How can a layperson progress in dhamma?

I live in a family with spouse and 2 kids one with autism. There is all the phenomena playing every moment, with emotions, fun, hatred, ill will, hatred quarrel, lots of heated exchanges, unskillful and skillful activities alongside

Previously I used to be immersed in the phenomenon and blame myself or others and try to find a way out. The more I learn about Dhamma more equanimous I am and can find all the phenomena arising and passing away, in me or others, this helps maintain calm in mind though others are more frustrated as they can’t break-in to me and get familiar responses

Sometimes I wonder what should be really done, walk away from family and endless quarrels or continue the way it goes, kids and spouse ignore me mostly and are better of without though I am in delusion to be in here and help them out as much I can financially and more

What does Buddha have to say for such people like me and how can we progress further in dhamma

And still living in family how can I help the family understand the noble eight fold path and benefit the upbringing of kids


I am not sure whether you have heard of Ajahn Brahm, the teacher of some of the monastics on this forum. His Friday night talks have helped me clear my mind before going deeper into dhamma. They are simple and easy to grasp with hidden gems of wisdom which you might be able to see as your path progresses. I recommend your family to listen to him and perhaps you can inspire them by practising meditation well and watching your mind when ill will, desire arrive.
I work with kids who have autism. I understand the challenges parents are facing. Please try your best to be kind to yourself as well as to your family. :pray:t4:
(Also Buddha’s sutta on lay ethics (DN 31) can be found here)


I highly recommend Ajahn Mahaboowa’s Book “A Life of Inner Quality


Thank you for your reply it helps me a lot , I have taken a note to watch Ajhan Brahms Friday night talks now. So far had seen, four ways of letting go and it was very impressive

Regarding DN 31, I had one concern the six quarters, North, south, east, west, up and down if can’t be kept intact what should a person do, it’s hard to find a clear way from here.

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Thank you for your reply, I have taken a note and started reading the book

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Regarding DN 31, I think you should aim for the outcome while practising meditation. As your path progresses you don’t have to force things. It should fall into place naturally (this is just my experience). I would take those points as a guideline. I use suttas to cross check whether what I’m practising is correct. Even talks by virtuous monks/nuns help me validate whether I am on the right path. That is just my way though. Perhaps your way could turn out to be different than mine.

I am so glad you started listening to the talks. I hope Ajahn Brahm will guide you on the path as he has guided me. :pray:t4:

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I’ve been trying to figure this out myself! I’m single and so it’s different, but looking in the suttas you can find many addressed to laypersons. The big one is the Sigaalovaada Sutta (DN 31) since it covers the most subject area. You can also look into the Diighajaanu Sutta (AN 8.54) and the Ujjaya Sutta (AN 8.55) and there is a chapter of short verses in the Linked Discourses called the Upaasaka Vagga that addresses different brahmin on how to deal with some challenges in life.

For secondary sources there are also interesting reads, Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote a book titled “The Jhanas and the Lay Disciple” (2001), and Jeff Samuels wrote a book entitled “Views of householders & Lay disciples in the Sutta Pitika: A reconsideration of the lay/monastic opposition.” (1999). I haven’t gotten time to check them out yet, so I can’t speak to their quality of content. I sourced them from Piya Tan’s Layman Saints which I loved reading, but it’s very academic (it’s mostly footnotes!) but informative and I personally enjoyed it.

I also find reading the biographies of monks to be inspiring. So you can also look those up on places like the BSWA website, the Forest Sangha website, or whatever traditions you like.

Edit: I forgot to add the sutta “What Should and Should not be Cultivated” (MN 114) because it’s also good for how to keep a decent frame of mind. Like I said lots of applicable suttas!


I would recommend that you visit different Buddhist temples in your area, and then attend the one that feels most comfortable to you, regardless of its sect or school. You might find that practicing as a lay Buddhist is easier when you find the tradition that’s right for you.

Also, have you read the Maha-mangala Sutta?


Equanimity is not mindfulness. The practitioner must progress to the work of including equanimity as a tactic under the broad strategy of right effort, where it has an agenda and is only applied in certain circumstances :

‘When I exert a [physical, verbal, or mental] fabrication against this cause of stress, then from the fabrication of exertion there is dispassion. When I look on with equanimity at that cause of stress, then from the development of equanimity there is dispassion.’ So he exerts a fabrication against the cause of stress where there comes dispassion from the fabrication of exertion, and develops equanimity with regard to the cause of stress where there comes dispassion from the development of equanimity. Thus the stress coming from the cause of stress for which there is dispassion through the fabrication of exertion is exhausted & the stress resulting from the cause of stress for which there is dispassion through the development of equanimity is exhausted."—MN 101

An Australian Buddhist tried to sail a raft from the mainland to Indonesia. But the current doesn’t take you there, it runs parallel to the shore, so equanimity is rarely applicable. To counteract the current of samsara requires effort and skill.

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Thank you for your reply, reading MN101 was very insightful. Can you elaborate on restraints for the sense bases, does it mean we don’t go to look at feature and details in a form?, trying to understand this text
“When they see a sight with their eyes, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of sight, and achieving its restraint.”

And also from example From MN 101, man in love “Why don’t I give up that desire and lust for that woman?’”

being a parent what is the message here is it to let go desires as we do have intent and desire to develop and make kids a better human beings.

Sense restraint in this context is the same as the equanimity already mentioned, and “it helps the novice meditator get a grip on the appropriate way to observe the phenomenal field”(Bodhi). Sense restraint is the first endeavor of right effort:

(1) "What now, o monks, is the effort to avoid? Perceiving a form, or a sound, or an odour, or a taste, or a bodily or mental impression, the monk neither adheres to the whole nor to its parts. And he strives to ward off that through which evil and unwholesome things might arise, such as greed and sorrow, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses. This is called the effort to avoid.”—AN 4. 13 SC

But as the novice examines the working of sense restraint, they notice that what makes them unable to hold it for longer periods is the arising of obsessions with either pleasing forms, or repulsion with unpleasant forms, and it then becomes necessary to overcome those hindrances in order to expand the experience, and so they begin to practice the second endeavor of right effort, the effort to overcome. They begin to see the connection between sila and samadhi. This begins the establishment of mindfulness in its three functions of ardency, alertness and having sati (memory), in which they apply known dhamma to present events to develop panna.

Without skillful desire, it would be impossible to develop the path and having aspirations for the good of one’s children would count as skillful desire (SN 51.15).

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I empathise, and know what you mean. In Mn21 the Buddha suggests facing the most difficult reaction from other people, so that we might know our deepest selves, and root out the deepest defilements: however elsewhere, he also says we should move out from places, and people, that increases our aversions, cravings and delusion - that is, it depends on whether we are using the same situation to our progress or whether the situation is abusing us! Having said that it could also be that even if you manage to overcome all the adversity, the business of lay-life not conducive to your samadhi or peace of mind.


Mat, I really liked reading MN 21 it provides me help. One point though in below text

“ So even if someone strikes those nuns with fists, stones, rods, and swords in your presence, you should give up any desires or thoughts of the lay life. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘My mind will be unaffected. I will blurt out no bad words. I will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love”

So if someone is getting stabbed, hurt bleeding regardless if there are desires towards them or not is the message to stay with compassion and what’s what is happening or prevent the damage

As others have alluded to, encountering difficulty is the BEST way to cultivate the mind of Dhamma. Asceticism and monasticism is one form of putting oneself in situations that stretch our comfort levels and make the unskillful mind scream for relief…:but a lay life with spouse and kids and a job is ALSO a situation that can stretch our comfort level and make the unskillful mind scream for relief. Why not view responding to family difficulty AS a method of practice, rather than as a hindrance to practice?
You make mention of the family “ignoring” you and “leaving you alone,” hopefully that’s not a result of you being emotionally and mentally absent - that will have only negative outcomes. Being absent from real life is not practicing and is not what the Buddha taught.


“ Why not view responding to family difficulty AS a method of practice, rather than as a hindrance to practice?”, yes that’s what I am currently doing question is if this were same compared to monastic way why would buddha not instruct all those who want to follow dhamma to stay in samsara and continue with their hinderances the same way? Wondering what makes one decide to step out of family and be monastic, I was thinking of Considering simple technique read in many sutras if this way does not benefit me or benefit others (family) on noble path then one should step out is that right thing to do?

If it’s what’s best for you and what’s best for others. Also remember that you have to look after what’s best for you and others may not be able to do so. Others will seek what’s maximum benefit to them from you.

Yes, but the purpose of this kind of response isn’t heroic self sacrifice- it is purpose is to cut the fetter of anger which binds being to endless samsara, and having to face endless suffering.

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“if this were same compared to monastic way why would buddha not instruct all those who want to follow dhamma to stay in samsara and continue with their hinderances the same way?”

As far as I can tell as one who has never ordained, the hindrances don’t go away just because you leave the home life. Certainly they are triggered less often in a monastic life, I would imagine, or perhaps they are triggered just as often but by different things.
I can see the big benefit to monasticism in that it allows one to focus more of their energy and concentration on the practice in a more protected environment, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s got to be either ordaining or heedlessness. There are heedless monks and there are virtuous laypeople, even in the EBT’s.
And as I stated, dealing with the frustrations of everyday life that are brought on by a family and a job and bills…there are LOTS of opportunities to practice recognizing the 3 poisons and practice the brahmaviharas!

One thing I might do myself is to contemplate - am I truly approaching the intersection of home life and dhamma the right way? Or am I just clinging to the idea of ordaining as a way to escape my aversion to the home life? Expressing desire for ordination and aversion to home life is still desire and aversion - and it’s still dangerous.

I’m probably a bit of an oddity in this tradition in that I see absolutely no virtue in leaving behind a wife and kids so that one can ordain, particularly if the family doesn’t agree to or accept that step. That’s just causing more suffering to others and is not in any way a compassionate act. Yes, I know Sakyamuni Buddha himself did that, but given that the actual historical details on that are muddy and likely apocryphal, I wouldn’t think a logical, reasonable person should emulate it. The way I see it, if you find the dhamma after you’ve made lifelong familial obligations, you either have to have 100% approval from the family before ordaining, or you shouldn’t do it (a type of approval I think you find in the EBT’s and is a question you get from most monasteries). If they don’t approve, then this is not your lifetime to ordain, try again in the next one.


Your feedback makes a lot of sense now and goes further deep. From Netflix episodes on Buddha , Buddha’s wife had asked him similar question after his enlightenment when they met in their palace, why did you have to go, we could have arranged everything required for secluded monastic life right here in palace to which he replied something like gold has to be molten in a furnace only then it shines, this body had to go through the monastic life and suffering for enlightenment and well being of others (don’t know if there is a Sutta for same).
It is also seen there were monks in his initial sangha who used to go for alms in same village their ex-families lived and the families use to curse these monks calling them runaway and cowards to whom Buddha said they must not let anything (hurtful words from their ex-family) bother only then liberation is possible. Family’s approval was never a condition before to lead a monastic life and Buddha use to welcome anyone who has taken a first step into sangha

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If the family fully understood the reason why someone wishes to ordain they would ordain too! When they don’t fully understand it, are they best placed to make a decision on behalf of another; one which could possibly make that person a prisoner in their own home and live that life with many misgivings and much reluctance?