How is stream entry achieved?

Despite been B.Sujato biggest fan, I have to disagree with him on a problem. Not only do I disagree, but I find it incredible how such a person like B.Sujato could have such a opinion about the problem. It’s a case more slim than Thanissaro eternal consciousness.

In the suttas, steam entry is achieved through contemplating discourses regarding higher teachings. All who ever achieved steam enty in the suttas (and there are probably 100 instances not just “a dozen in MN” as B.Sujato had said. There are about 30 only in SN) - all who ever did it, did it through contemplating a discourse on higher teachings. There is not a single mention of it happening in another way such as “he went into the forest to meditate, came back a stream enterer” - not a single such instance.

We see that those who were normal people achieved only stream entry when hearing higher teachings. There was even a serial killer who did it. Only case where somebody took 1 month of discourses to do it was a warior that was not very smart. Those who were ascetics achieved non-returning or arahanthip when hearing such teachings.

IMPORTANT: It should not be understand by this that you only nead to contemplate a sutta to achieve it. It requires contemplation of all the higher teachings not just some. Those who describe how they achieved it (there are 2 such cases in SN) said “he taught me aggregates, elements, sense bases etc.” We also know that the 5 ascetic friends of the Buddha took many hours of discourses to get it. They were first taught about conditionality, impremanence - then about aggregates - then about no-self. (the powerfull suttas about no-self, most difficult of all are found in SN chapter 4 first big colection of suttas of chapter 4). But people of today do not have a Buddha explaining it in person so it requires months of contemplation of higher teachings. Higher teachings are found in SN chapter 2,3,4 - 1500pag in total.

In the suttas, we see jhana as been something very difficult to achieve, something that takes decades and is probably impossible for a layman of today to achieve. (MN 39, 107, 125 + whole chapter 5 of SN) I know B.Sujato agrees with this witch makes his opinion on stream enty even more strange. In the suttas, we see jhana been connected with non-returning. If one does achieve jhana, he will soon become a non-returner.

We also see Steam entry described as just “right view” - the first step of the noble eithfold path. It represents only an intelectual understanding of no-self through contemplating higher teachings. We even have 4 suttas explicity saying a stream enterer does not poses jhana. (quoted by B.Bodhi in his paper about the problem) It is because Buddha discovered DO by himself that we do not need to rediscover it again today.

What stream entry means and why does it remove doubt: Imagine a budhman seen a car for the first time in his life. He will think the car is pushed foreward by a mysterious force or a spirit. Only after someone shows him the engine, explains him how it works and the bushman does some thinking - only after that will the bushman understand there is no mysterious force pushing the car. If somebody would come to you today and tell you the car is pushed by a spirit, would you have any doubt or inwards perplexity about it ? It is the same with non-existence of a self. Only after a person understand how the being really works will he understand there is no self. And only by understanding this will the person be capable of intellectually understanding nibbana without imagining it as some form of consciousness as Thanissaro does for example

In “A swift pair of messangers”, B.Sujato makes a case for stream entry requiring jhana based on 4 suttas where it is claimed that a steam enterer poses te 5 faculties to a sufficient degree. In all 4 cases, samadhi is described in the context of 5 faculties not in the context of noble 8thfold path. B.Sujato himself admits in the book there is no explicit mention of stream enterer posesing jhana in 10.000pag of sutta pitaka.

More than this, there are passages explicity explaining what this “samadhi” of a stream enterer means. B.Sujato even quotes these passages in the very same chapter. Here they are :

‘Then the Blessed One gave the householder Upāli graduated instruction;
that is, talk on giving, virtue, and the heavens. He explained
the danger, degradation, and defilement in sensual pleasures and the
blessings of renunciation. When he knew that the householder Up-
āli’s mind was ready, soft, free of hindrances, elated, clear of doubt,
he expounded to him the special teaching of the Buddhas: Suffering,
its origin, its cessation, and the path. Just as a clean cloth with all the
stains removed would take dye evenly, so too while the householder
Upāli was sitting right there, the stainless, immaculate eye of the
Dhamma arose in him: “Whatever is subject to arising is subject to
cessation.” ’21

‘Endowed with these five qualities, monks, one listening to the true
Dhamma is incapable of entering the fixed course of rightness regarding
beneficial qualities. What five? One criticizes the teachings; one
criticizes the teacher; one criticizes oneself; one listens to Dhamma
as one of scattered mind, not of one-pointed mind; and one pays attention
away from the root. [But if one has the opposite qualities, one
is capable.]’24

This simply refers to concentration in general. You can not explain the higher teachings to a person eager to refute you. You first gladen his mind, make him curious, attentive using mundane teachings and then present the difficult higher teachings. How in the world somewone can fit jhana in here is beyond me. A person listen to higher teachings and suddently has jhana witch takes decades to achieve just by listening to the teaching ? Please somebody teach me how to do this so I can become a non-returner today.

The reason B.Sujato has been correct in most of everything else he ever said (except this point) - was because of following a simple and smart principle that he quotes all the time. The principle is: Never go with an ambiguous interpretation based on 3-4 suttas twisted around when that is contradicted by hundreds of other suttas and goes against the whole general picture of the pali canon.

Yet, over here we see B.Sujato making a case based on 4 suttas that claim a stream enterer poseses “samadhi” in the context of 5 faculties not the 8thfold path. And we even have passages explaining how that is reffering to simply attentiveness during a discourse.

B.Sujato goes on to claim all those hundreds of instances of people attaining stream entry after hearing a discourse (all, 100% of cases in the suttas been the same) - all these were added up later because of some King who wanted to make people in his kingdom look more enlightened. This despite the fact that there are at least 30 such instances in SN and this also happens in 10-15% of suttas from MN. About the general picture of how stream entry is achieved trough the canon, B.Sujato says it was because Buddha wanted to not scare people off with stream entry been too hard to achieve. And all this refutal of hundreds of suttas contradicting him based on what ? Based on what better evidence ?

I am sorry for such a harsh criticism of B.Sujato especially since he is my favorite bhikkhu and I consider only him, B.Bodhi and B.Brahmali to have good understanding. But what some do not understand is that good understanding does not mean you can never be wrong about anything. Those who understand it like that are prone to never changing any views no matter what evidence is presented. Having good understanding does not make you right in every point. That is why we have B.Sujato and B.Bodhi disagreeing on some points.

I consider the case presented here to be of uttermost importance since most people of today do anything other than contemplating higher teachings from SN chapter 2,3,4. The huge majority of people focus on entirely other things, despite all who ever achieved stream enty in the suttas doing it in the exact same way. And right view is the forerunner of them all. If there is wrong view, there is wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, etc. - wrong practice in general.


When debating this somewhere else, there has been people claiming stream entry requires experiental knowledge of nibbana not just intellectual understanding of no-self (and therefore - understanding nibbana as a side effect). This is well explained by MN 95 . But there have been people tying to pick up on the words used. I know B.Sujato does not have a problem with and does not claim such a thing, I will still post the words used for those who do have a problem, here is what I wrote there:

Here is the sutta in pali:
The word translated as “wisdom” is “pannaya”

Paññāya, (indecl.) (ger. of pajānāti, in relation °ñāya: ñatvā as uṭṭhāya: ṭhatvā; so expld by P. Commentators, whereas modern interpreters have taken it as Instr. of paññā) understanding fully, knowing well, realising, in full recognition, in thorough realisation or understanding.

Supermundane knowledge obtained through jhanas and other meditative attainmens is called “abhijñā” - this is knowledge that arahants have:

Abhijñā (Pali: abhiññā) is a Buddhist technical term that refers most specifically to a set of extraordinary powers and knowledge, including remembrance of past lives, telepathy, clairaudience, clairvoyance, telekinesis, various other “supernatural” powers, and, importantly, knowledge of the true nature of reality and certainty that one has attained awakening, the highest goal of the Buddhist path. Ṛddhi (Pali: iddhi) is a Buddhist term that literally means “success” or “accomplishment,” but it usually refers, in a technical sense, to a subset of powers contained within the overarching category of abhijñā, including flying through the air, passing through solid objects, walking on water, appearing in multiple places at the same time, visiting hells and heavenly realms, and so on.

“Direct knowing” is called “nyana” - supramundane knowledge not obtained thorugh mere intellectual understanding:

Now, the word ‘gnosis’ is related to the Pali word ‘nyana’, which means ‘inside knowledge’, ‘direct knowledge’; it’s not abstract knowledge, it’s not knowledge about something, it’s direct knowing.

This “nyana” is a product of arahanthip, not a requirement for arahanthip.

PS: This was not relating to B.Sujato understanding but is related to mahashi interpretation of stream enterer “experiencing nibbana” - a popular misunderstanding these days in the west.

I’ve just found a third description of steam entry been achieved in SN, other than the 2 about “he taught me aggregates, elements, sense bases etc”. This one is about a person contemplating the way aggregates work and attaining stream entry. Then the sutta continues with the person practicing for the attainment of arahanthip.

“It is wonderful, venerable sir! It is amazing, venerable sir,
how helpful has been my devotion and reverence for the Blessed
One, my sense of shame and fear of wrongdoing. For in the past,
venerable sir, when I was still a householder, I did not have
much concern for the Dhamma or the Sangha. But when I considered
my devotion and reverence for the Blessed One, and my
sense of shame and fear of wrongdoing, I went forth from the
household life into homelessness. The Blessed One taught me the
Dhamma thus: ‘Such is form, such its origin, such its passing
away; such is feeling … such is perception … such are volitional
formations…such is consciousness, such its origin, such its passing
“Then, venerable sir, while I was staying in an empty hut following
along with the surge and decline of the five aggregates
subject to clinging, I directly knewas it really is: ‘This is suffering’;
I directly knew as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering’;
I directly knew as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; I
directly knew as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation
of suffering.’ I have made the breakthrough to the Dhamma,
venerable sir, and have obtained the path which, when I have
developed and cultivated it, will lead me on, while I am dwelling
in the appropriate way, to such a state that I shall understand:
‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be
done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’

continues with the person developing the 7 factors of enlightenment

This sutta also confirms what I have said a before about a stream enterer “posesing the path” refering to him just entering the path. Not only is this explicitly mentioned a couple of times in the suttas but even the name “sotapanna” means sota + apanna. (one who has entered the stream. And the stream is the noble 8thfold path)

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just to clarify, do you consider stream entry a result of intellectual grasp of the main Dhamma tenets, first and foremost the impermanence?

No, I consider it the intelectual grasp of nonexistence of a self. And for this to be done, suttas say not just a general understanding of impermanence or conditionality is requiared. They say understanding all the higher teachings: DO, impermanence, aggregates, no-self etc. are required. They are found in SN chapter 2,3,4 witch have a total of 1500pages witch are of high difficulty and require months of contemplation. In the times of the Buddha, people did it in a couple of days because it is much more easy to understand when been explained in person by an arahant. One of the most difficult things to understand for example is consciousness. Many things need to be understood. A general understanding of impermanence means nothing. One of the most popular saying in my country is “everything is impermanent” - that doesn’t mean all romanians are stream enterers and have dropped the fetter of self-view just because they repeat this saying all the time.

I’ve better explained this in my first msg. It’s also important to consider monks in those times not only had read the whole sutta pitakka in order (it’s important to read in order and read it in full), but every monk was required to actually memorize it all. So there was no need to explicitly stress in the suttas “contemplate higher teachings” although this is stressed many times. We see that all who did it, did it through contemplating discourses. Not a single mention of it happening in another manner.

Instead of debating or disagreeing on how we could focus on the why.

Awakening is a natural and impersonal process. Our focus should be in planting the seeds for the fruition to take place.

The constatation of the gradual abandoning of the fetters, in our own hearts, should be the only expected results in such endeavour.

Like a farmer who may not need to be an agricultural engineer to know that once rice is yellow and dry it is time for the harvest. Or once the mangos are hanging heavy and colourful it is time to taste its sweetness.

To help us, genuinely enthusiast farmers of the path, suttas like AN10.2 , SN12.23 and SN46.3 should suffice.


Many ascetics and nice people in the times of Buddha did that and none achieved stream entry. Only those who contemplated higher teachings did it. At least that’s how things go in the suttas.

you don’t know how much work they’d done during their innumerable past existences until they were ripe for stream entry

Yes, they did great work in order to stumble upon the higher teachings of the Buddha. Just like people of today who end up having such a chance. What is important is the method through witch they did it in that particular life. Did they do mahasi meditation ? Did they do jhana meditation ? Did they do metta meditation ? Did they just waited for it to happen without doing anything ? Or did they contemplate higher teachings ?

It’s important to know what suttas have to say about this question so that we know not to lose time doing the wrong thing at the wrong time and lose years of our lives.

My understanding is stream-entry requires three fetters to be broken, one of which results in having complete faith in the path. This obviously can only occur when the result of giving up self-view (sakkaya ditthi) is realised. In other words, there must be the taste of liberation or (little) nibbana for stream-entry to occur. An intellectual grasp of the discourses is obviously insufficient to break the fetter of doubt (vicikitsa saññojana).

Book knowledge alone is like the :dizzy:Twilight Zone. :sparkles:

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That may be the opinion of some, but not the opinion we find in the suttas. MN 95 is clear on this problem. It is a sutta meant to address precisely this question.

If somebody would come to you and tell you that cars are propelled foreword by a mysterious force or a spirit, would you have second thoughts about this been possibly true ? Would you have doubts that “yea, maybe cars are propelled foreword by a spirit”

I suggest SN 13.1 to fully study what stream-entry is.

In the same way, monks, for a disciple of the noble ones who is consummate in view, an individual who has broken through [to stream-entry], the suffering & stress that is totally ended & extinguished is far greater. That which remains in the state of having at most seven [remaining fetters to breakthrough] is next to nothing: it’s not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth, when compared with the previous mass of suffering. That’s how great the benefit is of breaking through to the Dhamma, monks. That’s how great the benefit is of obtaining the Dhamma eye. SN 13.1


SN 35.200, AN 8.19, SN 12.23 & AN 10.61 compare the stream to Nibbana like water or a river flowing to the great ocean. Just a gravity makes the water/river flow, purification (nirodha dhatu) makes the mind incline to Nibbana.

Why do you think the Buddha used the word ‘stream’? :sparkles:

What is the stream ? The noble 8thfold path is called the stream. Sotapanna is one who has entered the steam, doing the first step of the 8thfold path - right view. Sotapanna itself means sota+appana

“Sariputta, this is said: ‘The stream, the stream.’ What now,
Sariputta, is the stream?”
“This Noble Eightfold Path, venerable sir, is the stream; that is,
right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood,
right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.”

Here is one out of about 20 suttas from book of causation saying the same thing as I said before:

“When, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu thus understands aging-anddeath,
its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation;
when he thus understands birth … existence … clinging …
craving … feeling … contact … the six sense bases … name-andform
… consciousness … volitional formations, their origin,
their cessation, and the way leading to their cessation, he is then
called a bhikkhu who is accomplished in view, accomplished in
vision, who has arrived at this true Dhamma, who sees this true
Dhamma, who possesses a trainee’s knowledge, a trainee’s true
knowledge, who has entered the stream of the Dhamma, a noble
one with penetrative wisdom, one who stands squarely before
the door to the Deathless.”

Sotapanna is one “Acomplished in view” - one who has done the first step of the noble 8thfold path - right view. By doing this step, he has cut the 3 lower fetter witch are all related to views of course. Only now the difficult path starts.

If one does not do the first step of the path - right view - then his practice will be wrong practice. Right view is the forerunner of them all. If there is no right view there is no right effort, no right minfgulness, no right concentation etc. Years lost doing inefficient work.

For one of wrong view,
wrong intention springs up. For one of wrong intention, wrong
speech springs up. For one of wrong speech, wrong action
springs up. For one of wrong action, wrong livelihood springs
up. For one of wrong livelihood, wrong effort springs up. For one
of wrong effort, wrong mindfulness springs up. For one of
wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration springs up.


This eightfold wrong path, friend, is the unholy life; that is,
wrong view … wrong concentration.”

This is why one has to start with focusing on right view and only then on further steps of the 8thfold path. These days we see people trying to start with the 7th or 8th step of the eighfold path, thinking it will work faster if they do it in reverse order. This is what can be called an amateurish approach that is very popular in the west. When starting along the 8thfold path, things need to be done in order starting with first step.

And what, bhikkhus, is the
wrong way? It is: wrong view … wrong concentration. This is
called the wrong way. Whether it is a layperson or one gone forth
who is practising wrongly, because of undertaking the wrong
way of practice he does not attain the method, the Dhamma that
is wholesome.

Suggestion: MN 39, MN 107, MN 125

In this path, the mind streams through four jhanas. In other words, it is not something ‘static’.

Anyway, I recall a thread like this on another forum that caught lots of fish in its murky waters.

Best wishes :sparkles::rowboat::fork_and_knife::dizzy:

Yes, at the end. Not at the beginning. Check MN 39, MN 107, MN 125
Does that look like jhana easy to achieve to you ? Does that look like jhana that can be achieved by one engaged in the world ? Does that look like jhana that can be achieved by one who is not a monk ?

This is why such a person as B.Bodhi has not achieved jhana yet. I too know a person who is into good understanding for over 8 years and is by far the most secluded person that I know. He too have told me he has not achieved jhana.

If we look at those 3 suttas or read the chapter 5 of SN called “The great book” - we see jhana is not some interesting meditation experience, it is something that comes out of a lot of seclusion. Such a person would not be engaged with the world at all. We also know jhana is closely connected with non returning so such a person had cut all, 100% of sensual desire. But in the west, there has developed this idea of achieving jhana without been secluded at all and then westerners with their 19th century mahasi interpretations laugh at asian buddhist for “not doing meditation”. You can engage in sexual intercourse, read politics all day, be engaged in the world, etc. and still have jhana at the end of the day doing a little exercise. That is simply not how jhana is done in the suttas. That is what is called “banana jhana”. Please read the suttas I have posted and tell me what you think about them and maybe then people will not laugh at B.Bodhi not achieving jhana yet.

As I said, starting the path with step 7 or step 8, completely ignoring anything that is written in the suttas about how the path should be practiced … this is called an amateurish approach. One will do have mindfulness or jhana, only that it will be wrong mindfulness and wrong concentration.

[quote=“dxm_dxm, post:15, topic:4297”]
As I originally replied, there are three fetters to crack for stream-entry, of which one requires a taste of freedom from abandoning self-view that extinguishes all doubt (vicikitsa) about what the path is & what the teachings are about. It follows some development of concentration must also exist, even though it may not yet be jhana. For example, none of the fun described in MN 118 appears to be jhana, yet it sounds like lots of fun, similar to white water rafting & surfing. :surfer:

All the best. See you around, elsewhere. :boom::violin::sparkles::dizzy:

Here are the ingredients for Stream entry:

Association with people of integrity is a factor for stream-entry.
Listening to the true Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Appropriate attention is a factor for stream-entry.
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
— SN 55.5

With metta



I see there is this good paper by B.Bodhi about the jhanas and stages of enlightenment. I had not read it before, just browsed it because I was turned off by the term “insight meditation” witch I taught is meant in a Mahasi sense, but it’s not. The paper:

The paper is great but there are some small problems with it to keep in mind when reading:

  1. He uses the term “insight meditation” to appeal to the 99% mahasi audience witch is found in the west. But if you read the paper, what he means by that is contemplating higher teachings or the 6 contemplations to be done by one already a steam enterer described in SN 55.3 - it has nothing to do with Mahasi

  2. He does not state it, but leaves a door open for the interpretation that there could be an arahant without jhana. Witch is of course ridiculous if one has a clue about the suttas or has a clue about the noble 8thfold path having 8 steps not 7. But if you read the paper, you can see that B.Bodhi does not believe this and just said it to not disturb the 99% Mahasi audience reading the paper. He makes it quite clear that a Non-returner needs jhana. And of course this jhana is a very “heavy jhana” as described in MN 39, MN 107, MN 125 - not some “banana jhana”.

B.Bodhi himself has said that he has not achieved any jhana yet witch is not surprising giving that he is a famous bhikkhu having a lot of work to do spreading the dhamma, not a person living in a cave highly secluded from the world with zero engagement. Achieving jhana is connected with non-returning and arahantship and it is no shame for a person not to be a non-returner. Few people in the world (actually just 2: B.Bodhi and B.Sujato… yes and Analayo but I don’t like him) have such a combination of skills that simply force them to dedicate themselves to promoting and clarifying the dhamma. We should be happy B.Bodhi has decided to dedicate his life to this and not laugh about him not achieving jhana from our high banana jhana throne, like most people do and then even dismiss what he is saying because of not achieving jhana. I’ve seen this happen many times when I quote B.Bodhi and it’s a shame.

I read this before. It is a sound paper demonstrating the stream-enterer does not require jhana.

The commentaries rightly refer to “access/neighbourhood concentration”, which is generally the sphere of the stream-enterer.

Not necessarily. The fun of MN 118 has loads of insight (vipassana) but apparently no jhana.

No, it doesn’t.


[quote=“dxm_dxm, post:18, topic:4297”]
And of course this jhana is a very “heavy jhana” as described in MN 39, MN 107, MN 125 - not some “banana jhana”.[/quote]
There is no such thing as banana jhana. All jhana, in terms of the four absorptions, are ‘heavy’, as Ajahn Brahmavamso has well described.


I am in the process of reading this paper by Ven B. Bodhi. I have troble locating the Suttas he mentions in it. For example, when he says SN II 18, 115 etc, how can I relate that number to SC numbering or to Ven Bodhi’s own translation of SN.
Thanks in advance.
With Metta