The Bhikkhus Rules
A Guide for Laypeople
A Bhikkhus Steward
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. Upanandas 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 bhikkhus 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 donors money but in the keeping of the bhikkhus 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.
Footnotes and references:
"The Buddha had to steer a middle course between honoring the laitys generosity and concern for the welfare of the Bhikkhu Sangha and preventing the bhikkhus from receiving and using money. Thus, while bhikkhus are not allowed to receive money for their use, they are allowed to accept things obtained from a properly deposited fund. This is usually done through the services of a monastery steward who is entrusted with money provided by lay people. In our modern, money dominated world this may appear as a subtle and refined point, however, it may be helpful to compare this arrangement to a special Trust Fund from which the beneficiaries (in this case, bhikkhus) can only receive material requisites. That is, the donor (temporarily) establishes a Trust Fund to provide a bhikkhu with requisites through the monastery steward as manager." (HS ch.14)
"...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)
"Money given to a steward of the Sangha (veyyaavaccakara), for the use of bhikkhus or to stewards of individual bhikkhus, is not given to the bhikkhus for them to possess. The steward holds the money of the donors in trust, and should a bhikkhu have legitimate reason to make use of this (travel for Dhamma, Requisites, Dhamma books, etc.), he can request the steward to supply him with the article needed. He cannot purchase it himself. "This rule concerns money of which a bhikkhu has such thoughts as, It is mine or It belongs to me and which he intends to use for purposes other than those of Dhamma." (Paat. 1966 Ed.; p104-105)
"The Monastery Steward: The monastery steward is usually someone who is a close supporter of the monastery. Not only should he/she ideally be well informed about the monastic guidelines relating to money, but also be knowledgeable about what is appropriate to provide and the proper procedures for doing so.
"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)