I felt this was unfair and somewhat misleading, too, because there were many very elderly laypeople, plus some of the Bhikkhus might not be part of the Aryan (enlightened) Sangha and some of the Lay people might be part of the Enlightened Sangha. I believe it is proper to serve monks first, but at another mixed lineage temple in Oxnard, we never waited, but the Bhikkhus sat first and took food first, but we all sat down and ate together. Are there strict Vinaya rules for this laid down by the Buddha? Thank you for any and all perspectives on this.

  • For starters, mixed lineage temples aren't exactly the norm (not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, it's just unusual), and Vesak was roughly 10 days ago, or 20 days from now, depending on tradition (looks like IBMC chose this weekend though?). As for whether there's anything in the Vinaya, there's nothing in the Pāṭimokkha, but I can't speak for other traditions. Depending on the time of day, the bhikkhus may have eaten first to get their meal done with before noon. From a quick search, that seems to be the custom in southeast Asian traditions, except possibly in Burma.
    – Zac Anger
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 4:19
  • I think I remember Samana Johann criticizing other monks for eating with laypeople, though I'm not sure why.
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 16:02

2 Answers 2


I doubt there is a rule because, when I lived as a layperson in a very small Theravada monastery with a few monks, we all ate at the same time.

In other larger formal group offerings at an associated larger monastery, the monks were served & ate first. Then lay people eat afterwards. However, although my memory is not clear, I do not recall the laypeople waiting for the monks to finish eating before the laypeople started eating. The logical reason for this is because the monks would have to wait for the laypeople to finish eating before they finalize the formalities. It would be very time consuming if both monks & laypeople had to finish eating before the formalities were closed with the monks' blessing.

I can recall when I once went to a isolated plantation village with some monks for an offering. The monks were served first and started eating, then I was served next, then the laypeople served themselves. Basically we ate together; even though the monks started eating first.

I recall once at a very large ceremony, I tried to sneak past and avoid it but the abbot spotted me in the distance & called my name over the public microphone to come & eat. The Thai people were offering me delights such as cooked chicken blood.

Here is a past life video from Australia. Everyone is eating together.


I can find this in the Bhikkhu Patimokkha:

  1. A bhikkhu who is not ill may eat one meal at a public alms center. If he should eat more than that, it is to be confessed.

  2. A group meal, except at the proper occasions, is to be confessed. Here the proper occasions are these: a time of illness, a time of giving cloth, a time of making robes, a time of going on a journey, a time of embarking on a boat, a great occasion, a time when the meal is supplied by contemplatives. These are the proper occasions here.

  3. An out-of-turn meal, except at the proper occasions, is to be confessed. Here the proper occasions are these: a time of illness, a time of giving cloth, a time of making robes. These are the proper occasions here.

There's no mention of sequence.

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