Why is the Anagarika ideal in lifestyle not widespread in Theravada countries (or Buddhist countries)?

I always thought the Anagarika ideal/lifestyle to be intriguing because it’s a nice middle point between being a lay person and a monk (Samanera or Bhikkhu).

In modern Theravada countries, it seems to me that generally some individuals take the 8 precepts, become white-robed Anagarikas and live in the monastery just as a preparation for Samanera ordination and then Bhikkhu ordination. Either that or on the uposatha days the lay people take the 8 precepts for the day in order to intensify their practice.

But what about becoming an Anagarika, continuing to work on a job and having a house since it’s not forbidden for Anagarikas to handle money or work? Although they cannot form a family (celibacy) and cannot indulge in any sensual pleasures / entertainment so it would definitely be a more challenging lifestyle.

My guess is that at the time of the Buddha, this was sorta the “testing ground” for one to see if he/she is really able to take on more strict responsibilities of a monastic lifestyle. If one cannot take it then one returns to being an Upasaka/Upasika instead of proceding to ordination and full ordination. What do you think?


There are a significant number of people in Theravada countries who live at home keeping eight precepts. They are just called “upasaka/upasika”.


I think that’s exactly the problem. You are basically asking ppl to still have the burdens of the lay life (i.e. work) without the pleasures of it (e.g., sex, entertainment, eating dinner with friends, etc). I can see why few ppl would want to do this, unless they’ve already achieved a high degree of attainment (e.g., freedom from sensual attachments) and need a job to support their parents or something.

This has been discussed in other threads here, but it appears from the suttas that the training opinion was 5 precepts + 8 on Uposatha days… e.g. Ud 5.6.

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Anagarika Dharmapala:

" ‘Dharmapāla’ means ‘protector of the dharma’. ‘Anagārika’ in Pāli means “homeless one”. It is a midway status between monk and layperson. As such, he took the eight precepts (refrain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, wrong speech, intoxicating drinks and drugs, eating after noon, entertainments and fashionable attire, and luxurious beds) for life. These eight precepts were commonly taken by Ceylonese laypeople on observance days.[6] But for a person to take them for life was highly unusual. Dharmapala was the first anagarika – that is, a celibate, full-time worker for Buddhism – in modern times. It seems that he took a vow of celibacy at the age of eight and remained faithful to it all his life. Although he wore a yellow robe, it was not of the traditional bhikkhu pattern, and he did not shave his head. He felt that the observance of all the vinaya rules would get in the way of his work, especially as he flew around the world. Neither the title nor the office became popular, but in this role, he “was the model for lay activism in modernist Buddhism.”[7] He is considered a bodhisattva in Sri Lanka.[8]"—Wikipedia

Anagarika Dharmapala is remembered for missionary work, not for progress in practice. Probably many aspire to this level of practice but in lay life cannot maintain the precepts to the degree required. Nevertheless it’s profitable to pursue it as a goal and always keep the practice at the limit of one’s abilities and that requires going beyond conventional patterns. Samsara has a coercive pressure directed to its own goals which must be identified and overcome.


At least here in Thailand, it is common, especially for women. For men it’s not as common because it’s easy for Thai men to ordain.