March 4, 2019; revised March 6, 2019; October 5, 2019; major revision August 29, 2022
1. Many suttās describe various characteristics of Aṭṭha Purisa Puggalā or Ariyā (eight Noble Persons: Sotapanna Anugāmi through Arahant). See “Sōtapanna Anugāmi – No More Births in the Apāyās.” We will discuss some key features in this post, especially regarding the maximum time taken to attain Arahanthood.
- There are likely several ways Noble Persons are defined in the Tipiṭaka. Here we will start by considering a categorization based on the state of development of pañca indriya in a set of suttā in Samyutta Nikāya 48.
- The “Suddhika Sutta (SN 48.1)” states what the pañca indriya are: Saddhā indriya, vīriyiya indriya, sati indriya, samādhi indriya, paññā indriya.
2. The “Paṭhama Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN 48.9)” explains what those five indriya are. I will just provide a short translation to get the idea.
- Saddhā indriya is optimized when one truly realizes the truth of the virtues of the Buddha (itipi so bhagava…”: “That Blessed One is an Arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, perfectly purified, knower of the wider world (of 31 realms), unsurpassed in virtue, teacher of devas, Brahmā, and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One”. This is about the Buddha as a person AND even more importantly, the comprehension of the concept of Buddha as “bhava uddha“; see, “Supreme Qualities of Buddha, Dhamma, Saṅgha.”
- Viriya indriya represents one’s effort in cultivating kusala and discarding akusala.
- Sati indriya represents one’s ability to be mindful of one’s thoughts, speech, and actions.
- Samādhi indriya indicates one’s ability to focus on Nibbāna and to get to samādhi.
- Paññā indriya represents one’s comprehension of the Four Noble Truths about saṃsāric suffering.
Categorization Based on Panca Indriya
3. “Dutiyasaṅkhitta Sutta (SN 48.13)” states, “Imesaṃ kho, bhikkhave, pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ samattā paripūrattā arahaṃ hoti, tato mudutarehi anāgāmī hoti, tato mudutarehi sakadāgāmī hoti, tato mudutarehi sotāpanno hoti, tato mudutarehi dhammānusārī hoti, tato mudutarehi saddhānusārī hoti. Iti kho, bhikkhave, indriyavemattatā phalavemattatā hoti, phalavemattatā puggalavemattatā”ti.
- Translated: “Bhikkhus, one who has fulfilled pañca indriya is an Arahant; one who has developed them to lesser levels are Anāgāmī, Sakadāgāmi, Sōtapanna, Dhammānusari, and Sadhhānusāri. Bhikkhus, that is how different levels of indriya development determine the level of progress”.
- As we know, Dhammānusari and Sadhhānusāri are Sōtapanna Anugāmis.
Two Kinds of Sōtapanna Anugāmi
4. There are 10 suttā in the “Okkantika Saṃyutta (SN 25)” that focus only on the two kinds of Sōtapanna Anugāmis: Dhammānusari and Sadhhānusāri. These are important because they emphasize the need to comprehend the anicca nature of the five aggregates (pancakkhandha).
“Cakkhu Sutta (SN 25.1)” states: “Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi; sotaṃ aniccaṃ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi; sota..ghānaṃ.. jivhā .. kāyo .. mano anicco vipariṇāmī aññathābhāvī. Yo, bhikkhave, ime dhamme evaṃ saddahati adhimuccati—ayaṃ vuccati saddhānusārī, okkanto sammattaniyāmaṃ, sappurisabhūmiṃ okkanto, vītivatto puthujjanabhūmiṃ; abhabbo taṃ kammaṃ kātuṃ, yaṃ kammaṃ katvā nirayaṃ vā tiracchānayoniṃ vā pettivisayaṃ vā upapajjeyya; abhabbo ca tāva kālaṃ kātuṃ yāva na sotāpattiphalaṃ sacchikaroti”.
- Translated: “Bhikkhus, the eye is of anicca nature, bound to be destroyed, and is subject to unexpected change during its existence. The ear… nose… tongue… body… mind… Bhikkhus, one who has conviction and belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower (Sadhhānusāri): one who has entered the Noble Path (sammattaniyāma), has entered the plane of integrity (sappurisabhūmi), has transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill (puthujjanabhūmi). He cannot do any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away (from this Ariya birth) until he has realized Sotāpatti phala.
- Then the same verse is repeated for the Dhammānusari with the following replacement for the part marked in red above for the Saddhanusari: “one who, after pondering with insight, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower (Dhammānusari ).
Maximum of Seven More Bhava For a Sōtapanna and Seven More Ariya bhava For a Sōtapanna Anugāmi
5. It is important to realize from #4 above that a Sōtapanna Anugāmi will never “die” from the Ariya birth and that no time limit is given. Only upon getting to the Sōtapanna stage will one have a limited number of births; see below.
- However, a Sōtapanna Anugāmi will have only 7 more Ariya bhava left (Sōtapanna, Sakadāgāmi Anugāmi, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmī Anugāmi, Anāgāmī, Arahant Anugāmi, and Arahant).
- Thus, it appears that is what is stated in the Ratana Sutta as, “Na te bhavaṃ aṭṭhamamādiyanti” (7 types of Ariya Bhava left) for eight types of Noble Persons (Ariyā).
6. The other nine suttā in the “Okkantika Saṃyutta (SN 25)” go through the same descriptions for Dhammānusari and Sadhhānusāri in terms of the six types each of rūpa, viññāṇa, samphassa, samphassajā vedanā, rūpasaññā, rūpasañcetanā, rūpataṇhā, dhātu, and the five types of khandha (i.e., pancakkhandha).
Time Limits for other Noble Persons to Attain Arahanthood
7. The time limits for the other Noble Persons are given in the “Saupādisesa Sutta (AN 9.12)“.
- There are five kinds of Anāgāmis (see #10 below), and they all have overcome the first five samyōjana of sakkāya diṭṭhi, vicikiccā, and silabbata parāmāsa, kāma rāga, paṭigha.
- Some of them will be born in a Brahma realm reserved for the Anāgāmis, will remove the remaining samyōjana of rūpa rāga, arūpa rāga, māna, uddacca, avijjā, and attain Parinibbāna there.
- Others would have already removed two more samyōjana of rūpa rāga and arūpa rāga and thus will not be born in any realm and thus will remain in the gandhabba state until the kammic energy runs out. This is called antarāparinibbāna (“Parinibbāna in between realms”). This was discussed at the forum: “Antara Parinibbāna.”
8. Then there is the Noble Person with the Sakadāgāmī phala (including those Anāgāmi Anugāmis). “Saupādisesa Sutta (AN 9.12)” states that, “So tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā rāgadosamohānaṃ tanuttā sakadāgāmī hoti, sakideva imaṃ lokaṃ āgantvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti.“
- Translated: “With the ending of three fetters (saṃyojanā), and the weakening of greed, hate, and delusion, a Sakadāgāmī will come back to this world only once to deva realms.”
Three Types of Sōtapanna
9. Then, there are three types of Sōtapanna:
“So tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā ekabījī hoti, ekaṃyeva mānusakaṃ bhavaṃ nibbattetvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti”.
“So tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā kolaṅkolo hoti, dve vā tīṇi vā kulāni sandhāvitvā saṃsaritvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti”.
AND “So tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā sattakkhattuparamo hoti, sattakkhattuparamaṃ deve ca manusse ca sandhāvitvā saṃsaritvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti”.
“With the ending of three saṃyojanā, an ekabījī will be reborn just one time in human existence (bhava), then make an end of suffering”.
“With the ending of three saṃyojanā, a kolaṅkolo will be two or three bhava then make an end of suffering”.
“With the ending of three saṃyojanā, a sattakkhattuparamo has most seven bhava among devas and humans and then make an end of suffering.”
- The fact that they are all Sōtapannas becomes clear in #10 below.
- It is also important to note that there is no mention in this sutta of the Sōtapanna Anugāmis. This sutta is about those who have “seen” Nibbāna. A Sōtapanna Anugāmi — in the language of Abhidhamma — has only transcended the “anariya” level and made it to the “gotrabu” stage. In the future, they will attain the Sōtapanna stage when they get to the magga and phala citta. See the end of the post, “Citta Vithi – Processing of Sense Inputs,” where magga phala citta vithi is discussed.
Summary in Puggalapaññatti
10. The above descriptions are confirmed by “Ekakapuggalapaññatti” in Abhidhamma, where 54 types of persons are listed. We will mention just those categories that are of interest here.
- Katamo ca puggalo sammāsambuddho? Idhekacco puggalo pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu sāmaṃ saccāni abhisambujjhati; tattha ca sabbaññutaṃ pāpuṇāti, balesu ca vasībhāvaṃ—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “sammāsambuddho”.
- Katamo ca puggalo paccekasambuddho? Idhekacco puggalo pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu sāmaṃ saccāni abhisambujjhati; na ca tattha sabbaññutaṃ pāpuṇāti, na ca balesu vasībhāvaṃ—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “paccekasambuddho”.
The rest belong to two categories: “Aṭṭha ariyapuggalā ariyā. Avasesā puggalā anariyā“.
Here are the 8 Noble Persons or ariyā (aṭṭha ariyapuggalā):
Tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ pahānāya paṭipanno puggalo sotāpattiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno (Sōtapanna Anugāmi). Yassa puggalassa tīṇi saṃyojanāni pahīnāni—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “sotāpanno”.
Kāmarāgabyāpādānaṃ tanubhāvāya paṭipanno puggalo sakadāgāmiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno. Yassa puggalassa kāmarāgabyāpādā tanubhūtā—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “sakadāgāmī”.
Kāmarāgabyāpādānaṃ anavasesappahānāya paṭipanno puggalo anāgāmiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno. Yassa puggalassa kāmarāgabyāpādā anavasesā pahīnā—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “anāgāmī”.
Rūparāgaarūparāgamānauddhaccaavijjāya anavasesappahānāya paṭipanno puggalo arahattaphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipanno. Yassa puggalassa rūparāgo arūparāgo māno uddhaccaṃ avijjā anavasesā pahīnā—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “arahā”.
Sōtapanna Anugāmis fall into 2 categories:
Yassa puggalassa sotāpattiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipannassa paññindriyaṃ adhimattaṃ hoti, paññāvāhiṃ paññāpubbaṅgamaṃ ariyamaggaṃ bhāveti—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “dhammānusārī”.
Yassa puggalassa sotāpattiphalasacchikiriyāya paṭipannassa saddhindriyaṃ adhimattaṃ hoti, saddhāvāhiṃ saddhāpubbaṅgamaṃ ariyamaggaṃ bhāveti—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “saddhānusārī”.
- Note that there is no time limit given for a dhammānusārī and a saddhānusārī.
Sōtapannas fall into 3 categories:
Idhekacco puggalo tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā sotāpanno hoti avinipātadhammo niyato sambodhiparāyano. So sattakkhattuṃ deve ca mānuse ca sandhāvitvā saṃsaritvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti— ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “sattakkhattuparamo”.
Idhekacco puggalo tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā sotāpanno hoti avinipātadhammo niyato sambodhiparāyano. So dve vā tīṇi vā kulāni sandhāvitvā saṃsaritvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “kolaṃkolo”.
Idhekacco puggalo tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā sotāpanno hoti avinipātadhammo niyato sambodhiparāyano. So ekaṃyeva mānusakaṃ bhavaṃ nibbattetvā dukkhassantaṃ karoti—ayaṃ vuccati puggalo “ekabījī”.
- Here, a sattakkhattuparamo seems to have seven “births” (jāti) or “bhava” among the humans and devas. It is not clear whether it is seven jāti or bhava.
- A kolaṃkolo seems to have two or three births (kula means born into a certain caste or clan), but it is possible that it could mean two or three bhava.
- An ekabījī has one bhava as a human.
Anāgāmis fall into five categories and they have essentially one existence after death as a human, either born in a Brahma realm or the gandhabba state; see #7 above (I will just state the categories):
antarāparinibbāyī, upahaccaparinibbāyī, asaṅkhāraparinibbāyī, sasaṅkhāraparinibbāyī, uddhaṃsoto akaniṭṭhagāmī.
Arahants fall into two categories they, of course, are not reborn (I will just state the categories):
Sōtapanna Anugāmi – At Least a Trace of Understanding of Tilakkhana
11. “Alagaddūpama Sutta (MN 22)” also provides similar information and provides another description of Sōtapanna Anugāmis. At the end of the sutta, it describes the types of Noble Persons as above, and at the very end states, “Evaṃ svākkhāte, bhikkhave, mayā dhamme uttāne vivaṭe pakāsite chinnapilotike yesaṃ mayi saddhāmattaṃ pemamattaṃ sabbe te saggaparāyanā”ti.”
- Translated: “those who have even a trace of faith and liking for me (saddhāmattaṃ pemamattaṃ; mattaṃ means a “trace”), are all headed for deva realms (saggaparāyanā).”
- When one has removed the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi and starts comprehending Tilakkhana, one becomes a Sōtapanna Anugāmi. They are also released from the apāyās. See “Sōtapanna Anugāmi – No More Births in the Apāyās.”
Arahanthood – Not Annihilation But End of Suffering
12. There is also this important verse towards the end of the “Alagaddūpama Sutta (MN 22)“: “Yathā cāhaṃ na, bhikkhave, yathā cāhaṃ na vadāmi, tathā maṃ te bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā asatā tucchā musā abhūtena abbhācikkhanti: ‘venayiko samaṇo gotamo, sato sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññāpetī’ti. Pubbe cāhaṃ, bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ“.
- Translated: “..Bhikkhus, I have been baselessly, vainly, falsely, and wrongly misrepresented by some recluses and brahmins thus: ‘The recluse Gotama leads people astray; he teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the extermination of an existing being.’ ..Bhikkhus, both formerly and now what I teach is suffering and the cessation of suffering”.
- Many people today have this wrong perception. It could arise until one gets at least to the Sōtapanna Anugāmi stage and starts removing Sakkaya Diṭṭhi. It is the belief that there is an “existing person” that can enjoy things the world has to offer. They do not realize that there is much more suffering in this world. Even though there are short-lived pleasures, there is unimaginable suffering, especially in the rebirth process.
- It is only at the Arahant stage that the perception of a “me” (asmi māna) goes away; see, “Sakkāya Diṭṭhi is Personality (Me) View?“.