How does a monk answer this question?

As per Vinaya. monks are not allowed to tell lay people whether they are Arahant or not.
If a lay person ask a monk whether s/he is an Arahant how do they reply?

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How to question a monk (perhaps a lay person) who declared s/he is an Arahant.

Why bother asking them? What difference does it make to you how they reply? Even if they do say firmly yes or no (unlikely). Spend time around them and judge for yourself. Its the only way to have some idea.

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I would answer that it is an inappropriate question.


It seems that a monastic telling a lay person where he/she is in regard to any aspects of the dhamma will only have to confess.
As a ex-catholic I’ll say that having to confess is not a big deal :slight_smile:
Instead the benefits of telling someone for example : “stage 3 has been achieved” will be of great benefit because questions about say how did you eliminate say sensual desires and I’ll-will would be answered with the authority of someone who has done it. Instead we are left guessing where monastics are in their development. This was not the case at the time of the Buddha, we knew who was what.

I wonder if this rule was introduced after the Buddha during the 200 years or so of Vinnaya development.

I think anyone waving their ‘attainment’ to all and sundry is highly suspect. However if anyone wants to truly benefit, they will need to develop a good working relationship with the monk first. Then certain things can be revealed privately, and even then, probably hinted if necessary (not that hinting is not without its own problems). It can also be said in the negative - ‘I still have aversion’ for example, I presume.

with metta

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Without creating another topic, as a lay person how would you answer if someone ask you whether you are Sotapanna?

I am afraid that this would one way or the other fall under the permutations found in the Vinhanga chapter on the parajika #4

The best answer possible seems to be what Bhante Sujato presented above: just inform the person asking that as per the monastic code this is just an inappropriate question. By doing so you kill two birds with one stone: the monastic does not risk breaking a rule and the one making the question gets a nice opportunity to learn more about the rules, their origin stories and the extensive analysis made around them in the Vinaya Pitaka.

To me this is a question as inappropriate as asking a lay fellow what is his salary, how much he has got in the bank or how much are his assets worth. All this is none of my problem.

If I see him a lay fellow a prosperous person - either in material or spiritual terms - and I want to get there I better ask instead:
How did you achieve such prosperity?
What did you stop doing?
What did you start doing?
What did you have to know to get there?


I would answer them that I am not one.

Yes, but only if it wasn’t the truth:

But in this world with its gods, its lords of death, and its supreme beings, in this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans, this is the greatest gangster: he who untruthfully and groundlessly boasts about a super-human quality. Why is that? Monks, you’ve eaten the country’s almsfood by theft.” [Link]

Even if it were true, its not appropriate I don’t think to use it to gain alms. But if it is to genuinely instruct and help someone progress on the path it would be suitable. What matters is intention. EBTs says the student has some love and faith in the teacher- having someone with attainments as one’s teacher motivates the practitioners that much more to attend to the teaching and to carry out the practices better.

with metta

I can’t imagine many scenarios where such a question would be relevant. I think for a person who is trying to develop their concentration practice at some point they would want to know if the person instructing them knows what they are talking about (at least stream-winner). Someone who was an anagami who wanted some help with their practice would want to have some sense that the person helping them was beyond that level and of course someone who felt they had become an Arahant might want to check that with someone that had already been through that. How they might answer? I suppose many different ways - there are ways to ask without asking and ways to answer without answering.

It would depend on the context. If it was asked out of curiosity for example, I think I would avoid the question where as if it came from someone who was quite serious and I thought it might be helpful I would tell them the truth. I think it is really just a question of right speech - so intention and the given situation would determine the response.


The issue I’m raising is clear why was it known who was what (Arahat, …, Stream-enterer) at the time of the Budhha (and possibly after for a while) and why don’t we know that today, preventing us to go to those who have effectively walk the path.

If I have reached this stage then I’ll answer yes and then explain how it happened which is really what the question is all about. I’ll not shout it to the world but talk on one to one to the genuily interested/commited to the dhamma person.

I am not so sure that was indeed the case.
There is at least one case, the one recorded in SN55.24 (see English translation here), in which Buddha’s recognition of a lay disciple Sarakāni / Saraṇāni as one who entered the stream was not received well (at least by the Sakyans) as the guys was not at all perceived a role model in terms of discipline and practice! :sweat_smile:

Discussing attainments I think happens most naturally in a relatively close teacher/mentor-student context; or even on a peer-level between practitioners. That is, when there’s the purpose of checking (validating), or refining, or exploring next steps for practice, in the exercise of “wisdom” on one or both sides.

I can imagine discussing with a teacher (usually monastic) using kinds of indirect, tactful questions to help further one’s own understanding of path experiences, that may draw on the teacher’s experience at the level of attainments. “What might it be like to experience this or that quality (that pertains to an attainment)?” Or “Is such-and-such an experience (of mine) related or pertinent to understanding this or that attainment?”

That is to say, other than in the sense of perhaps idle curiosity or challenge in public.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve asked questions about, for instance, stream-entry, of prominent (lay) teachers, and, curiously, in at least two cases, the immediate reaction was their expressing irritation, not directed at my asking, but at having to deal often with people who come at them with s/w pretentious claims. I too have heard people publicly declare, in (“insight”) meditation groups or individual conversations, that they were already “enlightened”. It’s not hard to be skeptical.


Dear SarathW1,
I would deem it appropriate, to judge from early scriptures, supposing an arahant was actually asked and had to answer, to just repeat the first line of your post, explaining that monks are not allowed to speak to lay people concerning such issues. I personally am not an arahant and accordingly I would tell them. Why are you asking by the way? Any first hand experience in this way with monks? If I may ask, I am just curious …


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I was asked few occasion my level of Jhana attainments etc.

I also wish to know how to handle a situation if people are calling you an Arahant when you know for yourself that you do not have such attainment.
I have seen people addressing many monks as Arahants. Perhaps, these people do not know what Arahants mean.

Just say you are not an arahanth or have jhana.

With metta

Thank you. Made me realized somethings from your post.

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