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If you have means, Buddhist notions are much easier to live by. If you do not, you may have to break the precepts in order to survive. This is particularly true for women and other vulnerable peoples. Is true Buddhism an elitist ideology?

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I haven’t met many Buddhist but I can tell you that Buddha Dhamma is for the masses. In India , our constitution was given by a Buddhist who had renunciated Hinduism. Because Buddhism focuses on suffering, there is not a large percentage of population following Buddhism. Buddhism is quiet popular among the poor and destitute people.

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One of the strongest teachings the Buddha spoke was to not tell lies, as follows:

In the same way, Rahula, when anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do. Thus, Rahula, you should train yourself, 'I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest.'

MN 61

I used to work for the government. If I need a job, I will drive a bus or work in a grocery store.

The Buddha included having an ethical & peaceful job as part of his Path.

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Is true Buddhism an elitist ideology?

Maybe yes.

I think that a large majority of people "have the means to survive" -- and so that, i.e. having the means to survive, is not "elite" in the oligarch i.e. "rule by the few" sense of the word.

But what is "elite" -- were you using it in some pejorative sense?

A dictionary defines "elite" as, "people in a society who are eminent because of some quality that's valued by society (e.g. 'intellectual elite')" -- and "elitist" is the view that society should be led by the elite.

I think that Buddhism does identify "qualities that are valued by society" -- wisdom, compassion, generosity, keeping precepts too.

I've read (but don't know) that the Vinaya is a bit egalitarian (e.g. monks deciding together), and a bit elitist (e.g. the junior showing deference to the more senior monks).

Monks and nuns have the "means to survive" when they're supported by laypeople. Yes laypeople probably view them as "elite". In a sense perhaps it is because monks "keep the precepts" that they are considered "elite" and therefore "have the means to survive".


Something analogous may be true of non-Buddhist society too -- keeping the five precepts is a prerequisite to being an employee (and therefore "having the means to survive)", someone would be fired if they didn't keep the precepts (but that's very rare/abnormal in my experience).

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Precepts are not the essence of the Dhamma.

From Sīlabbatasutta:

“Take the case of someone who cultivates precepts and observances, a lifestyle, and a spiritual path, taking this as the essence. If unskillful qualities grow while skillful qualities decline, that’s not fruitful. However, if unskillful qualities decline while skillful qualities grow, that is fruitful.”

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