Does woodworking violate the vinaya

Some questions:

  • Does woodworking or carpentry violate the vinaya? I know that you are not allowed to harm seeds, but what if the wood has already been cut down and donated.
  • Is it ok for lay people to cut down trees? A thai forest monastery I stayed at had lay people pierce seeds before the food was given to monks.
  • Is there a difference between cutting down trees yourself and buying wood that has been already cut down, i.e. there is no destructive act in buying wood.

Thank you

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As long as the wood is no longer able to grow, then there is no offense.

The Vinaya only applies to upasampada (high ordained) monastics not lay people. So, yes, lay people can cut down trees. This is one of the few things that monastics are permitted to hint at. “This plant is in the way and shouldn’t be here,” is, under ordinary circumstances, fine for a monastic to tell a lay person. “Kill this plant,” is not.

Well, if you can purchase meat from an animal that has already been killed, then you can be sure that purchasing wood that has already been cut down is fine. Although in any case a monastic couldn’t do the purchase any way. So, see paragraph. above.


Interesting. Do you think a lay person would accrue unwholesome kamma-vipaka for cutting down a tree? I know such topics are not so clear-cut and explicitly stated in the suttas. I can imagine there are wildlife/insects that could depend it.

I vaguely remember a jataka story (or maybe vibangha) of a person being haunted by tree spirits for cutting down trees.

No it’s a single-sense being not a sentient being so there is no bad kamma from killing it.

No. It would have to be somehow tied to some other unwholesome factor. For example if the tree didn’t belong to you.


There’s a fundamental misunderstanding here about the nature of the monastic rules. In contrast to the first four precepts (which are moral) the monastic rules are mostly not moral rules. Even for a monastic, most of the vinaya rules are meant to foster harmony within the Saṅgha and with the lay community: scripting how interactions should be conducted, etc. They are not saying “a monk who does things another way accrues bad karma!” (though, of course, that may also be true! :laughing:)

Simply put, if people know what’s expected and how to behave, there’s harmony. And if there’s harmony and peace in the temple, people can meditate well. That’s all.

The monastic rules are practical, not metaphysical.


I work as a joiner and early on in my training I learned that an eye-watering and substantial chunk of timber being sold here in the UK/EU was being sourced illegally.

I always felt my job wasn’t compatible with right livelihood given that I was in a supply chain directly linked to corruption, mindless destruction of our planet, peoples lands and homes, etc.

Although I have an incredibly robust eco policy and only work with certified product I’m still not sure that even now, 21 years later that working as a joiner has been good!? I often reflect that the world does need joiners/carpenters and that at least I’ve been very vocal about the need to be environmentally conscious moving many of my customers away from legally purchasing illegally sourced product.

As a lay person my concern is primarily with right livelihood :+1:t2: