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A view from the courtyard of the Hiraṇyavarṇa Mahāvihāra of Kathamandu; the vihāras of Kathmandu are said to represent the traditional structure of the vihāras of classical India.
The ruins of Shalvan Vihara, the Buddhist monastery that operated between 7th-12th century in Mainamati, Bangladesh.

vihāra (T. gtsug lag khang/dgon pa; C. zhu/jingshe 住/精舎). Literally "abode." In Buddhism a vihāra generally refers to a dwelling place for monks, and is often translated as "monastery" or "temple."[1]

The Princeton Dictionary states:

In the story of the life of the Buddha, in the early days of the saṃgha the monks had no fixed abode but wandered throughout the year. Eventually, the Buddha instructed monks to cease their peregrinations during the torrential monsoon period in order to prevent the killing of insects and worms while walking on muddy roads. The residences established for use during the rains retreat (varṣā) are called varṣāvāsa or “rains abode,” and the institution of the rains retreat (and the consequent need for more permanent shelter) probably led to the development of formal monasteries.[2]

The Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon sets for various rules and regulations regarding the layout of a vihāra.[2] For example, in a traditional vihāra, the rooms for the monastics are typically arrayed around a central courtyard that contains a stupa or bodhi tree.[2]

The Indian state of Bihar derives its name from the large number of vihāras that were once found in that region.[2]

The term vihāra is also used in the general sense of "abode." For example:

  • Brahmavihāra - the "abodes of Brahma"; a.k.a. the "divine abodes"
  • three types of abodes in the Pali tradition: “the heavenly abode (dibba-vihāra), the divine abode (brahma-vihāra, q.v.), the noble abode (ariya-vihāra). See AN 3:63; DN 33.”[3]


  1. Internet-icon.svg གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. vihāra.
  3. Nyanatiloka Thera 2019, s.v. vihāra.


Further reading