Virtue - stream entrants and arahants

Is there a difference between the morality of a stream entrant and that of an arahant?


It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to intentionally deprive a living being of life. It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to take, in the manner of stealing, what is not given. It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to engage in sexual intercourse. It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to tell a conscious lie. AN9.7

Stream entrants:

the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, leading to concentration. This is the fourth bonanza of merit, bonanza of skillfulness, nourishment of bliss. SN55.31

with metta,

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An Arahant has perfected moral virtues. A Stream enterer can still slip in regard to some minor rules but immediately correct it.

AN 3.87 There is the case where a monk is wholly accomplished in virtue, wholly accomplished in concentration, and moderately accomplished in discernment. With reference to the lesser and minor training rules, he falls into offenses and rehabilitates himself. Why is that? Because I have not declared that to be a disqualification in these circumstances. But as for the training rules that are basic to the holy life and proper to the holy life, he is one of permanent virtue, one of steadfast virtue. Having undertaken them, he trains in reference to the training rules.


Are any of the five precepts among these?

The Five Precepts are basic rules that Stream Enterer won’t break, according to
AN 10.92

Ok. So the lesser and minor rules mentioned in the AN3.87 belong in the Bhikkhu’s viniya only?

with metta

Seems like so. Although it might be possible for instance of the Five Precepts being breached unintentionally (not intentional or volitionally).

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We do not for example feel remorse for what wrong we did not know about -say killing bacteria while walking. Also karmically, there would be no intention to kill, so does not give rise to negative karmic effect (vipaka). The former is important as virtue gives rise to samadhi and remorse prevents that link. There is no bad karma done so it is not a problem either. I believe breaking a precept involves intentionally performing a negative act. The Five precepts would not be breached unintentionally.

with metta

So, there is no difference between an Arahant and Sotapanna when it comes to five precepts?

According to Abhidhamma, Sotapanna breaks the precepts but with the right view.

I couldn’t find where it said that in the thread you posted.

With metta

  1. Eradication of the Akusala Cittas by the four
    classes of Aryan disciples.
    A Sotàpanna (Stream-Winner) eradicates the 1st
    2nd, 5th, 6th, and 11th types of consciousness as he has
    destroyed the two Fetters (Saüyojana)—Sakkàyadiññhi
    (Self-illusion) and Vicikicchà (Doubts).
    A Sakadàgàmi (Once-Returner), who has attained
    the second stage of Sainthood, weakens the potentiality of
    the 9th and 10th types of consciousness, because he has
    only attenuated the two Fetters—Kàmaràga (Sense-desire)
    and Pañigha (Hatred).
    An Anàgàmi (Never-Returner), who has attained the
    third stage of Sainthood, eradicates the above two types of consciousness
    as he has completely destroyed the said two Fetters

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Hi all

This questions depends on our understanding of what morality/virtue (sīla) is. The traditional and I’d say commentarial (and even possibly ‘early Buddhist’) teaching, is the basic definition of sīla as the Five Precepts, but I find that problematic, as the conversation so far, seems to confirm.

Various consistent texts indicate the SE (fruit) is perfect in sīla (not SE path), the OR is improving samādhi (and paññā?), the NR is perfect in (sīla) samādhi (and improving paññā?) and the Arahant perfect in paññā. So all three trainings are complete for the Arahant. (see my study:āvaka-saṅgha_Ariya-sāvaka_in_the_Suttas_-_excerpt_from_thesis)

If that is so, AN3.87 would be referring to the NR and it refers to training rules that are basic to the holy life and proper to the holy life. And the question may arise, which are those? In the First Council it said that the Arahant monks could not agree on what rules were to be categorized as major and which not. Major, for me, would be training rules that are basic to the holy life and proper to the holy life. So we might say, ‘the first council monks could not agree on what sīla was for monks’. To me that indicates they were not Arahants at all. (see my study on the supposed First Council:ṅgha_Council)

The AN quote is more general than the Four Fundamental Rules for monks, as I understand them, which are, intentionally: killing a human being, sealing something of high value (I paraphrase as stealing someone’s livelihood, or means to a livelihood), sex with a woman and spiritual fraud (a very specific type of lying). All lesser types of bad action would be covered by the lesser rules.

If we take basic/fundamental sīla to mean the Five Precepts and the fifth to be drinking all together, and training rules that are basic to the holy life and proper to the holy life as the first one or two groups of rules for the monks, then the ‘sīla’ of the layman is more strict than the monk. For example, avoiding alcohol is one of the ‘minor’ rules of the monk; and where the First Precept is intentionally taking any living being’s life, in the first four rules for the monk, as mentioned, we do not find not intentionally killing any living being, but we only find not intentionally killing another human being and other harm or other living beings are covered in less important rules. So on for the other three of the Five Precepts.

There seems to be evidence in the EBTs that the Fifth Precept was added later, possibly as a drinking problem arose in the lay community. See the Kalama Sutta AN3.65 which seems to have ‘not leading others into such behavior’ as a fifth. There is also a sutta where Stream Enterers can drink alcohol and, it would seem, still maintain purity in sīla SN55.24.

My solution is, sīla for monks matches the first four training rules and next 13 rules only and ‘good habits’ cover all the other training rules. This seems to be supported by this vinaya text: Pārājikaṃ saṅghādiseso, ‘‘sīlavipattī’’ti vuccati. (falling from sīla) on and lesser rules are called ācāravipatti (falling from good habits). Just as the Sigolavāda sutta (layman’s vinaya) talks of ‘the four vices of conduct’ and the rest could be called ‘bad habits’ if not kept. The Four Vices of Conduct match the First Four of the monks’ rules and the rest of the sutta talks about good habits for laypeople. (seeīla_and_Sikkhāpada_From_Comparative_Studies_of_Pali_Texts)

It would be such a great blessing/boon if all humans could even just avoid killing each other! Thus would sīla protect society.

best wishes

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Thank you for linking to the essay! :anjal: I found it very helpful. It’s bits of info like this that make this site so useful. Your scheme seems logical to me and also consistent with my reading and thinking about the suttas. It helps tie together a lot of thinking I’ve been having lately on those topics (e.g. lately from my own reading in SN 55 I jumped to the conclusion that dhamma-followers and faith-followers are most likely synonymous with those described as on the path to stream-entry, rather than the usual near instantaneous mind-moment interpretation of “path”). Very interesting scheme on the inter-relationship between sīla, samādhi and paññā and levels of enlightenment anyway.

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Hi Suaimhneas

You’re most welcome and thanks for the great feedback.

The system of study that I use, is what I believe the Buddha meant when he gave instruction to hold council to recite and compare texts, by letter and spirit. We have the story of the First and subsequent Councils, that only recite the text and the idea of the First Council was attributed to Bh. Mahākassapa, not the Buddha. I take that as disrespecting the Buddha.

come together in company and rehearse all of you together those doctrines and quarrel not over them, but compare meaning with meaning, and phrase with phrase, in order that this pure religion may last long and be perpetuated

best wishes

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