Can a Bhikkhunī break Pārājika 1?

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.

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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!

This must be a rather strange and quite detailed topic for people who aren’t used to the Vinaya. :grin:


Yes, you’re right. That’s why it is important people make links as explicit as possible to the source texts found in SC so those interested may read those and learn more about should they wish to.


With all due respect Bhante, the idea that a woman can enjoy being raped is a completely male fabrication!

While being raped you are completely out of control of the situation, your brain reverts back to a basic survival mode. Your normal way of thinking and reacting is completely taken over by that. What can happen is some kind of resignation to it, which can be interpreted by the man as “she likes it” or “she consents to it”.

Men can get into the very dangerous delusion that deep underneath women like to be raped or will enjoy it if you force them long enough. Please don’t ever think that!

As Ven. @yodha pointed out, I would also say that a woman in that situation is not in control of her own faculties of rational thinking and can therefore be seen as “deranged”. In any case, she did not consent. So it would fall under the non-offence clauses.



A post was split to a new topic: Hearing the Nuns on How Their Texts are Lived

Irrelevant! We’re not making arguments about sexual perversion here! We’re talking about the only conceivable scenario in which pr1 could be violated without violating the others beforehand, and regardless of whether this is likely or possible, or not.

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My intention behind starting this tread was merely a text-critical analysis and it has derailed a little bit into a more emotional analysis of Pārājika 1.

I thank Venerable @akincana for her very valued contribution here and for pointing out the errors in my original post. For those of you who do not know her, Ven. Akincana is a respected scholar, who has made it her life’s work to study the Bhikkhunī Vinaya and it is partly thanks to her great work that we have the opportunity to practice as Bhikkhuniīs today. Indeed, a lot of work still needs to be done in this field before we can come to any definate conclusions about these rules and their original intention.

Please note here that this rule is originally a Bhikkhu rule that does not appear in the Bhikkhunī Vibhaṅga. There are therefore no detailed explanations that are specific for women. Please also note that Ven. Thanissaro’s book is written purely from a male perspective.

I thank Venerable @Niyyanika for her contribution here and am grateful that she has been willing to share with us how she is being taught and giving a little bit of insight into the real life of Bhikkhunīs, as @anon29387788 pointed out.

However, with all due respect to Ven. Niyyanika and especially to her preceptor Ayya Tathāloka, I must disagree. Having worked for AVAAZ and seen first-hand how rape can be used as a method of ethnic cleansing and as a warcrime, I think we have to be very careful here in how we interpret this rule, lest we set a very dangerous precedent. As various people on this thread have pointed out, I also believe that in case of rape the non-offence clauses apply. These rules are not there to hinder or restrict Bhikkhunīs in their practice, but to help them. This rule was meant as a deterrent to make people reflect and be more mindful of the underlying (strong) defilements in the mind and to help them to work with that. When somebody is raped, they are not making a conscious decision to engage in indulging such defilements. If they are, it is not rape. To me, this is how I would interpret this rule.


I don’t know much about the Vinaya but the bhikkhuni parajika from 5 onwards could be added later, considering the 5 and 8 are required generally for 1 to take place and that it isn’t the same as the bhikkhu parajika, which has 1 to 4 parajikas. I think any modern assigning of the vinaya should take into account homosexuality of both sexes. Initial consent and later withdrawn consent are both important. Even now in police investigation it is important thing to determine as it will decide whether it is rape or not. Maybe it would be better to have the police do the investigation than bhikkhus and give consent to share the confidential report with only those bhikkhus who need to know.

with metta

It seems likely that some of the lists of how different rules were broken, were not actual anecdotes, but thought experiments about how a rule might be broken or not broken. How likely is it that:

without someone setting those youth to rights?

[quote=“Kay V, post:24, topic:7278”] The nuns’ voices have mostly been lost in time. … I do call on the nuns out there, the bhikkhunis, the women studying and practising or training in this or interested in this and other related issues, to take a more active role in discussions/sharings such as these

The voices of the monks asking crude questions about a woman’s pleasure in rape remain in the text, but also the sense of compassion and understanding from the Buddha can be found. It is that voice of compassion that we bring into lived vinaya practice today.

The thought exercises are well for understanding the landscape of human sufferings and difficulties and curious and even spiteful responses that may emerge. It helps shape the law book.

The actual practice of living the vinaya is done with a heart of compassion for the individual monastic, for the monastic community, for the lay supporters, for all beings, and for the environment.

When a monastic may have broken a precept, they take the case to another monastic. That monastic should then act for benefit of the one making a confession. In most cases this is asking them to see the nature of their fault and to try to restrain in the future. However, in the case of a serious offense, they are to act as the defense attorney for the one making the confession. They are to carefully look at the guidelines of the vinaya and to interpret those guidelines with compassion as their basis.

In this way, I cannot see any but the most bizarre of thought experiment situations ever causing a raped person to be considered pārājika.

I hope to receive higher ordination a week from tomorrow. We are reviewing the vinaya now. In all our conversations, the holding of the rules is to provide a security for practice and support for living the holy life.

Extending what @Coemgenu wrote – Let us all hope it happens to no-one on this forum or to anyone at all, and that the voice of compassion shines through if it does.


Thank you for explaining your views and the practises in your community!

Unfortunately, this interpretation is quite common.

You can of course argue that she was not a Theravada nun, but you will find such positions in Theravada as well.


Warm wishes for your ordination! May it bring you much inspiration and joy!


The Text states non-offence in the event of participating in the sexual act unwillingly. Actually it leaves the space wide open for interpretations as to the definition of “unwillingly”. And I wasn’t saying that the transformation of unwillingly into willingly after having been forced into the sexual act makes the parajika “deserved”, I was only stating that this could possibly be the position of the text, not “my” position (just to clarify). I am not interested in sharing “my position” in this discussion! Possibly because I have none!!

The discussion in the commentaries is interesting on this point, and for a good reason! Simply because “being taken by force” is not yet equal to being raped! The commentary mentions that resistance to the sexual act “on the mental level” is what determines whether an offence is committed or not. Some stories, real or for demonstration sake, emphasise physical/verbal resistance as well.

Of course I am aware that a rape victim is in need for support and compassion rather than questioning! Well, one who commits the full parajika willingly is not undeserving of support and compassion either! This was for me an abstract discussion on legality and interpretation; it had nothing to do with reality and human suffering and the urgent sense of responsible will and moral evaluation! Guess what, the Vinaya is full of abstract stuff like that, and we do discuss it, and in such pedantic detail, all the time. I have neither the power nor the desire to apply penalties on any one in this sorry world so please excuse me if I got carried away with the papañca!


wow! Congratulations in advance. Wishing you all the best and very glad to see you here. :pray:


Although a lot of valueble contributions have been made here, I want to attempt to get this thread back on the rails of text-critical analysis. I know I am partly to blame here with the title of this thread and I might have made it more clear. Ven. Akincana picked up on what I was hinting at in my first post as well as did @Mat:

I have a suspicion that this might have indeed been the case. Or more precisely, that these rules are “upgraded” Bhikkhu rules.
For instance, Pārājika 5 is the same as Saṅghādisesa 2 for the Bhikkhus.
Pārājika 6 is the same as Pācittiya 64 for the Bhikkhus.
Pārājika 8 seems to be made up of a combination of lesser rules for the Bhikkhus.
Pārājika 7 has no equivalent in the Bhikkhu rules but also seems particularly harsh as a Pārājika for this type of offence.

As Ven. Akincana already pointed out:

Ven. Akincana also pointed out that much more study is needed to come to any definate conclusions, but it is interesting to note that also in the other classes of rules we see the same discrepancies appear (many offences of “wrongdoing” for the monks, which are not in the Bhikkhu Pāṭimokkha but in the Khandhakas are suddenly Pācittiya rules for the nuns.)

So then the question arises: why make the rules so much harder for the nuns?
I suspect, but again, more evidence is needed to prove or disprove this point, that the nuns originally only kept the same rules as the Bhikkhus. I suspect that, just as in the Suttas, the word “Bhikkhu” was used to address the assembly of both monks and nuns and that the Pāṭimokkha was for both and that the Bhikkhunī part was only added later in response to the demands of a patriarchical society and this has partly led to the disappearance of the Bhikkhunī order. Of course I’m making some very bald and unproven statements here but it would be interesting to find evidence proving or disproving it.


Pārājika 1 for bhikkhus is (Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu’s translation):

  1. Should any bhikkhu—participating in the training and livelihood of the bhikkhus, without having renounced the training, without having declared his weakness—engage in sexual intercourse, even with a female animal, he is defeated and no longer in affiliation.

I am not knowledgable about bhikhhunī Patimokkha, however, I am a bit confused as to how the rule became the following for bhikkhunīs:

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


The topic is about deconstructing complex rules of the Vinaya, and even more so in relation to the bhukkhunī Patimokkha, which is not as well studied. It is highly detailed and needs to not be taken out of context—that these are monastic rules, all of which have complex analyses.

I am certain no one here thinks that sexual assault or rape is good, however, these are parts of Pārājika 1. With such an analysis, it is therefore possible to conclude such things as…

A bhikkhunī or bhikhhi, being assaulted or raped, if there is no consent to it, does not result in automatic defeat/disrobing.

Without such discussions as those in the Vinaya, it would not be possible to have clear distinctions in regards to all the rules or be able to define more complex circumstances.

I normally like discussions on Vinaya, but partaking in an online discussion on Pārājika 1 might not have been my best idea. :sweat_smile:

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The reason for the different wording in Paaraajika 1 for bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, is because a bhikkhuni can leave the order without a formal statement of “renouncing the training and declaring her weakness” - she just disrobes in silence, and that’s it. She is no longer a bhikkhunii.

The different wording in “sexual intercourse” and “the sexual act”, is just a translators’ carelessness.

There is however the Sanghaadisesa rule no. 10 (only for Bhikkhuniis) prohibiting them from relinquishing Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and the training (sikkhaa) in anger. …

It is not clear to me whether this is really permitted for monks. If they did it, it would probably mean, that they are on the point of disrobing… This would, of course, normally not be done in an angry mood.


Bhante, I think it could be possible that a portion of your previous post/posts might be a bit emotionally charged due to completely unfounded accusations from misinterpretations by a passerby with no knowledge of how the Vinaya works.

The Vinaya, and especially Pārājika 1, is filled with unappealing discussions of the sort. That’s what the Vinaya is for—to distinguish from the not-so-bad, the bad, the awful and the worst (which is Pārājika 1)—as well as the right actions and behaviours to develop.

It is understandable that someone might be taken aback by such troubling topics, especially having no prior exposure to the Vinaya (and especially the worst offense!). It is also understandable, and most would have such a reaction, to be taken aback by similar and completely unfounded accusations. This appears, however, to solely be an unintended and general misunderstanding of the topic.

With mettā. :slight_smile:

Yes, I’m afraid your post is very much off-topic. Ayya Vimala, quite clearly clarified above that the purpose of this thread was to explore Pārājika 1 from the perspective of text-critical analysis.

Can I please ask you and anyone else who wishes to explore the Vinaya through a different lens to start a new thread.

Thank you.