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Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist? - Dhamma Wheel

Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
seanandrews
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Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby seanandrews » Wed May 06, 2009 12:18 pm

I have been reading about Buddhism for a year and have attended two different Mahayana sanghas to get a better sense of the different practices of Mahayana meditation. However, I keep coming back to Theravada. Something speaks to me about it. However, I am everyday American with a wife, children, job, etc. I spend time meditating every day. I feel as though I want to follow the Theravada path but have gotten a little discouraged when I have read online that Theravada Buddhism does not generally accept lay practitioners because of the amount of time needed to devote to meditation and/or that only a monk can attain nirvana and that laity can only aspire to be reborn as a monk after many reincarnations spent discharing the burden of karma. But then I have read that progressive-minded Theravadins think you can be a lay practitioner, though. I would greatly appreciate if someone could advise me on this. On one hand, I am not going to abandon my family and job to become a monk, but on the other hand, if it is possible to be a lay practitioner of Theravada Buddhism in modern-day America, I want to learn more. There is a Laotian Buddhist temple in Charlotte, NC, but I believe it is exclusive to people who have immigrated to Charlotte from Laos. And the other temples and/or sanghas in Charlotte are all one or another form of Mahayana. So I am not likely to find a support group here. Thank you so much!

Sean

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forestmat
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby forestmat » Wed May 06, 2009 12:43 pm

Greetings from Thailand!

Yes of course you can be a lay Theravada Buddhist.

I've been one for ages! Well, best part of 20 years anyway.

I am married too!

No temple is exclusive to any one nationality, by the way. The only difficulty you might have is understanding what is going on. But, usually there will be some people there who speaks English, I am sure. Go along and have a look at the Laos temple...you might be pleasantly surprised

Welcome to Dhammawheel.

With best wishes

Metta (loving kindness)

forestmat

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Ben
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Ben » Wed May 06, 2009 12:54 pm

Hi Sean

I took refuge for the first time 24 years ago. I'm also married and with three kids ranging in age from 20 to 8. At the time of the Buddha, the sangha was comprised of four assemblies which included male lay and female lay followers. There is no embargo on lay practitioners from achieving enlightenment.
I suggest you put aside what you previously read about lay Theravadins.
As for the Loatian temple, I recommend that you make contact and see what they offer in the way of supporting non Lao-speaking practitioners.
Metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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kc2dpt
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed May 06, 2009 1:44 pm

- Peter


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Fede
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Fede » Wed May 06, 2009 2:01 pm

Listen....
if they've accepted me with no concerns, you'll have no problems.....!! :twothumbsup:

:namaste:

(Like Peter though, I'd be interested to hear just where you obtained this info....)
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

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clw_uk
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby clw_uk » Wed May 06, 2009 2:10 pm

If there was no lay Theravadins, the sangha wouldnt have survived for so long, or if it did it wouldnt be as large as it is

In terms of practice, ive always found Theravadin monks to be very encouraging to the lay in terms of practice


Metta
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

seanandrews
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby seanandrews » Wed May 06, 2009 2:25 pm

Thank you everyone for replying so quickly. This gives me great hope. It is great to know that there is such a great support network for lay Theravadins. This is where I read the things I wrote:

http://mb-soft.com/believe/txh/theravad.htm
(First paragraph under subheading "Organization")

seanandrews
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby seanandrews » Wed May 06, 2009 2:28 pm

Also, on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada# ... astic_Life

In the "Lay and Monastic Life" section, it kind of sounds discouraging toward those who would think to become a lay practitioner.

Thanks also to everyone for the encouragement to contact the Laotian temple in Charlotte. I just may do that. They are only a 10-minute drive from my home.

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kc2dpt
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed May 06, 2009 3:25 pm

- Peter


thornbush
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby thornbush » Wed May 06, 2009 3:29 pm

Well, if I may add, as a lay person, no Mahayana temple is gonna stop anyone from doing their own meditation sittings on a quiet day or dropping a coin in the poor box....not sure if your area has a Mahayana temple that organises Theravada events/practice cos in my country we have some of such 'open' temples.
Hope all is well for you and your family.

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kc2dpt
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed May 06, 2009 3:30 pm

And as another rule of thumb, I would take with a grain of salt any information on religion gleaned from Wikipedia.
- Peter


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kc2dpt
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed May 06, 2009 3:31 pm

- Peter


MMK23
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby MMK23 » Wed May 06, 2009 4:04 pm


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Ngawang Drolma.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed May 06, 2009 4:06 pm

Another very nice aspect of practicing Buddhism is that you don't have to go to a temple to practice. All you need is some quiet space. I'm also very busy with family life so I have to give up some sleep-time to get my practice done. But it's well worth it!
It's nice going to dharma centers too, though, if you're able. I used to go weekly.

:anjali:


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Ngawang Drolma.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed May 06, 2009 4:07 pm



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clw_uk
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby clw_uk » Wed May 06, 2009 4:08 pm

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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Cittasanto
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 06, 2009 4:18 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

seanandrews
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby seanandrews » Wed May 06, 2009 4:46 pm

I am so thankful to all of you for these posts. You have really encouraged my further study of Theravada. I have a couple books on Buddhism, but none that go into much depth into Theravada. I have found a couple on Amazon, but I am not sure which is the best book to start with. Any suggestions?

I will contact to Lao temple to see if I could attend.

You know, I used to be so skeptical of Wikipedia but then began to trust it fairly well. I know better than to take what it says on faith, especially when it comes to something more important than useless information.

My last question is, are any of you on Facebook that I could connect to? Or do you know of a group Facebook Theravada group? I will stay on this group and read the other posts, but I like to network through Facebook as well.

Again, thank you so much. Wow, I feel so much better now. Your advice and support has meant a lot to me.

Sean

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed May 06, 2009 5:05 pm

In the Theravada article at Wikipedia, at least they had the decency to put the following factual point:

It is also possible for a lay disciple to become enlightened. As Bhikkhu Bodhi notes, "The Suttas and commentaries do record a few cases of lay disciples attaining the final goal of Nibbana. However, such disciples either attain Arahantship on the brink of death or enter the monastic order soon after their attainment. They do not continue to dwell at home as Arahant householders, for dwelling at home is incompatible with the state of one who has severed all craving."[35]

35. # ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi,In the Buddha's Words, Wisdom Publications 2005; page 376

My comments:

One may be a householder all the way up to becoming an Arahant, it just that after that [full] enlightenment is attained, the person will apparently want or need to ordain.

So no need to feel defeated or to not try, there is the opportunity for full enlightenment, even as a lay follower.

:reading: :meditate: :sage: :buddha2:
Last edited by David N. Snyder on Wed May 06, 2009 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: typo
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MMK23
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby MMK23 » Wed May 06, 2009 5:11 pm



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