This is the second article in the series about
the Vinaya, the body of monastic rules and traditions binding on
every Buddhist monk and nun. In this article I will be concerned
with the controversial issue of a monk's or nun's dealings with
The issue has been controversial for over 2,000
years. Around 200 years after the Buddha's final passing away,
there arose a great quarrel in which "both endless disputations
arose and of not one speech was the meaning clear" . This
dispute arose because a large community of monks were accepting
money in defiance of the Vinaya. The proceedings of the dispute
became known as the Second Council and it sowed the seed of the
first great schism in the Buddhist world, which happened soon
Then, as now, there is no excuse for
uncertainty on this point, for the Buddha's own words make it
On Monks and Money
Buddhist monks (bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis)
are not allowed to accept money for themselves. Nor are they
allowed to tell a trustworthy layperson to receive it on their
behalf and keep it for them (e.g. keeping a personal bank
account). Such practices are explicitly prohibited in the 18th
rule of the section of Vinaya called Nissaggiya Pacittiya.
Nor may monks or nuns buy and sell things for
themselves using money. This is prohibited by the 19th rule in the
Some people argue that these two rules refer
only to gold and silver but such a view is indefensible. The
Vinaya specifically states that these rules cover "whatever is
used in business" , i.e. any medium of exchange.
Other people try to get around this rule by
saying that it is only a minor rule, inapplicable to monastic life
today. Indeed, the Buddha once did say that the Sangha may abolish
the "lesser and minor" rules.
But is this rule a minor one?...
'Monks, there are these four stains because
of which the sun and moon glow not, shine not, blaze not. What
are these four? Rain clouds... snow clouds... smoke and dust...
and an eclipse. Even so, monks, there are these four stains
because of which monks and priests glow not, shine not, blaze
not. What are these four? Drinking alcohol... indulging in
sexual intercourse... accepting gold or money... obtaining one's
requisites through a wrong mode of livelihood. These are the
four stains, monks, because of which monks and priests glow not,
shine not, blaze not.' 
Obviously, the Buddha thought that the rule
prohibiting the acceptance of gold or money was, indeed, a very
The non-acceptance of money has always been one
of the fundamental observances of those who have left the world.
Money is the measure of wealth and to most people material wealth
is the goal of life. In the renunciation of money by monks and
nuns, they emphatically demonstrate their complete rejection of
worldly pursuits. At one stroke they set themselves significantly
apart from the vast majority of people and thus become a constant
reminder to all that a life based on the struggle to accumulate
money is not the only way to live. Through giving up money they
give up much of their power to manipulate the world and to satisfy
their desires. Thus, as the Buddha once said when asked whether
money was permissible to the monks and nuns:
'Whoever agrees to gold or money, headman,
also agrees to the five strands of sensual pleasure, and whoever
agrees to the five strands of sensual pleasure, headman, you may
take it for certain that this is not the way of a recluse, that
this is not the way of a Buddhist monk.'
 Book of the Discipline, volume 5, page 424.
 Book of the Discipline, volume 2, page 102.
 Anguttara Nikaya, volume 2, page 53. (my translation)
 Samyutta Nikaya, volume 4, page 326. (my translation)
(Buddhist Society of Western Australia, Newsletter,