Discussion for wiki "Early monastics 'breaking the Patimokkha'"

To continue the discussion that should not be in a wiki:

Thanks for discussing here and just posting sutta quotes and explanations in the wiki.


Here’s a question that I would like to see tackled: What is the connection between the monastics’ rules and the monastic sotapanna who has abandoned the lower fetter sīlabbataparāmāso?

Are they beyond interpreting wrong? or acting wrong? or are they free to act as they wish, because they just can’t violate an important rule any more? or is it a fetter specific to religious societies, i.e. believing and practicing the Brahmin (Jewish, Chrisitan…) rituals?

The translation is btw not so easy:

sīlabbata = sīla + vata. vata = duty, rite, custom - but skt. vrata = 1.rule 2.realm 3.obedience 4.custom, 5.vow

parāmāsa = touching contact, being attached to, hanging on, being under the influence
but sutta-contemporary skt. parāmarśa = either 1.reflection, consideration, or 2. violation, bending

So have they abandoned the attachment or the violation? of a custom, rule, or rite?
and finally, does that give sotapannas any more freedom regarding the application of monastic rules?


In my understanding sīlabbataparāmāso is a kind of attachment based on thinking that some kind of practice can automatically lead to purification (i.e. bathing in a river), as opposed to self-purification in a dharmic sense (sila-samadhi-panna). So adhering to Vinaya does not count as a form of sīlabbataparāmāso unless one believes that this mere adherence results automatically in self-purification.

Even for an anagami, I’d think, who is still training and needs training, the vinaya is just like the dhamna, a means to the goal, but no goal in itself.


The way I understand it is that monastic Sotapannas are not beyond breaking minor rules. They are still expected to keep them though (as are Arahants!) and to confess it if they break them.

MN 48

And again, monks, the ariyan disciple reflects thus: ‘Am I too possessed of the kind of propriety a man is possessed of who is endowed with right view?’ And what kind of propriety, monks, is a man possessed of who is endowed with (right) view? This is propriety, monks, for a man endowed with (right) view: Whatever kind of offence he falls into he makes known the removal of such an offence, for he confesses it, discloses it, declares it quickly to the Teacher or to intelligent fellow Brahma-farers; having confessed, disclosed and declared it, he comes to restraint in the future.
Just as an innocent little baby lying on its back quickly draws back its hand or foot if it has touched a live ember, even so, monks, this is propriety for a man endowed with (right) view: Whatever kind of offence he falls into he makes known the removal of such an offence, for he confesses it, discloses it, declares it quickly to the Teacher or to intelligent fellow Brahma-farers; having confessed, disclosed and declared it, he comes to restraint in the future. He comprehends thus: ‘I too am possessed of the kind of propriety which a man is possessed of who is endowed with (right) view.’ This is the fourth knowledge won by him, ariyan, transcendental, not in common with average men.

Sotapannas have clearly seen the Dhamma and have become independent of others.
As in the standard description, p. ex. in MN 56

Then the householder Upāli saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma; he crossed beyond doubt, did away with perplexity, gained intrepidity, and became independent of others in the Teacher’s Dispensation.

They thus know what is wholesome and unwholesome without someone telling them. Because they understand how the path works, they also know that mere adherence to rules is not going to be enough to get liberated. However, keeping the rules is helpful to get liberated, that’s why they keep them.


To rephrase that question: if what is wholesome is different from what the letter of the rule says, would they act in the wholesome way, or would they - out of reverence for the Buddha or out of social pressure - follow the rule?

I think it’s hard to say and also depends on the specific situation, how much “less wholesome” it would be follow the rule. Most Sotapannas don’t openly declare that they are Sotapannas, so if they start acting in ways that are not in line with the precepts they could be subjected to a lot of criticism.


I think it’s also as an example and inspiration for others that they keep the rules. Even Arahants do so!


Just a short comment about this from the Wiki thread:

"I collect some grass or leaves that I find there …"
To me this does not sound like damaging plants is involved, but that the Buddha would collect fallen off leaves and dead grass.


Also it is important to know what the timeline is for these incidents. It could be that these things happened before the vinaya rule was set down. At one time, at the beginning there were no vinaya rules at all!

I personally wouldn’t think the Buddha would break his own rules, and there are alternative explanations.

with metta


That’s not the point, the point is in showing how circumstantial & temporal are certain rules, that is, how not following them could be okay or does not necessarily indicate sila problems at all. So if the Buddha behaved in a certain way even before the rule was made, that means there’s no problem with that behaviour in and of itself. And that’s the point! :smiley:


I agree it’s somewhat ambiguous, but I included it because grass doesn’t just lie around. It’s always attached to the whole plant, with roots etc., even if it’s dead. You’d have to cut it off. And the Buddha doesn’t say it’s dead grass.


Fair enough, but clear communication is important, less some get the wrong impression re disrespecting the Buddha, which is apparently not intended.

with metta

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Abstract: The Buddha, as a sovereign, was bound to a different ethical standard than his followers. Thus, I believe that examples of the Buddha “breaking the Pātimokkha” don’t belong in this wiki, as the Buddha was the originator of the law, and not bound to it.

In WEIRD countries, we are used to universality: to thinking that the laws (of the state or morality more broadly) apply to everyone equally. But this, historically, is not true for most people. In traditional societies, the “sovereign” is literally above the law: they originate the law, ground the law and are not bound to it.

Not only are they allowed to break rules others can’t, a sovereign is required to. Take, for a contemporary example, the state monopoly on violence. Or take the Buddha’s promulgation of the Vinaya Rules themselves. As the founder of the religion, he is required to speak on such matters, and as his followers, we are forbidden from e.g. declaring new rules.

There is nothing to learn from such examples unless we are planning on starting our own religion!


also it is said a sotapanna can reborn even 7 times. Then in fact no Dhamma follower can know if he/she is a sotapanna living to be updated or not. Neither if the efforts to enter in the stream can be a confussion with understanding again the stream, or perhaps the efforts are just a kamma to be burned. And this ignorance about the own Path can drive to a more useful question, which is to know what are the right efforts for the Path, useful to clean the own errors.

For this later question, everybody at any stage would answer “I don’t know really”. Because this ignorance is always obvious and auto-explanatory of the stage of everybody. This is always present at any stage in the Path which is previous to a complete defilements eradications.

We can break rules or precepts with ignorance and also with ignorance we can follow rules and precepts. Regarding the people without ignorance, they always recommended keep respect for rules and precepts. Although there are some episodes showing exceptions. At the end, it can be just a matter of confidence, which is no a little thing.

Where should we put the confidence in final terms?. In the own criteria?. In sacred texts?. In wiser people than “me”? .

It’s interesting, I think.:slightly_smiling_face::pray:

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