The meaning of paṇḍaka in light of the Vedic and Jain scriptures


Yeah, thanks for sharing that link to the Monk with Nazi sympathies. it’s really nice to see the path Buddhism is heading down.


Just to be fair, Dhammosadha did qualify his comment with the following

This is so true! And the nature of samsara!

Nibbida! Nibbida! Nibbida!

with much metta and karuna



To be fair did you take a look at the rest of the blog? This monk was on youtube chatting up with known white supremacist.


Just to note that the blog is clearly labelled incendiary and politically incorrect. Personally I choose not to engage in such stuff - especially if one is warned that it is going to contain material that is not wise, not skillful and not beneficial to the path.

I’ve only opened it to have a look because of the comments - and yes the briefest skim showed that it would only cause suffering if read - so I’m not going to read it. Why voluntarily immerse oneself in a lake of excrement? Why get upset at wrong view by those who are ignorant and deluded? Didn’t the Buddha advise to think of them as ill?

Pour that excrement on the mango tree… don’t eat it and expect it to be beneficial.

Is argument,or indignation with, or about, the individuals with such wrong view a wise course? This does come to the root of the question about socially engaged Buddhism. However, it would be best to have that discussion in another thread so as not to detract from the Topic of this thread.

For a long time I held the belief that we should root out and change such things to what I believed was better/more right. Finally the penny dropped - the nature of samsara is that it is like this! That is why we practice so earnestly for liberation! We cannot change the essential nature of samsara - maybe in a small location for a brief period of time. But to expect to turn samsara into a heavenly realm ? ?

What is unclear to me is the rationale for linking to the blog in the first place. @Dhammosadha, is it to demonstrate the bias against pindakas in the world today? Or was there some other purpose for choosing that link? Perhaps you could make a more explicit warning that the content of that blog is upsetting etc, to ensure that people are prepared for it and not surprised - or even consider removing it out of compassion for others on this site?

:anjal: :dharmawheel: :heart:


Hi @Viveka, it’s a bit unclear from your above post if you’re acting as a moderator here, or if this is a personal contribution and point of view?

I know that moderation is a thankless job, but I really do thank you for always trying to be balanced and fair. So I’m sure you’re intentions are always good. :blush:

In regards to your reply to me above, on the one hand you (quite rightly) ask for fairness , but on the othe hand say that unfairness is the

I know you’re offering us a teaching here, which is fine, but then following that up by saying

it might sound a bit dismissive, as if we shouldn’t try to deal in practical ways with unfairness in life. By resorting to purely ultimate or transcendental teachings, like nibbida, it bypasses very real issues of discrimination against paṇḍakas raised in the thread. You go on to say in your most recent post:

We cannot change the essential nature of samsara - maybe in a small location for a brief period of time. But to expect to turn samsara into a heavenly realm ? ?

But this approach implies that there is nothing we can do to prevent discrimination, that it is insurmountable. However, this is not true. Issues of discrimination and unfairness, such as slavery, women’s suffrage and, indeed, the barbaric practice of castration, have been dealt with, historically, out of compassion and kindness for others. Trying to reduce suffering is a valid spiritual solution to a real world problem. To only advocate transcendental ultimate teachings, in comparison, seems indifferent at best, even callous. I know that some senior teachers advocate for a “let go, you can’t change the world” approach to life, but this comes from an incredibly privileged position of relative safety and ease. When any group who experiences discrimination, is told “that’s just life, life is suffering, deal with it and get over it”, as some sort of spiritual teaching, it diminishes the path of kindness, care and compassion the Buddha outlined. I don’t think we should just spirituality bypass the very real suffering people experience in this world because it seems too hard.

Whilst spiritual solutions are important and pertinent, remember that the main issue here in this thread is uncovering who exactly is paṇḍaka, because there is a prohibition against ordaining them. If we regard living the monastic life as being the very best opportunity for people to practice the dhamma, it is therefore also the best opportunity to develop nibbida.

This reasoning is similar to those advanced for the ordination of women, it gives the best opportunity for liberation. Yet, paṇḍakas cannot be ordained! One of the common arguments against women’s ordination has been (and still is) that they can still practice the path effectively, and they should simply develop nibbida for this cruel world… which may be true, but it seems an inferior way of practice to have to accept just because of their gender. It leads to women hating their female bodies and wishing to be reborn as a man in future lives. It’s good that those historical women and men worked to overcome that unfair rule. It’s good that the Buddha agreed to female ordination. It’s good that contemporary people have worked to correct this more recent unfairness and didn’t just dismiss it by telling people to develop dispassion for the world…

How very sad, then, to think of another group of people discriminated against because of their gender identity and their bodies; paṇḍakas. Although much of this thread has focussed unnecessarily on the perceived sexual behaviour of paṇḍakas, it is important to remember again and again that these are actually people, not abstract concepts.

Contemplate the suffering of eunuchs; they were forcibly castrated at a variety of ages, from babies to pre-pubescent boys, or even adults. It is an incredibly painful and brutal procedure that produces complications with urination, along with infection and often death. Let alone social stigma, discrimination etc. It is good that people worked hard to ban this type of unfair and cruel practice. But it still happens today, and should just not be accepted as ok, just because the world is ‘unfair’. These are real bodies, real people.

Trans and non binary people also have complicated relationships to bodies and fixed gender roles. I know of a case where a Thai trans woman wanted to ordain, but not fitting into a female Sangha, had to remove her breasts to be admitted to the Bhikkhu Sangha as a man. So, as has been noted a few times, the issue of paṇḍakas is an ongoing issue.

The purpose of this thread is to discover exactly what paṇḍakas are, so that we can limit the diverse group of people who are caught up in the non ordination clause. This is important, as can be seen from the thread, because previously, unfair ordination discrimination has been imposed on a very broad category of people, including: gays; effeminate men; non gender conforming people; trans people; butch women; intersex people and others whose sexual behaviour is regarded as abberent. This is unfair and should be called out as such. It is harmful, based on ignorance and hatred. So, as spiritual practitioners we should acknowledge unfair discrimination anywhere, especially on the monastic path, and work hard to overcome it.


When the moderators post in an official capacity we are to use the staff background color so that it’s clear which role we’re in with our comment. As such, @viveka’s post should be seen as a personal perspective.


Yup, correct. Tho that little shield does inevitably provide a little bit of ambiguity.

This seems to be the point. And there are rules in place to guide, even expel, those who fail to abandon sex altogether.


Thank you for your post Bhante Akaliko.


Greetings Ven Akaliko, (as has been stated by others’) my posts in this thread were purely a personal point of view - as are all of those which are not officially in moderator colours. It is the same for all moderators - generally moderators who have participated in a thread don’t take on a moderator role, should problems arise as this could lead to bias etc. We aim for fairness and transparency :slight_smile: Also virtually all moderation decisions are done in agreement by non-involved moderators, the more serious the issue the higher the required number of moderators who agree.

Thanks for raising this, and giving us an opportunity to clarify :pray: :slight_smile:

I’d like to take some time and consider the rest of your post before making any replies. It is a complicated issue, and can be approached from various directions, so I’ll do my best to try and better illustrate what was trying to express and pick up on your many valid points.



Bhante @Brahmali, thank you for your reply. I guess I was making a bit too quick conclusions from reading the texts and didn’t see how it could be read in different ways too. So just to clarify, the way you understand the term pandaka and it’s development is that it originally meant eunuch, along with the prejudices and stigma attached to eunuchs in their social position and then later the word became a wider category, to include people with abnormal sexual orientations/behaviours, that were not necessarily eunuchs ?
If so that also seems quite reasonable actually, especially after I’ve yesterday freshened up my knowledge on the role(s) of eunuchs in ancient times and about sexuality of eunuchs/castrati.
How the itthipandanka is then to be understood is still not clear to me, even in light of the passages in the vinaya where it appears. Maybe simply as an inheritance from the monks’ rules?


Bhante @Akaliko,

Yes right, I was discussing the (unfair) meaning of pandaka in light of the historical meaning I understood to be attached to it and in light of the origin rule and how I understood the reading and implications of it. I was obviously not telling my personal opinion about what the behaviors of eunuchs or other gender-non-conform people would necessarily be and I tried to make that clear in my comment. In the passage where I gave a personal comment, and that you quoted as an unfair characterization of pandaka, the way I used the word pandaka is not the same as the way you used pandaka in your response. Prior to it I definded pandaka as excessively lustful and that is the way I used it when saying that ordination of “pandaka”, i.e. excessively lustful and sexually uncontrolled queer people OR people so-perceived by society, would still be problematic today. And when I said “dangerous” I primarily meant that it would be a ‘dangerous’ situation for themselves, for the reasons already stated. By defining pandaka in the way I did I actually tried to exclude “normal” queer people from the definition of pandaka, but this point seems to have been missed and misunderstood. again: I was saying ordination of sexually uncontrolled people, as well as people so-perceived by society is problematic - I was not saying ordination of queer/homo/etc. people in general was problematic. I thought that was obvious - sorry for any misunderstandings.
In fact my direct neighbor in the monastery I’m staying right now is evidently gay, and there are a handful more homosexual/effeminate monks in the monastery, but that is not a problem, because just like me these brothers are living the celibate life in all it’s facets and trying to detach from any kinds of sexual behaviours/characteristics.
On the other hand for example there are some trans-men-prostitutes outside a mall in Yangon and one day when I passed there (in robes) they started coming up on me, making rude comments - this kind of behaviour towards a monk is quite unthinkable in traditional Myanmar, and I would personally not see them fit for ordination as of their present state. why? -> because as opposed to my brothers in the monastery they are wantonly unrestrained.

Anyways, as I’ve written above in response to Ven. Brahmali, my ideas about the word pandaka have changed, so the discussion of non-eunuch-queer people as part of the early usage of pandaka isn’t a question anymore :slight_smile:

Also I would like to thank you Ven @Akaliko, for reminding (me) that we are not talking about concepts here but about real people and real consequences for them :pray:


@Viveka, thanks for the inquiry so that I can clarify: I shared the link to Ven Pannobhasa’s article for the reason already specified when linking to it: because I thought it (=the article) might be interesting (in the context of this discussion). “Interesting”, because it offers some historical perspectives on eunuchs and homo-/trans-sexuality in ancient times as well as in contemporary societies, also in light of the word pandaka, some of which perspectives haven’t been mentioned yet in this thread, so I thought it a valuable contribution. In my perception the article in question doesn’t have the negative characteristics mentioned by others with regard to the blog in general, although some of his statements in the article might get some people upset, that’s always possible when discussing a controversial issue. For the rest of the blog, that’s not what I was referring to and that’s not what I want to promote at all - I just linked to the article for the sake of the article. Linking to an article also does not mean that I agree 100% with whatever the author says in the article - it’s not my article - I shared it purely as a resource for further discussion.
I assume that my post was flagged and hidden because of that link, (has someone actually read the article?) so I removed it and am sorry for upsetting the community.
Whoever is still interested in further resources can find the article “Buddhism on Homo- and Transsexuality” on google. WARNING: the blog also contains material less or un-related to Buddhism, especially political stuff, that might be upsetting.

I honestly didn’t expect the reactions that came and didn’t have an intention to make anyone uncomfortable - may all be well :pray:

With metta, :sunny:


Yes, and this is in large part based on the research done by Ayya Vimala.

Yes, this is not clear. What is clear is that the term itthipaṇḍaka is marginal, only occurring five times in the canonical text, all of which may very well have been added after paṇḍaka. My guess - and it really is no more than a guess - is that the term was introduced when the term paṇḍaka had evolved from its earliest usage. Alternatively, it could be an inheritance from the monks’ rules, as you suggest.


I think some of the misunderstanding comes from the loaded language you have used in your text, as well as your categorisation of queer people’s sexuality, along with your frequent usage of terms that you perhaps don’t actually know the meaning of.


Given that transmen prosititues are quite rare in Asia, I think most likely here you mean trans-women, i.e, people who identify and present as female, despite having been born in a body that might not agree with their gender orientation. Similarly, a trans-man is a person who presents as a man. It’s good to familiarise yourself with trans* terms so that you can use them correctly, especially in a thread about gender non-conforming people.

Um… Queer people are normal. They may be different to others, but they are natural and they are normal. This kind of judgement is actually quite hurtful if you think about it. Even the people you don’t think of normal probably think of themselves as quite normal. The distinction you are trying to make here feels quite judgemental and offensive. Why are straight people normal? Why are some queers more “normal” that others to you?? You don’t get to decide who is normal and not.

I’m not sure why you think you get to define what is considered as “excessively lustful”. Is it having sex more than twice a week? Or in adventurous positions? Why are queer people characterised as “sexually uncontrolled” when we know that rape is predominantly committed by straight men? Why are queers subjected to scrutiny that straight guys are not? Why target queers?

[quote=“Dhammosadha, post:31, topic:12894”]
Effeminate homosexuals always sounds like a double insult to my ears. Basically it’s mysogyny behind the fear of feminine men mixed with a bit of homophobia. But remember effeminate men can also be straight…

Unless he has come out to you, this remains a supposition. And it’s probably none of your business.

I can walk down the street and find dozens of straight cis-men who are completely inappropriate for ordination. Who are drunk and disorderly, who leer at women or wolf-whistle. But I don’t target them with this sort of judgemental criticism as “wantonly unrestrained” or apply their behaviour to all straight men as a prejudicial stereotype because all men are different. Most are unlikely to want to get ordained. Similarly, just because a trans person behaves in a certain way doesn’t mean that all trans people are the same. They are individual and diverse. Some might want to ordain! Some might like rap music. Others clasical… To see them as all the same is pretty lazy at best… Can you see the type of language and judgement you are using here is not something applied to straight people?

Anyway. I’ve had enough nibbida for a day! :grinning:


So to begin with the original points of confusion in my post :slight_smile: I can rewrite these few words in a way that might make their intended meaning clearer. Note, I could certainly have been more mindful of my expression to try and ensure less chance of misunderstanding, and I will endeavour to have more mindfulness and be more explicit rather than trying to use a less clear short-hand. One of the pit-falls of internet discussions :pray:

[quote=“Viveka, post:23, topic:12894”]

it really is unfair that people have come to view the paṇḍakas in such a one-dimentional way.(Quote Akaliko)

This is so true! And the nature of samsara!

Nibbida! Nibbida! Nibbida!

with much metta and karuna
[/quote] (Quote Viveka)

So this is what my intended meaning was;
I agree with your statement of ‘this is so unfair that pandakas are thought of in such a one dimensional way’

But it’s not surprising given that this is samsara which is full of unenlightened beings.

It’s repulsive it’s repulsive, it surely is repulsive that this exists

With loving kindness and compassion.

Further, you highlighted my words, and said

This is a rather large extrapolation :slight_smile: Perhaps if I qualify my remark by more clearly defining some of the terms it will become clearer. Again I apologise for not being more precise…
By the essential nature of samsara I meant that the essential nature of samsara is one of unsatisfactoriness and impermanence. One can fiddle around the edges, but one can not change it’s essential nature of being dominated by ignorance, and have it result in a state of lasting right view. When I speak of a brief period of time, and a small location, I’m talking about a state or a country for some years. Public policy can change very quickly, even in the best of times. Within 10 years in a county or a state, public opinion, public policy or legislation regularly changes, and not always for the best. To expect that one can effect a longer, semi-permanent change, for a part of the earth that encompasses cross national/political boundaries… well I don’t think that is realistic. This is what I’m talking about. One just has to read history to see the ebbs and flows of beliefs and practices. So yes, in a long term view – hundreds of years – is it realistic to expect a particular view to remain unchanged? Suffering will always exist in Samsara, that is its essential nature – just in what way it is expressed will alter, this century it may be pandakas, next century women, some other century those with different skin colour… or perhaps all of these at the same time somewhere on this planet…

That is the hard, unpalatable truth and reality of samsara. Does this mean we condone it? As practicing Buddhists, the answer is NO. We do not do anything to make other beings suffer. This is enshrined in the precepts, in the 8 fold path and in the Vinaya. Basically we undertake to be compassionate and kind to those with whom we have contact specifically and to all beings generally.

But the underlying question is what complicates everything, and that is about whether being pro-active is a “should” or a requirement, beyond simply being harmless and compassionate.

But what exactly does this mean. Is it about overcoming this within our own views and actions, or is it about trying to get others to overcome it and to change their behaviour, like the arguments about socially engaged Buddhism. How far outside our own circle of influence should we intervene?

To me this is about the interface between samsara and the spiritual path. It is based upon ones perceptions about which is the ‘Real World’ and which is the ‘Deluded World’. Which-ever one has primacy, is the result of causes and conditions of every human being.

There have been a couple of threads recently on D&D that clearly brought out these different perspectives, eliciting different responses depending on which perspective participants were taking. Today I attended a dhamma talk at BSV and this same issue was evident. It is almost like there is a perspective of ‘Lay buddhism’ and ‘Monastic Buddhism’ or mundane v/s supramundane, or even more emotionally charged, a contest of what is Rightest View, with regards to being compassionate and working to reduce suffering.

Now this is way, way above my pay-grade or level of competence to speak about in any definitive way, but I think this question is one that importantly underpins so many peoples practice today, that I would like to encourage our resident Ajahns to perhaps share their wisdom on this issue.

As Ven Akaliko has so poignantly illustrated, the Right Action is difficult to penetrate with regards to difficult issues today, be they related to gender, as in this thread, or climate change, socio-economic conditions or any of the proliferation of real issues that cause suffering today.

My own adult life could be cut in half, to actually resemble this division of views. The first half of my life was spent actively and consciously working on reducing the suffering of others and trying to make the world we live in a ‘better place’. Now I only apply it on an immediate interpersonal level – ie to reduce my own suffering, and through the practice of Sila, to contribute towards beneficial conditions and well being of those beings with whom I have direct contact instead of working from the big picture.
Is one of these approaches more correct or better than the other? – I don’t think so. Each one applies due to causes and conditions and ones’ personal circumstances at the time.

The solid base though, is one of No Harm, of ensuring that ones actions are harmless, as far as it is possible given the lack of control we have over outcomes… intentions do not guarantee outcomes.

Now I have purposely talked about the ‘ proliferation of real issues that cause suffering today’ , instead of just addressing the issue of Pandakas and Ordination. I have done this on purpose, because, in my view, the question behind it is much broader, and applies equally to each issue that causes suffering. The solution about how to address this kind of situation, where one is witness to conditions that cause suffering, needs to be able to applied to all such situations – indeed in principle there is no difference between them except for in a superficial way – whether the suffering is caused by ideas/conventions involving gender, or religion, race or age, or any other socially constructed and accepted view/convention at this point in time. What is the Right view, Right Action, Right intention, Right effort in regard to the dilemma of witnessing suffering as a Buddhist practitioner, either Lay or Monastic?

As Buddhists, we are committed to harmlessness, so at the minimum, acknowledging that many things are unfair, and that they cause suffering, and that we should not personally or knowingly contribute to that suffering but show compassion, and use as much wisdom as is possible in those situations, is a given. But beyond this, is there an obligation to change the system?

For me, this goes to the heart of each practitioners own causes and conditions and the aspects of the 8-fold path that is the current focus of practice. As has been mentioned, even the most senior teachers do not agree on the best way to address this, within the debates about socially engaged Buddhism.
In my personal view, this is because there is no ‘objective or static’ best/right way. It is conditional. Because it is conditional, it will be different for each individual, and each practitioner will have to answer it for themselves.

Again in my view, the least harmful way forward is to acknowledge this conditionality, and not to cause suffering to those for whom the ‘right action’ at this point in time varies from ones’ own. It is the understanding and tolerance, to see that, as long as harmlessness is maintained, no-one can determine the specific right action for another practitioner with regards to their spiritual journey toward enlightenment (within the structure of the 8-fold path, the precepts and the Vinaya depending on their status,).

But these are just my views based on my limited experience and limited knowledge of the Suttas, which is why I have limited confidence in them!

So what did the Buddha say about this situation? Again, I appeal to those Ajahns among us whose knowledge is superior in these areas, to provide skillful guidance. @sujato @brahmali @Vimala

I am cross posting this to a new topic, so as to be able to continue discussing this tangential issue, while maintaining the integrity of this thread.

with much metta and karuna for all beings :anjal: :heart: :dharmawheel:

Focus on reducing the suffering of self, or of others - which is more right? Or Real world/Deluded world - which is which?

Thank you so much Venerable @Akaliko, for the extremely valueble points you raise in the above posts.

As the OP of this thread I do however not agree with this statement. For me the purpose was to discover how the word paṇḍaka is used in the time of the Buddha and thereafter, at the time the Vinaya was compiled and under what conditions this word was entered into the Vinaya. I agree with Ajahn Brahmali when he says that we should translate on the basis of the meaning of the text, not on the basis of what is fair from a modern standpoint.

By making the historical context clear, we can also be justified in adopting a different stance based on our modern culture, and in fact we should. I feel we should never adopt the Vinaya rules blindly without carefully considering the reasons behind these rules (and the historical context and culture) and applying them with compassion. If the reason was as I stated above: namely that the word paṇḍaka entered the texts after the death of the Buddha because of the fear of public opinion and the influence of the Jains, then we are certainly justified to discard it altogether.

On a different matter, I want to thank everybody who contributed to this discussion. Even though the discussion has gone beyond merely understanding the historical context, it is important to have these discussions and it seems to me that the use of language can be very confusing and cause misunderstandings. I also thank Venerable @Dhammosadha for removing the link to the blog-post, which I understand was well intended but the general context of the entire blog raises questionmarks regarding the credibility of this author.

For me, to summarize this simply comes back to what I have always stated: people are people. Every person is different and unique and the only real grounds for barring a person from ordination is if they behave in a way that is inappropriate. How they look, what they wear, their race, sex, gender or sexual orientation should not be of any consequence to that. We still have a long way to go but openly discussing the issues, and in my own experience also the subtle, and often subconscious, discriminations is vital to that.


Thank you for the correction. Thats what I meant.

I meant it as homosexual “or” effeminate (I.e. possibly straight), sorry for being unclear.

Of course, and I never said nor meant that. I was only talking about specific individuals I had a specific encounter with. It was actually the point I was trying to make: that it was an issue of individual character and inappropriate behaviour. You might want to re-read the example I gave.

Venerable @Akaliko, I agree that I don’t presently have the necessary expertise nor sensitivity nor language fine-tuning to discuss gender questions in this group in a way that won’t be possibly perceived offensive, so I will better leave it at that for the benefit oft everyone and make an effort to become better informed and skilled in sensible conversation. :pray:

Thank you Ayya @Vimala for the positive response and conclusion :slight_smile:


I find it hard to believe that anyone would be surprised people would have a reaction to such a blog. Just because something has “a warning” doesn’t make it right to post. Pannobhassa crossed a line associating himself with nazism. "Homo"is not a word that should be used in normal talk and just because there was a warning doesn’t make it ok. Silence is complicity.