Sakadāgāmi, opapātika, anāgāmi. Are they late concepts i.e. not EBT?

I just read from the 1995 PTS Journal XX1 an essai by Joy Manné on the Four Stages where she casts a doubt on the EBTness of the sakadāgāmi and anāgāmi stages.
I then did searches on SuttaCentral of these two words as well as on opapātika (arising spontaneously; (one) being reborn without parents) which seems to be a concept that predated anāgāmi.
Search results:

  • opapātika - 51 suttas (15 AN, 11 DN, 17 MN, 7 SN)
  • sakadāgāmi - 48 suttas (20 AN, 7 DN, 6 MN, 14 SN, 1 Ud)
  • anāgāmi - 136 suttas (40 AN, 1 Dhp, 7 DN, 11 Iti, 11 MN, 62 SN, 2 Snp, 2 Ud)

There is (except in two DN) no mention of opapātika and anāgāmi in the same suttas which make sense as both terms mean the same thing.

In this study I didn’t take into account the occurences of opapātika in SN suttas that talk about nagas (SN 29) and supannas (SN 30).

So shall we agree with Joy Manné that originally there were just two Stages: stream-enterer and arahat?


Sorry but I don’t quite follow the argument …

I would like to understand better the logic of jumping from one thing to another. Maybe you missed a paragraph ? :sweat_smile:

Do we have any EBT in which the Buddha or any senior disciple speaks only of the two stages or every EBT which talks about the gradual fruitions of awakening does list at least the usual four stages ?

I would only consider valid the hypothesis if we found anywhere in the Nikayas or Agamas the Buddha teaching or implying in a two staged process of awakening!


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How about the Buddha himself: did he go through all the stages in one go under the Bodhi tree, or did he become a stream-enterer at an earlier stage (when?), and then went through the other stages (if they are EBT) before full enlightenment?


I read the article as well and find it a very fine piece of work. It reinforced my doubts on sakadagami & anagami, and I at least follow her arguments. There is much more in this detailed paper and I warmly recommend people interested in the stages to read it.


Case Histories from the Pāli Canon II: Sotāpanna, sakadāgāmin, anāgāmin, arahat - The Four Stages Case History or Spiritual Materialism and the Need for Tangible Results (Joy Manné)

I believe I’ve read the essay twice in the past but don’t recall what I made of it. Here’s a PDF below to download. The site was loading it slowly for me for some reason, but you can also get it there if you prefer:

JPTS_1995_XXI.pdf (7.1 MB)


I’ve read that article before (might even have been because of a link Gabriel had here to that article previously). IMO it is a really nice article and a great compendium of sutta references for the four path stages.

It puts up a good argument, but as with many of these things it can really be hard to know for certain. IIRC the argument goes that references to sakadāgāmin and anāgāmin stages, particularly sakadāgāmin, are far sparser than for sotāpanna and arahat. However, it’s not surprising that there are intermediate stages found in the suttas. Naturally, if an almost (but not quite) arahant died, followers or mendicants would almost surely have asked the Buddhas about his/her fate. It would have been very surprising if no states between sotapanna and arahat were found in the suttas. There doesn’t seem originally to have been that much interest in the early sangha in the two intermediate states.

The articles argues that later there was more of an interest in these states and perhaps some of the body of doctrine was retrofitted onto these states (fetter models etc.). Plausible but hard to know for sure.

I’m somewhat less convinced about the paper’s conclusions on the sotāpanna. IIRC its argument mostly is that being sotāpanna was originally equivalent to just being a fairly devout Buddhist convert (having certain beliefs and following certain behaviour and a moral code) with notions like having a penetrating insight into dependent origination and the opening of the Dhamma eye being somewhat later developments (or maybe a different strand of viewers as mostly strongly represented in the SN). You could read that into certain passages but IMO there’s as many that would indicate otherwise. The reading seems to be that perhaps the SN’s sotapanna treatment was a somewhat later upping of standards re the stream enterer, but you could as easily take the view that maybe weaker statements outside the SN were a watering down.


As with good research papers the contribution is not only the conclusion but that it gives us the tools to form our own opinions based on the findings.

The article is not easy on the eyes but it’s very thorough, and at least it shows that the four stages are not coherent, nor consistent in the EBT, and that particularly sotapatti has at least two aspects: as an ‘easy’ conversion formula for new buddhists who qua conversion (faith-based) might have been considered sotapannas - and a more demanding formula including insights etc.

My takeaway is that we cannot simply argue with “if you practice x or, when you’ll have insight y you’ll be a sotapanna”. First we have to take a stand which interpretation we favor and which stand we dismiss.

My personal conclusion is that I find the stages textually problematic enough not to consider them for my practice anymore. But one can easily find a specific interpretation (‘easy’ or ‘difficult’ version of sotapatti for example) compelling for one’s practice.


I wonder about other “sets of four”. I seem to remember hearing that the theme of four was common in Ancient Indian religion with the first and the fourth being more emphasized… sorry I don’t have anything more substantial than a vague memory, so take it with a heap of salt.

Another set of four that shows a gradation is the four jhānāni. It seems that the fourth at least is especially important; could it be that the second and third are just descriptions of finer gradation?

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:heart_eyes: Proper pluralisation!

Seeing “-s” on Indic terms is an eyesore.


Reading this article i cant help but feeling that this researcher is of the assumption or view that buddhism is just another religion with a system of beliefs , rewards and punishments to control its followers. Or it became that way.

Its painful to see faith(saddha) trivialised to a matter of being doting and servile to some authority in hope of gaining some reward. This is not the faith of buddhism. Unshakable faith or a better term verified confidence can only come about by verifying the dhamma within oneself beyond doubt. Verified confidence in the dhamma leads to confidence in the buddha and sangha.



Yes, definitely!

The sotapanna concept does seem to come in two parts. The ‘easy’ part all seems fairly consistent. The ‘difficult’ version also contains the opening of the Dhamma eye. IMO the notion of the dhammacakkhu is early (crops up in too many places) and it’s definitely not as advanced as being an arahat, e.g. Ananda’s Dhamma eye had opened but was not an arahat until later.

The opening of the Dhamma eye does seem to be an authentic intermediate stage as described in the EBTs. However, perhaps it and stream entry were not necessarily originally entirely synonymous (even if there often seems to be a correlation). Perhaps the apparent inconsistency arises from a later desire to put both of these into the same neat box?

Or, alternatively, perhaps the ‘easy’ part of stream entry is the the path (magga) and the opening of the Dhamma eye is the fruit (phala)? But maybe that’s all a bit too neat also!? :wink:


Where’s the propriety in using Pali case endings when writing in English on a forum where many readers don’t know Pali?

I’d say it’s a departure from propriety of the kind warned against in the Aranavibhangasutta. Seeing someone doing it always makes me want to yell: “You anorak!


Actually, in the bojjhaṅgā there is only samādhi and upekkha. Two stages compared to the four gradations of jhāna.

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Well, I never claimed a lack of pretensions! Being seen as “smart” has always been something of an obsession of mine, I suppose, ultimately, because my father’s insult of choice was “stupid”. It’s funny how many of our character traits are just reactions to something from long ago.

I’m unlikely to cease my pedantry in thinking “dhammas” to be an eyesore and “dhammā” to be more “proper”, but I take note!


As the Buddha said in the Sutta Nipatta: “Dry up the remain of your past”. It will then stop affecting the present.


Which sutta is that alaber…?

Snp 5.11 Jatukanni’s question. The fourth verse is my favourite of all the sayings of the Buddha:
" Dry up the remains of your past and have nothing for your future. If you do not cling to the present then you can go from place to place in peace."


The dhamma has to be realized by practice. I feel sorry for those philosophers and doubters. One who holds the shadow should not try to describe the object which he does not understand.

Not sure what you are trying to say and the relevance to the topic.

I’m not sure that’s correct. There is pītisambojjhaṅgo and passaddhisambojjhaṅgo corresponding to first jhāna characterized by vitakkavicārānaṃ and which is born of seclusion (viveka) and then second jhāna characterized by unification of mind and which is born of samādhi. So it seems first jhāna is in a sense pre-samādhi although it falls under it broadly as a factor of the eightfold path. So we wind up with at least four awakening factors corresponding to jhāna but really it is at least 5 since mindfulness is explicitly a factor in the third and fourth jhānas (or jhānani if you prefer).