I'm aware that they both have monks generally, but what about priests? If so, do they perform the same function?


1 Answer 1


The Buddha never spoke about this matter and I've never heard of it happening. What did happen at the Buddha's time - with his approval - is that skilled lay meditators would both learn the Dhamma and teach it, sometimes even to monks. Unlike modern lay Dhamma teachers and priests, though, they didn't take a fee or even financial donations for their efforts. Further, the laypeople who were considered advanced enough to do this were all attained to a stage of awakening, often as high as non-return - in such cases they would have been fully celibate. Citta is the prime example of this: as a non-returner he was one of the two foremost male lay disciples of the Buddha, who publicly declared him foremost among his male lay students in teaching Dhamma.

  • What does this have to do with priests of Japanese Mahayana?
    – ruben2020
    Commented Jun 18 at 13:26
  • As I understand they are basically householders with a formally ascribed leadership role. My answer is that no such institution was established by the Buddha, but that laypeople nevertheless did take on informal teaching roles even during his lifetime. This is the closest thing we have in Theravada to an approved non-monastic leadership role within the fourfold assembly. Commented Jun 18 at 13:34
  • don't they have abbots in thailand??
    – user26068
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:57
  • 1
    Theravada abbots are monastics, renunciates, not allowed wives etc. "Zen priests are not necessarily monastics (monks & nuns)... Priests may have romantic relationships, own houses, have jobs, have spouses and kids, and function in the world much like lay practitioners." gmzc.org/priest-ordination Commented Jun 19 at 17:27
  • sure, but that's not necessarily mahayana, as i'm sure you know the attitude in korea to celibacy.
    – user26068
    Commented Jun 19 at 20:41

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