Going Forth When Married

Can I request for info on how the Buddha advised his lay followers wanting to go forth, especially who are already married?
Thank you!


Welcome to D&D @Chetaknn. :slightly_smiling_face:

In the Vinaya Vibhanga we have cases of monks and nuns who were once married.

As far as I can tell it is totally fine for someone to leave his spouse and children to ordain as a monk or nun.

It is of course clearly expected that by taking up the robes and the mendicant lifestyle means one does not see himself or herself as part of his or her previous family.

In the detailed analyses of the rules there is mention of offenders who were previously married and either had intercourse or lustfully touched their previous partner. And that surely was taken as wrong.

When it comes to the steps leading to that decision, each case is unique in reality and it is worth making that a very gradual and fully disclosed move.

By doing so the one going forth does not trigger in the one left behind any negative response or aversion to the Dhamma and associated right livelihood inspiring the move.

The best case scenario is one on which the move only serves to increase the faith in the Triple Gem and their commitment to support the Sangha of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis.


  1. If you have kids who depends upon you to work to feed them, then you should do so until they can become independent, or until after their university. If they are adults and unemployed, it’s not your responsibility to feed them.

  2. If your spouse disagrees, you’ll have to talk it out with them. Worst case scenario, divorce, allowing her to have some fortune, able to remarry etc.

  3. Otherwise, it’s basically the same, total celibacy. If you still have lust for your wife, you might want to request her to not go to your monastery for a few years, until your meditation is well established to deal with it, to avoid you being homesick and wishing to disrobe to go back to sex.

  4. There’s no need for divorce if you know you can maintain celibacy.


Don’t take this as a challenging question, but do we have this set in any specific rule and/or as part of the ordination recitation checklist? I cannot remember! :anjal:


Not a rule, but more of social expectations. And expression of compassion and responsibility.


But buddha himself left his only child and there’s a sutta that shows a monk who abandoned his newly born child and wife

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Ok, good, you can encourage married men with young kids who depends on them to renounce, then you go and receive the complaints from their wife and kids, and maybe even work to support the abandoned family. Not to mention to repair the bad reputation of Buddhism encourages people to be irresponsible, breaker of families etc.

Just stating the obvious implications of supporting such a move.

Buddha’s case is different, his family is taken cared of.


In vinaya such an argument exists too maybe bhante @Brahmali can help and Buddha said “that’s the way” to answer that very argument

And in the end you would still be separated by your children and your wife so why don’t we try to end suffering while we can ?

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Sure you’re right, but can one really meditate well, knowing full well that the wife and kids are dying of hunger? Possibly cursing the irresponsible husband.

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I think we need to ask his parent about why they give him the permission to ordain knowing the situation

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How about the case where the parents are no longer alive? Also, many westerners have parents who say: you’re above 21, an adult, you do what you like. Even if I don’t like it, you don’t need my permission. In essence, they have the permission implicitly.

Indeed, for people with young families, parents can help prevent such an irresponsible act.


It’s possible the existence of a wife and son may have been a later tradition. IIRC there is almost no evidence of them in early texts. In MN26, we even have:

Some time later, while still black-haired, blessed with youth, in the prime of life—though my mother and father wished otherwise, weeping with tearful faces—I shaved off my hair and beard, dressed in ocher robes, and went forth from the lay life to homelessness.

The following Tricycle article discusses this point:


That’s a good way to say " I don’t agree with this sutta let’s pretend it’s a late text" :+1:

If that’s a bad thing why didn’t buddha prohibit it ?

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Disagree with what sutta though? In the sutta I mentioned, there is only mention of a mother (seemingly not having died shortly after the Buddha’s birth) and a father.

Actually, the following from MN142 just popped into my mind, which contradicts my earlier quote, at least with respect to the Buddha’s mother still being alive when he went forth into the homeless life:

Then the venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One:
“Venerable sir, let the Blessed One accept the new pair of cloths from Mahpajapati Gotami. Mahapajapati Gotami has been very helpful to the Blessed One, venerable sir. As his mother’s sister, she was his nurse, his foster mother, the one who gave him milk.
She suckled the Blessed One when his own mother died. The Blessed One too has been very helpful to Mahapajapat Gotami, venerable sir."


There’s plenty of bad things in the world not prohibited by the Buddha (eg. smoking), and many of us willingly abstain from them.

Anyway, if you insist on it’s ok to renounce with young kids who are dependent, can you give any solution to the kids? You haven’t addressed any such concern. Especially in cases where the abandoned wife and kids make havoc with the monastery, the lay supporters etc. I think most Bhikkhus wouldn’t even want to ordain such a person for long term, without at least providing a solution to the financial, emotional needs of the abandoned family.


Dear All,

Thank you for a very valuable discussion. I can understand this matter could be quite complicated and may need to assess via individual circumstances. However, I believe when one starts developing sensitivity towards dukkha, it may be quite difficult to practise perfect holy life as a householder. In Kevatta sutta and I believe in other suttas too, we find a common link where the householder after listening to the dhamma gains conviction in Buddha and finds the lay life confining or dusty. He understands the importance of going forth for practising dhamma totally and purely.

On a separate note, seeing future danger (AN 5.77; AN 5.78; AN 5.79; AN 5.80) and limited time in hand, it becomes sensible for a sutva (who has heard dhamma and started learning) to devote life in dhamma if that’s a natural calling. The disassociation of loved ones is suffering which will occur sooner or later. However, I think, not achieving arya position while the dhamma opportunity is on the door may cost a lot of suffering and delusion in future. I agree that the decision of becoming a monk is not an easy one, especially when loved ones are dependent on you.

I truly appreciate everyone’s efforts here in providing very useful information. Thank you so much again.

Metta and Mudita,


@Ratana, I appreciate your input.

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@Ratana, thank you so much. Can you provide any link to read full discourse/ incident regarding this in Vinaya? Thanks in advance.

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Hi @Gabriel_L, thank you so much. Is there any link to read more about it? Especially what Buddha would say for arguments of abandoning lay-life’s responsibilities.

Hi @suaimhneas, may be that’s the case. I have found one reference on Rahula though in Theragatha.