FOUR STAGES OF SAINTHOOD
“WEEDS PLAGUE FIELDS. LUST DESTROYS MEN. GIVING TO THE LUST-LESS, YIELDS HIGH RETURNS.
WEEDS PLAGUE FIELDS. HATRED DESTROYS MEN. OFFERING TO HATE-LESS, YIELDS FRUIT.
WEEDS PLAGUE FIELDS. IGNORANCE DESTROYS MEN. GIVING TO THE IGNORANCE-FREE, IS FRUITFUL. “DESIRE IS THE BLEMISH OF MAN KIND.”
Dhammapada (Verses 156-159)
Fields have weeds as their bane. The ordinary masses have ill-will, passion, hatred, greed and illusion as their bane. Therefore, high yields are possible only through what is given to the one without, ill-will, passion, hatred, greed and illusion.
Commenting on the merits acquired by those who give to the Pure, the Buddha uttered these verses.
In a previous state of existence, when Ven. Anuruddha entered a village, Indika Deva during that previous existence, had offered him a spoonful of his own food. This was the good deed which he performed in a previous state of existence. Although Ankura Deva had for ten thousand years set up a row of fire-places twelve leagues long and had given abundant alms, Indika Deva received a greater reward, by being born as a powerful Deva.
This was because, Ankura Deva had offered abundant alms at a time there was no Buddha, Dhamma or the presence of the Sanga. (Abuddhothpada kalaya). When Ankura, inquired about this: the Buddha said, “Ankura, one should use discrimination in giving alms. Under such circumstances alms-giving, like seed sown on good soil, yields abundant fruit. But you have not so done: therefore your gifts have yielded no great fruit.”
Alms given to living beings here in the world that are worthy of offerings, Yield abundant fruit, like seeds sown on good ground. Dhamma is still available to us now. But this was not the case during Ankura’s time. We are born into this world at a good time where Buddha’s teaching and Sanga are readly available. So we need to reap good results out of this opportunity and should engage in various meritorious deeds.
The above verses state that high yields, in terms of merit, are possible only through what is given to those who are passionless, those who are without ill-will, those who are without illusion and those who are free of greed.
All these characteristics define Perfected Ones- Arahats and those who are on their way to such achievement. Saints of this calibre are also described as Aryans-Puggala (noble persons). Arahat, in Sanskrit, means the consummate one, the worthy one. This term Arahart-applied exclusively to the Buddha and to His perfected disciples.
Arahats are described also as ariya puggala or ariya (noble ones, noble persons.) Eight ariya puggalas are those who have realised one of the eight stages of holiness or sainthood.
1. The one realising the path of
2. The one realising the fruition of
3. The one realising the path of
4. The one realising the fruition of once-returner (sadakagami-phala)
5. The one realising the path of
non –return (anagami-magga)
6. The one realising the fruition of non-return (anagami-phala)
7. The one realising the path of holiness (arahatta-magga) and
8. The one realising the fruition of holiness (arahatta-phala)
According to Abhidhamma, supermundane path, or simply path (magga), is a designation of the moment of entering into one of the four stages of holiness or4 stages of sainthood or 4 streams. Any person lay or monk, who is still possessed of all the ten Fetters binding or the round of re-births and has not reached the First stage of Sainthood, is called a Worldling (putujjana). Stream here denotes the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to Nibbana.
The way to Nibbana is the Development of Insight (vipasana) culminating in the Seven Purities (sapta Vissuddhi). By sustained effort on the Path the the worldling would reach a stage when he/she would get a glimpse of Nibbana for the first time “like a traveller by night seeing the landscape around him in a flash of lighting.” At this stage he/she is called a “Stream Winner.” One who has entered the stream that leads to Nibbana. On reaching his stage he/she eradicates three Fetters namly, Sakkaya Ditti, Vicikicca and Silabbata Paramasa
in the Kamawacara plane. A Sotapanna
person is no longer an ordinary person,
but called an Aryan. He/She will not
reborn in any woeful plane, apaya.
He/she is assured of reaching the
final deliverance from suffering within
seven lives if reborn in Kamavacara plane.
Sakadagami (Sakadagami) – With sustained endeavour and greater courage the Stream Winner could reach the second stage of sainthood called once returner by weakening two Fetters namely kamaraga and Vyapada. Once returner is so called because he/she will reborn in the Kamavacara world only once.
Anagamis (Anagami) – On attaining the third stage of Sainthood, namely “Non-Returner,” eradicates totally the Fetters of Kamaraga and Vyapada. The Non returner has rooted out all sensual pleasures and does not return to the world, hence called Non-Returner. He will not be reborn in kamavakara Planes but can be re born in the Pancha Suddavasa, the Five Pure Abodes in the Brahma Plane and attain Arahatship from such plane. Only Anagamis and Arahaths live in this plane.
An Arahat - will eliminate all defilements at the time of reaching the Arahatta Magga Citta. An Arahat is called one who has accomplished the defilements but continues to live with the ‘Groups of Existence: (upadi) remaining is said to be in Sopadisesa Nibbana. An Arahat on passing away is said to have entered Anupadi Sesa Nibbana (Nibbana without groups remaining) A person who has attained the three stages of Sainthood and has not attained the “Fruit” of Arahatship is called a “Noble Learner” (seka). An Arahat is called one who has accomplished and “perfected in Training.”