Practice for non-noble householders to achieve stream entry

Sigh.

Hello, my dear community. Recently I stumbled upon a dilemma which I can’t solve on my own.

I have a feeling that each time when I discover something inspiring, immediately after I discover that this practice is not for my level.

To give a few examples:

  • When I started to do anapanasati I quickly discover that this practice is too hard for me to do, since my mind can’t sit with such subtle object as breath. Then I recalled that about 10 years ago I practiced metta meditation, which gave me a lot of satisfaction, so I jumped right in. It just feels good. My mind is tranquil, happy, joyful, sometimes even serene and concentrated.
    Several weeks after I discover that the way I do it (spacious increase, e.g. my apartment, entire building block, city, country, etc.) is claimed as after-jhana-only level in Vissudhimaga and also by some famous teachers.
  • Then I read about the six recollections. Again, I was inspired and realized that both Buddha- and deva- anussati give me much joy and energy. It is just like my mind find a pleasant object which is blameless, and then it is much more easier to concentrate on it. Again, happiness and joy arise, but then…
    First I see that some people say that this is sotapanna-level-only practice, since only them have unshakeable confidence in Triple Gem and ideal generosity and virtue.
    I decided to check it for myself and what I see in (AN6.25):

“Mendicants, there are these six topics for recollection. What six?
Firstly, a noble disciple recollects the Realized One: ‘That Blessed One is perfected …

So apparently, this is true, recollections are for stream entry and upwards.

But then the questions rises:

What can non-attainer even practice?

Sila and dana? Sure, but those are claimed as a way to heaven, not to stream entry, since it lacks wisdom element.

Brahmaviharas? Nope, jhana first.
Recollections? Stream entry please.
Satipathanna? Too advanced for householder as me.

And it becomes even trickier for me when I look at the descriptions of the lowest levels of noble persons (SN55.24):

Take another person who doesn’t have experiential confidence in the Buddha … the teaching … the Saṅgha … They don’t have laughing wisdom or swift wisdom, nor are they endowed with freedom. Still, they have these qualities: the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, immersion, and wisdom. And they have a degree of faith and love for the Buddha. This person, too, doesn’t go to hell, the animal realm, and the ghost realm. They don’t go to places of loss, bad places, the underworld.

But hove can I develop my faith if I can’t even do recollections, since it is for sotapanna? How can I develop faith, energy, mindfulness, immersion, and wisdom if the only tools that I have is virtue, generosity and guarding of the five senses (?).

I don’t really understand this. I feel like there must be practices to develop mind to the level of sotapanna but I every time I see something which I think I can do well enough, I read it is above my level.

You can say that four factors of stream entry is what it should be, but in (SN55.5) we read:

“Good, good, Sāriputta! For the factors of stream-entry are associating with true persons, listening to the true teaching, rational application of mind, and practicing in line with the teaching.

So what is is this then?

I love my Brahmavihara and Ansussati practice and don’t want to leave it, but don’t know what to do now.

My special hope is that someone of venerable monastics could help me with this, but of course, every opinion is welcome :pray: !

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I’m not sure how you get from “noble disciples do this thing” to “only noble disciples can do this thing.”

Have you looked at AN11.12?

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I am not a monastic, but here’s what I would do: Focus on how Sila, Samadhi and Panna go together in the eightfold path and why they presuppose each other. Once you are rooted in a personal understanding of this, you will prescribe yourself the practice that makes most sense to you without having to ask whether it is for “non-attainers” or whatnot :wink:

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You can practise all of the above as far as I see. You are right that some increases some factors, like recollection of Buddha is meant to increase faith. Stream winners might not need it since they have eradicated doubt, but still might be awesome still for their level of faith.

Just look at the Pa auk meditation manual: knowing and seeing. So many techniques there before stream entry.

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Well, as I said, I see on different forums such an approach and since it is always a noble disciple in the suttas it make me doubt.

Actually no, thank you! However, there it is stated:

“Good, good, Mahānāma! It’s appropriate that gentlemen such as you come to me and ask: ‘We spend our life in various ways. Which of these should we practice?’ The faithful succeed, not the faithless. The energetic … The mindful … Those with immersion … The wise succeed … When you’re grounded on these five things, go on to develop six further things.

However it doesn’t say how to become grounded on these things.

Ahh, such a beautiful piece of advice, thank you! :pray: Unfortunately I see it as a trait of mine that when I see some opinion which contradicts my experience very often I start to doubt myself. As it said: doubt is one of the hindrances indeed.

Thank you, bhante, I will! And thank you very much for confirming that I can practice these. I love my brahmaviharas. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi there

The sutta’s teach that the Path for those practicing for the fruit of stream-entree (sotapanna) is all about seeing impermanence, realising how inconstant or unstable all is we experience. See for example SN25.1 -8

I personally feel this is great and not really difficult. All we experience, sounds, smells, tactile sensations, ideas, emotions, states of joy, states of being inspired, dark states, whatever, all that is liable to arise and cease.

So we may want to be in this or that state, and more or less freeze it, impossible.
It cannot happen. All is constant changing. In nature, in our minds, in the body.
All that is liable to arise is also liable to cease.
What is liable to cease…one can wish that it is forever…unrealistic.

Often we want reality to be like this or that…but it is all impossible.
Ofcourse we can live healthy but we cannot really prevent that this body becomes ill, weak, decay, dies.
We want to be constant in happy state, but we cannot. Also happiness arises and ceases.
And most of the time happiness arises when all goes according our desires. Then we are glad.
But oh wee, if things do not go like we desire.

Maybe this might seem a bit dark or depressed at first sight but it also reliefs the heart from its blind passion for control, its anger, its fears. Its unrealistic relatio with life.
It is also a relief that one becomes more realistic and start to accept that all we experience is liable to cease. It is build up, and what is build up physically or mentally will desintegrate too.
Aligning with this is no punishment because there is peace in it.

The sutta’s teach that anicca, this perception of the instability, the impermanence, the inconstancy of all we experience, that is what those who practice for the fruit of sotapanna, develop.

Can you doubt that states of minds (mindsets), the experience of sense-objects, emotions, tendencies, thougths, inclinations, doubt, comes and goes? Do you doubt all this is not liable to cease?
Do you doubt that a cloud that conditionally arises is also liable to cease?

I think the most difficult stage is that we are so used to strive, aim, desire, plan, intent, tend to experience this or that and like to be in this or that state. But exactly that Buddha understood as the cause of suffering.

If we can let go of that same desire we can become to see the sublime state of supreme peace, Nibbana. That is the promisse of the Buddha.

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Perhaps it would help you to first investigate what noble disciple might mean.

In the following Q & A solution, Venerable Dhammanando points out how noble disciple may not be quite as restrictive as you might think. :smiley:

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Perhaps the secret is in thinking yourself as a tree … going back to SN 55.24

If these great sal trees could understand what was well said and poorly said, I’d declare them to be stream-enterers. Ime cepi, mahānāma, mahāsālā subhāsitaṁ dubbhāsitaṁ ājāneyyuṁ, ime cāhaṁ mahāsāle byākareyyaṁ: ‘sotāpannā avinipātadhammā niyatā sambodhiparāyaṇā’ti;
Why can’t this apply to Sarakāni? kimaṅgaṁ pana saraṇāniṁ sakkaṁ. Mahānāma, Sarakāni the Sakyan undertook the training at the time of his death.” Saraṇāni, mahānāma, sakko maraṇakāle sikkhaṁ samādiyī”ti.

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Oh, thank you so much! It resolves my doubt.

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See also SN 47.4:

“Mendicants, those mendicants who are junior—recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training—should be encouraged, supported, and established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. What four? Please, reverends, meditate observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, at one, with minds that are clear, immersed in samādhi, and unified, so as to truly know the body. […]

Those mendicants who are trainees—who haven’t achieved their heart’s desire, but live aspiring to the supreme sanctuary from the yoke—also meditate observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, at one, with minds that are clear, immersed in samādhi, and unified, so as to fully understand the body.
[bold added by me]

So trainees are, AFAIK, the stream-enterers (and those on the path to stream entry?), and yet those who are ‘newly come to this teaching and training’ should be encouraged to train in the same way.

And looking at this sentence:

Please, reverends, meditate observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, at one, with minds that are clear, immersed in samādhi, and unified, so as to truly know the body.
Etha tumhe, āvuso, kāye kāyānupassino viharatha ātāpino sampajānā ekodibhūtā vippasannacittā samāhitā ekaggacittā, kāyassa yathābhūtaṁ ñāṇāya;

‘ekodibhūtā vippasannacittā samāhitā ekaggacittā’ are all words for meditation practice.

Also, just consider the large number of suttas where the Buddha described his practice before his own awakening :slight_smile:

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If you think you are not Noble, practice the Path to become Noble. The Buddha’s Dhamma is created for all of us to be able to progress on it, leaving no one out. There is a Path from here to there. The Noble Eightfold Path has a start, with the Four Noble Truths in realization. Once you finish the Path to your choosing, you shall one day attain Nibbana.

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In the same boat, I experience the same doubt sometimes.

I think SN55.7 makes clear through context that when the suttas use Ariyas in examples, it’s being used as a pedagogical tool for regular people to look up to as an ideal, not to exclude regular people.

It’s like if you were taking an art class, and the teacher said, “Great painters use complimentary colors.” So do bad painters, but that’s less inspirational.

You should be humble in your practice, and recognize that it is flawed in unknown ways. But you shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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No no, this refers to the sangha that comprises eight individuals in four pairs: arahant and those practicing for arahantship,… stream enterer and those practicing for stream entry. These are the unsurpassed field of merit for the world Homage chanting

(Arahants don’t have work left to do, so it includes everyone below that level)

In looking at the problem, we need to answer the question Who is a Noble Disciple (Ariya Sāvaka)? The Lord Buddha has very clearly answered this question. Please see AN 9:9-Puggala Sutta & SN 48:18 Paṭipanna Sutta. In Paṭipanna sutta, the Lord Buddha discoursed that:

“Someone who has completed and fulfilled these five faculties is a perfected one. If they are weaker than that, they’re practicing to realize the fruit of perfection … a non-returner … practicing to realize the fruit of non-return … a once-returner … practicing to realize the fruit of once-return … a stream-enterer … practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry.

Someone who totally and utterly lacks these five faculties is an outsider who belongs with the ordinary persons, I say.”

Yassa kho, bhikkhave*, imāni pañcindriyāni** sabbena sabba* sabbathā sabb natthi , tamaha ‘bāhiro puthujjanapakkhe hito’ti vadāmī”ti.

So, we can see clearly that someone who has at least some level of the Five Faculties is clearly a Noble Disciple, (Ariya Sāvaka) that includes a person who is practising to attain Stream Entry. How could we test whether we have some level of these Five Faculties? Let us take each Faculty & put it to test.

Saddha: Unless someone has some level of Saddha in the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha, we wouldn’t be taking the trouble to spend our time to study the Teachings, the Dhamma. We could see that the Dhamma is the truth & the practice brings the results as elucidated in the Dhamma. It may be little things like feeling happy when we meditate, desire to help those in need & finding happiness in such deeds, seeing the suffering in our existence at least in an intellectual way etc. We join this Forum because we have some level of Saddha, I would say.

Virya: In Sacitta Sutta AN 10:51 the Lord Buddha has given a detailed training guide to look at our own mind. When we reflect that way, we could see whether we are applying the principles of Vīriya to increase our skillful qualities & reduce unskilful qualities. If the answer comes Yes, even a small yes then, that box is ticked.

Sati: If we regularly practise meditation, irrespective of the results, whether Walking Meditation or Sitting Meditation, that is an indication that we are developing our Mindfulness. The important thing is not to give up but, sit down at least for ten minutes. If one finds it difficult continue to maintain the sitting posture to practise Breath Meditation, there are number of ways to improve mindfulness, such as practising the Mindfulness of Body through looking at the Elements, or the 31 Body Parts etc. The trick is to stay with it: the results will come! Try practising Walking Meditation & see what happens!

Samādhi: When we sit down to meditate there would be at least the momentary state of Samadhi, calming our mind for that moment. In Velama Sutta, AN 9:20, the Lord Buddha discoursed that if one can practise Metta ‘even for just as long as it takes to pull a cow’s udder’ that would bring great benefits & great results. So, we can be happy that we have developed / are developing the fourth factor, Samadhi, as well.

Paññā: In SN 48:11 the Lord Buddha described Faculty of Wisdom as:

“And what is the faculty of wisdom? It’s when a noble disciple is wise. They have the wisdom of arising and passing away which is noble, penetrative, and leads to the complete ending of suffering.”

Panna is the Right View. In Mahācattārīsaka Sutta MN 117, the Lord Buddha described the Mundane Right View which no doubt most practitioners would be accomplished in /imbued with at most of the times. When one is accomplished in the Mundane Right View, it is easier to practise towards the Supermundane Right View, which is a Factor of the Path. In Sammaditthi Sutta MN 9, the Great Arahant Ven Sariputta Maha Thero describes 16 ways of arriving at the Right View. When we read that Sutta, we know that we have at least an intellectual understanding of some of those, if not all of those 16 means. So, that box is ticked, too!

Remember again, what the Lord Buddha said in SN 48:18 was,

Someone who totally and utterly lacks these five faculties is an outsider who belongs with the ordinary persons, I say.”

It means that someone who has at least a bit of each factor is a Noble Disciple!

As Ven Ajahn Brahm repeatedly tells us, we have to water the flowers not the weeds. That way we would be practising the Noble Eightfold Path, the right way & continuing to develop the Five Faculties. We need to see the glass as half full not as half empty!

When we look at ourselves positively, the positive, skillful qualities would grow.

A practitioner who is in one of the Eight Classes would easily fall within the Ariya Sāvaka classification! I have no doubt that such a person would be very much qualified to practise any type of Buddhist Meditation!

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In your details, you say something profoundly different; you say you actually DO the practice for a bit, and it brings you gladness. (Recall that gladness (often related to virtue) is a step prior to 1st Jhana.)

So, many times your heart has been gladened, you’ve stood on the threshold of J1, and then allowed yourself to be subsequently distracted by these technical/religious readings/thoughts.

Perhaps, like the Buddha himself, you might ask yourself… “why am I afraid.”

I say this because I have just noticed this ambivalence in my own practice…

I get close to settling the mind and then suddenly realize “I have much important business to attend to” and run off to watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island or cut my toenails.

Why?

Please put these cookbook thoughts aside and follow your heart… it’s what the Buddha did.

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