What are the attainments not to be claimed by a monk?

I really do not have much to add to what has already been said, and I was certainly not trying to put you off or anything like that. I just know that people sometimes need to be encouraged to relax around monastics.

I suppose one interesting point is whether the word uttari­manus­sa­dhamma (“super-human quality” or “attainment”) is used consistently in the vinaya. What I am referring to is that the vinaya is a product of evolution, probably across several centuries. It is clear that the pātimokkha rules belong to the earliest part of the vinaya, whereas all the material commenting on these rules is later. It follows that the original meaning of a word in the rules may not be properly reflected in the explanatory material.

The word uttari­manus­sa­dhamma is possibly a case in point. The pātimokkha rules belong roughly to the same historical stratum as the suttas. In the suttas uttari­manus­sa­dhamma consistently refers to the four jhānas and the four stages of awakening, sometimes also including the four immaterial attainments. I therefore think it is likely that this would have been the earliest intended meaning also in bhikkhu pārājika 4 and bhikkhu pācittiya 8. The definitions found in the vinaya - which have been well explained above by others - are likely to be the outcome of later evolution. But it could be argued that this later explanation mostly just boils down to the definition found in the suttas.


Not sure if that would satisfy but we could get some help by those with some knowledge of Chinese to check whether a similar definition is found in the parallel Bhikkhu Vibhanga texts hosted in SC.

@Coemgenu, would be able to do so? The parallel texts of interest are:

They may not be sufficiently early for the label EBT but may provide us a reference point for how early the linkage of jhanas with empty dwelling is.

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Yes, that’s correct in that context. I don’t think “empty dwelling” is used in the sense of higher attainments in the Suttas. If I recall correctly, it was purely based on the exploits of some bad monks in the Vinaya who were figuring out creative ways to drop hints.


[quote=“gnlaera, post:22, topic:4863”]
@Coemgenu, would be able to do so? The parallel texts of interest are:
[/quote]Thank you for your vote of confidence in my ability to relevantly participate in this discussion. Unfortunately I wouldn’t really know how to begin to answer given that I don’t really have any idea of the context of this passage, given that I am not overly familiar with the Bhikkhu Vibhanga, or the Vinaya at all generally, even in English let alone Pāli or Chinese! :flushed:

I’ll definitely give it a look to see if I think I can see anything relevant, but don’t hold your breath. I’ve never really read a whole section of Vinaya text before, in any language, so that makes me especially unsuited to dealing with it in Chinese.

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I agree @sjayasinghe that this is probably quite true. But I think there’s another side to this also.

Anyone that goes around saying, I have this attainment, or I have that attainment, might well be coming from a very strong sense of self. Surely, such attainments are very close to, if not, exactly within, the deepest realisation of non-self that is possible. Surely such people would be little inclined to speak much, do much or even think much. I can’t see someone like this casually speaking about their attainments without a reason born of wise compassion and within the bounds of their sila, which I imagine, would become a natural part of “who” and “what” they are.

So perhaps another reason for this rule is that it protects monastics from developing massive egos that are based in their spirtual attainments; because surely such a thing would simply corrupt any perceived or real attainments. And of course, it would safeguard them from the act of talking about something that they later find out they were, in fact, mistaken about.


Of course. An acceptable context for talk of such attainment would be when inspiring others to practice. Some novices might consider these attainments to be so far out of their reach that they don’t put the necessary practice into realizing them in this lifetime. If they have knowledge that others in their community have actually experienced these things they might be much more likely to put forth the necessary effort.

I wonder if there is a similar restriction for monks talking about their attainments with other monks? If there is no such restriction I think we can be quite confident that a rule specific to laypeople is intended to guarantee fair distribution of alms.


The little I have learned about how things go about within the Bhikkhu Sangha tells me that nothing stops bhikkhus from helping each other in terms of better shaping their cultivation of the path towards fruition.

In Thailand it is not uncommon for monks to travel great distances to visit other monks just to get practical questions answered. And sometimes, as once Ajahn Brahm mentioned in a talk, getting questions cleared by the mere presence of attained masters.

What we have to acknowledge as the odd minority of laity interested in such things is that whenever a bhikkhu opens up too much about his practice with us there always is the risk of opportunistic merit-seekers taking it as a hint of who is who within the Sangha and the sad situation depicted in the Parajika 4’s origin story repeating again.

A better way for us to go around this obstacle is to develop a long term relationship with bhikkhus which we trust are genuinely invested in the path and patiently learn through their instructions how to put together the causes and conditions for the fruition they maybe have already achieved.

Another much better option is always to get brave and consider the path of renunciation ourselves. As a bonus, with time and once the new livelihood is established, we may be able to talk openly about such things with other attained bhikkhus or bhikkhunis.


AFAIK it’s not prohibited for bhikkhus and bhikkunis to speak of attainments to other ordained people ie. bhikkhus and bhikkunis. It is a pacittiya to talk of it (if true) to laypeople.


Monastics can speak to each other about attainments, in fact in the dasadhamma sutta, the 10 things that a renunciate should reflect on always, you find this:

“Have I gained superhuman knowledge which can be specially known to
noble ones, so that later when I am questioned by fellow bhikkhus I will
not be embarrassed?” should be reflected upon always by one who has
gone forth.

from what I understand, I could ask any monastic about their attainments, but they don’t have to tell me, and it seems to me that its a more common thing to ask the monastic the above question on their deathbed.


I wondered if these rules of silence towards lay people existed at the time of the Buddha as he and others (500 including ananda at the time of the 1st council) had no hesitation to claim: I am an arahat.



4.Should any bhikkhu, without direct knowledge, claim a superior human state, a truly noble knowledge and vision, as present in himself, saying, “Thus do I know; thus do I see,” such that regardless of whether or not he is cross-examined on a later occasion, he—being remorseful and desirous of purification—might say, “Friends, not knowing, I said I know; not seeing, I said I see—vainly, falsely, idly,” unless it was from overestimation, he also is defeated and no longer in affiliation.

I suppose some of the numerous maras, corrupters of the Teaching, would play “stupid”, and say: “I don’t have the right to say” .

If one were to accept that the Patimokkha rules were (or by and large, were) issued by the Buddha then, yes, the rules existed in his time. As already mentioned above monks Pācittiya 8 (and Pācittiya 104 for nuns - which together SC shows as having 41 parallels) sets out the restriction and the monk’s Vibhaṅga explains why the rule was laid down.

As far as my limited familiarity with the canon can take me, I don’t think I can recall of any example in which a monastic disciple of the Buddha claimed arahantship in front of laypeople and I don’t believe the 1st Council was open to laypeople (not least for arahantship being a prerequisite).


“For the sake of your stomach”, says Buddha.
(Context) .

So today with its multitude, we have all kind of people, ordained or not, making you believe they have it (through their right course?!? AN 10.103,) although they can’t say they do have it - for the sake of their poshy little arrangements.
And sometimes, they even show it. They even show the achievements of their wrong course. And they gigglishly confess that, to their maras’ friends.
Tricky maras; with their low-life magical powers, that Buddha abhorred so much.
Stupefaction for the ignorant, who once initiated, becomes stupefied of his new power of stupefaction.
They are all stupefied. Maras & quislings. Under stupefaction (moha).

A good subject of disgust :nauseated_face:, on which to look at mindfully, then upekkhaly (if that can mean something to anyone, anymore).