Buddhist Concept of ‘Bahujana’

‘Go forth, O Bhikkhus, on your wanderings, for the good of the Bahujana, for the happiness of the Bahujana, – in compassion for the world – for the good, the welfare (Hita) and the happiness (sukha) of gods and men. Let not two of you go the same way. O Bhikkhus, proclaim the Dhamma which is beneficent at the beginning – beneficient in the middle and beneficent in the end.’

Buddha – Mahavagga I, II, I

The Buddha’s teaching is not meant to be shut away in a quiet corner , even though being shut away in a quiet corner might well be considered a good place to meditate! Neither is it an ideology of ‘liberation’ designed only for the use of cloistered monastics, although, of course, Buddhism does cater for its far share of cloistered monastics. The Buddha believed that his ‘Dhamma’ was the answer to all of the suffering experienced by humanity, and like any revolutionary medicine, he instructed his followers to ‘spread’ the teaching (freely) far and wide! The Pali Suttas mention enlightened laypeople – both male and female – with the Buddha stating that there is no difference in essence between a monk and a nun, and a layperson. The concept of ‘Bahujana’ – according to Buddhaghosa’s interpretation – should be defined as the ‘unconverted masses’. Therefore, the ‘Bahujana’ are the multitudes of humanity (and other life forms) which have not yet come into contact with the ‘Dhamma’, listened to its teachings or had a chance to put its methods into practice. The ‘Bahujana’ are ignorant of the ‘Dhamma’, and out of compassion, the Buddha ordered his followers to travel in all directions to spread his teachings to as many people as possible! Buddhist philosophy, therefore, is not ‘elitist’ and does not support clannishness, one-sided practice, or the exclusion of others. Buddhism also rejects all types of fanaticism and extremism a being manifestations of greed, hatred and delusion. Furthermore, from a close reading of the Buddhist Suttas it is clear that the Buddha was of the opinion that his teachings would only find fulfilment when voluntarily accepted by the ‘Bahujana’, who are to be convinced through logical argument and personal experience.

Pali: Bahujana (Bahujanna) = All the ordinary people of the world – not just the Ordained Sangha.

This suggests that the separation between ‘Householder’ (who follows only ‘Sila’ or ‘Morality’) and the Ordained Sangha who seek complete ‘Enliightenment’ is a monkish fabrication of later date, which did not exist during the lifetime of the Buddha.


Sukumar Dutt: Buddhism in East Asia, (2004), Originals, Pages 6-10

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