Not attending the fortnightly teaching (Bhikkhuni pacittiya 58)

Continuing on from Vinaya Doodles 😁 :

Interesting, [bhikkhuni pacittiya 58] severely constrains seclusion as well as travel.

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It also means that teachers and teachings are secured. I suppose it could be done locally, at the temple premises they are visiting and I would be concerned about prolonged seclusion without a guide.

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Hmm… :thinking:
In the early times, there were many highly accomplished bhikkhunis too. Plenty of them were stream-enterers even before they ordained. So getting teachings wouldn’t really have been a problem.

Don’t forget that this rule has to be followed even by anagamis and arahants. Or very accomplished practitioners well on the way to high attainments.

But in any case, bhikkhunis have to attend the forthnightly uposatha, so there are several rules prohibiting long seclusions. And there is the rule about not spending the night alone, not wandering between villages alone, etc. Seclusion is difficult for bhikkhunis…


True! Teachings should be done by those who are good at teaching and not based on their reproductive organs.

I assume even Arahanths would delight in an exposition of the dhamma, and would not see it as an imposition! A dhamma talk is not uncommon during a retreat and it would not constitute a break in seclusion.


Just wanted to add that this rule
impacts on the monks’ seclusion as well.

If a monk lives alone in the wilderness and bhikkhunis pass by and request ovada, the monk is supposed to teach them if he meets the criteria to be an instructor of bhikkhunis. He even has to point out an appropriate, less secluded spot for the meeting, so he has to leave his wilderness retreat place.


For a few hours, I suppose, best as instructions to a group. I take it we’re not talking about thick jungles, but more milder monastery like scenarios. I think the Buddha encouraged prioritising oneself before teaching others and even suggested not teaching before one’s own enlightenment! Can Bhikkhunis be asked to teach, as well?!


No, I’m talking about a monk who lives alone in the forest, not in a monastery:

Now at that time a certain monk was staying in a forest; nuns, having approached him, spoke thus: “Master, undertake the exhortation.” He said: “But I, sisters, am staying in the forest. How can I undertake the exhortation?” They said: “Master, undertake the exhortation, for it was thus laid down by the Lord: ‘Except for an ignorant one, except for an ill one, except for one setting out on a journey, the exhortation should be undertaken through the others’.” They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “Monks, I allow you to undertake the exhortation through a monk who is a forest-dweller and (for him) to make a rendezvous, saying, ‘I will perform it here’.” (Kd 20.9.5)

Not for the formal ovada. But of course bhikkhunis teach plenty of times in the suttas and the vinaya on other occasions.


I recall the criteria being extremely strict though: you have to have memorized both patimokhas as well as many other things. Is that a commentarial embellishment or in the Canon itself?


That’s an EBT list, found at AN 8.52 and in the rule explanation of bhikkhu pacittiya 21.

The criteria are not actually that strict. Of course, if he is to instruct bhikkhunis, he needs to know their patimokkha, otherwise how can he teach and answer their questions?
And the rest of the factors are that he keeps the rules himself, knows many suttas–again, of course, otherwise he cannot teach–, that he is a capable teacher, pleasing to the bhikkhunis, that he hasn’t molested them, and that he has 20 years seniority. It’s kind of common sense that he needs these qualities.

In the early times, people were trained to memorize larger amounts of “texts”, as there was no writing. Learning patimokkhas wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Monastics do it regularly even nowadays.

For other tasks, the EBTs demand much higher standards. For example, to ordain someone, or to train a novice, the Anguttara Nikaya prescribes arahantship (see AN 5.251-3). That list was later watered down in the Vinaya, presumably because there weren’t enough qualified preceptors and teachers around anymore. :slight_smile:


Ah! Thanks for the explanation!

By “extremely” I didn’t mean “unattainably” or even “not a good idea” but merely that the percentage of Bhikkhus today meeting those criteria is quite small.

When you said:

… you made it sound like this impacts the majority of monks, when in fact (for better or worse!) it’s only applicable to a rather select few monks these days.

Is there a similar duty for an unqualified monk?

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I think in the early days, probably a majority of senior monks were qualified to teach bhikkhunis, so this rule affected a large group. Nowadays of course, the qualification criteria are applied quite loosely. My guess is that few ovada monks have detailed knowledge of the bhikkhuni patimokkha for example. So again, with the looser interpretation, it could potentially cover a larger group of monks. (But yes, you are right, many monks would not be affected by the rule.)

In practice though, it would be extremely rare nowadays for bhikkhunis to show up at the cave of a forest monk and expect a teaching. Ovada is done on the phone or on skype, no matter where the bhikkhunis and bhikkhus are travelling.

No, unqualified monks are specifically exempt from the duty to give ovada.


I was thinking of potential ‘abuse of power’ type behaviour, which would be rare, but… I wondered if this was to balance, that kind of situation?


Yes, it think avoiding power abuse is one reason. There is a precedent in the origin story of bhikkhu pacittiya 21, where the group-of-six monks assembled the bhikkhunis, but then spent the day talking about nonsense, and the bhikkhunis were annoyed that their time had been wasted.

Other reasons may be that it is important that people have a teacher they can relate to. If there is no trust in the teacher, practise becomes very difficult.
And also for the monk, it is very difficult and unpleasant to teach if the audience dislikes him and would rather not listen to him. See for example the incident in SN 16.10:

Then, in the morning, the Venerable Mahaākassapa dressed and, taking bowl and robe, went to the bhikkhunīs’ quarters with the Venerable Ānanda as his companion. When he arrived he sat down on the appointed seat. Then a number of bhikkhunīs approached the Venerable Mahākassapa, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. As they were sitting there, the Venerable Mahākassapa instructed, exhorted, inspired, and gladdened those bhikkhunīs with a Dhamma talk, after which he rose from his seat and departed.
Then the bhikkhunī Thullatissā, being displeased, expressed her displeasure thus: “How can Master Mahākassapa think of speaking on the Dhamma in the presence of Master Ānanda, the Videhan sage? For Master Mahākassapa to think of speaking on the Dhamma in the presence of Master Ānanda, the Videhan sage—this is just as if a needle-peddler would think he could sell a needle to a needle-maker!”


Yes, it is! :heart_eyes:

Of course! @karl_lew, I’ve taken the liberty of editing your initiating post so as to give this new split thread enough context to make it more easily understandable as an independent strand; hope this is okay, and please amend as you see fit. :pray:


So how to avoid renunciate people developing attractions towards their teachers:

"This body comes into being through sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is to be abandoned. With regard to sexual intercourse, the Buddha declares the cutting off of the bridge…

Then the nun — getting up from her bed, arranging her upper robe over one shoulder, and bowing down with her head at Ven. Ananda’s feet — said, "A transgression has overcome me, venerable sir, Bhikkhuni Sutta: The Nun

Maybe Skype would be suitable.

Hi Karl, consider that the monk Sangha & the nun Sangha must recite their Patimokkha rules on the same new & full moon dates; if anything disrupts a meditation retreat, it’s that, especially if a discussion arises.

Hearing a Dhamma talk from a great beloved elder (to qualify to teach nuns he must be an educated well-liked elder) is not usually troublesome and can be very supportive.


This reminded me of transference in psychotherapy. I imagine it is as common an experience for Dhamma teachers as it is for therapists. However, fore-warned is fore-armed. The same for those seeking instruction, and noticing the development of strong feelings out of place in the teacher/student relationship…

Rather than forbidding teaching (or therapy) to take place, I believe it is more skillful to know how to deal with common situations that may arise :slight_smile: In particular the indulgence of fantasy thinking is something that is central to Dhamma, and seeing through delusion.

Here is a link to a brief article that skims the surface of these issues

Added: This video is nice and clear and only 30 mins. From my perspective, this is a great ‘psychological’ take on causes and conditions with regard to interpersonal relationships, and is an important part of untangling reality and delusion when looking at defilements and tethers. Though I don’t personally endorse the view of things as pathologies or some of the ‘judgements’ made about behaviours, thoughts and feelings as per standard psychological views in this video - never the less, it has a lot of valuable content, including a trasference of’the divine’ which I think is quite common with regards to teaching the Dhamma. :slight_smile:


Yes, except these feelings are exactly how they arise in the world outside. It’s called ‘transference’ when it arises in therapy.

Dhamma teachers, especially if they are able to give rise to positive mental states in their students.

True. It’s a bit awkward though!


It seems in therapy the way to work with it is to look at the cause. In the Buddha’s dhamma we could look at working with cravings?


I think one can also work with it from observing the formation and arising of thoughts, feelings, speech and action. really observe the causality, and spot the fantasy v/s reality ie seeing things as they really are. Of course craving comes into it… as it is the force behind the fantasy and delusion, though I find that smaller steps in the causal chain are easier for people to identify.

From my perspective all these things are just tools to work with understanding life :slight_smile: Therapy is no less deluded than is the rest of mundane life… but it does have some good tools.


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No I wasn’t suggesting that at all! :heart:

Your description of the process above just reminded me of how insight is meant to progress. That is insight into mental and material phenomena leading to insight into causal chains.