Some thoughts on Translation and interpretation of Vinaya by Ayya Viranyani

Again, something beautiful to consider… With many thanks to Ayya @Viranyani :slight_smile:

Would any other monastics like to share their experiences/thoughts here? :anjal:


Ayya @Viranyani Thank you for this. I have recently been contemplating the purpose of precepts. It is obvious that they are a guide to wholesome behaviour, but I was also thinking there is a second aspect inherent in them. In thinking about what advantages there are in going forth, I was struck by the thought that undertaking to uphold the Vinaya and precepts allows one to develop the habit of not giving in to craving. I thought I’d start this at home, just so I can identify more readily all those sneaky little instances of craving, and then proceed with the unravelling of it.

Just a bit of a random thought, but I find this additional benefit to add depth to the normal focus of Vinaya as a simple matter of discipline. If I’m on the wrong track or misunderstanding something, I would appreciate any guidance or insights.



Discipline is for the sake of restraint,
restraint for the sake of freedom from remorse,
freedom from remorse for the sake of joy,
joy for the sake of rapture,
rapture for the sake of tranquillity,
tranquillity for the sake of pleasure,
pleasure for the sake of concentration,
concentration for the sake of knowledge
and vision of things as they are,
knowledge and vision of things as they are
for the sake of disenchantment,
disenchantment for the sake of release,
release for the sake of knowledge and vision of release,
knowledge and vision of release
for the sake of total unbinding without clinging.
— Parivaara.XII.2 (BMC p.1)

With metta


Agree, the spirit of the law is matters when it comes to Vinaya.

Agree. But you still have to pay for the usage in some kind.

The way I understand strictly following Vinaya is not adhering to rite-and-rituals.

Dear mpac

I changed “@Ayya Viranyani” and put the @ in front of Ayya’s name…now she’ll get the message. :slight_smile:


If this is incorrect, then I’m incorrect right there with you. :slight_smile:
It’s a very simple, though still not easy, way to approach discipline.


Thank you, Kay!

@SarathW1, sorry, perhaps I should have been more specific.
To clarify: what I mean by ‘strictly’ is more in the sense of ‘rigid’ or inflexible, unable to take into account that the precepts are subject to interpretation - and/or being more focused in the letter of the precept rather than the spirit of it. And then being a ‘fundamentalist,’ considering one’s own interpretation as the only ‘right’ one.

Many situations might cause monastics to end up breaking a precept - but where the spirit of the precept may not actually be violated.
Eating is a minefield here. For example~

Say you’re a hypothetical monastic, traveling from one place to another, and you encounter a logistic challenge that causes you to be late to a meal offering, so that you arrive at almost noon, or even a bit after.
Do you strictly follow the vinaya or do you accept the meal that has been already been prepared, at no small amount of expense and trouble?

Or you are staying at a large lay retreat centre where it creates a huge amount of disruption for the kitchen to provide the meal at 11:00, but none at all if the meal is offered at the regular time of noon (and it is not summer daylight-savings time).
What do you do? Do you force 100+ other people to change the way the system works for one monastic?

Or you’re in a plane headed someplace and the flight lands at a transit airport at 5 minutes to noon. People are there to meet you at the gate, and there is not another opportunity to eat on the next flight. Do you accept their offer of meal dana?
Or maybe you’re on a long haul flight and the meal comes at 1PM. It’s included with the ticket and there is no further expense. Do you eat it?

I honestly think there are no absolute ‘right’ answers, because much depends on circumstance and interpretation.
Admittedly, it’s a very slippery slope and the darkness around us is deep.
But we aren’t here as monastics to make trouble for lay supporters.
And sometimes circumstances dictate flexibility.

Each of us has to decide for ourselves how we’d answer those questions and the infinitude of others that arise when considering the precepts as a whole.
For me, what I end up doing often boils down to examining my mind. Is there lobha or dosa behind whatever it is? If so, then I’d definitely land on the strict side of the interpretation. Or am I rigidly hanging on to the way I hold the precepts as ‘the ONLY way a true monastic should be,’ and looking down on others who have a different interpretation? Well, then in that case I’d actually say strictness in that case is sīlabbata-parāmāsa, and a bit of sensible flexibility is probably called for.


I tend to agree. My understanding is that in the Buddha’s time people believed that the acts themselves of rites and rituals purified a person. In the same vein a person could soak up purity if they gazed at something pure (darsan).

1 Like

Oh, and to add:

I cannot agree more! The precepts (no matter how many, actually - even 5 is plenty) really shine a light on where lobha lives.


Nicely said :slight_smile: :pray:

You know…if I was running this retreat centre, this is exactly what I’d insist/strongly encourage. Here’s where it’s up to the lay folk to know a little more about monastics. Then we are given the chance to inspire each other :slight_smile:


In the 90’s and early 00’s, I cooked for retreats and eventually at a large lay meditation center in the US. And in my experience, unfortunately what happens (especially at the big centers with many people and ‘systems’) is that often this causes resentment, rather than inspiration - and a certain percentage of the cooks end up not wanting monastics around at all.

So a few years ago when I was faced with this conundrum at Spirit Rock, I chose to go with the flow. Had I been running the retreat I’d have asked everyone to eat before noon. But I was there as a yogi. And knowing the reactivity it causes on ‘the other side of the wall,’ I decided that it was an act of metta to be flexible. This is a center that regularly hosts monastics so there is no need of education - there was more need to smooth ruffled feathers and be content with what was offered. And I received a a lot of gratitude for this small act of flexibility, from the kitchen, the managers, and the teachers.

I used to be more ‘hard line,’ but after long discussions about this with Ayya Jotika in Spain, I now take a more flexible stance about the precepts in situations like this where there is no lobha cetana, and to hold the precept rigidly would inconvenience many lay people.


Thank you, Ayya Viranyani, for sharing that. This is my experience too. Often keeping rules is cause for resentment, rather than mutual support and inspiration.

I once caused a conflict with a lay Buddhist group because I don’t use money. Finally, I had to leave the place prematurely because although I was as lenient as I possibly could with all my rules, I could not stay alone with a man who had a reputation of harassing women in that centre. Even after I had left, the resentment kept on spreading and impacting my ability to practise and receive support.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, it is not possible to explain the usefulness of the rules to a lay group who are not used to monastics keeping vinaya. In their mind, it seems like monastics are being demanding and taking advantage of laypeople.


This makes me feel very sad.

So does this:


I guess I’ve been spoiled… The pioneers of the community here probably…perhaps…went through what you are all going through.

Now, there’s no question of our moving and shifting what we do to accomodate and support the monks and nuns.


I am sorry, Vimalanyani, that that happened to you, and can only concur.
The perception of monastics being demanding and fussy is out there in the West, unfortunately. (And I might add, perhaps in some cases this is accurate, and then everyone else gets ‘tarred with the same brush.’)


Mind you…when the monks started, I believe there was a core group of dedicated supporters. Some of whom were from traditional backgrounds but some of whom weren’t and at least one of these Westerners (that I know of) had met Ajahn Chah and had faith in him. So I believe things were tough, but the emotional support and understanding of the, then smaller, lay community was there.

And then when the nuns started, there was already a strong lay community in place.

Perhaps…and I am just guessing that this is what may be needed…what I can hope for you new pioneers is that you come across, at least a small, support base that has a good understanding of value of the Sangha in the larger scheme of things - including the larger scheme of their own Practise.

As our community here has grown, one of the things that has happened is that the oldies - the core supporters - became integral in passing on some of these understandings to the newbies. Now the newbies are becoming the oldies and so on. So often, my understanding is that it is the laity here that clues new lay people in.

I hope you both find what you need so that you’re able to keep your sila and in a way that makes you feel the most free and peaceful.

With metta


I think to a large extend keeping the basic vinaya rules (living on almsfood, not using money, not being alone with the opposite sex, etc.) depend more on the laypeople than on the monastic.

I don’t know any serious monastic who actually wants to handle money, go shopping, cook, be alone with the opposite sex etc. Our life is much easier and more peaceful if we don’t.
But we can’t live without the requisites that require money to buy them, we can’t live without food, etc. So if we keep these rules, someone else has to do this stuff for us. Laypeople have to change their behavior around us. Men can’t just rock up at our door at any time unaccompanied… Therefore, in a sense, we are “imposing” on laypeople.

Of course there are a few black sheep, but most monastics (in the West at least) who don’t keep these vinaya rules do so because they are not supported - not because of mental defilements and attachment to money.
Many times on this forum people have posted that monastics who handle money are “bad monastics” and should not be supported. In most cases, it’s not their choice.


It’s sad to hear that, because what you say is absolutely true.
It’s very easy to be idealistic from the sidelines

That’s a beautiful metta wish, Kay. Thank you.