Do monastics lose their gotta (family name) or not according to the Vinaya?

In the suttas I found two conflicting messages regarding the ‘lineage’ of monastics

AN 8.19 has:

when they go forth from the lay life to homelessness, all four vaṇṇa – aristocrats, brahmins, merchants, and workers – lose their former nāma and gotta and are simply considered ‘samaṇā sakyaputtiyā

DN 16 says:

A more senior mendicant ought to address a more junior mendicant by nāma or gotta, or by saying ‘reverend’

So I wonder which view got codified in the Vinaya in the end, if at all?


I think the first statement is just to say that your “caste” background becomes irrelevant when you enter the sangha. Everyone is treated equal, no matter whether you come from a brahmin/khattiya family or a lower class.
You can’t actually replace the names of all monastics and call everyone ‘samaṇā sakyaputtiyā’. If everyone had the same name, how would you identify a specific person?

During the ordination ceremony, you are asked for your nāma, and that of your preceptor. That shows that you don’t have to give it up.


Thanks Ayya! What made me wonder is less the nama than the gotta. Because the gotta in the old days would contain the whole weight of the family background, their wealth, fame, shame, erudition, etc. (see for example DN 3 where the Buddha blasts a brahmin for his less honorable family history).

And I assume the Buddha wanted to get that out of the way, that monastics are credited only for their application of dhamma - especially when so many suttas warn of the pursuit of gain and fame.

So I wonder if - in the old days - a monastic was addressed e.g. by their prestigious gotta Bhāradvāja, if that made it extra difficult to lay down the identification-with and clinging-to the family past.

To make the question a bit more precise, do you know what happened to the gotta according to the Vinaya?

Edit: sorry the initial sutta reference was wrong, had to look it up again, it was DN 3 after all…

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I don’t remember any specific rule about the gotta. If there is one, maybe someone else can chime in.

In the suttas though, monastics use the gotta all the time, so clearly in the Buddha’s day, they kept it. For example if you go through the names in the Theragatha, there are plenty that are gottas, the most obvious ones being something like “Vacchagotta” etc. You also have instances where the Buddha addressed monastics by their gotta.

The vinaya for the most part is somewhat later than the suttas. Even if something was codified there about dropping the gotta, that would not reflect the early practise.

Addition: I found instances of the gotta in the vinaya, so it seems clear that people kept it, as I suspected. See for example the vibhanga of bhikkhu sanghadisesa 9: (In the context of using the gotta (=family name) as a pretext to accuse someone else of the same gotta of having committed an offense.)

The pretext of family: a monk sees someone whose family name is Gotama … Moggallāna … Kaccāyana … Vāsiṭṭha committing an offense entailing expulsion. If he then accuses another person called Vāsiṭṭha, saying, “I’ve seen Vāsiṭṭha. You’ve committed an offense entailing expulsion. …” he commits an offense entailing suspension for each statement.

Gottaleso nāma gotamo diṭṭho hoti … pe … moggallāno diṭṭho hoti … pe … kaccāyano diṭṭho hoti … pe … vāsiṭṭho diṭṭho hoti pārājikaṃ dhammaṃ ajjhāpajjanto. Aññaṃ vāsiṭṭhaṃ passitvā codeti—“vāsiṭṭho mayā diṭṭho. Pārājikaṃ dhammaṃ ajjhāpannosi, assamaṇosi, asakya­putti­yosi … pe … āpatti vācāya, vācāya saṃ­ghā­di­sesassa.


That’s a very illustrative example involving the gotta, thanks!

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In the context of carrying out saṅghakammas in the beginning it was by personal name only, but later both ways of address came to be permitted. The change came about as a consequence of Ānanda’s reluctance to attend an ordination ceremony presided over by Mahākassapa because his respect for the elder made him loathe to address him in too informal a manner.

Now at that time a person wished for ordination from the venerable Kassapa the Great. Then the venerable Kassapa the Great sent a message to the venerable Ānanda, saying: “Let Ānanda come, he will proclaim this person.” The venerable Ānanda spoke thus:

“I am not able to pronounce the elder’s name (for) the elder is my teacher.”

They told this matter to the Lord. He said:

“I allow you, monks, to proclaim merely by clan (-name).”

Mahāvagga, Pabbajjā


Excellent background story, thanks!