The Buddha’s community of monastic and lay disciples
Th.189 The four kinds of disciples
In this passage, the Buddha, in his eightieth year, is reminded of something he had said long ago about how he would not pass away until his four kinds of disciples were well trained and able to pass on the Dhamma he had taught, based on their own realisation and practice. He goes on to say that he now has such disciples.
I will not attain final nirvana (at death) till I have monk disciples … nun disciples … laymen disciples … and laywomen disciples who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, versed in Dhamma, practising Dhamma in accordance with Dhamma, practising the proper way, conducting themselves according to Dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their own teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, till they shall be able by means of Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect.
Mahā-parinibbāna Sutta: Dīgha-nikāya II.104–105, trans. P.H.
Th.190 Laypeople and monastics support one another on the path
This passage sees the mutual giving of laypeople and monastics as the basis for progress on the path to nirvana. Laypeople supply monks and nuns with material support, and the monastics teach Dhamma, the best of gifts, to laypeople. Monastics rely on material support freely given by the laity, as they are not allowed paid employment or to farm.
Monks, brahmins and householders are very helpful to you, as they provide you with the requisites of robes, alms food, bed and lodgings and medical requisites for support during sickness. You, too, monks, are very helpful to brahmins and householders, as you teach them the Dhamma that is lovely in the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely in its culmination; as you expound the holy life, both in meaning and letter, that is whole and complete, that is pure. In this way the holy life is lived in mutual dependence, for the purpose of crossing over the flood (of life’s pains), for rightly making an end of suffering.
Householders and the homeless (renunciants) in mutual dependence, both reach the true Dhamma: the unsurpassed safety from bondage.
Bahūpakārā Sutta: Itivuttaka 111, trans. P.H.
The monastic Sangha
Th.191 Guiding principles for the monastic Sangha
Then, soon after Vassakara’s departure, the Blessed One addressed Venerable Ānanda thus: ‘Ānanda, go now and assemble in the hall of audience as many monks as live around Rājagaha.’ ‘Very well, venerable sir.’ Venerable Ānanda did as he was requested and informed the Blessed One: ‘Venerable sir, the community of monks is assembled. Now let the Blessed One do as he wishes.’
Thereupon the Blessed One rose from his seat, went up to the hall of audience, took his appointed seat there, and addressed the monks thus: ‘Monks, I shall set for seven conditions leading to welfare. Listen and pay heed to what I shall say.’ ‘Yes, venerable sir.’ ‘Monks, the growth of the monk’s Sangha is to be expected, not their decline, so long as they assemble frequently and in large numbers … so long as they meet and disperse peacefully and attend to the affairs of the community in concord. … so long as they appoint no new rules, and do not abolish the existing ones, but proceed in accordance with the code of discipline laid down. … so long as they show respect, honour, esteem, and veneration towards the elder monks, those of long standing, long gone forth, the fathers and leaders of the community, and think it worthwhile to listen to them. … so long as they do not come under the power of the craving that leads to renewed existence. … so long as they cherish the forest depths for their dwellings. … so long as they establish themselves in mindfulness, so that well behaved companions in the holy life who have not come yet might do so, and those already come might live in peace.
Monks, so long as these seven conditions leading to welfare endure among the community of monks and the community of monks are known for it, their growth is to be expected, not their decline.
Mahā-parinibbāna Sutta: Dīgha-nikāya II.76–77, trans. G.A.S.
Th.192 Monastic harmony comes from kindness, sharing, and working together in following moral precepts and developing insight
In this passage, the Buddha addresses the monks of Kosambi who he had been told were quarrelling with each other in a harsh and uncompromising way.
The Blessed One said: ‘Monks, at a time when you have started a quarrel, a dispute, engaged in contentions, and living piercing each other with sharp dagger-like words, are you established towards co-associates in the holy life outwardly and inwardly in bodily, verbal and mental actions of loving kindness?’ ‘No, venerable sir.’ ‘Foolish men, knowing and seeing what benefit, are you living like this? This will be for your harm and suffering for a long time.’
Then the Blessed One addressed the monks: ‘Monks, there are these six qualities which conduce to harmony, friendliness, reverence, politeness, non-contentiousness, unity, and togetherness. What six? Here, monks, loving kindness in bodily action is established in a monk towards co-associates in the holy life outwardly and inwardly, loving kindness in verbal action … loving kindness in mental action … Again monks, gains that are right and righteously obtained, even as much as the contents of a begging bowl, the monk would not partake of without sharing equally with the virtuous co-associates in the holy life. Again, in respect of those good precepts, not broken, not flawed, spotless, unblemished, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, conducive to meditative concentration, a monk lives having become equal in them with the co-associates in the holy life outwardly and inwardly. Again in respect of the view that is noble, tending towards liberation, leading the person who acts accordingly to the proper destruction of suffering, a monk becomes equal with the co-associates in the holy life outwardly and inwardly in holding such a view.
Kosambiya Sutta: Majjhima-nikāya I.321–323, trans. P.D.P.
Amongst the rules followed by monks, the most important are ones which, if broken, entail ‘defeat’ in the monastic life (see *V.84): automatically ceasing to be a monk, and permanent dismissal. They are broken, respectively, by: any form of sexual intercourse; theft of anything of sufficient value to normally entail legal prosecution; intentional killing of a human, including aiding or encouraging suicide; lying about having attained an advanced spiritual state (Vinaya I.23, 46, 73, 91). The last of these is a serious offence as doing it could be a way to attract more donations and gain undeserved respect and influence. Celibacy is a central aspect of monastic training, as sexual desire is seen as a strong form of craving, sexual thoughts and activity waste energy that can be better used in spiritual practice, and children and family would also be a diversion from this (see*L.8). There are over 200 other monastic rules, covering many matters of moral behaviour and spiritual training to reduce attachment and prompt mindfulness. On these and the situation as regards nuns, see *SI.2 and heading before *Th.220.
Th.193 Moral instruction to monks and nuns
This passage counsels a simple, non-attached life for monks and nuns.
Monks, listen, I will tell you the scrupulous moral teaching, the way of conduct that is fitting for one who has renounced. The wise one who has vision into wellbeing should practise it.
The monk should not wander for alms at untimely hours. He should wander for alms in the village at the proper time. Attachment sticks to one who wanders at untimely hours. Therefore, the awakened ones do not wander at the wrong time.
Forms, sounds, tastes, smells and (bodily) contacts intoxicate living beings. Abandoning the desire for these things, he should set out for breakfast.
The monk, having obtained alms-food at the proper time, should return alone and sit in seclusion. With a composed self, he should direct his thoughts within and not let the mind get distracted outwards.
If engaged in conversation with a disciple or even with another monk, he should bring out the excellent teaching, but not engage in divisive talk or making accusations against others.
Some show opposition to an argument. These persons with little wisdom, I do not praise. Attachment sticks to them through this or that, and in that context they make their minds go (wandering) far.
The monk, the disciple of the noble and wise one, having heard the teaching taught by the Fortunate One should discriminately use alms-food, dwellings, beds, and seats, and water that removes the dust of the outer robe.
Therefore, the monk is not tainted, just as the lotus leaf (is untainted) by drops of water, by these things such as alms-food, beds and seats and water that removes the dust of the outer robes.
Dhammika Sutta: Sutta-nipāta 376 and 385–392, trans. P.D.P.
Th.194 How a monk should relate to food
The first passage, on avoiding an evening meal, is expressed in the monastic code as not eating after noon (Vinaya IV.85–86). The second passage is on the right manner of gathering alms-food and the attitude to it.
On one occasion the Blessed One was wandering in the Kāsi country together with a large Sangha of monks. There he addressed the monks thus: ‘I abstain from eating an evening meal. By so doing, I enjoy health, strength and comfortable abiding. Come, monks, abstain from eating an evening meal. By doing so, you too will be free from illness and affliction, and you will enjoy health, strength, and a comfortable abiding.’
Kīṭāgiri Sutta: Majjhima-nikāya I.473 trans. G.A.S.
As a bee gathers nectar from a flower and leaves without damaging its colour or fragrance, so should a sage wander (for alms) in a village.
A monk who does not despise what he has received, even though it be little, who is pure in livelihood and unremitting in effort – him even the gods praise.
Dhammapada 49 and 366, trans. P.H.
Th.195 Unenlightened disciples still have work to do with diligence
Monks, I do not say of all monks that they still have some practice to do with diligence; nor do I say of all monks that they have no more practice to do with diligence.
Monks, I do not say of those monks who are arahants with intoxicating inclinations destroyed … Why is that? They have done their practice with diligence; they are no more capable of being negligent.
Monks, I say so of those monks who are trainees, whose minds have not yet reached the goal, and who are still aspiring to the unsurpassed security from bondage, that they still have some practice to do with diligence. Why is that? Because when those venerable ones make use of suitable lodging and associate with spiritual friends and nurture their spiritual faculties, they may, by realizing it for themselves with direct insight, in this present life enter upon and dwell in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the home-life into homelessness. Seeing this fruit of diligence for these monks, I say that they still have some practice to do with diligence.
Kīṭāgiri Sutta: Majjhima-nikāya I.477–479, trans. G.A.S.
Th.196 The duty of meditative training
In this passage, the Buddha speaks in praise of a new monk who meditates and attains awakening though other monks criticize him for not participating in everyday monastic duties.
Now on that occasion a certain newly ordained monk, after returning from the alms round, would enter his dwelling after the meal and pass the time living at ease and keeping silent. He did not render service to the monks at the time of making robes. Then a number of monks approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and reported this matter to him.
Then the Blessed One addressed a certain monk thus, ‘Come, monk, tell that monk in my name that the teacher calls him.’ ‘Yes, venerable sir’, that monk replied to the Blessed One and went to the monk and told him, ‘Friend, the teacher calls you.’ ‘Yes, friend’, that monk replied and approached the Blessed One, paid respect to him, and sat down to one side.
The Blessed One then said to him:, ‘Monk, is it true that after returning from the alms round you enter your dwelling after meal and pass the time living at ease and keeping silent, and you do not render service to the monks at the time of making robes?’ ‘Venerable sir, I am doing my duty.’
Then the Blessed One, having known with his own mind the reflection in that monk’s mind, addressed the monks thus: ‘Monks, do not find fault with this monk. This monk is one who gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four stages of absorption that constitute the higher mind and provide a pleasant dwelling in this very life. And he is one who, by realizing it for himself with direct insight, in this very life enters and dwells in that unsurpassed goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the household life into homelessness.
Nava Sutta: Saṃyutta-nikāya II.277–278, trans. G.A.S.
Th.197 Wandering rightly in the world
A monk should wander without grasping at anything or anyone, being like a lotus leaf which water does not stick to, but rolls off (see *Th.193).
‘For whom the omens, meteors, dreams and signs are rooted out’, said the Blessed One, ‘whose stains of omens were completely forsaken, that monk would wander rightly in the world.
A monk should cut his attachment to the pleasures of the senses, both human and divine. Having gone beyond (any) way of being (identity), having understood the Dhamma, he would wander rightly in the world.
Having put slander behind, a monk should abandon anger and unkindness. With compliance, having discarded opposition completely, he would wander rightly in the world.
Having abandoned the pleasant and the unpleasant, not grasping, not dependent on anything, completely released from the fetters, he would wander rightly in the world.
He does not come across any essence in acquisitions. Having cut his attachment and desire for what is taken, being independent, not to be led by others, he would wander rightly in the world.
Unopposed in word, thought, and deed, rightly knowing the Dhamma, desiring nirvana, he would wander rightly in the world.
If any monk were not haughty, (thinking) ‘He salutes me’, and even when abused were not to ruminate on it, and having received food from another were not to be elated, he would wander rightly in the world.
He has abandoned greed and a way of being, abstaining from cutting and binding others, he has crossed over doubt, and is without the barb. That monk would wander rightly in the world.
Knowing what is appropriate for himself, a monk should not harm anyone in this world. Knowing the Dhamma as it really is, he would wander rightly in the world.’
Sammā-paribbājaniya Sutta: Sutta-nipāta 359–375, trans. G.A.S.
Th.198 Recycling old robes
Here Ānanda explains that, though there may be many gifts to the monastic Sangha, they are made very good use of, in a non-wasteful way.
Then King Udena’s concubines approached Venerable Ānanda. Having approached, having greeted Venerable Ānanda, they sat down at a respectful distance. Venerable Ānanda gladdened, rejoiced, roused, delighted King Udena’s concubines with a talk on Dhamma as they were sitting down at a respectful distance.
Then King Udena’s concubines, gladdened, rejoiced, roused, delighted by Venerable Ānanda with a Dhamma talk presented five hundred inner robes to Venerable Ānanda. Then King Udena’s concubines, pleased with Venerable Ānanda’s words, having thanked Venerable Ānanda, rising from their seats, having greeted Venerable Ānanda, having kept their right sides towards him, went to King Udena.
King Udena saw the concubines coming in the distance. Seeing them he spoke thus to the concubines, ‘Did you see the renunciant Ānanda?’ ‘Yes, sir, we did see master Ānanda.’ ‘Did not you give anything to the renunciant Ānanda?’ ‘Sir, we gave five hundred inner robes to master Ānanda.’ King Udena looked down upon, criticised, spread it about, saying: ‘How can this renunciant Ānanda accept so many robes? Will the renunciant Ānanda set up trade in woven cloth or will he offer them for sale in a shop?’ Then King Udena approached Venerable Ānanda. Having approached, he exchanged greetings with Venerable Ānanda. Having exchanged greetings of friendliness and courtesy, he sat down at a respectful distance. As he was sitting down at a respectful distance, King Udena spoke thus to Venerable Ānanda, ‘Did not our concubines come here, Venerable Ānanda?’ ‘Your majesty, your concubines did come here.’ ‘Did they not give anything to Venerable Ānanda?’ ‘Your majesty, they gave me five hundred inner robes.’ ‘Venerable Ānanda, what can you do with so
‘Your majesty, I will share them with those monks whose robes are worn thin.’ ‘Venerable Ānanda, what will you do with those old robes that are worn thin?’ ‘Your majesty, we will make them into upper coverings.’ ‘Venerable Ānanda, what will you do with those upper coverings that are old?’ ‘Your majesty, we will make them into mattress coverings.’ ‘Venerable Ānanda, what will you do with those mattress coverings that are old?’ ‘Your majesty, we will make them into ground coverings.’ ‘Venerable Ānanda, what will you do with those ground coverings that are old?’ ‘Your majesty, we will make them into foot-wipers.’ ‘Venerable Ānanda, what will you do with those foot-wipers that are old?’ ‘Your majesty, we will make them into dusters. ‘Venerable Ānanda, what will you do with those dusters that are old?’ ‘Your majesty, having torn them into shreds, having kneaded them with mud, we will smear a plaster-flooring.’
Then King Udena, thinking, ‘These renunciants, the Sakyans, use everything in an orderly way and do not let things go to waste, offered even another five hundred woven cloths to Venerable Ānanda.
Cullavagga XI. 13–14: Vinaya II.290–292, trans. G.A.S.
Types of noble disciples
Those who have been deeply spiritually transformed by practising the noble eightfold path are known as ‘noble ones’ (ariya). The highest kind of noble one, other than a perfectly awakened Buddha or a solitary-buddha, is (1) the arahant, who has ended all defilements, and is beyond any further rebirth. The three other main kinds of noble ones are: (2) ) non-returners, who will not return to the ‘sensual desire’ realm of humans and lower gods, but will mostly be reborn in one or all five of the ‘pure abodes’ (*ThI.6) within the brahmā heavens, and there become arahants; (3) once-returners, who will only have one more rebirth as a human or in the lower heavens; and (4) ‘stream-enterers’, who will definitely attain arahantship within seven lives at most (Aṅguttara-nikāya I.233), and will not be reborn at less than a human level. There are also those who are intently practising at a level that will lead in this life to becoming a stream-enterer, or a once-returner, or a non-returner, or an arahant.
Th.199 The Sangha of noble persons
This is part of a passage on the Three Refuges that is frequently chanted in Pāli in devotional settings, as well as being reflected on in devotional meditations (see *Th.134). It is on the qualities of the Noble Sangha of disciples. The term translated as ‘disciple’ is sāvaka, literally ‘hearer’, i.e. a true hearer who has heard and been transformed by the Dhamma, so as to be fully or partially awakened. These are the ‘four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals’: persons at the four stages of permanent spiritual transformation – stream-enterers, once-returners, non-returners and arahants – and also those serious practitioners definitively established on the paths to each of these. These might be monastics or serious laypersons, and can even include some gods. They are all the ‘unsurpassed field of karmic benefit for the world’ as gifts given to them bring greatly positive karmic fruits.
Here, monks, a disciple who is a noble one is endowed with confirmed confidence in the Sangha thus: ‘The Sangha (Community) of the Blessed One’s disciples is practising the good way, practising the straight way, practising the true way, practising the proper way; that is to say, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals: the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of karmic benefit for the world.’
Rājā Sutta: Saṃyutta-nikāya V.343, trans. P.H.
Th.200 The ten fetters overcome by noble disciples
The four main kinds of noble ones progressively overcome what are known as the ten fetters. The ‘lower’ fetters bind a person to the rebirths in the realm of sensual desire , in a hell or as a hungry ghost, animal, human, or in one of the lower heavens; the ‘higher’ ones bind a person to the more refined heavenly rebirths of the elemental form and the formless levels. ‘View on personality’ is regarding the body, feeling, perception, volitional activities or consciousness as Self, a possession of Self, within Self or containing Self. Deeper than this is ‘conceit’: self-centredness based on the vague sense of ‘I am’ (Saṃyutta-nikāya III.130–131).
Monks, there are these five lower fetters. What five? View on personality, vacillation, clinging to rules and vows, sensual desire, and ill-will …
Monks, there are these five higher fetters. What five? Attachment to form, attachment to the formless, conceit, restlessness and ignorance.
Oram-bhāgiya and Uddham-bhāgiya Suttas: Saṃyutta-nikāya V.61, trans. P.H.
Th.201 The four main kinds of noble disciples
This passage differentiates the main kinds of noble ones in terms of fetters or intoxicating inclinations (āsava) eradicated. The arahant is defined as one who has ended all the intoxicating inclinations (explained at *Th.128) as well as all the above fetters.
A monk, from the elimination of (the first) three fetters, is a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world,645 fixed in destiny, with awakening as his destination. Again, a monk, from the elimination of three fetters and the reduction of attachment, hatred and delusion, 646 is a once-returner; coming to this world once (more), he makes an end of the painful. Again, a monk, from the elimination of the five lower fetters will be of spontaneous rebirth; he is one who attains nirvana without returning from that world. Again, a monk, from the destruction of the intoxicating inclinations, reaches in this very life the liberation of mind without intoxicating inclinations and liberation by wisdom which he has realised by his own higher knowledge, and having attained (this), dwells (in it).
Mahāli Sutta: Dīgha-nikāya I.156, trans. P.H.
Th.202 The factors of stream-entry
This passage describes what are elsewhere called the ‘four factors of stream-entry’ (e.g. Saṃyutta-nikāya V.407–08).
Monks, a Wheel-turning monarch, having exercised supreme sovereign rulership over the four continents, with the dissolution of the body, after death is reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world … still, as he does not possess four things, he is not freed from hell, the animal realm, the domain of ghosts … Although, monks, a noble disciple maintains himself by lumps of alms-food and wears rag robes, still, as he possesses four things, he is freed from hell, the animal realm, the domain of ghosts …
What are the four? Here, monks, the noble disciple is endowed with firm confidence in the Buddha … confirmed confidence in the Dhamma … confirmed confidence in the Sangha. He is endowed with the virtues dear to the noble ones – unbroken,647 untorn, unblemished, unmottled, freeing, praised by the wise, unclung to, leading to meditative concentration. …
And, monks, between the obtaining of sovereignty over the four continents and obtaining these four things, the obtaining of sovereignty over the four continents is not worth a sixteenth part of obtaining these four things.
Rāja Sutta: Saṃyutta-nikāya V.342–343, trans. P.H.
Th.203 No mental pain in response to being in physical pain
This passage describes the non-returner, who is free from sensual desire and aversion, and the arahant.
The instructed noble disciple, being contacted by painful feeling, does not sorrow, grieve or lament; he does not weep, beating his breast and become distraught. He feels one feeling: a bodily one, not a mental one. Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, but they would not strike him immediately afterwards with a second dart, so that the man would feel a feeling caused by one dart only. So too …
Sallattena Sutta: Saṃyutta-nikāya IV.209, trans. P.H.
Th.204 The accomplished community
In this passage, the Buddha affirms that he has far more than 500 in each of these categories: arahant monks, arahant nuns, non-returner celibate laymen disciples, stream-enterer non-celibate laymen disciples, non-returner celibate laywomen disciples, and stream-enterer non-celibate laywomen disciples.
‘Vaccha, when a monk has abandoned craving, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm stump, done away with it so that it is no longer subject to future arising, that monk is an arahant with intoxicating inclinations destroyed, one who has lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached the ultimate goal, utterly destroyed the fetter (of attachment to) ways of being,648 liberated with right gnosis.’
‘Venerable Gotama, apart from Venerable Gotama, is there any monk, Venerable Gotama’s disciple, who by realizing it for himself with direct (supernormal) knowledge, in this present life enters upon and dwells in the freedom of mind, freedom by wisdom, which, with the destruction of the intoxicating inclinations, is without intoxicating inclinations?’ ‘Vaccha, there are not only one hundred, or two or three or four or five hundred, but far more monks, my disciples, of such a kind.’
‘Venerable Gotama, apart from Venerable Gotama and the monks, is there any nun of such a kind?’ ‘Vaccha, there are not only one hundred, or two or three or four or five hundred, but far more nuns, my disciples, of such a kind.’
‘Venerable Gotama, apart from Venerable Gotama and the monks and nuns, is there any male lay follower, Venerable Gotama’s disciple, clothed in white leading a life of celibacy who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, will be reborn spontaneously (in the ‘pure abodes’ where only non-returners dwell) and there attain final nirvana without ever returning from that world?’ ‘Vaccha, there are not only one hundred, or two or three or four or five hundred, but far more male lay followers, my disciples, of such a kind.’
‘Venerable Gotama, apart from Venerable Gotama, the monks and nuns, and the male lay followers clothed in white leading celibacy, is there any male lay follower, Venerable Gotama’s disciple, clothed in white enjoying sensual pleasures, who carries out his instruction, responds to his advice, has gone beyond (the fetter of) vacillation (so as to be a stream-enterer), become free from perplexity, gained intrepidity, and become independent of others in the teacher’s dispensation?’ ‘Vaccha, there are not only one hundred or two or three or four or five hundred, but far more male lay followers, my disciples, of such a kind.’
‘Venerable Gotama, apart from Venerable Gotama, the monks and nuns, and the male lay followers clothed in white, both those leading lives of celibacy and those enjoying sensual pleasures, is there any female lay follower, Venerable Gotama’s disciple, clothed in white leading a life of celibacy who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, will be reborn spontaneously and there attain final nirvana without ever returning from that world?’ ‘Vaccha, there are not only one hundred or two or three or four or five hundred, but far more female lay followers, my disciples, of such a kind.’
‘Venerable Gotama, apart from Venerable Gotama, monks and nuns, and the male lay followers clothed in white, both those leading lives of celibacy and those enjoying sensual pleasures, and the female lay followers clothed in white leading lives of celibacy, is there any one female lay follower, Venerable Gotama’s disciple, clothed in white enjoying sensual pleasures, who carries out his instruction, responds to his advice, has gone beyond vacillation, become free from perplexity, gained intrepidity, and become independent of others in the teacher’s dispensation?’ ‘Vaccha, there are not only one hundred or two or three or four or five hundred, but far more female lay followers, my disciples, of such a kind’ …
Venerable Gotama, if only Venerable Gotama were accomplished in this Dhamma, but no monks ... nuns ... male lay followers ... female lay followers..., then this holy life would be deficient in that respect; but because Venerable Gotama, monks and nuns, male lay followers clothed in white, both those leading lives of celibacy and those enjoying sensual pleasures, and female lay followers clothed in white, both those leading lives of celibacy and those enjoying sensual pleasures, are accomplished in this Dhamma, this holy life is thus complete in that respect.
Venerable Gotama, just as the river Ganges inclines toward the sea, slopes toward the sea, flows toward the sea, and reaches the sea, so too Venerable Gotama’s assembly with its homeless ones and its householders inclines toward nirvana slopes toward nirvana, flows toward nirvana, and reaches toward nirvana.
Mahā-vacchagotta Sutta: Majjhima-nikāya I.490–493, trans. G.A.S.
The nature of arahants and their difference from a Buddha have been discussed to some extent in passages *Th.7–8 and section introduction before these. Like the Buddha, though, they are ‘profound, immeasurable, hard to fathom as is the great ocean’ (*Th.10).
Th.205 The Buddha’s first five disciples become arahants
This passage follows on from the Buddha’s first discourse: *L.27.
And Venerable Koṇḍañña who had seen Dhamma, attained Dhamma, understood Dhamma, plunged into Dhamma, overcome vacillation, dispelled all doubts, attained full confidence in the teacher’s instruction by himself, without dependence on anybody else, spoke to the Blessed One, ‘Venerable sir, may I receive the going forth and higher ordination in the presence of the Blessed One?’ ‘Come, monk, said the Blessed One, well-taught is the Dhamma; lead a holy life for the sake of complete ending of the painful. Just this was Venerable one’s receiving of the higher ordination. 649
Then the Blessed One exhorted and instructed the other monks with Dhamma-talk. And while they were being exhorted and instructed by the Blessed One with Dhamma-talk, Venerable Vappa and Venerable Bhaddiya obtained the dust-free, stainless vision of Dhamma: ‘whatever is subject to origination, all that is subject to cessation.’650
Then they who had seen Dhamma, attained Dhamma, understood Dhamma, plunged into Dhamma, overcome vacillation, dispelled all doubts, attained full confidence in the teacher’s instruction by himself, without dependence on anybody else, spoke to the Blessed One, ‘Venerable sir, may we receive the going forth and higher ordination in the presence of the Blessed One?’ ‘Come, monks, said the Blessed One, well-taught is the Dhamma; lead a holy life for the sake of complete ending of the painful. Just this was the venerable one’s receiving of the higher ordination.
And the Blessed One, living on what the monks brought him, exhorted and instructed the other (two) monks with Dhamma-talk; in this way the six individuals lived on what the (first) three monks brought home from their alms-round.
And while they were being exhorted and instructed by the Blessed One with Dhamma-talk, Venerable Mahānāma and Venerable Assaji obtained the dust-free, stainless vision of Dhamma: ‘whatever is subject to origination, all that is subject to cessation.’
Then they who had seen Dhamma, attained Dhamma, understood Dhamma, plunged into Dhamma, overcome vacillation, dispelled all doubts, attained full confidence in the teacher’s instruction by himself, without dependence on anybody else, spoke to the Blessed One, ‘Venerable sir, may we receive the going forth and higher ordination in the presence of the Blessed One?’ ‘Come, monks, said the Blessed One, well-taught is the Dhamma; lead a holy life for the sake of complete ending of the painful. Just this was the venerable one’s receiving of the higher ordination. Then the Blessed One addressed the group of five monks: ‘Monks, body is non-Self651 ... feeling ... perception ... volitional constructions ... consciousness is non-Self ... .’
Thus spoke the Blessed One: delighted, the group of the five monks rejoiced in what the Blessed One said. While this discourse was being uttered, the minds of the group of the five monks were freed from the intoxicating inclinations without grasping. At that time, there were six arahants in the world.
Mahāvagga I.33–47: Vinaya I.12–13, trans. G.A.S.
Th.206 Praise for arahants and their qualities
Happy indeed are the arahants! No craving is found in them.
The conceit ‘I am’ is cut off, the net of delusion is burst asunder.
They have reached the unstirred state, their minds have limpid clarity.
They are unsoiled by the world:652 become the supreme, without intoxicating inclinations.
Arahanta Sutta: Saṃyutta-nikāya III.83, trans. P.H.
Th.207 Arahants as those with complete mental health
This passage sees the arahant as generally the only kind of person with complete mental health, as he or she is completely free of the ‘illnesses’ of attachment, hatred and delusion.
Monks, there are two kinds of illness. What two? Bodily illness and mental illness. People are found who can enjoy bodily health for one year up to fifty years, and even for a hundred years or more. But other than those whose intoxicating inclinations have been destroyed, it is hard to find people in the world who can enjoy mental health even for a moment.
Rogā Sutta: Aṅguttara-nikāya II.142–143, trans. P.H.
Th.208 Arahants as diamond-minded
Just as there is nothing that a diamond cannot cut, whether gem or stone, so too, with the destruction of the intoxicating inclinations, some person realizes for himself with higher knowledge, in this very life, the liberation of mind without intoxicating inclinations, the liberation by wisdom, and having entered on it, dwells in it. This person is said to have a mind like a diamond.
Vajira Sutta: Aṅguttara-nikāya I.124, trans. P.H.
Th.209 Arahants as having great equanimity as regards what they experience
How does the venerable one know, how does he see … so that through no clinging, his mind is liberated from intoxicating inclinations? Monks, when a monk is one with intoxicating inclinations destroyed … this is the nature of his answer: ‘Friends, regarding the seen, I abide unattracted, unrepelled, independent, non-attached, free, unfettered, with a mind made to be without barriers. Regarding the heard … the sensed … the discerned, I abide unattracted, unrepelled, independent, non-attached, free, unfettered, with a mind made to be without barriers.’
Chabbisodhana Sutta: Majjhima-nikāya III.30, trans. P.H.
Th.210 Arahants as without fear
This passage gives some verses of the arahant Adhimutta, when some bandits threatened to kill him. His fearless response led to them becoming his disciples.
I do not have the thought, ‘I have been’, nor do I have the thought, ‘I shall be’; conditioned things will cease to exist. What lamentation is there in that?
There is no fear for one who sees, as they have come to be, the pure and simple arising of phenomena, the pure and simple continuity of conditioned things, chieftain.
Adhimutta Thera Sutta: Theragāthā 715–716, trans. P.H.
Th.211 Arahants as beyond the knowing even of gods
This passage describes the various qualities of an arahant, though here referring to him by a term usually used of the Buddha: tathāgata. His hard-to-fathom nature echoes what is said in *Th.10.
Monks, this monk is called one who has (1) lifted the barrier, (2) whose moat has been filled in, (3) whose pillar has been uprooted, (4) whose door-bolt has been withdrawn, (5) a noble one whose banner is laid down, whose burden is laid down, who is unfettered. How? He has abandoned and cut off at the root: (1) ignorance, (2) wandering on through births that brings renewed being, (3) craving, (4) the five lower fetters653, (5) the conceit ‘I am’, has cut it off at the root …
Monks, when a monk who is thus liberated in mind, the gods with Indra, Brahmā and Pajāpati, searching, do not find: ‘Dependent on this is the consciousness of a tathāgata.’ Why is that? In this visible world, monks, I say a tathāgata is untraceable.
Alagaddūpama Sutta: Majjhima-nikāya I.139–140, trans. P.H.
Lay and monastic bodhisattvas
M.160 Monastic and lay bodhisattvas
Son of good family, there are two kinds of bodhisattvas, the householder and the monastic. It is not difficult for a monastic bodhisattva to attain liberation, but it is difficult for a householder bodhisattva. Why is this? It is because the householder bodhisattva is limited by conditions which are less supportive.
Upāsaka-śīla Sūtra, Taishō vol.24, text 1488, ch.4, p.1038a13–16, trans. T.T.S. and D.S.
M.161 Monastic and lay life contrasted
This passage praises the advantages of monastic life.
The household life is dusty and defiled.654 The renunciant life is excellent. The household life is restricted. The renunciant life is free of hindrances. The household life is filled with impurity. The renunciant life is the abandonment of impurity. The household life draws you into unwholesomeness. The renunciant life draws you into wholesomeness …
The household life is filled with loss. The renunciant life is free of loss. The household life is filled with sorrow. The renunciant life is filled with joy …
Someone who lives the household life derives little benefit from it. Someone who lives the renunciant life derives a great abundance of benefit from it … In the household life one’s torments multiply. The renunciant life is free of torments.
In the household life one is never contented. In the renunciant life one finds contentment … The household life is filled with anger. The renunciant life is filled with loving kindness. In
the household life one is carrying a burden. In the renunciant life one has put one’s burden down.
Ugra-paripṛcchā Sūtra, Taishō vol.11, text 310, p.476a24–26, a29–b3, b08–10, b14, c04–05, trans. from Chinese by D.S.
M.162 A lay bodhisattva can be like, and even excel, a renunciant one
This passage, though, says that lay life, lived well, has great scope for spiritual development.
If householder bodhisattvas possesses five qualities, then those bodhisattvas are training in the precepts of a renunciant. What are these five qualities? They are: (1) that even though those householder bodhisattvas are living at home, they are generous with all of their possessions, with minds set on omniscience, they do not seek any karmic benefit from their actions; … (2) … that their practice of celibacy655 is pure and they do not cultivate desire; … (3) … that they go to a secluded place to practise the four meditative absorptions; … (4) … that they put great effort into their training in wisdom, and help all living beings, out of compassion; … and (5) … that they protect the Dharma, and guide others in their practice …
Ānanda, this householder Ugra will serve all the Tathāgatas who appear in this fortunate eon, … and protect the true Dharma. Although he will always live as a householder, he will practise the precepts of a renunciant, and the awakening of the Tathāgatas will be heard of far and wide.
Ānanda asked the householder Ugra, ‘What benefit or happiness do you see in the household life?’ … He replied, ‘Venerable One, out of great compassion, I do not seek peace and happiness for myself. Venerable Ānanda, a bodhisattva, a great being, will endure any kind of suffering rather than abandon living beings.’
When Ugra had said these words, the Blessed One spoke to Ānanda, saying, ‘Ānanda, in this fortunate eon, this householder Ugra will bring a great many living beings to maturity whilst living as a householder – more than a renunciant bodhisattva could in a hundred eons, or even a hundred thousand eons. Why is this? Ānanda, it is because even the good qualities of a hundred thousand renunciant bodhisattvas do not match up to the good qualities of this householder Ugra.’
Ugra-paripṛcchā Sūtra, Taishō vol.11, text 310, p.479c28–480a08, 480a19–29, trans. from Chinese by D.S.
M.163 The Buddha urges his monastic disciples on
This passage gives an inspiring set of guidelines for monastics.
Monks, after I am gone you should respect and venerate the code of monastic discipline as if it were a light in the darkness, or as if you were poor and had found a precious jewel. Understand that it is this code that will be your great teacher – it will be as if I am still in the world.
Those who wish to keep their practice of the precepts pure should not engage in selling or trading. They should not own fields or houses, keep slaves, servant girls, or animals. They should stay away from all kinds of property or wealth as they would avoid the flames of hell. They should not cut down trees, cultivate the soil, or dig the earth. They should not practise medicine or fortune telling. They should not stare at the night sky, calculating the dates of the waxing and waning moon. They should not do any of these things.
They should restrain their bodies, eating at the appropriate times, and living in a pure and independent way. They should not engage in worldly affairs or serve in government. They should not make use of spells and magic potions. They should not befriend powerful people, looking for favours out of lust or pride. They should not engage in any of these activities.
They should seek liberation with an upright mind and proper mindfulness. They should not hide their flaws, or give a false impression of themselves to confuse people. They should know how much of the four requisites of monastic life656 they need, and be content with that. They should not accumulate and hoard what they receive.
This is a brief summary of how to observe the precepts. Following the precepts properly is the foundation of liberation. That is why they are called the prātimokṣa.657 It is by practising the precepts that meditative absorption and meditative concentration can be attained, that suffering can be extinguished, and wisdom attained. Therefore, monks, you should keep your practice of the precepts pure, and not break any of them. Those who are able to keep their practice of the precepts pure will be able to develop wholesome qualities. Those who are not able to do so will obtain no karmic benefit, and they will not attain wisdom. The precepts are the most important and the most secure source of karmic benefit …
Monks, during the day you should apply mental effort to training yourselves in good qualities, never missing an opportunity to do so. Do not waste the time just before you go to sleep or when you have just woken up. At midnight, you should recite sūtras to keep yourself alert. Do not let your life pass you by without achieving anything on account of sleep. Be mindful of the fact that the fire of impermanence is consuming the universe. Seek liberation right away, don’t go to sleep. The defilements are lying in wait like a thief that wants to kill you, more dangerous than your worst enemy. How can you lie there asleep and not wake up? The poisonous snakes of the defilements sleep in your own mind. It is like there is a black viper sleeping in your room, and the precepts are a hook you can use to remove it. You can only sleep securely once it has been removed. Someone who goes to sleep without removing the snake has no conscience.
Allowing oneself to be guided by a sensitive conscience is the greatest of all adornments. Conscience is like an iron hook which can pull you back from going against the Dharma. Therefore, monks, you should always cultivate a sensitive conscience without letting your guard down for a moment. If you go against your conscience, you will lose all of your karmic benefit. Those who regret their unwholesome actions develop good qualities. Those who do not regret their unwholesome actions are no better than animals …
Monks, if you apply yourselves with vigour then you will not find anything difficult. So apply yourselves with vigour, and you will be like a little stream that wears away rock by flowing constantly. If a practitioner’s mind is often inattentive, a great deal of effort will be wasted. It is like rubbing two sticks together to make a fire. If you keep stopping, it will be very difficult to get the fire going, no matter how badly you want to …
Monks, in order to obtain karmic benefit, you must abandon all self-indulgence, just as you would stay away from a spiteful enemy. The greatly compassionate Blessed One has taught that the highest state brings benefit to all. You must apply yourselves with vigour to this teaching. Whether you are dwelling in the mountains, in a marsh, or in a quiet spot in the forest, be mindful of the Dharma you have been taught. Do not forget it. Apply yourself with unwavering vigour to your task. Do not bring upon yourself the anxiety and regret of dying in vain.
Like a good doctor, I understand the sickness and prescribe the medicine. It is not the doctor’s fault if you do not take the medicine. Like a good guide, I give good directions. It is not the guide’s fault if you listen to the directions and then do not follow them.
‘Bequeathed Teaching Sūtra’/Yijiao jing, Taishō vol.12, text 389, pp.1110c20–1111a07, 1111a27–b09, 1111c17–20, 1112a14–1112a20, trans. from Chinese by D.S.
M.164 A day of no work is a day of no eating
In the Chan/Zen school, a requirement for physical work for monastics was introduced to help support fellow-feeling in a common task and complement the stillness of meditation. Such work included gardening, though the classical monastic code does not allow digging the ground as it could lead to harming small creatures in it.
Communal labour: The practice of communal labour applies to those who are strong, those who are weak, and those of average strength. In order for many people to live together harmoniously, they have to work together to support each other. The manager of the monastery should report to the abbot and send word to the chief monk. The director of the practice hall should divide up the tasks and put up a notice indicating that there is to be a period of communal labour. He should put up small pieces of paper indicating to each monk where and when they are to report for their duty. At the sound of the wooden fish or the drum, everyone should roll up their sleeves and quickly go and apply themselves to the communal labour. With the exception of the monk who is guarding the living quarters, the monk who is acting as the practice hall attendant, the old, the sick, and visitors, everyone is to participate equally. Think of our predecessor who warned, ‘A day of no work is a day of no eating’.
‘The Baizhang Zen Monastic Regulations’, Taishō vol.48, text 2025, Chapter VII, pp.1144a26–b04, trans. from Chinese by D.S.
In Tibetan Buddhism, many monks and nuns follow the ten basic monastic precepts, with a smaller core following the full monastic code of higher ordination. Respected teachers known as lamas or gurus can be lay or monastic, and there are also non-ordained yogins practising in secluded places.
V.84 The four rules that lead to defeat in the monastic life if broken
This passage is on the key rules that, if broken, lead to a monk or nun to be expelled from the Sangha. Almost identically worded rules are also found in the monastic code of the Theravādins (see heading above *Th.193) and the Mahāyānists of East Asia. They rule out sexual intercourse, theft, killing a human or aiding or inciting suicide, and false claims to advanced meditative states and insights.
Venerable Ones, there are four kinds of actions which mean that one has been defeated in the monastic life. They are included in the Prātimokṣa Sūtra, which is recited twice a month.
1. If a monk has taken up the life of monastic training, and has not withdrawn from the training or admitted his weakness, but abandons the practice of celibacy by engaging in sexual intercourse – even with an animal – then that monk has been defeated. He is no longer part of the community.
2. If a monk takes something belonging to someone else which has not been given to him, whether in a village or in the forest, in a manner that could be described as theft, in such a way that were a king or a minister to get hold of him they would have him killed, tied up, or banished, saying, ‘You are a criminal, a fool, an idiot, a thief!’, then that monk who has taken what has not been given to him has been defeated. He is no longer part of the community.
3. If a monk, consciously and with his own hand, takes the life of a human being or a being that has human form, or facilitates their death by providing them with a knife, going in search of an assassin, encouraging them to kill themselves, or speaking of the advantages of suicide, saying, ‘This life is hard, filled with impurity and evil. What do you gain from it? It would be better for you to die than to live’, and does so intentionally and deliberately, then if such actions result in death, that monk has been defeated. He is no longer part of the community.
4. If a monk claims to have attained superhuman qualities, the kind of knowledge, vision or attainments which are only attained by the noble ones, when he does not, in fact, possess these attainments, and does not know for certain that he has attained these things, and says, ‘I understand this. I know this. I see this’, and if this unfortunate monk should at a later time see things clearly and say, ‘Venerable Ones, I do not know what I said I knew. I do not understand what I said I understood. What I said were empty, useless, false words’, whether he says this after having been asked about it by others or not, then unless he genuinely believed what he said, that monk has been defeated. He is no longer part of the community.
Venerable Ones, I have now explained to you the four kinds of actions which mean that one has been defeated in the monastic life. Any monk who has committed one of these offences is not to live or eat with monks. He is what he was before.658 He has been defeated, and is no longer part of the community. So, Venerable Ones, I ask you – Are you completely pure in this regard? A second time and a third I ask you – Are you completely pure in this regard? Because of your silence, Venerable Ones, I understand you to be completely pure in this regard.
Prātimokṣa Sūtra of the Mūlasarvāstivādins, section 2, Prāt Kj ca 3a7–4a1, trans. from Sanskrit by D.S.
V.85 Advice to novices
In the following passage, Atīśa659 advises the novice monks of Tibet to give up all worldly activities and focus on solitary practice of the Dharma.
When the venerable Atīśa was staying in Yerpadrak (near Lhasa), he gave the following precept … : ‘Noble sons, consider carefully what I am now going to tell you. Generally speaking, people in this dark age660 have very short lives and many things to learn. Since there is no certainty about the length of your life-span, you should make effort to give up your (worldly) ambitions quickly. If you have possessions and make your living as a layperson does, then you should not say you are a monastic. Though you may live in a monastery, as long as you have apprehensions about forsaking your mundane activities you should not say “I am a monastic”. As long as your mind is attracted to the pleasures of this life and is full of ill-will, do not say “I am a monastic”.
Though you may live in a monastery; as long as you mix with worldly people and waste your time on idle worldly talk with those around you, do not say “I am a monastic”. As long as you cannot tolerate even a small harm done to you by others and cannot give even a small help to another person, do not say “I am a monastic bodhisattva”. If you say you are, you will be lying to the laypeople. Though you might be able to make them believe that you are one, you will not deceive those who have unhindered sight of everything, nor those who have the Dharma-eye; and the results of your actions will follow you.
The whole point of living in a monastery is to avoid mingling with worldly people and to give up attachment to relatives and friends. Once, by giving them up, you have eliminated thoughts of longing for pleasure and all causes and conditions of distraction, you will discover your own precious awakening-mind. So do not, even for a moment, follow the mind which is apprehensive about forsaking mundane activities. As you have not followed the way of Dharma so far and your mental skills are not strong enough, worldly thoughts will arise repeatedly and with great power in your mind. Unless you apply some specific antidotes against them there is no point in staying in a remote place, just like the birds and the wild animals living there …
In short, though you may live in a monastery, the Dharma will not help you unless you renounce the affairs of this life and turn your mind away from pursuing worldly ambition. Give up all activities! If you think you can act (as before) without neglecting (Dharma) either in this life or your future lives, your Dharma practice will become secondary, and if it is secondary, it can only be hypocritical and pretentious …
Always avoid bad company, and live in obscure places. Never stay in one spot, accumulating intoxicating inclinations. Whatever you do, always act in harmony with the Dharma. Whatever happens to you, use it as an antidote against the defilements. Because acting like that is authentic Dharma, you should strive at doing that. In case you manage to develop some good mental qualities, do not get puffed up with pride, falling under the power of Māra.661
Stay in remote places, pacify and tame yourself, have few desires, and be content. Do not fixate on your own good qualities and do not find fault with others. Act without fear or anxiety. Do not aggrandize concepts but always have a good heart. Undistracted by wrong things, always think of the Dharma!
Remain humble and be patient if attacked. Beware of bragging. Arrest all ambition, always be kind! Be moderate in whatever you do. You should be easy to please and easy to sustain.
Run away from the worldly like a wild animal. Unless you renounce the ways of the world you are not a Dharma practitioner. If you have not abandoned the four ways of earning livelihood,662 you are not a renunciant. Unless you have given up desires you are not a monastic. If you do not have loving kindness and compassion you are not a bodhisattva. Unless you put an end to worldly activities you are not a great meditator. Do not be misled by desire!
In short, when you stay at a monastery, just practise the Dharma without caring for anything else so that you do not have any regret when you die.’
At another time, Atīśa said: ‘This dark age is not the time for boasting; it is the time to show perseverance. It is not the time to take a high seat but to take a low seat. It is not the time to rely on attendants but to stay in solitude. It is not the time to discipline students; it is the time to discipline your own self. It is not the time to follow the words of the teaching; it is the time to think about its meaning. It is not the time to travel to and fro; it is the time to stay in one place.’
‘Miscellaneous Oral Precepts’, ff. (folio number) 9b–15a, trans. T.A.