What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sotāpanna?

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What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sotāpanna?

Revised May 10, 2017;December 1, 2017; July 7, 2018; August 16, 2019; August 14, 2022

Micchā Diṭṭhi – Only Dasa Akusala Completely Removed by a Sotāpanna

1. Upon attaining the Sotāpanna stage, micchā diṭṭhi (the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi together with wrong views of nicca, sukha, and atta) is COMPLETELY removed. That is one akusala out of dasa akusala. But that accounts for more than 99% of akusala (defilements) from one’s mind since the “apāyagāmi strength” of the other nine akusala kamma are also removed.

That illustrates the importance of removing micchā diṭṭhi and why I have so many posts on that. Also, see the first discourse in “Three Marks of Existence – English Discourses.

Some people think a Sotāpanna is incapable of breaking the five precepts based on an incorrect translation of the WebLink: suttacentral: Gihi Sutta (AN 5.179). The relevant verse is: “..ariyasāvako pāṇātipātā paṭivirato hoti, adinnādānā paṭivirato hoti, kāmesumicchācārā paṭivirato hoti, musāvādā paṭivirato hoti, surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā paṭivirato hoti.”

However, “pativirato hoti” does not mean “abstains from” as translated at many online sites; it means “does not do with liking.” Thus, a Sotāpanna may — under some conditions — break the five precepts. It is only an Arahant that will not break five precepts or engage in dasa akusala.

The five precepts have deeper meanings, too: “The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them.

2. With the removal of micchā diṭṭhi, a Sotāpanna will be incapable of doing the following six deeds (per “WebLink: suttacentral: Bahudhātuka Sutta (MN 115)”.)

(i.)Killing one’s mother.

(ii.)Killing one’s father.

(iii.)Killing an Arahant.

(iv.)Injuring a Buddha.

(v.)Causing saṅgha bheda (spreading wrong Dhamma is included here).

(vi.)Taking refuge in anyone other than a Buddha (i.e., believing in other ways of “salvation”).

Furthermore, a Sotāpanna will avoid an unimaginable amount of future suffering.

Future Suffering Removed by a Sotāpanna

3. WebLink: suttacentral: Nakhasikha Sutta (SN 13.1) describes the vast amount of defilement removed by a Sotāpanna.

One time the Buddha picked up a little bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail and asked the bhikkhus, “What do you think bhikkhus? Which is greater: the little bit of dust I have picked up with the tip of my fingernail, or the soil in this great Earth?.”

Of course, the bhikkhus answered that the amount of soil on this Earth is vastly more massive than the bit of dust on a fingernail.

Then the Buddha told the bhikkhus that the amount of suffering that a Sotāpanna has removed could be compared to the soil on the whole Earth. The amount that he/she has left to stop can be compared to the bit of dust on his fingernail.

Therefore, the amount of suffering a Sotāpanna has left in future rebirths is insignificant compared to that of an average human.

4. More analogies are given in a series of suttas starting with “WebLink: suttacentral: Paṭhamasinerupabbatarāja Sutta (SN 56.49).” “The amount of suffering a Sotāpanna has to endure can be compared to seven grains of sand on top of mount Sineru. The amount of suffering a normal human has left to endure can be compared to sand in the whole mountain.”

That is logical since the suffering encountered in the niraya never ceases. One birth in the niraya (hell) would lead to much more suffering than thousands of births in the human or higher realms.

A Sotāpanna will NEVER be reborn in the four lowest realms due to the complete removal of ONE dasa akusala, that of micchā diṭṭhi. Furthermore, he/she will have only seven future bhava left and those in the human realm or the realms above it.

Removal of Micchā Diṭṭhi Is Enough to Become a Sotāpanna

5. That may be why most people tend to think that attaining the Sotāpanna stage requires attaining jhānā, all sorts of abhiññā powers, etc. None of that is a requirement for achieving the Sotāpanna stage.

One may think that a Sotāpanna would have removed at least half of the ten evils (dasa akusala.) It turns out that a Sotāpanna completely removes only one of the dasa akusala, that of niyata micchā diṭṭhi. Of course, in achieving that, a Sotāpanna would have reduced the “apāyagāmī strength” of most of the other dasa akusala.That is the key to understanding. In particular, abhijjā [abhijjhā] or lobha reduced to rāga level and vyāpāda or dosa is reduced to paṭigha level; see, “Lobha, Dosa, Moha versus Raga, Patigha, Avijjā.”

For a discussion on dasa akusala, see, “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala).” As discussed in that post, Niyata Micchā Diṭṭhi (established wrong views) is an akusala done with the mind.

A Sotāpanna is said to have achieved “dassanena pahatabba” or removal of defilements via correct vision. He/she has removed an unimaginably vast amount of evils (“keles” or “kilesa” or “klesha”) with the removal of micchā diṭṭhi, or attaining the first stage of Sammā Diṭṭhi: the true nature of this world of 31 realms.

How a Sotāpanna reduces dasa akusala via getting rid of micchā diṭṭhi “to overcome apāyagāmī citta” is discussed in “Akusala Citta – How a Sotāpanna Avoids Apayagami Citta.” Here is it described how five out of the 12 akusala citta do not arise after the Sotāpanna stage; those are the five that lead to birth in the apāyā.

6. That is a critical point to understand. Removal of micchā diṭṭhi leads to the stopping of highly immoral actions. Most people worry excessively about the defilements done with the body and speech. They are afraid of even accidentally killing an insect or telling a “white lie.” Of course, those must be avoided, too, because moral behavior (speech and actions) are a prerequisite for cleansing the mind.

But having niyata micchā diṭṭhi is million-fold more weighty. These and other types of Niyata Micchā Diṭṭhi (established wrong views) are discussed in “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)and “Mahā Cattārīsaka Sutta (Discourse on the Great Forty).”

It would be beneficial to understand the weights of different types of kamma; see “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kammas.”

If one has a vessel that is leaking water, there is no point in trying to plug the smaller holes first. One should seal the largest hole first, which in this case is getting rid of micchā diṭṭhi or false views (about this world).

That may still not convince some. If so, see whether this conclusion contradicts anything in the Tipiṭaka. One should carefully examine all the “requirements” that must be fulfilled to attain the Sotāpanna stage. It should become clear that this is all one needs to do.

And that comes only via learning Dhamma, the correct version, the version discovered by the Buddha and passed down through generations of Noble Persons or Ariyā. We discussed in detail in the post, “Four Conditions for Attaining Sotāpanna Magga/Phala.”

Of course, one needs to have removed micchā diṭṭhi even to become a Sotāpanna Anugāmi: “Micchā Diṭṭhi, Gandhabba, and Sotāpanna Stage.”

The Next Step

7.  A Sotāpanna has removed the “wrong views” about the nature of this world. But the tendency to “feel” that there are mind-pleasing things in this world is still there.

That is why we need to comprehend the term saññā, commonly translated into English as “perception.”

Of course, Saññā is one of 52 cetasika and one component of pañcakkhandha. It is one of the seven universal cetasika that arise with every citta.

8. Saññā works very closely with another universal cetasika called manasikāra. Manasikāra is the cetasika that brings old memories and future hopes into a citta. When cetanā “puts together the citta,” the citta recognizes the subject (saññā) and automatically produces vedanā (feelings) about it. Thus we can see the significant roles of those four cetasika right away.

But saññā is not limited to “recognizing objects.” Saññā is the “inner understanding” of any concept.

For example, when we hear “fire,” we immediately recognize that. Even a picture of a fire may flash in our minds. But a baby (or someone who does not understand English) does not have a “saññā” for that word; it means nothing to them. But the baby (or that person) can understand what “fire” means if we teach it to them.

Growing up, we acquire innumerable “saññā” mostly by becoming familiar with them. We first recognize who “mother” and “father” are, know different colors, different objects, etc. For details, see “Saññā – What It Really Means.”

9. Even though we acquire “saññā” for most objects and people, some strong saññā may be “passed down” from previous lives. That can take many forms.

When visiting a place that one had never previously visited in this life, some people may already “know” about that place in great detail. Children who remember past lives have been reported to lead investigators to various locations in faraway cities where they had lived in previous lives. Many adults have said they can walk a city with complete confidence that they are visiting for the first time.

Then there is the “ability” to play the piano, recite suttā, or just be able to comprehend complex mathematics as a child, etc. Some of these cases discussed in “Evidence for Rebirth.”

10. We “acquire” most saññā through our families first, then through friends, schools, workplaces, etc.

Thus most of our “world views” or diṭṭhis are acquired through our families. Our first impressions of moral issues, politics, and religions come from our families.

Those saññās are hard to change, depending on how forcefully and frequently they have been used.

However, the human mind is unique. When given enough substantial evidence, one’s saññā about something or some concept can PERMANENTLY change. For example, when one learns how to do algebra (addition and subtraction, etc.) correctly, one will never forget that. And even if an authority figure (a teacher) insists that one plus two is four, even a child will not accept that. He/she can count fingers and show the teacher that the correct answer IS three.

11. As we grow up, we acquire saññā for more specialized tasks. One could “learn” to become a carpenter, a doctor, an engineer, etc.

This “learning” is acquiring “saññā” for a particular task. It is not just memorizing how to do things. When a physician finishes his/her learning, he/she can “troubleshoot” a brand new patient and figure out what is wrong. When an engineer builds a new structure, it could be something that has not been made before. One acquires “skills.”

Once one learns a “skill,” one will never forget that; at least it is easy to “get back to it.” One who had learned to ride a bicycle as a child may never touch a bike for 30-40 years. But even at old age, he can ride a bike with minimal effort.

Removal of “Micchā Saññā” or “Saññā Vipallāsa” Needed for Higher Magga Phala

12. A Sotāpanna acquires a basic level of understanding about “this world” and that “knowledge” or “comprehension” does not go away even in future lives.

Once someone sees a “glimpse” of the Buddha’s core message, in the long run, there is no permanent happiness to be had by wishing for anything in this world

That kind of a “vision change” does not happen quickly unless one has “saññā” about that from previous lives; that is why it is easier for some people to grasp these concepts.

And this “saññā” cannot be acquired via memorizing suttā, how to recite the Paṭicca Samuppāda cycle, etc. Instead, one needs to COMPREHEND the concepts.

The KEY concept to grasp is the “anicca saññā.”

13. The only way to “build up” the correct saññā is to make an effort to understand the key message of the Buddha. Humans usually have wrong perceptions or “vipareetha saññā” that one can find happiness in this life by working hard. Most people do not even think beyond this life, even if they believe in rebirth. That is also called the “nicca saññā” (pronounced “nichcha saññā”), i.e., by working hard or by sheer luck, one can achieve and maintain things in this world to one’s satisfaction.

The fundamental teaching of the Buddha is about the “anicca saññā,” i.e., it is NOT POSSIBLE to maintain ANYTHING to one’s satisfaction in the long run. The Sotāpanna stage of Nibbāna is attained when the anicca saññā is cultivated to some significant extent.

When one has developed the anicca saññā to this level, one’s mind automatically blocks “apāyagāmi citta.”

As we discussed in the Abhidhamma section, citta flow very fast, and we do not have control over those initial cittā. In extreme cases like sudden rages or sheer greed, we will be unable to “control ourselves” without permanently removing “apāyagāmi gati” by getting rid of micchā diṭṭhi.

It is this anicca saññā that grows as one attains higher stages of Nibbāna (Sakadāgāmī and Anāgāmī) and peaks at the Arahant stage. At the Arahant stage, one can see the “anicca nature” of ALL saṅkhāra, not only abhisaṅkhāra. That is what is expressed by “Sabbe saṅkhāra anicca,” and in the Girimānanda sutta, the Buddha told Ven. Ānanda, “Ayaṁ vuccati Ānanda, sabba saṅkhāresu anicca saññā”; see,Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – According to Some Key Suttā.”

Therefore, before worrying about anicca saññā, one must remove the wrong diṭṭhi by becoming a Sotāpanna. See, “Vipallāsa (Diṭṭhi, Saññā, Citta) Affect Saṅkhāra.”

14. When one develops the anicca saññā via learning Dhamma (listening and reading), the tendency to act immorally, even under extreme pressure, will slowly diminish.

One would be able to see the corresponding “cooling down” (reduced stress level) when one thinks back after several months (it could be sooner for some people). One will gradually feel the nirāmisa sukha and be drawn to Dhamma. One would automatically start spending more time learning Dhamma.

One does not need to force anything except to make an initial determination to verify the truth of what I have discussed above by reading (and listening) and developing the “Dhamma vicayasabbojjanga. Make a habit of critically evaluating relevant posts at this site and from other sources. That is the best and most direct meditation technique for attaining the Sotāpanna stage. Buddha Dhamma is about learning the true nature of this world, which WILL automatically lead to the purification of the mind; see “The Importance of Purifying the Mind.”

The more one purifies one’s mind, the easier it will become to grasp the key Dhamma concepts and cultivate the “anicca saññā.” And developing anicca saññā itself leads to the purification of the mind. That is why learning becomes exponentially fast once getting some traction.

More on the anicca saññā (for those who may be Sotāpannas) at: How to Cultivate the Anicca Saññā