Suttas about followers failing to enter the stream?

Hi, are there any Suttas about followers who weren’t able to enter the stream?
(except Ajatasattu, I know that sutta)


Lots, and lots more if you’re interested in Commentarial stories as well. What precisely are you interested in finding?

Edit: And even more if you include failure stories that take place prior to later success at attaining liberation - like Vangisa’s poems of his struggles.


I do remember in sutras itself Buddha mentioned that even of monks that didn’t make it in his spiritual path, when they go back to be householder they stay faithful. So I guess failed reaching the goal. But that’s all I remember. Maybe that might help you. If I find the sutta I post it here. I will search it.


I think the possibilities is explained better here by Buddha. Wonderful sutta. I actually read first time. Found it searching for that other sutta. :joy:


AN 7.15 comes to mind…


I think it’s still hard not to become after life. I think for the following reasons

Monks, if one gives attention with wisdom to this teaching, examines it, analyses it, and accepts it, then one is called a faith-follower, who transcends and leaves behind the round of births, who goes beyond the stage of a worldling, who will certainly attain the fruit of stream-entry and will not pass away in-between without having attained the fruit of stream-entry.

“Monks, if one gives attention with superior wisdom to this teaching, examines it, analyses it, and accepts it, then one is called a Dharma-follower, who transcends and leaves behind the round of births, who goes beyond the stage of a worldling, who will certainly attain the fruit of stream-entry and will not pass away in-between without having attained the fruit of stream-entry.


AndrejDelany, I have read a scholar’s writing where he suggests that the Buddha was certainly unsuccessful many times with his students. He didn’t provide any references though. It is interesting to know more about the “unsuccessful” students for those who work hard and are not successful yet. It would help a bit if you also share with us how did you get to this question and what do you expect from the answer, perhaps it will help us (or me) to understand your question more.

I think in many cases the Buddha would not Enlighten (so to speak) His students immediately, but if they practiced and worked hard, they would eventually become Enlightened later. For example, in the beginning of Vinaya’s Mahavagga, the Buddha visits His five friends (then students) and only one becomes Enlightened, the rest nothing. After a few more discourses all of them are Arahants.

I heard a story that the Buddha gave a meditation instruction to some monks, and they went to a forest to meditate. They all thought they were Arahants but they were wrong. They decided to visit the Buddha and announce Him their successes, but the Buddha sent ven. Ananda to get the monks to a cemetery first and only then they would visit the Buddha. These monks, when they visited the cemetery (or more accurately - charnel ground) they felt disgust in themselves and thus realized that they have not attained Arahanthood. Whether they might be Stream-Enterers (Sotapanna), that I think was not mentioned. I think I just heard this story, never saw this in Pali. Searched it for a few hours, couldn’t find it. If anybody knows an exact reference, please, please, let me know. :grin:


Thanks to everyone, I am asking to find out the reasons, why someone can’t enter the stream.


Aha I see. There is suttas about that I think. Let’s see. I will search. :+1:

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According to Dhatu Samyutta, some individuals are unable to attain the stream. This is because the individual’s dhatu. Cf. SN 14.14.

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Let’s see here. Lord Buddha has declared the Noble Eightfold Path as the way to end suffering. And the first is right view for a reason. That’s the first you have to work on. Ofcourse in combination with the other but truly work on that. The wrong views are long. 62 wrong views. How sure are you you don’t have them? Understand

This I hope help you. Or else let me know. Because helping you I’m finding suttas. It’s fun. :slight_smile:

So actually these are not followers failing exactly but I thought sharing. Buddhas words already is as saying the reason.

Mālunkyāputta, if there is the view ‘the world is eternal,’ the holy life cannot be lived; and if there is the view ‘the world is not eternal,’ the holy life cannot be lived. Whether there is the view ‘the world is eternal’ or the view ‘the world is not eternal,’ there is birth, there is ageing, there is death, there are sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the destruction of which I prescribe here and now.

“And what is the person who goes along with the stream? Here, someone indulges in sensual pleasures and performs bad deeds. This is called the person who goes along with the stream.

He in whom the thirty-six streams flow pleasantly and strong,

the one with wrong view, is carried away by his passionate intentions.

Streams are flowing everywhere, the creepers remain where they grow,

seeing this, cut the creeper’s root that has arisen with wisdom.

There are flowing streams of affection and

mental happinesses for a person,

pleasure-dependent they seek happiness,

those people undergo both birth and old age.

People surrounded by craving

crawl round like a hare in a trap,

attached and clinging to fetters

they come back again and again to suffering for a long time.

Good to mention that stream is used for wrong views also, so actually the right view start to lead to Nirvana


Thanks, can you link the sutta? I don’t find the part you are referring to.

My question was directed at thomaslaw.

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He might be busy. I found it for you

And a book explain this.


In The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism: A Comparative Study Based on …

By Mun-keat Choong


There are many reasons why people cannot enter the Stream, but I think it is not easy to find a sutta that would list all of them. You can find an excellent list in Milindapañhapāḷi 6.3.8. Dhammābhisamayapañha, SuttaCentral

But note that Milindapañhapāḷi is not accepted as “Tipitaka” scripture in Sri Lanka until today. It was however officially accepted as a Tipitaka scripture since the Sixth Buddhist Council in 1954-1956.

Let me list those that I am aware of, from what I have learned from my teachers and books. :sun_with_face:

  1. Missing or lacking in one of the four main requirements for Stream-Entry.
    SN 55.5 Dutiyasāriputtasutta, SuttaCentral (yoniso manasikaro, which is here translated as “proper attention” is also well translated as “wise reflection.” Patisambhidamagga Commentary - (3) Paññāvaggo - 1. Mahāpaññākathā - Mahāpaññākathāvaṇṇanā explains that it is reflecting on the words and teachings that were told by the good friend.)

  2. Wrong view -

  • a) basic misunderstanding of the Buddha’s Teachings (MN 117. Mahacattarisaka Sutta, SuttaCentral ; a related reading is MN 22. Alagaddupama Sutta, SuttaCentral )
  • b) wrong understanding of the practice. (This is in the Commentaries. It is the Comy to Satipatthana Sutta, MN 10, which explains the fourfold Clear Comprehension, including “gocara sampajanna,” the knowledge and understanding of one’s meditation practice.)
  • c) blaming an Arahant or a Buddha (I believe that people blame Enlightened people because they do not understand or believe that these could be worthy of salutation and support. AN 5.211 Akkosaka Sutta, SuttaCentral )
  1. Attachment to this world (inability to let go of sensual pleasures, existence, views, and ignorance)
    AN 4 1.10. Yoga Sutta, SuttaCentral

  2. Attachment to possessions (lack of generosity)
    (This is somewhat presented in MN 24. Rathavinita Sutta’s Commentary. You can also read about the power of generosity in Khuddaka Nikaya’s Khuddakapatha - Nidhikanda Sutta, SuttaCentral )

  3. Breaking rules (both for laypeople and monastics)
    (This is also not directly in suttas, or at least I can’t find it there, however, it is mentioned directly in Vinaya Pitaka Commentary’s Parivara book, Ekuttarikanayo - Ekakavaravannana. It is indirectly implied in MN 6. Akankheyya Sutta, SuttaCentral )

  4. Lack in any of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment
    Milindapañhapāḷi 3.7.6. Bojjhanga Panha, SuttaCentral (here “investigation of Truth,” or let me mention my translation - “distinguishing phenomena,” is particularly emphasized. The Buddha praises bojjhangas, Factors of Enlightenment, also in SN 5.2.5. Bhikkhu Sutta, SuttaCentral )

  5. Five Controlling Faculties out of balance
    (We won’t find this suggestion in the suttas, but it is mentioned in Visuddhimagga - 4. Pathavīkasiṇaniddeso - Dasavidhaappanākosallaṃ par.62. If you want to read about this, you may like to Google and download “The Path of Purification” and read in the book p.125, PDF p.183.)

  6. Committing one of the 5 heinous crimes (killing mother, killing father, injuring the Buddha, killing an Arahant, or splitting Sangha as a monk)
    (I don’t see this in the suttas, but it may be there. It is explained in the beginning portion of the Commentary to MN 22. Alagaddupama Sutta. The commentary also suggests, that raping a bhikkhuni (nun) is also one of such crimes that prevent from Enlightenment. There is a mention of these five (as five only) in Abhidhamma Pitaka Kathavatthu 20.1. Asanciccakatha. The English translation in SuttaCentral is, unfortunately, a summarized version. The original Pali is explicit.)

  7. Being a dvihetuka or ahetuka person.
    (This is not mentioned in the main scriptures, although there are some mentions in Abhidhamma. Dvihetuka and ahetuka are usually disabled or physically or mentally impaired people, who are supposed to suffer so as a result of their excessive greed/hatred/ignorance in one of their previous lives. Tihetuka, a three-rooted person, had non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion in a past life, hence he/she can attain Nibbana this life. A dvihetuka, a two-rooted person, had excessive greed + excessive delusion OR excessive hatred + excessive delusion in his/her past life, hence their kammic dispositions are too weak for Nibbana attainment. Ahetuka, a non-rooted person, had none of the non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion in their previous life, and because of their thoughts, speech, or actions based on greed, hatred, and delusion in their life, they also don’t have sufficient dispositions for the attainment of Nibbana this life. This is what I learned from my teachers in Myanmar. The best explanation I think is in Abhidhammatthasangaha-Tika, a Sub-Commentary to a non-canonical text Abhidhammatthasangaha. I think Bhikkhu Bodhi has translated it as “A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma.” You may like to read there the beginning of the portion Puggalabhedavaṇṇanā in chapter 4. Vīthiparicchedavaṇṇanā. To make you more interested, it seems to me, and I may be wrong, that according to Visuddhimagga Tika MM vol.1 p.199, dvihetuka actually “can” attain Enlightenment, despite what Abhidhammatthasangaha says. )

  8. Being a Buddha-To-Be (bodhisatta).
    Bodhisatta (edit from “Pacceka Buddha,” “Pacceka Buddha” of course attains full Nibbana) can attain up to Anulomañāna, which is insight knowledge no.12 out of 16, where no.14 and 15 (magga-phala, Path-Fruition) are the goal. It is again not in a sutta, but Commentary on Abhidhamma, Sammohavinodanī (Vibhaṅga-aṭṭhakathā) - 16. Ñāṇavibhaṅgo - (3.) Tikaniddesavaṇṇanā explain this. A detailed explanation is found in Mohavicchedanī - 2. Vibhaṅgamātikā, Myanmar Pali p.266)



Sadhu sadhu sadhu. I was waiting for Monk Sarana reply. I saw that Ven going to reply. :joy: But I knew it was going to be long reply. Thanks like always. This helps me also. :pray:t4:


Thanks for your reply and the book information.


It’s the commentary to Dhammapada 149.



I think the most comprehensive canonical list of reasons is that given in the first five suttas of the Sītivagga of the AN’s Book of the Sixes. In other words, from AN 6.85 to AN 6.89.

All the reasons stated in later texts like the Milindapañha and the Pali commentaries are just reiterations, expansions or exemplifications of what are listed here.