Lay Arahants. Why not?

Yes, there may have been a previous planet Earth but we have to establish whether these accounts are about a previous planet Earth or this one? If they were a previous planet Earth then the Buddha might have said: in a previous world-cycle there was a planet - just like this one, but different - and on that planet in a different world-system there lived a Buddha named …

The Buddha did talk about Universal beginnings and endings and, ten thousand fold world-systems etc. - from what I have heard - but I don’t think he talked about the biographies of his predecessor’s with regard to other world-systems? The Buddha also seems to have been in the right ball-park when it comes to the age of the universe which is astonishing.

Why would he neglect to mention that he was referring to a previous planet Earth - or another planet elsewhere - in his historical account when he is telling us so many other details? It does not add-up, make sense to me, but I could be wrong. :slightly_smiling_face:

I was referring to the introduction of the Vinaya Vibhanga.
There the Buddha acknowledges past Buddhas and present a big picture of how they went about teaching others.
In all cases those Buddhas lived secluded and taught both lay and contemplative disciples. And in the case of those who established a code of conduct their teachings and contemplative communities lasted longer than in the case of those who didn’t.
In that text the Buddha does not place things in time. But of course these Buddhas could have only existed in immemorial times.
I pointed that text to make the point that it is hard to use EBTs to sustain a belief in a lay samma sambuddha. EBTs are consistent in regards to pointing the contemplative livelihood as a both facilitator of awakening and the virtue it embodies a manifestation of awakening.
To me, there’s truth in this account but I am unable to present archeological findings to support previous Buddhas.
Also, we’re all free to choose whatever working assumption pleases us about the world. If someone wants to believe Metteya will be a samma sambuddha in jeans (or maybe khaki?), married and who teaches in between work shifts a eightfold path devoid of the contemplative model of livelihood, he/she is free to do so and wait and see if that happens or not!


Do you believe this account of history happened on this planet Earth in some prehistoric time frame? And if you don’t, what is said in the account you are drawing on that suggests in any way, shape or form, that these events happened on another planet similar to this Earth - but different? Did the Buddha spell this out or not? If he did not, it is reasonable to assume, he must have been talking about his predecessor’s on this planet?

We can also assume as you did in a previous comment that we could even use the accounts of fictional non-exististent Buddha’s as evidence that previous Buddha’s were monastics. This sounds like taking the tooth-fairy’s word for it - in a movie - that the fairies take our teeth as children and make houses out of them. If I had to choose between believing in a Buddha in jeans and the evidence provided by the accounts of a fictional Buddha, I would take the former notion as more credible. :heart_eyes:

I am unable to tell. I do however believe it is something the Buddha talked about and probably relates to one of the three superhuman knowledges (tevijja) he attained as of his awakening.
I don’t rule out these previous Buddhas taught in times so remote that this rock we live in was not yet fully formed and the five aggregates could have only got together in a complexity similar to the one it manifests in our human specie in a different planet elsewhere in this galaxy or universe.

Why do you feel it necessary to believe in such things? Do we need to believe in these things to realise Nibbana? Do you believe in every word and concept that the Buddha shared with us? Do you feel the need to believe in an all-knowing Buddha who had not a single idea that was a product of his cultural background? If you think it may be possible that some of the ideas the Buddha had about the world - like references to kalpas - might have been something he learned about in his earlier life? Why not? You don’t need superhuman powers to talk about kalpas and Universal cycle’s. These are themes that were in circulation before the Buddha was born.

Laurence, I really appreciate your interest in my views but I believe this is not the topic of this discussion and very frankly deviate a lot from the conversation we have been having up until this point. I will leave your questions unanswered if that does not bother you.

Note however that, having in mind the conversation we had here, I created a topic for us to discuss past Buddhas. Check it out and please consider contributing:


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I will visit that thread - thankyou. It would be even juicier if you created a thread where we could explore why we believe in things that are somewhat extraneous and unrelated to the main theme of the teachings. We could then explore our underlying and half-baked assumptions and the reasons we feel it is important to swallow everything, hook, line and sinker? This may help us to understand ourselves more clearly. As you know, many religious people resist any kind of questioning of their beliefs because it makes them feel insecure. Finding holes and ambiguities in their belief system can make them question what they are doing - and why. As Buddhists, we leave no stone unturned. :wink:

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Laurence, maybe you are not aware but by making your target your assumption that I ‘swallow everything’ found in EBTs you are bringing up a straw man to our conversation. :sweat:

If memory does not fail me. We ended up talking to each other because when you brought up that a lay Samma Sambuddha was something possible I called your attention to the fact that in EBTs the Buddha is said to have talked about previous Samma SamBuddhas and all of them had lived secluded and taught both lay and contemplative disciples. And in the case of those who established a code of conduct their teachings and contemplative communities lasted longer than in the case of those who didn’t.

I referred to that text to make the point that it is hard to use EBTs to sustain a belief in a lay samma sambuddha. EBTs are consistent in regards to pointing the contemplative livelihood as a both facilitator of awakening and the virtue it embodies a manifestation of awakening.

To keep the conversation fair, instead of fighting the straw man of my belief on such accounts, it would be more productive if you could find in EBTs any support to your view that maybe a future Samma Sambuddha will follow a different path and fullfil that role wearing jeans (or maybe khaki?) instead of robes, be married and who teach his disciples in between work shifts a eightfold path devoid of the contemplative model of livelihood.

Just to be clear, I am sure that it is now clear that we agree to disagree on the belief of a lay samma sambuddha. I discard it completely and you don’t. The question is whether we can find any support to that hypothesis in what we find in EBTs.



I don’t mean you - you are a sincere and questioning Buddhist! I am referring to religious people who don’t question enough! It is no secret that we all have underlying assumptions - that are not that clear. In addition, many of us have our pet-theories. I am merely questioning - I have been encouraged to do this by my Buddhist teachers.

I did not dismiss the idea that Buddha’s are always celibate monastics - I was just keeping an open mind. I try to do this with regard to matters of faith were I am unable to establish a high degree of certainty. I try not to feign understanding where there is none.

I agree Bhante.
Some times it is difficult to live a lay life just being a Buddhist.


I think there was a contemporary teacher from another tradition that was also considered as or, referred to as a Buddha - is this correct? Apparently he was not the ‘real deal’. It is a term we find in Sanskrit as well - perhaps it is found in early Vedic texts? What is the earliest source in Indian religious literature - anyone?

This is because people who have experienced some progress in the path following the Buddha’s word develop faith in him. Others are just commenting from the sidelines.

The Buddha said accept what is beneficial to us and others, that leads to reduction in craving, aversion and delusion (AN3.65) kalama sutta. This has got garbled into accept when you can know for yourself, which in many cases will be impossible when compared to the Buddha’s abilities. It is worthwhile exploring this difference, in my opinion.

with metta

I can’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be a contemplative model amongst his disciples, after all it is extremely conducive to attaining nibbana. However as far as the mechanics of the path he only needs the 5 precepts, ability to attain jhana (occasional retreat?) and insight to attain nibbana, considering his substantial spiritual abilities. These can be done as a lay person, with some practical support. The only issue is his ability to teach will be very restricted if he is working (in a job that doesn’t require craving, aversion and delusion of course). The Buddha is more than just enlightened- he is out to teach a generation and time is a premium in lay life. In any case many people ordain later in life! This would give him life experience (not that he needs it) on both lay and ordained settings. I recall reading once Ven Ananda waiting until he accesses his special ability to know deeply, in a state of samadhi, unlike when talking from learning in his own lifetime, as in matters about the N8FP where he does talk very fluently, as mentioned in one sutta. Maybe if he has experience both as a lay person and an ordained monk he would be able to guide people in both types of right livelihood much more fluently, when it comes to matters of livelihood. These are all my speculations of course.

with metta

I know that faith is important but it cannot be blind faith. Faith and understanding must go together. Theory and practice go together. The Dhamma has many interrelated aspects.

We develop faith through imbibing the teachings. We then practice the teachings. If all goes well, we gain a living understanding through practice. This understanding confirms and nurtures our faith. This process is completely different from just believing things because they are written in a Sutta.

We can still enjoy Buddhist stories, anecdotes etc. without having to believe them - take them as literally true. Its not a good idea to confuse what we understand with what we believe. As obvious as this is, it is surprising how often it happens.

The Buddha did not want us to take his teachings for granted. He wanted us to practice and find out for ourselves. He did not encourage blind acceptance of anything he said - because that is dangerous on many levels.

The act of just believing in things contributed to the fragmentation of Buddhism. The early Sangha started believing in various teachings without an actual and clear understanding of what the Buddha taught.

If the early Sangha had followed the Buddha’s teachings - his guidelines for testing and then accepting the Dhamma - there would not have been any schisms?

Therefore, if a teaching is untestable then why accept it at all? What is the value of that kind of faith? It may just reinforce blind conformity. How many blind conformists do you think have woken up?

We can confirm the noble truths through practice. There have been empirical studies of ‘near death experiences’ and rebirth. We can gain some understanding of near death experiences through the ‘Nimitta’ and ‘Samadhi’. We may gain insight into rebirth through remembering past lives and through verification.

How would we go about testing the theory of ‘Buddha’s who lived in previous aeons’ - and then use those findings as evidence for the impossibility of a lay Buddha? :slightly_smiling_face:

How would you consider paccekabuddha an lay arahant or monastic arahant ? There weren’t any Buddha or vinaya around .

They leave the life in family, they are contemplative ones and manifest vinaya without needing it to be formally received. Right?

We are looking at things in buddhism context , however all the Buddha disciples were from other ascetics, jains , yogis and samanas and brahmana. Some householders some renunciates. We can’t rule out possibility of existence of lay arahant .

Was Upasika Kee a lay person? Was Yai Damrongthammasan a lay person?

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@Kensho, @apeiron, let’s agree on some things here.
The topic of this thread is whether or not a lay individual, id est a householder, could attain to arahantship.

As the thread progressed people more or less split in two possible understandings:
a) yes and nothing in the individual’s livelihood would change and
b) yes but EBTs or early commentaries suggest that with arahantship a shift of livelihood must take place, not for external reasons but for internal consistency of the heart now awakened.

Later on, people brought up whether the fruition of a samma sambuddha, an arahant whose awakening marks the bringing back of the Dhamma-Vinaya to the world, could be attained by a lay person not following a livelihood aligned with the basic elements of a contemplative life.

We explored EBTs once again and found out that at least the account by the latest Samma SamBuddha (Gotama) on how the previous six ancient Samma SamBuddhas lived and taught indicate that it such beings attain to perfection in a context of living and teaching a contemplative livelihood.

Now we are exploring whether there can be lay paccekabuddhas. I am pretty confident that once we explore EBTs we will find that in such texts such beings, similarly to the Samma SamBuddhas, do reach the end of suffering through the same context of contemplative livelihood.

We are not talking here about one necessarily having to wear robes and live in a vihara/monastery in Thailand, Sri Lanka or Myanmar. What we are talking about here is one living a simple and recluse life, free from the bondages of family, sense pleasures and possessions. At least, one manifests and conforms with what the eight or ten precepts frame.

Last but not least, mind that the awakening of pacekkabuddhas seem to be a phenomenon restricted to the period between the disappearance of the Dhamma-Vinaya and the re-emergence of it, through the appearing of a new Samma SamBuddha in the world.

Paccekabuddhas do bring to an end their suffering but lack the skill or ability to formulate a Dhamma-Vinaya around it and lead others to the same end. In MN26 Buddha Gotama tells us how he almost became a paccekabuddha himself!

“It is hard to see this truth, namely, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna.
If I were to teach the Dhamma, others would not understand me, and that would be wearying and troublesome for me.’
Thereupon there came to me spontaneously these stanzas never heard before:
‘Enough with teaching the Dhamma
That even I found hard to reach;
For it will never be perceived
By those who live in lust and hate.
Those dyed in lust, wrapped in darkness
Will never discern this abstruse Dhamma
Which goes against the worldly stream,
Subtle, deep, and difficult to see.’
Considering thus, my mind inclined to inaction rather than to teaching the Dhamma.”

If memory does not fail me in EBTs paccekabuddhas are consistently depicted to carry on with a livelihood pretty similar to the one of wandering forest contemplatives. They will come to inhabited areas to collect alms and teach basic things on avoiding harm doing good.

Maybe, similar to the case of the ancient Buddhas, paccekabuddhas were an element of the folklore of ancient India. A faded memory spiritual individuals who made an impact to the world or at least impressed the generous alms givers when they would come for their villages to collect alms. There is a paccekabuddha named Tagarasikkhī who is found more than once in the Pali suttas.



Ah ! no sense pleasures yes.
But , nowadays living in recluse , no.
Free from bondages yes,
but not necessarily without family .