The Buddhist Saints
and the Two-Tiered Model
The relative lack of scholarly attention given to the Buddhist saints cannot be explained by an absence of data, for these figures are many and are documented throughout Indian Buddhist history. The primary reason for this neglect, it seems, has to do with a prevailing interpretation given to these figures and, more fundamentally, of Buddhism itself, an interpretation referred to in this study as the "two-tiered model of Buddhism." 1 Any discussion of the Buddhist saints must be preceded by the identification of this model and an assessment of its impact on any attempt to understand the saints.
Modern scholarship typically understands Buddhism itself to articulate and promote a particular norm or ideal, the two-tiered model of Buddhism. This ideal, though derived chiefly from Theravādin evidence, is thought to have general applicability to Indian Buddhism. 2 Although primarily defining the structure of Buddhist community, the two-tiered model is, as we shall see, much more than that and in fact offers an all-inclusive interpretation of Buddhism as such, in its various dimensions. As defined in various important texts, this ideal takes shape as a structure composed up of two normative lifestyles, that of the monk (bhiksu) occupying the upper tier and that of the layperson (Skt. and P., upāsaka [m.], upāsikā[f.]) occupying the lower. 3 Both of these lifestyles, we are told, were instituted by the Buddha himself and have provided the primary elements of the Buddhist community throughout its Indian history. 4
The monk follows the highest teachings of the Buddha, having renounced the world and directed his activity toward the gaining of nirvāṇa (P., nibbāna). 5 To achieve this aim, he engages in two important pursuits: the cultivation of pure