What defines homelessness? What's a home?

From what I understand, an anagarika is a lay person but not a householder. Because they’re not ordained monastics, but anagarika means “homeless one”. My questions are based on the understanding that it’s possible to be a layperson who is not a householder. So if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

I know what homelessness is not. I know it’s not lack of shelter. I know it’s not relying on your relatives take care of you (MN54). But I don’t know that it actually is. Is it simply a matter of not owning/renting any particular dwelling? Does it matter what kind of dwelling it is (house, van, cave, tent etc)? Does an anagarika have to live in a monastery? Basically, I just want to know what makes a homeless one homeless. Is there a specific definition in the suttas?


I would say it has to do with the typical role play of family, both in its narrow and broad sense. But I don’t have quotes to support that.
Maye this is something well defined in the commentaries?
Let’s try tagging venerable @Dhammanando, he may know the answer. :anjal:

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Unfortunately, Ven Dhammanando is offline for the rains retreat.

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To my understanding. The practice is not owning a home. Not having a fixed home. In Sri Lanka there is a few monastery that was given to the Sangha by government.

But at the same time it’s also about your mind. Not living in what is not yours. Letting go.

The practice of living physicaly in what is not yours. It’s training the mind to have no attachment. The practice of not fixed abode. Is for the same purpose.

So as anagarika

The real homelessness would be crashing at random guest houses.

If it’s a van or house and it was given and it’s used long term. That is not truly practicing being homeless. It creates attachment.

Nowadays monks itself stay years at one community. But in time of Buddha they kept roaming around without a fixed abode.

But only in the rainy season they stayed at one place. Sometimes lay supports them and makes the place just for the rainy season.

In Sri Lanka there is a tradition of monks that they keep changing monasteries after a few months. To the ancient practice of not having a fixed place.

There is the advantage of not attaching to the laypersons of each monastery. Besides that you won’t have a fixed Kuti.

Here in MN 140. Buddha asked to stay one night?

I have heard that on one occasion, as the Blessed One was wandering among the Magadhans, he entered Rajagaha, went to the potter Bhaggava, and on arrival said to him, “If it is no inconvenience for you, Bhaggava, I will stay for one night in your shed.”

“It’s no inconvenience for me, lord, but there is a wanderer who has already taken up residence there. If he gives his permission, you may stay there as you like.”

Now at that time a clansman named Pukkusati had left home and gone forth into homelessness through faith, out of dedication to the Blessed One. He was the one who had already taken up residence in the potter’s shed. So the Blessed One approached Ven. Pukkusati and said to him, “If it is no inconvenience for you, monk, I will stay one night in the shed.”

“The shed is roomy, my friend. Stay as you like.”

The owner normally can say how long you can stay. But the practice was not to stay long.

A cave is a good place. But even then you don’t have to make it your fixed abode. Tent can be used. Just the tent had to be given. You decide your practice. The days , months. How extremely you can take it.

The key is not creating attachment.

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And again, O king, as the elephant has no permanent lair, even in seeking his food does not always frequent the same spot, has no fixed place of abode; just so, O king, should the strenuous Bhikshu, earnest in effort, have no permanent resting-place, but without a home should go his rounds for alms. Full of insight, wherever he sees a pleasant suitable agreeable place, whether in a hut or at the foot of a tree, or in a cave, or on a mountain side, there should he dwell, not taking up a fixed abode. This, O king, is the third quality of the elephant he ought to have.

Sorry, no time for a cited answer but anagarika is (to my knowledge) a relatively new category, not explicitly defined in the old texts.

It’s essentially someone who takes on the eight precepts on a more permanent basis: e.g. sleeping on a low bed and remaining celibate. In the suttas, of course, the holy life (brahmachariya) was synonymous with celibacy, and is generally how I understand “homelessness” - ie an adult who choses not to “make” a household.

I, personally, also include working jobs for money in this what-should-be-renounced-by-an-anagarika, but this is a more contestable point.

Hope that helps! :slight_smile:


The friend of the Bodhisatta is a good example of a layperson living and supporting his blind parents by offering his pottery works for food. :flushed: Dedication. But that’s because they attained higher paths already. They are truly convinced.

So health of yourself and parents also can make the practice different.

In his case he can not ignore his blind parents and live fully independent.

There is also in suttas laypersons that lived celibate life , lived with family but when going to sleep :bed: on the bed the husband and wife sleeps far from each other.

Another practice can be sleeping on separate beds. Two beds in one room? :joy: or sleeping totally in another room.

But the higher step is leaving family and living in another house.

But then more higher than that is not owning a house at all.

One who has reached the other shore.