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Live restrained by the Patimokkha, seeing danger in the slightest faults

vinaya
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#1

In SN 47.46 (SuttaCentral), it says “[live] restrained by the restraint of the Patimokkha…seeing danger in [even] the slightest faults.”

However, if there are variations in the Vinaya rules in the versions that are currently available, how is a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni able to see danger in even the slightest faults?

Even a slight change in the Vinaya rules seems like it would make it difficult for one wishing to live in accordance with the Vinaya to do so.


#2

I have heard an answer to this, in so far as the ‘letter of the law/rule’ is not the main point, but rather the purpose or spirit of the rule. They are meant to be training rules, and their value lies in that function, not in any special significance of the written words - in contrast with, for example, the 10 commandments of God in christianity. Rather they are based on universal principles of virtue, that enable progress along the Noble 8 fold Path.

As such, minor variations in the patimohka don’t necessarily represent contradictions. So the focus is on the ‘slightest faults’ with regard to perpetuating any aspects of greed, ill will and delusion.

Added:

Upon ordaining monastics undertake to follow the Vinaya used by their community. As such, it is clear in a day to day fashion what is expected… Thus the Vinaya is a means to an end.

I hope this assists with further exploration :slightly_smiling_face:


#3

(1) Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is irreverent and undeferential, and his behavior is uncongenial to his fellow monks, it is impossible for him to fulfill the factor of proper conduct. (2) Without fulfilling the factor of proper conduct, it is impossible for him to fulfill the factor of a trainee. (3) Without fulfilling the factor of a trainee, it is impossible for him to fulfill virtuous behavior. (4) Without fulfilling virtuous behavior, it is impossible for him to fulfill right view. (5) Without fulfilling right view, it is impossible for him to fulfill right concentration (Ven. Bodhi AN5.21).

Therefore a pupil should see the danger even in the slightest faults.

There is no rule formulated by the Buddha that is an obstacle to the path of freedom. The Buddha said,

The training I have formulated for my disciples with regard to the basics of the holy life is entirely for the right ending of suffering & stress. And however I have formulated the training for my disciples with regard to the basics of the holy life for the right ending of suffering & stress, one behaves in a way that is untorn in line with that training—unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered. Having undertaken them, one trains in line with the training rules (AN 4.245).

Who ever with the desire for the right ending of suffering should try not to break any rule. To achive that he should be aware (mindful) about his actions. To behave in a way that all the rules are unbroken is extremely difficult even for an arahant. Therefore, one should at very least pay his best concern about the rules regarding rāga, dosa, moha vinaya.

What is Rāgavinaya?

Rāgavinayo dosavinayo mohavinayo’ti, bhante, vuccati. Kissa nu kho etaṃ, bhante, adhivacanaṃ: ‘rāgavinayo dosavinayo mohavinayo’”ti?
Nibbānadhātuyā kho etaṃ, bhikkhu, adhivacanaṃ: ‘rāgavinayo dosavinayo mohavinayo’ti. Āsavānaṃ khayo tena vuccatī”ti(SN45.7).

Therefore, one should try to imitate the arahant (perfected one) to decipline with rules.
The Buddha said,

Here, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: ‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, they dwell compassionate toward all living beings. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, I too shall dwell compassionate toward all living beings. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ -so on- (AN 8.41).


To figure out what is allowed and what is not, the four great references could be used.

Yaṃ, bhikkhave, mayā ‘idaṃ na kappatī’ti appaṭikkhittaṃ tañce akappiyaṃ anulometi, kappiyaṃ paṭibāhati, taṃ vo na kappati. Yaṃ, bhikkhave, mayā ‘idaṃ na kappatī’ti appaṭikkhittaṃ tañce kappiyaṃ anulometi, akappiyaṃ paṭibāhati, taṃ vo kappati. Yaṃ, bhikkhave, mayā ‘Idaṃ kappatī’ti ananuññātaṃ tañce akappiyaṃ anulometi, kappiyaṃ paṭibāhati, taṃ vo na kappati. Yaṃ, bhikkhave, mayā ‘Idaṃ kappatī’ti ananuññātaṃ, tañce kappiyaṃ anulometi, akappiyaṃ paṭibāhati, taṃ vo kappati.
Now at that time scruples arose in the monks as to this and that occasion, thinking: “Now, what is permitted by the Lord? What is not permitted?” They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “Whatever, monks, has not been objected to by me, saying: ‘This is not allowable’, if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable to you. Whatever, monks, has not been objected to by me, saying: ‘This is not allowable’, if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable to you. And whatever, monks, has not been permitted by me, saying: ‘This is allowable’, if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable to you. Whatever, monks, has not been permitted by me, saying: ‘This is allowable if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable to you (Medicine).


#4

Can you give some examples of this? Or could you specify what you mean by versions? In the Pali Vinaya tradition I have never heard about variations.


#5

There are many ways of interpreting the Vinaya and there are many faults which are not listed in the Pātimokkha.


#6

This seems well said.


#7

I have heard this line of reasoning before, but I have become suspicious of it after communicating with someone who seems to be inclined towards the Mahayana sect/later Buddhism…and used this line of reasoning to justify why all the Vinaya rules can actually be dismissed.
He said that the reason that the Buddha “refused to clarify what are the minor rules to Ananda” is because he was giving Ananda “an obvious hint” that the whole Vinaya could be dismissed, the same way he gave Ananda an obvious hint that he would pass away soon.
He concluded that the Vinaya “were just rules” and it was the “spirit of the rules” that mattered.
It seems to me that he was implying that basically monastics could pretty much do whatever they want, as long as “their heart was in the right place.”
I find this line of reasoning to be suspicious/dubious/spurious - it seems like it can easily be wrongly grasped and used to pick and choose Vinaya rules…or dismiss them altogether as per one’s wish.
The mind is fickle and Mara’s bait seems like it shouldn’t be underestimated - so having accurate and clear training rules seems quite important to discipline the mind properly.

I agree that they don’t necessarily represent contradictions, and for the most part are largely similar in terms of content, especially the more important rules.
But I was curious how “even the minor training rules could be followed” in order to “see danger in even the slightest fault” if it isn’t entirely clear what all the training rules are, and which ones that Sangha is allowed to abolish.

I find this problematic because it seems to me that the responsibility of Buddhist monastics is to undertake to follow the Vinaya laid down by the Buddha, not simply blindly follow the Vinaya taken to be true by their particular community.

Agreed. But again, it begs the question, if the means (in this case, the Vinaya, or even more generally, the Dhamma-Vinaya) isn’t entirely clear, how can one carefully tread the path towards the end?
For one who places their trust in the Buddha, wouldn’t the parts that were either lost, modified, or added on later yet falsely attributed to and misrepresent what the Buddha taught misguide and mislead those who are attempting to use the means to achieve the end?
Wouldn’t these misrepresentations mislead beings towards a different end?

Yes, of course. Thank you. :pray:

In the discourse that you kindly shared, the Buddha did not use the phrase “seeing danger in the slightest faults.”
The phrase seems directly paired with “living restrained by the restraint of the Patimokkha” - so it seems to be warning beings to see danger of even the slightest fault in terms of transgressing the Patimokkha specifically.

This begged the question in my mind: if one doesn’t not accurately know what exactly the entire Patimokkha is, wouldn’t that impede the ability to see danger of even the slightest transgression of the Patimokkha or transgression of even the most minor rules of the Patimokkha.

At least, this is how I interpreted the phrase to mean.

:pray::pray::pray:

Isn’t the way to not break any rule be to "learn and be aware of what those [Vinaya/Patimokkha] rules are in the first place, as opposed to merely being mindful?
In fact, in this very discourse, it seems to suggest that mindfulness is to be developed after one develops restraint based on the Patimokkha:

“In that case, bhikkhu, purify the very beginning of wholesome states. And what is the beginning of wholesome states? Here, bhikkhu, dwell restrained by the restraint of the Patimokkha, accomplished in good conduct and proper resort, seeing danger in the slightest faults. Having undertaken the training rules, train in them. When, bhikkhu, you dwell restrained by the restraint of the Patimokkha … seeing danger in the slightest faults, then, based upon virtue, established upon virtue, you should develop the four establishments of mindfulness.

Perhaps by “mindful of one’s actions,” you meant “repeated reflection” as explained in the Rahula sutta?

Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.
Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone

Interesting :thinking:

I agree, but I wonder if this alone is enough to “see danger in even the slightest faults” with respect to “living restrained by the Patimokkha.”

:pray::pray::pray:

The line of reasoning seems relatively sound, but do you know if this is from an early or later Vinaya source?
I am aware of two versions of the 4 great references. The version found in DN 16 definitely seems early. I couldn’t tell if this version (I think it’s from the Vinaya Pitaka) of the 4 great references is from an early source.

A Comparative Study Of The Pratimoksa - W. Pachow.pdf (4.8 MB)
In this book, Pachow compares various sources of Vinaya, of which only three seem extant/exist today.

Point well taken. One could argue that one should see danger of all of even the slight faults mentioned in the Dhamma-Vinaya as a whole.
That being said, the particular reference made in this post seems to refer to seeing danger in even the slightest fault of breaching/transgressing the Patimokkha, no?
If yes, my concern was, how can one see danger in even the slightest faults if its not entirely clear of what all of the Vinaya rules are.
“See danger in even the slightest faults” seems to require clarity even regarding the even most minor of the Vinaya/Patimokkha rules, to say nothing of the major rules, or fundamental principles of Dhamma (such a decreasing greed, anger, and confusion).

The focus on “seeing danger in the slightest fault” seems to be with regard to “living restrained by the restraint of the Patimokkha” specifically, at least in this particular discourse, not more generally regarding “perpetuating any aspects of greed, ill will and delusion.”


#8

This is absolutely true, and the Buddha emphasises right attention and right effort. So my question is, why focus on a contorted argument instead of what all the sutta quotes given above tell you? Using wisdom to deal with arguments such as

One can argue and make assumptions about anything - endlessly… Rather I find it more worthwhile to look at things that are in line with the teachings overall. So it is the flavour of the whole canon of the Buddhas teachings. When in doubt I always go back to basics… does it help or hinder progress along the Noble 8 fold path? Does it result in a lessening of suffering?

Finally, about “all the Vinaya rules can actually be dismissed”. Given that they are training rules, once the training is completed, and one is an Arahant, then they are no longer necessary (though if still beneficial they will be followed).

Metta :pray: :sunflower:


#9

3. Principles That Prevent Decline Among the Mendicants

Soon after he had left, the Buddha said to Ānanda, “Go, Ānanda, gather all the mendicants staying in the vicinity of Rājagaha together in the assembly hall.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Ānanda. He did what the Buddha asked. Then he went back, bowed, stood to one side, and said to him, “Sir, the mendicant Saṅgha has assembled. Please, sir, go at your convenience.”

Then the Buddha went to the assembly hall, where he sat on the seat spread out and addressed the mendicants: “Mendicants, I will teach you these seven principles that prevent decline. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“As long as the mendicants meet frequently and have many meetings, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants meet in harmony, leave in harmony, and carry on their business in harmony, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants don’t make new decrees or abolish existing decrees, but undertake and follow the training rules as they have been decreed, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants honor, respect, esteem, and venerate the senior mendicants—of long standing, long gone forth, fathers and leaders of the Saṅgha—and think them worth listening to, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants don’t fall under the sway of arisen craving for future lives, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants take care to live in wilderness lodgings, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants individually establish mindfulness, so that more good-hearted spiritual companions might come, and those that have already come may live comfortably, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as these seven principles that prevent decline last among the mendicants, and as long as the mendicants are seen following them, they can expect growth, not decline.

I will teach you seven more principles that prevent decline. …

As long as the mendicants don’t relish work, loving it and liking to relish it, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as they don’t enjoy talk …

sleep …

company …

they don’t have wicked desires, falling under the sway of wicked desires …

they don’t have bad friends, companions, and associates …

they don’t stop half-way after achieving some insignificant distinction, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as these seven principles that prevent decline last among the mendicants, and as long as the mendicants are seen following them, they can expect growth, not decline.

I will teach you seven more principles that prevent decline. … As long as the mendicants are faithful … conscientious … prudent … learned … energetic … mindful … wise, they can expect growth, not decline. As long as these seven principles that prevent decline last among the mendicants, and as long as the mendicants are seen following them, they can expect growth, not decline.

I will teach you seven more principles that prevent decline. …

As long as the mendicants develop the awakening factors of mindfulness … investigation of principles … energy … rapture … tranquility … immersion … equanimity, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as these seven principles that prevent decline last among the mendicants, and as long as the mendicants are seen following them, they can expect growth, not decline.

I will teach you seven more principles that prevent decline. …

As long as the mendicants develop the perceptions of impermanence … not-self … ugliness … drawbacks … giving up … fading away … cessation, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as these seven principles that prevent decline last among the mendicants, and as long as the mendicants are seen following them, they can expect growth, not decline.

I will teach you six principles that prevent decline. …

As long as the mendicants consistently treat their spiritual companions with bodily kindness … verbal kindness … and mental kindness both in public and in private, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants share without reservation any material possessions they have gained by legitimate means, even the food placed in the alms-bowl, using them in common with their ethical spiritual companions, they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants live according to the precepts shared with their spiritual companions, both in public and in private—such precepts as are unbroken, impeccable, spotless, and unmarred, liberating, praised by sensible people, not mistaken, and leading to immersion—they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as the mendicants live according to the view shared with their spiritual companions, both in public and in private—the view that is noble and emancipating, and leads one who practices it to the complete end of suffering—they can expect growth, not decline.

As long as these six principles that prevent decline last among the mendicants, and as long as the mendicants are seen following them, they can expect growth, not decline.”

And while staying there at the Vulture’s Peak the Buddha often gave this Dhamma talk to the mendicants:

“Such is ethics, such is immersion, such is wisdom. When immersion is imbued with ethics it’s very fruitful and beneficial. When wisdom is imbued with immersion it’s very fruitful and beneficial. When the mind is imbued with wisdom it is rightly freed from the defilements, namely, the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance.”

When the Buddha had stayed in Rājagaha as long as he wished, he addressed Venerable Ānanda, “Come, Ānanda, let’s go to Ambalaṭṭhikā.”

“Yes, sir,” Ānanda replied. Then the Buddha together with a large Saṅgha of mendicants arrived at Ambalaṭṭhikā, where he stayed in the royal rest-house. And while staying there, too, he often gave this Dhamma talk to the mendicants:

“Such is ethics, such is immersion, such is wisdom. When immersion is imbued with ethics it’s very fruitful and beneficial. When wisdom is imbued with immersion it’s very fruitful and beneficial. When the mind is imbued with wisdom it is rightly freed from the defilements, namely, the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance.”

When the Buddha had stayed in Ambalaṭṭhikā as long as he wished, he addressed Venerable Ānanda, “Come, Ānanda, let’s go to Nāḷandā.”

“Yes, sir,” Ānanda replied. Then the Buddha together with a large Saṅgha of mendicants arrived at Nāḷandā, where he stayed in Pāvārika’s mango grove.