Relative ranking of the homeless ones

To understand the Vinaya better: Why does is matter if there is no order in who gets to eat first even by seniority? What’s the obstacle in letting a trainee eat first, then a 10 vassa bhikkhuni, then a 30 vassa bhikkhu, then another trainee, etc. ?

Is there anything specific in the Vinaya to try to establish a clear seniority in who gets to eat first?

I didn’t mention eat first. I said sitting arrangement and taking the food first.

As far as I know, it’s house/monastery rules for who eat first once people are seated.


I live in a communal housing facility, not a monetary, and a few months ago someone came up with the rule that women have to eat first.

It’s certainly okay for me to get to the kitchen first, but then wait for the women to come in and let them all in front of me. It’s fair/unfair, but kind. It’s certainly a test of minute patience, as hunger is a factor. But this kind of thing is pointless for me to judge. I just hope there is a way for everyone to be happy.

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So there are Vinaya rules that govern that?

Again, as a lay person if find it very disturbing that an elaborate and stringent rule system needs to be setup to avoid monastics fighting over who gets to eat when and where. Surely, people who have gone into homelessness to achieve the soteriological aim of the path don’t need to descend into bickering over such a trivial subject?

Maybe the rigidity with which this question is asked and given so much attention is an enemy of reaching the goal? Is this just betraying an attachment to rigid rule following that should properly be given up? :pray:

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Not so sure. It’s more like senior should get the best, so first in line should be the best pick. And then seating is usually by senior arrangements. Like start from here, snake the line from senior to junior.

Some culture have it that junior monks shouldn’t sit just beside a thera, but should leave an empty seat, in between, (if there’s enough space) some other culture is ok for Mahāthera to sit beside a 2 vassa monk.

Indeed. Could be pride. I am not sure if there’s a lay person thing I can easily find. Seniority is like army ranking, so a low rank soldier doing things which the higher ranked one should get first might be really frown upon. Or in family settings, perhaps a teenager take the best dishes first and leave the leftovers to their elders. Or in a company, the most junior workers take the best food first then the CEO does.

Anyway, when an expectation is set up for rank ordering, breaking it can be seen as an act of disrepect, and thus some sort of personal attack. There’s situations where respect are not given by juniors to seniors. Eg. when accusing the senior of misconduct. Or when the senior monk has Saṅghādisesa and is undergoing the procedures on the process to become normal monk again.

So the culture is there to value seniority

Vinaya rules govern the time of eating, the foods that can be eaten, etc. and how to receive the food and how to eat, wash the bowl etc. But they don’t prescribe any particular sitting arrangement etc. Its their own internal ‘house’ rules.

The vinaya once did have a rule regarding using the washroom - earlier junior monks used to wait for senior monks to use the toilet first out of respect, and suffered as a result - the Buddha did away with that rule and allowed everyone to use the toilet on as needed basis - that is how compassionate he was.

Something similar could be argued for rules regarding the order of food and sitting arrangements.

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I am not sure about it. It may said by The Buddha Gotama or it may made by some other person(s).

But, I do believe now that The Buddha Sangha and Current Sangha are totally different.

Especially those who feel more superior than others.

I don’t think it’s so big an issue, don’t make mountains out of molehills.

It’s just that practically speaking, there has to be someone to is first and someone last, the decision of who’s first and next is decided monastery by monastery basis. All we have to do is to just follow the local rules.

For those who insists on their own house rules for other monasteries, then it can be seen that there’s attachments. Of course, difference in vinaya interpretation doesn’t count. Like some Theravada Bhikkhu really don’t regard ordination done in languages other than Pali as valid, so they would rather not take food if Mahāyāna Bhikkhu is in front of them. I don’t see that as a show of superiority as much as being honest and consistent with the vinaya within themselves.

To insist that they must accept Mahāyāna Bhikkhu as not unordained people is to force another standard onto others and is a form of violence.

So just airing it here can possibly help those who are not familiar with the subtle issues at play and one can plan ahead to avoid possible unhappiness.

Ps. for the case described above, just have a lay person or even a novice monk to do the scooping and putting into the bowl of the Theravada Bhikkhu, or reoffer the food after the Mahāyāna Bhikkhu had gone through.