2

How is the fetter "Identity View" destroyed by confidence in the triple-gem and ethics ([DN 16, see "Dhamma-Mirror"])? The concept of identity view also seems to be a bit fuzzy. In [SN 55.21] the stream entrant Mahanamo wonders about his future abodes. I assume that Mahanamo was familiar with the term Sotapanna and its implications. The buddha assures him that by his ripened confidence in the triple gem and his steadfast ethics, he is saved. I make the following conclusions:

  1. "I am worried about my future births" does not imply identity view.
  2. If I doubt my attainment of SE, I do not disprove my attainment.

Point 2 is mentioned, because often I see the argument "you worry about sotapanna, then you are not sotapanna due to identity view". By the above reasoning, I know that identity view must be something else, as it seems to tolerate some thoughts about myself.

I also conclude that there are two sufficient conditions for stream entry:

  1. No self view, no skeptical doubt and no clinging to rites and rituals implies Sotapanna [MN 25].
  2. Confidence in the triple gem and good ethics implies Sotapanna, [DN 16, see "Dhamma-Mirror"].

If point 4 describes the "conviction follower", then Thanissaro Bikkhu disagrees about 4, saying

[...] conviction-followers are apparently those who are following the path to stream-entry but have yet to reach the fruit of stream-entry.

This leaves only point 3 as possibility to stream entry and contradicts the Dhamma Mirror, given by the Buddha.

1

'Identity-view' means immersion in an identity such that one takes the identity to be the 'real' self. An identity-view can be an identification with practically anything, positive or negative: a career or the failure to achieve one; a relationship, relationships, or the absence of such; physical beauty or ugliness; intelligence or stupidity... Anything towards which one can say: "I am 'that'" such that 'that' is inseparable from who one is.

  • I am a lawyer with a beautiful wife and an Italian muscle-car
  • I am a homeless person cast out from society
  • I am a wife, mother, and homemaker, willingly or not
  • I am a rock star, a decadent idol suffused in sex, drugs, and music

Breaking this fetter means realizing that such an identification is empty and superficial. It's a bit like a mid-life crisis, where everything we thought was significant and important about our lives suddenly seems trivial and ridiculous. But rather than buying a little red sports-car and trying (vainly) to recapture our glory years, we seek refuge in buddha, sangha, and dharma, where such trivialities have no importance.

We don't stop being a lawyer, homeless person, homemaker, or rockstar; we still have identity. But the hold identity has over us has cracked. The dharma shows us a better path; the sangha embraces us as we are, without regard to identity; our own buddha-nature calls to us as it always has called to us, but now we start to listen.

The first three fetters, in a nutshell, are about distinguishing between the insubstantial and substantial. Our career, our social status, our relationships, our sensual pleasures, our protestations of virtue and declarations of faith... all of these are insubstantial. One day they are here, in the flesh; the next day they are gone, like a dream we try to recall in daylight. As Eckhart Tolle once quipped, someday the powers that be will cancel your American Express card, and when they do: who are you? You alone, without that reliable card to establish your life's value?

To be a stream-enterer means to take the first few hesitant steps into the stream that we must eventually cross; to see that everything we thought was solid and secure will eventually be washed away, and all that's left is the far shore. One must reject the impermanent safety, comfort, and ease of the near shore, must believe that the far shore brings a proper state of peace and understanding, must trust that those walking the path with us will carry us when and if we need to be carried.

1

The Vera Sutta (AN 10.92) lists out the criteria for stream entry:

  • Five forms of fear and animosity are stilled through the observance of the five precepts
  • Four factors of stream entry
  • Rightly seen and rightly ferreted out the noble method (dependent origination)

The four factors of stream entry are verified confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, as well as, being endowed with the virtues appealing to the noble ones.

So, when you have all of the above, you can reach stream entry. Those are the criterias to reach stream entry.

And then we have the three effects or results of stream entry, which is overcoming the first three lower fetters (of the ten fetters):

  • Eradication of identity view or self view (sakkaya ditthi)
  • Becoming free of attachment to rites, rituals and rules (silabbata paramasa)
  • Becoming free of skeptical doubt in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the (ideal) Sangha

There's another list in SN 55.5:

  • Associating with good people (good company) i.e. talking about the ideal Sangha
  • Listening to the true teaching
  • Proper attention (yoniso manasikara)
  • Practising in line with the teaching

Buddha: “Sāriputta, they speak of a ‘factor of stream-entry’. What is a factor of stream-entry?”

“Sir, the factors of stream-entry are associating with good people, listening to the true teaching, proper attention, and practicing in line with the teaching.”

“Good, good, Sāriputta! For the factors of stream-entry are associating with good people, listening to the true teaching, proper attention, and practicing in line with the teaching.

Sāriputta, they speak of ‘the stream’. What is the stream?”

“Sir, the stream is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.”

“Good, good, Sāriputta! For the stream is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.
SN 55.5

Conviction-follower doesn't mean free of skeptical doubt. It simply means that they decided to follow this path, after doing some investigation.

Conviction-follower - it's like I'm not a lawyer yet, but as a high school graduate, I compared various career paths and think becoming a lawyer is the right path for me.

Attaining stream entry is like graduating from law school, perhaps but not yet practising law - here, it means now I understand the law completely but not yet practising.

Attaining arahantship is like becoming a full-fledged successful professional lawyer. Attaining Buddhahood is like becoming the Attorney General (of which, there can only be one at a time).

Becoming free of silabbata paramasa, I feel one also becomes free from clinging rigidly to categories of attainment, and rather taking them merely as guidelines. In reality, it's hard to find a clear difference between a sotapanna and a sakadagami, I suspect. It's not like you were clearly a sotapanna yesterday and clearly became a sakadagami today.

Of course, arahantship is completely different from the other categories, because all ten fetters have been completely overcome, without a trace of ignorance remaining.

What about self-view or identity-view?

In the following sutta, Ven. Khemaka explains the difference between self-view or identity view and conceit.

So, a stream enterer can become free from identity view, but may still have traces of conceit remaining.

Here's an analogy. Stream entry is like that point in time where you have completely understood how diet, exercise, obesity, metabolism, homeostasis, ageing and non-communicable diseases work. You've thoroughly seen how it works.

There's no more denial, delusion and doubt. There's no more ritualistic practice of diet and exercise without understanding. You're still obese and unhealthy, but now you have understanding.

The remaining journey to attainment of Arahatship, is like the rigorous journey of improving one's diet and exercise further till perfect health and fitness is achieved.

"I am not getting better, my friend. I am not comfortable. My extreme pains are increasing, not lessening. There are signs of their increasing, and not of their lessening."

Then Ven. Dasaka went to the elder monks and, on arrival, said to them, "The monk Khemaka has said to me, 'I am not getting better, my friend. I am not comfortable. My extreme pains are increasing, not lessening. There are signs of their increasing, and not of their lessening.'"

"Come, friend Dasaka. Go to the monk Khemaka and on arrival say to him, 'The elders, friend Khemaka, say to you, "Concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling as a clinging-aggregate, perception as a clinging-aggregate, fabrications as a clinging-aggregate, consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: Do you assume anything with regard to these five clinging-aggregates to be self or belonging to self?"'"

Replying, "As you say, friends," to the elder monks, Ven. Dasaka went to Ven. Khemaka and on arrival said to him, "The elders, friend Khemaka, say to you, 'Concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling as a clinging-aggregate, perception as a clinging-aggregate, fabrications as a clinging-aggregate, consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: Do you assume anything with regard to these five clinging-aggregates to be self or belonging to self?'"

"Friend, concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, there is nothing I assume to be self or belonging to self."

Then Ven. Dasaka went to the elder monks and, on arrival, said to them, "The monk Khemaka has said to me, 'Friend, concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, there is nothing I assume to be self or belonging to self.'"

"Come, friend Dasaka. Go to the monk Khemaka and on arrival say to him, 'The elders, friend Khemaka, say to you, "Concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: If, with regard to these five clinging-aggregates, Ven. Khemaka assumes nothing to be self or belonging to self, then Ven. Khemaka is an arahant, devoid of fermentations."'"

Replying, "As you say, friends," to the elder monks, Ven. Dasaka went to Ven. Khemaka and on arrival said to him, "The elders, friend Khemaka, say to you, 'Concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: If, with regard to these five clinging-aggregates, Ven. Khemaka assumes nothing to be self or belonging to self, then Ven. Khemaka is an arahant, devoid of fermentations.'"

"Friend, concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, there is nothing I assume to be self or belonging to self, and yet I am not an arahant. With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, 'I am' has not been overcome, although I don't assume that 'I am this.'"

Then Ven. Dasaka went to the elder monks and, on arrival, said to them, "The monk Khemaka has said to me, 'Friend, concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, there is nothing I assume to be self or belonging to self, and yet I am not an arahant. With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, "I am" has not been overcome, although I don't assume that "I am this."'"

"Come, friend Dasaka. Go to the monk Khemaka and on arrival say to him, 'The elders, friend Khemaka, say to you, "Friend Khemaka, this 'I am' of which you speak: what do you say 'I am'? Do you say, 'I am form,' or do you say, 'I am something other than form'? Do you say, 'I am feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness,' or do you say, 'I am something other than consciousness'? This 'I am' of which you speak: what do you say 'I am'?"'"

Replying, "As you say, friends," to the elder monks, Ven. Dasaka went to Ven. Khemaka and on arrival said to him, "The elders, friend Khemaka, say to you, 'Friend Khemaka, this "I am" of which you speak: what do you say "I am"? Do you say, "I am form," or do you say, "I am something other than form"? Do you say, "I am feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness," or do you say, "I am something other than consciousness"'? This "I am" of which you speak: what do you say "I am"?'"

"Enough, friend Dasaka. What is accomplished by this running back & forth? Fetch me my staff. I will go to the elder monks myself."

Then Ven. Khemaka, leaning on his staff, went to the elder monks and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with them. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the elder monks said to him, "Friend Khemaka, this 'I am' of which you speak: what do you say 'I am'? Do you say, 'I am form,' or do you say, 'I am something other than form'? Do you say, 'I am feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness,' or do you say, 'I am something other than consciousness''? This 'I am' of which you speak: what do you say 'I am'?"

"Friends, it's not that I say 'I am form,' nor do I say 'I am something other than form.' It's not that I say, 'I am feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness,' nor do I say, 'I am something other than consciousness.' With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, 'I am' has not been overcome, although I don't assume that 'I am this.'

"It's just like the scent of a blue, red, or white lotus: If someone were to call it the scent of a petal or the scent of the color or the scent of a filament, would he be speaking correctly?"

"No, friend."

"Then how would he describe it if he were describing it correctly?"

"As the scent of the flower: That's how he would describe it if he were describing it correctly."

"In the same way, friends, it's not that I say 'I am form,' nor do I say 'I am other than form.' It's not that I say, 'I am feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness,' nor do I say, 'I am something other than consciousness.' With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, 'I am' has not been overcome, although I don't assume that 'I am this.'

"Friends, even though a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower fetters, he still has with regard to the five clinging-aggregates a lingering residual 'I am' conceit, an 'I am' desire, an 'I am' obsession. But at a later time he keeps focusing on the phenomena of arising & passing away with regard to the five clinging-aggregates: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance. Such is feeling... Such is perception... Such are fabrications... Such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' As he keeps focusing on the arising & passing away of these five clinging-aggregates, the lingering residual 'I am' conceit, 'I am' desire, 'I am' obsession is fully obliterated.

"Just like a cloth, dirty & stained: Its owners give it over to a washerman, who scrubs it with salt earth or lye or cow-dung and then rinses it in clear water. Now even though the cloth is clean & spotless, it still has a lingering residual scent of salt earth or lye or cow-dung. The washerman gives it to the owners, the owners put it away in a scent-infused wicker hamper, and its lingering residual scent of salt earth, lye, or cow-dung is fully obliterated.

"In the same way, friends, even though a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower fetters, he still has with regard to the five clinging-aggregates a lingering residual 'I am' conceit, an 'I am' desire, an 'I am' obsession. But at a later time he keeps focusing on the phenomena of arising & passing away with regard to the five clinging-aggregates: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance. Such is feeling... Such is perception... Such are fabrications... Such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' As he keeps focusing on the arising & passing away of these five clinging-aggregates, the lingering residual 'I am' conceit, 'I am' desire, 'I am' obsession is fully obliterated."

When this was said, the elder monks said to Ven. Khemaka, "We didn't cross-examine Ven. Khemaka with the purpose of troubling him, just that [we thought] Ven. Khemaka is capable of declaring the Blessed One's message, teaching it, describing it, setting it forth, revealing it, explaining it, making it plain — just as he has in fact declared it, taught it, described it, set it forth, revealed it, explained it, made it plain."

That is what Ven. Khemaka said. Gratified, the elder monks delighted in his words. And while this explanation was being given, the minds of sixty-some monks, through no clinging, were fully released from fermentations — as was Ven. Khemaka's.

Khemaka Sutta (SN 22.89)

Here's a more detailed commentary by Piya Tan on the Khemaka Sutta here on Dharmafarer:

In other words, one may not regard the five aggregates as self (attā) or as belonging to self, but this does not mean that one is an arhat. This is because even after the destruction of the five lower fetters, there still remains a residue of the conceit “I am,” of the desire,“I am,” and of the latent tendency, “I am.” Only when one has totally uprooted the notion that “I am” the aggregates, that one becomes an arhat.

Piya Tan quotes Ven. Bodhi:

The other elders apparently had not yet attained any stage of awakening and thus did not understand this difference, but the Venerable Khemaka must have been at least a stream-enterer (some commentators say he was a non-returner) and thus knew that the elimination of identity view does not completely remove the sense of personal identity. Even for the non-returner,an “odor of subjectivity” based on the five aggregates still lingers over the experience.

Also please see "A view of the self".

0

Even the Buddha used similar convetion in speech like "this is my last birth" so the whole papanca here is not only baseless but very apart of point and path, good householder. Just noted so that one with possibilities wouldn't waste time by increase hindrances on useless objectivications.

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