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In Buddhism, a Sotāpanna (Pali), Srotāpanna (Sanskrit; ch: rùliú 入流, Tib. རྒྱན་ཞུགས rgyun zhugs), or "stream-winner" is a person who has eradicated the first three fetters (sanyojanas) of the mind, namely self-view (or identity), clinging to rites and rituals, and skeptical doubt (in Buddhadharma or the teachings of the Buddha).
Sota-apanna literally means "one who entered (āpanna) the stream (sota)", after a metaphor which calls the Noble Eightfold Path, 'a stream' which leads to Nibbana or Nirvana (SN 55.5). Stream-entry (Sota-apatti) is the first of the four stages of enlightenment.
The first moment of the attainment is termed the path of stream-entry (sotāpatti-magga), which cuts off the first three fetters. The person who experiences it is called a stream-winner (sotāpanna).
The Sotāpanna is said to attain an intuitive grasp of dharma (right view) and has complete confidence in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). The Sotapanna is said to have "opened the eye of the Dharma" (dharmacakkhu), because they have realized that whatever arises will cease (impermanence). Their conviction in the true dharma would be unshakable.
They have had their first glimpse of the unconditioned element, Nirvana or Nibbana (Pali), which they see as the third of the Four Noble Truths, in the moment of the fruition of their path (magga-phala). Whereas the stream entrant has seen Nirvana and, thus has verified confidence in it, the Arahant (who is at the fourth and final stage of Spiritual Nobility / sainthood) can drink fully of its waters, so to speak, to use a simile from the Kosambi Sutta (SN 12.68) - of a "well", encountered along a desert road.
However, the remaining three fruits of the path to awakening (once-return, non-return, and arahatship) become 'destined' for the stream-entrant. Their Enlightenment as a Disciple (Saavaka-Bodhi) becomes inevitable within seven lives at the most; if they are diligent (appamattaa) in the practice of the Master's message, they may fully awaken within their present life. They have very little suffering left, to undergo.
The Early Buddhist texts (e.g. The Ratana Sutta, Samyutta Nikaaya 2.1) say that a stream-entrant will no longer be born in the animal womb, or hell realms; nor as a hungry ghost. The pathways to unfortunate rebirth destinations (duggati), have been closed to them.
It's impossible for them to commit the six "heinous crimes" (Abhithanani), which would otherwise lead to aeons in hell. (These six being: i. matricide, ii. patricide, iii. the murder of arahants (the Consummate Ones), iv. the shedding of the Buddha's blood, v. causing schism in the Sangha, and vi. pernicious false beliefs [niyata micca ditthi]).
They're reborn only in "noble" human families, or as divine beings. (Here, "noble" means a family who follows the Buddha's teachings.)
…those monks who have abandoned the three fetters, are all stream-winners, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening. This is how the Dharma well-proclaimed by me is clear, open, evident, stripped of rags.—Alagaddupama Sutta
- Self-view - The speculative view that a so-called self exists in the five aggregates (physical forms, feelings/sensations, perception, mental formations and consciousness) is eradicated because the Sotāpanna gains insight into the selfless nature of the aggregates.
- Clinging to rites and rituals - Eradication of the view that one becomes pure simply through performing rituals (animal sacrifices, ablutions, chanting, etc.) or adhering to rigid moralism or relying on a god for non-causal delivery. Rites and rituals now function more to obscure, than to support the Right View of the Sotāpanna's now opened dharma eye. The Sotāpanna realizes that deliverance can be won only through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.
- Skeptical Doubt - Doubt about the Buddha, his teaching (Dhamma), and his community (Sangha) is eradicated because the Sotāpanna personally experiences the true nature of reality through insight, and this insight confirms the accuracy of the Buddha’s teaching.
According to the Pali Commentary, six types of defilement would be eventually abandoned by a Sotāpanna: At least there will be no major transgressions.
A Sotāpanna will be safe from falling into the states of misery (they will not be born as an animal, ghost, or hell being). Their lust, hatred and delusion will not be strong enough to cause rebirth in the lower realms. A Sotāpanna will have to be reborn at most only seven more times in the human or heavenly worlds before attaining nibbana. It is not necessary for a Sotāpanna to be reborn seven more times before attaining nibbana, as an ardent practitioner may progress to the higher stages in the same life in which he/she reaches the Sotāpanna level by making an aspiration and persistent effort to reach the final goal of nibbāna.
Five worst wrong actions
Sotāpanna is not capable of committing five worst wrong actions:
- Murdering one's own mother.
- Murdering one's own father.
- Murdering an Arahant.
- Maliciously injuring the Buddha to the point of drawing blood.
- Deliberately creating a schism in the monastic community.
The Buddha spoke favorably about the Sotapanna on many occasions, and even though it is (only) the first of Ariya Sangha members, he or she is welcomed by all other Sangha-members for he or she practices for the benefit and welfare of many. In the literature, the Ariya Sangha is described as "the four" when taken as pairs, and as "the eight" when taken as individuals. This refers to the four supramundane fruits (attainments: "phala") and the corresponding four supramundane paths (of those practicing to attain those fruits: "magga").
"The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced straight-forwardly... who have practiced methodically... who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types [of noble disciples] when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world."—Anguttara Nikaya, 11.12
This is called "The Recollection of the Sangha". It can also be interpreted as, "They are the Blessed One's disciples, who have practiced well, who have practiced directly, who have practiced insightfully, those who practice with integrity (to share what they have learned with others). They give occasion for incomparable goodness to arise in the world because gifts to them bear great fruit and benefit to the giver. The fifty-fifth Samyutta of the Samyutta Nikaya is called the Sotāpatti-saṃyutta, and concerns Sotapannas and their attainment. In Sutta-numbers (of that chapter) 1-4, 6-9, 11-14, 16-20, 22-36, 39-49, 51, 53, 54, Sotapannas are praised as Sangha members by and to: the sick, layfollowers, people on their deathbed, bhikkhunis, bhikkhus, and devas, and end up for the wellbeing and benefit of many.
From Dhammapada verse 178:
- Sole dominion over the earth,
- going to heaven,
- lordship over all worlds:
- the fruit of stream-entry
- excels them.
- See also Sudden Enlightenment
A Shrotaapanna is a first stage Arhat. Certification to the first fruit of Arhatship, which is within the Small Vehicle, comes when the eighty-eight categories of view delusions are smashed." p. 77 
Venerable Hsuan Hua continues,
The first fruit is that of Srotāpanna, a Sanskrit word which means "One Who Has Entered the Flow." He opposes the flow of common people's six dusts and enters the flow of the sage's dharma-nature. Entering the flow means entering the state of the accomplished sage of the Small Vehicle.
- Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism By Lati Rinpoche, Denma Locho Rinpoche, Leah Zahler, Jeffrey Hopkins. pg 63
- "A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
- Sister Ayya Khema. "All of Us". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi. "The Noble Eightfold Path". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- "Alagaddupama Sutta". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu. "Stream Entry". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu. "The Noble Eightfold Path". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Nyanaponika Thera. "The Simile of the Cloth & The Discourse on Effacement". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi. "Transcendental Dependent Arising". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Henepola Gunaratana. "The Jhanas". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- "Sangha". Access to Insight. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
- Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. "The Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra - A General Explanation". Buddhist Text Translation Society. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- Vajra Sutra Commentary, p. 78, Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2002
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2006). Stream Entry (Part 1: The Way to Stream-entry). Retrieved 28 Sep 2007 from Access to Insight.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2004). Stream Entry (Part 2: Stream-entry and After). Retrieved 28 Sep 2007 from Access to Insight.
- Samyutta Nikaya , translation from Mahindarama Temple, Penang, Malaysia.
- Jeffrey S. Brooks, On Self-Ordination, taking the title Sotapanna (Stream Winner), beginning a new Vehicle of Buddhism and Using the Buddha's terminology for hierarchy within that new vehicle