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If a Monk Should Wish - Akankheyya Sutta


Dwell possessed of virtue, possessed of the Patimokkha, restrained with the restraint of the Patimokkha, perfect in conduct and resort, and seeing fear in the slightest fault, train by undertaking the training precepts. (2)

"If a monk should wish: 'May I be dear and agreeable to my companions in the holy life, respected and esteemed by them,' let him fulfil the precepts, be devoted to internal serenity of mind, not neglect meditation, be possessed of insight, and dwell in empty huts." (3)

"If a monk should wish: 'May I obtain robes, almsfood, resting place, and medicinal requisites,' let him fulfil the precepts. (4)

Patimokkha, something the Buddhist monastic has firm faith in

This sutra speaks for the Patimokkha, the basic Theravada code of monastic discipline. It consists of 227 rules for fully ordained monks (bhikkhus) and 311 for nuns (bhikkhunis), and is contained in the Suttavibhanga, which is a division of the Vinaya Pitaka, "the basket of discipline" (Davids and Oldenberg, 1881-85).

In the time of Buddha, the regulations for monks saw to it that they wandered off into the wild forest for a long period each year. Conditions are not ideal for such wandering monks any longer in all places, for example Iceland, Denmark and the Sahara Desert. Besides, monasteries soon took over, regardless of the original wanderer stuff, and that is how it is nowadays too.

You may have longed to know what to observe from a cascade of detailed rules for monks and nuns, for it is such rule-giving that defines offences among monks and nuns that are intent on abiding by them. But what is not permissible for monks and nuns, such as eating rice only from the top of the bowl, or urinating while standing, is permitted for lay persons (see under "Bhojanapatisamyutta" and "Pakinnaka" below). You get only a selection of rules for proper behaviour below. You may have to look them up to catch more than the glimpses that follow. Naturally, study what may be convenient to adapt to or adapt to you - or both.

Maybe the reasons for many of the monastic rules are obscure to some people. If so, many of the given rules below may look silly, and for long. That could be their problem. Another reason could be that they are not always firmly pointed out to non-monastics.

Four parajikas

There are four things a monk and nun are not allowed to do. By breaking them one falls from monkhood at once and is not allowed to become a monk again in his lifetime. These four "expulsion rules" are in short:

  1. Voluntary sexual intercourse between a monk and another living being, except mouth-to-mouth intercourse.
  2. Robbery of anything worth more than 1/24 troy ounce of gold.
  3. Intentionally bringing about the death of a human being, even an embryo.
  4. Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a superior human state when one knows one has not.

The sanghadisesas

There are thirteen other things a monk is not allowed to do intentionally. If he breaks them, he has to undergo a period of probation or discipline. After that, if he shows he is repentant, he may be reinstated by a Buddhist community (sangha) of at least twenty monks. Among the thirteen sanghadisesas are:

  • Lustfully kissing or holding hands with a woman.
  • Telling a woman that she would benefit spiritually from having sex with the monk.
  • Building a hut without permission from the sangha, or building a hut that exceed 3 x 1.75 metres in size.
  • Having someone else build a hut for you without permission from the sangha, or exceeding 3 x 1.75 metres in size.
  • Agitating for a schism, even after having been rebuked three times.
  • Supporting an agitator, even after he was rebuked three times (only applies if there are fewer than four supporters).


If a monk is accused by a lay person of having committed an offence with a woman in a screened (enclosed) or private place, the outcome depends on whether the monk acknowledges the offence. Benefit of the doubt is given to the monk unless there is over-riding evidence.

Thus, it is good for a monk not to be alone with a woman, especially in screened or private places, and not address her with lewd words.

Nissaggiya pacittiya

These are thirty rules entailing "confession with forfeiture." They are mostly concerned with having things that are not allowed or had in ways that are not allowed. The monk must forfeit the item and then confess his offense to another monk. The thirty monk-rules about such things tell what things to confess about:

  • Keeping an out-of-season robe for more than thirty days when one has expectation for a new robe
  • Accepting too many robes from the laity when one's own robes have been destroyed
  • Making or accepting a blanket or rug made from more than 50% black wool
  • Carrying raw wool for more than 48 km
  • Telling someone how to donate gold or money
  • Buying or selling goods
  • Keeping an extra alms bowl for more than ten days after receiving a new one
  • Asking for a new bowl when your old bowl is not beyond repair
  • Taking back a loaned robe out of anger
  • Getting people to weave thread for you


Pacittiya are ninety-two rules about what to confess about, such as tickling a monk, lighting a fire, trying to surprise a bhikkhu - and thus tickling a monk to surprise him, calls for confession - and so forth. Otherwise, tickling may be health-giving and rewarding in the right hands.


are violations that must be verbally acknowledged. Eating food from a family that lives in a dangerous place, calls for such acknowledgements unless the monk is ill.

Seventy-five sekhiyavatta, rules of training

These rules apply mainly to the deportment of a monk. In many countries, it is also standard for novice monks (samanera) to follow the Sekhiyavatta rules in addition to the Ten Precepts.

Saruppa (proper behavior)

By this term encompasses how to wear clothes properly, how to wear underwear proplerly too, and to cover over your body properly when going and sitting in inhabited areas.

You will also restrain the movements of hands and feet when going and sitting in inhabited areas, keep your eyes looking down when going and sitting in inhabited areas.

You will not laugh loudly or speak loudly when going and sitting in inhabited areas and not sway your body and swing your arms there either.

You will not shake your head about when going and sitting in inhabited areas or put your arms akimbo when going or sitting there either.

You will not cover your head with a cloth, walk on tiptoe, or sit clasping your knees when going and sitting in inhabited areas either.

Bhojanapatisamyutta (food)

Apart from his three robes, a Buddhist monk's most prized possession is his bowl (patta). How a monk is to get and carry food in it, is with attention. They other rules vary among different countries and viharas (monasteries). Yet, after having robed himself correctly does the bhikkhu start upon his food-collecting round, observing good conduct. Here are more Theravada rules to adapt to if you find it magnificent:

  • You are to receive food attentively and look only into the bowl when you get food in it.
  • You will receive curries in the right proportion to the rice, and receive pindapata food only until it reached the rim of the bowl.
  • You will eat pindapata food attentively.
  • When eating pindapata food, you will look only into the bowl.
  • You will not dig up the rice making it uneven.
  • You will eat curries in the right proportion to the rice.
  • You will not eat rice only working from the top down.
  • You will not cover up curries or curry mixed with rice with white rice because of a desire to get a lot.
  • You will make food up into suitably round mouthfuls.
  • You will not open your mouth until the portion of food has been brought to it.
  • When food is still in your mouth, you will not speak.
  • You will not eat stuffing out your cheeks.
  • You will not eat and shake your hand about at the same time.
  • You will not eat so that you scatter grains of rice about so that they fall back into the bowl or elsewhere.
  • You will not eat (or drink) making a champing sound, a sucking sound.

Dhammadesanapatisamyutta (teaching dhamma)

A bhikku should train himself thus: "I will not teach Dhamma to someone who has a weapon in his hand or wearing shoes on a bed (or couch) while I am sitting on the ground."

Pakinnaka (miscellaneous)

A bhikku should train himself thus: "If I am not sick I will not urinate while standing."


Adhikarana-samatha are seven rules for settlement of legal processes that concern monks only.


If a Monk Should Wish, Akankheyya Sutra, Buddhist scriptures, Buddhism, Literature  

It could be wise to study the whole suttra/sutta before making any resolves in matters they pertain to, while allowing for a variety of interpretations.


Nanamoli, Bhikkhu, tr. and Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. 4th ed. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Parts are online at Access to Insight,

Davids, T. W. Rhys, and Hermann Oldenberg, trs. Vinaya Texts. Part I: The Patimokkha. The Mahavagga I-IV. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1881. Online

Davids, T. W. Rhys, and Hermann Oldenberg, trs. Vinaya Texts. Part II: The Mahavagga, V-X and Kullavagga, I-X. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 17, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1882. Online

Davids, T. W. Rhys, and Hermann Oldenberg, trs. Vinaya Texts. Part III: The Kullavagga, IV-XII. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 20, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1885. Online

Upalavanna, Sister, tr. Majjhima Nikaya. Sri Lanka: Metta Net. Online.

Wikipedia, s.v. "Patimokkha".

Pali Canon collections:

AN - Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged according to numbers)

DN - Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)

MN - Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)

SN - Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)


Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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