Buddha teaching disciples who are standing?

I have question about saṅkhittasutta (aṅguttara nikāya 8.53). In the beginning there’s this phrase:

ekamantaṁ ṭhitā kho sā mahāpajāpatī gotamī bhagavantaṁ etadavoca

Translations seem to render word ṭhitā as ‘standing’. I understand that it’s the literal meaning of the word. But the image of the given situation seems to contradict vinya - if I’ve understood it correctly, Buddha and the monastics should not teach lay people who are standing near them. Does anyone know if there is any historical context to this occasion and what was the reason for Buddha to give teaching to a disciple who’s not sitting? Was it because Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī was Buddha’s close relative and foster mother…? I was also thinking that maybe ṭhitā could be translated using Finnish word for ‘staying’ in order to avoid this dilemma.


Yes, usually people are sitting when talking with the Buddha. There are some exceptions though.

  • Deities are usually standing when they talk with the Buddha or one of his disciples.

  • Interestingly, nuns seem to do the same sometimes. One example is Mahapajapati, as you just mentioned, another one is SN 55.11, where it is a large Sangha of nuns:

    Then a Saṅgha of a thousand nuns went up to the Buddha, bowed, and stood to one side.

    I don’t know the reason for this.

  • There are other examples where people are just disrespectful and therefore stand, but that’s not the case for the nuns.


I think you have misunderstood it. The 70th Sekhiya rule says “Na ṭhito nisinnassa,” not “Na nisinno ṭhitassa.” So a monk while sitting can teach someone standing, but while standing can’t teach someone who is sitting, unless the person is ill.


It’s because she’s female. There is a protocol throughout the suttas where basic subjects not deemed seemly for the Buddha to discuss are conveyed by others, such as Ananda or some nuns. This extends to the standing posture in question. Among the qualities of the Buddha for recollection is “Incomparable leader of men to be tamed,” which means skilled teacher, and the suttas are supported by underlying pedagogical strategies. This strategic structure is what is meant by “The noble eightfold path is conditioned” (Majhima Nikaya 44), which is disclosed by a nun.

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Thank you! Based on this information I’ll stick with ‘standing’ translation.

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That’s true. Should have checked it carefully first!