Loving relationship here is meant specifically as a mutually intimate partnership like husband and wife and boyfriend and girlfriend. There would be the case where one would become fully awake and therefore abandons all teachings but whilst still in a relationship. Would this change the dynamics of that relationship in some major way?

What do the Suttas say about this if anything?

  • Not sure what you mean by "unfolding", but it's nearly impossible if not impossible that an Arahant has any interest in an intimate partnership. Even a non-returner has no interest because they enjoy the pleasures of Jhana. Also, both have ended sensual desire, so there is i) no interest in a partnership, and ii) one has much higher pleasures than that derived from a partner. Unfolding into Arahant while being in a relationship is very hard, because one must abandon all craving, and if past sankharas are with craving due to being in a relationship, I fail to see the connection to Arahantship.
    – Val
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:17
  • Val you can write that as an answer
    – user14213
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:24
  • @Val - I don't know how to term it - unfold, fall into, fall out of...
    – user14148
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:36
  • You made two changes: "fully enlightened" instead of "arahant", and "personal-experience" instead of reference-request". Three problems: 1) ask this as a new or follow-on question instead, and leave this one as-is, to avoid "invalidating" the existing answers? 2) not clear what "fully-enlightened" is compared to "arahant" (maybe less exclusive to Theravada and more inclusive of Mahayana); 3) implies/requires that to answer it people be (or have personal experience of being) fully-enlightened - maybe ask "what's an enlightened motive" or "what motive might a relatively enlightened person have".
    – ChrisW
    Dec 18, 2018 at 8:24
  • Thanks Chris. I think I understand that you're asking me to define a group - implicitly. Also, I'm not content with the other suggestion of rephrasing the question as a separate question. I'm not comfortable in doing either or both of these and so in this case I would request that you take the question down to avoid the confusion that you anticipate.
    – user14148
    Dec 18, 2018 at 9:43

4 Answers 4


Remark: This is not (yet?) a full answer, but more an extended comment.

For one impression of how might a loving relation be revered see "A.IV. 55 Nakulapitá und Nakulamátá" ; although the couple is not called arahants they are mentioned as "top on lay disciples" (see "A I.24") "The foremost of my laymen ...(...) ... who are intimate is the householder Nakula’s father.”
So there's no right-out disregard of being a loving couple.

Next it might be interesting a story about the (later) arahant (Maha) Kassapa about the problem of being married and having a desire for ascetic life at the same time. Hellmuth Hecker has compiled a story about this which I found some time ago at the access-to-insight site (I think) . Here is a part of that text on the biographic tale about Kassapa:

(...) Like the two chief disciples, Sariputta and Maha Moggallana, Maha Kassapa too descended from the brahmin caste, and again like them, he was older than the Buddha. He was born in the Magadha country, in the village Mahatittha, as the son of the brahmin Kapila and his wife Su-manadevi.

(This account of Maha Kassapa's early life is taken from the commentary to the Samyutta Nikaya.)

He was called Pipphali. His father owned sixteen villages over which he ruled like a little king, so Pipphali grew up in the midst of wealth and luxury. Yet already in his young years there was in him the wish to leave the worldly life behind, and hence he did not want to marry. When his parents repeatedly urged him to take a wife, he told them that he would look after them as long as they live, but that after their deaths he wanted to become an ascetic. Yet they insisted again and again that he take a wife, so to comfort his mother he finally agreed to marry -- on the condition that a girl could be found who conformed to his idea of perfection. For that purpose he shaped a golden statue of a beautiful woman, had it bedecked with fine garments and orna-ments, and showed it to his parents, saying: "If you can find a woman like this for me, I shall remain in the home life."

His parents approached eight brahmins, showered them with rich gifts, and asked them to take the image with them and travel around in search of a human likeness of it. The brahmins thought: "Let us first go to the Madda country, which is, as it were, a gold mine of beautiful women." There they found at Sagala a girl whose beauty equaled that of the image. She was Bhadda Kapilani, a wealthy brahmin's daughter, aged sixteen, four years younger than Pipphali Kassapa.

Her parents agreed to the marriage proposal, and the brahmins returned to tell of their success.

Yet Bhadda Kapilani also did not wish to marry, as it was her wish, too, to live a religious life as a female ascetic. Such identity between her aspiration and Pipphali Kassapa's may well point to a kammic bond and affinity between them in the past, maturing in their present life and leading to a decisive meeting between them and a still more decisive separation later on.

When Pipphali heard that what he had thought most unlikely had actually occurred, he was -- unhappy and sent the following letter to the girl: "Bhadda, please marry someone else of equal status and live a happy home life with him. As for myself, I shall become an ascetic. Please do not have regrets."
Bhadda Kapilani, like-minded as she was, independently sent him a similar letter.
But their parents, suspecting such an exchange would take place, had both letters intercepted on the way and replaced by letters of welcome. So Bhadda was taken to Magadha and the young couple were married. However, in accordance with their ascetic yearning, both agreed to maintain a life of celibacy. To give expression to their resolve, they would lay a garland of flowers between them before they went to bed, determined not to yield to sensual desire. This young wealthy couple lived thus happily and in comfort for many years. As long as Pipphali's parents lived, they did not even have to look after the estate's farms. But when his parents died, they took charge of the large property.

Now, further after the death of Pipphali's parents, Pipphali and also Baddha took the yellow robe and left home, but walked together. Then this happened:

(...) When walking on, Kassapa went ahead while Bhadda followed behind him. Considering this, Kassapa thought: "Now, this Bhadda Kapilani follows me close behind, and she is a woman of great beauty. Some people - could easily think, 'Though they are ascetics, they still cannot live without each other! It is unseemly what they are doing.' If they spoil their minds by such wrong thoughts or even spread false rumors, they will cause harm to themselves." So he thought it better that they separate. When they reached a crossroads Kassapa said: "Bhadda, you take one of these roads, and I shall go the other way." She said: "It is true, for ascetics a woman is an obstacle. People might think and speak badly about us. So please go your own way, and we shall now part."
She then respectfully circumambulated him thrice, saluted him at his feet, and with folded hands she spoke: "Our close companionship and friendship that had lasted for an unfathomable past comes to an end today. Please take the path to the right and I shall take the other road." Thus they parted and went their individual ways, seeking the high goal of Arahatship, final deliverance from suffering.
It is said that the earth, shaken by the power of their virtue, quaked and trembled.

From: MAHA KASSAPA: FATHER OF THE SANGHA by Hellmuth Hecker Revised and enlarged translation from the German by Nyanaponika Thera

Translated and adapted from //Wissen und Wandel// XXI, 6 (1975) Wheel Publication No. 345 Copyright 1987, 1995 Buddhist Publication Society BUDDHIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY KANDY Sri Lanka

So here we find something like "platonic love" between ascetics but in this instance much deeper, Hecker proposes the expression "karmic bond" for something which we might assume as an exotic example for a very deep arrangement of love over an already long chain of rebirthes...

  • This is a very interesting answer.
    – user14148
    Dec 18, 2018 at 8:16
  • Thank you for the reference to Nakula's father
    – OyaMist
    Dec 18, 2018 at 18:19

I think even an anagami would stop being interested in relationships because sensual desire is one of the fetter that is removed at non return. So an anangami and arahant are likely to leave the house and become monks. If the anagami has a wife or a husband before attaining non return then they will probably live as sister or brother and not as husband and wife.

Milindapanha III.19

"You say that if a layman attains arahantship he must either enter the Order that very day or die and attainparinibbàna. Yet if he is unable to find a robe and bowl and preceptor then that exalted condition of arahantship is a waste, for destruction of life is involved in it."

"The fault does not lie with arahantship but with the state of a layman, because it is too weak to support arahantship. Just as, O king, although food protects the life of beings it will take away the life of one whose digestion is weak; so too, if a layman attains arahantship he must, because of the weakness of that condition, enter the Order that very day or die."

So an arahant wouldn’t be able to live as a layman for long. I don’t remember which sutta but in that sutta the Buddha or someone said that arahant can only stay as layman for 7 days or they must enter Parinibanna.

Love is sensual desire and an anagami and arahant would completely be free of sensual desire so they won’t have a reason to stay in a relationship with his or her girlfriend. So love relationship is not possible for anagamis and arahants

  • Love is sensual desire -- But doesn't Buddhism identify any different kinds of "love"? Including metta ("loving-kindness") for example, or karuna ("compassion")?
    – ChrisW
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:31
  • Thanks. I'm not sure how this works for Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti both of whom have partners. Maybe they're in the stream still.
    – user14148
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:34
  • Metta is a different kind of love. Most ordinary wordings think that love is good. But it is attachment + sensual desire. Loving kindness is also impermanent. It is mentioned in a few suttas.
    – user14213
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:44
  • 1
    I don’t believe any layman who claim to be arahant unless they are planning to ordain asap
    – user14213
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:45
  • You don't really believe that tolle is enlightened, do you? Not to be rude, but who understands his talks? I believe he doesn't understands his talks either
    – Val
    Dec 17, 2018 at 16:34

I assume it would be karuna, compassion.

There's a Zen story, Is that so? -- probably not that "Zen master Hakuin" is counted an arahant, but I guess the motive displayed in that story is compassion.

Anyway I think we're told that the Buddha's own motive, per MN 26:

Then, understanding Brahmā’s invitation, I surveyed the world with the eye of a Buddha, because of my compassion for sentient beings.
Atha kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, brahmuno ca ajjhesanaṃ viditvā sattesu ca kāruññataṃ paṭicca buddhacakkhunā lokaṃ volokesiṃ.

The motive presumably or by definition wouldn't be "sensuality", however.

And it's Theravada orthodoxy that any lay arahant must join the Order immediately.

Even if we assume no craving for sensuality, I'm not sure what you mean by "mutually intimate" in the question -- that phrase suggests to me some self-view (e.g. "I love you and you love me") -- perhaps these are part of a "thicket of views", which no longer bind an enlightened being.

  • Thanks. When you say "it's Theravada orthodoxy" do you mean it is unique to Theravada and thus a view not shared by the wider context of Buddhism?
    – user14148
    Dec 17, 2018 at 16:39
  • Theravada Buddhism have the view that an arahant would be completely free of lust, hatred and delusion so they wouldn’t need to stay in their house anymore. I would say that an anagami would become an monk unless he has a mother or father who is old. If he has a mother or father then he might work simple jobs like selling pots. There was an anagami who sold pots. I don’t remember which sutta.
    – user14213
    Dec 17, 2018 at 16:44
  • @Suchness I think I know [even] less about the orthodoxy of other schools of Buddhism than I do of Theravada's interpretation of the Pali canon. I suspect/expect there are some differences, but I'm ill-equipped to describe them accurately. Your saying "Arahant" in the question may imply you were asking for a Theravada-like view, perhaps Mahayana have (or some may have, or have had) a different view of what an Arahant is and what Enlightenment is, what the stages of enlightenment are, and so on ...
    – ChrisW
    Dec 17, 2018 at 16:54
  • ... I think the "stages of enlightenment" per the Pali suttas are as listed in an overview here and here -- which is why people answer "no sensuality" etc. -- and SFAIK that's not the same as the Mahayana-defined stages. I do think that the Buddha, though, might be considered (or defined as) an Arahant (and perhaps more than just an Arahant), so I think I'm not wrong to quote MN 26 in this answer.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 17, 2018 at 16:57
  • @Chris & TheDBSGuy - I see. With regards to orthodoxy this is probably where I alight and have a rummage around inside using some sort of self-directed intuition. Thanks.
    – user14148
    Dec 17, 2018 at 17:04

It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to engage in sexual intercourse. (AN 9.7)

  • What about sadness and displeasure regarding external events?
    – Val
    Dec 17, 2018 at 18:49
  • Arahant experiences pleasant and unpleasant sense contacts. Refer to Iti 44: suttacentral.net/iti44/en/ireland Dec 17, 2018 at 18:55
  • I'm asking because Maha Boowa cried in one of his talks. I wasn't referring to sense contact. It is obvious that the body cannot circumvent pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
    – Val
    Dec 17, 2018 at 19:52
  • Apologies for the roundabout reference, I am searching for the direct text, but in a talk to Anathapindika, the Buddha is said to have said (this is a reference to a quote): "Anathapindika came a little closer to the supramundane reality, since the Enlightened One explained that the arahants were always well, for they were beyond all possibilities for suffering.", as found in accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/hecker/wheel334.html .. If anyone has the sutta reference, would be appreciated, thanks in advance! Dec 17, 2018 at 23:36

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