Spreading dhamma

Did the buddha try to actively spread the dhamma by teaching people who did not come to him by themselves? Did he say to his followers to do missionary work?

I believe I’ve heard somewhere that the buddha taught only people who came to him by themselves but I am not sure about that.

He did probably in beginning like you believed. But very beginning. Maybe others can explain better.


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No, if you read the initial context portion of some of the discourses, it becomes clear that the Buddha made like context-based decisions regarding whether to allow others to approach him or whether to approach others.

I think in some cases he approached his own monks (as opposed to them approaching him). I think in other cases, approached wanderers and people from other sects.

I think reading the first part of the discourses in a variety of discourses can help shed light on this question.

I remember wondering this same question. But when I saw that in some discourses, the Buddha himself proactively approached others, it sort of refuted the notion that he necessarily waited for others to approach him.


Thanks for your answer, OK, but would you say he was still not very offensive in teaching? And more often people came to him than the opposite?

“Mendicants, I am freed from all snares, both human and divine. You are also freed from all snares, both human and divine.

Wander forth, mendicants, for the welfare and happiness of the people, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans. Let not two go by one road.

Teach the Dhamma that’s good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased. And reveal a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure.

There are beings with little dust in their eyes. They’re in decline because they haven’t heard the teaching. There will be those who understand the teaching!


Some of this was discussed in another thread:


I think I would characterize him as being suitably “passive” and “active” in terms of teaching.

I.e. letting beings come to him when it was appropriate for them to do so, going to beings when it was appropriate for him to do so.


The beginning you read in the books I shared to you once. (suttanipata) Many people reached to him with questions. Devas and humans. Patients go to the Doctor.

When the Sangha grew bigger of course they moved around to preach but probably in the same style. People approaching. In the Agamas there is sutta where he says approaching a teacher is necessary to listen to the good dhamma.

But Indian tradition is still that you are the one that need to sit infront a Guru. Remember where he came from.

He was not like missionaries nowadays that is trying to reach as much possible, because they all need to be saved.

The reason the Sangha really moved from one country to the other because they where in sramanas tradition. A fixed place brings attachment. For newly ordained Bhikkhus. So the training was no fixed abode. It’s practiced today in Sri Lanka. I think every 3 months another forest monastery. Imagine also a new kuti. So it’s a practice to learn to let go.

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Also, it seems worth remembering that he was feeling passive and disinclined towards teaching when a Brahma requested for him to teach the Dhamma.

He accepted and then went to Sarnath where his five former friends were living and pretty much (seemingly) taught them against their will - they seemed to consent only on the third time that the Buddha requested them to lend ear to him.

That seemed pretty “offensive” to me, and that was his very first attempt to guide beings all the way to Nibbana (as opposed to the beings that we met on the way to Sarnath, but whom he did not attempt to guide them the Nibbana).

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And Buddha had ability to see who was ready. ,:pray:t4:


And probably just how ready and receptive they were too…

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Namo Buddhaya :pray:t4::pray:t4::pray:t4:

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I read your full story about the couple preaching the gospel to you. It sound like you handled it well.

When I was new to the Dhamma, in my zeal, I erred on the side of talking about it too much, sometimes leaving my friends with glazed over eyes. I’ve learned to let my life and actions speak for themselves. I have had situations where friends are entrenched in troubling or difficult life situations and I’ve offered basic insights such as perception and misperception, the nature of grasping and aversion, sitting with unpleasantness, impermanence and such. I make no secret of the power of regular, daily meditation in my life and the penetrating wisdom of the Buddha. But all of that would be quite distinct from proselytizing and it isn’t something I look for any excuse to bring up.

In this vein, I’ve noticed that most everyone I’ve met who mentions the Buddha or Buddhism doesn’t have even a rudimentary conception of the Buddha or what he accomplished and taught. Most people in the US think the Buddha was a fat guru teaching OM chants and bliss and being one with the cosmos.


According to SN 12.22 (=SA 348), the Buddha urges bhikkhus train themselves vigilantly in his teaching of ‘conditioned arising’ for discerning the good (attattham) of themselves, of others, or both themselves and others. The Buddha in the text encourages bhikkhus to have confidence in the teacher (the Buddha) as a model, and to follow his teaching for the good of all (see pp. 158-9 in Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism). So, it seems the Buddha did try to actively spread the dhamma for the good of all by teaching people who did not come to him by themselves, and teaching followers to do missionary work.