Just reading Ven Brahmal’s new Vinaya translation, and I wonder whether there is a mistake in Pacittiya 68.
Once of the things that Brahmali has done is to expand the “non-offence” clauses at the end of each rule. Normally every rule has two standard non-offense clauses: there is no offense if the perpetrator is mad, or if they are the first offender (and hence the rule did not exist when they did it.)
Fun fact, one implication of this is that there are probably a bunch of Vinaya rules that have been maintained for 2,500 years, yet which have never been broken!
Because these clauses are everywhere, the Pali text abbreviates them. Brahmali expands the abbreviated form so that the translation always lists these two cases.
Normally this is helpful, but in Monks’ pacittiya 68 it is a little unclear.
Pacittya 68 deals with a case where a monk persistently advocates for a view that is contrary to the Dhamma. Despite the fact that it appears in the pacittiyas (a class of minor rules), it was considered to be an extremely serious offense. It is dealt with in several patimokkha rules, and the context also appears in a major Majjhima Nikaya discourse (MN 22). Unusually, the procedure is expanded at length, not just in the patimokkha, but also in the Khandhakas and the bhikkhuni rules.
This rule requires the Sangha to first admonish the monk three times before applying the rule. This is unusual, but not unique. They are to say that Ariṭṭha ought not misrepresent the Buddha, for that is a bad thing to do and the Buddha would never say such a thing.
If after admonition the monk does not stop, they are to press the charge. The Buddha calls Ariṭṭha a “foolish man”. Not only are they subject to a pacittiya offense, but they are prohibited from living with the Sangha. And not just the local Sangha in that monastery: the monks are required to spread the message around all the monasteries that this person is ejected from the Sangha.
Further patimokkha rules are laid down making it an offense for monks to accommodate the suspended monk (Pacittiya 69), and they are even required to expel a novice who similarly misrepresents the Buddha (Pacittiya 70). So serious is this if a bhikkhuni sides with a properly ejected monk, she becomes subject to permanent expulsion from the Sangha.
Safe to say, the Buddha really didn’t like it when people misrepresented his teachings.
So that’s the context. As for the non-offense clauses, the Pali text (MS edition) omits the mention of “first offender”. The Buddha Jayanthi (BJT) and PTS editions include it, but the BJT notes that the Burmese 6th council text omits it. Commentary is silent.
The MS edition concludes the passage with a close -ti, which is joined via sandhi (ummattakassāti). This form does not appear anywhere else. It indicates that the intention was to finish the non-offence clauses here, i.e. it is not an accident.
Why would the Burmese editions leave the “first offender” clause out? Presumably, it is because of the nature of the rule. The offender has already been warned multiple times, including by formal admonition in the Sangha, and in the case of the actual first offender Ariṭṭha, a scathing admonition by the Buddha himself.
On the other hand, in other Vinaya rules where the offender is admonished a series of times, the “first offender” clause is still present (eg. Sanghadisesa 10). I haven’t researched these cases in detail.
But for pacittiya 68 we don’t need to rely on inference. The Vinaya consistently treats Ariṭṭha, the first offender, as being guilty as charged (in Pacittiya 69 and Bhikkhuni Parajika 7, as well as Khandhaka 11.)
So it seems clear that Ariṭṭha the first offender was in fact guilty. But what of the reading of the text?
As a translator, I want to read texts in a sympathetic light, assuming that they make sense where possible, while not papering over actual mistakes or flaws.
In this case since there is textual support, I would be inclined to follow the MS reading, which keeps the internal consistency.
@Brahmali what say you?