Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

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

Postby kc2dpt » Wed May 06, 2009 7:05 pm

MMK23 wrote:Everytime I've read Wikipedia pages on Buddhism I've had to remind myself of this.

Or this. :)

seanandrews wrote: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?

In my opinion you cannot do better than "In the Buddha's Words", by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

You know, I used to be so skeptical of Wikipedia but then began to trust it fairly well.

I think Wikipedia is fine for non-controversial topics. Unfortunately religion tends to be controversial, even Buddhism.
- Peter

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

Postby Mexicali » Thu May 07, 2009 1:31 am

I would think that there have always been more lay Buddhists than monks.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 1:45 am

Peter wrote:
MMK23 wrote: Unfortunately religion tends to be controversial, even Buddhism.


Or fortunately. It depends on one's psychological default. Imo, controversy injects a note of dynamism into systems that tend toward stasis and inertia, even Buddhism.
Last edited by pink_trike on Thu May 07, 2009 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 07, 2009 1:47 am

Greetings,

Actually, I think it would be easier to be a lay Theravada Buddhist than a lay Mahayana Buddhist.

Why?

In the Pali Canon there are many suttas aimed at householders... but how many Mahayana Suttas will you find sutras aimed at householders?

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 1:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Actually, I think it would be easier to be a lay Theravada Buddhist than a lay Mahayana Buddhist.

Why?

In the Pali Canon there are many suttas aimed at householders... but how many Mahayana Suttas will you find sutras aimed at householders?

Metta,
Retro. :)

That's probably true, but also true in my experience is that Mahayana teachers are more accessible (in their teaching styles and interactions with the lay community) than Theravada teachers - using the stuff of ordinary lay life as a vehicle for wisdom. So probably 6 of one, half dozen of the other.
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Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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

Postby Dan74 » Thu May 07, 2009 3:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Actually, I think it would be easier to be a lay Theravada Buddhist than a lay Mahayana Buddhist.

Why?

In the Pali Canon there are many suttas aimed at householders... but how many Mahayana Suttas will you find sutras aimed at householders?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Well, there is a sutra spoken by a householder, Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra.

:shrug:

It's a very good read!

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

Postby robertk » Thu May 07, 2009 4:16 am

Peter wrote:Even today I see mostly Europeans attending lectures and meditation while the Asians mostly make donations and offerings and then leave. :shrug:

Isn't dependent on kamma as to the people one meets. Where I live I meet many laypeople who are knowledgeable about Theravada. Some examples: khun somporn, past head of the Thai government pali translation committe which translates the tipitaka and commentaries into Thai. two generals that have written books on Dhamma, sujin Boriharnwanaket - her Dhamma talks are broadcast on about 20 radio stations everyday.
I guess most of my asian friends know more about Dhamma than me. However, these people mentioned above don't go on 10 day meditation retreats etc. so I guess that makes them sub-par in many western Buddhist eyes. They do make lots of donations to various Dhamma activities too.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Nadi » Thu May 07, 2009 4:25 am

Peter wrote:Even today I see mostly Europeans attending lectures and meditation while the Asians mostly make donations and offerings and then leave. :shrug:


I think we need to keep in mind that the path is not only about meditation. Dana is an integral part of the teachings and should be practiced as such. It is also a practice of letting go, and therefore is conducive to meditation as well. I do agree that dana without the development of wisdom would not get you far along the path, but the same is true for meditation without the development of dana and sila. So, I don't think we should belittle the part that dana plays in the Buddha's teachings.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby Jechbi » Thu May 07, 2009 4:28 am

robertk wrote: However, these people mentioned above don't go on 10 day meditation retreats etc. so I guess that makes them sub-par in many western Buddhist eyes.

I doubt it.
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby seanandrews » Thu May 07, 2009 11:59 am

My local library system does not carry Bhikkhu Bodhi's IN THE BUDDHA'S WORDS, but it does carry THE CONNECTED DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA and THE MIDDLE LENGTH DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA. Would you recommend either of those, or should I just buy IN THE BUDDHA'S WORDS?

Can anyone recommend a free, downloadable ebook or iPod Touch/iPhone Application that would be a good place to start? Or Podcast?
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby kc2dpt » Thu May 07, 2009 1:27 pm

Nadi wrote:
Peter wrote:I think we need to keep in mind that the path is not only about meditation. Dana is an integral part of the teachings and should be practiced as such.

That is true. However, I was responding to the OP's concern expressed here:
seanandrews wrote: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

So we can see the OP is referring to a particular type of practitioner, a particular type of practice.

I don't think we should belittle the part that dana plays in the Buddha's teachings.

I apologize if I gave the impression of belittling dana practice. It is certainly an important part of the Path.
- Peter

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

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 4:42 pm

seanandrews wrote:My local library system does not carry Bhikkhu Bodhi's IN THE BUDDHA'S WORDS, but it does carry THE CONNECTED DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA and THE MIDDLE LENGTH DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA. Would you recommend either of those, or should I just buy IN THE BUDDHA'S WORDS?

Can anyone recommend a free, downloadable ebook or iPod Touch/iPhone Application that would be a good place to start? Or Podcast?


Dhammapada

The Pali Canon

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

Postby seanandrews » Thu May 07, 2009 7:20 pm

Thanks. I have the Dhammapada. The Pali Canon -- that would be pretty expensive, wouldn't it?
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby clw_uk » Thu May 07, 2009 7:30 pm

hi sean, to own the whole canon would be expensive yes


i would strongly advise you however to get as much of the sutta nikaya as you can, these will greatly help your study

the translations available

Majjhima Nikaya
Samyutta Nikaya
Digha Nikaya

http://www.amazon.com/Middle-Length-Dis ... 086171072X

The Anguttara Nikaya is in the process of being translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi and should be out sometime in the near future

for all the rest that isnt available to buy you can use www.accesstoinsight.org (these have the Nikayas i just mentioned but they dont have all of the suttas and the translations in the print books are better IMO)

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

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 7:39 pm

Craig, what's your opinion on this? I've never heard of the author. The price is good and I could use something concise.

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

Postby clw_uk » Thu May 07, 2009 7:44 pm

Hi Drolma


Ive never heard of it but i found a reference to it here

An Analysis of the Pali Canon, Russell Webb, ed. (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1975). An indispensable "roadmap" and outline of the Pali canon. Contains an excellent index listing suttas by name.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/index.html

right at the bottom of the page

As i said ive never heard of it but it sounds quite useful, quite cheap as well

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

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 8:12 pm

Thanks! :anjali:
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Re: Is It Possible to Be a Lay Theravada Buddhist?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 08, 2009 5:13 am

seanandrews wrote:My local library system does not carry Bhikkhu Bodhi's IN THE BUDDHA'S WORDS, but it does carry THE CONNECTED DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA and THE MIDDLE LENGTH DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA. Would you recommend either of those, or should I just buy IN THE BUDDHA'S WORDS?

In the Buddha's words is inexpensive and in my opinion gives an excellent overview of the Buddha's teachings, since the selected Suttas are arranged into an exposition of the Buddh'as teachings, ranging from straightforward advice about living a good life to complex matters such as dependent origination.
You can read the first chapter as a PDF and read a very useful review here:
http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/display.las ... n=&image=1

I'd read that then start on Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the Majjhima Nikaya. Actually, that's what I did do... :thinking:

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

Postby Namu Butsu » Sun Jul 14, 2013 4:59 pm

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.


Why is giving up a householder life needed to be fully enlightened? I know you spoke of attachment to house, family, etc. But I think it would not be wholesome to just get up and leave your family especially if you struggle financially. Why would it matter? If your enlightened why couldnt you still work as a householder and just be enlightened not attached to work and other such things?

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

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:37 pm

I think that the requirement to ordain is an interpretation from the Commentaries. It seems to have some basis in suttas such as MN 73 http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ta-e1.html where the Buddha talks about lay disciples who are stream enterers, once returners and non-returners, but not arahants:

Here he speaks of arahant bhikkhus and bhikkhunis:
`Good, Gotama, wait! Let alone bhikkhus. Is there a single bhikkhuni a disciple of Gotama, who has destroyed desires has released the mind from desires and released through wisdom, here and now, have realised?' `Vaccha, not one, not one hundred, not two hundred, not three hundred, not four hundred, not five hundred. There are many, more bhikkhunis, disciples of mine, who have destroyed desires, the mind released from desires and released through wisdom, here and now realising abide'.

But for lay people the highest mentioned is non-returner:
`Good, Gotama, wait! Other than bhikkhus, and bhikkhunis. Is there a single lay disciple of Gotama, who wearing white clothes had led the holy life, has destroyed the five lower bonds to the sensual world, and is born spontaneously, not to proceed?' `Vaccha, not one, not one hundred, not two hundred, not three hundred, not four hundred, not five hundred. There are many more lay disciples of mine, who have destroyed the five lower bonds to the sensual world, and born spontaneously would not proceed,'

:anjali:
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