Paccittiya 8 & teaching laity

Exactly. What I wish to be able to do without offence, is to respond to this natural interest (without which there would have been no sangha I suppose), in a meaningful way! I wish to be able to share my limited experience of the path with those who are intelligently and sincerely interested in discovering it. And like you I also have met many such people. Or let me say that I wasn’t so negatively affected by the crazy stuff that you come across here and there. It also makes a big difference where and with whom do you spend your discovering and sharing time. In all things, selectivity is a must!


I don’t want to mislead anyone, so I just checked this with Ajahn Brahmali’s recorded Vinaya class for the Bodhinyana monks. He says it includes samadhi states (jhanas, arupas, other samadhi states), 6 abhinnas and the four stages of awakening.


As a lay follower, I can think about several reasons offhand for the restrictions.

  1. Some lay people can easily move beyond veneration of monks into worship of monks. And free talk about powers and attainments can contribute to that outcome.

  2. At atmosphere of worship of “special” monks can turn into an environment in which lay adherents start to imagine that these special monks can be, and need to be, propitiated with sacrifices so that their powers will be wielded on behalf of the adherent. At the very least, this might disrupt the life of the sangha by influencing the pattern of dana.

  3. Lots of free talk among monks about their attainments can lead to a competitive environment in which monks are jostling with one another for attention, followers and adherents, and feel stronger temptations to break the fourth precept.

  4. Some monks who are great teachers might not have attained the spiritual levels of other monks who have cultivated higher attainments, but are poor teachers. It’s good to keep lay followers focused on the teachings and the practices, not their suspicions about who is and who isn’t highly advanced.

  5. At the end of the day, we can’t see into other minds and know their spiritual states for certain. So there is something inherently risky about an environment in which people are encouraged to make professions about the quality of their internal lives. Anyone who has been around Buddhist circles for a while knows that it is relatively easy for someone to “act enlightened”, by adopting a purring, solemn tone of voice, slow movements, and the other outward signs we tend to connect with high attainment on the path.


No trouble at all! I appreciate your participation very much. :relaxed:

I have mentioned this matter in my post. I wasn’t concerned about the patimokkha-vibhanga chronology as much as about simple logic and common sense. And my problem in this case is with the over-generality of the wording of the patimokkha as well, which probably allows for the vibhanga to involve about everything related to practice with “uttarimanussadhamma”! Note also that the same list, and very similar wording, appears in Parajika 4 as well.

In Pc8 as in many other rules, both patimokkha and vibhanga are problematic: The patimokkha is too general, and the vibhanga is questionably specific. And you’re left only with the origin story to glean the intention of Lord Buddha. And about how seriously I take the Vibhanga … well I take it pretty much very seriously. Without it, what vinaya text have we got left? (that’s why I at all bother about discussing its problems)! And then we end up with this situation, where you say that in Ajahn Brahm’s monasteries the rule is interpreted to include only jhana and maggaphala; well … why include jhana?! If we were to ignore the vibhanga, who gets to decide whether jhana is an “uttarimanussadhamma”?! In fact, who gets to decide what is superhuman; what is the “nature” of superhumaneness, how can we define it? And then check something like AN 6.77, The Buddha lists six things the dispelling of which is necessary for realising a super human state:

What six? Forgetfulness, unawareness, uncontrolled mental faculties, not knowing the right amount to eat, deceitfulness and talking deceptively.

THAT’S IT?!!! I mean really? And does not this indicate that perhaps what is meant by “uttarimanussadhamma” is something that is much more simple than what the expression may at first sight suggest?!

Oh I’m sorry for the confusion; I wasn’t talking about vinaya rules, but “rule” as “rule of thumb”. I have come across strange things too along the path, but they don’t effect me. And in all cases, making generalisations based on personal bad experiences is not my path, especially when the generalisation is about human behaviour and a specific social group. I don’t expect or require it from others though!

I would never answer a question about where I am on maggaphala, except if asked by my preceptor or a teacher whom I revere, and even if the answer was: “I haven’t the slightest idea!”


Let’s all vote “yes” in a referendum that proposes that people should no longer speak to each other because they may misunderstand each other! :sunglasses:


I’ll let Ajahn Brahmali defend his interpretation himself if he wants to. But I’d also be interested in his opinion on the question you raised in the OP as to why jhana is uttarimanussa and why there are conflicting descriptions, superhuman vs samsaric. My attempt at explaining it would be that there is a difference between superhuman states (that transcend the human plane) and super-samsaric states (that transcend samsara altogether). Jhanas are superhuman in the sense that they transcend the kama loka where humans live and are beyond the abilities of an ordinary human being. You need them to totally let go of the defilements of the kama loka and become an anagami. It thus depends on the perspective the Buddha was taking at the time of giving his sermon: Compared to nibbana they are nothing much, but compared to ordinary defiled mind states, they are superhuman.
Probably jhanas are covered by the rule because not everyone has right view and understands their transitory nature. Anything that seems superhuman would bring you a lof of fame and admiration regardless of whether it is useful for nibbana or not.

I guess in the end every monastic has to make up their own mind how to interpret the rules.
As you said so beautifully in response to one of my posts on another thread:


I’m a stranger to the Vinaya, but for what it’s worth SN 41.9 has the four jhanas as uttarimanussadhamma (is this trivial knowledge for monastics, or relevant at all?)

In these thirty years, householder, have you attained any superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, any dwelling in comfort?”
“How could I not, venerable sir? For to whatever extent I wish, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I enter and dwell in the first jhana… fourth jhana. Further, if I were to die before the Blessed One does, it would not be surprising if the Blessed One were to declare of me: ‘There is no fetter bound by which Citta the householder could return to this world.’"

While Citta clearly includes the jhanas as uttarimanussadhamma, there is the hint that he might be an anagami, which again might be the ‘superhumanness’ of it?

Similarly MN 31, but goes even further

Good, good, Anuruddha. But while you abide thus diligent, ardent, and resolute, have you attained any superhuman state, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a comfortable abiding?”
“Why not, venerable sir? Here, venerable sir, whenever we want, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, we enter upon and abide in the first jhana… fourth jhana… arupas… we enter upon and abide in the cessation of perception and feeling"

MN 65 seems to agree with SN 41.9 and the four jhanas. But DN 11 has ‘superhuman feats and miracles’ (i.e. uttarimanussadhamma) - and jhanas are hardly miracles one could show off with?


Thanks for bringing in the references. I wanted to examine the intended meaning of “superhuman” in EBT and this will require me to find every instance where it is mentioned. For the time being I’m convinced that in the text it means something like this:

“Whatever it is that is leading to spiritual awakening.” & also “whatever it is that other people think is magic!”

And it’s not just about jhana, I mean we’ve all watched ven. Maha Bua, a self proclaimed arahant, being completely “ordinary” while he’s proclaiming his arahantship. And it’s on youtube!

Is a sakadagamin who tills the soil in the morning, sells the harvest in the afternoon, plays with his children in the evening, and sleeps with his wife at night - is he a superhuman?!

I’d say so. That sound exhausting for a mere worldling! :stuck_out_tongue:


Lol :face_with_hand_over_mouth:
He’d probably act in the world nearly like a saint, but even a saint is no superhuman!

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I was searching d&d for something different and came across this related conversation.


Please share your findings when you are done. :anjal:

All sorts of things seem to be called uttari manussadhamma, like for example in MN 128 seeing light and forms.

But while you abide thus diligent, ardent, and resolute, have you attained any superhuman states, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a comfortable abiding?”
“Venerable sir, as we abide here diligent, ardent, and resolute, we perceive both light and a vision of forms.

Another thing I was wondering about is what people make of suttas like MN 127, where Anuruddha gives a talk about various devas in the presence of a householder. Then another bhikkhu asks about his personal experience and Anuruddha openly confirms that he is able to associate with them.

When this was said, the venerable Abhiya Kaccāna said to the venerable
Anuruddha: “Good, venerable Anuruddha. The venerable Anuruddha does not
say: ‘Thus have I heard’ or ‘It should be thus.’ Rather, the venerable Anuruddha
says: ‘These gods are thus and those gods are such.’ It occurs to me, venerable
sir, that the venerable Anuruddha certainly has previously associated with
those deities and talked with them and held conversations with them.”
“Certainly, friend Kaccāna, your words are offensive and discourteous, but still I
will answer you. Over a long time I have previously associated with those
deities and talked with them and held conversations with them.”
When this was said, the venerable Abhiya Kaccāna said to the carpenter
Pañcakanga: “It is a gain for you, householder, it is a great gain for you that
you have abandoned your state of doubt and have had the opportunity to hear
this discourse on the Dhamma.”

So Anuruddha used wording that gave his listeners a hint that he had these attainments. Then he also openly confirmed it. Did the precept not yet exist then? Did Anuruddha break it? Are these attainments not considered uttarimanussa? Is it not a breach of the precept because Anuruddha was talking to a monk, even though a layperson was present? Were early monastics just as puzzled about the precept as we are today?
It also seems that even among monastics such questions about attainments were considered discourteous. So even in the Buddha’s day, monastics might have been reluctant to talk about these things with each other. Or maybe the discourteous part was just the questioning in public? :confused:


It’s probably not possible to accurately pin down the Vipassana knowledge that one (or someone) is in, IMO. Such detailed stages of insight aren’t found in EBTs, apart from the seven stages of purification but they don’t have descriptions (in the Ratavineeta sutta). What is viable as a description is in the Anattalakkhana sutta SN22.5, which is a much succinct and accurate description, easily verifiable. These steps of insight lead to Nibbana without which the jhanas on their own would likely lead to Brahma worlds, IMO. So the Noble attainments should be considered a superior human state, but probably not the stages of insight leading to it.

With metta

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They’ve had that same discussion over there already!! And the strange thing is that some of the participants in it are still active currently; no one alerted us! Maybe they did not see this here thread!

They have not discussed the ‘logic’ of the rule though, neither did we yet; I mean how the rule was made to prevent mendicants from sharing their experiences in order to get something in return, and how this came to be later a prohibition of sharing one’s experiences altogether. Ven. Brahmali does talk about the problematicity of the expression “super human”.

It appears quite clearly to me also that the interpretation of the rule is not based so much on reflection but has rather become a sectarian matter also, or conditioned by the variables of the social culture of the practitioner. I mean it is just arbitrary that superhuman states are being confined to only jhana and maggaphala; and a matter of social culture, to think that the purpose of the rule has anything to do with quelling the delusion or obsession of the worshipping layperson. Non of this exists in the text, all these are just opinions i suppose. And indeed, I have seen some monastic communities where it’s all about jhana and talking about jhana, with lay people and all; and other communities where monks are being cautioned against having much contact (of any kind) with lay people. Lay people seem to have their own preferences as well; some like reserved and withdrawn mendicants and regard them as the “true ones”, and possibly look down upon more open and easy going mendicants, and there is also the attitude that is the exact opposite of that. It’s all culture, all mundane, all samsaric.

I am also beginning to appreciate the extent by which people have suffered so much from bad experiences with either (1) a show-off monastic, or/and (2) obsessed/worshiping lay people. It seems that I have been largely saved from this, but not incidentally! I have escaped from many a bad environment before! It’s simple, just escape before there is any “bad experience”! A desperate desire to receive teaching or realise some gnosis, could expose some people to bad experiences I suppose.

Anumodami :slight_smile:


This is a great source for me, I mean MN 127, so thank you very much for sharing it. I am very interested in instances like this in the Suttas, to make my case regarding how flexible is the Vinaya. The first time I read most of the Suttapitaka I was a lay person with no concern for vinaya, i didn’t notice things like that. But now I remember that there are probably many such instances where the vinaya was violated in the suttas, without any trouble at all! It could always be argued that rules were made at a later stage and therefore no violation exists in the suttas. But still, these instances can be used to show how “intention” is all that matters.

By the way I have resolved most of these matters in my own mind, I myself am not so troubled about the vinaya and how to make use of it. Nevertheless there is something very uncomfortable surrounding it, the judgemental attitudes of people around us; the continual possible whispering, or screaming: “Look! He’s violated the vinaya!”, and so on! It’s a kind of egotism to want to be right all the time! And it is not so difficult for me to bend the phrases while i’m talking or follow suit in the course of others. But to perpetuate the mystery surrounding a “superhuman” state that we don’t even really understand or know exists, or to act as if I know what i’m talking about when it comes to this and other similar subjects, or to kid myself into becoming “convinced” with this kind of stuff; that I can’t do! And there is someone out there, my friend, who feels just the same way! There may be many of us then! Then we should talk about these things, we should bring it up, so that we end up living at ease and with clarity in our hearts - rather than confusion and anxiety.

A mendicant with good common sense will know how to either establish a healthy contact with lay people, or exploit them. It’s unfortunate, because rules, especially nowadays, will not stop a bad monk; they will only burden a good one who probably never really needed them!

Anumodami :slight_smile:



Yes, there’s heaps. Also concerning other rules, such as the ones about food, for example. Or the ones that regulate interactions between monks and nuns. And especially interesting for nuns: there are suttas that show that nuns were free to move about alone, meditating in the forest, travelling on their own, etc.
This is why I generally don’t put too much weight on the Vibhanga. It seems even further removed from the natural and common sensical way in which practice was done in the suttas.



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I’m working on it, but it is exhaustive as you know! I’d appreciate it if you share those suttas that you have already identified (contradicting vinaya) from the heap! Or those new ones that you find out about as you go. Just the sutta numbers if you’re busy, I will do the digging! :slight_smile:

I am happy to learn that there is support in the suttas against Sanghadisesa 3 - I was rather worried about this one because it is a bit more tricky than garudhammas and ordination trouble, all of which is more easily manageable. But Sd 3 is just completely there in the bhikkhuni patimokkha, right there, number three!!

I like the vinaya and hope to make something out of it that will keep it relevant and applicable in our present time! :slight_smile:



Sounds like fun. I have a few suttas in mind but we should probably start a new thread for that. If I have the time I’ll do it later today. Sometimes it’s not so much actually breaking the rule, just giving it another angle from which to interpret it. Please also post stuff that you find.

A while ago I have done a survey of the Sutta-EBTs collecting all instances where bhikkhunis, nuns, women, or any other kind of “female words” (mothers, sisters, wives, females, devis, goddesses, brahminis, female wanderers …) are mentioned. Quite interesting what came up. There are many independent and empowered women there. If you are interested, I could start a thread to share references for that, too.
By the way, concerning Sanghadisesa 3, it’s interesting to compare it with Chinese Bhiksuni Pratimoksas. Unlike the bhikkhu Patimokkha, the bhikkhunis’ is much less consistent across schools. And especially this rule apparently was confusing to people quite early on. In several Pratimoksas, this rule is broken up into several pieces, or covers situations different from the Pali. So the scope of this rule is not as clear-cut as one might think. After the vassa, I’m starting a project to translate the Chinese bhiksuni Pratimoksas into English for Suttacentral. Hopefully that will make them more accessible to people.

I like the Vinaya, too. I just wish that there wouldn’t be these situations where it clashes with common sense. Somehow the early Sangha seems to have gone more with wholesome intentions than with the letter of the rules.


Just to add, anyone who has ever read the Therigatha would get the impression that the rule was observed mainly in the breaking… :grin:
Or might have meant something else entirely at that time.