How contentment can be practiced for lay followers?

Hello, I want to learn more about practising contentment as a lay follower. Anuruddha and the Great Thoughts include "This Dhamma is for one who is content, not for one who is discontent,

As a lay follower, how can I practice contentment while growing in life? For example, if I am content with my right livelihood as an employee, I might not venture into new plans to start a business. I want to hear opinions so that I can practice contentment correctly.
Please also share some good sutta references, which can be helpful.

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Probably a good idea for all to keep in mind that contentment in AN 8.30 was one of eight thoughts of a secluded bhikkhu.

Contentment for a layperson is being satisfied with whatever type of lifestyle they have opted to value. Keeping in mind SN 36.31, there are all kinds of perks “of the flesh”. Not close to those of liberation, but plenty to offer contentment, i.e. plenty of reasons to stay with the world and senses.

All boils down to what you actually want to accomplish with your involvement with the Dhamma. And never forget that striving for contentment in the lay life could mean searching for structure and/or simplicity and not making the effort to develop right view. Not advisable.

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One of my favorite books about lay practice is Ajahn Mahabua’s A Life of Inner Quality which explains how Buddhist practice engenders a kind dignity. I always think of this when I read that line about contentment.


Downloaded and starting to read. Thank you.

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You need to fully know and see yourself as your really are the connection of anicca, dukkha, and anatta in your daily life practice.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Koliyans. Now the Koliyans have a town named Kakkarapatta. There Dighajanu the Koliyan went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, “We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood; wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver. May the Blessed One teach the Dhamma for those like us, for our happiness & well-being in this life, for our happiness & well-being in lives to come.”

[The Blessed One said:] “There are these four qualities, TigerPaw, that lead to a lay person’s happiness and well-being in this life. Which four? Being consummate in initiative, being consummate in vigilance, admirable friendship, and maintaining one’s livelihood in tune.

“There are these four qualities that lead to a lay person’s happiness and well-being in lives to come. Which four? Being consummate in conviction, being consummate in virtue, being consummate in generosity, being consummate in discernment.

“And what does it mean to… (a must read for all lay followers! Interestingly, there are 8 qualities the lay follower is recommended to cultivate for happiness and well being … aka contentment :grin:)


This might also be helpful… it seems to encompass all the AN suttas with advice for lay followers.

A thematic guide to the anguttara nikaya by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Maintaining a Harmonious Household

Although early Buddhism prescribes a path of self-cultivation leading to the extinction of suffering, the Buddha realized that spiritual development does not occur in a social vacuum but rests upon a healthy and harmonious social order that exemplifies the kind of virtues that nurture the spiritual life. Spiritual influences begin at the top of the social hierarchy and gradually spread downwards, affecting the whole society and even the biological and physical domains (AN 4.70). Thus the Buddha devotes considerable effort to instilling in his followers the lifestyle and sense of social responsibility that conduces to a harmonious society in which people act in accordance with the civic virtues. Among the four Nikāyas, the Aṅguttara—along with the Sīgalaka Sutta (DN 31)—is probably the richest source of such teachings.

From the number of discourses on family relationships, it is evident that the Buddha regarded the family as the primary agent of acculturation. Since the head of the family has a particularly powerful impact on his household, the Buddha tried to promote the positive transformation of society by offering householders guidelines to righteous living. He set up a pragmatic but inspiring ideal for the laity, that of the sappurisa or “good person,” who lives “for the good, welfare, and happiness of many people,” his parents, his wife and children, the domestic help, his friends, and contemplative renouncers (AN 5.42). When the head of the family sets a good example, those who depend on him grow in all that is worthy: in faith, virtue, learning, generosity, and wisdom (AN 3.48, AN 5.40).

In offering guidance to the family, the Buddha prescribes the duties of children towards their parents (AN 2.33, AN 3.31), advises husbands and wives how to live together (AN 4.53), and even instructs a loving couple how they can be assured of reuniting in future lives (AN 4.55). He distinguishes between wrong livelihood and right livelihood, defines the proper ways of acquiring and utilizing wealth, and prescribes the appropriate means for sustaining cordial relationships: giving, endearing speech, beneficent conduct, and impartiality (AN 4.32). He not only instructed individuals and families, but advised states and rulers. He taught the people of the Vajji confederacy, who maintained a republican form of government, “seven principles of non-decline” (AN 7.21). For kings he set up the ideal of the "wheel-turning monarch” (rājā cakkavati), the righteous king who rules by the Dhamma and provides righteous protection for all in his realm, including the animals and the birds (AN 3.14, AN 5.133).

The Way Leading Upwards

While early Buddhism sees a righteous society as providing the optimal conditions for collective well-being and happiness, its focus is not on social stability as such but on the spiritual development and liberation of the individual. The most congenial conditions for the unhindered pursuit of the final goal are provided by the lifestyle of a renunciant monk or nun, who is free from the constraints and liabilities of household life. But, almost unprecedented for his time, the Buddha also held that householders earning their living by “the sweat of their arms” and supporting a family could also advance spiritually and reach three of the four stages of awakening. He thus laid down guideposts to spiritual cultivation for his lay followers that would be compatible with their time-consuming schedules of work and family responsibilities. These would enable the lay disciple to win a higher rebirth and even reach the plane of the noble ones, where final liberation is assured.

Many of the factors that enter into the foundational stage of spiritual development are common to the renunciant and the householder. Thus, though the suttas often describe these qualities in terms of a bhikkhu, they can be understood to pertain to lay disciples as well. The seed of spiritual development is a triad of qualities consisting of faith (saddhā), confidence (pasāda), and reverence (gārava). Faith is a faculty and a power, and as such is defined as belief in the enlightenment of the Buddha (AN 5.2, AN 5.14). It is a deep trust in his wisdom and a readiness to comply with his advice. From faith arise the other four powers that inspire and direct the training: moral shame, moral dread, energy, and wisdom. Closely connected with faith is confidence, a feeling of serenity and mental clarity that arises from faith. The disciple has confidence that the Buddha is the best of beings, the Dhamma the best of teachings, and the Saṅgha of noble ones the best of spiritual communities (AN 4.34). Along with faith and confidence comes reverence, a sense of respect and esteem directed towards the Three Jewels and the training (AN 6.32–33).

For a disciple endowed with faith, spiritual growth is furthered by associating with good friends, people who can give guidance and serve as inspiring models. The Buddha’s statement to Ānanda (SN 45.2) that good friendship is the whole of the spiritual life finds powerful analogues in AN. We read that there is “no single thing that so causes unarisen wholesome qualities to arise and arisen unwholesome qualities to decline as good friendship” (AN 1.71). A pair of suttas beautifully enumerates the traits to be sought for in a good friend (AN 7.36–37), and a discourse to a householder advises him to befriend other householders accomplished in faith, virtuous behavior, generosity, and wisdom (AN 8.54 §3).

A large part of the practice for a householder involves engaging in meritorious deeds, activities that generate wholesome kamma conducive to a happy rebirth, good fortune, and spiritual progress. The Buddha even urges the bhikkhus, “Do not be afraid of merit,” and he details the benefits he reaped in a previous life by cultivating a mind of loving-kindness (AN 7.62). The texts enumerate three “bases of meritorious activity”: giving, virtuous behavior, and meditative development (AN 8.36). They also mention four “streams of merit” for a noble disciple: unwavering confidence in the Three Jewels together with virtuous behavior (AN 4.52). The list is expanded to eight streams of merit by combining the Three Refuges with the five precepts (AN 8.39).

Many short texts in AN are concerned with the etiquette of giving and generosity, with the emphasis on providing material support to monks and nuns as well as other ascetics who live in dependence on the lay community. Though the Buddha encouraged his disciples to support renunciants of all convictions, even his rivals (AN 8.12), he also taught that the merit gained by giving is proportional to the spiritual qualities of the recipients, and thus the noble persons, especially arahants, serve as the most fertile field of merit (AN 3.57). Virtuous behavior begins by observing the five training rules: abstinence from taking life, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and use of intoxicants. The code of good conduct can be expanded into the ten courses of wholesome action, which cover not only bodily and verbal behavior but wholesome dispositions and correct views (AN 10.176). A number of texts give specific directives on right speech. I already referred to right livelihood in the previous section.

Of particular value for the earnest lay devotee intent on merit is the uposatha observance adopted on new-moon and full-moon days. On these occasions devout lay followers undertake eight precepts, which emulate the precepts of a novice monk (AN 3.70, AN 8.41–45). They may spend the day practicing meditation, and one text recommends loving-kindness as especially suitable for the uposatha (AN 9.18). Another text recommends five recollections, called means of cleansing the defiled mind (AN 3.70). The Buddha explains that observing the uposatha complete in its eight factors is more beneficial than sovereignty over the continent, for the merit acquired can lead to rebirth in the heavenly worlds.
Kelly notes that the Aṅguttara has a much stronger emphasis than the other Nikāyas on the two mundane goals as against the attainment of stream-entry or higher stages on the path. However, even in the Aṅguttara the practice for a lay follower is not exhausted by merit. In several suttas the Buddha mentions four qualities that lead to the superior welfare of a lay follower. The first three are faith, virtue, and generosity, the constituents of merit. But the fourth is wisdom, specifically “the wisdom that discerns arising and passing away, which is noble and penetrative and leads to the complete destruction of suffering” (AN 8.54, AN 8.76). This is the wisdom of insight into impermanence, which leads beyond all spheres of rebirth to the final goal of the Dhamma, the realization of nibbāna and release from the round of rebirths.

I agree with you that discontent can be a reason to come in action, to do something. I think the Bodhisattva was also not content with his life in luxury. Well, does that mean he had to force himself to be content with that life and apply a technique to remedy his discontent?
I think that is not wise. So, i believe discontent does not have to be wrong or remedied by some mental skill. it can have a good reason.

As a Buddhist and someone who was a relatively successful entrepreneur with 3 successful businesses under my belt, contentment can be a powerful antidote to the main Entrepreneur Challenge: Fear of Failure. It also provides a secondary, but equally important tool in fighting great destroyer of businesses: falling in love with your ideas.

I tackle the second one first: Every business has a stage where you need to pivot off your old idea and forge a new idea and path. Failed entrepreneurs have bought into the idea that you need to be “passionate” about your idea, when in fact you actually need to be dispassionate about your idea. Those who fail, fail because they can’t give up the initial reason, their passion! for starting a business in the first place. True entrepreneurs are only passionate about one thing: building a successful business. The actual widget is irrelevant. I’ve known very successful entrepreneurs who built a business in digital media and then start a Ice cream business, or a beef jerky business. Buddhism really helps in developing the dispassion you need to succeed.

The first item is “fear of failure”. And it is here that contentment can really be an asset. When I first started my businesses I thought: what IF? What if everything goes wrong. I lose my house, I lose my family, I lose all my money, I become homeless!!

Here is how I got over that. I went to an early morning service at an Episcopal church near my business. After the service, a group of people, who I later discovered were homeless, invited me to join them for breakfast in the church rectory. We sat while they expertly pulled out orange juice, bread, jam, coffee that the church provided and we sat and talked. Some were clearly delusional, others just down on their luck, but all were welcoming and friendly. I thought to myself, well, if everything went wrong, I could be content having breakfast with these folks every morning. I’d be okay.

And from that moment on, I never worried about failure again. And I launched 3 very successful businesses as a result.


As a layperson 21 years into my first contact with the Dhamma I am quite certain there is no contentment to be found in this fundamentally mistaken sort of livelihood. But maybe that is just me and my bad choices… :person_shrugging:t3: :anjal:

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Which fundamentally mistaken sort of livelihood?