Who leads the Sangha?

I don’t think it’s accurate to say most. But in any case, leading the sangha was literally his job. And part of that job is reprimanding monks. See MN 67 Cātumā

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Didn’t Sāriputta die before the Teacher? (SN 47.3) It was the Teacher who led the sangha, no?


If there’s anyone who thinks: ‘I shall lead the mendicant Saṅgha,’ or ‘the Saṅgha of mendicants is meant for me,’ let them bring something up regarding the Saṅgha. But the Realized One doesn’t think like this, so why should he bring something up regarding the Saṅgha?
SN 47.9

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Hello @Vaddha,

My interpretation of that sutta is that the Teacher did indeed lead the sangha while alive, but explicitly said that he did not intend to appoint someone else to lead when he passed? Is that also your interpretation?


Not really. He essentially says that Ven. Ānanda should not expect him to behave like a leader before his passing, and that he does not think like “I will lead the Sangha,” etc. He tells them that he has done his duty as a teacher. I take it as him saying that he was merely a Dhamma teacher to the Sangha, not a leader in any other sense, and that he has done his teaching duty, so now they are to practice accordingly without expecting him to behave like a leader.

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It’s simple. Sāriputta is one of the 2 chief disciples. The job of chief disciples is to help the Buddha lead the saṅgha. One time when Buddha dismissed a group of noisy newly ordained monks from his presence, he asked the 2 chief disciples to come and say that when the Buddha is not around, these 2 chief disciples should look after the saṅgha.

Ah, so you take this as a declaration that there was no current leader of the sangha while he was alive and did not intend to appoint a successor since he didn’t consider himself the leader. :pray:

Here is the same passage from BB’s translation:

“What does the Bhikkhu Saṅgha now expect from me, Ānanda? I have taught the Dhamma, Ānanda, without making a distinction between inside and outside. The Tathagata has no closed fist of a teacher in regard to the teachings. If, Ānanda, anyone thinks, ‘I will take charge of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha,’ or ‘The Bhikkhu Saṅgha is under my direction,’ it is he who should make some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha. But, Ānanda, it does not occur to the Tathagata, ‘I will take charge of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha,’ or ‘The Bhikkhu Saṅgha is under my direction, ’ so why should the Tathagata make some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha?

The key might be in the saying about the “closed fist of a teacher”. What does it really mean? Does it mean that the Buddha was as liberal as to not dictate everybody the interpretation of the Dhamma?

Interesting that one of the major German translators of the 30’s does not even translate this Sutta. The blank page just reads: “Unnecessary”.

Another thing that came to mind while reading this is from MN4:

Brahmin, you might think: ‘Perhaps the Mister Gotama is not free of greed, hate, and delusion even today, and that is why he still frequents remote lodgings in the wilderness and the forest.’

Does this imply that one is meant to disrobe once one reached enlightenment?

It means teach a lot, but keep something secret like a closed fist to maintain superiority so that the students do not overtake the master. This is common in a lot of lay person’s jobs and apprenticeships where the master is selfish or just looking out for himself or don’t trust the student.

No. Going to remote lodgings means to have retreat there, meditate. Why does arahant need to meditate, people are going to ask. Is it that the Buddha is not yet freed from defilements? Because meditation’s job is to clear defilements. Nope. It’s for the happiness here and now and to set an example for later generations.

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So the Buddha meant to say: I have already given you the full Dhamma, if somebody thinks that is not enough, they should look for themselves?

Does this mean that, if somebody cleared the defilements by logical reasoning alone and without meditation, that meditation is not necessary for Arahatship?

No. The Buddha is referring to himself. Since he doesn’t think in those manner he doesn’t need to make pronouncements. It can be read as that if there’s anything the Buddha held back, this, while he’s near death would be the time to reveal it. Buddha gave 2 reasons there why he does not need to make pronouncements.

It’s not possible to clear defilements by logical reasoning alone. Meditation is part of the noble 8fold path. Read MN64 for Jhāna is needed for the attainments at least from non-returner onwards.

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