Minimum common grounds for all sotapanna and all arahant

I’d like to know what will all sotapanna have in common with each other. And the same for arahants (both for separate, please, not comparing a sotapanna with an arahant).

What are the common grounds in terms of what has been uprooted? What do they share in terms of understanding, ideas and views (independently if they are not attached to those views)?

I ask this, because I’ve noticed that there are lots of differences between all the ideas about what should a sotapanna/arahant know, be, feel and think, for example. And, according to the level of confidence/attachment/understanding of those asked about what a sotapanna is, they will be more on the defensive, disparaging any other idea conflicting with theirs, stating that a sotapanna/arahant is only what they think it is, with more or less grounding on suttas.

Maybe, most issues come from an disagreement or from ignoring the common problems of hermeneutics in general.

Since we’re using texts written in a language not used as vernicular in current societies; since most concepts can be interpreted in multiple ways; and since there are a lot of discussion (with more or less logical arguments or irrefutable evidence) about the “authenticy” of some texts or discourses, most conclusions seem to fall into what feels the most coherent to the particular follower, or into what seems to produce the best results.

For example, some say one cannot reach stream-entry without attaining 1st jhana. But I think this criterion becomes problematic, to say the least, when the problem of interpretation and definition occurs in the exact same way when talking about what jhana is or is not.

For an outsider, it may almost seem like a discussion based on “No true scotsman” fallacies.

If one agrees with the premises above shown about the problems arisen in this topic, how can we differenciate between the most relevant/fundamental and secundary/optional interpretation for those common grounds?

I’d appreciate any help on this issue. Thanks in advance!

Kind regards!


I find that when it comes to these kind of things the interpretations with the highest standards are almost always more likely to be correct. That makes sense. It’s much more tempting (consciously or subconsioucly) to make something easier, than it is to make it harder. It’s also more likely to mistake what you haven’t yet reached, than to mistake something you have already gone beyond. And let’s not forget the desire for attainments.

So yyou can take the suttas and interpret them in the “hardest” way, and it’ll pretty much be right. For example, if you hear somebody say they don’t know if rebirth is true, they can’t be a sotapanna, because there are suttas that say right view includes knowledge of rebirth. If somebody says an arahant can still be angry, you know that isn’t true, because the suttas say anger is ended at that point. The jhanas? The deeper the better. Dependent origination? Not the daily-life interpretations that everybody sort of gets, but the one that spans multiple life that seems almost impossible to really see for yourself.

Of course you can’t really know until you really experience such things for yourself, but until you do I think this is a safe way to approach things. And if anything, if you set a high standard you won’t likely get stuck by overestimation of where you are at, or by not going deep enough.


Hi Sunyo!
Thanks for your answer!

I’m not sure I agree completely on that logic. I’ve found a lot of people telling that only the things hardly achieved are valid or meritory, mainly because those saying it did it. One could interpret that as a desire of being special, or better than anyone else. I agree, nonetheless, with the idea that most people tend to search for the easiest things to achieve. I think both sides are part of the phenomenon.

One difficulty I see on your proposal is that a lot of people think that the term/s translated as ‘rebirth’ shouldn’t be taken as a reference to a literal rebirth. This represent the same problem as the one stated about the definition of ‘jhana’.

Kind regards!



Well, yeah, if people are just making claims and are arguing, you can dismiss that regardless. But when they are teaching and helping others, that’s when the principle is more valuable. A teacher won’t set a hard standard unless they think that is actually neccesary. Otherwise it’d be lying!

But I think I fail to put properly in words what I’m trying to say. I may come back later if I can think of another way to explain.



You might be interested in these topics , especially the first one listed :slight_smile: It shows how one can work ones way through the ‘thicket of views’ and unravel the teachings of the Buddha


I guess it depends on how one reads the suttas. As I understand it, stream entry marks a point of no return on the path. Once it has been passed, enlightenment has become inevitable. Different suttas mention different qualities of a stream enterer. Some talk about the opening of the Dhamma eye. Others mention the breaking of the three fetters of identity view, misplaced faith in rites and rituals, and doubt. Then there are suttas who do not mention fetters or the opening of the Dhamma eye but talk about faith in the enlightenment of Buddha and being in possession of the virtues dear to the noble ones, unbroken and unblemished.

The question (at least to me) is whether one should simply lump all he texts together and say that the stream enterer possesses all these things, like a compilation of everything the nikayas say about a sotapanna. They have had their Dhamma eye opened, and they have broken three fetters, and they possess the virtues dear to the noble ones in an unbroken way, etc. From this perspective, each sutta gives a partial view of the elephant called stream entry, and few if any of them contain a complete description of this milestone on the path.

On the other hand, it is possible that at least some of them might be complete descriptions of different kinds of stream enterers. That is to say, different ways of reaching the point of no return on the path. Some might have reached the point of no return because their Dhamma eye has been opened, and now they intuitively see the truth of the Dhamma in everything they experience. There would be no unseeing it once this has happened. Others may have reached it because of their faith in the enlightenment of the Buddha and the excellent virtues they possess, which will protect them from decline on the path. Others again may have broken the three fetters through situational awareness, mindfulness and the practice of meditation.

As I see it, both views are possibly true, but I am partial to thinking the Buddha would have adapted his teachings to the minds of his students and could see different ways for them to have gone beyond. The problem is that the Buddha is no longer around, and so there is no certainty in this matter. As I see it, the only real option is to practice the noble eightfold path and leave the debating to the scholars. Like Morpheus says to Neo, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”. The one thing I am certain from reading the suttas is that the Buddha had tremendous faith in the potency of the Dhamma to turn almost anyone who put his teachings into practice into a stream winner.


When I first began my Buddhist practice, I chafed at rebirth as it touched on my experience with christianity. So I just set it aside and didn’t feel like I needed to think about it. Later I was rather put off by hearing Ajahn Brahmali place so much importance on rebirth as an integral foundation of the Dhamma that the Buddha taught. At a point it dawned on me why and how and how rebirth figured into the Buddha’s awakening and the Dhamma changed for me. Just a few days ago I was thinking about rebirth and how deeply the Dhamma hinges upon rebirth and tried in vain to comprehend the Dhamma without it. So I agree with @Sunyo comment above.


Hi Adutiya!
Thanks for answering!

I’m not trying to derail this conversation, turning it into a debate on the truthness of rebirth. But I think there might be very fruitful points arising from this topic.

What do you think about the idea that the Dhamma can still lead to the end of suffering, even without understading rebirth in a literal fashion?
In my (still shallow) experience, I’ve seen how anattā, DO, the Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path can still help to gradually and partially uproot tanhā and dukkha from everyday experience, mainly because I see rebirth as the rebirth of an state of ego/being, which is based on avijja as it fundamental condition. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I negate the possibility of understanding experientially literal rebirth in the future, with the course of practice; I’m not saying either that the Buddha didn’t talk or taught about literal rebirth. I’m just trying to say that, at least for me, the Dhamma still makes sense and produces noticeable effects even without that piece of (interpretation of) the Teachings.

If one accepts that such an understading (such as the one I just mentioned) of rebirth still lead to peace, dispassion and non-attachment, could one say in a categorical and absolute way that no attainment is possible without accepting post-mortem rebirth?

Or to put it in other words:
Is rebirth part of the common grounds I’m asking about? If the answer is ‘yes’ then what is the conditional relation between the knowledge of post-mortem rebirth and the extinguishment of dukka and its conditions?

Kind regards!

Then there is the kalama sutta, where the Buddha presents a pascal’s wager like approach to people who have been confused by many teachers contradicting each other, a perfect mirror of today’s situation in the west, where you have numerous religions, philosophies, humanists, and scientists all claiming to have the truth while everyone else is wrong. I think the Buddha would have told people to find out for themselves if practicing the Dhamma will make them happy, and they’ll find that it will. Should rebirth turn out to be true, it’s a win win because they’ll get a nice one from being good. Even if rebirth isn’t real it is still a win to be happy in the here and now.

I don’t think the Buddha had much faith in debates solving very much. The Sutta Nipata is filled with warnings against engaging in debates, because they are much more about ego than about truth, whether one “wins” or “loses” a debate. He famously refused to answer many questions, including whether the universe is eternal or not, or whether the soul and body are the same (materialism) or if they are separate (dualism). People debated that stuff 2500 years ago when the Buddha walked the earth. The dualists could ask the materialists how something material like the four elements can produce the immaterial experience of the world, and the materialists could ask the dualists how the immaterial experiencer can interact with the material four elements if they are truly as distinct as the dualists claim. How does the material wine impact the immaterial mind? Neither of them can solve the riddle because both views have the same problem. One says A produces B, and yet they appear to be totally different. How does A make B? The other one says B exists apart from A, and so does not depend on A for its survival, but how then do the two interact?

Fast forward to 2020 and they are still debating it, and it has not contributed even slightly to reducing suffering in any significant way.


I find this pretty interesting as Ven. Thanissaro explains this sutta as talking about variations between stream enterers:

“With the wasting away of [the first] three fetters, {a stream enterer} is one who has seven more times at most. Having transmigrated and wandered on among devas and human beings, he will put an end to stress.
“[Or] he is one going from good family to good family [i.e., rebirth in the human realm or any of the deva realms]. Having transmigrated and wandered on among two or three good families, he will put an end to stress.
“[Or] he is one with one seed. Having arisen only once more in the human realm, he will put an end to stress.
SuttaCentral (AN 3.87)

We might even hypothesize that these three different classes of stream entrants correspond to the three (are there more?) potential routes of stream entry (dhamma eye, fetters, & faith+virtue). But you could dispute that interpretation based on the first sentence of the above sutta starting “with the wasting away of three fetters”.

In terms of the question of this thread I think at least the above sutta indicates that minimum common ground for all sotapannas is: gunna get enlightened within max 7 births. Judging the thing by its consequence I guess.


Hi bridid1,

I agree that we should not derail this topic with a tangent on rebirth. I’ll reply quite simplistically to your questions, but I’m no scholar, so caveat emtor!

The way I understand it, Buddha shaved his head and left his former life because he realized that he was subject to disease, old age and death and decided to search for that which is not subject to disease, old age and death, Nibbana. Over the next several years he trained a variety of ways, following established practices such as asceticism and had teachers such as Alara Kalama and Udakka Ramaputta.

But in my mind what set the Buddha apart was the way he thoroughly examined everything he was doing all along the way, to test, to try variations, to see where things ultimately led. He very carefully separated the wholesome from the unwholesome, arousing the former and abandoning the latter, methodically distilling his mind to be able to see more clearly.

His training with Alara Kalama and Udakka Ramaputta was quite valuable but didn’t go far enough. So after he had purified his mind and effort to such a point that he could break past the limits of the known and see clearly all of the elements of dukkha and samsara. With a pure and crystal clear mind he could see his previous births and deaths and realized the depth of what that meant. He completely saw and understood the full range of what birth and death was all about and what fueled samsara and, by dispelling his ignorance, he was in a perfect position to abandon ignorance once and for all and put an end to samsara.

So when there is a trace of ignorance, there needs to be more work done to finish what has to be done, hence another round.

Without rebirth, life can certainly be much, much better. One can move quite far in the continuum of experiencing dukkha. But unless one fully awakens in this life, it’s more of a self-improvement work, a setting of the stage for the next round. Without rebirth, there is no point because one just dies and everything is over. Sure, one’s actions effects others and that affect remains for others, but not for the one who’s dead.

I think “accepting” rebirth is more of a view, different from what the Buddha experienced and what enabled him to fully awaken. Seeing rebirth as an integral part of samsara enabled him to see the entire picture and made the extinguishment of ignorance possible. With the dispelling of ignorance, the rest of DO fell apart.


Thanks for you kind answer!

If I’m not wrong, what you describe in the last paragraph seems putting things in a backward order: did the Buddha start with the view of rebirth, and then he became certain of its reality? Or it was the other way around?

I used to think that to attain stream-entry, one has to see by oneself the logical order of events and processess leading to dukkha, and how one cannot find a permanent self within the aggregates. If one doesn’t see that personally, at max. one could say to be in the path to stream-entry. If this premise is accepted as the minimum knowledge to enter the stream, then it seems difficult for me to see rebirth as part of those requisites for achieving that state.

Kind regards!

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I think what I meant to say is that a view of rebirth as true, untrue or neither is just that: a view, a concept that one might accept, reject, ignore or treat with agnosticism. I can’t speak to what went on for the Buddha with regards to his mental dealings with rebirth. But he states clearly, that in the culmination of his attainment, his pure mental condition allowed him to see rebirth as a particularly essential aspect to the entire scheme of samsara. Seeing rebirth as it really is rather than a biased view of what it is was a large part of dispelling ignorance. I don’t think that’s a prerequisite for stream entry! :upside_down_face:

I’m so sorry, but I’m unsure of what you’re saying here. I think you might be saying that one needs to accept the premise of rebirth to be a stream winner?I’ll think I’ll defer to others to elucidate better than I can here. :relaxed:

I would like to share my limited understanding:

Anyone who claims, or holds a view, that there is no rebirth has a fixed view, which is not even a valid scientific hypothesis. It is because a valid hypothesis is testable, by investigation and experiment, in this case by thorough enquiry and also into oneself. It is impossible to completely die, break up, and directly know there is nothing after death, realise it (vijja), remember it, and then come back to tell others that such is the case.

So, a noble disciple at least doesn’t hold such view, doesn’t really know, but has an open mind and takes rebirth seriously - at least as a valid and helpful hypothesis to be reflected on and taken very seriously. If we waste our fortunate opportunity of having the free time to meditate and investigate reality, and live an ethical life, a unique opportunity to really try help make this world a better place to live for everyone, we may just not get another chance for a very long time.

The Buddha skilfully guided Kalamas to let go of conflicting views and doubts, and recognise the right view and way to live – in essence, commit to give up bad, cultivate good, and purify the mind.


Again I don’t want to move this topic to exclusively rebirth, but I think it’s part of the equation. I just want to say a little about my own thoughts without calling into question anything about you or your thoughts or anyone else for that matter.

In my personal experience, one factor that’s been to my advantage is my “faith” or as I prefer, my “confidence” in the Buddha and the Dhamma. Over time, the Dhamma always eventually prevails over my doubts. My disbelief in religion, particularly the theistic religions and their concomitant Gods, heavens and hells contrasted to my greater “belief” or confidence in science. In the beginning, Rebirth was something that I couldn’t accept, as it smacked too closely to religion. Early on I heard a teacher say to just set it aside rather than formulate positions to deny it or convince myself of it.

Years ago I watched a YouTube debate with Stephen Batchelor and Ajahn Bahmali on Rebirth. At the time I didn’t really agree with either of them! To me, Batchelor dismissed rebirth with lots of words and arguments and Brahmali seemed to me to put too much emphasis on it. In the end, I think that I was turned off to Batchelor, in particular with his story about how how he would wake up in a cold sweat at his Tibetan monastery because he felt forced to believe rebirth. It seemed to me that at that point he may have made a decision to take a stand and defend his position against rebirth while still identifying as a Buddhist. On the other hand, Brahmali’s postiion seemed to me to be that rebirth was so important that the firm, outright rejection of rebirth would at some point take the Dhamma and turn it into a secular mindfulness based self improvement course and it wouldn’t be Buddhism any longer. I think over time I gravitated towards a wait and see rather than a staunch view.

I now find that I wholeheartedly agree with Ajahn Brahmali, that Buddism without rebirth isn’t Buddhism any longer. Because my confidence in the Buddha overshadowed my wait and see skepticism, I don’t think that in the time my progress on my path wasn’t impeded. The massive stories of people’s experiences with prior life memories led me more towards science and openness. The first few chapters in Analayo’s book on rebirth so beautifully lays out dependent origination, namarupa/consciousness and rebirth. Analayo’s video on YouTube on Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Current Research is quite good.


This is veering quite far from the Opening Topic :slight_smile: Have a look at some of the many existing topics on rebirth, and if you don’t find the answers to your questions there, you can start a new topic to address the issues you are interested in. In that case, you may wish to move your post to that topic.



There are some sutta pointers in this table about what leads to rebirth in the hell realm:

:smile: Thats not exactly how it works :sweat_smile:

If you want to discuss it in depth, or are looking for more answers then you are most welcome to start a dedicated thread.

Rebirth, is part of the equation for the OP, and that is fine, it’s just a question of balance. Looking at rebirth in a fundamental sense, as you are proposing in your post, or dealing with it as one of many factors with regards to attaining Sotapanna give a different focus to the topic :slight_smile:

Because this is an archived discussion, which many people access over time to look for answers to questions about the EBT’s we try to keep the information sorted and filed in such a way so people can find what they are looking for. This is a different function from general chat or general discussion which is not meant to be an information repository. I hope that this makes things clearer :pray: :slightly_smiling_face:


My point was that the suttas say nothing about how someone gets reborn as a warden of hell. The ones actually performing unspeakable tortures on people for trillions of years for the terrible crime of being quarrelsome and annoying to others (applies to basically anyone who engages in debates at all since there will always be someone who finds them them quarrelsome and annoying if they disagree with their views), or where these wardens go when they die. Is there an extra deep unmanaged hell for them where they get to be reborn, where they perhaps will spend a quadrillion years? The article mentions that hell is not eternal, like some other religions we know teach that it is, but fails to mention the length of an eon, and how many eons people spend there. The time scales are so unimaginably great that our human primate minds have no way of making sense of it.

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I suspect that anattā is an integral element to this. “We” get reborn in a multitude of forms, some part of us in the hell realm, some part of us elsewhere. Maybe?