The lives of all Buddhist monastics are governed by a set of rules called the prātimokṣa or pātimokkha. Their lifestyles are shaped to support their spiritual practice: to live a simple and meditative life and attain nirvana.
A person under the age of 20 cannot be ordained as a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni but can be ordained as a śrāmaṇera or śrāmaṇērī.
Buddhist monks in Thailand
|Native Chinese name|
Bhikkhu literally means "beggar" or "one who lives by alms". The historical Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, having abandoned a life of pleasure and status, lived as an alms mendicant as part of his śramaṇa lifestyle. Those of his more serious students who renounced their lives as householders and came to study full-time under his supervision also adopted this lifestyle. These full-time student members of the sangha became the community of ordained monastics who wandered from town to city throughout the year, living off alms and stopping in one place only for the Vassa, the rainy months of the monsoon season.
In the Dhammapada commentary of Buddhaghoṣa, a bhikkhu is defined as "the person who sees danger (in samsara or cycle of rebirth)" (Pāli: Bhayaṃ ikkhatīti: bhikkhu). He therefore seeks ordination to obtain release from it. The Dhammapada states:
[266-267] He is not a monk just because he lives on others' alms. Not by adopting outward form does one become a true monk. Whoever here (in the Dispensation) lives a holy life, transcending both merit and demerit, and walks with understanding in this world — he is truly called a monk.
For historical reasons, the full ordination of women has been unavailable to Theravada and Vajrayana practitioners, although recently the full ordination for women has been reintroduced to many areas.
In English literature before the mid-20th century, Buddhist monks were often referred to by the term bonze, particularly when describing monks from East Asia and French Indochina. This term is derived Portuguese and French from Japanese bonsō, meaning 'priest, monk'. It is rare in modern literature.
The Talapoys cannot be engaged in any of the temporal concerns of life; they must not trade or do any kind of manual labour, for the sake of a reward; they are not allowed to insult the earth by digging it. Having no tie, which unites their interests with those of the people, they are ready, at all times, with spiritual arms, to enforce obedience to the will of the sovereign.
Theravada monasticism is organized around the guidelines found within a division of the Pāli Canon called the Vinaya Pitaka. Laypeople undergo ordination as a novitiate (śrāmaṇera or sāmanera) in a rite known as the "going forth" (Pali: pabbajja). Sāmaneras are subject to the Ten Precepts. From there full ordination (Pali: upasampada) may take place. Bhikkhus are subject to a much longer set of rules known as the Pātimokkha (Theravada) or Prātimokṣa (Mahayana and Vajrayana).
In the Mahayana monasticism is part of the system of "vows of individual liberation". These vows are taken by monks and nuns from the ordinary sangha, in order to develop personal ethical discipline. In Mahayana and Vajrayana, the term "sangha" is, in principle, often understood to refer particularly to the aryasangha (Wylie: mchog kyi tshogs), the "community of the noble ones who have reached the first bhūmi". These, however, need not be monks and nuns.
The vows of individual liberation are taken in four steps. A lay person may take the five upāsaka and upāsikā vows (Wylie: dge snyan (ma) "approaching virtue"). The next step is to enter the pabbajja or monastic way of life (Skt: pravrajyā, Wylie: rab byung), which includes wearing monk's or nun's robes. After that, one can become a samanera or samaneri "novice" (Skt. śrāmaṇera, śrāmaṇeri, Wylie: dge tshul, dge tshul ma). The last and final step is to take all the vows of a bhikkhu or bhukkhuni "fully ordained monastic" (Sanskrit: bhikṣu, bhikṣuṇī, Wylie: dge long (ma)).
Monastics take their vows for life but can renounce them and return to non-monastic life and even take the vows again later. A person can take them up to three times or seven times in one life, depending on the particular practices of each school of discipline; after that, the sangha should not accept them again. In this way, Buddhism keeps the vows "clean". It is possible to keep them or to leave this lifestyle, but it is considered extremely negative to break these vows.
In Tibet, the upāsaka, pravrajyā and bhikṣu ordinations are usually taken at ages six, fourteen and twenty-one or older, respectively.
The special dress of ordained people, referred to in English as robes, comes from the idea of wearing a simple durable form of protection for the body from weather and climate. In each tradition there is uniformity in the colour and style of dress. Colour is often chosen due to the wider availability of certain pigments in a given geographical region. In Tibet and the Himalayan regions (Kashmir, Nepal and Bhutan) red is the preferred pigment used in the dying of robes. In Burma, reddish brown; In India, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia various shades of yellow, ochre and orange prevail. In China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam grey or black is common. Monks often make their own robes from cloth that is donated to them.
The robes of Tibetan novices and monks differ in various aspects, especially in the application of "holes" in the dress of monks. Some monks tear their robes into pieces and then mend these pieces together again. Upāsakas cannot wear the "chö-göö", a yellow tissue worn during teachings by both novices and full monks.
In observance of the Kathina Puja, a special Kathina robe is made in 24 hours from donations by lay supporters of a temple. The robe is donated to the temple or monastery, and the resident monks then select from their own number a single monk to receive this special robe.
Saichō believed the 250 precepts were for the Śrāvakayāna and that ordination should use the Mahayana precepts of the Brahmajala Sutra. He stipulated that monastics remain on Mount Hiei for twelve years of isolated training and follow the major themes of the 250 precepts: celibacy, non-harming, no intoxicants, vegetarian eating and reducing labor for gain. After twelve years, monastics would then use the Vinaya precepts as a provisional, or supplemental, guideline to conduct themselves by when serving in non-monastic communities. Tendai monastics followed this practice.
During Japan's Meiji Restoration during the 1870s, the government abolished celibacy and vegetarianism for Buddhist monastics in an effort to secularise them and promote the newly created State Shinto. Japanese Buddhists won the right to proselytize inside cities, ending a five-hundred year ban on clergy members entering cities.
Currently, priests (lay religious leaders) in Japan choose to observe vows as appropriate to their family situation. Celibacy and other forms of abstaining are generally "at will" for varying periods of time.
After the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, Korean Buddhism underwent many changes. Jōdo Shinshū and Nichiren schools began sending missionaries to Korea under Japanese rule, and new sects formed there such as Won Buddhism. The Temple Ordinance of 1911 (Korean: 사찰령; Hanja: 寺刹令) changed the traditional system whereby temples were run as a collective enterprise by the Sangha, replacing this system with Japanese-style management practices in which temple abbots appointed by the Governor-General of Korea were given private ownership of temple property and given the rights of inheritance to such property. More importantly, monks from pro-Japanese factions began to adopt Japanese practices, by marrying and having children.
In Korea, the practice of celibacy varies. The two sects of Korean Seon divided in 1970 over this issue; the Jogye Order is fully celibate while the Taego Order has both celibate monastics and non-celibate Japanese-style priests.
Etymology: 16th Century: from French, literally: Buddhist monk, from Portuguese talapão, from Mon tala pōi our lord ...
In Buddhism, an anagārika (Pali, 'homeless one', [əˈnəɡɑːrɪkə]; f. anagārikā [əˈnəɡɑːrɪkɑː]) is a person who has given up most or all of their worldly possessions and responsibilities to commit full-time to Buddhist practice. It is a midway status between a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni (fully ordained monastics) and laypersons. An anagārika takes the Eight Precepts, and might remain in this state for life.
Anagārikas usually wear white clothes or robes, depending on the tradition they follow. Some traditions have special ordination ceremonies for anagārikas, while others simply take the eight precepts with a special intention.
Given the lack of full ordination for women in modern Theravada Buddhism, women who wish to renounce live as anagārikās under names such as maechi in Thailand, thilashin in Myanmar, and dasa sil mata in Sri Lanka. In Vajrayana Buddhism, many nuns are technically anagārikās or śrāmaṇerikās (novitiates).Bhavana
Bhāvanā (Pali; Sanskrit, also bhāvana) literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of lovingkindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies contemplation and 'spiritual cultivation' generally.Bhikkhu Analayo
Bhikkhu Anālayo is a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk), scholar and meditation teacher. He was born in Germany in 1962, and went forth in 1995 in Sri Lanka. He is best known for his comparative studies of Early Buddhist Texts as preserved by the various early Buddhist traditions.Bhikkhu Bodhi
Bhikkhu Bodhi (born December 10, 1944), born Jeffrey Block, is an American Theravada Buddhist monk, ordained in Sri Lanka and currently teaching in the New York and New Jersey area. He was appointed the second president of the Buddhist Publication Society and has edited and authored several publications grounded in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.Buddhaghosa
Buddhaghosa (Devanāgarī: बुद्धघोस, Thai: พระพุทธโฆษาจารย์, Chinese: 覺音/佛音) was a 5th-century Indian Theravada Buddhist commentator, translator and philosopher. He worked in the Great Monastery (Mahāvihāra) at Anurādhapura, Sri Lanka and saw himself as being part of the Vibhajjavāda school and in the lineage of the Sinhalese Mahāvihāra.His best-known work is the Visuddhimagga ("Path of Purification"), a comprehensive summary of older Sinhalese commentaries on Theravada teachings and practices. According to Sarah Shaw, in Theravada this systematic work is "the principal text on the subject of meditation." The interpretations provided by Buddhaghosa have generally constituted the orthodox understanding of Theravada scriptures since at least the 12th century CE.He is generally recognized by both Western scholars and Theravadins as the most important philosopher and commentator of the Theravada, but is also criticised for his departures from the canonical texts.Nekkhamma
Nekkhamma (Sanskrit: Naiṣkramya, नैष्काम्य) is a Pali word generally translated as "renunciation" or "the pleasure of renunciation" while also conveying more specifically "giving up the world and leading a holy life" or "freedom from lust, craving and desires." In Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path, nekkhamma is the first practice associated with "Right Intention." In the Theravada list of ten perfections, nekkhamma is the third practice of "perfection." It involves non-attachment (detachment).Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path (Pali: ariya aṭṭhaṅgika magga; Sanskrit: āryāṣṭāṅgamārga) is an early summary of the path of Buddhist practices leading to liberation from samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth.The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi ('meditative absorption or union'). In early Buddhism, these practices started with understanding that the body-mind works in a corrupted way (right view), followed by entering the Buddhist path of self-observance, self-restraint, and cultivating kindness and compassion; and culminating in dhyana or samadhi, which re-inforces these practices for the development of the body-mind. In later Buddhism, insight (Prajñā) became the central soteriological instrument, leading to a different concept and structure of the path, in which the "goal" of the Buddhist path came to be specified as ending ignorance and rebirth.The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the principal teachings of Theravada Buddhism, taught to lead to Arhatship. In the Theravada tradition, this path is also summarized as sila (morality), samadhi (meditation) and prajna (insight). In Mahayana Buddhism, this path is contrasted with the Bodhisattva path, which is believed to go beyond Arahatship to full Buddhahood.In Buddhist symbolism, the Noble Eightfold Path is often represented by means of the dharma wheel (dharmachakra), in which its eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path.Nyanatiloka
Nyanatiloka Mahathera (19 February 1878, Wiesbaden, Germany – 28 May 1957, Colombo, Ceylon), born as Anton Walther Florus Gueth, was one of the earliest westerners in modern times to become a Bhikkhu, a fully ordained Buddhist monk.Punna
Pūrṇa Maitrāyanīputra (Sanskrit; Pali: Puṇṇa Mantānīputta, Chinese: 富楼那弥多罗尼子; pinyin: fùlóunàmíduōluónízǐ), also simply known as Pūrṇa (Sanskrit; Pali: Puṇṇa), was an arhat and one of the ten principal disciples of Gautama Buddha.Pīti
Pīti in Pali (Sanskrit: Prīti) is a factor (Pali:cetasika, Sanskrit: caitasika) associated with the concentrative absorption (Sanskrit: dhyana; Pali: jhana) of Buddhist meditation. According to Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, piti is a stimulating, exciting and energizing quality, as opposed to the calmness of sukha.Piti is a joyful samskara (formation) associated with no object so the practitioner is not attaining it by desire. It is often translated with the English word "rapture" and is distinguished from the longer-lasting meditative "joy" or "happiness" (Pali, Sanskrit: sukha) which is a subtler feeling that arises along with pīti.Sangha
Sangha is a Sanskrit word used in many Indian languages, including Pali, meaning "association", "assembly", "company" or "community". It was historically used in a political context to denote a governing assembly in a republic or a kingdom. It is used in modern times by groups such as the political party and social movement Rashtriya Seva Sangh. It has long been commonly used by religious associations including by Jains and Sikhs.
In Buddhism sangha refers to the monastic community of bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns). These communities are traditionally referred to as the bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha. As a separate category, those who have attained any of the four stages of enlightenment, whether or not they are members of the monastic community, are referred to as the āryasaṅgha "noble Sangha".According to the Theravada school, the term "sangha" does not refer to the community of sāvakas (lay followers) nor the community of Buddhists as a whole.Satipatthana
Satipaṭṭhāna is the establishment or arousing of mindfulness, as part of the Buddhist practices leading to detachment and liberation.
Traditionally, mindfulness is thought to be applied to four domains, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths," namely mindfulness of the body, feelings/sensations, mind/consciousness, and dhammās.The modern Theravadan Buddhism and the Vipassana or Insight Meditation Movement promote satipatthana as key techniques for achieving mindfulness, promoting "mindfulness" as meaning careful attention instead of the recollection of the dhamma.Skandha
Skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāḷi) means "heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings". In Buddhism, it refers to the five aggregates of clinging (Pancha-upadanakkhanda), the five bodily and mental factors that take part in the rise of craving and clinging. They are also explained as the five factors that constitute and explain a sentient being’s person and personality, but this is a later interpretation in response to sarvastivadin essentialism.
The five aggregates or heaps are: form (or matter or body) (rupa), sensations (or feelings, received from form) (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental activity or formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana).In the Theravada tradition, suffering arises when one identifies with or clings to the aggregates. This suffering is extinguished by relinquishing attachments to aggregates. The Mahayana tradition asserts that the nature of all aggregates is intrinsically empty of independent existence.Sotāpanna
In Buddhism, a sotāpanna (Pali), śrotāpanna (Sanskrit; Chinese: 入流; pinyin: rùliú, Tibetan: རྒྱུན་ཞུགས་, Wylie: rgyun zhugs), "stream-winner", or "stream-entrant" is a person who has seen the Dharma and consequently, has dropped the first three fetters (saŋyojana) that bind a being to rebirth, namely self-view (sakkāya-ditthi), clinging to rites and rituals (sīlabbata-parāmāsa), and skeptical indecision (Vicikitsa).
The word sotāpanna literally means "one who entered (āpanna) the stream (sota)", after a metaphor which calls the noble eightfold path a stream which leads to nibbāna. Entering the stream (sotāpatti) is the first of the four stages of enlightenment.Threefold Training
The Buddha identified the threefold training (trisikkhā) as training in:
higher virtue (adhisīla-sikkhā)
higher mind (adhicitta-sikkhā)
higher wisdom (adhipaññā-sikkhā)Vipassana movement
The Vipassanā movement, also called the Insight Meditation Movement and American vipassana movement, refers to a branch of modern Burmese Theravāda Buddhism which gained widespread popularity since the 1950s, and to its western derivatives which were popularised since the 1970s, and gave rise to the mindfulness movement.The Burmese vipassana movement has its roots in the 19th century, when Theravada Buddhism came to be influenced by western modernism, and some monks tried to restore the Buddhist practice of meditation. Based on the commentaries, Ledi Sayadaw developed vipassana meditation, which regards samatha to be unnecessary, and stresses the practice of satipatthana to acquire vipassana (insight) into the three marks of existence as the main means to attain the beginning of awakening and become a stream-enterer.It was highly popularized in the 20th century in traditional Theravada countries by Mahasi Sayadaw, who introduced the "New Burmese Satipatthana Method". It also gained a large following in the west, due to westerners who learned vipassana from Mahasi Sayadaw, S. N. Goenka, and other Burmese teachers. Some also studied with Thai Buddhist teachers, who are more critical of the commentarial tradition, and stress the joined practice of samatha and vipassana.The 'American vipassanā movement' includes contemporary American Buddhist teachers such as Joseph Goldstein, Tara Brach, Gil Fronsdal, Sharon Salzberg, Ruth Denison and Jack Kornfield.
Most of these teachers combine the strict Burmese approach with the Thai approach, and also other Buddhist and non-Buddhist ideas and practices, due to their broader training and their critical approach of the Buddhist sources. And while the New Burmese Method is strictly based on the Theravada Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga, western teachers tend to base their practice also on personal experience and on the suttas, which they approach in a more textual-critical way.
In a broader sense, modern western Theravada-oriented meditation also includes the teachings of Western-born monastics like Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Sujato, Bhikkhu Analayo, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu. They tend to take a more critical approach of the Buddhist suttas, some of them noticing that the Theravada commentaries deviate from the suttas in critical ways.
A recent development is the understanding that jhana, as described in the nikayas, is not a form of concentration-meditation, but a training in heightened awareness and equanimity, which forms the culmination of the Buddhist path.Yasa
Yasa was a bhikkhu during the time of Gautama Buddha. He was the sixth bhikkhu in the Buddha’s sangha and was the sixth to achieve arahanthood. Yasa lived in the 6th century BCE in what is now Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in northern India.
Yasa was raised in Varanasi in a life of luxury. His father was a millionaire. The family home was full of servants, musicians and dancers who catered for the family’s needs and entertainment. One day, when he had become a young man, Yasa awoke early and saw his female servants and entertainers asleep in a repulsive state. Disgusted by the spectacle, Yasa realised the vanity of worldly life, and left the family home muttering “Distressed am I, oppressed am I” and journeyed in the direction of Isipatana where the Buddha was temporarily residing after his first five bhikkhus had attained arahantship. This was five days after all of the first five bhikkhus had attained arahantship.
The Buddha was pacing up and down in an open space near where Yasa was muttering “Distressed am I, oppressed am I”, and called Yasa over to him, inviting him to sit down. Yasa took off his golden sandals, saluted and sat down. The Buddha gave a dharma discourse, and Yasa achieved the first stage of arahanthood, sotapanna.
At first, the Buddha spoke about generosity (Dana), morality (sila), celestial states (sagga), the evils of sensual pleasure (kamadinava), blessing of renunciation (nekkhammanisamsa), before teaching the Four Noble Truths.
Yasa’s mother had noticed her son’s absence, and notified her husband, who sent horsemen in four directions to search for Yasa. Yasa’s father headed in the direction of Isipatana, following the trail left by the golden slippers. When the millionaire saw the Buddha and asked him if he had seen Yasa, the Buddha asked him to sit down, and then delivered a dharma talk. After this Yasa’s father became the first to take refuge in the Triple Gems, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Yasa, who was in the vicinity and had heard the talk given to his father, became an arahant. After father and son were reunited, the father invited the Buddha and the Sangha to his home for alms on the following day. The Buddha then ordained Yasa.
The Buddha and his six arahants visited the home of Yasa the following day. Yasa’s mother and his former wife thus became the first two female lay disciples. Upon hearing of Yasa's ordination, four of his closest friends, Vimala, Subahu, Punnaji and Gavampati followed him into the sangha and they too became arahants. Within two months, a further fifty of Yasa's friends had joined the Sangha and attained arahantship, bringing the total number of arahants to sixty.Śrāvaka
Śrāvaka (Sanskrit) or Sāvaka (Pali) means "hearer" or, more generally, "disciple". This term is used in Buddhism and Jainism. In Jainism, a śrāvaka is any lay Jain so the term śrāvaka has been used for the Jain community itself (for example see Sarak and Sarawagi). Śrāvakācāras are the lay conduct outlined within the treaties by Śvetāmbara or Digambara mendicants. "In parallel to the prescriptive texts, Jain religious teachers have written a number of stories to illustrate vows in practice and produced a rich répertoire of characters.".In Buddhism, the term is sometimes reserved for distinguished disciples of the Buddha.Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (also known as Ajahn Geoff; born (1949-12-28)28 December 1949) is an American Buddhist monk. Belonging to the Thai Forest Tradition, for 22 years he studied under the forest master Ajahn Fuang Jotiko (himself a student of Ajahn Lee). Since 1993 he has served as abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery in San Diego County, California — the first monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition in the US — which he cofounded with Ajahn Suwat Suvaco.Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu is perhaps best known for his translations of the Dhammapada and the Sutta Pitaka - almost 1000 suttas in all - providing the majority of the sutta translations for the reference website Access to Insight, as well as for his translations from the dhamma talks of the Thai forest ajahns. He has also authored several dhamma-related works of his own, and has compiled study-guides of his Pali translations.
Topics in Buddhism