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Sutta about being close to Stream Entry but falling back

Hello all,

I think I had read a sutta about a stage before stream entry when the mind sees the Dhamma to some degree but then reverts back to clinging. I think it was described as being between two shores and this stage may have been called “gotra…something”. Or perhaps this was in the commentaries…?
Does this ring a bell for anyone?
Thanks as always.
Kind regards,
Vic

Is it the Sutta about seven people in a body of water?

AN7.15:3.1-10:
And what kind of person rises up then sinks under? It’s the kind of person who, rising up, thinks: ‘It’s good to have faith, conscience, prudence, energy, and wisdom regarding skillful qualities.’ However their faith, conscience, prudence, energy, and wisdom don’t last or grow, but dwindle away. This kind of person rises up then sinks under.

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Gotrabhū
“become of the lineage”; a technical term used from the end of the Nikāya period to designate one, whether layman or bhikkhu, who, as converted, was no longer of the worldlings (puthujjanā), but of the Ariyas, having Nibbāna as his aim. It occurs in a supplementary Sutta in the Majjhima (MN.iii.256), and in another found in two versions, at the end of the Anguttara (AN.iv.373 and AN.v.23). Defined at Pp.12, Pp.13 & Vism.138 amplified at Pts.i.66–Pts.i.68, frequent in P (Tika-p. 154 sq. 165, 324 etc.), mentioned at Vv-a.155. On the use of gotrabhū in medieval psychology see Aung, in Compendium 66–68. Compare the use of upanissaya at Ja.i.235-˚ñāṇa, Pp-a.184; Vism.673. Ā˚ Vism.683.

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@sabbamitta, thanks. I did not know of this sutta. Thanks for highlighting it. It may shed some light on the gotrabhu concept that I had read about.

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Thanks, @Danny. Yes, this is it! I am curious if this was a later addition or was it part of the original canon. The fact that it is in supplementary suttas may suggest it was later, yes? Any thoughts? What do the specialists on EBTs on this forum think?
Thank you.

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Interesting. I’ve never heard of that concept. Bhante Sujato translates it as “member of the spiritual family”, for example:

AN9.10:1.1-4:
“Navayime, bhikkhave, puggalā āhuneyyā pāhuneyyā dakkhiṇeyyā añjalikaraṇīyā anuttaraṁ puññakkhettaṁ lokassa.
“Mendicants, these nine people are worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a religious donation, worthy of greeting with joined palms, and are the supreme field of merit for the world.
Katame nava?
What nine?
Arahā, arahattāya paṭipanno, anāgāmī, anāgāmiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno, sakadāgāmī, sakadāgāmiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno, sotāpanno, sotāpattiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno, gotrabhū—
The perfected one and the one practicing for perfection. The non-returner and the one practicing to realize the fruit of non-return. The once-returner and the one practicing to realize the fruit of once-return. The stream-enterer and the one practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry. And a member of the spiritual family.
ime kho, bhikkhave, nava puggalā āhuneyyā …pe… anuttaraṁ puññakkhettaṁ lokassā”ti.
These are the nine people who are worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a religious donation, worthy of greeting with joined palms, and are the supreme field of merit for the world.”

But where does it say that this is someone close to stream entry, but then falling back?

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This is something that I had heard senior Thai monastics teach/talk about and I understood that it had support within the EBT. It’s not exactly that they “fall back” so perhaps that was not the best characterization on my part; that they are almost there but do not have the spiritual perfections yet to enter the stream fully. But it’s almost within grasp.
In my reading of the above sutta quote that you found; in the way the sequence of practitioners is enumerated by the Buddha, the gotrabhu maybe be exactly that–someone flirting with stream entry.
Thanks again!

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The other two occurrences are in AN 10.16 and MN 142.

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This passage in MN142 seems to indicate that ‘Gotrabhus’ could even be of ‘bad character’, so it doesn’t seem that they are flirting with stream entry.

In times to come there will be members of the spiritual family [Gotrabhu] merely by virtue of wearing ocher cloth around their necks; but they are unethical and of bad character.

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Well not what you looking for but close. I think there is a insight before fully attainments. I have noticed in the suttas. It seems to be opening the dharma-eye. It’s what happened to Sariputta.
And the following sutta I believe confirms it. It’s first understanding things then it seems they meditate and apply the understanding.

At Savatthi. "Monks, eye-contact is inconstant, changeable, alterable. Ear-contact… Nose-contact… Tongue-contact… Body-contact… Intellect-contact is inconstant, changeable, alterable.

"One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One who, after pondering with a modicum of discernment, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.

“One who knows and sees that these phenomena are this way is called a stream-enterer, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening.”(SN 25.4 Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

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It seems in all three cases the gotrabhu is part of a list of people worthy of a gift or offering. They are the last one in the list, after the stream enterer, so that’s perhaps why the idea of a gotrabhu as one who just misses stream entry comes from. They are still considered worthy recipients, even if they are of bad character, as @Danny has pointed out for MN 142.

In this light I think AN 7.15 doesn’t really have much to do with it.

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OP request is in the Visuddhimagga, an important analogy:

“6. Here is a simile that illustrates how conformity and change-of-lineage occur
with different objects though occurring in a single cognitive series with a single
adverting. Suppose a man wanted to leap across a broad stream and establish
himself on the opposite bank, he would run fast, and seizing a rope fastened to
the branch of a tree on the stream’s near bank and hanging down, or a pole, he
would leap with his body tending, inclining and leaning towards the opposite
bank, and when he had arrived above the opposite bank, he would let go, fall on
to the opposite bank, staggering first and then steady himself there; so too this
meditator, who wants to establish himself on Nibbána, the bank opposite to the
kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station, and abode, runs fast by means of
the contemplation of rise and fall, etc., and seizing with conformity’s adverting
to impermanence, pain or not-self the rope of materiality fastened to the branch
of his selfhood and hanging down, or one among the poles beginning with
feeling, he leaps with the first conformity consciousness without letting go and
with the second he tends, inclines and leans towards Nibbána, like the body that
was tending, inclining and leaning towards the opposite bank; then, being
with the third next to Nibbána, which is now attainable, like the other’s arriving
above the opposite bank, he lets go that information as object with the ceasing of
that consciousness, and with the change-of-lineage consciousness he falls on to
the unformed Nibbána, the bank opposite; but staggering, as the man did, for
lack of [previous] repetition, he is not yet properly steady on the single object.
After that he is steadied by path knowledge.”—XXII, 6

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Very interesting. I agree that doesn’t sound even remotely like flirting…but I guess as they are not enlightened but still within samsara they are capable of falling back…
The context that I have heard this term in monastic circles is someone who is really close–perhaps it’s because gotrabhu is usually used to denote that in the EBT but obviously (as you have shown) not universally.
Thank you, @Danny.

@Upasaka_Dhammasara, you bring up another equally fascinating subject. This has always perplexed me as I always thought stream-entry required a deep experience of anicca. I wonder if the faith-follower concept was a later addition…

@paul1, do you think this is describing the gotrabhu state or is it actually a mode of attaining stream-entry? Thanks.

Could be later. But since its in Samyutta Nikaya I doubt it’s really late.

“Sangha” can mean the Ariyas or the monastics. Seems a similar thing here.

[Note that sangha never meant unenlightened, unordained people :joy:]

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When solving sutta problems there are two ways, towards detail (individual words) or outwards towards broader understanding of the sutta as a whole. The Buddha recommends the latter, comparing one sutta with another (MN 95), and the direction in mind development is always spatially expansive (MN 121), so it is profitable to cultivate that way of thinking.

The tendency to individual words stems from naming, which is the foundation on which the networks of conventional reality are built, and so is an undesirable thought process. The verbal aspect of mind needs to be progressively quietened.

Bikkhu Bodhi MN 121, 27m:

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