SN 22.87 Vakkali the clansman

Passing curiosity has got the better of me…

In SN 22.87 is it significant that right at the end of the sutta (after he has ‘taken the kniff’) the Buddha calls Vakkali a ‘clansman’ (kulaputta) rather than referring to him as ‘friend’/‘reverend’ (āvuso), or as a bhikkhu as he does in the rest of the sutta? Intriguingly the narrator sticks to calling Vakkali ‘venerable’ (āyasmant) throughout. Is the switch in term meant to nuance the Buddha’s declaration of Vakkali’s attainment of nibbāna? As I understand things, such a reading wouldn’t work out as nibbāna, is nibbāna, is nibbāna! An incidental quirk, then?

The Buddha often refers to his bhikkhus as “clansman”, with expressions like:

So too, bhikkhus, when some clansman here has left behind sensual pleasures and gone forth from the household life into homelessness…

I think that the narrator is using a deferential form of address, but that would not be appropriate for the Buddha when speaking of his students.

Much thanks for the reply @mikenz66, but I’m still not quite sure. I’m aware the phrase you quote is found all over the place, but have always understood it as a way of expressing that a layperson renounces and takes up robes. What’s different here is that Vakkali is already a monk at the beginning of the sutta.

With regards to a suitable term for the Buddha to use, earlier on in the sutta the Buddha says “āvuso vakkali” (as Ven. Sujato explores on another thread, ‘reverend’ might be a suitable rendition of āvuso). It is only after Vakkali takes the knife that the Buddha switches to ‘clansman’.