I can understand that within the social context of the historical Buddha, being homosexual or bisexual could have possibly been damaging to the Sangha's image as there is still a lot of gay/bisexual/transgender discrimination today.

On Wikipedia, it said a pandaka is unable to attain enlightenment. It sounded like a pandaka might be someone who swings both ways to fulfill sexual desires but I am unclear.

What about someone who has sexual relations with men but who is heterosexual?

Possibly with the shedding of an identity view we lose our interpretation of ourselves as one way, but I don't know.

I probably need to learn Pali.

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We can start with the PTS dictionary. Paṇḍaka "a eunuch, weakling". This definition is repeated in Monier-Williams sv paṇḍa. As far as the early Buddhist texts, they are clearly not to be ordained, but I cannot see it said anywhere what the word means.

There are two places in the traditional commentaries which have explanations. The first is on the Mahānidessa and from the 6th or 9th century CE:.

Paṇḍakāti lokāmisa-nissitakathā-bahulā ussanna-kilesā avūpasanta-pariḷāhā na puṃsakā. Tesaṃ sabbesampi upasaṅkamane ādīnavo vutta-nayen'eva veditabbo. (Saddhammappajjotikāya 2.541)

A rough translation might be

Paṇḍakas are great adherents to the pleasures of the world, rife with defilement, burning with desire, and without gender (napuṃsaka). It should be understood as just a way of saying that all of them are evil (ādīnavo).

Of interest here is the word napuṃsaka, PED "of no sex". Fortunately Margaret Cone's Dictionary of Pāli has reached "n" and she defines as "one is neither male nor female; sexless; a eunuch"; and notes masculine and neuter grammatical forms." Kaccāyana, the great Pāli grammarian, uses napuṃsaka and napuṃsakaliṅga as terms for the grammatical neuter gender or words of that gender.

The word originally comes from a Vedic noun puṃs meaning "man". "Na" means "not". In Pāḷi the semantic field of puṃs has been taken over by purisa (except once in the compound itthi-pumā "women and men"). The word pudgala is sometimes written puṃgala, in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (suggesting a relationship). So we can take the -ka either as a diminutive ("not even a man") or as an adjectival suffix "one who is not a man" [and by implication not female either].

The other commentarial passage comes from Buddhaghosa's Vinaya commentary.

Paṇḍakāti ussannakilesā avūpasantapariḷāhā napuṃsakā; te pariḷāhavegābhibhūtā yena kenaci saddhiṃ mittabhāvaṃ patthenti. (VinA 5.991)

Leaving out the repetition this quote adds:

They overcome with force of their burning [sexual] desire, anyone whom they desire to become friends (mitta) together with.

The latter simply suggests prejudice to me. There is a discussion on Dhammawheel about this term. It cites a Theravāda Bhikkhu (I have not traced the source) however the list is from the Vinaya commentary (VinA 5.1016). What follows looks to be a fair translation (ascribed to Thanissaro):

Regarding paṇḍakas, in the Vinaya Atthakathā these are classified as being of five types:

1) āsitta-paṇḍaka: — (literally, a "sprinkled one") a man who finds sexual fulfillment in performing fellatio on another man and bringing him to climax. (For some reason, other homosexual acts, even though they were known in ancient India, are not included under this type nor under any of the types in this list.)
2) usūya-paṇḍaka: — a voyeur a man who finds sexual fulfillment in watching other people have sex.
3) opakkamika-paṇḍaka: — A eunuch - one who has been castrated.
4) pakkha-paṇḍaka: — A half-time paṇḍaka - one who is a paṇḍaka only during the waning moon.
5) napuṃsaka-paṇḍaka: — A neuter - a person born without sexual organs.

Of these five kinds, the first two may ordain as bhikkhus, the other three may not.

Further discussion follows, though it is far from conclusive. No.4 sounds mythical. This tends to confirm the Saṅgha traditionally had an open attitude to sexual orientation, though of course once ordained monks are expected to give up all sexual activity. I found no evidence to suggest that Paṇḍakas are not capable of enlightenment in older traditional texts.

As a modern practising Buddhist I see no reason that any person should not become enlightened regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any of the other traditional pivot points of bigotry, provided that they apply themselves. The last thing we need in Buddhism is irrational prejudice.

And yes, everyone should learn Pāḷi.

  • Extremely useful answer, thank you for digging. It makes me wonder how I fit into this hierarchy as a non-binary person. I feel like overall, "pandaka" in all it's vagueness, is a decent translation for non-binary/genderqueer, which are similarly ambiguous titles in the modern gender lexicon. Of course "intersex" people would clearly fall in this category, so for social justice/inclusion reasons, "pandeka" needs to not be a slur. – jerclarke Jan 20 '18 at 20:58

I am not an expert in pali, and this word "pandaka" is much debated among experts as to its true meaning during Buddha's time. One of the meanings is, one who cant control his sexual appetite. There are many reasons why Buddha would not allowed "bandaka" to join a Sangha. Perhaps, one of the reasons is a person would advance in dhamma better if not join in group of men. It's for his own good. From my study, Buddha has never mentioned that Pandaka is in the unfortunate group who couldn't reach the enlightenment. It only mentioned in later additions and couldnt be given credit to Buddha.


That usually gets translated as hermaphrodite, it looks like it means more generally someone who isn't conforming to the ordinary gender role.

The situation probably refers to ordination. By some ordinary arm chair reasoning-- the historical sangha was clearly sexist. Even just allowing women to participate at all was a major point of progress. But they set up different organizations with different rules, any new members would have to participate in one or the other. So I imagine there would have been a problem if faced with a cross dresser or biological hermaphrodite. They'd be too rare to set up a new organization for them and probably were an even less sympathetic group than women. So they just prohibited entry into the Sangha. Enlightenment was a status reserved for the sangha. A lay person would become enlightened only via reincarnation. So pandakas would be unable to reach arhatship in this life.

By the time of the Mahayana, sutras were taking on the gender issue head on-- with sutras where the enlightened Buddha was a woman or even a young girl, or capable of magically shifting gender from one to the other (without first dying and reincarnating)


Paṇḍaka is a less clear cut case, all references have a central theme: some form of deficiency in male sexual reproductive capacity or reproductive desire

The Pali literature makes reference to five types of pandaka:

  • asittakapandaka - A man who gains satisfaction from performing oral sex on another man and from ingesting his semen, and only becomes sexually aroused after ingesting another man's semen.
  • ussuyapandaka - A voyeur, a man who gains sexual satisfaction from watching a man and a woman having sex, and only becomes sexually aroused after that.
  • opakkamikapandaka - A Eunuch by-assault, testicle that are annihilated by assault or violence.("still could attain ejaculation through some special effort or artifice".)
  • pakkhapandaka - People who become sexually aroused in parallel with the phases of the moon.
  • napumsakapandaka - A person with no clearly defined genitals, whether male or female, having only a urinary tract, one who is congenitally impotent.

Source: Pandaka



Semen, Viagra and Pandaka: Ancient Endocrinology and Modern Day Discrimination* Paisarn Likhitpreechakul


In a Vinaya passage, the Buddha laid down a rule to bar pandakas from ordination. Although there have been several attempts to shed light on whom the word pandaka referred to, all of these were based on the circumstantial evidence in the Vinaya. This article argues that this approach is a red herring and conclusions drawn from it are at odds with other parts of the Canon.

Based on an overlooked Abhidhamma passage which characterises pandakas as those unable to emit semen, the author reconstructs an Indian proto-endocrinology – with support from ancient medical treatises – to identify pandakas as impotent men, and to reveal the connection between different pandaka types and related terms. He then examines various considerations which the Buddha may have had in banning them from the Order.

The article finally discusses the implications of all this for modern Buddhist societies where gay men and transgenders are often confusedly categorised as pandakas and discriminated against for that reason.

  • Barred pandakas but welcomed MtF transsexuals the ONLY difference is the individual sotapanna’s former-self’s wrong view of identity per the article i posted – 4N4G4M1N Feb 16 '20 at 22:01

A man who has sex with men but is still straight is a man who is exclusively having sex with trans women (which include beings of a nonbinary aka nonwestern or nondual gender like me Bakla, hijra, Kathoey, Tgirl, Tranny, Shemale etc but NOT CROSSDRESSERS OR TRANSVESTITES WHO ARE MEN)

This kind of man has gained wisdom.

Lol i guess the anagami petra is a pandaka. She had an orchiectomy before she entered the stream. Eunuch is disparaging. Implies something other than FEMININE

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