Internal Rules
Part I

Base on the principle of the Great Teacher of Bamboo Grove (Truc Lam Dau Da), Zen students at all monasteries should have these three virtues: irreversibility, determination, and simplicity.

  1. Irreversibility: Students should have a clear distinction between the mundane life and ordained life. Students should have no dilemma, but a determination to practice until enlightenment is reached.

  2. Determination: Students should be determined to override all types of obstacle, whether those are created by surrounding environments or by the students. They need to have a willpower to attain liberation.

  3. Simplicity: It refers to a simple life without pleasure-seeking. Simplicity is the basic life of Zen students at all monasteries.

I. Six Harmonies

Six harmonies are the adhesive that makes the bonding of Zen students at monasteries. Also, they are the foundation of this union.

  1. The harmony of body: Students should act, practice, eat, sleep in coherence.

  2. The harmony of speech: Students should engage in discussions with the respect and courtesy of the others. Harsh speeches or arguments are unacceptable.

  3. The harmony of mind: Students should get along with the others without jealousy, conflict, or hatred.

  4. The harmony of views: Students should learn to share and support each other if their views are different.

  5. The harmony of discipline: Students should consider the ten precepts as the basics, abide them as well as all conducted rules at monasteries. All should try to preserve the serenity.

  6. The harmony of benefits: All properties in monasteries are equally shared by all students. No one should possess his/her own property.

II. Rules

Disciplines are the basis of morality and also are the root of the tree of concentration and flower of wisdom.

  • Basic rules

    1. Refrain from killing – Students should not commit, motivate others, or feel delighted in killing living beings (humans and animals).

    2. Refrain from stealing – Students are not allowed to take without permission or steal any item such as money, accessories, foods, etc, that belongs to other people.

    3. Refrain from lustful activity – Students should not commit, communicate, or think in lustful manner.

    4. Refrain from lying – Students should not make false, malicious, misleading, or vain speeches.

    5. Refrain from intoxicants - Students are prohibited from drinking or smoking any type of intoxicated substances.

    6. Refrain from physical adornment – Students are prohibited from using any item (perfume, makeup, jewleries, etc) to beautify the body.

    7. Refrain from musical performances – Stutents are prohibited from reciting, listening, or viewing any type of unserious performances that would cloud the mind.

    8. Refrain from using luxurious or high beds – In the way of accepting the simple life, students should not lie or seat on big or high beds.

    9. Refrain from precious jewleries – Students should accept the life with no personal possessions such as money, jewleries, etc. They could only use the materials that are provided by the monasteries.

    10. Refrain from eating at forbidden times – Students are prohibited from eating at the times other than the defined times, except it's needed after hard works. This rule would help them to focus on the practice.

  • Supreme rules

    Zen master Phap Loa had said, "In 24 hours of a day, we should terminate all attachments to outer objects, and internally, our mind is tamed." Once it is tamed, we are pleasant to any kinds of disturbance. No differentiation arises in mind when eyes see forms. In the meantime, the consciousness does not attach to sensual objects. Externally and internally, there's no attachment, which is called termination. Even though it's called termination, but it's not. Note that it's the same for ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. This is called the Discipline of Great Vehicle, the Supreme Discipline, or even the Unsurpassed Discipline. This discipline is observed by bhikkhus and bhikkhuni from any level.

  • Minor restrictions

    The following minor restrictions will help students to fully devote their time in practice and evade minor intentional or unintentional errors.

    1. Students should miminize their travel time, except the followings: they, their master, or their parents are critically ill or near death. This rule is also applied to some special circumstances.

    2. By observing the 9th rule, students should give the treasurer any monetary contribution that was given by their relatives or other sources.

      This is used for their future medical expenses.

    3. Relatives are allowed upto 30 minutes of visitation. If they would like to stay over, the guest hostess will make arrangements.

    4. Students should fulfill the task once it's assigned to them.

    5. Students are not allowed to miss any common practice at the monastery, except they're ill or assigned with a special task.

    6. Students are not allowed to be late or leave early from the time of vowings, except they're on a particular task.

    7. Students should help each other when they are assigned on the same tasks or aware of any type of difficulties such as heavy work load, tardiness, etc...

    8. Students should conserve, spend and utilize the properties of monasteries considerably.

    9. Students should not prolong the permitted time of a particular assignment. In case of emergency, notify the management to request for an extention.

    10. Students are allowed to leave the monastery as they wish if they find the environment is unfit. It's unacceptable to have a wondering mind. Once they leave, there's no return.

  • Conclusion

    The Six Harmonies and the first 5 rules of the Ten Precepts are the core. Students are disciplined depend on the level of violation. If it's severe, students have to leave the monastery. But if it's minor, they have to repent in front of the management and sangha. If students violate any of the last five precepts or minor restrictions and acknowledge their fault, they could repent it with the management and peers. It also applies when their fault is reminded by others. But if the students repeat the same fault for multiple times, they should leave the monastery permanently.

III. Organization

The organization at monasteries follows the principle of Truc Lam Yen Tu sect, a Vietnamse Zen sect. To instruct and protect students to succeed in their practice, two types of management had established: Upper management and Operational management.

  • Upper Management

    1. Abbot: Is responsible for guiding students in their practice and overseeing any issues arise in the monastery.

    2. Deputy abbot: Acts in the absence of the abbot or on the tasks that have been assigned by the abbot.

    3. Secretary: Retains all documents and important letters relating to the monastery as a whole. He/she prepares letters and establishes public relations with Buddhist congregation, government, and Buddhists.

    4. Treasurer: Is responsible for the saving and spending of the monastery. All spendings should be authorized by upper management. He/she should submit a monthly report to the abbot.

  • Operational Management

    1. Head monk/nun: Is the master of all ceremonies that take place at the monastery. Also, he/se is responsible for outlining the practicing procedures, observing and reviewing the practicing performance of the students.

    2. Deputy head monk/nun: Acts in the absence of the head monk/nun or fulfills special tasks that are assigned by the head monk/nun.

    3. Operational supervisor: Assigns students to various tasks in the monastery. Distributes tools or materials that are required for their tasks.

    4. Guest hostess: Interacts with guests, makes arrangements, and provides needs for stay over guests.

    5. Culinary coordinator: Is responsible for grocery purchasing and supervising chefs to cook foods that meet the mass's need.

    6. Housekeeper: Cleans up the halls, shrines, arranges offering fruits, and instructs visitors on the incense offerings.

    7. Garderning supervisor: Oversees a group of people who grow and maintain trees. Also, he/she should be aware of the harvesting or selling time.

    8. Farming supervisor: Oversees farmers on planting vegetables and other types of plants. These are consumed daily by all residents at the monastery.

    9. Landscaping supervisor: Oversees a group of people who plant and care all bonsai trees in the monastery.

    10. Care providers: This group is needed especially in rural areas. Their function is to observe, provide checkups, and take care ill people right from the start. The Buddha had said that taking care of ill people is same as taking care of him.

IV. Schedules At Monasteries

See Schedules & activities

V. Study Program

The intention of Zen is "transmission of the light, which is outside the scriptures; direct to the mind and discern the true nature to attain Buddhahood." But isn't it contradicting with Zen principle when we listen to discourses and study suttras? No. Vietnamese Buddhism has deviated from its origin because Buddhist practitioners did not well maintain the Zen principle that they inherited. Therefore, our goal at each monastery is to learn and practice Zen concurrently. In order words, we practice Zen as well as study suttras and discourses. In addition, even though there are many Buddhist monks and nuns practice Zen nowadays, a few of them follow the true Zen principle. Therefore, they could make mistakes easily and that could lead to mental disorder. Thus, if we don't combine both methods of learning and practicing, it would create some doubts and worriness in their mind. It's the basic reason that all monks and nuns at the monasteries have to study suttras and discourses.

The Curriculum of Four-Year Program

First Year



Listen and study Agama suttras.

1. The basic learning of Buddhism
2. Guishan Kuei Shan

Vietnamese Zen, from the early stage to the beginning of Ly dynasty.

Second Year




1. Prajna Paramita suttra (Chinese version)
2. The Diamond suttra (Chinese version)
3. The Vimalakirti suttra (Vietnamese version)
4. The Complete Enlightenment suttra (Chinese version)

1. The Vietnamese Zen Sect At The Late 20th Century
2. The Zen Source (Vietnamese version)
3. The Discourse of The Supreme Vehicle (Vietnamese version)
4. The Platform suttra (Chinese version)

1. Thirty Three Patriarchs of India and China
2. Vietnamese Zen of Ly dynasty

Third Year




1. Lankavatara suttra (Vietnamese version)
2. Suramgama suttra (Chinese version)
3. Lotus suttra (Vietnamese version)

1. Six Entrances To The Mind (Vietnamese version)
2. Instance Enligtenment – The key of practicing Zen (Vietnamese version)
3. Discourse of Great Vehicle To Arise Faith (Chinese version)
4. Attainment Hymns (Chinese version)

1. The History of Chinese Zen Masters – part 1
2. Vietnamese Zen – At the end of Tran's dynasty until the present
Fourth Year




1. Nirvana suttra (General – Vietnamese version)
2. Avatamsaka suttra (Flower Adornment) (General – Vietnamese version)
3. Lotus suttra (Vietnamese version)

1. Trace Back The Radiance (Vietnamese version)
2. Discourse of  Middle Way (Chinese version)
3. All Dharmas Direct To Mind (Vietnamese version)
4. Trust In Mind (Chinese version)

The History of Chinese Zen Masters – part 2

VI. Student Selection - Specifications

At Truc Lam monastery

  • Age: From 18 to 55. Except for the management.

  • Education: Candidates should meet at least one of the following conditions:
    • Complete 3 years of Buddhist study at the monastery.
    • Complete Buddhist study program at either junior or senior Buddhist school.
    • For laities, they should have at least 12th grade education and years of studying and practicing Zen.

  • Buddhist followers, who set their mind to practice Zen, should be determined to attain the Way.

  • No physical limitations and contagious diseases.
  • Willing to accept a simple life and six harmonies.
  • Sign agreement form that they won't violate the defined rules of the monastery.

At other monasteries

  • Age: From 18 to 55.

  • Education: Candidates should meet at least one of the following conditions:
    • Complete Buddhist study at junior or senior Buddhist school.
    • For laities, they should have at least 12th grade education and years of studying and practicing Zen.
    • For laities, they should have at least 12th grade education and years of studying and practicing Zen.

  • Buddhist followers, who set their mind to practice Zen, should be determined to attain the Way.

  • No physical limitations and contagious diseases.
  • Willing to accept a simple life and six harmonies.
  • Before ordaining, the candidates should practice at the monastery from 1 to 3 years.

VII. Visitors' Guidelines

Most of visitors fall into one of these three categories: incense offering, sightseeing, and stay-over guests. All should preserve courtesy, respect, and seriousness in their presence at monasteries.

  1. Visitors who sightsee or make insense offerings

    The monasteries have 2 areas: Inner section and outer section. Visitors can access to outer section. Only when they want to learn or make a research on the practicing method of the monastery, they can get into the inner section with the guest host after being authorized.

  2. Stay-over guests – Short period of time

    If visitors would like to stay with their relative(s), who currently lives at the monastery, or pursue a research, they should be allowed to stay upto 7 days.

  3. Stay-over guests – Long period of time

    Only two types of guests could stay upto 3 months:

    1. learning and practicing
    2. prolong practicing. An exception is raised when they require more time to complete their practice. This should be reviewed by the Master.

  4. Female laities or nuns could not stay overnight at monasteries for monks and vice versa.

VIII. Conclusion

These internal rules are imperative to protect the practicing life of students at monasteries. They help students to live in harmony and morality so that their learning and practice could advance. Thus, each month, these rules are proclaimed once as a reminder to the students, meanwhile, they have to self-assess to make sure no violation is made. With strong desire of practicing and learning, students should make an effort to abide these rules.

This book of "The Rules of Purification" with all of its defined rules and conditions has been reviewed and certified the first time by Master Thich Thanh Tu at Truc Lam monastery on 3/25/1999.

For future amendment, a conference should take place with a unanimous vote in the sangha.