When we consider the rule regarding parikkhāracoḷa, we could clearly see that this is used as an extra cloth to make water-strainers and bags. In this case this cannot be considered as a complete robe since it was allowed when monks had complete set of three robes.
Relevant texts from pali canon:
Tena kho pana samayena bhikkhūnaṃ paripuṇṇaṃ hoti ticīvaraṃ. Attho ca hoti parissāvanehipi thavikāhipi Bhagavato etamatthaṃ ārocesuṃ. Anujānāmi, bhikkhave, parikkhāracoḷakanti.
Nisīdanādianujānanā - last paragraph
Translated into English,
Now at that time monks had complete sets of the three robes but they had need both of water-strainers and bags. They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “I allow you, monks, a cloth for the requisites.”
According to the rule regarding allotment, this robe cannot be assigned after it is allotted.
Anujānāmi, bhikkhave,…parikkhāracoḷaṃ adhiṭṭhātuṃ na vikappetunti.
“I allow you, monks, … to allot a cloth for the requisites (of water-strainers and bowls), not to assign it.”
On the least robe to be assigned, etc
This rule has no problem in the texts or translations and it is clear that this was allowed to use as a cloth for the requisites (of water-strainers and bowls).
However with the late buddhist texts such as commentaries and tīkas, the use of the parikkhāracoḷaṃ changed.
Currently most of the monks who has problems using main three robes, as allowed in vinaya with the “I allow you, monks, three robes: a double outer cloak, a single upper robe, a single inner robe.” imposition do not allot these three main robes and they allot their all the robes as parikkhāracoḷa.
They allot them using the phrase “imani parikkhāracoḷani adittāmi”
(for more than one robe) or “imaṃ parikkhāracoḷaṃ adittāmi” (for one robe). Nearly no monk allot a cloth as a robe but complete robes. Availability of robes is highly increased and lead to merchanting them rather than keeping in many monasteries.
This practice is backed by most of late vinaya texts, mainly samantapāsādikā a commentary by Ven. Buddhagosha Thero which reveals the practice started a long time ago.
In samantapāsādikā Ven. Buddhagosha Thero presents a debate from Anuradapura era: 5th century(before the time of Budhhagosha) where most of the monks agreed to use robes allotted as parikkhāracoḷa. I think this is the earliest recorded evidence for the use of parikkhāracoḷa in a different way than allowed in the vinaya. (Please provide samantapāsādikā part if available)
Benifits when all the robes and cloths allotted as parikkhāracoḷa
Monks who allot their robes as parikkhāracoḷa get various benifits.
They do not have to care about rules regarding main three robes, like vippavāsaṃ.
They can allot many robes.
They can keep extra robes.
In contrast they don’t have to bother about rules regarding robes.
I have several issues regarding parikkhāracoḷaṃ.
1. Is it appropriate to use complete robes as parikkhāracoḷa?
2. Can someone allot all his robes as parikkhāracoḷa and never allot mainthree robes?
3. How many cloths can be allotted as parikkhāracoḷa, if a monk already allotted main three robes?
I would be grateful if you could give your opinions
Note: I prefer opinions from venerables, since this cannot be understand without a practice.
May the Triple Gem Bless You!