Uposatha Vows in the Suttas and Deepening Lay Practice

I have been reading up on lay followers in the EBTs and I naturally found a strong emphasis on keeping the 5 precepts and faith/confidence in the Triple Gem and encouragement in meditation. I’ve found only two examples so far of practice deeper than this foundation. There are two examples of deepening practice I’ve found so far:

  • Gavesī (AN 5.180) who had confidence in Buddha Kassapa, and then undertook the 5 Precepts, then the celibacy, and then not eating after noon, and then ordaining as a monk.

  • Ghaṭīkāra (MN 81) In Buddha Kassapa’s mentions that he undertook the Triple Gem, and the 5 Precepts. It goes on repeat those factors and add that Ghaṭīkāra understood the 4 Noble Truths, ate one time a day, and was celibate. It then adds that he doesn’t take money, gold, or gems, and then adds that he doesn’t dig into the earth.

The growth makes sense to me in that you gain confidence in the Triple Gem, you decide to deepen your practice with the 5 Precepts, but then the next factor for lay people is only two additional qualities eating at the right time and celibacy. I don’t know of any other suttas that show a deepening training beyond the 5 Precepts unless you get to the practice of Uposatha vows during sabbath days like in the Dhammika Sutta where the 8 Precepts are: celibacy, eating at the right time, not wearing perfume, and sleeping on a mat.

The Dhammika Sutta is definitely special to the Uposatha Days, and the Gavesī and Ghaṭīkāra Suttas appear to show that these two followers didn’t habitually sleep on a mat or not wear perfume. Is it assumed in the sutta that they slept on a mat and avoided perfume? Do the 8 Precepts show up in other places besides the Uposatha Vagga and Dhammika Sutta where it only encourages their use during the Uposatha days?


What do you mean? Every single person who went forth was a lay person! How much deeper do you want?! :wink:

Okay, serious face… :grin:

If you mean just on observance days, AN3.70 makes it pretty explicit. One of the things I really enjoy about this sutta is that it points to not only doing particular practices, but also reflecting on them—as I see it, reflecting well on simple undertakings can offer far greater depth than adopting a variety of activities, austerities and so on without reflection.

Speaking to the point about extending the eight precepts beyond the observance days, one thing I find particularly neat about the contemplation given in AN3.70 is that although it’s clearly talking about practices being performed on uposatha days, it doesn’t take that much mental labour for one engaged in such reflection to broaden things out.

Having the idea that the discussion being opened here is perhaps more oriented to identifying distinct undertakings, this may be a little on the tangential side, but I figure I may as well give quick mention to AN6.16. It’s an utterly charming sutta about an “ordinary” housewife who is a stream-enterer. Amongst other things, I find it so lovely because of its simplicity.


This seems like the natural answer to how it’s extended beyond Uposatha days. Thank you!

I love these kinds of suttas. I find them inspiring in their simplicity too.


What is the history behind the development of Anagārika?

I have great respect for this mode of practice; be aware, a quote below may be or seem disrespectful; but I suspect it’s just ignorant and arrogant (just worldling-usual) by the writer(s) which are not-me.

But I have ignorance on the historical development of the role in Buddhism especially Theravada Buddhism from 5 to 8 precepts for Uposatha lay observances and deepening lay practice in the EBTs, to contemporary formal roles of Anagārika.

Partly inspired due to [A Curated Buddhist G-Library](http://A Curated Buddhist Library thread here on D&D) and its listing of

Laura Harrington’s fascinating history of anti-Catholicism in British ideas of Buddhism

which says this:
Don David Hēvāvitāraṇa (1864–1933) who spoke at 1893 World’s Parliament as Anāgārika Dharmapala, ‘Homeless Protector of the Dharma’, “exemplar of Southern Buddhism.” See pp.223 in the paper.

What was this anāgārika role that the young nationalist [Sinhalese, from Calcutta] had adopted? Dharmapala had borrowed its outward form from leading Indian Theosophists who publicly took the traditional Hindu vows of a naiṣṭhika brahmacārin (celibate religious student) to enact a specifically Theosophical identity. Like a monastic,a Theosophical brahmacārin took vows of celibacy, wore robes (of white) and lived a moderately ascetic lifestyle. He was however, a layperson, free to move around and engage in social affairs. (He would, for example, have been eligible for managerial positions in the BTS.) It was an interstitial role with no precedent in Buddhism, ‘true’ or otherwise. It did, however, represent one solution to the tension between world renunciation and the need for anti-colonial engagement embodied by Guṇānanda’s conflict with with Olcott. Dharmapala took vows in 1881, proclaimed himself thereafter to be an ‘Anāgārika’, ‘homeless mendicant’.

Imo, Uposatha precepts as described in the EBT suttas and the deepening lay practice examples cited in the Original Post refutes the “no precedent” claim in the paper quoted above. Also the wiki biography of
Anagarika Dharmapala - Wikipedia gives perhaps a more respectful glimpse of this person’s impact.

But what is the history, from the time of the Buddha to now? How are the words anāgārika used in the EBTs?

Debated if this should be a separate Q&A, as this thread has developed; I trust mods to move if appropriate.

Edited to remove typos. and to add wiki link and comment re: Dharmapada.