Also, in the ordination rules ceremony slaves are excluded from the possibility of ordaining. ref. Has any modern sangha made a point of allowing current or former slaves to ordain?

Historically landed Buddhist monasteries have owned slaves. ref At least this appears to be over.

UPDATE: Ancient slavery and modern slavery look different. Modern slavery generally is tolerated, but officially illegal. Example include prostitution in Japan, where immigrant women often can't quit or flee their "employeers" because the police won't assist illegal immigrants or "guest workers" trying to do something else on a guest visa.

Also, a theme in ancient restrictions in joining the sangha was that someone who owed someone something (not necessarily full on slavery) wasn't allowed to join (e.g. need to get permission from parents and spouses). So would a modern sangha turn away a soldier who had deserted or dodged the draft?

Or even further down the spectrum of slavery-- what if someone was just heavily in debt to their boss, bank and so on?

I'm particularly interested in what the modern institutions are doing. I'd google it myself, but I'm mostly find references to how the situation was long ago.

  • A buddhist that support slavery cannot be a real buddhist, this is completely against the Dhamma
    – konrad01
    Aug 21, 2014 at 12:16
  • Given that slavery is illegal in most if not all of the modern world... what sort of answer are you looking for? Aug 21, 2014 at 15:22
  • @yuttadhammo The question on Buddhist institutions involvement in war got an answer ref buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/2791/… I'll update my Q with 2 modern scenarios-- military desertion and white slavery in Japan. Aug 22, 2014 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


Following are some of the requirements for ordination which are relevant to this question.

  • Must never have committed any grievous crimes.
  • Should be of good reputation.
  • Should not be in debt.
  • Not subject to government service.
  • Having permission from parents or guardian.

So prostitutes may not be accepted as they are not of good reputation. Immigrant workers who are unable to find other work may not be accepted, if they are just looking for a means of getting free food and easy life. People who are in debt won't be accepted as per conditions mentioned above. A deserter may not be accepted as he can be seen as still subjected to government service or someone who is evading the law of the country. But he might be accepted in a different country. A child will not be accepted without the consent of parents. A wife may not be accepted if she is still legally married to someone and does not have his permission.

Buddhist society recognises only four groups. Monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. Lay people can never be slaves to the Sangha as whatever support they provide is alway voluntary. Also, the Sangha would not recommend slavery, even if it's an accepted practice in the society. Ex: Prostitution is an accepted practice in some countries. But not ordaining a prostitute doesn't mean that the Sangha recommends prostitution.

  • The "should be of good reputation" is curious. Did the Buddha lay down this rule some time after the admission of Angulima to the order?
    – Chozang
    Jan 6, 2018 at 5:01
  • @Tharpa It may have been introduce after the time of Angulimala. In any case, I believe these are general guidelines for ordination. They do not apply to the Buddha as he can see who is capable of attaining enlightenment on any given day. I believe that supersedes most rules. Jan 6, 2018 at 6:11

Regarding being in debt: You cannot become a monk if you are in debt.

  • It is a partial answer to the question, which asks, "Or even further down the spectrum of slavery-- what if someone was just heavily in debt to their boss, bank and so on?"
    – ChrisW
    Jan 8, 2018 at 20:38

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