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Sotāpanna (Pali) or Srotāpanna (Sanskrit; ch: rùliú 入流, Tib. rgyun zhugs[1]) means in the Buddhism "stream-winner" and refers to a person, who has eradicated the first three fetters (sanyojanas) of the mind. Sotapanna literally means "one who entered (āpanna) the stream (sota)", after a simile that compares attaining nibbāna with crossing a stream and reaching the farthest shore. Sotapannaship is the first of the four stages of enlightenment.

According to Tripitaka Master Bhikshu Hsuan Hua's Commentary on the Vajra Sutra, "A Shrotaapanna is a first stage Arhat. Certification to the first fruit of Arhatship, which is within the Small Vehicle, comes when the eighty-eight categories of view delusions are smashed." p. 77 [2]


Venerable Hsuan Hua continues, "The first fruit is that of Srotāpanna, a Sanskrit word which means "One Who Has Entered the Flow." He opposes the flow of common people's six dusts and enters the flow of the sage's dharma-nature. Entering the flow means entering the state of the accomplished sage of the Small Vehicle." (Vajra Sutra Commentary, p. 78, Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2002)


The first moment of the attainment is termed the path of stream-entry (sotāpatti-magga), which cuts off the first three fetters. The person who experiences it is called a stream-winner (sotāpanna).[3][4] The Sotāpanna is said to attain an intuitive grasp of Buddhist doctrine (right view) and has complete confidence in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha). The Sotapanna is said to have "opened the eye of the Dharma" (dhammacakkhu), because they have realized that whatever arises will cease (impermanence). Their conviction in the true dhamma would be unshakable.

The three fetters which the Sotāpanna eradicates are: [5][6]

  1. Identity view - The speculative view that a so-called self exists in the five aggregates (physical forms, feelings/sensations, perception, mental formations and consciousness) is eradicated because the Sotāpanna gains insight into the selfless nature of the aggregates.
  2. Skeptical Doubt - Doubt about the Buddha and his teaching is eradicated because the Sotāpanna personally experiences the true nature of reality through insight, and this insight confirms the accuracy of the Buddha’s teaching.
  3. Clinging to rites and rituals - Clinging to the view that one becomes pure simply through performing ritual or rigid moralism, such as praying to God for deliverance, slaughtering animals for sacrifice, ablutions, etc. is eradicated because the Sotāpanna realizes that rites and ritual are nothing more than an obstructive tradition, repetitious rites and dead dogmas; Deliverance can be won only through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.

According to the Pali Commentary, six types of defilement would be abandoned by a Sotāpanna: [7]

  1. Envy
  2. Jealousy
  3. Hypocrisy
  4. Fraud
  5. Denigration
  6. Domineering

A Sotāpanna will be safe from falling into the states of misery (they will not be born as an animal, ghost, or hell being). Their lust, hatred and delusion will not be strong enough to cause rebirth in the lower realms. A Sotāpanna will have to be reborn at most only seven more times in the human or heavenly worlds before attaining nibbana.[8] It is not necessary for a Sotāpanna to be reborn seven more times before attaining nibbana, as an ardent practitioner may progress to the higher stages in the same life in which he/she reaches the Sotāpanna level by making an aspiration and persistent effort to reach the final goal of nibbāna. [9]

In the Pali Canon, qualities of a Sotāpanna are described as: [10]

…those monks who have abandoned the three fetters, are all stream-winners, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening. This is how the Dhamma well-proclaimed by me is clear, open, evident, stripped of rags.
Alagaddupama Sutta

Sotāpanna is not capable of committing six wrong actions:

  1. Murdering one own mother.
  2. Murdering one own father.
  3. Murdering an Arahant.
  4. Maliciously injuring the Buddha to the point of drawing blood.
  5. Successfully creating a schism in the monastic community.
  6. Choosing anyone other than a Buddha as one's foremost Teacher.

The Buddha spoke favorably about the Sotapanna on many occasions, and even though it is the first of Ariya Sangha members, he or she is welcomed by all other Sangha-members for he or she practices for the benefit and welfare of many. In the literature the Ariya Sangha is described as the four when taken as pairs the eight when taken as individuals. Thus the first one of the pairs is referred to as the Sotapanna, a stream enterer, however when taken as eight individual, the Sotapanna acts not only with stream-entry present but also a Sotapanna (plus), A Noble One who acts for the fruit of stream-entry: "The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples is practising the good way, practising the straight way, practising the true way, practising the proper; that is the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals - this Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world."

The fifty-fifth Samyutta of the Samyutta Nikaya is called the Sotāpatti-saṃyutta, and concerns Sotapannas and their attainment. In Sutta-numbers of chapter 1-4, 6-9, 11-14, 16-20, 22-36, 39-49, 51, 53, 54, Sotapannas are praised as Sangha members by and to the sick, layfollowers, people on their deathbed, bhikkhunis, bhikkhus, and devas, and end up for the wellbeing and benefit of many.

Dhammapada 178:
Sole dominion over the earth,
going to heaven,
lordship over all worlds:
the fruit of stream-entry
excels them.

Notes

  1. ^ Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism By Lati Rinpoche, Denma Locho Rinpoche, Leah Zahler, Jeffrey Hopkins. pg 63
  2. ^ Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. "The Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra - A General Explanation". Buddhist Text Translation Society. http://online.sfsu.edu/%7Erone/Buddhism/BTTStexts/ps.vajra.02.020503.screen.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-16.  
  3. ^ Sister Ayya Khema. "All of Us". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khema/allofus.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  4. ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi. "The Noble Eightfold Path". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  5. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu. "Stream Entry". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/stream2.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  6. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu. "The Noble Eightfold Path". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  7. ^ Nyanaponika Thera. "The Simile of the Cloth & The Discourse on Effacement". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel061.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  8. ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi. "Transcendental Dependent Arising". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/wheel277.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  9. ^ Henepola Gunaratana. "The Jhanas". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratana/wheel351.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  10. ^ "Alagaddupama Sutta". Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.than.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  

See also

Four stages of enlightenment

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