The Nakhasikha Sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya, describes the unimaginably large amount of defilements (and thus future suffering and stress) a Sotapanna has removed compared to a normal human being. The Sutta has this to say:
Once 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?”.
Then the Buddha told the bhikkhus that the amount of defilements that a Sotapanna has removed can be compared to the soil in the whole Earth, while the amount that he/she has left to remove can be compared to the bit of dust on his fingernail.
This tells that the amount of suffering a Sotapanna has left to be endured within seven future bhava is insignificantly small. This is to say that a Sotapanna will never get to the four lowest realms, and s/he will have only seven future bhava left, and those in the human realm or the realms above it. This is so, if we take Sattakkhattuṃparamatā means - කෙත් වතු 7 ක් පමණයි පසු කර ගත යුත්තේ. This word has a rhetorical, metaphorical and symbolic meaning - to mean… “One has to cross only seven more fields of (fenced or unfenced) cultivated land. This is what is meant by Sattakkhattuṃparamatā means - කෙත් වතු 7 ක් පමණයි පසු කර ගත යුත්තේ. This word has a rhetorical, metaphorical and symbolic meaning - to mean… “One has to cross only seven more fields of (fenced or unfenced) cultivated land. This is what is meant by Sattakkhattuṃparamatā to mean seven bhava the most.
What is the correct meaning of Sattakkhattuṃparamatā. Give me a couple of months the most, and I will give you the deeper meaning of this term. For now let us understand what Sotapanna means, and how could one come to this.
Out of dasa akusala, only micca ditthi is completely removed at the Sotapanna stage. A Sotapanna would have reduced the “apayagami strength” of most of the other dasa akusala. This is the key to understand this level of attainment. In particular, to get to know that abhijja or lobha is reduced to raga level and vyapada or dosa is reduced to patigha level at this stage.
A Sotapanna is said to have achieved “dassanena pahatabba” or removal of defilements via correct vision, with the removal of micca ditthi, or attaining the first stage of Samma Ditthi. Now what is micca ditthi?. My belief as of now is that, if one firmly believes that there is no rebirth or there are no other living beings other than humans and animals, that firm belief is Niyata Micca Ditthi . In finding out the correct meaning of Sattakkhattuṃparamatā, may help in getting to know whether not believing in future bhava is Niyata Micca Ditthi (established wrong views) or not.
If one has a vessel that is leaking water, there is no point in trying to plug the smaller holes first. One should plug the biggest hole first, which in this case is getting rid of micca ditthi or false views (about this world).
One cannot pretend to believe in things that one truly does not believe in. To just say that “I do believe in rebirth” is one such. This is a sanna ( “perception”) that one has to be true to. Otherwise it will not work. We “acquire” most sanna through our families first, then through friends, schools, workplaces, etc.
Thus most of our “world views” or ditthis are acquired through our families. Those sannas are hard to change, depending on how forcefully and frequently they have been used. However, human mind is unique. When given enough solid evidence, one’s sanna about something or some concept can permanently change.
That kind of a “vision change” does not happen quickly, unless one has “sanna” about that from previous lives; that is why it is easier for some people to grasp these concepts.