Separation of lay men/women during temple service

Is there something in the canon/suttas that explain why lay men and women sit on opposite sides ot the temple during service?

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Do they? I generally sit with my wife. …

At my temple (Vietnamese/Pureland) men are on left, women right.
Same thing at the Vipassana meditation course.

We sit wherever it’s avaliable space in our temples.

No, there is nothing at all in the Early Buddhist Texts about this. Maybe in later commentaries.


Ok. My main temple is Thai. No segregation there.

For meditation retreats it may be useful, of course.

Huh. At pretty much every monastery I’ve been to the men sit on the left and the women on the right. This happens at Amaravati (Thai Forest) and Bhavana Society.

I’d be interested in knowing at what point in time this tradition came about, as in the modern day it presents a problem for those who do not identify as either male or female.

Odd. I’ve never seen that at the Thai or Sri Lankan monastaries that I frequent regularly. It would be very weird to go to a moastary with my wife and not sit together during refuges and precepts!

Based on a very small sample, people at Ajahn Chah monasteries do seem to worry much more about formality. I remember visiting one a few years ago and having one of the lay woman there fussing over whether we (me and my Thai wife) understood the proper protocol for offering food. I’m she meant well, but the way she approached it didn’t make us feel particularly welcome…


Most of the Sri Lankan temples I visited, men and women sit together.

At Bodhinyana Monastery and Jhana Grove meditation centre, we sit wherever we like, but of course, we don’t sit ’ too closely’ to the opposite gender. (But on Wednesday night talks at Bodhinyana, monks and nuns, and thus laymen and laywomen will sit on separate sides.)

At the Thai temple in Bangkok we frequent there’s no separation, either.

However, It will not surprise me to hear that some Thai people would insist that women and men not sit together, or men sit nearer to the monks, etc. What one should know is that it’s those people’s personal conception of what is proper, not what is really required.



This makes good sense, because it’s not allowed to have bodily contact when one is in the temple, but caused to lack of sufficent space, we all have to do the best of what is. therefore will all of us be mindful when moving around each other so we are not breaking precepts during our stay together and practicing dhamma. if we had enough space, I would maybe be the first one to move to that space, because then i could relax more into and develop noble silence

I’ve had the same experience, - not me directly, but some of my friends. Only thing that was a bit “wrong” was the insecurity of a young monk and his way of expressing his take on how it’s supposed to be. More experienced monks don’t usually have to be so blunt, but express their thoughts with as little pressure as possible, without being unclear and making everything a bit more confusing

I thought we were talking about lay people, so I don’t understand this statement. I also didn’t understand the reason why the lay people were segregated when there were bhikkhunis as well as bhikhus in the hall.

I guess these customs vary a lot between communities.

In my experience, experienced monks simply ignore breaches of etiquette unless they are particularly blatant or deliberate. One of the more impressive things I saw a few years ago was one of my teachers (now sadly deceased now) politely explaining to a rather forceful Christian lady that we didn’t pray to Jesus in our monastery, and that was why Jesus hadn’t been mentioned in any of the speeches. She kept grabbing at his arm, which I think was upsetting some of the lay people around us, but he just calmly told her (after it was clear that she was going to keep doing it) that he really wasn’t supposed to touch women, so could she kindly stop…


I’m surprised to hear this of Amaravati. At Aruna Ratanagiri (also Thai Forest), people sit wherever they wish. It is in the North of England though, where folk are more down-to-earth :wink:

Neither do I … :blush:, but if i now do what I should have done: “we don’t allow ourselves” (Thai temple) - And maybe a bit to much “stiffness” in understanding of rules among younger monks, which makes a bit of confusion in a newly born mixed Sangha (Western temple)

Oh, OK. Sure, it would be customary to mimimize physical displays of affection at a temple, for example.

And the Abbot is from New Zealand, where we are trying to put that English formality behind us… :laughing:

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