Monastic Etiquette

monastic etiquette for bhikkhunis
Buddhist monasteries have certain social conventions intended to support mindfulness and a sense of respect in everyday interactions. For people visiting the monastery who are unfamiliar with the etiquette, it can sometimes feel intimidating.

Please know that a well-intentioned attitude is much more important than getting all of the details right. You can always ask one of the monastics or a lay supporter if you have any questions regarding monastic etiquette.

Suggestions for Interacting with the Monastics

  • When addressing a monastic, it is appropriate to use the title “Ayya” or “Ayye.”
  • Añjali is a lovely gesture of respect that can be used when greeting a monastics. It consists of placing the palms together at the heart level and can be used as a greeting, a goodbye or a thank-you.
  • Please dress modestly when visiting the monastery (no tank tops or skirts/shorts which fall above the knee).
  • It is inappropriate for a bhikkhuni to be alone with a man. It is also not appropriate for a bhikkhuni to hug a man.
  • A monastic cannot receive or handle money. Instead, lay supporters manage donations that are offered to support the monastics.

Teaching Meditation/Dhamma

  • When listening to a Dhamma talk it is respectful to remove any headwear (unless one needs to cover one’s head for health reasons).
  • One should not eat or drink while listening to a Dhamma talk, so one can pay full attention.

In the Shrine Room

  • In the monastery, it is traditional to “pay respect” (bow three times) to the image of the Buddha when entering or leaving the shrine room. This is a suggestion, but not a requirement.
  • In Buddhist cultures it is considered impolite to extend one’s legs and point one’s feet to a Buddha statue or towards people.
  • Lying down is also considered inappropriate in the shrine room, unless it is neccessary for health reasons.

Meals

A monastic:

  • can only eat between dawn and noon (1:00 pm in daylight savings time).
  • cannot consume food or drink other than water unless these are offered by handing it to them to directly or placing it in their almsbowl.
  • would typically eat their main meal in silence from their almsbowl.

Making an Offering

  • Part of the monastic training is to practice contentment with only what is offered. They cannot ask for anything without an invitation being made.
  • If you would like to make an offering to the whole community or an individual monastic, there are two ways to do so:
    • By offering a specific item.
    • By inviting a monastic to let you know if there is something that individual or the community needs.
  • If you wish to offer something for a monastic’s personal use, the item can either be offered directly or funds can be given to a resident volunteer, who can purchase the item for them.
  • With regard to food offerings, please feel very welcome to bring food for a specific meal offering or at any time for the vihara pantry.
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