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According to the Theravada Buddhism, a sotāpanna can be born in 7 existence in kama-loka which includes human realm.

Yê ariya saccâni vibhâvayanti - gambhira paññnêna sudêsitâni,
Kincâpi tê honti bhusappamattâ - na te bhavam attamam âdiyanti,
Idampi sanghê ratanam panîtam - êtêna saccêna suvatthi hôtu.

Those who realized the Noble Truths well taught by him who is profound in wisdom (the Buddha), even though they may be exceedingly heedless, they will not take an eighth existence (in the realm of sense spheres).This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

-- Ratana Sutta Verse 9

Is there any such instance in the pali canon, in the commentaries or in any Buddhist culture?

  • To be born in the human realm, you usually need to keep to the 5 precepts which all Sotapanna beings keep to by default. But living in the time of the Buddha would've given them many opportunities to do great deeds on top of that. So naturally, they would've been born in a places higher than the human realm. ex: Anathapindika, Visaka etc. – Sankha Kulathantille Sep 5 '15 at 2:34
  • @SankhaKulathantille That is true. My impression of the question was along the lines of, perhaps a being that attained sotapanna during the previous Buddha's dispensation took birth as a human during our Buddha's lifetime, being born as a human sotapanna, and appeared in the pali canon already having attained it. Is this correct, Sajeewa ? – Ryan Sep 5 '15 at 12:05
  • It is hard to comprehend a sotapanna from a past Buddha's dispensation born as a human in recent history. My question was mostly focused on our Buddha's lifetime and after if any. – Sajeewa Welendagoda Sep 5 '15 at 12:58
  • Why would that be hard to comprehend? Such a being could have easily spent aeons in a heavenly realm and just recently been reborn as a human, yes? – Ryan Sep 5 '15 at 13:55
  • @Ryan it's highly unlikely that a Sothapanna god or a Brahma would be born as human again. Because with each life they keep eliminating their defilements. So the consequent births are usually higher or equal. – Sankha Kulathantille Sep 5 '15 at 13:56
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AN 3.87 didn't provide any specific instance but in this sutta, the Buddha talked about 3 grades of stream enterers from low to high:

...Having undertaken the training rules, he trains in them. With the utter destruction of three fetters, he is a seven-times-at-most attainer who, after roaming and wandering on among devas and humans seven times at most, makes an end of suffering;

With the utter destruction of three fetters, he is a family-to-family attainer who, after roaming and wandering on among good families two or three times, makes an end of suffering;

With the utter destruction of three fetters, he is a one-seed attainer who, after being reborn once more in human existence, makes an end of suffering.

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    I have never seen these classifications before. The first one looks to me like what I understand to be Sotapanna. the second one I haven't seen before. The third seems to be Sakadagami. Do you have any more insight into this? – Ryan Sep 5 '15 at 12:08
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    Also, where did you find reference to AN 3.87? I'm not finding an English translation anywhere. Thanks! – Ryan Sep 5 '15 at 12:11
  • There're lots of suttas not available on the net. Your best bet is to get Ven. Bodhi's ["Numerical Discourses"][1]. The third one mentioned is not Sakadagami. The Pali name for this level is Ekabiji, the highest grade of Sotapanna. The other 2 more sluggish grades are Sattakkhattuparama and Kolamkola (from Ven. Bodhi's AN 3.87 note in his "Numerical Discourses") [1]: amazon.com/The-Numerical-Discourses-Buddha-Translation/dp/… – santa100 Sep 5 '15 at 15:30
  • What then would be the distinction between Sakadagami and Ekabiji? The hindrances done away with? – Ryan Sep 6 '15 at 0:11
  • Ekabiji is still a Sotapanna. Sotapanna and Sakadagami have both abandoned the first three fetters. But Sakadagami's also significantly weakened the 4th and 5th fetters. By the time one becomes an Anagami, all lower 5 fetters would've been abandoned. – santa100 Sep 6 '15 at 2:02

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