The Four Stages of Attainment

Excerpted from Wikipedia

The four stages of attainment

The Sangha of the Tathagata’s disciples (Ariya Sangha) can be described as including four or eight kinds of individuals. There are four {groups of noble disciples} when path and fruit are taken as pairs, and eight groups of individuals, when each path and fruit are taken separately:

    (1) the path to stream-entry; (2) the fruition of stream-entry;

    (3) the path to once-returning; (4) the fruition of once-returning;

    (5) the path to non-returning; (6) the fruition of non-returning;

    (7) the path to arahantship; (8) the fruition of arahantship.


The first stage is that of Sotāpanna (Pali; Sanskrit: Srotāpanna), literally meaning “one who enters (āpadyate) the stream (sotas),” with the stream being the supermundane Noble Eightfold Path regarded as the highest Dharma. The stream-enterer is also said to have “opened the eye of the Dharma” (dhammacakkhu, Sanskrit: dharmacakṣus).

A stream-enterer reaches arahantship within seven rebirths upon opening the eye of the Dharma.

Because the stream-enterer has attained an intuitive grasp of Buddhist doctrine (samyagdṛṣṭi or sammādiṭṭhi, “right view”) and has complete confidence or Saddha in the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and has removed the sankharas that force rebirth in lower planes, that individual will not be reborn in any plane lower than the human (animal, preta, or in hell).


The second stage is that of the Sakadāgāmī (Sanskrit: Sakṛdāgāmin), literally meaning “one who once (sakṛt) comes (āgacchati)”. The once-returner will at most return to the realm of the senses (the lowest being human and the highest being the devas wielding power over the creations of others) one more time. Both the stream-enterer and the once-returner have abandoned the first three fetters. The stream-enterer and once-returner are distinguished by the fact that the once-returner has weakened lust, hate, and delusion to a greater degree. The once-returner therefore has fewer than seven rebirths. Once-returners do not have only one more rebirth, as the name suggests, for that may not even be said with certainty about the non-returner who can take multiple rebirths in the five “Pure Abodes”. They do, however, only have one more rebirth in the realm of the senses, excluding, of course, the planes of hell, animals and hungry ghosts.


The third stage is that of the Anāgāmī (Sanskrit: Anāgāmin), literally meaning “one who does not (an-) come (āgacchati)”. The non-returner, having overcome sensuality, does not return to the human world, or any unfortunate world lower than that, after death. Instead, non-returners are reborn in one of the five special worlds in Rūpadhātu called the Śuddhāvāsa worlds, or “Pure Abodes”, and there attain Nirvāṇa; Pāli: Nibbana; some of them are reborn a second time in a higher world of the Pure Abodes.

An Anāgāmī has abandoned the five lower fetters, out of ten total fetters, that bind beings to the cycle of rebirth. An Anāgāmī is well-advanced.


The fourth stage is that of Arahant (Sanskrit: Arhat), a fully awakened person. They have abandoned all ten fetters and, upon death (Sanskrit: Parinirvāṇa, Pāli: Parinibbāna) will never be reborn in any plane or world, having wholly escaped saṃsāra. An Arahant has attained awakening by following the path given by the Buddha. In Theravada Buddhism the term Buddha is reserved for ones who “self-enlighten” such as Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, who discovered the path by himself.


People who do not know what they are interacting with can make a mistake, a boo boo, in their self-diagnosed omniscience. They can assume many things and succumb to group confirmation bias.

Nut Job or Bodhisattva?

Not so long ago I said to someone either there has been an almighty foxtrot up or I am a complete nut job.

Based on various circumstantial factors it is possible that a being who once was a close disciple of Siddhartha managed to incarnate as a non-returner, anāgāmin , four lifetimes later in such a way as to find itself associated with some of the top-flight UK educational establishments and essentially be ignored and possibly maltreated, gossiped about. It worked at each of the top four, in two cases very briefly and studied for a Ph.D. at the most niche of institutions. The incarnation into a family with “become a teacher or a preacher” mantra so as to escape the coal pit, pointed it at education and it subsequently found itself at the very core of education. It met many famous science dudes. This being is living now, socially isolated on a tiny income in rural Brittany, in a kind of exile. There are vast widespread karmic implications in this version.

The alternative narrative is that this being burned out, took too many drugs, drank way too much and turned into a complete nut job. It invented an extremely convoluted story so as to justify to itself how it squandered a wonderful opportunity. White trash from the Rhondda valleys and the Cardiff docks could not hack the transition to the upper civilised classes. It returned to roots as so often they do. There are only localised karmic implications in this one.

This is not a binary thing; it is not a superposition state.

Take your pick, which is accurate?