I was chatting with Alex Wynne and he gave this position:
Buildings are hardly mentioned in the Suttas, but the Vinaya has more material on it - although this probably only indicates that the Vinaya is generally later than the Suttas. In the Suttas there are fragments indicating the Buddha’s homeless state, such as the Buddha sleeping on a pile of leaves (AN 3.35), or in a potter’s workshed (MN 140). I find it anachronistic of Sujato (on Suttacentral) to translate anāthapiṇḍikassa ārāme as ‘in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery’ - ārāma means park, no more. There’s barely any evidence of monastic life in the Suttas.
This makes me curious - is my view of buildings from the Vinaya?
So I’ve taken a look at MN 4:
At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.
ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā sāvatthiyaṃ viharati jetavane anāthapiṇḍikassa ārāme.
With this English word ‘monastery’, we naturally think of a building, as the English refers to. Yet the PED gives:
ground, park, garden (lit. sport, sporting)
a private park
The ‘building’ meaning is reinforced a few lines later by:
‘Remote lodgings in the wilderness and the forest are challenging. It’s hard to maintain seclusion, and hard to find joy in it.
‘durabhisambhavāni hi kho araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni, dukkaraṃ pavivekaṃ, durabhiramaṃ
The Oxford Dictionary gives this for ‘lodgings’:
a room or rooms rented out to someone, usually in the same residence as the owner
Is it possible that we’re reading Vinaya reports of buildings, into the Pāli of this sutta? For senāsana, the PED gives:
[sayana+āsana] sleeping and sitting, bed & chair, dwelling, lodging
So far, I’m unconvinced that this is necessarily referring to any building. I wonder if it may simply mean something like ‘dwelling place’, ‘dwell’ simply meaning:
live in or at a specified place
The topic in the same sutta of having gone ‘from the lay life to homelessness’ - ‘agārasmā anagāriyaṃ’, also comes to mind, the PED saying of agāra:
house or hut
If we ignore any preconceptions we may have from later suttas or vinaya etc., doesn’t this all suggest an explicit lack of buildings?
Searching for more evidence, I read some threads here in the forum, which let me to a couple of terms.
It’s when a mendicant has gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut, and reflects like this:
Idhānanda, bhikkhu araññagato vā rukkhamūlagato vā suññāgāragato vā iti paṭisañcikkhati:
Some people seem to think that’s not a building either… I have not seen linguistic reasoning for that though. Anyway, supposing it does refer to abandoned buildings, this seems to me that it could be referring specifically to a place to do meditation (useful because potentially shaded from sun wind rain and sound, and less visible to animals), but not necessarily as a place to sleep, for example. Maybe just to sit down and meditate (and maybe that’s why ‘roots’ are relevant, since you’re sitting on the ground - that’s therefore the part of the tree closest to you).
Then there’s the word kuṭi, which I’ve heard often in the modern Theravada context. A little hard to search on suttacentral (seems the search function ignores diacritics and gives hits also for ‘kuto’, but I found a few). Here’s what I found in MN 81:
“It’s the mendicants, sister. The Buddha’s hut is leaking.”
“Bhikkhū, bhagini, kassapassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa kuṭi ovassatī”ti.
Now here the Buddha clearly has a hut. However, so far as I understand, this is the Buddha Kassapa! Which makes me think this may be a later sutta? Hence I am inclined to discount this example.
Then we have Thag 1.57:
This was your old hut,
“Ayamāhu purāṇiyā kuṭi,
but you still want a new hut.
Aññaṃ patthayase navaṃ kuṭiṃ;
Let go of hope for a hut, monk!
Āsaṃ kuṭiyā virājaya,
A new hut will only bring more suffering.
Dukkhā bhikkhu puna navā kuṭī”ti.
Now, the PED says a kuṭi is ‘any single-roomed abode’. I actually grew up in a house that originally only had one room (old European), so far as I understand. (It’s been added to since then). Since then I’ve lived at times in single-roomed dwellings also. Therefore, is there any reason to think that this may not refer to a lay residence? Since perhaps it may not have been uncommon for a lay person to live in a single-roomed dwelling.
In this sense could it be a monk who’s contemplating leaving the order, wistfully gazing upon his old home, that’s perhaps now in a state of ruin. And his friend is saying,
Dude, you’re thinking of having/making a home again, like you used to have, but leaving the homeless life will only bring more suffering.
Then in Snp 1:
Cooked is the evening rice, all milked the kine,
by Mahī’s banks with friends, good cheer is mine,
my house well-thatched, my fire glows bright and still,
and so, rain on O sky, if such thy will!
(iti dhaniyo gopo):
Anutīre mahiyā samānavāso;
Channā kuṭi āhito gini,
Atha ce patthayasī pavassa deva”.
Hatred and barrenness from me are gone,
by Mahī’s banks I bide this night alone,
my house unroofed, my fires in ashes lie:
so, an it liketh thee, rain on O sky!
Vivaṭā kuṭi nibbuto gini,
Atha ce patthayasī pavassa deva”.
Although the Buddha says he has a kuṭi, it seems to be metaphorical, poetically referencing the kuṭi in the previous line. He’s staying next to the river, for one night, with no roof. And he doesn’t even mind about rain. It sounds very much to me like he’s sleeping out, with no building at all.
I haven’t looked further but so far I see no explicit indication of buildings for the monastics. Only the opposite.
So the question is, do we have any evidence for monastics residing in buildings of any form (aside from meditation in abandoned buildings), in the early suttas or āgamas?