I’ve read and heard a lot about homelessness and understand what that means in relation to renunciation but is it really a reality? I get that monks and nuns do not ‘own’ anything other than the basic requisites for there day to day practice and rely solely on the lay community to provide for there needs. But are they truly homeless?? I don’t know how monasteries are set up but from what I’ve seen most ‘own’ decent sized acreages and have accomodation that, while basic, are more secure than sleeping in a cardboard box under a bridge or under a tree with a tarp and mat.
Is homelessness more a state of mind in modern times?
And yes for those wondering renters living in any major city are faced with increasing costs for everything and the prospect of truly being homeless for us and many others is a real reality.

Just looking for some perspective and clarity on what it means to go from home to homelessness in 2019.

Thank you for your kindness :pray:t3:


Well, how do you consider the term homeless?

Is a homeless man a fellow who lives in the wilderness and makes the decision to hold his hand in the air, forever, for God?

Is a homeless man a drug addict who has assembled a shelter for himself in the woods out of town?

Is a homeless man simply someone who lives under a bridge?

Homelessness in a modern and antique (Indian) context IMO are clearly very different.

I had to transcribe a case for an insurance adjuster once in Montreal. I can’t discuss the specifics of the case, but one thing stood out.

There was a theft in a building during the daylight. The security man didn’t catch it because he sleeps in an abandoned school bus during the day, and only has shifts at night. The poor man was homeless living at his job.

I don’t think this is the same thing as being a mendicant.


I’d conjecture that there was a difference even 2 500 years ago between being involuntarily homeless and “going forth from home into homelessness” in the early Buddhist sense.


Home less means that the do not have wife, husband and children and household duties in traditional sense.
Generally monks own only eight items for their entire life. What ever the other they use belong to someone else.
Modern monk may have a computer and a mobile phone but it depend on what they use that for as well.


Internet-enabled social connectivity has changed everything. Including Buddhism.

Are you familiar with the Yogasutta?

I wonder if the Buddha would have considered internet-enabled connectivity as one of the yogas.

@Pete, this is a very interesting topic, and I look forward to reading the responses it generates, however, since this is not a discussion regarding the Suttas, I am moving this thread to the Watercooler.



Well, it’s sort of a discussion of the suttas. Most of them are addressed to so-called “homeless” people. So-called “homeless” people are their primary intended audience.

That was weird. I was trying to move the thread at the same time as @Timothy. Now I see why it refused to work for me :wink: .

I sometimes wonder what the Buddha would have said about monks with digital devices. They are totally valuable from a community point of view but so intrusive from the point of view of going forth and meditating. … So I must stop being on this site and use my Insight Timer to do my morning meditation lol.

1 Like

Hi @Pete,

At the time of the Buddha people left the household life for the wandering life of a mendicant, some staying beneath trees or in caves, but even at those times, nuns and monks also had accommodation, like individual huts or shared dormitories where they stayed. During the Rains retreat monks and nuns are required to stay in the one place and have a hut with a lockable door. It’s true there may have been a hard core culture of wanderers who lived and slept rough, but there was definitely accommodation provided, as the suttas and Vinaya clearly show.

Perhaps instead of thinking about this concept literally, you could consider it as leaving the home, leaving the household life. Not having any household duties or responsibilities, not living that life anymore. Not acting or behaving like a householder in terms of storing up food or possessions, not cooking or things like that.

These days, we should probably only use the word ‘homeless’ to refer to those who are living in the streets, in cars, couch surfing etc. as we understand it today is nothing like what it meant in the Buddha’s time. It is a problem of translation. Eg:
Since I’ve gone forth
Yadā ahaṃ pabbajita
from the lay life to homelessness,

I think the most important part of the phrase “gone forth from home to homelessness” that we often use in English, is the “gone forth” part, as it indicates the transition to a new, ordained status.

Meanwhile, real homelessness is a really big problem and as you point out, getting worse. While It’s great that people provide accommodation for monastics, it should be simple and not luxurious.

Further, although the Sangha is mostly well supported, there is still a big disparity between the amount of accommodation for female monastics that we need to address.

Generally, it’s wonderful if people give to homeless shelters, lobby governments to do more and help work towards dismantling the systems that lead to homelessness, which is a cause of suffering for many.


I agree, and I’d rather avoid the word homelessness (for anagāriya) altogether for its growing negative connotation. But I can’t think of an alternative translation.

The most obvious long-term solution for countering homelessness is increasing affordable housing, which is a policy issue.


I recently read an informative long read on homelessness in Toronto.


How about “householdlessness?” It’s a bit unwieldy, but without the stigma.


It’s creative, but I’m hoping for something idiomatic (householdlessness yields just four results with Google Search). I know, it’s not easy!


What about “nomadism”? It’s idiomatic and signifies the renouncing of a permanent home.

A person of a good family who has gone forth from the lay life to nomadism

But I fear “nomadism” is too inaccurate to be suitable for actual use. It’s also less faithful to the Pali.

Recently I packed up my ‘household’ not knowing if I would ever return. An amazing experience!! I have the highest respect for Monastics who have given up all possesions. It is an extra-ordinary process, even though I only did it partially. It was not so much the dwelling (house), but the contents, that which makes it your home - full of memories and really a sum statement of identity, past and present.

For those who can’t/don’t want to do it, I’d suggest you do a thought experiment, and as you see, touch or use things in your ‘home’ say goodbye to it. Forever.

Added, this includes friends, pets, relatives :slight_smile:


With modern tech, there are also digital possessions: emails, messages, files, pictures. A fertile ground for experimentation IMO :slightly_smiling_face:


true, there are ways to get over it
But, lol,
The point is to leave behind all things of attachment, to not engage in entanglements, to be secluded, unattached… That is why it is so difficult.

Very few, do this now, especially because there are so many ways to get around physical distance. And that is why it is such an extra-ordinary commitment to following the path to enlightenment. It is almost like a ‘little’ death of ones prior life…

Sorry @Robbie if I misunderstood your meaning - did you mean get rid of all e-contacts as well, ie cut off emails all stored data etc :slight_smile:


For me, this conjures images of tents, deserts, and camels. Wandering from place to place, herding animals.


Haha, that would go a bit too far for me. Only the superfluous stuff! Disentanglement without upsetting others or burning bridges.


this brings back a memory… when I decided that I would no longer ever work in ‘my field’, and threw out not only all the hard copies of work and research, but threw away the last digital copy of my Phd… well - it was a pretty extraordinary feeling :rofl: Designating something that had obsessed me for so many years to the garbage!! Wheee :rofl:


Household less ness is accurate but will never trip easily off anybody’s tongue lol.

Nomadism doesn’t cut it for me cos it has overtones of tourism, at least in Australia, because of the Grey Nomads, who live in campervans and expensive mobile homes for years on end seeing the country and having a great time.

I love the phrase going forth. “She’s gone forth” doesn’t have a readymade nominal form, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing as it suggests her aim of letting go of ego and identity.

I begin to see why @sujato chose mendicants.


The Vinaya says:

That going forth is on account of a lodging at the root of a tree; in this respect effort is to be made by you for life. (These are) extra acquisitions: a dwelling-place, a curved house, a long house, a mansion, a cave. - SuttaCentral

So from a fairly early perspective but not even the earliest, it was expected that a monastic should be content with being truly homeless.

We also have a recurring section on contentment in the suttas:

And how is a mendicant content? It’s when a mendicant is content with robes to look after the body and alms-food to look after the belly. Wherever they go, they set out taking only these things. They’re like a bird: wherever it flies, wings are its only burden. In the same way, a mendicant is content with robes to look after the body and alms-food to look after the belly. Wherever they go, they set out taking only these things. That’s how a mendicant is content. - SuttaCentral

And we have in the Sutta Nipata:

The Buddha:

“I will tell you
as one who knows,
what is comfort
for one disaffected
if he’s resorting to a place remote,
desiring self-awakening
in line with the Dhamma.
An enlightened monk,
living circumscribed,
shouldn’t fear the five fears:
of horseflies, mosquitoes, snakes,
human contact, four-footed beings…

by the touch
of disease, hunger,
he should endure cold
& inordinate heat.
He with no home,
in many ways touched by these things,
striving, should make firm his persistence…

Deferring to discernment
enraptured with what’s admirable,
he should overcome these dangers,
should conquer
in his isolated spot,
should conquer
these four
thoughts of lament:

‘What will I eat,
or where will I eat?
How badly I slept.
Tonight where will I sleep?’

These lamenting thoughts
he should subdue—
one under training,
wandering without home.
Receiving food & cloth
at appropriate times,
he should have a sense of enough
for the sake of contentment.3 - Sn 4:16  To Sāriputta

Finally we have:

This was said by the Lord…

“These four, bhikkhus, are trifling things, easily obtained and blameless. What four? A robe made of cast-off rags is a trifling thing, easily obtained and blameless. Food gathered on alms round is a trifling thing, easily obtained and blameless. The root of a tree as a dwelling place is a trifling thing, easily obtained and blameless. Medicine consisting of putrid cow urine is a trifling thing, easily obtained and blameless. These, bhikkhus, are the four trifling things, easily obtained and blameless. When a bhikkhu is content with these things that are trifling and easily obtained, I say of him that he has the requisites for recluseship.”

One content with what is blameless,
Things trifling and easily obtained,
Does not become vexed in mind
When not obtaining a place to live,
A robe to wear, and food and drink;
He has no resentment in any quarter.

These are the things declared to be
Suitable for a recluse’s life
By possession of which a bhikkhu
May abide content and diligent. - SuttaCentral

The major problem with being homeless nowadays is there is much less convenient wilderness located next to villages and cities than there used to be. That and laws against being homeless or being a beggar.