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BANNER OF THE ARAHANTS

APPENDIX II - Ordination Procedure in Brief

PROCEDURE OF ACCEPTANCE AS A BHIKKHU

 

The candidate, having already fixed the date of ordination or acceptance with his Teachers, and his supporters having purchased already his requisites and the gifts for the ordaining Sangha, on the day for Acceptance has his head and beard shaved completely. Afterwards, he changes into white cloths, an upper one leaving the right shoulder bare and a lower one like a sarong.

 

At the appointed time he goes barefoot to the temple bearing in his hands white lotus-buds and followed by his relatives and friends carrying gifts. When he comes to the temple he may circumambulate it three times while recollecting the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Entering the temple he offers the lotus-buds, a symbol of purity, in front of the Buddha-image and lights candles and incense. The precise details of his actions vary with different temples and their traditions.

 

After making the offering, he sits down on a mat facing the Buddha-image near the back of the temple with his relatives and friends sitting nearby. All wait now for the Preceptor and Teachers with the other witnessing Bhikkhus to arrive. When they are seated, having made a triple prostration first, the candidates prostrates to the Preceptor and then approaching him on his knees, carrying his bundle of robes over his forearms, hands in anjali, says[1]:

 

“Venerable Sir, I go for refuge to that Lord, though long attained to Parinibbána, together with the Dhamma and the Bhikkhu-Sangha. May I obtain, Venerable Sir, the Going-forth in the Dhamma-Vinaya of the Lord, may I obtain the Acceptance“.[2]

 

This is repeated three times followed by another formula thrice repeated:

 

„Venerable Sir, I beg for the Going-forth. Having taken these yellow robes please give me the Going-forth Venerable Sir, out of compassion for me.“

 

The Preceptor receives the set of robes, and the candidate, hands in anjali, listens carefully to his explanation of the triple Gem, Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, under the second of which he outlines moral conduct, meditation and wisdom and how the practice of these things brings great benefit. Following on from this the Preceptor teaches his pupil the five unattractive parts of the body as the meditation to use should his mind be upset by lust and the Holy Life made difficult for him. Those five are then repeated word by word after the Preceptor, in both normal and reverse order:

 

            „Head-hair, body-hair, nails, teeth, skin; skin, teeth, nails, body-hair, head-hair.“

 

When this is complete, the Preceptor extracts the yellow shoulder-cloth from the set of robes and places it over the white cloth of the candidate. From this moment the candidate is a Samanera though he has not yet received his ten precepts. The Preceptor further points out the use of the different robes after which the new samanera retires and is helped to put on his robes correctly by one of the Bhikkhus.

 

Having done this he goes to his Teacher and after offering flowers, incense and candles and prostrating, asks for the Refuges and Precepts in these words:

 

„Venerable Sir, I beg for the Refuges and Precepts.“

 

This is repeated three times after which the Teacher chants:

„Homage to the Exalted One, the Arahant, One perfectly Enlightened by himself.“

After the samanera has repeated this thrice, the Teacher says:

„What I say, you should say“ and the samanera replies:

„Yes, Venerable Sir.“

Then the Teacher chants the Refuges, the samanera repeating his words:

„To the Buddha I go for Refuge. To the Dhamma I go for Refuge. To the Sangha I go for Refuge. For the second time … For the third time …

 

When the Refuges are complete then the Teacher chants each of the Precepts with the samanera following him:

 

            „Refraining from killing living creatures.[3]

            Refraining from taking what is not given.

            Refraining from unchaste conduct.

            Refraining from speaking falsely.

            Refraining from distilled and fermented intoxicants which are the occasion for carelessness.

            Refraining from eating at the wrong time (noon till dawn).

            Refraining from dancing, singing, music and going to see entertainments.

            Refraining from wearing garlands, smartening with perfumes, and beautifying with cosmetics.

            Refraining from (using) a high or large bed.

            Refraining from accepting gold and silver (-money).

 

I undertake these ten rules of training.“

 

This completes the Going-forth of a samanera. If the samanera will not become a Bhikkhu on this occasion, he then receives gifts first for the Preceptor and Teacher, respectfully offering them, then for the invited Bhikkhus and finally receives his own requisites and other suitable gifts. If he will go on to the Acceptance, he prostrates three times to his Teacher, turns to his lay-supporters and receives the almsbowl from them which he then carries to the Preceptor to whom he prostrates again. He offers him also, flowers, incense and candles and then chants as follows:

 

            „Venerable Sir, I beg for dependence. (three times).
            May you be my Preceptor, Venerable Sir.“ (thrice).

The Preceptor will say:

            „It is good. It is suitable. It is convenient. It is proper.
            Make an effort with friendliness.“

to each of which phrases the samanera replies:

            „It is good, Venerable Sir.“

and continues:

            „From this day onward the Thera’s burden will be mine. I shall be the burden of the Thera,“

and then prostrates three times. The Preceptor then instructs him briefly about the samanera’s Pali name and his own and how they should be used when answering the questions.

 

The Teacher now puts the bowl in its sling on the samanera’s back and questions him about, that bowl and the robes he is wearing:

            „This is your almsbowl.“

            „Yes, Venerable Sir,“ (replies the samanera).

            „This is your outer robes.“

            „Yes, Venerable Sir.“

            „This is your upper robe.“

            „Yes, Venerable Sir.“

            „This is your under robe.“

 

Having ascertained that they belong to him, the Teacher tells him to retire and stand at a place at the back of the temple behind a mat upon which his Teacher (or Teachers, as sometimes there are two) will stand. Meanwhile the Teacher, having prostrated, recites three times the „Namo tassa …“ and then informs the Sangha as follows:

 

            „Let the Sangha listen to me, Venerable Sirs. This (Pali name of the samanera - we will say that it is ‘Naga’) wishes for the Acceptance from the Venerable (Preceptor’s name, say it is ‘Padipo’[4]). If there is the complete preparedness of the Sangha, I shall examine Naga.“

 

The Teacher(s) then rises and walks to the mat in front of Naga and examines him as follows:

 

            „Listen, Naga, this is the time for truth, the time for what is factual. Whatever has occurred, that, in the midst of the Sangha, will be asked about. Whatever is so, that should be told. Whatever is not so, that should be told. Do not be embarrassed! Do not be confused! They will ask you as follows:[5] Do you have such diseases as these? Leprosy? (Naga: No, Venerable Sir). Ulceration? (No, Venerable Sir). Ringworm? (No, Venerable Sir). Consumption? (No, Venerable, Sir). Epilepsy? (No, Venerable Sir). Are you human being[6]. (Yes, Venerable Sir). Are you a man? (Yes, Venerable Sir). Are you a free man? (Yes, Venerable Sir). Are you without debt? (Yes, Venerable Sir). Are you exempt from government service? (Yes, Venerable Sir). Have you been permitted by your mother and father? (Yes, Venerable Sir). Are you fully twenty years of age? (Yes, Venerable Sir). Have you the bowl and robes complete? (Yes, Venerable Sir). What is your name? (Venerable Sir, I am named Naga). What is your Preceptor’s name? (Sir, my Preceptor’s name is Venerable Padipo).

 

The Teacher returns to the Sangha, prostrates, and then respectfully informs the Sangha as follows:

            „Let the Sangha listen to me, Venerable Sirs. Naga wishes for the Acceptance from Venerable Padipo. He has been examined by me. If there is complete preparedness of the Sangha, let Naga come here.“

 

The Teacher turns to Naga saying „Come here!“ Naga approaches the Sangha, kneels and prostrates three times to his Preceptor and recites:

 

            „Venerable Sir, I beg for the Acceptance. May the Sangha raise me up, out of compassion. For the second … third time …“

It is then the Preceptor’s time to speak those words:

„Now, Reverend Sirs, this samanera named Naga wishes for the Acceptance from me. Desiring Acceptance he begs it from the Sangha. I request all this from the Sangha. It is good, Reverend Sirs, if when all the Sangha has questioned this samanera named Naga about the obstructing circumstances and acknowledged complete preparedness, that we shall accept him by the Act of Four (announcements) including the motion which is firm and proper to the occasion, bringing the Act to a conclusion.“

 

The Teacher now chants the preliminaries and questions already asked the candidate, within the Sangha. They need not be repeated here. Immediately after the last answer made by Naga, the Teacher chants the following motion followed by three announcements[7]:

„Let the Sangha listen to me, Venerable Sirs. This Naga, wishes for the Acceptance from Venerable Padipo. He is free of the obstructing circumstances. His bowl and robes are complete. Naga begs for the Acceptance from the Sangha with Venerable Padipo as Preceptor. || If there is the complete preparedness of the Sangha, let the Sangha accept Naga with Venerable Padipo as Preceptor. This is the motion.

 

Let the Sangha listen to me, Venerable Sirs. This Naga (repeat to || above). The Sangha accepts Naga with Venerable Padipo as Preceptor. If Acceptance is agreeable to the Venerable Ones of Naga, with Venerable Padipo as Preceptor, let them be silent. He to whom it is not agreeable should speak.

 

A second time I speak about this matter. Let the Sangha listen to me (as preceding paragraph).

A third time I speak about this matter. Let the Sangha listen to me (as above).

Naga has been accepted by the Sangha with Venerable Padipo as Preceptor. It is agreeable to the Sangha therefore it is silent. So I record it.“

 

Naga is now a Bhikkhu. The time of his Acceptance is recorded. The Preceptor now chants the passages on the Four Supports (almsfood, robes, lodging and medicines) and the Four Things never-to-be-done (sexual intercourse, taking what is not given, depriving of life, and laying claim to superior human states[8]). At the end, Naga replies, „Yes, Venerable Sir“ and prostrates three times, then receiving from his supporters the gifts; for his Preceptor and Teacher(s), which he presents to them respectfully. Afterwards smaller gifts are given to the witnessing Bhikkhus[9]. Bhikkhu Naga then receives whatever suitable gifts his supporters wish to give him.  


About the Author

 

BHIKKHU KHANTIPALO was born in 1932, just north of London During the Second world war, while he was in the British Army at the Suez Canal, a book on Buddhism had been sent to him from home at his request. Having read it, he knew that he was a Buddhist, he had ‘come home’ to a familiar landscape.

Released from the army he joined the Buddhist Society in London, and after three years as a lay Buddhist, he took novice ordination from Ven. Dr. H. Saddhatissa Mahathera of the London Buddhist Vihára. After a year in U.K. in robes, he went for three varied years to India where experiences included the study of Pali, travelling and teaching among the new Buddhists who followed the lead of Dr. Ambedkar, and Higher ordination as a Bhikkhu under the Ven. Abbot of Wat Cakkapat, Bangkok. This led him to Thailand where he studied under the Ven. Abbot of Wat Bovoranives and meditated under the guidance of various great teachers, staying in all eleven years in Thailand.

On his first visit to Australia he accompanied a senior Thai Bhikkhu to set up a Wat (Monastery-Temple) at Sidney. After a few years he went to Sri Lanka where he helped with the work of the Buddhist Publication Society. He has now a forest monastery (Wat Buddha-Dhamma) near Sydney.


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[1]The wording of the Going-forth varies in different Theravada traditions. Here the version used in Dhammayut temples in Thailand is given. For this in detail see „Ordination Procedure“. Mahamakut Press, Bangkok. For another (Mahanikai) version see „Ordination according to Thai Buddhist Tradition“, compiled by Piyasilo Bhikkhu, Wat Srakes Rajavaramahavihára, Bangkok. Both these accounts have the Pali words of Going-forth and Acceptance. The version issued by B.P.S. Kandy, according to the Sinhalese Siam nikaya) method, („Ordination in Theravada Buddhism“ Wheel 56) is without the Pali. ‘Hands in anjali’ means having the hands held palms together at heart level in a respectful attitude.

[2]The last clause is omitted in the case of a candidatc requesting the Going-forth only, that is, just becoming a samanera novice).

[3]When the Precepts (Five or Eight) are given, the formula is longer like this: I undertake the rule of training to refrain from killing living creatures, and so on with the rest. For the Eight Precepts, join together precepts seven and eight in the above list as the seventh, and add number nine as the eighth.

[4]Naga means an aspirant for ordination, a great being (snake, elephant) including a great man, while Padipo is Pali for a lamp. All bhikkhus have a Pali name given by their preceptors at the time of Acceptance.

[5]See Chapter VIII, Section 4 of the booklet quoted.

[6]This question is asked as non-human beings are said to have got the Acceptance in the Buddha’s days.

[7]This is the essential part of the Acceptance when the Sangha, by a motion and three announcements accepts the new bhikkhu. Any fault in these, or an objection from the assembled bhikkhus renders the Act null and void.

[8]See the Four Defeats, Chapter III.

[9]At least five bhikkhus are required for Acceptance of another. But usually more are invited. The Preceptor and Teacher must be senior bhikkhus competent in Dhamma and Vinaya, and they must know the Acceptance Procedure so that the Pali is without faults.