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The Four stages of enlightenment in Buddhism are the four degrees of approach to full enlightenment as an arhat which a Buddhist can attain in this life. The four stages are srotaāpanna, sakṛdāgāmin, anāgāmin, and arhat.
Before the stagesEdit
An ordinary person, or pṛthagjana (Pāli: puthujjana) is trapped in the endless changes of saṃsāra and is unable to free himself or herself. Doing good or evil according to his desires, he is born in higher or lower states according to his actions. As he has no control over his mind and behavior, his destiny is haphazard and subject to great suffering.
The Noble personsEdit
One who begins sincere training on the Buddhist path becomes an āryapudgala (Pāli: ariyapuggala), a "noble person" who is eventually guaranteed enlightenment as an arhat, though not necessarily in this life. Their destiny is governed by the degree of attainment reached.
The first stage is that of Srotaāpanna (Pāli: Sotāpanna), literally meaning "one who enters (āpadyate) the stream (srotas), after an old simile that compares attaining enlightenment with crossing a stream. The stream-enterer is also said to have "opened the eye of the Dharma" (dharmacakṣus, Pāli dhammacakkhu).
A stream-enterer is guaranteed enlightenment after no more than seven successive rebirths, and possibly in fewer. The stream-winner can also be sure that he or she will not be reborn in any of the unhappy rebirths (that is, as an animal, as a preta, or as a being in Naraka.
One achieves stream-entry (srotaāpatti or sotāpatti) thorough an association with good people; through hearing the Dharma; through proper attention of the mind; and through practice of the entire Dharma in accordance with the Dharma.
The stream-enterer has attained an intellectual grasp of Buddhist doctrine (samyagdṛṣṭi or sammādiṭṭhi, "right view"), have complete confidence in the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and follows Buddhist morality (śīla).
- Dhammapada 178:
- Sole dominion over the earth,
- going to heaven,
- lordship over all worlds:
- the fruit of stream-entry
- excels them.
The second stage is that of the sakṛdāgāmin (Pāli: sakadāgāmī), literally meaning "one who once ever (sakṛt) comes (āgacchati)". The once-returner will only be born one more time in the human world, where he will attain enlightenment as an arhat.
The third stage is that of the anāgāmin (Pāli: anāgāmī), literally meaning "one who does not (an-) come (āgacchati)". The non-returner does not come back into human existence, or any lower world, after death. Instead, he is reborn in one of the worlds of the Rūpadhātu called the Śuddhāvāsa worlds, or "Pure Abodes", where he will attain Nirvāṇa; some of them are reborn a second time in a higher world of the Pure Abodes, but in no case are born into a lower state.
- Main article: Arhat
The fourth stage is that of arhat, a fully enlightened human being who has abandoned all fetters, and who upon decease (Sanskrit: parinirvāṇa, Pāli: parinibbāna) will not be reborn in any world, having wholly abandoned saṃsāra.
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