The teachings of the Buddha to Laypeople

In this work, all the discourses addressed to lay people in the four main nikāyas of the Pāli Canon, and most of those in the fifth (Khuddaka), have been surveyed, categorized, and analysed. The different ways in which the Buddha customized his style of teaching and the Dhamma being taught according to the various demographic characteristics of his audience (i.e., age, gender, class, and spiritual attainment) are explored, highlighted and discussed.

Some of the findings are to be expected, whereas others are less so. There are several clear gender and class differences in the type of discourse used, the topics of the teaching, and in whether the sutta is oriented to lead the lis-tener to the more worldly goals of happiness in this life or a good rebirth, as opposed to being directed towards complete liberation from rebirth. There are differences too based on the age of the addressees, but less pronounced.

This survey has also brought forth some distinct characteristics of the dif-ferent nikāyas of the Pāli Canon in terms of their suttas to the lay commu-nity. The Aṅguttara Nikāya contains more suttas targeted directly to lay people, plus many others of the ‘indirect’ variety, more suttas addressed to women and to the middle-class, and a higher emphasis on the goals of hap-piness in this life and a good rebirth.

Overall the suttas addressed to lay people show a very strong emphasis on good conduct by body, speech, and mind. But this paper has not addressed whether there would be a different emphasis shown in an examination of the suttas addressed exclusively to the monastic community, and this is an area that warrants further exploration.
A comprehensive catalogue of suttas in the Pāli Canon that are addressed to householders is included in an appendix.



  • Abtract
  • Introduction
    – Aims
    – Methodology
    – Caveat Lector
  • Survey
  • Categories for analysis
    – Categorization of Layperson Addressed
    – Age
    – Gender
    – Class
    – Spiritual Attainment
    – Goal of the Sutta
    – Type of Discourse
    – Pedagogical Method
    – Dhamma Content
  • Cross-tabulation and discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • Appendix A – Catalogue of Suttas to Householders
  • Appendix B – Layperson and Sutta cross-reference listing
  • Abbreviations
  • Bibliography


2.1. Dīgha Nikāya – The Long Discourses of the Buddha

Total: 34 suttas; 14 to householders; plus, indirectly 1

  1. [02-Sàmanna-Phala Sutta] The Fruits of the Homeless Life
  2. [03-Ambattha Sutta] About Ambaṭṭha Pride Humbled
  3. [04-Sonadanda Sutta] About The Qualities of a True Brahmin
  4. [05-Kutadanta Sutta] About Kūṭadanta A Bloodless Sacrifice
  5. [06-Mahàli Sutta] About Mahali Heavenly Sights, Soul and Body
  6. [09-Potthapàda Sutta] About Poṭṭapāda States of Consciousness
  7. [10-Subha Sutta] About Subha Morality, Concentration, Wisdom
  8. [11-Kevaddha Sutta] About Kevaddha What Brahma Didn’t Know
  9. [12-Lohicca Sutta] About Lohicca Good and Bad Teachers
  10. [13-Tevijja Sutta] The Threefold Knowledge The Way to Brahmā
  11. [16-Mahà-parinibbàna Sutta] The Great Passing The Buddha’s Last Days
  12. [23-Pàyàsi Sutta] About Pāyāsi Debate With a Sceptic Division Three – The Pāṭika Division
  13. [27-Agganana Sutta] On Knowledge of Beginnings
  14. [28-Sampasàdaniya Sutta] Serene Faith
  15. [31-Singàlovàda Sutta] To Sigālaka Advice to Lay People

2.2. Majjhima Nikāya – The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha

Total: 152 suttas; 47 to householders; plus, indirectly 3

  1. [04-Bhayabherava Sutta] Bhayabherava Sutta: Fear and Dread
  2. [14-Cūḷadukkhakkhandha Sutta] The Shorter Discourse on the Mass of Suffering
  3. [18-Madhupiṇḍika Sutta] The Honeyball
  4. [27-Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta] The Shorter Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint
  5. [30-Cūḷasāropama Sutta] The Shorter Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood
  6. [35-Cūḷasaccaka Sutta] The Shorter Discourse to Saccaka
  7. [41-Sāleyyaka Sutta] The Brahmins of Sālā
  8. [42-Verañjaka Sutta] The Brahmins of Verañja
  9. [44-Cūḷavedalla Sutta] The Shorter Series of Questions and Answers
  10. [51-Kandaraka Sutta] To Kandaraka
  11. [52-Aṭṭhakanāgara Sutta] The Man from Aṭṭhakanāgara | Preached at Atthakanaagara
  12. [53-Sekha Sutta] The Disciple in Higher Training | The Trainer for Enlightenment
  13. [54-Potaliya Sutta] To Potaliya
  14. [55-Jīvaka Sutta] To Jīvaka | A discourse to Jeevaka the foster son of the Prince
  15. [56-Upāli Sutta] To Upāli | To the Householder Upaali
  16. [58-Abhayarājakumāra Sutta] To Prince Abhaya | To the King’s son Abhaya
  17. [59-Bahuvedanīya Sutta] The Many Kinds of Feeling
  18. [60-Apaṇṇaka Sutta] The Incontrovertible Teaching
  19. [78-Samaṇamaṇḍikā Sutta] Samanamandika
  20. [81-Ghaṭīkāra Sutta] Ghaṭīkāra the Potter
  21. [82-Raṭṭhapāla Sutta] On Raṭṭhapāla
  22. [84-Madhurā Sutta] At Madhurā
  23. [85-Bodhirājakumāra Sutta] To Prince Bodhi
  24. [86-Angulimāla Sutta] On Angulimāla
  25. [87-Piyajātika Sutta] Born from Those Who Are Dear | Loved Ones
  26. [88-Bāhitika Sutta] The Cloak
  27. [89-Dhammacetiya Sutta] Monuments to the Dhamma
  28. [90-Kaṇṇakatthala Sutta] At Kaṇṇakatthala
  29. [91-Brahmāyu Sutta] Brahmayu
  30. [92-Sela Sutta] To Sela
  31. [93-Assalāyana Sutta] To Assalayana
  32. [94-Ghoṭamukha Sutta] To Ghotamukha
  33. [95-Cankī Sutta] With Canki
  34. [96-Esukārī Sutta] To Esukari
  35. [97-Dhānañjāni Sutta] To Dhananjani
  36. [98-Vāseṭṭha Sutta] To Vasettha
  37. [99-Subha Sutta] To Subha
  38. [100-Sangārava Sutta] To Sangarava
  39. [105-Sunakkhatta Sutta] To Sunakkhatta
  40. [107-Gaṇakamoggallāna Sutta] To Ganaka Moggalana
  41. [108-Gopakamoggallāna Sutta] With Gopaka Moggalana
  42. [114-Sevitabbāsevitabba Sutta] To Be Cultivated and Not to Be Cultivated | Things that should and should not be practiced
  43. [125-Dantabhūmi Sutta] The Grade of the Tamed | The sphere of Training
  44. [126-Bhūmija Sutta] Bhūmija
  45. [127-Anuruddha Sutta] Anuruddha
  46. [135-Cūḷakammavibhanga Sutta] The Shorter Exposition of Action
  47. [142-Dakkhiṇāvibhanga Sutta] The Exposition of Offerings
  48. [143-Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta] Advice to Anāthapiṇḍika
  49. [150-Nagaravindeyya Sutta] To the Nagaravindans
  50. [152-Indriyabhāvanā Sutta] The Development of the Faculties


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