What is Sotapanna, Stream Entry?
February 10, 2004
By the contemplative recluse monk Arahatta Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)
I have read a wide range of dogma, concepts and beliefs regarding the Buddha's idea behind Stream-Entry (Sotapanna). After reading the three published volumes of the Nikayas (Discourses of the Buddha), the Digha, Majjhima, and Samyutta Nikayas, I can say the Buddha considered anyone who actually lived the Noble Eightfold Path had in fact entered the stream. The stream, according to him was the Noble Eightfold Path. To understand what the Noble Eightfold Path is, I would suggest you read the Nikayas (the discourses of the Buddha).
One will find an excellent suite of discourses of the Buddha on the very topic of Stream-Entry in the Samyutta Nikaya in Chapter XI, 55 Sotapattisamyutta, pages 1788 to 1837 in the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, published by Wisdom Publishing, Boston, 2000.
Samyutta Nikaya, Chapter XI, 55 SotapattisamyuttaI Bamboo Gate"At Savatthi the Blessed One said this:"
2 Grounded"(Monks), a noble disciple who possesses four things is a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world...with enlightenment as (his/her) destinationÉ" "What four? ...confirmed confidence in the Buddha...dhamma...sangha...possesses virtues dear to the noble ones, unbroken...leading to (absorption)" (page 1789).
3 Dighavu"Therefore, Dighavu, established upon these four factors of stream-entry, you should develop further six things that partake of true knowledge. Here Dighavu, dwell contemplating impermanence in all formations, perceiving suffering in what is impermanent, perceiving non self in what is suffering, perceiving abandonment, perceiving fading away, perceiving cessation. It is in such a way that you should train yourself" (page 1791).
5 Sariputta"Then the Venerable Sariputta approached the Blessed One...the Blessed One then said to him, "What now, Sariputta, is a factor for stream-entry?"Sariputta said, "Association with superior persons (enlightened ones)...hear the true dhamma...careful attention...practice in accordance with the Dhamma...(are) factor(s) for stream-entry."The Blessed One asked, "What now, Sariputta, is the stream?"Sariputta said, "This Noble Eightfold Path, venerable sir, is the stream; that is right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right (absorption)."The Blessed One asked, "What now, Sariputta, is a stream-enterer?"Sariputta said, "One who possesses this Noble Eightfold Path, venerable sir, is called a stream-enterer..." (pages 1792-93).
Additional instructions to householders were offered to the Chamberlains:
6 The Chamberlains(In addition to confidence in the Buddha, dhamma and sangha a house holder also had..."He dwells at home with a mind devoid of the stains of stinginess, freely generous, open-handed, delighting in relinquishment, one devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing...Moreover, whatever there is in your family that is suitable for giving, all that you share unreservedly among those who are virtuous and of good character." (pages 1795-96).
7 The People of the Bamboo Gate(Thus) "when householders...possess these seven good qualities (following the Noble Eightfold Path and Precepts) and these four desirable states (confidence in the 3 gems plus virtues leading to absorption)...(one) could declare "I am one finished with hell...I am a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as my destination" (pages 1798-99).
8 The Brick HallThe Blessed One said, "Ananda, I will teach you a philosophical exposition called the "Mirror of the Dhamma," equipped with which a noble disciple...could declare him (her) self "I am finished with hell...I am a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as my destination." It is "a noble disciple possesses confirmed confidence in the Buddha...in the Dhamma...in the Sangha...possesses virtues dear to the noble ones, unbroken...leading to (absorption)" (page 1800).40 (10) Nandiya"...not content with that confirmed confidence in the Buddha, he (she) makes further effort for solitude by day and for seclusion by night. When he (she) dwells diligently, gladness is born. When he (she) is gladdened, (bliss/piiti) is born. When the mind is uplifted by (bliss/piiti), body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body experiences happiness. The mind of one who is happy becomes (absorbed). When the mind is (absorbed), phenomena become manifest. Because phenomena becomes manifest, he (she) is reckoned as one who dwells diligently."54 (4) Ill"Then Mahanama the Sakyan approached the Blessed One...and asked, 'I have not heard (from) ...the Blessed One how a lay follower who is ill...should be exhorted by another...follower.'"After a long sequence going through the 4 basic requirements of stream entry, as well as all of the absorption states, then he concludes with:"If he says, "My mind has been withdrawn from the Brahma world; I have directed my mind to the cessation of identity." Then, Mahanama, I say there is no difference between a lay follower who is thus liberated in mind and a monk who has been liberated in mind for a hundred years, that is, between one liberation and another."
Thus in conclusion we can say the Buddha considered anyone who actually lived the Noble Eightfold Path had in fact entered the stream. The stream, according to him was the Noble Eightfold Path. To understand what the Noble Eightfold Path is, I would suggest you read the Nikayas (the discourses of the Buddha).
May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,
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