Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:This is the full text from Buddhist Monastic Code:Intention. The Vinītavatthu 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.
The Vibhaṅga does not discuss the issue of bhikkhus who intentionally make active contact with women for purposes other than lust or affection — e.g., helping a woman who has fallen into a raging river — but the Commentary does. It introduces the concept of anāmasa, things carrying a Dukkaṭa penalty when touched; women and clothing belonging to a woman top the list. It then goes into great detail to tell how one should behave when one’s mother falls into a raging river. Under no circumstances, it says, should one grab hold of her, although one may extend a rope, a board, etc., in her direction. If she happens to grab hold of her son the bhikkhu, he should not shake her off, but should simply let her hold on as he swims back to shore.
Where the Commentary gets the concepts of anāmasa is hard to say. Perhaps it came from the practices of the Brahmin caste, who are very careful not to touch certain things and people of certain lower castes. At any rate, there is no direct basis for it in the Canon. Although the concept has received universal acceptance in Theravādin Communities, many highly‑respected Vinaya experts have made an exception right here, saying that there is nothing wrong in touching a woman when one’s action is based not on lust, but on a desire to save her from danger. Even if there is an offence in doing so, there are other places where Buddhaghosa recommends that one be willing to incur a minor penalty for the sake of compassion (e.g., digging a person out of a hole into which he has fallen), and the same principle surely holds here.
So, shaking a woman's hand with the intention to avoid being impolite, or touching a woman to help her, not being lustful, nor out of affection, are no offence. However, touching or hugging out of affection are an offence of wrong-doing.
If a woman tries to shake my hand, I usually explain how to greet a bhikkhu by holding the hands in añjali, if circumstances are
What I gather is that if I want to be a monk, I cannot under any circumstance hug any of my family members... Which, well, is a problem, because I would really like to be a monk. However, if I were to say "sorry mom, I can't touch you anymore" she'd be less than thrilled, to say the least. I've already received a fair bit of resistance to my choice, and theres always, how do I put this, a frosty reception from my mother. Her eyes just glaze over and she meets anything I say about these sort of things with disbelief and utter disinterest. Honestly, it makes me very sad but I can't really expect much out of parents who aren't even religious (that isn't to say they're atheists, at least not my mother, my father probably doesn't even consider such things)... Anyways, say if I were to ordain (I'm ordaining at an Ajahn Chah monastery in Canada, 4 hours from where I live) I've read in the canon examples of people who utterly wanted to ordain but their parents wouldn't let them (mine have given me consent btw). Under these circumstances, conditional ordination was allowed. Could I have such an ordination, that would still allow me to interact with my family (physically, I'm positive there's no rule against me going for visits), so I could satisfy their wants and needs concerning my affection? If not is it possible to be a novice for, well, life so I needn't violate the vinaya?