Pacittiya 118 [32] what is a group meal?

So there was a Vinaya question floating up and I wondered if anyone knew:

Pi Tv Bi Vb Pc 118 Gaṇabhojana 43 ↳

What is this “group meal” that we are not supposed to have?
what are its characteristics?
How do know whether I’m having one or not?



It is one of the most confusing rules!

As far as I understand myself: Devadatta attempting to split the sangha by creating a following from among the monks; he makes friendships with certain families which provide good food, and entices specific individual monks to join him in those meals while excluding others. The word “group meal” refers specifically to that kind of group, consisting of the same or select individual monks or nuns (at least four of them) from among sangha. This means that if laypeople invite specific nuns for food, it would be Pc 118 to accept it. Rather laypeople’s invitations are accepted when no mention of specific nuns is involved, for example as in saying: “we invite five nuns to the meal tomorrow”, without selecting which nuns.


thank you that is very helpful


This is actually quite a nice rule, with real world consequences. It hasn’t actually happened to me, but I did encounter one context where I could see how it might.

One time I was staying in the Perth Nollamara center to teach over the weekend. This was at the time when the bhikkhunis were still quite new.

Now, on the Saturday night, I got a somewhat unusual request from a few of the Thai people to come and have a talk with them. Not many, just three or four; and I didn’t really know them very well. I think they had seen that I could speak (bad) Thai, and figured they might have an ally. Anyway, I took it to be just a chat, and we talked about things for a while. Then, one of them raised bhikkhunis, in a way that was clearly meant to get a response from me. They were fishing for anti-nun monks. When I realized what was happening, I simply said that I supported the bhikkhunis, and that was that.

So this was a bit disappointing for me; I wasn’t used to this kind of politicking. But I could really see, for the first time, how this could work out in the case of the “group meal” rule. The laypeople can identify a group of monks who are, maybe, against nuns; or it could be anything else; maybe they disagree with a building project, or with committee decisions, or whatever. Invite those monks for a meal, get close to them, and engender a sense of gratitude. This starts to crystallize as a group, with shared interests and experiences, an alliance within the Sangha. Knowing they have lay support empowers them to take more risks and be bolder in their words and deeds.

This is how factions form and the Sangha splits.