The Bhikkhus Rules
A Guide for Laypeople
Alone With A Woman
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:
"Should any bhikkhu sit in private, alone with a woman in a seat secluded enough to lend itself (to the sexual act), so that a female lay follower whose word can be trusted, having seen (them), might describe it as constituting any of the three cases — involving either Defeat, [Community Meetings], or [Confession] — then the bhikkhu, acknowledging having sat (there), may be dealt with for any of the three cases... or he may be dealt with for whichever case the female lay follower described. This case is undetermined."
(Aniyata 1; BMC p.157)
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:
"Sitting or lying down with a woman or women in a private, secluded place with no other man present is [an offence of Confession.]"
(Summarized Paac. 44; BMC p.385)
The next Confession Offence follows on with Ven. Upananda, this time, being caught sitting alone with the mans wife in a private place. This time the ruling is:
"Should any bhikkhu sit in private, alone with a woman, it is [an offence of Confession.]"
(Paac. 45; BMC p.389)
Therefore as with the Indefinite Offences above there needs to be a chaperone present.
Footnotes and references:
"trustworthy" is defined as one who is at least a stream enterer. However, even if the critic is an ordinary person the Community may investigate the case if it sees fit.
"The intention for privacy is most important in these instances, so if a bhikkhu unintentionally finds himself privately in a secluded or non secluded place with a female or females, for instance, when all the other men depart from a room, or a bhikkhu enters a room of only females, there is no fault — but perhaps it wouldnt be advisable to remain there too long. Technically, if the bhikkhu stands then there is no fault, however, even standing in a secluded place may give rise to suspicion, whatever the bhikkhus intentions might be. The best solution is to have another male present. Thus, a bhikkhu visiting lay people is usually accompanied by another bhikkhu or a male attendant." (HS ch.13)
According to the Commentary, if there are two women this rule is not broken. However, the rule about talking together would still apply. (See Talking Privately.)