Theravāda Buddhist School holds a view that individuals [both ascetic and laymen] have potential to liberate from the state of suffering [tukkhatā], the state of impermanence [aniccatā], and enter the stream which entails the liberation [vimutti, vimokkha]. Eventually, once we have entered the stream, Buddhists believe that we are qualified and ready to attain the state of enlightenment which signifies and determines that we will reach the final extinction [nirvana/nibbāna], and at that position we will never born again.
However, the term ‘nirvana’ literally is translated ‘extinction’ or ‘liberation’ has become a fruitful debate among scholars for the last two centuries since Buddhism was discovered and re-created to life once again by the West around the 18th Century [Original Buddhism is believed to extinct from its mother-land, India, for centuries before it was spread to other parts of the world, and become prosperous in all sorts of forms and styles]. The debate mainly focuses on clearer meaning and condition of the so-called ‘nirvāna’ which consequently reflects vague explanation from Buddhist traditions at the first place. However, as we are living a worldly life, and merely learning, witnessing and/or guessing on individual’s experience which may have been written millenniums ago, it seems a manifestation of this quiz still in distance to show us the true light.
Nonetheless, the discussion herein mainly aims to render the procedure or path of practical way to reach the ideal goal [again, nirvana]. Although, the clear definition of its condition and true meaning is still debatable, and, perhaps unconvincing, for our generation, condition, and environment, Buddhists, throughout various traditions, have created very systematic and practical approach rendered in various scriptures including primary source like the ‘tipit᷂aka’. Therefore, in this discussion I would like to draw merely details of those who are considered the ‘stream enterer’ or ‘holy individuals’ [ariya-puggala] of Buddhists regarding what have they experienced inside that stream before ending in the state of extinction upon death. They are vividly described as follow;
- A. ‘ariya-puggala 2’ – Technically, they are considered holy and noble individuals who succeed or reach sublime qualifications in Buddhist view which initially is counted from the first sublime stage called ‘sotāpattimagga = the path for stream entering stage’. They are classified into 2 here;
1. ‘sekha’ – Literally means ‘the learner’. They are considered the ones who still have obligation of learning, experiencing and practicing inside the stream called ‘the first 7 kinds of ariya-puggala out of 8 [the 8 stage is considered the last one called ‘arahat’ means ‘the enlightened or worthy one].
2. ‘asekha’ – These kids of noble individuals are believed to have completed all the learning and practicing procedure and now holding a state of enlightenment called ‘arahattaphala’ = the fruit of worthy one. Buddha and his famous foremost like Sārīputra or Moggalāna for example are believed to attain this stage.
Nonetheless, of those two kinds of ‘ariya-puggala’, endlessly Buddhists also divide and classify them into more vividly and detailed figures. From previous quantity of 2 I have rendered previously, now they are classified into 4 as follow;
- B. ‘ariya-puggala 4’
1. ‘sotāpattipannā’ – Individuals [this term can be used with both ascetic and lay people] who are believed to have work and practice hard [ in the path of virtue, meditation, and wisdom = sīla; samādhi; paňňā] and finally reach the first stage of the stream. Literally means ‘the stream-enterer’. However, individuals who attain this stage are still believed to return to the worldly life and reborn again [no exact numbers of how many lives we have to undergo suggested at this point] to practice, and develop until gaining sufficient qualification to move to the next stage.
2. ‘sakadāgāmī’ – The ones who have attained or enter the second stage of the stream, literally means ‘once-returner’. It could be explained that if we reach this stage, it means that we will merely return once to the worldly life in order to practice and cultivate more until yielding sufficient sublime qualification to move to the next stage.
3. ‘anāgāmī’ – It is believed that individuals who enter this stage are considered the ones who will never return to worldly life again. Thus, it literally means ‘non-returner’ which could be explained that from this position we hold to the final stage [arahat] can be accomplished in this life.
4. ‘arahanta/arahat’ – The worthy one; the one who has ceased the circle of rebirth, transmigration, and wondering. This stage is on the top of the stream in Buddhist view. It is considered the last life which is believed to bring the cessation of suffering [tukkha] conditioned by impermanence [aniccatā], no-self [anattatā] [nothing else in this world is under our control], and subjected to decay.
It is noteworthy to observe that although Buddhist [Theravāda School] view on stages of stream which entails the final extinction or liberation is considered to properly formalized and strictly followed in order to attain the ideal final state of extinction, other traditions like ‘Mahāyāna School’ interestingly is believed to hold diferent view in this kid of state or stream, perhaps, even the state of ‘nirvāna’ itself is explained and interpreted differently.