Customs of the Noble Ones?

According to Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (The Essence of the Dhamma | Gather ’Round the Breath):

The phrase “customs of the noble ones” appears twice in the texts, once in the Canon, once in the commentary. In the commentary it comes in the story of the Buddha’s life after he gained awakening and began teaching. He was invited back to his home city, and the day he came back, he went out for alms. The Buddha’s father upbraided him for this, that in their family lineage they had never done anything like that. He was a member of a noble warrior caste, and it was considered disgraceful for a noble warrior to go for alms. The Buddha replied, “I no longer belong to the lineage of noble warriors; I no longer follow their customs. I belong to the lineage of the noble ones. Theirs are the customs I follow.”

As for Canon’s teachings on the customs on the noble ones:

There are four. The first three have to do with contentment. You’re content with whatever clothing you have—which, for a monk, means content with your robes. You’re content with whatever food you get. You’re content with your shelter. You don’t get worked up about trying to improve these things—because you look at what you’ve got and you realize it’s good enough for the practice. …

This frees us to focus on that fourth custom of the noble ones. You would think—with the first three covering contentment with food, clothing, and shelter—the fourth one would cover contentment with medicine, but it doesn’t. It covers taking delight in developing and taking delight in abandoning: in other words, taking delight in developing skillful qualities of the mind and delight in abandoning unskillful ones.

Can anybody provide the Pali for “customs of the noble ones”? and where it appears in the Canon?

Andrew Main
Santa Fe, N.M., U.S.A.


If you use the full site search on the website you cited, it will eventually lead you around to it, although it’s not very clear.

And here it is on SC, with the Pali showing:

Ariyavamsa is actually a really, really common monk name in Sri Lanka. And the word “vamsa”, I believe, is also used for the line that monks hang their robes on, cīvaravamsa.


Since Sri Lanka was mentioned: There is an old tradition in the country for monks to give a very long Dhamma talk (often lasting a whole night) on the ariyavaṁsas. It is deemed a great meritorious deed for a layperson to organize such an ariyavaṁsa-desanā, and it is considered a mark of exceptional doctrinal competence for a monastic to be able to deliver one.

Thus, ariyavaṁsa-desanā are rare occurrences. I have personally witnessed it only once, at Na Uyana Forest Monastery. The duties were shared among several learned monks who each took up one of the ariyavaṁsas to give a Dhamma discourse.


The traditions of the noble ones are connected with the practice of dhutanga (thudong):

Many thanks, Snowbird! I had done a full site search at Dhammatalks, but it didn’t turn up the cite you show. However, I just tried “search suttas” and AN 4:28 appeared as the first cite. Great! :pray:

“Ariyavamsa” does not appear in Buddhadatta’s Concise Pali English Dictionary; I looked for “vamsa”, then “vaṁsa” and “vaṃsa”, without success, but then remembered it uses the old convention, so tried “vaŋsa”, and there it is: “a race, lineage, family”. (It also has “cīvaravaŋsa”, listed under “cīvara”: “a bamboo for hanging up robes.”) The PTS Dictionary has “Ariyavaŋsa the (fourfold) noble family, i.e. of recluses content with the 4 requisites.”

The first word in the sutta, “Cattārome” doesn’t show any English translation (in SC’s excellent mouse-over system); I guess it must be some inflected form of “catu”, “four” – perhaps “these four”?

So it looks like “Ariyavaṁsa” translates as both “noble lineage” and “inherited traditions of the noble ones”. Or perhaps “noble patrimony” or “noble legacy”. Anyway, it seems to be what I was looking for. I was a little confused by Thanissaro referring to “the phrase ‘customs of the noble ones’”, but it’s not a phrase, instead a single (compound) word.

I like Thanissaro’s description of the sutta seen in your screenshot, but didn’t find it on the sutta’s page; it turns out to be on the Aṅguttara Nikāya index page:

Ariya-vaṁsa Sutta | The Traditions of the Noble Ones — Like any good family, the “family” of the noble ones has its fine traditions. These traditions are special, however, in that they lie outside the culture of any nation, and they lead to conquest, not over others, but over displeasure within. (This is one of the suttas that King Asoka advised monks, nuns, lay men, and lay women to listen to frequently and to ponder so that the True Dhamma will last a long time.)

Thanissaro talks often about “the customs of the noble ones” and the story of how Ajaan Mun referred to them when he was criticized for not following common Thai customs. And of course the story of the Buddha and his father.

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I certianly hope you always feel free to share what you know about Sri Lankan traditions. :slight_smile:


It’s cattāro + ime, after sandhi. These four.

You may also appreciate this article by Sodō Mori on the ariyavaṁsa and ariyavaṁsa preaching. I haven’t read it in enough detail to follow the arguments fully, but I found the historical background interesting.

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Thanks. I’ve dabbled in the major Dharma languages – Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pali – beginning in the late 1970s when I was at the Tassajara Zen Monastery, reading Dōgen (in English translation, of which there was only a little then) and wanting to look up key Chinese words. I find it kind of ironically amusing that I can look up Chinese or Tibetan words in a dictionary to get the general meaning of a phrase, but it’s harder to do so for Sanskrit or Pali – though they’re of the same linguistic family as English – since they’re so highly inflected, and you have to know the root of a word in order to find it.

I’ll check out the article. :pray: