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How does one knows for sure one has attained "Stream Enterer"- Sotapanna stage?

+2 votes

The Mind could be delusive (Maya) to someone to believe herself/himself have entered into the stream too can it not? Even Jesus speaks about the "Seal of Guarantee of Salvation" however, millions of Christians believe they are saved, but only few will be chosen as Jesus said. Same I believe in Buddhists too.

During Meditation many Maya illutions will be projected, some sincere Meditators truly believe they are saved.. for every true seeker of the truth, I feel this is a vital question to assure himself/herself from their Guru who has passed this stage.

Please your comments thank you...

asked Mar 14, 2012 in Buddhism by annaaiyar (84 points)  
   

5 Answers

+6 votes
 
Best answer

There are four points by which one can know of oneself that one is a sotapanna:

buddhe aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti - one is endowed with unshakable confidence in the Buddha, as being perfectly enlightened, etc.

dhamme aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti - one is endowed with unshakable confidence in the Dhamma, as being well-taught, etc.

saṅghe aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti - one is endowed with unshakable confidence in the Sangha, as being well-practiced, etc.

ariyakantehi sīlehi samannāgato hoti - one is endowed with the moral precepts cherished by the noble ones, i.e. the five precepts.

As per the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

The Mirror of the Dhamma

8. "But truly, Ananda, it is nothing strange that human beings should die. But if each time it happens you should come to the Tathagata and ask about them in this manner, indeed it would be troublesome to him. Therefore, Ananda, I will give you the teaching called the Mirror of the Dhamma, possessing which the noble disciple, should he so desire, can declare of himself: 'There is no more rebirth for me in hell, nor as an animal or ghost, nor in any realm of woe. A stream-enterer am I, safe from falling into the states of misery, assured am I and bound for Enlightenment.'"

9. "And what, Ananda, is that teaching called the Mirror of Dhamma, possessing which the noble disciple may thus declare of himself?

"In this case, Ananda, the noble disciple possesses unwavering faith in the Buddha thus: 'The Blessed One is an Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One, perfect in knowledge and conduct, the Happy One, the knower of the world, the paramount trainer of beings, the teacher of gods and men, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.'

"He possesses unwavering faith in the Dhamma thus: 'Well propounded by the Blessed One is the Dhamma, evident, timeless, inviting investigation, leading to emancipation, to be comprehended by the wise, each for himself.'

"He possesses unwavering faith in the Blessed One's Order of Disciples thus: 'Well faring is the Blessed One's Order of Disciples, righteously, wisely, and dutifully: that is to say, the four pairs of men, the eight classes of persons. The Blessed One's Order of Disciples is worthy of honor, of hospitality, of offerings, of veneration — the supreme field for meritorious deeds in the world.'

"And he possesses virtues that are dear to the Noble Ones, complete and perfect, spotless and pure, which are liberating, praised by the wise, uninfluenced (by worldly concerns), and favorable to concentration of mind.

10. "This, Ananda, is the teaching called the Mirror of the Dhamma, whereby the noble disciple may thus know of himself: 'There is no more rebirth for me in hell, nor as an animal or ghost, nor in any realm of woe. A stream-enterer am I, safe from falling into the states of misery, assured am I and bound for Enlightenment.'"

-- DN 16

More on the Sotapanna in a recent video, though it is all pretty basic stuff:

answered Mar 14, 2012 by yuttadhammo (8,808 points)  
selected Mar 14, 2012 by phalanyani
+4 votes

I feel that if you attained stream entry you would know deep in your heart without a doubt in your mind that you attained it. If this was not the case and you could have attained stream entry without knowing about it, it would have been useless for the Buddha to discuss the stage. It would only arouse doubt in peoples minds because they could never verify if they attained this stage.
When the Buddha attained enlightenment he knew that he had attained it, because of his newly found insights. It must be the same for stream entry, otherwise I think it's best to forget about the stage.

Here is a study guide on the first stage of awakening for anyone interested: http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/IntoTheStream_v111128.pdf
and another practical guide:
http://www.watmarpjan.org/en/pdf/en-SOTA-LOW.pdf

answered Mar 14, 2012 by maarten (791 points)  
edited Mar 17, 2012 by maarten
+3 votes

I believe the only way to know for sure would be to have a Buddha look into your mind and confirm it, but even then you have the problem of having to take it on faith that the person who is looking into your mind is indeed a Buddha.

From a pragmatic point of view, it's much easier, though: Continue following the Noble Eightfold Path. If you're already a stream enterer, it's not going to hurt you one bit; and if you aren't, it's what's going to get you there.

If you see yourself as a "true seeker of the truth," it's almost safe to say you are not at the sotapanna stage yet, because as a sotapanna, you would have pretty much found out the truth about what you are and what you are not, so you're not so much a seeker anymore as you are a practitioner who knows what needs to be done.

If you are blindly following a Guru who claims to be a sotapanna, then you obviously have a problem, because not only could the Guru be wrong about his own stream entry, but he could also simply be lying, and how would you know?

Generally labels like sotapanna or arahant are probably not all that helpful for your own practice. I know someone who ended up disrobing because he was told that he had become an anagami or arahant (I'm not sure which). He was told that by his teacher who claimed to have learned this from a god. All this might have been true, except how do we know that god was not simply mistaken? It's not like he was a Buddha. Anyway, my friend lost his faith in the teacher and the method because he could clearly see the greed and hatred in himself, so he knew he wasn't really an anagami or arahant.

This is why an approach like Bhante Yuttadhammo's seems very useful: He doesn't deny the fact that we can—and some of us will or have—become enlightened in this very life, but he doesn't go around saying things like, "You're a sotapanna now, this guy over here is an anagami, and my teacher was an arahant."

Sorry I can't give you a direct answer to your question, but the underlying question, namely whether you should continue searching for the truth or just consider yourself saved and quit searching, has a more definitive answer: Keep searching for the truth, not by trying to find someone to explain it to you, but by looking at reality directly, for yourself, honestly and calmly, again and again, until you are satisfied that you understand what's going on. Don't quit when it becomes uncomfortable, when it seems like you're not making any progress, or when your doubts become strong. These would actually be signs that you are making progress, but that you're not quite there yet. What you need at that point is not a new teacher or a new method, but simply more practice. It doesn't have to take "many lifetimes." It doesn't have to take decades or even years, but realistically it's probably not going to happen the first few times you sit down and meditate, so be patient.

answered Mar 14, 2012 by fb (1,267 points)  
0 votes

I also find this article worth a read from a western perspective
http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol5/stages-of-the-path.pdf

There are some meditation masters in Burma, who state that without proper 'nama-rupa-pariccheda-nana' the meditators can confuse the cessation they experience with the path and fruition, while it may be just bhavanga-citta (life continuum experienced before rebirth)

I am no expert so I refrain from commenting on either above.

I would say earnestness or heedfulness is the main gem we can gain from the teachings - or lose for that matter

answered Apr 4, 2012 by sacca (121 points)  
I'm interested in finding out more about the thoughts of those meditation masters you mention on cessation without proper first nana. Would you happen to have a link?
0 votes

@fb
'Practice which leads to Nibbana' by Pa Auk Sayadaw
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/nibbana1.pdf

Please check the last four pages for what I related on my post and I would appreciate if you share your take on this with us too

answered Apr 6, 2012 by sacca (121 points)  
The way I read it, he's really saying that there is no true cessation of consciousness until nirodha samapatti. The problem I am facing with giving an opinion on all this is that I have not reached the stage of anagami, and I am really just starting to understand the 5 aggregates and how they truly are in each moment of existence. In other words, I'm in no position to give an opinion on all this. To tell you the truth, from reading it, I get the feeling he might not be, either. He may be talking from a purely intellectual, theoretical point of view and not from first hand experience.

I do have an opinion on the question whether what some of us (such as Sumedha, presumably; I don't know her personally, but there was a recent video that suggested this) have experienced is true cessation or whether it is stream entry. My opinion on all that is that fortunately it doesn't really matter: Ok, we went through some brilliant clarity, discerning clearly how all experience is made up of tiny events. Then we became frustrated when we realized that we can really only clearly see the dissolution of each little phenomenon. Anything that ends as soon as we become aware of it is inherently unsatisfactory. So then there was sadness, disenchantment, desire for deliverance, reobservation. Eventually we were mainly conscious of mental formations and finally arrived at equanimity regarding those formations, and a little bit later, we suddenly saw how the little events that make up what we thought was our "self" are fundamentally no different from those little events that we thought were not part of our "self." Since then, our mind has been able to / inclined to / almost forced to get to the point of basically blanking out, every time it gets a chance to become concentrated enough and mindful of the present in the same way that originally led up to the insight. Whether you call all this "the progress of insight" or "the 16 nanas" or you just call it  trivial pseudo-insights that meditators get during the first few years of intensive practice, before they ever even get close to the 1st nana, it makes little difference for our practice. What we do is enjoy the cessation we (think we) know when appropriate, but at other times we keep the mind out of that mode in order to develop higher insight. We've seen too much to be able to give up meditation, and we're clear on not yet having eliminated all greed, hatred, and delusion. The Noble Eightfold Path still applies.
Thank you for your answer.
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