Dharmaguptaka Vinaya and ordination of gay people

Hi everyone,
I just heard today that there are many monasteries will not ordain gay or lesbian people. Specifically, I have heard from a Dharmaguptaka monk that they have made judgement (not sure if that is just Hong Kong also also mainland China) on this regarding Dharmaguptaka ordination. I heard from another monk that he has witnessed this also in many Chinese and Vietnamese monasteries.

I suspect that this revolves around misinterpreting the term pandaka. But since I don’t read Chinese this is difficult for me to look into. Does anyone have access to a good and thorough refutation of this, specific to Dharmaguptaka vinaya? Or, something that might do at least if we are lacking that?

Or, does their vinaya actually say that?

If nothing has been well written on this yet, but if there’s anyone here who can help with the Chinese and establish a good case for this being a misinterpretation, I could help write something perhaps if anyone would like to pitch in to get something done about this. My hope is that is we can produce a well reasoned evidence-based refutation and correction of this view, we could distribute it to the monasteries concerned, and if those in power there are decent people, they should either try to reason with us until they are sure of the truth, or, should accept the information and change their practices.


Chinese Mahāyāna is traditionally homophobic. The drama has to-do with lay bodhisattva vinayāḥ that circulated in the past, which give lay precepts to lay bodhisattvayāna practitioners.

These generally prohibit same-sex sexual relations. Although they are apocryphal lay bodhisattva vinayāḥ, they are treated as equivalent to the fourfold vinaya of the Dharmaguptaka sect, if not more important and more definitive than the śrāvaka vinaya texts.

The Dharmaguptaka vinaya has the same five paṇḍakāḥ (paṇḍakāni?) as the Mūlasarvastivāda, which only differs from the Pāli afaik on the name of one of them, namely the “sprinkled one”, who is replaced with “the one who becomes aroused while bathing”.

One example of these lay vinayāḥ would be T1476 (佛說優婆塞五戒相經, “Scripture of the Buddha’s word on the upāsaka’s five precepts”), which lays out sexual misconduct as, among other things, non-vaginal penetration (i.e. of the mouth or anus, for example, but also of something like a sex toy, or fruit, or whatever one might use, etc.).

Another similarly homophobic lay precept sūtra is the Āryabrahmājālabodhisattvaśīlanāmamahāyānasūtra, which has numerous recensions in the Taishō Canon (T1484, etc.), this one is more explicit than T1476, as it specifically prohibits sex with men, having a male practitioner audience.

Lastly, the Āryopāsakaśīlanāmamahāyānasūtra is another I can think of, it is similar in explicit condemnation to T1484, but I am not sure where it is in the canon.

There is also T262 Āryasaddharmapuṇḍarīkanāmamahāyānasūtra, or the Lotus Sutra, which in its Sukhavihāraparivarta (Ch 12 in the Nepalese, Ch 13 安樂行品 in the Kumārajīva) prohibits close association with the pañcapaṇḍaka.

T262 is further interesting because it takes a harsher stance toward sexual minorities in its later Nepalese recension. The Nepalese prohibits speaking the dharma to these persons, as they are called ‘incapable of receiving [it]’. The Kumārajīva simply prohibits close association with them, indicating that there is a tendency to take a progressively harsher stance, over time, towards sexual minorities (which includes eunuchs and the reproductively-challenged as well as homosexuals) as these sūtrāṇi are added to and expanded further.


From the Venerable Xuānhuà, a Chinese Chán Master, a tract called “Avoid Defying Natural Creation”:

Homosexuality contradicts procreation and is a form of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is forbidden according to Buddhism. The Five Precepts prohibiting killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants must be followed. If homosexuality becomes legal, then the human race will vanish. Why will it vanish? Heaven will punish us. Homosexuals exist due in part to the influence of a certain religion. This religion used to be underground and did not dare to promote homosexuality openly, but now that we’re in an age where Dharma is on the decline, all kinds of strange phenomenon are happening. Consequently, these people protest, join parades, and lobby for legalizing homosexuality. This is essentially an omen for doomsday. We should know this because if everyone recognizes this as a fault, people may live a little longer. Otherwise, everyone will face cataclysm, a catastrophe of inordinate proportion that brings death to all. Since all the perversities and wickedness in our world now are too awful for words, people who still feel that this time and age is not bad might be crazy people, more or less.

Little did the Venerable know, it was in fact he who was part of a secret esoteric brotherhood, not the boys next door.


Thanks. This point should be invalid regarding monk and nun ordination as it’s not about their vinaya. And, other-sex relations are also forbidden by the vinaya anyway, so it’s irrelevant for their argument.

Great. Thanks. This means the Theravāda argument should be enough to eliminate this wrong view. Do you happen to have a link or reference to the best paper/s for that Theravādin refutation, or of course any cross-school one?

Thanks. Is that regarding the vinaya, or just about lay people? If the latter, it should be irrelevant to this case.

Do you have more info on this one? If it is just about the same list of 5 types, this might also be irrelevant - I will outline my argument why. So sorry to quote Wikipedia but for the sake of speed:

asittakapandaka - A man who gains satisfaction from performing oral sex on another man and from ingesting his semen, and only becomes sexually aroused after ingesting another man’s semen.
ussuyapandaka - A voyeur, a man who gains sexual satisfaction from watching a man and a woman having sex, and only becomes sexually aroused after that.
opakkamikapandaka - A Eunuch by-assault, testicle that are annihilated by assault or violence.[3](“still could attain ejaculation through some special effort or artifice”.)
pakkhapandaka - People who become sexually aroused in parallel with the phases of the moon.
napumsakapandaka - A person with no clearly defined genitals, whether male or female, having only a urinary tract, one who is congenitally impotent

1 and 2 would not apply if the person is ordained, and no longer doing any of those things even if they did them in the past. Just the same as it would be fine for a monk to have ‘gained satisfaction’ from any number of heteronormative sexual acts before being ordained, but refraining from them after ordination. But it supports the idea of eunuchs and people with no genitals from ordaining, which is a separate issue and not being refuted here. 5 refers to a rather specific condition, and is also not specific about what orientation it’s talking about, let alone speaking against any particular orientation in terms of hetero/homo.

Thanks again for the references. Though this as some of the above does not support their argument since it is about people who are active in these practices (1 and 2) or not our category (3~5).


I don’t actually know what you mean here. Is the “Theravāda argument” you refer to the allowances in the Pāli Vinaya for classes 1 & 2 to ordain? The same allowances are in the other vinayāḥ AFAIK.

Āryopāsakaśīlanāmamahāyānasūtra = ārya (noble) + upāsaka (layman) + śīla (precepts) + nāma (named) + mahāyānasūtra (great vehicle scripture).

So, technically, this particular scripture only applies to lay(wo)men.

I’m replying to your post out-of-order to address multiple points below:

It seems to be a matter of “identity”. A paṇḍaka seems to be “who someone is” rather than “what they do”.

For example, it is a separate (but equal afaik) offence for a male monk to have sexual intercourse with 1) another male or 2) a paṇḍaka, so it is rather ambiguous as to what these actually are.

Nonetheless, it does not seem relevant whether or not paṇḍakāḥ cease their sexual activity, they are still classed as paṇḍakāḥ.

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Thank you for those Sutra citations, @Coemgenu. I always knew Ven. Xuānhuà had a history of making controversial anti-gay statements, but have been unable to find the basis for his views in Chinese Mahayana scriptures/tradition. He also was anti-divorce, if I recall.

Does anyone know about gay ordination in the Dharmaguptaka monasteries in Taiwan? I was under the impression that Taiwan is more gay-friendly than most Asian countries.


Taiwan still does gay ordination, although its possibly just because China doesn’t. He joked.


Cool! Haha. The way you worded it, “still does gay ordination”, implies that gay ordination was done in the past and the ban in china/Hong Kong is recent. Also that’s what @Senryu implied with “they have made judgement”. So is this ban a recent thing?

Yes afaik

A lot of the ban was “unofficial” before this if I’m not mistaken.

Interesting! I’m now curious what the policy is at the City of 10000 Buddhas in Ukiah, California. It was founded by Ven. Xuānhuà. I sorta get the impression (as someone who often goes to a CTTB-affiliated center) that they kinda hide/don’t want to talk about their founder’s opinion on homosexuality.


I am quite sure that there has been a ruling to this effect semi-recently by “someone” (there was a huge messy thread on DharmaWheel about it a few months ago, a homophobic user complaining that Korea should have joined China in this ban, but that has been deleted since) but it’s hard to find information.

Thanks so much for the references and background on this issue. I have heard of homophobic attitudes in Mahayana before, but never known the sources. Some of my students have been followers of Mahayana teachers, and when they came out it was a lot of suffering. It’s just appalling to see the lack of compassion and basic understanding of humanity among those supposed to be spiritual leaders.


I speculate that the homophobic stance is an outcome of the departure from a proper Vinaya first place.

The Vinaya as it is establishes a clear set of protocols to deal with monastics who end up making wrong choices when faced with impulses. There is a clear ‘way out’ for those who make mistakes and that does not necessarily means the door is closed forever.

When mahayana communities made the decision to ‘downgrade’ the relevance and observance of proper Vinayas, their leaders found themselves making these sad choices in terms of demonizing specific sexual acts possibly hopeful that doing that would minimize the chances of their disciples engaging in those acts.


It’s T1488.

These bodhisattva upāsakaśīla texts seem to be conglomerated around the 1400s, just after the Mūlasarvāstivādavinayakārikā, which I assume is a commentary of unknown age (?) on the EBT, in the Taishō Canon, they are grouped at the ending of the vinaya division in vol 24.

From a purely textual standpoint, the contents relating to homosexuality aside, the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai (BDK, Society for the Promotion of Buddhism) has an interesting write-up on their page selling the text here: The Sutra on Upāsaka Precepts | BDK America

From the webpage:

This work is considered to be an augmentation and adaptation on Mahāyānist principles of the Sujāta-sūtra found in the Dīrghāgama (Taishō 1), Madhyamāgama (Taishō 2), and other works. Because of this relationship to previous texts, and because the quotations it shares from various Mahāyāna sūtras, The Sutra on Upāsaka Precepts provides valuable source material for tracing the history of the development of the Buddhist canon.

I wonder where we can find this Sujātasūtra in DA?

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It’s probably DA 16: 善生經 (well-born-sutta = su-jāta-sutta)


Thank you, Venerable.

It can be read at page 79 here, where it is also sūtra 16, but is reconstructed as ‘Kalyāṇijātikasūtra’.


I think this could use some contextualization.

Rather than saying a matter of “identity”, I could have better said a matter of “identification”, namely, the identification of someone by others.

I say this because, as @Senryu pointed out, it is unlikely that homosexuals seeking ordination intend to continue to be sexually active. So IMO it is ultimately a matter of others deciding to “identify” homosexuals and place that identification on them as something that will effect their ability to be celibate.


Certainly, of the above, T262 & T1484 have a monastic bodhisattvayānika audience in mind.

The Chinese upāsakaśīla apocrypha, though, seems to be the attempt of an older society to increasingly “monasticize” lay practice. If the monasticization in question looked to monasteries where ‘Peaceful Practices’ (sukhavihāra-parivarta, the aforementioned homophobic bodhisattvaśīla sermon in the LS), then now we have laypeople also joining in such ‘Peaceful Practices’. You gotta love that title: ‘Peaceful Practices’.

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I’m a gay man who has become very interested in Buddhism over the last half year or so. I don’t plan to become a renunciate, but it may be worth thinking about this question from the perspective of a gay man or a lesbian who does.

Would this person really benefit from associating so closely and sometimes exclusively with members of the same sex? Could such a life really be thought of as guarding the doors of the senses? Would a heterosexual man do well to become a renunciate and then live in a community exclusively of women? I should think not!

A communal, homosocial environment seems to present a unique danger to gay renunciates that it does not present to straight renunciates. This need not be homophobic. It might only mean that straight renunciates derive advantages from communal life that gay renunciates cannot, and that for gay people, a different type of renunciation is needed, one pursued under different rules.

I have no experience with sangha life, so I can’t say with much assurance. But solitude is praiseworthy, isn’t it? Is solitude a part of the answer here?


I certainly understand where you are coming from, but, at the same time, it doesn’t seem right to deny other people the possibility of being able to practice celibacy in what could be considered comparatively more trying circumstances just because those circumstances seem like they might be too trying for oneself.

In fact here,

It seems to be an issue of a consensus amongst persons that absolutely no one of a homosexual sexual orientation can possibly ever have the strength for it. Although I can understand the thinking that goes behind the sentiments that underlay that judgement, I just don’t think it is proper to unilaterally make the decision that absolutely no one could.

Furthermore, an uncomfortable possible consequence IMO of this line of thinking leads to a skepticism that any or all currently practicing renunciates who were primarily sexually active with the same sex during their lay life are necessarily or likely failing to practice celibacy like their straight counterparts. Perhaps I am too skeptical, but I can imagine this sentiment in the minds of many who decided to make a formal judgement on the matter in China.

Since, as @Gabriel_L pointed out:

It seems that there are already safeguards in place in case maintaining celibacy proves to be an issue.

As an aside, Tendai-shū is still administering abhiṣeka to seminarians regardless of sexual orientation, but this is an initiation into a tantric priesthood that does not practice celibacy. In addition to this, there are some Zen sects as I recall whose ordination is not dependent on sexual orientation, but afaik vinaya observation in many Japanese Zen sects has been replaced by bodhisattvaśila vows. Such as the bodhisattvaśila vows in the Ākāśa­garbhanāma­mahā­yāna­sūtra, some of which seem very progressive:

(10.) Never to cause the ones who tread the path of prātimokṣa (i.e. vinaya-observant śrāvakayānikāḥ) to leave it for the great vehicle.
(11.) Never to hold, and to lead others to believe, that on the path of śrāvaka cultivation, craving and the like cannot be overcome.

(T407 虛空藏菩薩神呪經, quoted in Venerable Khenchen Kunzang Pelden’s jam dbyangs bla ma’i zhal lung bdud rtsi’i thig pa or “The Nectar of Mañjuśrī’s Speech” on pages 141-2. It is a commentary on Āryaśāntidevasyabodhisattvacharyāvatāra.)

A thread inquiring into which Zen sects still observe vinaya would be very interesting. In addition to this, Tendai-shū also has some monks, only in Japan afaik, who are celibate and live reclusively at Enryaku-ji, a monastery on Mount Hiei. I wonder if they are observing the Dharmaguptaka vinaya, in part or in full? Tendai also has tantric priests, which complicates matters, as they do not observe vinaya but have samayāḥ instead, vows relate to their tantric practice.

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