(lit. ‘means of shaking off (the defilements)’); ‘means of purification’, ascetic or austere practices. These are strict observances recommended by the Buddha to monks as a help to cultivate contentedness, renunciation, energy and the like. One or more of them may be observed for a shorter or longer period of time.

“The monk training himself in morality should take upon himself the means of purification, in order to gain those virtues through which the purity of morality will become accomplished, to wit: fewness of needs, contentedness, austerity, detachment, energy, moderation, etc.” (Vis.M. II).

Vis.M. II describes 13 dhutangas, consisting in the vows of

  • 1. wearing patched-up robes: pamsukūlik’anga,
  • 2. wearing only three robes: tecīvarik’anga,
  • 3. going for alms: pindapātik’anga,
  • 4. not omitting any house whilst going for alms: sapadānikanga,
  • 5. eating at one sitting: ekāsanik’anga,
  • 6. eating only from the alms-bowl: pattapindik’anga,
  • 7. refusing all further food: khalu-pacchā-bhattik’anga,
  • 8. living in the forest: āraññik’anga,
  • 9. living under a tree: rukkha-mūlik’anga,
  • 10. living in the open air: abbhokāsik’anga,
  • 11. living in a cemetery: susānik’anga,
  • 12. being satisfied with whatever dwelling: yathā-santhatik’anga,
  • 13. sleeping in the sitting position (and never lying down): nesajjik’anga.

These 13 exercises are all, without exception, mentioned in the old sutta texts (e.g. M. 5, 113; A.V., 181-90), but never together in one and the same place.

“Without doubt, o monks, it is a great advantage to live in the forest as a hermit, to collect one’s alms, to make one’s robes from picked-up rags, to be satisfied with three robes” (A.I, 30).

The vow, e.g. of No. 1, is taken in the words: “I reject robes offered to me by householders,” or “I take upon myself the vow of wearing only robes made from picked-up rags.” Some of the exercises may also be observed by the lay-adherent.

Here it may be mentioned that each newly ordained monk, immediately after his being admitted to the Order, is advised to be satisfied with whatever robes, alms-food, dwelling and medicine he gets: “The life of the monks depends on the collected alms as food … on the root of a tree as dwelling … on robes made from patched-up rags … on stale cow’s urine as medicine. May you train yourself therein all your life.”

Since the moral quality of any action depends entirely upon the accompanying intention and volition, this is also the case with these ascetic practices, as is expressly stated in Vis. M. Thus the mere external performance is not the real exercise, as it is said (Pug. 275-84): “Some one might be going for alms; etc. out of stupidity and foolishness – or with evil intention and filled with desires – or out of insanity and mental derangement – or because such practice had been praised by the Noble Ones….” These exercises are, however properly observed “if they are taken up only for the sake of frugality, of contentedness, of purity, etc.”(App.)