Duties and Responsibilities for Monks
-Chanting and Meditation
-Caring for Teachers
-Management, Maintenance and Exercise
-Dhamma and Monastic Studies
-Caring for Temple Property and Responsibility
-Behaviour worthy of Respect
Once monks have returned from seeking alms and have finished their meal, their next duty is to
sweep the temple grounds. They should sweep from the main chapel, all the way to their quarters.
One might ask what monks gain from sweeping. Cleanliness is the first benefit. All monks must
uphold certain standards of cleanliness. There were three main principles espoused by the Buddha
in the Ovadapatimokkha.
Firstly, one should avoid all evil deed, Secondly, one should perform wholesome deeds to the
utmost of one’s ability. Thirdly, one should purify one’s mind. However, before you can cleanse
your mind, you must first cleanse your surroundings. This is the reason why, monks must train
themselves to love cleanliness in their everyday life.
At Dhammakaya Temple, we have a policy of cleanliness that applies right from the front gates to
every inch of temple grounds. Every morning, when I leave my kuti, I come across pieces of paper,
trash, and even cigarette butts. Even though we have signs all around the temple telling people to
refrain from smoking yet people still sneak around a corner and smoke. When I find cigarette
butts, I do not know whom to blame. I pick these things up as I go along, and I clean up whatever
I can, as I make my way around the temple, when I clean and take care of things around the temple
I am happy that the grounds are clean. My mind is clean when my surroundings are clean.
There are senior monks whose duty is to inspect temples in the rural provinces. The monks at these
temples are often afraid of the inspecting monk because they believe that he knows about
everything going on in the temple. In reality, however the monk hardly knows anything about what
is going on. However, when he reaches the temple, instead of looking at the main chapel, he will
go directly to the toilets. If the toilets are not clean, this will tell that everyone from the
abbot, down on to the temple’s followers are not upholding appropriate standards of cleanliness,
and not taking care of the temple. Moreover, the fact of cleanliness reflects poorly on the
temple’s adherence to the Dhamma.
If a temple lacks cohesion and community spirit, you can usually get a sense of this by the
graffiti on the walls of the toilets. This is true not only for temples, but for all private work
places, schools, and government buildings. When people are unhappy with their work, or their boss,
they typically vent their opinions on the walls. The inspecting monk can often gather valuable
information about what is going on and can use this
information, along with other things he has observed to form a picture of the quality of life in
However, for temples that are clean and well organized and where the community coexists in
harmony, the inspecting monk does not need to address many issues. He can then spend more time on
his visit to teach about the Dhamma, bless them, praise them on their good conduct, and offer
words of encouragement to continue to keep their high standards.
When I was about to move from Wat Paknam to help build Wat PhraDhammakaya, I went to pay my
farewell respects to my preceptor. My Preceptor told me that when the late Abbot of Wat Paknam was
alive, he would say, “in order to build a temple, you need lots of money. Nevertheless, there are
two ways of raising money. If you do not know how to raise money, then you must spend a lot of
time seeking money out. But if you know how to raise money, then money seeks you out.”
If a layman builds a temple and living quarters for monks, and he returns to find that the temples
is littered with trash, with dust everywhere, stray dogs lying about in the temple and grounds
covered with dog dirt, he will turn around and leave the temple, never to return.
If the temple should need further construction work and this same laymen is asked for his help
again, the layman may politely decline by saying that business right now is not good, asking the
temple to wait. However, if the layman is a person of honest and frank disposition, then he may
reply, “why are you asking for more, you can’t even look after the one you already have. There is
trash everywhere.” Therefore, as you can imagine,
it would be very embarrassing for monks to have to ask for help in that manner.
If this is how the original sponsor of the temple comments, and you are thinking to build
additional temple buildings, you will forever be asking for money in vain. If the gates to the
temple are strewn with litter not to speak of the main chapel, and the path towards the living
quarters too, even those originally intending to make merit by donating 100 Baht, may decide to
give only 10 Baht, and most likely will not return to the temple again because it is unclean. The
temple will forever lose these patrons.
On the other hand, if laypeople visit a temple that is clean, seeing a main chapel that is
beautiful, and feeling at ease when sitting there in an environment that is soothing to the mind.
Should the layman have extra money, he might very well ask the Abbot, “How about another
building?” without having to be prompted. That is how money seeks one out.
This is, how financial support goes hand in hand with temple cleanliness. If a temple can attract
financial support simply through the act of daily sweeping and picking up litter, imagine what can
be achieved if you have cleanliness of mind!
The Benefits of Sweeping the Temple
1. Sweeping can be a sort of moving meditation that allows us to ponder and calm the mind.
Thereby, little by little, we can learn about the Dhamma within ourselves.
2. Those who see monks diligently sweeping the temple will have a higher level of respect for
monks and Buddhism.
3. Even the our guardian deities rejoice in our merit for
they also love cleanliness. There is a story about a monk who would often meditate in the woods.
He would often use the base of trees for relieving himself. One night, as the monk sat there
meditating, hie overheard two angels talking in the treetops. The first once said, “This monk is
truly great in everything he does, except for one thing, he relieves himself on so many different
trees, that the smell is everywhere. The second angel commented, “Well it has to be that way since
you can’t expect him to carry a toilet around with him.” The first angel replied, “I don’t mind
that the monk relieves himself, its just that he should restrict himself to one place, not at the
base of every tree in the forest. The smell is everywhere and I don’t know how to get away from
it!” The moral of this story is that you should respect cleanliness because even the Angels are
watching what you are doing.
4. You will earn the reputation of being one who collects merit. This will result in your having a
fair complexion. Those who love cleanliness will have a clean mind, and as a result, your body and
mind will be a place for faith in Dhamma and in Buddhism.
5. Once you pass on from this life, due to your love of cleanliness, you will pass away into the
A monk who develops the habit of sweeping the temple grounds, and loves cleanliness, will also
most likely have robes and living quarters that are clean. In the end, this means his mind is
clean as well, and this will reflect his cleanliness of thought, words, and actions.