The Problem With Disregarding the Distinction Between Renunciant and Lay Practice

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Pardon me but I have a Dumb Question:grin:

If Renunciants don’t make higher teachings freely available to those lay people who show suitable interest, how on earth will the gradual training and conversion from putthujana to 5 precept lay buddhist to 8/ 10 precept noviate to renunciant occur?
And who will be the Authority to decide who exactly is “worthy” or “ready” for higher teachings?
And what about those who don’t agree with the decision of that Authority?

Can you see where I’m going with this? :thinking:

Sooner or later there will be the emergence of the “Benign Dictator Guru”, then an inner core group will emerge, then will come diktats, expulsions, protest groups… schisms, loss of the true teaching and the end of the Buddha Sasana… that is invariably the human way.

The path to Absolute Evil is paved with good intentions.

Instead, perhaps we should consider…

What are the causes and conditions that have allowed the Buddha’s carefully organized method of passing on the Teachings to not only survive but flourish for over 2500 years?
No other human organization has lasted as long.

So perhaps, there’s something to be said for not trying to fix what ain’t broken, mate!!


Call for investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Dagri Rinpoche

The suitable people obviously got the deeper teachings. I just propose that it was not common knowledge as we have it today. The path was according to some suttas a knowledge revealed under specific circumstances.

When he knew that xxx’s mind was ready, receptive, free from hindrances, elated, and confident, he expounded to him the teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. (AN 8.12, AN 8.21-22, MN 56, MN 91, DN 3, DN 5, DN 14).

Buddhism isn’t really a carefully planned success story in history. At many turning points it could just as well have vanished from earth like the Ajivikas or Manichaeism.


I am curious to knw if there are any evidences to suggest that?
You cannot say vanished I am afraid.
Of cause it has declined from india. But it lasted all along in several countries. When the lineage was broken it was brought from another place. Ex: upasampadā was brought to Sri Lanka from Burma and Thailand in 17th and18th centuries. Even before it was brought to Burma in the king Dhammacetiya’s time.


And still is … as far as the Mahayana and Tibetan schools go, AFAIK.

IMHO, the reason many of us are attracted to the Theravada is that the Dhamma is freely available without restriction to the lay people, not just the monastics.

On the other hand, many efforts have been made through the ages to wipe out the Buddhist philosophy… By burning all monasteries, destroying all books, killing all monks… Yet it just keeps springing back up again and again…:rofl:
The key to this invulnerability I feel, is that the entire Dhamma is freely offered and hence available to all humans. So it can’t be wiped out, short of putting whole nations to the sword… And even then who knows, which pesky armchair philosopher on the other side might have stored a copy (for the sake of science/ record?) , even though outwardly not believing it at all?
And then sooner or later, it sprouts wings again…:upside_down_face:


It’s amazing and wonderful that liberation-dhamma is not a secret.

But if I attempt to earn a living as an architect telling my clients that “delight is the root of suffering” I would have zero clients. In contrast, my business would prosper if conducted according to:

DN33:2.1.52: Furthermore, an ethical person enters any kind of assembly bold and self-assured, whether it’s an assembly of aristocrats, brahmins, householders, or ascetics.

I know this because I was a software architect who had to work with many assemblies.


Actually this might not be all together untrue.

Then, when the night had passed, in the morning the Venerable Udayī dressed, took his bowl and outer robe, and went to the residence of the brahmin lady of the Verahaccani clan. There he sat down in the appointed seat. Then, with her own hands, the brahmin lady served and satisfied the Venerable Udayī with various kinds of delicious food. When the Venerable Udayī had finished eating and had put away his bowl, the brahmin lady put on her sandals, sat down on a high seat, covered her head, and told him: “Preach the Dhamma, ascetic.” Having said, “There will be an occasion for that, sister,” he rose from his seat and departed.

A second time that brahmin youth approached the Venerable Udayī … as above down to: … “See now, madam, you should know that the ascetic Udayī teaches a Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing; he reveals a holy life that is perfectly complete and pure.”

“In such a way, young man, you keep on praising the ascetic Udayī, but when I told him, ‘Preach the Dhamma, ascetic,’ he said, ‘There will be an occasion for that, sister,’ and he rose from his seat and departed.”

“That, madam, was because you put on your sandals, sat down on a high seat, covered your head, and told him: ‘Preach the Dhamma, ascetic.’ For these worthies respect and revere the Dhamma.

Does this mean that Monks were hiding the dhamma? I think, not. In the above sutta, when the lady corrected herself she was taught the Dhamma.:slightly_smiling_face:


:rofl: :white_check_mark:




Continuing on this theme a very beautiful sutta;

Mendicants, towards evening the lion, king of beasts, emerges from his den, yawns, looks all around the four directions, and roars his lion’s roar three times. Then he sets out on the hunt. If he strikes an elephant, he does it carefully, not carelessly. If he strikes a buffalo … a cow … a leopard … or any smaller creatures—even a hare or a cat—he does it carefully, not carelessly. Why is that? Thinking: ‘May I not lose my way.’

‘Lion’ is a term for the Realized One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha. When the Realized One teaches Dhamma to an assembly, this is his lion’s roar. When the Realized One teaches the monks … nuns … laymen … laywomen … or ordinary people—even food-carriers and hunters—he teaches them carefully, not carelessly. Why is that? Because the Realized One has respect and reverence for the teaching.


Interesting point. I should’ve used the word “appealing” instead of “beneficial.” Charnel ground meditation has benefits, but it may not appeal to someone who, for example, needs to maintain some “lust” to keep their romantic partner satisfied.

This is one of my biggest concerns. I started to question why I should even bother to maintain my “dusty” household. The constant reminders about the pitfalls of worldly desire were killing my motivation to work.


That’s partly a by-product of the specific Buddhist discourse of the incompatibility of desirelessness and worldly life. The Hindu tradition has crafted an alternative which seems to work relatively well for people, i.e. the combination of duty and dispassion in the Bhagavad-Gita. There, every social group has their ‘dharma’, i.e. their set of duties, their path.

I’m not necessarily saying it’s the better discourse but it allows a dispassionate life with much less friction. I have seen this in action in several Indian friends who had no problem combining a spiritual and a worldly life. In contrast, (Theravada) Buddhists seem to struggle with serious spirituality and going forth.


What if it was Mara saying “but no need to clean”. :laughing:


One’s own family can be a nice training ground for developing the path in my opinion. What is a “Sangha” if not a “high nurturing family”? So if one find a family dusty, then I suggest one lift up the carpets in the monastery one like to visit.


It’s funny that you mention the Bhagavad-Gita. Earlier this year, I tried so hard—desperately—to find another tradition. I read Swami Nikhilananda’s translation of the Gita, and was deeply moved by it. If it weren’t for some caveats, I’d likely be a Hindu right now, but, for one, I’m not willing to be subservient to a guru.



Hi Tony,

I think the blessed one has praised energy(viriya) and energetic individuals in many many ways. For my self I believe lay disciples of the blessed one should be more energetic than the ordinary man but for quite different reasons. Viriya for the sake of viriya not for gain and fame, but if they come let them come(and they surely will).


I believe you’re right. I recently re-read the Dhammapada for the first time in awhile, and was reminded of the Dhamma’s elegance and practicality. The Dhammapada and Anguttara Nikaya don’t seem to shame householders as often as, say, the Majjhima Nikaya for engaging with the world.

Those with initiative, mindful, clean in action, acting with due consideration, heedful, restrained, living the Dhamma: their glory grows.
Dhp 2.24

A lay follower is accomplished in faith and encourages others to do the same. They’re accomplished in ethical conduct and encourage others to do the same. They’re accomplished in generosity and encourage others to do the same. They like to see the mendicants and encourage others to do the same. They like to hear the true teaching and encourage others to do the same. They readily memorize the teachings they’ve heard and encourage others to do the same. They examine the meaning of the teachings they’ve memorized and encourage others to do the same. Understanding the meaning and the teaching, they practice accordingly and they encourage others to do the same. That’s how we define a lay follower who is practicing to benefit both themselves and others.
AN 8.26


Fascinated, I found that “they encourage others” occurs:

frequency Nikaya
78 AN
10 SN
3 MN
1 DN

Also many thanks for the AN8.26 quote. :heart:
It was quite … encouraging. :rofl:


Another important detail was brought up by Ven Analayo in one of his books (I forget which one). He pointed out that the Agama parallel to this sutta doesn’t quote Anathapindika as saying laypeople never get these teachings, but that Sariputta never gave laypeople these teachings. That’s kinda a huge difference, and it makes me wonder if there is a tendency in the Pali texts to enhance the importance of the monastic Sangha.


Your results are consistent with the findings of John L Kelly’s paper. The Aṅguttara Nikāya has the most teachings directly targeting lay followers, and, if I remember correctly, the Saṁyutta Nikāya has the second most. In an effort to resuscitate my relationship with the Theravada, I’ve been re-reading the Aṅguttara Nikāya.



“Shame” is a pretty strong word. It makes me sad that there are individuals in the wider community who press that perspective. The vast majority of us, lay or monastic, are not at Olympic level practice. Respecting each other’s place on the path doesn’t diminish the path itself.