Guide for Laypeople
From time to time, the nuns travel and teach and are grateful to receive accommodation. If you would enjoy offering, the following points may be helpful.
A Few Considerations:
It is useful to remember that the Nuns' Training is to encourage contentment with what is offered, whether it is shelter for a night, a meal or any of the Four Requisites (food, shelter, medicine and robes). A nun is not allowed to teach Dhamma unless invited to do so.
- She can only receive food between dawn and 12 noon (1:00 pm during Summer time). She cannot consume food or drink other than water unless they are offered by body (physically handed to her or placed in the almsbowl), speech (e.g. saying, “this is for you, please help yourself”), or by arrangement (e.g. a note signaling that a particular item has been offered for the use of a particular nun or group).
- There are certain items known as 'allowables’) that can be offered after noon. For example, coffee, tea, herbal teas, fruit juice (clear), sugar, honey, soy milk, crystalized ginger, miso, cheese, dark chocolate and hard candy.
- It is preferable for a nun to either have their own room or to share a sleeping area with another nun or novice.
- When conversing with a man in a private or secluded place, she should have another woman with her.
- She cannot receive money or use money. If you wish to offer something for her personal use, the item can either be offered directly or funds can be given to a lay person who can purchase the item and offer it to her (see ‘Making an Offering’ below).
The following additional suggestions are offered by the Saranaloka Board and are intended to help lay people feel at ease when hosting or visiting with a nun. In all cases, if you have a question about anything, simply ask for guidance.
- Añjali: This is a lovely gesture of respect that can be used when greeting a nun. The gesture consists of placing the palms together at the heart level.
- Polite Sitting: It is polite to avoid pointing the soles of the feet toward a Buddha image or another person when sitting.
- In addressing the nuns, it is appropriate to use the title 'Ayya', for novices please use the title 'Sister'.
- When a teaching nun is giving a Dhamma talk, listeners, out of respect for the Dhamma, should avoid sitting on a higher seat unless for health reasons one needs to sit on a chair or a bench. It is customary for the teacher to sit on a slightly raised mat or chair.
- When listening to a Dhamma talk it is respectful to remove any head wear (unless for health reasons one needs to cover the head).
- One should not eat or drink while listening to a Dhamma talk.
Hosting a Nun:
Breakfast can be offered to her directly; if that is not possible (e.g. you've gone to work) then food can be left out with a written invitation for her to help herself.
Generally, a nun prefers to eat in her customary style: sitting quietly on the floor and eating in silence from her alms bowl. At the discretion of the nun a different arrangement can be made.
Making an Offering:
An invitation to offer requisites (pavarana: pronounced pa-var´-ana) can be made at any time. This involves asking the nun to let you know if there is anything she needs that you could offer. It is quite all right to be very specific about what you have in mind, e.g., “Please let me know if you need transport to the retreat center,” or “I would like to offer to take you anywhere you need to go during the time of your stay,” or “Please let me know if you need any medicines/sandals/a toothbrush.” This helps to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings.