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 nuns or a lay supporter if you have any questions regarding monastic etiquette.

Suggestions for Interacting with the Nuns

  • When addressing a nun, it is appropriate to use the title “Ayya” or “Sister.”
  • Añjali is a lovely gesture of respect that can be used when greeting a nun. 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, please).
  • It is inappropriate for a nun to be alone with a man. It is also not appropriate for a nun to hug a man.
  • A nun cannot receive or handle money. Instead, lay supporters manage donations that are offered to support the nuns.

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.

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 for health reasons.

Meals

  • A nun can only eat between dawn and noon (1:00 pm in DLS).
  • She cannot consume food or drink other than water unless these are offered by physically handing them to her or placing them in her alms bowl.
  • A nun would typically eat her main meal in silence from her almsbowl.

Making an Offering

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