How Do You Communicate With Monks/Nuns

I’m not going to pretend I’m a Buddhist pro in anyway whatsoever, neither do I want to sound obnoxious or rude in any way as I do totally respect the Buddhist community.

As with anything in life, I’ve always found it extremely difficult to engage in something when having very little knowledge, in modern day words I’m calling myself a complete noob to Buddhism. All I’ve studied to date is the Buddha and his 29 years growing up in a palace, and the following 6 years completely suffering to discover awakening.
Parts of this connect with me in a way that I can’t put into words.

For the past couple of years I have been attending a Monastery 20 miles away from where I am stationed. I’ve only ever walked around the gardens with my pug, and sat on the benches in the courtyard when it has been raining. I’ve taken offerings to put on the table, but never joined in with the actual dinner gathering, this is because I do not eat during the day time, I’ve got into a habit of going off all food in the daylight hours, not intentionally, it’s just I got bored of eating, food just seems boring to me.

Though I will smile at the Monks and Nuns and say hello, I’m just not sure how to approach them with any kind of conversation, it’s almost like I don’t want to intrude on there peace and tranquility.
It’s not like I have questions, it would just be interesting to talk to them about the gardens/plants and insects etc.
I never see them sitting in the gardens, I never see them sitting in the courtyard, I only ever pass them either around the kitchen area or walking into the Temple.
And though I have written to the Monastery about this subject, I’ve never had a reply.

So how does a complete newcomer to Buddhism, approach Monks/Nuns within the community without any understanding of the scriptures, chants and lingo.

Thankyou for your time reading this!


“Idle chatter, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of afflicted spirits; for one reborn as a human being idle chatter at minimum conduces to others distrusting one’s words.” An8.40

I would advise against idle chatter, anything “etc.” with the monks. Such people enjoy seclusion, meditation, silence so much to become monks.

Sometimes monks will make themselves available to laity, especially during meditation sessions, dhamma talks, and these are good times to ask any dhamma related questions. However, just chatting about the garden, insect, aimless chatter, I would refrain.

If you have a burning question that is related to your dhamma life that a monk can help you out with, then assume they would be happy to help. If “it’s not like you have questions”, then assume that it would be a burden on them.

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For example, I took some sweet chestnut trees that I grew from chestnuts, from an old sweet chestnut tree located in an old historical churchyard.
I put these 150mm plants on the offering table.
My thinking behind this was one tree could keep the whole Monastery fed for years, (rather than one jar of Marmite which could only last one day) though it takes 5-10 years to reach the stage of producing chestnuts. And it needs a second chestnut tree to cross pollinate.

And looking at the gardens and surroundings, some of the Monks/Nuns are attending the gardens themselves. So I think it’s safe to assume they enjoy gardening?

So as I walk around browsing, I wondered if they knew of the importance of cross pollination with chestnut trees.

Depends on the monastery, but actually we have precepts not to engage in digging or harming plant life. Perhaps the most we can do is give the plants some water. We cannot plug fruits from trees, we cannot eat the fruits without them being offered.

We are not meant to be gardeners, so maybe you can volunteer to be the gardener there, since you have the knowledge. You can just approach them and say you would like to offer your service as a volunteer gardener and go from there.

Anyway, for the dhamma wise, it’s good to get one of the free distribution books they might have there or just learn the basics online, BuddhaNet's Buddhist Studies: A Basic Buddhism Guide

Then certainly, some questions would come out regarding the dhamma. Or join in their beginner Buddhist course, (if they have one).


Can you give more details? Is this temple Mahayana or Theravada?

This is how I would handle this.

See monk/nun/lay person who seems knowledgeable:

“Hello Venerable,” etc. Get their attention.

“I donated a chestnut seedling the other day and I remembered they need cross pollination. Who can I talk to about this?”

Then follow all instructions.

IMHO, having a proper contact with the temple before offering trees would be ideal though, to let you check in advance that the temple can accommodate them/that someone can take care of them for 5-10 years and more.

The more you talk to temple people, the more you can ask and learn what the donation culture you saw means to them. Daily donation in Buddhism is related to simplicity and alms culture and may actually mean a lot to the people who do it.


This is the beauty of sweet chestnuts, they offer themselves to you from October through to November by falling from the tree, and opening up in their prickly shells when ready to be taken. The squirrels love these and you can see why!
The magic of Sweet chestnuts

I will look into the beginner classes, thankyou for replying!

I did Email the Monastery to see what they needed, I then mentioned the Chestnut trees and the lady said I could bring them as an offering,
As for the Monastery being Mahayana or Theravada, I’m not to sure. All I know is it’s called ‘Amaravati’ if that’s any help?

Thankyou for taking the time to add an approach route, it’s very much appreciated!


Hi @LawnMower !

I think that it was very kind of you to think of the temple and want to offer something helpful to the community there! Some Buddhist monastics garden, other monastics don’t. It depends on the tradition and sometimes the needs of the community :smiley: So if you’ve seen the monastics gardening there, it’s safe to assume that they are in the first category! Though it’s possible they would appreciate volunteers to help out.

In addition to the kind advice of Ven. Suvira, I would recommend that you find out when their scheduled programs are. They probably have some kind of public event or gathering during the week you could attend. That would be a good time to get to know the residents and maybe speak with them some, even briefly. Meeting with them on-hours is probably safest, because they will be expecting visitors. This way you can feel less awkward about disturbing them.

As long as you are not being intentionally disrespectful and have a kind intention, I’m sure they will be understanding and happy :slight_smile: If they aren’t, it’s not your fault.

EDIT: You mentioned the monastery is called “Amaravati.” Is it the one in rural England, Great Gaddesden?

Good luck!


Thankyou for the tips, I will ask them if they have a beginners class.
I would feel happier starting at the beginning!

And yes, it’s in Great Gaddesden.

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The Buddha is frequently seen to be having friendly chit chat with the lay people. It’s a normal human thing. Considering that @LawnMower has managed all this time to not say anything to the monastics so far (from the sounds of it) there is no reason to encourage them to talk less.

In a big monastery like Amaravati that has lots of visitors, it’s going to be unlikely that monastics approach people who don’t clearly need assistance. But that doesn’t mean they are unapproachable. At the same time, if it seems like someone is on their way to do something then best to find someone else to chat with.

The fully ordained monastics wouldn’t be doing the gardening work for the reasons that @NgXinZhao mentioned. But the novices won’t visually appear different and they are allowed to do this kind of work.

However, in a place that large there will likely be a monastic and/or a lay person who is responsible for the gardens/grounds. It sounds like this would be a wonderful way for you to start connecting with the monastery. So I’d advise seeking that person out. That could be a wonderful way for you to build a connection with the community. They may also have “work days” where people come to the monastery to specifically work on the gardens. Again, this might be a perfect way for you to engage with the community.

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Volunteering - Amaravati Buddhist Monastery Have a look at this and if it feels comfortable for you.
As for how to communicate with monastics: As long you are speaking respectful, as you would do with every other human being, you will most likely get a respectful answer back. A working bee day (in example) is a good option to get to know the Sangha (or part of it) and also other lay people. This makes it easier to “transition” in.

Gardening is a wonderful way to get into a nice communication - I think :butterfly: :sunflower:


Hello Alex70,
I did write to the volunteer section a few weeks ago now, and to date have heard nothing back.
I’ve been looking through the calendar and noticed they have workshops on a Saturday, they’re 2 hours long and cater for beginners.
I’m constantly aware of being respectful everywhere I go, ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ kind of philosophy, this works most of the time, but when it doesn’t then ‘Heigh-Ho’

Thankyou for the replies. :dove: