can laypersons become arahanta?

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can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun May 17, 2009 6:36 pm

there seems to be an idea (that i run up against from time to time) in thai buddhism that only monks (and so only men) can become arahants and that some of the buddha's teachings are only meant for them(monks), and the role of lay people is to just make merit and give gifts to the monks

does this thinking have any foothold in the pali canon?

if not could i get references of laypeople achieving the level of arahant?

my take on the whole matter is that this is an idea that comes from nagasena (isnt that the monk in the debate of king malinda?) and not from the buddha, but hey i've been wrong before!

thanks
jc
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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby Jechbi » Sun May 17, 2009 6:43 pm

Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun May 17, 2009 7:13 pm

Yes. There are a few examples, such as Uggasena.

It is said that such Arahants must ordain or they will die within seven days.

The Lay Arahant
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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby piotr » Sun May 17, 2009 7:30 pm

Bhante,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:It is said that such Arahants must ordain or they will die within seven days.

The Lay Arahant


This text says that lay arahant must ordain the very same day:

    If a layman attains Arahantship he must, because of the weakness of that condition, enter the Order that very day or die.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby cooran » Sun May 17, 2009 8:47 pm

Hello all,

This may be helpful:

The Parinnibbna of the Arahat who is a Layman.

Introduction.

This was one of the subjects of discussion between King Milinda and the arahat Ngasena, as discribed in the Questions of King Milinda. ... This issue deals with the parinibbna of the arahat who is a layman. Thereare two kinds of parinibbna: the full extinction of defilements (kilesa parinibbna) and the full extinction of the khandhas (khanda parinibbna). In this issue, parinibbna stands for the full extinction of the khandhas,the final passing away of the arahat. He will not be reborn.

Issue of Analysis : will a layman who attains the excellent quality of arahatship but who does not become a monk attain parinibbna on that day, or within seven days?

Conclusion regarding the analysis of this issue : A layman who attains arahatship but who does not become a monk will attain parinibbna on that very day.

The source which supports this conclusion : Milindas Questions, Seventh Division, no 2: If a Householder attains Arahatship.

Explanation of the reasons for this conclusion :

Milindas Questions, Seventh Division, no 2, explains clearly that a layman who attains arahatship but who does not become a monk must attain parinibbna on that very day. The text states:

Revered Ngasena, you say: There are two bourns [2], not another, for a householder who has attained arahantship: either, that very day he goes forth (into homelessness) or he attains final nibbna. That day is not able to pass (without one or other of these events taking place). If revered Ngasena, he obtain neither a teacher nor a preceptor nor a bowl and robe on that day, could that arahant go forth of himself, or could he let the day pass? Or if some other arahant of psychic power arrived could he let him go forth? Or would he attain final nibbna? An arahant, sire, cannot go forth of oneself. On going forth of oneself one falls into theft [3]. Nor could he let the day pass. Whether another arahant arrived or not, he would attain final nibbna that very day. Well then, revered Ngasena, the peaceful state of arahantship is given up if the life of him who attains it in this manner is carried away. Unequal [4], sire, are the attributes of a householder. The attributes being unequal, it is owing to the weakness of his attributes that a householder who has attained arahanship either goes forth or attains final nibbana on that very day. This is not a defect in arahantship, sire, this is a defect in the householders attributes, namely the weakness of the attributes. It is sire, as the food that guards the lifespan and protects the life of all beings yet carries away the life of him whose stomach is out of order and who has a sluggish and weak digestion, because it is not properly digested. This, sire, is not a defect in the food, this is a defect in the stomach, namely a weakness in its heat. Even so, sire, the attributes being unequal, it is owing to the weakness of his attributes that a householder who has attained arahantship either goes forth or attains final nibbna on that very day. This is not a defect in arahantship, sire, this is a defect in the householders attributes, namely the weakness of the attributes. Or, sire, as a heavy stone may be put on top of a small stalk of grass which in its weakness is broken and collapses, even so, sire, the householder who has attained arahanship (but) being unable to sustain arahantship because of that attribute (of weakness) either goes forth or attains final nibbna on that very day. Or, sire, as a man who is feeble and weak, of lowly birth and of little merit, comes to naught and to ruin the moment he has acquired a great and mighty kingdom, falters and is unable to sustain the authority, even so, sire, the householder who has attained arahantship is unable to sustain arahantship because of that attribute (of weakness), and for that reason he either goes forth or attains final nibbana on that very day.
It is good, revered Nagasena; so it is, therefore do I accept it.
******
Footnotes

2. Bourne is the translation of the Pali: gati, which can mean destiny, course, behaviour. Here it could mean: course.
3. This refers to living in communion as it were by theft, being unworthy of it, since he did not follow what was prescribed. We read in the Visuddhimagga I, 125, that there are for the monk four kinds of use of the requisites: use as a theft, use as a debt, use as an inheritance and use as a master. We read: Herein, use by one who is unvirtuous and makes use (of the requisites), even sitting in the midst of the community, is called use as a theft. Use without reviewing them with mindfulness is use as a debt. Use by ariyans who are not arahats is use as inheritance and use by arahats is use as a master.
4. The state of a layman cannot be compared to the monks state, it is not equal to it.
***
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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 17, 2009 10:16 pm

Jechbi wrote:Ghatikara

As I understand it, Ghatikara was a non-returner, not an Arahant. There is a Samyutta Nikaya conversation between him (as a Deva) and the Buddha 1:50 {s i 35-36} (page 125 in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation). There's a nice talk about the MN Sutta by Ajahn Brahm at http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/SuttaStudy.rss.php

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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby Jechbi » Sun May 17, 2009 10:21 pm

That's true, and I thought about deleting or editing my post. But I left it, since it's stil inspiring. Thanks.
:anjali:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 17, 2009 10:25 pm

Jechbi wrote:That's true, and I thought about deleting or editing my post. But I left it, since it's stil inspiring. Thanks.
:anjali:

Yes, as I said on the other thread I think it's a very inspiring Sutta - someone who cannot become a monk due to his family commitments, but manages to nevertheless live mostly like a monk, supported by whatever people choose to give him for the pots he makes.

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Re: can laypersons become arahanta?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon May 18, 2009 12:41 am

jcsuperstar wrote:only monks ... can become arahants ... and the role of lay people is to just make merit and give gifts to the monks

does this thinking have any foothold in the pali canon?

No.

this is an idea that comes from nagasena

Nope.

I hope this is helpful. :)
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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