Why "Stream Winner" instead of "Stream Enterer"?

Since sotapanna literally means one who has entered the stream, why is stream winner commonly used?


Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple thus understands as they really are the origin and the passing away of the world, he is then called a noble disciple who is accomplished in view, accomplished in vision, who has arrived at this true Dhamma, who sees this true Dhamma, who possesses a trainee’s knowledge, a trainee’s true knowledge, who has entered the stream of the Dhamma, a noble one with penetrative wisdom, one who stands squarely before the door to the Deathless.

Summarized as “Streamwinner” by many.


Sotapanna has several meanings

  • Sota = Ear or Hearing and also Stream
  • Apanna = Entry

But I think context matters, and the Buddha called his followers Savakas (listeners).

So I actually think sotapanna means “Hearing/Heard Wisdom” or “Hearing entry”.

Which makes sense because to attain sotapanna magga you need to hear the true dhamma with proper attention (yoniso manasikara).

Sotapanna magga = Hearing entry to the path

This is why he was disappointed when he heard his teachers Udakka and Alara were reborn in the formless plane, as they cannot hear the dhamma and become ariyas, and they will be there for such a long time they have missed the opportunity to become ariyas. I also remember reading that being reborn in the formless plane wipes your memories, probably because you’re there for such a long time, that after when you’re reborn in the material planes it’s like starting from scratch, and you can’t draw on past knowledge from previous lives.


Thank you for your replies, but my question is simply why winner is used rather than enterer when the Pali word literally means one who has entered. I kind of get it if one treads the path, does what needs to be done and wins the fruit, but it doesn’t fit right in my version of English. Perhaps there’s another language idiom that I’m not aware of.

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I’ve often wondered the same thing.
The Pāli English Dictionary gives these choices for āpanna (past participle of āpajjati) — entered upon, fallen into, possessed of

In the sutta mentioned above, SN 12.49, there’s the phrase dhammasotaṃ samāpanno - (one who has) entered the stream of the Dhamma.

PED gives: samāpanna (past p. of samāpajjati) having attained got to, entered, reached

It could be simply that whoever chose to render it as ‘winner’ selected the ‘possessed of’ or ‘having attained’ option.
I’m not sure if there are suttas to support this reading, and perhaps shows the pitfall of translating by merely selecting a dictionary option.


@Adutiya, are you able to point to translators who use “winner”? Is it generally older translators?


I haven’t considered translators, but I’ve noticed that Ajahn Brahm uses “winner” (and he’s older :joy_cat:)

That’s my best guess too:

I just did some quick poking around.

Bhikkhu Bodhi doesn’t use “winner” in MN or SN. Horner didn’t use in in MN, and Davids didn’t seem to use it in DN (although I didn’t do a thorough search on those)

However Ajhan Thanissaro does use it, although this doc doesn’t explain why he does.

Perhaps one of his other books explains why he does. Maybe Wings to Awakening

Edit: FL Woodward uses “winner”



I think the hearing experience entry idea might be a Visuddhimagga commentary. I think it’s pretty clear in the suttas that the Buddha described 8 kinds of noble persons and that a sotapanna is one who has not just heard the Dhamma, but who has actually broken the first three fetters, attained the first of the four noble fruits and entered the stream.

There are 8 ariyas. There is sotapanna magga, and sotapanna phala. Phala means fruit/result, and that is when the 3 fetters are given up. Magga means path, and that is attained when hearing the true dhamma with proper attention. This is not visuddhimagga but in the suttas.


Yes, I understand that. :grinning: What I’m asking about here is about the term winner vs. enterer, not whether one is on the path or attained the fruit. And if one is the first noble person, the sotapanna magga, they are on the path but have not yet attained the fruit and entered the stream.


Yes, I was responding to this portion of your comment

The sotapanna magga only just heard the dhamma, they haven’t yet given up the fetters, in my understanding of the suttas.

As for entry vs winner, in the suttas whenever an ariya type is mentioned such as stream enterer, non-returner, Arahant, etc… it’s usually referring to a fruit attainer by default. So I guess they’re called a stream winner because they won the the path? I.e. they fully executed the path for the first time, attained samma Samadhi and attained experiential confidence and thus the fruit.

A sotapanna magga, is usually called a faith follower or dhamma follower, and hasn’t executed the entire path yet.

“Good, good, Sāriputta! For the stream is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.

Sāriputta, they speak of ‘a stream-enterer’. What is a stream-enterer?”

“Sir, anyone who possesses this noble eightfold path is called a stream-enterer, the venerable of such and such name and clan.”

There have been some very nice discussions on this subject.

A quick search using the terms stream enterer winner paths and fruit yields the following results. I draw your attention to an entry a few down, by Khemarato Bhikkhu in a QA thread asking the same question :slight_smile:

With metta



Sorry, would you mind linking to that. What I found doesn’t look like it addresses the term “winner” specifically.


It says a winner for those who realize the path, but they are not yet.

It say an enterer for those who already the fruit.

That is the difference the ‘magga’ and the ‘phala’.

Can you share where you are getting this from? From what I can tell, there is no translator who uses both stream enterer and stream winner. Can you show some examples of a translator that uses these terms this way?

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For me, I think the impact of the word winner is much stronger than enterer. So it serves as a motivation to attain it. Don’t stop, never give up, until the safety point is reached.

As the Buddha said that the attainment of stream winner is better than being king of the whole universe, it’s easy to see that one wins the biggest win in the world by such an attainment.

And just to elaborate on king of the whole universe thing, there’s many science fiction and fantasy tales of villains who aspire to rule the world or conquer universe, or the hero who had proven worthy to inherit the throne of the emperor of the known human galactic empire. Star wars also had the evil emperor theme. Dune had Paul becoming emperor of the galactic empire at the end of the original book.

King represents power, which is also what many people are pursuing with money nowadays. With power, comes the ability to fulfill one’s wishes easily. Therein lies the happiness of wish fulfilment.

Just as the wishing game frequently told by Ajahn Brahm, that wish fulfilment is at most the 3rd Child who wished to be a trillionaire or billionaire, or the 4th one who has infinite wishes from the genie. The 5th child won the wishing game for the wish to have no need for wishes anymore. So stream winning can be said to win in that regard as well compared to king of the universe.

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Hi Snowbird,

I just did a preliminary scan over the material rather than going through it in detail. I was mostly wanting to point out for new users how useful the search function can be. I use it all the time myself - so much treasure in this site, and also saves a lot of time :slight_smile:

with Metta and best wishes :pray:

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My sense is that the use of the term “winner” is just another term of art, or artifact, of Buddhist parlance. One benefit to having the foundation of SC is that we can dig a bit deeper into the Suttas, and develop a better way of expressing the Dhamma. I don’t like the idea of “stream winner” in that the term suggests the victorious acquisition of something by way of a contest or competition. None of us need to feel as though this Path is a competition, with winners and losers.

To me other artifacts are words like “aggregates,” which are in common usage but really don’t help a newbie to Dhamma, or even experienced practitioners, to grok what is being described. As we work to understand the Dhamma better, perhaps we can come up with better ways of expressing this Path.

1 winner

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Depends on individual’s past conditioning to see the impact of the word winner then.

Anyway, conquest over oneself is far more valuable than conquest over the entire universe. That’s another cool motivating thing for me for the winner usage.