Dhamma Practitioner

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A Dhamma Practitioner is a name that is used to describe those who practice the teachings of the Buddha. It is used as an alternative to the widely used but vaguely defined term Buddhist. Dhamma practitioner is seen by many as a more accurate description for those who practice the Buddha's teachings, and more fitting with classification schemes given in the Pali Canon. In contrast, the terms Buddhist and Buddhism are relatively recent inventions that some see as a Westernized framing of the teachings of the Buddha in terms fitting for religions such as Christianity, and not words that have an equivalent in the teachings of the Buddha. In the earliest sources, the Buddha himself referred to his teaching as the "Dhamma and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata".[1] Due to these reasons and the fact that the Buddha's teachings are strongly rooted in practical application, the term Dhamma Practitioner has been used by many teachers as a description of those on the Buddha's path.[2][3]

Traditional classification schemes for those on the Buddha's path[edit]

The seven types of individuals[edit]

In the Pali Canon, several suttas record a scheme of classification to denote those on the Buddha's path, classed as 'the seven types of individuals', differentiated by the degree to which they have attained liberation and the means by which they have achieved this end. One such scheme is recorded in the Kitagiri Sutta (MN 70) [4][5]

Monks, there are these seven individuals to be found in the world. Which seven? One [released] both ways, one released through discernment, a bodily witness, one attained to view, one released through conviction, a Dhamma-follower, and a conviction-follower.

—Kitagiri Sutta

The Buddha elaborated on each one as follows:

The first two are references to Arahants, those who have completed the Buddha's teachings and attained enlightenment. Arahants who have mastered the formless attainments are known as "liberated both ways", whilst those who have not attained the formless dimensions are called "released through discernment".

  • There is the case where a certain individual remains touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, and—having seen with discernment—his fetters are ended. This is called an individual [released] both ways.

  • There is the case where a certain individual does not remain touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, but—having seen with discernment—his fetters are ended. This is called an individual who is released through discernment.

Those who have become a stream-enterer and also abide in the meditative formless dimensions are known as "bodily witness".

  • There is the case where a certain individual remains touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, and—having seen with discernment—some of his fetters are ended. This is called an individual who is a bodily witness.

Those who have become a stream-enterer but have not attained the meditative formless dimensions are known respectively as "attained to view" and "released through conviction", depending on the way in which they developed the path.

  • There is the case where a certain individual does not remain touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, but—having seen with discernment—some of his fetters are ended, and he has reviewed and examined with discernment the teachings proclaimed by the Tathagata. This is called an individual who is attained to view.

  • There is the case where a certain individual does not remain touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, but—having seen with discernment—some of his fetters are ended, and his conviction in the Tathagata is settled, rooted, and established. This is called an individual who is released through conviction.

Finally those who are yet to become a stream-enterer but are still on the path are known as a "Dhamma-follower" and a "Conviction-follower", depending on whether the faculty of widom or the faculty of faith is strongest.

  • There is the case where a certain individual does not remain touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, nor—having seen with discernment—are his fetters ended. But with a [sufficient] measure of reflection through discernment he has come to an agreement with the teachings proclaimed by the Tathagata. And he has these qualities: the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, and the faculty of discernment. This is called an individual who is a Dhamma-follower.

  • There is the case where a certain individual does not remain touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, nor—having seen with discernment—are his fetters ended. But he has a [sufficient] measure of conviction in and love for the Tathagata. And he has these qualities: the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, & the faculty of discernment. This is called an individual who is a conviction-follower.

    —Kitagiri sutta

The eight types of individuals[edit]

Another classification scheme found in the Pali Canon is that based on the four stages of enlightenment, often broken down into "the eight types of individuals".

This Doctrine and Discipline is the abode of such mighty beings as stream-winners and those practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry; once-returners and those practicing to realize the fruit of once-returning; non-returners and those practicing to realize the fruit of non-returning; arahants and those practicing for arahantship.[6]

That is the four groups of noble disciples when taken as pairs:

  1. the path of one practicing for the fruit of stream-entry
  2. the fruition of stream-entry
  3. the path of one practicing for the fruit of once-returning
  4. the fruition of once-returning
  5. the path of one practicing for the fruit of non-returning
  6. the fruition of non-returning
  7. the path of one practicing for the fruit of arahantship
  8. the fruition of arahantship.

Taking each attainment singly gives the "eight types of individual."[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Esukari Sutta. 
  2. ^ http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Opening_Dhamma_Eye1.php "So the Dhamma practitioner must become one who witnesses the Dhamma for himself."
  3. ^ http://www.imisangha.org/articles/Be_A_Professional_Dharma_Practitioner.html
  4. ^ "Kitagiri sutta". 
  5. ^ http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/2Majjhima-Nikaya/Majjhima2/070-kitagiri-e1.html
  6. ^ a b http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/sangha.html