Sometimes I see comments like, "the Buddha never taught the four noble truths to laypeople".

  • Is that so?
  • If so, why didn't he?
  • Aren't the 4NT the best, most succinct and most helpful, part of the Dhamma?
  • Isn't that difficult to reconcile with the teacher's not having a "closed fist"?

I know that the first sutta was only to the five wanderers (who were not house-holders); but doesn't the Kalama sutta, for example, warn against greed -- and the precepts, and suffering, all in one sentence?

And this greedy person, overcome by greed, his mind possessed by greed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person's wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering.

Isn't that the first two or three noble truths right there?

So if someone says that he didn't teach the 4NT, are they (more specifically) saying that he didn't teach the noble eightfold path?

But the noble eightfold path is a.k.a. the three trainings. And he definitely taught virtue, so ... is it saying that he didn't teach wisdom nor concentration? So is it saying, and is true, that he didn't teach e.g. meditation to laypeople?

Can lay people be enlightened at all -- if so, how without the 4NT?

And is it true to say that the 4NT are certainly taught to laypeople now? Even to children? I'm surprised to find that they're not mentioned in the introduction to the Jataka Tales (here and here), though it does summarise Dependent Origination. I don't remember such a book in detail but I imagined that the 4NT would be included in any kind of popular introductory book, such as one that mentions the four sights.

This answer says that the 4NT is part of the doctrine shared by all schools of Buddhism. Is it true to assume that every Buddhist in every country (including lay people) knows what the 4NT are?

  • See also How to explain what Buddhism is? – ChrisW Oct 7 at 16:30
  • This may be a duplicate or near-duplicate of Can the noble eightfold path be followed in its entirety by a lay follower? – ChrisW Oct 7 at 18:10
  • Please quote exactly what is summarised as "Dependent Origination". Thanks – Dhammadhatu Oct 7 at 20:18
  • @Dhammadhatu The top of this page: "Then The Blessed One, during the first watch of the night, thought over Dependent Origination both forward and back:-- On ignorance depends karma; On karma depends consciousness; On consciousness depend name and form; On name and form depend the six organs of sense;" etc., ending, "Thus does this entire aggregation of misery cease." – ChrisW Oct 7 at 20:23
  • I don't think this is a good question (I don't think I should waste your time by asking it). Although e.g. this says, "In the early sources (the four main Nikayas) the Eightfold Path is not generally taught to laypeople, and it is little known in the Far East.", yet I find that the 4NT are referenced in the Dhammapada (verses 190 and 191). Perhaps it's generally true that a lot of the advice to laypeople was about ethics. – ChrisW Oct 7 at 20:50

Ugga-richman, lay, said in Sutta. Aṅ. (4): aṭṭhaka-nipātā:

With confident heart I paid homage to the Buddha. The Buddha taught me step by step (anupubbikakathā), with a talk on giving, ethical conduct, and heaven. He explained the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, so sordid and corrupt, and the benefit of renunciation. And when he knew that my mind was ready, pliable, rid of hindrances, joyful, and confident he explained the special teaching of the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Just as a clean cloth rid of stains would properly absorb dye, in that very seat the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in me: ‘Everything(suffering) which is arise by the origins(samudaya), has an end.’ I saw, attained, understood, and fathomed the Dhamma. I went beyond doubt, got rid of indecision, and became self-assured and independent of others regarding the Teacher’s instructions. Right there I went for refuge to the Buddha, his teaching, and the Saṅgha. And I undertook the five training rules with celibacy as the fifth. This is the second incredible and amazing quality found in me.

After listened anupubbīkathā, some listener can enlighten "dhammacakkhuṃ", i.e. from DN Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ:

So King Ajatasattu, delighting and rejoicing in the Blessed One's words, rose from his seat, bowed down to him, and — after circumambulating him — left. Not long after King Ajatasattu had left, the Blessed One addressed the monks: "The king is wounded, monks. The king is incapacitated. Had he not killed his father — that righteous man, that righteous king — the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye would have arisen to him as he sat in this very seat."

You can search more result by yourself with word "dhammacakkhu", "anupubbika" and "anupuppīka".

There are many place like that in tipitaka, so Buddha exactly taught four noble truth to the lay. The required questions are:

  1. What is anupubbīkathā?
  2. Why Buddha often taught anupubbīkathā to a lay?
  3. Why the first saṅgāyanā monks have to separate anupubbīkathā as may partitions?
  4. Why some people think Buddha never taught meditation to a lay?

1. What is anupubbīkathā?

  1. Anupubbīkatha, in pāli canons, is the sequence teaching, story, or history. See, each searching results from tipitaka and atthakathā.

  2. Anupubbīkathā, in tipitaka context, the single time teaching of entire instructional sequence. It is the very long sutta which describing about buddhist practitioner's procedure, such as single time teaching of KN Khu Nidhikaṇḍaṃ (with some commentary) + AN Uposathasuttaṃ (with some commentary) + DN Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ (with some commentary). You can see that is over long to orally recite.

2. Why Buddha often taught anupubbīkathā to lay?

Buddha taught anupubbikathā to everyone, not only lay, because every practitioner must practice step by step. No one can practice without sequence like a fog. See, MN Majjhimapaṇṇāsaka Kīṭāgirisutta Number 238.

However for a newbie lay who is genius, buddha taught him from the beginning step to the end in single time, such as single time teaching of KN Khu Nidhikaṇḍaṃ (with some commentary) + AN Uposathasuttaṃ (with some commentary) + DN Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ (with some commentary).

You can see that is over long to orally recite.

That's why we can't find the single sutta of anupubbīkathā, in tipitaka context, or even in atthakathā as well. So, in atthakathā comment of anupubbīkathā:

Anupubbīkathā is sequence of teaching and commentary of dāna subjects then sīla subjects then heaven subjects then practitioner's procedure.

But the buddha&teacher taught a shorter and more complex sutta to the insider lay man&lay woman, upāsaka and upāsikā, because they have enough ability and knowledge to learn the higher level, e.g. AN Dānasutta. You can see that sutta is shorter and more complex, included only charity and the Path. It is anupubbīkathā, but it is not the meaning of "anupubbīkathā" word in the context like Sutta. Aṅ. (4): aṭṭhaka-nipātā.

3. Why the first saṅgāyanā monks have to separate anupubbīkathā as may partitions?

The first saṅgāyanā monks chose "anupubbikathā" words to avoid the over long of sutta. Because most of lay at that time don't have much knowledge for an enlightenment, buddha have to taught them very long sutta (maybe more that DN) and mix many contents to let them enlighten as sotāpanna, or trust to dhamma. So, if the first saṅgāyanā monks didn't separate it to be many smaller sutta, it will be over long and unable to orally reciting study.

The evidence from netti vicayahārasampāta:

  1. Herein, the Lord Buddha advises one of keen faculties with advice in brief; the Lord Buddha advises one of medium faculties with advice in brief and detail; the Lord Buddha advises one of blunt faculties with advice in detail.

4. Why some people think Buddha never taught meditation to a lay?

Because they are misunderstanding of anupubbikathā. And they don't know how to read teaching as four noble truth, because they never memorize netti, or never attained any professional knowledge, ñāṇa, from tipitaka-memorizer&jhānalābhī school, such as Pa-Auk.

Every noble one must enlightened four noble truth, but it is not every ordinary people can discover the noble truth from tipitaka. People who can understand the noble truth from tipitaka must can deconflict every uncleared word of tipitaka. This is unable for people who can't memorize tipitaka pali and netti, because it needs nirutti-paṭisambhidā to deconflict the whole tipitaka.

For the example from VN Mahāvagga by assachi arahanta to sāriputta, who enlightened as sotāpanna:

Ye dhammā hetupabhavā (dukkha) tesaṃ hetuṃ (samudaya) tathāgato āha
tesañca yo nirodho (nirodha&magga) evaṃvādī mahāsamaṇo.

‘Those things(suffering) which proceed from a cause, of these the Truthfinder has told the cause(origin), And that which is their stopping (cessation&path)— the great recluse has such a doctrine.’”

Or in Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ, which king Ajātasattu almost enlightened as sotāpanna, it is included vipassanāñaṇa part (brief dukkha), pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇa+cutūpapātañāṇa (extended dukkha), āsavakkhayañāṇa (samudaya+nirodha), and all practitioner's procedures in this sutta are magga.

All above is the example of how to read the noble truth in tipitaka.

  • 2
    Thank you for this answer. I found that Anupubbīkathā is not "the (specific) long sutta", rather it's "a or any long sutta" (of which there are several), on the topic of gradual training -- "a gradual instruction, graduated sermon, regulated exposition of the ever higher values of four subjects (dāna -- kathā, sīla˚, sagga˚, magga˚) i. e. charity, righteousness, the heavens, and the Path". – ChrisW Oct 8 at 12:32
  • 1
    This is a really great answer and also hard to follow . I believe that the first reference may be to suttacentral.net/an8.22/en/sujato (With Ugga of the Village of Hatthi). I thought about editing this answer, but was not sure enough about the intention/meaning so I refrained. – OyaMist Oct 8 at 15:54
  • 2
    It is a good answer, thank you. I hope to upvote it eventually but to read it thoroughly (references too) before that -- and I'm about to be away for a week, so, that could take a while. @OyaMist I think it's clear, I'll edit it slightly later. I think that Bonn likes www.84000.org because it lets you view different translations of the same sutta (from different web sites). Yes the first link is to AN 8.22. I think that the SuttaCentral translations (unlike those on other web sites) doesn't render properly in 84000.org's HTML iframe: so you have to click on the link to read it on SuttaCentral. – ChrisW Oct 8 at 22:20
  • 1
    I edited for clearer. Thank you everyone. www.84000.org included tipitaka & atthakathā pali thai/roman, thai translation tipitaka&atthakatha, roman-pali search engine, and all of them have already linked to the other version. It is easiest for me to quote for writing an article. – Bonn Oct 9 at 12:37
  • Another actually, I want to do my own search engine which have all resource like 84000.org, is easier to compare like buddha-vacana.org, and beautiful ajax technique like suttacentral.net, but I have no ability enough to do. – Bonn Oct 9 at 12:51

It's impossible while dwelling in a household to gain path and fruits, even if the Dhamma of the Noble Ones is taught.

Only in "Borderlands" is it possible to gain access to the Four Noble Truth in a liberating manner:

A "borderland" is a "state" between home and homelessness, outer lands and noble domains, outwardly and inwardly.

A monastery, traditional Wat (pi: vatta ) is outwardly a borderland, sometimes called Wat-Aram, (derived from ārammaṇa ).

What ever can be used as a country, whether outwardly (place, room, country, single person, group, society) and inwardly, ways of thinking and perceiving upholds and praises

It's impossible in "Outer Lands", dwelling in a household. So for now important: "When one is born in outer regions", if able to find some rest of old merits, able in erecting faith, one should put all efforts to trace borderlands, get familiar to it and maybe change one's dwelling totally to where access to the Noble Domain could be gained, the four Noble Truth can be fully penetrated.

Maha Mangala Sutta

  • I don't find relation to the question: "did the Buddha teach..." (downvoted) – Gottfried Helms Oct 8 at 17:33
  • Tha because dwelling in outer lands – Samana Johann Oct 8 at 22:12
  • Since modified... importand are the characteristics when told "What ever can be used as a country, whether outwardly (place, room, country, single person, group, society) and inwardly, ways of thinking and perceiving upholds and praises"... in outer lands they would just take what is useful to maintain there home... – Samana Johann Oct 8 at 23:59

Yes, the Buddha did teach the four noble truths to lay people.

From MN 56:

Then the Buddha taught the householder Upāli step by step, with a talk on giving, ethical conduct, and heaven. He explained the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, so sordid and corrupt, and the benefit of renunciation. And when he knew that Upāli’s mind was ready, pliable, rid of hindrances, joyful, and confident he explained the special teaching of the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Just as a clean cloth rid of stains would properly absorb dye, in that very seat the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in Upāli: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” Then Upāli saw, attained, understood, and fathomed the Dhamma. He went beyond doubt, got rid of indecision, and became self-assured and independent of others regarding the Teacher’s instructions. He said to the Buddha: “Well, now, sir, I must go. I have many duties, and much to do.” “Please, householder, go at your convenience.”

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