Sotāpanna: the 'Stream-winner' or 'stream-entrant', is the lowest of the 8 Noble Disciples see: ariya-puggala Three kinds are to be distinguished: the one 'with 7 rebirths at the utmost' sattakkhattu-parama, the one 'passing from one noble family to another' kolankola the one 'germinating only once more' eka-bījī As it is said e.g. Pug. 37-39; A. III, 87:
- If a man, after the disappearance of the 3 mental chains personality-belief, skeptical doubt, attachment to rules and ritual; see: samyojana has entered the stream to Nibbāna, he is no more subject to rebirth in lower worlds, is firmly established, destined to full enlightenment. After having passed amongst the divine and human beings only seven times more through the round of rebirths, he puts an end to suffering. Such a man is called 'one with 7 births at the utmost' sattakkhattu-parama.
- If a man, after the disappearance of the 3 mental chains. is destined to full enlightenment, he, after having passed among noble families two or three times through the round of rebirths, puts an end to suffering. Such a man is called 'one passing from one noble family to another' kolankola.
- If a man, after the disappearance of the 3 mental chains. is destined to full enlightenment, he, after having only once more returned to human existence, puts an end to suffering. Such a man is called 'one germinating only once more' eka-bījī See Sotāpatti-Samyutta S. LV.
Characteristics of a Sotapanna
- The sotapanna has abandoned the first three of the lower fetters: personality view, doubt, misapprehension of precepts and vows. (Ratanasutta Sn. 233)
- He is freed from the possibility of rebirth in the four lower realms. (Ratanasutta Sn. 234)
- He is incapable of concealing any bodily, verbal or mental transgression. (Ratanasutta Sn. 235)
- He has abandoned any lust, hate or delusion that would be strong enough to cause rebirth in the lower realms. (Abhabba Sutta AN. iii. 438)
- He is incapable of nine actions: treating any sankhara as permanent, treating any sankhara as pleasurable, treating any dhamma as self, killing his mother, father or an arahant, causing bleeding in a Tathagata with evil intent, splitting the Sangha, or going over to another teacher. (Bahudhatuka Sutta MN. 115)
- He is incapable of living without reverence for the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, and the training. Nor can he embrace any of the 62 wrong views or take an eighth birth. (Panhama-abhabbannhana Sutta AN. iii. 438-9)
- He is incapable of seeking outside the Sangha for persons worthy of gifts. (Dutiya-abhabbannhana Sutta AN. iii. 439)
- He cannot fall into the six wrong views that pleasure and pain are self-wrought, or wrought by another, or wrought by both oneself and another, or arise by chance without any act by self, or arise by chance without any act by another, or arise by chance without any act by either self or another. "For the one attained to right view sees well both causes and dhammas that are causally arisen." (Catuttha-abhabbannhana Sutta AN. iii. 440)
- He is fixed unshakably in the True Dhamma, is incapable of backsliding (to being a worlding), his future dukkha is finite, he has attained to knowledge not common to worldlings, cause and causally arisen dhammas are seen rightly by him. (Anisansa Sutta AN. iii. 441)
- He possesses unshakable confidence in the Three Jewels and the unbroken virtue that is pleasing to the noble ones. (numerous Suttas)
Perfect sila (morality / precepts)
"One for whom these teachings are accepted thus after being pondered to a sufficient degree with wisdom is called a dhamma-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness, entered the plane of superior persons, transcended the plane of the worldlings. He is incapable of doing any deed by reason of which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal realm, or in the domain of ghosts; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream-entry." Samyutta Nikaya 25.10
"Bhikkhus, a noble disciple who possesses four things is a stream-enterer, . . . He possesses the virtues dear to the noble ones, unbroken." Samyutta Nikaya 55.2
"There are, O monks, these blessings in realizing the fruit of stream-entry: One is firm in the good Dhamma. One is unable to fall back." Anguttara Nikaya 6.97
"Consider the person who is accomplished in the precepts, and is moderately successful in concentration, moderately successful in wisdom – by destroying the three hindrances, he becomes one, who will be reborn seven times at most [stream entrant]" Anguttara Nikaya 9.12
"The stream winner, with virtues dear to noble ones endowed, which are unbroken and without a rent, untarnished and without a blemish, purifying, praised by the wise, uncontaminated and conducive to concentration." Anguttara Nikaya 9.27
Shortly after the death of a lay person named Sarakani, the Buddha identified him as a stream-entrant. Then some monks complained that Sarakani could not have been a stream-entrant as this lay person indulged in alcohol. But the Buddha remarked that, "Sarakani the Sakyan undertook the training at the time of his death." Samyutta Nikaya 55.24 The lay person Sarakani practiced the moral precepts in full before his death, thus, confirming that one cannot be a stream-entrant or higher if one violates the moral precepts. In the more positive way, one who follows the precepts and practices diligently, stream-entry or higher can be attained.
In the Commentaries, there is a story for Dhammapada verse 124 where the wife of a hunter becomes a sotapanna. According to this Commentary story, the bhikkhus asked the Buddha, "Venerable Sir, is the wife of the hunter who is a sotapanna, also not guilty of taking life, if she has been getting things like nets, bows and arrows for her husband when he goes out hunting?" To this question the Buddha answered, "Bhikkhus, the sotapannas do not kill, they do not wish others to get killed. The wife of the hunter was only obeying her husband in getting things for him. Just as the hand that has no wound is not affected by poison, so also, because she has no intention to do evil she is not doing any evil."
- Maha Thera Nyanatiloka. Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, first edition 1952.
- The Complete Book of Buddha's Lists -- Explained. David N. Snyder, Ph.D., 2006.