REALISED INDIVIDUALS (ariya) and ORDINARY FOLKS (anariya)
The difference between these two groups in in terms of spiritual attainments. In Theravada Buddhism, there are four types of realized individuals:
1. Arahata – worthy one
2. Anagami – non returner
3. Sakadagami – once returner
4. Sotapanna – stream winner
All of the above would have experienced the “unconditioned reality” to varying extent, with the highest level of attainment reached by becoming a worthy one. At each level, defilements in varying stages are being uprooted with eventual termination of rebirth.
The ordinary folks include all good and foolish folks. In fact, you will rarely, if ever, come across a really evil person. We’d rather look at them as weak or “sick” and need compassion. Conversely, to be totally “good” is to have “realized”. Most would come in in-betweens.
Anyways, it’s not easy to know who has “realized” and guessing would not help to ascertain this either.
Alternatively, we could classify them as:
a. spiritually inclined beings
b. spiritually uninclined beings
Again, be careful how you respond to this. If you consider yourself spiritually superior, then pride may arise. But if you consider others more superior than yourself, you may develop inferiority complex. The solution to both situations is to replace them with humility and respect. Then the feeling of fellowship and faith will arise instead, and metta loving kindness follows. When metta loving kindness arises, we can make use of this as a common ground for civilized interfaith open dialogue.