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Does Sotapanna have the fear of death? Recently I spoke to a monk about Sotapanna. He said the best test to understand whether someone is Sotapanna is to see whether he has fear of death.

  • Possibly related: How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same? – ChrisW Dec 27 '18 at 10:02
  • This seems like a valid and straightforward question... I don't see it to be the same as the question linked by @chrisw The question here is simply whether a sotapanna fears death. – yuttadhammo Dec 27 '18 at 13:33
  • @yuttadhammo I don't think it's the same question (I'm not proposing to close this one), I only thought though that the topics might be related, e.g. distinguishing a deliberate and held view from a residual/habitual tendency, and "lust for existence". – ChrisW Dec 27 '18 at 13:41
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There is nothing I know of about the qualities arising from sotapanna attainment that preclude the arising of fear of death. A sotapanna has eradicated wrong view of self, attachment to non-essential practices and vows, and doubt about the triple gem. Fear of death as a view would not arise I don't think, e.g. "death is fearsome", but as an emotional reaction to thoughts of death, there is no reason to think it couldn't possibly arise. Fear, according to the Vism Maha-tika, is based on anger, which a sotapanna can still give rise to. Only an anagami is free from anger entirely.

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Nakula's mother was said to be a stream-enterer, who appeared to not fear passing away (kālakiriyā; the ending of life).

Now it may be that you are thinking, 'Nakula's mother will not reach firm ground in this Doctrine & Discipline, will not attain a firm foothold, will not attain consolation, overcome her doubts, dispel her perplexity, reach fearlessness or gain independence from others with regard to the Teacher's message,' but you shouldn't see things in that way. To the extent that the Blessed One has white-clad householder female disciples who reach firm ground in this Doctrine & Discipline, attain a firm foothold, attain consolation, overcome their doubts, dispel their perplexity, reach fearlessness & gain independence from others with regard to the Teacher's message, I am one of them. If anyone doubts or denies this, let him go ask the Blessed One, the worthy one, the rightly self-awakened one who is staying among the Bhaggas in the Deer Park at Bhesakala Grove, near Crocodile Haunt. So don't be worried as you die, householder. Death is painful for one who is worried. The Blessed One has criticized being worried at the time of death."

The above said, I trust there are many who do not fear "death" ("marana"), who are not stream-enterers.

Australia's richest man, who was a gambler and who also ran wrong livelihood business of gambling, seemed to die without fear:

AWARE that he was near the end of his life, Kerry Packer, the Australian media tycoon, told doctors not to intervene and asked to be left to “die with dignity”, it emerged yesterday. Mr Packer refused treatment for his failing heart and kidneys, choosing to stay at home in his mansion in Sydney rather than be taken to hospital for further dialysis and medication. “I think his words were ‘This is my time’,” said Alan Jones, a broadcaster and friend, after visiting his family.

When I was 14 years old, I was very close to dying by drowning, but my mind had no fear, but i was not a stream-enterer. When I was about to die & lose consciousness, the only & last thought of my brain was my mother would get angry at me. I think this shows I feared my mother more than I feared death.

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I am answering this with most respect to the Monk you had conversation with. Hey might have spoken from personal experience which may not be entirely correct (as we all). Only Buddha has that quality. I think some Sotapanna may or may not fear death. Buddha was the only one who could say things with absolute certainty because he was mindful of every word he said. As far as I know, Buddha did not use fear of death as a measuring tool to evaluate your own accomplishment.

Example: Mahanama sutta, when Mahanama Sakaya was contemplating death and was uncertain of his destination after death. He later shared his weariness with Buddha, which Buddha responded with "Have no fear, Mahanama! Have no fear! Your death will not be a bad one.."

and if you look at upadanaparitassananca sutta, only those without Upadana have no fear of anything.

my understanding: upadanaparitassananca = upadana (clinging) + paritassana (worry, excitement, fear) anupadanaaparitassananca = anupadana (non-clinging) + aritassananca (no worries, no excitement, no fear)

Upadanaparitassananca sutta

only those without clinging (to 5 skandas) have no fear of anything.

Mahanama Sutta

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Only an arihath will have no fear of death. A sothapanna can intalectualize the fact that he/she is never going to hell after death and as a result not worry about it. But he/she will be attached to many things and will fear loosing them at death.

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For those who fear growing old and death, what would be a well thought out response be? This is a question that cries out for a mature, seasoned response as scared of growing old is a nagging kind of a fear. It is not like the fear for one’s future, one’s financial situation, one’s separation from a loved one, of having a terrible accident. These are false fears that never will happen. But death is inevitable and the fear of it is very real when people are possessive of their bodies.

There’s this old gospel song, “When I'm growing old and feeble, When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me”. Also, the key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement - the song "We Will Overcome" comes to mind. Unlike praying for this, or hoping for such, we can look to the scriptures for some advice as to what concrete steps that we can take to get rid of this nagging fear. The Buddha says there are four reasons why death scares us, as us in fear. First is attachment to the body. Second is attachment to sensual pleasures. Third is the knowledge that we’ve done cruel and horrible things to other people, to other beings, and fear that after death we’re going to be punished for it. And the fourth reason is not having seen the true Dhamma, having doubts about the true Dhamma. If we are to learn to overcome these four causes of fear, death won’t bring suffering. If we are to learn to deal with our fear of death so that it won’t freak us out, we must see these four points in ourselves. A Sotapanna is one such.

Even death is not to be feared by a Sotapanna. A Sotapanna (Stream Entrant) is not capable of doing any acts that could destine oneself to the apayas (the four lowest realms). The Sotapanna stage is attained purely via attaining Samma Ditthi.

In Angutthara Nikaya - AN.4.116 Buddha says that there is no fear of death when immorality is abandoned, and morality is developed. “When a bhikkhu has abandoned bodily misconduct and developed bodily good conduct, when he has abandoned verbal misconduct and developed verbal good conduct, when he has abandoned mental misconduct and developed mental good conduct, when he has abandoned wrong view and developed right view, then he doesn't fear death in his next life.”

Again in Angutthara Nikaya AN4.184 (Abhaya Sutta: Fearless) Buddha teaches us that we will have no fear if we attain “certainty with regard to the True Dhamma” and teaches us four types of people who do not feel fear — and how we can be like them. ("These, brahman, are four people who, subject to death, are not afraid or in terror of death.")

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    Sotapanna still has the attachment to sensual pleasures. so he may have fear of death. – SarathW Dec 31 '18 at 2:16
  • The Nakhasikha Sutta (S.N.), describes the unimaginably large amount of defilements (and thus future suffering and stress) that a Sotapanna has removed compared to a normal human being. It is compared to the bit of dust on his fingernail compared to the soil in the whole Earth. Thus even if s/he has attachment to sensual pleasures, and will never be reborn in the four lowest realms, s/he will have only seven future bhava left, and those in the human realm or the realms above it. – Saptha Visuddhi Dec 31 '18 at 4:16
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Nyom SarathW, and interested,

To answer short: No. One having been arrived at the Dhamma does not fear death, as for what actually dies? As Yuttadhamma Bhikkhu possible desired to state in his answer is that there might be short confused moments where one might experiences certain "emotions" (with can be not ecxlusively traced back to "anger", but are all rooted in "thist") arising. Having one freed of macchariya (stinginess/"holding firm on occupied") there is less till no ground for what one usually calles "fear of death", jet certain pain might be feared, unpromted. In any case a Dhammika would/does not have such thought arrising when in the moments of letting the current body behind. He/she might leave the realm confused but open and destinated to be reminded in the following existence.

[Note: this is a gift of Dhamma, not thought to be used for any usually trade, exchange, stackes and possible needs to be deleted if the place is not given therefore here]

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Sotapanna is in the transition period and he/she is not free from the effects of negative mind states except impermanent good mind states. Only when the transition from Sotapanna to Sakadagami happens, their continous awareness makes the weak negative mind states harmless for them.

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