Table of Contents

Buddhist Sangha

  • Pravrajya ceremony marked a person’s going forth home into homelessness and his/her becoming a novice under a preceptor. The ceremony involved shaving the head and donning ochre robes. The novice recited formula of taking refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and then took 10 vows.
  • Upasampada ceremony marked when the novice became a full-fledged member of monastic community.
  • Eight personal possessions allowed to a monk comprised three robes, an alms bowl, razor, needle, belt and water strainer.
  • Senior monks held authority within a monastic community.
  • Four most serious offences (known as parajika) involving expulsion from sangha were: (i) Sexual intercourse, (ii) killing someone (iii) Stealing (iv) Making false claims of spiritual attainment.

Buddhist Laity

  • According to tradition, first lay followers of Buddha were two merchants, Tapassu and Bhallika.
  • The laity was a person who had taken refuge in Buddha, dhamma and sangha but had not taken monastic vows. The laity included male followers (upasakas) and female followers (upasikas).
  • There was a growing differentiation (social-stratification) amongst people engaged in agriculture.Buddhist literature refers to landless agricultural labourers, small peasants and large landholders. The term Gahapati was used in Pali texts to refer to small peasants and large landholders.


  • A gahapati was the owner, master or head of a household, who exercised control over women, children, slaves and workers who shared a common residence. He was also the owner of the resources – land, animals and other things – that belonged to the household.
  • Sometimes the term was used as a marker of status for men belonging to the urban elite, including wealthy merchants.
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