Meditation for laypeople?

Dear friends, please share your experience. Are there suttas where Buddha recommends or doesn’t recommend meditation (real sitting meditation) for laypeople? Is there Buddha’s opinion about this?
Nowadays lots of people have the ability to dedicate practice many hours a day so I wonder do I have to be a monk to start trying to enter jhanas? :pray:

Yes, the Buddha recommended meditation for lay people, too. For example AN 5.176.

Nobody has to be a monk, but it undoubtedly helps. That said, there are many impressive lay disciples both in the suttas and in modern times. Householder Citta is a highly advanced lay disciple in the suttas. From recent times, Upasika Kee Nanayon was an amazing lay teacher to put it lightly.

One spiritual attainment that might be out of reach for lay devotees is arahantship as revealed in MN71. Jhanas and lower ariya attainments are possible for lay devotees.

The question of whether lay people can attain Jhanas has also been asked before


Thanks, but is “rapture of seclusion” actually a jhana? Isn’t it just relaxing or deep thinking or something like these?

I think MA20 (parallel SN42.13) is interesting in this regard:

[The Buddha] … Headman, there is a Dharma meditation called abandoning. Through this meditation you may attain right mindfulness, you may attain one-pointedness of mind. In this way you may cut off your doubt in this lifetime and achieve progress.

[Pataliya, a lay person] what is this meditation called abandoning…?


Pataliya is a lay person who seems to be experiencing genuine doubt about which teachings are true and which are not.

The Buddha’s advice is basically “meditate in this way to overcome your doubt”.

Take note that the meditation is preceded by (I would say caused by) the practice of morality.

IMO, the effort goes into the morality and then meditation happens naturally as a result.

Edit: See AN10.217 for the 10 wholesome and unwholesome courses of action.


Yes, even if the sutta doesn’t say it explicitly, the Pali terms are exactly the terms that appear in the first jhana. Not all Jhana-elements are there, but the first jhana just is vivekajam piti, so I would safely take it as a reference to the first Jhana.

Also, just my personal opinion, things have changed in 2500 years. You don’t have to be a monastic. And it’s far from the truth that all monastics are decent meditators. I would assume that if you can dedicate yourself to the truth of the mind it doesn’t matter much which clothes you wear but more on the inner and outer circumstances you are willing and able to create.


It is, and this is a key point that is made in countless suttas; morality precedes meditation. Without proper sila, attempts to meditate are useless. This goes all the way back to the 8 Fold Noble Path, where right view, intention, speech, conduct, livelihood, and effort all precede right sati and right samadhi.

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I understand your thought process, but I am not sure how much I agree with it, as I think it is dependent on what kind of lay life you have. As a householder with three kids and other relatives that depend on me, I can certify that they are all one heck of a fetter. As such, I have tempered my goals in this go around to stream entry. Living a very “average” householder life, I find it very hard to reconcile the requirements of the path to arahantship with the needs of compassion towards, say, raising my children, who are, quite literally, my kamma-vipaka


To clarify my thoughts further, the point that I was driving at was that the stereotypical householder life presents challenges (I hesitate to call them “obstacles”, because they aren’t) that severely limit the possibilities for obtaining the Deathless in lay life. I think if anyone proves this it’s the Buddha. He was certainly the poster child for an easy lay life, even by our modern standards, and still yet, he chose the going forth.

As westerners, we are sort of conditioned to want what we want, and want it NOW! That conditioning leads alot of people to treat Awakening like it’s something we can pick up from the supermarket (Blue light sale on Organic Nibbana, aisle 4!), which in turn leads us to severely underestimate the difficulty of even being a sotapanna. Ironically, I think the biggest delusion that afflicts modern day lay people is not the delusion of self, but the delusion of progress. The comfort of our lay lives means that opportunities to demonstrate the actual removal of defilements, as opposed to their removal under certain circumstances, are few and far between. Where as going forth essentially thrusts that difficulty straight into your face on a daily basis.

Can lay people obtain Nibbana? Never say never, I guess. But the fact remains that for the rest of us mere mortals, that’s out of the realm of possibility. I reconciled myself to that long ago, and frankly I found it liberating. It opened me up to appreciation of the fact that I live here, a comfortable life in this world, where I personally believe that the Dhamma is in a stronger and more accessible position than it’s been in a thousand years or more. It’s the fruit of probably incalculuably good kamma in the past that I am born here now. I can either throw all that away by being frustrated about my present position because it supposedly isn’t satisfactory enough, or I can keep the trend going by putting one foot in front of the other on the path. Easy decision, I think


can you please give a link to the sutta? :pray:

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It is possible for lay people to practice meditation and experience the fruits of the practice, but the conditions need to be there. You have to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, just like everyone else :slight_smile:

In MN51, Pessa, a layperson, says:

“It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing, how much the Buddha has clearly described the four kinds of mindfulness meditation! They are in order to purify sentient beings, to get past sorrow and crying, to make an end of pain and sadness, to end the cycle of suffering, and to realize extinguishment. For we white-clothed laypeople also from time to time meditate with our minds well established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. We meditate observing an aspect of the body … feelings … mind … principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

I’m not sure which version @Erik_ODonnell was using, but you can find one translation of MA20 here. There’s a free PDF and MA20 is on page 122.


SN 41.9, about Citta the householder entering the four jhanas whenever he wants:

“But householder, in these thirty years have you achieved any superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a meditation at ease?”

“How, sir, could I not? For whenever I want, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, I enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. And whenever I want, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled … I enter and remain in the second absorption. And whenever I want, with the fading away of rapture … I enter and remain in the third absorption. And whenever I want, giving up pleasure and pain … I enter and remain in the fourth absorption.

If I pass away before the Buddha, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Buddha declares of me: ‘The householder Citta is bound by no fetter that might return him to this world.’”

When this was said, Kassapa said to Citta, “It’s incredible, it’s amazing, how well explained the teaching is. For a white-clothed layperson can achieve such a superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a meditation at ease. Sir, may I receive the going forth, the ordination in the Buddha’s presence?”

SN 17.23 describes Citta as being a layperson equivalent of Sariputta or Moggallana:

A faithful laywoman with a dear and beloved only son would rightly appeal to him, ‘My darling, please be like the householder Citta and Hatthaka of Aḷavī.’

These are a standard and a measure for my male lay disciples, that is, the householder Citta and Hatthaka of Aḷavī.

‘But my darling, if you go forth from the lay life to homelessness, please be like Sāriputta and Moggallāna.’

These are a standard and a measure for my monk disciples, that is, Sāriputta and Moggallāna.


@DimiG, the link kindly posted by Ven. Sumano was the one I was using. That translation is not up on yet, so I opted to just post screenshots of the PDF. Copy-pasting from some PDFs is very clunky, it takes a lot of time to format the text :man_shrugging:


Thanks a lot. Just one more thing - aren’t Agamas created by the Chinese? :man_shrugging:

Both the Chinese agamas and the Pali nikayas have their roots in Indian Buddhism. The Pali texts were preserved in Sri Lanka and later Southeast Asia, in the Pali language. The Chinese agamas were translated from languages like Sanskrit into Chinese over 1500 years ago, and preserved in East Asia.

The Pali nikayas and Chinese agamas are sets of parallel collections, so often the same (or very similar) texts exist in both Pali and Chinese. By comparing the two sets of collections, we can get some better ideas about the early “core” of Buddhism.


Perhaps @cdpatton would like to comment on this question.

@llt covered it. The only thing I would add is that the translations of the Agamas to Chinese were made under the supervision of monks who came from Central Asia or India, or else by Chinese monks who studied in India and came back to China. The Chinese tradition had historians at different point during classical times documenting who translated what and when, which is how we know the precise dates translations were made.


So they are legit sources for official Theravada?

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A similar question has been asked before: Are Chinese Agamas less reliable than Pali Nikayas? :wink:


Surely they are relevant and worth looking at. Most of Venerable Analayo’s works are around using these texts to identify and confirm what in the Pali text may be really early.

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They aren’t Theravada scriptures. They come from other early Buddhist schools like the Sarvastivada that don’t exist anymore but that were very similar to the Theravada. I’d say that are like 90% compatible when it comes to the content. They are just worded differently sometimes. The ideas and practices are largely the same.