What are the suttas that note about ascetic practices (dhutaṅga)?

Thirteen kinds of ascetic practices have been allowed by the Blessed One to clansmen who have given up the things of the flesh and, regardless of body and life, are desirous of undertaking a practice in conformity [with their aim].
They are:
i. the refuse-rag-wearer’s practice,
ii. the triple-robe-wearer’s practice,
iii. the alms-food-eater’s practice,
iv. the house-to-house-seeker’s practice,
v. the one-sessioner’s practice,
vi. the bowl-food-eater’s practice,
vii. the later-food-refuser’s practice,
viii. the forest-dweller’s practice,
ix. the tree-root-dweller’s practice,
x. the open-air-dweller’s practice,
xi. the charnel-ground-dweller’s practice,
xii. the any-bed-user’s practice,
xiii. the sitter’s practice (Vissuddhimagga, 2011, pp 55).

Some people argue that these practices are originally introdused by Ven. Buddhagosha thero. However, there are number of suttas and texts in EBTs mention ascetic practices; at least one of them.

I found Sappurisa Sutta (MN 113) mentions number of ascetic practices.
i. paṃsukūliko
ii. piṇḍapātiko
iii. rukkhamūliko
iv. sosāniko
v. abbhokāsiko
vi. nesajjiko
vii. yathāsanthatiko
viii. ekāsaniko

What are the other suttas that discuss about ascetic practices? Is it possible to find all 13 practices in EBTs?


In EBT, please check parivāra, upālipañcakaṃ, dhutaṅgavaggo
Not in any other sutta as far as I know.


One or two also be enough.

Arañña Vagga has few of those.

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In SN 16.5, Maha-kassapa states the following nine practices:

Being a forest dweller (arannako), an almsfood eater (pin d apatiko), a rag-robe wearer (pam sukuliko), a triple-robe user (tecıvariko), a person who is of few wishes (appiccho), contented (santuttho), secluded (pavivitto), aloof from society (asam sattho), and energetic (araddhaviriyo).


About Dhuta practice in early Buddhism (the texts: SA 1141 = ASA 116 = SN 16.5; cf. EA 12.5-6), you may read the following article by Choong Mun-keat, pp. 300-302.

Kassapa Samyutta 2017 JRAS.pdf (395.2 KB)
“A comparison of the Pali and Chinese versions of the Kassapa Samyutta, a collection of early Buddhist discourses on the Venerable Kasyapa”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Cambridge University Press), Vol. 27, Issue 2 (2017), pp. 295-311.


These are not dhuta (/ascetic) practices. But characteristics of sallekha patipadā.

having few wants, being content with what one has, seclusion, uninvolvement in companionship, persistence, virtue (see sila), concentration, discernment, release, and the direct knowing and seeing of release. Sallekha

See Sallekha sutta for more information about sallekha patipadā. Sallekhapariyāya

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In the Theragāthā the sitter’s practice is said to have been undertaken by the arahants Anuruddha:

“For the last fifty-five years
I have not lain down to sleep;
Twenty-five years have passed
Since drowsiness was uprooted.”

and Kāḷigodhāputtabhaddiya:

Not lying down to sleep, persevering,
Happy with the scraps in my alms-bowl;
Bhaddiya, son of Godhā,
Practices jhāna without grasping.

Actually the latter appears to have observed almost all of the dhutangas.


Thank you so much for your responses.

All 13 practices are found in main four nikāyas (EBTs).

Suppose my disciples were loyal to me because I’m content with any kind of alms-food. Well, there are disciples of mine who eat only alms-food, wander indiscriminately for alms-food, happy to eat whatever they glean. When they’ve entered an inhabited area, they don’t consent when invited to sit down.
‘Santuṭṭho samaṇo gotamo itarītarena piṇḍapātena, itarītarapiṇḍapātasantuṭṭhiyā ca vaṇṇavādī’ti, iti ce maṃ, udāyi, sāvakā sakkareyyuṃ garuṃ kareyyuṃ māneyyuṃ pūjeyyuṃ, sakkatvā garuṃ katvā upanissāya vihareyyuṃ, santi kho pana me, udāyi, sāvakā piṇḍapātikā sapadānacārino uñchāsake vate ratā, te antaragharaṃ paviṭṭhā samānā āsanenapi nimantiyamānā na sādiyanti (MN 77)


Also worth reading SuttaCentral
“Mendicants, these four people are found in the world. What four?

  1. One person mortifies themselves, pursuing the practice of mortifying themselves.
  2. One person mortifies others, pursuing the practice of mortifying others.
  3. One person mortifies themselves and others, pursuing the practice of mortifying themselves and others.
  4. One person neither mortifies themselves nor others, pursuing the practice of not mortifying themselves or others. They live without wishes in the present life, extinguished, cooled, experiencing bliss, having become holy in themselves.

This sutta describes each, with considerable attention to how to “have this noble spectrum of ethics, this noble sense restraint, and this noble mindfulness and situational awareness,” and what to do once this is established, in terms of practice leading to liberation “neither mortifies themselves nor others, pursuing the practice of not mortifying themselves or others.”


I’m reviving this thread just too clarify a few points in my own mind (that may be interest to others too!) I also want to contribute tidying it up a bit so the links and references might be a bit clearer to future visitors.

Also, while I do appreciate the Path of Purification’s (Visuddhimagga) description, I also don’t want to take for granted the descriptions and translations that have been passed down. So where it seems like another view can be taken, I might slip that in.

(Note, that I’m using Bhante Sujato’s translation for the sutta passages for the most part, although I reference Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli’s translation of the Visuddhimagga)

==The Standard List of Thirteen Austerities==

  1. The practice of wearing rag robes (paṃsukūlikaṅga)
    MN113, for example. For other instances of rag robe-wearing, you can find search for paṃsukū.

  2. The practice of owning three robes (tecīvarikaṅga)
    SN16.5. For other instances, search tecīvariko

  3. The practice of only eating alms food (piṇḍapātikaṅga)
    MN5. Search piṇḍapātiko

  4. The practice of wandering for food without discrimination (sapadānakaṇga)
    MN5. Search sapadānacārī

  5. The practice of eating in one sitting (ekāsanikaṅga)
    MN113. Search ekāsaniko

  6. The practice of only eating from the almsbowl (pattapiṇḍikaṅga)
    AN5.190. Search pattapiṇḍikā

  7. The practice of refusing food after the meal has begun (khalupacchābhattikaṅga)
    AN5.189 Search khalupacchābhattikā

  8. The practice of dwelling in the wilderness (araññikaṅga)
    MN113. Search āraññiko

  9. The practice of dwelling at the root of a tree (rukkhamūlikaṅga)
    MN113. Search rukkhamūliko

  10. The practice of staying in the open air (abbhokāsikaṅga)
    MN113, abbhokāsiko

  11. The practice of staying in a charnel ground (sosānikaṅga)
    MN113, sosāniko

  12. The practice of using the any sleeping area (yathāsanthatikaṅga)
    MN113, yathāsanthatiko

  13. The practice of not lying down (nesajjikaṅga)
    AN5.186, nesajjiko

==Interesting Observations==

  • Re: eating in one session, the Visuddhimagga refers to this as eating in one sitting (Ñāṇamoli, page 64)—meaning that when one sits down to eat, one does not take seconds, for example. This doesn’t seem like it would exclude having breakfast and then lunch on two separate occasions. However, @sujato renders this as eating in one sitting per day (which is also how it’s often interpreted.) Is there another source I’m (most likely) missing on this?

  • Also interesting to note here that wearing coarse/shabby robes (lūkhacīvaradharo) isn’t necessarily an austerity in this list. Yet we do find references in the suttas, like in the case of Bhikhunī Kisāgotamī (AN1.246), where monks wore coarse robes and that it was very much practiced as a dhutanga. Also MN5.


This is an incorrect interpretation, it means eating at only one session per day:

“he neither exalts himself for being one who eats only one meal a day nor disparages others.” MN 113, Thanissaro

“I refuse eating in several sessions”—Vism II, 35

Can you shed light on why it’s translated that way? The Pāli says:

ahaṃ khomhi ekāsaniko, ime panaññe bhikkhū na ekāsanikā

It seems like ekāsaniko is doing some heavy lifting there, so I’m wondering if it’s a commentarial gloss or if that’s what the word means. (My Pāli isn’t good enough).

In general seeking understanding of the teachings through translation of individual words is not a profitable course for practice as it goes against the absorption direction away from the verbal level, which is a secondary construction following direct sense experience of feeling (awareness of which is stipulated in the second tetrad and foundation). A more supportive strategy is to develop the mind- broadening ability to cross-reference the meaning of one sutta or commentarial teaching with another, in this case MN 113, or with actual experience. That way the individual trees are bypassed in favour of knowledge of the overall forest.

I know from field experience (Thailand) that when a senior Thai monk suggests the one sessioner’s practice, the meaning is eat one meal per day.

My question is more how did the understanding develop, because in the suttas at least, there actually isn’t much context to cross-reference. There’s just the one phrase, not an illustrative example. I haven’t read the commentaries so I’m unfamiliar, but perhaps there exists such an illustration?

“Actual experience” is one method, but contemporary experience doesn’t necessarily say much about what the suttas were getting at.

Edit: Actually, I just remembered MN65 wit Bhaddāli, which sheds more light on this from the suttas. Though interesting here that the sutta says this was laid down as a rule.


I’d like to know if there are direct, non-vague, not-merely-suggestive EBT sutta/Vinaya references about the following practices, as being required:

  • Eating with your bare hands, not a spoon
  • Sitting cross-legged, not in a chair, when you’ve been diagnosed by a credible doctor (eg. a Rheumatologist) with Osteo-Arthritis in your knees
  • Bowing three times, not once
  • Bowing (and other customary gestures of respect) being mandatory each and every time the recipient says it is so, not merely from time to time, when one feels inspired to so do