Receiving alms is definitely part of the monastic life.

Is begging for alms acceptable for lay persons?

Is begging for alms considered Right Livelihood for lay persons?

Is begging for alms considered skillful for lay persons, compared to earning their livelihood in accordance with the five precepts, principles of Right Livelihood and teachings of the Pali Canon (or other scriptures)? Or is it considered laziness?

8 Answers 8


I don't see fault in begging. Some people are annoyed by it and i think that is worthy of consideration but it is generally an honest way to make a living as i see it.


I dont know how the word 'begging' came into Buddhism. BHIKSHA is a sanskrit word which translates nearly to Begging in Modern Indian social sense. But the word is rooted into Pali as the donation to Bhikku. This 'alms'(please dont consider the modern English meaning ) is not the result of begging. In the early era of Buddhism, the bhikkus/bhikkunis were Teachers/Gurus to the common men, and in return to their teaching / services to the Society ; their daily needs as Food / cloths were given as the form of donation. These kind of donations are utilized for the management of Dhamma Sanghas.

Later only, the Bhiksha word became derogatory due to the social religious changes in India. Donation is a main source of resources in major religions, Xianity for example, they run churches by donation. But in Buddhism, it not about begging / taking for granted. The Bhiksha we give to Bhikkus/Bhikkunis are the reward we offer to the teachers.

thank you

  • It has been suggested the word "bhikkhu" means "one who sees the danger" (from bhayaṃ ikkhatīti: bhikkhu). Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 5:25

I think begging is OK for a layperson as far as it is not practiced as a profession. The problem is begging has become a big business practiced as chrities.


When one is observing Uposatha one is living on charity or donations of others.

Also in many traditional meditation centres which do not charge a fee, this is the case, as one is living on the donations or charity of others.

This is not as apparent or take the form like beggars seen in other situations, in modern settings. But essentially on is getting ones food through alms. The key here is that one is doing it to unburden oneself householder responsibilities and ego with a view to practice the Dharma, not mear sustenance.

  • One intended to merely make a wellness-retread, knowing to return to ordinary, is someone who actually misuses gifts in faith, falls into debts and usually becomes a "Sasana-slave". But there might be the case where one does not celebrate the Uposatha of the Cow-boys, or that of the Jains, of which both are not only out of this reason for less benefit, but takes part, leads the Uposatha of the Ariyas. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 11:25

IMO I don't see anything wrong with lay people who aren't monks or nuns, but are keeping 8 or 10 precepts and spending most of the their time in spiritual practice and asking for almsfood. I don't know that there's any institutional rules to give any answer to your satisfaction, but if it were me, I wouldn't be looking for an authority to give a blessing. It would just be a practical question. Is there somewhere I could live where I could do that? Maybe in a Buddhist country like Thailand or India. If people see you meditating all the time they probably would be happy to support you.

  • It's just about a certain element, good householder, and a handful of those bond. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 11:28

I will not accept my own answer to my own question.

But here I found a sutta which allows begging for alms by laypersons.

From SN 7.19:

When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to the Buddha, “Master Gotama, I seek alms by legitimate means, which I use to provide for my mother and father. In doing so, am I doing my duty?”

“Indeed, brahmin, in so doing you are doing your duty. Whoever seeks alms by legitimate means, and uses them to provide for their mother and father makes much merit.

A mortal provides for their mother
and father by legitimate means;
because they look after
their parents like this,
they’re praised in this life by the astute,
and they depart to rejoice in heaven.”

When he said this, the brahmin who provided for his mother said to the Buddha, “Excellent, Master Gotama! Excellent! … From this day forth, may Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge for life.”


Good householder Ruben,

Normal, ordinary begging is a usual livelihood. Millions go after it. It's just in modern times and areas of strong wrong view that people tent to even criminalize it. The are areas in Europe where such is even forbidden (!). As you are living in areas of grave wrong view, where generosity is even seen as weakness, people not know that gain comes from giving, and having associated with people of wrong view, hardly trained yourself in giving, it might be hard for you to meet generosity yourself, if chosing such livelihood. But not for sure.

Yet, if a little attentive, the worthless Brahmans, outcast calling themself nevertheless Buddhists, here, rejecting benefits from giving, renouncing, assistance for parents, givers: of what do they live on here? They use Dhamma given in faith without feeling even obligated, using "free" stuff, thinking worthy of it, and of what they earn elsewhere, they are far from righteous gain, far from living from proper traded, far from any conductive in right view. Thieves having the view that one must steal, otherwise weak. A life never even knowing what work and making righteous trade means. Selling of, if good, of what not even rightly belongs to them, or gained by fraud or open debts.

For one becoming under a clan of well treaded pets, such would be of more luck then if one is in relation of those approved here by most. Nothing of more destructive condition as to become under communists.

A real poor community around you, a real poor existance under hopeless and people with grave cognitive problems.

Right lifelihood is the key for being able to progress toward path and fruits. If livelihood isn't pure, Sila isn't, wring view and wrong resolve has still it's drive and any meditation practice is actually useless for gains upwardly. One might come to the first stage with 5 precepts and good ordinary livelihood, but wouldn't progress, if not turning toward Brahmachariya and real right livelihood, one confirm with metta without a spot.

If using the four paccayas (food, shelter, cloth, medicine) just for non-harming of other beings, and in proper way, not for pleasure, why not, if honest obtained without cheating or things like "keeping orphans" for ones ways to make a living.

So five precepts alone wouldn't be sufficent, but Brahmacariya is, starting with eight (not after sensual pleasures and gains in the world).

A person "seeing the danger in the world" (Samvega as the main reason), not, and that is importand, one after just happiness and life at ease, easy going.

In most cases such one might be in the sphere of homeless already. If able to keep 10 precepts, for example if wandering life wouldn't be possible, out of what ever reason, living from what is given is always highest lifelihood. Whether others would understand, even accept, that's another issue, but usually also no problem it pure. One practicing on the base of metta is also worthy of gifts.

If not physical bound, or no other hindrances blocking ordination, it's of course not reasonable not to join the order, or at least near the monks. There should be also no problem to go on alms round, even if "just" in white, if leading the Brahmacariya. Yet sure good if kind of introduced by monks.

Some might have wise and supportive family, friends, community around, who would understand ones way and, if keeping Vinaya, such living would be also a right, yet merely seldom to be such gifted.

Being servant, or kind of "priest", dedicating all to a monastery, living simple even with family, such is very usual in SEAsia, by living just on given. Even in Western-world, thinking on church servants, such isn't unusall. Yet of course it's not always right livelihood, sometimes even equal stealing. There are also many, often elder, or "smart" who either travel from one monastery to another, taking part on events, looking for gaining much donations... or those living as servants and enjoy all kinds of pleasures from the fonds given in faith.

My person had to remember Upasaka who worked, assisted here, keeping 10 precepts, linging from the daily "left over" of a monks alms round. Being sick, he was send into the village alone, adviced how to conduct and to just spread metta, he was amazed about the kindness and generosity which wasn't even asked or suggest to do.

If pure in right resolves, just try it. For sure nothing wrong in right livelihood, by living of what has been given, indebting till Arahathood toward doing the task, toward Unbond.

Again, if there is actually no reason why not ordaining, people would be curious and one gets easy suspected, so one should be careful to do not just seeking for an easy living.

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange or other world-binding trades but for an escape from this wheel]


The question is based in wrong view. The livelihood of a bhikkhu is not begging for food. A bhikkhu gains requisites for doing the internal & external duties of the Brahmacariya (Holy Life).

"Go forth, o bhikkhus, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, for the good, for the happiness of gods and men. Let not two go by one way. Preach the doctrine that is beautiful in its beginning, beautiful in its middle, and beautiful in its ending. Declare the holy life in its purity, completely both in the spirit and the letter."

Mahavagga, Vinaya Pitaka.

Similarly, a layperson should earn livelihood doing meaningful work. Begging for alms is not acceptable for a layperson if the layperson is not working to develop virtues.

  • 1
    I did not explicitly say begging for alms is the livelihood of monks.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 11:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .