Dharmaguptaka Vinaya and ordination of gay people

There is also “the one who becomes aroused while bathing.” Don’t these seem to be observations about how others might perceive homosexuals more so than true descriptions of an otherwise normal bloke who happens to like dudes?

I mean, the “one who is aroused while bathing” is probably not ONLY aroused during a communal or semi-communal bathing but also whenever he sees certain of his male peers naked or near-naked in whatever context.

Similarly, perhaps the “sprinkled one” rather than having an extraordinary biology doesn’t actually “only” get aroused from ingesting semen. Maybe that’s just a particular striking thing they do that stands out about then that becomes their name. Do you get what I mean? I am typing on a phone so might be explaining what I mean poorly.

1 Like

Yeah! I think that’s the point. We’re trying to understand how ancient central Asians understood sexuality. Personally, this is fascinating. Thanks for the info @kalestorm! :pray: And welcome to SC :slight_smile:

1 Like



That explanation “the one who becomes aroused while bathing” comes from Puguang’s ( 普光) commentary of Abhidharmakośakārikā (俱舍論記).

The paragraph is “灌灑謂澡浴等灌灑男勢方起”, and it refers to the āsitta-paṇḍaka. (the “sprinkled one”).

The “sprinkled” (āsitta) means 灌灑 in Chinese. “灌灑謂澡浴等灌灑男勢方起” means the “sprinkled one”(āsitta-paṇḍaka) is the one who becomes aroused while bathing.

That explanation regarding āsitta-paṇḍaka only appears in the Puguang’s commentary, and I think he confused sprinkling semen with bathing.


I think I get what you mean. You think “the paṇḍaka concept” originated from some actual sex scenes, and then changed or developed gradually into the paṇḍaka.

But I am skeptical about it. The other two paṇḍaka, born paṇḍaka (napumsakapandaka) and castrated paṇḍaka (opakkamikapandaka), have something to do with male genitals’ function, not sex activity itself.

The envious paṇḍaka (ussuyapandaka), semimonthly paṇḍaka (pakkhapandaka) , and āsitta-paṇḍaka (if agreeing Paisarn Likhitpreechakul’s explanation) also are involving with male genitals’ function.

In fact, I think people usually are misdirected by the episode of paṇḍaka having sex with men , and forgetting what distinguish paṇḍaka from male is about the male genitals’ physiological function.

And people (I mean Chinese Buddhists) seldom consider the fact that paṇḍaka are sexually attracted to female in the Sarvastivada Vinaya. 【《十誦律》(Sarvastivada Vinaya):是時,跋難陀釋子,與不能男出家。是人,夜捫摸諸比丘 ( In the night, the paṇḍaka touched bhikkhu, the male monk) ,諸比丘驅出。到比丘尼 邊式叉摩尼沙彌沙彌尼邊,皆捫摸諸比丘尼學戒尼 ( After expelled by the male monk, the paṇḍaka touched bhikkhunī, the female monk) ,諸沙彌沙彌尼盡驅出。】)

Besides, there are female paṇḍaka (like 石女, meaning Vaginal hypoplasia in English). These female paṇḍaka also are about the female genitals’ physiological function, not sex activity itself.


So now that I am no longer on my phone.

So as the various Abhidharma traditions of Buddhism develop and progress they become more and more intertwined with the growing field of proto-ayurveda, or ancient Indian medical science. Some things the Hindu and Buddhist ayurvedic doctors intuit are reasonable, some things are, well, medieval fancy.

Take this

This is an explanation as to why the aśiṣṭikapaṇḍaka “only” becomes aroused after drinking the semen of another man.

Unfortunately for the ayurvedic theorists who would take up the Abhidharma traditions of Buddhism I’m medieval India, there is no such extraordinary biology amongst human beings, wherein a man’s semen-carrying ducts can become filled with that which he has ingested from his mouth.

The explanation is top-down and not bottom-up. It presumes that the technical definition of the aśiṣṭikapaṇḍaka to be true down to its minutia inasmuch as it is presented in Vinaya, Abhidharma, and related commentarial material. It does not presume observation and evidence, though, which would be a bottom-up approach. Instead, it starts with its premise “there is X” and invents a reason, creatively and intuitively for the time, but simply invents it nonetheless. No one observed these semen ducts in their operation or post-mortem to come to this conclusion. Indeed, if they had, though would have learned the opposite, that these “paṇḍakāḥ” are normal human beings and that the weird thing they think about them are simply not true.

Earlier Abhidharma texts simply have these paṇḍakāḥ as unfortunate births. It is later when ayurvedicists will generate a scholastic schematic for their characterization based on supernatural genital function.

This is all just AFAIK. If you have conflicting information or a different picture I would be interested in seeing it.

In the meanwhile, since such a thing as a man who fills his semen duct with others semen, somehow using his own mouth, it remains ambiguous if the historical Buddha IMO would have taught from this ayurvedic perspective or believed it.

IMO this story that followed illustrates the wicked sexual deviance that paṇḍakāḥ were believed to have, first trying to molest the monks, then the nuns. It could even be a historical story and some mislead soul tried to do this. Bisexuals are hardly perfect and are just as vulnerable to sexual misconduct as heterosexuals.

I mean, you have a group of mendicants who have a nice vihāra. You have the option of that or homelessness if you are also wandering but not a member of the ascetic Gautama’s sect.

I imagine many gay men tried to join if nothing else thinking that other gay men had also run away from society and joined before them. It’s not what the sangha’s for, but I think any even slightly socially contrarian all-male community would have that problem, of beings trying to find comforts within that community that it simply wasn’t designed to give.

And this wouldn’t have been a uniquely Buddhist problem either. All mendicant communities would face this. The Jains also have discourses on the dangers of paṇḍakāḥ whom they characterise as false renunciants.

All of this is irrespective of whether homosexuals with a heart set upon genuine renunciation should be allowed to go forth into the community.

Apologies. I should have actually replied to this first. It is important that two people understand each others base positions when communicating. I once heard a wise saying that says when speaking to someone, before replying, you should see if you are able to phrase your partners statements yourself in a way that he or she agrees with. That way, you can know if you understand what they meant.

I think that the relations that Buddhism has with sexual and gender minorities is complex and oscillates between harsh and soft positions.

It is clear that people do not want to be called or associated with the word paṇḍakāḥ in the society in which śramaṇa religions like Jainism and Buddhism found themselves arising.

Like you and I both mentioned before:

So there seems to be identifications, IMO at least, both with the homosexual being the kind of character characterized by the name aśiṣṭikapaṇḍaka and also being the kind of character identified as being perhaps third-gender (this is ignoring the sorts of paṇḍakāḥ who are simply maimed individuals or have birth defects). The defining feature of the aśiṣṭikapaṇḍaka seems to be what it is named for.

There are many reasons why homosexual men living in Buddhist societies of the time would be wanting to have this association far from them. Even if practicing celibacy within the saṁgha, it is possible that stories might exist from before ordination of someone’s past sexual partners among the laity of the community one is from and even perhaps gossip among some peers.

I believe it is Abhidharmakośakārikā as well as Visuddhimagga which are alike in characterizing the lust of the paṇḍaka as frenzied, sitting-ill within his psyche, overspilling and causing him to desire contact with any flesh nearby. This is all paraphrasing, and paraphrasing of two disparate sources so bear with me while I find the substantiating materials, but the belief boils down to the notion that the paṇḍaka cannot abide in a samādhi or sustain śamatha due to the unsteadiness of his mind. From there it is determined that the paṇḍaka must await birth as a normal male or female to enter into the path. For this reason, I imagine Buddhists would not want to be associated with this state, and I imagine that the spiritual friends of those some or many good monks who were formerly homosexual in their sexual activities would have read this material and would not want to apply it’s condemnation upon their peer. In short, because these teachings are simply not true, technicalities and exceptions must be made and those peers would have been able to identify that, I believe.

This is in tension with other currents with take a softer stance:

Tesu āsittapaṇḍakassa ca usūyapaṇḍakassa ca pabbajjā na vāritā, itaresaṃ tiṇṇaṃ vāritā.
Of these, the sprinkled pandaka and the jealous pandaka are not prevented from going forth, while the remaining three are. (Vinayapiṭake, Mahāvaggāṭṭhakathā, Mahākhandhakaṃ, Bodhikathā).

The above is from Venerable Buddhaghoṣa’s Pāli translations of the commentaries. So it seems that at one point there was a softer stance towards the sorts of paṇḍakāḥ who seem homosexual or perhaps sexual deviant in some other way (the “jealous one” is sometimes translated as a voyeur, I have seen this associated in some Tibetan vinaya materials with modern-day pornography addicts) but not is such as the case appears to be for people with birth defects, maimed individuals, or ambiguous male/female gender presentation. Those are still barred for whatever reason.

So I think that paṇḍaka began as an outsiders observation of a particular homosexual tendency and that this misconception would then be challenged by the society that produced it in a dynamic back-and-forth. This back and forth is what I was trying to get at here:

By the time we have the Buddha, it seems that we have both men who have or who have had sex with other men primarily classified as aśiṣṭikapaṇḍaka & āśaktapṛthubudhnapaṇḍaka but also, as testified to the threefold distinction with regards to sex intercourse in the vinaya (not with a man, not with a woman, not with a paṇḍaka), we have a treatment of these men who have or who have had sex with men simply classified as men as any other ordinary men may be.

So these two strands seem to co-mingle and it seems inconclusive to me which is likely to have been the case originally.

1 Like

From my point of view, the explanation of envious paṇḍaka (ussuyapandaka) and semimonthly paṇḍaka (pakkhapandaka) don’t appear more scientific & credible than the āsitta-paṇḍaka.

You can see the following link at note 14 & 15, there are many strange cure methods and causes of sexual impotence, like the irsyrati (I think that refers to the ussuyapandaka ) caused by one’s parents’ jealously.

Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader - Karen Derris, Natalie Gummer - Google 圖書

So, I would just assume that’s some ayurvedic way of thinking, and was deemed as common sense in the ancient India society. Maybe only napumsakapandaka and opakkamikapandaka really exist, others are just sexual impotence due to various reasons. And the real impotent reason was unknown to those ayurvedic doctors.

Besides, the pañca-paṇḍaka come from Pali Vinaya’s Commentary, so the historical Buddha maybe doesn’t specify what paṇḍaka is.

As for the Sarvastivada Vinaya, maybe that paṇḍaka is bisexual or not. That’s unrelated to the point that paṇḍaka could be sexually attracted to female, and only toward female.

For example, if a man’s sexuality is toward female, after becoming an eunuch, he could still keep his sexuality toward female.


I still don’t think āsitta-paṇḍaka is just some ancient India men having oral sex with men or from outsiders observation of a particular homosexual tendency.

If that’s the case, it’s strange to me then the Vinaya would distinguish a monk having sex with men from having sex with paṇḍaka, as you also said.

And it’s strange to me, when an India man have sex with paṇḍaka, the man is still male.
Then, why India men having oral sex with men, he became āsitta-paṇḍaka? If an India man have sex with āsitta-paṇḍaka (whatever the word means), is he still male or becoming āsitta-paṇḍaka? If he is still male, does the āsitta-paṇḍaka really mean men having oral sex with men? If he become āsitta-paṇḍaka, then why an India man have sex with paṇḍaka, the man is still male?


Janet Gyatso pointed out that pandaka are not homosexuals because, “The Vinaya, in fact, goes so far as to distinguish sexual activity between normative males from sexual relations between a socially normative male and a pandaka.”

See note 18: (Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader - Karen Derris, Natalie Gummer - Google 圖書 )

If pandaka are just homosexuals, then the Vinaya wouldn’t distinguish a male monk having sex with men from having sex with paṇḍaka.

And I don’t believe in the ancient India society, there would had been “a group of (gay) men” escaping from the society into the sangha. They would just be married with women, and maybe secretly had sex with other men, just like the following case. The ancient India society may not criminalize male to male sex, but I think it would still regard heterosexual sex and marriage favorably. And ancient India gay men don’t know what is gay or homosexual orientation (not like modern gay men), so they probably would just follow the custom, not running into the sangha.

I agree (if I grasp the meaning correctly). Still, I think finding what does pandaka mean in the ancient culture (not modern interpretations, like “jealous one", the ussuya-pandaka, translated as a voyeur ) is somewhat important.


So I think the gist of our agreements and disagreements can be boiled down to:

I think ayurveda is a Medieval Indian movement, not a Bronze Age movement like Buddhism, and I think you are willing to push ayurveda back to the time of the Buddha, because you support what I understand to be the ayurvedic origins of these diverse pandaka classifications as medical conditions and not stereotypes related to sex acts. Am I right there? This is a fine disagreement because no one really knows from whence fully-fleshed ayurveda comes and it’s roots could indeed be quite antique. There are many perspectives on its origin and mine, informed though I think it be, is only one of them. I think it is later, some think it is earlier.

Vis-a-vis ancient gay men leaving home in ancient India, I agreed that most would simply marry women as would be expected of them, however I also believe there is a sort of gay man who cannot do that, and who might leave home if rejected by his parents for not producing children for them. So I can see both situations as a possibility. After all, pandaka did try to join the order.

I think our fundamental point of disagreement is that I see up to two of the five pandakas as describing homosexual activity, and you see them all as medical reproductive conditions with no relation to homosexuality or bisexuality. I am fine with this, but my point remains about the medical impossibility of the condition being described. It leads to me think it is a later ad hoc rationalization of a previous believed belief.

I think our agreement is that should a man or woman formerly homosexual or bisexual in their sexual activities wish to ordain under a heart set upon genuine renunciation this option should generally be open to them. Our disagreement is that I think some gay men would have been called pandaka and some not, and you believe none were rightly classed as pandakas.

Do you agree? Is this a fair representation of your positions?

I feel the relation of ayurveda to the buddhadharma is such an open and mysterious question, and one so rarely asked here with respect to the historical ascetic Gautama, that it could well be worth a thread of enquiry all its own. I think I might make such a thread with your blessing, as I myself have nothing other than suspicions and no super solid facts as to when ayurveda “began”, if you will.

Sorry, I had other things to concentrate on, so I didn’t see the suttacentral in the previous days.

Yes, I think that’s basically my position.

I don’t believe the five pandakas as describing homosexual. They may have sex (or sexual contact, like embrace) with men, may with women.

I speculate the description for some pandaka having sex with men is because they have no male genitals or have impotence problem. They can’t satisfy sex with women. So they have to find men to have sex or enjoy sex.

That’s why though they may have sex with men, they may still want sex with women (If their impotence problem can be solved). This is where the relation between pandaka and the Ayurveda medicine. To cure the impotence (or infertility).

Still, some pandakas can not be cured by the Ayurveda medicine, like napumsakapandaka or opakkamikapandaka.

And I think pandaka mainly be pointed toward napumsakapandaka or opakkamikapandaka. The reason is based on the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra (瑜伽師地論) calling the napumsaka-pandaka as complete-pandaka (全分半擇迦), the opakkamika-pandaka as damaged-pandaka (損害半擇迦), and the other three as somewhat-pandaka (一分半擇迦).

So the napumsaka-pandaka is complete-pandaka (no male genitals) from born. Opakkamika-pandaka is complete-pandaka from becoming eunuch or accidents. And these two can’t be cured through the Ayurveda medicine to recover male genitals’ function.

The other three are somewhat-pandaka, and seem to have some temporary treatments, or knowing how to inform the impotent patients what to do (from the Ayurvedic view).

In addition, the Pali Vinaya’s Commentary said only napumsaka, opakkamika, and pakkha are barred from ordination, with a caveat that the last can still be ordained during the “bright fortnight”. (This information comes from Semen, Viagra and Pandaka: Ancient Endocrinology and Modern Day Discrimination* | Likhitpreechakul | Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies )

So the napumsaka and opakkamika seem to be the main pandaka. Well, that’s what I think.

I am sorry to rejuvenate this post but I don’t want to create a new post just for this topic

Can anyone enlighten me on differences between a paṇḍaka and a hermaphrodite ?

Hi, this is what I found by searching for the term within this forum :



Hi @Gabriel_L . Please disregard that first article. Many of the things I said there I have revised in the essay of the second one. So please only use ‘Through the Yellow Gate’. There the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya is also mentioned and discussed in more detail.


Thanks for the pdf :heart::heart:

I have read it I am interested in your “anatta makes all social background a moot point” argument

But What’s the relationship between homosexuality/heterosexuality/transgender and anatta and do you think people must be asexual in order to fulfill anatta and become enlightened ?

Good work! I just wanted to say, there’s another big reason why some people might be against ordaining gay people, and that is for the same reason that monks and nuns aren’t allowed to live under the same roof. The gender separation is really based around separating people who are sexually attracted to each other. That’s simply enough for straight people, but not so for homosexual or bisexual people.

Of course a significant amount of gay sex does go on in Buddhist monasteries (so far as I can gather from the many accounts reported to me by monastics and ex-monastics in various Asian countries at least), as it does in most or all single sex institutions around the world. And some of that is connected to homosexuality. Though a lot of it is just straight males having sex with other straight males since they have less chance of getting caught and also see it as a lesser ethical breach than if they were to have sex with a woman. I guess letting in people who are openly gay would make things potentially significantly more difficult. Although in theory, in a situation like the Thai Forest Tradition, with practitioners in individual huts, that might be less of an issue!

Question : isnt that in ordination , one would have to answer if they are a man or woman when being asked ?
How would a gay answer then ?

A man would answer that they are a man, a woman that they are a woman. Isn’t that quite simple?

Sure but how would you explain gay according to buddhism or its vinaya ? Or how do you define gay in according to buddhism ? :thinking:

Gay just means you’re attracted to people of the same sex, not the opposite sex. I think something like 3~10% of people are gay, it is common to all cultures and all times. It’s very usual! I don’t think there’s any problem in explaining it to anyone of any religion. But it can be a bit of an issue in sexually segregated communities, since the usual motivation for separating people into male and female, is to prevent people being near people to whom they may be attracted.

But like I said, even among heterosexual people, if you separate them by sex, often some of them will have homosexual sex anyway. This is common in prisons, for example. And I have heard many reports of this in monasteries, and boarding schools also. So, this issue is not limited to gay people. But, it’s understandable that some monasteries would have some concerns when it comes to gay people. It would be similar to letting monks and nuns live in the same building. But it is not impossible to overcome. And historically there have anyway been plenty of gay monks and nuns, and I’m sure many or perhaps most of them have kept their vows just fine.

I know this but i dont understand how if this is to fit into the monastic structure in according to vinaya ? That it isnt defined in buddhism vinaya .

Ah I see. Sorry I cannot help with that. I have been interested in the Vinaya for a long time, well not so much but often curious, however I could never access it. But now that it has finally been translated, that is a great resource for us! Hopefully we can all gradually study it and understand more.