Points of Controversy

4.1. As to whether a Layman may be Arahant

Controverted Point: That a layman may be Arahant.

Theravādin: You say the layman may be Arahant. But you imply therewith that the Arahant has the layman’s fetters. “No,” you say, “they do not exist for him.” Then how can a layman be Arahant? Now for the Arahant the lay-fetters are put away, cut off at the root, made as the stump of a palm tree, incapable of renewed life or of coming again to birth. Can you say that of a layman?

You admit that there was never a layman who, as such without putting away his lay-fetters, made an end in this very life of all sorrow. Is there not a Suttanta in which the Wanderer Vacchagotta addressed the Exalted One thus:

“Is there now, O Gotama, any layman who, without having put away the layman’s fetters, makes at death an end of Suffering?” And to whom the Exalted One said: “No, Vacchagotta, there is none.”

Again, in affirming your proposition, you imply that an Arahant may carry on sexual relations, may suffer such matters to come into his life, may indulge in a home encumbered with children, may seek to enjoy sandalwood preparations of Kāsī, may wear wreaths, use perfumes and ointments, may accept gold and silver, may acquire goats and sheep, poultry and pigs, elephants, cattle, horses and mares, partridges, quails, peacocks and pheasants, may wear an attractively swathed head-dress, may wear white garments with long skirts, may be a house-dweller all his life—which of course you deny.

Uttarapāthakas: Then, if my proposition be wrong, how is it that Yasa of the clans, Uttiya the householder, Setu the Brahmin youth, attained Arahantship in all the circumstances of life in the laity?