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...

Ways Of Relating To Monks


When visiting bhikkhus the lay person should pay respects to them in the usual way by bowing three times to each of the bhikkhus present in the order of their ordination if this is known.

The lay person can then assume a natural, comfortable seated position a little back from, and, if possible, lower than the bhikkhu. The only thing to remember here is that, if health permits, feet should be tucked under and away as it is not polite to point feet directly at a bhikkhu (or, in fact, any Thai person).

When addressing a bhikkhu it is usual to place both hands together at chest height when talking to him, or when he is replying — especially when he is expounding dhamma. Apart from indicating respect for the Sangha, this action helps with general mindfulness. If seeking advice or a dhamma explanation from a bhikkhu, a lay person would allow for spaciousness in a conversation, i.e., allow for pauses in the conversation before the bhikkhu speaks or replies.

Although tempting, it is a good idea not to get caught up in conversations about worldly matters with either the bhikkhus or with other lay people when sitting in the presence of the Sangha.

Lay women especially have to exercise great mindfulness when in the presence of the Sangha. If, for example, a lay woman finds herself left alone in the presence of a bhikkhu, e.g., other friends have moved away or left, the most appropriate thing to do is to pay respects to that bhikkhu and leave.

When walking in the company of bhikkhus lay people should walk a little behind, but still within speaking distance.

A lay person would not stand too close to a bhikkhu when he is standing. It is better to move a small distance away and assume a squatting position, if it feels comfortable to do this.

Paying respects

While not compulsory in any way, to pay respects in the traditional way to either a Buddha image or the Sangha is the most basic sign of a lay persons respect for the Triple Gem. It is also an excellent exercise in mindfulness. To learn the correct and most graceful way to execute this action, it is usually easiest to follow the example of an experienced lay person or the bhikkhus themselves who also must pay respects to Buddha images or more senior bhikkhus.


When visiting a Wat or temple, it is good to be mindful about the type of clothing one wears — just as when going to a church or sacred building of any kind.

Dress for both men and women should be modest and unrevealing, and excessive ornamentation should be avoided.

Lay women especially should pay attention to what they wear, avoiding things like sheer fabrics; low necklines; sleeveless tops. Serious practitioners will consider not wearing perfume, make up or jewellery as well.

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