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An Arhat obviously is considered enlightened and technically a Sotapanna is "partially enlightened". However, if you are just speaking generally and don't make the distinctions between partially enlightened and fully enlightened, are all ariya considered to be enlightened, when compared to "ordinary people"?
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seeker242 wrote:if you are just speaking generally and don't make the distinctions
Why would we ignore distinctions, and then ask "is there a distinction?" It's trying to ensure it finds a particular result, that question is.
To put things simply, we can say that there are common folk - those unexposed or disinclined or at the beginning with respect to the teachings - and then there are learners & adepts with respect to training in the Dhamma. The learners are the three noble stages preceding arahant.SN 48.53
"There is, headman, dhammasamādhi. If you were to obtain cittasamādhi in that, you might abandon this state of perplexity. And what, headman, is dhammasamādhi?- SN 42.13 - Pāṭaliya
[kammapatha & brahmavihara, & a method of arousing gladness]"
"Others will misapprehend according to their individual views, hold on to them tenaciously and not easily discard them; we shall not misapprehend according to individual views nor hold on to them tenaciously, but shall discard them with ease — thus effacement can be done."- MN 8 - Sallekha Sutta
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only an arahant is fully enlightened. however anything below that is still a serious attainment, and those people could certainly teach the rest of us a lot! a sotapanna for example is guaranteed only seven more rebirths until full enlightenment! and so on up to non returning. if you reach one of these you have technically completed the path since they all guarantee final attainment but that doesn't mean you are perfect right after that attainment and before final knowledge.
personally though, if we are "speaking generally and don't make the distinctions" i would consider learning under a true sotapanna, sakadagami, etc. close enough
an example is ananda. he was only a stream enterer (sotapanna) prior to the death of the buddha. because of this he was not going to be allowed to recite at the first council! then he attained full enlightenment and they let him recite the sutta pitaka. if it was all the same more or less they wouldn't have bothered barring him based on not fully being enlightened.
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The level of enlightenment that these four stages experience is the same. That is to say, the sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami, and arahant, all experienced nibbana. No one of them experiences it any deeper or at any higher level than the other. The difference is the amount of times they have experienced nibbana. The first time (consisting of the sotaapatti maga and phala cittas), only certain defilements are eradicated. The second time, attached and aversion are permanently weakened moreso. The third time, more defilements are eradicated, and the last time (arahatta) all defilements are gone.
So, yes, these are all enlightened folks.
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