If there is a puthujjana who has led a life full of the major and minor defilements till about 40 years of age, suddenly turns around, starts leading a totally celibate life and also observes the rest of the major five precepts strictly, maintaining a strict meditation schedule even while still being a householder, does he stand a chance of getting nibbana in this very lifetime? Or, does he have to take rebirth/s and suffer the consequences of his bad kamma before he can aspire to Arahathood?

4 Answers 4


According to AN 6.87, there is actually a list of characteristics, and such a person will never be able to have the right mental state or moral capacity to learn the Dhamma:

"Endowed with these six qualities, a person is incapable of alighting on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities even when listening to the true Dhamma. Which six?

"He has killed his mother; he has killed his father; he has killed an arahant; he has, with corrupt intent, caused the blood of a Tathagata to flow; he has caused a split in the Sangha; or he is a person of dull discernment, slow & dull-witted.

"Endowed with these six qualities, a person is capable of alighting on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities even while listening to the true Dhamma. Which six?

"He has not killed his mother; he has not killed his father; he has not killed an arahant; he has not, with corrupt intent, caused the blood of a Tathagata to flow; he has not caused a split in the Sangha; and he is a discerning person, not slow or dull-witted.

According to MN 86, Angulimala killed many human beings, but he could still change and become an arahant. So, probably, he did not commit the transgressions above (killing father, killing mother, killing arahant, injuring Buddha).

So in short, if one did not commit the acts mentioned above or have those characteristics, one could theoretically completely turn around and become an arahant in this very lifetime.

From Dhammapada:

  1. Few among men are those who cross to the farther shore. The rest, the bulk of men, only run up and down the hither bank.

  2. But those who act according to the perfectly taught Dhamma will cross the realm of Death, so difficult to cross.

87-88. Abandoning the dark way, let the wise man cultivate the bright path. Having gone from home to homelessness, let him yearn for that delight in detachment, so difficult to enjoy. Giving up sensual pleasures, with no attachment, let the wise man cleanse himself of defilements of the mind.

  1. Those whose minds have reached full excellence in the factors of enlightenment, who, having renounced acquisitiveness, rejoice in not clinging to things — rid of cankers, glowing with wisdom, they have attained Nibbana in this very life.
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    Thanks @ruben2020 for the detailed answer. This is very encouraging. 😊 Nov 18, 2020 at 13:46

It all depends on the individual and how far it is on the path. Some beings have done extensive practice in past lives and just need a little push before becoming enlightened.

Some beings are ready to become enlightened in this very life with just little practice. Some need a teacher, others become enlightened by themselves, they are called silent Buddhas (Paccekabuddhas).

So yes, some beings can become enlightened in a single lifetime if they have done the necessary work in current and past lives.


Good householder,

It's very unlikely that one not able to leave house, one without sufficient faith in the whole path, although he has actually all ways open, would be able to attain final liberation, and from that point, yes, such will still have to face a lot effects of his bad deads the times remaining, even if having gained path, if.

The usual meditations householder go after this days, lacking the right causes, merely increases wrong view but train one simply to bear things as long as possible.

And five precepts is far to less to reach even the secound path. One can of course buy of what traders and "householder-teacher" like to sell, or use to defend their incomplete ways and ideas. That's also a matter of strong Upanissaya, the people one meet and gather with.

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, other world-binding trades but for an escape from this wheel]

  • I understand that monkhood with observation of 'all' the rules of vinaya is perhaps necessary for nibbana, but aren't there ANY exceptions at all? Say, the householder has old parents totally dependent on him financially and because of health reasons, would it be justified to leave them to become a monk? Are there any references from the scriptures that clearly say that only monks attain full liberation? Nov 19, 2020 at 6:19
  • Does Nyom have old parents he is the only who can support them? Guessing: no. See, it's a matter of faith, a matter of samvega. A person attaining Arahatship while householder is bond to join the holly life or will not live longer than a week. This days Noble ones are very rare and hardly to find an Arahat. So it's really very "fantastical" to meet a householder more advanced then path-enter in this days, good householder, and others might be some actually having attained path in previous life. All a matter kamma, Upanissaya. Here you are and that already should answer the question. Nov 19, 2020 at 11:47
  • Effort is the only factor for arising of conditions for kamma to ripe, which can be bend here and now. 7, 6 lifes, birth, aging, sickness, death, seperation... aren't an ease, even if born in merely blessed situations. So what now. And not forget, this is the last generation with access to a still functioning Sangha, the last. Nov 19, 2020 at 11:49

It depends on if the puthujjana is brain damaged by their bad kamma. For example, on Buddhist internet forums, the puthujjana that appear brain damaged by porn &/or drugs appear to have the following characteristics:

  1. obsessed with the avoidance of women as temptresses
  2. obsessed with 'asuba' (watching images of corpses, etc)
  3. obsessed with austerities, such as living off rubbish dumps
  4. obsessed with texts that describe no feeling & no consciousness
  5. obsessed with a nihilistic tendency
  6. obsessively exhibit great impatience, intolerance & anger.
  7. obsessively believe they have right view when they have wrong view
  8. obsessively lack a sense of humour

The above is called the eightfold path of brain damaged puthujjana.

But for a puthujjana that is not brain damaged, their brain, body, nervous system & mind can regenerate & purify itself of the results of bad kamma.

In summary, it is not necessary to greatly suffer the results of bad kamma (refer to AN 3.99). This is why the Buddha called "old kamma" merely "something to be felt rather than identified with" (refer to SN 12.37). This said, there will always be some type of withdrawal symptom from bad kamma that requires a purification process (refer to MN 136); even if this withdrawal symptom is merely an unpleasant feeling or mood in the here-&-now. It follows 20 years of bad kamma may only result in only 20 weeks of withdrawal symptoms or negative feelings & moods. SN 13.1 says:

For a disciple of the noble ones who is consummate in view, an individual who has broken through [to stream-entry], the suffering & stress that is totally ended & extinguished is far greater; that suffering which remains is next to nothing: it's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth, when compared with the previous mass of suffering.

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    Hahahaha! 'The eightfold path of brain-damaged puthujjana' is very creative. I particularly like the eighth one- 'obsessive lack of a sense of humour'. On a more serious note, the quotes from the nikayas have given me hope. Thanks a lot @Dhammadhatu Nov 19, 2020 at 6:28

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