Who is an Arahant?

Venue: Poh Cheng’s House, Taman Assamara, Taiping

When the sun shines at the lotus pond, not all of the lotuses will receive the sunshine. Some of the lotuses will have wilted away even before they reach the surface of the water; some break through and float gently just on the surface while others rise and bloom in all their glory a foot or so above the surface, enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

Actually, not all of us after hearing the Buddha’s teaching can be able to practice or want to practice the teaching successfully until we reach full enlightenment or arahantship. Some of us are without hope at all, some are on the way to it and some need more then a life time, and only those who are very gifted can gain full enlightenment in a life time of practice. It is just like the various stages of growth of the lotuses.

There are 4 levels of enlightenment – Sotapanna [1st stage], Sakadagami [2nd stage], Anagami [3rd stage] and a fully Enlightened Arahant. The level of enlightenment one achieves is dependent on how well one has developed the Noble Eight Fold Path. All unenlightened beings have 10 fetters that hinder them from gaining enlightenment. When a person has eradicated all the 10 fetters, he is an Arahant. In brief, the ten fetters are:

1. identity view;
2. doubt (about the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and the training);
3. wrong grasp of rules and observances;
4. sensual lust;
5. ill will;
6. desire for existence in form realm;
7. desire for formless existence;
8. conceit;
9. restlessness; and
10. ignorance.

Sotapanna is known in English as stream-enterer and he had eradicated the first three fetters. A stream-enterer is so called, because he has entered into the stream that leads toward nibbana, that is, the stream of the Noble Eight Fold path. When a person reaches this stage, he will at most have seven more life times to go either into the human realm or heavenly realm before he experiences the highest bliss – Nibbaana.

Sakadagami is known in English as once-returner and he has eradicated the first three fetters and weakened lust, hatred, and delusion. He will only return to this world once, before he experiences Nibbaana.

An Anagami is known in English as a non-returner and he has eradicated the first five fetters. He will take rebirth in the brahma world and from there, when time is ripe, he will experience Nibbaana.

The highest and the best attainment is the stage of Arahant. It is attained when someone has fully developed the Noble Eight fold Path and thus eradicated all the 10 fetters. When a person gains this stage, he realizes and experiences the highest bliss – Nibbaana. It is to our great benefit if we have a chance to meet and serve an arahant.

There are nine things that can never be seen to be done by arahants. They will never do it, not even in secret. If we do see a self-claimed arahant doing such things, then we can declare openly, without any fear of creating any bad Kamma, that the so claimed arahant is a fake!
The nine things that arahants will not do are:

1. killing living beings intentionally;
2. taking what is not given with the intention to steal;
3. engaging in sexual activities;
4. telling a deliberate lie;
5. making use of accumulated enjoyments which he did in the past when he was a householder (for example,
food and money);
6. taking a wrong course of action on account of desire;
7. taking a wrong course of action on account of hatred;
8. taking a wrong course of action on account of delusion; and
9. taking a wrong course of action on account of fear.-(AN 9:7)

That’s all for this talk. If any of you happen to discover that someone is really an arahant, please inform me. I want to visit an arahant for it is good and a great blessing. Thank you and may you all be happy.

Note: Reference to most of the information above is obtainable from the book entitled, “In the Buddha’s Words” by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

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