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Ācārya Bhikṣu (1726—1803)


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(Skt.; Pāli, bhikkhu).

A Buddhist ordained member of the Saṃgha. The etymology of the term is uncertain, as is that of its female equivalent, a nun or bhikṣunī. During the lifetime of the Buddha.ordination was conferred by a simple formula on all individuals who chose to join voluntarily, were of a minimum age and had no disqualifying conditions such as being a criminal or the bearer of a contagious disease. As the community grew, however, additional procedures came to be required. Soon after the Buddha's death two separate ordination ceremonies were adopted: pravrajyā.literally meaning ‘going forth’ and upasaṃpadā.or ordination proper. Candidates cannot be admitted to pravrajyā and become novices (śrāmaṇera) before the age of 8. A śrāmaṇera acquires two patrons, a preceptor (upādhyāya) and a master (ācārya), whose companion (sārdhavihārin) and pupil (antevāsin) respectively he becomes. At age 20 (or older), a novice could ask for full ordination, the details of which are fixed by the ritual texts called karmavācanā, and which is conferred by a chapter of at least ten monks. At this point, in order to determine the new monk's rank, the day and hour of his ordination are noted. It should be noted that neither of these ordinations are considered lifelong commitments, and the novice or monk may put off his robes and leave the order at any time.

In order to maintain the highest level of respect among the lay community which supports him and his personal quest for religious attainment, the bhikṣu has to adhere to the moral discipline outlined in the portion of the Buddhist canon known as the Vinaya Piṭaka. The regulations for the conduct of the fully ordained monk are set out in the Prātimokṣa (Pāli, Pāṭimokkha) and consist of more than 200 rules arranged in categories according to the penalty prescribed. Twice a month, bhikṣus in a given area assemble to celebrate the poṣadha (Pāli, uposatha) ceremony and recite the Prātimokṣa. There is no difference in principle between Theravāda andMahāyāna monastic observances. Originally, the community of bhikṣus was a mendicant order which travelled extensively, other than during the rainy season, and required only limited necessities. Monks were allowed to possess only their robes, a begging-bowl.razor, needle, staff, and toothpick. Food was obtained by begging, and no fixed residence was permitted. In time, the eremitical ideal diminished, and wandering gave way to a settled, monastic way of life. While in the Theravāda tradition bhikṣus continue a life that does not permit work or marriage.monks of the Mahāyāna tradition may include work in their daily activity, and monks in particular Tibetan and Japanese schools are permitted to marry. Given the nature of a bhikṣu's life, monks have always had to rely on the material support of the lay community, and in time, a balance of exchange between lay-people and monks was established (see dāna), through which both could advance by mutual support. This relationship forms the dynamic base of Theravādin societies. Also, in some Theravāda communities of south-east Asia it is required (or at least desirable) that a layman should spend a period during the rainy season as a bhikṣu (see temporary ordination).


Subjects: Religion

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