Are the rules actually biased in favour of nuns (who have to pay respect to monks)?

I am struggling to understand the rules related to bowing and paying respect in EBT.
On the one hand, I have been told that (unlike common sense or simple minded ideas of hierarchy suggest) paying respect is essentially for the benefit of the one who does the bowing and who pays the respect, not for the one who receives it.
I can accept that, but this would imply that just like monks do lay people a favor by allowing them to bow and so to gain benefit from paying respect, they should also by the same token be doing a favor to bhikkhunis, according to the rule debated in another thread (I started this one because I am asking a different question to the one asked there, and I did not want to derail the discussion there) which says that monks should not bow to nuns but vice-versa. Yet people have commented that these rules are asymmetrical and discriminate against bhikkhunis.
I do agree that they are asymmetrical, but if I understand correctly the first point above (it is the person who pays respect, not the one you bow to, who has all the benefit), they should actually be considered biased in favour of bhikkhunis, not against them.
Or is there a point I am missing? Please can you explain?

“there’s more than one way to skin a cat”

From which perspective do you want people to discuss the topic proposed @irene?

Is the topic objective enough to be even categorised outside the Watercooler ?

As far as I can see, the most promising way to have a constructive and objective conversation - aligned with the overarching objective of this space created to discuss the history and meaning of early Buddhist texts - is to examine with others the history and order of events in regard to the topic of expected etiquette from bhikkhunis which visit bhikkhus.

Shall we explore non-judgementally what are the possible explanations for how those rules of etiquette and community behaviour came to exist first place?

Once one or a few possible perspectives are defined on this topic, then we could examine to what extent these rules are enforced, observed or expected in monastic communities in which bhikkhunis and bhikkhus coexist.

As far as I understand, this is the approach to discussion and discovery aligned with the intent of this forum.

On the other hand, if we start straight away with the subjective aspect of the topic I see very little benefit for those taking part in it.

The reason for that is that us all unawakened beings tend to very easily fall in the trap of ‘one view against others’:

The Wise One’s not conceited by view or by intelligence,
for that one there is no “making-it-mine”;
and cannot be led by good works or by learning,
cannot be led away by mind-shelters of view.
For one detached from perception, there exist no ties,
for one by wisdom freed, no delusions are there,
but those who have grasped perceptions and views,
they wander the world stirring up strife.

Strongly asserting their own path,
What opponent would they take to be a fool?
They would only bring trouble on themselves
By calling an opponent a fool of impure teachings.
Convinced of their own theories,
Comparing others to oneself,
They get into more disputes with the world.
But by leaving behind all theories,
They don’t have any problems with the world.



My interest is in the meaning of paying respect, it is not so much in an empirical observation of those rules, but in the more fundamental question: what do these rules mean, why are they there? Surely if you freely choose to practice Buddhism an in the EBT, you must ask yourself this question, rather than blindly accepting a set of rules.
So, to rephrase:

  1. am I right that when you pay respect, you are the beneficiary of the act, and not the person you pay respect too? A number of lay people have commented in other Discussions that they understand their bowing to the Sangha in this way.
  2. if point 1. is right, and describes correctly the act of bowing and paying respect of a lay person to a monk/nun (as beneficiary to the lay person who bows, not to the monk/nun who are respected), then does it not follow that if nuns are supposed to pay respect to monks (and not viceversa), that rule is for their benefit and biased in their favour? If so, why are people complaining that nuns are discriminated against by this rule? If not, how is this consistent with point 1?
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Intention would probably have some bearing on the answer.


yes, intention, and the particular conditioning of those involved in or observing the event.

I am recalling (a little vaguely, sorry!) the rule for converts to have a somewhat extended noviate. This is for their benefit, but seemed to be also a bit flexible based on the natural diversity of those Going Forth.

:slight_smile: Perhaps such diversity of conditioning, capabilities, talents, is the natural state? And compassion naturally recognizes this diversity - even internally. (i have better days and worse days in many things; metta here, too, then!)

@irene please see my reply on your other post in regards to this issue. Also, i hope you don’t get too caught up on this one aspect, as there are many cultural, religious, personal, and other reasons people bow.

Also when I wrote ‘…people mostly pay respects for their own benefits…’ it doesn’t mean its an absolute. It’s also not quite the same thing that you’re running with here. The context of the original post is key, in that it was about systematic heirarchical gender bias and not really about a personal expression of one’s spirituality, which is where the intention is more about the individual.



Spot on @Aminah!

A truthful and overarching categorical statement on the meaning of an external demonstration of respect and etiquette, such as the bowing to bhikkhus by bhikkhunis, cannot be made.

From perspective of EBTs and cultivation of the eightfold path, all that can be said is that in the right circumstances of cultivation of right view and right intent, for example, such actions are very likely to support not only the cultivation of the other factors of the path but as well progress towards its goal.