Buddhist Monk Rules

The Buddhist Monk Rules

Just as the great ocean has the taste of salt so also the teachings of the Buddha has a set of rules observed by the monks of the Buddhist community. As a result, this article states out the principal guidelines guiding the lives of the monks in Buddhism.

The basis of this article answers the traditional philosophical question of “How could we live?”. A lot of answers maybe running all through our thoughts. However, we have outlined every do’s and don’ts required of a Buddhist monk in a very concise manner for easy understanding.

Who Is A Buddhist Monk?

A Buddhist Monk is a fully ordained male monastic member of a Buddhist community who lives in the tenets of a set of rules called the Pratimoksa.

What Are The Five Precepts And How Do They Influence Buddhist Monks?

According to Patimokkha, there exist over 227 rules of conduct that all Bhikkhus should observe. However, the article focused majorly on the 10 core precepts expected of a Buddhist Monk. These ten core precepts include:

  • Abstinence from Murder
  • Abstinence from Alcoholism
  • Sexual Misconduct
  • Abstinence from Stealing
  • Refrain from evil-minded thoughts.

The above five Buddhist precepts are pretty familiar. They are the core 5 ethical rules of Buddhism. As a result, one could think of these 5 precepts as the Buddhist “10 commandments”. But, there are other five precepts which include refraining from the following:

  • Eating at stipulated periods (from noon to dawn)
  • Dancing, singing and playing music
  • Use of garlands, perfumes and personal adornment like jewelry
  • Use of luxurious beds and seats
  • Accepting and holding money, gold or silver

One may ask, how do all these rules play a positive role in the lives of the Buddhist?

The answer is not far-fetched. Fundamentally, as candlelight cannot burn without fire, so men cannot live without a spiritual life. Therein, this page explained each point sequentially. In addition, it relates more on penalties attached to all of the principal precepts.

Abstinence from Murder

A murderer is someone who directly or indirectly participates in the killing of a human being. On the same note, if a Buddhist monk orders someone to get rid of a human being or other living things, he is not meant to be a member of the community anymore. For example, by encouraging a woman to abort, by giving any advice or contraception and she eventually carries out such a heinous act, such is a sin against the Buddhist precepts.

On the other hand, “Live and let live” are old sayings which meanings are deep beneath in them. A Buddhist is such a person who cares more about lives, both human beings and other animals alike. A practicing Buddhist Monk or Nun possesses such an accommodating heart to associate with all and sundry. Hereafter, contribute largely towards the growth of mankind and its environs.

Abstinence from Alcoholism

The Buddha encouraged his followers to refrain from consuming intoxicating drinks and drugs, which lead to carelessness. This includes alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.

These substances are inconsistent with Buddhist beliefs as they distort the mind. Therefore, they are unreliable within a Buddhist’s quest to understand and develop the mind.

According to the Buddhist belief, by practicing meditation, wisdom, and morality, every individual has the intent ability to experience unending happiness. Moreover, as we regard the mind as precious, we work earnestly by mastering it through mediation.

Sexual Misconduct

Ideally, this means the prohibition of fornication, rape, adultery or any form of satisfying ones’ libidinal inclination. Most importantly, this precept is best achieved by avoiding sexual activity and practicing celibacy at all cost.

In addition, different building positions for the monks and nuns serve as the best policy to avoid the temptation that may arise due to proximity issues.

Abstinence From Stealing

This simply means avoiding any act of theft. If a monk, with an intention of theft, takes away others’ possessions, he outrightly loses his status as a bonafide member. And, suppose a monk directly supports someone to steal for him or pays a token for the smuggling of a prohibited product by the customs then his membership is questionable. Also, Traveling with an invalid ticket is a theft case in the Buddhist community.

Summarily, there are cases where these five factors are present:

  • The stolen object belongs to a human being.
  • The Monk knows that the object belongs to someone else other than himself.
  • The stolen object has a minimum value of 1.06 grams of gold + 1.06 grams of silver + 2.12 grams of copper (in the concerned region).
  • The Buddhist Monk has the intention to steal, and the theft is done, he has committed a big theft crime punishable by the law.

How Are Cases of Mental Disorder Handled?

On this note, a Bhikkhu that takes someone’s possession either out of insanity, or owing to complete absentmindedness, or under the influence of an extremely painful disease, he does not commit any crime. As a result, he will not undergo any punishment regarding the situation at the moment. But, urgent attention is giving afterward to prevent a repetition of such actions.

Refraining From Evil-minded Thoughts

Evil is a word many people use without thinking deeply about what it signifies. However, regardless of the fact that human history documents a lot of atrocities committed by humanity against themselves due to personal beliefs, the Buddhist community gives no room for such acts. And, no member has a title to perform evil against another. As a result, any monk intoxicated by his own self-righteousness or who believe in his own intrinsic moral superiority too easily, thereby giving himself permission to do terrible things to those he hates or fear is never accepted granted membership.

What If An Evil minded Monk Hides Under Others To Perpetuate Evil?

A later discovery will warrant automatic expulsion from the community.

Eating At Stipulated Periods

A Buddhist monk must abstain from eating at the wrong time, the right time is after sunrise and before noon. And, such practice is specifically for the Buddhist community. Although other religious practices abstain from certain foods during penitential observances (fasting), such as the Catholics, this pattern by the Buddhist monk seems to be unique.

The commonly cited reasons include:

  • Collecting alms at night could be dangerous. Thus, when monks walk for alms-food in the dense darkness at night, they may meet wanton men and women.
  • Secondly, it is easier to meditate on an empty stomach.
  • Medically, digestion is better in the morning hours.

Abstinence From Music And Other Social Life

Under this precept, a monk undertakes to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, and attending entertainment performances.

This particular rule has raised a lot of questions thus:

Is Buddhism Anti-music?

No! This is so, to ensure music is not an attachment or object of distraction. That is to say, it might be a distraction from continuation on one’s spiritual path if you have headphones on all the time. As a result, you cannot sleep, meditate, or do anything without music. Also, this might resonate some negative craving from the monks to indulge in social lifestyle aside their praying and meditation primary duties. To avoid this, the Buddhist community placed a ban on music to ensure maximum attention to the call of duty.

Use Of Garlands, Perfumes and Personal Adornment Like Jewelry

Being one of the laws, Buddhist celebrations on half and full-moon days are not to use makeup or personal adornment. As the case may be, jewelry represents the desire to make things appear different from their original look. With this, Buddhists abstain from wearing jewelry and give themselves that recognizing and accepting look they deserve. Also, it is as an art which is poses as another attachment or distraction.

Furthermore, rules against perfume, cosmetics, and garlands also help prevent distraction traps. As a Monk should always be meditating, not self-beautifying. Additionally, it helps prevent the monks from competing with each other in matters of appearance. Also, each of these things might contribute to inflaming jealousy. Unmentioned here is the fact that all monks also have the exact same clothing.

Is This Law Applicable To Laypeople?

No, it does not. That is to say, lay people can wear it for those who choose to. However, the use could emerge as a skillful means to non-Buddhist, showing that Buddhists do not shed all wealth on modern-day pleasures. Moreover, some lay Buddhist prefer to wear jewelry with a Buddhist-theme on it only during festive days. In addition, at least twice a month, serious Lay Buddhist abstain from applying makeup and give themselves to recognizing, accepting and being content with their present reality.

Use of Luxurious Beds and Seats

According to Buddha, monks are not meant to sleep on luxurious beds and seats. Therefore, they sleep only lightly on a low hard bed which is conducive for meditation so that they could continue to meditate while asleep. Moreover, they practice such precepts to awake the spirit of serious and continuousness in their daily routine. Also, by seating on the floor or low-level bed, a Buddhist Monk assumes the status of poverty so as to resonate those feeling of humility and servitude to their obligations.

Specifically, part of the reason for this precept was that high and luxurious seating has pretty much always existed for the sole purpose of setting the seated person above those around them, i.e. injecting the spirit of inferiority complex amongst others who cannot afford such a flamboyant lifestyle.

This precept is also applicable to Lay Buddhist who always go after such earthly treasures to intimidate their fellow.

To Eradicate Such Tendencies As Stipulated By The Buddha, The Following Questions are indispensable:

  • What are my desires and intentions in owning this or that bed or chair?
  • Do I seek to set myself above others, to project my opulence and status in any small way?
  • Is the purpose of this furniture strictly functional, or is it decorated and flourished to convey said luxurious status in any way?
  • Do I feel that I deserve this extravagance? maybe, in the answers to these questions one, will be able to determine whether he is breaking this precept or not.

Accepting and holding money, gold or silver?

Could this be a rule? Yes! For over, 2000 years, this issue of accepting and holding money, gold or silver has been more of a quarrelsome speech.
Around 200 years after the Buddha’s final passing away, there arose a great quarrel in which both parties were hard to settle. And, this dispute arose because a large community of monks was accepting money in defiance of the Vinaya. Also, the reports of the dispute became known as the Second Council and it sowed the seed of the first great split in the Buddhist world, which happened soon after.

As a result of this scandal, the Buddhist monks (Bhikkhus) are not allowed to accept money for themselves. Also, Neither are they allowed to tell a trustworthy layperson to receive it on their behalf and keep it for them (e.g. keeping a personal bank account). Such practices are highly prohibited in the 18th rule of the section of Vinaya called Nissaggiya Pacittiya.

Are Monks Allowed To Buy And Sell Things For Themselves Using Money?

This activity goes against the 19th rule in the Nissaggiya Pacittiya.

How Do Renunciation Of Money Impact Directly On The Monks?

The non-acceptance of money has always been one of the cardinal observances of those who have left the world. Money is the measure of wealth and to most people, material wealth is the goal of life. Therefore, through renunciation of money by the Buddhist monks, they unquestionably demonstrate their complete rejection of worldly pursuits.

However, they set themselves significantly apart from the vast majority of people and thus become a constant reminder to all, that a life based on the struggle to accumulate money is not the only way to live. And, through forfeiting money, they give up much of their power to manipulate the world and to satisfy their desires.

Obviously, the rule prohibiting the acceptance of gold or money was, indeed a very important rule.

Rules With The Penalty Of Suspension

Even while we have outlined the ten core precepts of Buddhism, there some other rules governing the community which when someone goes against will get a suspension as a penalty if found guilty.

Below are the rules:

Building a hut without permission from the sangha, or building a hut that exceeds 3 x 1.75 meters in size

This principle goes against placing huts without getting prior permission from the community. Also, it is a control measure for having a house that’s nice enough which might tempt someone into stealing from it.

Masturbation or any sort of intentional ejaculation

It is a value that prevents any sexual release of anything that is really energetically enforced. Nevertheless, this will cause a spiritual distraction in the long run.

Arranging for a date, affair, or marriage between a man and woman

Approaches like this can bring trouble and distraction down on the whole community. Therefore, to curb such menace any defaulted will get a suspension as punishment

Agitating for a schism after a third time rebuking

Any member found guilty of causing split among community members stands a chance to face the law.

Supporting an agitator even after his third rebuking

This is fascinating, the logic here is that it is totally reasonable to agitate for a schism, one is allowed to be a little diplomatic, but when done constantly deserves a suspension. Note that, it is only applicable if there are fewer than four supporters.

Rules with the Penalty of Confession and Forfeiture

There are rules which carry the punishment of confession and forfeiture, where basically a monk has done something in a wrong way, hence a confession is a punishment for it. Some of these cases include:

  • Getting an unrelated nun to wash your robes for you: The nuns are not your laundry service.
  • Should any monk dig soil or have it dug? You are a monk, not a farmer.
  • The act of playing in the water is to be confessed: Once you are a monk there is no room for jokes.
  • Supposed, any Bhikkhu by arrangement travel together with a caravan of thieves? He has to confess it.
  • Drinking of alcohol or fermented liquor: A Buddhist monk should not take into his mouth an intoxicating drink or any edible that is not given, except for water and tooth-cleaning sticks. If he does, he should confess it.
  • No monk should teach more than five or six sentences of the Dharma to a woman. Unless a knowledgeable man is present, contrary to that, Such offense has to be confessed.
  • If an ordained monk lies down together with an unordained person for more than two or three consecutive nights: The defaulter thereby confesses his sins.


We have detailed the 10 core precepts of the Buddhist monk in conjunction with other rules guiding the practice of Buddhism. Certainly, it now behooves on whoever that wish to take up such mode of life that endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines. But, it is to the person who endures has the final victory. Therefore, no one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. “We only choose to walk such path and enjoy the benefits that follow”.

Delight in heedfulness! Guard well your thoughts!