Should a lay Buddhist teach the Dhamma in a dhamma centre? Can a lay person teach just as a monk does? If so, are there any differences (e.g., should they sit on a different level, should the audience pay respect in a different way, etc.)?
Lay practitioner ==> monk is not a one way street. Some monks renounce their vows for various reasons (not always bad). A famous example in Western Tibetan Buddhism is Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who ordained in 1947 and renounced in 1970, but kept teaching in lay status all the way until 1987. He still sat on a high platform and enjoyed the same honors as an ordained teacher. This is less about your official status and more about your spiritual achievements and realizations.
As Buddha himself said (AN 5.166),
Why should an elder be honored, respected, held in esteem, and venerated? On account of his broken teeth, grey hair, and wrinkled skin?
Possessing five qualities, bhikkhus, an elder is respected and esteemed:
- He is virtuous; he dwells restrained by the Patimokkha, possessed of good conduct and resort, seeing danger in minute faults. Having undertaken the training rules, he trains in them.
- He has learned much, remembers what he has learned, and accumulates what he has learned. Those teachings that are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing, which proclaim the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life -- such teachings as these he has learned much of, retained in mind, recited verbally, mentally investigated, and penetrated well by view.
- He is a good speaker with a good delivery; he is gifted with speech that is polished, clear, articulate, expressive of the meaning.
- He gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhanas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life.
- With the destruction of the taints, he has realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, and having entered upon it, he dwells in it.
From this we can see that it is not whether you are a lay person or a monk that is important for you being a teacher, but your spiritual achievements and realizations, plus communication skills.
In countries without a Buddhist background the best way to teach is as a lay person. The issues like conversion, unfamiliar customs and outer look will not hinder people from accepting the practice. Once you start practicing you see benefits for you self and the practice will continue, but some cases the initial contact is best done by a lay person.
So yes. Ley people should teach, especially in the West and regions where there is not Buddhist culture.
That presupposes a sharp divide between lay and monastic communities within a sangha which isn't always the case. I practice with the Triratna Buddhist Community and while there are members of the order (who take dharma names) their status is not straightforwardly monastic or lay. They can elect to live in a retreat centre but often they will be members of the wider community with families just like anyone else. So the people who sit at the front for us are often more of the lay variety.
Even this though isn't straightforward. We are short of order members in my centre so people who are not order members sometimes take on some teaching particularly talks to beginners. I've done it myself and I think it makes sense. I did something on right-livelihood a while back and I have daily experience (and struggle) with this so I am well placed to say something rather than a full time order member who is employed by the centre. I was asked to do it by an order member so there is some kind of authority there I guess.
Just to summarise here is what order members would definitely teach and where there would be more flexibility
- Study sessions for more advanced students - order members only
- Meditation classes for beginners - order members supported by more advanced students
- Retreats - order members supported by more advanced students
- Talks and regular evenings - mostly order members but others do get involved
- Rituals - anyone interested
- Other events - anyone interested
I have to say though we might be very non-standard in this so I would be interested to hear other people's experiences.
The Buddha's opinion:
'I shall not pass into final Nirvana until the lay-men and lay-women are accomplished and well-trained, learned and erudite, knowers of the Dhamma, living by Dhamma and walking the path of Dhamma, not until they pass on to others what they have received from their Teacher and teach it, proclaim it, establish it, explain it, promote it and clarify it, not until they are able to use it to refute false teachings and impart this wondrous Dhamma' (D.II,105).
Additionally, in A.I.26 the Buddha declares Citta as the foremost among laymen who teach the Dhamma.
In Theravada Buddhism there have been a number of significant lay teachers. Anagarika Dhammaphala was one, although he lived a very monk like life in general so he probably doesn't quite count.
In modern times the most famous example of this is probably S.N. Goenka, the famous meditation teacher whith the well known 10 day retreat program. Goenka's main teacher, U Ba Khin, was also a prominent lay teacher of meditation. Also U Ba Khin learnt meditation from a lay teacher, Saya Thet Gyi.
According to the Udayi Sutta:
"It's not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?
"(1) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak step-by-step.'
"(2) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause & effect].'
"(3) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak out of compassion.'
"(4) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.'
"(5) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak without hurting myself or others.'
Note: According to the Commentary, "hurting oneself" means exalting oneself. "Hurting others" means putting other people down.
It's definitely possible for a lay follower to become wise.
“But how is a wise lay follower defined?”
“It’s when a lay follower is wise. They have the wisdom of arising and passing away which is noble, penetrative, and leads to the complete ending of suffering. Then they’re considered to be a wise lay follower.”
Lay practitioner ==> monk is not a one way street. Some monks renounce their vows for various reasons (not always bad). A famous example in Western Tibetan Buddhism is Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who ordained in 1947 and renounced in 1970, but kept teaching in lay status all the way until 1987. He still sat on a high platform and enjoyed the same honors as an ordained teacher.
There are only three reasons why one goes back to lower live: indoxication with, youth, with health, with life.
Many lay teacher have received Dana from faithful to live the holly live but at the end use this received on the three Gems, to make a livelihood even as lay person and even more "steal" from the Sangha. Go back into the west and "cheat" uninformed. More or lesser aware of this fact, making copies and modifications... Actually they live a poor kslaves" live having fallen, increasing their debts in this ways.
Renouncing higher life, going back to lower life, means to reject the three tripple gems. Not rejecting then, disrobing is still invalid (if not having abound refuge, he counts still as monk, even wearing householder clothes, behave like them). But by engaging in certain things one might transgress a parajika. So such as going back to householderlive to become even a better teacher is impossible, based on strong confusion, disrespect and corrupt. One would not find easy a case in the Canon an ex-monk teaching as lay person. That just modern defiled appearance, for trade and corrupt sakė It taking the Bodhisatta vows, doing so, receiving dana suggesting people one is part of Sangha, its a grave break of the root bodhisatta-vows (according to even the Tibetian school!)
It's the nature, it's impossible, has never been, that someone disrobes and teaches then the good Dhamma, not corrupt, as a lay person. Althought thieving from the tripple Gems is today very popular, even to make a livelihood (whether as lay person or monks) on Dhamma and the Gems, it's not for a good for one who does and destructive for many. Simply subject to corruption, sooner or later meeting much pain. Scandals, abuse... having not authority and no Vinaya, no Sangha able to rebuke and guide each other.
It's natural that there appear good teacher, althought possible that lay people can teach the good Dhamma, because they usually live in corrupt dependency by trade, it a very small chance to not just get corrup Dhamma from them. If really understanding, why not able to renounce houselife?
So be even more careful! Look always if a reacher depends on his students or gains his livelihood by independent ways. The Buddha therefore forbade his monks to teach in exchange with gifts. Do you know a lay person who does not by teaching makes his earning? Shameful...
There might appear merely independent rich people, like Anāthapiṇḍikassa occasionally, or similar like Goenka (in our days, even though because he organised it, oranised a laymens lineage, at leased got corrupt as well)). But most lay teacher are not capable, live and teach in very corrupt ways and improper dependency (mostgmany monks who teach lay people as well!)
People stingy, used to trade and buy, not having taken real refuge, tend to shopping, tend to householders teachings (whether in house clothes or robes). Corrupt people "mind" will always just meet up corrupt ways using Dhamma in corrupt and harmful ways.
So the place to work is on your own person, to be able to meet good teacher. See also: The Power of Judgment for more how to do.
just if like the moon (also for lay people)
Then the Blessed One waved the hand in the air: "Just as, Bhikkhus, this hand is not hold, not seized, not imprisoned in the air, even so, Bhikkhus, a families approaching Bhikkhus mind, whatever, does not get hold, seized, nor imprisoned admidst families: 'Let those, being selfish and given to gain, be selfish and given to gain, let those, being given to merits, do merits', and what ever he gains he is pleased and joyful, so as with what others gain he is pleased and joyful, like this, Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu ready to approach families.
"What do you think, Bhikkhus, what kind of Bhikkhu is giving teaching on Dhamma impurely, and what kind of Bhikkhu is giving teaching on Dhamma purely?"
"Venerable Sir, the techings are rooted in the Blessed One, leaded by the Blessed One, having the Blessed One as protector. It would be good if the Blessed One would make the meaning delightful clear. Learned by the Blessed One, the Bhikkhus will bear it in mind."
"Then, Bhikkhus, listen and pay close attention, I will speak."
"Yes, venerable Sir," the Bhikkhus replayed to the Blessed One. The Blessed One spoke thus:
"There is the case, Bhikkhus, that a Bhikkhu teaches the Dhamma, thinking: 'Oh, may they listen to the Dhamma from me. Having learned my Dhamma, may they be settled in believe in it. Having been settled in believe in it, may they show their settlement in believe," this is a kind of Bhikkhu, Bhikkhus, who is giving teaching on Dhamma impurely.
There is the case, Bhikkhus, that a Bhikkhu teaches the Dhamma, thinking: 'The Dhamma of the Blessed One is well taught, direct visible, timeless, inviting to come and see, appropriate, to be self-experianced by the wise. Oh, may they listen to the Dhamma from me. Having learned the Dhamma, may they understand. Having understood the Dhamma, may they practice accordingly.' So he teaches the Dhamma because of the excellence nature of the Dhamma; he teaches the Dhamma out of compassion and kindness, out of pity. This is a kind of Bhikkhu, Bhikkhus, who is giving teaching on Dhamma purely.
Kassapa, Bhikkhus, teaches the Dhamma, thinking: 'The Dhamma of the Blessed One is well taught, direct visible, timeless, inviting to come and see, appropriate, to be self-experianced by the wise. Oh, may they listen to the Dhamma from me. Having learned the Dhamma, may they understand. Having understood the Dhamma, may they practice accordingly.' He teaches the Dhamma because of the excellence nature of the Dhamma; he teaches the Dhamma out of compassion and kindness, out of pity.
Bhikkhus, I advice you by the sample of Kassapa, or one who is similar to Kassapa's kind. Being adviced, you should practice in this way.
Even if bound to Vinaya, corruption can access, yet think if people are not bound voluntary to Vinaya... 1 in a billion.
"Buddhist" and their teacher, mainly lay people by heart, are disrespectful torward the Gems, torward the Sangha, torward the Elders, and not really having taken refuge in the Savaka Sangha, their objectives are not the best. That's by nature, thinking being smarter as the Buddha in regard of proper ways.
[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]
Yes, if he has enough knowledge.
The required lowest graduation:
Qualities of enlightened lay teacher for lay people:
- Enlightened sodāpatti-phala, at least.
- Proficient to recite and to understand 9 pāṭha, the whole K.N. khuddaka-pātha, and their commentaries.
- Proficient to recite and to understand the whole K.N. Itivuttaka, and their commentaries.
- Enough understand to judge/to decide about 8 precepts and lay-ārāmika's job.
- Enough understand to judge/to decide about abhidhamma in his kammaṭṭhāna. This abhidhamma knowledge will come with his meditation and his enlightenment, no need to study. However, more abhidhamma knowledge is required for teaching the other qualities below, so lay teacher must study this part, such as Cittagahapati did.
- 5 years experience in buddhism.
However, the pāli canon never focus on lay teacher, because the ariya-lays very respect bhikkhu. So, they often invite bhikkhu to teach, first. But khujjuttarā can not invite bhikkhu into the king's palace, so she must recite & recollect tipitaka herself to teach inside the king's palace.
Another, if lay teacher will teach bhikkhu, he need this Qualities, that was writen in commentary according to V.N. Mahākhandhaka:
Qualities of nissayamuccaka-bhikkhu (teaching lay people)
- Proficient to recite pāṭimokkha-pāli and to understand it's commentary.
- Proficient to recite and to understand 4 bhāṇavāra (~1,000 syllable) of sutta and their commentary, to teach laymen on uposatha day.
- Proficient to recite and to understand sutta for bhikkhu's life such as andhakavindasutta, mahālahulovādasutta, ambaṭṭhasutta, etc.
- Proficient to recite and to understand sutta for teaching in 3 chances: banquet for saṅgha by layman (nidhikaṇdasutta), funeral ceremony (tirokuṭṭasutta), and auspicious ceremony (maṅgalasutta).
- Enough understand to judge/to decide about saṇgha's ceremony such as uposatha, pavāraṇā, etc.
- Proficient to recite and to understand his kammaṭṭhānā throughout the nibbāna-course.
- 5 years experience in monk hood as a monk.
Qualities of bhikkuparisūpaṭṭhāpaka-bhikkhu (teaching bikkhus)
If above layman's teachers want to teach bhikkhus (ūpajjhā-ācāriya, nissaya-ācāriya), they must increase their skill level to all of the following qualities.
These are for abhivinaya teaching:
- Proficient to recite mahāvibhagha and bhikkhunivibhaṅga (first 3 books of thai 45 books pali-tipitaka) of vinaya-pitaka-pali. At least, he can relay with the other 3 bhikkhu. Proficient to understand it's commentary, too.
- Proficient to recite all saṇgha's ceremony in vinaya-pitaka mahāvagga and julavagga.
- Proficient to recite 14 vatta in vattakhandhaka.
These are for abhidhamma (kammaṭṭhāna) teaching:
- Proficient to recite one of this suttanta-pali: mūlapaṇṇassa (1st/3 parts of M.N.) for student in M.N. faculty, mahāvagga (2nd/3 parts of D.N.) for student in D.N. faculty, sagāthavagga+nidānavagga+khandhavāravagga of S.N. or mahāvagga of S.N. for student in S.N. faculty, before half of A.N. or after half of A.N. or ekakanipāta+dukanipāta of A.N. for student in A.N. faculty, jātaka+commentary (because kammaṭṭhāna was described in commentary) for student in jātaka faculty.
Qualities of bhikkunovdaka-bhikkhu (teaching bhikkunīs)
If above layman's teachers want to teach bhikkhunī, they must increase their skill level to all of these qualities:
- Proficient to recite whole tipitaka-pali and commentary-pali. Or at least, he still must recite whole tipitaka, but he can recite just one commentary of suttanta, first 4 parts of commentary of 7 parts of abhidhamma. However, vinaya-commentary is what he must recite it all.
Reference: tipitaka and commentary of vinaya pācittiyakaṇḍa bhikkhunovādakasikkhāpada and vinaya mahāvagga mahākhandhaka.
Related topic: https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/22917/10100