The Problem With Disregarding the Distinction Between Renunciant and Lay Practice

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I do not have a written source, but I recently visited a student of hers in Thailand (there was a photo of her on the altar). I also met someone who visited her (the sister) while she was still alive. So I’m pretty confident about the tradition being authentic, not just gossip (not that you can ever know for sure who is actually an Arahant).


Thanks, for a contemporary discussion Maha Bua is always a good reference and the story with his sister would be revealing indeed.


I find it possible that those monks that were forced to write the teachings down would be reluctant to include the rule in their version, that said that they by doing this was breaking a rule laid down by Buddha.

It would look rather odd if this prohibit rule was found in today’s versions

Rule 228: It’s forbidden to rely on written texts, or write or record anything.


At the Buddha’s time there was no writing. Or else, I’d like to see some evidence for it. The earliest writing we have are the Asoka inscriptions. And even there it has been pointed out that the scribes were very inconsistent in their orthography. I think even Asoka complained about it in another inscription. This is a feature of writing in its infancy, and it’s pointless to debate a theory by Amaro if we don’t have at the same time the arguments he backs up his claim with.


Well, I don’t know if it’s a theory, because I do think Ajahn Amaro would have included that information in the talk. But on the other hand, I find it interesting on several planes. Buddha had 45 years to learn from his teachings and what impact/result they gave. There seems to be a steady flow of enlightened beings, and numerous others that had become stream enterers in his time.
Now, 2500 years later, and with substantial written material, and different sects, cultures and so on, there seem to be scarcely any who’s getting it. So maybe we have overdone the whole thing, and that it’s just any other religion


That’s a good point of discussion, probably another topic though. But from what we know that is not an effect of writing but happened already relatively early in the history of Buddhism. After all, one of the characteristics of Theravada (in comparison to other sects, AFAIK) is to be heady, wordy, and abhidhammy.


Just curious, but how were contracts and obligations established and justly recorded? Things like loans and interest require record-keeping.

MN107:0.2: With Moggallāna the Accountant


Moggallāna was not an accountant. He was some kind of mathematics teacher as explained in the sutta. A mathematician


If it’s overdone, then the question of regarding the distinction between lay and renunciants would be similar to any other religion too … and so one can say that the written teachings and how they are presented are making a hierarchy between likeworthy followers because, in the making of the written teachings, there was a king that decided it be done in a way one might think served his taste and possible attainment of the fruits of the practice itself. The Bible is by most regarded a designed work that served a specific purpose for some elite and controls the masses.


Wasn’t Sanskrit in use at the time? That’s what I’ve been told, but I may have been told wrong.


‘Sanskrit’ is a formalized language variation of ‘Vedic’ and is spoken of rather from the time of Panini on (i.e. few centuries after the Buddha). Neither is a script though. Look up ‘Brahmi’ for the oldest Indian script, it rather resembles the ancient Greek script than the modern devanagari.


Thanks for the reference. Apparently Ashoka inscribed rock pillars with Brahmi Script - Ancient History Encyclopedia


Thanks for helping to clarify what we’re discussing/debating here. This is not what I’m asserting. I, and perhaps others, are suggesting that some EBTs (suttas) may not be appropriate for some lay people, some of the time. Or better yet, that some suttas may be better for lay people than other suttas, depending on the time and circumstances.

For example, if I have a busy day at work ahead of me, I typically won’t read suttas in the morning aimed more at monastics. On the other hand, I tend to look forward to weekend mornings when I can delve deeper into the deeper dhamma and don’t have as many householder duties.

with metta,


I agree. I was referring to later additions that were not actually spoken by the Buddha, but are claimed to be spoken by the Buddha.
Skeptics often misguidedly support their claim by further claiming that it is impossible to discern what was not and was spoken by the Buddha - and using this to implicitly support their claim regarding why what was not spoken by the Buddha should be respected as “possibly spoken by the Buddha” even when upon careful consideration it is relatively very likely not to have been spoken by the Buddha. Furthermore, they often resort to personal attacks calling those who disagree with them as dogmatics, close-minded, narrow-minded, etc. What to do? Compromise with false positions?

Very good and interesting point!

Also good and interesting!

Perhaps both positions are not entirely mutually exclusive.

This seems accurate. It seems unlikely that the Buddha addressed the topic of writing down the teachings since most of his actions show that he taught based on present conditions, not future potential conditions (such as addressing gun violence, etc).



Yup, this is evident when one visits Sarnath, and perhaps other Buddhist sites too.



Greetings to All:

I don’t want this to appear as if it’s contradicting the theme, because I certainly appreciate the distinction between renunciants and laity–on all levels: their respective practices, their (purported) goals, the respect to be accorded them, etc. While, on the Western side of things, there may be a lot of lay people who–often to their own and others’ detriment–drift a little too close to the monastic side of things; having also spent quite a bit of time in Mahayana countries, where they tend to be proud of their blurring any such distinction, I personally feel the opposite is true. In any case, there are two points I’d like to add to this discussion:

(I only read through the thread very quickly, so if these were already mentioned, my apologies)

  1. Neither the fact that Dhammadinna himself (and not the Buddha!) rejected the notion of studying deep and profound discourses, nor the fact that the Buddha eventually relented, in any way negates the fact that the Buddha’s first impulse was that it was a suitable practice for the laity.

  2. Citta the householder, a non-returner (who, it seems, even instructed monks) was the representative of the ideal layman.

Lastly, let us also not disregard the distinction between householders who were “enjoyers of sensuality” and those who were not. Presumably, the distinction was one of those undertaking the training in 5, 8, or possibly even 10 precepts. I tend to think that the Buddha foresaw the various levels of commitment in the laity and created a vehicle for everyone to do what they wanted to do to the extent they wanted to do it.


In other traditions away from the EBTs we get this concept of ‘self-hidden’ or ‘self-secret’ teachings. That is that the teachings are given openly to all, but it depends on the proclivity of the recipient (at the time of the teaching) as to whether the meaning is hidden or not. I often think that this applies to the EBTs too. I read a sutta one day and I don’t get it at all, the next day, under different circumstances, when my mindfulness is perhaps a little more acute, a whole deeper meaning emerges. I think it might take a very skilled teacher to know what to choose for a particular student, at any given time.


“herself” :wink:

Thank you for the guidance towards Dhammadinna’s lay encounter with the Buddha. I had not read that before:

SN55.53:2.1: “So, Dhammadinna, you should train like this:
‘From time to time we will undertake and dwell upon the discourses spoken by the Realized One that are deep, profound, transcendent, dealing with emptiness.’
That’s how you should train yourselves.”

Daunted, she appeals to the Buddha for clarification on further instruction compatible with lay life:

SN55.53:2.4: “Sir, we live at home with our children, using sandalwood imported from Kāsi, wearing garlands, perfumes, and makeup, and accepting gold and money.

Remarkably, the Buddha doesn’t issue further instruction beyond what Dhammadinna and her followers have already accomplished. Indeed, he commends Dhammadinna and encourages her:

SN55.53:4.8: You have all declared the fruit of stream-entry.”

:open_mouth: :heart:

So let us all enter the stream and study all the EBTs. :man_cartwheeling: :woman_cartwheeling:


Would you leave your business and jobs if you read it before retired?
Who knows if there is another round of rebirth to test :sweat_smile:

From the understanding of the teaching, it ‘s not necessary to put difference identity of “laity” and “monastics”. The real meaning is to find seclusion, and always moving. So if you’re householder but you live in seclusion , practice towards ending suffering and always move for not more than a month in one place. Then you already a “bhikkhu” whatever cloth you put on. Or maybe a pacekkha bhuddha is such also before buddha times.


I wouldn’t have left my job, but it would have made work much harder. For much of my work life I passionately believed in delighting the customer, of “winning the customer through recurring delight”. I think we can all see the flaw in that motivation.

Oddly, however, it was the very recurring failure of that fickle strategy, the hubris of trying to feed a black hole, that eventually made me laugh on reading MN1. MN1 was very much the punch line in a practical joke I had played on myself in believing that feeding desire could be skillful.


Tell that to an extinct Sarvāstivādin! They had Abhidharma running out of their ears!