Dhamma different for lay vs monastics?

Is dhamma different for lay vs monastics ? Isnt it the same dhamma you realise as a lay person or a monastic?
Would like to hear some view points from both lay and monastics .Thanks

As far as I know, only the Dhamma at the level of arahant is exclusive for monastics. The rest should be the same for both lay and monastics.

1 Like

The dhamma is the same but the ability to achieve more is different. It’s like one going to med school, having their lifestyle and majority of their time dedicated to being a doctor vs. one who is learning medicine as a hobby because they have other chores and responsibilities to handle.

Yes, lay people can become non-returners but highly unlikely as the Buddha said the household life is dusty. It’s also full of distraction. The lay people who achieved more, like Ugga, became celibate and gave up their wives. So they’re between being a householder and an ascetic.


The dhamma is all about abandoning cravings, fears and aversions. It is the same to be achieved for lay and monastics. Both have the same chances to do it but depending on personal issues one environment is more suitable than the other. Both environments have their specific hindrances. For me today monastics have big issues with rites and rituals. This is one fetter that is not much of an issue for lay people.


I think, but maybe i am led to much by my own character, it is for a lay person ultimate challenging to be without longings, worry and anxiety because the lay-life is not about letting go, but about owning and protecting. I believe it feeds attachment.

I also believe it is challenging to be firm in ones principals. One just has to work with the circumstances and sometimes just be lurid, selfish, in a sense corrupt. Nothing to proud of.

Some defend detachment is not about having no possessions but is pure something mental. I do not agree. I feel it is also a way of living, homeless and possessionless.

1 Like

It depends what you mean by ‘Dhamma’. If you mean the nature of things then yes it’s the same for everyone.

If you mean teaching, it may be argued that some things are more difficult though not impossible to practice as a lay person vs a monk.

I wouldn’t say that becoming a monk is better by definition, to continue with the med school analogy, we would have to factor in the situation where not all med schools are going to actually teach you to be a doctor, they may actually teach you to be a snake oil peddler (and actually about 98% of them would do only that), and even when one is in a good school they won’t necessarily practice better than an autodidact at home, especially if they spend their time at the pub instead of attending class.


Yes, good point Bhante. I was originally referring to the Buddha’s time when the teaching was authentic, and even back then, without smart phones and technology to distract people, it wasn’t normal for the average Ariyan lay person to achieve non-return.

Today though, as you implied, 98% aren’t teaching the saddhamma (true dhamma), so even becoming an Ariyan in the first place is rare, let alone attaining more than stream entry. Even if people are teaching the saddhamma, there’s still the chance of interpretation issues. Even monks in the Buddha’s time misinterpreted the teaching and had to be dragged to the Buddha to be questioned.

The dhamma was subtle and hard to see back then, it’s even more obscured today.

There is a clear difference. In the suttas there is usually no stated indication whether they refer only to arahants or apply to the conditioned path. This causes a lot of confusion among western lay practitioners who try to follow prematurely the total letting go of the arahant and so would miss out on developing the skills of the path. The suttas which are appropriate for WLP’s are those addressed to laypeople such as AN 11.12, or Rahula (Majhima Nikaya 62), any sutta to or by Ananda, or Majhima Nikaya 44 delivered by a nun. Majhima Nikaya 19 about the Buddha’s pre enlightenment investigations is the most important. See “Wings to Awakening,” ‘Skillfulness’ by Thanissaro:

" And, in the most general terms, the fact that skillfulness leads ultimately to a dimension where skillfulness is transcended, accounts for a paradoxical dynamic common to all seven sets that form the Wings: the meditator must intentionally make use of qualities from which he/she wants to escape, gaining familiarity with them in the course of mastering them to the point where they are naturally stilled. There the transcendent paths and their fruitions take over. This is the sense in which even the path of right practice must eventually be abandoned, but only after it has been brought to the culmination of its development.

Many people have misunderstood this point, believing that the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment require that one relinquish one’s attachment to the path of practice as quickly as possible. Actually, to make a show of abandoning the path before it is fully developed is to abort the entire practice. As one teacher has put it, a person climbing up to a roof by means of a ladder can let go of the ladder only when safely on the roof. In terms of the famous raft simile [§§113-114], one abandons the raft only after crossing the flood. If one were to abandon it in mid-flood, to make a show of going spontaneously with the flow of the flood’s many currents, one could drown."


I see them more as archetypes. If i may use the cross analogy, laity would be the horizontal - concerned with moving forward. Monasticism would be the vertical, concerned with moving higher. As predominant elements, laity is earth and water, while monastics fire and air.

No different of dhamma for one who hasn’t entered the stream.

For a monastic or a lay person who hasn’t understood 4 noble truth, at most they can only do 5 precepts. Even though they might think to take the vinaya. But without fully restraint on 5 senses, it is nearly impossible to undertake the full/whole precepts.

Same dhamma that is 4NT to enter the stream, but one needs to understand the conditions for right view to arise.

But one who has entered the stream, then the dhamma will be different depends on each level of wisdom. Hence there are 8 types of nobles.

So if you see a monastic, ask 4NT first, not meditation. From here one can enter the stream.

Good luck.

1 Like

In this connection for your question, the dhamma is the same for all.

Are you asking this because you heard that the Buddha teaches different things to lay people and to monastics?

It seems to me that lay people have different interests. The fact is that there’s a teaching in the sutta about growing wealth (about dividing wealth into four portions). For a lay person who’s interested in providing for their family especially with young kids maybe or supporting the Sangha materially, I think this teaching is suitable for them. Building worldly wealth doesn’t mean they are not already ariyas.

There’s a question to the Buddha by a lay person or a pair of husband and wife (I don’t remember precisely), on how they can meet again in future life. (Please correct me if I’m wrong). As far as I know the Buddha didn’t say they should develop detachment towards their partner, by say meditating on the ugliness of the body. This would probably upset them. Instead the answer mentioned four aspects need to be the same for two people to meet again.

Some lay people are probably interested in developing samadhi as much as they can. Then I think teachings to monastics like those aimed at dispassion would apply. The Buddha did teach lay people to have a still mind. Angulimala was still a bandit when the Buddha taught him. In DN2 the Buddha talked to a king who could have understood the Dhamma (Dhamma eye arising). The teaching could make the lay man pure (maybe not a hundred percent pure but even partial purity can make him on auto-pilot mode towards nibbana) but unfortunately his mind was ruined for the man’s heavy bad kamma it couldn’t give the ideal result. Here we can see purifying teachings aren’t reserved to only monks.

1 Like