The Bhikkhus Rules

A Guide for Laypeople

by Bhikkhu Ariyesako | 1998 | 50,970 words

The Theravadin Buddhist Monk's Rules compiled and explained by: Bhikkhu Ariyesako 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 conce...

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:

"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 p. 47; (Paali: M. I, 10; A. III, 387)]

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.[1] (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.[2]

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.

Footnotes and references:


"...the numerous modern day chemical medicines are different forms of roots, resins and salts (lifetime medicines). Perhaps the most important criteria to determine what is a medicine and in using medicines is ones intention, that is, to reflect on why it is being used: is it being used as a food or for the relief of dis ease or discomfort?" (HS ch.10)


In some communities plain tea, coffee, cocoa, etc. would be included here.