Can a Bhikkhunī break Pārājika 1?

The first Pārājika in the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha reads:

Should any bhikkhuni willingly engage in the sexual act, even with a male animal, she is defeated and no longer in communion.

Now at first glance it would seem that a nun could break this rule.

But once a Pārājika rule is broken, a nun is no longer in communion; is no longer a nun and can then therefore do as she likes because she no longer falls under the Vinaya. So for instance, if a nun breaks Pārājika 2, the rule on not stealing, she is no longer a nun. So if she has sexual intercourse after that, it no longer matters, she is out of communion already.

The Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha has however 8 rules in total, while the Bhikkhus only have the first 4 of those rules.

Rule 5 reads:

Should any bhikkhuni, lusting, consent to a lusting man’s rubbing, rubbing up against, taking hold of, touching, or fondling (her) below the collar-bone and above the circle of the knees, she also is defeated and no longer in communion for being ‘one above the circle of the knees.’

And Rule 8:

Should any bhikkhuni, lusting, consent to a lusting man’s taking hold of her hand and touching the edge of her outer robe, and should she stand with him and converse with him and go to a rendezvous with him, and should she consent to his approaching her, and should she enter a hidden place with him, and should she dispose her body to him—(any of these) for the purpose of that unrighteous act—then she also is defeated and no longer in communion for ‘eight grounds.’

Now please tell me how any Bhikkhunī could possibly break Pārājika 1 without first breaking rule 5 or 8 or both (unless it is with an animal, but in most cases that would be very unlikely)?

Now Pārājika 1 is not actually mentioned at all in the Bhikkhunī Vibhaṅga. Only what we know as rules 5 to 8 are mentioned there. The Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha as a whole has been compiled at a later date and is part of the commentaries. Also the part of the Bhikkhunī Vibhaṅga that is actually in the Sutta Vibhaṅga of the Vinaya is very messy. There are rules from the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha and from the Khandhakas brought into it, probably after the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha was already closed. The Bhikkhu Pātimokkha itself is a very clear rounded structure, with parallels in all other schools; in fact, it is the same list of rules everywhere. The parallels and wording in the various schools is far less clear in case of the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha.

Ayya Kathrin @vimalanyani is currently working to translate the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha of the various Chinese schools and we will have a clearer picture after that, but a lot of work still needs to be done to further our understanding about how the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha came to be.


I was actually not going to get dragged into another bhikkhuni vinaya discussion again, but oh well…

One thing that’s not covered by parajikas 5 and 8 are homosexual acts. But interestingly, they are also not covered by parajika 1 for women in most cases, due to the fine print of the offense in the vibhanga. Men however would be parajika for a homosexual act.
But there is a small possibility of breaking parajika 1 in a homosexual act for women, depending on how exactly they do it.

My preliminary findings show that the overall picture of these parajika offenses is pretty similar across schools.
But it’s difficult to define exactly when you have broken parajika 5 or 8, because the details of what you have to do with the guy vary.
But with regard to your question, you’d generally have broken parajika 5 before breaking parajika 1.

I suppose there is a theoretical case where the sex act takes place without any prior touching at all. But I don’t think that happens much in practise…


As far as I understand this is covered in the Pācittiyās. Obviously those things among women were not seen as problematic, only among men. Pārājika 1 defines it as actual penetration “even to the depth of a sesame seed”.

My remark here was regarding the whole of the Pātimokkha and not just the first rules. Apologies for not having been more clear.


I wonder if it was once the case that breaking Rule 5 resulted in a community meeting or confession; Rule 8 looks like it could easily have been an undetermined case.


Yes, that’s my understanding, too, pacittiya 3.
Theoretically you can break parajika 1 as a woman during oral homosexual acts.
Anyway, the vibhanga is written by men for men, so it’s not quite clear how that applies to women.

OK, yes, then I can confirm it’s a mess… :grin:


There are quite a few rules in the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha that are Bhikkhu rules that are put into another (higher) category. So who will tell?

Rule 8 is a bit bizarre indeed and seems to be made up of a combination of various lesser rules. There are some, like Ajahn Thanissaro, who feel that the pali word ‘vā’ should not be translated by “and” but by “or”, making the whole rule much easier to break.


Just to add that according to other schools that have specific bhikkhuni vibhangas for parajika 1, the acts covered by the rule are just heterosexual. So that would confirm your interpretation.


Then he would have to come up with a very good explanation for the fact that the vibhanga just assigns various lesser offenses for breaking parts of the rule. Clearly the rule is only a full parajika if you break all eight.


Sure, it seems far more logical, but then the whole rule also does not make sense much because you can easily just do 7 things and then nothing happens (apart from lesser rules).


The parts of the vibhanga shared by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis is in the Bhikkhu Vibhanga. It includes comments on the rape of Uppalavaṇṇā.

Because she did not consent there was no offense.

Elsewhere in the text, but I can’t pull it up quickly, the male monks speak about whether she enjoyed the sex. The Buddha declared that she was fully enlightened and so did not take pleasure.

The concern for a female monk is, at any point during a rape, giving consent. She may have not violated pārājika 5 or 8, but, because during the sex act she consented, she could violate pārājika 1.

My training is, if I ever found myself in such a situation, to verbally, and if safe to do so, physically, declare lack of consent before the sex act and, if safe to do so, continue to protest during and after the sex act, and regardless, to keep the mind steady and free from lust.

A rape is a confusing situation and the mind may most likely be predominately in fear or disgust, but it can pull up so many emotional states and tools to try to cope. I find it highly unpleasant to think that a bhikkhuni could lose her status, due to a trick of the mind during a forced sex act.

Here, it becomes even trickier for the mind. One is being forced to have sex with another, who also does not want to have sex.

The main thing is to avoid forced sex situations, if one can, and to guard the mind at all times.


I find this very disturbing to hear. After being raped a woman is plagued by feelings of guilt, doubt and self-blame. Questions like “What did I do wrong?”, “What signals did I give to bring this about?”. The last thing she needs is more feelings of guilt and doubt about whether or not she might at some point have consented or done anything that might have given the other the idea that she consented or even that she might have had a single thought of consent at the punishment of having to disrobe.

A woman in such a situation needs support, compassion and assurance that it was not her fault. Not more blame or questioning by others!


I don’t think men are allowed to spill semen, even accidentally (for instance in a nocturnal emission) but I am not sure.

I take for granted there is nothing about the necessity to confess a female orgasm, related to the erasure of female sexuality in general, and the seeing of female sexual agentivity as exclusively related to men, even only male animals.

I doubt that lust would be the most of your concerns in such an engagement! Let us all hope it happens to no-one on this forum, despite the likeliness of it already having happened! :frowning:


That’s not a parajika (expulsion) offense. It’s sanghadisesa 1.

Well there is pacittiya 4, about dildos. But it doesn’t matter whether you actually have an orgasm.

In the same way it also doesn’t matter whether you have an orgasm when you have sex with a male partner. Just the act itself is enough to be parajika.


I think it’s important to distinguish between consent and pleasure. Consent is a conscious decision of whether or not to engage in sexual intercourse. If you are forced then you don’t consent.

During the act, contact of the body with tangible objects can lead to vedana, unpleasant, neutral or even pleasant. That’s beyond anyone’s control, no matter how mindful you are. And even if it were possible to control it, in such a challenging situation it’s unreasonable to expect that you could be calm enough to guard your mind 100%.

The rule just deals with consent. Whatever vedana arise is irrelevant for the parajika offense.
You also don’t have to object verbally if the situation is unsafe, which will mostly be the case in a rape. The man will be physically stronger and in an irrational mind state that you don’t want to trigger further. Mentally not consenting is good enough for not being parajika.

There are also the non-offense clauses: There is no offense: if she does not know; if she does not consent; if she is insane; if she is deranged; if she is overwhelmed by pain;…
Being in a challenging situation overwhelmed by fear or disgust or whatever during the rape would certainly come under deranged, or overwhelmed by pain.

It’s very dangerous to subject the victim to intense questioning whether or not there was a moment of consent in all this emotional mess. It will just lead to more feelings of guilt and shame, and forever make her question if she somehow might be parajika.


For the rules regarding men and semen emissions check Ss1. I would also check the sad event related to NP4.

Emissions in dreams are not considered offense:

At one time, monks ate delicious food, fell asleep without mindfulness and clear awareness, and emitted semen while dreaming.
They became remorseful, thinking, “The Master has laid down a training rule that intentional emission of semen is an offense entailing suspension.
We had an emission of semen while dreaming, and that involves intention. Could it be that we’ve committed an offense entailing suspension?”
They informed the Master.
He said, “Monks, there’s intention involved, but it’s negligible.


So the full meaning of Paaraajika 8 hangs on the addition of a single vowel sign (long aa). That seems a bit thin as evidence of what was proclaimed 2500 years ago.


… Is the Bhikkhunii Paatimokkha part of the commentaries?
It is the second part of “”, that is not a commentary.
It is true that addition and changes were made to the Bhikkhunii Paatimokkha, after the Bhikkhu Paatimokkha was already closed. It is also true that the Bhikkhu Paatimokkha was closed before the split into many different schools, while the Bhikkhunii Paatimokkha was closed only after these different schools had arisen.
But most of the differences between the rules for monks and nuns are in the Paacittiya class. Here very definitely many rules were added for the Bhikkhunis after the Paatimokkha for monks had already been closed.

In the Paa.tidesaniiya class we also have a clear cut situation. The Bhikkhunii Paatimokkha in an earlier form had no rules of this class. The existing eight rules were made up later by splitting a single Paacittiya rule for monks into eight rules for nuns.

But when we come to the heavy offences, it seems better to wait for the results of the comparison with the Bhikhunii Paatimokkha of all other existing Vinaya schools.

The suggestion that the additional Paaraajikaa rules for nuns might have been lesser offences in an earlier form of the Bhikkhuni Paatimokkha I find very tempting. But we should look for more evidence.

When it comes to “messy texts”, the Bhikkhunii-khandhaka (Chapter X of Vinaya Cullavagga) is a perfect example, not only regarding the story of the foundation of the bhikkhunii order, but also in the later parts, where various Vinaya instructions for nuns are given.

Meanwhile I have actually found a discourse in AN, where Buddha adresses both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, … but not in all sentences.

It is AN X.Sutta 14 on “mental barrenness”. PTS edition AN Vol. V, page 17-21. Studying the Sutta structure may give us an explanation for this “irregularity”.


I think without the factors of each rule, as well as a clear definition and the untranslated Pāli word of ‘willingly’ in Pārājika 1 and ‘lusting’ in Pārājika 5 and 8, it will be difficult to find conclusive answers to questions.

Clearly, consent is a crucial aspect of these three rules, and quite a complex one at that. If it can be of use, here is the section of knowledge and consent in Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu’s Buddhist Monastic Code I (PDF), pp. 45-46:

Knowledge & consent. For sexual intercourse to count as an offense, the bhikkhu must know that it is happening and give his consent. Thus if he is sexually assaulted while asleep or otherwise unconscious and remains oblivious to what is happening, he incurs no penalty. If, however, he becomes conscious during the assault or was conscious right from the start, then whether he incurs a penalty depends on whether he gives his consent during any part of the act.

Strangely enough, neither the Canon nor the Commentary discusses the factor of consent in any detail, except to mention by way of passing that it can apply to the stage of inserting, being fully inserted, staying in place, or pulling out. From the examples in the Vinita-vatthu, it would appear that consent refers to a mental state of acquiescence, together with its physical or verbal expression. Mere physical compliance does not count, as there are cases where bhikkhus forced into intercourse comply physically but without consenting mentally and so are absolved of any offense. However, there is also a case in which a woman invites a bhikkhu to engage in sexual intercourse, saying that she will do all the work while he can avoid an offense by doing nothing. The bhikkhu does as she tells him to, but when the case comes to the Buddha’s attention, the Buddha imposes a pārājika on the act without even asking the bhikkhu whether he consented or not. The assumption is that complying with a request like this indicates consent, regardless of whether one makes any physical or verbal movement at all.

Taken together, these cases imply that if one is sexually assaulted, one is completely absolved from an offense only if (1) one does not give one’s mental consent at any time during the act or (2) one does feel mental consent during at least part of the act but puts up a struggle so as not to express that consent physically or verbally in any way. (As the Commentary notes, drawing a general principle from the Vinita-vatthu to Pr 2, mere mental consent without physical expression is not enough to count as a factor of an offense, for there is no offense simply in the arising of a thought or mental state.) If one puts up no struggle and feels mental consent, even if only fleetingly during the stage of inserting, being fully inserted, staying in place, or pulling out, one incurs the full penalty. This would seem to be the basis for the Commentary’s warning in its discussion of the Vinita-vatthu case in which a bhikkhu wakes up to find himself being sexually assaulted by a woman, gives her a kick, and sends her rolling. The warning: This is how a bhikkhu still subject to sensual lust should act if he wants to protect his state of mind.

The Vinita-vatthu contains a case in which a bhikkhu with “impaired faculties”—one who feels neither pleasure nor pain during intercourse—engages in intercourse under the assumption that his impairment exempts him from the rule. The case is brought to the Buddha, who states, “Whether this worthless man did or didn’t feel [anything], it is a case involving defeat.” From this ruling it can be argued that a bhikkhu indulging in intercourse as part of a tantric ritual incurs the full penalty even if he doesn’t feel pleasure in the course of the act.

Like a lot of the rules, the goal is to cover every possible circumstance. If you take as example such as the one in the first paragraph above, where a bhikkhunī were to be assaulted during sleep, if she were to gain consciousness during the act, it would fall under Pārājika 1 (having not consented to the actions described in Pārājika 5 and 8). The subsequent mental and physical actions of the individual after this (such as described in the third paragraph above) would determine as to whether the offence is a pārājika, one of the lesser offences or if it is considered an offence at all—so such a situation would not result in disrobing (although surely a very traumatic one).

Then there is the issue of which Ayya Vimalanyani mentioned about sexual acts with a woman—and that Pārājika 5 and 8 could be avoided by bhikkhinīs who are only attracted to individuals of the same sex ("Should any bhikkhuni, lusting, consent to a lusting man’s rubbing, […]).

Also, I am guessing that ‘sexual acts’ for bhikkhuinīs, in Pārājika 1, has it’s own explanation, whether it is female-male or female-female—and this possibly being why penetration wasn’t used as the determining criterion, such as Pārājika 1 for bhikkhus.

1 Like

Ayyas @Vimala @vimalanyani … so severe those extra parajikas!! Hmmm!

As mentioned earlier by @Niyyanika, the only situation it appears to me, where pr1 can be committed without violating those others, is in a rape situation that turns consensual/pleasurable later. It’s noteworthy that “consent” and “action” in vinaya are not merely behavioural, but mostly emotional. That’s why the behavioural action that is not founded on emotional intent is normally not ground for offence. “Radical Behaviourism” if you will! It is for such things that the Vibangha is important, since the Patimokkha wording does not always define consent and action strictly!

But so severe are those extra parajikas!! Hmmm!