Why Can't A Paccekabuddha Teach Dhamma?

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    • #16749

      From Wikipedia:

      “Pratyekabuddhas are said to achieve enlightenment on their own, without the use of teachers or guides, according some traditions by seeing and understanding dependent origination. They are said to arise only in ages where there is no Buddha and the Buddhist teachings (Sanskrit: dharma; Pāli: dhamma) are lost. “The idea of a Paccekabuddha … is interesting, as much as it implies that even when the four truths are not preached they still exist and can be discovered by anyone who makes the necessary mental and moral effort”.[1] Many may arise at a single time.”

      “According to the Theravada school, paccekabuddhas (“one who has attained to supreme and perfect insight, but who dies without proclaiming the truth to the world”)[2] are unable to teach the Dhamma, which requires[3] the omniscience and supreme compassion of a sammāsambuddha, and even he hesitates to attempt to teach.[4] Paccekabuddha give moral teachings but do not bring others to enlightenment. They leave no sangha as a legacy to carry on the Dhamma.”

      MN 116 affirms that many Paccekabuddhas can appear in the same era. If that is so, wouldn’t they be discussing Dhamma as part of their practice? If they could engage in Dhamma discussion, why can’t they teach Dhamma? Is it just a matter of not wanting to teach just like what Gotama Buddha had initially decided?

    • #16751
      y not

      Hello Johnny,

      As I see, it all depends on the initial determination made aeons and aeons ago by each (type) of Buddha. It is recorded ,even, that those who were to become Buddhas were given this confirmation by several other Buddhas in stages as they enconuntered Them in previous aeons. (Why this is not the case also with Paccekabuddhas (if it be so) I do not know.)

      “…sammāsambuddha, and even he hesitates to attempt to teach.” This is ‘the mind interfering’, but in reality a Buddha has no choice BUT to teach. So it is not that the Buddha decided to teach because Brahma implored him to – the role of Brahma there was to ‘remind’ him of his true calling, which HE himself had taken upon himself from the start.

      As to why Paccekabuddhas can’t teach Dhamma, it can only be a matter of their gathis – just like a poet or painter who immerse themselves in their activity for the pleasure and satisfaction of it without ‘going public’;it is simply not’in them’ to do this.

      I hope this helps towards further reflection


      • #16752

        Hi y not,

        I also think that the Paccekabuddha is not inclined to teach rather than being unable to teach. Which then leads me to another question: How does a Paccekabuddha lead a blameless livelihood if he does not teach dhamma after receiving alms food? Just wondering.

    • #16753
      y not


      ‘I also think that the Paccekabuddha is not inclined to teach’…that is what I meant by (it is)’not in them’ to teach.

      As to the second question: Is it given that a Paccekabuddha receives alms in the first place? If he does it will be in return for giving moral teachings. If not, his means of making a living will be a proper one. I do not know. So like yourself I will wait for an answer from one who knows.


    • #16754

      Just to remind, the basic process of cultivating paramita to become a Buddha is discussed in the post, “Paramita and Niyata Vivarana – Myths or Realities?“.

      Each jati can be traced to back to the types of (abhi)sankhara that one cultivates. The difference between a Buddha and a Paccekabuddha can be traced back to their thought processes (abhisankhara).

      A Buddha (rather a Bodhisattva) is determined to find the truth about this world, thereby find the way to stop the samsaric suffering AND to help others to be free of suffering.
      – On the other hand, one who is to become a Paccekabuddha just wants to find the truth about the nature of this. He may not even be thinking about how to stop the samsaric suffering (of course I am not certain about that). But that seems to make sense.

      We also need to realize that those terms of Buddha and Paccekabuddha may not even not known to those persons while they are fulfilling paramita. They just proceed based on their “gati“. The ultimate result is based on the particular gati cultivated.
      – In this context, the term Buddha was known when the Gotama Buddha (price Siddhartha) was born, simply because there were three other Buddhas before him, and the Vedas transmitted the vague concept of a Buddha (and definitely the term Buddha).
      – In most Maha kappas (world cycles), there is only one Buddha (or none), and in these cases, the term Buddha becomes known only after the Enlightenment of that Buddha.
      – So, even though we think that a person would start cultivating abisankhara (gati) SPECIFICALLY to become a Buddha or a Paccekabuddha, that is not correct. Even those terms may not be known in 99% of the time. One may need to think about this a bit to realize my point.

      In this context, a Paccekabuddha probably does not even use that term to describe himself. He may even teach Dhamma to others, but may not be capable to communicating the right way or to explain the what he has grasped. As we know, it is very hard to comprehend (and also to teach) the “anicca nature”. Only a Buddha (and those who have comprehended that particular way of teaching) can do that.
      – Also, providing food to those who come asking for food is not necessarily done with an expectation of something (in this case teaching) in return. We may have a visualization of a Paccekabuddha dressed in a yellow robe, but in reality, a Paccekabuddha could be just wearing normal (but not fancy) clothes. One could mistake him for any other person asking for food.
      – Another possibility is that due to the high moral status of a Paccekabuddha, people may be automatically motivated take care of him. They of course would not even know that he is a Paccekabuddha (or even about what that term means; remember that a Paccekabuddha is born only when there is no Sammasambuddha in the world).

      I am of course speculating on some these, but that is what makes sense to me.

    • #16758
      y not

      Thank you Lal…

      …for elaborating on various aspects and those 1) not thought of
      by myself:

      -people may be automatically motivated take care of him. They of course would not even know that he is a Paccekabuddha ‘

      …and 2) even more for those actually at variance with what I said:

      – So, even though we think that a person would start cultivating abisankhara (gati) SPECIFICALLY to become a Buddha or a Paccekabuddha, that is not correct.-

      Ever so grateful

      y not

    • #46398

         378. Darimukha Jātaka.

      A completely ordinary person can become a paccekabuddha. Most of the time, it happens following shocking or mundane events. A person can become paccekabuddha, realizing the futility of performing unwholesome acts to satisfy one’s desires. The Jātaka I just sent talks about the story of the paccekabuddha Darimukha. Venerable Darimukha was Lord Gautama Buddha’s best friend when he was a bodhisatta. Venerable Darimukha became paccekabuddha, upon seeing a flower wither. It is said that all paccekabuddhas attain the 8 jhanas, all abhinnas and Nirodha Samapatti. They can do it, while being secular. However, after achieving enlightenment, the signs of house master disappear, instantly. A bowl and a renouncer’s robe appear to them. Paccekabuddhas appear in the same kappa as sammasambuddhas. They never meet. It is wrong to say that paccekabuddhas do not teach. They teach the mundane eightfold path. The laws of kammas and how to develop kamma kusulas and jhanas. Venerable Darimukha taught our bodhisatta the futility of chasing sensual pleasures. After his teaching, our Bodhisatta became an ascetic with jhanas and took rebirth in the brahma worlds. Arahant Maha Kassapa is another example of the teaching of the paccekabuddhas. Arahant maha Kassapa, before being reborn for the last time, was a brahma. Before his life as a brahma, he was a king who took care of 500 paccekabuddhas. He had observed their way of life and their nobility. All 500 paccekabuddhas reached parinibbãna at the same time. The future Arahant Maha Kassapa, renounced her throne and became an ascetic. He took rebirth in the brahma world. In his last life, as a human, Arahant Maha Kassapa had an aversion to sensual pleasures, long before he meet Lord Buddha and became monk. Among the arahants, he was the one who practiced the 13 dhutaṅgas, perfectly. He was very austere. The paccekabuddhas meet in the holy mountain isigili. Lord Buddha recited the names of these paccekabuddhas. They get together and discuss how they became awakened. The teachings of the paccekabuddhas do not give direct results in this life. However, those who benefit from their sermons and take good care of themselves develop kusalas kammas. These kusala kammas will help them to easily attain magga phala when a sammasambuddha appears. There is the story of a dog who followed a paccekabuddha.The dog took rebirth as a deva and then human during the time of Lord Gautama Buddha. He became sotāpanna by listening to a discourse from Lord Buddha



      At Isigili Isigilisutta





      “According to Buddhist literature, an aspirant to become a Pacceka Buddha is supposed to perfect these ten qualities over an extensive period described as two incalculables (asankeyyas) and one hundred thousand eons or kalpas (consisting of innumerable numbers of years). An aspirant to become a Samma Sambuddha has to perfect these qualities to a higher degree and for a longer period of time while an aspirant to become an Arahant has to perfect them to a lesser degree and for a lesser period of time.”


      Arahant Maha Kassapa’s past lifes 

      Maha Kassapa Father of the Sangha

      “Two lives before her present existence, Bhadda was queen of Benares and used to support several Paccekabuddhas. Deeply moved by their sudden death, she renounced her worldly life as a queen and lived a meditative life in the Himalayas. By the power of her renunciation and her meditative attainments, she was reborn in a Brahma-world, and so was Kassapa. After the end of the long life-span in the Brahma-world, both were reborn in the human world, in a brahman family, and were named Pipphali Kassapa and Bhadda Kapilani.


      From these accounts we gather that in their former existences both had lived a life of purity in the Brahma-worlds and that both had repeatedly been ascetic renunciates. Hence, in their final existence, it was not difficult for them to keep to a life of celibacy, to give up all possessions, and to follow the Buddha’s teaching up to its culmination in Arahatship.”


    • #46405

      “A completely ordinary person can become a paccekabuddha.”

      • The wording of that statement may give a wrong impression. 
      • No one can attain any magga phala, let alone Paccekabuddha status, without cultivating the path in previous lives. That is what is meant by “paramita.” 
      • Of course, all humans appear to be ordinary people. But each of us has cultivated “paramita” at various levels in our past lives.
      • For example, Bahiya Daruchiriya, who attained Arahantship upon listening to a single verse by the Buddha is a good example; see, “Bahiya Sutta (Udana 1.10)“. He was an “ordinary person” too. 
      • The point is, among us there can be those who are fulfilling “paramita” at various levels, including to become “Sammasambuddha” (like Buddha Gotama) or Paccekabuddha. We cannot determine who is at what stage. Of couse, most are destined to be reborn in apayas.
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      • #46422

        Sorry  sir i didn’t correctly explain my point.

        Here’s what I mean: A human who seems normal may be on the verge of becoming a paccekabuddha. Like you said sir, about the paramis each of us pratice them at various level. To becomes a paccekabuddha one need to pratice for two incalculables (asankeyyas) and one hundred thousand kalpas the 10 paramis. This kind of person leaves from the puthujunas stage to the arahant stage, directly, without having to go through the other levels of the magga phala. I remember a sutta where Lord Gautama Buddha told several stories. Among these stories was that of people who became paccekabuddhas upon realizing their misdeeds. One of these people was lusting after someone’s wife. Realizing that he was generating unhealthy thoughts, he practiced anapanasati (the real not the mundane) unconsciously. This person saw his householder attributes disappear and became a paccekabuddha.

        I will try to find this sutta !

        (Here is my personal opinion I could be wrong of course: It seems that many of these  paccekabuddhas and regulars arahants did not even know that they were going to attain Nibbāna. As you said sir Lal arahant Santati is an example. Nothing foreshadowed that he was going to become arahants!! A few days before meeting Lord Buddha, he was fully invested in kama ragā!! 

    • #46424

      I found a text that contradicts the idea that “paccekabuddhas do not teach magga phala”  The Lord Buddha was the father of a young Brahmin, in a past life. His son was ordained by paccekabuddhas and became one of them. The son even attained parinibbāna, shortly after his awakening.

      In my personal opinion, such an outcome is only possible when the person has enough paramis, to become one of them. They just didn’t teach too many people. They do not establish a sasana like the sammasambuddhas. They ordain only if the persons are close to them, I think.

      I leave it to Sir Lal to examine this information, to see if it is credible!!

      The sources 

      Saṅkha’s StoryPaccekabuddhas Teach Awakening(from the Commentary to Dhammapada 290)

      Dhammapada Verse 290 Attanopubbakamma Vatthu

      Matta sukhapariccaga

      passe ce vipulam sukham

      caje mattasukhirh dhiro

      sampassam vipulam sukham

    • #46426

      Thank you, Gad!

      1. In your first post, you wrote:

      “..One of these people was lusting after someone’s wife. Realizing that he was generating unhealthy thoughts, he practiced anapanasati (the real, not the mundane) unconsciously. This person saw his householder attributes disappear and became a paccekabuddha.

      I will try to find this sutta!”

      • Yes. I like to read that sutta if you find it. It is not possible for someone to become a Buddha without comprehending Paticca Samuppada on their own. That cannot be done unconsciously. It needs a lot of contemplation.
      • Therefore, practicing the correct version (not the mundane) of Anapanasati cannot be done unconsciously. That involves comprehending Paticca Samuppada first.

      2. Regarding your second post:

      • Yes. What you wrote about Paccekabuddhas is correct.
      • They can teach a few, just like an Arahant can.
      • But only a Sammasambuddha (like Buddha Gotama) has the ability to teach the masses and initiate a Buddha Sasana that can last a long time.
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      • #46427

        Thank you Sir i will try to find this sutta !

    • #47888

      I ended up finding this sutta while reading the jatakas, sir.


      • Paniya Jātaka: “Brethren, there is no such thing as a petty sin. A Brother must check all sins as they each arise. Wise men of old, before the Buddha came, subdued their sins and attained the knowledge of a Pacceka-Buddha.” With these words, he told them a story of the past. Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, there were two friends in a certain village in the kingdom of Kasi. These had gone afield, taking with them vessels for drinking, which they laid out of the way as they broke the clods, and when they were thirsty, went and drank water out of them. One of them, on going for a drink, husbanded the water in his pot and drank out of the pot of the other. In the evening, when he came out from the woodland and had bathed, he stood thinking. “Have I done any sin today,” thought he, “either by the door of the body, or any other?” Then he remembered how he drank the stolen water, and grief came upon him, and he cried, “If this thirst grows upon me, it will bring me to some evil birth! I will subdue my sin.” So with this stolen draught of water for cause, he gradually acquired supernatural insight, and attained the knowledge of a Pacceka-Buddha; and there he stood, reflecting upon the knowledge which he had attained.
      • Another man, who also lived in the village of Kasi, a land-owner, was sitting in the bazaar when he saw a man approach leading his wife. Seeing her (and she was a woman of surpassing beauty) he broke the moral principles, and looked upon her; then again he thought, “This desire, if it increases, will cast me into some evil birth.” Being exercised in mind, he developed supernatural insight, and attained the knowledge of a Pacceka Buddha; then poised in the air, he delivered a discourse, and he also went to the Nandamula cave.

      Another source:Paniya Jataka (#459)

      Then he told them this story as an example of how contemplating small sins can lead to great attainment. When the Buddha was finished, all five hundred disciples became arahants.

      I think it’s Anapanasati right?

    • #47890

      What you quoted is not a sutta, Gad.

      • Jataka stories are not suttas.
      • I am not quite sure about their origins and have not read them. Most translations are old, and there are likely to be many translation errors.
      • We do not discuss them in this forum.

      To get to the Buddhahood, Paccekabuddhahood, or Arahanthood, one must comprehend the Four Noble Truths/Paticca Samuppada/Tilakkhana. I discussed this in “Key Problems with Mahāyāna Teachings.”

      • We only know how to get to Arahanthood, as taught by the Buddha. 
      • But the Buddha has described the efforts of some previous Buddhas and himself in the “Mahāpadāna Sutta (DN 14).”
    • #47892

      It is said that King Sudoddhana (the father of Lord Buddha) attained the anagami stage by listening to a jataka. Unless this too is false?? This is not to put you in an uncomfortable situation sir. If my obstinacy seems ill-mannered, please excuse me.


      KING SUDDHODANA: FATHER OF LORD GAUTAMA BUDDHA Having heard this news from the king, the Buddha delivered a sermon based on the Mahā Dhammapāla Jataka, which was a previous birth story of the Buddha, when King Suddhodana and the Buddha had been the father and son. At that time too, the king had refused to believe that his son was dead, even when he was shown a heap of bones that was alleged to have been from his son’s dead body. Following this sermon, King Suddhodana has attained the third spiritual stage of Non-Returner (Anāgāmi).

    • #47896

      “Having heard this news from the king, the Buddha delivered a sermon based on the Mahā Dhammapāla Jataka”

      • According to your link, that statement refers to the occasion when the King attained the Anagami stage. He had already attained the Sotapanna and Sakdagami stages before that. 
      • The Buddha may have referred to a Jataka story where the two of them were born in a family, but I cannot see how one can attain the Anagami stage just by listening to a Jataka story. It is just an account of a past life. 
      • I am not sure what the point is. Are you saying that magga phala can be attained without comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paticca Samuppada/Tilakkhana but just by listening to a Jataka story?


      • #47897

        Sir Lal:Are you saying that magga phala can be attained without comprehending the Four Noble Truths/Paticca Samuppada/Tilakkhana but just by listening to a Jataka story?

        Of course not, sir. However, these stories could motivate one to practice Dhamma and develop paramis.

    • #47898

      That is correct, Gad.

      • But that is not what you wrote earlier: “It is said that King Sudoddhana (the father of Lord Buddha) attained the anagami stage by listening to a jataka.”

      For the benefit of anyone not aware of this:

      A “Jataka story” is an account of the previous life of the Bodhisatta while he was fulfilling “paramita” to attain Buddhahood. As Gad stated in his last comment, they describe how to live a moral life and realize that even to attain Arahanthood, one must start at some point.

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      • #47899

        These are not my words sir, these are the words of the Drarisworld site. I just came across these comments while looking for a reference.

        • However, I agree that there could be some misinterpretations by putting them in English.
        • If you have time you can analyze the Sinhala and pali versions of this jataka. Pali version :Pānīyajātaka Sinhala version:පානීය ජාතකය
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