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The following sutta quote suggests that under the stated conditions, an Arahant should forcibly remain an unwanted burden or guest to a specific individual caretaker, even if sent away (or dismissed - according to Ven. Suddhaso's translation).

Is this really the case?

If that specific individual caretaker is unable to care for that Arahant any more due to personal circumstances e.g. due to financial reasons or family reasons or health reasons, what should he do?

Take another case of a mendicant who lives supported by an individual. As they do so, their mindfulness becomes established, their mind becomes immersed in samādhi, their defilements come to an end, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary. And the necessities of life that a renunciate requires—robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick—are easy to come by. That mendicant should reflect: ‘While living supported by this person, my mindfulness becomes established … And the necessities of life are easy to come by.’ That mendicant should follow that person for the rest of their life. They shouldn’t leave them, even if sent away.”
MN 17 (translated by Ven. Sujato)

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    Is it possible that “sent away” doesn’t mean “sent away by the caretaker?” In other words, some of the townsfolk might try to drive the Bhikkhu away, but so long as the caretaker is still making it easy to obtain requisites, the Bhikkhu should continue to visit. Note that if the caretaker sends the Bhikkhu away and stops offering requisites, then it is no longer the case that “the necessities of life are easy to come by.”
    – Jbag1212
    Apr 22, 2022 at 23:33

5 Answers 5

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Is this really the case?

Piya Tan's explanation is as follows:

In the case of his dependence on a person, the Sutta instructions are rather curious. If he does not progress in his practice, he should leave, whether he is properly supported or not, and he need not even take leave [§§23-24]. However, if he should be able to progress, he should not leave—whether he is able to properly obtain his life-supports or not. Then, even if the person tells him to leave or drives him away, he should not leave!

Upon careful consideration, we should be able to understand why the practising monastic should not leave when his practice is progressing well. The reason is simple enough: nothing should stand in the way of his impending awakening! Indeed, if the monastic advances in deep meditation and approaches liberation, no one—not even Māra—will be able to drive him from his bodhi-seat, just like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree during the great awakening.

If that specific individual caretaker is unable ... what should he do?

Maybe show compassion, make merit.

Footnote 23 of Piya Tan's says,

Tena bhikkhave bhikkhunā yāva,jīvam pi so puggalo anubandhitabbo, na pakkamitabbaṁ api panujjamānena pîti [Be Ee Ce; Se samujjamānena pîti].
As in Paṭisambhidā S 2 (A 7.37/4:32), SD 85.17. Comy says that even if one were being physically thrown out, driven out with a rod, and so on, one should still remain, patiently living there all life long (MA 2:72).

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  • Wow ... that's so true yet unbelievable.
    – ruben2020
    Apr 22, 2022 at 18:22
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The phrase "even if sent away" occurs in two suttas. The first sutta is MN17 as posted.

MN17:26.7: That mendicant should follow that person for the rest of their life. They shouldn’t leave them, even if sent away.”

The second sutta is MN122:

MN122:19.2: For what reason would a disciple value following the Teacher, even if sent away?”

MN122 explains further:

MN122:20.1: “A disciple should not value following the Teacher for the sake of statements, songs, or discussions.
MN122:20.2: Why is that?
MN122:20.3: Because for a long time you have learned the teachings, remembering them, reciting them, mentally scrutinizing them, and comprehending them theoretically.
MN122:20.4: But a disciple should value following the Teacher, even if asked to go away, for the sake of talk about self-effacement that helps open the heart and leads solely to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. That is, talk about fewness of wishes, contentment, seclusion, aloofness, arousing energy, ethics, immersion, wisdom, freedom, and the knowledge and vision of freedom.

Specifically, there is a danger to the student:

MN122:23.4: While meditating withdrawn, they’re visited by a stream of brahmins and householders of the city and country.
MN122:23.5: When this happens, they enjoy infatuation, fall into greed, and return to indulgence.
MN122:23.6: This student is said to be imperiled by the student’s peril.

How could an arahant benefit from and abandon a student in peril even if that student sends them away?

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You are quoting Vanapattha Paryaya (monastic practice). Please note that attaining Nibbaba is the prime goal of Buddhists. If a person, a place or anything is helping that effort, it is viewed as a rare opportunity for the disciple to complete his/her journey. Such opportunities should not be missed.

On the other hand, the person who helps the disciple will be accruing a lot of good karma and knowledge (due to dhamma discussions, etc.) which in turn help him/her to complete their journey towards Nibbana as well. So, this should be viewed as a mutually beneficial arrangement rather than a once sided thing.

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  • the monk referred to in the sutta has attained liberation. this monk is said to remain with the benefactor Apr 22, 2022 at 13:22
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    The translation is misleading. What kind of liberation ties one to a place or a person? Lord Buddha preached Dhamma for the people who are yet to attain Nirvana. Once you are an Arhant, you are no longer clinging to anything, not even to Dhamma.
    – Sampath
    Apr 23, 2022 at 4:44
  • sorry but the translation is not misleading. please have faith in the sutta and do not take refuge in puthujjhana such as Piya Tan and his puthujjana disciples Apr 23, 2022 at 10:12
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If that specific individual caretaker is unable to care for that Arahant any more due to personal circumstances e.g. due to financial reasons or family reasons or health reasons, what should he do?

Notice the basic four-fold pattern thru-out the sutta:

  1. No enlightenment + scarce requisites ==> leave immediately the very day;
  2. No enlightenment + ample requisites ==> leave;
  3. Enlightenment      + scarce requisites ==> stay;
  4. Enlightenment      + ample requisites ==> stay as long as life lasts, even if told to go away;

    So, if that caretaker is unable to care for the Arahant specifically due to financial reason (ie. ample requisites downgraded to scarce requisites), that'd degrade the case from #4 down to #3, which does not instruct the arahant to "stay even if told to go away", hence eliminates the case of the arahant being a burden to a financially-troubled patron. Same logic applies to remaining cases, if the requisites gets downgraded due to patron's personal, family, health issues, case #4 will downgrade to #3: while the arahant should stay, the "even if told to leave" would no longer be enforced.
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The teaching does not appear to imply what the question is asking. The teaching appears to say:

Take another case of a mendicant who lives supported by an individual. As they do so, their mindfulness becomes established, their mind becomes immersed in samādhi, their defilements come to an end, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary… And the necessities of life are easy to come by.’ That mendicant should follow that person for the rest of their life. They shouldn’t leave them, even if sent away.

MN 17

The above appears to say the monk should follow the certain layperson, even if the layperson sends the monk away. In other words, the monk continues to visit the house of the certain layperson for alms, even if the certain layperson refused to offer alms and sends the monk away. In other words, the teaching appears to place no obligations upon the certain layperson. The teaching appears to say the opposite, namely, the monk has an enduring obligation of gratitude towards the certain layperson because it was when obtaining requistes from that certain layperson the monk established mindfulness and attained enligthenment.

The duty in MN 17 appears to fall upon the monk and not the layperson. The monk is to always have gratitude towards the layperson. Thus there is a sutta somewhere that says a monk or person must always be grateful towards the smallest gift.

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