Ordination and Family Members

Is there a Vinaya rule regarding how often a monk or nun can have visits from family members and friends?

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No, there isn’t.

The closest we come to that is the number of nights sleeping under the same roof with lay people. There is also the rule around rains residence and visiting for less than seven days.

But neither of these regulates how often family can visit monastics. I’m not sure how one would even regulate such a thing. Imagine a monk standing behind a closed door shouting at his family to go away because they had visited once too often.


Thank you. So it’s up to the individual monastery to decide then?


Yes. Although I’m not familiar with any monasteries that have policies about families coming to visit monasteries. In Buddhist countries most families know their role in the system and understood what they were relinquishing when the allowed their child to go forth. In western countries people rarely ordain close by to their family.

And in all cases families are busy with lay life and can’t visit often.

All that to say, any problems that would arise from families visiting are probably highly individual and policies wouldn’t be needed.


I’d say it’s up to the individual monastic. And that’s really how it should be. Family dynamics can be very different and what might be challenging for one person may not be an issue for another.

Whilst some places might have guidelines or rules on this, I think such things would be legally dubious and, as already pointed out, not something actually found in the Vinaya.

We also have lots of stories in the suttas and Vinaya of family members seeing each other.


A lot of Christian monasteries only allow the family to visit twice a year, and brief telephone conversations.

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Right. But those kind of monastics are more or less locked up and cut off from the world entirely. My comment was about the impossibility of legislating something like that for a community of people who live out in the open, potentially walking into the village every day.

As well, if you look at the factors that would have to be defined it becomes difficult. Like the definition of family. Or what the legal definition of a visit was.

And the Vinaya doesn’t really legislate the behaviour of non-monastics. I guess you could have a rule that a monastic wasn’t allowed to utter more than seven syllables to a blood relation within a three month period. But that would just be strange.