There is an ambiguity in the Nikaya's about the status of the four jhanas,
the four formless attainments, and the ninth state called cessation.
Today, we are all told that these attainments are not, themselves,
enlightenment. This is said in every introduction to the Theravada
teachings. But it is not so clear in the Nikaya's, and it is possible
that many monks, at the time, thought that they were the way to
The wrong eightfold path, which puthujjana monks are on, includes
wrong concentration. This may refer to the practise of the jhanas.
This practise is wrong if the monk thinks that the temporary liberation
attained is the final goal of the teachings. When he attains the highest
state - the cessation of perception and feeling - he thinks that he has
become an Arahant. Some monks then declare final knowledge.
This shows a misunderstanding of enlightenment, which is not a temporary
state, but one which is always present. This "permanent" liberation is
attained by the destruction of the three principle asava's by seeing.
As is described by the Buddha, for example, in MN 4.31-32.
If a puthujjana monk declares final knowledge, claiming to be an Arahant,
this is neither confirmed nor denied. He thinks that he is an Arahant, so
do all the other puthujjana monks who know him. These monks are never called
Arahants in the Discourses.
These other schools probably do not have suttas which call these monks
Arahants either. It is just their interpretation of the teachings, as
recorded in their commentaries.
Is it a misinterpretation, or is it just making explicit something which
is only implicit in the Nikaya's?