Entertainment when becoming a monk

I noticed that when becoming a monk you had to take a vow of no entertainment - such as movies and dancing. Does this include reading? All kinds of reading especially novels, non-fiction, books of other religions and so forth… Please forgive my ignorance



Perhaps Bhante @Brahmali could give us the background on this if no one else is able to chime in.


If you read for entertainment, I would say it is covered by the precepts. If you read for other reasons, then perhaps not. If you read the suttas, then certainly not!


I am a bookworm - I read almost anything. Because I believe in working on myself in all aspects I made it my purpose to learn something from everything I read, fiction and non-fiction. At the same time because I love reading, no matter what I read it is entertainment for me (even the Suttas). So I am caught here. Hypothetically, if I become a monk then would I still read the Suttas because that will be entertainment for me? (even if I have to give up all other reading material - I think the entertainment factor here would weigh more?). Or am I splitting hairs (how important is splitting hairs when it come to keeping the precepts as a monk?). Please forgive my list of questions and my obvious ignorance.

You may be over thinking this. Of course you can read the suttas and of course they are entertaining.


From a purely analytical perspective (that is, not in the context of monastic precepts), the concept of “entertainment” (using the English word) is entirely subjective. One person’s idea of entertainment is another person’s idea of boredom, or another person’s idea of torment, or another person’s idea of educational, or another person’s idea of mild interest. Even the same of person over the course of their lifetime will have changed conceptions of entertainment. What a child finds entertaining is in no way entertaining to an adult, and vice-versa.

I suppose this is actually an issue of degree. The question is, at what point does something entertaining become an attachment and therefore a craving which interferes with pursuit of Nibbana? Consider this scenario: I spend quite a lot of time at my local Wat, as do many other laypeople. It is quite possible that the monks in residence at the Wat find watching the antics of us laypeople (e.g., preparing the communal meal at the annual Songkran festival and getting excited about who brought what meal item) to be entertaining. In fact, I observe the monks, and they actually do seem to be entertained, nay, amused by the behavior of laypeople.

Does this mean that the monks at the Wat should request that laypeople stay away, lest we entertain them with our petty excitement about who brought the best laab? More likely, a trained monastic would note the feeling of being entertained, and then let it pass inasmuch as it is impermanent and in no way defines a self.

The point is, I am not sure any human being short of a true Arahant can completely avoid entertainment. The trick, I surmise (writing as a layperson) is to avoid cravings and feelings of attachment to those things that are entertaining. Or am I completely off track?


You are supposed to enjoy reading the suttas! In fact the whole practice of Buddhism is ideally enjoyable. You need to define entertainment differently, as the stimulation of the senses. It is playing around in the sensory world that is problematic. You might think that reading is not included in this, but the fact is that the mind can enjoy sensory stimulation indirectly, such as by fantasizing.

Is this helpful?


I always go back to the basics on these kinds of practice questions… Why is entertainment to be avoided? The Buddha always has a reason based on cause and effect.

Since the ultimate goal is complete stillness of the Mind, then one can see that anything that causes the mind to crave, engage and attach (except for the Dhamma), is what the practice is focused on. The more serious one is about practice, the more rigorous one is in where effort and attention are focused.

As a transition, even before you ordain, it may be useful to use awareness and mindfulness when one notices the craving, and to examine it’s nature in detail… what, why, how etc etc. When one engages, do the same examination. Compare before and after, and the effect on mind states - see the cause and effect. After a while the mechanisms can be seen and the nature of desire changes. Then it is not so much about discipline but understanding and relinquishment :slight_smile:


Thank you all for replying :grinning: This was very helpful, I now realise that perhaps I have been overthinking it. I also realise that I have to be more aware when different feelings arise… Thank you so much

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Even a monk who reads the Sutta all day long would be criticized if he was neglecting seclusion and tranquility of percepience (AN5.73), how much more one who reads what is unrelated to the goal.

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A simile from real life that I’ve taken on to help interpret this precept:

On new years eve, my dog kept trying to climb under the cactus to hide from the fireworks. We pulled her away, and she kept trying to get back under the cactus.

It’s a bit similar with entertainment, isn’t it? We want it because we seek comfort, often without even acknowledging the unpleasant feeling we’re running away from. But entertainment offers no shelter from dukkha and it can easily prick you.

So when you feel the urge to entertain yourself, perhaps it would be useful to ask yourself if you’re trying to hide under a cactus. And if you are, what are you hiding from?