Cessation of “Identity” is not the same as destruction of “Identity View”. Whether if you are the one who practices for the fruit of stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner or arahant, you practices for the cessation of craving and clinging of five aggregates. Complete destruction of craving only happens when you attain arahantship; yet a stream-enterer has destroyed the fetter of “identity view”, while an arahant has fulfill the cessation of “identity”. Such description hardly resonates to those who are new to Dhamma; it’s not possible to understand with just words alone.
To understand the context, you need to understand how the fruit of stream-enterer and arahant are realized respectively; without such understanding, it’s not possible to grasp the meaning of those words.
In dependence of craving, clinging to five aggregates arises; because of clinging, views of self of various forms inevitably arises. Does a stream-enterer relinquish clinging yet? Not yet; but he is certain to become an arahant in the future, who relinquishes all sorts of clinging.
Does a stream-enterer has a complete understanding of phenomena of arising and passing; on how they arise; on how they pass away? Not yet; he does, nevertheless, makes an important breakthrough that set him in an irreversible path. Such breakthrough is sometimes explained as the destruction of three fetters: identity view, doubt, and distorted grasp of rules and vows. These three fetters are actually related to each other.
Let me explain the destruction of three fetters in greater details.
It’s only possible for one who practices for the cessation of craving because what was being craved for are not exclusively pleasant; they are impermanent, suffering. The cause for one who carefully attends to origination and passing away of suffering because they suffer and realizes themselves have suffered.
For those seeking an escape, yet they do not know how because they do not have full understanding of origination and passing away of suffering; hearing Dhamma from Buddha or his disciples provides a great opportunity for a breakthrough.
There are different kinds of people who come to the Dhamma. There is a kind of people: when he listens to Dhamma, he does not grasp the meaning and does not attempt to do so. There is another kind of people: when he listens to Dhamma, he has preliminary understanding of Dhamma; but he cannot retain the Dhamma in his mind; he does not attempt to deepen his understanding. There is another kind of people: when he listens to Dhamma, he has preliminary understanding of Dhamma, then he strives to retain Dhamma in his mind; he strives to have full understanding of Dhamma.
Cessation of identity or the attainment of arahantship can also be said as having realized the benefit of true knowledge and liberation. There is a cause for the realization of true knowledge and liberation. The realization of true knowledge and liberation is fulfilled by seven factors of enlightenment.
There is a cause for the arising of craving; there is a cause for the passing away of craving; such that there is a cause for the arising of suffering; there is a cause for the passing away of suffering.
When one understands that there exists such cause, he knows of such path because of what he has learned from others; having established himself firmly in the path towards the end of suffering, his resolve towards the end of suffering is unshakable; as such he knows for himself he is the stream-enterer, the one who would eventually attain Nibbana. To actually attain Nibbana, he needs to practice according to Dhamma; in due time, he eventually sees origination and passing away of suffering, which the destruction of taints eventually occurs.
When one does not understand the existence of such cause; he does not strive to see how suffering arises with cause; he remains in suffering for the time to come.
As such, a stream-enterer is commonly being described as “liberated by faith”; which is to say, he has unwavering confidence in Buddha, Sangha, and Dhamma and is virtuous. The confidence in Buddha is rooted in his faith in the path towards the end of suffering; such that Buddha is the one who discovers it and realizes it himself. Sangha does not refer to the monastic community in this context; but the disciples of Buddha who practices for the realization of Nibbana; namely four pairs of people or eight types of people: those who practices for realization of the fruit of stream-enterer; those who has realized the fruit of stream-enterer … once-returner … non-returner … arahant. This Sangha is also known as “Noble Sangha”, which includes Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, Lay Male Disciples, and Female Lay Disciples. Dhamma refers to the path towards the end of suffering. Ultimately, the faith is rooted in Dhamma. The Buddha has told us: dwell with ourselves as our own island, with ourselves as our own refuge, with no other refuge; dwell with the Dhamma as our island, dwell with the Dhamma as refuge, with no other refuge. The reason for a stream-enterer being virtuous, because he firmly takes on the path towards the end of suffering.
Having firmly established faith in the Dhamma, his has no doubt that he would make an end of suffering; such that he is called the one who has broken the fetter of doubt. Having firmly established faith the in the Dhamma, he understands that there arises suffering with cause; suffering passes away with cause; whatever arises eventually passes away; whatever arises are impermanent; whatever impermanent is suffering; he has broken the fetter of identity view. Having firmly established faith in the Dhamma, he firmly establishes himself in the right path towards the end of suffering; as such he relinquishes all other wrong paths toward sufferings; he has broken the fetter of distorted grasp of rules and vows.
Having heard the Dhamma; having retained the Dhamma in his mind; he regularly practices according to the Dhamma to see how suffering arises and passes away himself.
When you’ve just heard a destination; when you’ve heard a path; when you’ve unshakable determination to follow the path; before you actually reach the destination, you still have not reached it until you complete the path.
Having learned the Dhamma, a noble disciple recollects the Dhamma being taught; he carefully examines the meanings; he practices four establishments of mindfulness; attends carefully to how feeling arises and passes away … mind … body … phenomena.
Having broken the three fetters, means that he practices to end the clinging. He needs to see how clinging arises and passes away before he can he actually ceases to cling to six external sense bases. The remaining of clinging is due to feeling; unless he has full understanding of it by seeing its sources, clinging does not end.
In the other word, a stream-enterer realizes that there is problem; there is a path towards solution; he resolves to solve it; but yet to solve it. He is certain to solve it in due time because he is on the right path and does not turn back.
His knowledge of origination and passing away of suffering comes from what he has learned from others; what a noble disciple needs is “direct knowledge”; that is to see for himself how suffering arises and passes away. By practicing four establishments of mindfulness, it is meant to see dependent arising phenomena himself such that he would relinquish all sorts of craving.
Back to the original “supposed misunderstanding” of “identity view”, does a stream-enterer still regards there exists a “present self”? No, that’s not it. He may have retained Dhamma in his mind; but until he fully sees the dependently arising phenomena himself, clinging still remains. There is the difference between breaking the fetter of “identity view” and “cessation of identity”.