Rules of Conduct: Etiquette between monastics and lay people


How does one correctly adress a Bhikkhu as a lay follower? Does one make :pray: hands and slightly bow? Or are there other rules?

Also, I see a Bhikkhu on the train sometimes. Should I offer him candy or food or is this rude?

Thanks, Thomas

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Bhante, but depends on traditions. Thai would have some monks qualify for the Ajahn title, Myanmar usually is Sayadaw. Generic English one is venerable.

Depends on you. It’s a cultural thing, I don’t wish to impose cultural marks of respect on people.

Oh so many, but it’s the monastic’s job to keep track of it. Of course, lay people who knows more can help more, and the monastic can be more free to act in certain ways. Read: The Bhikkhus' Rules: A Guide for Laypeople

If it is before solar noon, it’s ok. Also, can see if the monk is carrying bowl. Sometimes the bowl is full of other things as we use bowl as extra baggage, so it’s not always that monks travelling with bowl is on alms round. At no situation should you put money into the bowl.


Before noon, it’s allowable for a monk to accept food and eat it.

After noon, he can tonics like chocolate, honey, molasse, and medecines like tea, coffee, chocolate powder without milk…

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Yes, that’s the safest default. When in doubt you can ask them how they like to be addressed. :blush:

But not that specific: the hands together in anjali :pray: is pretty universal across Asia / Buddhist traditions as a sign of respect. It’ll definitely make a good impression (especially to the other lay people around!)

Not rude, but not necessary. In Thailand, lay people who see a monk traveling like that will usually just give them space (an appreciated gift!) Occasionally I’ll get offered a bottle of water, which is a nice gesture and very safe (though, usually unnecessary as I’m already carrying one in my bag).


Try it and see if he takes it?

Wanting to offer food and sweets looks pretty normal to me.

Most Theravada monks will be used to receiving dana. It’s hard to know if the train is an appropriate place or time but maybe this could be clarified by asking.

Mahayana monks may be less used to this sort of dana, depending on the region. There is less of a culture around it.

In a Theravada context, I think it would be quite unlikely that anyone would be offended by genuine attempts to help as we always celebrate and rejoice with the donors.


I notice it touches my heart (to tears) that you think about offering something. What a nice thought!


In the public context of meeting a stranger, there is actually no need to use forms of address at all. Whether you say “Hello” or “Hello venerable” it doesn’t matter.

Each country/tradition of origin is going to have its own terms and there is usually no way to know. Even English terms vary. The only universal thing is the anjali, so if you use that you will be safe.


If one day I should happen to meet Bhikkhu Bodhi on a train or at the airport, I will get like a little child and be completely silly.


I think intent counts for a lot. When I’ve come across monastics, of any tradition, in public places I never found greeting them with a smile and an anjali wasn’t met with a smile in return. For what’s it worth this works fine with Christian monastics as well, though in those cases it isn’t anjali but a general gesture of respect.

Of course, if you start to practice within a given tradition there is the expectation that you will learn what is expected and follow that. As I visit a monastery in the Thai Forest tradition the abbot and senior monastics are Ajahn, not Bhante.

Thank you Venerables (not a plural that I get to apply very often) :full_moon_with_face:

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So, i also met some teachers. But being silly is just me :innocent: