[INDOLOGY] bhikkhu - monk

Artur Karp karp at uw.edu.pl
Wed Apr 19 11:09:15 UTC 2017

Dear List,

A problem – probably already solved, many times over, but - recurring, sort
of obstinate.

Now, in texts describing the first days after the Buddha’s Awakening there
appears term *bhikkhu* (*bhikkhave*) – usually translated as ‘monk’

The typical dictionary definition of the word ‘monk’ is: “man in a *religious
order* who lives a life of poverty, chastity and obedience”.

At that early period there was no Buddhist order, not yet. Prof. Stanisław
F. Michalski would use in his pre-war Polish translations the word ‘żebrak’
(‘almsman’, ‘beggar’). More appropriate, certainly, but sounding not too
well – considering the sort of, typically aggresive beggars appearing on
the streets all over the world.

‘Monk’ (‘monks’) seems to prevail, in Poland and everywhere else.

But, my students ask me: the first sermon and its addressees – a *group of
five monks* – had they been already made members of the *Buddhist order*?
When and how was that order established?


Artur Karp (ret.)

Chair of South Asian Studies

University of Warsaw


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