How Do Monastics Today Relate to the Concept of Nissaya?

For those who ordain, how do you relate to the concept of nissaya (dependence) with the preceptor?

I was speaking about the process of ordaining with a monastic recently and they brought up the concept of nissaya, explaining it as a certain ‘student’s code of conduct’ that ties you to the preceptor, with rules such as having to ask to speak, or needing to ask permission to do certain things like travel - with the preceptor having some level of ‘control’ over the student.

V. Thanissaro’s Buddhist Monastic Code P.I has a bit to say on this, although it describes a very close one-to-one preceptor-student relationship, in which context those rules make more sense, but I haven’t really seen that kind of relationship in monastic communities I’ve been to.

So I’m left not really sure how to relate to it, what to expect, or what is “the done thing” these days.
How should a new ‘ordainee’ (8, 10 or more precepts), relate to their preceptor in ‘dependence’?
What are the ‘rules’ and what should one be prepared to commit to with a preceptor when nowadays many don’t live with their preceptor?


interesting question,
when I ordained I didn’t even take it into consideration, regarding what kind of relationship I would have with my preceptor or dhamm’acariya. Having seen how it works in reality I’m willing to stay that how it plays out in reality is not always reflective of what it says in the vinaya texts. Meaning that just because we take higher ordination and the vinaya texts prescribe certain protocols for the ‘uppajjhay’ ‘sativiharik’ then that means in a majority of cases thats what happens…it’s the opposite.

in the cases of monastics I know who didnt connect with their uppajjhaya for what ever reason they almost always end up losing their way, but its one of those things thats relative also. Meaning say you dont connect with the preceptor but you manage to connect with one or some of the other senior monastics then it ends up being more or less the same thing.

I think back when I was under dependence and what difference it made in my monastic life in compariaon to some monastics I know who didn’t and the answer is yes if the conditions are there its beneficial but its.not absolute…

howz that

sasanassa ca lokassa vuddhi bhavatu sabbada


Hi Bhante,

Thanks for your reply and perspectives, it’s much appreciated to hear your experience.
I think it is right what you say about expectations vs. reality, and how very useful it can be to have contact with a good senior monastic or a good spiritual friend.

Just for anyone else reading along at home, I was in contact with another monastic who differentiated that it is possible to be an independent recluse with 8 or 10 precepts, versus taking nissaya with a teacher as a step towards the training for full ordination. Nissaya is not required by Vinaya until the samanera/samaneri pabbajja stage. I hope I have understood that correctly.

So in conclusion…

Not out!!! :smile:


‘another monastic who differentiated that it is possible to be an independent recluse with 8 or 10 precepts, versus taking nissaya with a teacher,’

To be honest if your indria’s are mature enough the eight precept anagarika or ten precept samanera(i) model has its positives, you can avoid the whole ‘ninda pasamsa’ -praise and blame- thing which can be a headache especially if the senior monastics are prone to ditthi mana, either way I think the best choice is to go for a good kalyana mitta(s) that way you can’t really go wrong. Alot if the time its actually the case you ordain and for whatever reason don’t end up living with your uppajhya then that’s not the end of bread and butter either,… can’t remember the sutta number but somewhere in the samyutta the blessed says to ananda…‘spiritual companionship is the whole if the brahmacariya’ and I would say secondary to that would be things like…pindapatta, climate, seclusion, and for me whether or not the switch for the the dhamma sala are infront of.the shrine and dayakas who arnt stubborn…

a list of things that make a monastery/monastic community worthwhile…number one list would be absence of the biggest source of angst the world …yadidam ditthi manam


This has been an interesting conversation; thanks @Cara and @Bhante_Darma .

I recall that someone once described the 1864-1933 Ceylonese nationalist and Buddhist revivalist Anagarika Dharmapala as a “half-mad, half-monk,” and I thought that a vocation worth working towards. But to be serious, I recall that he intentionally remained an anagarika most of his life so that he was not tied to a preceptor or wat, and was able to travel, lecture, presumably hold and use money, and move within the world without the obligation of the 227 precepts. I am unsure as to whether he adopted a life of a recluse, as he did seem to be fairly active in Buddhist revivalism and Ceylon politics of the time.

I feel anagarika life outside the wat and as a renunciant offers some opportunities, but also has its limitations, namely as a samanera/i or bhikkhu/bhikkhuni, one has the ability (as Bhante describes) to be connected with monastic kalayana mitta in the wat, and senior bhikkhus and bhikkhunis there that can act as mentors and teachers. Just being in community with a wat’s laity and monastics has some real advantages, though I have also felt, after many weeks in a wat, a desire to tudong it away from the temple a bit.