Theravāda Collection on Monastic Law

Monks’ rules and their analysis

The chapter on relinquishment

Monks’ Relinquishment

6. The training rule on asking non-relations

Origin story

First sub-story

At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Monastery. At that time Venerable Upananda the Sakyan was skilled at teaching. On one occasion the son of a prominent merchant approached Upananda, bowed down to him, and sat down to one side. And Upananda instructed, inspired, and gladdened him with a teaching. Afterwards that merchant’s son said to Upananda:

“Venerable, please tell me what you need. I’m able to give you robes, almsfood, dwellings, and medicines.”

“If you wish to give me something, then give me one of your robes.”

“Venerable, it’s shameful for the son of a good family to walk around in only one robe. Please wait until I get back home. I’ll send you this robe or a better one.”

A second time

and a third time Upananda said the same thing to that merchant’s son, and he got the same reply. He then said, “What’s the point of making an offer if you don’t want to give?”

Being pressured by Upananda, that merchant’s son gave him one of his robes and left. People asked him, “Why, sir, are you walking around in only one robe?” And he told them what had happened. People grumbled and complained, “These Sakyan ascetics have great desires; they are not content. Even to make them an appropriate offer isn’t easy. How can they take his robe when the merchant’s son was making an appropriate offer?”

Monks heard the complaints of those people, and the monks of few desires … complained and criticized Upananda, “How can Venerable Upananda ask the merchant’s son for a robe?”

After criticizing him in many ways, they informed the Master. … “Is it true, Upananda, that you acted in this way?”

“It’s true, Master.”

“Is he a relative of yours?”

“No, Master.”

“Foolish man, people who are not related don’t know what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate in dealing with each other, what’s right and what’s wrong. And still you asked the merchant’s son for a robe. This will not give rise to confidence in those without it … And, monks, this training rule should be recited thus:

Preliminary ruling

‘If a monk asks an unrelated male or female householder for a robe(-cloth), he commits an offense entailing relinquishment and confession.’”

In this way the Master laid down this training rule for the monks.

Second sub-story

At that time, while traveling on the main road from Sāketa to Sāvatthī, a number of monks were robbed by bandits. Knowing that the Master had laid down this training rule and being afraid of wrongdoing, they did not ask for robes. They walked naked to Sāvatthī and bowed down to the monks. The monks said, “These Ājīvaka ascetics are good people, in that they bow down to the monks.”

“We’re not Ājīvakas; we’re monks!”

And the monks said to Venerable Upāli, “Upāli, please examine them.”

The naked monks then informed Upāli of what had happened, and he told the monks, “They are monks. Give them robes.”

The monks of few desires complained and criticized them, “How can monks go naked? Shouldn’t they have covered up with grass and leaves?”

After criticizing those monks in many ways, they informed the Master. Soon afterwards he gave a teaching and addressed the monks: “Monks, if a monk’s robes are stolen or destroyed, I allow him to ask an unrelated householder for robes. At the first monastery where he arrives, if the Order has a monastery robe, a bed sheet, a floor cover, or a pillow case, he should take that and put it on, thinking, ‘When I get a robe, I’ll return it.’ If there’s none of these things, he should cover up with grass and leaves before going on. He should not go on while naked. If he does, he commits an offense of wrong conduct. And so, monks, this training rule should be recited thus:

Final ruling

‘If a monk asks an unrelated male or female householder for a robe(-cloth), unless there is an appropriate reason, he commits an offense entailing relinquishment and confession. The appropriate reasons are these: his robes are stolen or his robes are destroyed.’”

Definitions

A: whoever … Monk: … The monk who has been given the full ordination by a complete Order through a formal procedure consisting of one motion and three announcements that is unchallengeable and fit to stand— this sort of monk is meant in this case.

Unrelated: anyone who is not a descendant of one’s male ancestors going back seven generations, either on the mother’s side or on the father’s side.

A male householder: any man who lives in a house.

A female householder: any woman who lives in a house.

Robe(-cloth): one of the six kinds of robe(-cloth), but not smaller than what can be transferred.

Unless there is an appropriate reason: except at an appropriate time.

His robes are stolen: a monk’s robe is taken by kings, bandits, scoundrels, or anyone whomsoever.

His robes are destroyed: a monk’s robe is burnt by fire, carried away by water, eaten by rats or termites, or worn through use.


In the act of asking, unless there is an appropriate reason, he commit an offense of wrong conduct. When he gets the robe(-cloth), it becomes subject to relinquishment.

The robe(-cloth) should be relinquished to the Order, a group, or an individual. “And, monks, it should be relinquished in this way. … To be expanded as in Relinquishment 1, paragraphs 13–17, with appropriate substitutions. … ‘Venerables, this robe(-cloth) which I received after asking an unrelated householder without an appropriate reason is to be relinquished. I relinquish it to the Order.’ … the Order should give … you should give … ‘I give this robe(-cloth) back to you.’”

Permutations

If the person is unrelated and the monk perceives them as unrelated, and he asks them for a robe(-cloth), unless there is an appropriate reason, he commits an offense entailing relinquishment and confession. If the person is unrelated, but the monk is unsure if they are, and he asks them for a robe(-cloth), unless there is an appropriate reason, he commits an offense entailing relinquishment and confession. If the person is unrelated, but the monk perceives them as related, and he asks them for a robe(-cloth), unless there is an appropriate reason, he commits an offense entailing relinquishment and confession.

If the person is related, but the monk perceives them as unrelated, he commit an offense of wrong conduct. If the person is related, but the monk is unsure if they are, he commit an offense of wrong conduct. If the person is related and the monk perceives them as related, there is no offense.

Non-offenses

There is no offense: if there is an appropriate reason; if he asks relatives; if he asks those who have given an invitation; if he asks for the benefit of someone else; if it is by means of his own property; if he is insane; if he is the first offender.


The sixth rule, the training rule on asking non-relations, is finished.