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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

Traditionally religious leadership was exercised by monastics, although kings played important roles in the governance of the Sangha. Recent years have seen the rise of lay leaders and organizations as well as groups and individuals claiming a semi-monastic status.


In some Theravada countries all ordained monks belong to a single national organization, while in others they do not. The governments of all Theravada nations play significant roles in the administration of the Sangha.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Theravada includes many models for ethical reflection, including concepts of karma, understandings of the Buddhist path as a process of purification and perfection, and a concern with developing moral sentiments, such as loving kindness and devotion.

Vision for Society

Although the suttas reveal strongly utopian and countercultural themes, Theravada societies have developed a symbiotic relationship between Sangha and state in which the king is seen as the upholder of the Dhamma and the head of the Buddhist community.

Gender and Sexuality

Theravada holds that both women and men can become awakened, and a lineage of nuns existed until the 13th century or later. Today many women live as ascetics and there have been several attempts to reestablish nuns' ordination.