Introduction to the Suttavibhaṅga

Dear friends!

I am currently working towards the publication of the Vinaya Piṭaka in six volumes through SuttaCentral. In connection with this, I am writing detailed introductions to each of the major sections of this collection. So far I have completed a draft of the introduction to the first section, that is, the Bhikkhuvibhaṅga, “The monks’ rules and their analysis”. This introduction is to be found below. Anyone who has an interest is most welcome to comment on the draft. All constructive comments are welcome, including the pointing out of spelling mistakes, unclear formulations, and outright mistakes. And anything else for that matter! And I might as well thank you in advance for your kind suggestions. Thank you!

Updated with feedback included on 26 September 2023.

Updated with feedback included on 29 September 2023.

Updated with feedback included on 30 September 2023.

Updated with feedback included on 21 February 2024.

The Suttavibhaṅga: the Pātimokkha rules and their analysis

The first part of the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Monastic Law, of which the current volume is a part, is known as the Suttavibhaṅga, which can be rendered as the Analysis of the Sutta. In this context the word sutta does not mean a discourse of the Buddha, but refers to the Pātimokkha, the Monastic Code, which consists of the rules of conduct that form the kernel of the Suttavibhaṅga. [1] The Suttavibhaṅga, then, is the analysis of the rules of the Pātimokkha. Because there are two Pātimokkhas, the Suttavibhaṅga is divided into two principal parts, the Bhikkhuvibhaṅga and the Bhikkhunīvibhaṅga, the Monks’ Analysis and the Nuns’ Analysis. The Bhikkhuvibhaṅga is also known as the Mahāvibhaṅga, the Great Analysis. In the present introduction I will focus on the monks’ Pātimokkha and its Analysis. I will return to the nuns’ rules in a separate introduction.

The monks’ Pātimokkha consists of 227 rules that are divided into eight classes, presented in what may be considered as a descending order of importance. In brief, they are as follows:

  1. The pārājikas (Pj), “the offenses entailing expulsion”
  2. The saṅghādisesas (Ss), “the offenses entailing suspension”
  3. The aniyatas (Ay), “the indeterminate offenses”
  4. The nissaggiya pācittiyas (Np), “the offenses entailing relinquishment and confession”
  5. The pācittiyas (Pc), “the offenses entailing confession”
  6. The pāṭidesanīyas (Pd), “the offenses entailing acknowledgment”
  7. The sekhiyas (Sk), “the rules of training”
  8. The adhikaraṇasamathadhammas, or just adhikaraṇasamathas (As), “the principles for settling legal issues”.

In what follows, I will briefly discuss the historical development of these rules. A good place to start is with W. Pachow’s Comparative Study of the Prātimokṣa. [2] In this important study, Pachow compares all existing versions of the Pātimokkha, altogether ten versions coming from seven different schools of early Buddhism. One of his interesting discoveries is that the rules, both in number and in wording, are very closely related to each other, with the exception of the second last class, the sekhiyas. If we leave these aside, it is obvious that the Pātimokkha rules hark back to a common ancestor that must have existed before the separate schools of Buddhism started to emerge. And given the conservatism of Buddhism, which seems to be a result of the Buddha’s explicit instructions, for instance in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, it seems plausible that this common core goes back to the Buddha himself.

As to the sekhiya rules, there is significant variation between the different schools. The number of sekhiyas varies from 66 in the Mahāsāṅghika recension to 113 for the Sarvāstivādins. Further, the order of the rules is often very different in the different schools. Yet, as can be seen from Pachow’s concordance tables, 28 sekhiyas are found in almost identical form across the various schools, a number that increases to 45 if we disregard cases where only a single school is missing a rule. [3] From this we can conclude that even the sekhiyas, as a class, must have existed in the earliest period. We are left with a picture of the earliest Pātimokkha, presumably as laid down by the Buddha, as consisting of all the classes we have today, with the only significant difference being the number of sekhiya rules.

Let us now take a closer look at the Pali tradition. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya, the Numerical Discourses, we find a few suttas, namely, AN 3.84, AN 3.86, AN 3.87, and AN 3.88, that speak of “over a hundred and fifty training rules”. Clearly this must refer to a time when the Pātimokkha was shorter than it is now. The fact that all four suttas speak of over 150 training rules, sikkhāpadas, may suggest that this was the number reached while the Buddha was still alive. It is also possible that the number is deliberately vague because the rules were still being added to. Still, given that the text uses the number 150, it seems reasonable to assume that the number was significantly less than 200. So, what might these 150+ rules have been?

To start with, we can exclude the last seven rules, the adhikaraṇasamathas. Pvr 10:38.1–38.5 states that the monks had 220 training rules, while the nuns had 304, which means the last seven rules are not counted. This makes sense for they are not “training rules”, but rather broader principles for dealing with Sangha “issues”. This, however, does not mean that the seven were not originally part of the Pātimokkha, as suggested by Bhikkhu Nyanatusita [4] and K.R. Norman. [5] The adhikaraṇasamathas are found in all the early Buddhist schools, and even the order of rules is largely the same. This makes it likely that these rules were there from earliest times. Nevertheless, it is unexpected to find such rules in the Pātimokkha, a state of affairs I will discuss further below.

Second, based on the findings of Pachow discussed above, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that the discrepancy is to be found among the sekhiyas. If we remove the whole class of sekhiya offenses, however, as suggested by some, [6] the total number of rules goes down to 145, which is too low. We must therefore conclude once again, as we did earlier, that some of the sekhiyas go back to the earliest period. Still, it is clearly the other classes of rules that form the core of the Pātimokkha.

The above result is reinforced by another sutta, AN 4.244, which only mentions four classes of offenses, that is, pārājikas, saṅghādisesas, pācittiyas, and pāṭidesanīyas. This is in contrast to the Parivāra, which mentions either five or seven classes, adding dukkaṭas in the first instance, and additionally thullaccayas and dubbhāsitas in the second. The thullaccayas and dubbhāsitas are not mentioned in the Pātimokkha, but what about the dukkaṭas? Are they not found in the sekhiyas? To answer this, we first need to note that, unlike all the other classes of rules, the sekhiyas do not include any offense in the rule formulation. Only in the Vibhaṅga do we find a dukkaṭa offense for breaking these rules out of disrespect. If we assume that the Vibhaṅga material was added some time after the formulation of the rules, for which there is significant evidence, [7] then in the earliest period the sekhiyas were not strictly Pātimokkha offenses, but rather general rules of training. It follows that the main rules of the Pātimokkha, those that result in specific offenses and which are the core rules of the Vinaya Piṭaka as a whole, are the four classes mentioned at AN 4.244.

This is perhaps not as surprising as it may at first seem, for it is rather curious that there are four different classes of offenses that are all cleared by simple confession. In addition to the pācittiyas, which as we have seen are among the earliest offenses, the thullaccayas, dukkaṭas, and dubbhāsitas are all clearable in this way. It is not at all obvious why the Buddha would have laid down four different classes of offenses that are clearable in the same way. A solution to this conundrum may be that the Buddha never laid down the latter three classes at all, but that they emerged over time. The fact that a text as late as the Parivāra speaks of five or seven classes of offenses supports this contention. There is also some direct textual evidence to suggest that these offenses originally were general ways of describing wrong conduct and only later became classes of offenses. The word dukkata, [7] for instance, is used quite commonly in the general sense of “bad conduct”, without being referred to as an offense, an āpatti. An example of this, found in Kd 9, is the expression dukkaṭa kamma, which just means a badly done legal procedure. My suggestion, then, is that these three classes of offenses initially were just general ways of speaking of bad conduct. The thullaccayas would have been “serious faults”, the dukkatas “bad conduct”, and the dubbhāsitas “bad speech”.

I now wish to return to the unexpected inclusion in the Pātimokkha of the adhikaraṇasamathas. As mentioned above, the evidence seems to suggest that they have belonged to the Pātimokkha from the earliest period and thus that they are an integral part of it. This forces us to reconsider the traditional view that the Pātimokkha is no more than a series of training rules. In fact, once we look at the Pātimokkha with this in mind, we discover many other “anomalies” that point in the same direction. Here are a few of them.

Bu Pj 1 includes the important stipulation that if one renounces the training in advance, one cannot commit this offense. This is not directly related to the rule at hand, but is rather a general principle of Monastic Law. At the end of the saṅghādisesa offenses, we find a section describing the procedure for clearing such offenses. This is another general principle that is not immediately related to the committing of these offenses. Next, we have the two aniyata rules, which are principles for deciding the severity of an offense, not offenses as such. At Bu Np 10, we find an extended procedure for how to appoint an attendant and make use of the funds held by them, none of which relates directly to the committing of the offense in that rule. This is just a quick summary of some obvious cases, but the point is clear: the Pātimokkha includes quite a bit of general Vinaya material. Why is this so?

I have made the point in the general introduction that the word Vinaya did not refer to the Vinaya Piṭaka in the earliest period for the simple reason that no such Piṭaka existed. The word Pātimokkha, by contrast, is encountered quite frequently in the earliest texts, in total over one hundred times in the four main Nikāyas, including several mentions in the Pātimokkha itself at [Bu Pc 72] ](pli-tv-bu-vb-pc72:1.20.1) and [73] ](pli-tv-bu-vb-pc73:1.15.1), and also in the introduction. As such it seems reasonable to think that the Pātimokkha is older than the Vinaya Piṭaka. In fact, this might be the wrong way of looking at it. Although there was no Vinaya Piṭaka in the earliest period, the accumulating Vinaya material would have to be somehow organized. Now since we see quite a bit of Vinaya material in the Pātimokkha, my suggestion is that all this material was included within the Pātimokkha, making the Pātimokkha a kind of proto Vinaya Piṭaka, from which the full Piṭaka later evolved. And so the Pātimokkha may have started as a repository for rules, which would have been needed early on, and then developed to include all material that dealt with the regulations of monastic life.

This way of thinking about the Pātimokkha helps us to better understand several of its peculiarities. As we shall see below, the adhikaraṇasamathas do not follow the usual structure of the Pātimokkha rules. We are now in a position to explain why this might be so, for which see the discussion of these rules at the end of this introduction. We may also be in a better position to understand why the Buddha used the unusual word Pātimokkha. If the Pātimokkha were no more than a set of training rules, we would probably have seen a different name, perhaps a word connected to the idea of sikkhāpada, “a training rule”. Instead, we have the coinage of a new term, which suggests that we are dealing with more than a set of training rules and instead with new and unique literature. The word itself may well be derived from the idea of liberation, mokkha, via the prefix paṭi/pati, which can be understood in a number of ways. [8] That the entire corpus of rules and regulations that govern the monastic life should be given a name that relates to liberation is not hard to understand.

Before we take a more detailed look at the specific content of the Suttavibhaṅga, we need to briefly discuss why the Buddha laid down the Pātimokkha in the first place. At Bu Pj 1:5.11.32, and several other places in the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Buddha gives a list of ten reason for laying down a training rule. These reasons can be summarized as the well-being of the monastics, the increase of faith in the Dhamma, and the longevity of the Dhamma. It is interesting that the focus here is on supporting the spiritual life and not on protecting people from others’ bad conduct. In other words, although many of the rules were laid down on moral grounds, their main purpose is to protect the potential perpetrator, not the potential victim, especially if the victim is a non-monastic. On reflection, this is to be expected since the Dhamma is a personal spiritual path and not the equivalent of secular law. And this is also why there is more emphasis in the Vinaya on protecting monastic victims as opposed to non-monastics. I will note some such instances as I look at the individual rules below.

Yet the rules of the Pātimokkha, and indeed the whole Vinaya Piṭaka, are more than moral injunctions. A common reason for the Buddha to lay down a new rule is the complaints of lay supporters. These complaints are often about the monastics indulging in sensuality as if they were householders. A significant number of rules were therefore laid down to curb such indulgence and to stop the acquisition of goods that were regarded as too luxurious for monastics.

This might be the right place to say a few words about the various characters one meets in the Vinaya Piṭaka. It is often assumed in Buddhist circles that ancient India was an especially good time and place to be reborn. Those who were able to meet the Buddha in person would surely only be able to do so because of a vast store of good kamma from the past. Their spiritual faculties would have been highly developed and they would have attained awakening with relative ease. The present generation, by contrast, has no such store of good kamma from the past, which may make it impossible to make real progress on the path. Our best strategy might be to accumulate the requisite kamma and wait for the next Buddha to arise. And indeed, when one reads the suttas, which tend to be full of highly inspiring monastics and lay people, one might well come away with such a one-sided view.

The Vinaya Piṭaka quickly disabuses us of such a rose-tinted view of the past. When you read about the various things people in ancient India got up to, you realize that humanity has always been more or less the same. Read in the right way, this is very encouraging for our present generation. It means that we are in all probability neither more nor less spiritually developed than past generations. If it was possible to reach awakening then, it will also be possible now.

An interesting aspect of the origin stories to the Pātimokkha rules—for an explanation of which see the next section—is that certain monastics tend to feature again and again, often in relation to certain kinds of offenses. It is not entirely clear whether this is because some people ended up as caricatures who were employed in the origin stories to illustrate the commission of particular kinds of offenses or whether certain people just committed lots of offenses. The reality is probably a mix of both. An example of the former is the group of six monks who become an empty vessel into which all sorts of wrong conduct was projected. No doubt these monks were historical figures, since they occur so frequently in all sorts of places, both prominent and obscure. Still, when we see that all the sekhiya offenses bar three were first committed by this group, we suspect that the origin stories are artificial and the group of six are used in a stereotypical fashion to provide suitable perpetrators. This impression is reinforced by the fact that the vast majority of origin stories in the sekhiya chapter are no more than bare bones, with virtually no narrative apart from saying that the group of six monks committed the offense in question. What we are seeing is a group of people used as a literary device, not as historically real, at least in some contexts.

There are other characters, however, who seem to have a greater claim to being proper historical figures, not the least because their personalities are drawn in quite a bit of detail. One such person is the monk Udāyī, who became famous for his sexual shenanigans. He is the originator of four important saṅghādisesa rules, numbers 2-5, all dealing with serious sexual misconduct, and also plays an important role in saṅghādisesa 1, which concerns masturbation. As rules were laid down and his avenues for expressing his defilements were gradually cut off, he would venture further afield trying to find satisfaction for his urges through all sorts of dubious conduct. He would meet women in private, either speaking Dhamma or frivolously as the circumstances would allow, see Ay 1 and Ay 2; at Bu Np 4 and Bu Pc 30 he meets up with his ex-wife to indulge in completely unrestrained behavior; at Bu Np 5 he asks a nun to give him her lower robe, presumably to see her naked; at Bu Pc 7 he teaches Dhamma to women by whispering in their ears; at Bu Pc 26 he sews robes with indecent designs and give them to the nuns. It seems he was also cruel, as a certain Udāyī killed crows almost as a hobby, thereby becoming the originator of the rule against killing animals at Bu Pc 61.

Another character who makes a frequent showing in the Vinaya Piṭaka is Upananda the Sakyan. His main defilement was an excessive greed for robes and cloth. He is the originator of a significant number of nissaggiya pācittiya rules, specifically numbers 6, 8, 9, 10, 18, 20, 25, and 27. Except for Np 18, all of these relate to his greed for robes and robe-cloth. In Np 18 he receives money after himself suggesting that it be given. It is perhaps not too outlandish to speculate that he used the money on cloth! Yet Upananda, too, enjoyed the company of women. Bu Pc 42–45 were all laid down as a consequence of Upananda’s misbehavior in this area. Upananda was also the originator of Bu Pc 46, concerned with visiting private homes at the wrong time, and Bu Pc 58 where his greed for robes once again is on display. Finally, he is the originator of Bu Pc 87, a rule that concerns the use of luxurious beds. In addition to this, he is indirectly involved in a number of other rules.

There is something realistic about these characters. Strong defilements are difficult to overcome and so it is not unreasonable to think that a single person could be behind such a large number of offenses. The world was much the same then as it is now. Where the suttas show us the human potential, the Vinaya Piṭaka shows us a darker side of humanity.

Now let us turn to a more detailed consideration of the content of the Suttavibhaṅga.

The Introduction to the Suttavibhaṅga

The Monks’ Analysis begins with a story of how the Pātimokkha rules came about. The story begins at the village of Verañjā, [9] with a brahmin objecting to the Buddha’s revolutionary new teachings. The Buddha then describes his awakening experience, upon which the brahmin accepts his superior insight and becomes a disciple. The purpose of this preamble is presumably to establish the Buddha’s authority in laying down the rules for the monks and the nuns. The story then goes on to tell of two incidents where the Buddha is required to intervene in the lives of his disciples. Yet since the monks involved, Ven. Ānanda and Ven. Mahāmoggallāna, were pure and easy to correct, gentle guidance from the Buddha was sufficient. One point of these stories is perhaps to show that the laying down of rules was inevitable. Another is no doubt to make it clear that the most eminent monastics, especially the fully awakened ones such as Mahāmoggallāna, accept the Buddha’s guidance without argument.

We now come to the essence of this introductory section. Ven. Sāriputta approaches the Buddha and asks him to lay down rules so that the Dhamma may last for a long time. The Buddha responds that he does not lay down rules until certain things that are the cause for corruption arise in the Sangha, the monastic community.

The Buddha’s response is interesting for several reasons. First, it shows that the Buddha was a pragmatist. Rules are laid down to counter existing problems, not potential ones. One reason for this is presumably that it is very difficult to tailor solutions to future problems. In fact, it is difficult enough to lay down rules that are appropriate for existing problems. At Bu Pc32, for instance, we see that the Buddha has to amend the rule a full six times to make it workable. In total over 40 of the monks’ rules needed to be amended, including all the pārājika offenses. In the Khandhakas (Kd) we even find cases of the Buddha having to abolish rules because they prove impractical, such as the prohibition against eating mangoes at Kd 15:5.1.18, with its subsequent overturning at Kd 15:5.2.9. What we see, then, is that the Buddha’s approach in dealing with problems is to tailor fairly precise solutions. He does not try to anticipate the future.

Second, the Buddha’s response suggests that he was not omniscient, at least not in the broadest sense of the term. If he could fully foresee the future, the most straightforward and simple solution to avoid future problems would have been to lay down all the monastic rules at the outset of his teaching career. Moreover, he would not have to keep on amending certain rules. And so the way the monastic rules were laid down is one of the strongest arguments against the traditional Buddhist view that the Buddha was omniscient.

The introduction comes to an end with the Buddha departing Verañjā and walking to Vesālī, a distance of over 900 kilometers following the modern network of roads, according to Google Maps. This sets the stage for the first offense entailing expulsion, which takes place near Vesālī.

The Monks’ Pātimokkha rules and their analysis

Apart from this brief introduction, the bulk of the Monks’ Analysis is devoted to a technical discussion of the Pātimokkha rules, starting with the most serious offenses. We then encounter the various classes of offenses in descending order of importance, ending with a number of rules that are not offenses at all, but procedural in nature. We will discuss each class in turn, and note some of the interesting features and details of each one. Before getting into too many details, however, we will have a look at how the analysis of each rule is structured. There will be some overlap in content with the general introduction found above.

At the center of the Monks’ Analysis is the Pātimokkha, the Monastic Code, consisting of the most important rules that every bhikkhu, or monk, is supposed to keep by virtue of being a monastic. These rules are the oldest part of the Suttavibhaṅga, most of them probably originating with the Buddha himself, as I have argued in more detail above. The Pātimokkha rules are by far the most important content of the Suttavibhaṅga. As such, they are recited every fortnight in most monastic communities, a tradition that itself stems from the earliest period of Buddhism.

Around these Pātimokkha rules, there arose, over time, a copious explanatory framework, which forms the bulk of the Suttavibhaṅga. This framework is divided into several parts, starting with an origin story that describes the circumstances in which each rule was laid down. A rule is then formulated. Often there are further developments, described in subsequent origin stories, that necessitate additions to the rule, either expanding them or setting limitations. This then culminates in the formulation of a final rule, which is the rule as we find it in the Pātimokkha.

Next comes the word analysis, known as the padabhājanīya, which defines significant words or phrases in the rule. Sometimes this is no more than the giving of a series of synonyms, but at other times it involves lengthy sections with detailed explanations, for instance, the explanation of disrobal, sikkhaṁ paccakkhāya, at Bu Pj 1:8.2.1–8.4.21.

The word analysis is usually followed by a “permutation series”, which sets out various combinations of factors for which the offense in question is either fulfilled, partially fulfilled, or not fulfilled. A partially fulfilled offense will often result in the incurring of a lesser offense. For the serious offenses, that is, the pārājikas and saṅghādisesas, these permutation series are particularly long, often amounting to more than half of a rule’s total word count. Sometimes the permutation series adds important details to our understanding of a rule, yet too often it seems to be little more than an exercise in the mechanical listing of all possible combinations of factors that may give rise to a specific offense, with little gained in terms of understanding. These series sometimes employ a specialized terminology, found at the end of sections, to help the reader keep track of how the series evolves. I have added a separate glossary to explain this terminology.

Then comes the non-offense clause, which lists a number of circumstances in which there is no offense. There are certain universal non-offenses, namely, insanity, being possessed or deranged, being overwhelmed by pain, or being the first offender. This last class refers to the person who gave rise to the rule. In other words, the rules do not apply retroactively.

The final part of the analysis of each rule is a series of case studies where the Buddha adjudicates a specific action and declares whether the monastic has committed an offense or not. These case studies only exist for a small subset of rules, specifically the four pārājikas and the first five saṅghādisesas.

The pārājikas (Pj)

We are now ready to look more closely at each class of offenses and some of the individual rules within them. We start with the most serious offenses, the pārājikas. Any monastic who commits such an offense is by default expelled from the monastic community, whether anyone else knows of the offense or not. They are then barred from being a fully ordained monk or nun, a bhikkhu or bhikkhunī, for the rest of their life. There are four such offenses for the monks. In what follows, whenever a rule is held in common between the monks and the nuns, I speak of “a monastic” rather than “a monk”.

The first pārājika offense concerns sexual intercourse. As always, the text starts with an origin story, which in the present case gives an account of the rather tragic events in the life of the young man Sudinna. He starts out being extremely inspired by the Buddha and his teaching, but then succumbs to the demands from his family of producing an heir to the family fortune. It is thus that he ends up having sexual intercourse with his ex-wife, resulting in profound remorse. Both his ex-wife and son end up ordaining, eventually becoming arahants, whereas Sudinna fades away into obscurity.

This story is remarkable in that it is almost identical to the story of Raṭṭhapāla in MN 82. The main difference between the two stories is that Raṭṭhapāla ends up as an arahant, thus fulfilling his great potential. Ven. Anālayo argues convincingly that the story at MN 82 is the original from which the current story was taken and adapted. [10] This points to an important principle of interpretation. Although the Pātimokkha rules go back to the earliest period of Buddhism, this is not necessarily true of the Vibhaṅga material. In other words, the Vibhaṅga may not, or may not always, go back to the Buddha himself. The Vibhaṅga then continues with two further origin stories, upon which the final rule is laid down. It is through the last of these origin stories that the final version of the rule comes to include the important stipulation that if one renounces the training in advance, one cannot commit this offense, for which see the discussion above.

We then come to the word analysis, which includes a long section on the meaning of renouncing the training, followed by the permutation series. This series focusses on what kind of partner and orifice fulfill the offense. At the end of this long permutation series comes a second and much shorter series. This series is not directly connected to the previous one. Moreover, it uses a non-standard vocabulary, especially the pair magga and amagga (literally, “path” and “non-path”, but see the Appendix of Technical Terms for an explanation), as well as the verbs vippaṭipajjati (“to rape”) and nāseti (“to expel”), which is not otherwise used in the context of the pārājikas. This leads to the question of what is the relationship between these two apparently unconnected permutation series. On the assumption that greater detail and a standardized vocabulary are signs of later development, it seems likely that the second part of the permutation series is the earlier part onto which the first part of the series was later added. We see similar developments in a number of other rules, including pārājika 2 and bhikkhu saṅghādisesas 1, 2, 5, 6, and 8.

At the end of the permutation series, we find the non-offense clause, which in addition to the standard non-offenses adds “not knowing” and “not consenting”. Then come the case studies, headed by a series of mnemonic verses. A number of these cases are interesting. To begin with, one of the cases concerns a nun, specifically the rape of the nun Uppalavaṇṇā. Because the nuns do not have a separate Vibhaṅga for the rules they have in common with the monks, it is natural for such cases to be included here. In fact, there are further such cases below at Bu Pj1:10.6.6, as well as in the next two pārājika offenses, at Bu Pj 2:7.6.20, Bu Pj 2:7.45.1, Bu Pj 2:7.45.12, and Bu Pj 3:5.33.10.

Another interesting case is one where a monastic has a gender change, apparently for natural reasons. According to the story, the Buddha says that the monastic concerned should simply join the Sangha of the opposite gender. This leads to the unexpected situation that we have a precedent in the Vinaya Piṭaka for how to include transgender people within the Sangha. Moreover, this episode suggests that the Buddha tried to find solutions to give everyone a chance to become or remain as a monk or a nun, regardless of their identity. It seems reasonable to infer from this that we should look for ways for the Sangha to be as inclusive as possible.

The second pārājika starts with the story of the monk Dhaniya who is given wood from King Bimbisāra’s woodyard through deception. The Buddha then lays down a pārājika for stealing. Observers have pointed out that there is a mismatch here between the action that led to the rule and the actual rule. Dhaniya did not, strictly speaking, steal the wood. Rather, it was given to him after he deceived the caretaker of the woodyard. It follows that Dhaniya’s actions did not amount to a pārājika offense under this rule. There are similar discrepancies between the origin stories and the rule also in other cases, for instance at Bu Np 4. The interesting question then arises of why there are such discrepancies.

It has been suggested by some, such as Oskar von Hinüber, [11] that this mismatch between rule and origin story must be the result of the origin stories having been added later, after the original events were forgotten. This, however, does not seem very plausible, for it implies an unaccountable incompetency on the part of the early Sangha. If the origin stories were fabricated, it seems much more realistic to think that they would match the rule very closely. Indeed, this is exactly what we find in other cases. In the sekhiya rules, where the origin story in most cases is no more than a short stereotypical formula, involving the group of six monks in 72 out of 75 rules, it seems indisputable that they have been fabricated. And in most of these cases the rule is just a verbatim repetition of the misconduct described in the origin story. In other words, we have strong evidence to suggest that artificial origin stories tend to be a perfect match for the rule they belong with.

What, then, might be the reason for the observed discrepancies? I have already made the case that the Vibhaṅga material is later than the actual rules. If this is so, then the origin stories would have faded in memory by the time it was decided they should be included as part of the textual heritage. In some cases, such as bhikkhu pārājika 1 and 3, [12] this fading would have resulted in details being recalled incorrectly. In other cases, especially for the nuns’ rules, [13] the Sangha would have been unsure of which origin story was historically correct and would probably have used a suitable anecdote to fill the gap. This, then, would have led to a mismatch between origin story and rule. Indeed, it stands as a testimony to the fidelity of the Sangha to the received tradition that they did not alter these stories even though they must have been aware of these discrepancies. We should see this as a sign of the conservatism of the reciters. They preserved the texts as handed down and only made corrections if they had very good reasons to suspect textual corruption.

There might, however, be another cause for the perceived mismatch. I believe there is no good reason why the origin stories should always be a perfect lead-up to the subsequent laying down of a rule. Upon seeing a problem in the Sangha, the Buddha would have laid down whatever rule seemed appropriate to deal with the situation. In pārājika 2, although Dhaniya did not technically steal, his actions were tantamount to stealing. The laying down of the rule can be explained without the need for a perfectly fitting origin story.

Coming to the last section of this rule, we again find several interesting case studies. One story concerns a monk who takes a rag from a fresh corpse. The monk must have gotten a shock when the corpse tells him not to steal the cloth. Still, the monk pays no heed, upon which the corpse gets up and follows behind him, before collapsing outside the monk’s hut. It seems likely that this must be the first zombie story in human literature, with Hollywood being a Johnny-come-lately to the genre and perhaps ultimately inspired by the Vinaya Piṭaka itself! As so often, Buddhism was there first. In any case, the Buddha laid down a rule that a monastic should not take cloth from a fresh corpse. Who said the Vinaya was not entertaining?

The last case study at Bu Pj 2 relates the brief story of a monk who tells his teacher that he has committed a pārājika by stealing a turban. The teacher, however, is not content with just accepting his student’s word. He asks the student to bring the turban, and he then has it valued. They discover that the value of the turban is below the threshold for committing a pārājika. And so, it turns out that the student has not committed a pārājika after all. This goes to show that it is the duty of a teacher, and presumably any fellow monastic, to go to some length to help a co-monastic get out of trouble, if at all possible.

Pārājika 3, which concerns the killing of a human being, begins with the extraordinary story of a large number of monks seeking to die after hearing a teaching from the Buddha on the contemplation of the impurity of the body. When the Buddha emerges from solitary retreat after two weeks, the Sangha is much diminished. The story is found in much the same form in all extant Vinayas, which means it is likely to reflect real historical events. Moreover, this is a story that may be regarded as putting Buddhism and even the Buddha in a bad light, and as such is unlikely to have been inserted as a fictional addition by later generations. Apart from concluding that the story may well be true, it is hard to know what to make of it. Ven. Anālayo gives it a valiant try and concludes that the story “reflects the influence of a prevalent negative attitude towards the body and the tolerance of suicide in ancient Indian ascetic circles”. [14] In any case, this motivates the Buddha to teach mindfulness of breathing, with the standard set of sixteen steps set out at this point. This is by no means the only inclusion of such typical sutta material in the Vinaya Piṭaka. We find a significant number of such instances throughout the collection, especially in the Khandhakas, including three full suttas at the start of Kd 1. The suttas and the Vinaya are complementary aspects of the Dhamma that are interwoven to form a complete picture of the Buddha’s teachings.

Coming to the case studies, the very first one tells the story of monks who, out of compassion, spoke in favor of dying to a monk who was sick. Despite the wholesome motivation, the Buddha nevertheless says they had committed pārājika offenses. Further on, there are cases that treat abortion in a similar fashion. This means that a monastic may never suggest dying for any reason whatsoever, no matter how positively motivated. It is important to realize, however, that this is not the final word on contentious moral issues such as euthanasia or abortion. Monastic Law and kamma are two different things. The monastic Law was laid down for a number of reasons, whereas kamma is governed strictly by intention. This is as true in the area of euthanasia or abortion as it is for any other.

Pārājika 4 concerns falsely claiming supernormal powers. It may at first seem surprising that this should be regarded as so serious. On reflection, however, one realizes that such claims subvert the very purpose of the spiritual life for selfish purposes. In the origin story, a group of monks claimed such powers so as to get fed by the lay supporters during a famine. The Buddha states that this is the worst possible kind of theft.

The second half of the case studies involves a series of supernormal claims that may seem like boasts, but that turn out to be true. In each case the Buddha steps in to correct the doubters. The point of this series is presumably to make it clear that all sorts of psychic experiences are possible, and that one should be careful with jumping to the conclusion that such claims are false.

The four pārājikas end with a short passage stating that anyone who commits any of them is no longer a monastic. However, there is no prohibition in the Vinaya for a such a person to carry on as a novice monk or nun.

The saṅghādisesas (Ss)

After the pārājikas, the second most important class of rules are known as saṅghādisesa, “offenses entailing suspension”. Together with the pārājikas, they are known as “the serious offenses”, garukāpatti. The rest of the Pātimokkha offenses are light, lahukāpatti. A monk who commits a saṅghādisesa offense must undergo a trial period of six days. If he hides his offense, he must additionally undergo a period of probation equal in length to number of days he hid his offense. If he behaves properly during this period, that is, according to the rules laid down in Kd 12, he is to be rehabilitated by a sangha of at least 20 monks. There are thirteen such offenses for the monks.

The first four saṅghādisesa offenses are sexual in nature. In terms of how often they are committed, the first three of these—masturbation, groping, and indecent speech—are by far the most important, which is presumably why they are listed first. It is striking that sexual expression is considered to be such a serious fault, especially since sexuality is often celebrated in lay life. Part of this is about the sexual harassment aspect of such behavior. But more broadly, it reflects the danger that sexuality poses for progress on the spiritual path and the ease with which one may get trapped in sensuality. These rules, then, create a barrier to getting stuck in the sensory realm.

Bu Ss 5 is a rule against matchmaking. It is perhaps this rule that is at the root of Buddhist monastics not officiating at marriage ceremonies. Bu Ss 6 and Bu Ss 7 concern construction, specifically not building oversize huts or building in the wrong location. These rules are in part about monastics not burdening their lay supporters unreasonably. The origin story to Bu Ss 6 includes a Jātaka tale known as the Maṇikaṇṭhajātaka, number 253 in that collection. There are further Jātaka tales in the Suttavibhaṅga and the Khandhakas, which is one among many indicators that this part of the Vinaya is later than the earliest part of the Sutta Piṭaka. [15] This rule also incorporates a story that seems to appear nowhere else in the Pali corpus, as well as a reference to Raṭṭhapāla and his father, the two main protagonists of MN 82.

Bu Ss 8 and Bu Ss 9 are to do with falsely accusing a fellow monk of having committed a pārājika offense. Groundlessly accusing a monk of a lesser offense is an offense at Bu Pc 76. Bu Ss 8 starts with the entertaining story of Dabba the Mallian who is said to have become an arahant at the age of seven and then spent his life in service to the Sangha. One of his jobs was to assign dwellings to newly arrived monks. When monks arrived late at night, he would enter the fire element, make his finger glow, and then take the monks to their huts using his finger as a flashlight.

There is also a darker side to the story of Dabba the Mallian. At some point, the two bad monks Mettiya and Bhūmajaka, who were members of the notorious group of six monks, developed a grudge against Dabba. They then had the nun Mettiyā go to the Buddha and falsely accuse Dabba of raping her. The Buddha asks Dabba whether this was true, and then exonerates him on the basis of his perfect memory. This is how “resolution through recollection”, sativinaya, becomes established as the second of the seven “principles for settling legal issues”, the adhikaraṇasamathadhammas, for which see Kd 14. The more troubling aspect of this incident is that the Buddha then expels the nun Mettiyā despite the fact that her conduct was at most grounds for a saṅghādisesa offense. A solution to this unexpected expulsion, according to Ven. Anālayo, may be found in the Mahāsāṅghika Vinaya, according to which Mettiyā, or whatever she is called by the Mahāsāṅghikas, was already pregnant by someone else. [16]

Bu Ss 10–13 are very particular and as such unlikely ever to be committed. Bu Ss 10 and Bu Ss 11 concern the case of Devadatta and his friends trying, and eventually succeeding, in creating a schism in the Sangha. The full story is found at Kd 17:2.1.1–4.5.15. Bu Ss 12 is about the recalcitrant monk Channa who refuses to be admonished by anyone. Later on, he is ejected for not recognizing and making amends for his offenses, see Kd 11:25.1.1–31.1.218 for details. Eventually, on the Buddha’s instruction, the Sangha imposed the “supreme penalty”, the brahmadaṇḍa, on him. He then sees the errors of his ways, finally becoming an arahant, for which see Kd 21:1.15.1–1.15.16. Bu Ss 13 once again concerns the group of six monks, in this case how they corrupt the lay supporters at a place called Kīṭāgiri and draw them away from the true Dhamma. The story is developed further in Kd 11:13.1.1–17.2.18 in connection with the legal procedure of banishment. These last four saṅghādisesa offenses are special in that they require the Sangha to perform a legal procedure that in effect admonishes the offending monk and gives him the opportunity to mend his ways. If he refuses, then the offense is committed once the legal procedure has been completed.

The saṅghādisesa chapter ends with the procedure for clearing such offenses, which, as noted above, is one among a number of similar passages that make it clear that the Pātimokkha is more than a simple set of training rules. The procedure for clearing offenses is expanded on in Kd 12 and Kd 13, which give a great amount of detail as to how it is to be implemented.

The aniyatas (Ay)

Aniyata means indeterminate. There are only two such rules, Bu Ay 1 and Bu Ay 2. They are called indeterminate because they are not classes of offenses, but rather procedures for deciding what offense has been committed. Once this is decided, one makes amends according to the relevant class of offense, either pārājika, saṅghādisesa, or pācittiya.

The nissaggiya pācittiyas (Np)

The nissaggiya pācittiyas are offenses entailing relinquishment and confession. They concern cases where a monastic either acquires or uses a requisite in an inappropriate fashion, or acquires something altogether unallowable. The requisite in question then needs to be relinquished before the offense is confessed. There is no further penalty. A curious detail is that the relinquished requisites must be returned to the offender, except for items that are inappropriate for a monastic to keep, such as money, gold, or gems. The point of this seemingly useless relinquishment might be to make the rule stick a bit better in memory. Not returning a relinquished item is itself an offense. In total there are thirty such rules for monks.

The majority of nissaggiya pācittiya rules, in total 23 out of 30, concern cloth, cloth requisites, or thread for such requisites. Of the remaining seven rules, there are two rules about bowls, one about medicinal tonics, one concerned with diverting requisites meant for the Sangha, one about money, and finally two about trading.

In what follows I will briefly note a few points of interest drawn from the current chapter. At Bu Np 2 the rule includes the expression “except if the monks have agreed”, aññatra bhikkhusammutiya, which is then explained in the word commentary using the synonymous expression ṭhapetvā bhikkhusammutiṃ. It is only in the origin story that this is specified as a legal procedure of one motion and one announcement. We find a similar situation in a number of other rules. This gives the impression that the “agreement of the monks” initially was an informal process that over time got formalized as a specific legal procedure. This also provides evidence that the word commentaries are generally likely to be older than the origin stories.

At Bu Np 5 we find the touching case of a compassionate criminal who makes an offering to the nun Uppalavaṇṇā by hanging some meat from a branch, announcing in her presence that this is offered to any monastic who sees it. She takes the meat, has it prepared, and takes it to the Buddha. At no point is the meat offered into her hands. One is left with a sense that giving to a monastic was quite informal in the earliest period. It is also noteworthy what she says to the monk Udāyī, namely, that it is hard for women to get material support. Some things have not changed much since the time of the Buddha.

In the rule formulation at Bu Np 7, we find the phrase “to that monk”, referring to the monk in the previous rule, Bu Np 6. This sort of direct connection between the rules shows unmistakably that at an earlier time the Pātimokkha must have existed as a separate text, presumably going back to a time when the Vibhaṅga did not yet exist. Bu Np 10, the longest rule of the Bhikkhu-pātimokkha, includes a full description of how to establish and use a fund set up for the benefit of a monastic, which makes it much more than just a training rule. Bu Np 15 starts with the interesting story of the monk Upasena who visits the Buddha while the latter is on retreat. It turns out that the local Sangha has laid down a rule that anyone who visits the Buddha commits a pācittiya offense. Upasena expresses his disapproval of this and is supported by the Buddha. This reinforces the message of the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta at DN 16:1.6.13 that the Sangha should not add new rules or remove existing ones, but should practice according to what has been laid down by the Buddha.

At Bu Np 18 we find the important rule against a monastic accepting gold or silver, which is then defined as money in the word commentary. This rule is important because the Buddha elsewhere warns against the danger of money for a monastic, see especially Kd 22:1.3.1–1.5.1. At Bu Np 23, we have the extraordinary story of Pilindavaccha who uses his psychic powers to turn a pad of grass into a golden garland and then does the same with the king’s house. The same story is found at Kd 6, in which Pilindavaccha appears a number of times. He also appears in a case study at Bu Pj 2. Interestingly, although he was clearly an inspiring monk who one might expect to meet in the four main Nikāyas, he is not mentioned there at all except for a single and probably late occurrence at AN 1.216. This may indicate that both he and much of the Vinaya Piṭaka do not belong to the earliest period of Buddhism.

The pācittiyas (Pc)

The pācittiya offenses, offenses entailing confession, are the largest class of rules in the monks’ Pātimokkha, numbering in total 92. There is no penalty for committing these offenses apart from the confession itself. The confession formula, which is found at Kd 2:27.1.8–27.2.14, involves recognizing that one has committed an offense and undertaking restraint for the future. The pācittiyas are also known as khuddakas, that is, the minor offenses, and are called by this name at the end of the chapter. This is interesting, for it sheds light on expressions such as the khuddānukhuddaka, which must then be a reference to the pācittiyas and perhaps other offenses of even lesser importance. The pācittiya chapter is divided into nine subchapters with ten rules each, except for the penultimate subchapter which has twelve.

The first subchapter begins with the important rule against lying, followed by Bu Pc 2, which includes the Nandivisāla Jātaka, number 28 of that collection. The Vibhaṅga to this rule, which is about abuse, shows that at the time of the Buddha, or shortly thereafter, India was already a society divided by caste, names, and occupation. This rule is also an example of what I mentioned earlier that monastic victims of misconduct are better protected by the Vinaya than lay victims. There is a full offense of pācittiya for abusing another monastic, but just dukkaṭa for abusing a lay person. The same difference in offense is also found for the next rule, Bu Pc 3, as well as for Bu Pc 13 and elsewhere.

Bu Pc 8 is an important rule that prohibits a monastic from telling lay people about any superhuman qualities they may have, including deep meditations, deep insights, and psychic powers. According to the origin story, there were monks who spoke of their superhuman qualities to lay people in the hope of getting supported during a famine. At Kd 15:8.2.15–8.2.18, the Buddha memorably compares showing off psychic powers for the sake of material support to a sex worker showing her genitals for the sake of money. In the Kevaddha Sutta at DN 11:5.7, the Buddha takes this one step further. In the context of using psychic powers to give rise to faith in people, the Buddha says that he detests and abhors them. This is very strong language coming from the Buddha. He explains it by saying that people who have no confidence will simply dismiss those powers as a magic trick. The overall point seems to be that talking about any of these things to lay people tends to cheapen them, which is the opposite of what one should try to achieve.

Bu Pc 10 and Bu Pc 11 prohibit a monastic from digging the earth or destroying vegetation. The origin stories to both rules tell of lay people complaining that monastics were destroying life with one sense faculty, that is, the earth and plants were regarded by the general population, or at least some people, as having a rudimentary form of sentience. The Buddha seems to dismiss this as superstition, saying, “People regard the earth/trees as conscious”, but nevertheless lays down a rule, apparently to satisfy the lay people. Interestingly, the issue of whether plants, especially, are conscious is never finally resolved, for the Buddha never makes an explicit statement either way. What we can say, however, is that either action was considered a minor issue. The Vibhaṅga to both these rules allows monastics to give broad hints to others if they need a hole in the ground or vegetation to be removed. The remaining rules in this subchapter mostly concern proper conduct in relation to dwellings and furniture.

Subchapter three concerns the relationship between monks and nuns. A significant aspect of this relationship is that the monks have a duty to give a half-monthly instruction to the nuns. To ensure the quality of this instruction, Bu Pc 21 lays down that an instructing monk has to be appointed by the Sangha and meet a set of minimum standards, which include good moral conduct, detailed knowledge of both Pātimokkhas, and 20 years of seniority. Most of the remaining rules in this subchapter prohibit various inappropriate interactions between monks and nuns, including being together in private.

Subchapter four is all about food. It is here that we find the rules that a monastic can only eat between dawn and noon, Bu Pc 37, and that they cannot store food, Bu Pc 38. Both of these rules are fundamental to how the monastic life works, in that they make it necessary for monastics and their lay supporters to have daily contact. Bu Pc 39, together with Bu Np 23 and Bu Sk 37, prohibits a monastic from asking for specific foods. A monastic is supposed to be content with whatever they receive. The last rule of this subchapter prohibits a monastic from eating anything that has not been given.

Bu Pc 44 and Bu Pc 45 contain the important rules that prohibit a monastic from being alone with someone of the opposite gender. Bu Pc 67 is of the same sort. Bu Pc 47, which allows a monastic to ask a lay person for requisites if invited beforehand, is another important rule that governs the relationship between monastics and lay people. The offense is incurred when the monastic goes beyond the limits of the invitation. Bu Pc 48–50 place strict limits on monastics visiting the military. This is in keeping with the fundamentally non-violent nature of Buddhism, especially monasticism.

Bu Pc 51 opens with the entertaining story of a monk fighting a battle with a dragon, the details of which are similar to the story of the Buddha doing the same at Kd 1:15.3.1–15.4.3. At a later time, the same monk becomes so drunk that he collapses and has to be carried back to the monastery by his fellow monastics. The Buddha humorously remarks that this previously powerful monk would now be unable to fight even a lizard. He then lays down the rule against drinking alcohol. Not drinking alcohol is said to be fundamental to the monastic life, see AN 4.50.

Bu Pc 61 prohibits a monastic from killing any living being, another fundamental aspect of Buddhist morality. Apart from the present rule and pārājika 3, there are several other rules that also concern the killing of living beings, such as Bu Pc 20 and Bu Pc 62, and indirectly Bu Np 11. Other acts of physical violence are covered by rules such as Bu Pc 74 and Bu Pc 75.

Bu Pc 63 is one among a number of rules that concern legal issues, the adhikaraṇas, and their resolution, samatha, through legal procedures, saṅghakamma, both of which are principal topics of the Khandhakas. Other rules that directly concern the adhikaraṇas and saṅghakamma are Bu Pc 79–81. Many more rules use saṅghakamma to fulfill their purpose, such as Bu Ss 10–13, the four rules that include the phrase “except if the monks have agreed”, and assorted other rules. As I will show in the introduction to the Khandhakas, saṅghakamma is fundamental to the workings of monasticism as an institution.

Bu Pc 64 prohibits a monk from concealing another monk’s grave offense. Monasticism is an honor system that relies on trust. If the trust is broken, the whole system starts to fall apart. For this reason, it is important that significantly bad behavior is rooted out as soon as possible. For the nuns, concealing a pārājika offense is itself a pārājika, that is, Bi Pj 6. Bu Pc 65 sets the age limit for the full ordination of men at 20. The offense is committed by the act of ordaining a man below that age. (I will discuss the rules for the ordination of women in the introduction to the Nuns’ Anlaysis.) As one might expect, ordination is an important topic in the Vinaya Piṭaka, with the longest Khandhaka, Kd 1, devoted to it. Bu Pc 68–70 concern the wrong view that sexual intercourse is not an obstacle on the spiritual path. Such views are heavily censured in the Vinaya Piṭaka, starting with an offense entailing confession under Bu Pc 68 and ending with ejection from the Sangha, for which see Kd 11:32.1.1. Again, it is striking how the Buddha’s view of sensuality is so at odds with the way it tends to be celebrated in regular society.

The origin story to Bu Pc 83, the first rule of the ninth and last subchapter, includes a long section on the dangers of entering a royal compound, which is a parallel to AN 10.45. It is essentially a warning against getting too close to power, a very real problem for some monastics, both ancient and modern. Bu Pc 84 prohibits a monastic from picking up valuables, which, besides money, precious metals, and gems, include anything people regard as valuable or useful. The only exception is safekeeping. This is one of only two instances when a monastic is allowed to pick up money, the other being if they have been chosen as the “discarder of money” under Bu Np 18 or Bu Np 19. Bu Pc 85 prohibits monks from entering an inhabited area at the wrong time, that is, any time after noon until the following dawn. This shows that monks in the early period lived exclusively outside of inhabited areas. The nuns, who were not permitted to live in the wilderness, do not have this rule.

The remainder of the rules in subchapter nine concern requisites that are inappropriate for monastics, including rules on the proper size for cloth requisites. It is here, especially, that we meet with the idea of sugata measures. Sugata is normally an epithet of the Buddha, meaning something like “the one who has gone to a good destination”, but here seems to be used in the sense of “standard” measure. See the Appendix of Technical Terms for a further discussion.

The pāṭidesanīyas (Pd)

The next class of offenses is known as pāṭidesanīya, “entailing acknowledgment”. These, too, are clearable by confession, but are different from the pācittiyas in that they require a special formula to be used. The monks have four such offenses.

It is not clear why there are two separate classes of offenses both entailing confession, that is, pācittiyas and pāṭidesanīyas. AN 4.244 provides a series of similes to illustrate the severity of committing offenses of the various classes. According to these, pāṭidesanīya offenses are slightly less serious than pācittiyas. Still, it is hard to see that there is any systematic difference between the two classes. Perhaps the pāṭidesanīyas were an early class of offenses that was later abandoned as unnecessary, which may explain why there are so few of them. The unusual formula of confession might perhaps be a remnant from a time when the standard formula for confession had not yet been laid down. Yet, abolishing the class in toto was presumably not practical since the monks were already practicing the existing rules.

The first two of the four offenses involve the nuns. Bu Pd 1 prohibits a monk from receiving almsfood from a nun within an inhabited area. Again, this shows how difficult it could be for women to get support to practice the monastic life. Here and elsewhere, such as Bu Np 5, the monks are required to be sensitive to the needs of the nuns. In confessing this offense, as well as the last two pāṭidesanīyas, a monk is required to say that “I have done a blameworthy and unsuitable thing that is to be acknowledged. I acknowledge it.”

Bu Pd 2 2 concerns nuns ordering lay people to give food to specific monks. The offense is incurred if the monks do not try to stop such a nun. This rule has an even more unusual confession formula, in that the monks involved confess together: “We have done a blameworthy and unsuitable thing that is to be acknowledged. We acknowledge it.” Bu Pd 3 and Bu Pd 4 concern unusual circumstances that are unlikely to occur in practice.

The sekhiyas (Sk)

The second last class of offenses are known as sekhiya, “to be trained in”. There is no automatic offense for breaking these rules, but an offense of dukkaṭa if broken out of disrespect. There are 75 such rules. They are the same for the monks and the nuns.

The sekhiyas are mostly about etiquette and as such about what was considered socially appropriate in India 2,500 years ago. For this reason, it is convenient that these rules are only offended against when broken out of disrespect. In practice, this means that circumstances such as the prevailing social norms may be taken into account in deciding whether a rule needs to be followed or not. An obvious example is Sk 70, which prohibits a monastic from teaching while standing if the audience is sitting. This rule does not fit the modern situation when speakers often stand in the presence of their audience, as in the case of a talk given in an auditorium. In such circumstances one can reasonably argue that this sekhiya rule does not apply. Similar considerations apply for a large number of these rules. It follows from this that the sekhiyas would have had a lower status than the other classes of rules. It is no doubt for this reason that it was considered acceptable to add new sekhiyas to the Pātimokkha after the time of the Buddha, as we have discussed above.

An interesting fact about the sekhiya rules is that the majority of them exist independently in the Khandhakas, specifically in the Bhattaggavatta at Kd 18:4.3.1–4.6.8. Apart from Sk 2, the first 56 of them are found there. The question then arises of where they are likely to have appeared first. Normally, when someone is depicted in the Khandhakas as breaking a Pātimokkha rule, the rule is simply referred to, which means one needs to look it up in the Vibhaṅga. This is not the case for these sekhiya rules, which suggests they did not exist in the Vibhaṅga at the time they were laid down in Kd 18. Moreover, the wording in Kd 18 is simpler than the wording in the Vibhaṅga, which includes the refrain sikkhā karaṇīyā, “a training to be done” for every sekhiya. This too suggests a movement from the Khandhakas to the Vibhaṅga. Lastly, most of the sekhiya rules have artificially created origin stories, with all except three of them featuring the group of six monks. This too suggests that they were not really independent rules with separate origin stories, but rather part of a general description of right conduct, all of which had a single origin story, as we see at Kd 18:4.2.1. And indeed, this single origin story does feature the group of six monks, which then, presumably, got distributed to all the origin stories of sekhiyas 1-56, with the exception of Sk 51, Sk 55, and Sk 56.

A brief review of the correspondence tables in Pachow’s study suggests to me that the rule correspondence is more pronounced among the last 19 sekhiyas of the Pali than among the first 56, especially if we remove Sk 65 and Sk 68, which do not seem to be attested in many of the other schools. If this is correct, and given the possibility that many of the sekhiyas may have been moved from the Khandhakas to the Vibhaṅga, it may be that the remaining 17 rules, or something similar, is the original common core around which the sekhiyas developed as a chapter. A number of these rules do in fact have a word commentary, which is rare among the sekhiyas. This too suggests that they developed as independent rules and were not merely transplanted from elsewhere.

As to the content of the sekhiyas, the first 26 concern the proper behavior when walking for alms and sitting in inhabited areas. The next 30 rules lay down the proper conduct and etiquette in relation to eating. We then have 16 rules on not giving a teaching to anyone not showing appropriate respect. The last three rules are about toilet etiquette.

Despite the general homogeneity in the Vibhaṅga material of the sekhiyas, there are occasional points of interest. At Sk 51, a monk makes a joke when he hears the slurping of his fellow monks, upon which the Buddha lays down a dukkaṭa offense for joking about the Buddha, Dhamma, or Sangha. This is not, however, a general rule against joking, with the Buddha himself occasionally making humorous remarks. In the origin story to Sk 69, we find a Jātaka story, the Chavaka Jātaka, number 309 of that collection.

The adhikaraṇasamathadhammas (As)

The final class consists of the adhikaraṇasamathadhammas, “the principles for settling legal issues”. As I have discussed above, these principles stand out as not fitting very well with the other rules of the Pātimokkha, which are all rules about individual conduct. These seven principles, in contrast, are regulations to be used by the Sangha to resolve legal issues that may arise in the monastic community.

It is not just the nature of these principles that are different from the rest of the Pātimokkha rules, but also their presentation. There is virtually no Vibhaṅga material, with the seven principles presented as little more than seven key words, not very different from an index. It is impossible to understand even the meaning of these principles from these key words alone, let alone how they are to be applied to resolve legal issues. For this reason, we are almost compelled to think that this section must have been much longer early on, with the explanatory Vibhaṅga material eventually moved as the Vinaya expanded and became unwieldy.

In the earliest period, this explanatory material may have looked like the exposition we now find in the Sāmagāma Sutta, at MN 104:12.1–20.13, where we see a succinct explanation of these principles. In addition to this, the adhikaraṇasamathas may have been the container for the various saṅghakammas that must have been laid down early on, such as the observance-day ceremony, the uposatha, and the ordination ceremony. Over time, as the Vinaya developed, it became impractical to keep all this material as part of the Pātimokkha or even the Vibhaṅga. A whole new section was then created, which became the Khandhakas. The material specific to the adhikaraṇasamathas was collected in a purpose-made chapter, now known as the Samathakhandhaka, that is, Kd 14.

We may speculate as to why a mere list of these principles was kept in the Pātimokkha. It could be that the number of rules was regarded as fixed and should not be changed. Or it could be that this bridge between the Pātimokkha and the Khandhakas was considered useful. Whatever the case may be, we now have a reasonable explanation for why we only have a stub of these principles left in the Pātimokkha itself.­

I will discuss the seven principles in greater detail in my introduction to the Khandhakas.


[1] See discussion in TAP, p. 50-55.

[2] Pachow, W. A Comparative Study of the Prātimokṣa, On the Basis of its Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit and Pali Versions. Sino-Indian Cultural Society, 1955.

[3] The counting of rules is not as straightforward as it may seem. Two of the versions used by Pachow are not recensions of the Pātimokkha as such, but other kinds of texts that include the Pātimokkha rules. I have not included these versions. Then there is the problem of multiple Pātimokkhas of the same school. In these cases, I have counted a rule only if it exists in all versions of a specific school. The counting could be done differently, but the results would not change dramatically.

[4] See TAP, p.46.

[5] Norman, K. R. Pāli Literature. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1983, p.19.

[6] See TAP, p.46.

[7] See, for instance, von Hinüber, Oskar. A Handbook of Pāli Literature . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 2000, §24-26; and Norman, K. R. Pāli Literature. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1983, pp.19-21.

[8] I disregard the spelling difference between dukkaṭa, normally used of the offense, and dukkata, used when the meaning is bad conduct in general.

[9] For a detailed discussion of the meaning of the word pātimokkha, see TAP, p.46-49.

[10] According to Ven. Shravasti Dhammika, private communication, Verañjā can be identified with modern Ataranji Khera about 13 kilometers north of Etah in Uttar Pradesh. This about 90 kilometers northeast of Agra.

[11] Anālayo. The Case of Sudinna: On the Function of Vinaya Narrative, Based on a Comparative Study of the Background Narration to the First Parajika Rule. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 19, 2012, p.407.

[12] von Hinüber, Oskar. A Handbook of Pāli Literature. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 2000, §23.

[13] For pārājika 1, see Anālayo. The Case of Sudinna: On the Function of Vinaya Narrative, Based on a Comparative Study of the Background Narration to the First Parajika Rule. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 19, 2012. For pārājika 3, see Anālayo. The Mass Suicide of Monks in Discourse and Vinaya Literature. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Vol.7, 2014.

[14] This information comes from Bhikkhunī Vimalañāṇī (private communication).

[15] Anālayo. The Mass Suicide of Monks in Discourse and Vinaya Literature. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Vol.7, 2014, p.42.

[16] The Jātaka tales are considered commentaries on the Jātaka verses, which are regarded as Canonical.

[17] Anālayo. The Case of Sudinna: On the Function of Vinaya Narrative, Based on a Comparative Study of the Background Narration to the First Parajika Rule. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 19, 2012, p.425-426. The Suttavibhaṅga: the Pātimokkha rules and their analysis.


:pray: :partying_face: :pray: Yippy!!

In that case…

“Most likely?” What else could it refer to here?

Could you give the exact number? Or are some cases borderline? (In which case, it should be “around 30”)

Grammar. If one disregards perhaps?

Should be “sekhiya rules” or just “sekhiyas

Probably would be good to give a brief overview of the structure of the vibhaṅga before this point.

Idk. I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made here that the Buddha could have desired to lay the rules down incrementally even if he had known them ahead of time (for ease of the monks’ learning? to demonstrate each rule with an example? out of compassion for the first offenders? …)

Of course, your argument is indeed the “simpler” explanation, I just don’t think it warrants such a strong word as “unmistakable” (which implies that those who disagree with you are simply “mistaken”)

Hmmm I think most of these detailed discussions on each rule would be better as notes (i.e. they will likely make more sense in context, than before the reader has even started)



Amazing, Bhante! I’m still reading through it all but here are the few grammatical errors I found so far…

if < we > disregard cases

that it is rather


Their spiritual faculties

disabuses us < of > such a

than past generations.

the group < of > six monks

person is the monk

originator < of > a significant

and asks him

to keep by virtue of being a monastic

that itself stems < from > the earliest

a number < of > circumstances

they have in common

committed a parajika


Great introduction, I enjoyed reading it! :heart:

plural s missing for pāṭidesanīya.

meaningless dot

Inconsistent spelling: dukkata with and without t underdot.

I think this also explains why there are quite a few pacittiyas in the bhikkhuni patimokkha that ended up as khandhaka rules for the bhikkhus. The bhikkhuni patimokkha was open to additions for a much longer period that the bhikkhu patimokkha, as seen from the much larger discrepancies between number and content of the rules between schools. Even during the sectarian times, rules were still added.
It seems that at some fairly early point, they gave up adding material to the bhikkhu patimokkha and started compiling the khandakhas, which were originally meant only for monks. Vinaya material for the nuns was compiled in their patimokkha for much longer, until it eventually also got unwieldy and spilled over into the bhikkhuni khandhaka.

Not sure about this. How then do we explain the different origin stories for the same rule in different schools?
In the bhikkhuni vibhanga, there are also cases where the same origin story was matched with different rules in different schools.
It seems more likely that there was a memory of stories from the early times, and they were added to rules that most closely resembled the events in the story.


Thank you so much for this essay! I haven’t finished reading, but here just a few points that I happened to spot. :smile:

I am not a native speaker, but I’d think it should be "they are divided into eight classes.

I think this should be “that didn’t have any offense attached to them”.

At the end of saṅghādisesa offenses.

This is just a quick summary.

Because of a vast store of good kamma from the past.

The originator of a significant number of nissaggiya pācittiya rules.

Ajahn, are you aware of this interesting essay on this chapter?

From here, I’ll continue tomorrow. :slightly_smiling_face:


Hei Ajahn, I’m enjoying reading this, thanks for posting it.

This got me thinking that the word prostitute might carry connotations that are more negative in contemporary culture than at the time of the Buddha, seeing as sex work is not listed as wrong livelihood for lay people, while it commonly criminalized in most places today AFAIK.

The word ‘sex worker’ instead of prostitute might better capture the (I’m assuming) less puritan view of sex (for lay people back then). It could also imply a more humorous condemnation of revealing psychic powers to lay people by the Buddha, that does not look down on sex workers.

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A lawyer turned monastic once told me that whenever a lawyer says “there is no other possible conclusion” that there was guaranteed to be another conclusion.

I could just as easily says that the events we find in the suttavibhanga show an unmistakable attempt to not simply lay down edicts but to show his reasoning and compassion as well as give an example to the monastics how to deal with the rules in future situations. I’m sure it was easier for monks with less faith to see that when needed the Buddha was very reasonable in his creation of the rules.

My thought is that an introduction to the Vinaya should stick closely to the issues of Vinaya and leave these other issues for a different day. Really, when I see people use terms like that it just indicates to me that they may not have questioned their own underlying assumptions.


“Various combinations”? Seems to be plural.

The text starts.

I would suggest, either “between the origin story and the rule” or “between origin story and rule”.

The monk must have gotten a shock; not a gotten.

In the entire discussion of the rule it is not mentioned that the rule is about killing a human.

nissaggiya pācittiya rules; no s at the end of pācittiya.

But what about the monk Pilindavaccha in Ud 3.6, Thag 1.9, and AN 1.215 (1.209-218)?

Should it be “it is here where we find the rules”, or “it is here that we find the rules”, or something similar?

I am not exactly sure—is the article required here, or should it rather be “the workings of monasticism as an institution”?

Still, it is hard to see.

Comma really required here?

That they developed.

To be applied.

Summary: :smile:

Thank you so much, Ajahn @Brahmali, for this interesting and, just as the book itself that is described, in passages quite humorous essay! :pray:

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Thanks so much everyone for your contributions! Here’s a bit of feedback on the feedback.

LOL! As they say, we shall see …

I’m trembling …

You are right. I’ve decided to be more definitive.

Good point. I’ve now given exact numbers. However, it was surprisingly difficult to get an exact count. You know, multiple texts of the same school, texts that are not really proper Pātimokkhas, etc.

I’ve added a reference to the explanation that comes just afterwards.

You’re right. I’ve moderated my language!

You are right that it would be easier to follow the discussion with the text right there alongside it. The problem is that I am trying not to overburden the text with too many footnotes. I have therefore decided to limit my textual footnote to issues that deal with an immediate understanding of the Canonical text as it stands. There are still plenty of footnotes! What we are dealing with here, however, are larger issues, issues that require you to stand back a bit from the text and reflect on how the various parts relate to each other, etc. I still think the introduction is the best place for these discussions. In fact, I could argue that there is a long history of such introductions in the area of Buddhist translation, starting with the pioneers, such as T.W. Rhys Davids.

Thanks so much, Doc!


Yes, it’s a bit tricky because dukkat/ṭa is spelt both ways. But generally the offense is spelt as dukkaṭa, where as the the bad action is dukkata. I’ve tried to make it consistent.

Agreed. I will get back to this when I do the intro to the bhikkhunī rules.

Memory is unreliable, sometimes very much so. Sometimes the origin stories are close, as in bhikkhu pārājika 1. At other times less so.

Yes, this may well be part of it. As always, the situation is no doubt complicated. Still, I think the basic conclusion stands. They used stories that had been handed down even though they were not always a perfect match for the rule.


Yes, I’ve had a quick look at it. I don’t agree with Wynne that the Pātimokkha is not early, but I don’t really want to get into a discussion at this point. Life is short and there are just too many things to do! Priorities, priorities …

Thanks, Erika! You are right. In fact this is what I have used in my translation, and so I should use it here too.

I see the point of these introduction to give a general overview of the Vinaya Piṭaka and to discuss general points of interest, mostly concerning the Vinaya, but occasionally broader issues. There is no absolute distinction between the Vinaya and the suttas, and so it makes sense to me to note where they intersect, which may help us get a fuller perspective.

Moreover, as I’ve noted above, there is a historical precedent for this, and I think for good reasons. The advantage with having spent so much time on a text is that you are in a good position to make informed comments. It seems to me that it would be a wasted opportunity not to do so.

But this is universal. It is impossible to question all one’s underlying assumptions. One of the reasons I post this publicly is precisely to get these assumptions exposed. It is too much to expect me to do this without feedback. In any case, I agree with the criticism and I’ve made adjustments.

Good point! I’ve added a phrase.

I am not sure how I missed the AN reference, so thanks! The others are not in the four main Nikāyas. I’ve added a few words.

:grinning: :pray:

Thanks again, everyone, for the support. If there is more, please carry on!


Yes, yes. I didn’t mean for my comment to be as pointed as it was. Very sorry.


Can’t wait to read the books. I hope Bhante will include the missing essays in the book.

for an explanation which we shall see in the next section?

What is TAP? It wasn’t defined elsewhere in the essay.

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As you know, I’ve done a bit of comparative vinaya studies, and I’m quite hesitant to conclude that origin stories were handed down together with the rules. It’s really not the case that the different schools generally have the same origin stories with just some minor variances in the details. For most rules, the origin stories are either generic back-formulations from the rule, or clearly distinct stories. Even for the heavy rules, such as parajikas and sanghadisesas, the origin stories mostly don’t match.
Only a minority of rules have the same origin story in most or all schools. Usually, this only happens for very memorable and entertaining events, such as the bhikkhuni rule that we are not allowed to throw trash over a wall, and it’s origin story about dumping feces on a brahmin’s freshly washed head.

Have you had a look at this? 6 different origin stories in 6 schools for the identical rule. The schools that have properly developed stories all describe different events.

Even if the story is very memorable and entertaining, and thus found in several vinayas, it’s not always applied to the same rule. For example, the story where bhikkhunis build a stupa, a monk is annoyed, smashes the stupa, and then the bhikkhunis have some kind of drastic reaction to that, is also a very elaborate narrative that is found in non-Pali vinayas, with lots of variances in the details. In the Pali tradition, this story is paired with the rule about not abusing monks (pc52). In other schools (Dg, Mi, Sarv, Mu), it’s paired with the rule about not entering a bhikkhu monastery unannounced. In Dg, both rules are tied together by one continuous origin story. The Mg doesn’t have the story at all.


So this here now is the actual 2023 commentary on the Vinaya, eh? :grin: Though, I suppose if one were to consider technological adaptation, all the thousands of hours of recorded talks form the commentaries of today… I don’t know why it’s so amusing to me that it’s A Thing for translators to write introductions like this. It is very nice and fun hear/read the two different voices - one, an accessible, very easy-to-understand translation of the text vs the other, the translator themself speaking. Thank you for offering these! Here’s plenty grains of :salt: for what follows…

There’s still two instances of “adhikaraṅasamathas .” with a space before the .

“Pācittiyas 42-45 were all laid down”
In this paragraph, there’s a shift to “pācittiya x”, while above rules are referenced with the “Bu Pc” form. I can however see a slight difference in usage though, so I’m guessing it’s intentional.

“dark side of humanity” sounds a bit stronger than I see the content of the Vinaya. Perhaps this is much more a comment about this newbie (raises hand) than about the choice of phrase and possible hyperbole!

The Monks’ Analysis:
“circumstance” - I’m too used to seeing in the plural, even when talking about one event.

The pārājikas:
fulfil → fulfill (sorry, and multiple instances)

Is this a me thing or a spoken/written thing…? “…the question of what is the relationship…” when I’m using written English I’d use “…the question of what the relationship is…”

“The interesting question then arises why” → “…arises of why”

“to go to some length to help a co-monastic avoid an offense if at all possible.” The wording “avoid an offense” to the uninitiated just sounds like what one does prior to potentially performing actions that are an offense, rather than (as obvious in this paragraph anyway) the investigating, as displayed in the case studies!, after potential actions have occured of whether they amount to having actually fallen into an offense. Having said that, it’s also such a common phrasing to use, even in my very limited exposure to monastic life - unless you happen to have any alternatives ready on hand, it’s probably fine =) I got nuthin’ useful!

The saṅghādisesas:
“known as saṅghādisesa” → “…saṅghādisesas” ?

Kd.12 → Kd 12

‘“principles for settling legal issues”, the adhikaraṇasamathadhammā’: adhikaraṇasamathadhammāadhikaraṇasamathadhammas as elsewhere?

Saṅghādisesa 10 and 11 concerns → “Saṅghādisesas…concern”

The nissaggiya pācittiyas:
Yes, it is indeed “a curious detail”, and I was hoping you’d expand on that =D What’s up with that? It’d be nice even to read a one-sentence further explanation.

“cloth, cloth requisites, or yarn for such requisites”: yarn → thread (as in the translation)?

The pācittiyas:
restraint for the future → restraint in the future ?

except for the last subchapter which has twelve → …second last subchapter…? (Or something. “penultimate” would be very properlikes and not street-friendly!) Also the translation has “sub-chapter”, I’ve no idea which way to go on that hyphen =)

adhikaraṇas - above and below this is only shortened to adhikaraṇasamathas; this is the only paragraph with it like this. Also, not sure if it’s worth at the very first instance of adhikaraṇasamathadhamma(s) at the top to add the usual “adhikaraṇasamathadhammas, or simply adhikaraṇas, …” or something to that effect.

Bhikkhunī-vibhaṅga: I don’t see Bhikkhu-vibhaṅga… Above there is Bhikkhunīvibhaṅga, but also, perhaps → Nuns’ Analysis? I haven’t been keeping much track of what’s English what’s Pali.

“The remainder of the rules in subchapter nine concern requisites that are inappropriate for monastics, including the proper size for cloth requisites.”: Erm, maybe examples will explain better than attempting to comment: either “…monastics, including [a rule|rules|one|some|…] on the proper size…” or “…monastics, including cloth requisites that are too large”.

The pāṭidesanīyas:
“The next class of offenses is known as pāṭidesanīya”: → pāṭidesanīyas ? I think of all of these, for each class, the one that reads smoothest to me is “are known as sekhiyas”. But “class” is singular. So getting microscopic about it, I’d say “…class of rules is known as the [blah]s”. But I guess it’s also comforting seeing the variety of ways it’s pluralized in each instance, knowing there is no standard!

toto → total

The sekhiyas:
“The question then arises where” → “The question then arises of where”

“This too suggest” → “This too suggests”

I’m lazy. I didn’t look up the correspondence tables. So when I get to “the remaining 17 rules, or something similar”, I’m curious which they are specifically. I attempt arithmetic. Get confused. And then remember it’s 75 sekhiyas, explicitly stated again in the first paragraph of this section. I don’t expect an essay to accommodate my laziness or memory of a goldfish, but perhaps “previous 56” → “first 56” may help make it clearer that the two subsets completely cover the full set?

The adhikaraṇasamathadhammas:
observation-day ceremony - > observance-day ceremony ?

Appreciate being able to read the swiftly updated version from all the great comments above. It was certainly an easy and interesting read that I happened to find hard to put down… Many thanks!


The next section a few paragraphs below.

Translation and Analysis of the Pātimokkha by Bhikkhu Nyanatusita. There will be an abbreviations index in the book.

I agree with this. Often it would have been no more than a vague memory of events. And no, I don’t think they were handed down with the rules. The Vibhaṅga is later.

Thanks for this! What I do know is that the origin stories for pārājika 1 and 3 are mostly the same across the schools. I know this from Ven. Analayo’s work. So when you say this, are you mostly basing yourself on the rules that are unique to the bhikknunīs? Or is a broader statement?



I will try to nuance my statement a bit more, but I’ll wait for your further feedback.

Yes, no more commentary bashing … I mean, they are unavoidable.

Yes, we need consistency.

Changed to “a darker side of humanity”.

I believe this is fine, although perhaps slightly poetic in form. Would anyone lese like to chime in?

Now: “to go to some length to help a co-monastic getting out of trouble, if at all possible.”


I’ve added a sentence.

Yes, I am not quite sure to be honest. My feeling is that one cannot restrain in the future, one can only restrain now or perhaps make a determination for the future. I have retrained - not restrained, mind you - “for” for now.

Gee, that’s embarrassing! Thanks for picking up on it.

You are right. I’ve tired to fix it in my own way.

In toto is correct here. It means “as a whole”.


Another big sādhu to everyone!


Just one? Joking aside, this certainly fits better with my limited view of things.

Ya! Just “getting” → “get”, I think.

Thanks for all the other comments etc. as well, they’re helpful, and the upgrades read great!

“and make use of the funds held them” → …held for them ?

“including pārājika 2 and bhikkhu saṅghādisesas 1, 2, 5, 6, and 8.” I’m assuming you left these (and pārājikas) unabbreviated intentionally, but double checking just in case.

thred → thread

“[Bu Pc 61](pli-tv-bu-vb-pc61:1.16.1 prohibits” missing closing paren.

“stand out as no2t fitting very well” - fun with keyboards!

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The bhikkhuni rules are what I’ve translated and studied in detail, so I can’t make a fully informed statement about the bhikkhu rules. I’ve only seen anecdotal evidence, such as for bu pc6 (discussed above).

We’re hosting a retreat with many guests at the monastery starting tomorrow, so unfortunately I don’t have time right now to do more research into the bhikkhu rules.

Would it be helpful for you to have access to my draft translations? You could have a look at the origin stories for the parajikas and sanghadisesas yourself. Otherwise, there is the Sanskrit Lokuttaravada text on SC, which I’m assuming you can read without a translation. The Lo text is especially interesting for comparative studies because it’s not a Sthavira school.

I also don’t want to derail this thread by over-focussing on this one detail of your excellent essay. :zipper_mouth:


No, I don’t want you to do any more research, but just make use of your existing knowledge.

I will take your word for it!

Honestly, I am really grateful for the support. The details matter!


Some feedback!

I think this would be better off as an actual list.

I think the sekhiyas draw upon sources that go back, yes, and there are various parallels in the suttas. I’d phrase it something like, “even the sekhiyas draw on material from the earliest period.”

Just a general observation here. People read discussions of uncertainty and they rarely actually follow the evidence and the arguments but rather just take away the impression, “it’s all unclear and uncertain”. As a rule, I think it’s better to focus on establishing the known, before arguing unknowns.

In this case, that would mean, simply describing the Vinaya as-is, or as your conclusions lead you, and once people have a good sense of that, discuss the historical arguments: description before analysis. After all, until they have an idea of what is there, your readers will have no context within which to make sense of your arguments.

It’s like if I’m teaching physics, I don’t start by saying, “there was a difference in interpretation of quantum theory between Einstein and Bohr”. I start by explaining what relativity is, who Einstein is, what quantum theory is, who Bohr is, and then look at the differences.

So far we have a long discussion of historical matters, but no real idea what these rules are and how they work.

You really should mention the comparative Vinayas here, because they vary a lot in the origin stories.

Maybe add here that it also says you shouldn’t steal even a blade of grass, or say “I delight in an empty dwelling”!

Maybe also a note on how we deal with this in practice, eg. by allowing people to ordain as novices?

I’ll look at the rest soon!


Bhante @Sujato, thanks so much for this!

Yes, this is worth pointing out. There are two issues as I see it. First, it seems the sekhiyas did exist as a separate group in the pre-sectarian period. Second, many of the sekhiyas that were added over time were not just invented from scratch, but taken from material that existed in other parts of the Vinaya.

Thanks for this. It’s an important point. Keep in mind, though, that this introduction is preceded by the more general introduction that is already published on SC. I’ve just had a quick look at it, and my sense is that it does set out the Vinaya as we have it, thus giving the necessary background for the present discussion. I may consider this point further.

By the way, I need to make some edits to the general intro. How do I go about this?

This too is discussed in more detail in the general intro.

Yes, good point.

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I don’t know the official answer, but if you are talking about this page its in bilara-data, root, en, site. vinaya_root-en-site.json. Currently Bilara doesn’t allow for editing of root texts but the upcoming version will. I don’t know about directly editing that json, specifically if it will notify translators of your changes so they can update their work.