Last updated
Upasampada of a Buddhist monk in Burma Upasampata in Burma.JPG
Upasampadā of a Buddhist monk in Burma

Upasampadā (Pali) literally denotes "approaching or nearing the ascetic tradition." In more common parlance it specifically refers to the rite and ritual of ascetic vetting (ordination) by which a candidate, if deemed acceptable, enters the community as upasampadān (ordained) and authorised to undertake ascetic life. [1] [2]


According to Buddhist monastic codes (Vinaya), a person must be 20 years old in order to become a monk or nun. A person under the age of 20 years cannot undertake upasampadā (i.e., become a monk ( bhikkhu ) or nun ( bhikkhuni )), but can become a novice (m. samanera , f. samaneri ). After a year or at the age of 20, a novice will be considered for upasampadā. [3]

Traditionally, the upasampadā ritual is performed within a well-demarcated and consecrated area called sima (sima malaka) and needs to be attended by a specified number of monks: "ten or even five in a remoter area". [4]

Regional variations

Customs regarding upasampada vary between regional traditions. [5] In the Theravada tradition, monastics typically undertake higher ordination as soon as they are eligible. In East Asia, it is more typical for monastics to defer or avoid upasampada ordination entirely, remaining novices (samanera) for most or all of their monastic careers. [5] This difference may originate from the historical shortage of temples in East Asia able to provide higher ordination according to the Vinaya. [5]

See also


  1. Rhys Davids, T.W. Stede, William (1921-1925). The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary. Chipstead, London: Pali Text Society p. 147.
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica (2007). Retrieved 26 Sept 2007 from "Encyclopædia Britannica Online"; "Upasampadā"
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica (2007).
  4. Peter Skilling, How Buddhism invented Asia, 2 April 2009. Peter Skilling interviewed by Phillip Adams. Online audio recording
  5. 1 2 3 Samuels, Jeffery (2004). "Buddhist Monasticism". MacMillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism. 2. New York: MacMillan Reference USA. pp. 556–60. ISBN   0-02-865719-5.

Related Research Articles

Theravada Branch of Buddhism, oldest extant school

Theravāda is the most commonly accepted name of Buddhism's oldest existing school. The school's adherents, termed Theravādins, have preserved their version of Gautama Buddha's teaching in the Pāli Canon. The Pāli Canon is the most complete Buddhist canon surviving in a classical Indian language, Pāli, which serves as the school's sacred language and lingua franca. For over a millennium, theravādins have endeavored to preserve the dhamma as recorded in their school's texts. In contrast to Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna, Theravāda tends to be conservative in matters of doctrine and monastic discipline.

The Vinaya is the division of the Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) containing the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha. Three parallel Vinaya traditions remain in use by modern monastic communities: the Theravada, Mulasarvastivada and Dharmaguptaka. In addition to these Vinaya traditions, Vinaya texts of several extinct schools of Indian Buddhism are preserved in the Tibetan and East Asian canons, including those of the Kāśyapīya, the Mahāsāṃghika, the Mahīśāsaka, and the Sarvāstivāda

Monk Member of a monastic religious order

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.


A bhikkhu is an ordained male monastic ("monk") in Buddhism. Male and female monastics are members of the Buddhist community.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka History and demographics of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon

Theravada Buddhism is the largest, oldest and Official religion of Sri Lanka practiced by 70.19% of Sri Lanka's population as of 2012. Practitioners of Buddhism can be found amongst the Sinhalese population as well as the Tamil population. Buddhism has been given the foremost place under Article 9 of the Constitution which can be traced back to an attempt to bring the status of Buddhism back to the status it enjoyed prior to being destroyed by colonialists. However, by virtue of Article 10 of the Sri Lankan constitution, religious rights of all communities are preserved. Sri Lanka is the traditionally oldest religious Buddhist country where Buddhist culture is protected and preserved. The island has been a center of Buddhist scholarship and learning since the introduction of Buddhism in the third century BCE producing eminent scholars such as Buddhaghosa and preserving the vast Pāli Canon. Throughout most of its history, Sri Lankan kings have played a major role in the maintenance and revival of the Buddhist institutions of the island. During the 19th century, a modern Buddhist revival took place on the island which promoted Buddhist education and learning. There are around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries on Sri Lanka with approximately 15,000 monks.

Upāsaka and Upāsikā

Upāsaka (masculine) or Upāsikā (feminine) are from the Sanskrit and Pāli words for "attendant". This is the title of followers of Buddhism who are not monks, nuns, or novice monastics in a Buddhist order, and who undertake certain vows. In modern times they have a connotation of dedicated piety that is best suggested by terms such as "lay devotee" or "devout lay follower".

The SiamNikaya is a monastic order within Sri Lanka, founded by Upali Thera and located predominantly around the city of Kandy. It is so named because it originated within Thailand. The Siyam Nikaya has two major divisions and five other divisions within these two major units. The Malwatta and Asgiriya chapters have two separate Maha Nayakas or chief Monks.

Pabbajjā literally means "to go forth" and refers to when a layperson leaves home to live the life of a Buddhist renunciate among a community of bhikkhus. This generally involves preliminary ordination as a novice. It is sometimes referred to as "lower ordination". After a period or when the novice reaches 20 years of age, the novice can be considered for the upasampadā ordination whereby the novice becomes a monk (bhikkhu) or nun (bhikkhuni).

Buddhist monasticism

Buddhist monasticism is one of the earliest surviving forms of organized monasticism and one of the fundamental institutions of Buddhism. Monks and nuns, called bhikkhu and bhikkhuni, are responsible for the preservation and dissemination of the Buddha's teaching and the guidance of Buddhist lay people. Three surviving traditions of monastic discipline (Vinaya), govern modern monastic life in different regional traditions: Theravada, Dharmaguptaka, and Mulasarvastivada.

Amarapura Nikaya

The Amarapura Nikaya is a Sri Lankan monastic fraternity founded in 1800. It is named after the city of Amarapura, Burma, the capital of the Konbaung Dynasty of Burma at that time. Amarapura Nikaya monks are Theravada Buddhists.

The Pratimokṣa is a list of rules governing the behaviour of Buddhist monastics. Prati means "towards" and mokṣa means "liberation" from cyclic existence (saṃsāra).

Upāli One of Gautama Buddhas main disciples, foremost in monastic discipline

Upāli was a monk, one of the ten chief disciples of the Buddha and, according to early Buddhist texts, the person in charge of the reciting and reviewing of monastic discipline on the First Buddhist Council. Upāli was born a low-caste barber. He met the Buddha when still a child, and later, when the Sakya princes received ordination, he did so as well. He was ordained before the princes, putting humility before caste. Having been ordained, Upāli learnt both Buddhist doctrine and vinaya. His preceptor was Kappitaka. Upāli became known for his mastery and strictness of vinaya and was consulted often about vinaya matters. A notable case he decided was that of the monk Ajjuka, who was accused of partisanship in a conflict about real estate. During the First Council, Upāli received the important role of reciting the vinaya, for which he is mostly known.


A sāmaṇera (Pali); Sanskrit śrāmaṇera, is a novice male monastic in a Buddhist context. A female novice is a śrāmaṇerī or śrāmaṇerikā.

The International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages was an historic event that took place July 18–20, 2007. It was a meeting of internationally recognized Buddhist scholars specializing in monastic discipline and history, as well as practitioners. It was expected to be the final discussion of a decades-long dialogue about re-establishing full bhikshuni ordination in Buddhist traditions. Papers and research based on Buddhist texts and contemporary practice traditions in China, Korea, Taiwan, Tibet, and South Asia were presented, between them the Abstract: The Eight Garudhammas. The fourteenth Dalai Lama attended the final day of the conference and conclusions. His letter of support is available to the public.

Chithurst Buddhist Monastery

Cittaviveka, commonly known as Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, is an English Theravada Buddhist Monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition. It is situated in West Sussex, England in the hamlet of Chithurst between Midhurst and Petersfield. It was established in 1979 in accordance with the aims of the English Sangha Trust, a charity founded in 1956 to support the ordination and training of Buddhist monks (bhikkhus) in the West. The current abbot, since 2014, is Ajahn Karuniko.

Ten Principal Disciples Main disciples of Gautama Buddha

The ten principal disciples were the main disciples of Gautama Buddha. Depending on the scripture, the disciples included in this group vary. In many Mahāyāna discourses, these ten disciples are mentioned, but in differing order. The ten disciples can be found as an iconographic group in notable places in the Mogao Caves. They are mentioned in Chinese texts from the fourth century BCE until the twelfth century CE, and are the most honored of the groups of disciples, especially so in China and Central Asia. The ten disciples are mentioned in the Mahāyāna text Vimalakīrti-nideśa, among others. In this text, they are called the "Ten Wise Ones", a term which is normally used for the disciples of Confucius.

The Eight Garudhammas are additional precepts required of bhikkhunis above and beyond the monastic rule (vinaya) that applied to monks. The authenticity of these rules is highly contested; they were supposedly added to the (bhikkhunis) Vinaya "to allow more acceptance" of a monastic Order for women, during the Buddha's time. They are controversial because they attempt to push women into an inferior role and because many Buddhists, especially Theravadin women, have found evidence that the eight Garudhammas are not really the teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Carola Roloff

Carola Roloff is a German Buddhist nun. Her monastic name is Bhiksuni Jampa Tsedroen. An active teacher, translator, author, and speaker, she is instrumental in campaigning for equal rights for Buddhist nuns.

Bhikkhunī Ordained female Buddhist monastic

A bhikkhunī (Pali) or bhikṣuṇī (Sanskrit) is a fully ordained female monastic in Buddhism. Male monastics are called bhikkhus. Both bhikkhunis and bhikkhus live by the Vinaya, a set of rules. Until recently, the lineages of female monastics only remained in Mahayana Buddhism and thus are prevalent in countries such as China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam but a few women have taken the full monastic vows in the Theravada and Vajrayana schools over the last decade. From conservative perspectives, none of the contemporary bhikkuni ordinations are valid.

Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero

Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero was a Buddhist monk, who was the last Sangharaja of Sri Lanka. He was the pioneer in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, after the decline of the religion in the 17th and 18th centuries. Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero was bestowed with the Sangharaja title by king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe in 1753, the same year he received the Upasampada and re-established the Upasampada in Sri Lanka with the help of Mahasangha in Siam. He is also credited with the establishment of Silvath Samagama, a union of monks who lived in accordance with the Buddhist monastic discipline.