Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

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Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby Tex » Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:32 pm

Apologies if this has already been asked.

It is my understanding that a sotapanna could be born into the human realm or the heavenly realms.

So in a human birth, would s/he necessarily know that s/he was a sotapanna? From what I understand, once those first three fetters are eliminated they do not come back, and the defilements that are abandoned by a sotapanna (like envy) also do not return. So that would seem to indicate that some people are (possibly) born already possessing faith in the Buddha's teachings and having eliminated envy and other unwholesome qualities, as if they come into this life possessing knowledge from the previous life, including their own attainments.

Is that the case?

Or might someone just be born with a disposition that does not include defilements like jealousy and that naturally rejects ideas like efficacy of rituals or the concept of a self, and then when this person encounters the Dhamma they immediately "get it" and realize that the three fetters eradicated by a sotapanna were never really present in them at the start of this life?

Frankly, I'm puzzled on how a person might already be a sotapanna, any help?
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:35 pm

Hello Tex, all,

A few links from Access to Insight on this topic:

How to Recognise a Lay Stream Enterer
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

What it takes for a layperson to become a Stream Enterer
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

How to recognise - and become - a person of integrity (Stream Enterer)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Way to Stream Entry
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/stream.html

and a similar question was asked on E-sangha a few years ago:
Stream Entry - Sotapanna, The only safety ...
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... opic=17713

I asked my teacher on the last Retreat (Patrick Kearney) how one would know if one was a Sotapanna - given that attainment of this level is a momentary event.

He asked me if I had Perfect Sila.

<sigh>

metta
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:58 pm

Dear Chris and all,

I hope Bhante doesn't mind me quoting something that he posted back in 2005, but I found it very inspiring.
I hope that you all also find it inspiring.


Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: the teacher keeps stressing how difficult it is, no one will be encouraged to practice. If they stress that it is easy, the pupils will not make enough effort.

It seems to me that it is difficult to achieve in this day and age, especially in the west, as I don't see many Buddhists attending longer retreats. Most complain that a ten-day course is "too intensive" and they prefer a more gradual approach. With such an attitude, I think that attaining nibbāna would not be difficult — it would be impossible.

In Burma, I saw how people practised. Most of us made sincere and sustained efforts, but obviously not enough. Many meditators were more interested in talking than in practising. A few individuals really practised hard for several months, and apparently attained the goal.

I would say that two or three months of continuous practise would be a minimum for most meditators — it would be an exceptionally gifted person who attained nibbāna in two or three weeks. Chanmyay Sayādaw told me about a meditator who attained Sankhārupekkha ñāna after only two weeks, but he was a Rhodes scholar, and Sankhārupekkha ñāna does not guarantee attainment of the final goal, though it comes close.

If you think that less than six hours' sleep is not sufficient, you're probably not making enough effort. The really diligent meditator will sleep four hours or less, and practise continuously for the remaining twenty hours, with only an occasional relapse. That was the standard for all meditators when the Mahāsi Sayādaw started teaching: 3:00 am until 11:00 pm. Nowadays, few meditators who attend retreats are that diligent, so I would be surprised if any of these "part-timers" could attain the goal. Yet we have to recognise that there are huge variations in individual perfections, so some may succeed quite easily while others fail in spite of prolonged efforts.

Metta

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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:34 pm

Hi Ben,

Was this comment by Bikkhu pesala on stream entry or final nibbana? Thanks for sharing this- it is like a snapshot of people's practice.

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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:50 pm

Hello ryb, Ben,

It was at the end of this thread: :smile:

Chris said: and a similar question was asked on E-sangha a few years ago:
Stream Entry - Sotapanna, The only safety ...
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... opic=17713


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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby phil » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:15 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
I would say that two or three months of continuous practise would be a minimum for most meditators — it would be an exceptionally gifted person who attained nibbāna in two or three weeks. Chanmyay Sayādaw told me about a meditator who attained Sankhārupekkha ñāna after only two weeks, but he was a Rhodes scholar, and Sankhārupekkha ñāna does not guarantee attainment of the final goal, though it comes close.

If you think that less than six hours' sleep is not sufficient, you're probably not making enough effort. The really diligent meditator will sleep four hours or less, and practise continuously for the remaining twenty hours, with only an occasional relapse. That was the standard for all meditators when the Mahāsi Sayādaw started teaching: 3:00 am until 11:00 pm. Nowadays, few meditators who attend retreats are that diligent, so I would be surprised if any of these "part-timers" could attain the goal. Yet we have to recognise that there are huge variations in individual perfections, so some may succeed quite easily while others fail in spite of prolonged efforts.


With sincere respect to Bhante and all who practice in this tradition, I have to confess that the stress put on hours of practice that I have often heard in talks by the Sayadaws makes me uncomfortable. It feels too much like an endurance event to me and I don't see how yogis wouldn't become caught up in pressing too hard for results, it feels there are too many expectations placed on these retreats. Of course this could just be envy because I have been/am deprived of the opportunity, but as I say I am uncomfortable with Ariyan attainments being predicted (even indirectly) on the basis of hours of practice. My apologies for that but I guess this sort of response is permitted in this "dhamma free for all" section.

Metta,

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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 30, 2009 4:31 pm

phil wrote:the stress put on hours of practice that I have often heard in talks by the Sayadaws makes me uncomfortable. It feels too much like an endurance event to me and I don't see how yogis wouldn't become caught up in pressing too hard for results, it feels there are too many expectations placed on these retreats.

I expect that's partly the point. For a while there will be pressing for results. For a while it will feel like an endurance test. But after some time even these things fall away. If you don't give your practice enough time to get past these very common mental obstacles then how could you hope to make any progress?

Of course this could just be envy because I have been/am deprived of the opportunity...

Really, if you've never tried it then what basis do you have to criticize? Do you criticize based on what you imagine practice must be like, what attainment must be like? do those imaginings have any objective basis to them? It seems to me all you are doing is discouraging yourself from ever trying and also discouraging other who might consider trying. Is that really what you want to do?

I am uncomfortable with Ariyan attainments being predicted (even indirectly) on the basis of hours of practice.

Would you be uncomfortable if a very experienced pottery teacher said "On average it takes 4 weeks of intensive study and practice before one could expect to make a quality pot"? Does that seem like an unreasonable statement?
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Mar 30, 2009 6:41 pm

The first disciple to attain Stream-winning was Kondaññā the wise, Aññakondañña. When the bodhisatta was born, Kondañña was one of several astrologers who was invited to the palace to examine the new-born infant. Although the youngest of the astrologers, he was the most skilled in his craft, and was the only one to predict that the bodhisatta would definitely become a Buddha.

So confident was he, that he renounced household life and became a recluse in preparation for the time when Siddhattha would gain Enlightenment. Thirty-five years later, while listening to the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, Kondañña was the only one of the five to immediately attain Stream-entry — the other four ascetics had to practise Satipatthāna meditation for successively longer periods of a few days.

So, thirty-five years of continuous meditation should not be regarded as too long to attain nibbāna. After all, we have wandered in samsāra for an infinite length of time to get to whatever stage we are at now. If the preparation has been thorough, then Arahantship can arise in a millisecond as happened with Bahiya. If the preparation has not been enough, then no amount of wishing or hoping will lead even to a glimmer of insight.

If anyone has obstructive kamma then attainment may be impossible at the moment, so do be very careful not to discourage people from practising meditation intensively, or disparaging them for not facing up to "real life" etc.

Meditation is easy — it is not meditating that makes life difficult. If you do get the opportunity to do a long retreat for two months or six months or a year, go for it. If you don't, then try to attend a 10-day course at least once a year, and a one-day retreat at least once a month.

To return to the thread's topic. I assume that most Stream-winners will be reborn in the celestial realms and may not return to the human realm again until the time of Buddha Maitreyya — most of the stories we read in the texts talk of faithful disciples being reborn in the deva or brahma realms. There are none that I can recall at the moment mentioning rebirth in the human realm again. Even in the lowest Cātumahārājika deva realm one celestial day is 500 years in human terms, so for them the Buddha's Enlightenment happened only last week.

If a Stream-winner was reborn in this current Buddhasāsana, they would have perfect moral conduct throughout their life. They would be able to attain to the nibbānic stage of phalañāṇa at will, for short or long periods depending on their concentration and determination. It seems unlikely that they would neither be born into a Buddhist family, nor gravitate to a Buddhist country, but it is conceivable that they would not recognise the nibbānic stage for what it was as that is just a matter of theoretical knowledge.

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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:53 pm

Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?


Looking at all of the above, probably so and maybe no.

On the other hand I have certainly met those who have imagined themselves ariya, which is probably easier to do.
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby phil » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:28 am

Peter wrote:
phil wrote:the stress put on hours of practice that I have often heard in talks by the Sayadaws makes me uncomfortable. It feels too much like an endurance event to me and I don't see how yogis wouldn't become caught up in pressing too hard for results, it feels there are too many expectations placed on these retreats.

I expect that's partly the point. For a while there will be pressing for results. For a while it will feel like an endurance test. But after some time even these things fall away. If you don't give your practice enough time to get past these very common mental obstacles then how could you hope to make any progress?

Of course this could just be envy because I have been/am deprived of the opportunity...

Really, if you've never tried it then what basis do you have to criticize? Do you criticize based on what you imagine practice must be like, what attainment must be like? do those imaginings have any objective basis to them? It seems to me all you are doing is discouraging yourself from ever trying and also discouraging other who might consider trying. Is that really what you want to do?

I am uncomfortable with Ariyan attainments being predicted (even indirectly) on the basis of hours of practice.

Would you be uncomfortable if a very experienced pottery teacher said "On average it takes 4 weeks of intensive study and practice before one could expect to make a quality pot"? Does that seem like an unreasonable statement?


Hi Peter

You make good points, thanks.

As long as these retreats don't advertize guaranteed sotapanna the way very bizarre variants do sometimes now - I guess we've all seen the group that took from Ayya Khema's excellent teaching and promotes gaining sotapanna in short retreats. But that is an extreme corruption. It's not bad to speak out against extreme corruptions, I'm sure you'd agree. But where do the extreme corruptions start? I think it's difficult within a tradition to speak out when one has doubts about The Teacher so it must take comments from the outside, I guess. So I will say that I heard a Sayadaw say "You will need to know about X but you can't understand X until you have done at least a 6 week retreat." I did hear that. That sort of thing can be questioned. (Sorry, can't remember what X was, the vipasanna-nnanas probably.)

Anyways, it's good for people to come across criticism of their practice. It should be able to stand up to commments by some cranky fellow on the internet. If I were a person of authority who made comments, that would be different. I'll shut up on this topic now. :smile:

Metta,

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(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Mar 31, 2009 1:09 pm

phil wrote:I heard a Sayadaw say "You will need to know about X but you can't understand X until you have done at least a 6 week retreat." I did hear that. That sort of thing can be questioned.

Again, what are you basing your questioning on? The fact that you don't like what he said? That it doesn't match what you imagine the path should be like?

Anyways, it's good for people to come across criticism of their practice. It should be able to stand up to commments by some cranky fellow on the internet. If I were a person of authority who made comments, that would be different.

I don't know what authority you have, what experience you have. I could read your comments, say to myself "He wouldn't say those things unless he had a good reason", and then decide to not do a meditation retreat because "According to Phil they are all scams". One should take care to make criticisms that are well grounded and avoid slandering good teachers, even on the internet.
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby SeerObserver » Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:31 pm

Peter wrote:
phil wrote:Anyways, it's good for people to come across criticism of their practice. It should be able to stand up to commments by some cranky fellow on the internet. If I were a person of authority who made comments, that would be different.

I don't know what authority you have, what experience you have. I could read your comments, say to myself "He wouldn't say those things unless he had a good reason", and then decide to not do a meditation retreat because "According to Phil they are all scams". One should take care to make criticisms that are well grounded and avoid slandering good teachers, even on the internet.

If someone decided against a meditation retreat just from having read someone's internet post when you don't know what authority or experience they have, then that's on them.

I agree that criticisms made should be well grounded and that good teachers should not be slandered, but it doesn't appear to be what Phil has been doing on here. He has remained respectful at all times and merely voiced the concern he had from his own feelings on the matter. His concern was that so much emphasis is put on the sheer duration of meditation and not as much on the quality.

Your concern is also valid regarding time commitment. If practitioners are unwilling to put in the initial time commitment, their practice will not go anywhere since they really never gave it a chance to.
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Re: Would a sotapanna necessarily know s/he was a sotapanna?

Postby Ordinaryperson » Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:30 am

If my understanding of sotapanna is accurate then the answer is depending on who they are:

1) If they are monks and have been practicing to high meditative prowess then they will know themselves.

2) If they are just ordinary laities then they have no way of knowing that themselves until some hints are given to them by monks with high meditative prowess. The best way of finding out is by observing them in relation to Buddha's definition.

I have been observing the latter for a while now (not me ... as I am Not even close) and I am confident the person is one.

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