Is path attainment the same as becoming a faith/dhamma follower?

As I understand it, the path is perfected first, and then fruition follows (for example, AN4.170 where the path is first born and then developed to fruition). But I’m not sure if attaining the path is the same as becoming a faith/dhamma follower.

For example, in SN 25.10 we find the following about a faith follower:

They’ve arrived at inevitability regarding the right path

Does that mean that the path has already been attained or that it will necessarily be attained in the future?

When it comes to path attainment, I get the impression that there is also a degree of inevitability in attaining the fruit. But I can’t find an explicit statement of this in the suttas, so I’m not sure. If fruition (sotapattiphala) is inevitable following path attainment (sotapattimagga), then that would be an overlap with becoming a fatih/Dhamma follower. But it still wouldn’t confirm that the two are the same. Perhaps the answer lies in the extent to which the 5 faculties are developed?

Basically, I would like to know if, based on the EBTs, the attainment of the path of stream entry is the same as becoming a faith or Dhamma follower.

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You may get different answers to this question depending on the Buddhist tradition followed by posters. Are you asking from the point of view of the Visuddhimagga or the EBTs?

@Gillian … as I am knew here, what is EBT? Thanks

So sorry! Welcome HSS. :smiley:
I remember asking that question when I arrived here.

The Early Buddhist Texts, the ones that go back as close as possible to the Buddha’s time. Read some basic info here. The Visuddhimagga was (I think) c800 years after the Buddha’s desk and represents early scholars’ attempts to put more shape around the Buddha’s teachings. :slight_smile:

@Gillian … Thank you for your kind understanding. EBT is Early Buddhist Texts :+1::+1::+1:

As the comments here implies, they are the same.

This post might help to expand on my comment about the possibility of receiving different answers:

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Clarified the post, thank you for bringing this up :+1:
I’ll add a bit more context to my original post too, maybe that’ll make answering easier if anyone feels inclined to help.

Which comment implies that? I’m reading through the comments again carefully and here’s what I can see:

They’ve arrived at inevitability regarding the right path

I’m not sure what this means. It could mean that the path has been attained. Or it could mean that it will inevitably be attained in the future. And I’m not seeing anything else that would imply that attaining the path is the same as becoming a faith/dhamma follower. What have I missed?

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Hi @turntables, it might be useful to think about what is abandoned rather than what is gained when it comes to paths and fruits.

Below I draw on some writing from an unpublished (well… unfinished!) essay about Saddha. It might be helpful to you?

In the section quoted below, I’d previously been discussing the abandoning of the fetters and the subsequent attainments, based on the Simile of the Snake sutta (Alagaddūpama Sutta MN22) SuttaCentral.


… This definition of the stages of the path make it clear that progress on the Dhamma is made not by gaining magic powers or supernatural states but rather, progress is made by gradually abandoning unwholesome states. This is something that we can relate to at least on a basic level, knowing from our own experience that when we abandon unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions—even for a moment—we are left with only wholesome states, and our mind is much brighter and clearer. We can use that experience to imagine that if we were to abandon these states to a sufficient degree, our minds would be totally different. In this way, we might gain conviction that those who are practicing well might be able to achieve the paths and fruits that the Buddha describes.

The sutta goes on to list two types of practitioners who have not yet achieved any of the stages of enlightenment but who are practicing the Noble Eightfold Path sincerely enough to put them on the path to stream entry—which will eventually lead them to the fruit of stream entry:

In this teaching there are mendicants who are followers of principles (dhammānusārino), or followers by faith (saddhānusārino). All of them are bound for awakening.

These two types of person are interesting for us to think about in terms of developing conviction in the existence of the Noble Sangha because they represent an important stage of transition from being an ordinary human to that of an enlightened being. Whilst they are still counted as one of the eight individuals regarded as part of the Noble Sangha, and have developed themselves to a high standard, it is still a lower thresh-hold of development that seems a bit more achievable. Such a person must be practicing all the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, and so must be a person of good ethical character, with considerable meditation experience, and enough wisdom to have some right view. If we can’t imagine ourselves or others attaining the lofty states of enlightenment, perhaps being a person on the path to Stream Entry might still remain within the realm of possibility?

According to the Cakkhu Sutta SN 25.1 SuttaCentral, the saddhānusārino, or Faith Follower, is someone who has some confidence in the principles of the Dhamma, and can be classed as a sappurisa; a good person:

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. SuttaCentral,

Similarly, the dhammānusārino, or Follower of Principles, has also achieved this level of goodness and safety from bad states, but instead of accepting the teachings on faith, they have pondered the Dhamma with a degree of wisdom. In these sincere practitioners we once again encounter the causal inevitability of the Buddha’s path; once the right causes and conditions are in place, there is an inexorable movement towards better and better states, and thus, for someone who develops faith in the Dhamma, eventually their path to Stream Entry will become unstoppable.

Seeing the path attainments in this incremental and dependent way is useful for developing faith in the Noble Sangha, as we can understand that causal factors will eventually lead to the higher stages of the path. Rather than seeing stream entry only as a single momentous moment, something that is achieved only through meditation, we see it is actually part of a much bigger picture, made up of many, many actions accumulated over a long period. In our own practice, we can perhaps see the slow progress we make in abandoning unwholesome states, and also see the increasing benefits of cultivating wholesome states.

Understanding the path in this way, we can appreciate how, very gradually, a momentum might be developed that will inevitably propel us to the higher stages of the spiritual path.


Yes. Or at least these are two of the ways we are told that it happens.

Maybe we can think of the process that gets people to the first path as being bit more like a gradient, than a hard and fast stop. Or like the old koan about walking in the rain; when did you get wet?
The first drop or when you noticed you were wet? The first drop is needed, you are wet but not wet… then it becomes many, and then all of a sudden you are properly wet, maybe that’s the path. Sooner or later you will be soaking, maybe that’s the fruit. The Buddha was better at similes…

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Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, Bhante!

That would solve the issue.

The idea of inevitability was the root of my confusion because it seems quite binary. Things are either inevitable, or they’re not. So then one would have to become a faith follower in a single instant. And how would that happen? But seen as a gradient, it makes sense. Maybe like a snowball effect?

Ajahn Punnadhammo uses a simile of a mathematical graph for stream entry that I’ve found very helpful. He says understanding anatta is like a graph that gets infinitely closer to 0, but never reaches it. And stream entry is then the leap to 0. Perhaps a faith follower could be thought of as being so close to 0 that there is no longer any doubt about where the graph is pointed?

Or maybe we should just leave similes to the Buddha!? :sweat_smile:

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