Sōtapanna Anugāmi – No More Births in the Apāyās

February 11, 2019; revised February 12; September 4, 2019

A human who attains a magga phala will never be reborn in an apāya (one of the four lowest realms). An Arahant will not be reborn in any realm. An Anāgāmi will be reborn only in a brahma realm. A Sakadāgāmi only in a deva realm. A Sōtapanna only in deva or human realm. It is not that clear whether a Sōtapanna Anugāmi is also free of the apāyās. Here, we discuss the evidence from the Tipitaka that is indeed the case.

Eight Types of Noble Persons

1. The “Patipanna Sutta (SN 48.18)” describes the eight types of Noble Persons:

Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, indriyāni. Katamāni pañca? Saddhindriyaṃ … pe … paññindriyaṃ—imāni kho, bhikkhave, pañcindriyāni. Imesaṃ kho, bhikkhave, pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ samattā paripūrattā arahaṃ hoti, tato mudutarehi arahat­ta­phala­sacchi­kiriyāya paṭipanno hoti, tato mudutarehi anāgāmī hoti, tato mudutarehi anāgā­mi­phala­sacchi­kiriyāya paṭipanno hoti, tato mudutarehi sakadāgāmī hoti, tato mudutarehi sakadā­gāmi­phala­sacchi­kiriyāya paṭipanno hoti, tato mudutarehi sotāpanno hoti, tato mudutarehi sotā­patti­phala­sacchi­kiriyāya paṭipanno hoti. Yassa kho, bhikkhave, imāni pañcindriyāni sabbena sabbaṃ sabbathā sabbaṃ natthi, tamahaṃ ‘bāhiro puthuj­jana­pak­khe ṭhito’ti vadāmī”ti.

Translated:

Bhikkhus, there are five indriya (faculties): Saddhindriya, vīriyindriya, satindriya, samādhindriya, paññindriya. One who has fully cultivated them is an Arahant. One who developed them less is an Arahant Anugāmi. One who has even less is an Anāgāmi,.. Anāgāmi Anugāmi, ..Sakadāgāmi, …Sakadāgāmi Anugāmi, …Sōtapanna, …Sōtapanna Anugāmi. Those who have not yet begun to cultivate the five faculties are ignorant humans (puthuj­jana­bhūmiṃ) who are unaware of the true nature (Tilakkhana).

  • One on the way to become an Anāgāmi is “anāgā­mi­ phala­ sacchi­kiriyāya paṭipannō,“ etc. One on the way to become a Sōtapanna (or Sōtapanna Anugāmi) is “sotā­patti­phala­sacchi­kiriyāya paṭipanno.”
  • The eight Noble Persons (Ariyas) are also listed in other suttas too including “Paṭha­ma Pugga­la­ Sutta (AN 8.59)” and in “Puggala Sutta (AN 9.9)“.
Sōtapanna Anugāmi is Dhammānusārī or Saddhānusārī

2. An important way of classification of the Noble Persons (Ariyas) relevant to our topic is given in the “Tatiyasankhita Sutta (SN 48.14)“:

Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, indriyāni. Katamāni pañca? Saddhindriyaṃ … pe … paññindriyaṃ—imāni kho, bhikkhave, pañcindriyāni. 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, paripūraṃ paripūrakārī ārādheti, padesaṃ padesakārī ārādheti. ‘Avañjhāni tvevāhaṃ, bhikkhave, pañcindriyānī’ti vadāmī”ti.

Translated:

Bhikkhus, there are five indriya: Saddhindriya, vīriyindriya, satindriya, samādhindriya, paññindriya. One who has fully cultivated them is an Arahant. One who developed them less is an Anāgāmi,.. akadāgāmi, …Sōtapanna, …dhammānusārī, …saddhānusārī, “.

3. From #1 and #2 above, we can see that a Sōtapanna Anugāmi is either a dhammānusārī or a saddhānusārī.

  • This is confirmed in the following sutta, which also confirms that one MUST start comprehending the anicca nature to become a Sōtapanna Anugāmi.

4. From the “Cakkhu Sutta (SN 25.1)“:

Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi; sotaṃ aniccaṃ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi; ghānaṃ aniccaṃ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi; jivhā aniccā vipariṇāmī aññathābhāvī; kāyo anicco vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi; 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 catāva kālaṃ kātuṃ yāva na sotā­patti­phalaṃ sacchikaroti.
Yassa kho, bhikkhave, ime dhammā evaṃ paññāya mattaso nijjhānaṃ khamanti, ayaṃ vuccati: ‘dhammānusārī, 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’.
Yo, bhikkhave, ime dhamme evaṃ pajānāti evaṃ passati, ayaṃ vuccati: ‘sotāpanno avini­pāta­dhammo niyato sam­bodhi­parā­yano’”ti
.

Translated:

Bhikkhus, cakkhu is of anicca nature, will cease to exist and is subject to unexpected change during its existence (same for sōta, ghāna, jivhā, kāyō, manō).
– One who has conviction and belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower (saddhānusārī). He/She is one who has entered the Noble plane (sam­mat­tani­yā­maṃ), has entered the realm of Noble Persons (sap­purisa­bhūmiṃ), transcended the realm of the humans who are unaware of the true nature (puthuj­jana­bhūmiṃ). He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry ghosts. A saddhānusārī is incapable of dying (separating) from that Noble birth until he realizes the Sotāpanna stage (and thus eventually getting to the Arahant stage).
One who, after pondering with wisdom, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower (dhammānusārī)…” (The rest is the same as for a saddhānusārī).
One who knows and sees that these phenomena are this way is called a Sotāpanna. He is never again to be born in the apāyās, headed for the Arahanthood.”

  • It is to be noted that 11 suttas (AN 25.1 through AN 25. 10) state the same in various ways.

5. Therefore, from the above suttas, we can make the following deductions:

  • A Sotāpanna is never again to be born in the apāyās and is headed for the Arahanthood.
  • A Sōtapanna Anugāmi is either a dhammānusārī or a saddhānusārī.
  • In #4 above: “A saddhānusārī (or a dhammānusārī) is incapable of “dying” (separating) from that Noble birth until he realizes the Sotāpanna stage.” That does not mean a Sōtapanna Anugāmi will attain the Sotāpanna stage within that lifetime. Once “born as a Noble Person” one will not die from that Noble birth, i.e., one WILL get to the Arahant stage without ever getting a rebirth in the apāyās.
  • So, a Sōtapanna Anugāmi may be born many times a human until getting to the Sōtapanna stage (may even have many human bhava, each with many human jāti).
  • Once getting to the Sōtapanna stage, there would be only seven maximum number of “bhava” left, within which one WILL attain the Arahant stage.
Sōtapanna Anugāmi Does Not Have Avecca Pasāda

6. Another sutta that provides more information is “Paṭha­ma­saraṇā­ni­sakka­ Sutta (SN 55.24)“. It is a long sutta, and a reasonably good translation at, “Sarakaani Sutta: Sarakaani (Who Took to Drink).”

Here are the relevant verses, which again describe the types of Noble Persons:

(1). “Mahānāma, take the case of a person endowed with unwavering devotion (avecca pasāda) to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, and has attained the Arahanthood. By the destruction of the defilements he has by his realization gained the release, the release through wisdom, in this very life, and abides in it. The man is entirely released from the hell-state, from rebirth as an animal. He is free from the realm of hungry ghosts, fully freed from the downfall, the evil way, from the apāyās.

(2). “Take the case of another man. He has unwavering devotion (avecca pasāda) to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He has wisdom but has not yet gained full release, but has destroyed the five lower samyōjanā (an Anāgāmi). Upon death, he will be reborn spontaneously in a brahma realm where he will attain Nibbaana without returning from that world. That man is also entirely released from the apāyās.

(3). “Take the case of another man. He has unwavering devotion (avecca pasāda) to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He has wisdom has not yet gained release. By destroying the first three Samyojanā and weakening kāma rāga, patigha, and avijjā, he is a Once-returner (Sakadāgāmi), who will return once more to this kāma lōka. That man is entirely freed from the apāyās.

(4). “Take the case of another man. He is endowed with unwavering devotion (avecca pasāda) to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He has the wisdom but not gained release. By destroying three fetters, he is a Stream-Winner (Sōtapanna), not subject to rebirth in apāyās, assured of Nibbāna. That man is entirely freed from the apāyās.

(5). “Take the case of another man. He does not have unwavering devotion (avecca pasāda) to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He has not yet gained wisdom and has not gained release. But he has the following things to some extent: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom (saddhā indriya, viriya indriya, sati indriya, samādhi indriya, paññā indriya). He understands with insight, at least moderately, dhamma of the Tathāgata. That man does not go to the realm of hungry ghosts, to the downfall, to the evil way, to states of woe.

(6). “Take the case of another man. He does not have unwavering devotion (avecca pasāda) to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has the following things to some extent: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom (saddhā indriya, viriya indriya, sati indriya, samādhi indriya, paññā indriya). He understands with insight, at least slightly, dhamma of the Tathāgata. He too will not go to the apāyās.

7. Note that in #6 above, for each of the four magga phala:
Ayampi kho, mahānāma, puggalo parimutto nirayā parimutto tiracchā­na­yoniyā parimutto pettivisayā parimutto apāya­dugga­ti­vini­pātā.
“..That man is entirely free… from the apāyās.”

  • For the last two types (Sōtapanna Anugāmi):
    Ayampi kho, mahānāma, puggalo agantā nirayaṃ agantā tiracchā­na­yoniṃ agantā pettivisayaṃ agantā apāyaṃ duggatiṃ vinipātaṃ.”
    “..That man does not go to the apāyās”.
  • Taken together with the statements in the suttas discussed above, that definitely means the following. A Sōtapanna Anugāmi is also effectively released permanently from the apāyās.
What is Avecca Pasāda?

8. A key phrase in many of the suttas is avecca pasāda. It is frequently translated as “unwavering devotion” as in the above translation. But it has a deeper meaning.

  • Pasāda means a combination of “trust, faith, reverence.”
  • That comes when one understands the deeper meanings in Buddha Dhamma. In particular, when one starts comprehending Tilakkhana, one can begin to see the unfruitfulness AND danger in trying to seek happiness in this world of 31 realms.
  • Then one starts losing cravings (“ava” + “icca“) for worldly things. We remember that anicca is “na icca“; see, “Anicca – True Meaning.”
  • Therefore, avecca pasāda or “unwavering faith” is connected to realizing the anicca nature or the “unsatisfactory nature” of worldly things. That craving for worldly things leads to suffering (dukkha). And that in the end that leads to one becoming helpless (anatta), especially when born in the apāyās.
  • One establishes avecca pasāda or “unwavering faith” in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, when one starts to comprehend Tilakkhana.
Four qualities of a Sōtapanna

9. Four qualities of a Sōtapanna are in all suttas in the Sotāpatti Saṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya (SN). The “Brahma­cari­yogadha Sutta (SN 55.2)” has a concise statement about the qualities or qualifications of a Sōtapanna.

Catūhi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato ariyasāvako sotāpanno hoti avini­pāta­dhammo niyato sam­bodhi­parā­yaṇo.
Katamehi catūhi? Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako buddhe aveccap­pasā­dena samannāgato hoti: ‘itipi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vij­jācara­ṇa­sam­panno sugato lokavidū anuttaro purisa­damma­sāra­thi satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā’ti. Dhamme … pe … saṅghe … pe … ariyakantehi sīlehi samannāgato hoti akhaṇḍehi … pe … samā­dhi­saṃ­vatta­ni­kehi. Imehi kho, bhikkhave, catūhi dhammehi samannāgato ariyasāvako sotāpanno hoti avini­pāta­dhammo niyato sam­bodhi­parā­yaṇo”ti.

Translated:

A Sotāpanna, never again to be born in the apāyās, has acquired four qualities:

(1) He has avecca pasāda in the Buddha, i.e., he fully understands the following verse. “‘itipi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vij­jācara­ṇa­sam­panno sugato lokavidū anuttaro purisa­damma­sāra­thi satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā’ti.”

(2) He has avecca pasāda in the Dhamma, i.e., he fully understands the following verse. “Svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo sandiṭṭhiko akāliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī’ti.

(3) He has avecca pasāda in the Sangha, i.e., he fully understands the following verse. “Suppaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, ujuppaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, ñāyappaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, sāmīcip­paṭi­panno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, yadidaṃ—cattāri purisayugāni aṭṭha purisapuggalā, esa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho āhuneyyo pāhuneyyo dakkhiṇeyyo añjalikaraṇīyo anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ lokassā’ti.

(4) He has the Ariyakantha sila of the noble ones. It comes with penetrating wisdom and is unbreakable. It leads to samā­dhi­.

Ariyakantehi sīlehi samannāgato hoti akhaṇḍehi acchiddehi asabalehi akammāsehi bhujissehi viññup­pasat­thehi aparāmaṭṭhehi samā­dhi­saṃ­vatta­ni­kehi.”

10. We note that those first three verses are the same as those in the supreme qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha; see, “Supreme Qualities of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha.”

  • Therefore, those verses are not just for recitation. They must be recited with UNDERSTANDING before any serious mediation session.
  • From #4 and #5 above, we see that one gets a “Noble birth” when attaining the Sōtapanna Anugāmi stage. A Sōtapanna Anugāmi is one of the “attha purisa puggalā.“

The four qualities of a Sotāpanna discussed in,Sotapatti Anga – The Four Qualities of a Sotapanna.”

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