Translation of the five Chinese Bhikkhuni Patimokkhas


Perhaps this is also a part of the symbolism.


What do you mean by this?


Only that it takes effort to avoid many of the defilements.


I see what you mean. I was just thinking, as the facts shared above show, white clothes in ancient India seem not to have symbolized anything specific.


Simile about a white pure cloth taking up a dye, I recall from somewhere- in Sri Lanka layity wear white to symbolise purity of virtue. However I don’t know if all of the Buddha’s lay disciples were called the disciples ‘who wore white’ generally, as many were likely to be sotapanna.


:pray: Venerable, do you have the Pleco App? It is a free Chinese dictionary and you can also download a dictionary of Buddhist terms. I just checked and it has both “生色” and "檀越 ". Maybe helpful for your project? :slightly_smiling_face:


Thank you @AlexM
Yes, I have the Pleco App and it is indeed very useful.


On the right colour to stain a robe:

Pali bi pc 139 = bu pc 58 says that if a monastic receives a new robe, they have to stain it with one of three colours: blue(-green), mud colour, or black.

The Chinese versions agree that the colours should be
blue-green (all),
mud (Sarv + Mu) or black (Dg, Mi, Mg),
and magnolia (I guess that means pink) (Sarv, Dg, Mi, Mg) or red (Mu).

The Chinese bhikkhu pm versions agree with their respective bhikkhuni pms, and the Chinese Kasyapiya pm has the same colours as well (blue-green, black, magnolia).

From this alone, one would think that the Pali somehow lost the pink/red colour and doubled the mud / black pair.

But it is interesting that there is a good number of other Indic (Sanskrit) bhikkhu pm-s, and they all agree with the Pali, except mu-gbm3: nīlaṃ vā lohitaṃ vā pītaṃ vā (blue, red, yellow)

So it seems that in India, the colours were blue, mud, and black, but somehow in every single case, they got mistranslated into Chinese… :face_with_raised_eyebrow: It doesn’t seem very probable.

Maybe mud-colour seemed confusing to the translators because it varies from place to place. In some places the earth is red, and mud-colour would be reddish. But I don’t know anywhere where the mud is pink/magnolia. So it’s not a very likely explanation either…


In Thailand they make bathing cloths dyed with a kind of mineral, I’m not sure exactly what. But it ends up a pinkish color. So maybe?


On Vikappana (previously translated as “shared ownership”)

I have translated the vikappana rule today, Pali bi pc 140 = bu 59
Vikappana is widely known as “shared ownership”, a term that probably comes from Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation. But neither the Pali, nor the Chinese versions actually say that. The dictionary translates vikappana as assignment, and the Chinese 淨施 means something like “pure offering / gift / charity”.

This is Ajahn Brahmali’s translation of the Pali rule: (I only have an old version, so I hope this is still up to date.)
If a monk himself transfers a robe(-cloth) to another monk, to a nun, to a trainee nun, to a novice monk, or to a novice nun, and he then uses it without it first being relinquished, he commits an offense entailing confession.

Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation for comparison:
Should any bhikkhuni, herself having placed robe-cloth under shared ownership (vikappana) with a bhikkhu, a bhikkhuni, a female probationer, a male novice, or a female novice, then make use of the cloth without the shared ownership’s being rescinded, it is to be confessed.

And the Chinese bhikkhuni versions:
Sarv 53: If a bhikkhuni gives a robe to a bhikkhu, a bhikkhuni, a sikkhamana, a samanera, or a samaneri, and when they don’t return it, she still takes it back by force, it is a pc.
Dg 44: If a bhikkhuni makes a pure offering (vikappana) of a robe to a bhikkhu, bhikkhuni, sikkhamana, samanera, or samaneri, and later when they don’t live together, takes it back, it is a pc.
Mi 63: If a bhikkhuni makes a pure offering of a robe to a bhikkhu, bhikkhuni, sikkhamana, samanera, or samaneri, and takes it back by force, it is a pc.
Mg 23: If a bhikkhuni makes a pure offering of a robe to a bhikkhu, bhikkhuni, sikkhamana, samanera, or samaneri, and later, when it is not given up, uses it, it is a pc.
Mu doesn’t have the rule.

Ajahn @Brahmali, could you please say something about your translation choice of vikappana as “transfer”? And does that mean that the ownership of the robe is shared, or is it actually transferred to the other monastic? :anjal:

As a side issue: is there any basis in the Pali texts to translate vikappana as “pure offering”? Where does “pure” come from?


On uddana (summary) verses

不著捨不捨 乞金銀染衣
Not wearing (21), giving up (22), not giving up (23), asking for gold and silver (24), dyeing a robe (25),

得利有五殊 買藥衣二價
Five about obtaining a fund (26-30), buying medicines (31), two prices for robes (32,33).

This is the uddana verse of np 21-33 of the Mulasarvastivada bhikkhunis, and it is interesting, because it explains an irregularity in the rules that follow. The uddana says that np 25 is about dyeing a robe, and that np 26-30 are about obtaining a fund. But in the actual rules, np 25 is also about a fund, and is near-identical with np 26:

NP 25: 若復苾芻尼以衣利直。將充食用者。泥薩祇波逸底迦。
If any bhikkhuni uses a fund for robes to supplement her food, it is a np.

NP 26: 若復苾芻尼得別衣利。充食用者。泥薩祇波逸底迦。
If any bhikkhuni obtains a separate fund for robes and uses it to supplement her food, it is a np.

It is not clear why there would be two rules on the same subject. On the other hand, there is no rule about dyeing a robe. Maybe the original np 25 was lost and the next rule was doubled to make up the loss.

There is also a Tibetan version of the Mu bi pm. I can’t read the original, but according to the translations, it has the same rules for np 25-30. It would be interesting to see what the uddana says. According to one translation - that has proven to be unreliable before - it just says “a robe”, which is inconclusive because it could refer both to dyeing, or to the robe fund.
Unfortunately, we don’t have an Indic version of the Mu bi pm to compare.

Comparative studies with other schools also don’t help. Np 25 and 26 don’t have any parallels.


Actually, it probably comes from Ajahn Brahm. Much of Ajahn Thanissaro’s BMC I is based on Ajahn Brahm’s earlier work. It is possible Ajahn Brahm in turn has based his rendering on a precedent from Thailand.

My translation is largely based on the explanation of vikappanā in the Vibhaṅga. Here it is in the Pali and in translation:

Vikappanā nāma dve vikappanā— sammukhāvikappanā ca parammukhāvikappanā ca.

Sammukhāvikappanā nāma “imaṃ cīvaraṃ tuyhaṃ vikappemi itthannāmassa vā”ti.

Parammukhāvikappanā nāma “imaṃ cīvaraṃ vikappanatthāya tuyhaṃ dammī”ti. Tena vattabbo—“ko te mitto vā sandiṭṭho vā”ti? “Itthannāmo ca itthannāmo cā”ti. Tena vattabbo—“ahaṃ tesaṃ dammi, tesaṃ santakaṃ paribhuñja vā vissajjehi vā yathāpaccayaṃ vā karohī”ti.

Vikappanā: there are two kinds of vikappanā: vikappanā face-to-face and vikappanā in the absence of. Vikappanā face-to-face: one should say, “I vikappanā this robe-cloth to you/to so-and-so.” Vikappanā in the absence of: one should say, “I give this robe-cloth to you for the purpose of vikappanā.” The other should ask, “Who is your friend or companion?” One should reply, “So-and-so and so-and-so.” The other should say, “I give it to them. Please use their property, give it away, or do as you like with it.”

So there are two ways of doing the vikappanā: either in the presence or in the absence of the other person. It is especially in the second one of these that the meaning of vikappanā is clear. The robe is “given” (dammi) to the other person. The expression “their property” (tesaṃ santakaṃ) is used. This suggests fairly unambiguously that the other person actually becomes the owner of the property. There is nothing in the Pali, either in the Vibhaṅga or the commentaries as far as I know, to support the rendering “shared ownership”.

And as you point out, also the dictionaries, both PED and SED, understand vikappanā in this way. It is also the translation favoured by Ven. Nyanatusita in his very detailed study of the bhikkhu-pātimokkha.

As for “pure offering” I don’t know. I do wonder, however, whether it could somehow be related to the concept of vissāsa, “taking on trust”. In the above translation you may have noticed the peculiar expression "Please use their property, give it away, or do as you like with it.” This means that under certain circumstances you can take another person’s belongings on trust, that is, without asking them or getting their permission. This is known as vissāsa in Pali. Perhaps the Chinese somehow relates to this. In other words, it is an offering in name only and the item may in fact never even change hands. I am here reading “pure” in the sense of “simple”, not in the sense of “unstained”.


vissāsa just throwing some words out - lending, borrow by trustworthy/trusting


Thanks for your input, Ajahn. :anjal:

Yes, the Chinese seems to support that reading. The Sarv especially is unambiguous.
On the other hand, “pure offering” does seem to be a technical term with a special meaning. In dg bi np1 which is parallel to Pali bu np1 about not storing a robe for more than 10 days outside robe season, it says that the robe can be stored for up to 10 days without making a “pure offering”. Which seems to imply that if you do make a pure offering, you can store it longer. If we interpret this in line with the above suggestion, then maybe it means you can store it longer because it actually belongs to someone else. But the ownership would be somewhat theoretical, since you have the actual robe, so the other person can’t really make use of it.

No, the meaning of 淨 is “clean, pure, unspoiled, etc.”
It is a widely used word, such as in “impure conduct” 不淨行 in parajika 1, or in declaring purity 清淨(parisuddhi).

If I have time later, I will search the Sanskrit bhikkhu patimokkhas for a hint about where this comes from.


There is nothing in the Sanskrit bu pm-s that would explain 淨 (pure).
They are all quite similar to the Pali. The only noteworthy thing is that most pm-s don’t use the word vikappana - or any derived word - at all.
Sarv, Mg, Lo, and Mu (gbm2) simply use datvā (or variant spellings).
Only Mu (gbm3) uses vikalya. Not sure if this is related to the Pali vikappetvā.

So that would support the interpretation that the robe is given (datvā) plain and simple, and that the ownership is indeed transferred to the other person.


I finished the shared pacittiyas and have finally arrived at the most interesting part of the translation, the unshared pacittiyas. :tada: This is where the bhikkhuni patimokkhas diverge the most, both in content as well as in the total number of rules.

Here’s an overview over the number of pacittiya rules:
Mg, Lo 141
Pali 166
Dg 178
Sarv 178
Mu 180
Mi 210

Bhante @Sujato, the Mahasanghikas and Lokuttaravadins have a significant number of rules in their pakinnakas that other schools include in the pacittiya rules of their patimokkhas. Shouldn’t these be marked as parallels as well? See for example Pali bi pc 3 and 4 and Lo bi pn 11 and 12. These are the same rules, with the same wording.

What about patimokkha and/or pakinnaka rules that are parallel to rules in the bhikkhuni khandhaka of other schools? If this is of interest, then maybe I could start by matching patimokkha rules of Chinese schools with the Pali khandhaka and the Mg/Lo pakinnaka. We have English / French translations for this, so it would be quite easy to do.
If someone later wants to go through more Chinese vinaya material – i.e. the Chinese bhikkhuni khandhakas – and create more parallels, they could build on this.

The vinaya material for bhikkhunis is arranged so differently in different schools that it would be good to include patimokkhas, vibhangas, pakinnakas, and bhikkhuni khandhakas to get the full set of parallels.


Oh, yes please!



So what is a good way to reference a rule in the Pali bhikkhuni khandhaka? The English translation and the Pali text don’t use the same numbering system.

So if for example I wanted to create a parallel for the rule about not sitting cross-legged, is this a good reference:
Mg pn1 = Lo pn1 = Pali kd20.27.2 or Pali kd20 SC161 ?

I will collect everything in a spreadsheet first, and get some help with the parallels.json file when I’m done.


Ultimately they will use the same numbering system, which will be the basis of the segmented text currently under preparation. This will be based on the section numbers found in the PTS edition, with added granularity. These are the “PTS cs” numbers. So by referring to these numbers you’ll be good. Ignore the “SC” numbers (which are a paragraph count derived from the mahasangit edition).


The evolution of a rule in the different schools

The following is an interesting example of how the rules get changed when they are translated into Chinese, and how they vary between the schools.
The context seems to be that a nun was supposed to organize the robe for the kathina ceremony but because she asked the wrong laypeople, the sangha never got a robe and could not do kathina until the robe season was over.

Pali Pācittiya 29

Yā pana bhikkhunī dubbalacīvarapaccāsāya cīvarakālasamayaṃ atikkāmeyya, pācittiyaṃ.
Should any bhikkhuni let the robe-season (the period for receiving kathina-donations) pass on the basis of a weak expectation for cloth, it is to be confessed. (Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation)

Lo 76

yā puna bhikṣuṇī durbalāya cīvara-pratyāśāya saṁghasya kaṭhināstāraṁ vyati-nāmayet pācattikaṁ |
Et si une nonne, à cause du faible espoir [d’obtenir] du tissu pour les vêtements, laisse passer [la période de] présentation du kaṭhina pour la communauté, c’est une faute entraînant aveu formel. (Nolot’s translation)

Mg 76

If a bhikkhuni goes to a household that cannot prepare a robe and asks for a kathina robe for the sangha, it is a pc.

Mu 145

If any bhikkhuni knows that a person is poor and asks them for the kathina robe, it is a pc.

Sarv 135

If a bhikkhuni, when the hope to obtain robes is weak, still accepts the kathina robe, it is a pc.

Dg and Mi don’t have the rule.

The Indic versions (Pali and Lo) are fairly similar, although they are from schools that went separate ways very early. Both of them are somewhat cryptic and it is not immediately clear what a “weak expectation / faible espoir” might be. Chinese versions usually are much more explicit and more details are added during the translation process.
Mg is the same school as Lo, but since it is a Chinese translation, it describes a concrete situation: “asking a household that cannot prepare a robe”. Mu follows the same pattern and mentions a very similar situation.
Something weird happened to the rule in Sarv. The idea of a “weak expectation” was translated faithfully into Chinese but the rest of the rule was misunderstood, so that it makes no more sense. If there is little chance to receive a robe, the bhikkhuni also wouldn’t be able to get a kathina robe. And even if she did get a kathina robe, it wouldn’t do any harm to carry out a kathina ceremony, whether or not she receives any more robes afterwards.
Dg and Mi have dropped the rule altogether.