Plastic water bottles and the Buddha

Now days I find that temples accumulate large numbers of full and empty plastic water bottles. I also often see people offering bottles of water to monks on their alms round.

I am wondering what the Vinaya says about water and drinks in general?


More specifically:
Perhaps a dumb question but are monks allowed to get water for themselves (my assumption) or must it first be offered by a lay person?

According to,* “Plain water can be taken at any time without having to be offered.”

*“BuddhaNet is a not-for-profit organisation affiliated with the Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc, which was first established as a Vipassana Meditation Centre in 1992 in Sydney by an Australian meditation monk Ven. Pannyavaro.”

Yes. Here is the relevant rule:

(BTW, rather than respond to your own post, feel free to edit the original one.)

Thanks to both of you. I figured this was likely the case but didn’t know where to find it.

Yesterday I had a chance to ask this of someone who grew up in Thailand and she told me that when she was a girl, water was simply available to the monks and not part of what was being offered. Interesting to me how quickly technology (plastic bottles) has altered the tradition.

Hi Charlie, I don’t know where you live, but those of us who live in the West (I live in New Zealand) and have safe tap water find the use of bottled water confusing. In most western countries, buying bottled water is basically a lazy and wasteful thing to do- you could top up a water bottle from the tap.

This is not the case is much of the world and in many places I’ve visited in Asia, South America, etc, I definitely wouldn’t just drink out of a tap - there’s no knowing where exactly it’s come from. Of course, even then plastic bottles are often not the most sensible option - in many cases people will have water dispensers with large containers that get regularly delivered.

Agreed there are situations where bottled water is appropriate. What I find interesting is that water was not one of the things the lay community traditionally provided and that has really changed in recent times. The places I had in mind are Thai and Sri Lankan temples in California.

I think you are conflating the Vinaya allowance that water does not have to be hand-offered to a monastic by a lay person with the general requirement that humans need water to live.

Water has always been a traditional gift. India, even northern India, is a hot country much of the time. You can even read in the Vimānavatthu stories of the results of offering water to monastics:


I’ve seen that at my vihara, pre-pandemic. Along with incredible offerings of fruit at the Buddha status I’ve seen cases and cases of bottled water.