Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
fgimelli
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:45 pm

Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby fgimelli » Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:25 pm

This might seem like a silly question, but I have been curious about this for some time. I noticed that Sanghadisesa rule 2 states that "Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind, engage in bodily contact with a woman, or in holding her hand, holding a lock of her hair, or caressing any of her limbs, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community."

Since the rule clearly states that lustful intention is necessary, I wondered why it is that monks in countries like Thailand do not touch any women. I could see the benefit of avoiding any possibility of a situation in which lust arises, or which might be misconstrued by a third party, but then I wondered: what if the woman was your mother or your sister?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, in his 'Buddhist Monastic Code' states that "The Vinita-vatthu contains cases of a bhikkhu who caresses his mother out of filial affection, one who caresses his daughter out of fatherly affection, and one who caresses his sister out of brotherly affection. In each case the penalty is a dukkaṭa."

So, I wonder...is it OK for a monk to let's say hug his mother, if that is culturally appropriate and a sign of respect and greeting? Or would this be an offense?

Looking forward to any responses!

With metta,
Francesco

User avatar
pilgrim
Posts: 1102
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:56 pm

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:49 pm

I think that monks are not only allowed to touch their mothers, but all other women, on the proviso there is no lust. The Vinaya rule is quite clear.

I believe that in Thailand, cultural development has taken the observation of this rule to an unnecessary extreme. A woman is not even allowed to give something directly to a monk's hands but has to place it on an offering cloth. I hope that western descendants of the Thai Forest tradition drop this cultural baggage.

User avatar
Adrien
Posts: 110
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:31 pm
Location: France

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Adrien » Mon Apr 04, 2011 2:49 pm

Some readings here :
Intimacy — Touching

º The modern West has stories of sexual harassment, so the ways that the Buddha dealt with such matters should not seem so very strange.

If a bhikkhu touches a woman in a sexual way, he commits a very serious offence requiring formal meetings of the Community and probation (Sa"nghaadisesa). The scrupulous bhikkhu wants to remain above suspicion so, if he can, he will avoid all physical contact. (Hence his attitude to shaking hands. This also explains why in Thailand a receiving cloth is used to receive offerings from women. (See EN 85)

The rule was first set down by the Buddha after a brahman and his wife had gone to inspect Ven. Udaayin's fine dwelling. As Ven. Udaayin was showing them around, he came up behind the lady and "rubbed up against her limb by limb." After they had left, the husband praised Ven. Udaayin but the wife was critical and explained what had happened. The brahman then complained, "Isn't it even possible to take one's wife to a monastery without her being molested?" This rule was then set down:
"Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind, engage in bodily contact with a woman, or in holding her hand, holding a lock of her hair, or caressing any of her limbs, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community."(Sa"ngh. 2; BMC p.100)

To be at fault, the bhikkhu must usually do some action to bring contact with a woman while lust overcomes his mind.[45] If he accidentally stumbles and bumps into a woman or vice-versa, or if he is accosted by a woman, as long as there is no intention to come into lustful contact there is no offence. However, the average bhikkhu's mind tends to be so quick and unruly — he is, after all, still in training and therefore unenlightened — that he may prefer to be super-cautious about such situations.

If a bhikkhu touches his mother out of affection, then this is still an offence but the lesser one of wrong-doing (dukka.ta). [46] While gratitude to parents was strongly emphasized by the Buddha, the bhikkhu having left the home-life and his family should not cling to worldly relationships. The only true way for him to fulfill his filial obligations is by gaining insight into Dhamma and then teaching his parents.

If a bhikkhu is acting with lustful intentions, he incurs a grave (thullaccaaya) offence for making bodily contact with a pa.n.daka ('sex- aberrant') and an offence of wrong-doing for contact with a male. (See BMC p.103)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyesako/layguide.html#touching

For a more complete analysis, see part 2. of this page :
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch05.html
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to

User avatar
Phra Chuntawongso
Posts: 274
Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 11:05 am
Location: Wat SriBoenRuang,Fang,Chiang Mai
Contact:

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:39 am

pilgrim wrote:I think that monks are not only allowed to touch their mothers, but all other women, on the proviso there is no lust. The Vinaya rule is quite clear.

I believe that in Thailand, cultural development has taken the observation of this rule to an unnecessary extreme. A woman is not even allowed to give something directly to a monk's hands but has to place it on an offering cloth. I hope that western descendants of the Thai Forest tradition drop this cultural baggage.


I agree with you here Pilgrim.When I first came here as a monk I asked my Abbot about this, and he agreed that there was nothing wrong, for instance to receiving something from a woman without using a cloth or anything else.
However, as you termed it, there is cultural baggage here, and therefore I use some discretion in this matter.
The vinaya does say with lustful intent. One problem of course is how other people interpret your intentions.
This is something that we must remain aware of.
When I meet with my daughter, if it is in a public place, we keep our distance--well we don't hug, but I will place a hand on her shoulder.
With metta, Phra Greg
And crawling on the planets face,some insects called the human race.
Lost in time
Lost in space
And meaning

User avatar
Fede
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: The Heart of this "Green & Pleasant Land"...
Contact:

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Fede » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:45 am

While I accept that HH the DL is from a different tradition entirely, I believe the rule applies in some Tibetan traditions, also, but I have seen him, personally, with my own eyes, hug a woman.

Context plays a huge part.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
Posts: 17195
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: War.loun.dig.er.ler
Contact:

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:47 am

Fede wrote:While I accept that HH the DL is from a different tradition entirely, I believe the rule applies in some Tibetan traditions, also, but I have seen him, personally, with my own eyes, hug a woman.

Context plays a huge part.


Yes, he also shook my wife's hand at a conference they were both at a couple of years ago. I don't mention it to blame or criticize HHDL, but only to confirm your observation. Perhps if the situation demands it, particularly as he is such a public figure, that he makes use of normative forms of greetings in the west.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

Euclid
Posts: 200
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:33 am
Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Euclid » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:08 am

I seem to recall an anecdote of Bhikku Pesala's, of him shaking the Queen's hand in some ceremony of one another (apologies if my memory is incorrect.) In the telling of the anecdote he explained that cultural context outweighs arbitrary rules in some circumstances.

fabianfred
Posts: 156
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:06 am
Location: Fang, Chiangmai

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby fabianfred » Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:22 am

The problem with 'lustful intent' is that nobody can know your mind unless they can read minds....so to avoid suspicion it is better simply to avoid contact. In situations where we know there is nobody who is looking for trouble or to find fault then perhaps it is OK. In any audience of the Buddha's when he was teaching the Dhamma, there were those intent upon listening, just along with their friends, and those looking to find fault. Nowadays there are plenty of the latter so we must be careful.

In a similar vein....monks do not raise their hands to 'Wai' laypeople....although they do to other and more senior monks...a matter of showing respect. There is a heirachy to the precepts... 5,8 10 227. But it is OK for a monk to show respect to his parents. They are held in great regard by Buddhism since without them we wouldn't have got this precious human birth....and in Thailand are often referred to as the Arahants at home...being on a par with Arahants in respect to the henious karmic result of killing a parent or Arahant being equally severe.

Pacific
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:48 am
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Pacific » Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:21 am

In Bhante Kovida's book The World is Myself, in an early chapter he addresses this issue. He thinks its cultural bagagge and can be very damaging:

An English monk in Thailand goes back to England to visit his family after some years
in SE Asia. He’s very strict with the precepts [the monk’s rules], with the dos and don’ts of
Thai culture, and without doubt takes himself very seriously. It is likely that he grew up in an
uptight, repressed social environment but at least in Thailand he’s respected for being an uptight
and ‘proper’ monk. Monks who think and believe that they’re very holy, special and
important tend to end up with a great deal of conflict, frustration, confusion and suffering
[due to ego/image problem, of course] and will most likely disrobe sooner or later due to a
lack of wisdom, balance, flexibility, and harmony in their lives of renunciation. On meeting
his family at the airport outside of London, he doesn’t shake hands with any of them [“Sorry,
as a monk I cannot shake your hand!”] and, of course, he cannot touch or kiss his mother.
[I’m sure he forewarned them by letter of this Thai Buddhist custom]. His poor mother not
only cannot touch him but she cannot give him or take anything from him in a direct manner,
as previously described. He’s a holy bhikku, after all, and with a stiff British upper lip, besides.
Also, he must eat before the forbidden hour of 12 noon and he cannot join them for
supper as he’s not allowed solid food during the afternoon and evening. You can imagine
what his family must have gone through. Even though he’s thousands of miles away from
Thailand, by George, he’s going to do the right and proper thing! He’s a bhikku, after all,
someone special and important. The final shocker comes when he and his mother are visiting
someone in an apartment building and he refuses to go into the elevator with her as it’s a
confined space and she is a woman! Now you tell me, is that wisdom and compassion or is
that ignorance and delusion, blind attachment and foolish rigidity? How about simple brainwashing,
eh what? This monk, not surprisingly, eventually disrobed after years of struggling
with the precepts, trying to be a good and proper monk. I heard he became an old hippy and
got himself a young wife. Good for him. I hope he can now relax and enjoy life with more
wisdom, compassion and common sense.
Another English monk goes back to the United Kingdom to see his very sick and dying
mother. He’s a disciple of a very famous forest monk in Thailand and he has been a monk for
over 20 years. He has a special image of himself, no doubt, and a senior monk at that! [very
few western monks I’ve met are really free from this ego/image illusion]. He relates the story
about how his parents have finally come to accept and respect him as a Buddhist monk, how
they even adopted the traditional Thai greeting and gesture of reverence by bowing the head
with palms held together. He also relates how he sat by his dying mother’s bedside and had
the most wonderful heart to heart as a mother and son would but that he was unable to touch
11
her, not even hold her hand, simply because he’s a monk. And what amazes me is that he
doesn’t see anything wrong, unhealthy or unusual about that formal behavior! He’s a monk
of the Thai tradition and this is just how you behave. You don’t touch women, your mother
included, even if she’s injured, sick or dying and in need of some kind of help or comfort.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 12156
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:12 am

As some have indicated, there are some things that Bhikkhus tend to do, or not do, in different countries, that are additional to the Vinaya. However, one of my (American) teachers (who trained mostly in Thailand) sometimes said that his mother was the only woman he was allowed to touch, so perhaps such customs also vary across Thailand, or the Siff-Upper-Lip Bhikkhu is just making it up to suit himself. As for monks not shaking hands, that would seem to me to be be a particularly odd thing. Touching (of men) by Thai, American, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi monks seems very common in my experience.

:anjali:
Mike

fgimelli
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:45 pm

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby fgimelli » Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:06 am

fabianfred wrote:The problem with 'lustful intent' is that nobody can know your mind unless they can read minds....so to avoid suspicion it is better simply to avoid contact. In situations where we know there is nobody who is looking for trouble or to find fault then perhaps it is OK. In any audience of the Buddha's when he was teaching the Dhamma, there were those intent upon listening, just along with their friends, and those looking to find fault. Nowadays there are plenty of the latter so we must be careful.

In a similar vein....monks do not raise their hands to 'Wai' laypeople....although they do to other and more senior monks...a matter of showing respect. There is a heirachy to the precepts... 5,8 10 227. But it is OK for a monk to show respect to his parents. They are held in great regard by Buddhism since without them we wouldn't have got this precious human birth....and in Thailand are often referred to as the Arahants at home...being on a par with Arahants in respect to the henious karmic result of killing a parent or Arahant being equally severe.


Thank you very much for this very good response Venerable. This seems like quite a logical and balanced perspective. I guess it's about skilful means, rather than aversion, and I will remember that when I ordain.

:anjali:

shjohnk
Posts: 193
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:19 am
Location: Shanghai, China
Contact:

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby shjohnk » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:34 am

This also begs the question of monks who identified as homosexual in their lay-life; i personally
know one gay Buddhist who is seeking ordination. It therefore seems that discretion is the key; there is touching and there is 'touching', regardless of the gender involved.

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 4407
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:59 am

So can monks touch their own mothers?
Pure awareness is pure knowledge


User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 2561
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Chiang Mai

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Jul 25, 2015 11:14 am

clw_uk wrote:So can monks touch their own mothers?



No. In the Vinaya Piṭaka it is prohibited in the vinītavatthu to the second saṅghādisesa rule, though the act amounts to only a very minor offence.

    Tena kho pana samayena aññataro bhikkhu mātuyā mātupemena āmasi. Tassa kukkuccaṃ ahosi: “bhagavatā sikkhāpadaṃ paññattaṃ, kacci nu kho ahaṃ saṅghādisesaṃ āpattiṃ āpanno” ti? Bhagavato etamatthaṃ ārocesi. “Anāpatti, bhikkhu, saṅghādisesassa; āpatti dukkaṭassā” ti.


    Now at that time a certain monk stroked his mother for the sake of a mother’s affection. He was remorseful, and said: “What now if I have fallen into an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order?” He told this matter to the lord.

    He said: “Monk, this is not an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order, it is an offence of wrong-doing.”
    (Vin. iii. 126, = Book of the Discipline I. 211)

    (The same is then repeated for a monk's daughters and sisters)


A modern commentary by Ven. Thanissaro on Saṅghādisesa 2, the parent rule to the above clause:

http://pratyeka.org/a2i/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch05.html
The Great Sage did thus proclaim
With many a diverse chosen name
Vipassanā stilled and purified,
That to Emergence is allied.

Saṃsāra-cycle’s swamp of pain
Is vast and terrible; a man
Wisely should strive as best he can,
If he would this Emergence gain.
(Visuddhimagga XXI)

User avatar
Kumara
Posts: 542
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:14 am

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Kumara » Mon Jul 27, 2015 1:50 am

Dhammanando wrote:
clw_uk wrote:So can monks touch their own mothers?

No. In the Vinaya Piṭaka it is prohibited in the vinītavatthu to the second saṅghādisesa rule, though the act amounts to only a very minor offence....


Well explained, ven.

Frankly, I do at times miss hugging my mother. The desire was quite strong in my earlier years as a monk. Strong enough for me to think, "If I disrobe, the first thing I'll do is to hug my mother!" :-)

At this moment, the desire is absent though. As everything else, it's impermanent/inconstant.

When my mother first met me again after my ordination, she looked clearly excited and was about to reach out her arms to hug me, then she restrained herself. It was hard for me to see that. I can tell that her wanting was strong, but even stronger was her love for me. So, she's willing to put up with the deprivation. (While contemplating on this, tears well up. I've been very blessed.)

Anyway, with her understanding, we continue to have a good relationship. She recently join a retreat that I conducted. Not her first time, but she managed to practice well this time. I was surprised at her willingness to share an insight of herself with everyone in the retreat (about 40). Quite uncharacteristic of her!

She's clearly making spiritual progress, which may not have happened had I not become a monk. I believe the non-touching helped too to reduce her attachment to me. Otherwise it may be a hindrance for her practice.

This reminds me of a conviction in me when I decided to become a monk: "Things will be a bit difficult. I'll (we'll) have to go through that. My decision is right, and so things will turn out right. The benefits will outweigh the difficulties."
I'm not just a monk. I'm a human being. — Sayadaw U Jotika

User avatar
gavesako
Posts: 1482
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:16 pm
Location: England

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby gavesako » Tue Jul 28, 2015 5:37 am

I am not sure what this is supposed to mean:

Monastic discipline prohibits hugs across genders. But if you are a man and a hugger, Amma can show you a “monastic hug.” Just ask.

http://awakeningtruth.org/about/visiting-the-hermitage
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 4407
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby clw_uk » Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:24 pm

What about personal visits from parents, without touching?

I've wanted to ordain for a long time but i know it would upset my parents if they weren't able to keep in contact with me.


Also can you live as an anagarika at a monastery for years without requesting formal ordination?
Pure awareness is pure knowledge


User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 2561
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Chiang Mai

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:55 am

clw_uk wrote:What about personal visits from parents, without touching?

I've wanted to ordain for a long time but i know it would upset my parents if they weren't able to keep in contact with me.


In the west it’s not uncommon for monks to hug their mothers when they go home to pay a visit and then confess the dukkaṭa offence when they get back to the monastery. But hugging them when they visit the monastery would probably be frowned upon.

In the traditional Theravada countries Asian monks generally keep the rule to the letter. Their mothers may not be entirely happy about it, but they don’t get inordinately upset. Having grown up in a Buddhist society they’ve pretty well internalized their culture’s perception of monks as being entirely off-limits to women.

clw_uk wrote:Also can you live as an anagarika at a monastery for years without requesting formal ordination?


In Thailand one could do this in theory, though in practice it would be unfeasible as a long-term option for a westerner because the special monastic visa extensions are granted only to bhikkhus and mae chees. In Burma I think such visa extensions are available to anyone staying long-term in a monastery or meditation centre. As for the Forest Sangha monasteries in Britain, Ven. Gavesako will know better than I how things are now. It used to be the case that although anagarikaship was generally regarded in the FS as the first stage in a programme that would eventually culminate in bhikkhuhood, exceptions would occasionally be made for men who wanted to live the brahmacariya but were unsuitable for (or debarred from) bhikkhuhood for one reason or another.
The Great Sage did thus proclaim
With many a diverse chosen name
Vipassanā stilled and purified,
That to Emergence is allied.

Saṃsāra-cycle’s swamp of pain
Is vast and terrible; a man
Wisely should strive as best he can,
If he would this Emergence gain.
(Visuddhimagga XXI)

User avatar
Kumara
Posts: 542
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:14 am

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Kumara » Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:48 am

clw_uk wrote:What about personal visits from parents, without touching?

My parents have visited me in the monastery many times. Clearly no prohibition on this.

I've wanted to ordain for a long time but i know it would upset my parents if they weren't able to keep in contact with me.

No Vinaya prohibition on this too, but individual monasteries may be have idiosyncratic prohibitions.

Also can you live as an anagarika at a monastery for years without requesting formal ordination?

It depends on where.
I'm not just a monk. I'm a human being. — Sayadaw U Jotika

User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 2561
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Chiang Mai

Re: Are monks allowed to touch their mothers?

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:51 am

clw_uk wrote:What about personal visits from parents, without touching?

I've wanted to ordain for a long time but i know it would upset my parents if they weren't able to keep in contact with me.


Sorry about my irrelevant earlier reply. I misread the question.
The Great Sage did thus proclaim
With many a diverse chosen name
Vipassanā stilled and purified,
That to Emergence is allied.

Saṃsāra-cycle’s swamp of pain
Is vast and terrible; a man
Wisely should strive as best he can,
If he would this Emergence gain.
(Visuddhimagga XXI)


Return to “Ordination and Monastic Life”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine