Is train hopping/fare evasion considered a violation of Parajika 2?

This is a genuine Vinaya question that leads to many others:

Is hopping on a train considered a violation of Parajika 2? Assuming the travel cost is more that 5 masaka.

According to BMC Parajika 2:

The Vibhaṅga defines the act of stealing in terms of four factors.

  1. Object: anything belonging to another human being or a group of human beings.
  2. Perception: One perceives the object as belonging to another human being or a group of human beings.
  3. Intention: One decides to steal it.
  4. Effort: One takes it.

All the cases in the BMC involve physical object, but the question arises regarding stealing services, such as transportation or using tools or functions of objects in the real world.

In the canon regarding Parajika 2, we find the same pattern. The most remote case involves Customs station, but still, there is a physical object one is smuggling trough the custom.

It seems that many monks regard hopping on a train for a substantial distance or similar acts as parajika, but I cannot find any information about this, i.e. “stealing someone else services”. Have you come across any discussion about this topic anywhere?

Making this clear would help on the question of using copyrighted material.

Thanks a lot!

Interesting links:

ChatGPT’s answer:

Hopping on a train without paying the fare is a form of fare evasion, which is generally considered a violation of transportation regulations and policies rather than a violation of a Buddhist monastic rule or Vinaya precept.

The second Parajika rule in Buddhist Vinaya pertains to stealing, and it specifically applies to taking something that does not belong to you and is of value, with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it. While fare evasion could be seen as a form of dishonesty or unethical behavior, it doesn’t necessarily fit the criteria for a Parajika offense, as it doesn’t involve taking property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.

when asked to elaborate:

Fare Evasion vs. Stealing in the Context of Buddhism and Monastic Rules:

Fare Evasion (e.g., Hopping on a Train Without Paying):

Fare evasion, such as getting on a train without paying the required fare, is generally considered a violation of transportation regulations and policies, as well as legal norms in many jurisdictions. It involves not paying for a service that has a specified cost, and it’s typically enforced by transportation authorities or companies.

Ethically, fare evasion can be seen as a form of dishonesty or unethical behavior because it involves using a service without fulfilling the financial obligation associated with it. However, it does not necessarily meet the criteria for a Parajika offense, which is a specific set of grave offenses within the Buddhist monastic code.

In the context of Buddhist monastic rules, fare evasion would generally not be directly addressed as a Parajika offense because it does not involve the intentional taking of someone else’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it, which is the essence of Parajika 2 (the rule against stealing).

Stealing (Parajika 2):

Parajika 2, on the other hand, deals specifically with acts of stealing or theft. To violate this rule, a monk or nun must intentionally take something that belongs to another person or entity, knowing it is not given to them, with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of that property. This is a fundamental breach of their monastic vows and is treated with utmost seriousness in the monastic community.

Stealing in the context of Parajika 2 involves not only the act of taking but also a specific intent to harm or deprive another person or entity. The severity of this offense leads to expulsion from the monastic community.


In summary, while fare evasion may be considered ethically problematic and illegal in the secular world, it typically does not fall under the specific category of Parajika offenses in Buddhist monastic rules, as it lacks the essential elements of intentional theft with the intent to permanently deprive others of their property, which is the focus of Parajika 2. Buddhist monastic rules primarily address matters related to the monk or nun’s own conduct and actions within the monastic context.

Oh, dear god, can we please not start posting ChatGPT answers to Vinaya questions. That is not something it is designed to be used for. It is a language model, not a knowledge model.

@moderators, has a policy on posting ChatGTP been set yet?


Indeed yes. AI answers should be restricted to threads discussing AI and not treated as a source of knowledge.

My understanding would be as follows, assuming as you do that the value is sufficient, and additionally assuming that the monk knowingly intends to commit a crime involving theft.

In such a case, there is typically a grace period when the fare can be payed without incurring a fine, for example when inspectors board a train. Any offence would fall when there is no hope of payment, at which point the payee might consider additional legal recourse to recover their funds.

I believe such would count as parajika. However, as you say, the Vinaya itself is not 100% explicit, and someone might argue that in the case of parajika, any small doubt should excuse the perpetrator. However, while the train fare example is fairly trivial, such cases could easily involve large sums of money, for example a legal case. I think it is clear that engaging a lawyer with the intention to never pay them should be a basis for parajika, so I would consider fare evasion similarly liable.

This is not directly comparable.

What would be comparable is, say, using a hacked account to watch Netflix. In that case, there is a fee payable for the service, which goes towards servers, staff, and licence fees, and which you are deliberately evading. This is just like deliberately evading any payment.

Copying a file is a separate matter, which is why it comes under different laws.


What about hopping on a goods train? :thinking:


Can I ask for clarification as to what this phrase mean? Is it an attempt to evade paying a fare, or is it jumping onto a train just as the doors are about to close (and potentially endangering one’s life as well as potentially disrupting the train service?)

I think I may have evaded paying the fare once or twice in Europe, due to my misunderstanding of how the fare system works, but it was not my intention to avoid paying.

With regards to jumping on a train as the doors close, I did it once or twice but I am older and wiser now. My technique is I wave frantically at the train conductor as I run towards the train. If I get a nod and a smile, I will jump on board (because I know the conductor will hold off closing the doors on me) and I’ll try to thank the conductor if possible (usually when I disembark). If the conductor shakes their head, I’ll refrain as I like to be safe and not make the lives of train operators any more complicated than they need to be.

On trains where the door closing is automatic, I usually refrain from trying to enter when I hear the “door closing” warning beep.

Would it not depend on the laws in different countries, and also on the policies of particular railway companies on fare evasion?

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Isn’t there a difference between the train system offering free rides to monastics (or certain people) and taking what is not given, free rides?

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Than you @Snowbird and sorry.

We were looking for a long time with other monks about the wordings and what crime/offense such an act would be. ChatGPT came up with the term “Fare Evasion” which seems very appropriate and thus provided us with “knowledge”. As a non-native English speaker, I actually learn a lot from it as I can have a discussion about what I am looking for and he seems to understand where I am going. Much more powerful than Google in my opinion, but still need to be fact checked of course. seems even better at it. (I wonder how we will be able to distinguish what is what on the internet in the future X-)

Thank you Bhante @Sujato for your insightful answer, and yes these are the implied assumptions. Although the word “theft” is what creates debate, as some would argue that it is not strictly speaking a theft. A service doesn’t belong to someone, so you cannot steal it.

I have difficulty to follow the example of the lawyer. Can a monk engage a lawyer? I never thought about that. -_- But the example of Netflix is good as well: Evading a payment.

I need time to wrap my head around this a bit more :wink:

Good point. This came to my mind as well, as I knew someone who did it in Canada.

Yes, this is in the context of Fatal Vinaya Offences, i.e. if you commit a Parajika, you are no longer a monk, as soon as it is committed. Bhante Sujato explicited the assumptions I was making in his post above.

Thank you all for your help and suggestions

Asking a LLM a question like, “What do you call it when you ride a train without paying?” is wonderful and a perfectly appropriate use of the technology. But it provided you with language not subject knowledge, i.e. what does the Vinaya say about such and such. ChatGTP is an amazing language tool for non-native speakers.

ETA: in North American English, the term would be “train hopping.” It’s an idiom, so you can’t modify it into “hopping on a train” because then it looses the illegality aspect and just means “getting on,” hence the confusion @christie had. I did some googling and it seems that “train hopping” specifically refers to riding on a freight train, whereas fair evasion is for passenger. As others have mentioned, the difference may have implications in a Vinaya context.

I’ll change the post subject, but feel free to change it back.

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Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I wasn’t completely familiar with the term. I guess the Australian equivalent might be something like “skipping fare”.

I am also confused as to why the ethicality or morality is even up for debate. It seems obvious to me that fare evasion would not be the right thing to do, I can’t even imagine a situation where it would be regarded as “good” (unless of course the train company was somehow illegally charging the fee in the first place and it’s an act of civil protest, but surely there are better and more effective ways of addressing that).

I also don’t understand why a “service” can’t be stolen. Boarding a train illegally can have consequences and ramifications. At the very least the person has increased the fuel consumption by a small amount, so a thing of value has been consumed.

It’s not.

But this is a Vinaya discussion, so the criterion for deciding if something is an offense or not is not simply if it’s ethical or moral. That’s why having these discussions in a public form with people contributing who are not familiar with the exact criterion of the Vinaya is problematic.

And specifically, since this is a question about a parajika offense, the outcome could determine whether someone is or is not a monastic, one of the most consequential issues in the Vinaya.

From a moral and probably legal standpoint, of course a service can be stolen. From a Vinaya perspective, we’d need to flesh out some examples. The Vinaya is very complicated and things are not always what they appear. How you ended up stealing the service might mean that it was a case of lying, not stealing according to the Vinaya. For each (major) Vinaya rule there are a detailed set of criterion that must be met.

That’s is not a moral or ethical matter. It’s a legal one.

One of the reasons having these discussions in public is problematic is that it leads to the exact issue you bring up: this is clearly wrong so what is the debate? It makes it look like monastics are trying to get away with doing bad things or at least justify them.

However what may really be going on is someone is trying to determine whether or not they, or someone they know, are still a monastic. They, or the person they know, may have gotten to this point through corrupt intentions or misunderstanding. But at the end off the day they need to figure out if they are still a monastic or not.

Or… they may be trying to set up an argument why some other action would or would not be an offense, establishing some kind of parallel. Like, if fair evasion is stealing, then why is downloading copyright material not stealing.


I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Vinaya, but I still have problems understanding why it would not be considered “stealing”.

The train network is not a naturally occurring phenomenon - it requires effort and cost to build, maintain and operate. To use it without contributing to that cost and effort with intention amounts to taking something (or utilising something, which results in a cost) that belongs to someone else (which is nominally the train company, but arguably the general public since there is a view that train operators are simply providing a service that is ultimately for the common good). If enough people skip fares, it ultimately results in the rest of us paying slightly more for a service (regardless of whether we personally use it or not).

To me this is not a legal argument but a case of ethics.

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The question that has been raised was not, “did a monastic who intentionally evaded a train fare act unethically or not”. It’s clear that the act was unethical.

But the question that has been raised was rather, "did a monastic who intentionally evaded a train fare commit an offense that according to the Vinaya is classified an “expulsion offense”, i.e. in the very moment the offense was committed they loose their status as monastic.

These are two different questions.


Again, I don’t pretend to be an expert, it it seems clear to me from the quote from the original poster which was from:

According to that, all 4 conditions have been met so it is an offence. Whether it merits an expulsion or not, I will leave for others to decide.

Personally, I do think that if one is a monastic who has agreed to abide the rules, than even the mere act of contemplating fare evasion would be enough for me to question whether this person is really genuine in their motivation or not. The rules are there so that we clearly understand what is right and what is wrong, and it is not an opportunity to entertain hypothetical scenarios about what constitutes a transgression or not.

If I am in such a position, I would ensure there is no possibility of me committing an offence. If I don’t have the money, I will ask someone to donate it to me, or some other means, perhaps electing to travel on foot.

This is incorrect. Vinaya rules are not a way to “clearly understand what is right and what is wrong.” They deal with a vast range of issues, although most do have a tie in to ethics.

Also, exploring hypothetical scenarios about what constitutes a transgression or not is an important way for people who are living their lives dependent on the rules to understand how to follow them in contexts that may not have existed in the time of the Buddha.

Of course lay people engaging in uneducated speculation is not valuable to anyone.

I don’t think someone needs to be an expert in the Vinaya to participate in conversations about the Vinaya. However one’s insistence on pushing their own opinions and ideas should be in proportion to their own education and experience. Otherwise it’s not much better than asking for Vinaya answers from ChatGTP.


The question at stake is the Vinaya rules for monks and nuns. There are hundreds of specific ones in different traditions. Should they conflict with secular law there would be an issue of some sort.

I respect the efforts of all monastics to understand and follow their rules. As a lay person I feel some relief that I only have to worry about ethics.


Well, that’s your personal opinion, and I probably have a different opinion. It doesn’t mean you are correct or I am correct. Perhaps neither of us are.

I understand the value of exploring the boundaries of rules, but it seems to me (just my personal opinion) fare evasion wouldn’t exactly be top of my mind in determining whether a rule applies or not. Perhaps it is more important to you, or others, for some reason which I can’t fathom. If someone wants to interpret fare evasion as not transgressing, well, they are free to have that opinion, and to bear whatever the consequences of that opinion may be.

There are rules that I am not comfortable with, which is why I don’t accept the Sangha as a refuge. For example, rules prohibiting bhikkhunis from traveling alone, or sleeping alone, or being deferential to a bhikkhu. Perhaps I am misinterpreting these rules, but they are hard for me to accept. I understand that they are appropriate and contextual for the life and times of the Buddha, but it doesn’t mean I should be bound by them.

Interestingly this same question came to my mind the other day, as I listened to all the freight/goods-trains go past and lamented how hard it is to get a passenger train here.

My brother has ‘hopped’ trains all through North and Central America. He has also done it through Australia, but said the conditions here are much tougher, as you have to ride outside the containers in blazing sun and freezing wind. He’s also broken both his ankles and his wrist doing it. I’m not saying this is a good thing to do, but it explains why when I hear the sound of freight-trains this question comes to mind.

To me train-hopping is for freight-trains, and fare-evasion is for trains with fares.

Fare evasion is stealing something which has an agreed vaule. However, is it enough for a ‘king to imprison, banish or flog’ someone?
Was flogging the same as a modern day fine?

As we were taught, parajika 2 is for stealing something of significant value. The value we were given as a guideline was $500. The idea was about what would be reasonable to imprison or take serious legal action, rather than the value of a pada coin.

The Buddha said to him,
Atha kho bhagavā taṁ bhikkhuṁ etadavoca—
“For stealing how much does King Bimbisāra beat, imprison, or banish a thief?”
“kittakena kho, bhikkhu, rājā māgadho seniyo bimbisāro coraṁ gahetvā hanati vā bandhati vāpabbājeti vā”ti?

“For stealing a pāda coin, Sir, or the value of a pāda.”
“Pādena vā, bhagavā, pādārahena vā”ti.
At that time in Rājagaha a pāda coin was worth five māsaka coins.
Tena kho pana samayena rājagahe pañcamāsako pādo hoti.

At the end of the rule, we have Venerable Sāgalā stealing a turban. The turban is less than 5 māsaka coins. Even in modern times turbans are more expensive than a commuter train fare ($6ish) and about the price of an interstate fair. So I would argue that it is not a parajika to steal a train fair but it is something not to be done (dukkata).

However, if we take into account the fine for fare evasion, which here is NSW is $200 (maximum $500) though you may be issued with a caution. This is getting closer to an amount which would be classed as a parajika under my understanding.

So maybe! However, this is the value of the punishment not the item which is stolen. There is no mention of imprisonment for breaching any Travel Offences. Plus, if someone was able to pay the fine within the time period then you are back to around $6.

I am taking all of the above as a one-off offence where someone had a lapse of judgement, rather than an inclination never to pay their train fare.

Onto goods/freight trains.
Freighthopping - Wikipedia
Goods trains have no fare for human passengers.
Do we calculate the value of the fair which is stolen by cubic weight? :face_with_raised_eyebrow: Sending a parcel which is 80kg and 2msq would be quite expensive.

$1628 is the cheapest quote I could come up with.

This is a bit of a silly answer, but a bit of fun. Mainly because I can’t come up with an argument either way which I’m completely satisfied with.

The information I can find on fines is that ‘they are greater in Australia than the US’, where I believe they would be around the same as our passenger transport fine above and therefor the same scenarios would apply.

The argument for hopping a train in Australia is that the cars are all enclosed so you are not taking up space where goods could be stored or influencing significantly the cost of train getting from point A to point B. From this perspective I can see where you are coming from with your copyright argument.

One thing I did read, during my brief skim on train hopping, is that it is possible you can be put on a terrorist watch list for doing it. THIS would surely get you closer to being imprisoned, banished or flogged in modern terms.

We are working on it (we being the new management committe- wanna join and help fight AI related crime? :stuck_out_tongue: )


We are all entitled to our opinions, however we are not entitled to our own facts. And expertise on a subject matter is a real thing, but it gets erased on a platform like this.

It’s odd that we need to remind people that they don’t have to engage in discussions that they are not interested in, but yet here we are.

If this is not a topic important to you, then it would be better for you to allow other people to discuss it in peace.

If you don’t understand why this topic would be important to others then you have the amazing opportunity to just listen and learn why it might be. That is something that this platform is actually amazing for.