Translation - Mendicants, monks and nuns

I noticed that in the Vinaya translations, Aj Brahmali would use the term monks and nuns. However, in the suttas, Aj Sujato would translate the word Bhikkhus as Mendicants. I’m just wondering why Aj Sujato prefers the generic and clumsy Mendicants. Would it not be more accurate to know that the Buddha was addressing monks when he said Bhikkhus?

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In many suttas, though the texts uses the word bhikkhu, it seems there would have been both monks and nuns present. There are a number of contexts that show this was the case. For example, AN 4.170 begins by referring to “monks and nuns” but then continues with just “monks”. Obviously this is just a convention of abbreviation.

“Mendicants”, though admittedly a little clumsy, has the advantage of being gender-neutral, and hence more inclusive. In addition, it is a more literal and I believe more accurate term than “monk”. “Mendicant” means someone who relies on alms, which is precisely what bhikkhu means.

In the case of the Vinaya, however, there is a need to make a clear distinction between the references to monks and nuns. Hence keeping the gendered terms is essential there, unlike in the suttas.


Although it may be true that both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis may be present, a translation is supposed to be just that - to translate and not to extrapolate or interprete. Just like Goenka translates “Bhikkhu” as “Meditators” in his version, I believe, with due respect, that both Goenka and yourself are letting your inclinations influence your translations.

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