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In the suttas, we read about the noble ones (ariya) and the disciples of the noble ones (ariyasavaka).

Who are the noble ones? Do they include only the four persons who are the stream enterers, once-returners, never-returners and arahants? Or do they also include the four persons trying to achieve stream entry, once-returnership, never-returnership and arahantship? Together, the eight form the noble sangha.

Who are the disciples of the noble ones? Do they include the four persons trying to achieve stream entry, once-returnership, never-returnership and arahantship?

Is there any overlap between the two?

References from the Pali Canon on this is appreciated.

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  • You should probably either edit the title portion "who are the noble disciples?" or clarify your question to indicate whether you're treating the term ariya-savaka to mean "noble disciple" or "disciple of noble ones", very different meaning!
    – frankk
    Jan 25 at 12:43
  • @frankk Updated.
    – ruben2020
    Jan 26 at 4:42

5 Answers 5

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From Uposatha Sutta,

this Dhamma & Vinaya is the abode of such mighty beings as these: stream-winners & those practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry; once-returners & those practicing to realize the fruit of once-returning; non-returners & those practicing to realize the fruit of non-returning; arahants & those practicing for arahantship. The fact that this Dhamma & Vinaya is the abode of such mighty beings as these — stream-winners & those practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry; once-returners & those practicing to realize the fruit of once-returning; non-returners & those practicing to realize the fruit of non-returning; arahants & those practicing for arahantship: This is the eighth amazing & astounding quality of this Dhamma & Vinaya because of which, as they see it again & again, the monks take great joy in this Dhamma & Vinaya

8 Types of Noble disciples:

  1. Stream Winners
  2. Once returner
  3. Non returner
  4. Arahant
  5. Those on the way to stream entry
  6. Those on the way to once returner
  7. Those on the way to Non returner
  8. Those on the way to Arahant

Here I disagree with frankk that all disciples who have learned dharma are ariya-savako.

"Furthermore, there is the case where you recollect the Sangha: 'The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced straight-forwardly... who have practiced methodically... who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types [of noble disciples] when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.' At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Sangha, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Sangha. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.

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    It is a blessing for you to disagree with that answer. I have offered three comments to show the answer is inconclusively argued, i.e., not well-spoken. Unless some evidence clarifies this matter, I would suggest a Disciple of the Noble Ones has faith in the teachings rather than merely learns or is "exposed" to them. MN 22 refers to the "foolish/useless person (moghapurisā)" that learns the Buddha's Teachings for wrong evil wicked purposes. Jan 26 at 6:48
  • i agree with this answer - noble ones and noble disciples are one and the same
    – blue_ego
    Jan 26 at 14:29
  • "Here I disagree with frankk that all disciples who have learned dharma are ariya-savako." It's not clear what you're disagreeing with, and it's not clear how you understand the term 'ariya-savako', and it's not clear what the sutta quote you posted is supposed to show.
    – frankk
    Jan 26 at 17:49
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In tha past, Noble ones were those who were from the dynasty of Arya(Upper Caste). They used to spread Arya Truths or Nobel Truths. Buddha was an Arya. After the Sangha formation anyone who believed and followed the Arya Satya or Noble Truths was considered the Nobel one. Those who are still coming around to the understanding of Nobel Truths were considered to be Arya followers or the followers of the Nobel ones.

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Ariya = noble one. ariya-sāvaka = disciple of the noble ones, but is not necessarily noble themself.

my article here examines many sutta passages https://lucid24.org/tped/a/ariya/index.html#2

such as these:

KN Iti 82 Iti 82 shows a newly ordained monk would already be a stream enterer 'ariya savaka' before ordaining, which is clearly unlikely though not impossible. MN 152 comparison between an arahant, a sekha (a trainee who is at least stream enterer), and an ariya. Ariya savako term does not appear in this sutta. SN 45.8 right livelihood, even people who are not ariya can do right livelihood their whole life. Nothing special or ‘noble’ about that. The other 7 factors of the noble eightfold path, the Buddha refers to bhikkhu/monk instead of ariya-savako.

The fundamental purpose of the term 'ariya savaka' is to contrast against a disciple who has not been exposed to the Buddha (Noble one's) teaching, the 'unlearned ordinary person'.

It's not to differentiate an unenlightened Buddhist disciple from an enlightened one, for which other terms already exist (stream entry, etc.). MN 64 example The Buddha said this: Bhagavā etadavoca:

“Ānanda, take an unlearned ordinary person who has not seen the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the good persons. “Idhānanda, assutavā puthujjano ariyānaṁ adassāvī ariyadhammassa akovido ariyadhamme avinīto, sappurisānaṁ adassāvī sappurisadhammassa akovido sappurisadhamme avinīto Their heart is overcome and mired in identity view, sakkāyadiṭṭhipariyuṭṭhitena cetasā viharati sakkāyadiṭṭhiparetena;

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  • Iti 82 does not support this argument. Iti 82 refers to three things: (1) ‘This disciple of the noble ones has made up his mind to do battle with Māra.’ (2). a disciple of the noble ones lives devoted to developing the seven [sets of] qualities that are wings to awakening; (3) a disciple of the noble ones, through the ending of effluents, dwells in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, In summary, this whole sutta is supramundane & describes at the very least the individual practicing for stream-entry. Jan 26 at 5:51
  • In MN 152, there appears nothing that explicitly says the sekho is a stream-enterer. All MN 152 says is the sekho is "horrified, repelled & disgusted" by what arahants also experience (per MN 152 & Iti 44), namely, agreeable & disagreeable sense contacts. Jan 26 at 6:22
  • MN 64 does not appear to support your conclusion. MN 64 literally in comparing a puthujjana with a Noble One because it is about identity-view: "Here, Ānanda, an untaught ordinary person who has no regard for noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who has no regard for true men and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, abides with a mind obsessed and enslaved by identity view, and he does not understand as it actually is the escape from the arisen identity view; and when that identity view has become habitual and is uneradicated in him, it is a lower fetter" Jan 26 at 6:29
  • I would suggest to take to heart Dhamma Dhatu's answer rather than downvote DD's answer. DN 31 is unambiguously sufficient to show Ariya Savaka does not always refer to a Noble One. In addition, when DD's answer is read the first to two factors for stream-entry occur. Unfortunately, the last two factors of stream-entry are dependent upon the would-be 'student' Jan 26 at 6:44
  • You haven't read read my post carefully. I stated clearly that ariya-savaka is a disciple of the Noble Ones, not necessarily a disciple who is themself Noble (enlightened). I downvoted your post because of your wrong views on [No] rebirth, and your general ignorance and consistent abusive behavior on this board.
    – frankk
    Jan 26 at 17:47
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SN25.x is devoted to this classification.

SN 25.1:

Someone who has faith and confidence in these teachings is called a follower by faith. They’ve arrived at surety in the right way, they’ve arrived at the level of the true person, and they’ve transcended the level of the untrue person. Yo, bhikkhave, ime dhamme evaṁ saddahati adhimuccati—ayaṁ vuccati saddhānusārī, okkanto sammattaniyāmaṁ, sappurisabhūmiṁ okkanto, vītivatto puthujjanabhūmiṁ;

....

Someone who accepts these teachings after considering them with a degree of wisdom is called a follower of teachings. They’ve arrived at surety in the right way, they’ve arrived at the level of the true person, and they’ve transcended the level of the untrue person. Yassa kho, bhikkhave, ime dhammā evaṁ paññāya mattaso nijjhānaṁ khamanti, ayaṁ vuccati: ‘dhammānusārī, okkanto sammattaniyāmaṁ, sappurisabhūmiṁ okkanto, vītivatto puthujjanabhūmiṁ;

...

Someone who understands and sees these principles is called a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening.”

It says both the follower by faith (saddhānusārī) and follower by teachings (dhammānusārī) are on the path to stream-entry. It says they are not puthujjana (ordinary person), so then they must be the opposite, or noble (arya). If the lowest rung of the four paths is deemed noble, then all eight types of the path should be classified noble? Still, it doesn’t seem to be enough, understanding or faith, there should be some application [cultivate eye of wisdom].

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Obviously, those with wrong views who claim to be "trying" to achieve stream-entry are not Noble Ones. For example, merely browsing some articles (such as this & this) purportedly about 'stream-entry' & 'refuge' that keep referring to 'rebirth' shows ignoble wrong views that won't leads to stream-entry.

SN 55.5 refers to the factors of stream-entry for one practising for stream-entry:

  1. associating with true persons,

  2. listening to the true teaching,

  3. rational application of mind [towards comprehending the true teachings]

  4. practicing in line with the [true] teaching.

In short, the true teachings (SN 56.11; MN 118; SN 48.10) refer to 'vossagga/paṭinissagga' ('letting go') as the foundation of The Path. Any practice that aims at anything other than letting go of craving & attachment towards the five aggregates is the wrong path for stream-entry. For example, Ajahn Buddhadasa explained:

The samadhi which aims at anything other than non-clinging to the five khandas is micchasamadhi (wrong or perverted samadhi). You should be aware that there is both micchasamadhi and sammasamadhi (right or correct samadhi). Only the mind that is empty of grasping at and clinging to 'I' and 'mine' can have the true and perfect stability of sammasamadhi. One who has an empty mind has correct samadhi.

Heartwood From The Bo Tree

As for the term 'ariyasavaka', there are suttas, such as DN 31, which obviously use this term for the unenlightened who have faith in the moral teachings of the Buddhas/Noble Ones. For example, those who claim to be Buddhists but adhere to non-moral alien ideologies (such as Capitalism, Liberalism, Marxism, Zionism, Globalism, Wokeism, etc) cannot be Disciples of Nobles Ones. These are self-condemned.

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