Translation of the five Chinese Bhikkhuni Patimokkhas


Yes, it can be very tricky to guess the meaning. If you don’t know an Indic language, you are lost. Here’s another example for a Buddhist hybrid Chinese expression from the bhikkhuni pacittiya about not destroying plants:

Pali: bīja-gāma-bhūta-gāma (seed-village-being-village) i. e. seeds and plants
Sarv: 鬼-村-種子-村 (ghost-village-seed-village)
Dg: 鬼神村 (ghost-god-village)
Mi: 鬼村 (ghost-village)
Mu: 種子-有-情-村 (seed-have-feeling-village) “have-feeling” = a being
Mg: 種子-鬼村 (seed - ghost village)

There’s no rule when the Chinese texts go for these overly literal translations, and when they just translate the meaning. For example, the corresponding Sarvastivada bhikkhu rule is straightforward: 草木 (grass-trees) and doesn’t talk about villages at all. (I haven’t checked the other bhikkhu patimokkhas.)


Well, a little compassion for the poor Chinese translators, this is a pretty obscure idiom!

From Ven Nyanatusita’s magisterial analysis of the patimokkha:

bhūtagāma: vegetation, being-kind; Gen. tapp. cpd. It is does not mean “habitation of a being.” Bhūtagāma is mistakenly rendered in the Chinese translations as “village of the ghost” or “village of living beings”; see CSP 127. = bhūta: what has become, a being; see above Pc 9, usually a lower class of devatā i.e., tree-spirits etc., see origin-story, but the use together with bījagāma, see below, shows that probably bhūta in the more general sense of “what has become” is intended. Sp 761: “… jātā vaḍḍhitā cā ti attho.”: “…: born and grown is the meaning.” + -gāma: -kind; postposition, in same sense as in mātugāma, Sd 2, rather than in the sense of village of Pār 2. Sp 761: “Gāmo ti rāsi, bhūtānaṁ gāmo ti bhūtagāmo, bhūtā eva vā gāmo. Patiṭṭhitaharitatiṇarukkhānaṁ etaṁ adhivacanaṁ.”: “A gāma is a heap/quantity/collection, ‘a collection of beings’ is a being-collection, or just a beings-collection. This is a designation of established greenery, grass, and trees.”

Thus bhūta here has the sense of “what has grown or become” (which is in fact the more basic sense of the word), but is misinterpreted to mean bhūta in the sense of “being”, “ghost” (which is a later and derivative meaning). And gāma, which normally means “village”, has a special meaning as a postposition, similar to the English “-kind”. So we might render literally as “grownkind”, in other words, “plants” or “vegetation”. The Pali commentary gets it right, but most of the Chinese translators did not. However:

So it seems that one of the Chinese translators got it. It’s interesting that this is virtually identical with the Pali commentary’s gloss, haritatiṇarukkha, “greenery, grass, and trees”.

But this is definitely a warning, not just for reading Chinese texts, but against overly-literal translations in general. There is precisely no reason to think that by rendering the elements of language that one captures the meaning.


I’m not sure if we can conclude from these passages that the Chinese translators didn’t understand the meaning. It’s very likely that they did. They must have had access to the vibhangas and commentaries that explain the words in much detail.

It’s more likely that out of respect for the sacred texts, they kept as close to the original as possible, even if it then became meaningless or obscure in Chinese. It often seems like the Chinese texts are not idiomatic Chinese, but word-for-word transpositions of the Indic original.
Apparently, that approach was fairly common. I read somewhere that Gandhari Buddhist texts also were more transposed than actually translated.


Thanks for the paper that summarizes nicely the times for Kathina! Very interesting.

It doesn’t answer the question of what happens with the Kathina robe though.

The paper repeats the position of many other scientific essays that the spreading of kathina means that a robe is displayed at the monastery, and that the removal of kathina means that this robe is taken down. The idea seems to originate in a paper by Bechert (1968), “Some remarks on the Kathina rite”, but I don’t have access to it, so it’s difficult to evaluate it his sources.
In any case, it is not what actually happens in Theravada monasteries for Kathina. The spreading of kathina is a sangha act, in which a cloth (“the kathina robe”) is given to a monastic who has to turn it into a robe within one day. The removal of kathina is a simple sangha act as well, in which the robe doesn’t play any part anymore. There is no display, and nothing is taken down, “spreading” and “removing” are merely symbolic.
Since Bechert’s paper seems to deal with Theravada vinaya, his description is a mistake, but keeps on being repeated. Maybe this is then read into the Chinese vinayas as well because they use similar terminology. But the question remains if they also just used it in the same symbolic sense as the Theravadins.

I’ll try to get an answer from monastics who have practised in Dharmaguptaka communities. If I find out, I’ll post it here.


Thanks for that, too. Unfortunately, I’m somehow unable to load the book preview, so I can’t see what you link to.


All I can see is page 74, the beginning of the discussion of the Chinese terminology. Are you able to see page 75?


After playing around with the webpage I finally got some other pages to display.

I just had to do some additions to the footnotes so that they weren’t only Taishō citations, I figure it might make the paper easier to follow in SuttaCentral, vs having to go to CBETA or NTI for the texts:

The Sarvāstivāda

It is the characteristic of the Sarvāstivāda to name the object “treasure” (寶) and this term is glossed as gold and silver. The Chinese and Sanskrit versions of the rule read as follows:

Chinese Sarvāstivāda:
Should any monk take with his own hands treasure, or have it taken, he commits an offence of expiation involving forfeiture. (T1435.23.51b6 /Sarv bu np 18)

Sanskrit Sarvāstivāda:
Should any monk take with his own hands treasure, or have it taken, or accept what is laid down [for him], he commits an offence of expiation involving forfeiture
(yaḥ punar bhikṣuḥ svahastaṃ rūpyam udgṛhṇīyād vā udgṛhṇayed vā nikṣiptaṃ vā sādhayen niṣargikā pātarantikā)

One reads the same term - treasure - in the Kāśyapīya Prātimokṣa. From the Sanskrit version of the Sarvāstivādin Prātimokṣasūtra, one learns that its Sanskrit equivalent is rūpya. This is reminiscent of the Pāli vinaya, where the term is used both in the introductory story and the canonical commentary is rūpiya, but in the rule itself, it is jātarūparajata.


The Mahīśāsaka

Now we come to the tradition of the Mahīśāsaka. Its training rule reads:

“Should any monk take with his own hands unworked [gold or] similar valuables, or have it taken, getting greedy and attached, he commits an offence of expiation involving forfeiture.” (T1425.22.311b15 / Lzh Mg Bu Vb NP 18)

By contrast, the Sanskrit Prātimokṣa-sūtra of both the Mahāsāṅghika and the Mahāsaṅghika-Lokottaravādin has a more elaborate formulation:

"Should any monk take with his own hands gold or silver, or have it taken, or even say “lay it down here” or accept what is being placed down [for him], he commits an offense of expiation involving forfeiture.

Mahā: yo puna bhikṣuḥ svahastaṃ jātarūparajataṃ udgṛhṇeya vā udgṛhṇāyeya (sic!) antamasato iha nikṣipehīti vā vadeya, upanikṣiptaṃ vā sādiyeya, niḥssargika (sic!) pācattikaṃ. (Pachow 1956:18)

Mahā-L: yo puna bhikṣuḥ svahastaṃ jātarūparajataṃ udgṛhṇeya vā udgṛhṇāpeya vā antamasato iha nikṣipehīti vā vadeya, upanikṣiptaṃ vaā saādiyeya, nissargikaṃ pācattikaṃ. (Tatia 1975:16)

The forbidden object in the various Vinayas, except for the Sarvāstivāda, is expressed by the term jātarūparajataṃ. It is rendered as “gold, silver, money and others (金銀錢等 T1458.560b11 / Lzh Mu Bu Pm)” in the Chinese Mūlasarvāstivāda. We read the similar rendering: gold, silver, money in the Mahīśāsaka and Dharmaguptaka, so presumably it is the same term jātarūparajataṃ in their original texts. In contrast to suvaṇṇa, which refers to worked gold, jātarūpa refers to gold in its natural state, i.e. unworked gold. In the Pāli, jātarūpa is glossed as “the colour of the teacher” (satthuvaṇṇo) and rajata as coins made not only of silver but also of copper, wood, or lac, or whatever is used for exchange in business (Vin III 238, 2: jātarúpaṃ nāma satthuvaṇṇo […]).

The Samantapāsādikā gives a further explanation. It says that jātarūpa refers to gold and the colour of gold is similar to that of the Blessed One, that is why it is called the colour of the teacher. But the text goes on to note that any splended metals which have the colour of the teacher can be called jātarūpa. On the other hand, the denotation of rajata is further extended to include “bones, pieces of hide, fruit, seeds of trees used as currency, whether they have been stamped with a figure or not” (Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu 1994:215, Sp 689,21-690,7: jātarūparajatan ti ettha jātarūpan […]).

In the Chinese Mahāsāṅghika, we have these two peculiar terms (生色) (literally: “natural/genuine colour”) and (似色) (literally: “resembling colour”). In collating with the Sanskrit Prātimokṣa-sūtra of the Mahāsāṅghika (Pachow 1956:18), one finds that their corresponding term is jātarūparajata. The canonical commentary glosses (生色) as gold and (似色) as silver. Both gold and silver refer to “money and other articles used in the market” (T1425.22.311b21 / Lzh Mg Bu Vb NP 18). The commentary tells us what these terms refer to but not their meanings. In the following I shall attempt some interpretations.

The term (生色) is the Chinese rendering in its literal sense for jātarūpa, for jāta means born or produced and that is what the Chinese word (生) means. Apart from this, jāta also means natural, true, or good, likewise, in Chinese (生) also means bright and lively. Thus (生色) can be taken to mean natural or genuine colour, which often has the implication of excellence. This is reminiscent of the Pāli canonical and post-canonical commentaries, in which jātarūpa is glossed as “the colour of the teacher” (satthuvaṇṇo). The term (似色) (resembling colour), however, is not a literal translation of rajata. Although rajata is glossed as silver, it actually refers to coins made of all materials except gold. The “colour” in “resembling colour” would seem to refer to the first term (i.e. natural/genuine colour) and “resembling colour” refers to other coins, which, similar to gold, are also used as monetary exchange in business. That is why they are said to be resembling the natural/genuine colour, i.e. gold.

Alternatively a simpler interpretation is possible. In the case of metals, the Chinese character (生) means “unworked” as opposed to “worked”; (色) has the meaning of “class, kind …”. Thus (生色) means the unworked class [of gold], and (似色) means the similar class: the class [of valuables] similar to (生色) in terms of their value and use as currency in the market.

(Ven Juo-hsüeh Bhikkhunī, Who is Afraid of Gold and Silver? Ch 3: The Practice of the Rule: Underlying Concern and Further Development, pages 65-6 & 74-6 in Buddhist Studies: Papers of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference, see here this link works)

The citations of Pachow above are from:

Pachow, W. & R. Mishra (eds) 1956. The Prātikokṣa-sūtram of the Mahāsāṅghikas. Allahabad: Ganganatha Jha Research Institute

Tatia is:

Tatia, N. 1975. Lokottaramahāsāṃghikānāṃ Prātimokṣasūtram. Patna: Nava Nalanda Mahavihara.

One other note:

The Sanskrit Lokottaravādin parallel is San Lo Bi Vb NP 4.

The text is extremely sparse, I can cut-and-paste the entirety below:

ṇiḥsargika-pācittika-dharmāḥ 4

triṁśānām ādiḥ |
jātarūpa 4 ||

etāni sādhāraṇāni |

What is the story here? What does this Sanskrit text translate to?


The bhikkhuni vibhanga doesn’t cover the rules shared with the monks (same as in Pali). It’s just a summary that tells you that bi np 4 is the jātarūpa-rule of the monks. You have to look up the full rule at san lo bu pm np 18:

nissargikapācattika 18: svahastaṃ
yo puna bhikṣuḥ svahastaṃ jātarūparajatam udgṛhṇeya vā udgṛhṇāpeya vā antamasato iha nikṣipehīti vā vadeya, upanikṣiptaṃ vā sādiyeya nissargikapācattikaṃ |

Thanks for sharing the text!


I’m just guessing, but I think it means:

Beginning of the thirty [i.e. the NP rules]


These are the shared rules. [sā-dhāraṇa = held in common]

Note that the original text by Roth looks like this:

The ten shared rules are grouped together in one uddāna verse. SC just split them up to be able to make separate pages for each rule.


Sorry about that! :sweat_smile:


So I got some more information about Kathina in Chinese traditions.

Many places receive robe offerings after the vassa time, but mostly the Kathina ceremony has been replaced with other procedures for receiving robes. The monasteries that do carry out Kathina, do it differently from the Pali. The robe used in the establishing of Kathina is a purely ceremonial robe, and given to a monastic to safekeep, not to wear. During the dismantling of Kathina, that robe is indeed given back to the sangha, as the terminology in the rule suggests.
The robe is not displayed at the entrance of the monastery. It is considered special and treated very carefully. However, the monasteries do sometimes set up banners or signs to inform the supporters that the robe season has come. These banners and signs are also taken down when the Kathina period ends, but it is not part of the sanghakamma as such.

Thank you very much, Ayya @TathaalokaBhikkhuni for sharing this information with us. :anjal:


After having done building works at Tilorien all day, I attempted to translate the building-works-pācittiya this evening. It has given a headache to translators before, so here’s an overview:

Pali bu 19 = Bi 115
In case a bhikkhu is having a large dwelling-place put up, he may have the work rectified, in a place where straw is scarce, round the doors, and where the bolts are put in, and the openings for light are set, and till the roof has been twice or thrice covered in. Should he go beyond that, even in such a place, that is a Pācittiya. (Rhys Davids / Oldenberg; quoted in Pachow 1955)

When a bhikkhunī is building a large dwelling, she may apply two or three layers of facing to plaster the area around the window frame and reinforce the area around the door frame the width of the door opening, while standing where there are no crops to speak of. Should she apply more than that, even if standing where there are no crops to speak of, it is to be confessed. (Ajahn Thanissaro)

When a monk is building a large dwelling, then standing where there are no cultivated plants, he may apply two or three courses of covering, taking it as far as the door frame and using it for fixing the door and for treating the window shutters. If he applies more than that, even if he stands where there are no cultivated plants, he commits an offense entailing confession. (Ajahn Brahmali)

Dg bu 20 = Bi 20
If a monk is making (or causing to be made) a door for a building attached to a great residence, or a window, or the various ornamental belongings, he may direct as much brushwood (or, wood from an unenclosed spot) to be used, as is equivalent to two or three distinct loads, if more, it is pācittiya. (Samuel Beal 1871)

… should have doors, windows and other decorations, and should instruct someone to cover the roof with straw twice or thrice. If he does beyond that limit… (Pachow, 1951)

My draft version:
If a bhikkhuni builds a large room, she should instruct someone to cover the door frame, the window, and other decorative items evenly with two or three straw mats. If she exceeds that, it is a pācittiya."

Mu bu 20 = bi 19
… between the wooden boards of a door should put a bolt as well as to the windows. He should make arrangements of drainage. If the wall is built with wet mud, it should be two or three layers up to the roof. If he does beyond the limit… (Pachow, 1951)

My draft version:
若復苾芻尼作大 住處。於門梐邊應安橫扂。及諸 窓 牖并安水 竇。若起牆時是濕泥者。應二三重齊橫扂處。 若過者。波逸底迦。
If any bhikkhuni builds a large dwelling, she should install a horizontal door latch next to the door frame and the windows, and set up a water drain. If she uses wet mud when she erects the walls, she should level the place where the horizontal door latch is with two or three layers. If she exceeds that, it is a pācittiya.

(Bhikkhunis in Sarv, Mi, and Mg don’t have this rule.)

Compared to these instructions, even the hieroglyphs in the IKEA manuals are easy to figure out… :head_bandage:

If anyone has suggestions for my translations, I’d be interested in more opinions.


Once I came across a joke question about traditional practices around Christmas and New Year’s time. It didn’t explicitly mention IKEA, but it went somewhat along the lines:

What do people in Sweden throw out of the window on New Year’s day?

  • The Christmas tree
  • The furniture they didn’t manage to screw together
  • And probably a few more choices I don’t remember…

So just in case the building instructions don’t quite work out, this might be an ultimate option! :smirk: :wink:


On 食家 - sabhojana kula - a family that is eating (or maybe having sex?)

There has been quite a bit of discussion about this expression by earlier translators. The direct translation is “a family that is eating”, but the commentaries say that it is a euphemism for sex. So let’s look at the occurrences of this term in the five Chinese bhikkhuni patimokkhas:

Mu pc 64
If any bhikkhuni receives an invitation from a family that is eating / or: an invitation to eat at a house, and before or after eating there she goes to other houses without informing the donors, it is a pc.

Sarv 27:
If a bhikkhuni sits down by force in a family that is eating, it is a pc."

Sarv 28:
If a bhikkhuni sits down by force alone with one man indoors, in a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Dg 28:
If a bhikkhuni, in a family that is eating and has treasures, takes a seat forcefully, it is a pc.

Dg 29:
If a bhikkhuni, in a family that is eating and has treasures, sits in a screened-off place, it is a pc.

Mi 29:
If a bhikkhuni sits with a man in a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Mi 139:
If a bhikkhuni stays overnight in a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Mg 43:
If a bhikkhuni knowingly sits in a lascivious place in a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Mg 44:
If a bhikkhuni knowingly sits in a screened-off place in a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Mg 85:
If a bhikkhuni knowingly first doesn’t call out and enters (the house of) a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Mg 117:
If a bhikkhuni knowingly stays overnight in a lascivious place in a family that is eating, except at the right time, it is a pc. This is the right time: When it’s windy or rainy, when killing is going on, when her monastic life (celibacy) might be threatened, this is called “the right time”.

The Mahasanghikas seem to connect this expression with sex, since they refer to “lascivious places”. Mi seems to agree, since a bhikkhuni can’t stay in such a house overnight. If it referred to ordinary eating, a bhikkhuni couldn’t ever stay in any house.
The Mulasarvastivadins take the opposite view, since they talk about food offerings. However, it is not clear if 食家 actually means “a family that is eating” here at all. It is more likely that it means “eat at that house”. In this case, they seem to use the expression in a different context altogether, and it won’t help to establish the meaning.
Sarv could be read in both ways.
Dg could also be read in both ways, but the reference to “treasures” is elsewhere also taken by the commentaries to be a euphemism for women and sex, (in the rule for bhikkhus about not entering the king’s bedroom.)
So, it seems more likely that 食家 indeed refers to sex.

Still, I’m wondering whether it is best to stay close to the original text and just translate it literally, or put it in quotes marks, or freely render it as “having sex”…

Ajahn @Brahmali, could you comment on this, and explain how you chose your translation? :anjal:

Pali bu pc 43 = bi 124
“Yo pana bhikkhu sabhojane kule anupakhajja nisajjaṃ kappeyya, pācittiyan”ti.
If a monk sits down intruding on a lustful couple, he commits an offense entailing confession. (Ajahn Brahmali’s translation)


I must admit, I find it difficult to read the Pali in any other sense than, “when a family is eating”. The rule makes perfect sense. But given the agreement between several texts and the Pali commentary, perhaps the other reading really was intended.


I also originally thought that it should be read in the straightforward sense, but especially the Mahasanghikas seem to disagree.
But it is also not unusual to find stuff in the Chinese rules that we only find in the vibhanga or the commentaries in the Pali. This might be one instance where later interpretations could have crept back into the rules…

Do you think that the reference to “treasures” in the Dg rule is significant?
And how do you understand Pali bu 83:

Should any bhikkhu, unannounced beforehand, cross the threshold of a consecrated noble king’s (sleeping chamber) from which the king has not left, from which the valuable (the queen) has not withdrawn, it is to be confessed. (Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation. Ajahn Brahmali’s is not yet online.)

Yo pana bhikkhu rañño khattiyassa muddhāvasittassa anikkhantarājake aniggataratanake pubbe appaṭisaṃvidito indakhīlaṃ atikkāmeyya, pācittiyan”ti

Do you also read “ratana” in the straightforward sense, or is this a reference to the queen in your opinion?


I have based my translation on the Vibhaṅga, which is quite unambiguous in its interpretation. The origin story is clearly about lust. The word commentary is equally unambiguous in its definition, as is the “permutations” section and the non-offence clause. Everything, with the apparent exception of the rule, points to this being an idiom.

Thank you, Ayya, for this wealth of information from the Chinese vinayas. I think your commentary on these rules is reasonable, but I will briefly make some comments of my own just to get to grips with the material.

Mu pc 64 seems to me to be a parallel to Pali bhikkhu-pācittiya 46, rather than pācittya 43. What do you think? Sarv 27 and 28, a well as Mi 29, are similar to the Pali, in that the rules on the face of it simply refer to eating, and give no hint that this should be interpreted as lust/sex. Dg 28 and 29 hint that something more than eating is going on, but the meaning is ambiguous. In these cases it is probably reasonable to interpret the rule in light the parallel rules, that is, as referring to something to do with lust or sex. Mi 139 again hints at something more than eating going on, but the phrasing is rather curious, since it is not clear what the relationship is between the eating and the staying overnight is. Mg 43 and Mg 117, as you suggest, are similar to the Pali (as interpreted by the Vibhaṅga), although Mg 117 is a more “developed” version. Mg 44 seems like a cross between Pali bhikkhu-pācittiya 43 and 44. Mg 85 seems like a related but different rule.

It is not clear what to make out of this, but what we can say is that none of these rules contradicts the lust/sex interpretation, with the possible exception of Mu pc 64. This means we are still left with the original problem of interpreting “eating”.

I am sympathetic to @sujato point that the rule makes perfect sense without adding a non-obvious interpretation. As so often, it is tempting to stick to the earliest part of the Vinaya and regard the rest as a later development, which has (or may have) deviated from the original meaning. Yet the language of the pātimokkha rules is often quite curious and we should not disregard the possibility that the Buddha may have used a well-known idiom to phrase the rule.

In the end, I feel incompetent in deciding whether the sex/lust interpretation is reasonable and as such I have decided to translate the Pali rule according to the Vibhaṅga’s unambiguous understanding. On top of this, since there are so many textual sources in Chinese translation that hint at something odd going on, sometimes explicitly mentioning sex, and no sources that go against such an interpretation, I would suggest the sex/lust interpretation is fairly well-founded.

What do you think, Ayya?


I’m not really sure what is going on there. Bhoga is a word for “wealth, riches”, so probably it has gotten mixed up n there somehow.

Queen, I guess? Checking Nyanatusita, he agrees with the comms in taking it as queen. But it has never felt really convincing to me; I am not aware of anywhere in Pali that uses ratana like this, nor does the Sanskrit appear to offer support.


I was thinking how someone might translate ‘red light district’ 2000 years from now. Could the subdivisions of this clause be related to a bhikkhu being seen in compromising places in a house for prostitutes?


Yes, I agree.

Yes, that would be ideal.

Unfortunately… :sweat_smile:

I just had the idea to look for parallels of Mi 139 and Mg 85 and 117. They are listed above and use the idiom, but are not parallels to the Pali rule about “sabhojana kula” and originate from a different situation. Maybe that will help clarify the idiom.

So this is what I came up with: Mi 139 and Mg 117 are parallel to each other.

Mi 139 (as quoted above - repeated for easy comparison):
If a bhikkhuni stays overnight in a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Mg 117 (also as above)
If a bhikkhuni knowingly stays overnight in a lascivious place in a family that is eating, except at the right time, it is a pc. This is the right time: When it’s windy or rainy, when killing is going on, when her monastic life (celibacy) might be threatened, this is called ‘the right time’.

Lo 117 (in Sanskrit) is fairly similar and uses saṃbhojanīye kule, but doesn’t mention a lascivious place, so the meaning is more uncertain.
yā puna bhikṣunī jānantī saṁbhojanīye kule an-upakhajjeśayyāṁ kalpayed anyatra samaye pācattikaṁ | tatrāyaṁ samayo vāta-samayo vṛṣṭi-samayo puruṣāśaṁkita-samayo ayam atra samayo
Translation (French by Nolot:)
Et si une nonne s’installe sciemment pour se reposer chez une famille où l’on s’adonne aux plaisirs charnels, où l’on ne doit pas s’imposer, c’est une faute entraînant aveu formel, sauf circonstance particulière: (vent, pluie, hommes à craindre.)

And here are the parallels listed on SC, none of which mention the idiom 食家:
Pali bi pc 17: Should any bhikkhunī, having gone to family residences in the wrong time (between sunset and dawn), having spread out bedding or having had it spread out, sit or lie down (there) without asking the owner’s permission, it is to be confessed. (Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation.)

Dg 85
If a bhikkhuni enters the house of white-clothed laypersons and, without speaking to the owner, immediately spreads out seat cushions to stay overnight, it is a pc.

Sarv 144
If a bhikkhuni without asking the owner sits on their bed, it is a pc.

Mu 97
If any bhikkhuni, without asking the owner, immediately sits down in the house of white-clothed laypersons, it is a pc.

If these rules are indeed all parallels, then there is no hint that the idiom has anything to do with people having sex in that house in any of the other rules.

Now Mg 85: (as above)
If a bhikkhuni knowingly doesn’t call out before entering (the house of) a family that is eating, it is a pc.

Lo 85:
A little different, but uses the idiom:
yā puna bhikṣuṇī jānantī saṁbhojanīyaṁ kulaṁ divā pūrve apratisaṁviditā upasaṁkrameya pācattikaṁ |
Et si une nonne se rend sciemment dans la journée, sans prévenir d’abord, chez une famille où l’on s’adonne aux plaisirs charnels, c’est une faute entraînant aveu formel.

And the parallels as found on SC:
Pali 16:
Should any bhikkhunī, having gone to family residences after the meal (between noon and sunset), sit or lie down on a seat without asking the owner’s permission, it is to be confessed.

Dg 84
If a bhikkhuni enters the house of white-clothed laypersons and without speaking to the owner, immediately sits on a bed or seat, it is a pc."

Mi 129
If a bhikkhuni, without speaking to the owner, immediately sits on their seat, it is a pc.

Sarv 105
If a bhikkhuni, without asking the owner, immediately spreads bedding or has others spread it, it is a pc.

Mu 93
If any bhikkhuni, in a secluded place that cannot be viewed, sits or lies on a bed or seat, it is a pc.

Mu 96
If any bhikkhuni, when the owner has not yet allowed it, immediately sits on a bed or seat in a white-clothed layperson’s home, it is a pc.

I am not sure if the parallels are all sorted out correctly. It seems that some rules of the first set should be parallels to rules of the second set. In any case, none of them have anything to do with sex. Mu 93 hints at it, mentioning a “secluded place”, but it’s not really close to the idiom. Pali 16 at least mentions “a meal”, so there is some connection, but here it is clearly intended to be a real meal and nothing more. But it is also quite far from the idiom (pacchābhattaṃ kulāni upasaṅkamitvā vs. sabhojana kula). Maybe things developed from there.

Judging from these parallels (if they are indeed parallels), there’s nothing much to suggest that “a family with its meal” has anything to do with sex.