English Translation of the Mahāsaṅghika Bhikkhunī Vinaya now online

The English version of the bhikkhunī pātimokkha, vibhaṅga, pakiṇṇaka, and the garudhammas of the Mahāsaṅghika school, translated from Chinese, is finally available and can be found here:

Huge thank you to @Aminah for making the website!

I also am very grateful to two Dharmaguptaka bhikshunis from a Taiwanese tradition, who remain anonymous, and have helped me proof-read tricky passages. The translation is much improved through their efforts. Any remaining mistakes are of course entirely my own.

I would also like to thank Bhante @Sujato and Ajahn @Brahmali for inspiring me to undertake this project, and for being my teachers throughout my monastic life. They have shaped my monastic life in so many ways, helped me deepen my understanding of the suttas and vinaya, and made me a better person. I’m very grateful that they are part of my life.

I dedicate this translation to my preceptor Ayya Gunasari, a truly outstanding person, and the bhikkhunī sangha of the 10 directions and the 3 times. May it deepen our knowledge of the vinaya, and support our practice towards nibbāna.

The translation is still a work in progress and will be regularly updated and corrected. As I proof-read the other vinayas, I may also make changes to keep them consistent with each other. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.

Some background on the project:

I originally undertook this translation project in 2017 in order to better understand the development and scope of the bhikkhunī vinaya, and the living situation of bhikkhunīs in the Buddha’s time. Compared with the bhikkhu vinaya, the bhikkhunī vinaya is much less well preserved, and even strata that we would expect to be quite early, such as the pātimokkha, show great variances between schools. Variances occur in all classes of offenses from the saṅghādisesas down, and the differences are very significant. For example, the largest pātimokkha (of the Mahīśāsaka school) has 69 more pācittiya rules than the smallest pātimokkha (of the Mahāsaṅghikas). It raises the question how reliable the tradition is for our bhikkhunī texts. So I felt that more research is needed, and the first step is to make translations freely available in English.

This project covers the Chinese bhikkhunī vinayas of the Dharmaguptaka, Mahāsaṅghika, Mahīśāsaka, Mūlasarvāstivāda, and Sarvāstivāda schools. It includes the texts that pertain to bhikkhunīs, i.e. the pātimokkhas, bhikkhunī vibhaṅgas, and whatever is the equivalent to the bhikkhunī khandhaka of the Pāli school. (This part is structured differently and has different names depending on the school.)

I’ve already translated these texts, and am now in the process of proof-reading. I’ll soon start uploading the texts of the Dharmaguptaka school, which will be found on the same website. I hope that this vinaya will be fully published by the end of the vassa. After that, I’ll move on to the Mahīśāsaka texts. If things go well, all 5 schools should be online some time in 2026.


I gratefully acknowledge previous scholars who have worked in the field. Their contributions were of great help to my project. Especially helpful are:
Hirakawa’s English translation of the Mahāsaṅghika bhikkhunī vinaya,
Heirman’s English translation of the Dharmaguptaka bhikkhunī vinaya,
Nolot’s French translation of the Sanskrit Lokuttaravāda bhikkhunī vinaya,
Ajahn Brahmali’s English translation of the Pāli bhikkhunī vinaya (on SuttaCentral),
Roth’s edition of the Sanskrit Lokuttaravāda bhikkhunī vinaya (also on SuttaCentral),
Pachow’s comparative study of the bhikkhu pātimokkha in English,
Waldschmidt’s comparative study of the bhikkhunī pātimokkha in German.

I’m tagging a few venerables who I believe might be interested: Ven. @TathaalokaBhikkhuni , Ven. @Niyyanika, Ven. @ayyasoma. :anjal:


Wow! Congratulations.

This is a monumental effort and such a valuable resource which will be helpful for so many bhikkhunis.

Sādhu, sādhu, sādhu!


Sādhu! This is such an important step forward in our understanding of the Bhikkhunī-vinaya, and even the Bhikkhu-vinaya. I look forward to using this resource in the future. Thank you for the great service to the Buddha-sāsana!


Wonderful! Congratulations on seeing a project like this through to completion!


Sādhu! I looked into the work just out of curiosity and it is impressive just how readable, clear and relatable it is. The language is straightforward, the origin stories provide a good context, and the meaning and intent of each passage comes across very concisely and without ambiguity. Excellent work.Congratulations.


Thank you for the translation, I can see Pali words used here and there. Wonder how or why you decided to use them. Are they present in the Chinese texts?

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Thank you all for your kind messages and encouragement!

These are transliterations in the Chinese texts from the Indic source texts.
I’m not an expert in this field, but it seems quite clear that the Indic sources were in Prakrits, not in Sanskrit (with maybe the possible exception of the Mūlasarvāstivāda text). I’m not able to reconstruct which Prakrit, and since I’m working with 5 schools, these could potentially be 5 different Prakrits. So even if I was able to reconstruct them, we don’t know all the technical terms in the various Prakrits. And it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect my readers to learn all these terms in order to understand my translation. That’s why I settled for Pāli terms.


Thank you, but the words used in the original are indicative of a sanskritic spelling. For example, the words 阿耨多羅三藐三菩提 which you have translated as ‘unsurpassed perfect enlightenment’ is actually Sanskrit anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (which in Pali would be anuttara-sammā-sambodhi), the 藐 in the above phrase shows that it was not spelt/pronounced as in Pali or another prakrit. Similarly 波羅提木叉 is apparently Prātimokṣa (not Pātimokkha), 阿梨耶 appears to be Ārye not Ayye etc.

I’ve not gone through other transliterations in detail but I think most northern schools used sanskrit (or largely sanskritic) sources. Pali itself was not pronounced phonetically as it is written today but more like sanskrit/BHS.

Anyways, thanks again for the translations.

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It seems that you have an interest in this, since you keep editing your comment to add more examples, and as I mentioned above, I’m not an expert. So what do you make of these examples:

舍衛城 Sāvatthī (Sanskrit Śrāvastī, but there’s no r in the Chinese)
摩訶波闍波提 Mahāpajāpatī (Sanskrit Mahāprajāpatī, but there’s no r)
偷蘭難陀 Thullanandā (Sanskrit Stūlanandā, but there’s no initial s)
偷蘭遮 thullaccaya (Sanskrit sthūlatyaya, again no initial s)

Not trying to argue with you, just interested in your point of view.


I edit most of my comments to ensure I make myself clear or to substantiate what I’ve said (if you see my other comments, most of them contain edits), so not just on this topic.

Thanks for those examples you’ve mentioned above, sure there were probably those Pali-type spelings as well in the source texts. If a more accurate transliteration of the Indic words are used (where the phonetic representation in the Chinese is clear), it would be useful to understand what linguistic sources the Chinese translators were using (and for which texts).

If you check @cdpatton’s website, he often has notes in the Chinese translations where he offers quite a bit of detail about transliteration. Very often it is quite clear that it matches closer with non-Sanskrit readings. It seems often it is close to Gandhari or something like it.


8 posts were split to a new topic: Chinese Transliterations