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Buddha Brothers



 Chapter XIX - DHAMMATTHA VAGGA - The Just or Righteous



Na tena bhikkhu hoti yavata bhikkhate pare
Vissam dhammam samadaya bhikkhu hoti na tavata.


Yo' dha punnan ca papan ca bahetva brahma cariyava
Sankhaya loke carati sa ve bhikkhu'ti vuccati.

He is not thereby a bhikkhu 1merely because he seeks alms from others; by following the whole code (of morality) 2 one certainly becomes a bhikkhu and not (merely) by seeking alms. [266]

He who has transcended both merit (good) and demerit (evil), he who leads a pure life, he who lives with understanding in this world, he, indeed, is called a bhikkhu. [267]

XIX: 07 Who is a bhikkhu?

Once there was a brahmin who was in the habit of going round for alms. One day, he thought, 'It is a common belief that one who lives by going round for alms is a bhikkhu. That being so, I should also be called a bhikkhu.' So thinking, he told the Buddha that he should also be called a bhikkhu. The Buddha replied, 'Brahmin, I don't call one a bhikkhu simply because he goes round for almsfood. One who professes false views and acts unwholesomely is not a bhikkhu. Only he who lives meditating on the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality of the aggregates is to be called a bhikkhu.'


  1. Bhikkhu, literally, means 'he who begs' but bhikkhus do not beg. They silently stand at the door for alms. They live on what is spontaneously given by the supporters. A fully ordained disciple of the Buddha is called a Bhikkhu. "Mendicant monk" may be suggested as the closest equivalent for 'Bhikkhu". He is not a priest as he is no mediator between God and man. He has no vows for life, but he is bound by his rules which he takes of his own accord. He leads a life of voluntary poverty and celibacy. If he is unable to live the Holy Life, he can discard the robe at any time.
  2. Vissam dhammam = visamam dhammam,vissam gandham va kayakammadikam dhammam (commentary). Vissam has two meanings (1) whole or all, and (2) bad smell. The commentary gives only the latter in this case. 'He is not a mendicant simply because he begs others (for alms). He who adopts the whole law is a mendicant, not he who adopts only a part' Radhakrishnan. The context makes the verse clear. The brahmin who had adopted the ascetic life claimed the right to be called a bhikkhu simply because he begged his food as is the custom of the disciples of the Buddha although he did not observe the other practices of a bhikkhu. Vissam dhammam could therefore be interpreted as 'the whole code of morality pertaining to the life of a bhikkhu'.


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This webpage was updated 1st July 2022