Are there instances in the Pali Canon of the Buddha offering teaching without being asked to?

I know he often decided the topic of his discourses himself, and also often seems to have started the discourses spontaneously. These seem to have been cases where the audience (Buddhist monks) can be seen to have been more or less expecting a teaching from him at some point, after all they had chosen to become monks and remained in his presence. I think this also goes for his first discourse with the group he used to practice asceticism with, since he knew very well that they were desperately looking for the kind of thing that he had discovered.

Instead, I'm asking for examples of him basically seeing or hearing of a person who isn't a monk, or at least a Buddhist monk, and deciding to offer them teaching. Or even more specifically, I'm interested in whether or not that ever seems to have happened, and how common it seems to have been compared to the usual pattern of people coming to him asking questions.

4 Answers 4


In SN 7.21, Ven. Ananda requested the Buddha to visit the home of the lay brahmin Sangarava and teach him, to debunk his belief in water purification rituals. The Buddha consented. The brahmin neither asked to be taught, nor approached the Buddha for any other reason.

In SN 7.22, the Buddha approached the council hall of Khomadussa where householders and brahmins were having a meeting. They saw the Buddha coming from a distance and mocked him as being a fake ascetic, to which he responded by giving them a teaching.

  • 2
    Very good examples. Jul 1, 2023 at 1:36

I think the question might need reframing. The Buddha's Dhamma is of two types (MN 117):

  1. mundane/pertaining to merit & morality
  2. supramundane/transcendent

For me, the question is: "Did the Buddha ever offer supramundane teachings without being asked to?"

The account of the First Sermon in the Vinaya gives the impression the Buddha was pushy & offered to teach without being asked at a time when the five monks were not yet the Buddha's Sangha:

The Buddha said to the group of five monks, “Monks, don’t address the Buddha by name or as ‘friend’. Listen, I’m perfected and fully awakened. I have discovered the deathless. I will instruct you and teach you the Truth. When you practice as instructed, in this very life you will soon realize with your own insight the supreme goal of the spiritual life for which gentlemen rightly go forth into homelessness.

The Buddha was able to persuade the group of five monks. They then listened to the Buddha, paid careful attention, and applied their minds to understand.

In MN 49, the Buddha went to a Brahma-world to harass Baka the Brahmā, who did not attain any enlightenment from the Buddha's harassment. (However, my personal view is MN 49 is a late fake sutta).

As for mundane teachings, I expect a Buddha would provide these in the general course of meeting others socially.

  • Saying that the teaching of the Buddha is of two types is a false, harmul and relativistic statement. There is no mundane vs supramundane suffering, no mundane vs supramundane universal cause of suffering, no mundane vs supramundane extinction of suffering and no mundane vs supramundane method for the extinction of suffering. Thus, there is no mundane vs supramundane teaching, the Awakened One did not preach relativism. The Buddha Dhamma is one and the same for all.
    – user24850
    Jul 14, 2023 at 4:11
  • The Suttas were quoted. Please desist from commenting on my posts when my answers have already been substantiated. Thank you Jul 14, 2023 at 5:03
  • Maybe the distinction that @DhammaAnatta is trying to make is that, in MN 117, the Buddha says that each of the path-factors -- e.g. right view, right resolve, etc. -- are of two sorts. And the Buddha explains them both, to one audience -- which is not quite the same as saying that the Dharma is of two sorts.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:40
  • thank you @ChrisW. so in order to clarify, did the Buddha teach the truth about suffering in a relativistic or a universal manner?
    – user24850
    Jul 15, 2023 at 8:07

The Akkosa Sutta: Insult (SN 7.2) might be an example, perhaps a rare example. In it, the brahman wasn't explicitly asking for a teaching -- though he did go and initiate the conversation. It's interesting (or skilful) how the Buddha does it -- perhaps the brahman wasn't inclined at that moment to quietly listen to a discourse, instead the Buddha engages him in dialog using a rhetorical question.

He does give discourses to laypeople, villagers -- maybe often, the Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65) is one example -- I think the usual scenario in that case is that they respect him as a teacher. See for example the story of The Weaver's Daughter for an account of how he might often talk with laypeople.


Putting the Pali qualifier to one side, without discrimination - if we ask ourselves what it means to teach?

Just by being - demonstrating the fact of the possibility of liberation - was one of Lord Buddha's greatest and most significant teachings. Providing an example of how to speak, how to teach, how to sit, how to walk - all of these were direct and immediate teachings.

The best way to teach a child is through example, not through words, right?

Did he talk without being asked to? Yes, often. Were some of those talks teachings? I would argue all of them were: Every moment of experience with a Buddha is going to be a very powerful learning experience. Every moment with a significantly realised teacher is a learning experience.

Did he give formal talks without being asked? I do not know.

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