Those who follow the path do not speak about it; those who speak about the path do not follow it – although this seems to be the usual case, now there is a notable exception. A practitioner has decided to talk with other practitioners on the path, fruit and realization. The result is Entering the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Taking the Path and talking about it


Those who follow the path do not speak about it; those who speak about the path do not follow it – although this seems to be the usual case, now there is a notable exception. A practitioner has decided to talk with other practitioners on the path, fruit and realization. The result is Entering the Stream to Enlightenment: Experiences of the stages of the Buddhist path in contemporary Sri Lanka, the latest addition by Equinox Publishing Ltd, UK ( to the relatively rare genre of insider account of the Theravada religious experience.

An Attorney-at-Law with a First class degree from the Sri Lanka Law College (1987) and a Solicitor of England and Wales, the writer has been a corporate lawyer for over 20 years. She holds a Doctorate in Buddhist Studies from the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and was awarded the Gold Medal for obtaining the highest marks for the Masters Degree in Buddhist Studies (2004).

Amongst her contributions towards facilitating the communication of knowledge to practitioners is Beyond-the-Net, (, a widely known website on Theravada Buddhism designed and administered by her (1997 – 2012). She also set up and managed the official website for the Buddhist Publication Society, Sri Lanka, for seven years under the guidance of Bhikkhu Bodhi. She is also one of the founders of Damrivi Foundation (, a group of Buddhist professionals committed to Buddhist social work which she steered as its Director Operations from its inception.

The present book is based on author’s research done for her Doctorate in Buddhist Studies.

It has the following structure: Chapter 1-Introduction, Chapter 2 – Noble persons and how to recognize one, Chapter 3 – Does the attainment of a supra-mundane fruit necessarily involve a specific experience? Chapter 4 – ‘Path, fetter-breaking-experience and effect’; Chapter 5 – Noble persons and the nature of their fetter-breaking-experience; Chapter 6 – The stream-enterer. Chapter 7 – An interview with a ‘Possible Arahant’, Chapter 8 – Conclusion. In addition, the book contains two appendices, appendix I containing the questionnaire used for the field work, and appendix II containing seven interview synopses and the text of an interview by the author with Ajahn Brahmavamso, a reputed Australian Buddhist monastic preacher and practitioner. The book has two forewords by Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne (Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Colombo) and Prof. Peter Harvey (Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Sunderland, UK).

A unique feature of the book is that it is based on the findings from a series of interviews with serious practitioners of the path. The interviews have been done by the writer, a serious practitioner of vipassanaā meditation for over twenty years. She has closely associated with the leading forest monasteries and leading contemporary meditation masters, both bhikkhus and laypeople, in Sri Lanka. The author takes great pains to establish that attaining the path and the fruit in the Buddhist practice is accompanied with a distinct and forceful experience.

Two erudite scholars discuss such new findings of the book in their forewords: Professor Peter Harvey says: The idea of an instant (whether literally one moment or a few) in which a crucial change occurs is borne out by the research on advanced practitioners that Yuki has carried out. She reports a number of instances of a sudden, transformative state, with various kinds of lead-up. One is here reminded of debates within Mahayana Buddhism over whether the path is gradual or sudden. It makes sense to say that it is both: there needs to be some kind of gradual build-up, but crucial changes of state then come suddenly: like a stone suddenly splitting after being repeatedly struck, or like the star-ship Enterprise, in the TV programme ‘Star Trek’, suddenly zooming away in ‘warp-drive’ after a period in which power builds up ready to enter this.

Of course a crucial question is how one tells, in oneself or another person, whether a sudden deep experience is that of, for example, becoming a stream-enterer. Might it be a genuine spiritual experience of a lesser nature, without permanent results, whether of deep samatha (a jhana), or a side-effect of deep vipassana known as a ‘defilement of insight’? Here the above list of fetters is relevant: to be a stream-enterer, for example, one has to have destroyed the first three fetters. So any genuine sign of their still existing in a person shows that they are not a stream-enterer; of course for this, the nature of the fetters and criteria for their existing need to be properly understood. Mindful and clear recollection of the relevant experience is also an aide.

Book facts: Entering the Stream to Enlightenment: Experiences of the stages of the Buddhist path in contemporary Sri Lanka by Yuki Sirimane (Equinox Publishing Ltd. UK 2016. pp.xxii+343)

Yuki’s book explores textual material on the eight noble persons in a clear and helpful way. Its most helpful contribution, though, comes from her fieldwork material reporting on a range of meditators’ deep experiences, seen by them and/or their teachers as signifying attainment of one or more of the noble states. She then reflects on these in the light of the textual material, canonical and commentarial. This allows textual descriptions and contemporary experiences to illuminate each other and poses and explores deep questions, of relevance for both practitioners and scholars of Buddhism and religious experience.

According to Professor Asanga Tilakaratne:

The outstanding feature of the present work is that it seeks to substantiate the text with the practice and experience of living practitioners of the path. One may tend to highlight various uncertainties associated with practice and experience and question the reliability of individual experience as a sufficient criterion for judging the text. Notwithstanding all such difficulties, it is heartening to see that the practitioners interviewed in this work are largely in accord on where they agree with the texts and where they disagree with the texts. Based on her field findings, the author questions the traditional Visuddhimagga view that the fruit-thought (phala-citta) immediately follows the path-thought (magga-citta), and proposes, in the place of path-thought and fruit-thought arising in quick succession, a triad, path, peak-experience and fruit which at least in some cases could have longer intervals in between.

The author has been fortunate to have a group of practitioners who were willing to talk about their practice and the results in spite of the fact that some of them, being the members of the monastic Sangha, had vinaya rules to observe. The readers too must feel fortunate that, in this book, they are meeting face to face some of the contemporary Theravada practitioners, male and female, monastic and household. The interviews alone may be considered a major contribution to our current understanding of the Buddhist soteriological practice and experience.

The author has demonstrated that the Buddhist path is not a mere modern construction from textual studies but a truly living tradition across the Theravada Buddhist world. Yuki Sirimane’s work is an insider’s work for insiders. It renews hope in those increasing numbers across the world who are keen to follow the path and confirms that the ‘ancient path’ taught by the Buddha is truly timeless.

Finally, it is apt to wind up this discussion with an assessment by Prof. Y. Karunadasa, a leading Buddhist scholar and Professor Emeritus of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya:

Yuki Sirimane’s ‘Entering the Stream to Enlightenment’ combines textual analysis as well as fieldwork to highlight the personal experiences of Buddhist monks who have entered the stream of the noble eightfold path.  It is an exceptionally rare kind of work:  it seeks to show a glimpse of the Nibbanic experience mainly through interviews with those who are already on the path to Nibbana. It is a difficult task indeed, but Yuki Sirimane has executed it with great diligence and circumspection. This well-researched and well-documented work is a major contribution to an important aspect of the Buddhist soteriological practice and experience that has remained less exhaustively dealt with.

The book is available at the Buddhist Publications Society book store in Kandy ( for a specially reduced price of Rs. 3340.


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