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I've noticed on the site that quite a few people address Yuttadhammo as bhante. I'm aware that this means teacher. However in my sangha (Triratna Buddhist Community) the term is used differently. People only ever us bhante when speaking about the founder of the movement and even then it's only really people who have a more personal relationship or at least a very strong attachment to his teachings. For instance I wouldn't use the term - not that anyone would have a problem if i did - it just wouldn't seem appropriate. So the usage of the term on this site seems very casual.

I'm not asking for any validation that my sangha is using the term correctly - we probably aren't. It's just that how I would use it and how it's used on the site seem different and I'm wondering on the most appropriate usage for the term. Is it a casual term of address? Does it signify respect? Should it be only used for people with a personal relationship to the teacher?

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Bhante is a contracted vocative form of the reverential "bhadanta", which is simply an appellative used to show respect. It is used in the suttas in a similar way as the word "Ajān" is used in Thailand. Strictly speaking, it should not be used when referring to a respected individual in the third person, e.g. "Bhante Bodhi", etc., and it isn't generally used to address someone of equal stature ("bho" is commonly used in that case).

It really is the most common form of address used by lay people to address both the Buddha and his monastic disciples. As was quoted in another answer, after the Buddha passed away, it also became the method for junior monks to address senior monks (individually or as the sangha).

There is also an instance in the Vimanavatthu where a lesser angel uses Bhante to address the king of the angels.


Examples:


For the Buddha (addressed by King Ajatasattu):

tassa me, bhante bhagavā accayaṃ accayato paṭiggaṇhātu āyatiṃ saṃvarāya

"Thus may you, Bhante Bhagavā, accept my fault for a fault, for the purpose of guarding from this point on."

-- DN 2


For a respectable monk (Nagita, addressed by a Licchavi householder):

kahaṃ nu kho, bhante nāgita, etarahi so bhagavā viharati arahaṃ sammāsambuddho

"Where exactly, Bhante Nāgita, at this time, is that Bhagavā dwelling, the worthy, fully-self-enlighted Buddha?"

-- DN 6


For a junior monk to address a senior monk (Ananda addressing Anuruddha):

parinibbuto, bhante anuruddha, bhagavāti. nāvuso ānanda, bhagavā parinibbuto, saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ samāpannoti.

"Is the Bhagavā completely extinguished, Bhante Anuruddha?" "The Bhagavā is not, Āvuso Ānanda, completely extinguished; [he is] attained to the cessation of perception and sensation."

-- DN 16


For an ordinary monk, just because he is a monk (Udāyi, addressed by the carpenter Pañcakanga):

na kho, bhante udāyi, tisso vedanā vuttā bhagavatā

"Not so, Bhante Udāyi, were three feelings spoken of by the Bhagavā."

-- MN 59


For the king of angels (addressed by a lesser angel):

kosātakī nāma latatthi bhante, tittikā anabhicchitā.

"There is a creeper called Kosātakī, Bhante, bitter and undesired."

-- Vv. 798

  • My impression is the word 'Ajahn' in Thai means 'teacher', from 'acharya'. Therefore, in Thailand, school teachers are called 'Ajahn' and young monks are not called Ajahn until they develop repute as a teacher. In Thailand, younger monks are called 'Tan' and the word 'Bhante' I have never heard used in Thailand. – Dhammadhatu Oct 11 '16 at 1:26
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From the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

"And, Ananda, whereas now the bhikkhus (monks) address one another as 'friend,' let it not be so when I am gone. The senior bhikkhus, Ananda, may address the junior ones by their name, their family name, or as 'friend'; but the junior bhikkhus should address the senior ones as 'venerable sir' or 'your reverence.'

Footnote: "Friend," in Pali is avuso, "venerable sir" = bhante, "your reverence" = ayasma.

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Crab Bucket:

I have always reserved the use of the honorific "Bhante" only for those that have gone forth as Bhikkhus in the Theravada tradition. I would offer the opinion that it is not appropriate for someone who is a lay teacher (such as the Triratna founder Sangharakshita) but is not a Bhikkhu, that is, subject to and living the Pali Vinaya rules (and had lived according to those rules).

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