In accounts of the life of the Buddha, there are many examples of people immediately understanding his teaching and breaking the first three ‘fetters’ that hinder people from seeing Reality. These fetters are: having a fixed view of oneself; doubt; and being attached to rites and rituals as ends in themselves. Such people become ‘stream entrants’ – because they have entered a stream of understanding that draws them irresistibly towards Enlightenment.
Over the centuries there has been a tendency to emphasise the difficulty of making such a breakthrough, and some Buddhist schools teach that it may take many lifetimes, or even that it’s no longer possible. Sangharakshita has a different understanding. He suggests that all sincere, committed and effective Dharma practitioners, who have supportive conditions and enough time, could reasonably expect to make substantial progress and even gain Stream Entry in this lifetime. He stresses that such attainment needn’t be seen as extremely rare within an effective sangha.
Listen to explorations of stream entry.