Vinaya and its meanings

I would like to start this topic to explore what is the meaning of the word Vinaya in EBTs.

Below I propose some questions which I as well try to give some answers.

How do EBTs define Vinaya?

In its most basic form, the pali term vinaya means removal:

“Icchāya bajjhatī loko,
icchā vinayāya muccati;
Icchāya vippahānena,
sabbaṃ chindati bandhanan”ti.

“By desire is the world bound;
By the removal of desire it is freed.
Desire is what one must forsake
To cut off all bondage.”
– SN1.69

And it is usually conveyed in junction with the Pali term ­pahāna) which means abandonment, letting go.

The removal and abandonment of desire and lust for the eye : this is the escape from the eye. … the ear … the nose … the tongue … the body … (…) The removal and abandonment of desire and lust for the mind: this is the escape from the mind.’
– SN35.13

Vinaya in the context of the spiritual career promoted by the Buddha?

In the AN6.45 we find a hint of what vinaya meant in the context of the spiritual life.

In short it is all about achieving ease and peace of mind, through the development of :

  • a sense of conscience / sense of shame. (hiri)
  • a sense of concern /prudence (ottappa)
  • discernment / wisdom (pañña); and
  • restraint (samvutta) by virtue (sīla)

Now, anyone with conviction firmly established in the discipline of a noble one (ariyavinaya)

  • one with a sense of conscience, a sense of concern, discerning & restrained by virtue -
    is, in the discipline of a noble one, said to be living in ease.

Moreover, the presence of vinaya in someone serves as a strong foundation for one’s abandonment of the five hindrances and subsequencial development of stillness, jhanas:

Gaining a pleasure not of the flesh, he determines on equanimity: abandoning the five hindrances —persistence constantly aroused—entering the jhanas: unified, mindful, & wise.

Knowing this as it actually is in the total ending of all fetters, through everywhere not-clinging, his mind is rightly released.

In him, Such, rightly released, there is the knowledge, in the total ending of the fetters of becoming: ‘My release is unshakable.’

That is the highest knowledge that,the happiness unexcelled.
Sorrowless, dustless, at rest, that is release from debt.

The embracing of the vinaya marks the point in which one leaves behind the lay life and starts restraining his behavior and livelihood by the principles set out in the Pātimokkha. This in turn serves as a strong foundation for the purification of one’s livelihood and subsequent abiding in spiritual happiness (santuṭṭhatā) born of mindfulness and clear comprehension made possible by such positive states brought about.

“After some time he abandons his accumulation of wealth, be it large or small; he abandons his circle of relatives, be it large or small; he shaves off his hair and beard, puts on saffron robes, and goes forth from home to homelessness.

“When he has thus gone forth, he lives restrained by the restraint of the Pātimokkha, possessed of proper behaviour and resort.
Having taken up the rules of training, he trains himself in them, seeing danger in the slightest faults.
He comes to be endowed with wholesome bodily and verbal action, his livelihood is purified, and he is possessed of moral discipline.
He guards the doors of his sense faculties, is endowed with mindfulness and clear comprehension, and is content.

What is the possible earliest snapshot, as per EBTs, of the Vinaya?

I hint saying that the earliest record of a set of vinaya-principles is to be found in DN2, more specifically in the sub-chapter on "The More Excellent Fruits of Recluseship"

The list is extensive and the whole section on what means to be established in moral discipline and of course its fruits and role in the big scheme of the spiritual livelihood recommended by the Buddha can be found here.

Why does a Buddha estabilish a Vinaya?

The first chapter of the Vinaya Pitaka’s book on Monks’ rules and their analysis (Bhikkhu Vibhanga) provides us some insight on what is traditionally held as the origin of the monastic law. As far as I am concerned this has parallels in many other versions of the Vinaya. There one reads:

“Good Gotama is an eradicator / remover (venayiko)”

“There is a way one could rightly say about me that I am an eradicator/remover.
For I teach for the sake of eradication/removal of sensual desire, ill-will, and confusion, for the eradication of various sorts bad, unwholesome qualities.

In this same chapter one learns that the Vinaya’s code of conduct - as known as pātimokkha - would work towards keeping the Sasana alive for a long time

It’s just like flowers on a flat surface that are held together by a thread: they’re not scattered about, whirled about, or destroyed by the wind.
Why’s that?
Because they’re held together by a thread.
Just so, after the disappearance of those Buddhas, after the disappearance of the disciples awakened under them, those who were the last disciples made that dispensation last for a long time.
This is the reason why the dispensation established by Buddha Kakusandha, Buddha Konāgamana, and Buddha Kassapa lasted long.
Bhikkhu Vibhanga - The Origin of Monastic Law


@chansik_park very nicely pointed me the beautiful Gaṇaka­mog­gallā­nasutta (MN107) in which we see the Buddha’s explanation to how discipline and adherence to the Patimokkha represents not only a most solid foundation for the full blossoming of the gradual training, but as well a guarantee of a happy abiding here and now (sukhaviharaṇa) for those beyond the threshold of awakening:

“Brahman, such is my instruction for those monks who are learners who, perfection being not yet attained, dwell longing for the incomparable security from the bonds.
But as for those monks who are perfected ones, the cankers destroyed, who have lived the life, done what was to be done, shed the burden, attained to their own goal, the fetters of becoming utterly destroyed, and who are freed by perfect profound knowledge — these things conduce both to their abiding in ease here and now as well as to their mindfulness and clear consciousness.

Interestingly, the words of the brahmin Ganaka-Moggallana seem to indicate that in the India of 2,500 years ago most of professions were in fact taught in a gradual training basis:

“Venerable sir, as it is seen in the palace of Migāra’s mother, right from the lowest step of the staircase, this gradual, training, work and method. It is also seen in education and archery.
As for me, I train my pupils, to count in ones, in twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines, tens and even in hundreds.”

P.S.: I wonder whether Ganaka was an accountant or matematician?! :grinning: