Can a homosexual be ordained?

Dear Bhante,
It is a common knowledge among our country’s Buddhist that a gay man cannot be ordained and become a bikkhu.
Is this mentioned somewhre in the scripture or not, Bhante? is there an example of a gay monk in the scripture?
Thank you very much, Bhante!

There is no specific rule about it. However, some senior monks say it is some form of pandaka.
Never the less, there are several types of pandaka and being gay with normal genitals would not invalidate the ordination.

Nevertheless, it is something that is up to the monastery or nikaya policy or even the chief monk.

Ajahn Brahmavamso has been known to ordain homosexuals.
Pa-auk will not ordain known openly gay homosexuals.

I think life would be difficult for a celibate monk who lives among monks. We often dress without our upper robe, but keeping a small shoulder cloth when in private. We sometimes have fellow monastic visitors in our kuties and dress in the same way especially in hot climates, with equal or near vassa, or casual situations. The same is with work days.

Monks and nuns should not be closely living together. An equivalent situation would be a celibate heterosexual monk living among many young and beautiful nuns. This situation would be “dangerous” for the nuns and heterosexual monk living there. It would be considered highly inappropriate even though “modern norms” might question why. “Modern norms” do not practice extreme celibacy and there is no such thing as “modern celibacy” practices. I have heard of some cases, but not many, of homosexual activities (even rape) among monks or novices in other monasteries. Some sayadaws are very against ordaining such classes of people because of these known cases.

Thank you very much for your kind explanation, Bhante!

The scripture talks about Pandakas, which cannot be ordained. Here is the story below. There is debate, however over whether the forbidden Pandakas include homosexuals though.

The Story of the Prohibition of the Ordination of Pandaka

At that time a Pandaka had been ordained in a residence of monks. He went to the young monks and encouraged them thus, 'Come all of you and assault 23 me." The monks spoke aggressively, “Pandaka, you will surely be ruined. pandaka, you will surely be [spiritually] destroyed. Of what benefit will it be?” Having been spoken to aggressively by the monks, he went to some large, stout novices and encouraged them thus, “Come all of you and assault me.” The novices spoke aggressively. “Pandaka, you will surely be ruined. Pandaka, you will surely be destroyed. Of what benefit will it be?” Having been spoken to aggressively by the novices, the pandaka went to men who tend elephants and horses and spoke to them thus. “Come all of you and assault me.” 24 The men who tend elephants and horses assaulted him and then publicly blamed, rebuked and criticised [the sangha], saying, “A samana of the lineage of the son of the Sakyas is a pandaka and these samanas, even those who are not pandakas themselves, assault the ordained pandakas. When such is the case these samanas are not practising brahmacariya (celibacy).” The monks heard the men who tend elephants and who tend horses blaming, rebuking and criticising thus and informed the Blessed One of the matter.

The Blessed One then ordered the monks, “Behold monks. a pandaka is one who is not to be ordained. Monks should not give them ordination and those who have been ordained must be made to disrobe” (Vinaya, Vol. 4, pp. 141-142).

Personally i think it does seem to include homosexuals based on the story. And for the reasons mentioned by Bhikkhu Subhuti above, it is not particularly conducive for a homosexual man to be ordained and be living in close quarters with other men anyways.

Looking at the story it seems the Pandaka was an extreme case - i think most gay men wouldn’t be inviting groups of men to sexually assault them
Possibly this was a transvestite.

There are several types of paṇḍakas.
The ones that absolutely cannot ordain do not have normal male sexual organs.
Those who have normal sexual organs are allowed to ordain.
However, a homosexual’s ability to ordain ís up to the teacher.
Actually, anyone who wishes to ordain needs the approval of the teacher or even the participating sangha who will almost always follow the teacher while at that particular monastery.

BMC 2 Ordination Chapter 14
page: 187

  1. The prohibition for abnormal gender covers paṇḍakas and hermaphrodites. According to the Commentary, there are five kinds of paṇḍakas, two of whom do not come under this prohibition: voyeurs and those whose sexual fever is allayed by performing fellatio. The three who do come under this prohibition are: castrated men (eunuchs), those born neuter, and half-time paṇḍakas (those with the sexual desires of a paṇḍaka during the dark fortnight, and none during the bright fortnight (?)). In the origin story for this prohibition, a paṇḍaka who had received Acceptance unsuccessfully propositioned some bhikkhus and novices, then succeeded in propositioning some horse- and elephant-trainers, who spread it about, “These Sakyan-son monks are paṇḍakas. And those among them who are not paṇḍakas
    molest paṇḍakas.”

True, but most monks with abhinna powers would probably not tell laypeople about their attainments for the sake of getting almsfood, yet the Buddha made that rule in response to a few monks who did just that. So its not totally unreasonable to conclude it was simply a gay man with a gangbang fetish.

However, since the Ven Subhuti has noted that the commentary explains that men who enjoy fellatio (reasonably construed to mean homosexuals) are not under the prohibition, you’re probably right that it was probably a transvestite of some sort (who had such a gangbang fetish), since the prohibition doesnt apply to homosexuals.

As Bhante explained, according to Theravāda homosexuals with no abnormalities can ordain but, in the end, it’s up to the monastery in question. I’m gay myself. I have thought about ordination before. If a monastery didn’t want to ordain me, I would go somewhere else. No point being where I’m not wanted, but I wouldn’t hold any bad feelings about it towards them. I didn’t know about Pa Auk’s policy, but I can respect the Venerable’s position. I’m sure it’s not coming from a place of hate, and I’m sure Bhante has no issue with layfollwers who are homosexual. Of course, it does become difficult for people like me if there ever is a situation where every monastery refuses to ordain us. Nowhere to go then. I would like to add though that being homosexual doesn’t stop someone from being a sincere follower of the Buddha, nor does it mean that person cannot awaken based on my understanding of the Suttas, Abhidhamma and Vinaya. There is a perception that homosexuals are all sexual hedonists. There is of course a grain of truth to that. A lot of homosexuals are, but we aren’t all like that. The same is true of heterosexuals really.

On a side note, pandaka does appear in the Vedas. There it seems to refer to some kind of cross dresser or transvestite/transsexual (probably promiscuous).

It’s interesting that in this story all those involved were engaging in homosexual activity, but it is only the monk who received that is called a paṇḍaka. I suspect that in the Buddha’s time, similar to Ancient Rome, it was not homosexual sex itself which was considered bad but more compromising one’s masculinity. If you were the “giver” (please excuse this, but I can’t think of another way to put it) then you were fine but if you were the other partner then you were acting like a paṇḍaka.

The Myanmar buses often have videos on them. Although I don’t understand the Myanmar Language, almost all videos have a transvestite as a comedy scene. I think this has changed in recent days, but not pre-2010, that “gay” and “transvestite” were the synonymous.

We now know statistically that 1/10 are homosexual and 1/500 are transgender-minded.
Obviously those who stick out are responsible for the “stereo types” for that group.
It could have been the same from long ago.

Unfortunately, the suicide rates of these groups are very high, especially with transgender.