Going Forth When Married

Thanks for sharing that nun’s quote. It is interesting how it is through the deep understanding of suffering that we can free ourself from it. :pray:


I can’t remember the sutta’s name or number, but there’s one that tells about a monk who insists on going to meditate in seclusion although advised not to by the Buddha three times. Eventually he leaves.

Afterwards, he comes back with no success. The Buddha tells that there are values to pick from being (or socialising?) with other monks.

The above may not be a 100% accurate summary of the sutta but I think I’d bring it up because it’s relevant to our practice. Hopefully someone who knows the sutta’s number or name can post it in this thread.


@Punna is it perhaps this one:

Now at that time there was a certain mendicant named Senior. He lived alone and praised living alone. He entered the village for alms alone, returned alone, sat in private alone, and concentrated on walking mindfully alone.

Which is complimented by this one (Discourse on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone):

There’s a wonderful essay on both suttas here Ideal Solitude: An Exposition on the Bhaddekaratta Sutta by Bhikkhu Ñanananda:


Thank you @ekay It’s great to be given those links. :pray: :blush:

From what I remember the earlier part of the sutta roughly goes:
The Buddha is with a monk. (After seeing a forest?) The monk asks for permission to go to meditate. The Buddha tells him to wait until other monks arrive because otherwise he’d be alone. The monk asks again for the second and third times before he eventually gets the permission and leaves.
I still haven’t found the sutta.

It seems to me that the message of the sutta is in line with AN5.22 whose SuttaCentral summary is “If your basic practice is not there, you can’t go higher.”


Perhaps it’s this one?

“Having seen it, this occured to me: ‘This is surely a pleasing and delightful mango grove. For a son of a good family who needs to strive this is surely enough for striving. If the Gracious One would allow me, I could come to this mango grove for striving.’ If the Gracious One would allow me, reverend Sir, I could go to that mango grove for striving.”

When that was said, the Gracious One said this to venerable Meghiya: “You should wait for as long as I am alone, Meghiya, until some other monk arrives.”


That’s a wonderful quote. It is expected that a layperson who hasn’t heard dhamma or follows dhamma will suffer more. However, when one becomes monastic after listening to dhamma, it is understood that he/ she will strive to live fully in accordance with dhamma. In this case, there should be much less suffering for monastic compared to a layperson? Also, according to Buddha, a monastic has more opportunity to practise completely with ease than a layperson?

“It’s not easy for someone living at home to lead the spiritual life utterly full and pure, like a polished shell.” DN 2: Sāmaññaphalasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (

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It must be this one. Thank you! :pray: :pray:


The holy life, wrongly led, brings one to hell.

So it’s not all just security being a monk. It’s a high risk, high reward thing.

The most important thing is, are you prepared for it? Are you preparing for it? Gone to retreats, observe 8 precepts etc.


Vandami Bhante,
Thank you for your reply. I am just wondering if it is a high risk - high reward thingy, then those who are not ordained (or those who never heard dhamma and living accordingly), are they in low risk and hence will have a low reward? I would imagine these are the ones who are at more risk to fall below as there are higher chances of increasing suffering due to ignorance and wrong view. Having done many Goenka Vipassana retreats (including 30 days), every time I come back from the centre, I feel that I was happier and more content during the retreat and that it is much easier to commit to practising there. If I am not wrong, Goenka tradition does not explicitly encourages people to become monks thus followers are not necessarily inspired for going forth or even at times aware that monkhood or renunciation can be crucial. Also, in countries where Buddhism is not in the mainstream, people will not have the opportunity to visit monasteries or live life as a samanera to give trial until they profoundly discover this aspect of Buddhism. For such people, when they discover or even gain knowledge about monasticism later in their life, it may be the case that they are already married. Due to this, it becomes complicated for them to ordain. However, I can think that a similar situation must have arisen at the time of Buddha too where many must be already married. I believe that it must be an experience of many that even one wants to follow 8 precepts, due to ignorance of partner or their lack of interest in Dhamma (or having attachment to other religious/ philosophical views), one has to compromise (especially celibacy). As such, if someone is naturally inclining towards ordination, the situation becomes tricky. Hence, I am wondering whether there is any explicit advice from the Buddha in Suttas. :blush:
Thank you,

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As a lay person, I’m sure I’m suffering from things I’m not aware of or ignoring that would come to my attention and need to be dealt with if I were to become a monk in a monastery! I would also be faced with new situations generating previously unarisen dukkha!


To be fair, lots, and lots, and lots of things can land you in hell. :fire::fire::fire:


this article is rooted in wishful thinking and full of perhaps, maybe, etc… I have found this claim specially out of point:

There may have been pressure to show the Buddha as virile and fulfilling his clan obligations, thus softening the critiques of the young religion as it moved into the Indian mainstream.

the Sramana movement was populated with a lot of people leaving home and family. This is no strange thing because it has been always a common thing in India. The classic Porphyry mentions that characteristic many centuries ago:

"The Samanaeans are, as we have said, elected. When, however, any one is desirous of being enrolled in their order, he proceeds to the rulers of the city; but abandons the city or village that he inhabited, and the wealth and all the other property that he possessed. Having likewise the superfluities of his body cut off, he receives a garment, and departs to the Samanaeans, but does not return either to his wife or children, if he happens to have any, nor does he pay any attention to them, or think that they at all pertain to him."

Different from that article, more decent scholars sees the Sramana movement like a sort of counter-culture at those times. A phenomena fueled by a social environment with many people excluded from the religious umbrella by different reasons. Many of that wandering people were revered by the populace with a mixture of sainthood and social heroicity

that movement had the support of powerful lords and rulers who obviously thought a renewal was a good idea because different reasons. This become fully visible in the new Maurya dinasty with Chandragupta and Bindusara. They were active supporters of Buddhists, Jainists, Ajivijas and others. The Sramana movement also was a manifestation of social discontent with the religious establishment and a big crisis for the ancient brahmanic structures in India, which were deeply transformed by all these movements, specially Buddhism and Jainism.

The Sramana was a plural phenomena with many people married with children who leaved home. Having wife and children was the common thing and at young age.


Hi @Puerh! Thanks for the very useful information. Does that mean samana’s wife and children were supported by kings and rulers by default?

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don’t know exactly about the family case, although we find examples in the Buddhist case showing different types of support for the sramanas activity, in this case the Buddhist Sangha. I mean, I don’t know if there is some example of somebody supporting the family of some monk who leaved home. Maybe.

About the facility to leave home, there is a very good book, "Sudras in Ancient India"**, Ram Sharan Sharma, in where we find a lot of information about the conditions and regulations in the daily life for the majority of population. Most people were workers for somebody, and commonly they belonged to low castes and sub-castes. It was the big mass of people. All men, women or children were workers for endless tasks and from here one could extract that it was no so difficult leaving home and family, because having a place to live and food was the common interchange for work. Also in the women case.

Regarding higher castes it sounds logical the situation could be better. Although there is the question for the higher castes about familiar duties and obligations for the relatives to support wife and children in these cases. I don’t know .

Anyway, the hypothesis about a possible later manipulation (another one :sleeping:) to exalt the virility of the Buddha it sounds a complete absurdity to me.


Hi @Puerh! Very useful and sensible information. Thanks for your efforts. Perhaps in this era we may need to create a strong system that would support family of those wishing to go forth for the sake dhamma. I wonder if there are any.

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Sure, much later in that article is speculative and probably somewhat weak in that speculation. Still, I thought that its most interesting point was the lack of mention of a wife and son in the earlier parts of the Pali canon. Though, the canon itself is not always fully consistent either on all points, e.g. as I mentioned above, the discrepancy between the mention of tearful parents as he goes forth and the account of Mahpajapati Gotami taking care of him after his mother died shortly after his birth.

Absence of proof on wife/family isn’t proof of absence, of course. Still, I think it’s a valid question to at least ask. Alternatively, going by typical marriage ages in the ancient world (perhaps 13 for females and 15 or 16 for males), it’s also rather possible the Buddha might have been married early and any son perhaps as old as 13 years old (not too far off from being marriageable age himself) when he went forth. Things happened much earlier than in modern times.

It reminds me a little of the Christian new testament. The earliest writings, the Pauline epistles, date to maybe around 25 years after Jesus’ death and make no real mention of the traditional nativity details (just that he was “born of a woman”). By the time of the gospels (maybe 50 or 60 years after that), rather elaborate nativity accounts, not all entirely consistent and sounding more mythic, occur (virgin birth, nativity star, flight to Egypt etc.). Also according to what was typical for the time, Jesus would usually have been married much earlier and had children, but most likely he didn’t and hadn’t (evidently, not everyone followed the typical life path).

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is what the evidence is rather thin either way! There are probably no safe conclusions.


Do we really need both mother and father permission to go forth ?

What if one or both of them is no longer alive ?


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Not alive, no need.

For public: Do know that killing parents is 2 of the 5 heavy kammas to fall into hell next life, and cannot attain to any attainments in this life.


But in vinaya there is a story where a man denied ordination because his parents are both no longer alive, maybe bhante @Brahmali can help

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I don’t think so. Do you have any particular passage in mind?