Discipline is for the sake of restraint, restraint for the sake of freedom from remorse, freedom from remorse for the sake of joy, joy for the sake of rapture, rapture for the sake of tranquillity, tranquillity for the sake of pleasure, pleasure for the sake of concentration, concentration for the sake of knowledge and vision of things as they are, knowledge and vision of things as they are for the sake of disenchantment, disenchantment for the sake of release, release for the sake of knowledge and vision of release, knowledge and vision of release for the sake of total unbinding without clinging.
— Parivaara.XII.2 (BMC p.1)
Buddhist friends in Malaysia asked me to explain something about the Vinaya rules that guide the Buddhist monk's life — in particular about monks or bhikkhus of the Theravaada lineage. We monks already have several learned texts in English to help us so a simplified 'lay person's guide' now seems in order. (This work therefore deals specifically with men. As Buddhist female renunciants (nuns) find their place, they will be in the best position to explain their own rules.)
My aim has been to illustrate those of the monk's rules that also affect the lay person in some way. At first it was going to deal only with a few questions but it has grown with people's suggestions into a more thorough work of reference. (It was originally circulated as a computer printout, and its positive reception encouraged this complete reworking and revision, incorporating many of the suggestions sent to me.) Even so, the best introduction remains a good practicing bhikkhu who shows that amid the myriad things of the material world, living the simple life is possible with care — hence the many rules — much as in the Buddha's time.
The original Beginner's Questions section has been kept (with some revision) and moved to the front as a brief overview of the sort of questions covered in the book. It refers to later explanations for more detail, which can be found not only in the main text but in the End Notes, Footnotes, Glossary and Appendices.
I also have tried to include broader explanations in the main text so that while the actual rule is faithfully reproduced — including some translation variations — the different ways in which monks actually put it into practice are also covered. Although one might think one knows all about 'one's bhikkhus,' on going elsewhere things are never quite the same, and sometimes in quite startling ways.
Bhikkhus do sometimes follow the rules in different ways according to their particular traditions, and these pages may help to explain the whys and wherefores of their practice. My own perspective comes from twenty years as a bhikkhu in the forest monasteries of Thailand (and now more than five years in the 'West') so I am very aware that this guide needs more information from the traditions in other countries.
As you read through this book, it will become plain how much I have relied on other people and authorities. I wish especially to mention my gratitude to Venerable Thanissaro Bhikkhu for his great contribution through his commentary on the bhikkhus' rules, The Buddhist Monastic Code; to Venerable Thiradhammo Bhikkhu for his manuscript of The Heritage of the Sangha; to Venerable Brahmavangso Bhikkhu for permission to quote from his Vinaya Notes; and to the Mahamakut Foundation in Bangkok for the works on the monk's rules that they publish.
Lay people in half a dozen countries helped with advice and suggestions, and my thanks and appreciation go to all of them. I was very pleasantly surprised that they found our rules so fascinating and were willing to give so much of their time to going through the original manuscript with such care and interest. Yet on reflection, they are right to feel part of the Dhamma-Vinaya, as the Lord Buddha said:
"Bhikkhus, I praise right practice in both, whether householder or home-leaver.
"Householder, bhikkhus, and home-leaver, if rightly practiced, by reason of their right practice, are accomplishing the true way, the wholesome Dhamma."
HS ch.4 (A.I,69; M.II,197)
Please remember that tolerance is always important even if one decides to give active support to only one group of monks. The following pages are offered solely to shed the light of understanding, so they should not be used to create heat and friction through criticizing other people's behavior. This is the essence of the Buddha's Teaching. A big heavy law book only too easily can be thrown at others, so this guide will try to stay light and non-judgemental. This gives opportunity for broad-mindedness and flexibility, so that we can include different interpretations. Thereby one may come better to appreciate and support the monastic community of one's choice.
Finally, I hope that the same tolerance will be given to any faults and omissions found in this book. Not being enlightened or a scholar, I can only offer a gathering of other people's work and hope that the way I have put it all together does not intrude my own views and opinions too much. (Paragraphs containing more general or personal opinions are often marked with ◊.) Therefore, any suggestions for improvement offered in Dhamma are always welcome.
The Teaching of the Buddha is concerned with more than intellectual knowledge for it needs to be experienced as truth in one's own life. The Buddha often called his Teaching the Dhamma-Vinaya and when he passed away he left these as the guide for all of us who followed. As Venerable Thiradhammo writes:
For the bhikkhu, the Vinaya helps to highlight actions and speech, and show up their significance. It brings an awareness of how he is intervening in the world, how he is affecting other people. For better? For worse? With what intention?
Of course, such an awareness is necessary for every human being, not just Buddhist monks. This is why the Buddha bequeathed to us the Five, the Eight and the Ten Precepts — as well as the bhikkhu's 227 rules of the Paatimokkha. These precepts and rules remain as pertinent today as they were 2,500 years ago for they restore the focus back to the human being, to how actions and words affect individuals and the world. While the particulars may have changed, the fundamentals remain the same.
Those who take the Buddha's Teaching seriously become ever more aware of their actions and speech, and how they match up against the Five Precepts. They then might start to realize the advantage in occasionally keeping the Eight Precepts — perhaps on the weekly Observance Day — and become more interested in the bhikkhu's Rule and how its precepts come together into a whole way of life.
This compilation, therefore, is for anyone interested in bhikkhus and how to relate to them. Some might think that the Theravaada lineage follows an overly traditionalist approach but then, it does happen to be the oldest living major tradition. A slight caution therefore for anyone completely new to the ways of monasticism, for it is an approach to dealing with life that may appear radically different for this modern day and age. The best introduction, perhaps essential for a true understanding, is meeting with a practicing bhikkhu who should manifest and reflect the peaceful and joyous qualities of the bhikkhu's way of life.
Buddhist monks and nuns first received the going-forth into the Holy Life from the Buddha himself, more than two and a half thousand years ago in India. Since then, their influence has been felt over much of Asia. The countries of Sri Lanka and South East Asia have been profoundly affected by the Theravadin School of Buddhism, which looks back to the original Teachings as recorded in the Paali scriptures. Buddhism was often first introduced to a new country when bhikkhus were invited to come and teach the new religion by the indigenous ruler. This process now continues throughout the world, although the invitation nowadays comes more often from local Buddhists.
Buddhism is justly admired for its appreciation of tolerance and broad-mindedness, with a history generally unblemished by heretical infighting. This has resulted in a wide spectrum of practices, from the old Theravaada to the Zen of Japan and the Vajrayana of Tibet. Even between the different Theravadin countries and Schools there are slight variations in the ways the bhikkhus understand and practice the Vinaya Rule. Such differences have sometimes confused lay devotees so this book is also an attempt to offer a clearer understanding about the responsibilities of the Theravadin bhikkhu's life and those of the lay devotee.
When the Buddha was about to finally pass away and leave his followers, rather than appoint an individual to take his place he said this:
More than twenty-five centuries have now gone by; empires have come and gone, great movements and ideologies have flared up and been lost. Yet on a deeper level under all of this, the Dhamma and Vinaya have been quietly guiding the communities of Buddhist monks. Why has it withstood the test of time so well? Why has it been so successful? Perhaps it is because the Lord Buddha understood the basic human condition of every time or place; he knew our predicament and failings, and he could show the way out to those of us who follow so long after him.
◊ This section illustrates the origins of this book, for it is a selection of the unedited questions that were first sent to me. I have decided to make it an entry-point for those people completely new to the Vinaya Rule rather than relegate it to an appendix (or omit it altogether). The answers often repeat or point to information contained later in the full text. Those people already familiar with the rules can skip these Beginner's and Frequently Asked Questions and go to the relevant section for more details.
A: The Lord Buddha gave this reflection about why a monk wears a robe:
In the Lord Buddha's time, 2,500 years ago, clothing was made without complex machinery. (Although simple 'sewing-frames' are mentioned in the texts, which the monks would have used at robe-making (Ka.thina) time.) So the pattern of the robe is very simple and designed so that it can be made up out of patches of cloth, for discarded rags were often used after washing and dyeing.
This 'yellow robe' is considered the banner of the arahant and emblem of Buddhism. For the ordinary Theravaadin bhikkhu it is a privilege to be able to wear this robe, continuing the tradition and practicing to be worthy of it. There are rules as to the robes' size, color, how they are sewn, type of cloth used, etc., and how bhikkhus can acquire them. (See The Robe.)
The color of the robes depends on the dye used. Until very recently, this would have been natural vegetable dye found in the jungle from roots or trees. (In NE Thailand, for example, we used the heartwood of the jack-fruit tree.) Nowadays chemical dyes are more used and sometimes give that more vivid orange color that one sees in Bangkok.
The color white is used by Buddhist devotees to show their commitment to keeping the Precepts — usually the Eight Precepts — on Observance Days. (White robes are also worn by the anagarika, or postulant before he becomes a monk.)
A: The Lord Buddha gave this reflection about finding and eating food:
The alms bowl is another practical symbol of Buddhism, and, like the robes, another requisite of the bhikkhu. Although every bhikkhu is given an alms bowl (and a set of robes) when he becomes a monk, not all of them will actually go on an alms round and only a minority — usually they are the forest meditation bhikkhus — will eat from their bowl sitting on the floor. Therefore many monks will eat using plates and dishes, while some will eat sitting on the floor at a small table and others at a normal western-style table. One should not feel shy about asking a monk as to his normal way of eating and then fit in with that.
Those forest bhikkhus who keep the austere practices (dhuta"nga or tudong)  will be stricter about only using one eating vessel. This can simplify life and remind the bhikkhu that although food is necessary for bodily health he does not have to indulge in an obsession with taste. (It also saves washing-up time.)
A: In India during the Lord Buddha's time much of the land was covered in forests and groves and this was where the wandering mendicants of the different orders would pursue their religious practices. The Lord Buddha spoke of the 'foot of a tree' as the basic shelter for bhikkhus, and this is usually still affirmed to every newly ordained bhikkhu. Later, monasteries were established and well-endowed, and the focus shifted to a more settled life. Mostly only the 'forest monks' now live in the forest where it is quiet and conducive to meditation. Many more monks will live in the village monastery or go to a monastery in the town to study the scriptures.
The Lord Buddha said this about the basics of shelter, whether in the forest or city:
A: In fact getting the robes and bowl is not so much a problem for once the candidate is accepted by a preceptor, the preceptor will know where suitable requisites may be found. The question should be more about the qualities necessary to become a monk and I have explained some of these in the section on Becoming a Bhikkhu.
If the candidate's intention is right and he is not disqualified by other factors, he should find a senior monk who can advise him on the places where he might ordain and perhaps recommend him to a preceptor. If the candidate lives in a non-Buddhist country, he can write for details to the country where he is interested in staying. Bhikkhus are often traveling and giving Dhamma talks around the world and they would generally be very happy to make suggestions about this.
In certain communities there is a 'postulancy' period when the candidate first wears white robes as an anagarika and after a year (or two) may then be given either novice (saama."nera) or full bhikkhu ordination. Once he is accepted for this, all the requisites should be provided. (In some monasteries the candidate is provided with the cloth but has to learn to sew his own robes.)
Similarly for the lay person wanting to help supply requisites to the new monk, the best way is to ask details from a senior monk who will explain and help. In some Buddhist countries there are even special shops to supply these requisites but whether this is suitable will depend on the monastery of ordination.
Also, see the book Ordination Procedure and the Preliminary Duties of a New Bhikkhu.
A: The Theravadin lineage no longer has an 'officially recognized' bhikkhunii- ordination. There are other forms for lay women that still involve 'leaving the home life' and keeping Eight or Ten Precepts as a dasasiila mata nun. Finding a suitable place is quite difficult but several groups are trying to develop places conducive to Dhamma practice for such nuns. (For example, Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England; see also Buddhist Nuns.)
A: Some bhikkhus take a daily alms-round as a special practice (dhuta"nga or tudong) and will normally always want to go. Many other monks will be happy to receive food brought to them. Please ask or observe how the monk practices. There is no harm in offering to bring the food, for if the monk prefers to walk on an alms-round he can explain about that.
A: There is a minimum in that the bhikkhu must be properly and modestly dressed, especially in public. (See Socializing and Wrong Resort and End Notes 70 and 71.) During the cold season in India, the Buddha allowed a double-layered outer robe (sa"nghaati) to be used and so — using the Great Standards as a guide — in even colder climates extra layers may be allowable. In countries where hypothermia may be a danger, the use of extra layers seems sensible — especially if this cuts down on heating and medical expenses. (That a bhikkhu lives as frugally as possible is a major aspect of the Vinaya.) However, it is generally felt very important that the traditional robes remain the basic dress and 'extra layers' should not obscure this.
A: There are definite conditions that allow a bhikkhu to ask for help. These would be when he is ill, or in danger, or when he has been formally offered help. See How to Help a Bhikkhu — Invitation for a fuller explanation.
A: Yes, generosity is a virtue highly praised by the Buddha and was often the first virtue he mentioned. It goes against the general modern selfish attitude of 'getting is better than giving' and leads on to contentment and the calm that can lead to deep meditation and wisdom. So, if it makes one happy to make an offering then one can do so without asking first. However, the offering should also be endowed with wisdom so that one gives something that is useful and not beyond one's family's means.
A: The yellow robe worn by monks is an emblem and reminder of the Triple Gem, as is the Buddha Statue. Therefore one is really bowing to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, not to some person or statue. There are two aspects to bowing — the bodily action and the mind. If one bows because it gives one the opportunity to demonstrate one's faith in the Triple Gem, because it seems the right thing to do, and because it leads the mind to calm, then it will be beneficial. If one bows without reason or because one feels that one must do so for appearances sake, then it is a rather empty gesture. (Even so one's appreciation can grow.)
When I bow three times to the Buddha Statue or to senior monks, I mentally recollect 'Buddho,' then 'Dhammo' and then 'Sa"ngho' and also have mindfulness of the bodily posture as it bends forward and the head touches the floor. (See Etiquette and End Note 120) However, in Western countries this is often misunderstood and can be the source of quite a lot of embarrassment. It is up to the persons themselves to decide what is appropriate under the different circumstances.
A: One should show respect from one's heart in the way that seems best to oneself, recollecting the Triple Gem and doing it mindfully. No good monk (or Buddha statue) is going to take offence if one does not bow.
A: When the prince who was to become the Buddha left his palace to seek a way beyond aging, sickness and death, it is said that one of the first things that he did was to "shave off his hair and beard and put on the yellow cloth." Buddhist monks always completely shave their head and beard, showing their commitment to the Holy Life (Brahmacariya) of one gone forth into the homeless life. (In India some ascetics tear out their hair, while others never touch it so that it becomes a tangled mass.)
A rule states that a bhikkhu should not allow his hair to grow beyond a certain length or time, so he will shave usually at least once a fortnight or month, sometimes more frequently. To do this he uses his razor, which is also one of his requisites.
'Hair-of-the-head' (kesaa) is one of the five parts of the body mentioned in the ordination ceremony and is used to recollect the true nature of the body. The bhikkhu is also not allowed to dye or pluck out any gray hairs, for they are useful reminders of old-age and impermanence. (Just consider how much time and money is wasted by people trying to make their hair remain beautiful and young-looking.)
A 1&2: The Vinaya Rule specifies that if a bhikkhu touches or is touched by a woman, it is an offence — a very serious offence — only if the bhikkhu is "overcome by lust, with altered mind." However, the practicing bhikkhu knows that as his mind changes so quickly, he has to be extremely cautious about involving himself in doubtful situations. It is better to be safe than sorry, even if this may seem over-scrupulous. In emergency situations the bhikkhu will have to decide for himself and be sure to take care of his thoughts.
In Thailand it is a tradition (not strictly a rule) that the monk uses a 'receiving cloth' to emphasize that there is no touching. (For more about these questions, see Intimacy — Touching, How to make an Offering, and End Note 85.)
A: As with the preceding cases with bhikkhus, there is no fault if there is no wrong intention.
A: This has become a complex question with various interpretations because of modern conditions. The spirit of the rule is very important — avoiding possibilities of intimacy — while the interpretation will depend on the monk and the circumstances. In countries without proper monasteries there will always have to be something of a compromise. (See Staying Together for a discussion of this.)
A: While it may be a problem or inconvenience, the rules are there to protect and remind the monk about dangerous, unskillful actions. If the monk becomes increasingly involved with money there is a tendency for the whole of his bhikkhu-life to be compromised — and that would be a far greater problem. Soon after the Final Passing Away of the Lord Buddha this sort of question had already become a major controversy and it is now even more complex under modern conditions.
However, modern conditions also have brought their own assistance to keeping these rules. For instance, a bhikkhu can be given an air ticket and travel around the world (if need be) without having any money or attendant. He will need to be met at the airport and helped in the normal way, but that should be natural if he has been invited to come by the lay group. (He should not really be traveling otherwise.) And, of course, a monk can use postage stamps and 'telephone-cards' that add convenience to communicating — when it is appropriate. (See the section on Money, especially the Me.n.daka Allowance.)
A: I know of no place in the Vinaya that states a bhikkhu cannot disrobe. If he no longer has any interest in the bhikkhu-life, the tendency will be for him to become lax and a bad example for others. His Dhamma friends therefore will try to re-fire his enthusiasm. However, if that is not possible, becoming a good layman may be better than being a bad monk. (Nevertheless, in some countries there is a cultural expectation of 'ordaining for life' and a corresponding stigma attached to disrobing.) There is a tradition (but not a rule) about a bhikkhu not re-ordaining more than seven times. (See Disrobing.)
A: I understand that the zenith here means when the sun reaches the highest point in its arc across the sky. In most habitable areas of the globe this arc may be low to the horizon but it should still be possible to follow the rule. And if bhikkhus ever reach the polar regions they will have the Great Standards to guide them. (More specifically, see Meal Time for time limits.)
A: At the time of the Buddha, some lay people complained that the monks destroyed the 'life' in seeds. Therefore lay people can be asked by the monk if it is allowable for him to eat those fruits. In some monasteries (not all) this is done by the lay people cutting them. (See Offering Fruit: Kappiya and End Note 91.)
It is the Commentary to the Vinaya that mentions about 'great fruits.' This practice, however, is not followed in every monastery. (See Fruit Juices.)
There is an allowance in the Paali texts that 'medicinal-tonics' can be taken in the afternoon while 'lifetime-medicines' may be consumed any time they are needed. (See Lifetime Medicines.)
There are different interpretations and practices about how ill a bhikkhu has to be for it to be allowable to take such 'medicines.' Some bhikkhus will not take anything other than pure water, while some will over-stretch the Rule to even drinking 'medicinal' food-drinks (e.g., Ovaltine) in the afternoon. Some bhikkhus will consider tea-leaves allowable (as 'herbs') while some will see it as food or as a 'stimulant' (caffeine) and therefore not appropriate. Also, the ordinary rural villagers of South East Asia (until very recently) would have had no tea or coffee to drink, so such items could be considered quite a luxury. It will depend on local conditions and interpretations, which are allowed for in the Vinaya through the Great Standards. (See also Lifetime Medicines.)
A: This is a complicated question. If there is a steward who does the arranging for the bhikkhu in the proper manner then certain things would be allowable. (See What does a Bhikkhu Possess.) However, there are very strict guidelines about this. (Please see the various rules about Bhikkhus and Wealth.)
Practically speaking, bhikkhus in Thailand are not ordered to renounce all their property, etc., when they receive ordination. (As mentioned elsewhere, the majority of bhikkhus in Thailand will return to lay life within a certain period.) Bhikkhus who are serious about dedicating their life to the Holy Life will obviously take the Lord Buddha as their example and like Him renounce all that is worldly.
There are specific rules, not covered in this work, about Community land and property, and the different ways they are managed. (However, see also Wrongly Received Gifts.)
A: The taking of a Teacher (aacariya) by a bhikkhu and living in dependence (nissaya) on him can only be between bhikkhus. (See Becoming a Bhikkhu; End Note 24 on the qualities of a Teacher.) And even according to the bhikkhunii's own Rule, in the time of the Lord Buddha, she was not allowed to teach bhikkhus. However, this does not mean that a bhikkhu cannot learn from others.
A: There is a specific rule against bhikkhus owning vehicles. Obviously, 'motor vehicles' were not available in the Buddha's time and most travel would have been on foot. However, there was the case:
"...when the group-of-six bhikkhus went in a vehicle yoked with cows and bulls, they were criticized by the lay people. The Buddha then established a fault of Wrong-doing for a bhikkhu to travel in a vehicle; later illness was exempted from this guideline...
"Traveling in a vehicle in the Buddha's time was an extravagance. A strict application of this training in Thailand is not allowing bhikkhus to drive or own vehicles, and (officially) not to ride on motorcycles." (HS ch.17)
Bhikkhus were allowed to use ferry boats, etc. (In Thailand, bhikkhus from riverside monasteries will go on alms round by boat.)
A: In Thailand, I understand that one cannot be officially registered as a herbal doctor while still a bhikkhu. While providing medicines for one's fellow monks is very much allowable, it is definitely wrong that a monk dispenses medicine for reward. (See Wrong Livelihood and End Note 115.)
A: If a bhikkhu commits a paaraajika offence he is 'defeated' and no longer a bhikkhu even if he is wearing robes. The Community of bhikkhus will have nothing to do with him and will expel him. (See Disrobing and End Note 31.) However, if the accused 'bhikkhu' does not admit to the offence and it cannot be proved, the results of kamma must be allowed to run their own course. Buddhism has never engaged in violent witch hunts. (See Strictness and Blaming Others.) And for how lay people dealt with stubborn monks in the Buddha's time, see Disputes.
A: Generally, the right-practicing bhikkhu will be a person of few wants for he is trying to go to the ending of all desire. However, there may be certain things he may need but may not mention until he is sure that the donors are completely sincere in their invitation. If the donor makes specific suggestions, the bhikkhu may refuse, he may accept, or he may remain silent — and such silence may very well be a positive response (as it was in the Lord Buddha's time). Therefore, as the donor gets to know the bhikkhu he or she will become more sensitive about what is needed and what is appropriate — and be able to interpret any 'silence' in the right way. (See the section on Invitation and Beginner's Question 12 above.)
The awakened mind has gone beyond greed, hatred and delusion. Yet for those of us who are still striving towards this end such unskillful tendencies have to be addressed. We need guidelines to help us become more aware of our actions and speech, so that we do not go off the Buddha's Middle Way. For a start there are the Five Precepts, then the Eight and the Ten Precepts, [see End Note 4] and then the 227 Paa.timokkha Rules of the bhikkhu.
The Five Precepts are basic human ethical standards — answering the fundamental questions of 'what do I do, what should I say?' These standards are further refined by the Eight Precepts, which allow the lay person to live a life closer to that of the monk — even if temporarily. This may then lead to the Ten Precepts of a novice (saama.nera) or of a dasasiila mata nun.
The Vinaya and Paa.timokkha rules were set down by the Buddha in response to specific incidents that occurred either within the Community of bhikkhus or through their interaction with the lay community. An explanation of the original circumstances that led to the formulation of a rule is usually included in the scriptural text as an introduction to that rule. The emphasis therefore is always on Dhamma practice with the Precepts or Vinaya as a vital guide and support.
When a bhikkhu takes up the training rules, he might find that past habits and tendencies still cause problems — especially in a non-supportive environment. Of course, staying within a suitable environment will simplify this, which is a major reason for some rules. Therefore it is important to remember that the bhikkhu never practices in isolation and always needs the support and understanding of lay Buddhists. There is the need for mutual support and encouragement between the lay and bhikkhu communities. Knowing something of the rules should enable the lay person to appreciate this.
Buddhism has been said to be 'deeply rooted in a country when a local young man can become a bhikkhu, learn and then recite the Paa.timokkha Rule in his own country.' This originally referred to Sri Lanka thousands of years ago but now that Buddhism is moving to the West such conditions are starting to appear there, too.
The Bhikkhu Sa"ngha or Community of monks is probably the oldest of any of the institutions that have remained faithful to their origins and spread world-wide [see End Note note 7]. While scholars like to track its historical development from country to country, we could also start with a particular bhikkhu and trace the thread back through preceptor after preceptor to the Buddha Himself. Its many remarkable features enable men from different classes, backgrounds and cultures to live together in harmony and fellowship. Most important, it offers ideal conditions for the individual to train and meditate, to awaken to Dhamma, which is the whole point of the Buddha's Teaching.
The first part of the ordination procedure for bhikkhus is known as the Going Forth into Homelessness (pabbajjaa). If it finishes with just that — without going on to the Questioning of the candidate and the Acceptance of him by all the gathered bhikkhus into the Bhikkhu Sa"ngha — the candidate is known as a saama.nera or novice. This is usually the case when the candidate is less than the twenty years of age necessary to become a bhikkhu. A very young boy is not allowed to become a novice either, but the minimum age will vary according to place.
A saama.nera wears the 'yellow robe' like a full bhikkhu — except he does not have the sa"nghaa.ti (double-thickness robe) — and leads a very similar life. In some places a period as a novice forms part of the preliminary training to become a bhikkhu, while some men decide to remain saama.nera for various reasons. The saama.nera keeps the Ten Precepts and the 75 Training Rules (sekhiya) and some other rules of the bhikkhu. Later, when he is ready and if he is old enough, he can ask the bhikkhu community for full ordination (upasampadaa).
In the Pali texts, when a man decided to become a bhikkhu, he is often quoted as saying:
However, anyone wishing to become a bhikkhu must fulfill certain conditions about which he will be questioned during the actual ordination procedure. The candidate must be male and at least twenty years old. He must never have committed any grievous crimes and, if previously ordained, he must not have been guilty of any Defeater (Paaraajika) offences or have entered some other religion without disrobing first. (See BMC pp.88-89) He should also be of good reputation; fit and healthy enough to carry out the duties of a bhikkhu; not in debt; not subject to government service; and have permission from parents or guardian.
The Ordination ceremony requires a prescribed boundary (siima), a preceptor (upajjhaaya) and a quorum of bhikkhus to validate the formal Sangha Act. In the formal procedure the candidate is examined as to the necessary qualities and, if all the bhikkhus are satisfied, they receive him into the Sangha, the Community of Bhikkhus.
It is in this way that yet another link is added to the bhikkhu-lineage. Henceforth, the new bhikkhu can participate (and make up the necessary quorum) in future assemblies and help receive other new bhikkhus — as bhikkhus have continued to do for two and a half thousand years. (See EV,I,p.4; OP)
When a candidate requests full admission to the Community (after the saama.nera ordination) he does not make any 'lifetime vows' but offers himself for training and instruction under his Preceptor's guidance. At the end of the ordination ceremony, the Preceptor will immediately instruct the new bhikkhu (or arrange that he is properly taught) about the Paa.timokkha Rule and the other principles that all bhikkhus should follow and observe.
For the first five years a bhikkhu is called navaka ('new one') and he must live 'dependent' (nissaya) on a senior bhikkhu — either his preceptor or teacher (aacariya) — training in the ways of a bhikkhu. The preceptor and the new monk should be kind and helpful to each other, in almost a father-and-son relationship. A new bhikkhu who no longer lives under his preceptor must take another senior bhikkhu as his teacher and depend on him instead.
For the next five years after his navaka period, the bhikkhu is called majjhima, ('one in the middle') and he is allowed to live by himself if he is accomplished in certain qualities.
When a bhikkhu has completed ten Rains he is called Thera, which can be translated as 'an elder who is worthy of respect.' If he is also accomplished in certain extra qualities, he is allowed to give ordination as preceptor, to be a teacher, and have young monks live in dependence on him.
Throughout South East Asia, it is very common for young men to become bhikkhus (or novices) for a short period of their life. Traditionally this occurs during the three months of the Rains Retreat, after which they disrobe and return to lay life, hopefully knowing and appreciating much more about the bhikkhu life — and probably having friends still in the monastery whom they can visit for advice. In Thailand this means that while a small proportion of bhikkhus will spend all their life in the robe, many more Thai men will have tasted the life.
Such an ordination is also a rite of passage, for it is a family, even a village event with many people joining in to see the young man off into this new stage of his life. The new monk will frequently visit his former home on his daily alms round so his ordination has a wider influence, showing the continuing possibility of living the 'Holy Life' started by the Lord Buddha so long ago.
It may also be considered a way for the young man to show his gratitude to his parents and grandparents, for they are thought to participate and share in the 'merit' he makes through his ordination. Also, some men might ordain for a time before marriage — one way for the young man to prove his maturity to his fiancée — and then again later in life after retirement.
The bhikkhu's year is structured around the three months from July to October. In Asia this is the time of the monsoon season — the central period of the agricultural year — when the paddy fields are flooded and the main rice crop is planted. In the Buddha's time (and until modern times), people were less likely to travel around during this period because the roads were bad and there was a danger of crop damage. So the bhikkhus likewise suspended their mendicant wanderings and had to settle in one place.
A bhikkhu must make a formal determination to be resident at dawn every day in that place for the whole three month period. (There are exceptional circumstances when he may be allowed to be away, but even then he should return within seven days.) These three months are often a special time of study or meditation and so are sometimes known as the Rains Retreat or Rains Residence. This is also the normal time when the young men of South East Asia become monks for the traditional three month period (see above).
A bhikkhu often measures the length of time he has been a monk according to how many Rains Residences he has undertaken. Therefore instead of saying he has been 'ordained seven years' he might say he has been ordained for 'seven Rains.'
Living the bhikkhu-life properly, following the Buddha's Teaching, requires full commitment and sustained effort. If this is lost and his Dhamma friends cannot rekindle his interest, the bhikkhu is always at liberty to return to lay life. There are no lifetime vows, so perhaps living a good lay life is better than being lax in keeping the bhikkhu's rules. Nevertheless, in some countries there is a cultural expectation of 'ordaining for life' and a corresponding stigma attached to disrobing.
Disrobing is finalized by the monk clearly proclaiming his change of status before another bhikkhu or lay person. Once the other person understands his statement, he is no longer a bhikkhu. In Thailand there is often a formal ceremony for this that ends with the former monk undertaking the Five Precepts to replace the 227 Paa.timokkha Rule. (This is also considered a step downwards, for the ideal way is certainly to continue with the Holy Life 'for as long as life lasts.')
In those countries where temporary ordinations are 'rites of passage,' some men may ordain and disrobe several times in their life — before marriage and after retirement, for example. However, there seems to be a tradition that bhikkhus do not disrobe and go forth again more than seven times, but this rarely occurs.
If a bhikkhu commits a Defeater Offence there is no need for him formally to disrobe because he is automatically expelled by his wrongful action and is no longer a bhikkhu from that moment.[26b] He can never reordain during that lifetime.
This book is really only concerned with bhikkhus.  In the Theravaada lineage it seems that the bhikkhunii ordination lineage for women given by the Buddha — equivalent to bhikkhu-ordination for men — was lost in Sri Lanka with the fall of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka in the eleventh century C.E. and finally with the fall of Pagan in the thirteenth century C.E. Bhikkhuniis originally observed 311 Paa.timokkha Rules, and there are whole sections of the Paali Vinaya texts devoted to the their rules.
The Paali Vinaya texts are contained in five large volumes. The Sutta- Vibha"nga division comprises the two books that contain the 227 Paa.timokkha Rules (and those for bhikkhuniis) with the stories of their origin and other explanations. The next two books, the Mahaavagga and Cullavagga of the Khandhaka division:
The last book (the Parivaara) is a form of appendix or supplement.
So the 227 Paa.timokkha Rules are a part of the greater Vinaya. As Ven. Thiradhammo remarks:
The Buddha laid down that on full and new moon days all the bhikkhus in residence in the same community must come together in a formal meeting. If there is a quorum of at least four bhikkhus, they should listen to the full Paa.timokkha Rule. A competent bhikkhu who has learned this by heart will recite it in the Paali language for the Community so that they can remind themselves of their responsibilities in keeping the major 227 Rules. The complete recitation may take anywhere from thirty-five minutes to an hour, depending on the skill of the reciting bhikkhu.
Before the Paa.timokkha recitation begins, each bhikkhu should admit to any offences that he knows he has committed by formally telling another monk (or monks). Once this is accomplished, the monk is considered 'pure' and can listen to the recitation of the rules. (The recitation includes questions, asking if any bhikkhu present is guilty of the offences.) In many communities it is normal for each bhikkhu to make a 'general confession' of all possible offences to another bhikkhu before listening to the Paa.timokkha recitation.
Different offences are of different seriousness but the most common faults committed by carelessness or mistake can be cleared by 'confession' to another bhikkhu. Admitting to one's mistake and agreeing to do better in the future is the way of growth and progress towards the elimination of all carelessness and absentmindedness.
When a bhikkhu breaks his precepts or rules it is called an offence (aapatti). Such offences are committed by action or word, although intention is (almost always) a decisive factor. Just thinking about doing something wrong is unskillful and may lead to future problems but it is not an offence. We will be examining some of these rules in the following pages.
The new bhikkhu is told about the Paaraajika Offences immediately after ordination, so he fully knows that they are the most serious of all the offences and that the consequences of transgressing them causes him to be no longer a bhikkhu. The nature of the act that breaks any of these four Paaraajika rules clearly reveals that the bhikkhu is no longer interested in developing the subtle and refined way of Dhamma. The alternative of voluntarily disrobing is always available if he feels he can no longer keep the Rule and this is considered a much better way to handle this sort of overwhelming desire.
A monk automatically falls from being a bhikkhu by committing any of these four offences of Defeat: sexual-intercourse, murder, major-theft, or falsely claiming supernormal abilities. A bhikkhu who falls into any of these four Defeater offences thereby severs himself irrevocably from the bhikkhu community and is no longer considered a bhikkhu. The text portrays it with some vivid similes showing their irreparable nature: as 'a man with his head cut off'; as 'a withered leaf fallen from its stem'; as 'a palm tree cut down'; as 'a broken stone.' For while all the other offences can be remedied, these four are terminal.
This is a very serious class of offence. However, any offending bhikkhu can be rehabilitated through confession and supervised probation. Finally, the bhikkhu needs to be reinstated by a specially convened Community (Sa"ngha) meeting of at least twenty monks.
The Bhikkhu Community (together with the bhikkhu concerned) have to decide which rule, if any, has been infringed.
These rules are often concerned with bhikkhus being greedy and excessive in their demand for offerings, or with bhikkhus obtaining requisites through improper means. This oppresses lay donors and, classically, led them to comment: "How can these recluses... not knowing moderation ask for... ?" The rules of this category also guide bhikkhus on how they should take care of requisites and restrain the bhikkhus from obtaining items that by their very nature are inappropriate.
This offence can be cleared by forfeiture of the improper item to another bhikkhu(s) and formal confession of the offence.
◊ The other classes of offences can usually be resolved by a simple 'confession' to another bhikkhu(s). They are:
All these offences can be cleared through confession to another bhikkhu.
These are normally classified as offences of 'wrong-doing' (dukka.ta). There are two aspects to these 'rules of training' which are mainly about etiquette and good manners. First, they are a 'gauge' for the bhikkhu's mindfulness so that he becomes aware of his behavior. Second, there is the external perspective of an observer watching the bhikkhu's activity and noticing the care and refinement with which he moves, eats, etc. (For example, see Proper Behavior Outside the Monastery.)
These are general procedures (rather than offences) for dealing with disputes, accusations, offences and duties. (See BMC p.511)
◊ In the full Vinaya texts there is also the class of 'grave' (thullaccaya) offence. This is a 'derived offence' from the most serious rules of Paaraajika and Sa"nghaadisesa (groups (a) and (b) above) to cover those circumstances when the full offence is not quite carried out but the conduct is still grave enough to be at fault. There is also the dubbhaasita offence of wrong speech.
The Lord Buddha would not set down a rule until the situation demanded it, so the Paali often supplies the 'origin story' about how the different rules came about. Certain characters often reappear in the thick of misdeeds and mischief. For instance, one keeps on coming across Venerable Udaayin or the notorious 'group-of-six' monks. Their behavior required attention and rectification from the Buddha, who then made it into a general rule for all the bhikkhus:
Later circumstances may have required the Buddha to make amendments or special exceptions and the rule would then have been adjusted accordingly. There are also many other minor offences mentioned in the original Paali texts, which have been further enlarged upon by later Commentaries. So the range of rules has become very extensive, and their observance and interpretation correspondingly wide.
◊ Note that it was often lay people's criticism that brought the monk's wrong doings to the attention of the Buddha. (However, also notice how such criticism was often too hasty in blaming all monks rather than just the original delinquent.)
More than two and a half thousand years have passed since the Vinaya rules were originally set down by the Buddha, and many things have markedly changed since then. Should the rules be modernized and brought up to date? How can this be done?
Already during His lifetime, the Buddha made special allowances for different regions (or desa) outside the 'Middle Country' of North India — where He lived and taught. These dealt with both the workings of the Community — for example, a smaller quorum for ordination is allowed in distant parts where there are fewer monks — and practical measures, such as special dispensation for footwear and bathing. (See EV,II,p.173) So there is a precedent for adapting to conditions, but this does not mean the abolishing of any rules [see End Note 6].
The Lord Buddha also left us a set of principles that can still be used as a standard to judge new circumstances. These are known as 'The Great Standards.' Properly used they should protect against a wholesale dilution of the Rule.
This is how the Great Standards are formulated:
"Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.
"Whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.
"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.
"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you." (BMC p.27; see also EV, II, p170)
◊ Treated with care, these Great Standards should enable bhikkhus to live according to the Vinaya Rule in, for example, isolated communities in non-Buddhist countries with non-tropical climates. They form a touchstone for modern conditions and substances.
Among the unenlightened, finding fault with others (rather than dealing with one's own problems) often seems to be one of our most damaging habitual tendencies. We are able to twist whatever we want to this purpose. (Including the book that you are reading.) For bhikkhus there are many cautions:
"... those [monks] who follow the Vinaya blindly... tend to be proud and arrogant, regarding themselves as better behaved and more strict than others, and despising other bhikkhus as inferior. This in itself is unbecoming and worthy of censure; and when such bhikkhus have to associate with others whom they feel to be deficient in observing the Vinaya, they do it grudgingly and with a sense of distaste, and thus bring even more trouble on themselves.
"As for the bhikkhu who behaves in the correct manner, he is bound to feel cheerful because he senses that his behavior is becoming." (OP p.11)
[shameless]. But he will remain tolerant and in perfect harmony with those who follow a different practice from his own on matters not clearly covered by the Vinaya..." (AB) alajjii [shameless]. But he will remain tolerant and in perfect harmony with those who follow a different practice from his own on matters not clearly covered by the Vinaya..." (AB)
Disparate interpretations of the Vinaya rules can lead different communities into claiming that only their understanding is correct and everyone else is wrong. (See Disputes.) The Buddhist Monastic Code has this to say:
Venerable Thanissaro continues by emphasizing:
◊ In the modern West we find ourselves with the unusual (unique?) situation of having Buddhist monasteries and temples of so many different countries and traditions so close at hand. We should appreciate this abundance and variety, deciding which establishment suits our needs and then not worry about the shortcomings of other places.
Having established a background, we will now turn to the rules themselves. Rather than following the traditional listing, we will group rules (of varying seriousness) together under four headings, which might pertain to, or be of interest to, lay people:
For other Patimokkha Rules not covered here, see Appendix B
◊ Throughout its history Buddhism has been renowned for its tolerance and compassion towards all living beings and this is reflected in the Buddhist monks' Vinaya. Their rules cover situations of causing harm ranging from murder — which is universally accepted as a crime — to such things as destroying plant life.
The third Defeater (Paaraajika) Offence deals with murder. The original story describes how some bhikkhus wrongly grasped the Buddha's meditation teaching on the loathsome aspects of the body and, falling into wrong view, committed suicide or asked someone to end their lives for them. The rule can be summarized like this:
◊ A bhikkhu must not recommend killing, suicide or help arrange a murder. Also, because in this rule a human being is defined as beginning with the human foetus, counting "from the time consciousness first arises in the womb," he must not advise or arrange an abortion.
There is no offence if death is caused accidentally or without intention.
The previous offence was one of Defeat for murder whereas this rule is one of Confession (paacittiya) for killing animals. It originally arose because Venerable Udaayin, a frequent delinquent, detested crows so much that he shot them with arrows and then displayed their cut-off heads.
'Animal' here is paano, literally 'having breath.' The Commentary explains that it includes living beings down to the size of a bedbug. Elsewhere the texts forbid the killing of "even an ant."
◊ One of the bhikkhu's requisites is a water filter. This is employed to prevent the killing of (visible) waterborne creatures when making use of water from a well or stream. Practically, this also leads bhikkhus to take extra care that they cover water jars or regularly change water so that mosquito larvae do not have opportunity to breed. This shows how the Vinaya Rule emphasizes care and forethought as 'preventive medicine.'
There are two rules concerned with bhikkhus and their use of water:
One of these offences was originally perpetrated by the notorious 'group-of-six' monks who used water that contained living beings. It can be summarized:
In the second offence the monks of AA.lavii were doing repairs and 'sprinkled grass and clay' with water that they knew contained life. It is summarized:
Intention is an essential factor here. For example, if a bhikkhu only intends to sweep a path but accidentally kills ants in the process, there is no offence because it is not deliberate. However, ordering an animal to be killed (and it is) is an offence. (Also, if he suspects that that animal was killed to provide him with food, it is an offence to eat it. See Meat-eating.)
◊ The common belief at the time of the Buddha was that plants (and even soil) were 'one-facultied life.' Today we have ecologically 'green' beliefs that are often equivalent — at least they seem to lead to much the same attitudes. (In Thailand, forest monks are well known as the best protectors of the jungle.)
The eleventh Confession offence concerns destroying plant life. It originated because a bhikkhu harmed 'one-facultied life' by cutting down trees. He continued to cut down a tree even when the tree-deva asked him to stop, so she went and complained to the Buddha. This led to lay criticism of such behavior and a rule was set down:
Therefore destroying a living plant — for instance, felling a tree, uprooting a flower, burning grass — is a Confession offence; as is picking fruit from a tree, a flower from a bush, etc. It is an offence of wrong-doing (dukka.ta) to damage or destroy fertile seeds or pips, or viable seedlings. (See Kappiya).
◊ Bhikkhus who live in tropical forest monasteries constantly have to protect both the jungle and themselves. When paths are overgrown, snakes and other dangerous 'creepy-crawlies' can be trodden on — and bite back! There also may be a need for firebreaks. One way that forest monks cope with this is a daily routine of sweeping the paths. However they are not allowed to dig or clear the land.
The tenth Confession offence arose when bhikkhus dug the ground and got others to dig, and the local people criticized them because they considered the earth to be 'one-facultied life.' The rule is phrased like this:
Digging, breaking the surface of the earth, lighting a fire on it, pounding a stake into it are all disallowed. (If such 'earth' is more gravel or sand than 'soil' — and has no living creatures in it — it may then be dug.)
◊ It is, however, allowable for monks to hint to laypeople or novices about what needs doing as long as the words or gestures fall short of a command. When bhikkhus need paths to be cleared, necessary work done on the ground, firebreaks made, etc., any lay attendant wanting to help should listen out for hints and indications: 'A post hole dug over there would be useful'; 'make this ground allowable,' etc. What is needed can then be clarified.
◊ One practical and long term effect of these rules is that they have steered bhikkhus away from involvement in agriculture and land ownership. Such a development would also have isolated bhikkhus from the lay community because they would no longer have needed to depend on alms food.
Bhikkhus cannot live in complete isolation from lay people, for the mutual support relationship is intrinsic to their way of life. However, it should never become an intimate relationship for this goes against the whole purpose of leaving the 'family life' with its endless 'enclosed' complications.
The 'Holy Life' or Brahmacariya is one that checks the display of any form of sexual desire through the actions and speech of the bhikkhu. (In fact restraint from gross sexual misconduct is already part of the Five Precepts [see End Note 4]. The Eight and Ten Precepts immediately refine this and then the Vinaya manages it with even greater subtlety.) One's Dhamma life can then advance towards the ending of all desire through mind development and meditation. The most potent object for such sexual desire, that which the mind is most tenaciously grasping after, is usually associated with the opposite sex, so many rules involve this relationship.
◊ The first offence of all the 227 listed rules of the Paa.timokkha concerns a bhikkhu engaging in sexual intercourse. It remains a hot issue, perhaps even more so today, going by the number of sexual scandals that rock the Buddhist religious world in both the East and the West. As Venerable Thiradhammo writes:
The rule was originally laid down because of Venerable Sudinna. He was the son of a rich merchant, who left home to become a bhikkhu only after great opposition from his family. He went away to practice Dhamma and when he came back to visit sometime later, his parents were overjoyed to see him and plotted to lure him back into the lay life again. They invited him for a meal and then laid out their wealth in front of him, piled up in two huge heaps of gold, while the wife he had left behind dressed herself in her most irresistibly alluring way. Venerable Sudinna remained unmoved by all of this. After telling them to throw the gold away in the river, he called his former wife, "Sister." Nevertheless, when his elderly mother pleaded with him at least to give them an heir, he foolishly gave in and had sexual intercourse with his former wife.
This First Defeater Offence is summarized:
Every form and variety of sexual intercourse with sexual penetration — whether genital, oral or anal, whether with woman, man or animal — is forbidden. The penalty is the heaviest one of Paaraajika or Defeat.
◊ The modern West has stories of sexual harassment, so the ways that the Buddha dealt with such matters should not seem so very strange.
If a bhikkhu touches a woman in a sexual way, he commits a very serious offence requiring formal meetings of the Community and probation (Sa"nghaadisesa). The scrupulous bhikkhu wants to remain above suspicion so, if he can, he will avoid all physical contact. (Hence his attitude to shaking hands. This also explains why in Thailand a receiving cloth is used to receive offerings from women. (See EN 85)
The rule was first set down by the Buddha after a brahman and his wife had gone to inspect Ven. Udaayin's fine dwelling. As Ven. Udaayin was showing them around, he came up behind the lady and "rubbed up against her limb by limb." After they had left, the husband praised Ven. Udaayin but the wife was critical and explained what had happened. The brahman then complained, "Isn't it even possible to take one's wife to a monastery without her being molested?" This rule was then set down:
To be at fault, the bhikkhu must usually do some action to bring contact with a woman while lust overcomes his mind. If he accidentally stumbles and bumps into a woman or vice-versa, or if he is accosted by a woman, as long as there is no intention to come into lustful contact there is no offence. However, the average bhikkhu's mind tends to be so quick and unruly — he is, after all, still in training and therefore unenlightened — that he may prefer to be super-cautious about such situations.
If a bhikkhu touches his mother out of affection, then this is still an offence but the lesser one of wrong-doing (dukka.ta).  While gratitude to parents was strongly emphasized by the Buddha, the bhikkhu having left the home-life and his family should not cling to worldly relationships. The only true way for him to fulfill his filial obligations is by gaining insight into Dhamma and then teaching his parents.
If a bhikkhu is acting with lustful intentions, he incurs a grave (thullaccaaya) offence for making bodily contact with a pa.n.daka ('sex- aberrant') and an offence of wrong-doing for contact with a male. (See BMC p.103)
◊ The previous rules dealt with the bhikkhu's physical actions, the next two rules are offences — again of the very serious category — that concern his wrong speech towards women.
This rule came into being when many women visitors came together to look over Ven. Udaayin's dwelling. He spoke to them in a lewd, flirtatious way so that some of them said, "It is improper. Even from our husbands we wouldn't like to hear this sort of thing." Therefore, the Buddha laid down this rule:
◊ The following rule is very relevant today when some misguidedly believe that submitting to sex with spiritual teachers can help in their spiritual development.
Again, it was originally a lustful Ven. Udaayin who was the cause of this offence. This time, he suggested to a beautiful and devout woman follower that she make a 'special offering' to him, that of sexual intercourse. The Buddha then set forth this rule:
◊ The major issue today seems more to center around divorce and the breakdown of marriage rather than arranging marriages. However one should note how these affairs can involve the bhikkhu and how he should guard against becoming too drawn in. (It is also noteworthy that this is considered one of the most serious offences.)
Ven. Udaayin caused this rule to be set down because he involved himself in arranging many marriages and liaisons. When some of these failed, they blamed him for the failure. The offence is summarized:
A bhikkhu should not officiate at weddings, except perhaps to chant a blessing afterwards and encourage the newly married couple to lead virtuous and faithful lives together based in generosity, virtue and meditation. He also has to be circumspect when counselling couples. (There is no offence in reconciling a married but estranged couple as long as they are not yet divorced.)
◊ A bhikkhu not only has to be impeccable but also must be seen to be so. He sets an example for everyone and therefore must be beyond reproach. Any doubtful situations have to be clarified, which is how the next rules came about. Some knowledge of these rules may also help to explain the sometimes seemingly antisocial attitude of some bhikkhus. (When bhikkhus are reluctant to enter into too private a conversation, it may reflect the unsuitability of the time and place for such a meeting.)
There are two aspects to these particular rules: physical closeness and private conversation (see below Talking Privately). If a woman sees a monk who is sitting alone and she wants to sit close to him, or she wants to have a one-to-one conversation with him, the following rules have to be taken into account.
First, the rules dealing with intimate proximity:
The Two Aniyata, Indefinite or Undetermined Cases, were formulated after Ven. Udaayin went to visit a recently married young woman. He sat privately with her, in a secluded place, just the two of them, talking about worldly affairs. The respected female lay-follower, Visaakhaa, saw them sitting there and said to Ven. Udaayin, "This is improper, Ven. Sir, and unsuitable, that the master should sit in private like this. Although, Ven. Sir, the master may have no desire for sexual intercourse, there are unbelieving people who are difficult to convince."
The Buddha therefore set this down:
The Second Indefinite Offence is similar to the first, except that the place is less secluded and therefore not suitable for sexual intercourse although it could still be grounds for the other sexual offences, such as "addressing a woman with lewd words."
◊ When a bhikkhu intentionally sits alone with a woman in a secluded or private place (as in the above two rules) it can lead on to more intimate behavior or at least to misunderstandings from unexpected onlookers. To preclude such problems a bhikkhu needs a companion or 'chaperone.'
A 'secluded place' is where a monk and women can sit (or lie down) on a seat together in a place that is hidden from view and out of earshot, for example, a private room or behind a wall or hedge. In such circumstances, a man or boy old enough to understand what is inappropriate conduct must be also present as chaperone. Therefore, if a woman — or women, for according to this particular rule (Aniyata 1) it does not matter how many there are — sees a bhikkhu sitting alone in such a very secluded place, she should remember about this rule and not go and sit with him but await a more suitable time or find a male to act as chaperone.
A less secluded but still 'private place' (Aniyata 2) would be, for example, a bench in a deserted park or a glassed-in porch or any other place that is private but not secluded enough for sexual intercourse. (BMC p.389) In this case, the Commentary allows the chaperone to be either male or female but they must be someone who knows 'what is and what is not lewd' and they must be 'within sight.' However if the monk and woman talk together the chaperone must be male because of the relevant rule about that. (See Talking Privately below.)
◊ The following 'Confession Rules' connect with the above 'Indefinite Rules.' (See explanations above for definitions of a 'secluded' and a 'private place.')
The forty-fourth Confession Offence originated when the husband of a woman denounced Ven. Upananda for sitting alone in a 'secluded place' with his wife. The ruling:
The next Confession Offence follows on with Ven. Upananda, this time, being caught sitting alone with the man's wife in a 'private place.' This time the ruling is:
Therefore as with the Indefinite Offences above there needs to be a chaperone present.
◊ The previous rules dealt with physical proximity whereas this next rule concerns a bhikkhu and woman talking alone. It might appear strange that a rule should completely forbid confidential interviews with a bhikkhu alone. Yet if one reflects on how things have regularly gone wrong with such private spiritual counselling, it is easier to see that being safe is better than sorry — for the sake of everyone involved. Even if their conduct is completely pure, it still may lead to rumour and criticism.
The seventh Confession offence arose when Ven. Udaayin went to visit lay supporters. He sat close to the mother of the family at the front door, teaching her Dhamma in a quiet, confidential manner, and then approached the daughter-in-law who was by the side door and spoke to her in the same way. Both women mistakenly thought that he was flirting with the other, and criticized him, saying that Dhamma should be given in a clear and open way. As a result the Buddha eventually laid down that:
There are different interpretations as to exactly what is meant by 'six sentences,' for the Paali word vaacaa can mean 'word,' 'saying' or 'speech.' Even if there are many women, but no other man, it is still considered an offence.
◊ One can see from the origin of this rule that the point (again) is not that women cannot be taught Dhamma but that it should be done in a way that is completely open and above misinterpretation.
◊ The next rule deals with the proximity of bhikkhus and women at night. There are different interpretations of this rule and as it is a frequently asked question extra translations with some discussion will be included.
This rule originally arose when Ven. Anuruddha — one of the most highly accomplished disciples of the Buddha — was traveling and asked the woman who owned a travelers' rest house if he could stay the night. She readily agreed and when more travelers arrived and Ven. Anuruddha let them share the room, she invited him to come and sleep inside instead. She had, however, become infatuated with him and tried to seduce him. When she saw that Ven. Anuruddha was completely unmoved, she came to her senses and asked his forgiveness. Ven. Anuruddha then gave her a Dhamma talk which so delighted her that she took refuge in the Triple Gem.
Here are several translations:
"If a bhikkhu sleeps in a place where there is a surrounding wall and under the same roof with a woman, even for one night, it is [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 6; Nv p.14)
"A monk who lies down with a female in the same building under the same roof and within walls, which are complete or almost complete, commits [a Confession Offence.]" (Paac. 6; BBC p.120)
"Lying down at the same time in the same lodging with a woman is [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 6; BMC p.280)
There are complications concerning how this rule should be applied to modern conditions, for example:
"Houses in tropical climates are often constructed without the system of doors and rooms found in colder climates, hence the importance of this rule. Bhikkhus obliged to stay in a Western-type house with lockable rooms in places where no [monastery] exists, as must sometimes happen during Dhammaduta [Spreading-Dhamma] work, will hardly be included here." (Paat. 1966 Ed.; p106)
"The Commentary (Samantapaasaadika) further explains that when there are many rooms in a single building — such as in a block of flats or apartments — the 'same sleeping place' is only those rooms which have a common 'entrance' (upacaara). It continues by explaining that an 'entrance' is where one washes one's feet before entering a set of rooms. Now each flat/apartment usually has a doormat on which one wipes one's feet before entering the flat/apartment and therefore, following the Commentary, the doormat marks the 'entrance' (upacaara) of a single 'same-sleeping-place.' In other words, separate flats/apartments become separate sleeping places for the purposes of this rule."(AB)
So there are different interpretations as to exactly what is meant by 'same place.' For example, does a locked door make a room a separate place? The Commentary suggests that if a building is divided into units that are not connected and each has a separate entrance, then each unit counts as a 'place.' Therefore apartment blocks would be allowable. And hospitals?
In the West, where there are few monasteries, visiting bhikkhus have to decide how to follow these rules. It is not just a question of being strict but also about how it looks to lay people. Will they be suspicious about a bhikkhu staying too close to women? How will they feel if he stays in an expensive hotel room? A good standard is probably:
The next point to deal with is that of a bhikkhu traveling with a woman. This is also a very practical question and is often asked about.
In the Buddha's time, a bhikkhu was about to set out on a journey when he met a woman who has just quarreled with her husband. She asked where he was going and if she could accompany him. He agreed. The husband then appeared, searching for his wife. He heard that she had gone off with a monk and assumed that they were lovers, so when he caught up with the pair he thrashed the bhikkhu before explanations could be made. When the husband realized his mistake, he apologized to the bhikkhu. Therefore this rule was set down:
◊ Modern practice differs according to the Community so lay women should bear this rule in mind when arranging transport for bhikkhus, or going to the same place as them. Reluctance by a bhikkhu to arrange such journeys might also be explained by this rule.
The term 'bhikkhu' is defined as 'almsman,' or 'mendicant.' He is one who depends on others for his material needs. This relationship of 'right livelihood' incurs responsibilities: the bhikkhu must receive and use offerings in the right way, whereas the lay devotee should make material offerings in the right way and receive Dhamma teachings in the right way. (See also Wrong Livelihood.) The lay person gives material support, which the bhikkhu properly receives and uses in his Dhamma-practice so he can eventually reciprocate with the 'highest of gifts' — Dhamma.
The proper needs of a bhikkhu and how they are supplied is extensively covered in the Vinaya Rule. If all bhikkhus were enlightened, we obviously would need few guidelines. However, most monks are still in the process of learning how to completely to eradicate greed, anger and delusion, so 'possessions' misused can easily lead to unskillful states of mind.
The Buddha said that there were four necessities of life — clothing, food, lodging and medicine — and that they have to be treated properly:
"Properly considering the robe, I use it: simply to ward off cold, to ward off heat, to ward off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, simply for the purpose of covering the parts of the body that cause shame.
"Properly considering almsfood, I use it: not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on weight, nor for beautification; but simply for the survival and continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the chaste life, (thinking) I will destroy old feelings (of hunger) and not create new feelings (from overeating). Thus I will maintain myself, be blameless, and live in comfort.
"Properly considering the lodging, I use it: simply to ward off cold, to ward off heat, to ward off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun and reptiles; simply for protection from the inclemencies of weather and for the enjoyment of seclusion.
"Properly considering medicinal requisites for curing the sick, I use them: simply to ward off any pains of illness that have arisen and for the maximum freedom from disease." [OP pp.46-47; (Pali: M. I, 10; A. III, 387)]
Clothing, food, shelter and medicine are necessary whether one is a lay person or a bhikkhu. The bhikkhu, however, should take a completely balanced stance towards these fundamentals. Advertising and the latest fashion should not draw him, for he should be solely concerned with simplicity and lack of attachment towards things. It seems that the original requisites were 'basics' that wandering bhikkhus could conveniently carry around, for example, an alms bowl, three robes, a sitting cloth, a needle-case, and a waist band. However, extra allowances were gradually given as the need arose, for instance, a water filter, a razor and its sheath, the stone and strop for sharpening it and then articles such as an umbrella and sandals. Later the commentaries allowed other similar items.
The Buddha made it clear that bhikkhus should avoid begging if possible. (In times of great need a bhikkhu is allowed to ask for his basic requisites, for example, if his robes are stolen he may ask any lay person for one replacement robe.) He gave this story about 'begging':
A bhikkhu came to the Lord Buddha and complained about a great flock of noisy birds that came to roost at night in the forest surrounding his abode. The Buddha suggested that if he wanted them to go away he should go, many times throughout the night, and beg a feather from each bird. The birds, thinking, 'that monk wants a feather, and another, and another...,' left the forest and never returned. The Buddha then explained that begging and hinting were unpleasant even to common animals, how much more so to human beings.
A bhikkhu who is constantly begging for things displays his greedy state of mind. No one likes to see this, and lay supporters may start by criticizing him and then turn to blaming his Community or even the Buddha's Teaching. The Buddha, therefore, set down many rules to guide the bhikkhus about what is proper conduct.
Normally a bhikkhu will not ask for things. Instead, he will wait for something to be offered. This is exemplified in the alms round where the bhikkhu makes no request, does not even look at people, although he may quietly wait to see if an offering is to be made before moving on. One way that lay people enable a bhikkhu to ask them for help is by making an invitation or pavaara.naa. 
The Buddha allowed a bhikkhu to accept pavaara.naa or 'invitation.' Such an invitation is made when lay people decide to commit themselves to supplying medicines if a particular bhikkhu should ever become ill, or it can be a broader offer of help. (Although a sick monk is allowed to ask anyone for medicine, asking somebody who has already invited him with a pavaara.naa invitation is obviously preferable.) Therefore if lay people meet a bhikkhu who seems worthy of help and support, they may make such an invitation. Quite a number of the rules deal with what and how much may be asked for when a donor makes this formal invitation.
An invitation can therefore be quite specific about what is being offered and how long that invitation will last. (Obviously, if circumstances change or the request is unreasonable, the donor has no obligations — and a conscientious bhikkhu is always sensitive about this.)
A clear invitation will also help prevent misunderstandings. For instance, the bhikkhu will know exactly what has been offered and so will not ask for more than that; and the lay person will not be overwhelmed by extravagant requests.
The original circumstances of the forty-seventh Confession Offence were as follows:
A lay supporter possessed much 'medicinal ghee' so he invited the monks to make use of it during the following four months. Much of the medicine was still left, so he extended his invitation for another four months and then extended it for life. The Buddha allowed this. However, that same lay donor had once criticized the 'group-of-six' monks because of their previous improper conduct so they decided to take their revenge by asking him for an impossibly large amount of medicine (ghee) and then criticized him when he could not immediately produce what he had promised. This rule was set down:
When the invitation is more vague — for example, a lay person may just say, "If you need anything, Bhante, let me know" — the bhikkhu should not exceed the spirit of the invitation. In fact some communities consider that an invitation in which the lay person does not mention any time limit is valid only for four months and that taking up the invitation beyond that time is an offence.
A bhikkhu is always allowed to ask for requisites from his relatives without having formal invitation first. (Whether they actually supply anything is, of course, up to them.) 'Relatives' are considered to be those with whom the bhikkhu has common ancestors back through seven generations, on both the mother's and father's side. Here 'in-laws' are not counted as relatives.
The ideal possessions of the bhikkhu are just his basic requisites: three main robes (described in the following section); alms bowl; waistband; needle and thread; razor and water filter.
The alms bowl can be made from clay or iron but must be properly fired to harden it (if clay) and rustproof it (if iron). Three bowl-sizes are mentioned: small, medium and large. There are also several rules about begging for a new bowl before one's old one is worn out, which entails forfeiture of the wrongly acquired bowl. (Nis. Paac. 22; 23)
The waistband became necessary when a monk's 'skirt-robe' fell down while he was in a village. The needle and thread are needed for patching and repairing the robes — and many teachers instruct that it is a wrong-doing for a monk not to repair them the same day. While the razor became necessary when:
The water filter is needed to avoid killing small creatures in drinking water. (See also Killing.)
However, most bhikkhus will have more than this — ranging from everyday items like soap and toothpaste, candles and matches, pen and books, a watch or clock, a flashlight or torch, to more sophisticated things appropriate to their environment. The principle is that such things should not be luxurious or expensive. Anything that is given to him (that is allowable) is his to keep, and he is allowed to give his things away if it is done in the right way and does not cause the donor's faith to decline.
Disposal or appropriation of anything owned by the Community, or belonging to the monastery, is strictly controlled and is covered by the rules that follow in the next section.
After a bhikkhu dies, his possessions will normally revert to the Sangha:
When a bhikkhu receives a general (i.e., non-personal) gift, there are two rules to guard against his misdirecting it. (When a bhikkhu actually steals something it is an offence of Defeat. See Stealing.)
The first of these rules arose when a guild was preparing to make an offering of a meal and some cloth to the whole Community whereupon the 'group-of-six' bhikkhus arrived and pressured the donors into giving the cloth to them instead:
"Should any bhikkhu knowingly divert to himself gains that had been intended for a Community, it is [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture.]" (Nis. Paac. 30; BMC p.256)
"'Gains' here refers to robes, alms food, abodes and medicines... and other allowable things. [They are] gifts dedicated as offerings to the Sangha but not yet offered. A bhikkhu diverts such gifts to himself by asking directly for them or by roundabout speech so that the donor will give them to him."(Nis. Paac. 30; Paat. 1969 Ed.; p159)
In the above rule the wrongly obtained 'gift' must be forfeited to another bhikkhu(s). (However, money is a special case. See Valuables and Money.) The following rule complements the one above but is an offence of Confession:
As has been mentioned above, the Buddha said that there were four necessities for life — Clothing, Food or 'edibles,' Shelter or lodging and Medicine — so we will use those divisions in the following sections.
◊ There is also a Sutta where it is mentioned that bhikkhus do not accept gifts of gardens, paddy-fields and other sorts of land, or draught animals, and other sorts of animals, etc. (EV,II, p.150)
The basic clothing that the Buddha originally suggested for a bhikkhu was made from discarded cloth ('rags') sewn together and dyed. After sewing the pieces together, they were just large rectangular pieces of cloth worn wraparound style. In the beginning, it seems that there were two robes: a sarong skirt-like robe (antaravaasaka) tied with a belt, and a robe to cover the upper part of the body (uttaraasa"nga). When the cold weather required more protection, the Buddha allowed a third robe, which was a double-thickness outer robe (sa"nghaa.ti).
Some rules limit the size of robes because cloth in India in those days was expensive due to the simple methods of spinning and weaving. Also, so that the robe would not be worth stealing, the cloth always had to be cut into panels that were then sewn together based on the design of paddy fields seen from a mountain:
After having received an offering of white cloth and having properly cut and sewn the panels together, the bhikkhu must dye it to produce the 'yellow robe.' Traditionally, vegetable dyes were used in this process. Different plants and woods when boiled up will produce slightly different shades of dye color — the Paali text calls the standard color kaasaaya or kaasaava, translated as 'dun-colored dye-water' — so there is some variety. When bhikkhus from different communities come together, their different shades of 'yellow'-dyed robes makes this very noticeable. (The destruction of the South East Asian forests has led to chemical dyes being used more frequently, so that cloth offered nowadays is often pre-dyed and brighter in color.)
Slightly varied styles of wearing the traditional set of three robes have developed over the years in different countries. But basically, the rectangular shaped robe is put around the body and the two vertical edges are folded or rolled together. Then either it is tucked in and secured with a belt (for the skirt-robe) or, for the larger outer robes, the edge is 'thrown' or flicked over the left shoulder and pinched under the left arm so that it will not slip off. There are various techniques for this. (It needs some practice!)
In the Lord Buddha's time, it was a sign of respect to bare one's right shoulder. Therefore when in the monastery the bhikkhu will normally wear his outer robe with the right shoulder visible. On leaving the monastery for inhabited areas he must cover both shoulders.
In addition to this required set of the 'triple robe,' which every bhikkhu must have and look after, there are extra cloths that can be used occasionally.
The month following the three months of the Rains Retreat — sometime in the October-November period — is the traditional Ka.thina time for renewing bhikkhus' robes. In ancient times, this was when bhikkhus would help one another in hand-sewing cloth into new robes — using the special wooden ka.thina frame.
This is the time when lay supporters often make a special offering of cloth and other requisites to all the monks at a particular monastery. A sewing machine is normally used but all the monks still try to help in the marking out, cutting, sewing, or dying process. The cloth has to be offered, sewn and dyed, so that it is a finished robe and ready to wear within the same day. (Often the robe nowadays is already sewn and pre-dyed.) If this procedure is carried through correctly, the bhikkhus are then entitled to special allowances for the next few months.
The Ka.thina Ceremony is optional (unlike some other observances that are mandatory) and requires a quorum of five (eligible) bhikkhus. It has, however, generally become an important festival and almsgiving occasion.
◊ As has been mentioned above, the Buddha said that there were four necessities of life: clothing, food, shelter and medicine.
The Buddha suggested that the basic source of food for bhikkhus was that received on the morning alms round (pi.n.dapaata). This daily dependence on alms food reminds both the bhikkhus and the lay devotees of their interdependence and prevents the bhikkhu from becoming too isolated from the lay community. He 'meets' them every day and eats the food that they share with him. Several important rules are concerned with this as well as a major section of the Sekhiya Training rules. (See below; see also story about Ven. Assaji.)
An alms round is not considered begging, for the bhikkhu does not solicit anything but is ready mindfully to receive any alms that lay people may wish to give. Although alms food may sometimes be meager, the bhikkhu is always expected to be grateful for whatever he is given. It is surprising how particular we can be about what food we like to eat; and what complications that can cause. This is reflected in the way rules concerning 'edibles' are arranged, which may seem very complex especially when the bhikkhu's life is supposed to be so simple. It should be borne in mind that the rules often deal with extraordinary circumstances and try to prevent them from becoming the norm.
When the 'group-of-six' monks in the Buddha's time solicited 'special foods' and ate them themselves, the lay people criticized this saying, "Who isn't fond of good food and sweets?" The Buddha therefore laid down this rule:
"There are these finer staple foods, i.e., ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, sugar/molasses, fish, meat, fresh milk, and curds. Should any bhikkhu who is not ill, having asked for finer staple foods such as these for his own sake, then eat them, it is [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 39; BMC p.367)
"There are sumptuous foods, namely foods mixed with ghee, butter, oil, honey, molasses, fish, meat, milk and curd; and a monk who, though not sick, asks for such sumptuous foods for himself and eats them commits [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 39; BBC p.127)
The ancient commentators suggest that these 'finer foods' are actually made when one mixes rice, for example, with butter or fish, etc.
An exception is made for a monk who is ill, and a bhikkhu can ask for special food for the sake of a fellow monk who is sick. (He is always allowed to ask a relative or someone who has offered a Pavaara.naa Invitation.
A whole section of the seventy-five Sekhiya Training guidelines is concerned with how a bhikkhu receives and eats his alms food. Although 'table manners' may differ from country to country, and from age to age, these Sekhiya rules still largely conform to what is considered good manners:
"I will receive alms food appreciatively." (Sekhiya 27)
"When receiving alms food, I will focus my attention on the bowl." (Sekhiya 28)
◊ This explains why the bhikkhu may not look at the donor when accepting food — he is concentrating on properly receiving it.
It is suggested that this was laid down so that bhikkhus on alms round would not pass by people offering plain rice in favor of better quality food. (See EV,I,p.211)
◊ However, on festival or special occasions the bhikkhu's bowl may be emptied so that everyone who wants to join in offering has the opportunity.
◊ This is also why the bhikkhu should not be expected to talk while he is eating, for this will distract his attention.
If donors think that the monk has only plain rice in his bowl, they may give him some 'better' food.
Other Sekhiya rules seem aimed at bhikkhus eating from their bowl using their fingers in the traditional way of India:
"I will not make up an overlarge mouthful of food; nor open my mouth until the portion of food has been brought to it; nor put my fingers into my mouth; nor speak with my mouth full.
"I will not eat: stuffing out my cheeks; shaking my hand about; scattering grains of rice about; putting out my tongue; making a champing sound; (or drink) making a sucking sound; licking my hands; scraping the bowl; licking my lips. I will not take hold of a vessel of water with my hand soiled with food." (Sekhiya Section; see End Note 75.)
In the West the first meal of the day is 'break-fast.' For the bhikkhu this is literally true, for he will not have taken any food since the previous morning. Food intake is limited to the hours between dawn and noon. The practice of not eating in the afternoon is a very old tradition mentioned in the earliest Suttas. It is also included in the Ten Precepts of the novice (saama.nera) and dasasiila mata nun; and the Eight Precepts of the lay devotee [see End Note 4].
'Food' here refers to things like cooked grains; sweets made from flour, beans, etc.; fish; meat; fresh milk and sour milk;... fruits, tubers and all 'main course' foods. (See EV,II, pp.131-133)
When these staple foods go beyond their time limit (i.e., after noon) a bhikkhu will incur an offence if he consumes them. The original story shows the complications that can arise from leaving the monastery at the wrong time:
The 'group-of-seventeen' bhikkhus — another set of frequent misdoers — went out one afternoon to enjoy themselves at a festival outside the city. When lay people saw them they gave them a meal and food to take back to the monastery. The Buddha therefore laid down this rule:
◊ This 'wrong time' is defined to be from noon until dawn the following day. A bhikkhu is still at fault even if he genuinely miscalculates the time or mistakes an item of 'food' for a 'medicine.' Therefore if donors are preparing food for a bhikkhu they should be careful that they are not late in offering it so that the meal can be finished before noon. It is also noteworthy that an ill bhikkhu has no exemption from this rule so he likewise should not take food in the afternoon.
Any nutriment that a bhikkhu puts into his mouth is classified in four groups, which specify the time limits during which he can consume or store them:
When different kinds of 'edibles' are mixed, their category will usually change to that with the shortest life span. For example, ginger can be used as a herbal 'lifetime' medicine for stomach ailments. However, grated-ginger that has been used for food preparation is classed as 'food' and therefore should not be kept overnight or used as a medicine. Likewise, if honey is used as a solvent or base for herbal medicines, because the honey has a seven-day limit, that lifetime (herbal) medicine becomes a seven-day medicine.
◊ This is another reason that bhikkhus may be careful about the ingredients of medicines that are offered. When offering 'medicines' the donor should try to be aware of what the bhikkhu considers allowable and what will cause him to fall into offence.
We have already mentioned the bhikkhu's alms round and his dependence on receiving food from lay supporters. But how is the gift made and how is it properly received? This is accomplished in quite a formal way yet it can still be confusing to lay devotees for different monks receive an offering in slightly different ways.
The rule that explains about formally having to make an offering to bhikkhus arose when a certain bhikkhu lived in a charnel ground, wearing robes made from rags collected from there. He also subsisted on the food left for 'departed spirits' by relatives of the dead person. The lay people criticized him, wrongly suspecting he might also be feeding on human flesh so the Buddha set down this rule:
"Should a bhikkhu take into his mouth an edible that has not been given — except for water and tooth-cleaning sticks — it is [an offence of Confession.]"(Paac. 40; BMC p.370)
"A monk who puts in his mouth, any nutriment, which has not been proffered to him, commits [a Confession offence.]" (Paac. 40; BBC p.127)
Present day practice regarding this rule (Paac. 40 above) varies so much because of the intricacy of interpretation. However, usually, anything that goes into the mouth — food or 'medicines' — should be properly given. That means it should be:
(a) given by means of the body, (e.g., given by hand), or by something attached to the body, (e.g., a spoon), or by throwing, (e.g., tossing a lump of sticky rice into the bowl).
(b) given so that the donor and the bhikkhu are (literally) within arms reach (1.25 metres) of each other.
(c) received by means of the body, (e.g., received in the hand) or by something attached to the body, (e.g., the monk's bowl or, in Thailand, the monk's receiving cloth).
The Commentaries then further expand the details of the correct way that food should be given:
(d) the offered food should not be so heavy that an average size man cannot lift it.
In many communities this has led to the food having to be literally lifted into the monk's hands or onto his receiving cloth. The Commentary allows it to be slid along the floor or table into the monk's hands.
(e) the donor must actually move the food (on a tray, for example) towards the bhikkhu, (i.e., the bhikkhu does not reach out for it first).
This has also been understood as meaning that the donor makes a gesture (of respect) when making the offering. (This has to be balanced with the Sekhiya Training rule where it is the monk who should "be appreciative and attentive when receiving food.") However, in the West, this gesture of respect may be taken according to local custom. (See BMC p.375)
In some monasteries food is not considered properly given if the lay person wears shoes or sandals when offering to a barefooted bhikkhu. Also, in some communities, when properly offered food is touched again or moved by lay people, even accidentally, it has to be re-offered.
◊ The major point to remember is that in offering food (or anything edible) to a monk there is a formal way of doing so — otherwise the bhikkhu may not be able to eat it. Once one gets used to this interaction with the monk, it becomes quite a meaningful gesture.
After formally receiving food, a bhikkhu is not allowed to store it away for another day. This is another rule that supports the mendicant ideal and the interdependence of monk and lay person, and stops the bhikkhu from becoming attached to his favorite tastes.
The case originally arose when a monk coming back from alms round would eat some food and then dry any remaining rice in the sun to store for the next days' meals. In this way he did not have to go on an alms round every day. It can be summarized:
After the daily meal — often the monks of the community will gather to share this — all that day's excess food may be distributed among whoever is present so that nothing is wasted or left over.
Lay people themselves are also allowed to deposit food in the properly approved storeroom so that it can be offered to the monks on another day. If the lay people store it there, the monks will not be counted as having formally received it. (So the formal act of offering also serves the purpose of determining whether food can be stored or not.)
It is traditional for lay devotees on special occasions to invite bhikkhus to go and have a meal at their house. This is normally a very straightforward matter and the bhikkhu(s) will explain if they are able to go on that particular day. To show some aspects from the Buddha's time, there are these rules:
◊ The origin of this first rule displays the care that a bhikkhu should take when accepting such an invitation.
A poor workman was inspired to invite the Buddha and all the bhikkhus of the town for a meal, and he insisted they still come even when the Buddha cautioned him about the large number of monks involved. Some bhikkhus assumed that he would not be able to afford very much food so they first went on an alms round and ate beforehand. Therefore when they came to go for the poor man's meal they could not eat very much — even though there was in fact plenty of food because other people had helped to support the poor workman's faith by sending round donations of food. The poor workman became upset saying, "How can you eat elsewhere... am I not competent to give sufficient?"
The rule is summarized:
◊ Should a bhikkhu seem somewhat reluctant to accept your invitation, be aware that he may not be able to change his acceptance of a previous invitation. There is, however, an allowance for the bhikkhu to 'share' or transfer his invitation to another bhikkhu or novice so that he can accept a new one. Even so, it is considered good manners first to contact the original donors about this.
Another, rather obscure, rule about meal invitations originated like this:
Ven. Devadatta attempted to take over the Sa"ngha and then tried to kill the Buddha. The Sa"ngha informed the local inhabitants about Ven. Devadatta's behavior so that it would not reflect on the Sa"ngha as a whole. Ven. Devadatta then found alms so difficult to obtain that he solicited alms — "having asked and asked" — (for all his group) and the lay people criticized them for such unseemly conduct.
It seems that this rather enigmatic rule may forbid bhikkhus from accepting an invitation to a 'group meal' of four or more specified monks at a donor's house when the whole local community is not invited — as would have been more normal in the Buddha's days. This would then have avoided the forming of cliques inside a community. (See BMC p.342-348)
The Buddha therefore laid down that:
Another interpretation of this obscure rule requires that bhikkhus
◊ If the community lives by this second interpretation, one should be careful when inviting bhikkhus for a meal not to mention the specific food that one intends to offer.
In western countries vegetarianism has recently increased in popularity and this has led to some questioning about bhikkhus and meat-eating. (In less materially developed countries the question is more about 'what, if anything, is there to eat?')
The question of monks' eating meat is an old one that was originally raised by the 'renegade monk' Ven. Devadatta. He asked the Buddha to prohibit bhikkhus from eating fish and flesh in what seems was a ploy to take over the leadership of the Sangha. (The 'stricter ascetic' tactic.) The Buddha had already made a strict rule for both bhikkhus and lay people about not taking life (see Killing.) so He did not agree to Ven. Devadatta's new formulation.
The Buddha did allow bhikkhus to eat meat and fish except under the following circumstances:
If a bhikkhu is given meat on alms round and he has no knowledge about how the animal died he has to 'receive it with attentiveness.' (See the Sekhiya Trainings.) He should be grateful and recollect that the food he is given is what enables him to continue to live the bhikkhu life, and that as a mendicant he is not in a position to choose what he gets. If he later comes to know the family and they ask him about Dhamma, he will be able to explain the precept about not killing. This may cause them to reflect on their attitude to meat eating.
An individual lay person can choose whether to be a vegetarian. Problems usually arise only when vegetarians want to impose their choice on others, and as meal times are normally a family or shared affair this can create tensions and misunderstandings.
An individual bhikkhu who lives on alms food cannot make such choices. Often the donors are unknown — perhaps not even Buddhist, or just starting to find out about Dhamma — and to refuse their generosity may so offend them that they never have anything to do with Dhamma again.
Finally it comes down to the lay people who go to the market to buy food to give to the bhikkhus. If they are vegetarian themselves or like to give vegetarian food, then the bhikkhu should receive that food with 'appreciation' — especially if it means that fewer animals are being slaughtered. Nevertheless, it should not become a political issue where other people are attacked for their behavior.
At the time of the Buddha, some lay people complained that the monks had destroyed the 'life' in seeds. (See also about 'one-facultied life,' above.) Destroying seeds therefore became a minor (dukka.ta) offence, and the monk had to ask the lay people whether they found it 'allowable' for him to eat certain fruits.
Fruits with seeds that can germinate and roots (bulbs, tubers) that can be planted again should be made 'allowable' or kappiya for bhikkhus. An unordained person can do this by touching it with fire, by drawing a knife over it, or by marking it with a finger nail.
In some monasteries, there is a ceremony — briefly mentioned in the actual Vinaya but given in detail in the Commentaries — where the lay person offering the fruit, makes it 'allowable' for the bhikkhu to eat. For example, this may be done with an orange by slightly cutting the peel when the monk says, "Kappiya.m karohi" ("Make this allowable") and answering him with, "Kappiya.m Bhante" ("It is allowable, Ven. Sir."). If there are many oranges, and if they are all together and touching, making one fruit allowable makes them all allowable. (In other communities, if the donor offers fruit already 'damaged' (e.g., peeled or cut) it is considered already allowable.)
There is no need for this ceremony with seedless fruit, with fruit if the seeds are unripe so that they cannot regenerate, and with fruit offered already cut with all the seeds removed. Also, if the bhikkhu carefully eats certain sorts of fruits — for instance, mangoes, jackfruit, plums, peaches, prunes, etc. — without damaging the seed, stone, pit or pips, there is no offence.
The following rule again shows the interdependence and care which must be cultivated between bhikkhus and those who support them.
In the Buddha's time some ladies were ambushed and raped on their way to give food to bhikkhus living in a dangerous jungle area. Their family criticized the bhikkhus for not warning them of the hazards. If lay people intend to give food to a bhikkhu(s) in such a danger zone then they must announce that to the bhikkhu(s) beforehand so that the bhikkhu(s) has a chance to warn them or reduce the threat. The rule can be summarized:
The above sections have dealt with food (yaavakaalika) but as has been already mentioned fruit juices are considered under a different category. (See above, The Four Sorts of Edibles.) Although bhikkhus should not eat fruit — which is food — after midday, they can drink the 'fruit juice' any time throughout the day. However, they cannot store fruit juice beyond that single day. This is called yaamakaalika and is a juice-drink made from crushed fruit, which is then carefully strained of any pulp or particles. (The Vinayamukha (EV) Commentary suggests that it could not be stored beyond the next dawn because sugar mixed in with the fruit juice might lead to slight fermentation.)
When offering fruit juice it is important that it is well strained so that no pulp or fruit particles remain, for the fruit itself counts as food and so cannot be consumed in the afternoon. Some places in Thailand will strain the juice in a cloth filter seven times to make sure, but the main point is that the filter is fine enough.
Some communities will not accept fruit juice made from 'large fruits':
We have dealt above with food and fruit juice. There is now the category of 'tonic-medicines' (sattaahakaalika). These can be consumed at any time but cannot be stored longer than seven days (after they are offered).
These tonic-medicines were originally regulated when Venerable Pilindavaccha's great feats of psychic power made him so famous that he received many offerings of the five 'tonics.' Even though he distributed these among other monks there was so much that the excess had to be stored away and their dwellings were overrun by rats. Visiting lay people criticized the monks for "storing up goods in abundance like a king." The Buddha therefore set down this rule:
◊ There are various translations and interpretations about these 'tonic- medicines' — according to different Communities and different countries. Some places consider only liquids allowable while a few communities will drink only plain water in the afternoon. Some communities will not accept re-offered tonic-medicines (after the seven days period is over), some will under certain circumstances. Therefore lay devotees need to enquire about the practice of their local Community and follow that way.
Some contemporary observations:
"The five medicines — ghee, navaniita.m, oil, honey, and suga — were allowed by the Buddha to be consumed by 'sick' monks at any time of the day or night. According to the Mahaavagga, these five were 'agreed upon as medicines and, although they served as nutriment for people, were not considered as substantial food.' The degree of infirmity required before a monk is allowed to consume these [tonic-]medicines is a controversial point... It seems that feeling rundown or feeling tired after physical exertion would be sufficient cause to be able to make use of the Five Medicines."(AB)
"The main effectiveness of these medicines seems to be in their nutritional value. They do not have medicinal value as commonly understood today, for example, relieving pain or as an antiseptic. However, as nutriment they would help to maintain bodily strength and assist in recuperation while, since they are so rich, would not be a substitute for normal food." (HS ch.10)
Also, if the tonic-medicine is mixed with a tiny amount of food then it would be acceptable according to this allowance:
If the flour is for more food-like reasons then it would be counted as food. See also Mixing Edibles above.
The fourth category of edibles (see The Four Sorts of Edibles) is that of Lifetime Medicines (yaavajiivika). which includes what we generally think of as medicines.
The basic principle set down by the Buddha about all medicines is in this reflection:
In the beginning, the basic (herbal) medicines allowed by the Buddha were those pickled in urine. Later, nearly all other types came to be considered allowable. (See the separate allowance above for 'tonic-medicines.')
Medicines that may be consumed without time limitation are called yaavajiivika. The Texts mention different sorts of herbal medicines such as: plant roots, e.g., ginger, turmeric, sweet flag, etc.; decoctions, such as of the neem or nux-vomica; tree-leaves, such as neem-leaves, tulsi or holy basil; fruits, such as long peppers, myrobalan, wormwood; resins, such as asafoetida; salts, such as sea-salt, rock salt, etc. Any other medicine or herbs similar to these that is not reckoned to be food is included under this 'lifetime' category.
◊ Modern western medicines are usually included — using the Great Standards — under this category and therefore can be taken at any time of the day and kept as long as necessary.
Finally, we turn to those 'substances of abuse' that are entirely prohibited. The fifth of the Five Precepts [see End Note 4] for all Buddhists is restraint from drinking alcohol and similar substances that destroy mindfulness, and are thereby a frequent cause of unskillful actions and speech. The equivalent rule for bhikkhus is the fifty-first Confession Rule:
The origin-story concerns Ven. Saagata who conquered a fierce naaga — a type of serpent with magical powers — by his meditation-developed psychic powers. The townspeople heard about this feat and wanted to make some sort of offering to him, upon which the 'group-of-six' bhikkhus impudently suggested that they all should give him alcohol. When he arrived on his almsround every household offered alcohol and he finally collapsed, drunk, at the town gate and had to be carried back to the monastery. He was laid down in a stupor with his head towards the Buddha but in his drunkenness he turned around so that his feet pointed at the Buddha. The Buddha called attention to his changed behavior, remarking that he certainly could not oppose "even a salamander" in such a state.
The Buddha also said:
◊ The Four Great Standards may be further used to argue that using narcotics — which also destroy mindfulness and lead to heedlessness — would also be an offence of Confession. Then there is the general principle of respecting the 'law of the land' (when it accords with Dhamma) so such illegal drugs would be disallowed anyway.
Stealing is universally condemned and is prohibited by one of the basic Five Precepts [see End Note 4] of any Buddhist. For the bhikkhu it is covered by the heaviest penalty of Defeat, being the second Paaraajika.
The rule was originally set down in the Lord Buddha's time when Venerable Dhaniya, by deception, carried off some of the king's timber to make himself a hut:
'Defeat' means the absolute termination of the perpetrator's bhikkhu-life so his stealing should be more than a petty theft. Therefore for this to be an offence, the value of the stolen object must be such that, as it states in the original: "kings... would banish him, saying... 'You are a thief!'" In modern America this is probably equivalent to 'grand larceny.' (Petty theft is a grave offence (thullaccaya) or one of wrong-doing.)
The bhikkhu must have an intention to steal for this to be an offence. If an apparent theft happens without his knowledge or connivance, or by mistake without any design on his part, it is no offence. However, fraud, breach of trust, embezzlement, tax evasion, smuggling, breach of copyright, etc., would be included under this rule.
There are many other important rules covering how bhikkhus deal with wealth and money. (It is also the tenth of the Ten Precepts for a novice (saama.nera) or dasasiila mata nun [see End Note 4].) These came to be set down because donations coming from a lay devotee's faith in Dhamma might, on mis-occasion, lead to the corrupting of the bhikkhu-life. Although these rules might seem relatively straightforward, there are various interpretations and ways of actual practice. And the practice often does not coincide with the theory. Yet it certainly remains a very important aspect of Vinaya, guarding against forgetfulness of the real way to happiness:
"Bhikkhus, in abandoning the use of money, make real their abandonment of worldly pursuits and show others by example that the struggle for wealth is not the true way to find happiness." (BMC p.215)
The rule about a bhikkhu not accepting money came to be made when Ven. Upananda went to visit his regular supporters on alms round. The meat that had been set aside for him that morning had instead been given to the family's hungry son. The householder wished to give something else to make up for it and asked what he could offer to the value of a kahaapana coin. Ven. Upananda inquired if he was making a gift of a kahaapana coin to him, and then took the money away. Lay people were disgusted with this, saying, "Just as we lay people accept money, so too do these Buddhist monks!."
This Rule has been variously translated:
"Should any bhikkhu take gold and silver, or have it taken, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is to be forfeited and confessed."(Nis. Paac. 18; BMC p.214)
"Should any bhikkhu pick up, or cause to be picked up or consent to the deposit of gold or silver, this entails Confession with Forfeiture." (Nis. Paac. 18; Paat. 1966 Ed. p.42)
"A monk, who accepts gold or money or gets another to accept for him, or acquiesces in its being put near him, commits [an offence requiring Confession with Forfeiture.]" (Nis. Paac. 18; BBC p.116)
"If a bhikkhu himself receives gold and silver (money) or gets someone else to receive it, or if he is glad about money that is being kept for him, it is [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture.]"(Nis. Paac. 18; Nv p.11)
◊ Note that there are some subtle differences in the way that the rule is translated, especially in the last example.
According to the Commentary, there is 'no consent' if a bhikkhu refuses to accept the money: by word — telling the donor that it is not proper to receive money; by deed — gesturing to that effect; by thought — thinking that this is not proper. There may be a problem in communicating this to the donors without causing them offence and without the bhikkhu falling into offence himself.
Many of the rules concerning money, etc., are those of Confession with Forfeiture (Nissaggiya Paacittiya). This means that the money or articles that are wrongly acquired have to be forfeited. Furthermore, it is specified that they cannot be forfeited to a single monk but must be given up to the Community — who must then follow a strict procedure for disposing of those gains.
In practice, this rule is understood by various bhikkhus in different ways. This ranges from some monks who seek to circumvent the rule completely by saying that "paper-money is just paper" and therefore not 'gold and silver' (jaataruupa-rajata) and so falls outside the rule; to the following more strict opinions:
The Paali term jaataruupa is defined as 'gold of any sort' and, while rajata is also 'silver' in other contexts, here it is defined as maasaka (coins) of different materials (copper, wood, lac) whatever is used in business, i.e., money.
"At present the term would include coins and paper currency, but not checks, credit cards, bank drafts, or promissory notes, as these — on their own and without further identification of the persons carrying them — do not function as true currency." (BMC p.215)
"The term jaataruupa-rajata refers firstly to personal adornments (of gold and silver), secondly to ingots, thirdly to ruupiya, which are for buying and selling, referring not only to gold and silver but anything which can be used in this way. All the above-mentioned things are included in this term. The phrase, 'be glad at the money kept for him' [as in translation above] suggests that if it is only cittuppaada (the coming into existence of a thought), he would not [fall into an offence,] so it must refer to the action of receiving it and holding the right over it." (Paat. 1969 Ed. p.158)
"For Laypeople: A lay-person should never offer money directly to a bhikkhu... even if it is placed inside an envelope or together with other requisites. They should either deposit the money with the monastery steward, put it in a donation-box or into the monastery bank account. They may then state their invitation to the bhikkhu(s) regarding the kind or amount of requisite(s). In Thailand, for example, knowledgeable lay-people would deposit money with the steward and offer to the bhikkhu(s) an invitation note mentioning the details of the offering." (HS ch.14)
◊ Under modern conditions things other than cash also have to be considered. What about bhikkhus using checks or even postage stamps or 'phone cards'? What is included in the rule and where does one draw the line? Different communities will understand these rules in slightly different ways — although probably all will find ordinary postage stamps acceptable! It seems that although credit cards and checks do not quite function in the same way as cash and therefore may not break that rule about accepting money (Nis. Paac. 18), they would still fall under another offence. (See below: Buying and Selling and Barter or Trade.) Some modern opinions:
"At present the term ['gold and silver'] would include coins and paper currency, but not checks, credit cards, bank drafts, or promissory notes, as these — on their own and without further identification of the persons carrying them — do not function as true currency." (BMC p.215)
"Checks, credit cards and travelers checks are not the same as money because [they are not] commonly negotiable, something that one can take into almost any shop and, without any further 'ink-work' or paperwork, exchange it for whatever one desires...[therefore] there is no offence for receiving or holding these things. However, using checks, credit cards and travelers checks or things similar would come under 'buying and selling' and the offences listed under [Confession with Forfeiture] 19 and 20 would be likely to arise." (AB)
"The offence [Nis. Paac. 20] is committed when the bhikkhu hands the signed credit card receipt — or has it handed — to the seller..." (BMC p.230)
◊ While money is an important commodity in the world — greed and selfishness are the actual 'root of evil' — bhikkhus should not be concerned with it. Therefore this again offers an essential role for lay people. The bhikkhu stores no food but receives help from lay people who do; the bhikkhu stores no money but receives support from lay people who do. In fact this relationship is shown in this next allowance from the Buddha's time when bhikkhus were journeying along a difficult way. Food was difficult to find and He therefore allowed them to seek provisions. He also made another allowance, saying:
"There are people of conviction and confidence, bhikkhus, who place gold and silver in the hand of stewards, saying, 'Give the master whatever is allowable.' I allow you, bhikkhus to accept whatever is allowable coming from that. But in no way at all do I say that money is to be accepted or sought for." (BMC p.198)
"People who have good faith in bhikkhus may entrust money (lit., silver and gold) into the hand of a [steward] and order him to purchase allowable things for bhikkhus. Bhikkhus may be glad at the allowable things bought by the steward with that money. This is not regarded as being glad at that money. This is called the [Me.n.daka Allowance.] Bhikkhus should not request suitable things from the steward in excess of the money deposited with him." (EV,II,p.135)
This is a rule which explains more about the relationship between the bhikkhu and the steward who is taking care of funds for him.
In the original story, Ven. Upananda's steward had received some money from a chief minister so that when Ven. Upananda needed a robe he could be supplied with one. Ven. Upananda eventually asked for a robe on the day when the steward had an important meeting that everyone was obliged to attend or be penalized. Ven. Upananda refused to wait and forced the steward to get the robe immediately so that the steward came late to the meeting and suffered a penalty fine. Everyone there agreed that, 'these monks are impatient and difficult to serve.' Therefore the Buddha set down this rule:
"If someone sends money (valuables) for the purpose of buying a robe for a bhikkhu and he (whoever brings the money) wants to know who is acting as the bhikkhu's attendant (veyyaavaccakara), and if the bhikkhu wants the robe he should indicate someone connected with the monastery or an upasaka (lay devotee) saying: "This person is the attendant of all the bhikkhus." When he (who brings the money) has instructed the attendant and told the bhikkhu: "If you want a robe, tell the attendant," then later that bhikkhu should go and find the attendant, he may tell him: "I need a robe." If he does not get it, he may ask up to three times in all. If he still does not get the robe he may go and stand where the attendant can see him, up to six times. If he does not get it and he asks more than three times or stands more than six times, and then gets it, it is [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture.]
"If after asking and standing the full amount he does not get the robe he must go and tell whoever brought the money saying: "That which you brought did not become available to me," and he should also tell him to ask for his money back in case it should be lost." (Nis. Paac. 10; Nv pp.9-10)
Or in Summary:
"When a fund has been set up with a steward indicated by a bhikkhu: Obtaining an article from the fund as a result of having prompted the steward more than the allowable number of times is [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture.]" (Nis. Paac. 10; BMC p.206)
◊ The 'robe-price' remains the donor's money but in the keeping of the bhikkhu's steward. In practice, the 'robe-price' may be used for other allowable requisites. It is important for donors to check about the way of practice of the particular bhikkhu(s) to whom they want to make an offering. Bhikkhus who follow the Rule strictly will behave differently from those who are more relaxed. The former will be very careful with their speech concerning the acceptance of money and the intending donor has to make allowance for such indirect talk.
In the Buddha's time, the 'group-of-six' bhikkhus engaged in buying and selling using money. Lay people seeing this, and thinking all bhikkhus did the same, started to complain saying, 'How can these Buddhist monks buy and sell using money, they are behaving just like lay people who enjoy the pleasures of the senses.' The rule was then set down:
"If a bhikkhu engages in buying and selling with money (meaning whatever is used as money), it is [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture.]"(Nis. Paac. 19; Nv p.11)
"Obtaining gold or money through trade is [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture.]" (Summary of Nis. Paac. 19; BMC p.225)
◊ Note that there the different interpretation in the above translations.
According to the texts this would include investing money for a monetary return or even changing money into another currency. (For the intricacies of this see BMC p.213-230)
The rule about bhikkhus and bartering originated in the Buddha's time like this:
Through fine sewing and dyeing, Ven. Upananda was skilled at turning rags into attractive-looking robes. A wandering ascetic wanted one such robe and offered to trade his own costly, quality robe for the beautifully turned out rag-robe of Ven. Upananda. Ven. Upananda asked him if he was really sure and then they agreed to the exchange. But later the wandering ascetic changed his mind and went to Ven. Upananda to get his good-quality robe back. Ven. Upananda refused to give it back. The wandering ascetic became angry and said that even lay people returned unsatisfactory bartered goods. Therefore, this ruling was made:
"Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade, (the article obtained) must be forfeited and confessed." (Nis. Paac. 20; BMC p.225)
In the Buddha's time a bhikkhu went to bathe in the river and found a purse of money lost by a brahman. The owner returned and, to escape having to pay the customary reward, pretended that some of the money was suspiciously missing. The rule (Paac. 84) therefore prohibits a bhikkhu from picking up lost valuables.
However, there is an exception to this rule. The qualification is that if the bhikkhu finds valuables in the monastery or in the place where he dwells, he is required (and falls into an offence if he fails) to pick them up and keep them safe for the owner. This shows that it is not the object as such that is the problem — as if 'by not touching it one is free of it' — but the care one must take that one's greed and attachment are not drawn in to contaminate the object, and that one is not the victim of other people's greed.
The Commentary also prohibits bhikkhus from touching unsuitable objects, which includes gold, silver, and valuable things.
Shelter is the third of the Requisites (see The Four Requisites.) The Buddha first suggested that the bhikkhu should normally stay at the root of a sheltering tree. (His own Awakening took place at the foot of the Bodhi tree.) However, later, when the Rains Retreat period became established and bhikkhus were more settled after their wanderings through the forest, lodgings or ku.tii came to be offered and built. (In fact, it then became a requirement to stay in a more sheltered place during the three months of the Rains Retreat.)
The bhikkhu may also voluntarily take on the special dhuta"nga (tudong) practices. These are more usually seen among forest monks and are distinctive of their way of practice: for example, they will delight in living in the forest, in the open, in caves, in the cemetery or burning ground, and when staying in a monastery will be happy to accept whatever lodging is offered.
Originally the ku.ti or lodging may not have been much more than a hut with a plaster or earthen floor. Rules were formulated as to their size and luxury. For example, the sixth Sa"nghaadisesa Rule — remember that this is the second most serious category of rules requiring a formal meeting of the Community — arose when bhikkhus were having extravagant huts built for themselves. They had no sponsors and were therefore begging materials from lay people, "saying, again and again, 'Give me this, give me that...'" The people became burdened by all this begging and when they saw the bhikkhus, any bhikkhus, coming they would run away and hide.
The Commentary explains that it must be quite a permanent structure to come under this ruling. Depending on how long one understands the ancient measure of the sugata-span to be, the ku.ti or hut should not be more than approximately 3 by 1.75 metres. (See BMC p.125) The commentarial tradition would put it three times this size.
Bhikkhus are allowed to have a low bed on which to sleep and a stool on which to sit in order to prevent dampness from the earthen floor, but often where the lodgings are wooden floored (and in tropical climates) the bhikkhu will sleep on the floor on an ordinary sleeping mat. In cold climates this may have to be adjusted using the Great Standards.
Avoiding 'high and luxurious beds' is also a feature of the Eight Precepts [see End Note 4] for lay people temporarily living the celibate life.
The bhikkhu's life should be wholly preparing him to gain insight into Dhamma. Only then will he have the wisdom to communicate anything of real value to others when the time is appropriate and the audience properly receptive. (A monk will usually wait for an invitation to speak on Dhamma, so there is no question about him proselytizing.) Teaching Dhamma, however, is not easy. If it is badly done, it can cause more misunderstanding than understanding.
The fourth Confession Rule came to be set down when the group-of-six monks taught Dhamma to lay people by rote, which caused the lay followers to feel disrespect for the monks:
"If a bhikkhu teaches Dhamma to an unordained person (one who is not a bhikkhu), repeating it together word by word, it is [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 4; Nv p.14)
"To rehearse the Dhamma word by word... was the method to teach others to memorize when there were no books. This method was formerly used in (Thai) temples and popularly known by the name 'studying books in the evening.' The aim of prohibiting pronouncing (Scripture) together is clearly shown in the original story of this training-rule which was to prevent the pupils from looking down on the teacher." (Paat. 1969 Ed. p.159)
Sixteen of the Sekhiya Training rules set down how and to whom a bhikkhu should teach Dhamma. These rules are also concerned with the etiquette of showing respect, respect not only for the bhikkhu but more importantly for the Dhamma that he is teaching. (The Great Standards would imply here that modern ways of showing respect and disrespect would be similarly covered by these rules.) These rules prohibit a bhikkhu from teaching anyone he considers to be showing disrespect to the Dhamma. Here is a summary of these Sekhiya Trainings:
"I will not teach Dhamma to someone who is not sick but who:
— has an umbrella; a wooden stick (club); weapon in their hand.
— is wearing (wooden-soled) sandals/shoes; is in a vehicle; is on a bed (or couch); is sitting clasping the knees; has a head wrapping (turban); whose head is covered; who is sitting on a seat while I am sitting on the ground; who is sitting on a high seat while I am sitting on a low seat; who is sitting while I am standing; who is walking in front of me while I am walking behind; who is walking on a pathway while I am walking beside the pathway." (Sekhiya 57-72; See BMC pp.505-508)
How these rules are observed may diverge in different communities. Some will strictly follow the above while others will be more flexible according to modern conditions. As Venerable Brahmava"ngso remarks:
"...These Sekhiyas ensure that one teaches Dhamma only to an audience which shows respect. One may not expound from a soapbox in the marketplace... to the indifference of passers by. However it is common these days in the West for a seated audience, wearing their shoes and maybe even a hat, to respectfully listen to a speaker standing at a lectern... and as the audience is considered to be behaving respectfully according to the prevailing norms there seems no reason why a monk may not teach Dhamma in such a situation." (AB)
If a bhikkhu lies about his spiritual attainments, it may be ground for the offence of 'Defeat.' The originating circumstances for this Rule occurred during a famine when food was scarce and many bhikkhus found alms food difficult to obtain. A group of these monks devised a scheme where they told lay people of each other's attainments of 'superior human states,' often deliberately lying to impress them. The faithful lay people gave alms to such 'special' bhikkhus thinking that it would bring greater merit so they and their families went without food in order to feed those monks. Later, when the Buddha knew of this he rebuked them and described them as the worst of the 'Five Great Thieves' — immoral monks who obtain their alms food as a robber does. He set down:
"A bhikkhu who boasts of ['superior human states."] which he has not in fact attained, commits [an offence of Defeat.]" (Paar. 4; Nv p.5)
"Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a superior human state is [an offence of Defeat.]" (Summary Paar. 4; BMC p.86)
The Commentary classes 'superior human states' (uttarimanussadhamma) as either: meditative absorption (jhaana), and certain psychic powers (abhiññaa)  or the path and fruit leading up to Nibbaana.
A deliberate lie is normally an offence of Confession (Paac. 1) but this deliberate false avowal of meditative attainment is classed as the most serious 'Defeater' Offence. This shows how much more damaging it was considered to be. When a 'guru-like' bhikkhu falsely puts himself forward as enlightened, his lies can be destructive not only to himself and his followers but to the whole of Buddhism.
"It may be hard to imagine in the present time why falsely claiming superior human conditions should be judged so severely. However, by reflecting that bhikkhus are totally dependent upon the generosity and goodwill of believing lay people, one may be able to appreciate the situation better. By falsely claiming high spiritual attainments a bhikkhu is equivalent to a swindler or defrauder, but in the worst way, since this involves spiritual fraud — dealing with the most precious and profound aspects of human existence."(HS ch.15)
A bhikkhu commits no offence when he has no intention to make superior claims, even if it is wrongly understood or misconstrued that way. If a bhikkhu is insane, psychotically believing his own delusions of grandeur and making extravagant claims of his own enlightenment, he receives exemption from any offence.
The eighth Confession rule is closely connected with this one of Defeat but there the 'announcement' is true. Even so, indulging in such disclosures to lay people requires confession especially when, as in the origin-story, a bhikkhu does so just to obtain more alms. The Lord Buddha criticized the showing off of even genuine supernormal attainments:
"To tell an unordained person of one's actual superior human attainments is [an offence of Confession.]" (Rule Summary, Paac. 8; BMC p.288)
A bhikkhu can teach in many ways, not just by speech. There is the famous occasion mentioned in the Paali texts when the future right-hand disciple of Buddha, Saariputta, first saw a bhikkhu going on alms round:
"Saariputta the wanderer saw Ven. Assaji going for alms in Raajagaha: gracious... his eyes downcast, his every movement consummate. On seeing him, the thought occurred to him: 'Surely, of those in this world who are arahants or have entered the path to arahantship, this is one. What if I was to approach him and question him... "(BMC p.490)
Ven. Assaji's countenance and demeanour were a 'teaching' so impressive that Saariputta went and became a bhikkhu and a great arahant.
When a bhikkhu goes into a public place, he stands out because of the robes he wears. Whatever he does is noticed and reflects back on his community and the Sangha in general. As Venerable Thiradhammo writes:
"The bhikkhu lifestyle is for the sole purpose of realizing Nibbana. In striving towards this end, it was recognized that certain kinds of behavior are detrimental, distracting or simply unhelpful, and are also unsuitable for an alms-mendicant. Many kinds of improper behavior are not actually immoral, but rather put energy in the wrong direction or are expressions of a careless attitude. Some kinds of behavior can lead to lay people's loss of faith, some are immature or childish, some bad or ugly, and some, quite malicious or nasty." (HS ch.17)
Therefore, there are a number of training rules to remind the bhikkhu about correct deportment. The first twenty-six Sekhiya Training rules cover proper behavior in public places. They may also explain the sometimes seemingly antisocial behavior of a bhikkhu, who may not look one in the face or immediately say a "Good Morning." Here is a selection:
"When in inhabited areas, I will... wear the under and upper robe properly; be properly covered; go well restrained as to my movements; keep my eyes looking down; sit with little sound [of voice]."
"When in inhabited areas, I will not... hitch up my robes; go or sit laughing loudly; go or sit fidgeting; swing my arms; shake my head; put my arms akimbo; cover my head with a cloth; walk on tiptoe; sit clasping the knees." (See BMC pp. 490-494)
There is always an exception in the Sekhiya Training Rules for "one who is ill" so that a bhikkhu may, for example, cover his head when the weather is unbearably cold or the sun dangerously hot. The same applies to footwear, which normally should not be worn in inhabited areas.
'Going out on the town' is not appropriate for bhikkhus and is covered in several rules. The eighty-fifth Confession Rule, describes how the 'group-of-six' monks went to the village in the afternoon and sat around gossiping, so that lay people compared them to householders. Going outside the monastery (other than on the morning alms round) was therefore regulated with this rule:
Persons or places of 'wrong resort' for a bhikkhu are divided into six sorts (EV,II,pp.178-180). These are spending too much time socializing with 'unmarried women' — widows and spinsters (divorcees) or with bhikkhuniis. (See also the rules on speaking with women.) 'Wrong resort' also includes keeping company with sex-aberrants (pa.n.daka). with prostitutes, and going to taverns.
A bhikkhu is prohibited from going to see and hear dancing, singing, and music. (In modern circumstances this will also concern films, videos, TV, etc.) This is similar to the Eight and Ten Precepts [see End Note4]. (See EV,II,p.72)
"In the Buddha's time one could only hear music at a live performance — hence seeing singing and music. However, following the Great Standards, it would seem appropriate to include contemporary forms of entertainment such as dancing, singing and music on television, videos, radios, tape-recorders and stereos. Most comprehensively, this applies to seeing or hearing any kind of entertainment like a 'pleasure-enjoying householder.' Listening or seeing for education is another matter." (HS ch.17)
Playful and wrong conduct (anaacaara) for a bhikkhu is, for example, playing like a child with toys or games, etc.; or making garlands of flowers, etc.
Bhikkhus are also prohibited from studying or speaking on 'low animal-like knowledge' (tiracchaana-vijjaa).
"The explanation of [low animal-like knowledge] seems to cover all general subjects which are not related to the Dhamma of bhikkhus. [These are:] knowledge of enchantments making men and women love each other; knowledge for making this or that person fall into disaster; knowledge for using spirits or showing various kinds of magic; knowledge of prediction, such as knowing beforehand lottery results; knowledge leading to self-delusion, such as transmuting mercury to gain the supernatural, as in the transmuting of silver and copper into gold.
"These knowledges are ['low animal-like knowledge'] because they are knowledge of doubtful things which are deceptive or deluding, not being true knowledge. A teacher of this is a deceiver and a pupil is one who practices to deceive, or he is just a foolish, deluded person." (EV,II,pp.120-121)
Wrong livelihood for a bhikkhu is divided into two:
One category concerns a bhikkhu searching for a living in a way that is also considered wrong by worldly norms. For example, robbing or deceiving others by claiming to be enlightened and receiving gifts and support because of people's belief. (See Robbery by False Pretences above)
The second category involves making a living that is wrong according to the Vinaya. For example: begging or asking from an unsuitable person or at an unsuitable time (see Invitation); thinking to gain something by giving a little but hoping for much in return; investing to gain interest; making a living by trade, for instance, giving medical treatment for reward.
Also to seek reward from:
"the ceremony for [chanting] paritta (verses of protection), that is, making holy water and the sacred thread, the blowing of a charmed formula onto a person by a bhikkhu is also prohibited... It is allowed only to recite the paritta [protection verses], but this also occurs later and is not found in the Paali [texts]... [This is wrong livelihood and a] bhikkhu who seeks his living in this way is called alajjii, 'one who has no shame.'" (EV,II,p.129)
The very serious Sa"nghaadisesa Rule (requiring formal meetings of the Community) of 'corrupting families' concerns the proper relationship that bhikkhus should develop with lay followers.
It originated when two of the oft-transgressing 'group-of-six' monks neglected their Dhamma practice and behaved improperly in order to become popular with lay people. The lay people came to enjoy the sociable, playful monks so much that when more composed, right-practicing monks came by they were considered snobbish and dull.
A bhikkhu guilty of habitually indulging in these practices (sometimes called 'vile and low conduct' or paapasamaacaara) should be 'banished' from his particular Community until he reforms.
Of course, a bhikkhu may concern himself in lay people's affairs if it relates to religious duties. Also:
The relationship between the bhikkhu and his supporter should be a very special one:
"...A bhikkhu who is complete in good conduct does not lower himself to become the intimate of a family in the same way as a lay man may do. He is not aggressive or destructive but shows a heart of loving-kindness and conducts himself in a moderate way, thus causing good faith and reverence to arise in them towards himself. He is then called kulapasaadako (one in whom families have faith). He is the splendor of the [Teaching]...
"Bhikkhus who are not strict lower themselves to become vile men but bhikkhus who are over-strict are not interested in showing [compassion] in helping householders in various ways." (EV,II,pp.123-124)
A bhikkhu's wrong mode of livelihood also includes:
"running messages and errands for kings, ministers of state, householders, etc. A modern example would be participating in political campaigns." (BMC p.152)
The meaning of one of the Confession rules is uncertain — as can be seen by the different translations below — but it might explain why visiting bhikkhus may be reluctant to intrude into a family's space.
The Forty-third Confession Rule (Paac. 43) arose from Ven. Upananda's visit to a man and his wife who were sitting in their bedroom together. The husband told his wife to give Ven. Upananda a meal and when that was finished requested him to leave. The wife noticed that her husband was becoming sexually excited, and not wishing to participate, asked Ven. Upananda to stay. He stayed. This happened three times after which the husband stormed out of the house indignant at Ven. Upananda's behavior.
The Rule has been understood in rather different ways:
"Should any bhikkhu intrude upon and sit down in (the bedroom of) a family with both persons, (the man and the wife, present, one of whom does not agree to his remaining), it entails Confession." (Paac. 43; Paat. 1969 Ed. p.163)
"To sit down intruding on a man and a woman in their private quarters — when one or both are sexually aroused, and when another bhikkhu is not present — is [an offence of Confession.]" (Summary Paac. 43; BMC p.385)
"If a bhikkhu sits down, intruding on a family while they are taking food, it is [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 43; NVp19)
"A monk who intrudes into and sits down in a house where husband and wife are by themselves enjoying each other's company, commits [an offence of Confession.]" (Paac. 43; BBC p.128)
When the Buddha went to reside at Ghositaaraama in the city of Kosambi, he found a dispute had arisen between the bhikkhus there. One group of monks under a 'Vinaya-expert' had accused the 'Dhamma-expounder' leader (of another group) of a minor wrong-doing offence. The 'Dhamma-expounder' bhikkhu would not admit to this so dissension arose between the two groups. (See also Strictness and Blaming Others.) Even when the Lord Buddha pointed out to both groups the dangers in this and how to put matters to right, they still could not agree. So the Lord Buddha left them and went to reside by himself in the Rakkhitavan Forest.
The lay people of Kosambi blamed the quarreling bhikkhus for causing the Buddha to go away and in consequence they agreed together not to pay respect to those bhikkhus. When the bhikkhus came to their houses, they would not give alms food, desiring them to 'go away, disrobe, or else return to the way of practice pleasing to the Lord Buddha.' After this treatment, both groups of bhikkhus came to their senses and agreed to see the Lord Buddha where the dispute was properly resolved. (See EV,III,p.129)
A set of formal procedures are set down to resolve disputes within the Community. They are summarized in the Adhikara.nasamatha 'rules,' the last seven of the 227 Rules of the Paa.timokkha. (See Appendix B, Communal Harmony)
For an outsider, one of the most notable features of Buddhism is the number and diversity of Buddhist schools. When disputes (such as that described above) are left unresolved there is a tendency for the formation of nikaaya or 'schools,' which are passed on through 'ordination lineage' to future generations of bhikkhus. Historically, as Buddhism spread over Asia, the practice of local Communities gradually adapted to new circumstances. The originally slight divergences grew so that today not only do we have the major Schools of the 'South' (Theravaada) and the 'North' (Mahayaana, Tibetan), and 'East' (Mahayaana, Ch'an, Son, Zen, etc.) but also myriad minor local differences.
"Coming down to later times, when the different groups became established in places foreign to the original lands, those two [schools] became very far apart both in the texts and in the language for chanting, all the way to garments and customs — just compare for instance, Vietnamese monks with Thai monks." (EV,III,p.230)
"[In the Theravaada School,] this reached the point where the intonations used in speaking Paali [language] differed: such as ours in Thailand, those in Sri Lanka, Burma and the Mons, for example. Each group holds that their way is better than that of the other groups. Even though they have contact with each other, they are not united as a single group, and minor [schools] arise out of them, determined according to nationality...
"In these national [schools] some [schools] would thrive at certain times, until other [schools] would take them as a model to be followed... [by] some bhikkhus requesting entry to their group by taking new ordination or re-ordination... A [school] which takes the methods of another [school] will make further differences in its methods until they are a separate [school]. These call themselves by names different from the nationality, such as our [Thai] Mahaa-nikaaya and Dhammayuttika-nikaaya; the Burmese Culaga.n.thii and Mahaaga.n.thii. [One no longer finds these names, now there are the Sudhamma Nikaaya (the largest group), the Shwegyin Nikaaya and the small Dvaara Nikaaya]; and the Upaaliva.msa, Marammaava.msa and Raamaññava.msa of Sri Lanka. (Now more frequently known as Siam Nikaaya, Amarapura Nikaaya, and Raamañña Nikaaya.)" (EV,III,pp.230-231)
There seems to be a natural tendency for the more strictly practicing Communities to attract more lay respect and therefore more lay support — including more material support. However, as 'luxuries tend to become necessities' there is often a corresponding decline in Vinaya practice.
The next stage seems to be that when the Vinaya practice has deteriorated into laxness, a group of monks will spontaneously be attracted to going back to higher standards and will go and live at a monastery together to put that into effect, eventually forming a new group or nikaaya. This stricter practice attracts lay support, and that forces the more lax communities to reform their ways. And then as standards decline...
Another way that the local Vinaya practice is rejuvenated is by the import of strictly practicing monks from elsewhere to form a model community. For example, Sri Lankan monks were invited to Siam more than five hundred years ago, and some centuries later Thai monks were themselves invited back to Sri Lanka after the local Sa"ngha had died out.
Inviting foreign monks to reform the local practice was often at the instigation of the Buddhist king and seemed to have worked quite well. However, attempts by central authorities to forcibly rejoin their own local schools (nikaayas) of monks have seldom been successful, especially as Buddhism has never favored the use of violence in religious suppression. What often happens is that instead of merging two nikaayas into one, it forces another sect to form. Then there are three — the two original plus a new combined sect. This is probably because the Sa"ngha is a local community structure that is oriented to the wider Sa"ngha of bhikkhus by the Vinaya. Thus the Vinaya, rather than any central authority, is what brings groups together.
The Buddha allowed several ways of showing respect to others 'for the beauty and good of the community (of both monks and lay people).' These include:
vandanaa — bowing or 'showing reverence with the five points,' i.e., the forehead, two forearms, and the two knees
Note that the male and female movements start and finish slightly differently.
u.t.thaana — standing up to welcome
añjalii — joining the palms together in respect
saamiicikamma, any other ways of showing respect that are beautiful and good. (See EV,II,p.78)
Another ancient way of showing respect is circumambulation or walking around the object of veneration three times in a clockwise direction — so that one's right shoulder is towards, for example, the cetiya, bodhi tree or pagoda.
In many parts of Asia it is considered extremely rude to point one's feet at anyone or any religious object [see End Note 122]. An example, is found in the Confession Rule 51 (Paac. 51) where a highly gifted bhikkhu is made drunk and in his stupor turns and points his feet at the Buddha.
Bhikkhus use these ways of etiquette to show respect to those who have been bhikkhus for longer than themselves, irrespective of their actual age. A 'younger' bhikkhu may call another bhikkhu, "Bhante," ("Venerable Sir" or "Reverend Sir"), and, similarly, a lay person may use this as a general form of address to bhikkhus. Each country will have its own way of addressing older, more senior bhikkhus appropriate to their age and experience. (See below.)
During his ordination, the bhikkhu-candidate is asked formally for his name. His Preceptor (usually) will have given him a Paali name and this is what he will use. However, later, on less formal occasions, he may be addressed differently. This variety of terms of address can be quite confusing for outsiders. For example, in Thailand, the monk will more often use his given name (from before his ordination) with an honorific preceding it appropriate to his monk's seniority and rank. The Paali name, and title if any, would be added on more formal occasions. I understand that in Sri Lanka, and sometimes in Burma, it is the bhikkhu's place of origin or residence that may be prefixed to his Paali name.
Some monks may use the description Bhikkhu before their Paali name (Bhikkhu X) while others will use it as a suffix (X Bhikkhu). If they are more than ten years in the robe they may use Thera (Elder) and if very senior Mahaathera. (See also Becoming a Bhikkhu.)
There are many other titles and ranks for senior bhikkhus. The king (in Thailand) or government often confer these in recognition of service or administrative ability. When administration of all the bhikkhus of the country is subsumed under central government departments, it may then be divided up into regions and districts under the supervision of the local senior 'respectable' monks. However, underlying all of this is the Vinaya Rule that still guides the traditional ways of the bhikkhu life, without class or privilege, and it remains the foundation for continued Dhamma practice as it has done for the last twenty-five centuries.
◊ Probably the most universally acceptable form of address for any bhikkhu is "Bhante" or "Venerable Sir."
Anyone, of any religion or none, can appreciate these fundamental, practical guidelines about actions and speech suggested by the Buddha. When we are mindful enough to realize that we have a choice about our actions and speech, these Precepts are there to help answer questions of, "What should I do, what should I say?" They are practical and down to earth without requiring one to promise first to believe in anything supernatural. Like the lane markings on the highway, they help speed one on one's journey without colliding with any other travelers or going completely off the road. The Precepts mark the straightforward way of living that harms or hurts no one, while offering one the choice to transform one's life through growing mindfulness into perfect virtue, wisdom and compassion.
The Five Precepts form one of the essential elements of following the Lord Buddha's Way. Undertaking these Precepts (and 'Going for Refuge') are often the first formal affirmation of a new Buddhist. This is normally done by repeating after a monk these phrases (in Paali):
"I undertake the training precept:
1) to abstain from taking life.
2) to abstain from taking what is not given.
3) to abstain from sexual misconduct.
4) to abstain from false speech.
5) to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness."
The Five can then be refined into the Eight Precepts:
"I undertake the training precept:
1) to abstain from taking life.
2) to abstain from taking what is not given.
3) to abstain from unchastity.
4) to abstain from false speech.
5) to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness.
6)to abstain from untimely eating.
7) to abstain from dancing, singing, music and unseemly shows, from wearing garlands, smartening with scents, and beautifying with perfumes.
8) to abstain from the use of high and large luxurious couches."
In the West, the Sabbath — either Saturday or Sunday — has been normally the special religious observance day of the week. In Buddhism, which continues to follow the traditional lunar calendar, the day set apart for special religious observance is the fortnightly day of the full and new moons, with the quarter moon days in between. These full and new-moon days, called Uposatha Days, are when the bhikkhus gather to listen to a recitation of their Paa.timokkha Rule.
The weekly observance day on the quarter-moon day is when lay devotees gather in the local monastery to observe precepts more strictly and listen to and speak about Dhamma. The basic, minimum standard of precepts for practicing lay Buddhists is the Five Precepts. (Such lay people who are following the Buddha's Teaching are know as upaasaka (male) and upaasikaa (female)). However, on the Observance day (or other special occasion), they may decide to train under the Eight Precepts, which brings them closer to how the monk or nun practices.
The novice (saama.nera) has Ten Precepts, as does the dasasiila mata nun. These are the same Eight as above, however the seventh precept is split into two and an extra tenth precept is added. Thus:
◊ This book has been mostly focused on those of the 227 Paa.timokkha Rules that are of concern to the lay devotee. Here we will include a summary of most of the remaining rules taken from Venerable Thanissaro's Introduction to the Paa.timokkha Rules, where he grouped the rules into these categories:
Making an unfounded charge to a bhikkhu that he has committed a paaraajika offence, in hopes of having him disrobed, is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngh.8]
Distorting the evidence while accusing a bhikkhu of having committed a paaraajika offence, in hopes of having him disrobed, is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngh.9]
Making an unfounded charge to a bhikkhu — or getting someone else to make the charge to him — that he is guilty of a sa"nghaadisesa offence is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.76]
Tale-bearing among bhikkhus, in hopes of winning favor or causing a rift, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.3]
An insult made with malicious intent to another bhikkhu is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.2]
...Intentionally causing oneself to emit semen, or getting someone else to cause one to emit semen — except during a dream — is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngha.1]...
Having given another bhikkhu a robe on a condition and then — angry and displeased — snatching it back or having it snatched back is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac. 25]
Making use of cloth or a bowl stored under shared ownership — unless the shared ownership has been rescinded or one is taking the item on trust — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 59]
Keeping a piece of robe-cloth for more than ten days without determining it for use or placing it under dual ownership — except when the end-of-vassa or ka.thina privileges are in effect — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.1] Being in a separate zone from any of one's three robes at dawn — except when the end-of-vassa or ka.thina privileges are in effect, or one has received formal authorization from the Community — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.2]
Keeping out-of-season cloth for more than 30 days when it is not enough to make a requisite and one has expectation for more — except when the end-of- vassa and ka.thina privileges are in effect — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.3]...
When two or more lay people who are not one's relatives are planning to get separate robes for one, but have yet to ask one what kind of robe one wants: Receiving a robe from them after asking them to pool their funds to get one robe — out of a desire for something fine — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.9]
Making a felt blanket/rug with silk mixed in it for one's own use — or having it made — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.11]
Making a felt blanket/rug entirely of black wool for one's own use — or having it made — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.12]
Making a felt blanket/rug that is more than one-half black wool for one's own use — or having it made — is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.13]
Unless one has received authorization to do so from the Community, making a felt blanket/rug for one's own use — or having it made — less than six years after one's last one was made is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.14] Making a felt sitting rug for one's own use — or having it made — without incorporating a one-span piece of old felt is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.15]
Seeking and receiving a rains-bathing cloth before the fourth month of the hot season is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. Using a rains-bathing cloth before the last two weeks of the fourth month of the hot season is also a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.24]...
Keeping robe cloth offered in urgency past the end of the robe season after having accepted it during the last eleven days of the Rains Retreat is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.28]...
Making use of an unmarked robe is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.58]
Acquiring an overly large sitting cloth after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one cut the cloth down to size before confessing the offence. [Paac.89]
Acquiring an overly large skin-eruption covering cloth after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one cut the cloth down to size before confessing the offence. [Paac.90]
Acquiring an overly large rains-bathing cloth after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one cut the cloth down to size before confessing the offence. [Paac.91]
Acquiring an overly large robe after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one cut the robe down to size before confessing the offence. [Paac.92]
Eating food obtained from the same public alms center two days running, unless one is too ill to leave the center, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.31]...
Accepting more than three bowlfuls of food that the donors prepared for their own use as presents or for provisions for a journey is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.34]
Eating staple or non-staple food, after accepting it — when one is neither ill nor invited — at the home of a family formally designated as "in training," is a patidesaniya offence. [Pat. 3]...
When a bhikkhu is building or repairing a large dwelling for his own use, using resources donated by another, he may not reinforce the window or door frames with more than three layers of roofing material or plaster. To exceed this is a paacittiya offence. [Paac.19]
Acquiring a bed or bench with legs longer than eight Sugata fingerbreadths after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one cut the legs down before confessing the offence. [Paac.87]
Acquiring a bed or bench stuffed with cotton down after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one remove the stuffing before confessing the offence. [Paac.88]...
Carrying wool that has not been made into cloth or yarn for more than three leagues is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.16]
Keeping an alms bowl for more than ten days without determining it for use or placing it under dual ownership is a nissaggiya paacittiya offence. [Nis. Paac.21]
Acquiring a needle box made of ivory, bone or horn after making it — or having it made — for one's own use is a paacittiya offence requiring that one break the box before confessing the offence. [Nis. Paac.86]
To persist in one's attempts at a schism, after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in a meeting of the Community, is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngh. 10]
To persist in supporting a potential schismatic, after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in a meeting of the Community, is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngh. 11]
To persist in being difficult to admonish, after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in the Community, is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngh. 12]
To persist — after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in the Community — in criticizing an act of banishment performed against oneself is a sa"nghaadisesa offence. [Sa"ngh. 13]...
Telling an unordained person of another bhikkhu's serious offence — unless one is authorized by the Community to do so — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 9]
Persistently replying evasively or keeping silent when being questioned in a meeting of the Community in order to conceal one's own offences — after a formal charge of evasiveness or uncooperativeness has been brought against one — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 12]
If a Community official is innocent of prejudice, criticizing him within earshot of another bhikkhu is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 13]
When one has set a bed, bench, mattress or stool belonging to the Community out in the open: Leaving its immediate vicinity without putting it away or arranging to have it put away is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 14]
When one has spread bedding out in a dwelling belonging to the Community: Departing from the monastery without putting it away or arranging to have it put away is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 15]
Encroaching on another bhikkhu's sleeping or sitting place in a dwelling belonging to the Community, with the sole purpose of making him uncomfortable and forcing him to leave, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 16]
Causing a bhikkhu to be evicted from a dwelling belonging to the Community — when one's primary motive is anger — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 17]
Sitting or lying down on a bed or bench with detachable legs on an unplanked loft in a dwelling belonging to the Community, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 18]
Deliberately tricking another bhikkhu into breaking Paacittiya 35, in hopes of finding fault with him, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 36]
Speaking or acting disrespectfully when being admonished by another bhikkhu for a breach of the training rules is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 54]
Agitating to reopen an issue, knowing that it was properly dealt with, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 63]
Not informing other bhikkhus of a serious offence that one knows another bhikkhu has committed — either out of a desire to protect him from having to undergo the penalty, or to protect him from the jeering remarks of other bhikkhus — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 64]
Acting as the preceptor in the ordination of a person one knows to be less than 20 years old is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 65]
Refusing to give up the wrong view that there is nothing wrong in intentionally transgressing the Buddha's ordinances — after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in a meeting of the Community — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 68]
Consorting, joining in communion or lying down under the same roof with a bhikkhu who has been suspended and not been restored — knowing that such is the case — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 69]
Supporting, receiving services from, consorting or lying down under the same roof with an expelled novice — knowing that he has been expelled — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 70]
Saying something as a ploy to excuse oneself from training under a training rule when being admonished by another bhikkhu for a breach of the rule is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 71]
Criticizing the discipline in the presence of another bhikkhu, in hopes of preventing its study, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 72]
Using half-truths to deceive others into believing that one is ignorant of the rules in the Patimokkha, after one has already heard the Patimokkha in full three times, and a formal act exposing one's deceit has been brought against one, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 73]
Giving a blow to another bhikkhu, when motivated by anger, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 74]
Making a threatening gesture against another bhikkhu when motivated by anger is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 75]
Saying to another bhikkhu that he may have broken a rule unknowingly, simply for the purpose of causing him anxiety, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 77]
Eavesdropping on bhikkhus involved in an argument over an issue — with the intention of using what they say against them — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 78]
Complaining about a formal act of the Community to which one gave one's consent — if one knows that the act was carried out in accordance with the rule — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 79]
Getting up and leaving a meeting of the Community in the midst of a valid formal act — without having first given one's consent to the act, and with the intention of invalidating it — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 80]
After participating in a formal act of the Community giving robe-cloth to a Community official: Complaining that the Community acted out of favoritism is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 81]
When the Community is dealing formally with an issue, the full Community must be present, as must all the individuals involved in the issue; the proceedings must follow the patterns set out in the Dhamma and Vinaya. [Adhikarana samatha 1]
If the Community unanimously believes that a bhikkhu is innocent of a charge made against him, they may declare him innocent on the basis of his memory of the events. [Adhikarana samatha 2]
If the Community unanimously believes that a bhikkhu was insane while committing offences against the rules, they may absolve him of any responsibility for the offences. [Adhikarana samatha 3]
If a bhikkhu commits an offence, he should willingly undergo the appropriate penalty in line with what he actually did and the actual seriousness of the offence. [Adhikarana samatha 4]
If an important dispute cannot be settled by a unanimous decision, it should be submitted to a vote. The opinion of the majority, if in accordance with the Dhamma and Vinaya, is then considered decisive. [Adhikarana samatha 5]
If a bhikkhu admits to an offence only after being interrogated in a formal meeting, the Community should carry out an act of censure against him, rescinding it only when he has mended his ways. [Adhikarana samatha 6]
If, in the course of a dispute, both sides act in ways unworthy of contemplatives, and the sorting out of the penalties would only prolong the dispute, the Community as a whole may make a blanket confession of its light offences. [Adhikarana samatha 7]
... Handing food or medicine to a mendicant ordained outside of Buddhism is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 41]
When on almsround with another bhikkhu: Sending him back so that he won't witness any misconduct one is planning to indulge in is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 42]...
Watching a field army — or similar large military force — on active duty, unless there is a suitable reason, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 48]
Staying more than three consecutive nights with an army on active duty — even when one has a suitable reason to be there — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 49]
Going to a battlefield, a roll call, an array of the troops in battle formation or to see a review of the battle units while one is staying with an army is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 50]...
Tickling another bhikkhu is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 52]
Jumping and swimming in the water for fun is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 53]
Attempting to frighten another bhikkhu is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 55]
Lighting a fire to warm oneself — or having it lit — when one does not need the warmth for one's health is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 56]
Bathing more frequently than once a fortnight when residing in the middle Ganges Valley, except on certain occasions, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 57]
Hiding another bhikkhu's bowl, robe, sitting cloth, needle case or belt — or having it hid — either as a joke or with the purpose of annoying him, is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 60]
Traveling by arrangement with a group of thieves from one village to another — knowing that they are thieves — is a paacittiya offence. [Paac. 66]
When eating, a bhikkhu should:
This appendix is for those people who are interested in the Paali language and the pronunciation of the various Paali words found in this book.
The Paali alphabet is made up of forty-one letters. These are divided into eight vowels, thirty-two consonants, and one pure nasal sound called niggahita [the .m].
a as in about
aa as in father
i as in hit
ii as in machine
u as in pull
uu as in rule
e as in grey
o as in hole
k as in king
kh as in backhand
g as in gone
gh as in log-head
"n as in sing
c as in ancient
ch as in check
j as in joy
jh is an aspirated j
ñ as ny in canyon
.t is (something like) a nasalized t
.th is an aspirated .t
.d is (something like) a nasalized d
.dh is an aspirated .d
.n is (something like) a nasalized n
t as in stop
th as in Thames (never as in the English the)
d as in dog
dh is an aspirated d
n as in name
p as in spot
ph as in upholstery (never as in the English photo)
b as in bat
bh is an aspirated b
m as in mother
y as in yes
ay as in Aye!
r as in run
l as in long
v as w in wine
s as in sun
h as in hot
.l as in felt
.m as ng in sang
The dentals t and d are pronounced with the tip of the tongue placed against the front upper teeth
The aspirates kh, gh , .th , .dh , th , dh , ph , bh , are pronounced with an h sound immediately following; e.g., in blockhead, pighead, cat-head, log- head, etc., where the h in each is combined with the preceding consonant in pronunciation.
This appendix illustrates how the bhikkhu's rules are actually practiced in different monasteries and communities. Each example is taken from the community's own guide or from devotees' experience.
A Lay Buddhist's Guide to the Monks' Code of Conduct
... A bhikkhu must have all eatables and drinkables (including medicines) except plain water, formally offered into his hands or placed on or into something in direct contact with his hands. In order to prevent contact with a woman, he will generally set down a cloth to receive things offered by a lady... In the Forest Tradition of which our resident monks are a part, milk is considered to be a food, as are malted drinks such as Ovaltine and Milo, so none of these would be allowed outside the proper times.
In accordance with the discipline a bhikkhu is prohibited from eating fruit or vegetables containing fertile seeds. So when offering such things, a lay person can either remove the seeds, or make the fruit allowable by slightly damaging it with a knife. This is done by piercing the fruit and saying at the same time "kappiya.m bhante" (meaning "I make this allowable, sir.").
It is instructive to note that rather than limiting what can be offered, the Vinaya lays emphasis on the mode of offering. It regards the proper way of offering as being when the lay person approaches within a forearm's distance of the bhikkhu, has a respectful manner (so for example, one would try to be lower than the bhikkhu) and is offering something that a bhikkhu can manage to carry(!). All this serves to make the act of offering a mindful and reflective one irrespective of what one is giving — and allows great joy to arise...
Forest bhikkhus generally make their own robes from the cloth that is given. Plain white cotton is always useful (it can be dyed to the correct dull ochre) or worsted for the thicker robe (Sanghati). In a cold climate, the basic 'triple robe' of the Buddha is supplemented with sweaters, beanies, socks, etc., and these, of an appropriate brown color, can also be offered...
The bhikkhu's precepts do not allow him to sleep more than three nights with an unordained male, and not even to lie down in the same room with a female. In providing a temporary room for a night one need not provide a great deal of furniture, a simple spare room that is private is adequate...
A bhikkhu is allowed to use medicines if they are offered in the same way as food. Once offered, neither food nor medicine should be handled again by a lay person, as that renders it no longer allowable. Medicines can be considered as those things that are specifically for illness; those things that have a tonic or reviving quality (such as tea or sugar); and certain items which have a nutritional value in times of debilitation, hunger or fatigue (such as cheese, miso soup).
There are different limitations regarding the amount of time that a bhikkhu can store such 'medicines':
One day allowance: Filtered fruit juice (i.e., free of pulp) of any fruit smaller than an average fist. These juices are allowed to be received and drunk any time between one dawn and the dawn of the next day — this time-limit prevents the danger of fermentation.
Seven day allowance: Ghee, animal or vegetable oil, honey, any kind of sugar (including molasses) and cheese can be kept and consumed any time up to the dawn of the eighth day after which they were received.
'Lifetime' allowance: Pharmaceutical medicines, vitamins; plant roots such as ginger, ginseng; herbal decoctions such as camomile; beverages such as tea, coffee and cocoa...
At no time does the monk request food. This principle should be borne in mind when offering food — rather than asking a monk what he would like, it is better to ask if you can offer some food. Considering that the meal will be the one meal of the day, offer what seems right recognizing that the bhikkhu will take what he needs and leave the rest. A good way to offer is to bring bowls of food to the bhikkhu and let him choose what he needs from each bowl.
One can also make an invitation, 'pavarana,' to cover any circumstances that you might not be aware of — a health problem, need for a toothbrush, etc., by saying, "Bhante, if you are in need of any medicine or requisites, please let me know." To avoid misunderstanding it is better to be quite specific, such as — "Bhante, if you need any more food...," "If you need a new pair of sandals..." Unless specified an invitation can only be accepted for up to four months after which time it lapses unless renewed. Specifying the time limit, or giving some indication of the scope of the offering is good, in order to prevent misunderstanding — so that, for instance, when you are intending to offer some fruit juice, the bhikkhu doesn't get the impression you want to buy a washing machine for the monastery!...
In practical terms, monasteries are financially controlled by lay stewards, who then make open invitation for the Sangha to ask for what they need, under the direction of the Abbot. So junior monks even have to ask an appointed agent (generally a senior bhikkhu or abbot) if they may take up the steward's offer — to pay for dental treatment, obtain footwear or medicines, for example. This means that as far as is reasonably possible, the donations that are given to the stewards to support the Sangha are not wasted on unnecessary whims.
If a lay person wishes to give to a particular bhikkhu, but is uncertain of what he needs, he should make invitation. Any financial donations should not be made to 'X Bhikkhu' but to the stewards of the monastery, perhaps mentioning if it's for a particular item or for the needs of a certain bhikkhu. For items such as traveling expenses, money can be given to an accompanying anagarika (dressed in white) or accompanying lay person, who can buy tickets, drinks for the journey, or anything else that the bhikkhu may need at that time. It is quite a good training for a lay person to actually consider what items are necessary, and offer those rather than money...
Bhikkhus should have a male present who can understand what is being said when conversing with a lady, and a similar situation holds true for nuns...
So to prevent such misunderstandings — however groundless — a bhikkhu has to be accompanied by a man whenever in the presence of a woman — on a journey or sitting alone in a secluded place (one would not call a meditation hall or a bus station a secluded place). Generally, bhikkhus would also refrain from carrying on correspondence with women, other than for matters pertaining to the monastery, travel arrangements, providing basic information, etc., When teaching Dhamma, even in a letter, it is easy for inspiration and compassion to turn into attachment...
Accordingly for a Dhamma talk, it is good to set up a room where the teachings can be listened to with respect being shown to the speaker. In terms of etiquette — graceful conversation rather than rude — this means affording the speaker a seat that is higher than his audience, not pointing one's feet at the speaker, removing headgear when listening to the talk, and not interrupting the speaker. Questions are welcome at the end of the talk.
Also as a sign of respect, when inviting a bhikkhu, it is usual for the person making the invitation to also make the travel arrangements — directly or indirectly...
Lay people may be interested in applying [these] conventions [of etiquette] for their own training in sensitivity, but it should not be considered as something that is necessarily expected of them.
Firstly, there is the custom of bowing to the shrine or teacher. This is done when first entering their presence or when taking leave. Done gracefully at the appropriate time, this is a beautiful gesture that honors the person who does it; at an inappropriate time, done compulsively, it appears foolish. Another common gesture of respect is to place the hands so that the palms are touching, the fingers pointing upwards, and the hands held immediately in front of the chest. The gesture of raising the hands to the slightly lowered forehead is called 'añjalii.' This is a pleasant means of greeting, bidding farewell, saluting the end of a Dhamma talk, concluding an offering.
Body language is something that is well understood in Asian countries. Apart from the obvious reminder to sit up for a Dhamma talk rather than loll or recline on the floor, one shows a manner of deference by ducking slightly if having to walk between a bhikkhu and the person he is speaking to. Similarly, one would not stand looming over a bhikkhu to talk to him or offer him something, but rather approach him at the level at which he is sitting.
Advice for Guests
... The Abbot is usually addressed as "Ajahn," which comes from the Thai, and means "Teacher." Other monks can be addressed as "Venerable," or the Thai equivalent "Tahn." These designations may or may not be followed by the ordained name of the individual. Alternatively, any monk can be called "Bhante," a more general term. In this tradition it is considered impolite to refer to monks by their ordained names without the appropriate honorific preceding it...
The Precepts: The Community at Bodhinyanarama is bound by the monastic code of conduct, the basis of which is formalized into the following eight precepts:
These are intended as a means of promoting harmony within the community and as a framework for contemplation. Guests are requested to undertake these precepts wholeheartedly for the insight they offer, and out of consideration for everyone else in the community...
1. Take special care to dress and act with modesty (seventh precept). In a place where chastity is observed, it is fitting to tone down the attractive qualities of personal appearance and behavior. When in the company of a monk, nun or novice, keep in mind that their discipline prohibits physical contact with members of the opposite sex.
2. The property of the monastery has come from someone's generosity to the Sangha and guests are asked to treat it respectfully. Personal belongings should be kept tidy, particularly in spaces that are being used communally. If anything needs repair, replacing or refilling, please let the guest master know.
3. A monastery is a sanctuary from the usual worldly concerns, for those who have dedicated themselves to spiritual practice. As guests are sharing in this life as visitors, it is not appropriate to come and go without notice, or to engage in external business during their stay...
... Laymen are expected to wear white or light colored clothing during their stay... Men bathe at the wells and are asked not to bathe naked, but to use a bathing cloth or swimming trunks and not to walk bare chested in public areas of the Wat.
Women are expected to wear all white or white blouses and black skirts...
If talking with senior monks, particularly the teacher, find a convenient time and place. Senior monks should be addressed as "Ajahn," others as "Tahn" and novices as "Nayn." These designations may or may not be followed by the Pali name of the individual. It is considered impolite to refer to ordained people by their Pali names without the appropriate honorific preceding it...
Thai culture has an extensive etiquette and varied social customs — stemming largely from the monks' Code of Discipline — governing many aspects of physical behavior, comprising a form of rules for proper body language. Most apparent are the gestures of respect used within a monastic community which help to open the heart, compose the mind and encourage a sense of kindness to others. These forms of courtesy help to develop a sensitivity towards the others to whom one relates on a daily basis and reduce the number of upsets arising through inconsiderate or aggressive behavior...
[Añjalii] is a customary gesture used by Thais greeting others and also during the time one is speaking with a monk. Also known in Thai as the wai, it consists of raising the hands to the chest, palms together. The gesture is also used after offering something to or receiving something from an ordained person.
...The formal bow or grahp is another frequently used formality, being an excellent means of expressing respect for the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and for cultivating humility. Always bow before sitting down in the sala, Bot or Abbot's kuti. At the end of the meetings and when getting up either after the drink or from conversing with a monk, remember to bow three times...
In all postures try and be aware of where the body is in relation to a monk, especially if he is teaching Dhamma. When walking with a monk, it is customary for lay-people to walk a little behind, rather than immediately at his side. If a lay person has occasion to pass in front of a monk who is seated, it is polite to stoop.
If a monk is sitting, lay people should squat or sit down before addressing him; it is considered improper for lay people to be on a higher level when speaking with a monk. The Buddha instructed monks not to teach Dhamma to one who is unprepared or showing disrespect (allowances being made for those in poor health). When sitting and receiving a talk or conversing with a monk it is customary to sit in the pup-piap position — one leg bent in front, the other folded at the side. Sitting with the arms clasped around knees is improper. If sitting on a chair, sit attentively and erect...
It is inappropriate to lie down in the sala or sit with one's feet outstretched towards a Buddha image or monk...
Be careful not to touch food or medicines already offered without first informing a monk...
Eating should be done in silence and without a lot of scraping and banging of utensils or making unnecessary mess. One should not eat or drink standing up.
After midday, all members of the community should refrain from partaking of any food, including drinks containing milk, cereals, eggs, etc., or any kind of soup. There are certain 'medicines' allowable for consumption under the Vinaya. These include: fruit juice (uncooked and strained), soft drinks, butter and ghee, vegetable oil, honey and molasses (including sugar), tea, coffee, cocoa and herbal drinks. Such medicines are kept separately and offered as needed...
Visitors should be aware of the proper mode of conduct for men and women within the setting of a forest monastery. They should be aware that some behavior, quite acceptable and normal enough for foreigners, is open to misinterpretation by the Thai community, whose standards naturally differ.
Complete segregation of the sexes is mandatory at all times. No men should enter the women's lodgings (or vice versa) without permission from the Abbot. If any contact is necessary, it should be done through the Abbot. Laymen should be careful in the kitchen not to get too close to laywomen, especially Thais.
Women are asked to be discreet and respectful when relating to monks, maintaining an even greater distance than with laymen. Take the Thai laywomen as examples in the proper way to behave with monks, such as perhaps kneeling down or squatting if conversing with a monk.
Women should be aware that it is an offence against his discipline if a monk touches a woman. If offering something to a monk either place it in his bowl or on his special receiving cloth — never directly into his hands. Male visitors should be aware that women with shaved heads may prefer not to hand anything to or receive anything directly from you. Put it down first and let the other person pick it up. Women must be careful entering rooms (such as the library) where a monk might be present; it is an offence for a monk to be alone with a woman in a closed room.
You will find [at the forest monastery] that locker space is provided for your food (you must not take anything edible out of the kitchen area) and there is usually a thermos of ice cubes, an ice box for perishables, there's a shower room and toilet. You wash your clothes by the well pump — not from the rain water tanks! There is no electricity so you will need a torch and plenty of candles and a good lighter or matches.
Ask for a place to put your valuables in a 'lock up.' You will be shown where you are to stay which is in a separate area of the monastery away from where the monks stay. However, please remember to dress suitably. The lay women on eight precepts wear white tops and black-wrap over skirts. If you are not going to keep the full eight it does not matter much what you wear as long as it is modest and the colors are muted.
You are provided with a mosquito net, blankets and pillow and pillow case. (But don't just take anything until you are sure it has been made available to you.) I also take anti-mosquito cream, antiseptic wipes, bandaids, tissue, cold water washing powder, soap, prickly heat powder. Torch (flash light), 'flip-flops (slip-on sandals), sleeping bag sheet, towel, and such like.
'Allowables' for the afternoon include: butterscotch, boiled sweets, dark chocolate, cheese, tea or coffee. ('Ovaltine,' soy milk and coffee whiteners are not allowed in the afternoon at this Wat.)
It is customary to bow three times when one sees one's teachers and when one goes to the main hall (sala). If you notice what the Thais do you will soon get the hang of it. You will probably feel rather lost for the first 24 hours but then with patience and mindfulness everything should come together. The Thais — and especially one's teachers — are so good and generous to us that I feel it's important not to offend them.
In the afternoon (or evening) there is usually a chance to listen to a Dhamma talk. In the morning one can prepare food to offer to the monks and to share with one's fellow meditators. The rest of the day one can work out a meditation routine which suits one.
Most people make a donation — there is no charge at all — before they leave. Tan Acharn (the abbot) doesn't like people to give more than they can afford. You must find out exactly how to do it.
Standard of clothing for women: Clothes should not be too revealing such as shorts, miniskirt, low-cut or sleeveless garments.
Breast feeding is not appropriate in the presence of a monk or even in the same room.
It is not respectful to stretch out one's legs when seated, or point them in the direction of the monk or Buddha Statue.
People should not stand and talk to a monk when he is seated.
The norms of good manners should be observed, e.g., people should not talk and laugh loudly or make a noise when the monk is talking to someone in the same room.
Women should not have a private conversation with a monk or be alone in the same room without a male person being present.
A bhikkhu(s) should be approached respectfully by the person offering daana, who should always try to maintain a bodily position lower than that of the bhikkhu.
The person making the offering should be shoeless, modestly dressed (see note below) and should have a generally respectful demeanour towards the bhikkhu(s).
As with any greeting or approach to a bhikkhu, the person offering daana should pay respects in the normal way by bowing three times — once for each of the Triple Gem.
If in doubt as to how to proceed beyond this basic approach other experienced members of the lay community or the bhikkhu(s) themselves are sure to be able to offer helpful directions.
As a general rule, one does not speak to a bhikkhu while offering daana, unless the bhikkhu initiates some conversation.
To move with mindfulness and perhaps a bit more slowly than usual lessens the likelihood of mishaps.
Remember, the best way of learning and of keeping out of potentially embarrassing situations is to seek guidance from others present or, if there is a language barrier, to follow the example of those around you. But remember, too, that rules for men and women are very different so make sure you are following the example of a member of the same gender!
It is very important for everyone to always maintain a respectful distance from the bhikkhus, the Sangha.
The two most common situations for offering daana in the form of food is when a line of bhikkhus is seated on a dais accepting daana, or when a line of bhikkhus is on alms round (pindabat).
In this situation the lay person should join the line of people making offerings, if there is one. If they are offering singly, then the procedure is basically the same.
The person making the offering should kneel once they are sufficiently close enough to the bhikkhu(s), and signal their intent to offer food, drink, etc., by holding the item above them and to their forehead, at the same time mindfully recollecting the inner purpose for the offering.
The usual order is to offer plain cooked rice first, followed by other dishes. In this way a person may offer several times.
Food is placed with care into the alms bowl, beginning with the most senior bhikkhu and then proceeding down the line (usually from left to right when facing the seated line).
Once the offering has been made, the person should move back and away while still facing the bhikkhus and maintaining a low position. They might also, at this stage, repeat the respectful greeting of bowing three times.
It is very important to maintain a respectful distance and to place the food carefully and gently in the center of the bowl without touching or interfering with it in any way.
After all the offerings have been made, the bhikkhus will chant and then have their meal.
When the bhikkhus have finished arranging their meal, it is usual for the most senior bhikkhu to lead the others in the blessing chanting for the lay community gathered. The most senior bhikkhu will then indicate that the lay people can now eat.
When offering food to a line of monks making an alms round, it is important to be well prepared and ready in position somewhere along their round before they arrive so as not to delay them on their round.
Wait quietly, using the time to reflect on the meaning of the action about to take place.
The food should be kept well off the ground and shoes should be removed in readiness.
When the bhikkhus are seen to be approaching, the person should kneel and hold the food above their head in an offering position and reflect on the meaning of the action about to take place.
Once the bhikkhu stops, the person should stand and place a portion of the food into the open alms bowl that the bhikkhu will be silently offering while maintaining a position lower than that of the bhikkhu (this is most easily achieved by slightly bending the knees and/or bending from the waist). If the bowl is full, the lid of the bowl might be offered.
It is very important to maintain a respectful distance and to place the food carefully and gently in the center of the bowl without touching or interfering with it in any way.
Kneel again and repeat the procedure until daana has been offered to all the bhikkhus.
Once the line moves away, it might be appropriate to pay respects in the usual way.
When a lay woman wishes to offer a bhikkhu some kind of daana other than food, (e.g., books, beverages, medicines) the first step is to approach the seated bhikkhu respectfully in the manner outlined above, pay respects, and let him know that you would like to make the offering, indicating exactly what the nature of the offering is. (In this way the bhikkhu can circumvent any inadvertently inappropriate offering.)
The bhikkhu will place down a piece of cloth and the person can then move forward and carefully place the offering on it.
The person should then pay respects again and move back a little. As with food offerings, shoes should be removed, and a low position in relation to the bhikkhu should be maintained.
Lay men can follow the above procedure also, except that the item offered can be handed directly to the bhikkhu.
When visiting bhikkhus the lay person should pay respects to them in the usual way by bowing three times to each of the bhikkhus present in the order of their ordination if this is known.
The lay person can then assume a natural, comfortable seated position a little back from, and, if possible, lower than the bhikkhu. The only thing to remember here is that, if health permits, feet should be tucked under and away as it is not polite to point feet directly at a bhikkhu (or, in fact, any Thai person).
When addressing a bhikkhu it is usual to place both hands together at chest height when talking to him, or when he is replying — especially when he is expounding dhamma. Apart from indicating respect for the Sangha, this action helps with general mindfulness. If seeking advice or a dhamma explanation from a bhikkhu, a lay person would allow for spaciousness in a conversation, i.e., allow for pauses in the conversation before the bhikkhu speaks or replies.
Although tempting, it is a good idea not to get caught up in conversations about worldly matters with either the bhikkhus or with other lay people when sitting in the presence of the Sangha.
Lay women especially have to exercise great mindfulness when in the presence of the Sangha. If, for example, a lay woman finds herself left alone in the presence of a bhikkhu, e.g., other friends have moved away or left, the most appropriate thing to do is to pay respects to that bhikkhu and leave.
When walking in the company of bhikkhus lay people should walk a little behind, but still within speaking distance.
A lay person would not stand too close to a bhikkhu when he is standing. It is better to move a small distance away and assume a squatting position, if it feels comfortable to do this.
While not compulsory in any way, to pay respects in the traditional way to either a Buddha image or the Sangha is the most basic sign of a lay person's respect for the Triple Gem. It is also an excellent exercise in mindfulness. To learn the correct and most graceful way to execute this action, it is usually easiest to follow the example of an experienced lay person or the bhikkhus themselves who also must pay respects to Buddha images or more senior bhikkhus.
When visiting a Wat or temple, it is good to be mindful about the type of clothing one wears — just as when going to a church or sacred building of any kind.
Dress for both men and women should be modest and unrevealing, and excessive ornamentation should be avoided.
Lay women especially should pay attention to what they wear, avoiding things like sheer fabrics; low necklines; sleeveless tops. Serious practitioners will consider not wearing perfume, make-up or jewellery as well.
(See also Beginnings: The Pali Suttas by Samanera Bodhesako, Wheel Publication No. 313-315)
"It seems that these principles are not for the bhikkhu to consider for himself. It is for the consideration of his [preceptor] or teacher or of an Elder who is his senior, whether it is proper or not for a bhikkhu who lives with them to be released and to stay alone, and whether a bhikkhu who is released from [dependence] is able to be a [leader of an assembly of monks]." (See EV,II,pp.45-54)
"This need for precision, though, accounts for the weakness of rules in general as universal guides to behavior. First, there is the question of where to draw the line between what is and is not an infraction of the rule. A clear break-off point is needed because rules — unlike principles — deal in two colors: black and white. In some cases, it is difficult to find a clear break-off point that corresponds exactly to one's sense of what is right and wrong, and so it is necessary to include the areas of gray either with the white or the black. In general, but not always, the Vibhanga's [text] position is to include the gray with the white, and to rely on the principles of the Dhamma to encourage the individual bhikkhu to stay away from the gray." (BMC pp.16-17)
"The Commentary, however, states that such an offender may 'go forth' as a novice [if the Community accepts him]." (BMC p.87)
"A bhikkhu who has committed any of the Four Paaraajika offences can no longer have [communion] (sa.mvaasa) with the sangha. He is one who is condemned for his entire lifetime. There is no way to remedy it. He must get out of the group. This is the only way for him. If that person does not give up his status on his own but declares himself a bhikkhu, once the sangha knows this, it should expel him from the group." (EV,III, pp.242-243)
Perhaps intimate and private telephone conversations should now also be included here. Some communities require that another monk be privy to what is going on, whether phone conversations or (over-familiarity) in letter writing:
"This guideline would also apply to telephone conversations but not to written communication, although careful reflection (and perhaps another bhikkhu's guidance) should be exercised." (HS ch.13)
Rule Summary: "Lying down at the same time, in the same lodging, with a novice or layman for more than three nights running is [an offence of Confession]." (Paac. 5; BMC p.276)
"Bhikkhus who seek a living without violating the traditions of bhikkhus gain offerings in the right way. They should know how to make use of these offerings properly and not do anything with them which will make the donor's faith decline." (EV,II,p.130)
(i) The son of a great merchant was so inspired by Ven. Upananda's Dhamma talk that he made an invitation of the four requisites, whereupon Ven. Upananda asked for one of the pieces of cloth that the lay man was actually wearing. The lay man replied that he would bring another cloth from home because walking around with only one cloth was not proper for him. Nevertheless, Ven. Upananda became very insistent so the lay man had to give up the cloth. People criticized the monks for being greedy and not being reasonable in their requests. The rule that resulted can be summarized:
(ii) If he does beg and obtain the robe, he must forfeit it to another bhikkhu and confess the offence. When the circumstances are such that he is allowed to ask for a robe, he should not ask for more than two robes. This is covered by the next Rule:
(iii) The Eighth Rule (Nissaggiya Paacittiya 8) arose because a bhikkhu overheard one of Ven. Upananda's supporters saying that he intended to give Ven. Upananda a robe. The bhikkhu went and told Ven. Upananda, whereupon Ven. Upananda visited (without invitation) the 'donor' and specified exactly which kind of robe he wanted. The lay supporter commented, "these monks are insatiable and not easily contented. How can he, without having first been invited by me, make stipulations about a robe?".
It is no offence for the bhikkhu to request them to reduce the amount they were planning to spend.
(iv) The twenty-sixth Confession with Forfeiture Rule:
(v) The twenty-seventh Confession with Forfeiture Rule:
◊ Although these Rules are about robe-material, conscientious bhikkhus would regard other requisites in the same spirit.
"to distribute things among fellow Dhamma-friends is suitable as well as giving to laymen who work in the monastery, or those who help with a bhikkhu's work. They should be given to such people as the cost of food and as the cost of labor, or they should be given the things which a bhikkhu has received so that they can be used and not wasted, for this will be proper." (EV,II,p.130)
However: "...telling a lay person to take one's belongings as his/her own is a 'theft of faith' (saddhaa-deyya) — i.e., a misuse of the donations that lay supporters have sacrificed for the bhikkhu's use." (BMC p.229)
Though five panels are shown in this figure, there can be seven, nine, or more (usually an odd number) depending on the size of the cloth.
In Thailand this color is considered to be "yellow mixed with much red or the ochre yellow which is the color obtained from the heartwood of the Jack-fruit tree." (EV,II,pp.15-17) The heartwood of the jack-fruit tree (Artocarpus integrifolia (Urticaceaea)) is now difficult to find due to deforestation.
"Certain other 'medicines' may be interpreted by applying the Great Standards... from some of those mentioned specifically in the Vinaya. Thus soya-bean milk may be a form of 'thin mung-bean broth'... , miso may be a form of 'salted sour gruel'..." (HS ch.10)
A study of the allowance to eat meat pure in the three respects in other Vinaya recensions shows that, despite minor differences in defining terms, there is not "any material difference in the meaning and scope of the rule." It has been suggested that the development of vegetarianism amongst certain Mahayanists may have close connexions to the theory of the tathaagatagarbha..." (HS ch.9)
However, another commentator notes that Tibetan Buddhists — who also follow the Mahayana (and the tathaagatagarbha teachings) — do eat meat. He suggests that not eating meat came more from the Taoist influence in China.
The bhikkhu should also not eat raw or undercooked meat, or the flesh of elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas or, of course, human flesh.
◊ One of the tonic-medicines is called navaniita.m in Paali. Some communities consider that it is butter and some cheese. It is a controversial point. Remembering that each local community of monks may practice differently, the lay person will need to check what is considered allowable.
Other comments on the tonic-medicines:
"Some say that navaniita.m is butter, some say that it is cheese. However, there is a reasonable argument following the Buddha's Four Great Standards (Mahaavagga, chapter 6 verse 40) to state that butter and cheese are sufficiently similar to the real navaniita.m and dissimilar to what has been disallowed by the Buddha to make both butter and cheese also allowable, along with navaniita.m as one of the Five Tonics. In the West, cheese is sometimes considered as a food and monks seen eating it in the afternoon or evening may be looked down upon by some lay people. It seems better in such situations, only to make use of the allowance to eat cheese in the afternoon or evening when there is more than mere tiredness but a debilitating illness instead.
"...It may be that the [tonic-] medicine is given up, with no expectation of its return, before seven days have passed; in which case if, without any prompting by the monk, it should be offered again that medicine may be accepted and kept a further seven days." (AB)
"These five medicines are defined as:
"Made from churning curds... This is similar to modern-day creamery butter and, since cheese is also processed from curds, many bhikkhus would include cheese under this name as well (in Thailand the name for butter and cheese is the same — butter is the 'soft' variety and cheese the 'hard'). One complication with this is that in the West cheese is considered a substantial food. Thus, if used as a tonic should be taken in moderation." (HS Endnotes)
**"Under this would be included 'sugar-water' and so many communities would allow 'lemonade' and other soft drinks." (HS Endnotes)
"The first standard is somewhat ambiguous and relative to social values at different places and at different times. The second is more specific — if one knows how much a paada is worth! A sub-commentary, says that one paada is equal to the value of gold weighing 20 unhusked rice-grains. This has been determined as approximately 1/24 oz. troy of gold. Of course, it must also be recognized that the price of gold fluctuates over time. This seems like a reasonable amount to constitute a theft serious enough to warrant Defeat." (HS ch.14)
"Whoever agrees to gold or money, headman, also agrees to the five strands of sensual pleasure, and whoever agrees to the five strands of sensual pleasure, headman, you may take for certain that this is not the way of a recluse, that this is not the way of a Buddhist monk." (See P.T.S. Kindred Sayings, Vol. 4 p.232)
"A Bhikkhu who does not accept money inspires great faith in Buddhism amongst the laity; according to the following quote he is likened unto a 'shining example' — whereas the bhikkhu who does accept money is likened unto a 'blemish' or 'stain':
"Bhikkhus,... there are these four stains because of which samanas and brahmans glow not, shine not, blaze not. What are these four? Drinking alcoholic beverages... indulging in sexual intercourse... accepting gold and money... obtaining requisites through a wrong mode of livelihood." (A.II.53)" (AB)
"In the act of accepting money, or having it accepted in one's name, one is accepting all the cares, responsibilities, and dangers that come with its ownership; in the act of arranging a trade, one is accepting responsibility for the fairness of the trade: that it undervalues neither the generosity of the person who donated the money, nor the goods and services of the person receiving the money in exchange." (BMC p.197)
"...the Buddha permitted money to be entrusted by a donor to a steward, who may be a monastery attendant or a lay follower, for the personal benefit of an individual bhikkhu, thus:
'There are, bhikkhus, people of faith and confidence (in the Sangha) who entrust money into the hands of monastery stewards saying, "With this, provide the bhikkhu so-and-so with what is allowable." I permit you, bhikkhus, to accept an allowable item obtained thereby. But this, bhikkhus, I do not say: that in any circumstances may gold, silver or money be accepted (by a bhikkhu, or) be looked about for (by him).'
"When the donors ask the bhikkhu, 'Has the Venerable One a steward?' or, 'Is there an appropriate place where I may deposit this money,' or some similar question, then the bhikkhu may point out a suitable steward, or he may indicate an appropriate place. Should the donor deposit the money with that steward, or in that place, then it is properly deposited." (AB)
"When a fund has been properly established and the bhikkhu is in need of a requisite, he may approach that steward and state what he is in need of. Should a bhikkhu command the steward to: 'Buy me this,' it is considered a case of dubbhicaritata (wrong procedure) and that bhikkhu may not make use of any article obtained therefrom, although other bhikkhus may use it.
"It is a fault of Acknowledgement with Forfeiture [Nis. Paac.10] for a bhikkhu who receives a requisite by badgering the steward beyond verbally reminding him three times and standing silently up to six times. If the required requisite is not forthcoming the bhikkhu is obliged to inform the donor that the invitation to requisites has not been fulfilled. The Commentary says that if the bhikkhu does not inform the donor it is a fault of Wrong- Doing "for breaking a custom"). The donor may then take up the matter with the steward." (HS ch.14)
"A bhikkhu may not command (tell) either the donor or the steward what to do with regard to the gift of gold or money. However, he may give them hints, or suggestions, or any information, as long as these fall short of ordering the donor or steward. Also, a bhikkhu may not accept the ownership of gold or money offered to him indirectly, for example should a donor say to him, "In such and such a place is a certain amount of money, I give it to you." then the bhikkhu is obliged to reject the gift by words or by a gesture of refusal or by mental resolve (e.g., determining, "I do not accept this") otherwise he incurs [an offence of Confession with Forfeiture]." (AB)
There are monks who are not insane but who believe in their own delusions of grandeur. They are not exempt from offences.
"When the Buddha referred to tending the sick, he was referring to fellow monastics. The Commentary,... [has that] a bhikkhu may prescribe and supply medicine to... his parents, to those caring for his parents, to lay-attendants of the monastery and to those residing in the monastery preparing to ordain; a bhikkhu may also prescribe (but not supply) medicines for brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents, if they are not able to supply their own medicines, a bhikkhu can loan these to them; if travelers, bandits, wounded soldiers, important people and those with no relatives come to the monastery for help, they should be given medicine without re-imbursement; medicine may be given indirectly to brothers- and sisters-in-law, either through their children or through the bhikkhu's brother or sister; monastery supporters and faithful people may be helped by mentioning what medicines will cure their particular ailment; prescribing or supplying beyond this is a Wrong-doing." (HS ch.10)
"To bow correctly, bring the forehead all the way to the floor; have elbows near the knees which should be about three inches apart. Bow slowly, being mindful of the body. As nearly as possible, the buttocks should be kept on the heels,...'' (from: Advice for Guests at Bodhinyanarama Monastery)
"It is a tradition of bhikkhus that whoever enters the area around a cetiya, which is a place for the recollection of the Master, should behave in a respectful manner, neither opening his umbrella nor putting on sandals nor wearing the [robe] covering both shoulders. They should not speak loudly there or sit with their legs spread apart with their feet pointing (at the cetiya), thus not showing respect for that place. They must not stool or urinate, spit upon the terraces of the cetiya (or) before an image of the Exalted Buddha, their good behavior thus showing respect for the Master." (EV,II,p.82)
Sanskrit renditions of the Paa.timokkha Rule contain extra Sekhiya Training rules often concerned with ways of showing respect. For example, Rules 60 to 85 are all concerned with Buddha-Stupas:
"The theme of a hierarchy of respect first came up for serious consideration in regard to obtaining lodgings. One time the Buddha set out from Savatthi with a large following of bhikkhus. The bhikkhus who were pupils of the group of six bhikkhus went ahead and appropriated all the [lodgings] and sleeping-places for their preceptors, teachers and for themselves. Venerable Sariputta, coming along behind, was unable to find a suitable lodging and sat down at the foot of a tree. The Buddha found him there and, finding the reason, asked the assembled bhikkhus:
'Bhikkhus, who is worthy of the principle seat, the best water, the best alms-food?'"Some bhikkhus said that one gone forth from a noble family was most worthy of these things; some said one gone forth from a brahmana family... a merchant family... one versed in the suttas — a Vinaya expert... a teacher of Dhamma... one having the first jhana... the second... the third... the fourth jhana;... a stream-enterer... a once-returner... a non-returner... an arahant... one with the Three-fold Knowledge... one with the six Psychic Powers. The Buddha then related the story of a partridge, a monkey and a bull-elephant who were friends and agreed to respect and heed the advice of the eldest. The Buddha concluded by saying:"'Well then, bhikkhus, if breathing animals can live mutually respectful, deferential and courteous, so do you, bhikkhus, shine forth so that you, gone forth in this well-taught Dhamma-Vinaya, live likewise mutually respectful, deferential and courteous."' (HS ch.22)
WWW resources: Access to Insight is an excellent starting point: http://www.accesstoinsight.org
◊ Demonstrating how all the Buddhist Traditions still preserve the Vinaya texts: