Sotapanna through meditation


What I meant with anachronistic is that in later thought the idea was developed that stream-entry comes along with an experienceable ‘nibbana-moment’. We cannot find it in the suttas, and I don’t think we can find suttas that tell us that stream-entry is an experience. So to me the idea of ‘an initial awakening experience’ is abhidhammic, and the expectation to find it in the suttas would be anachronistic.

I would investigate the dhamma-vision separately. Unless the sutta calls it sotapatti, I wouldn’t connect the two.


The following is a very interesting sutta. Which atleast to my eyes ties many ideas together.

A Boundary Pillar
Mendicants, there are ascetics and brahmins who don’t truly understand about suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. They gaze up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘Surely this worthy one knows and sees.’

Suppose there was a light tuft of cotton-wool or kapok which was taken up by the wind and landed on level ground. The east wind wafts it west; the west wind wafts it east; the north wind wafts it south; and the south wind wafts it north. Why is that? It’s because the tuft of cotton-wool is so light.

In the same way, there are ascetics and brahmins who don’t truly understand about suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. They gaze up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘Surely this worthy one knows and sees.’ Why is that? It’s because they haven’t seen the four noble truths.

There are ascetics and brahmins who truly understand about suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. They don’t gaze up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘Surely this worthy one knows and sees.’

Suppose there was an iron pillar or a boundary pillar with deep foundations, firmly embedded, imperturbable and unshakable. Even if violent storms were to blow up out of the east, the west, the north, and the south, they couldn’t make it shake or rock or tremble. Why is that? It’s because that boundary pillar is firmly embedded, with deep foundations.

In the same way, there are ascetics and brahmins who truly understand about suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. They don’t gaze up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘Surely this worthy one knows and sees.’ Why is that? It’s because they have clearly seen the four noble truths. What four? The noble truths of suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path.

That’s why you should practice meditation

It would be a difficult thing indeed to have unshakable confidence about a path without seeing whither it is leading.


That sounds very odd to me!
Firstly, being ‘into’ the concept is a strange way of putting it. Are you ‘into’ the 2nd noble truth especially, if you happen to hold an understanding of the teachings of the 2nd noble truth in the EBTs?

But more to the point, we have various examples in the suttas of the Buddha teaching disciples and them attaining stream entry by listening to him. And you characterise that apparently as “against the buddhist teaching”.

Or do you not consider the Buddha to have been ariya?

I have never made that claim. Nor heard it in fact. But I will ask, can you provide any example in the EBTs of anyone giving a dhamma talk, who has not yet attained stream entry, and any audience member attains stream entry during that talk? If not, then we are left with all specific examples of stream entry being through listening to an ariya, it would seem.

I don’t think I’ve heard of that. If it’s from later tradition that’s probably why, since I haven’t had much interest in later material except from some Mahayana works.

The first think it reminds me of however, is the ‘deathless element’, which can be experienced.

So you do not feel that ‘dhamma-vision’ represents a kind of awakening experience? I know you said to treat it separately, but this question seems suitable to ask. And perhaps you would like to explain why you want that treated separately - do you not see ‘dhamma-vision’ as a kind of direct non-conceptual experience of non-distortion, as we might also describe stream entry? Or how do you describe these two phenomena? I am not so familiar with ‘dhamma-vision’ though perhaps I should refresh my memory from my notes.

But also, let’s say during a dhamma talk, someone attains stream entry - that event of stream entry was bounded by time. So how short must an event be in order for it to be classified as ‘an experience’?

From the evidence, we can say that the maximum duration of the event was the entire discourse, and the minimum time was instantaneous. I am not sure we can say anything more than that from the reports of the EBTs.

So from this evidence, how do you conclude that it certainly is not classifiable as ‘an experience’?

I also do not find it irrelevant, as I mentioned above, that within the very same tradition, we find phenomena which bare the same characteristics - a qualified Buddhist teacher, taken to be at least past stream entry themselves, talks to a disciple, and while that is happening, the student attains what we can classify in English Theravada terminology as stream entry. In all these respects, the reports are identical. And, we have many such reports given in far greater detail than the 2 and a half millennia old suttas. And, while coming from different countries whose traditions have been separated for millennia, the reports conform to each other so far as I can see, in presenting a sudden dropping away of distortion, and the dawning of clear seeing. And, that this is generally temporary.

We get this also in other religions, and outside of religion also.

Now I would say that logically, we may propose that the various different groups of Buddhists, and non-Buddhists, may indeed be attaining the same phenomenon of awakening but, this may not be the same thing that was called ‘stream entry’ in the EBTs. I am totally open to that possibility.

However I find it implausible that that kind of awakening was not happening in the Buddha’s community. So, I look forward to hearing more from you especially about the two terms above and how they might shed light on this matter.

I was curious what the Pāli was for that. Here it is:

That’s why you should practice meditation …”
Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, ‘idaṃ dukkhan’ti yogo karaṇīyo … pe … ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yogo karaṇīyo”ti.

Can anyone explain how the English comes from the Pāli? Specifically ‘meditation’?


Has a problem with phrasing I guess.

It is not a must to obtain the dhamma knowledge from an aryan.
One may attain sotāpattipala with the knowledge obtained from an Aryan or non-aryan.

Cannot point out any examples for non-aryans giving dhamma talks from EBTs. I couldn’t find.


Listening to dead arahants counts. E.g., one could listen to Sariputta

dn33: Five opportunities for freedom.

dn33: Or the mendicant recites the teaching in detail as they learned and memorized it. …

The EBTs themselves are somewhat viral in their conditioning.


It’s a matter of taste in a way. I do literature analyses, and if two concepts appear separately I don’t mix them up myself, and I assume that they represent two frameworks, or two transmission lines. My interest is only at the very end how it’s related to my world today, I first separate and re-contextualize them, if possible. So if sotpatti and dhamma-vision appear separately I treat them as separate things. If the text doesn’t tell me it’s an experience, then I’m not at first interested if it must have been an experience. My first interest is to see what the texts featuring this framework are readily revealing themselves, without my personal questions (as much as possible at least).

As far as I recall sotapatti is not very rewarding from the suttas, it’s rather dry and structural.
The more convincing term sequentually is dhammacakkhu. It arises as a consequence of understanding a certain teaching, and it has a content: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” (yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammam)

(SN 35.74, SN 35.121, SN 56.11, AN 3.94, AN 8.12, AN 8.21-22, MN 56, MN 74, MN 91, MN 147, DN 3, DN 5)

When you go through the suttas, you’ll see that dhammacakkhu is not entirely satisfactory either. It’s too formulaic on the one hand, and several characters do weird things afterwards - they don’t just ordain for example.


How about the meaning?

I did not notice anyone claiming otherwise. It just so happens to be the only one given in specific examples in the EBTs. Which is noteworthy.

So this will be our working understanding until such examples are found.

You have an example of someone in the EBTs attaining stream entry from listening to… Sariputta after he died? Could you please elaborate and provide references, thanks.

Isn’t that an illogical approach? Would the logical approach not rather be that:

  • They they may represent two different frameworks,
  • Or they may represent the same framework.

Why would you remove either of these two options before having gathered enough data to analyse and see what the data itself says?

Well this sounds like we’re on the same page. I think mostly we are.

Sounds very interesting. I will try to study it!
Is there any paper which discusses these different terms and their EBT context? That might be an efficient way for me to learn about it. And, if you’d be willing to give an explanation of the characteristics of these different things according to how you understand them, stream entry, dhammacakku and … oh I forgot what the other one was… that would be great!


Looking for water in a desert (?)

Now this is interesting,
How could I find an aryan? Any suggestions ?
Then we are helpless without an aryan?


One of the things that I found very useful is listening to Sutta classes. They systematically analyse the texts define the terms and contexts in which they appear, and illustrate themes and connections. In my case I got a lot more out of this than by reading other peoples views in essays etc. Once the Buddhas teachings are somewhat understood, then it is more interesting to see how other people have interpreted them, and to sort through ‘the thicket of views’.

There are many sutta class resources in the AV category on the forum. Also if you have a favourite teacher, you can see if they have published any.

Both Bikkhu Bodhi and Ajahn Brahmali have extensive classes published on line via YouTube. :slightly_smiling_face:


Sure. As quoted:

dn33: Five opportunities for freedom.

My interpretation is literal and is that anybody has five opportunities for freedom, which to my mind includes stream entry. If you wish to interpret it restrictively and assume monastics, that would be your interpretation. The broader interpretation is the more compassionate. Arguments might ensure. I’ll abstain simply because as a lay person I would find hopelessness useless. Blind people can’t ordain.



I think this is a question for Bhante @sujato. But for myself, I think Bhante is trying to make a distinction between, thinking/hammering arguments out by logic(especially with prior assumptions and a mind not devoid of the five hindrances that weaken wisdom) and meditative reflection (necessarily with a mind devoid of hindrances).


Dhammacakkhu doesn’t appear that often, it’s good to look it up in the suttas. Sotapati & sotapanna is even more important to look them up in the suttas, even if this is more work, because they are so well known and we already have opinions about the terms.

Other than that I recommended Manne’s paper already. Maybe interesting is also Harvey (2013). The Saṅgha of Noble Sāvakas, with Particular Reference to their Trainee Member, the Person ‘Practising for the Realization of the Stream-entry-fruit’.


In the traditions I’ve seen, there’s often a fair awareness among the teachers about who has at least some level of awakening. In Asia at least. Here in Europe I’m less sure.

As for suggestions, I can recommend Adyashanti, and American teacher. Or Tibetans such as Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, and Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche. I know some Theravada ones but they have passed away, sorry I cannot offer more but that’s a good start.

Perhaps that depends on how we interpret refuge. Some say that refuge in the sangha is specifically in the ariya sangha, apparently meaning that we need to take refuge in actual people who have attained at least stream entry. From this perspective, since refuge is deemed essential for the path to enlightenment, then yes, we are “helpless without an aryan”.

Not sure I understand. You wrote “Listening to dead arahants counts. E.g., one could listen to Sariputta”. What do you mean, ‘as quoted’? I see that sentence, and now a title of a very long text. I can’t follow how this is an answer to my question. Perhaps a quote and some explanation as to what you think the quote shows? This was supposed to establish ‘an example of someone in the EBTs attaining stream entry from listening to… Sariputta after he died’.

That sounds interesting. I mean this with absolutely no rudeness, but I was interested in what the Buddha was saying in the sutta (or if that is what the sutta is saying, then where/how). So while that sounds like great advice, I feel no closer to understanding the Pāli. It takes me time to understand Pāli with the aid of a dictionary etc. - glancing at it I cannot see how it means the English, (meditation in particular) if anyone knows I’d be interested to hear! I have a lot to learn.

Thanks, yeah maybe one of these days! I was always bad with this at school, doing schoolwork at night if I had to look a word up I might be stuck in the dictionary for a long time! Somehow I have to limit how much I look into… I’ve bookmarked your references and hope I get time to have a look at the articles, or if I get enough time, maybe do a systematic search through the suttas…


The quote, “five opportunities for freedom”, lays out five ways of walking along the Noble Eightfold Path. The first opportunity is given as:

dn33: Five opportunities for freedom.
dn33: Firstly, the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches Dhamma to a mendicant.

This one has been discussed at length in this thread. One learns directly from someone ahead on the path (e.g., an arahant). When the Buddha was alive, this is how Sariputta and others entered the stream and went to the other shore. With the death of the Buddha and uncertainty about the choice of teacher, the other four opportunities become significant. Let’s examine further:

The second case is:

dn33: Furthermore, it may be that neither the Teacher nor a respected spiritual companion teaches Dhamma to a mendicant. But the mendicant teaches Dhamma in detail to others as they learned and memorized it. …

This case is interesting because it allows for the Dhamma itself to teach others on its own. In the broadest, most compassionate understanding of the second way, it would be sufficient for someone who had learned and memorized the EBTs to teach the Dhamma to others. Note that SuttaCentral itself can fulfill this role for those who learn and memorize the EBTs. All those on this thread are learning and memorizing the EBTs and therefore have an opportunity for freedom. An opportunity is not a guarantee. But it is an opportunity for freedom even without direct access to “the Teacher nor a respected spiritual companion”.

This is great news for “followers by faith,” since they can just dive into the practice and interact with the contemporary Sangha. Some will become free.

However, you are looking for direct evidence of such within the EBTs. Let’s examine MN140, where the Buddha meets a follower by faith who doesn’t recognize the Buddha. The Buddha is impressed by his follower’s conduct and examines him:

mn140: Then it occurred to the Buddha,
mn140: “This gentleman’s conduct is impressive.
mn140: Why don’t I question him?”

And Pukkusāti answers in the canonical way of a follower by faith:

mn140: ‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed.’
mn140: I’ve gone forth in his name.
mn140: That Blessed One is my Teacher,
mn140: and I believe in his teaching.”

This is a critical juncture because Pukkusāti has learned and memorized an aspect of the teachings and practiced to the point where he impresses the Buddha upon meeting him. Pukkusāti was a lay practitioner. And upon learning of Pukkusāti’s death by that ever re-appearing cow, the Buddha declared:

mn140: “Mendicants, Pukkusāti was astute. He practiced in line with the teachings, and did not trouble me about the teachings.
mn140: With the ending of the five lower fetters, he’s been reborn spontaneously and will become extinguished there, not liable to return from that world.”

Basically, Pukkusāti was a stream enterer by faith who practiced meditation at the time he met the Buddha. In fact it was his meditation that impressed the Buddha.


That’s all very interesting, but this was supposed to be ‘an example of someone in the EBTs attaining stream entry from listening to… Sariputta after he died’.

And yet you have provided no example of a report of anyone attaining stream entry. Let alone from the help of dead Sariputta.


Who actually attained stream-entry in the suttas? Where do we find actual characters?

I have found exactly two characters in the suttas (self)declared stream enterers: Dīghāvu in SN 55.3, and Sakka in DN21. If you want to include the Four Great Kings in AN 6.34, okay.

Who/what am I missing? :thinking:


Interesting. You doubt that Pukkusāti was a stream-enterer. :man_shrugging:

Well. Nothing I say then will be of use. :cry:


Please quote the episode where he attains stream entry, detailing the circumstances.


The point being that a report about someone who attained stream entry, is not the same as a report of someone attaining stream entry.


I hope we can agree that the following is the Buddha’s assertion of stream entry, even of non-return:

mn140: With the ending of the five lower fetters, he’s been reborn spontaneously and will become extinguished there, not liable to return from that world.”

If we can agree on the above, then we can walk backwards in the sutta looking for such an episode. What we find is that the Buddha recognizes an impressive level of attainment.

mn140: “This gentleman’s conduct is impressive.

SInce Pukkusāti has only just met the Buddha, it follows that the exact episode for which you seek evidence has already happened and is not directly described in the sutta. However, Pukkusāti had not yet met the Buddha and is just a follower-by-faith who is pursuing the second opportunity for freedom.

There is a gray zone of interpretation here. One could read this sutta as:

  • “Pukkusāti was just receptive to the teaching and became a stream enterer in the workshop when listening to the Buddha”, or
  • “Pukkusāti was a stream-enterer, a follower-by-faith, who was given further instruction by the Buddha to achieve non-return”

Personally, I find the latter interpretation more useful simply because it opens up more possibilities for ending suffering in this very life.