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Did the Buddha teach lay people meditation?

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  • Did the Buddha teach lay people meditation?


    1) I'm wondering did the Buddha teach meditation to lay people and encourage lay people to meditate? For example, did the Buddha teach some adept lay practitioners jhana meditation?

    2) Or did the Buddha expect lay people to simply live virtuous lives of generosity and follow the Five Precepts? What exactly did the Buddha expect of lay people?

    Some Sutta references where the Buddha encourages lay people to meditate would be nice.


  • #2
    As far as I know, meditation is the last step of the 8-fold path ("Right stillness", as Ajahn Brahm would translate it) and one of the basic practises of Buddhism, regardless if you are a lay-person or not.


    • #3
      Thanks Ruth


      • #4
        I have not heard anything about this question from a monastic. Any monastics want to give some input on my question?


        • #5
          Dear Haca Ce,

          A good question – that must have been pondered upon by many sincere lay meditators – thus, the large amount of information I found on the internet when looking for suttas on the topic!

          With regard to your question, the Buddha did not teach 'jhana meditation' as such; rather I would say he taught (a). what lead to happiness in this life and future lives and (b). what lead to Stream-Entry and Nibbana. To that end, a most comprehensive analysis seems to have been done by John Kelly –you can find his study, “The Buddha’s Teachings to Lay People”, online. Kelly has categorised every sutta in the Canon to lay people by gender, class, age, spiritual attainment, Dhamma content and Goal of Sutta (i.e. present and future happiness vs. Nibbana).

          From Kelly's study, it seems that 'The central tenet of the Buddha’s message to lay people is that all actions have consequences (kamma) and that what we do, say, and think matters — good conduct by body, speech, and mind is indispensable.' There is much more to it which you can read online. And F.Y.I. there is an extremely comprehensive list of all the suttas addressed to lay people in the Appendix.

          But of course that was not what he exclusively taught. There are plenty of examples of extraordinary (noble) lay disciplies and the ones that the Buddha asks us to emulate were of the highest spiritual capacity. Remember that the Buddha's aim was to develop a four-fold assembly, (including both laymen and women) who were well-versed and accomplished in the Dhamma. Of lay men he said, "Should a devoted mother wish to encourage her beloved only son in a proper way she should say to him: 'Try to become like the disciple Citta and the disciple Hatthaka of Alavi." Citta the Householder was an Anagami and there is an entire Samyutta dedicated to his conversations - which were of the deepest nature. Often he answered questions that monks could not!

          So lay people were not expected to simply live virtuous lives and practice generosity!

          There is also a lovely verse addressed to Anatapindika in the Piti Sutta (AN 5.176).

          "Then Anathapindika the householder, surrounded by about 500 lay followers, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sittig there the Blessed One said to him, "Householder, you have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick, but you shouldn't rest content with the thought, 'We have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick.' So you should train yourself, 'Let's periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture.' That's how you should train yourself."

          You can read more about the Buddha's great lay disciples in Bhante S. Dhammika's "The Buddha and His Disciples" available on Buddhanet. There are the stories of Visakha, Anatapindika, Kajuttara, Citta and Hatthaka which you might find heartening.

          In the end, I would say that the Buddha encouraged the highest in his disciples and only when Nibbana was reached that one could say 'what has to be done has been done'.

          I hope you are inspired to keep practising!

          With metta,
          Ven Upekkha


          • #6
            Thank you very much for your informative reply Venerable Upekkha. I also appreciate the resources you've suggested.

            With metta.



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