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Teachings of the Buddha: The Planes of Realization and Seven Kinds of Noble Persons

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
November 28, 2013
Thu, 11/28/2013 - 09:30 -- bbodhi

The Nikayas occasionally employ another scheme for classifying noble disciples, one that makes the dominant faculty rather than the level of attainment alone the basis for differentiation. The main source for this scheme is a passage in the Kīṭāgiri Sutta, below. This method of classification divides arahants into two categories: those liberated in both ways and those liberated by wisdom. The former are called “liberated in both ways” because they are liberated from form by their mastery over the formless meditations and liberated from all defilements by their attainment of arahantship. Those arahants “liberated by wisdom” have not mastered the formless attainments but have gained the final fruit by the power of their wisdom combined with degrees of concentration lower than the formless states.

    11. “Bhikkhus, I do not say of all bhikkhus that they still have work to do with diligence; nor do I say of all bhikkhus that they have no more work to do with diligence.
    12. “I do not say of those bhikkhus who are arahants with taints destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached the true goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and are completely liberated through final knowledge, that they still have work to do with diligence. Why is that? They have done their work with diligence; they are no more capable of being negligent.
    13. “I say of such bhikkhus who are in higher training, whose minds have not yet reached the goal, and who are still aspiring to the supreme security from bondage, that they still have work to do with diligence. Why is that? Because when those venerable ones make use of suitable resting places and associate with good friends and balance their spiritual faculties, they may by realising for themselves with direct knowledge here and now enter upon and abide in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the home life into homelessness. Seeing this fruit of diligence for these bhikkhus, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.
    14. “Bhikkhus, there are seven kinds of persons to be found existing in the world. What seven? They are: one liberated-in-both ways, one liberated-by-wisdom, a body-witness, one attained-to-view, one liberated-by-faith, a Dhamma-follower, and a faith-follower.
    15. “What kind of person is one liberated-in-both-ways? Here some person contacts with the body and abides in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, and his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom. This kind of person is called one liberated-in-both-ways. I do not say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? He has done his work with diligence; he is no more capable of being negligent.
    16. “What kind of person is one liberated-by-wisdom? Here some person does not contact with the body and abide in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, but his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom. This kind of person is called one liberated-by-wisdom. I do not say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? He has done his work with diligence; he is no more capable of being negligent.
    17. “What kind of person is a body-witness? Here some person contacts with the body and abides in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, and some of his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom. This kind of person is called a body-witness. I say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Because when that venerable one makes use of suitable resting places and associates with good friends and balances his spiritual faculties, he may by realising for himself with direct knowledge here and now enter upon and abide in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the home life into homelessness. Seeing this fruit of diligence for such a bhikkhu, I say that he still has work to do with diligence.

From MN 70

To read all of The Kīṭāgiri Sutta, click here.

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