The use of "Bhante"

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The use of "Bhante"

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:28 pm

Split from the topic:
The title 'Ajahn' viewtopic.php?f=24&t=13274
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Ajahn derives from Pāli ācariya meaning "teacher" and in the Thai tradition it is also applied to Nuns or lay teachers. Nuns of the Thai Forest Sangha of more than 10 Rains are addressed as Ajahn.

The Burmese words "Saya" or "Sayādaw" (royal teacher) are also derived from the same Pāl word (ca in Burmese is pronounced as sa). Burmese nuns are addressed as "Sayalay" and female meditation teachers are addressed as "Sayama" while male lay teachers are addressed as "Sayagyi."

Bhante is a vocative so should only be used when addressing a monk directly, and without using the name (unless several bhikkhus are present and its not immediately obvious to whom you are speaking). To say "Bhante Bodhidhamma gave a talk at the Buddhist Society" is incorrect. One should say instead, "Bhikkhu Bodhidhamma gave a talk." In the Thai tradition they put the name first, e.g. "Sumedho bhikkhu gave a talk."
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby greggorious » Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:41 pm

Thanks for your replies. There is a Sri Lankan Vihara centre near me which I've been too, I've also practiced Zen, though I don't know if it's right for me. I've voiced these concerns on this forum before, so no need to talk about it now.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby BKh » Tue Jul 24, 2012 9:16 pm

marc108 wrote:that's my understanding as well, Ajahn is a Thai title for a monk who has been ordained for at least 10 years.

It should be pointed out that the 10-year thing is just within the western Ajahn Chah tradition. In Thailand monks are often addressed personally as ajahn on the day they ordain. And to be clear, ajahn is used for all teachers in Thailand, not just in a Buddhist context.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: To say "Bhante Bodhidhamma gave a talk at the Buddhist Society" is incorrect. One should say instead, "Bhikkhu Bodhidhamma gave a talk."

According to Pali grammar this is true. In modern usage in the US, however, the first example is very common and not seen as incorrect. If your organization refers to monks as "Bhante so and so" it will really confuse people if you try to start changing that. And people won't realize that they should still continue to use the vocative "Bhante" when addressing them personally.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:25 pm

I believe ayasama is for directly speaking to and bhante is for speaking about a particular bhikkhu as found in the pali texts anyway, although modern practice is obviously as stated above
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:12 pm

Greetings,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: To say "Bhante Bodhidhamma gave a talk at the Buddhist Society" is incorrect. One should say instead, "Bhikkhu Bodhidhamma gave a talk."

BKh wrote:According to Pali grammar this is true. In modern usage in the US, however, the first example is very common and not seen as incorrect. If your organization refers to monks as "Bhante so and so" it will really confuse people if you try to start changing that. And people won't realize that they should still continue to use the vocative "Bhante" when addressing them personally.

It would seem encumbent on the bhikkhu in question to advise people of the correct usage, so that they themselves don't become known as "Bhante so and so" in the first place. Short of being taught, lay people can't really be expected to know that the aforementioned use of the word "bhante" is incorrect.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby BKh » Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:05 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: To say "Bhante Bodhidhamma gave a talk at the Buddhist Society" is incorrect. One should say instead, "Bhikkhu Bodhidhamma gave a talk."

It would seem encumbent on the bhikkhu in question to advise people of the correct usage, so that they themselves don't become known as "Bhante so and so" in the first place. Short of being taught, lay people can't really be expected to know that the aforementioned use of the word "bhante" is incorrect.

If we were all speaking in Pali, then what Bhante Pesala says makes perfect sense. But we aren't. We speak in English or other modern languages. It is quite conventional now a days to use Bhante as a title. If it helps, think of it as a new English loan word. Of course it's find to use Bhikkhu as a title, I was just encouraging people to go along with whatever convention has already been established in their community in the same way Ajahn is used in some.

Bhante Gunaratana told me that years ago when he first came to the US people asked what to call him. He wasn't sure what to use (Sri Lanka has many words they use for monks, none of which are mentioned in this thread). He tried "Venerable" to which people asked, "Vulnerable?" So he decided to use Bhante. And somewhere along the line I guess he started using it in front of his name as a title.

[Notice if I had said "Bhikkhu Gunaratana" you might not have known exactly who I was talking about.]

Cittasanto wrote:I believe ayasama is for directly speaking to and bhante is for speaking about a particular bhikkhu as found in the pali texts anyway, although modern practice is obviously as stated above

Don't you mean the opposite? Think of all the Evaṁ Bhante's in the suttas.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby danieLion » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:25 am

I'm trying out Reverend for Bhante, Ajahn, Venerable etc... until justly rebuked/persuaded otherwise.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:29 am

Greetings,

danieLion wrote:I'm trying out Reverend for Bhante, Ajahn, Venerable etc... until justly rebuked/persuaded otherwise.

See how it goes. "Sir" is another English language alternative to consider when speaking to a monk.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:02 am

If you use terms like "bhante" or "bhikkhu" "then you are speaking Pāli. It is no great surprise that people get it wrong at first, but that's no reason for not explaining the correct usage, and putting it right for future generations. There's no need to obsess about it, but if you can learn something new, why not do it?

I used to call myself "Venerable Pesala" at one time, but when I learnt that the term is used for Christian clergy who are regarded as saints I see that it inappropriate to use that term for just any ordained monk, and especially to adopt it for use about oneself. Some use the term "Reverend," but I think it is better for Buddhists to learn the Pali terms, and to learn the correct usage.

Āyasma is used when speaking in the third person about a bhikkhu, thus:
Evaṃ vutte, āyasmā Mahāmoggallāno āyasmantaṃ Sāriputtaṃ etadavoca —
That having been said, the Venerable Moggallāna the great said to the Venerable Sāriputta: — (no problem using "Venerable" here, since they were both Arahants).
“Ko nu kho, āvuso Sāriputta

What, friend Sāriputta ...

Again, āvuso is a vocative form of address used by a senior bhikkhu when speaking to a junior one. A junior bhikkhu uses "bhante" when addressing a senior bhikkhu. That was stipulated by the Buddha before he passed away in his last words to the Sangha:
Yathā kho pan’Ānanda, etarahi bhikkhū aññamaññaṃ āvusovādena samudācaranti, na kho mamaccayena evaṃ samudācaritabbaṃ. Theratarena, Ānanda, bhikkhunā navakataro bhikkhu nāmena vā gottena vā āvusovādena vā samudācaritabbo. Navakatarena bhikkhunā therataro bhikkhu ‘Bhante’ti vā ‘Āyasmā’ti vā samudācaritabbo.

Just as now, Ānanda, the bhikkhus address one another with the word "āvuso," that should not be done after my passing. An elder may address a junior bhikkhu by name or by clan or with the word "āvuso." A junior bhikkhu should address an elder as "Bhante" or "Āyasma."
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby danieLion » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:26 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Some use the term "Reverend...."


Thanks Bhikkhu Pesala for your informative response.

Here's my logic (illogic?) behind using "Reverend". I've heard the Buddha said his disciples should teach the Dhamma in the audience's native language. My language is English, but my heritage is Protestant. As such, "Reverend" seems the best non-Pali choice (I value Pali too) as "Sir" is too British and "Venerable" is too Catholic (as with "Father"--and the Evangelical "Pastor" and the Mormon "Bishop" are obviously out, right?)

Why do some Bhikkhu's, like Bhikkhu Bodhi, retain the "Bhikkhu"? For the same reasons you've given?

I presume you'd not like to be called Reverend Pesala? ;)

Best wishes,
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:40 am

Cittasanto wrote:I believe ayasama is for directly speaking to and bhante is for speaking about a particular bhikkhu as found in the pali texts anyway, although modern practice is obviously as stated above

Don't you mean the opposite? Think of all the Evaṁ Bhante's in the suttas.[/quote]
Hi BKh,
yes :), I was thinking of instances such as the "inviting admonition" (Ahaṃ bhante āyasmantaṃ pavāremi) in the Mahavagga but on checking notice bhante there also & the absence of ayasama in the formula for a full Sangha :) LOL at me & Thank-you.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:45 am

danieLion wrote:I'm trying out Reverend for Bhante, Ajahn, Venerable etc... until justly rebuked/persuaded otherwise.
Kind wishes,
Daniel

I noticed allot of Sri Lankans would say Reverend, not so many Thais but it is a comparative term found in some early translations.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:39 am

I'm just pointing out the obvious here, I know, but 'reverend' and 'venerable' are English words :tongue: and because of that they carry different baggage even if they notionally mean the same thing as the Pali and Thai words.
In many Western contexts, 'Reverend' would be assumed to mean a Christian minister and would therefore need clarification. And 'venerable' primarily means 'old', not 'worthy of respect'. These are not reasons to completely avoid using the English terms, but enough reason to be careful with them.

:namaste:
Ajahn Kim
(Yes, I'm a teacher ... a school teacher. Don't call me 'bhante' or 'reverend' because I'm not entitled to either word, and if you call me 'venerable' I might just say, "Hey! I'm not that old!' :jedi: )
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby danieLion » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:33 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:In many Western contexts, 'Reverend' would be assumed to mean a Christian minister and would therefore need clarification.

Hi Kim,
If I call a Buddhist teacher Reverend and I know he/she's not a Christian minister, and he/she knows it too, why would clarification be necessary? The subtext here (and in this topic) seems to be that you need to keep titles Asian, or at least Thai, Burmese, Sinhalese, and Pali.

Kind intents,
Daniel
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby BKh » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:00 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Āyasma is used when speaking in the second person about a bhikkhu, thus:
Evaṃ vutte, āyasmā Mahāmoggallāno āyasmantaṃ Sāriputtaṃ etadavoca —
That having been said, the Venerable Moggallāna the great said to the Venerable Sāriputta: — (no problem using "Venerable" here, since they were both Arahants).
“Ko nu kho, āvuso Sāriputta

What, friend Sāriputta ...

Don't you mean "third person"? Isn't the second example second person?

Is Bhikkhu ever used as a title along with a name in the canon?

In my experience venerable is a very common term used in the west for bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. It's good because it is both respectful and generic, so lay people don't need to know the exact ordination status of someone. And I'm sure few people have ever heard of it's technical usage regarding Catholic saints. One dictionary I checked says it is a title given to an archdeacon in the Anglican Church. And while it does have the meaning of worthy to be venerated because of age, it can also just mean worthy to be venerated. Words have multiple meanings.

I think part of this discussion has to do with proscriptive vs. descriptive. There is what is in the dictionaries and grammar book and then there is what people use in actual practice. I'm just trying to point out that lots of things are now acceptable in practice and encourage people to go with the flow as long as they are not being disrespectful.

Personally I think that using bhikkhu as a generic title for monks is good. And I think venerable is a good English term as well. But if I'm going to mention the senior monk Bhikkhu So-and-so to someone, I really would like to have a term that involved some level of respect. I guess I could say "The elder monk Bhikkhu So-and-so" or "Bhikkhu So-and-so Mahathera". But really I'd just like to call him Bhante So-and-so. Especially since lots of people use that term.
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Re: The use of "Bhante"

Postby gavesako » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:40 am

Regarding "bhikkhu", compare this article:

why do so few Buddhist monks call themselves “bhikkhu” ?!
for more quotes from the suttas on the topic of “right livelihood of a bhikkhu”, have a look at this little book, which provides a long collection of similar passages from the Suttas, all strung together from the moment of entering the Order until attainment of arahantship, in the words of the Buddha:

http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2012/01 ... eggarmonk/


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Re: The use of "Bhante"

Postby BKh » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:23 pm

gavesako wrote:Regarding "bhikkhu", compare this article:...

The translation from the Itivuttaka on that page is misleading, especially in regards to the current discussion...
It91/3.42 wrote:“Bhikkhus, this is contemptible means of subsistence, this gathering of alms. In the world, bhikkhus, it is a form of abuse to say “You alms-gatherer(bhikkhu) ! Wandering about clutching a begging bowl!’

“antamidaṁ, bhikkhave, jīvikānaṁ yadidaṁ piṇḍolyaṁ. abhisāpoyaṁ {abhisāpāyaṁ (sī.), abhilāpāyaṁ (syā. pī.), abhisapāyaṁ (ka.)}, bhikkhave, lokasmiṁ — ‘piṇḍolo vicarasi pattapāṇī’ti.


The English is giving "bhikkhu" as a gloss for "piṇḍolo" which is deceptive. I don't think "bhikkhu" is ever used as a form of abuse in the canon. The monks are often abused, but I don't think it is done by simply calling them bhikkhus as this translation would imply.
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:08 pm

BKh wrote:Don't you mean "third person"? Isn't the second example second person?

Is Bhikkhu ever used as a title along with a name in the canon?

Yes. I should have said "third person" — I have corrected my post.

Yes to the second point too. Collectively, in almost every sutta the Buddha addresses the monks as "bhikkhave," and in other places where, for example, he is referring to a particular bhikkhu by name, e.g. in the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Suttaṃ when telling the bhikkhus to invite the bhikkhu Sāti to come and see him:
“Ehi tvaṃ bhikkhu, mama vacanena sātiṃ bhikkhuṃ kevaṭṭaputtaṃ āmantehi
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Re: The title 'Ajahn'

Postby danieLion » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:10 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:...Collectively, in almost every sutta the Buddha addresses the monks as "bhikkhave," and in other places where, for example, he is referring to a particular bhikkhu by name, e.g. in the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Suttaṃ when telling the bhikkhus to invite the bhikkhu Sāti to come and see him:
“Ehi tvaṃ bhikkhu, mama vacanena sātiṃ bhikkhuṃ kevaṭṭaputtaṃ āmantehi

Hi Bhikkhu Pesala,
Do you know why there's a differentiation of usage with "Bhikkhu"? That is, why is there a difference in usage about where "Bhikkhu" is placed in the title? For example, at the beginning, as in Bhikkhu Bodhi, or at the end, as in Thanissaro Bhikkhu?

I've also noticed with Bhuddhadasa, for instance, that depending on the publication he's sometimes "Ajahn" and sometimes "Bhikkhu"?

I've inferred from all this that there's a lot of room for personalization. Is this accurate?
Kind regards,
Daniel
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Re: The use of "Bhante"

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:22 am

And yet, despite the grammatical injunctions regarding the vocative "bhante", King Milinda addressed Ven Nagasena by "Bhante Nagasena", eg -

Atha kho milindo rājā āyasmantaṃ nāgasenaṃ etadavoca ‘‘sace, bhante nāgasena, puggalo nūpalabbhati, ko carahi tumhākaṃ cīvarapiṇḍapātasenāsanagilānappaccayabhesajjaparikkhāraṃ deti, ko taṃ paribhuñjati, ko sīlaṃ rakkhati, ko bhāvanamanuyuñjati, ....


I wonder if the good venerable corrected the king's Pali. :tongue:
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