Pandaka ordaining, vinaya

Where in the vinaya is the part that says pandaka can not ordain?

I suggest we consult our Vinay expert venerable @brahmali. :anjal:

These are the main entries I found by searching the term “pandaka” here, FYI:

I suggest you give the D&D search function a try!


Yes, thanks Gabriel, my first reaction was oh please not that discussion again.


It’s found here: SuttaCentral

The translators have choosen to translate it as “eunuch”. Personally I think it’s more likely that “pandaka” means some kind of submissive, likely cross dressing, homosexual or perhaps something more akin to the hijras of India. This article is quite a good discussion on the topic: Male Homosexuality and Transgenderism in the Thai Buddhist Tradition

It is found in the first Khandhaka, the Mahakkhandhaka, the section on the ordination procedure. Here is the relevant passage (my translation):


At one time a certain eunuch had gone forth as a monk. He approached the young monks and said, “Venerables, come and have sex with me.” The monks dismissed him, “Go away, eunuch. Who needs you?” He went to the big and fat novices, said the same thing, and got the same response. He then went to the elephant keepers and horse keepers, and once again he said the same thing. And they had sex with him.

They complained and criticized them, “These Sakyan ascetics are eunuchs. And those who are not have sex with them. None of them is celibate.” The monks heard their complaints. They told the Buddha and he said, “A eunuch should not be given the full ordination. If it has been given, he should be expelled.”

For why “eunuch” is a suitable translation for paṇḍaka, see the first reference given by @Gabriel_L above.


I see this said a lot, but always as a theory or suspicion. I’ve seen a few people say this on a few forums. Is this a personal suspicion you have, or is there a historian of Buddhism I haven’t read who argues this? If it is a personal suspicion, what leads you to suspect specifically someone who would be submissive and “likely cross-dress?” Keep in mind, supposedly, penetrative sex between two males is for some reason listed separately from penetrative sex with a paṇḍaka, unless I’m just showing off vinaya ignorance by stating that, so the way that they would have to be submissive would have to be something more than just having formerly been the passive partner in penetrative intercourse. If paṇḍakas were chiefly known for being gender non-compliant (acting effeminate, or masculine for a girl, cross-dressing, etc.), wouldn’t most descriptions of them describe them mostly that way?

Instead, we get a “crushed one,” a “voyuer,” a “sprinkled,” some kind of moon-based monthly transformation, etc. Very odd categories if they just dress differently.

Later āyurvedic-influenced explanations will reframe paṇḍaka as a form of sexual dysfunction, namely anything that causes someone to be unable to reproduce, whether that’s lack of attraction to women, etc. Discussions on Tibetan vinaya practice on DharmaWheel reveal that, for instance, the “voyeur” is sexually dysfunctional because he must watch arousing materials and cannot perform uncoaxed in such a way. A modern version would be perhaps what we call “porn addiction.” Very different from effeminacy or cross-dressing.

It seems rather curious to me, as a side-note, that criteria for entry into an order where reproduction is unlikely should be so based around reproduction. There is no real modern reason why the “crushed one” oughtn’t ordain, for instance. Even anti-homosexuality advocates can surely see that that one is an arbitrary exclusion. It really shouldn’t matter whether your testicles are intact or functional.

I’ll edit this since the thread is closed:

I know you’re gay from DhammaWheel. We’re both gays. I’m not accusing you of this, but it’s possible to be gay and anti-gay, such are referred to as “self-hating,” but no, I wasn’t suggesting you are one of the anti-homosexuality advocates. I was saying that even if one were to be an anti-homosexuality advocate, one could still theoretically see the oddness of not allowing the “crushed” to ordain. Why are their testicles so important?

1 Like

From Peter Jackson "Male Homosexuality and Transgenderism
in the Thai Buddhist Tradition"

But broadly it can be said that ubhatobyanjanaka 6 refers to hermaphrodites, while pandaka 7 refers to male transvestites and homosexuals… However, elsewhere in the Vinaya and in other sections of the Tipitaka it is made clear that ubhatobyanjanaka and pandaka are spiritually and ritually inferior to men, often being compared with women and criminals… Thirdly, ubhatobyanjanaka and pandaka denote types of people rather than types of behaviour and are primarily gender categoriesenoting assumed deficiencies or aberrations in masculinity or femininityather than categories that denote sexuality. This is shown by the fact that the Vinaya in places refers to homosexual behaviour between monks who are not identified as being either ubhatobyanjanaka or pandaka That is, homosexuality is not the central defining feature of these two categories. But having said this, it is still the case that the aberrant gender of ubhatobyanjanaka and pandaka people is generally assumed to imply that they engage in homosexual behaviour…

This [ The Story of the Prohibition of the Ordination of Pandaka]story shows the Buddha’s concern to uphold the public image of the sangha and his wish that his followers should not be seen to violate commonly accepted standards of behaviour. 25 A number of cultural assumptions underlie the elements of this story and the Buddha’s concluding pronouncement. Firstly, the fact that the pandaka monk is described as approaching in succession “young monks,” “large, stout novices” and a presumably coarse group of “men who tend elephants and horses,” reflects a conjuncture of notions about types of sexually attractive men still found in sections of both Thai and Western homosexual subcultures today. Secondly, while the individual monk in question violated sangha discipline, the Buddha betrays an assumption that all pandaka are likewise unsuited to monastic life when he prohibits any further ordinations of pandaka and orders those already in the sangha to be expelled… It might be contended that what the Buddha’s ban on the ordination of pandaka reflects is concern about the disruptive effect of effeminate transvestite homosexuals in an order of celibate, predominantly heterosexual monks. However, the above piece emphasises homosexuality, indeed passive homosexual sex, as the violation and source of disruption. What the above-quoted section of the Vinaya suggests is a conflation of passive homosexual sex with demasculinisation, i.e. being a pandaka . Leaving aside the ethical misconduct of the individual pandaka monk, what the Buddha’s subsequent comprehensive ban on the ordination of pandaka indicates is a concern to exclude non-masculine men from the sangha . The ban also shows that a characteristic regarded as defining a man as non-masculine or a pandaka is a preference for certain types of homosexual sex. These same attitudes remain prevalent in Thailand today. A man who is known to be the receptive partner in anal sex may be labelled a kathoey . i.e. non-masculine, even if he is not effeminate or a transvestite, but the inserter in anal sex rarely suffers such stigmatisation. The above-cited scriptural references to penetrative homosexual sex (i.e. methunadhamma defined in “masculine” or penetrative terms), while proscriptive, do not imply that the men who engaged in such sexual behaviour with the pandaka monk jeopardised their masculinity. In other words, the canon appears to inscribe attitudes to male-male sex and masculinity that parallel views widely held in contemporary Thailand.

That deficient masculinity lies at the core of the notion of pandaka (and also of kathoey ), and is the basis of discriminatory attitudes towards this group in the Buddhist scriptures, is further demonstrated in sections of the Vinaya where pandaka are described as having a spiritually inferior status to men. For example, Volume Four specifies that if a monk is ill on the day when the patimokkha, the two hundred and twenty seven clerical rules of conduct, are ritually recited and he is unable to join in the ceremony he may declare his moral purity, that is, the fact that he has not violated the clerical code during the past fortnight, to another monk. This second monk may then convey the ill monk’s affirmation to the assembly of monks at that monastery. But if the monk to whom the ill monk makes his affirmation has some stigma attaching to him then the affirmation is invalidated and must be made again to another, ritually pure monk. The specified types of stigma that invalidate an affirmation of moral purity include: the fact that a purported monk is only a novice (i.e. not fully ordained into the order), if the monk is mentally deranged, a murderer, a non-human (i.e. a spirit) posing as a human or if the monk is a pandaka ( Vinaya , Vol. 4, pp. 194-195). That is, according to the Vinaya , pandaka, along with murderers, the mentally deranged, non-humans, etc., are spiritually defective and lack the ritual authority required in order to convey an ill monk’s affirmation of moral purity to the assembly of monks.

A pandaka, or ‘one without testicles’ (Zwilling, : ), is often discussed in similar contexts to the hermaphrodite. The term has generally been translated as ‘eunuch’ – i.e. someone deliberately castrated – in the past, but Leonard Zwilling argues that this equation is wrong, as eunuchs were virtually unknown in pre-Muslim India. Rather, he holds, it and its synonyms were used in a metaphorical way, ‘as we do in English when it is said of a weak or pusillanimous person that he (or even she) “has no balls”’. Indeed, they are said, like women, to cry when a prince is banished. Before discussing what exactly the term refers to, it is useful to point out that it is applied to a man who lacks the normal characteristics of maleness, or occasionally to a woman who lacks the characteristics of femaleness. In outlining the variety of sexual types, whether among humans or animals, the Vinaya talks of females, males, hermaphrodites and pandakas. While the hermaphrodite has the sexual characteristics of both genders, it appears that the pandaka is seen as one who has the characteristics of neither gender. This accords with a set of four logical possibilities often referred to in Buddhist texts: that something is x, or not x, or both (in part) x and (in part) not x, or neither x nor not x, where ‘x’ refers to a certain characteristic. A common commentarial gloss for pandaka is napumsaka, the ‘non-male’, and the usage of the term shows that it refers to someone who is neither a normal male nor a normal female, i.e. a ‘neuter’. In the discussion of various monastic offences of a sensual nature for a nun, the Vinaya states that the act, if done in relation to a human male, is a full offence, and a lesser offence if it is done in relation to a non-human male, or in relation to a pandaka, who is thus seen as non-male human Zwilling points out, in fact, that the pre-Buddhist Artharva Veda distinguishes pandakas from ordinary males and females, and implies that they were transvestites…

The female pandaka is mentioned on a few occasions also. In the Vinaya, two passages imply that a ‘female pandaka’ cannot be a sexual partner for a man. Zwilling says that the term, ‘by analogy with the male pandaka, would seem to be no more than the female of the species and equivalent to the na¯rı¯s and a, or lesbian, of the medical literature’. Just to equate the female pan·aka with a lesbian is problematical, though: while she might be sexually attracted to women, she is also clearly seen as having some organic abnormality of the uterus. This is apparent from the nature of a list of those who cannot be ordained as nuns, namely those:

“without sexual characteristics, and who were defective in sex, and bloodless, and with stagnant blood, and who always wore a menstrual cloth and were dripping and deformed, and female-pandakas, and man-like women (vepurisika¯), and those (whose anus and vagina) were run-together, and those who were hermaphrodites.”

The Buddha is said to have prohibited the ordination of any pandakas, and required the disrobing of any who were already ordained, because of the following situation. A pandaka monk approached some young monks, then some fat novices, then some mahouts and grooms, asking each in turn to ‘defile’ him. While the first two groups sent him away, the last group agreed to his request. They then spread it about that Buddhist monks were pandakas, or that those who were not pandakas nevertheless ‘defiled’ pandakas. This indicates that a pandaka was seen as some kind of promiscuous passive homosexual. That (male) pandakas were seen as potentially sexually available to men is clearly indicated by its being said that even a good monk is mistrusted and suspected if he goes for alms to the haunts of prostitutes, widows, coarse young girls, pandakas or even nuns. Thus Buddhaghosa sees them, like prostitutes and coarse young girls, as dominated by lust and longing for friendship with anyone. They are ‘non-males (napum· saka¯) who are full of defilements, with unquenchable lust’. Accordingly, a monk should not sit down in a private place with a pandaka, though this is a lesser offence than sitting in such a place with a woman. Zwilling affirms that in the Vinaya, pandakas are nearly always referred to in the context of sexual, specifically homosexual, behaviour. He sums up his views by describing them as ‘a socially stigmatised class of passive, probably transvestite, homosexuals’. To have such people in a celibate male community would be seen as problematic, hence the bar on their ordination. For a monk to penetrate any being, including another man or a pandaka, with his penis, in any orifice, was an offence entailing expulsion. Interestingly, this disjunction implies that being penetrated by another man did not necessarily mean that a man was a pandaka. It may perhaps be that he was raped, though the seventh-century Ta-ch’eng tsao-hsiang kung-te ching even distinguishes between one reborn as a pandaka and one ‘with the lusts and desires of a woman, and enjoys being treated as a woman by other men’, through such past karmic causes as having despised other men or enjoyed dressing as a woman. Thus not even all passive homosexuals are classified as pandakas. Moreover, in the Vinaya, penetrating another man or a pandaka was not seen to make a man a pand aka. In the Hindu Ka¯masu¯tra also, it was ‘atypical gender behavior and coital role’ – i.e.being penetrated – that were crucial in seeing a man as ‘queerly different’ (Zwilling). Zwilling sees the ordination-bar as simply a ‘practical concession to prevailing conventions’

The commentaries have a list of pandakas here:

  1. asittakapandaka man who gains sexual satisfaction from performing oral sex on another man and from ingesting his semen, or who only becomes sexually aroused after having ingested another man’s semen.
  2. ussuyapandaka voyeur, a man or woman who gains sexual satisfaction merely from watching a man and a woman having sex.
  3. opakkamikapandaka unuchs, that is, castrated men lacking complete sexual organs.
  4. pakkhapandaka PeopIe who by the force of past misdeeds become sexually aroused in parallel with the phases of the moon, either becoming sexually aroused during the two week period of the waning moon (Pali: kalapakkha ) and ceasing to be sexually aroused during the fortnight of the waxing moon (Pali: junhapakkha ) or, conversely, becoming sexually aroused during the period of the waxing moon and ceasing to be sexually aroused during the period of the waning moon.
  5. napumsakapandaka (also sometimes called simply napumsaka) person with no clearly defined genitals, whether male or female, having only a urinary tract.

Out of which the first 2 may ordain. The train of thought is that, if we take males, a male pandaka is a man who has somehow compromised his masculinity by either being sexually deficient in some way or by engaging in femmine acts, such as being the receptive partner during anal sex. This would explain why in the Vinaya story the pandaka is only the one being penetrated. The men who pentrated him are not classed as being pandaka, since to be the insertive partner is to not have compromised one’s masculnity. A similar thought can be found in Ancient Greece and Rome regarding homosexual relations. I think it is worth bearing in mind that our concept of a “homosexual”, that is to say homosexuality as a sexual orientation, is quite modern. In ancient times gay sex was merely seen as something some men sometimes do, by which they would either be seen as being effeminate or not. If the man took the submissive role during sex, then he had compromised his gender role and so was viewed with scorn. Given this understanding one can then see why the Buddha would ban such people from being ordained, since he had to maintain the image of the sangha in the eyes of the laity. It would also mean that when a man ordains, when they ask if he is a man the Vinaya is really asking “are you a real man?”.

If this interpretation is correct then in modern times it would mean that effeminate or cross dressing homosexuals would be banned from ordination whilst masculine homosexuals could ordain. In essence, a masculine homosexual can become a monk because he isn’t seen as having compromised his gender. He wouldn’t have the “signs and features” of being a pandaka, to use a sutta phrase, whilst a homosexual who overly displayed their homosexuality by being effeminate, or what we would today call camp, can not be ordained.

Even anti-homosexuality advocates can surely see that that one is an arbitrary exclusion. It really shouldn’t matter whether your testicles are intact or functional.

You seem to be suggesting that I am anti-gay. Apologies if I have misread you.

Edit: To clear up any possible suggestion that I must be prejudiced in some way i would like to add that I am a homosexual, not that this matters.

1 Like

HI @Ceisiwr, I hope you take the time to familiarise yourself with the other posts in this thread, as there is certainly more than one approach and many views on this topic.

Although Zwilling, Jackson, Cabezon and others are to be commended for their groundbreaking early work on sexuality and gender-diversity in Buddhism, it’s worth noting two things; firstly, their work is now around 30 years old, and since then, our understanding of the field of sexuality and gender has radically changed. Looking through a contemporary lens, these authors sometimes conflate ideas of sex characteristics and gender; confuse intersex with trans; frequently repeat (unconsciously I think) trans-misogynistic thinking; revert to stereotypes and popular mis-truths about things like in gay sex the bottom partner is passive and feminine, which is simply not true; they also have a fairly binary understanding of trans identities. These authors actually identify as queer, I think if they were writing today on this subject their views would be much better informed and their conclusions more nuanced. It’s worth noting too, that Jackson’s piece is specifically looking at a Thai cultural context.

Secondly, 90’s era scholarly work on pandakas rely almost entirely on the much later commmentarial tradition for the definition of pandaka. There is a paucity of information in the earlier sutta and vinaya texts which, in absence of a fuller definition, means the later tradition is allowed to take precedence in discussion, which is a sort of scholarly error when examining the issue of pandakas and ordination at the time of the Buddha. Certainly, the commentaries introduce a whole range of concepts that overlap sex-characteristics, gender and behaviour in unhelpful ways that frustrate an easy singular definition. It’s further worth noting that the definitions above like ‘part-time pandaka’ pakkhapandaka, (whose behaviour is reported to be affected by the moon) remain at best curious, at worse completely baffling. It’s a problem that these definitions have become repeated over and over again as definitive, when they are in fact uncertain on their own terms and further, being so late, really need to be considered as a quite separate textual tradition. An analogy is the development of Christianity, which in it’s early medieval form bears no relation to the religion at the time of Jesus; or how the Latin American version of Catholicism bears little resemblance to puritan Protestantism; or how the concept of purgatory is regarded to be a 12th century invention. I make this analogy to show the danger of relying on later texts as proof of something earlier, and to show how concepts can change over time.

When we consider our uncertainty around the term pandaka in the suttas, let alone the much later overlay which is somewhat suspect, and reflect on the stakes at play (ordination), it’s perhaps wise to be as inclusive and compassionate as possible.

It’s worth noting that there are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, non-binary and intersex users of this forum. Topics that talk about their inclusion or exclusion from aspects of religious life are sometimes quite confronting because these communities are accustomed to religious rejection, as well as both overt and veiled criticism in daily life and in forums just like this one. It’s worth bearing this in mind that some non-LGBTQIA+ forum contributors handle these topics very poorly, using exclusionary language, repeating stereotypes and feeling entitled to views despite generally being uninformed. Even merely ‘repeating facts’ or ‘reporting what’s in the texts’ can be harmful, as this is how some people perpetuate hatred and prejudice towards the LGBTQIA+ community. So it’s good to be sensitive and have awareness of others.

[edit]I am just adding here that I really disagree with quite a few of your statements and conclusions, which are full of incredibly problematic turns of phrase, stereotypes, assumptions, and mis-use of terms, such as this:

I would urge you to reflect upon your statements, examine your belief systems, prejudices, assumptions and look at the way you have presented your views here.


Indeed, if there is the smallest possibility that something could be seen as harsh, hurtful or dismissive, it is best to refrain from posting, until one can find a way to speak that even the possibility of these qualities is eliminated. When speaking of ‘others’ imagine it is being addressed to yourself. Normally it just requires stepping back and considering carefully, or making a few drafts before posting.

Kindness trumps ‘views’ and ‘freedom of expression’ every time. This is the essence of Right Speech.

Metta to all our participants


The solution to the OP question has been provided. It now seems to be duplicating previous discussions from other topics. As such this Topic is being closed.