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Monks Making Vinaya Rules - A Question from Bhante Shravasti Dammika

Hello friends,

Bhante Dammika contacted me with the question below, and not knowing myself, I suggested that D&D would be a good place to get some responses. However, he is reluctant to make an account (he’s not comfortable with tech) and so asked me to post here on his behalf. I will pass on any replies.

Question:

A story in the Vinaya (PTS edition of the Vinaya I, p.153; Horner’s Book of the Disipline part 4 p.202-203; or if you like Mahavagga III, 13) mentions that the Sangha in Savatthi made it a rule that ordinations should not be done during the rainy season. The lay woman Visakha complained about this so the Buddha rebuked the Savatthi Sangha for having made the rule and then rescinded it. Does anyone know any other example of the Sangha making a rule rather than the Buddha or doing so (presumably) without consulting him?

Thanks for keeping your replies on topic and succinct.

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There’s the sangha that made a vow of silence in Kd 4, the chapter on the pavāraṇā ceremony. The Buddha criticized them and said they were behaving like sheep:

Abiding in discomfort
At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Monastery. At that time in a certain monastery in the Kosalan country a number of monks who were friends had entered rainy-season residence together. They thought, “How can we remain united and in harmony, have a comfortable rains residence, and get almsfood without trouble?” Then it occurred to them, “Let’s not talk to each other. Whoever returns first from almsround in the village should prepare the seats and set out a foot-stool, a foot-scraper, and water for washing the feet. He should clean the bowl for leftovers and set it out, and put out drinking water and water for washing. Whoever returns last from almsround may eat whatever is leftover, or he should discard it where there are no cultivated plants or in water without life. He should put away the seats and also the foot-stool, the foot-scraper, and the water for washing the feet. He should clean the bowl for leftovers and put it away, put away the drinking water and the water for washing, and sweep the dining hall. Whoever sees that the pot for drinking water, the pot for washing water, or the waterpot in the restroom is empty should fill it. If he can’t do it by himself, he should call someone over by hand-signal and they should fill it together. He should not speak because of that. In this way we’ll remain united and in harmony, have a comfortable rains residence, and get almsfood without trouble.” And they did just that. Now it was the custom for monks who had completed the rains residence to go to see the Buddha. So when the rains residence was over and the three months had elapsed, those monks put their dwellings in order, took their bowls and robes, and left for Sāvatthī. When they eventually arrived at Sāvatthī, they went to the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Monastery. There they approached the Buddha, bowed, and sat down. Since it is the custom for Buddhas to greet newly arrived monks, the Buddha said to them, “I hope you’re keeping well, monks, I hope you’re comfortable; I hope you spent the rains at ease, in concord and harmony, without dispute, and that you had no trouble getting almsfood?” “We’re keeping well, Venerable Sir, we’re comfortable; we spent the rains at ease, in concord and harmony, without dispute, and we had no trouble getting almsfood.” When Buddhas know what is going on, sometimes they ask and sometimes not; they know the right time to ask and the right time not to ask. Buddhas ask when it is beneficial, not when it is unbeneficial; Buddhas have destroyed access to what is unbeneficial. Buddhas question the monks for two reasons: to give a teaching or to lay down a training rule. And the Buddha said to those monks, “In what way, monks, did you spend the rains at ease, without having any trouble getting almsfood?” When they had told him, the Buddha addressed the monks: “While they dwelt in discomfort these foolish men claim they were dwelling at ease. While they dwelt together like animals, they claim they were dwelling at ease. While they dwelt together like sheep, they claim they were dwelling at ease. While they dwelt together like enemies, they claim they were dwelling at ease. How can these foolish men take a vow of silence, as do the ascetics of other sects? This won’t give rise to confidence in those without it …” … after rebuking them and giving a teaching, he addressed the monks: “You should not take a vow of silence, as do the ascetics of other sects. If you do, you commit an offense of wrong conduct.

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There’s also the origin story of bhikkhu NP 15: The Buddha goes on retreat and the sangha decides that monks commit a pācittiya if they go and disturb him. Then some forest dwelling monks who had not heard about the rule visit him. They criticize the sangha for imposing a penalty and the Buddha says that he allows forest monks to visit.

At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Monastery. There the Buddha addressed the monks: “Monks, I wish to go into solitary retreat for three months. No one is to approach me except the one who brings me almsfood.” “Yes, Venerable Sir,” they replied, and no one approached him except the one who brought him almsfood. Soon afterwards the Sangha at Sāvatthī made the following agreement: “The Buddha wishes to be on solitary retreat for three months. No one is to approach him except the one who brings him almsfood. Anyone who approaches him should be made to confess an offense entailing confession.” Just then Venerable Upasena of Vaṅganta and his followers approached the Buddha, bowed, and sat down. Since it is the custom for Buddhas to greet newly arrived monks, the Buddha said this to Upasena, “I hope you’re keeping well, Upasena, I hope you’re comfortable; I hope you’re not tired from traveling.” “We’re keeping well, Sir, we’re comfortable; we’re not tired from traveling.” … “Good, Upasena, you train your followers well. But do you know the agreement made by the Sangha at Sāvatthī?” “No.” “The Sangha at Sāvatthī has made the following agreement: ‘The Buddha wishes to be on solitary retreat for three months. No one is to approach him except the one who brings him almsfood. Anyone who approaches him should be made to confess an offense entailing confession.’” “Venerable Sir, the Sangha at Sāvatthī will become known for this agreement. We, however, don’t lay down new rules, nor do we abolish the old ones. We practice and undertake the training rules as they are.” “Good, Upasena. One should not lay down new rules, nor should one abolish the old ones. One should practice and undertake the training rules as they are. And, Upasena, I allow those monks who stay in the wilderness, who eat only almsfood, and who wear only rag-robes to come and see me whenever they please.”

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Very interesting!
Do we know if similar rebukes are recorded in other vinayas?
Or is this a feature specific to the Theravada Vinaya?
:anjal:

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The rebuke of silence vow by Sangha is also found on Dharmaguptaka Vinaya in their Pravarana Skandhaka here

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Thanks for your reply!
Do we also find something similar to the below?

One should not lay down new rules, nor should one abolish the old ones. One should practice and undertake the training rules as they are

:anjal:

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The statement is from NP 15 origin story in Theravadin version. Because Dharmaguptaka is distant cousin of Theravadin (which its Agama and Vinaya texts share much similarity with Theravadin version), I think it should also be found in their Vinaya version. But the Chinese Dharmaguptaka Patimokkha origin stories are not yet translated into English, so I can not ascertain about this :grin:

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Many thanks Ven @vimalanyani! These are perfect example. I’ll pass them on to Bhante Dhammika. I’m sure he will be very pleased!

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