Sotapanna through meditation

Hi, are there suttas that say, that someone attains sotapatti because of meditation practice?

All the best

All recorded cases of stream-entry in the 4 main nikaya occur after/during a dhamma talk. That does not mean it is the standard way to break through because for a yogi meditating deep in the woods all by himself there is no one to record his stream-entry.


Bhikkhu Bodhi has a fairly thorough look at the issue in his article The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli Suttas.


Wow that’s so interesting! Is this a consensus view?
This potentially could make it even clearer why the ariya sangha was so important. Awakening through direct contact with someone who has awakened.

Perhaps it was like it is in Tibetan Buddhism with pointing out instructions, and with Advaita also, and as they say in Zen with the direct transmission. With no counter examples, that’s potentially a strong case, or at least a case for that being a or the main way, if it’s the only one ever mentioned!

Also you mentioned the nikāyas - how about the vinaya?


Vimuttāyatana Sutta

Furthermore, it may be that neither the Teacher nor … the mendicant teaches Dhamma … nor does the mendicant recite the teaching … or think about it. But a meditation subject as a foundation of immersion is properly grasped, attended, borne in mind, and comprehended with wisdom. That mendicant feels inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma, no matter how a meditation subject as a foundation of immersion is properly grasped, attended, borne in mind, and comprehended with wisdom. Feeling inspired, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. This is the fifth opportunity for freedom. …
AN 5.26

This AN4.191 sutta is about a person who practices meditation and then he dies without entering the stream. He attain the fruit in his next life.
AN 4.191

I looked into my notes again and in 2 cases the mode of stream-entry is unknown.

In DN14 the description for one of the cases in this sutta reads:

The 84,000 people who had gone forth previously also heard: ‘It seems the Blessed One Vipassī, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha, has arrived at Bandhumatī and is staying in the deer park named Sanctuary. And he is teaching the Dhamma!’ Then they too went to see the Buddha Vipassī, realized the Dhamma, went forth, and became freed from defilements.

And in MN145 it reads:

Within that rainy season he confirmed around five hundred male and five hundred female lay followers.

While confirmed (paṭivedesi) is ambiguous, I take it here to refer to stream-entry.

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Atha kho āyasmā aññāsikoṇḍañño diṭṭhadhammo pattadhammo viditadhammo pariyogāḷhadhammo tiṇṇavicikiccho vigatakathaṃkatho vesārajjappatto aparappaccayo satthusāsane bhagavantaṃ etadavoca – “Labheyyāhaṃ, bhante, bhagavato santike pabbajjaṃ, labheyyaṃ upasampada”nti. “Ehi bhikkhū”ti bhagavā avoca – “Svākkhāto dhammo, cara brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāyā”ti. Sāva tassa āyasmato upasampadā ahosi.

Atha kho bhagavā tadavasese bhikkhū dhammiyā kathāya ovadi anusāsi. Atha kho āyasmato ca vappassa āyasmato ca bhaddiyassa bhagavatā dhammiyā kathāya ovadiyamānānaṃ anusāsiyamānānaṃ virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ udapādi – yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammanti.

Then the venerable Aññata Koṇḍañña, having seen dhamma , attained dhamma , known dhamma , plunged into dhamma , having crossed over doubt, having put away uncertainty, having attained without another’s help to full confidence in the teacher’s instruction, spoke thus to the Lord: “May I, Lord, receive the going forth in the Lord’s presence, may I receive ordination?”

“Come, monk,” the Lord said, “well taught is dhamma . Fare the Brahma-faring for making an utter end of ill.” So this came to be this venerable one’s ordination.

Then the Lord exhorted, instructed those remaining monks with dhamma -talk. Then while they were being exhorted, instructed by the Lord with dhamma -talk, dhamma -vision, dustless, stainless, arose to the venerable Vappa and to the venerable Bhaddiya, that “whatever is of the nature to uprise, all that is of the nature to stop.”

This indicates that Vappa and Baddhiya (from five monks) attained sotāpattipala after the buddha’s advice through meditation. They were not able to enter the stream right away.

That’s very interesting. And I would again bring attention to the work of Joy Manee who concludes that stream-entry was originally part of the conversion-complex, meaning that originally when someone converted to Buddhism they were considered a stream-enterer.

Manné, J. (1995). Case Histories from the Pāli Canon, II: Sotāpanna, Sakadāgāmin, Anāgāmin, Arahat. Journal of the Pali Text Society, 21, 35-128.


Perhaps. However can we linguistically eliminate the possibility that this means stream entry happened actually while he was talking to (instructing) them? Like in the sense of “while they were being exhorted” as it has in the English? The English seems to mostly imply that, it seems to me.

That’s interesting too. Well, the phenomenon of what we call stream entry would still have existed then. As it does today not only in Buddhism. Not only in religion indeed! So if what you are suggesting is true, then I wonder if they also had a term for what we now call stream entry? That initial awakening experience.

Indeed if they would not have had a term to denote that, that would seem odd to me, since it’s one of the most important things in the enlightenment-path, regardless of what conceptual framework one uses to talk about it.

Based on this hypothesis, does she give any indication of how a stream-enterer differs from a dhamma-follower or faith-follower?

Not that certain.
There are few ways to attain sotāpattipala as explained in Vimuttāyatana Sutta.

How are we sure that is talking about stream entry? I see it says:

five opportunities for freedom

I am not so familiar with the expression, but is it not referring to arahantship? (Or perhaps the temporary freedom of jhāna, e.g. 4th jhāna which is imperturbable).

Then all of the 5 ‘opportunities’ are by doing jhāna practice, the only difference being how the person go to be doing jhāna practice. And I think it is clear that the doctrine of the EBTs is that you cannot attain arahantship without jhāna. So, this makes perfect sense. However you can attain stream entry without jhāna, so, I cannot see how this is connected to stream entry.

Not as far as I remember. But also, we’re digging here for a stratum that is almost pre-sutta. Dhammafollowers etc. on the other hand represent only a limited transmission line.

Isn’t that anachronistic that we assume there must have been an initial awakening experience? What immediately comes to mind though is the ‘arising of the dhamma-sight’ (dhammacakkhu udapādi) as a first ‘awakening’ experience.


To properly have faith in the Buddha, the Teachings and the Sangha, one would have to have experienced in some way that identity view is dysfunctional and leads to suffering. Before that initial and personally verifiable experience there simply isn’t a basis for faith.

When I was first studying DN33, I was crossing the street and car almost ran me down in the crosswalk. I was resentful and angry. But DN33 discusses getting rid of resentment and that was an approach I had never tried. So I tried it and it just kept working and kept working. I discovered that there is just no use for resentment.

dn33: Thinking: ‘They did wrong to me, but what can I possibly do?’ you get rid of resentment.

That was simply the first in a series of experiences that affirmed the teachings with personal experience. From this, I’d therefore say that it isn’t anachronistic at all to have an initial awakening experience to the truth of the Dhamma. I’d say it’s actually necessary to have that experience.

There are number of suttas where the blessed one gave dhamma talk to practice meditation.

When a mendicant asks for a teaching to take on retreat, the Buddha issues an unexpected rebuke. Evidently the mendicant had been badly behaved; but now, he insists, he is sincere. The Buddha relents, and teaches the four kinds of mindfulness meditation, well grounded on ethics (Bhikkhu Sutta SN 47.3).

Here unexpected rebuke is an indication of bad behaviour of the bhikku and especially an indication of not being in the stream.

Then he ask the buddha for and short advice, then there is this passage that reveals an act of meditation.

Atha kho so bhikkhu bhagavato bhāsitaṃ abhinanditvā anumoditvā uṭṭhāyāsanā bhagavantaṃ abhivādetvā padakkhiṇaṃ katvā pakkāmi. Atha kho so bhikkhu eko vūpakaṭṭho appamatto ātāpī pahitatto viharanto nacirasseva – yassatthāya kulaputtā sammadeva agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajanti, tadanuttaraṃ – brahmacariyapariyosānaṃ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharati

Above passage has a term eko vūpakaṭṭho which literally means secluded.

Vūpakaṭṭha [doubtful, whether vi+upakaṭṭha (since the latter is only used of time), or=vavakaṭṭha, with which it is identical in meaning. Cp. also BSk. vyapakṛṣṭa AvS i.233; ii.194; of which it might be a re — translation] alienated, withdrawn, drawn away (from), secluded: often in phrase eko vūpakaṭṭho appamatto ātāpī etc. (see arahant ii.B.-PTS dictionary).
Seclusion is two types, seclusion of the body, seclusion of mind. (kāyena ceva cittena ca kāmehi avūpakaṭṭhā viharanti MN 36).

Sīlavanta Sutta teaches about meditation, there is no other way to focus on aggregates as impermanent. This could only be seen in right wisdom (sammappaññā).

Mahākoṭṭhita asks what an ethical mendicant should focus on, and Sāriputta replies that if they focus on aggregates as impermanent, etc. they may become a stream-enterer. A stream-enterer contemplating in the same way may become a non-returner, a once-returner, and a perfected one (Sīlavanta Sutta SN 22.122).

Migajāla also took the instructions from the buddha and then practiced meditation.

Then the Venerable Migajala, having delighted and rejoiced in the Blessed One’s words, rose from his seat, and, after paying homage to the Blessed One, keeping him on his right, he departed.
Then, dwelling alone, withdrawn, diligent, ardent, and resolute, the Venerable Migajala, by realizing it for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life entered and dwelt in that unsurpassed goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the household life into homelessness. He directly knew: “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.” (Dutiyamigajāla Sutta SN 35.64).

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What do you mean? Human minds today are basically the same as they were then. And in humans now, this phenomenon happens. To Buddhists from various traditions. To Hindus. Even to people who are not religious at all. It’s just a natural phenomenon, right?

Cool. Makes sense. For example SN 35.74:

And while this discourse was being spoken, the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in that mendicant:

Imasmiñca pana veyyākaraṇasmiṃ bhaññamāne tassa bhikkhuno virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ udapādi:

Sounds just like the other examples of stream entry occurring while being spoken to. So, do you still say it’s anachronistic?

Here’s another example of that term, which interestingly makes it sound as if stream entry (here designated dhammacakkhuṃ uppajjati) comes first, and then jhāna practice after that. AN 3.94:

“After the rainy season the sky is clear and cloudless. And when the sun rises, it dispels all the darkness from the sky as it shines and glows and radiates.
“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, saradasamaye viddhe vigatavalāhake deve ādicco nabhaṃ abbhussakkamāno sabbaṃ ākāsagataṃ tamagataṃ abhivihacca bhāsate ca tapate ca virocati ca.

In the same way, when the stainless, immaculate vision of the teaching arises in a noble disciple, three fetters are given up:
Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, yato ariyasāvakassa virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ uppajjati, saha dassanuppādā, bhikkhave, ariyasāvakassa tīṇi saṃyojanāni pahīyanti—
identity view, doubt, and misapprehension of precepts and observances.
sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāso.

Afterwards they get rid of two things: desire and aversion.
Athāparaṃ dvīhi dhammehi niyyāti abhijjhāya ca byāpādena ca.
Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, they enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.
So vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
If that noble disciple passed away at that time, they’re bound by no fetter that might return them to this world.”
Tasmiñce, bhikkhave, samaye ariyasāvako kālaṃ kareyya, natthi taṃ saṃyojanaṃ yena saṃyojanena saṃyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṃ lokaṃ āgaccheyyā”ti.

I doubt it evolved into being with no use! I’d say it has a use for social dynamics. We generate feelings towards people who act in certain ways towards us (or ‘ours’), so that we don’t keep going back to the people who are harming us, for example. The so called ‘negative emotions’ are by no means useless. They are functional adaptations.

That’s not to say Buddhism is wrong for having us lessen or remove them! But, the Buddha was using cognitive regulation of affect in such a way that we can kind of transcend the need for some of those functions. But without wisdom, that does not work at all - if you get a normal person and simply remove all their negative emotions, I think they would end up severely dysfunctional.

So I’d say what the Buddha was doing was a rather complex next step of evolution, such that we gain attributes necessary to transcend the natural functioning of our emotions. And that includes deliberate manipulation including deliberate generation of positive affects, such as mettā, pīti etc. And then we can indeed discard things like resentment, since by then they are only a hindrance.

I don’t know what you mean by ‘gave dhamma vision’. Do you mean he caused them to attain stream entry? Also I do not see how this answers my question.

I do not get your point. So it’s a monk who asked to be instructed. He was instructed to train in ethical behaviour and view, and mindfulness. And we hear later he got enlightened.
We can be sure there’s a lot missing from this story of course. For a start, there’s no mention of jhāna practice. Not surprising that they did no manage to explain his entire spiritual journey to enlightenment in the one sentence given for what happened after the supposed instruction!

So what is it that you are providing this reference for? I’m lost.

Not sure what you mean by the part I highlighted.
Interesting sutta. When the Buddha talked people into stream entry in dhamma talks, wasn’t that generally also on these topics of impermanence, suffering etc.? Sounds to me like it might be revealing that you can either ‘get this’ by being in direct relationship to someone who is an arya and is verbally telling you about this (which is not unique to Buddhism), or that you can potentially get it by meditating on it yourself.

Either way you need to deepen it afterwards anyway, as this sutta lays out.

Interesting. Though again, hard to feel we can be very sure of what actually happened, since again we have a one sentence summary of his life from the end of the teaching all the way up until he attained arahantship. A time span of days, weeks, months, years? Interacting with however many people - remember, ‘living alone’ doesn’t mean he didn’t interact with other monastics and lay people.

It would be interesting if we had an actual example of someone attaining stream entry by any way other than while being talked to. SN 22.122 provides the theoretical possibility. But do we really not have any actual examples of it happening in the texts? For example, someone attaining stream entry (by any term used to describe it) and then coming to the Buddha to chat about it?

There are no direct evident examples, but we could use above qouted suttas with reasoning.
I do not see why you cannot get the idea from bhikkusutta that the bhikku was not entered the stream and after the buddha’s talk he attained Nibbāna (All fou fruits) through satipaṭṭhāna meditation.

dhamma vision’. Do you mean he caused them to attain stream entry?


This Sutta discribes a gradual development that seems to pass through Sotapatti

An excerpt

someone who has conscience and prudence is diligent.
Hirīmāyaṃ, bhikkhave, ottāpī appamatto hoti.

When you’re diligent you can give up disregard, being hard to admonish, and having bad friends.
So appamatto samāno bhabbo anādariyaṃ pahātuṃ dovacassataṃ pahātuṃ pāpamittataṃ pahātuṃ.

When you’ve got good friends you can give up faithlessness, uncharitableness, and laziness.
So kalyāṇamitto samāno bhabbo assaddhiyaṃ pahātuṃ avadaññutaṃ pahātuṃ kosajjaṃ pahātuṃ.

When you’re energetic you can give up restlessness, lack of restraint, and unethical conduct.
So āraddhavīriyo samāno bhabbo uddhaccaṃ pahātuṃ asaṃvaraṃ pahātuṃ dussilyaṃ pahātuṃ.

When you’re ethical you can give up not wanting to see the noble ones, not wanting to hear the teaching of the noble ones, and a fault-finding mind.
So sīlavā samāno bhabbo ariyānaṃ adassanakamyataṃ pahātuṃ ariyadhammassa asotukamyataṃ pahātuṃ upārambhacittataṃ pahātuṃ.

When you don’t have a fault-finding mind you can give up unmindfulness, lack of situational awareness, and a distracted mind.
So anupārambhacitto samāno bhabbo muṭṭhassaccaṃ pahātuṃ asampajaññaṃ pahātuṃ cetaso vikkhepaṃ pahātuṃ.

When your mind isn’t scattered you can give up improper attention, following a wrong path, and mental sluggishness.
So avikkhittacitto samāno bhabbo ayonisomanasikāraṃ pahātuṃ kummaggasevanaṃ pahātuṃ cetaso līnattaṃ pahātuṃ.

When your mind isn’t sluggish you can give up identity view, doubt, and misapprehension of precepts and observances.
So alīnacitto samāno bhabbo sakkāyadiṭṭhiṃ pahātuṃ vicikicchaṃ pahātuṃ sīlabbataparāmāsaṃ pahātuṃ.

When you have no doubts you can give up greed, hate, and delusion.
So avicikiccho samāno bhabbo rāgaṃ pahātuṃ dosaṃ pahātuṃ mohaṃ pahātuṃ.

After giving up greed, hate, and delusion you can give up rebirth, old age, and death.”
So rāgaṃ pahāya dosaṃ pahāya mohaṃ pahāya bhabbo jātiṃ pahātuṃ jaraṃ pahātuṃ maraṇaṃ pahātun”ti

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Interesting. So this opens the possibility that the normative way of attaining stream entry may have been through personal contact with an arya speaking to them.

I do get that. But if I tell you that a monk taught me about meditation, then I went away and eventually attained enlightenment, will you assume that I never ate any food or went to the toilet in between that teaching, and my enlightenment, since I happened to not mention that in my sentence?

All we know if he got enlightened after that. And we would not be unwise to assume he had contact with people in the meantime. At the very least he was probably going on almsround every day (or sharing that duty with his fellow renunciates), and probably living with other people in solitude also. That is the normative picture, right?

I cannot understand that part of your comment.

I knew you are into this particular concept. This is something like getting from god or some supernatural entity. If someone should get dhamma knowledge from an aryan that is against the buddhist teaching.

Tumhehi kiccamātappaṃ, akkhātāro tathāgatā;
Paṭipannā pamokkhanti, jhāyino mārabandhanā.
You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.

Aryas has nothing to do with stream entry of someone else other than delivering dhamma. Some claim dhamma should come from an arya which is not true. As explained in Vimuttāyatana sutta there are several other ways to get the knowladge.
There are four factors that lead someone to stream entry.

For the factors of stream-entry are associating with good people, listening to the true teaching, proper attention, and practicing in line with the teaching.
Sappurisasaṃsevo hi, sāriputta, sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ, saddhammassavanaṃ sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ, yonisomanasikāro sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ, dhammānudhammappaṭipatti sotāpattiyaṅgaṃ (SN 55.5).

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