«Non-Monastic Buddhist» in Pāli-Discourse

Religious Experience and Religiosity in Relation to the Monastic Order

by Sompornnuch Tansrisook (Author)
©2015 Thesis XV, 255 Pages


The book intends to grasp the meaning of upāsaka / upāsikā or Buddhist laity in Dīgha- and Majjhima-nikāya of the Pāli canon. Considering the texts as oral literature, the author examines and interprets the structure and stock phrases constructing the narrative with a theory of religious experience. Upāsaka / upāsikā is hence seen as the non-monastic follower, who, having experienced the significance of dhamma and the superiority of the Buddha, has the trust in the goal and spiritual path that the Buddha has shown. In this connection, Buddhist community is the assembly of the followers, monastic and non-monastic alike, sharing the same common ground and following the spiritual path in pursuit of individual liberation, which in tandem contributes to perpetuation of the community.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Table of Figures
  • Preface
  • Chapter I: Introduction
  • 1.1 Background of the Study
  • 1.2 Purpose of the Study
  • 1.3 Methodology
  • 1.3.1 Philological Study of Pāli Discourse
  • 1.3.2 Orality of the Pāli Text
  • 1.3.3 Theory of Religious Experience
  • 1.4 Definition of Key Terms
  • 1.4.1 Laity; Non-Monastic Follower – upāsaka/upāsikā
  • 1.4.2 Monk; Monastic Follower – bhikkhu/bhikkhunī
  • 1.4.3 Monastic Order - Saṅgha
  • 1.5 Other Regulations in the Study
  • 1.5.1 Orthography
  • 1.5.2 Reference to Pāli Canon
  • 1.5.3 Reference to Stock Phrase
  • 1.6 Outline of the Study
  • Chapter II: Discourse as Imagery of Buddha’s Mission
  • 2.1 Remarks on Pāli Discourse as Oral Literature
  • 2.2 Overview of Discourse Structure
  • 2.2.1 Reference to the Way the Sermon Received
  • 2.2.2 Introductory Story
  • 2.2.3 Message of the Discourse
  • 2.2.4 Conclusion of Discourse
  • 2.2.5 Conclusion
  • 2.3 Expressions at the Conclusion of Discourse
  • 2.3.1 Stock Phrase Denoting Hearer’s Satisfaction
  • 2.3.2 Stock Phrase Denoting Formal Declaration of Belief in Buddha
  • 2.3.3 Stock Phrase Denoting a Spiritual Attainment
  • 2.3.4 Conclusion
  • 2.4 Summary
  • Chapter III: Development of Belief and Religious Experience in Pāli Discourse
  • 3.1 At First Hearing the Buddha’s Reputation and Seeing Him in Person
  • 3.1.1 Buddha
  • Buddha’s Spiritual Qualities
  • Signs of Great Man in Buddha
  • 3.1.2 Monastic Follower as Representative of Buddha
  • 3.1.3 Conclusion
  • 3.2 After Hearing the Sermon
  • 3.2.1 Compliment
  • Compliment on Ability to Debate
  • Compliment on the Meaning of the Teaching
  • Compliment on the Monastic Order
  • 3.2.2 Apology
  • 3.2.3 Conclusion
  • 3.3 At the End: Levels of Belief in Buddhism in Reaction to Sermon
  • 3.3.1 First Level: Dhammacakkhu Mentioned
  • 3.3.2 Second Level: Understanding Described and Belief Declared
  • 3.3.3 Third Level: Belief in the Buddha Undeclared
  • 3.3.4 Fourth Level: No Expression of Belief
  • 3.3.5 Case Studies of the Four Levels of Belief in Comparison
  • First Level
  • Second Level
  • Third Level
  • Fourth Level
  • 3.3.6 Conclusion
  • 3.4 First discussion
  • 3.4.1 At First Hearing Reputation and Seeing in Person
  • 3.4.2 At Hearing the Sermon
  • Development of Knowledge
  • Evaluation of Dhamma and Buddha
  • 3.5 Summary
  • Chapter IV: Lay Religiosity in Relation to the Monastic Order
  • 4.1 Conversion
  • 4.1.1 Conversion as the Following Act of Evaluation
  • 4.1.2 Conversion into Non-Monastic Follower
  • 4.2 Expression of Reverence to Buddha
  • 4.2.1 Verbal Expression
  • Upāli
  • King Pasenadi
  • 4.2.2 Non-Verbal Expression
  • 4.3 Religious Devotions
  • 4.3.1 Donation
  • 4.3.2 Religious Education
  • 4.4 Second Discussion
  • 4.4.1 The Three Jewels
  • Buddha
  • Dhamma
  • Sangha
  • 4.4.2 Development of Wisdom on the Spiritual Path
  • 4.5 Summary
  • Chapter V: Conclusion
  • 5.1 Result of the Study
  • 5.1.1 Lay Follower and Religious Experience
  • Result of Philological Study
  • Interpretation of the Meaning
  • 5.1.2 Lay Follower as the Composite of Sangha
  • 5.2 Suggestion
  • 5.2.1 Methods in Studying Scripture
  • 5.2.2 Inclusivism in Buddhism
  • Appendix I: Progressive Talk and Sermon for an Understanding of Doctrine
  • Appendix II: Progressive Talk and Sermon Leading to Reactions to Buddha
  • Appendix III: Code Number of Stock Phrases
  • Appendix IV: Religiosity of Non-Monastic Follower in Pāli Discourse
  • Bibliography
  • 1 Primary Sources
  • 2 Secondary Sources
  • Indices
  • 1 Pāli-Texts
  • 2 Names of Scholars
  • 3 Proper Names in Pāli-Discourse
  • 4 Subject Index
  • Deutsche Zusammenfassung
  • 1 Fragestellung, Methode und Gegenstand der Arbeit
  • 2 Ergebnisse der Arbeit
  • 2.1 Ergebnis der philologischen Studie zu dem Pāli-Diskurs
  • 2.2 Entwicklung des Glaubens und Erfahrung
  • 2.3 Religiosität nach der Erfahrung in Bezug auf die Gemeinschaft

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Table of Figures

Figure 1: Taves’s Categorization of Religious Experience

Figure 2: Taves’s Model of Religious Experience “Simple Ascription”

Figure 3: Taves’s Model of Religious Experience “Composite Ascription”

Figure 4: Formation of Ascriptions in Making of Religion

Figure 5: Outline of Pāli Discourse in Dīgha-nikāya and Majjhima-nikāya

Figure 6: Table Showing Conclusion of Discourses in DN and MN

Figure 7: Sermon as the Thing Deemed Special

Figure 8: Model of Experience Deemed Religious in Declaration of the Belief

Figure 9: Belief in the First Level: Kūadanta - Brahmāyu

Figure 10: Belief in the Second Level: Soadaṇḍa - Jīvaka Kōmārabhacca

Figure 11: Belief in the Third Level: Bhagavagotta, Jāliya- Maṇḍiya

Figure 12: Belief in the Fourth Level: Sandaka - Nigrodha

Figure 13: Buddha Deemed Special in Hearsay

Figure 14: Development of Knowledge Traced from Stock Phrase Type I, II

Figure 15: Process of Belief in the Nikāya discourse

Figure 16: From Understanding of Dhamma to the Conversion

Figure 17: Acknowledgment and Non-acknowledgment after sermon

Figure 18: Understanding of Dhamma in Relation to the Three Jewels

Figure 19: From Hearing Sermon to Religiosity in Relation to the Order

Figure 20: Spiritual Path with and without Ānupubbikathā in Comparison

Figure 21: Learning and Practicing Dhamma after Conversion until Liberation

Figure 22: Taves’s Theory and its Application to Pāli Discourse

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This book is the publication of a doctoral dissertation in comparative religion (Vergleichende Religionswissenschaft), submitted to the Faculty of Philosophy, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University at Bonn, Germany, in December 2013.

The book deals with the concept of upāsaka/upāsikā or the so-called “laity” in the Dīgha- and Majjhima-nikāya of Pāli canon. The question of the study is simple: what is the followership of the lay Buddhist according to the scripture? Responding to the question, different answers have been provided based on method, perspective, orientation, and even belief of the researchers. Nevertheless, the results are not satisfying because they do not offer the sense (“Sinn,” in German), the meaning which constructs the followership, the direction of devotions leading to the spiritual goal. As the lay followers are the major composite of Buddhist community as well as the major population of Buddhist society, the basic concept is necessary to acquire for the foundation of studying and researching the people, their behaviour, their activity and organizations in relation to one another and other religious communities in a country, where Buddhism plays a role in the people.

The source of the study is Pāli canon, the religious scripture of so-called Theravada Buddhism, consisting of teaching and explanation composed, collected, and transmitted in the long tradition of Southern Buddhism, which centers are in Sri Lanka and mainland Southeast Asia. By the choice, not only because the scripture is rather an original and complete account of the Buddha’s tradition, but also the tradition is rendered to the people until nowadays. The traditional concepts, socialized in the society of the old time, is survived to the modern society and state and significantly influential to the social and cultural dimension of the society and, still, to the thought of the major population. The basic concept of the Buddhist followership is therefore useful to understand the people in the present context in comparison to the ideal in the scripture, in order to see the tendency of existence, adaptation, and change in lifestyle that implies some factors behind. As researcher in Buddhism from Thailand, the author expects that the knowledge about the Buddhist followership of ← XI | XII → the lay people contribute to the basic understanding of the Thai and their society in some extent.

In working on the scripture, the author applies two thoughts to achieve the concepts communicated in the Nikāya discourses, which have been neglected in the European tradition of Buddhist philology. First, the author applies the knowledge about oral literature to understand the discourses when they are learned by heart and recited to hearers during the oral transmission. In this way, the discourses composed with mnemonic aids or stock phrases in certain patterns are read for the telling imagery of religiosity, not for sermon text, which people nowadays reckon to be the important message. Second, the author focuses on the cultivated relationship between the “religious” and the people who are contacting the religious as described in the discourse that inspires the trust and loyality in the religion, which is the deep foundation of the Buddhist followership. In this perspective, a theory of religious experience is applied to understand the relationship and its development in the individuals expressed in their behaviour and religiosity. In doing this, the author, feeling free in applying methods, considers the lettering of Pāli scripture an account of a Buddhist tradition conveying some information about the Buddha, his teaching, his followers, their activity within the community, their attitude about themselves and the others. In short, the work is thus engaged in deconstructing the text and understanding religiosity and community of the people systematically for the sense or the meaning behind the organization.

Consequently, there is no intention to touch upon other valid conclusions about history of Early Buddhism, which has been continually drawn from researching scriptures of various traditions since the nineteenth century, although the author remains sceptical about the thought and the method in dealing with the orality in the early scriptures, i.e., Suttavibhaga and Khandhaka of Vinaya as well as Nikāya discourse, and the historicity of the told stories. The author rather concentrates on the stories as the device for socialization, providing individuals in the tradition with the essential ideas to social and cultural continuity. Apart from the philosophical teaching, the forms of religiosity, the homage to the Three Jewels, the role of homiletics in winning the acceptance and followership, etc. are also learned and practiced by the people in the tradition. Nevertheless, the transformation of the literary tradition from oral to ← XII | XIII → written, which happened to Pāli tradition in Ceylon during the first century, must more or less result in the understanding of the meanings transmitted in the alphabetical form. Commentarians, who were born to the written tradition, played a very important role in the traditional notion that the stock phrases should be the mnemonic aids that preserve the original words of the Buddha exclusively. The word Pāli or Pāl̥i, which refers to the collection of Buddha’s words, is understood as “row,” the discipline preserving the teaching. In this perspective, it deserves an investigation of how the understanding of the scripture and the meaning in the originally oral scripture is affected as apparent in commentary literatures.

The author is grateful to Anandamahidol Foundation for the financial support of living and working on this topic in the country, in the research university, where students can enjoy freedom of thought and express the thought in their academic work. The author is also grateful to the supervisor, Prof. Dr. Dr. Manfred Hutter, Department of Comparative Religion, for the chance of working in the department, in which the author has learned a lot about studying religions for the creativity in researching Buddhist tradition, as well as, Prof. Dr. Konrad Klaus, Department of Indology, as the second reviewer for admitting the study in spite of not agreeing with some methodological approaches. At the end, the author appreciates the friendship from friends and acquaintances during living in Federal Republic of Germany: among others, Michael Schröders, Deborah Karl-Brandt, Saengdham Kuanard, Kunlaphak Kongsuvannakul, and the author’s sister, Arunee Tansrisook.

Bonn 17.07.2014

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Chapter I: Introduction

Upāsaka/upāsikā or “laity” is known as the person who worships Buddha, follows his teaching, and actively carries out religious activities in relation to Sangha, the monastic order found by the Buddha. As householder, not ordained for the full-time devotion to the spirituality, he forms the majority within the ‘community’ of Buddha’s followers. He is the counterpart of the monastic follower in the community, playing subordinate roles, particularly the supporter.1 His ideal and virtue as generally pursued aim at a good rebirth, happiness and luck, considered inferior to that of the monastic people, who follow the Buddha’s path leading to Nibbāna.2 In this way, he is considered as Buddha’s follower “not in the proper sense.”3 This is the reflection from the notion that Buddhism is a monastic religion which exclusively encourages the renunciation for the foster of the liberation.4 Recently, phenomena of the lay follower after the age of colonialism have shown another tendency: more Buddhist householders nowadays have played a leading role in movements, instruction, and interpretation of doctrine within their community. Not to neglect in favor of field studies on current situations, the study of the phenomena should call for a revision of the upāsaka/upāsikā as represented in the canon for the understanding about the followership in light of insider’s perspective.5 ← 1 | 2 →

The author intends to use the word non-monastic follower or lay follower in place of laity, which is generally used in English or its derivative in a European language, to represent the word upāsaka/upāsikā in Pāli language. First, to distinguish the two kinds of Buddha’s followers mentioned in the scripture, i.e. between those inside monastic order and those outside the monastic order. Second, to presuppose that the non-monastic follower is “Buddhist,” Buddha’s follower, in some way, although they do not join the order mentioned as the path to the Buddhist goal or Nibbāna. Hence, it is necessary to explore the way that makes the people the followership as established in the scripture. Third, the usage of the word avoids the connotation from the sense of the English word laity or its European derivatives from Christian culture that reinforces the image of the folks in the high religion attending and supporting the religious activities held by the religious specialist in a community. The followership in Pāli discourse might be unique in some way, and thus, should be handled without influences from other factors.

1.1 Background of the Study

Scholars tried to investigate the concept of upāsaka/upāsikā “non-monastic follower,” from relation with Buddha and his order and religious goal in Pāli canon. The first scholar who challenged the widely held perception is Bimala Law in his article “Nirvana and Buddhist Laymen,” published in 1933,6 in which he found that the non-monastic follower may access the spiritual goal that bhikkhu/bhikkhunī accesses. In 1945, Nalinaksha Dutt published an article “Place of Laity in Buddhism,”7 which remarked the spirituality of the people as manifested in the Pāli canon. He found that the lay follower are clearly discriminated from the monk and the nun, who are the members of monastic order that the Buddha has founded for his official followers, as ethical teachings in the canon are clearly prescriptive to the monastic people, not the people outside the order. In this way, the non-monastic follower should not be reckoned Buddha’s followers in the ← 2 | 3 → sense of those who practically obey the teaching for the spiritual goal that the Buddha has given.


XV, 255
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (October)
mündliche Erzählung Sangha Buddhismus dhamma
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. XVI, 255 pp., 20 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Sompornnuch Tansrisook (Author)

Sompornnuch Tansrisook studied Thai, Pāli and Sanskrit at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok (Thailand) as well as Comparative Religion in Bonn (Germany). Currently she is a lecturer in the Section of Pāli and Sanskrit at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.


Title: «Non-Monastic Buddhist» in Pāli-Discourse