want the ending of suffering… :rofl:


Ok. But people do experience some rapture and think they’ve entered the stream. They can become very convinced of their ‘attainment’ :slightly_smiling_face:. So neither strength of confidence nor experiential confidence is a unerring sign of stream entry.


Of course there is no ‘we’ -there is only the results!

At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the five aggregates and the five aggregates subject to clinging. Listen to that…. what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates? Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: this is called the form aggregate. Whatever kind of feeling there is … this is called the feeling aggregate. Whatever kind of perception there is … this is called the perception aggregate. Whatever kind of volitional formations there are … these are called the volitional formations aggregate. Whatever kind of consciousness there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: this is called the consciousness aggregate. These, bhikkhus, are called the five aggregates.

“And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates subject to clinging? Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present … far or near, that is tainted, that can be clung to: this is called the form aggregate subject to clinging. Whatever kind of feeling there is … that is tainted, that can be clung to: this is called the feeling aggregate subject to clinging. Whatever kind of perception there is … that is tainted, that can be clung to: this is called the perception aggregate subject to clinging. Whatever kind of volitional formations there are … that are tainted, that can be clung to: these are called the volitional formations aggregate subject to clinging. Whatever kind of consciousness there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, that is tainted, that can be clung to: this is called the consciousness aggregate subject to clinging. These, bhikkhus, are called the five aggregates subject to clinging.” SuttaCentral

This means there is no clinging aggregates or aggregates subject to clinging separate from the aggregates- or to put it in another way, it is the aggregates themselves, that cling! There’s no other sensory apparatus that enables someone to cling, or otherwise it would’ve been mentioned distinctly in the suttas. There is no Observer, only experiencing exists.


But if there is nobody clinging to the aggregates, then what do the aggregates cling to? How can an aggregate cling to itself?


‘Clinging’ is the convenient and ’conventional’ method of describing a pattern of phenomena, in the case a repeated arising of specific rupa, over other less clung to rupa. Also delight arises, and intension might arise, as well as action or kamma if the intensity of the clinging is sufficient. We could conventionally say that we are trying to overcome the stickiness of the khandas, keeping in mind at this core level of dhamma he only described what was directly verifiable, and not a full extent of his view of mechanisms. He didn’t set out to create a philosophy of everything.


By the way. researching other stuff, I came across MN48, which basically describes the fruit of stream entry:

When a noble disciple has these seven factors, they have properly investigated their own nature with respect to the realization of the fruit of stream-entry.

Rather than repeat the lengthy discussion here, take a look at MN48 yourself. It’s quite detailed and has surprising statements. For example, here is the second knowledge:

‘There are no ascetics or brahmins outside of the Buddhist community who have the same kind of view that I have.’