I have seen many ways to address a bhikkhu, and I'm wondering about the proper way to address a bhikkhu, in writing?

6 Answers 6


Bhante is the preferred mode of address if you are addressing the bhikkhu respectfully; note that it is masculine, so for bhikkhunis, Ayye is correct (mostly they use ayya, but I don't think that is technically correct). In English, Venerable x and Reverend x would also be suitable expressions of respect.

If you are addressing them as an equal or as an outsider to the religion, Venerable x and Reverend x would still be proper, I think, but even Brother x would be okay. In Pali, words like bho and ayasma were also used, meaning something like "good sir" or "friend" by those who didn't hold the bhikkhus in any special esteem.

In writing, using the nominative endings (e.g. o for -a stem names) is not technically correct when addressing the bhikkhu in the second person, e.g.:

Dear Venerable Yuttadhammo,

should really be:

Dear Venerable Yuttadhamma,

In Thailand this distinction has been pretty much lost, whereas in Burma and Sri Lanka they prefer the a endings for all references.

In Pali, when referring to someone in the third person, you would use the nominative endings, but in the case of corresponding in English, the dictionary stem form is certainly acceptable, as it is with 'buddha', nibbana', etc. Just as we don't say:

The Buddho was staying in Savatthi.

we really shouldn't be saying:

Venerable Yuttadhammo was staying in Florida.

As for regional honorifics, e.g. Ajaan (Ajarn, Ajahn) in Thai, Ashin in Burmese, Hamuduruvo in Sinhala, Lakhun in Khmer, etc., I would suggest they only be used by members of the specific ethnic community; I wouldn't think them appropriate for non-members to use to refer to members (e.g. Westerners calling Thai monks Ajaan) unless speaking in the language from which the word comes. In practical usage, however, Ajaan for example has become so widely used by Thai people (even for monks who clearly aren't their or anyone's teacher) that they often insist that non-Thais use it to refer to Thai monks, which of course would be the wise choice when among such people.

  • Thank you, Bhante. Could you please include the use of Ajahn (teacher?) in your tradition, in the answer? Or is that a separate question? Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 7:32
  • Ajaan is only proper if you are Thai, just as Ashin if you are Burmese. I don't know why all the Western Thai monks still use it as a part of their name; meaning teacher, it's not something one should expect ordinary people to use. Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 10:13
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    added some thoughts on regional honorifics Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 10:46

Ven. Yuttadhamma wrote:

"Bhante is the preferred mode of address if you are addressing the bhikkhu respectfully; note that it is masculine, so for bhikkhunis, Ayye is correct (mostly they use ayya, but I don't think that is technically correct)."

To comment briefly on this - i have learned of "Bhante" as the vocative contraction of "Bhadanta"--an "expositor" [of the Dhamma], used for "master" teachers. Buddhist historians say that early on, in the Buddhist monastic Sangha, only the Buddha was addressed as "Bhante". Later, after the Buddha's parinibbana, other monastic teachers came to be addressed as "Bhante" as well. But were they all men?

Epigraphically, in donative inscriptions from the Indian subcontinent, we find at least one reference to a bhikkhuni teacher with the title "Bhadanta". In the vocative, she should be addressed as "Bhadante", or by the contraction "Bhante". There are comparatively numerous donative inscriptions in which we find the honorific "Ayya" prefixing bhikkhus' names; in hypothetical example: "Ayya Yuttadhamma Bhikkhu". This could be translated as: "the noble bhikkhu Yuttadhamma".

When and how it happened that "Bhante" came to be used only for men and "Ayye" only for women, or at least generally so, as we find much of the time in the Pali texts is not known to me. We do several times find bhikkhus addressed as "Ayya" in the Pali-text canon. In example, in the bhikkhuni ordination proceedings from the Pali-text Vinaya, the new bhikkhuni when coming to the Bhikkhuni Sangha to request the confirmation and completion of her full ordination as a bhikkhuni is to address the Bhikkhu Sangha as "Ayya" (here in the masculine plural vocative).

  • It would be good if sister would modify the approach so that it does not appear respectless.
    – user11235
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 16:51

If its Theravada you can never go wrong either just the name " yuttadhammo bhikku" or Bhante. In Thai you can say Ajahn, a word basically similar to bhante.

I personally just use Bhante(means teacher) , its quick, easy, and used from ancient times. In fact i am in email communication with a bhikkhu at the place im going to hopefully ordain, and i start emails with Bhante.

Bhante (Pali; Nepali; Burmese: [pronounce-ဘန္ေတ] [write-ဘေႏၲ] Burmese font used - Zawgyi-one font, pronounced: [bàɴtè], Sanskrit: vande and vandanā ) is the polite particle used to refer to Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition. Bhante literally means "Venerable Sir."

  • Calling someone Bhikkhu is not really appropriate; kind of like saying, 'hey, monk'. Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 22:03
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    And bhante comes from skt. bhavantaḥ, not vande... just FYI. Ajaan comes from acariya, meaning teacher. Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 22:06
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    Apologies bhante i took the definition from the net, ill check my sources next time thanks for correcting my comment. Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 22:09

I would say address them in the most respectful way in your culture and native language. "Sir" might be sufficient in English. To me, it is an attachment to rites and rituals (3rd fetter) if you use the most appropriate words expected by community but not sure why or even using them without true respect. But again, you want to have organization and harmony in the community, so once you find out what words are used, then use it with respect.

  • Its not an attachement to rites and rituals, or would Dean say Arahats are still attached? The third fetter means "being attached to rites and ritual not contuctive on the path." (Often wrong interprated) Paying proper respect is a matter of Sila and throw down even all aggregates by mind, speech and body in front of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha it can couse even path and fruit. Aside of that, good and respectable and practical answer @Dean A.
    – user11235
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 17:24
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    thank you for kind comment. my understanding of 3rd fetters also covers doing right thing but without understanding why. The key is "not understanding reason behind it. For example, you may have seen people of some faith that requires believers to cover their hair to be modest, but now a day you see a few of them with hair covered but very tight revealing outfits. that defeats the purpose of covering thier hair to be modest in appearance. Those hang on tightly to the belief of hair covering but forget the purpose behind it.
    – user5056
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 18:19
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    similarly to original question, FullPeace.org has found the right words but my addition to that was to make sure to understand reasons for using those words. What good if the correct words are used but without truly feeling respectful. To rephrase my answer, it doesn't really matter what words used as long as it is said from respect, but to promote harmony, use same words as the community also with respect.
    – user5056
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 18:27
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    this is exactly my point "attachment to rituals" , conversation will never end trying to come up with proper way to address or "greeting ritual" if you may. But as long as you you have respect. I would imagine if a bhikku is in town where high five is a form of most respectful greeting and not against Vinaya. Just as ancient Indian walking around someone or something 3 rounds was one of the most display of respect one can do to a person or a place, but now, many buddhists dont understand that "ritural".
    – user5056
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 19:00
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – user5056
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 19:06

Things to consider in regard of the OP's Question, since a proper Question would be: "How do I address monastics, Brahmans and ascetics in a way that it is of most benefit for me?"

To understand the merit an demerit of paying respect a little, my person wrote a "wiki-like" articel, supported by members here: Respect and Veneration

In bodily regard:

Is you aspect being taught well by a Monk, you should consider that especial a Bhikkhu is not allowed to teach to someone:

  • holding an umbrella (unless he is ill).
  • holding a stick (unless he is ill).
  • holding a cutting object (unless he is ill).
  • holding a weapon (unless he is ill).

(for internet this means to people holding power while one would speak - moderators and others with tendency to delete or banning, willing to put Dhamma in that wsy under their power)

  • who is wearing shoes (unless he is ill).
  • who is wearing sandals (unless he is ill).

(appearings of not respecting the place of Dhamma talks and putting them selfs higher)

  • who is inside a vehicle (unless he is ill).

(One in hurry, just passing by)

  • who is lying down (unless he is ill).
  • who is sitting with the knees raised and the arms around (unless he is ill).
  • wearing a turban (unless he is ill).
  • whose head {and sholders} is covered (unless he is ill).

(One with an improper Avatar, not showing his face.)

  • sits on a seat while the teaching is sitting directly on the ground (unless he is ill).
  • sitting at a higher level and the teaching on a lower (unless he is ill).
  • who is sitting while one is standing (unless he is ill).
  • is walking ahead (unless he is ill).
  • who walks on a footpath while one is walking to the side of this footpath (unless he is ill).

(If situations and views are hold, monks are equal to others here)

All this things are not conductive in regard of peoples respect in reagard of the Dhamma. For Monks themselves also a personal protection.

In regard of demand and compensation:

Monks, keeping Vinaya, do not and never teach for rewards or let the taught be bound by any contacts or demands. Accepting gifts, rewards or other things as reward for teaching is not the way of the Noble Ones and there are rules to cut off possible corruption of the Dhamma in that way. So gifts as well as the gift of veneration is good placed in advanced to gain most benefit and make it acceptable.

Speech: What ever feel proper to one, thinking on someone who is not only high above one self but also could give one the highest gift possible to give. Usual ways are to express his worthy be calling him Ven. Sir, Lord, Lord of Compassion, Ven. Teacher and if in Pali, as usual, "Bante". For female likewise.

In third person, whether he is at place or not, its also good to do such in that way. If there are more Monks, put the name behind. Its not usual and polite to use the "Status/Profession" like Bhikkhu, Samanera, monk, Samana.

Consider always, that a ordained person has actualky no gains be receiving respect, and if he/she takes such not worthy of it, he/she just accumulte depts. Giving or not giving in this regard is the doers benefit or demerit, whether he/she knows or not. Not knowing does not eliminate causes.

Its also good to have mistrust is monks and laypeople associate like friends and address each other very familar.

Generally again, this topic is very large and it is good if one maybe takes the linked article and asks further questions in detail.

Modern people today must be aware that they are usuall taught and trained in a post-modern or "communistic" way, wrong view, empathizing all are equal.

In such an enviroment, under such believes, its never possible to gain anything, how much Dhamma ever one would read, be taught... gains in ways not in line of Dhamma.

Keeping precepts and being tended to virtue (of what veneration of what is worthy of verneration is on part) and to take Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha really as refuge, venerate by heart, are the signs of a faith follower, and stream-enter, both no more able to fall off the path of liberation.

If you are a person with long meditation practice or of much knowledge in Dhamma, if you are a virtuose person for your self and consider your self as experianced and still have problems and aversions in regard of Veneration, it is a good sign that such a practice was not based on Right View and the refuge is not really taken.

Its a really good working place to get ride of very raw defilements and at the same time also possible to drop down all clinging aggregats just by a poor cousin treaded single deed.

Asking Questions:

While it is not wrong for a Monk to teach even not invited, one does good when raising a question, to address an venerate possible present persons proper. That is also generally. While usuall everywhere is very rude and a sign of low education and virtue, to put just ones question into the "marked" without kind greatings. Even if a person of good contact enters a shop, here a costumer, he would great friendly and show signs of politeness.

So generally people incl. the moderators have a lot of work if wishing to be frequented by Monks aside of just short visits and those with certain improper aims, using such places like most here, for certain other gains outside good or no trade.

Those follow the tradition of the Noble Ones will never addopt certain social and timely usuals but hold on that others, being willing, are able to addopt those, step by step, leaving both improper ways of live in the world or even the eorld behind.

Like every teaching, this words are originated by compassion, and not made to demand anything. What ever one gives is the givers reward. So is it with taking.

Addition in regard of "warm" addressings :

In SEAsia is very common to use Ven. father, grandfather, oncle, great brother... Such is usual under uneducated people and not really proper, althought both might like it. One would address a lay priest of a village or his honored father or granduncle like wise. Such as brother or sister are merely usuals comming from commonist countries and, in setting even equal, totally improper. Its good to use respectful "cool", with proper distance, addresses. Such is very common in "Guru" paisas and put single individuals high and warm. While of course no problem for uninstructed people with raga- or saddha-charita, a good instructed person does not use such warm addressings.

(Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for any commercial purpose or other wordly gains.)

  • May I ask, what is the proper way for me to address you on this site? When you post a comment to me, you tend to include "ChrisW" and sometimes "Upasaka" in your comment. Would you like me to do the same when I address you? For example when I begin a comment, should I start by writing "Samana", or, "Samana Johann"?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 11:44
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    How ever Upasaka Chris (better "Nyom" (Chris)) , feels as proper and likes to give. Usually people adress my persons appearing with Bhante in the west (which fits to normal usuals), usual adressings here (Cambodia) are from Ven. older brother to Ven. Grandfather, Lord of compassion, Ven. Sir., Ven. Master, ... if translated. "Warm" adressing used most by villagers and people not so educated, Ven. Grandfather and the others by knowledgeable housholders, Samaneras and Bhikkhus. Personally, Atma really does not care, althought such always gives certain reason for either mudita or karuna.
    – user11235
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 11:59

Whatever identifies that specific monk. That's the purpose of a name. I tend to use only their monastic name or, if they teach, I use 'teacher' in their local idiom. Keep things simple & respectable.

As for a "proper way", there are as many answers as there are people, I guess.

  • Paying respect in regard of what is worthy of respect is not a matter of what is easy, Unrul, but a merit. Merit has always to do with giving up and letting go of one self. Paying reference is also grouped under Sila and not only out of that countless more benefical as practicing generosity, even a life time. So its really not about identify and also ask for what is proper and not how Hinz and Kunz does it. Maybe consider that in your answer, since also such if of good or bad results.
    – user11235
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 17:00

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