The group of six monks were expelled twice? or they are fictional?

In vinaya there are two occations where the group of six monks have committed a pārājikā offence.

Occasion 1:
Tena kho pana samayena chabbaggiyā bhikkhū raja­kattha­ra­ṇaṃ gantvā rajaka­bhaṇḍi­kaṃ avahariṃsu. Tesaṃ kukkuccaṃ ahosi—“bhagavatā sikkhāpadaṃ paññattaṃ. Kacci nu kho mayaṃ pārājikaṃ āpattiṃ āpannā”ti. Bhagavato etamatthaṃ ārocesuṃ. “Āpattiṃ tumhe, bhikkhave, āpannā pārājikan”ti

On one occasion the monks from the group of six went to the dyers’ spread of cloth and took the dyers’ goods. They became remorseful, thinking, “The Master has laid down a training rule. Could it be that we’ve committed an offense entailing expulsion?” They told the Master. “Monks, you have committed an offense entailing expulsion.”

Occation 2:
Tena kho pana samayena chabbaggiyā bhikkhū maraṇādhippāyā dāyaṃ ālimpesuṃ. Manussā daḍḍhā kālamakaṃsu … pe … manussā daḍḍhā na kālamakaṃsu. Tesaṃ kukkuccaṃ ahosi … pe … “anāpatti, bhikkhave, pārājikassa; āpatti thullaccayassā”ti.

On one occasion the monks from the group of six, meaning to cause death, set fire to a forest grove. Some people were burnt and died. … Some people were burnt, but did not die. The monks became remorseful … “There’s no offense entailing expulsion, but there’s a serious offense.”
(Here in first case the monks have committed an offense entailing expulsion)

There is no chance of remaining in monastic community after a pārājika offence. There cannot be a monk who is already defeated in the former (which ever it is) story. This is not the only issue to claim the fictional nature in the vinaya. There are almost all the possibilities of vinaya offenses covered in vinītavatthu.
Laying and amending the rules, giving decisions about vinaya issues may have consumed a lots of time. And there is no excuse given for being unaware about the rules, even where it was not that easy to send the information about new rules to farway places.

So there can be several possibilities,

  1. These occations are about several monks from the group of six
  2. Meaning of chabbaggiyā bhikkhū can be taken as few monks from the group of six monks
  3. There were several groups of six monks
  4. Due to an error
  5. Some of the characters and the stories in vinaya may be fictional


  1. They committed a serious offence under the third defeating rule before they committed a defeating offence under the second defeating rule.

Answer in brief:

In Occasion 1 the group were the first offender of this permutation of the rule - where theft in the wilderness was included as an offense entailing expulsion. The previous version of the rule was just for theft in the town. As first offenders, they were not expelled.

In Occassion 2 it say’s that the offense was NOT of a level for expulsion, but was a serious offense. In some way they did not meet all the criteria for expulsion.


There are two different cases in occation 2.

  1. Some people were burnt and died
  2. Some people were burnt, but did not die

When people were dead when they had the intention to kill. They must be defeated. (But the text has peyyāla ) Thats why I asked the question.
Bhante @Dhammanando,
If this is the case Ven. Dhammanando’s argument has a problem.

In the Pali Vinaya Atthakathā the term ādikammika seems to be limited to the person whose misconduct leads to the initial promulgation of the rule.

Ādikammiko nāma yo tasmiṃ tasmiṃ kamme ādibhūto. Idha pana sudinnatthero ādikammiko, tassa anāpatti. Avasesānaṃ makkaṭīsamaṇavajjiputtakādīnaṃ āpattiyevāti.
(Vin-a. i. 270)

Are there other Vinayas in which it’s understood to include those whose misconduct leads a rule to be amended?


Sorry, I misconstrued the judgment, “There’s no offense entailing expulsion, but there’s a serious offense” as applying to all of what came before in the paragraph. It seems that it only applies to the scenario that comes after the ellipsis: “… Some people were burnt, but did not die.”

By the way, what I wrote wasn’t meant as an ‘argument’; it was just an alternative possibility that came to mind. I’m actually quite agnostic on the question raised in your first post, though if I were ever to feel it necessary to have an opinion on the matter I guess I’d go for #5.


My apologies bhante!
My bad, I would rather say a suggestion. I didn’t mean that way by saying ‘argument’.

1 Like

There are many occations where the group of six comes. There are amendments in second rule and third rule over their actions. But the texts does not mention the Buddha saying that they were defeated. It is possible that the the story from vinītavatthu is the same in the second rule but third rule does not seem to have a vinītavatthu for the amendment.
Therefore Bhikkhūs who were responsible for the amendments also appear to be considered as ādikammikas.
What is your opinion about this Bhante?

I’m just as agnostic as I was nine hours ago. :slightly_smiling_face:

As I see it, the matter largely boils down to one’s starting assumptions.

If we start from the assumption that the group of six monks are historical figures whose deeds are accurately reported in the Bhikkhuvibhaṅga, then the fact that they’re reported to have been able to commit a defeating offence more than once might be accounted for in the way that Niyyanika has done: they weren’t disrobed because they were the “initial wrong-doers” (ādikammika). This of course would require us to treat Buddhaghosa’s definition of ādikammika as mistaken.

On the other hand, if we start from the assumption that Buddhaghosa’s definition of ādikammika is correct, then prima facie what’s reported of the group of six monks would not have been legally possible. We might then be more inclined to favour the idea that they were not historical figures but fictional ones, invented perhaps with the aim of ensuring that Vinaya case law would be more systematic and comprehensive than it would be if it rested solely on cases that had actually arisen during the Buddha’s life, or perhaps because the actual perpetrators’ identities had been forgotten.

But what if someone starts by assuming both of the above, i.e., the Vinaya’s historicity and Buddhaghosa’s inerrancy?

In that case, she might opt for the second of your five suggestions: that the scenarios involve a few, but not all, monks from the group of six. In fact, we can go one better than that. Since we’re assuming Buddhaghosa’s inerrancy, we can presumably accept his claim that the six monks lived in three groups of two and each group of two had five hundred monk followers. In that case it might be that chabbaggiyā bhikkhū means something like “[a group of] monks belonging to the faction of six.” There would have been 1,506 of them altogether, which would have been more than enough to supply all the rascals needed for the Vinītavatthu’s cases, no matter how many of them committed defeating offences.

Your third proposal, that there may have been several groups of six monks, wouldn’t be an option for someone of this persuasion, for Buddhaghosa presents them as six named individuals, even supplying them with a potted biography.


Thank you so much bhante for the explaination.
Many merits!

1 Like

They are a fictional literary device. Still, the kind of discussion the group is having is an example of the positive uses of such literary devices to illumine the dialectical tensions in the formulation of rules for a varied group of people in a wide range of circumstances.