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Are there any traditions without an associated monastic community or even where the monastic element is significantly minimised. I practice with the Triratna Buddhist community and the blurring of the monastic and lay elements is a particular feature. I was wondering if we are very peculiar in that or if there are other traditions, modern or historic, where that also would be the case.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

SGI, for example, describes itself as a "lay Buddhist organization".

I'm not sure I'd want to call it orthodox Buddhist, though.

Traditionally there might have been a split in lifestyle between monastery (and a literate life) and fields (and manual labour). I think I remember seeing a TV documentary with teenagers, monk-candidates, studying texts in a monastery: one said that the (academic) study is difficult/onerous, nervertheless easier (therefore a better career choice) than spending life working in a (agricultural) field.

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Another tradition without monks is Aro:

The Aro teachers are not monks or nuns. They are ordained Tantrikas – whose lives are, in many ways, quite ordinary. They may have conventional jobs, or raise children. Many teach as married couples. Their wisdom is embodied in the ways they live everyday life. Facing the same life challenges as their students, they are able to offer advice that is grounded in personal experience as well as profound religious understanding.

It seems that, like the ones already mentioned, it isn't too orthodox.

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Yes, Jōdo Shinshū (Shin Buddhism) has been a lay movement since it was founded in 12th century Japan. The following is from the description on the Facebook page of the North American Shin Buddhist Association.

Total Lay Control

NASBA follows the early Shin Buddhist ideal of total lay control of the sanghas with an egalitarian, non-elitist and democratic format. Originally, Shin Buddhism did not have or need religious professionals like monastics or clergy. Spiritual transmission was not passed down from teacher to student but as Shinran Shonin taught, it unfolds as shinjin (true entrusting mind), which manifests directly from the Primal Vow of Buddha Amida. Inspired by the original intent and teachings of Shin Buddhism, this North American association does not follow any spiritual hierarchical or vertical (top-down) organizational format but adheres to a flat or horizontal design. It does not ordain clergy or have any rituals of guru to student transmission. It believes that all spiritual endowments come directly from the inconceivable Great Compassion, symbolized by the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.

Lay people can become lay ministers in Shin Buddhism and use the title Reverend.

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There is a reason that the traditional Buddhist (at least Theravada) orders have Monks and Householders. The monks take the opportunity to practice more intensely and with a fewer distraction than lay people. Also it is regarded a duty of the householder to support the monks.

Also for the survival of the Dhamma and Practice you need an institution which is the order of monks.

Also in the Theravada perspective when you are enlightened you have to enter the order as a monk hence the order needs to be there. As a householder you cannot survive. E.g. Pukkusati, Bahiya Daruciriya, etc.

Within the bound of Theravada line of thought you cannot have a Buddhist order with no monks.

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I'm not sure whether 'survival' is a requirement: Thee Days More :-) –  ChrisW Sep 4 at 12:22

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