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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The householder's path

In many religions, there is a distinction between the those who turn away from the world, the renunciate (monks and nuns), and the householder or layperson who remains very much in the world.  The renunciate is usually celibate and has few if any possessions, sometimes living in a community of fellow renunciates or living a solitary life in a hermitage or even a cave.  Often the renunciate depends on his community or laypeople for the necessities of life.  The householder typically has a family and possessions and works for a living.  Whereas the renunciate is devoted to praying, meditating and doing good works, the householder has many responsibilities for maintaining the "household" whatever it consists of.  In spiritual terms, the advantage of the life of the renunciate is the freedom to concentrate on reflection, study, meditation and other devotional activities.  The advantage of the life of the householder is having the opportunity to experience the simple pleasures of life, including the joys of family life, conjugal satisfaction and the enjoyment of other sensory pleasures (in moderation, of course).  The opportunity to practice meditation was open to the householder on a daily basis and during meditation retreats lasting a few days to months to years when they could practice in the manner of a renunciate.  

The Buddha did not disparage the householder's path.  In fact, there are several examples in the scriptures of laypersons who achieved various stages of enlightenment including the full enlightenment of the arahant.  

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