|THE BUDDHIST MONASTIC CODE|
|- the Patimokkha Training Rules|
Translated and Explained
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data pending
Copyright 1994 Thanissaro Bhikkhu
This book may be copied or reprinted for free distribution
without permission from the copyright holder.
Otherwise, all rights reserved.
A limited number of printed copies of this book are available by
request, free of charge. As the book weighs about 2 pounds,
donations to help defray postage costs are invited. Inquiries
concerning the book may be addressed to:
Metta Forest Monastery
P.O. Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082 U.S.A
* * *
This electronic edition is offered for free distribution via
DharmaNet by arrangement with the author.
Formatted for DharmaNet by John Bullitt
First DharmaNet Edition 1993
Second DharmaNet Edition June, 1994
DharmaNet International P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951
* * * * * * * *
"Now, Ananda, if it occurs to any of you -- 'The teaching has
lost its authority; we are without a Teacher' -- do not view it
in that way. Whatever Dhamma and Vinaya I have pointed out and
formulated for you, that will be your Teacher when I am gone."
-- D. 16
Chapter 1: Patimokkha
Chapter 2: Nissaya
Chapter 3: Disrobing
Chapter 4: Parajika
Chapter 5: Sanghadisesa
Chapter 6: Aniyata
Chapter 7: Nissaggiya pacittiya
One: The Robe-cloth Chapter
Two: The Silk Chapter
Three: The Bowl Chapter
Chapter 8: Pacittiya
One: The Lie Chapter
Two: The Living Plant Chapter
Three: The Exhortation Chapter
Four: The Food Chapter
Five: The Naked Ascetic Chapter
Six: The Alcoholic Drink Chapter
Seven: The Animal Chapter
Eight: The In-accordance-with-the-Rule Chapter
Nine: The Treasure Chapter
Chapter 9: Patidesaniya
Chapter 10: Sekhiya
One: Proper Behavior
Three: Teaching Dhamma
Chapter 11: Adhikarana-samatha
Chapter 12: Appendices
I. Controversial points: Dawn
II. Controversial points: Sugata measures
III. Controversial points: Meals
IV. Pali formulae: Determination
V. Pali formulae: Shared ownership
VI. Pali formulae: Forfeiture
VII. Pali formulae: Confession
VIII. The pupil's duties as attendant to his mentor
This book is an attempt to give an organized, detailed account of the Patimokkha training rules and the traditions that have grown up around them. It is aimed primarily at those whose lives are affected by the rules -- bhikkhus who live by them, and other people who have dealings with the bhikkhus -- so that they will be able to find gathered in one volume as much essential information as possible on just what the rules do and do not entail. Students of Early Buddhism, Theravadin history, or contemporary Theravadin issues should also find this book interesting, as should anyone who is serious about the practice of the Dhamma and wants to see how the Buddha worked out the ramifications of Dhamma practice in daily life.
The amount of information offered here is both the book's strength and its weakness. On the one hand, it encompasses material that in some cases is otherwise unavailable in Eng-lish or even in romanized Pali, and should be sufficient to serve as a life-long companion to any bhikkhu who seriously wants to benefit from the precise and thorough training the rules have to offer. On the other hand, the sheer size of the book and the mass of details to be remembered might prove daunting or discouraging to anyone just embarking on the bhikkhu's life.
To overcome this drawback, I have tried to organize the material in as clear-cut a manner as possible. In particular, by analyzing each rule into its component factors, I have tried to show not only the rule's precise range but also how it connects to the general pattern of mindfully analyzing one's own actions in terms of such factors as intention, perception, object, effort, and result -- a system that plays an important role in the training of the mind.
Secondly, I have provided short summaries for the rules and have gathered them, organized by topic, in the Rule Index at the back of the book. If you are new to the subject of Buddhist monastic discipline, I suggest that you read the Rule Index first, to grasp the gist of the rules and their rela-tionship to the Buddhist path, before going on to the more detailed discussions in the body of the book. This should help you keep the general purpose of the rules in mind, and keep you from getting lost in the mass of details.
I am indebted to the many people who helped directly and indirectly in the writing of this book. Phra Ajaan Fuang Jotiko (Phra Khru Nanavisitth) and Phra Ajaan Thawng Candasiri (Phra Nanavisitth), my first teachers in Vinaya, gave me a thorough grounding in the subject. Ven. Brahmavamso Bhikkhu gave many hours of his time to writing detailed criticisms of early versions of the manuscript during the long period of research that led up to the book, forcing me to deepen my knowledge and sharpen my presentation of the topic. There was a brief period when he and I thought of co-authoring the book, but the many questions that needed to be settled concerning form and content eventually required that one person go it alone, and it fell my lot to be that person. Still, much of the precision of the book is a result of his efforts, even in cases where I had to differ with his opinions.
As the manuscript began to approach its final form, Ven. Phra Nanavarodom, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thiradhammo Bhikkhu, Amaro Bhikkhu, Suviro Bhikkhu, Bill Weir, and Doris Weir all read copies of it and offered valuable suggestions for improvement. I, of course, remain responsible for any errors it may still contain.
I dedicate this book in gratitude and respect to my preceptor, Phra Debmoli (Samrong Gunavuddho) of Wat Asokaram, Samut Prakaan, Thailand, and to all my teachers in the path of the Dhamma-Vinaya.
Metta Forest Monastery
Valley Center, CA 92082-1409 U.S.A.
* * * * * * * *
A Anguttara Nikaya
BD Book of Discipline
D Digha Nikaya
M Majjhima Nikaya
NP Nissaggiya Pacittiya
S Samyutta Nikaya
Vism Visuddhi Magga
Numbers in the references to Mv, Cv, and Pv denote chapter, section and sub-section; in the references to D and M, discourse (sutta); in the references to S and A, section (samyutta or nipata) and discourse; in the references to Dhp, verse; in the references to Vism, chapter and paragraph.
* * * * * * * *
Dhamma-Vinaya was the Buddha's own name for the religion he founded.
Dhamma -- the truth -- is what he discovered and pointed out as advice for all who want to gain release from suffering.
Vinaya -- discipline -- is what he formulated as rules, ideals and standards of behavior for those of his followers who went forth from home life to take up the quest for release in greater earnestness. Although this book deals primarily with discipline, we should note at the outset that Dhamma and Vinaya in practice function only together.
Neither without the other can attain the desired goal. In theory they may be separate, but in the person who practices them they merge as qualities developed in the mind and character.
"Gotami, the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered and not to being fettered; to self-effacement and not to self-aggrandizement; to modesty and not to ambition; to contentment and not to discontent; to seclusion, and not to entanglement; to energy and not to idleness; to being unburdensome and not to being burdensome': You may definitely hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'" (Cv.X.5)
Ultimately, the Buddha said, just as the sea has a single taste, that of salt, so too the Dhamma and Vinaya have a single taste: that of release. The connection between discipline and release is spelled out in a passage that recurs at several points in the Canon:
"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 tranquility, tranquility 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 dispassion, dispassion 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." (Pv.XII.2)
In establishing his religion of release, though, the Buddha did not simply set out a body of recommendations and rules. He also founded a company (//parisa//) of followers. This company falls into four main groups: bhikkhus (monks), bhikkhunis (nuns), lay men, and lay women. Although the Buddha saw no need to organize the laity in any manner, he arranged for the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis -- who had given up the entanglements of the household life to devote themselves more fully to the goal of release -- to develop into communities; and saw that they needed, as all communities do, ideals and standards, rules and customs to ensure their stability. This need is what gave rise to the Vinaya.
In the early years of the Buddha's career, the texts tell us, there was no need to formulate disciplinary rules. All of the bhikkhus in his following -- the Community of bhikkhunis had not yet been started -- were men of high personal attainments who had succeeded in subduing many or all of the defilements of their minds. They knew his teachings well and behaved accordingly. The Canon tells of how Ven. Sariputta, one of the Buddha's foremost disciples, asked the Buddha at an early date to formulate a Patimokkha, or code of rules, to ensure that the holy life the Buddha had founded would last long, just as a thread holding together a floral arrangement ensures that the flowers are not scattered by the wind. The Buddha replied that the time for such a code had not yet come, for even the most backward of the men in the Community at that time had already had their first glimpse of the goal. Only when mental effluents (//asava//) made themselves felt in the Community would there be a need for a Patimokkha.
As time passed, the conditions that provided an opening for the effluents within the Community eventually began to appear. The Bhaddali Sutta (M.65) presents the Buddha at a later point in his career listing these conditions as five:
Ven. Bhaddali: "Why is it, venerable sir, that there used to be fewer training rules and more bhikkhus established in the knowledge of Awakening? And why is it that there are now more training rules and fewer bhikkhus established in the knowledge of Awakening?" [Bhaddali, who has been unwilling to abide by the training rules, seems to be suggesting that the rise in the number of training rules is itself the cause for fewer bhikkhus' attaining Awakening. The Buddha, however, offers a different explanation.]
The Buddha: "So it is, Bhaddali. When beings have begun to degenerate, and the true Dhamma has begun to disappear, there are more training rules and fewer bhikkhus established in the knowledge of Awakening. The Teacher does not lay down a training rule for his disciples as long as there are no cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents have arisen in the Community. But when there //are// cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents have arisen in the Community, then the Teacher lays down a training rule for his disciples so as to counteract those very conditions.
"There are no cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents have arisen in the Community as long as the Community has not become large. But when the Community has become large, then there are cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents arise in the Community, and the Teacher then lays down a training rule for his disciples so as to counteract those very conditions....When the Community possesses great material gains...great status...a large body of learning... when the Community is long-standing, then there are cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents in the Community, and the Teacher then lays down a training rule for his disciples so as to counteract those very conditions."
Thus the rules themselves were not the cause for degeneracy in the Community, and the conditions that provided a foothold for the effluents were not themselves effluents. Rather, the growing complexity of the Community provided the opportunity for bhikkhus to act on the basis of their defilements in a growing variety of ways, and the rules -- although they could not prevent any of the five conditions -- had to become correspondingly complex to counteract the opportunities those conditions provided for unenlightened behavior.
Even when these conditions did arise, though, the Buddha did not set out a full code at once. Instead, he formulated rules one at a time, in response to events. The considerations that went into formulating each rule are best illustrated by the events surrounding the formulation of the first.
Ven. Sudinna, the story goes, had strong faith in the Buddha and had ordained after receiving his parents' grudging consent. He was their only child and, though married, was childless. His parents, fearing that the government would confiscate their property at their death if it had no heir, devised various schemes to lure Ven.Sudinna back to the lay life, but to no avail. Finally, his mother realized that he was firm in his intention to stay a bhikkhu and so asked him at least to have intercourse with his former wife so that their property would have an heir. Ven. Sudinna consented, took his wife into the forest, and had intercourse three times.
Immediately he felt remorseful and eventually confessed his deed to his fellow bhikkhus. Word reached the Buddha, who called a meeting of the Community, questioned Ven. Sudinna, and gave him a rebuke. The rebuke fell into two major parts. In the first part, the Buddha reminded Ven. Sudinna of his position as a //samana// -- a contemplative -- and that his behavior was unworthy of his position. Also, the Buddha pointed out to him of the aims of the teaching and noted that his behavior ran counter to them. The implication here was that Ven. Sudinna had not only acted inconsistently with the content of the teaching, but had also shown callous disregard for the Buddha's compassionate aims in making the Dhamma known.
"'Misguided man, it is unseemly, unbecoming, unsuitable, and unworthy of a contemplative; improper and not to be done....Have I not taught the Dhamma in many ways for the sake of dispassion and not for passion; for unfettering and not for fettering; for letting go and not for clinging? Yet here, while I have taught the Dhamma for dispassion, you set your heart on passion; while I have taught the Dhamma for unfettering, you set your heart on being fettered; while I have taught the Dhamma for letting go, you set your heart on clinging.
"'Misguided man, haven't I taught the Dhamma in various ways for the fading of passion, the sobering of pride, the subduing of thirst, the destruction of attachment, the severing of the round, the depletion of craving, dispassion, stopping, unbinding? Haven't I advocated abandoning sensual pleasures, understanding sensual perceptions, subduing sensual thirst, destroying sensual preoccupations, calming sensual fevers?...Misguided man, this neither inspires faith in the faithless nor increases the faithful. Rather, it inspires lack of faith in the faithless and wavering in some of the faithful.'"
The second part of the rebuke dealt in terms of personal qualities: those that a bhikkhu practicing discipline is to abandon, and those he is to develop.
"Then the Blessed One, having in various ways rebuked Ven. Sudinna, having spoken in dispraise of being burdensome, demanding, arrogant, discontented, entangled, and indolent; in various ways having spoken in praise of being unburdensome, undemanding, modest, content, austere, scrupulous, gracious, self-effacing, and energetic; having given a Dhamma talk on what is seemly and becoming for bhikkhus, addressed the bhikkhus."
This was where the Buddha formulated the training rule, after first stating his reasons for doing so.
"'In that case, bhikkhus, I will formulate a training rule for the bhikkhus with ten aims in mind: the excellence of the Community, the peace of the Community, the curbing of the shameless, the comfort of well-behaved bhikkhus, the restraint of effluents related to the present life, the prevention of effluents related to the next life, the arousing of faith in the faithless, the increase of the faithful, the establishment of the true Dhamma, and the fostering of discipline.'"
These reasons fall into three main types. The first two are external: 1) to ensure peace and well-being within the Community itself, and 2) to foster and protect faith among the laity, on whom the bhikkhus depend for their support. (The origin stories of the various rules depict the laity as being very quick to generalize.
One bhikkhu misbehaves, and they complain, "How can these bhikkhus do that?") The third type of reason, though, is internal: The rule is to help restrain and prevent mental effluents within the individual bhikkhus. Thus the rules aim not only at the external well-being of the Community, but also at the internal well-being of the individual. This latter point soon becomes apparent to anyone who seriously tries to keep to the rules, for they foster mindfulness and circumspection in one's actions, qualities that carry over into the training of the mind.
Over the course of time the Buddha formulated more than 200 major and minor rules, forming the Patimokkha that was recited fortnightly in each Community of bhikkhus. In addition, he formulated many other minor rules that were memorized by those of his followers who specialized in the subject of discipline, but nothing is known for sure of what format they used to organize this body of knowledge during his lifetime.
After his total nibbana, though, his followers made a concerted effort to establish a standard canon of Dhamma and Vinaya, and the Pali Canon as we know it began to take shape. The Vinaya was organized into two main parts: 1) the Sutta Vibhanga, the 'Exposition of the Text' (which from here on we will refer to simply as the Vibhanga), containing almost all the material dealing with the Patimokkha rules; and 2) the Khandhakas, or Groupings, which contain the remaining material organized loosely according to subject matter. The Khandhakas themselves are divided into two parts, the Mahavagga, or Greater Chapter, and the Cullavagga, or Lesser Chapter. Historians estimate that the Vibhanga and Khandhakas reached their present form no later than the 2nd century B.C.E., and that the Parivara, or Addenda -- a summary and study guide -- was added a few centuries later, closing the Vinaya Pitaka, the part of the Canon dealing with discipline.
Since the purpose of this book is to translate and explain the
Patimokkha, we are most directly concerned with the Vibhanga. It is
organized as follows: The rules in the Patimokkha are presented one
by one, each rule preceded by an origin story telling the events
that led up to its formulation. In some instances a rule went
through one or more reformulations, in which case an additional
story is provided for each amendment to show what prompted it.
After the final statement of the rule is a word-commentary, which
explains in detail most of the important terms in the rule. For many
of the rules this commentary includes one or more "wheels," or
tables, giving the contingencies connected with the rule, working
out all their possible permutations and passing judgment as to what
penalty, if any, each permutation entails. For example, the
discussion of the first rule contains a wheel that gives all the
objects with which a person might have sexual intercourse, lists
them against the variables of the sort of intercourse and whether or
not the bhikkhu involved gives his consent, and announces the
penalty for each possible combination of factors.
Following the word-commentary for each rule is a section of
no-offense clauses, listing extenuating circumstances under which a
bhikkhu would be exempted from the penalty imposed by the rule.
Finally, for the major rules, there is the Vinita Vatthu, or List
of Precedents, which documents various cases related to the rule and
gives verdicts as to what penalty, if any, they entail.
The Vibhanga forms the basis for most of the explanations of the
training rules given in this book. However, there are occasional
questions on which the Vibhanga is unclear or silent. To answer
these questions, I have turned either to the Khandhakas or to the
commentarial literature that has grown up around the Vinaya over the
course of the centuries. The primary works I have consulted are
1) The //Samanta-pasadika// -- "The Thoroughly Inspiring" -- (from
here on referred to as the Commentary), a commentary on the Vinaya
Pitaka compiled in the 5th century C.E. by Bhadantacariya
Buddhaghosa, who based his work on ancient commentaries brought to
Sri Lanka from India at an unknown date and translated into
Sinhalese. From internal evidence in Buddhaghosa's writings -- he
compiled commentaries on a major portion of the Canon -- historians
have estimated that the ancient commentaries were collected over a
span of several centuries and closed in approximately the 2nd
century C.E. Buddhaghosa's work thus contains material much older
than his date would indicate.
By Buddhaghosa's time a belief had grown up that the ancient
commentaries were the work of the Buddha's immediate disciples and
thus indisputably conveyed the true intent of the Canon. However, as
we shall see below, the ancient commentaries themselves did not make
such exalted claims for themselves.
Still, the existence of this belief in the 5th century placed
certain constraints on Buddhaghosa's work. At points where the
ancient commentaries conflicted with the Canon, he had to write the
discrepancies off as copier's mistakes or else side with the
commentaries against the Canon. At a few points, such as his
explanation of Pacittiya 9, he provides arguments against the
ancient commentaries' interpretation but then backs off, saying that
the ancient commentaries must be right because their authors knew
the Buddha's intentions. Perhaps pressure from the elder bhikkhus at
the Mahavihara in Anuradhapura -- the place where the ancient
commentaries had been preserved and where Buddhaghosa was allowed to
do his work -- was what made him back off in this way. At any rate,
only on points where the different ancient commentaries were silent
or gave divergent opinions did he feel free to express his opinions.
2) The //Kankha-vitarani// -- "The Subjugator of Uncertainty" --
(the K/Commentary), a commentary on the Patimokkha also compiled by
Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa. Although this work is largely a synopsis
of material in the Commentary, it contains some independent
material, in particular a system of classifying the offenses under
each training rule into their component factors. It also contradicts
the Commentary from time to time.
3) The //Sarattha-dipani// -- "The Essence-Meaning Illustrator" --
(the Sub-commentary), a sub-commentary on the Commentary, written in
Sri Lanka in the 12th century C.E. by a Ven. Sariputta, the first
Mahasami, or head of the Sri Lankan Sangha, after that Sangha was
reformed and unified under the patronage of King Parakrama Bahu I.
This work not only explains the Commentary, but also deals with
points in the Canon itself, sometimes indicating passages where the
Commentary has deviated from the Canon. It also quotes as
authoritative the judgments of three ancient texts, the
Ganthipadesa, which are no longer extant, and of Ven. Buddhadatta, a
scholar of the 4th century C.E. who wrote two extant Vinaya guides.
4) The //Vimati-vinodani// -- "The Remover of Perplexity" -- (the
V/Sub-commentary), another 12th-century sub-commentary, written in
southern India by a Ven. Kassapa, who also wrote the
//Mohavicchedani//, a synopsis of the Abhidhamma Pitaka and
Buddhaghosa's commentaries on it.
5) The //Attha-yojana// -- "The Interpretation of the Meaning" --
(the A/Sub-commentary), a sub-commentary that, unlike the works of
Vens. Sariputta and Kassapa, does little more than analyze the
language of the Commentary. This was written in the 18th century
C.E. by a Burmese scholar named Ven. Nanakitti
From here on "the ancient commentaries" will denote the original
commentaries that Buddhaghosa had to work with, and "the
commentaries" all five works listed above.
In addition to the Canon and the commentaries, I have referred to
the texts listed in the Bibliography. Two of these deserve special
1) The //Vinaya Mukha//, a guide to the Vinaya written in Thai in
the early 20th century by Prince Vajiranana-varorasa, a son of King
Rama IV who ordained as a bhikkhu and eventually held the position
of Supreme Patriarch of the Thai Sangha for many years. This work he
wrote as part of his attempt to unite the two major sects of the
Thai Sangha. The attempt failed, but the book is still used as the
official textbook on Vinaya for the examinations run by the Thai
Ecclesiastical Board. Prince Vajiranana in his interpretations often
disagrees openly not only with the commentaries, but also with the
Vibhanga itself. Some of his disagreements with the commentaries are
well-taken, some not.
I include the book here both for the valuable suggestions it makes
for dealing with unclear points in the older texts and because it is
taken as authoritative through much of Thailand. It has been
translated into English, as //The Entrance to the Vinaya//, but I
have chosen to translate anew all the passages I quote from it.
2) //The Book of Discipline//, a translation of the entire Vinaya
Pitaka into English by Miss I. B. Horner. Although I have learned
much from Miss Horner's work, there are points where my translations
and conclusions differ from hers. Since many readers will want to
check the information in this book against hers, I have marked these
points with a "(%)." Anyone curious as to which interpretation is
correct should check the passages in question against the Royal Thai
edition of the Pali Canon, my major source throughout this book.
Disagreements among the texts. One of the difficulties in trying
to collate all these various texts is that there are points on which
the Vibhanga is at variance with the wording of the Patimokkha
rules, and the commentaries are at variance with the Canon. This
forces us to decide which strata of the texts to take as
authoritative. As far as discrepancies between the Vibhanga and the
rules are concerned, the following passage in the Cullavagga (X.4)
suggests that the Buddha himself gave preference to the way the
bhikkhus worked out the rules in the Vibhanga:
"As she was standing at a respectful distance, Maha-pajapati
Gotami spoke thus to the Blessed One: 'Lord, those rules of
training for the bhikkhunis that are in common with those for
the bhikkhus: What line of conduct should we follow in regard
"'Those rules of training for the bhikkhunis, Gotami, that are
in common with those for the bhikkhus: //As the bhikkhus train
themselves, so should you train yourselves//'.... (emphasis
"'And those rules of training for bhikkhunis that are not in
common with those for bhikkhus: What line of conduct should we
follow in regard to them?'
"'Those rules of training for the bhikkhunis, Gotami, that are
not in common with those for the bhikkhus: Train yourselves in
them as they are formulated.'"
This passage implies that already in the time of the Buddha the
bhikkhus had begun working out a way to interpret the rules that in
some cases was not exactly in line with the way the Buddha had
originally formulated them. Some people have read this passage as
suggesting that the Buddha, though resigned to this development, was
displeased with it, but this would contradict the many passages in
the Canon where the Buddha speaks in high praise of Ven. Upali, the
foremost of his bhikkhu disciples in terms of his knowledge of
Vinaya, who was responsible for teaching the rules to the other
bhikkhus and who was largely responsible for the shape of the Vinaya
as we now have it. It seems more likely that the Buddha in this
passage is simply saying that, to avoid unnecessary controversy, the
way the bhikkhus had worked out the implications of the rules was to
be accepted as is.
Because this development eventually led to the Vibhanga, we can be
confident that in adhering to the Vibhanga we are acting as the
Buddha would have us do. And when we check the few places where the
Vibhanga deviates from the wording of the rules, we find that almost
invariably it has tried to reconcile contradictions among the rules
themselves, and between the rules and the Khandhakas, so as to make
the Vinaya a more coherent whole. This is particularly true with
rules that touch on formal acts of the Community. Apparently many of
these rules were formulated before the general patterns for formal
acts were finalized in the Khandhakas. Thus, after the patterns were
established, the compilers of the Vibhanga were sometimes forced to
deviate from the wording of the rules to bring them into line with
As for contradictions between the Commentary and the Vibhanga,
this is a more controversial area, with two extremes of thought. One
is to reject the Commentary entirely, as it is not the Buddha's
word, for modern historical scholarship has shown decisively that it
contains material dating many hundreds of years after the Buddha's
passing away. This position assumes, though, that in the areas where
the Canon is vague or unclear we have nothing to learn from the
accumulated wisdom and experience of those who have lived the
bhikkhu's life before us. The other extreme is to accept the
Commentary as superseding the Vibhanga entirely, in line with the
traditional belief that grew up around it: that it was composed at
the First Council to express the true intent of those who composed
the Vibhanga and yet somehow were unable to put what they really
meant to say into the Canon itself.
Neither of these extremes is in line with the Great Standards for
judging Dhamma and Vinaya that -- as the Mahaparinibbana Sutta
(D.16) reports -- the Buddha formulated at Bhoganagara shortly
before his passing away:
"There is the case where a bhikkhu says this: 'In the Blessed
One's presence have I heard this, in the Blessed One's presence
have I received this: This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya,
this is the Teacher's instruction.' His statement is neither to
be approved nor scorned. Without approval or scorn, take
careful note of his words and make them stand against the
Suttas and tally them against the Vinaya. If, on making them
stand against the Suttas and tallying them against the Vinaya,
you find that they don't stand with the Suttas or tally with
the Vinaya, you may conclude: 'This is not the word of the
Blessed One; this bhikkhu has misunderstood it' -- and you
should reject it. But if...they stand with the Suttas and tally
with the Vinaya, you may conclude: 'This is the word of the
Blessed One; this bhikkhu has understood it rightly.'"
[The same criteria are to be used when the bhikkhu cites as his
authority a Community with well-known leading elders; a monastery
with many learned elders who know the tradition, who have memorized
the Dhamma, the Vinaya, and the Matika (the precursor to the
Abhidhamma as we know it); or a single elder who knows the
In other words, the question is not one of the authority on whose
word a claim is based, but one of consistency: Only if a statement
stands up under comparison with the Canon should it be accepted as
true Dhamma or Vinaya. The same principle holds for statements that
are said to be not the word of the Buddha, but the opinion of
This point is borne out by two important passages in the texts.
One is the narrative of the Second Council, during which the
bhikkhus of Vesali defended ten practices on the grounds that they
had learned them from their teachers. The elders who judged the
case, though, insisted on evaluating the practices in terms of
whether or not they adhered to the Canon. The primary point of
controversy -- the question of whose authority was greater, the
Canon's or the teachers' -- was point six:
"'The practice of what is habitual, sir -- is it allowable?'
"'What is the practice of what is habitual, my friend?'
"'To practice (thinking), this is the way my preceptor
habitually practiced; this is the way my teacher habitually
practiced -- is this allowable?'
"'The practice of what is habitual is sometimes allowable,
sometimes not.'" (CV.XII.2.8)
What this means, as the elders showed in the way they conducted
the meeting, is that one's teacher's and preceptor's practices are
to be followed only when they are in accordance with the Canon.
The second passage is the discussion of the Great Standards in the
Commentary to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, which concludes that the
commentaries are to be accepted only where they are in agreement
with the Canon. Apparently the teachers who compiled the ancient
commentaries took a more modest view of their authority than did the
elders of the Mahavihara at the time of Buddhaghosa and did not
pretend to supersede the Canon as the final word on what is and is
not true Dhamma and Vinaya.
Some may object that to pass judgment on the Commentary is to lack
respect for the tradition, but actually it is because of respect for
the compilers of the Vibhanga that I make the following assumptions
in checking the Commentary against the Vibhanga:
1) The compilers of the Vibhanga were intelligent enough to be
consistent within the discussion of each rule. Any explanation based
on the premise that they were not consistent should give way to an
explanation showing that they were.
2) The compilers were well enough acquainted with the
contingencies surrounding each rule that they knew which factors
were and were not crucial in determining what is and is not an
offense. Any explanation that adds or subtracts factors from those
mentioned in the Vibhanga should give way to one that follows the
3) The compilers, in reporting the precedents in the Vinita Vatthu
-- the cases the Buddha judged against an existing rule -- were
careful enough to include all the important factors bearing on the
judgment. Any explanation that requires rewriting the precedents,
adding extra details extraneous to the Vibhanga to account for the
judgment, should give way to an explanation that can make sense out
of the precedents as they are reported and in terms of the analyses
presented elsewhere in the Vibhanga.
It's not that I take any joy in arguing with the Commentary. In
fact, wherever possible, I have been happy to give it the benefit of
the doubt, and on many points I am very much in its debt. Still, now
that Buddhism is coming to the West, I feel it is time to stop and
take stock of the tradition, and to check the later traditions
against the earliest sources. This is especially important in a way
of thought and life that, from the very beginning, has appealed to
reason and investigation rather than to blindly accepted authority.
In doing this, I am simply following a pattern that has repeated
itself through the history of the Theravadin tradition: that of
returning to the original principles whenever the religion reaches
an historic turning point.
There is, of course, a danger in being too independent in
interpreting the tradition, in that strongly held opinions can lead
to disharmony in the Community. Thus in evaluating the Commentary
against the Canon, I do not want to imply that my conclusions are
the only ones possible. Important points may have slipped my
attention or escaped my grasp. For this reason, even in instances
where I think that the Commentary does not do justice to the
Vibhanga, I have tried to give a faithful account of the important
points from the Commentary so that those who wish to take it as
their authority may still use this book as a guide. If there are any
points on which I am mistaken, I would be pleased if knowledgeable
people would correct me.
At the same time, I hope that this book will show that there are
many areas on which the Vibhanga is unclear and lends itself to a
variety of equally valid interpretations. For proof of this, we need
only look at the various traditions that have developed in the
different Theravadin countries, and even within each country. For
some reason, although people tend to be very tolerant of different
interpretations of the Dhamma, they can be very intolerant of
different interpretations of the Vinaya and can get into heated
arguments over minor issues having very little to do with the
training of the mind.
I have tried to make the point throughout this book that any
interpretation based on a sound reading of the Canon should be
respected: that each bhikkhu should follow the interpretations of
the Community in which he is living, as long as they do not conflict
with the Canon, so as to avoid conflict over minor matters in daily
life; and that he should also show respect for the differing
interpretations of other Communities where they too do not conflict
with the Canon, so as to avoid the pitfalls of pride and
This is especially true now that monasteries of different
nationalities are taking root in close proximity to one another in
the West. In the past, Thais, Burmese, and Sri Lankans could look
down on one another's traditions without danger of causing friction,
as they lived in separate countries and spoke different languages.
Now, however, we have become neighbors and have begun to speak
common languages, so it is best that we take to heart the writings
of the Chinese pilgrims who visited India centuries ago. They
reported that even after the early Buddhists had split into 18
schools, each with its own Tripitaka and Patimokkha, and the
Mahayanists had added //their// texts to the tradition, bhikkhus
belonging to different schools could be found living together in the
same monastery, practicing and conducting communal business in peace
and harmony. Theirs is a worthy example. We should not let our minor
differences become stumbling blocks on our way.
My aim throughout this book has been practical. I have avoided
dealing with academic issues concerning the authenticity and
reliability of the tradition, and instead have tried simply to
report and explain what the tradition has to say. Of course, I have
had to be selective. Whatever the unconscious factors that have
influenced my choice of material, the conscious considerations
shaping this book are briefly as follows:
We are dealing primarily with rules, but rules are not the only
way to express disciplinary norms, and the texts we are surveying
express their norms in a variety of forms: as rules, principles,
models, and virtues. The different forms are best suited for
different purposes. Principles, models, and virtues are meant as
personal, subjective standards and tend to be loosely defined. Their
interpretation and application are left to the judgment of the
individual. Rules are meant to serve as more objective standards. To
work, they must be precisely defined in a way acceptable to the
Community at large. The compilers of the Canon, recognizing this
need, provided definitions for most of the terms in the rules, and
the authors of the commentaries continued this task, carrying it out
with even greater thoroughness. Thus much of this book, in reporting
these texts, is concerned with the definition of terms.
This need for precision, though, accounts for the weakness of
rules in general as universal guides to behavior. First, there is
the question of where to draw the line between what is and is not an
infraction of the rule. A clear break-off point is needed because
rules -- unlike principles -- deal in two colors: black and white.
In some cases, it is difficult to find a clear break-off point that
corresponds exactly to one's sense of what is right and wrong, and
so it is necessary to include the areas of gray either with the
white or the black. In general, but not always, the Vibhanga's
position is to include the gray with the white, and to rely on the
principles of the Dhamma to encourage the individual bhikkhu to stay
away from the gray.
Take, for instance, the rule against masturbation. The Vibhanga
limits this rule to forbidding only those forms of masturbation that
aim at ejaculation, for if it had drawn the line anywhere else, it
would have become an offense for a bhikkhu simply to scratch
himself. Thus self-stimulation that does not aim at ejaculation is
not an offense, although in many cases it is clearly against the
spirit of the Dhamma. The Vinaya Mukha notes, disapprovingly, a
number of older Vinaya guides that like to dwell on these areas of
gray and seem to delight in figuring out ways to avoid an offense by
working around the letter of the rules. In this book I am taking a
different tack: Under those rules that include large areas of grey
with the white, I have noted a few relevant principles from the
Dhamma to spell out a wise policy with regard to the gray areas --
not to reformulate the rule, but simply as a reminder that, as noted
above, the Vinaya without the Dhamma does not suffice as a guide to
Another drawback resulting from the need for precision in rules is
that the more precisely a rule is defined to suit a particular time
and place, the less well it may fit other times and places. The
compilers of the Canon, in order to make up for this weakness, thus
provided the origin stories and precedents to show the type of
situation the rule was intended to prevent, providing principles and
models that indicate the spirit of the rule and aid in applying it
to differing contexts. In writing this book I have often made
reference to these stories, to give this added dimension.
Admittedly, the stories do not make for inspiring reading. For
example, instead of reading about bhikkhus accepting a meal at a
donor's house and then uplifting the donor with a talk on Dhamma, we
read about Ven. Udayin accepting a meal at the dwelling of a
bhikkhuni who was his former wife, and the two of them sitting there
exposing their genitals to each other. Still, the stories do remind
us that the more inspiring stories we read in the discourses took
place in a very real human world, and they also reveal the insight
and understated wit of those who framed and interpreted the rules.
The element of wit here is especially important, for without it
there is no true understanding of human nature, and no intelligent
system of discipline.
Finally, in compiling this book, I have tried to include whatever
seems most worth knowing for the bhikkhu who aims at fostering the
qualities of discipline in his life -- so as to help train his mind
and live in peace with his fellow bhikkhus -- and for anyone who
wants to support and encourage the bhikkhus in that aim.
* * * * * * * *
This index lists the summaries of the training rules given in this
book, organized by topic. The Sekhiya rules have not been included,
because they are short, deal almost exclusively with etiquette, and
are already organized by topic in their own chapter. I have
included short summaries of the Adhikarana-Samatha rules, even
though these summaries do not appear in the chapter discussing those
The rules are divided into five major categories, dealing with
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Communal harmony, and
the etiquette of a contemplative. The first three categories -- the
factors of the Noble Eightfold Path that make up the training in
heightened virtue -- show in particular how the training rules
relate to the Buddhist path as a whole.
These five categories are not sharply distinct types. Instead,
they are more like the colors in the band of light thrown off by a
prism -- discernably different, but shading into one another with no
sharp dividing lines. Right Speech, for instance, often shades into
Communal harmony, just as Right Livelihood shades into personal
etiquette. Thus the placement of a particular rule in one category
rather than another has been a somewhat arbitrary process. There
are a few cases -- such as Pacittiyas 46 & 85 -- where the reason
for the placement of the rule will become clear only after a reading
of the detailed discussion of the rule in the text.
Each rule is followed by a two-part code. The first part, before
the slash, gives the rule's number in its section of the Patimokkha.
The second part gives the page number for the discussion of the rule
in this book.
M.117 defines wrong speech as lying, divisive speech, abusive
speech, and idle chatter.
Making an unfounded charge to a bhikkhu that he has committed a
parajika offense, in hopes of having him disrobed, is a
sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 8/129)
Distorting the evidence while accusing a bhikkhu of having
committed a parajika offense, in hopes of having him disrobed, is
a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 9/138)
The intentional effort to misrepresent the truth to another
individual is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 1/260)
Making an unfounded charge to a bhikkhu -- or getting someone else
to make the charge to him -- that he is guilty of a sanghadisesa
offense is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 76/448)
Tale-bearing among bhikkhus, in hopes of winning favor or causing
a rift, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 3/266)
An insult made with malicious intent to another bhikkhu is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 2/263)
Visiting lay families -- without having informed an available
bhikkhu -- before or after a meal to which one has been invited
is a pacittiya offense except during the robe season or any time
one is making a robe. (Pc 46/ 390)
Entering a village, town, or city during the period after noon
until the following dawn, without having taken leave of an
available bhikkhu -- unless there is an emergency -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 85/467)
M.117 defines wrong action as killing living beings, taking what is
not given, and engaging in sexual misconduct.
Intentionally bringing about the untimely death of a human being,
even if it is still a fetus, is a parajika offense. (Pr 3/66)
Pouring water that one knows to contain living beings -- or having
it poured -- on grass or clay is a pacittiya offense. Pouring
anything that would kill the beings into such water -- or having
it poured -- is also a pacittiya offense. (Pc 20/317)
Deliberately killing an animal -- or having it killed -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 61/420)
Using water, knowing that it contains living beings that will die
from one's use, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 62/423)
Taking what is not given
The theft of anything worth 1/24 ounce troy of gold or more is a
parajika offense. (Pr 2/50)
Having given another bhikkhu a robe on a condition and then --
angry and displeased -- snatching it back or having it snatched
back is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 25/246)
Making use of cloth or a bowl stored under shared ownership --
unless the shared ownership has been rescinded or one is taking
the item on trust -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 59/415)
Voluntary sexual intercourse -- genital, anal, or oral -- with a
human being, non-human being, or common animal is a parajika
offense. (Pr 1/45)
Intentionally causing oneself to emit semen, or getting someone
else to cause one to emit semen -- except during a dream -- is a
sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 1/90)
Lustful bodily contact with a woman whom one perceives to be a
woman is a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 2/100)
Making a lustful remark to a woman about her genitals, anus or
about performing sexual intercourse is a sanghadisesa offense.
Telling a woman that she would benefit from having sexual
intercourse with oneself is a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 4/115)
Getting an unrelated bhikkhuni to wash, dye, or beat a robe that
has been used at least once is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
Getting an unrelated bhikkhuni to wash, dye, or card wool that has
not been made into cloth or yarn is a nissaggiya pacittiya
offense. (NP 17/214)
Lying down at the same time in the same lodging with a woman is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 6/276)
Teaching more than six sentences of Dhamma to a woman, except in
response to a question, is a pacittiya offense unless a
knowledgeable man is present. (Pc 7/280)
Exhorting a bhikkhuni about the eight vows of respect -- except
when one has been authorized to do so by the Community -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 21/320)
Exhorting a bhikkhuni on any topic at all after sunset -- except
when she requests it -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 22/323)
Going to the bhikkhunis' quarters and exhorting a bhikkhuni about
the eight vows of respect -- except when she is ill or has
requested the instruction -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 23/325)
Giving robe-cloth to an unrelated bhikkhuni without receiving
anything in exchange is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 25/326)
Sewing a robe -- or having one sewn -- for an unrelated bhikkhuni
is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 26/327)
Traveling by arrangement with a bhikkhuni from one village to
another -- except when the road is risky or there are other
dangers -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 27/329)
Traveling by arrangement with a bhikkhuni upriver or downriver in
the same boat -- except when crossing a river -- is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 28/331)
Sitting or lying down alone with a bhikkhuni in a place out of
sight and out of hearing with no one else present is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 30/335 & 389)
Sitting or lying down with a woman or women in a private, secluded
place with no other man present is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Sitting or lying down alone with a woman in an unsecluded but
private place with no one else present is a pacittiya offense.
Traveling by arrangement with a woman from one village to another
is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 67/432)
M.117 defines wrong livelihood as scheming, persuading, hinting,
belittling, and pursuing gain with gain.
Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a
superior human state is a parajika offense. (Pr 4/79)
Acting as a go-between to arrange a marriage, an affair, or a date
between a man and a woman not married to each other is a
sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 5/117)
Engaging in trade with anyone except one's co-religionists is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 20/225)
Persuading a donor to give to oneself a gift that he or she had
planned to give to the Community -- when one knows that it was
intended for the Community -- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
Telling an unordained person of one's actual superior human
attainments is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 8/285)
Persuading a donor to give to another individual a gift that he or
she had planned to give to a Community -- when one knows that it
was intended for the Community -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
82/256 & 461)
Keeping a piece of robe-cloth for more than ten days without
determining it for use or placing it under dual ownership --
except when the end-of-vassa or kathina privileges are in effect
-- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 1/163)
Being in a separate zone from any of one's three robes at dawn --
except when the end-of-vassa or kathina privileges are in effect,
or one has received formal authorization from the Community -- is
a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 2/172)
Keeping out-of-season cloth for more than 30 days when it is not
enough to make a requisite and one has expectation for more --
except when the end-of-vassa and kathina privileges are in effect
-- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 3/179)
Accepting robe-cloth from an unrelated bhikkhuni without giving
her anything in exchange is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. NP
Asking for and receiving robe-cloth from an unrelated lay person,
except when one's robes have been stolen or destroyed, is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 6/186)
Asking for and receiving excess robe-cloth from unrelated lay
people when one's robes have been stolen or destroyed is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 7/189)
When a lay person who is not a relative is planning to get a robe
for one, but has yet to ask one what kind of robe one wants:
Receiving the robe after making a request that would raise its
cost is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 8/193)
When two or more lay people who are not one's relatives are
planning to get separate robes for one, but have yet to ask one
what kind of robe one wants: Receiving a robe from them after
asking them to pool their funds to get one robe -- out of a
desire for something fine -- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
Making a felt blanket/rug with silk mixed in it for one's own use
-- or having it made -- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP
Making a felt blanket/rug entirely of black wool for one's own use
-- or having it made -- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP
Making a felt blanket/rug that is more than one-half black wool
for one's own use -- or having it made -- is a nissaggiya
pacittiya offense. (NP 13/208)
Unless one has received authorization to do so from the Community,
making a felt blanket/rug for one's own use -- or having it made
-- less than six years after one's last one was made is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 14/209)
Making a felt sitting rug for one's own use -- or having it made
-- without incorporating a one-span piece of old felt is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 15/211)
Seeking and receiving a rains-bathing cloth before the fourth
month of the hot season is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. Using
a rains-bathing cloth before the last two weeks of the fourth
month of the hot season is also a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
Taking thread that one has asked for improperly and getting
weavers to weave cloth from it -- when they are unrelated and
have not made a previous offer to weave -- is a nissaggiya
pacittiya offense. (NP 26/248)
When donors who are not relatives -- and have not invited one to
ask -- have arranged for weavers to weave robe-cloth intended for
one: Receiving the cloth after getting the weavers to increase
the amount of thread used in it is a nissaggiya pacittiya
offense. (NP 27/250)
Keeping robe-cloth offered in urgency past the end of the robe
season after having accepted it during the last eleven days of
the Rains Retreat is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 28/252)
When one is living in a dangerous wilderness abode during the
month after the fourth Kattika full moon and has left one of
one's robes in the village where one normally goes for alms:
Being away from the abode and the village for more than six
nights at a stretch -- except when authorized by the Community --
is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 29/253)
Wearing an unmarked robe is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 58/413)
Acquiring an overly large sitting cloth after making it -- or
having it made -- for one's own use is a pacittiya offense
requiring that one cut the cloth down to size before confessing
the offense. (Pc 89/475)
Acquiring an overly large skin-eruption covering cloth after
making it -- or having it made -- for one's own use is a
pacittiya offense requiring that one cut the cloth down to size
before confessing the offense. (Pc 90/477)
Acquiring an overly large rains-bathing cloth after making it --
or having it made -- for one's own use is a pacittiya offense
requiring that one cut the cloth down to size before confessing
the offense. (Pc 91/478)
Acquiring an overly large robe after making it -- or having it
made -- for one's own use is a pacittiya offense requiring that
one cut the robe down to size before confessing the offense. (Pc
Eating any of the five staple foods that a lay person has offered
as the result of a bhikkhuni's prompting -- unless the lay person
was already planning to offer the food before her prompting -- is
a pacittiya offense. (Pc 29/333)
Eating food obtained from the same public alms center two days
running, unless one is too ill to leave the center, is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 31/340)
Eating a meal to which four or more individual bhikkhus have been
specifically invited -- except on special occasions -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 32/342))
Eating a meal before going to another meal to which one was
invited, or accepting an invitation to one meal and eating
elsewhere instead, is a pacittiya offense except when one is ill
or at the time of giving cloth or making robes. (Pc 33/348)
Accepting more than three bowlfuls of food that the donors
prepared for their own use as presents or as provisions for a
journey is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 34/352)
Eating staple or non-staple food that is not left-over, after
having earlier in the day finished a meal during which one turned
down an offer to eat further staple food, is a pacittiya offense.
Eating staple or non-staple food in the period after noon until
the next dawn is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 37/362)
Eating food that a bhikkhu -- oneself or another -- formally
received on a previous day is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 38/364)
Eating finer foods, after having asked for them for one's own sake
-- except when ill -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 39/367)
Eating food that has not been formally given is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 40/370)
Eating staple or non-staple food, after having accepted it from
the hand of an unrelated bhikkhuni in a village area, is a
patidesaniya offense. (Pd 1/480)
Eating staple food accepted at a meal to which one has been
invited and where a bhikkhuni has given directions, based on
favoritism, as to which bhikkhu should get which food, and none
of the bhikkhus have dismissed her, is a patidesaniya offense.
Eating staple or non-staple food, after accepting it -- when one
is neither ill nor invited -- at the home of a family formally
designated as "in training," is a patidesaniya offense. (Pd
Eating an unannounced gift of staple or non-staple food after
accepting it in a dangerous wilderness abode when one is not ill
is a patidesaniya offense. (Pd 4/485)
Building a plastered hut -- or having it built -- without a
sponsor, destined for one's own use, without having obtained the
Community's approval, is a sanghadisesa offense. Building a
plastered hut -- or having it built -- without a sponsor,
destined for one's own use, exceeding the standard measurements,
is also a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 6/120)
Building a hut with a sponsor -- or having it built -- destined
for one's own use, without having obtained the Community's
approval, is a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 7/128)
When a bhikkhu is building or repairing a large dwelling for his
own use, using resources donated by another, he may not reinforce
the window or door frames with more than three layers of roofing
material or plaster. To exceed this is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Acquiring a bed or bench with legs longer than eight Sugata
fingerbreadths after making it -- or having it made -- for one's
own use is a pacittiya offense requiring that one cut the legs
down before confessing the offense. (Pc 87/471)
Acquiring a bed or bench stuffed with cotton down after making it
-- or having it made -- for one's own use is a pacittiya offense
requiring that one remove the stuffing before confessing the
offense. (Pc 88/473)
Keeping any of the five tonics -- ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey,
or sugar/molasses -- for more than seven days, unless one
determines to use them only externally, is a nissaggiya pacittiya
offense. (NP 23/236)
When a supporter has made an offer to supply medicines to the
Community: Asking the him/her for medicine outside of the terms
of the offer when one is not ill, or for medicine to use for a
non-medicinal purpose, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 47/393)
When a fund has been set up with a steward indicated by a bhikkhu:
Obtaining an article from the fund as a result of having prompted
the steward more than the allowable number of times is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 10/196)
Taking gold or money, having someone else take it, or consenting
to its being placed down as a gift for oneself, is a nissaggiya
pacittiya offense. (NP 18/214)
Obtaining gold or money through trade is a nissaggiya pacittiya
offense. (NP 19/220)
Bowls and other requisites
Carrying wool that has not been made into cloth or yarn for more
than three leagues is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP
Keeping an alms bowl for more than ten days without determining it
for use or placing it under dual ownership is a nissaggiya
pacittiya offense. (NP 21/231)
Asking for a new alms bowl when one's current bowl is not beyond
repair is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense. (NP 22/234)
Acquiring a needle box made of bone, ivory, or horn after making
it -- or having it made -- for one's own use is a pacittiya
offense requiring that one break the box before confessing the
offense. (Pc 86/470)
To persist in one's attempts at a schism, after the third
announcement of a formal rebuke in a meeting of the Community, is
a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 10/140)
To persist in supporting a potential schismatic, after the third
announcement of a formal rebuke in a meeting of the Community, is
a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 11/147)
To persist in being difficult to admonish, after the third
announcement of a formal rebuke in the Community, is a
sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 12/148)
To persist -- after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in
the Community -- in criticizing an act of banishment performed
against oneself is a sanghadisesa offense. (Sg 13/150)
When a trustworthy female lay follower accuses a bhikkhu of having
committed a parajika, sanghadisesa, or pacittiya offense while
sitting alone with a woman in a private, secluded place, the
Community should investigate the charge and deal with the bhikkhu
in accordance with whatever he admits to having done. (Ay 1/157)
When a trustworthy female lay follower accuses a bhikkhu of having
committed a sanghadisesa or pacittiya offense while sitting alone
with a woman in a private place, the Community should investigate
the charge and deal with the bhikkhu in accordance with whatever
he admits to having done. (Ay 2/161)
Telling an unordained person of another bhikkhu's serious offense
-- unless one is authorized by the Community to do so -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 9/288)
Persistently replying evasively or keeping silent in order to
conceal one's own offenses when being questioned in a meeting of
the Community -- after a formal charge of evasiveness or
uncooperativeness has been brought against one -- is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 12/300)
If a Community official is innocent of prejudice: Criticizing him
within earshot of another bhikkhu is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
When one has set a bed, bench, mattress, or stool belonging to the
Community out in the open: Leaving its immediate vicinity
without putting it away or arranging to have it put away is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 14/305)
When one has spread bedding out in a dwelling belonging to the
Community: Departing from the monastery without putting it away
or arranging to have it put away is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Encroaching on another bhikkhu's sleeping or sitting place in a
dwelling belonging to the Community, with the sole purpose of
making him uncomfortable and forcing him to leave, is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 16/310)
Causing a bhikkhu to be evicted from a dwelling belonging to the
Community -- when one's primary motive is anger -- is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 17/312)
Sitting or lying down on a bed or bench with detachable legs on an
unplanked loft in a dwelling belonging to the Community, is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 18/314)
Saying that a properly authorized bhikkhu exhorts the bhikkhunis
for the sake of personal gain -- when in fact that is not the
case -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 24/325)
Deliberately tricking another bhikkhu into breaking Pacittiya 35,
in hopes of finding fault with him, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Speaking or acting disrespectfully when being admonished by
another bhikkhu for a breach of the training rules is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 54/407)
Agitating to re-open an issue, knowing that it was properly dealt
with, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 63/424)
Not informing other bhikkhus of a serious offense that one knows
another bhikkhu has committed -- out of a desire to protect him
either from having to undergo the penalty or from the jeering
remarks of other bhikkhus -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 64/426)
Acting as the preceptor in the ordination of a person one knows to
be less than 20 years old is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 65/428)
Refusing -- after the third announcement of a formal rebuke in a
meeting of the Community -- to give up the wrong view that there
is nothing wrong in intentionally transgressing the Buddha's
ordinances is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 68/434)
Consorting, joining in communion, or lying down under the same
roof with a bhikkhu who has been suspended and not been restored
-- knowing that such is the case -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Supporting, receiving services from, consorting, or lying down
under the same roof with an expelled novice -- knowing that he
has been expelled -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 70/439)
Saying something as a ploy to excuse oneself from training under
a training rule when being admonished by another bhikkhu for a
breach of the rule is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 71/442)
Criticizing the discipline in the presence of another bhikkhu, in
hopes of preventing its study, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Using half-truths to deceive others into believing that one is
ignorant of the rules in the Patimokkha, after one has already
heard the Patimokkha in full three times, and a formal act
exposing one's deceit has been brought against one, is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 73/445)
Giving a blow to another bhikkhu, when motivated by anger, is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 74/446)
Making a threatening gesture against another bhikkhu when
motivated by anger is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 75/448)
Saying to another bhikkhu that he may have broken a rule
unknowingly, simply for the purpose of causing him anxiety, is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 77/449)
Eavesdropping on bhikkhus involved in an argument over an issue --
with the intention of using what they say against them -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 78/451)
Complaining about a formal act of the Community to which one gave
one's consent -- if one knows that the act was carried out in
accordance with the rule -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 79/452)
Getting up and leaving a meeting of the Community in the midst of
a valid formal act -- without having first given one's consent to
the act and with the intention of invalidating it -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 80/455)
After participating in a formal act of the Community giving
robe-cloth to a Community official: Complaining that the
Community acted out of favoritism is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
When the Community is dealing formally with an issue, the full
Community must be present, as must all the individuals involved
in the issue; the proceedings must follow the patterns set out in
the Dhamma and Vinaya. (As 1/511)
If the Community unanimously believes that a bhikkhu is innocent
of a charge made against him, they may declare him innocent on
the basis of his memory of the events. (As 2/512)
If the Community unanimously believes that a bhikkhu was insane
while committing offenses against the rules, they may absolve him
of any responsibility for the offenses. (As 3/513)
If a bhikkhu commits an offense, he should willingly undergo the
appropriate penalty in line with what he actually did and the
actual seriousness of the offense. (As 4/513)
If an important dispute cannot be settled by a unanimous decision,
it should be submitted to a vote. The opinion of the majority,
if in accord with the Dhamma and Vinaya, is then considered
decisive. (As 5/513)
If a bhikkhu admits to an offense only after being interrogated in
a formal meeting, the Community should carry out an act of
censure against him, rescinding it only when he has mended his
ways. (As 6/514)
If, in the course of a dispute, both sides act in ways unworthy of
contemplatives, and the sorting out of the penalties would only
prolong the dispute, the Community as a whole may make a blanket
confession of its light offenses. (As 7/515)
The Etiquette of a Contemplative
Training a novice or lay person to recite passages of Dhamma by
rote is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 4/267)
Lying down at the same time, in the same lodging, with a novice or
layman for more than three nights running is a pacittiya offense.
Digging soil or commanding that it be dug is a pacittiya offense.
Intentionally cutting, burning, or killing a living plant is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 11/294)
Handing food or medicine to a mendicant ordained outside of
Buddhism is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 41/381)
When on almsround with another bhikkhu: Sending him back so that
he won't witness any misconduct one is planning to indulge in is
a pacittiya offense. (Pc 42/383)
To sit down intruding on a man and a woman in their private
quarters -- when one or both are sexually aroused, and when
another bhikkhu is not present -- is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Watching a field army -- or similar large military force -- on
active duty, unless there is a suitable reason, is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 48/397)
Staying more than three consecutive nights with an army on active
duty -- even when one has a suitable reason to be there -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 49/399)
Going to a battlefield, a roll call, an array of the troops in
battle formation, or to see a review of the battle units while
one is staying with an army is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 50/400)
Taking an intoxicant is a pacittiya offense regardless of whether
one is aware or not that it is an intoxicant. (Pc 51/402)
Tickling another bhikkhu is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 52/405)
Jumping and swimming in the water for fun is a pacittiya offense.
Attempting to frighten another bhikkhu is a pacittiya offense.
Lighting a fire to warm oneself -- or having it lit -- when one
does not need the warmth for one's health is a pacittiya offense.
Bathing more frequently than once a fortnight when residing in the
middle Ganges Valley, except on certain occasions, is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 57/411)
Hiding another bhikkhu's bowl, robe, sitting cloth, needle case,
or belt -- or having it hid -- either as a joke or with the
purpose of annoying him, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc 60/419)
Traveling by arrangement with a group of thieves from one village
to another -- knowing that they are thieves -- is a pacittiya
offense. (Pc 66/430)
Entering a king's sleeping chamber unannounced, when both the king
and queen are in the chamber, is a pacittiya offense. (Pc
Picking up a valuable, or having it picked up, with the intent of
putting it in safe keeping for the owner -- except when one finds
it in a monastery or in a dwelling one is visiting -- is a
pacittiya offense. (Pc 84/463)
* * * * * * *
The Patimokkha is available to us in several recensions, some in
Indic languages, others in Tibetan or Chinese translations. However,
of the Indic recensions, only one -- the Pali -- is still a living
tradition, recited fortnightly, and put into practice by Theravadin
bhikkhus throughout the world. This is the recension translated and
explained in this book.
The meaning of the term //patimokkha// is a matter of conjecture.
According to the Mahavagga, it means "the beginning, the head (or
entrance -- //mukha//), the foremost (//pamukha//) of skillful
qualities." (Mv.II.3.4) The term serves as the name not only of the
basic code of training rules, but also of a sermon in which the
Buddha enumerated the basic principles common to the teachings of
all Buddhas: "The non-doing of all evil, the performance of what is
skillful, and the purification of one's heart: this is the Buddhas'
message." (Dhp.183) Thus whatever the etymology of the term
//patimokkha//, it denotes a set of principles basic to the practice
of the religion.
The basic code of training rules for bhikkhus, in its Pali
recension, contains 227 rules, divided into eight sections in
accordance with the penalty assigned by each rule: //parajika//,
defeat; //sanghadisesa//, formal meeting; //aniyata//, undetermined;
//nissaggiya pacittiya//, forfeiture and confession; //pacittiya//,
confession; //patidesaniya//, acknowledgement; //sekhiya//,
training; and //adhikarana-samatha//, settlement of issues. The
following chapters will discuss the precise meanings of these terms.
Three of these terms, though, do not denote penalties. The aniyata
rules give directions for judging uncertain cases; the sekhiya rules
simply say, "(This is) a training to be followed," without assigning
a particular penalty for not following them; and the
adhikarana-samatha rules give procedures to follow in settling
issues that may arise in the Community. Thus there are only five
types of penalty mentioned in the Patimokkha rules themselves,
ranging from permanent expulsion from the Community to simple
confession in the presence of another bhikkhu. None of the
penalties, we should note, involve physical punishment of any kind.
And we should further note that the purpose of undergoing the
penalties is not somehow to absolve one from guilt or to erase any
bad kamma one may incur by breaking the rules; rather, the purpose
is both personal and social: to strengthen one's resolve to refrain
from such behavior in the future, and to reassure the other bhikkhus
that one is still serious about following the training.
In addition to the penalties directly mentioned in the rules,
there are also penalties derived from the rules by the Vibhanga and
commentaries. These derived penalties deal with two sorts of cases:
1) A bhikkhu tries to commit an action mentioned in one of the
rules, but the action for one reason or another does not reach
completion (e.g., he tries to kill a person, but the person doesn't
die). 2) A bhikkhu commits an action not directly covered in any
rule, but similar to one that is (e.g., he strikes an unordained
person, which is not directly covered in a rule, while the act of
striking a bhikkhu is).
Penalties of this sort, when derived from the parajika and
sanghadisesa rules, include thullaccaya (grave offense) and dukkata
(wrong doing); those derived from the nissaggiya pacittiya,
pacittiya, and patidesaniya rules -- except for the rule against
speaking insults -- include only the dukkata. The penalties derived
from the rule against speaking insults include dubbhasita (wrong
speech) as well. As for the sekhiya rules, the Vibhanga states that
to disobey any of them out of disrespect entails a dukkata. All of
these derived penalties may be cleared through confession.
There may, of course, be times when the assigned penalties are not
enough to deter an unconscientious bhikkhu from committing an
offense repeatedly. In such cases, the Community in which he is
living may, if it sees fit, formally impose additional penalties on
him as a means of bringing him into line. These formal acts range
from stripping him of some of the privileges of seniority, to
banishment from that particular Community, and on to suspension from
the Bhikkhu Sangha as a whole. In each case the punishment is
temporary; if the bhikkhu realizes his errors and mends his ways,
the Community is to revoke the act against him and return him to his
Thus, taken as a whole, the Vinaya's system of penalties makes use
of three basic principles -- confession, forfeiture, and various
degrees of ostracism from the Community -- as means of enforcing the
rules. To understand the wisdom of this system, it is important to
realize how each of these principles is related to the practice of
the Dhamma and the training of the mind.
//Confession//: There are several spots in the discourses (e.g.,
D.2, M.140) where the Buddha states, 'It is growth in the discipline
of a Noble One that a person sees a transgression (of his own) as a
transgression, makes amends for it in accordance with the Dhamma,
and achieves restraint in the future.' From the context each time
the Buddha makes this statement, it is clear that "makes amends"
means confessing one's mistakes. In another passage (M.61), the
Buddha informs his son, Rahula, that if one sees that one's words or
deeds have harmed oneself or others, one should confess them to a
knowledgeable companion in the Holy Life. All those who have
purified their thoughts, words, and deeds in the past, all those who
are doing so in the present, and all those who will do so in the
future, he adds, have acted, are acting, and will act in just this
way. In addition, one of the basic requisites for exerting oneself
in the practice is that one not be fraudulent or deceitful, and that
one declare oneself to one's knowledgeable companions in the Holy
Life in line with one's actual behavior (A.V.53). Thus a willingness
to confess one's misdeeds is an essential factor in progress along
//Forfeiture//, in most cases, is simply a symbolic adjunct to
confession. One forfeits the object in question, confesses the
offense, and then receives the object in return. In a few cases,
though -- where the object is improper for a bhikkhu to use or own
-- one must break it or forfeit it for good. In these cases,
forfeiture serves as a check against greed and as a reminder of two
essential principles -- contentment with little and fewness of wants
-- that are absolutely basic to the practice.
//Ostracism//: In a famous passage (S.XLV.2), the Buddha tells
Ven. Ananda, "Being a friend, a companion, a colleague with
admirable people is the entirety of the Holy Life. When a bhikkhu is
a friend, a companion, a colleague with admirable people, he can be
expected to develop the Noble Eightfold Path and make much of it."
Thus one of the few things a bhikkhu serious about the practice
would naturally fear would be to be ostracized by the well-behaved
members of the Community, for that would be a true barrier to his
spiritual progress. This fear would then help deter him from any
action that might entail such ostracism.
In this way, the Vinaya's system of penalties provides
rehabilitation for offenders and deterrence against offenses -- with
confession the means of rehabilitation, and ostracism the deterrent
-- growing directly out of principles basic to the practice of the
Offenses. In analyzing offenses for the purpose of determining
penalties, the Vibhanga divides an action into five factors: the
object, the perception, the intent, the effort, and the result. In
some of the rules, all five factors play a role in determining what
is and is not a full offense. In others, only two, three or four
play a role. For example, under the parajika rule forbidding murder,
all five factors have to be present for a full offense: The object
has to be a human being, the bhikkhu has to perceive him/her as a
living being, he has to have murderous intent, he has to make an
effort for the person to die, and the person has to die.
If any of these factors are missing, the penalty changes. For
instance, object: If the bhikkhu kills a dog, the penalty is a
pacittiya. Perception: If he cremates a friend, thinking that the
friend is dead, then even if the friend is actually alive but
severely comatose, the bhikkhu incurs no penalty. Intent: If he
accidentally drops a rock on a person standing below him, he incurs
no penalty even if the person dies. Effort: If he sees a person fall
into the river, but makes no effort to save the person, he incurs no
penalty even if the person drowns. Result: If he tries to kill a
person, but only succeeds in injuring him, he incurs a thullaccaya.
There are some rules, though, where the factors of intention,
perception, and result do not make any difference in determining
offenses. For example, if a bhikkhu is sleeping alone in a room and
a woman comes in and lies down in the room with him, he incurs the
pacittiya for lying down in the same lodging as a woman even though
his intention was to lie down alone and he was unaware of her
presence. A bhikkhu who drinks a glass of wine, thinking it to be
grape juice, incurs the pacittiya for taking intoxicants all the
same. A bhikkhu who tries to frighten another bhikkhu incurs a
pacittiya regardless of whether or not the other bhikkhu is actually
Another variation is that in rules where a bhikkhu may be put into
a passive role in committing an act that would fulfill the factor of
effort, the factor of intention is changed to consent: mental
acquiescence to the act combined with a physical or verbal
expression of that acquiescence. Under some rules, such as the rule
against sexual intercourse, simply letting the act happen counts as
physical acquiescence even if one lies perfectly still, and the
question of whether or not one incurs a penalty depends entirely on
the state of one's mind. Under other rules, though -- such as the
rule against lustful contact with a woman, which includes cases
where the woman is the agent making the contact -- simply lying
still is not enough to count as a physical sign of acquiescence, and
even if one consents mentally, say, to a woman's fondling, one would
incur a penalty only if one says something or responds with a
physical movement to what she is doing.
The factor of effort is basic to every rule and is also used to
determine offenses in cases where a bhikkhu intends to break a rule
but does not complete the action. For instance, in the case of
stealing, the efforts involved are said to begin when, acting under
the intent to steal, a bhikkhu gets dressed and starts walking to
the object. With each of these preliminary efforts -- literally,
with every step -- he incurs a dukkata. At first glance, this may
seem extreme, but when we view his state of mind as having ultimate
importance, this system of assigning penalties is appropriate. In
cases like this, if the bhikkhu completes the act, the penalties he
incurred in the preliminary efforts are nullified, and he is left
with only the penalty imposed by the rule.
Thus it is important, when reading about each training rule, to
pay attention to what role these five factors play in determining
the offenses related to the rule. And, of course, it is important
for each bhikkhu to pay attention to all five of these factors in
all of his actions to make sure that he does not fall at any time
into an offense. This is where training in discipline becomes part
of the training of the mind leading to Awakening. A bhikkhu who is
mindful to analyze his actions into these five factors, to be aware
of them as they arise, and to behave consistently in such a manner
that he avoids committing any offenses, is developing three
qualities: mindfulness; an analytical attitude towards phenomena in
his thoughts, words, and deeds; and persistence in abandoning
unskillful qualities and developing skillful ones within himself.
These are the first three of the seven factors of Awakening, and
form the basis for the remaining four: rapture, tranquility,
concentration, and equanimity.
The Parivara (VI.4), in reviewing the Vibhanga's five factors for
analyzing offenses, devises a number of categories for classifying
offenses, the most important being the distinction between rules
carrying a penalty only when broken intentionally through correct
perception (//sacittaka//), and those carrying a penalty even when
broken unintentionally or through misperception (//acittaka//).
Although it may seem harsh to impose penalties for unintentional
actions, we must again reflect on the state of mind that leads to
such actions. In some acts, of course, the intention makes all the
difference between guilt and innocence. Taking an article with
intent to return it, for example, is something else entirely from
taking it with intent to steal. There are, however, other acts with
damaging consequences that, when performed unintentionally, reveal
carelessness and lack of circumspection in areas where a person may
reasonably be held responsible. Many of the rules dealing with the
proper care of communal property and one's basic requisites fall in
this category. Except for one very unlikely situation, though, none
of the major rules carry a penalty if broken unintentionally, while
the minor rules that do carry such penalties may be regarded as
useful lessons in mindfulness.
The Parivara (IV.7.4) also lists six ways in which offenses can be
1) //unconscientiously//, i.e., knowing that an action is contrary
to the rules, but going ahead with it anyway;
2) //unknowingly//, i.e., not realizing that the action is
contrary to the rules;
4) //assuming something improper to be proper//, e.g., drinking a
glass of apple wine perceiving it to be apple juice;
5) //assuming something proper to be improper//, e.g., perceiving
a glass of apple juice to be apple wine, and drinking it
6) //acting out of uncertainty//, i.e., not being sure if an
action is proper, but going ahead with it anyway. In this last case,
if the action is improper, one is to be treated according to the
relevant rule. If it is proper, one incurs a dukkata in any event
for having acted irresponsibly.
Another scheme introduced in the ancient commentaries for
classifying offenses is the distinction between those that the world
criticizes (//loka-vajja//) and those that only the rules criticize
(//pannati-vajja//). The Commentary defines this distinction by
saying that loka-vajja offenses are committed with an unskillful
state of mind (i.e., greed, anger or delusion), whereas
pannati-vajja offenses are committed with a skillful state of mind.
Thus the concepts would seem to have been developed originally to
deal with the exceptional cases in which a bhikkhu would be led by
mature consideration to break a rule -- e.g., where another person's
life would be at stake. Under such circumstances, the world at large
would not criticize his actions, although the rules would impose a
As these concepts finally took shape in the ancient commentaries,
though, they became a way of classifying rules. The compilers
apparently felt that some of the rules forbade actions that
necessarily were motivated by an unskillful state of mind, whereas
others forbade actions that might be motivated by skillful states of
mind. Given this use of the distinction, the Vinaya Mukha redefines
the terms as follows:
"Some offenses are faults as far as the world is concerned --
wrong and damaging even if committed by ordinary people who are
not bhikkhus -- examples being robbery and murder, as well as
such lesser faults as assault and verbal abuse. Offenses of
this sort are termed loka-vajja. There are also offenses that
are faults only as far as the Buddha's ordinances are concerned
-- neither wrong nor damaging if committed by ordinary people;
wrong only if committed by bhikkhus, on the grounds that they
run counter to the Buddha's ordinances. Offenses of this sort
are termed pannati-vajja."
Even a cursory glance at the Patimokkha rules will show that many
of them deal with the latter sort of offense, and that such offenses
concern relatively minor matters. The question often arises, then:
Why this concern with minutiae? The answer is that the rules deal
with social relationships -- among the bhikkhus themselves and
between the bhikkhus and the laity -- and that social relationships
are defined by seemingly minor points.
Take, for instance, the rule that a bhikkhu may not eat food
unless it is handed to him or to a fellow bhikkhu by an unordained
person on that day. This rule has wide-ranging ramifications. It
means, among other things, that a bhikkhu may not leave human
society to lead a solitary hermit's existence, foraging for food on
his own. He must have frequent contact with humanity, however
minimal, and in that contact he performs a service to others, even
if simply offering them a noble example of conduct and giving them
an opportunity to develop the virtue of generosity. Many of the
other seemingly trivial rules -- such as those forbidding digging in
the soil and damaging plant life -- will reveal, on reflection,
implications of a similar scope.
The Great Standards. Although the Vibhanga and Khandhakas cover an
enormous number of cases, they do not, of course, cover every
possible contingency in the world; and from what we have seen of the
way in which the Buddha formulated the rules -- dealing with cases
as they arose -- there is reason to doubt that he himself wanted
them to form an airtight system. As for cases that did not arise
during his lifetime, he established the following four guidelines
for judgment -- called the Great Standards (a separate set from
those he formulated at Bhoganagara) -- for judging cases not
mentioned in the rules:
"Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is
not allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it
goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.
"Whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not
allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes
against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.
"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is
allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it
goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.
"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is
allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes
against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you."
These four Great Standards, when properly applied, are an
important tool for extending the principles of discipline into
situations unknown in the Buddha's time. We will have occasion to
refer to them frequently in the course of this book.
There is evidence in the Canon that the Buddha's own attitude
towards discipline was not one of strict legalism. Take, for
instance, this discourse:
"At one time the Blessed One was living in Vesali, in the Great
Wood. Then a certain Vajjian bhikkhu went to him...and said:
'Lord, more than 150 training rules come up for recitation
every fortnight. I cannot train in reference to them.'
"'Bhikkhu, can you train in reference to the three trainings:
the training in heightened virtue, the training in heightened
mind, the training in heightened discernment?'
"'Yes, Lord, I can....'
"'Then train in reference to those three trainings....When you
train in reference to the training in heightened virtue...
heightened mind...heightened discernment, passion will be
abandoned in you, aversion...delusion will be abandoned in you.
Then with the abandoning of passion...aversion... delusion, you
will not do anything unskillful or engage in any evil.'
"Later on, that bhikkhu trained in heightened virtue...
heightened mind...heightened discernment....Passion...
aversion...delusion were abandoned in him....He did not do
anything unskillful or engage in any evil." (A.III.85)
Another discourse with a similar point:
"'Bhikkhus, more than 150 training rules come up for recitation
every fortnight, in reference to which young men desiring the
goal train themselves. There are these three trainings in which
they (the training rules) are all contained. What three? The
training in heightened virtue, the training in heightened mind,
the training in heightened discernment. These are the three
trainings in which they are all contained....
"'There is the case, bhikkhus, where a bhikkhu is fully
accomplished in virtue, concentration, and discernment (i.e.,
is an arahant). With reference to the lesser and minor training
rules, he falls into offenses and rehabilitates himself. Why is
that? Because it is not said to be an impossibility. But as for
the training rules that are basic to the holy life and proper
to the holy life, his virtue is steadfast and firm. Having
undertaken them, he trains in reference to the training rules.
Because of the ending of (mental) effluents, he dwells in the
release of awareness and release of discernment that are free
from effluent, having known and made them manifest for himself
right in the present....
"'Those who are partially accomplished attain a part; those who
are wholly accomplished, the whole. The training rules, I say,
are not in vain.'" (A.III.88)
* * * * * * * *
The Dhamma and Vinaya impinge in such detail on so many areas of
one's life that no new bhikkhu can be expected to master them in a
short time. For this reason, the Buddha arranged for a period of
apprenticeship -- called //nissaya//, or dependence -- in which
every newly ordained bhikkhu must train under the guidance of an
experienced bhikkhu for at least five years before he can be
considered competent to look after himself.
This apprenticeship has formed the human context in which the
practice of the Buddha's teachings has been passed down for the past
2,600 years. To overlook it is to miss one of the basic parameters
of the life of the Dhamma and Vinaya. Thus we will discuss it here
first, before going on to the individual training rules of the
Dependence is of two sorts: dependence on one's preceptor
(//upajjhaya//) and dependence on a teacher (//acariya//). The
relationships are similar -- and in many details, identical -- so
the following discussion will use the word "mentor" to cover both
preceptor and teacher wherever the pattern applies to both, and will
distinguish them only where the patterns differ.
//Choosing a mentor//. Before ordination, one must choose a
bhikkhu to act as one's preceptor. The Mahavagga (I.36-37) gives a
long list of qualifications a bhikkhu must meet before he can act as
a preceptor, while the Commentary divides the list into two levels:
ideal and minimal qualifications. A bhikkhu who lacks the minimal
qualifications incurs a dukkata if he acts as a preceptor; a bhikkhu
who meets the minimal but lacks the ideal qualifications is not an
ideal person to give guidance, but he incurs no penalty in doing so.
//The ideal qualifications:// The preceptor should have an
arahant's virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and knowledge
of release; and should be able to train another person to the same
level of attainment. He should have faith, a sense of shame, fear of
evil, persistence in the practice, and quick mindfulness (according
to the Subcommentary, this means that he is constantly mindful of
whatever mental object is before the mind). He should be free of
heavy and light offenses and be possessed of right view. (This last
point, the Commentary says, means that he does not adhere to the
extremes of eternalism or annihilationism.) He should be competent
to tend to a sick pupil, or to find someone who will tend to him,
and to allay dissatisfaction in a pupil who wants to leave the
The Mahavagga does not say outright that these are ideal, as
opposed to minimal, qualifications, but the Commentary offers as
proof the fact that one of a pupil's duties is to try to allay any
dissatisfaction that may arise in his preceptor. If all preceptors
were arahants, no case of this sort would ever arise, and there
would be no need to mention it. Thus the Commentary concludes that
arahantship, although ideal in a preceptor, is not necessary.
//The minimal qualifications//: The preceptor must be learned and
intelligent. According to the Commentary, this means that he knows
enough of the Dhamma and Vinaya to govern a following and is
intelligent enough to know what is and is not an offense. He must be
competent enough to allay any anxiety a pupil may have over the
rules, know what is and is not an offense, what is a light offense,
what is a heavy offense, and how an offense may be removed. He must
have detailed knowledge of both Patimokkhas (the one for the
bhikkhus and the one for the bhikkhunis) and be able to train the
pupil in the bhikkhus' customs (Com.: this means that he knows the
Khandhakas), in the basic rules of the chaste life (Subcom.: he
knows both Vibhangas), the higher Dhamma, and the higher Vinaya. He
must be able to dissuade his pupil from adhering to a wrong view, or
find someone who will help dissuade him. And -- the most basic
requirement -- he must have been ordained as a bhikkhu for ten years
If, for some reason, the new bhikkhu lives in a separate monastery
from his preceptor, he must take dependence under a teacher, whose
qualifications are precisely the same as those for a preceptor.
Since the Mahavagga (I.72.1) gives a dukkata for taking dependence
under an unconscientious bhikkhu, the new bhikkhu is allowed four to
five days to observe his potential teacher's conduct before taking
dependence under him (Mv.I.72.2).
//Taking dependence//. Prior to his ordination -- and usually, as
part of the ceremony itself -- the candidate must make a formal
request for dependence from his preceptor. The procedure is as
Arranging his upper robe over his left shoulder, leaving his right
shoulder bare, he bows down to the preceptor and then, kneeling with
his hands palm-to-palm in front of his heart, repeats the following
passage three times:
Upajjhayo me bhante hohi,
which means, "Venerable sir, be my preceptor."
If the preceptor responds with any of these words -- //Sahu
//(very well), //lahu// (certainly), //opayikam// (all right),
//patirupam// (it is proper) or //pasadikena sampadehi// (manage it
amiably) -- the dependence has taken hold. The Mahavagga adds that
if the preceptor indicates any of these meanings by gesture, that
also counts; and according to the Commentary, the same holds true if
he makes any equivalent statement. (Mv.I.25.7)
If, after his ordination, the new bhikkhu needs to request
dependence from a teacher, the procedure is the same, except that
the request he makes three times is this:
Acariyo me bhante hohi; ayasmato nissaya vacchami,
which means, "Venerable sir, be my teacher; I will live in
dependence on you." (Mv.I.32.2)
//Duties//. The Mahavagga (I.25.6; 32.1) states that a pupil
should regard his mentor as a father; and the mentor, the pupil as
his son. It then goes on to delineate this relationship as a set of
The pupil's duties to his mentor fall into the following five
1. //Attending to the mentor's personal needs//. The Mahavagga
goes into great detail on this topic, giving precise instructions
dealing with every conceivable way a pupil can be of service to his
mentor. The Vinaya Mukha tries to reduce these duties to a few
general principles, but this misses much of what the Mahavagga has
to offer, for it is in the details that we can see fine examples of
mindfulness in action -- the best way to fold a robe, clean a
dwelling, and so forth -- as well as indications of how one can use
this aspect of one's training to develop sensitivity to the needs of
others. Still, the detailed instructions are so extensive that they
would overburden the discussion in this chapter, so I have saved
them for Appendix VIII. Here I will simply give them in outline
form. The pupil should:
a. Arrange his mentor's toiletries for his morning wash-up.
b. Arrange his seat and food for his morning conjey (if he has
any), and clean up after he is finished.
c. Arrange his robes and bowl for his alms round.
d. Follow him on his alms round, if the mentor so desires, and
take his robes and bowl when he returns.
e. Arrange his seat and food for his alms meal and clean up
f. Prepare his bath. If he goes to the sauna, go with him and
attend to his needs.
g. Study the Dhamma and Vinaya from him when he is prepared to
teach. (The Mahavagga describes this as "recitation" and
"interrogation." Recitation, according to the Commentary, means
learning to memorize passages; interrogation, learning to
investigate their meaning.)
h. Clean his dwelling and other parts of his dwelling complex,
such as the restroom and storage rooms, when they get dirty.
2. //Assisting the mentor in any problems he may have with regard
to the Dhamma and Vinaya//. The Mahavagga lists the following
a. If the preceptor begins to feel dissatisfaction with the
celibate life, the pupil should try to allay that
dissatisfaction or find someone else who can.
b. If the preceptor begins to feel anxiety over his conduct
with regard to the rules, the pupil should try to allay that
anxiety, or find someone else who can.
c. If the preceptor begins to hold to wrong views, the pupil
should try to dissuade him from those views or find someone
else who can.
d. If the preceptor has committed a sanghadisesa offense, the
pupil should -- to the best of his ability -- help with the
arrangements for penance, probation, and rehabilitation, or
find someone else who can.
e. If the Community is going to carry out a formal act against
the mentor, the pupil should try to dissuade them from it.
According to the Commentary, this means that he should go to
the various members of the Community individually before the
meeting and try to dissuade them from going through with the
act. If he can't dissuade them, he should try to get them to
lessen its severity (say, from an act of banishment to an act
of censure). If they are justified in carrying out the act,
though, he should not object while the meeting is in progress.
Once they have carried out the act, he should concentrate on
helping his mentor behave so that they will rescind the act as
quickly as possible.
3. //Washing, making, and dyeing the mentor's robes.//
4. //Showing loyalty and respect for the mentor//.
a. The pupil should neither give or receive gifts, nor give or
receive services to/from others without first obtaining the
mentor's permission. According to the Commentary, //others //
here refers to people who are on bad terms with the mentor.
b. The pupil should obtain his mentor's permission before
entering a village, going to a cemetery (to meditate, says, the
Commentary), or leaving the district in which they live. The
Commentary notes, though, that if the mentor refuses one's
request the first time, one should ask up to two more times,
presenting one's reasons as best one can. If the mentor still
refuses, the pupil should reflect on his situation. If staying
with the mentor is not helping his education and meditation,
and if the mentor seems to want him to stay simply to have
someone to look after his (the mentor's) needs, the pupil is
justified in leaving and taking dependence with a new mentor in
his new residence.
5. //Caring for the mentor when he falls ill//, not leaving him
until he either recovers or passes away (Mv.I.25).
According to the Commentary, a pupil is freed from these duties
when he is ill. Otherwise, he should observe all the above duties to
his preceptor as long as he is in dependence on him, and the duties
in sections 1-3 even after he is released from dependence, as long
as both he and the preceptor are alive and still ordained.
As for the duties to one's teacher, the Commentary lists four
types of teachers: the going-forth teacher (the one who gives one
the ten precepts during one's ordination ceremony); the acceptance
teacher (the one who chants the motion and announcements during the
ceremony); the Dhamma teacher (the one who teaches one the Pali
language and Canon); and the dependence teacher (the one with whom
one lives in dependence). With the dependence teacher, one must
observe all the above duties only as long as one is living in
dependence on him. As for the other three, one should observe
sections 1-3 as long as both parties are alive and still ordained.
The Commentary adds that if the mentor already has a pupil who is
performing these duties for him, he may inform his remaining pupils
that they need not take them on. This exempts them from having to
observe them. If he neglects to do this, the pupil who is performing
the duties may inform his fellows that he will take responsibility
for looking after the mentor. This also exempts them. Otherwise,
they incur a dukkata for every duty they neglect to perform.
The mentor's duties to his pupil:
1. //Furthering the pupil's education//, teaching him the Dhamma
and Vinaya through recitation, interrogation, exhortation, and
2. //Providing requisites for the pupil//. If the pupil lacks any
of his basic requisites, and the mentor has any to spare, he should
make up the lack.
3. //Attending to the pupil's personal needs when he is ill//,
performing the services mentioned in section 1 under the pupil's
duties to his mentor.
4. //Assisting the pupil in any problems he may have with regard
to the Dhamma and Vinaya//, performing the services mentioned in
section 2 under the pupil's duties to his mentor.
5. //Teaching the pupil how to wash, make, and dye robes//. If for
some reason the pupil is unable to handle these skills, the mentor
should find someone who can help the pupil with them.
6. //Caring for the pupil when he falls ill//, not leaving him
until he either recovers or passes away (Mv.I.26).
According to the Commentary, the preceptor, going-forth teacher,
and acceptance teacher must observe these duties toward the pupil as
long as both parties are alive and still ordained. As for the Dhamma
and dependence teachers, they must observe these duties only as long
as the pupil is living with them.
//Dismissal//. If the pupil does not observe his duties to his
mentor, the mentor is empowered to dismiss him. In fact, if the
pupil deserves dismissal, the mentor incurs a dukkata if for some
reason he does not dismiss him, just as he would for dismissing a
pupil who did not deserve it (MV.I.27.5-8). The grounds for
dismissal are five:
1. The pupil has no affection for his mentor -- i.e., he shows him
2. He has no faith in his mentor -- i.e., he does not regard him
as an example to follow.
3. He has no shame in front of his mentor -- i.e., he openly
disregards the training rules in his mentor's presence.
4. He has no respect for his mentor -- i.e., he does not listen to
what the mentor has to say, and openly disobeys him.
5. He is not developing under his mentor -- the Commentary
translates //developing// here as developing a sense of good will
for his mentor, but it could also mean developing in his general
education and practice of the Dhamma and Vinaya.
The Vinaya Mukha notes that the mentor should reflect on his own
conduct before dismissing such a pupil. If he has done anything that
would give the pupil valid reason for losing affection, etc., he
should first correct his own conduct. Only after reflecting that
there is no longer anything in his own conduct that would give the
pupil valid reason to disregard him should he go ahead with the
The Mahavagga mentions each of the following statements as a valid
means of dismissal: "I dismiss you." "Don't come back here." "Take
away your robes and bowl." "Don't attend to me." It also states that
if the mentor makes any of these meanings known by gesture -- e.g.,
he evicts the pupil from his quarters and throws his robes and bowl
out after him -- that also counts as a valid means of dismissal
(Mv.I.27.2). The Commentary adds that any statement conveying the
same basic meaning as those above would count as well.
Once a pupil has been dismissed, it is his duty to apologize. If
he doesn't, he incurs a dukkata (Mv.I.27.3). Once the pupil has
apologized, the mentor's duty is to forgive him (Mv.I.27.4). If,
however, he sees that the pupil is still unconscientious, he should
not take him back, for a mentor who takes on an unconscientious
pupil incurs a dukkata (Mv.I.72.1.). Thus the mentor may, if he sees
fit, inflict a non-physical punishment on the pupil before taking
him back on the original footing, to make sure that he has actually
seen the error of his ways. An example of such punishment, mentioned
in the Vinaya Mukha, is simply asking to wait to observe the pupil's
behavior for a while to see whether or not his apology is sincere.
The Commentary recommends that if the mentor refuses to forgive
the pupil, the latter should try to get other bhikkhus in the
monastery to intercede for him. If that doesn't work, he should go
stay in another monastery and take dependence under a senior bhikkhu
there who is on friendly terms with the mentor, in hopes that the
mentor will take this as a sign of the pupil's good intentions and
will eventually grant his forgiveness.
//Dependence lapses//. Mv.I.36.1 says that if a pupil is staying
in dependence with his preceptor, the dependence lapses if:
1. He leaves. According to the Subcommentary, this means that the
preceptor goes to spend the night outside the monastery, regardless
of whether or not he plans to return.
2. He disrobes.
3. He dies.
4. He goes over to another side -- according to the Commentary,
this means that he joins another religion.
In all of the above cases, the commentaries interpret "he" as
referring to the preceptor, although it would seem to refer to the
pupil as well. This would fit with the passages from the Mahavagga,
to be mentioned below, that refer to a new bhikkhu on a journey as
not being in dependence. In such cases, the new bhikkhu is most
likely the one who has left the preceptor, and his leaving is what
has caused the dependence to lapse.
5. He gives a command. This is the one alternative where "he"
clearly refers only to the preceptor. The Commentary interprets
//command// here as dismissal, as discussed above, although the
Vinaya Mukha would also include cases where the preceptor sees that
the pupil qualifies to be released from dependence (see below) and
tells him so.
In each of these cases, a pupil who is not yet released from
dependence must find someone else to take dependence under on that
very day, except in the following instances (taken from the
-- The preceptor leaves, saying that he will be away only for a
day or two, and that the pupil need not ask anyone else for
dependence in the meantime. If it so happens that the preceptor's
return is delayed, he should send word to his pupil, saying that he
still intends to come back. If, however, the pupil receives word
from his preceptor that the latter no longer intends to return, he
should immediately look for a teacher to take dependence under.
-- The preceptor leaves, and the only other senior bhikkhu in the
monastery is one whom the pupil does not know well. In this case,
the pupil is allowed four or five days to observe the senior
bhikkhu's behavior (as mentioned above) before requesting dependence
from him. If, though, the pupil already knows the senior bhikkhu
well enough to feel confident in his conduct, he should take
dependence with him on the day of his preceptor's departure.
If the pupil is staying in dependence on a teacher, the dependence
can lapse for any of six reasons. The first five are identical with
those above, although even the Commentary states that "he leaves,"
the first reason, applies not only to cases where the teacher leaves
but also to cases where the pupil leaves. The sixth reason is:
6. The pupil rejoins his preceptor. The Commentary explains this
by saying that, in effect, the pupil's original dependence on his
preceptor always overrides his dependence on a teacher. If the pupil
happens to see his preceptor and recognize him, or to hear and
recognize his voice -- even if they just happen to pass on the
street -- his dependence on his teacher automatically lapses, and
his dependence on his preceptor is reinstated. If he then returns to
live with his teacher, he must ask for dependence from the teacher
all over again.
The Vinaya Mukha objects to his judgment, saying that "rejoins the
preceptor" should refer to the pupil's actually living with the
preceptor, either in another monastery or in the same monastery
where the teacher lives. This, however, is an area where different
Communities differ in their interpretation, and the wise policy is
to follow the interpretation of the Community in which one lives.
//Temporary exemption from dependence//. Normally a junior bhikkhu
is required to live in dependence under a mentor at all times.
However, Mv.I.73 allows him not to take dependence when living in
the following situations if no qualified bhikkhu is available as a
1) He is on a journey.
2) He is ill.
3) He is caring for an ill person who has requested his help (%).
4) He is living alone in the forest, meditating comfortably,
intending to take dependence if a qualified mentor comes along.
The Commentary, in discussing these allowances, makes the
A bhikkhu on a journey is said to have no mentor available if no
qualified senior bhikkhu is traveling with him. In other words, the
fact that he happens to pass by a monastery with a qualified mentor
does not mean that a mentor is available, and he is allowed to
continue traveling without taking dependence. If, however, he spends
the night in a place where he has taken dependence before, he should
take dependence on the day of his arrival. If he reaches a place
where he has never been before and plans to spend only two or three
days, he need not take dependence; but if he plans to spend a week,
he must. If the senior bhikkhu he requests dependence from says,
"What's the use of taking dependence for only a week?" that exempts
him from this requirement.
As for the bhikkhu living alone in the forest, the Commentary says
that "meditating comfortably" means that his tranquility and insight
meditation are going smoothly. For some reason, though, it says that
this allowance applies only to bhikkhus whose meditation is at a
tender stage and might deteriorate if they were to leave the forest;
if a bhikkhu has attained any of the Noble Attainments -- beginning
with Stream-entry -- he may not make use of this allowance. Why the
Commentary limits the allowance in this way, it doesn't say.
At any rate, once the month before the Rains Retreat arrives, and
no suitable mentor appears, the junior bhikkhu must leave his forest
abode and look for a place where he can take dependence for the
//Release from dependence//. According to Mv.I.53.4, a bhikkhu may
be released from dependence after he has been ordained for five
years, on the condition that he be experienced and competent. If he
is not yet experienced and competent, he must remain under
dependency until he is. If he never becomes experienced and
competent, he must remain in dependence for his entire life as a
bhikkhu. The Commentary adds that, in the last case, if he cannot
find a competent experienced bhikkhu who is senior to him, he must
take dependence with a competent, experienced bhikkhu who is his
To be considered competent and experienced enough to deserve
release from dependence, a bhikkhu must meet many of the same
general qualifications as those for a mentor, except that he need
not possess the competence to look after a pupil, and the minimum
number of years he needs as a bhikkhu is five. None of the texts
divide the qualifications here into ideal and minimal
qualifications, as they do for the mentor, but it seems reasonable
that the same division would apply here as well. This would give us
the following list:
//The ideal qualifications//: The bhikkhu should have an arahant's
virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and knowledge of
release. He should have faith, a sense of shame, fear of evil,
persistence in the practice, and quick mindfulness. He should be
free of heavy and light offenses and possess right view.
//The minimal qualifications//: The bhikkhu must be learned and
intelligent, knowing both Patimokkhas in detail, understanding what
is and is not an offense, what is a light offense, what is a heavy
offense, and how an offense may be removed. And -- the most basic
requirement -- he must have been ordained as a bhikkhu for at least
five years (Mv.I.5-13).
The Commentary expands on the term //learned// here, saying that
the bhikkhu must have memorized:
1. Both Patimokkhas.
2. The Four Bhanavaras -- a set of auspicious chants that are
still regularly memorized in Sri Lanka.
3. A discourse that is helpful as a guide for sermon-giving. (The
Commentary lists as examples the Maha-Rahulovada Sutta [M. 62], the
Andhakavinda Sutta, and the Ambattha Sutta [D. 3].)
4. Three kinds of //anumodana //(rejoicing in the merit of others)
chants: for meals; for auspicious merit-making ceremonies, such as
blessing a house; and for non-auspicious ceremonies, i.e., any
relating to a death.
The Commentary adds that he must also know the rules for such
official acts of the Community as the Patimokkha recitation and the
Invitation Ceremony at the end of the Rains, and be acquainted with
themes for tranquility and insight meditation leading to
This definition of //learned// is not universally accepted, and
some traditions have reworked it. As this is another area where
different Communities have different interpretations, the wise
policy is to adhere to the practice followed in one's Community, as
long as it follows the basic requirements in the Canon, mentioned
Once a pupil has been released from dependence, he need no longer
perform the duties mentioned in sections 4 and 5 under the pupil's
duties to his mentor.
//Return to dependence//. The Cullavagga (I.9-12) states that a
bhikkhu released from dependence may be forced, by a formal act of
the Community, to return to dependence if his conduct is so bad as
to warrant it. The qualifying factors are:
1. He is ignorant and inexperienced.
2. He is full of offenses and has not made amends for them.
3. He lives in unbecoming association with lay people.
If these factors apply to a bhikkhu to the extent that the
Community is "fed up with granting him probation, sending him back
to the beginning, imposing penance, and rehabilitating him" -- these
terms refer to the procedures for dealing with a bhikkhu who has
committed repeated sanghadisesa offenses (see Chapter 5) -- then the
Community is justified in imposing a formal "act of dependence" on
him. This is identical with a formal "act for further misbehavior,"
to be discussed in Chapter 11, and carries the same penalties, the
only difference being that the bhikkhu must live in dependence under
a mentor as long as the act of dependence is in effect. If he mends
his ways to the Community's satisfaction, they may rescind the act
and return his independence.
* * *
At any rate, as we mentioned above, regardless of whether a pupil is
under dependence or released from it, he is still expected to
observe certain duties to his preceptor -- and his preceptor,
certain duties to him -- as long as both are alive and ordained.
This is in line with the fact that they are always to regard each
other as father and son: The preceptor is to take a continuing
interest in his pupil's welfare, and the pupil is to show his
continuing gratitude for the initiation his preceptor has given him
into the bhikkhu's life.
* * * * * * * *
The first rule in the Patimokkha opens with the statement that it --
and, by extension, every other rule in the Patimokkha -- applies to
all bhikkhus who have not disrobed by renouncing the training and
returning to the lay life. Thus the Vibhanga begins its explanations
by discussing what does and does not count as a valid act of
disrobing. Because this is, in effect, the escape clause for all the
rules, I am discussing it first as a separate chapter, for if a
bhikkhu disrobes in an invalid manner, he still counts as a bhikkhu
and is subject to the rules whether he realizes it or not. If he
then were to break any of the Parajika rules, he would be
disqualified from ever becoming a bhikkhu again in this lifetime.
To disrobe, a bhikkhu with firm intent states in the presence of a
witness words to the effect that he is renouncing the training. The
validity of the act depends on four factors:
1. The bhikkhu's state of mind.
2. His intention.
3. His statement.
4. The witness to his statement.
State of mind. The bhikkhu must be in his right mind. Any
statement he makes while insane, crazed with pain, or possessed by
spirits does not count.
Intention. He must seriously desire to leave the Community. If,
without actually intending to disrobe, he makes any of the
statements usually used for disrobing, it does not count as an act
of disrobing. For example, if he makes the statement in jest or is
telling someone else how to disrobe, the fact that he mentions the
words does not mean that he has disrobed. Also, if he says one thing
and means something else -- e.g., if he makes a slip of the tongue
-- that too does not count.
The statement. The Vibhanga gives a wide variety of statements
that one may use to renounce the training. The most basic one
follows the form, "I renounce //x//," where //x// may be replaced
with the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the training, the
discipline (//vinaya//), the Patimokkha, the chaste life, one's
preceptor, one's teacher, one's fellow bhikkhus, or any equivalent
terms. Other examples follow similar forms, such as, "I am tired of
//x//," "What is //x// to me?" "//X// means nothing to me," or "I am
well freed of //x//." A separate form follows the pattern, "I will
be //y//," where //y// may be replaced with a householder, a lay
follower, a novice, a member of another sect, an adherent of another
sect, or any other equivalent term.
The Vibhanga stipulates that the statement may //not// be put in
the conditional tense ("Suppose I were to renounce the training"),
and the Commentary further stipulates that the "//x//" statements
must be in the //present// tense. Thus to say, "I have renounced the
training," or "I will renounce the training," would not be a valid
statement of disrobing.
The witness must be a human being in his or her right mind, and
must understand what the bhikkhu says. This rules out the practice
legendary in Thailand of bhikkhus who disrobe by taking a Buddha
image as their witness, or who disrobe in front of a Bodhi tree on
the assumption that the tree deity counts.
These four factors cover all that is absolutely necessary for an
act of disrobing to be valid. However, each of the different
national traditions has developed a set of formal ceremonies to
surround the act -- such as making a final confession of all one's
offenses and reciting the passage for reflection on one's past use
of the four requisites -- to give psychological weight to the
occasion and to help minimize any sense of remorse one may feel
Because disrobing is a serious act with strong consequences for
one's mental and spiritual well being, it should be done only after
due consideration. Once a bhikkhu decides that he //does// want to
disrobe, he would be wise to follow not only the stipulations given
in the texts but also any additional customs dictated by the
traditions of his particular Community, as a sign to himself and to
others that he is acting seriously and with due respect both for the
religion and for himself.
* * * * * * * *
This term, according to the Parivara, derives from a verb meaning to
lose or be defeated. A bhikkhu who commits any of the four following
offenses has surrendered to his own mental defilements to such an
extent that he defeats the purpose of his having become a bhikkhu in
the first place. The irrevocable nature of this defeat is
illustrated in the Vibhanga with a number of similes: "as a man with
his head cut off...as a withered leaf freed from its stem...as a
flat stone that has been broken in half cannot be put together
again...as a palm tree cut off at the crown is incapable of further
growth." A bhikkhu who commits any of these offenses severs himself
irrevocably from the life of the Sangha and is no longer considered
1.Should any bhikkhu -- participating in the training and
livelihood of the bhikkhus, without having renounced the
training, without having declared his weakness -- engage in
the sexual act, even with a female animal, he is defeated
and no longer in communion.
Effort. In this rule, the term //sexual act refers to all kinds of
sexual intercourse. The Vibhanga classifies the various types of
intercourse by the organs involved -- the genitals, the mouth, the
anus -- and in any of the possible combinations (except for
mouth-to-mouth, which is treated separately under Sanghadisesa 2,
below), the sexual act has been performed when one organ enters the
other even if just to "the extent of a sesame seed." This means that
a bhikkhu engaging in genital, oral, or anal intercourse is subject
to this rule regardless of which role he plays. The question of
whether there is a covering, such as a condom, between the organs is
irrelevant, as are the questions of whether the bhikkhu is actively
or passively involved, and whether or not any of the parties
involved reaches orgasm.
Object. The full penalty under this rule applies to any voluntary
sexual intercourse with a human being, a "non-human" being (a
//yakkha//, //naga//, or //peta//), or a common animal, whether
female, male, neuter, or hermaphrodite.
Performing the sexual act with a dead body -- even a decapitated
head -- also entails the full penalty if the remains of the body are
intact enough for the act to be accomplished.
The Vinita Vatthu also lists two examples of "self-intercourse": A
bhikkhu with a supple back takes his penis into his mouth, and a
bhikkhu with an unusually long penis inserts it into his anus. Both
cases carry the full penalty, which shows that one's own anal and
oral orifices can fulfill the factor of object here.
Knowledge & consent. For the sexual act to count as an offense,
the bhikkhu must know that it is happening and give his consent.
Thus if he is sexually assaulted while asleep or otherwise
unconscious and remains oblivious to what is happening, he incurs no
penalty. If, however, he becomes conscious during the assault or was
conscious right from the start, then whether he incurs a penalty
depends on whether he gives his consent during any part of the act.
Strangely enough, neither the Canon nor the Commentary discusses
the factor of consent in any detail, except to mention by way of
passing that it can apply to the stage of inserting, being fully
inserted, staying in place, or pulling out. From the examples in the
Vinita Vatthu, it would appear that consent refers to a //mental//
state of acquiescence, together with its physical or verbal
expression. Mere physical compliance does not count, as there are
cases where bhikkhus forced into intercourse comply physically but
without consenting mentally and so are absolved of any offense; but
there is some question as to whether a bhikkhu who consents mentally
to letting the sexual act happen would incur the penalty if he
simply lies still and lets it happen, or if he would have to
indicate his consent with a verbal act or physical motion.
As we mentioned in Chapter 1, the rules contains two patterns
concerning what does and does not count as a physical expression of
consent when one is forced into a situation that would break a rule.
In two of the Vinita Vatthu cases mentioned under this rule,
bhikkhus are approached by women who volunteer to fondle them to the
point where they emit semen (%). Both bhikkhus let them go ahead,
and both incur the full penalty under Sanghadisesa 1. In such cases,
simply letting the act happen counts as physical acquiescence. Under
Sanghadisesa 2, however, if a bhikkhu is approached by a woman who
fondles his body, and he consents mentally to what she is doing, he
incurs a penalty if he says something or makes a physical move to
indicate that consent, but no penalty if he remains perfectly still.
None of the texts explain why there are these two patterns, but
two possibilities suggest themselves: (1) It is physically
impossible to emit semen and to enjoy the emission without the
body's moving in one way or another. (2) One is not necessarily
responsible if a woman simply makes contact with one's body, even if
one enjoys the contact; but if one is happy to let her get to the
point where she has one ejaculating, one cannot deny responsibility
for what is happening. In either case, this rule would seem to
follow the pattern for Sanghadisesa 1: If one is sexually assaulted,
one is completely absolved from an offense only if (1) one does not
give one's mental consent at any time during the act or (2) one does
feel mental consent during at least part of the act but puts up a
struggle so as not to express that consent physically or verbally in
any way. If one puts up no struggle and feels mental consent, even
if only fleetingly during the stage of inserting, being fully
inserted, staying in place, or pulling out, one incurs the full
This would seems to be the basis for the Commentary's warning in
its discussion of the Vinita Vatthu case in which a bhikkhu wakes up
to find himself being sexually assaulted by a woman, gives her a
kick, and sends her rolling. The warning: This is how a bhikkhu
still subject to sensual lust should act if he wants to protect his
state of mind.
Derived offenses. The only thullaccaya directly related to this
rule is for the unlikely case of a bhikkhu who attempts intercourse
with the decomposed mouth, anus, or genitals of a corpse. (!) To
attempt intercourse with any other part of a dead body or with any
part of an insentient object, such as an inflatable doll or
mannikin, incurs a dukkata.
The Vibhanga states that if a bhikkhu attempts intercourse with
any part of a living being's body apart from the three orifices, the
case falls under the Sanghadisesa rules -- either Sanghadisesa 1 for
intentional ejaculation or Sanghadisesa 2 for lustful bodily
contact. As we shall see below, the penalties assigned in the latter
case are as follows: if the partner is a woman, a sanghadisesa; if a
//pandaka// (see Sanghadisesa 2), a thullaccaya; if a man or a
common animal, a dukkata. We can infer from the Vibhanga's ruling
here that if a bhikkhu has an orgasm while attempting intercourse
with the decomposed mouth, anus, or genitals of a corpse, with any
other part of a dead body, or with any part of an insentient object,
the case comes under Sanghadisesa 1.
The Commentary disagrees with the Vibhanga on these points,
however, saying that the derived offenses under this rule can
include only dukkata and thullaccaya penalties. In its explanation
of Sanghadisesa 1, it sets forth a system of eleven types of lust in
which the lust for the pleasure of bringing about an ejaculation,
lust for the pleasure of bodily contact, and lust for the pleasure
of intercourse are treated as completely separate things that must
be treated under separate rules. Thus, it says, if a bhikkhu aiming
at intercourse takes hold of a woman's body, it is simply a
preliminary to intercourse and thus entails only a dukkata, rather
than a sanghadisesa for lustful bodily contact. Similarly, if he has
a premature ejaculation before beginning intercourse, there is no
offense at all.
These are fine academic distinctions and are clearly motivated by
a desire to draw neat lines between the rules, but they lead to
practical problems. As the Commentary itself points out, if a
bhikkhu commits an act that falls near the borderline between these
rules, but cannot later report precisely which type of lust he was
feeling in the heat of the moment, there is no way his case can be
judged and a penalty assigned. At any rate, though, there is no
basis in the Canon for the Commentary's system, and in fact it
contradicts not only the Vibhanga's ruling mentioned above, but also
its definition of "lustful" under Sanghadisesas 2, 3, & 4, which is
exactly the same for all three rules and places no limits on the
type of lust involved. All of this leads to the conclusion that the
Commentary's neat system is invalid, and that the Vibhanga's
judgment holds: If a bhikkhu attempts intercourse with any part of a
living being's body apart from the three orifices, the case falls
under the Sanghadisesa rules -- either Sanghadisesa 1 for
intentional ejaculation or Sanghadisesa 2 for lustful bodily contact
-- rather than here.
Blanket exemptions. In addition to bhikkhus who do not know they
are being assaulted or do not give their consent when they do know,
the Vibhanga states that there are four special categories of
bhikkhus exempted from a penalty under this rule: any bhikkhu who is
insane, possessed by spirits, delirious with pain, or the first
offender (in this case, Ven. Sudinna) whose actions prompted the
Buddha to formulate the rule in the first place. The Commentary
notes that anyone who "goes about in an unseemly way, with deranged
perceptions, having cast away all sense of conscience and shame, not
knowing whether he has transgressed major or minor training rules,"
counts as insane here. It recognizes this as a medical condition,
which it blames on the bile. As for spirit possession, it says that
this can happen either when spirits frighten one or when, by
distracting one with sensory images, they insert their hands into
one's heart by way of one's mouth. (!) At any rate, it notes, insane
and possessed bhikkhus are exempt from penalties they incur only
when their perceptions are deranged ("when their mindfulness is
entirely forgotten, and they don't know what fire, gold, excrement,
and sandalwood are") and not from any they incur during their lucid
moments. As for a bhikkhu overcome with pain, he is exempt from
penalties he incurs only during periods when the pain is so great
that he does not know what he is doing.
These four categories are exempted from penalties under //all// of
the rules, although the first offender for each rule is exempted
only for the one time he acted in such a way as to provoke the
Buddha into formulating the rule. I will not mention these
categories again, but the reader should bear them in mind as being
exempt in every case.
Lastly, the Vinita Vatthu to this rule includes an interesting
case that formed the basis for an additional rule:
"At that time a certain monk had gone to the Gabled Hall in
the Great Wood at Vesali to pass the day and was sleeping,
having left the door open. His various limbs were stiff with
the 'wind forces' (i.e., he had an erection). Now at that
time a large company of women bearing garlands and scents
came to the park, headed for the vihara. Seeing the bhikkhu,
they sat down on his male organ and, having taken their
pleasure and remarking, 'What a bull of a man!' they went on
their way, taking up their garlands and scents."
The bhikkhu incurred no penalty, but the Buddha gave formal
permission to close the door when resting during the day.
Summary: Voluntary sexual intercourse -- genital, anal, or
oral -- with a human being, non-human being, or common
animal is a parajika offense.
* * *
2. Should any bhikkhu, in the manner of stealing, take what
is not given from an inhabited area or from the wilderness
-- just as when, in the taking of what is not given, kings
arresting the criminal would flog, imprison, or banish him,
saying, "You are a robber, you are a fool, you are
benighted, you are a thief" -- a bhikkhu in the same way
taking what is not given is defeated and no longer in
This rule against stealing is, in the working out of its details,
the most complex in the Patimokkha and requires the most explanation
-- not that stealing is a concept especially hard to understand,
simply that it can take so many forms.
The Vibhanga defines the act of stealing in terms of four factors:
1) //Object//: anything belonging to another person, a group
of persons, or a location (such as the offerings made to a
2) //Perception//: One perceives that the object belongs to
another person, etc.
3) //Intention//: One decides to steal it.
4) //Effort//: One takes possession of it.
Stealing under any circumstances is always an offense. However,
the severity of the offense depends on another factor, which is --
5) //The value of the object//.
Object. For an object to qualify as //what is not given// -- the
rule's term for anything that may be the object of a theft -- it
must belong to another person or be guarded as common property of a
group or of a location, such as the offerings to a Buddha image,
chedi, or other sacred place, as mentioned above. A further
stipulation is that the owner or person responsible for guarding the
object has neither given nor thrown it away. Thus there is no
offense for a bhikkhu who takes a discarded object, such as rags
from a pile of refuse; unclaimed things from a wilderness; or things
unclaimed by any human being but in the possession of an animal or
ghost. The Vinita Vatthu mentions an interesting case in which the
groundskeeper in an orchard permits bhikkhus to take fruit from the
orchard, even though he was not authorized to do so. The bhikkhus
committed no offense.
The question of property belonging to the Sangha logically fits
here, but since the topic is fairly complex, I will treat it as a
special case below
Perception. For the act of taking "what is not given" to count as
theft, one must also //perceive //the object as being something not
given. Thus there is no offense if one takes an object, even if it
is "not given," if one sincerely believes that it is ownerless or
thrown away. Similarly, if a bhikkhu takes an object mistaking it
for his own or as belonging to a friend who has given him permission
to take his things on trust, there is no offense. Or again, a
bhikkhu who takes things from the Community's common stores, on the
assumption that he has the right to help himself, commits no offense
even if the assumption proves false.
Intention. The act of taking "what is not given," even when one
perceives it as "not given," counts as theft only if one's intention
is to steal it. Thus if a bhikkhu takes an object on loan or on
trust, he commits no offense. According to the Commentary, to take
something on loan means that one has the intention that, "I'll
return it," or "I'll make compensation."
As for taking an object on trust, Mv.VIII.1.19 lists five
conditions that must be met if a bhikkhu is rightly to take an
object on trust:
a. The owner is a friend.
b. He/she is an intimate.
c. He/she has given one permission to take from his/her
d. He/she is still alive.
e. One is confident that he/she will not mind.
If any of these factors is lacking -- for example, the owner is a
good friend but has never given explicit permission to take from
his/her things -- one has no right to take the things on trust.
However, the Vinita Vatthu gives the case of a bhikkhu who takes an
item mistakenly thinking that he had the right to take it on trust;
the Buddha termed this a "misconception as to trust" and did not
impose a penalty.
The most common problem that arises in this area is when one
sincerely assumes that the owner will not mind, but it turns out
that he/she does. In cases of this sort there is no offense, and the
matter is left to the bhikkhu and the owner to settle on their own
as amicably as possible.
A bhikkhu who, seeing an article left in a place where it might be
damaged, puts it in safe keeping for the owner, commits no offense.
Effort. Assuming that all of the above conditions are met -- the
object belongs to someone else, one perceives it as belonging to
someone else, and one intends to steal it -- if one then takes it,
that constitutes stealing. The question then arises as to precisely
what acts constitute //taking//. To summarize the Vibhanga's
treatment of this question, we can classify objects into two broad
types: moveable and immovable.
Moveable items are said to be taken when they are moved entirely
from their "base(s)," i.e., the spot(s) on which they rest. An
object such as a box or a trunk lying flat along the ground or
touching its support at a single area has a single base and counts
as "taken" if it has been moved entirely from its base. An object
such as a table or chair touching its support at a number of
separate places has that number of bases. For instance, a stool with
three legs touches the floor at three points and so has three bases.
An object with more than one base is "taken" when it has been moved
from all of its bases. Thus a television set standing on four legs
is taken when all four of its legs have been lifted or slid away
from the four spots on which they were standing.
If a moveable object is placed on another moveable object, such as
a television set placed on a cart, there are two ways to count it as
taken -- either when it is removed from its base on the cart or when
the wheels of the cart have been moved from all of their bases on
the floor -- whichever occurs first.
If person A is carrying an object, and person B tries to take it
from him, it is counted as taken even if B succeeds only in moving
it from one spot on A's body to another.
According to the Vibhanga, if a person holding an object with the
owner's permission then decides to abscond with it, it counts as
taken when he shifts it to another part of his person (e.g., into
his pocket) or places it elsewhere. The Vinaya Mukha, however, takes
issue with this point, saying that cases of this sort should be
treated under the terms of a breach of trust, which is discussed
Animals are reckoned to have one base (e.g., snakes, any reclining
animal) or more (e.g., chickens or dogs on their feet) in the same
way as inanimate objects, and are said to be taken when they are
pulled, chased, etc., completely from their base(s).
When a bhikkhu takes a moveable object in theft, the question of
whether he makes off with it is irrelevant as far as the offense is
concerned. For example, if he tries to steal a radio and succeeds in
moving it completely from its base, but then hears the owner coming
and so returns it to its original place, the owner would not even
know that the object was in danger of being taken, and the civil law
would regard the act at most as an attempted theft. As far as the
Vinaya is concerned, though, the theft occurred when the bhikkhu
first moved the object, and the fact that he returned it would not
erase the theft. He would still be guilty of an offense.
As for immovable objects -- land or things such as buildings or
trees affixed to the land -- these are taken when the rightful owner
unwillingly abandons his claim to them of his own accord (through
fear of intimidation or reluctance to incur the expense and bother
of a court battle) or when he is forced to do so by a court of law
and cannot, or does not, make a further appeal. In the Buddha's
time, a court dispute involving land was considered fully settled
when the winner of the case staked out his claim with the permission
of the court. Thus the Vibhanga states that a bhikkhu who unfairly
wins a court case of this sort has "taken" the land when he formally
stakes out his claim after winning the case. At present we would say
that he has taken the land when he receives the deed.
Immovable objects in the secondary sense -- trees, buildings, etc.
-- are treated in the same light as ordinary moveable objects if a
bhikkhu cuts them down or dismantles them: They count as taken when
removed from their bases.
These are the general considerations for determining when an
object is taken. The Vibhanga, though, cites a number of additional
cases involving special contingencies, as follows:
a. //Fraudulence//: Objects are being distributed by lot to
the Community. A bhikkhu desiring the portion rightfully
going to another bhikkhu exchanges his ticket for the other
bhikkhu's ticket. The "taking" is accomplished when the
tickets have been exchanged.
b. //Breach of trust//: A person places goods in trust with
a bhikkhu. When the owner comes to ask for their return, the
bhikkhu claims that he does not have them. The taking is
accomplished when the owner stops pressing his claim. If the
case goes to court, the taking is accomplished when the
owner loses the case in the final court to which he appeals.
c. //Embezzlement//: A bhikkhu responsible for items kept in
a storeroom removes one of the items from the storeroom. The
taking is accomplished when the item leaves the storeroom's
d. //Smuggling//: A bhikkhu carrying items subject to an
import duty hides them as he goes through customs. The
taking is accomplished when the item leaves the customs
area. If, however, the bhikkhu informs the customs official
that he has an item subject to customs duty, and yet the
official decides not to collect the duty, the bhikkhu incurs
no penalty. And there is no penalty if the bhikkhu goes
through customs not knowing that he has an item subject to
import duties among his effects.
Special cases cited in the Commentary include the following:
a. //False dealing//: A bhikkhu makes counterfeit money or
uses counterfeit weights. The taking is accomplished when
the counterfeit is accepted.
b. //Extortion//: Using threats, a bhikkhu compels the owner
of an object to give it to him. The taking is accomplished
when the owner complies.
The value of the object. As stated above, any case of stealing
counts as an offense, but the gravity of the offense is determined
by the value of the object. This is the point of the phrase in the
rule reading, "just as when there is the taking of what is not
given, kings...would banish him, saying... 'You are a thief.'" In
other words, for theft to entail a parajika, it must be a case of
grand larceny, which in the time of the Buddha meant that the goods
involved were worth at least five //masakas//, a unit of money used
at the time. Goods valued collectively at more than one masaka but
less than five are grounds for a thullaccaya; goods valued
collectively at one masaka or less are grounds for a dukkata, the
worth of the articles being determined by the price they would have
fetched at the time of the theft.
This leaves us with the question of how a masaka would translate
into current monetary rates. No one can answer this question with
any certainty, for the oldest attempt to peg the masaka to the gold
standard dates from the V/Subcommentary, which sets one masaka as
equal to 4 rice grains' weight of gold. At this rate, the theft of
an item worth 20 rice grains' (1/24 troy ounce) weight of gold or
more would be a parajika offense.
One objection to this method of calculation is that some of the
items mentioned in the Vinita Vatthu as being grounds for a parajika
when stolen -- e.g., a pillow, a bundle of laundry, a robe, a
handful of rice during a famine -- would seem to be worth much less
than 1/24 troy ounce of gold, but we must remember that many items
regarded as commonplace now might have been viewed as expensive
luxuries at the time.
In spite of this objection, there is one very good reason for
adopting the standard set by the V/Subcommentary: It sets a high
value for the least article whose theft would result in a parajika.
Thus when a bhikkhu steals an item worth 1/24 troy ounce of gold or
more, there can be no doubt that he has committed the full offense.
When the item is of lesser value, there will be inescapable doubt --
and when there is any doubt concerning a parajika, the tradition of
the Vinaya consistently gives the bhikkhu the benefit of the doubt:
He is not compelled to disrobe. A basic principle operating
throughout the texts is that it is better to risk letting an
offender go unpunished than to risk punishing an innocent bhikkhu.
There is a second advantage to the V/Subcommentary's method of
calculation: its precision and clarity. Some people have recommended
adopting the standard expressed in the rule itself -- that if the
theft would result in flogging, imprisonment or banishment by the
authorities in that time and at that place, then the theft would
constitute a parajika -- but this standard creates more problems
than it would solve. In most countries the sentence is largely at
the discretion of the judge or magistrate, and the factor of value
is only one among many taken into account when determining the
penalty. This opens a whole Pandora's box of issues, many of which
have nothing to do with the bhikkhu or the object he has taken --
the judge's mood, his social philosophy, his religious background,
and so forth -- issues that the Buddha never allowed to enter into
the consideration of how to determine the penalty for a theft.
Thus the V/Subcommentary's method of calculation has the benefits
that it is a quick and easy method for determining the boundaries
between the different levels of offense in any modern currency; it
involves no factors extraneous to the tradition of the Vinaya, and
-- as noted above -- it draws the line at a value above which there
can be no doubt that the penalty is a parajika.
If a bhikkhu steals several items on different occasions, the
values of the different items are added together to determine the
severity of the offense //only if they were stolen as part of a
single plan or intention//. If they are stolen as a result of
separate intentions, each act of stealing is treated as a separate
offense whose severity depends on the value of the individual
item(s) stolen in that act. This point is best explained with
In a case given in the Vinita Vatthu, a bhikkhu decides to steal a
spoonful of ghee from a jar. After swallowing the spoonful, he
decides to steal one more. After that he decides to steal another,
and so on until he has finished the jar. Because each spoonful was
stolen as a consequence of a separate plan or intention, he incurs
several dukkatas, each for the theft of one spoonful of ghee.
If, however, he decides at one point to steal enough lumber to
build himself a hut and then steals a plank from here and a rafter
from there, taking lumber over many days at different places from
various owners, he commits one offense in accordance with the total
value of all the lumber stolen, since he took all the pieces of wood
as a consequence of one prior plan.
Derived offenses. If a bhikkhu tries to steal an article that
would be grounds for a parajika but does not succeed -- e.g., he is
going to steal a book from a shelf, but before he can remove it from
its place on the shelf he hears someone approaching and so walks off
without taking it -- he commits a lighter offense in accordance with
the effort made. Offenses of this sort are called offenses committed
in the //pubbayoga// or preliminary steps. In the case of stealing,
they are determined as follows:
//Inanimate moveable objects:// If the article is made to
budge slightly, but is not moved completely from its base,
or from some but not all of its bases -- thullaccaya. All
actions prior to this, beginning with the act of walking
toward the object with intent to steal it -- dukkata.
//Animals:// If in driving the animal along the bhikkhu gets
it to move its front feet -- thullaccaya. All actions prior
to this -- dukkata.
//Immovable objects and articles placed in trust//: If the
bhikkhu creates doubt in the mind of the owner as to whether
he will deprive him/her of the property in question --
thullaccaya. All actions prior to this -- dukkata.
//Immovable objects in the secondary sense (e.g., a tree)://
If with one more blow of the ax the tree will fall --
thullaccaya. All actions prior to this -- dukkata, unless
(according to the Vinaya Mukha) there is a training rule
imposing a higher penalty, such as the pacittiya rule
concerning injury to plant life.
For ease of remembrance, if the bhikkhu is one step away from
taking the object, he incurs a thullaccaya; if he does not go that
far, he incurs one or more dukkatas.
In offenses of this sort, when a heavier penalty is incurred, only
that penalty is counted, and the preceding lighter ones are
nullified. For example, in the case mentioned above, if the bhikkhu
trying to steal the book simply touches it, he incurs a string of
dukkatas for each step in walking up to the book and taking hold of
it. If he budges the book slightly but not so much as to move it
completely from its spot, the dukkatas are nullified and replaced
with a thullaccaya. If he actually takes the book, that nullifies
the thullaccaya and replaces it with a parajika.
Shared responsibility. A bhikkhu can commit an offense not only if
he himself steals an object, but also if he incites another to
steal. The offenses involved in the acts leading up to the crime are
If a bhikkhu tells an accomplice to steal an object that would be
grounds for a parajika, he incurs a dukkata. If the accomplice
agrees, the instigator incurs a thullaccaya. Once the accomplice
succeeds in taking the object as instructed -- whether or not he
gets away with it, and whether or not he shares it with the
instigator -- the instigator incurs a parajika. If the accomplice is
a bhikkhu, he too incurs a parajika. If the object would be grounds
for a thullaccaya or a dukkata, the only penalties incurred prior to
the actual theft would be dukkatas.
If there is any confusion in carrying out the instructions --
e.g., if the accomplice, instead of taking the book specified by the
instigator, takes something else instead; or if he is told to take
it in the afternoon but instead takes it in the morning -- the
instigator incurs only the penalties for proposing the theft and
persuading the accomplice, and not the penalty for the theft itself.
The same holds true if the instigator rescinds his order before the
theft takes place, but the accomplice goes ahead and takes the
According to the Commentary, an instigator who wishes to call off
the theft before it is carried out, but who for one reason or
another cannot get his message to the accomplice in time, incurs the
full penalty for the completed theft.
If there is a chain of command -- Bhikkhu A telling Bhikkhu B to
tell Bhikkhu C to tell Bhikkhu D to commit the theft -- then once D
takes the object as instructed, all four incur the penalty coming
from the theft. If there is any confusion in the chain of command --
e.g., Bhikkhu B instead of telling C tells D directly -- neither A
nor C incurs the penalty for the theft itself.
If bhikkhus go in a group to commit a theft, but only one of them
does the actual taking, all still incur the penalty coming from the
theft. Similarly, if they steal valuables worth collectively more
than five masakas but which when divided among them yield shares
worth less than five masakas each, all incur a parajika.
Special cases. As mentioned above, the notion of stealing covers a
wide variety of actions. The texts mention a variety of actions that
border on stealing, some of them coming under this rule, some of
//Belongings of the Sangha//. According to the Commentary to
Nissaggiya Pacittiya 30, an item belongs to the Sangha when donors,
intending for it to be Sangha property, offer it to one or more
bhikkhus representing the Sangha, and those bhikkhus receive it,
although not necessarily into their hands. Sangha property thus
counts as "what is not given" as far as individual bhikkhus are
concerned, for it has an owner -- the Sangha of all times and places
-- and is guarded by the individual Community of bhikkhus.
Sangha property is divided into two sorts: light (//lahu-bhanda//)
and heavy (//garu-bhanda//). Light property includes such things as
robes, bowls, medicine, and food. Heavy property includes such
things as monastery land, buildings, and furnishings. The Buddha
gave permission for individual Communities to appoint certain of
their members to be officials responsible for the proper use of
Sangha property. The officials responsible for light property are to
distribute it among the members of the Community, following set
procedures to ensure that the distribution is fair. Once an
individual member has received such property, he may regard it as
his own and use it as he sees fit.
In the case of heavy property, though, the officials are
responsible for seeing that it is allotted for proper use in the
Community, //but the individual bhikkhus who are allowed to use it
may not regard it as their own personal property//. This is an
important point. At most, such items may be taken on loan or
exchanged -- with the approval of the Community -- for other heavy
property of equal value. A bhikkhu who gives such items away to
anyone -- ordained or not -- perceiving it as his to give, incurs a
thullaccaya, no matter what the value of the object. Of course, if
he knows that it is not his to give or take, then in appropriating
it as his own he incurs the penalty for stealing.
The Buddha was highly critical of any bhikkhu who gives away heavy
property of the Sangha. In the origin story to Parajika 4, he cites
the case of a bhikkhu who, hoping to find favor with a lay person,
gives that person some of the Sangha's heavy property. Such a
bhikkhu, he says, is one of the five great thieves of the world.
A bhikkhu who takes heavy property of the Sangha donated for use
in a particular monastery and uses it elsewhere incurs a dukkata. If
he takes it on loan, he commits no offense.
//Receiving stolen goods//. Accepting a gift of goods, or
purchasing them very cheaply knowing that they were stolen, would in
Western criminal law result in a penalty similar to stealing itself.
However, neither the Canon nor the commentaries mention this case.
The closest they come is in the Vinita Vatthu, where a groundskeeper
gives bhikkhus fruit from the orchard under his care, even though it
was not his to give, and there was no offense for the bhikkhus. Thus
the implication is that there is no offense for receiving stolen
goods, even knowingly, although a bhikkhu who does so would not be
exempt from the civil law and the consequent proceedings, in the
course of which the Community would probably urge him to disrobe.
(In Thailand, the civil law empowers the police to force a bhikkhu
to disrobe if he is charged with a criminal case.)
//Compensation owed//. The Commentary introduces the concept of
//bhandadeyya//, or compensation owed, to cover cases where a
bhikkhu is responsible for the loss or destruction of another
person's property. It defines this concept by saying that the
bhikkhu must pay the price of the object to the owner or give the
owner another object of equal value to the one lost or destroyed; if
he abandons his responsibility to the owner, he incurs a parajika.
The Commentary applies this concept not only to cases where the
bhikkhu knowingly and intentionally destroys the object, but also to
cases where he borrows or agrees to look after something that then
gets lost, stolen, or destroyed through his negligence; or where he
takes an item mistakenly thinking that it was discarded or that he
was in a position to take it on trust.
To cite a few examples: A bhikkhu breaks another person's jar of
oil or places excrement in the oil to spoil it. A bhikkhu who is
charged with guarding the Community storeroom lets a group of other
bhikkhus into the storeroom to fetch belongings they have left
there; they forget to close the door and, before he remembers to
check it, thieves slip in to steal things. A group of thieves steal
a bundle of mangoes but, being chased by the owners, drop it and
run; a bhikkhu sees the mangoes, thinks that they have been thrown
away, and so eats them after getting someone to present them to him.
A bhikkhu sees a wild boar caught in a trap and, out of compassion,
sets it free but cannot reconcile the owner of the trap to what he
has done. In each of these cases, the Commentary says, the bhikkhu
in question owes compensation to the owner of the goods. (In the
case of the mangoes, he must compensate not only the owners but also
the thieves if it turns out that they had planned to come back and
fetch the fruit.) If he abandons his responsibility to the owner(s),
he incurs a parajika.
In making these judgments, the Commentary is probably following
the civil law of its day, for the Canon contains no reference at all
to the concept of bhandadeyya, and some of its judgments would seem
to contradict the Commentary's. For instance, the Vinita Vatthu
mentions a case in which a bhikkhu knowingly sets fire to a field of
grass (which in those days would have been worth more than five
masakas), and yet it assigns only a dukkata to the action. When it
discusses cases where a bhikkhu takes an item on mistaken
assumptions, or where he feels compassion for an animal caught in a
trap and so sets it free, it says that there is no offense at all.
Thus it seems strange for an action that, according to the Canon,
carries a dukkata or no penalty whatsoever to become grounds for a
parajika. Of course, in all cases of this sort it would be a wise
policy to offer the owner reasonable compensation, but it is by no
means certain that a bhikkhu would have the wherewithal to do so.
The Canon places only one responsibility on him: to apologize to the
owner (see Cv.I.18-20). If he doesn't apologize, the Community, if
it sees fit, can force him to. Beyond that, though, the Canon does
not require that he make any material compensation at all. Thus, as
the Commentary's concept of bhandadeyya is clearly foreign to the
Canon, there seems no reason to adopt it.
//Court actions//. As stated above, if a bhikkhu knowingly starts
an unfair court case against someone else and then wins it in the
final court to which the accused makes appeal, he incurs a parajika.
The Commentary to the Bhikkhuni's Sanghadisesa 1, however, states
that even if a bhikkhu is actually mistreated by someone -- defamed,
physically injured, robbed, etc. -- and then tries to take a just
court action against the guilty party, he incurs a parajika if he
wins. Again, this is an instance where the Commentary has no support
from the Canon and, as the Vinaya Mukha points out, its assertion
cannot stand. However, the training of a bhikkhu requires that he
view all losses in the light of kamma and focus on looking after the
state of his mind rather than on seeking compensation in social or
There is no question in any of the texts that if a bhikkhu is
asked to give evidence in a courtroom and does so, speaking in
accordance with the facts, he commits no offense no matter what the
outcome for the others involved.
//Deceit//. If a bhikkhu uses a deliberate lie to deceive another
person into giving an item to him, the transgression is treated not
as a case of stealing -- since, after all, the item is given to him
-- but rather as a case of lying. If the lie involves making false
claims to superior meditative attainments, it is treated under
Parajika 4. If not, it is treated under Pacittiya 1. The Vinita
Vatthu gives two examples:
During a distribution of requisites in the Community, a bhikkhu
asks for and is given an extra portion for a non-existent bhikkhu.
A bhikkhu approaches his teacher's lay supporter and asks for
medicines, saying that they will be for his teacher, although he
actually plans to use them himself instead.
In both of these cases, the penalty is a pacittiya for lying.
//Compassion//. The Vinita Vatthu contains a case in which a
bhikkhu, out of compassion, releases an animal caught in a hunter's
snare. He incurs no penalty.
In another case, a bhikkhu with psychic powers uses them to
retrieve a pair of kidnapped children. The Buddha states that this
entails no penalty because such a thing lies in the province of
those with psychic power. The Vinaya Mukha, in discussing this case,
takes it as a precedent for saying that if a bhikkhu returns a
stolen article to its legal owner, there is no offense. The Buddha's
statement, though, was probably meant to discourage bhikkhus without
psychic powers from getting directly involved in righting wrongs of
this sort. If a bhikkhu happens to learn of the whereabouts of
stolen goods, kidnapped children, etc., he may inform the
authorities, if he sees fit, and let them handle the situation
//Taking articles from undecomposed corpses//. In the early days
of the Sangha, bhikkhus were expected to make their robes from
discarded cloth, one source being the cloths used to wrap corpses
laid in charnel grounds. (The bhikkhus would wash and boil the cloth
before using it themselves.) However, they were not to take cloth
from undecomposed bodies, and this was for a reason.
"At one time a certain bhikkhu went to the charnel ground and took
hold of discarded cloth on a body not yet decomposed. The spirit of
the dead one was dwelling in the body. It said to the bhikkhu,
'Honored sir, don't take hold of my cloak.' The bhikkhu, ignoring
it, went off (with the cloak). The body, arising, followed closely
on the heels of the bhikkhu until the bhikkhu, entering the vihara,
closed the door, and the body fell down right there."
The story gives no further details, and we are left to imagine for
ourselves both the bhikkhu's state of mind while being chased by the
body and his friends' reaction to the event. As is usual with the
stories in the Vibhanga, the more outrageous the event, the more
matter-of-fact is its telling, and the more its humor lies in the
At any rate, as a result of this incident the Buddha laid down a
dukkata penalty for taking cloth from an undecomposed body -- which,
according to the Commentary, means one that is still warm.
Modern cases. The modern world contains many forms of ownership
and monetary exchange that did not exist in the time of the Buddha,
and so contains many forms of stealing that did not exist then
either. Here are a handful of cases that come to mind as examples of
ways in which the standards of this rule might be applied to modern
//Breach of copyright.// The international standards for copyright
advocated by UNESCO state that breach of copyright is tantamount to
theft. They go on to state, however, that if one duplicates
articles, books, cassette tapes, or video tapes for private use, for
study, or for non-profit distribution, one may copy as much as one
likes. In some countries, though, one is allowed to copy only small
portions of copyrighted material for such purposes, although exactly
how small is only vaguely defined. Thus, as local copyright laws do
not always adopt the UNESCO standard, a bhikkhu should check with
the law before copying anything. In particular, the agreements
covering the copying of commercial computer software usually do not
permit the owner to give copies of the software to anyone for any
reason, and limit the number of copies one may make for one's own
use. One should follow such agreements to the letter.
//Credit cards//. The theft of a credit card would of course be an
offense. The seriousness of the offense would be determined by how
much the owner would have to pay to replace the stolen card.
Nissaggiya Pacittiya 20 would forbid a bhikkhu from using a credit
card to buy anything even if the card were his to use, although a
bhikkhu who had gone to the extent of stealing a card would probably
not be dissuaded by that rule from using it or having someone else
use it. At any rate, each use of a stolen card would also count as a
theft, the seriousness of which would be calculated in line with the
principle of the "prior plan" mentioned above.
//Long distance telephone calls//. Unauthorized use of a telephone
to place long distance calls would also count as a theft, and again
the seriousness of the offense would be calculated in light of the
principle of the prior plan.
//Tax evasion//. If a bhikkhu intentionally does not pay a tax to
which he is subject -- say, on an inheritance he receives -- he is
guilty of a theft, which would occur on the deadline for payment of
the tax. Of course, a bhikkhu who fails to pay a tax out of
ignorance would not be guilty of an offense.
Exchanging currency on the black market is also a form of tax
evasion in countries where there is a tax on currency exchange, so a
bhikkhu in such a country who directs his steward to change money on
the black market would be guilty of a theft. If, however, the
steward on his own initiative exchanges money on the black market
for use in the bhikkhu's account, the bhikkhu commits no offense.
Summary: The theft of anything worth 1/24 ounce troy of gold
or more is a parajika offense.
* * *
3. Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of
life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the
advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): "My good
man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death
would be better for you than life," or with such an idea in
mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise
the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is
defeated and no longer in communion.
This rule against intentionally causing the death of a human being
is best understood in terms of five factors, all of which must be
present for there to be a parajika offense.
1) //Object//: a human being, which according to the
Vibhanga includes human fetuses as well, counting from the
time consciousness first arises in the womb immediately
after conception up to the time of death.
2) //Intention//: knowingly, consciously, deliberately, and
purposefully wanting to cause that person's death.
"Knowingly" also includes the factor of --
3) //Perception//: perceiving the person as a living being.
4) //Effort//: whatever one does with the purpose of causing
that person to die.
5) //Result//: The person dies as the result of one's act.
Object. The Vibhanga defines a human being as a person "from the
time consciousness first becomes manifest in a mother's womb, up to
its death-time." (The concept of //death-time//, since it relates
most directly to questions that arise in treating the terminally
ill, will be discussed in the section dealing with that topic,
below.) It follows from this that a bhikkhu who intentionally causes
an abortion -- by arranging for the operation, supplying the
medicines, or giving advice that results in an abortion -- incurs a
parajika. A bhikkhu who encourages a woman to use a means of
contraception that works after the point of conception would be
guilty of a parajika if she were to follow his advice.
There is a series of cases in the Vinita Vatthu in which bhikkhus
provide medicines for women seeking an abortion, followed by two
cases in which a bhikkhu provides medicines to a barren woman who
wants to become fertile and to a fertile woman who wants to become
barren. In neither of these two latter cases does anyone die, but in
both cases the bhikkhu incurs a dukkata. From this, the Commentary
infers that bhikkhus are not to act as doctors to lay people, an
inference supported by the Vibhanga to Sanghadisesa 13. (The
Commentary, though, gives a number of exceptions to this principle.
See the discussion under that rule.)
The parajika offense is for killing a human being aside from
oneself. A bhikkhu who attempts suicide incurs a dukkata.
A bhikkhu who kills a "non-human being" -- a yakkha, naga, or peta
-- or a devata (this is in the Commentary) incurs a thullaccaya.
According to the Commentary, when a spirit possesses a human being
or an animal, it can be exorcised in either of two ways. The first
is to command it to leave: This causes no injury to the spirit and
results in no offense. The second is to make a doll out of flour
paste or clay and then cut off various of its parts. If one cuts off
the hands and feet, the spirit loses its hands and feet. If one cuts
off the head, the spirit dies, and this is grounds for a
A bhikkhu who intentionally kills a common animal is treated under
Intention & perception. The Vibhanga defines //intentionally// as
"having made the decision knowingly, consciously, and purposefully."
According to the Commentary, //having made the decision// refers to
the moment when one "crushes" one's indecisiveness by taking an act.
//Knowingly// means being aware that, "This is a living being."
//Consciously// means being aware that one's action is depriving the
living being of life. //Purposefully// means that one's purpose is
murderous. Whether one is motivated by compassion, hatred, or
indifference is irrelevant as far as the offense is concerned.
All of the above sub-factors must be present for the factors of
intention and perception to be fulfilled here. Thus there is no
offense for a bhikkhu who causes a death --
//accidentally// -- e.g., accidentally dropping a rock that
kills a person standing below; or toying with a gun, trying
to decide whether or not to kill the person, and the gun
accidentally goes off before he can make up his mind;
//not knowing that a living being was there// -- e.g.,
placing a heavy load on a pile of cloth without realizing
that a person was lying underneath it;
//not conscious that his action is causing death// -- e.g.,
by unwittingly giving poisoned food to another bhikkhu who
eats it and dies;
or when his actions are //motivated by a purpose other than
that of causing death// -- e.g., giving medicine to a fellow
bhikkhu, sincerely trying to help cure him, but the sick
bhikkhu chokes on the medicine and dies.
One aspect of the Commentary's definition of //knowingly// is
worth noting here: One does not need to know that the living being
is a human being for the factor of perception to be fulfilled. Thus
if a bhikkhu hears a noise in the dark and, thinking it to be a wild
animal, stabs it with intent to kill, he incurs a parajika if the
"animal" turns out to be a human being who dies from the wound.
Although this judgment may seem strange, it is supported by a
passage in the Canon: A man digs a pitfall with the thought that
whatever living beings fall into it will perish. The penalty, if an
animal dies as a result, is a pacittiya; if a human being, a
parajika. This shows that the intention/ perception of killing a
living being of any kind fulfills the relevant factors here.
The Vinita Vatthu contains an unusual case of a bhikkhu who uses a
friend as a guinea pig for testing poison. The friend dies, and the
bhikkhu incurs only a thullaccaya. The Commentary explains this by
distinguishing two types of test: one to see if a particular poison
is strong enough to kill a person; the other, to see if a particular
person is strong enough to survive the poison. In either of these
cases, the bhikkhu incurs a thullaccaya whether or not the victim
dies. If, though, the bhikkhu gives poison to a person with the
desire that it cause that person's death, he incurs a parajika if
the victim dies, and a thullaccaya if not.
Effort. This factor covers four types of action: taking life,
assisting a murderer or suicide, describing the advantages of dying,
and inciting a person to die.
a) //Taking life//. The Vibhanga defines //taking life// as
"cutting off the life faculty," and the Commentary's discussion of
this point shows clearly that this means interrupting the continuity
of life before it would reach its "timely" end through the
exhaustion of the victim's merit or life potential The Commentary
lists six means by which one might make such an effort:
-- //One's own person//. This includes using not only one's hands
or feet, but also such weapons as knives, sticks, clubs, etc.
-- //Throwing//: hurling a stone, shooting an arrow or a gun, etc.
-- //Stationary devices//: setting a trap, poisoning food, etc.
-- //Magical formulae//: calling on malevolent spirits to bring
about a person's death, using voodoo, etc.
-- //Psychic powers//. using the "evil eye" or other similar
-- //Commanding//: inciting another person to commit a murder.
This category includes recommendations as well as express commands.
A few examples:
Telling A to kill B. The way in which a bhikkhu is penalized for
getting another person to commit a murder can be inferred from the
discussion of //shared responsibility// under the preceding rule.
The Commentary to this rule goes into great detail concerning the
six ways the command to kill can be specified: the object [the
person to be killed], the time, the place, the weapon to use, the
action by which the weapon is to be used [e.g. "Stab him in the
neck"], and the position the victim should be in [sitting, standing,
lying down] when the act is to be done. If the instigator specifies
any of these things, and yet the person following his orders does
not carry them out to the letter, the instigator does not incur the
penalty for the actual murder. For instance, Bhikkhu A tells his
student to kill B while B is sitting in meditation at midnight. The
student gets into B's room at midnight, only to find B asleep in
bed, which is where he kills him. Bhikkhu A thus incurs only the
thullaccaya for convincing his student to accept the command.
Inciting A to kill B. The Commentary includes a case of a socially
active bhikkhu who tells people, "In such-and-such a place a bandit
is staying. Whoever cuts off his head will receive great honor from
the King." If any of the bhikkhu's listeners kills the bandit as a
result of his instigation, the bhikkhu incurs a parajika.
Recommending means of euthanasia. The Vinita Vatthu includes a
case of a criminal who has just been punished by having his hands
and feet cut off. A bhikkhu asks the man's relatives, "Do you want
him to die? Then make him drink buttermilk." The relatives follow
the bhikkhu's recommendation, the man dies, and the bhikkhu incurs a
Recommending means of capital punishment. Again from the Vinita
Vatthu: A bhikkhu advises an executioner to kill his victims
mercifully with a single blow, rather than torturing them. The
executioner follows his advice, and the bhikkhu incurs a parajika.
This judgment indicates that a bhikkhu should not involve himself in
matters of this sort, no matter how humane his intentions. According
to the Vinita Vatthu, if the executioner says that he will not
follow the bhikkhu's advice and then kills his victims as he
pleases, the bhikkhu incurs no penalty. The Commentary adds that if
the executioner tries to follow the bhikkhu's advice and yet needs
more than one blow to do the job, the bhikkhu incurs a thullaccaya.
As we have mentioned, though, the best course is to leave matters of
this sort to the laity.
b) //Assisting a murderer or suicide.// A bhikkhu may commit an
offense not only by using any of the six above-mentioned means of
taking life, but also by intentionally assisting a person who uses
any of them to commit a murder or a suicide. This is how the
Vibhanga explains the phrase, "search for an assassin" in the rule.
The act of assisting includes not only finding an assassin, but also
procuring weapons for the would-be murderer or suicide.
c) //Describing the advantages of dying//. This, the third type of
act covered by this rule, can include berating a sick person ("Why
do you keep hanging on to life like this? Don't you realize what a
burden you are to others?") or simply telling a person of the
miseries of life or the bliss of dying and going to heaven in such a
way that he/she might feel inspired to commit suicide or simply pine
away to death. The Vibhanga notes that these statements fulfill this
factor whether delivered by gesture, by voice, by writing, or by
means of a messenger
d) //Inciting a person to die//, the fourth type of act, covers:
-- Recommending suicide. This includes not only telling a person
to commit suicide, but also giving advice -- whether requested or
not -- to a would-be suicide on the best ways to commit the act.
-- Telling a person to go to a dangerous place where he/she might
die of the dangers.
-- Arranging a terrible sight, sound, etc. to frighten a person to
death, or a beautiful, "heart-stirring" one to attract a person who
will then pine away to death when it fades.
//Command//. Giving a command or recommendation to get another
person to perform any of these last three types of action --
assisting a murder or suicide, describing the advantages of dying,
or inciting another person to die -- would also fulfill the factor
of effort under this rule.
//Expressing a wish//. According to the Vibhanga, a bhikkhu who
expresses an idle wish that so-and-so be murdered would incur a
dukkata, whether or not he was overheard. If, however, the bhikkhu's
purpose in expressing the wish is that his listener take him up on
it and commit the murder, his action would come under the category
of "command," mentioned above.
//Inaction// does not fulfill the factor of effort here. Thus if a
bhikkhu sits idle when seeing a flood sweep a person down-stream, he
commits no offense -- regardless of his feelings about the person's
death -- even if the person then drowns. Recommending that another
person sit idle as well would also not fulfill this factor, because
the category of "command" here covers only the act of inciting the
listener to do any of the four actions that would fulfill the factor
of effort under this rule.
Result. If a bhikkhu fulfills the factor of effort with the
intention of causing a person's death, and the person dies as a
result, he incurs a parajika. This holds even if the person does not
die immediately, but succumbs later, say, to complications arising
from a wound caused by the bhikkhu. If the person does not die, but
experiences pain or injury as a result of the bhikkhu's efforts, the
penalty is a thullaccaya. If the bhikkhu's efforts result in neither
pain nor death, the penalty is a dukkata for each separate action
leading up to them.
If a bhikkhu intends simply to injure the victim or cause him/her
pain, and yet the victim dies as a result of the bhikkhu's actions,
the case is treated under Pacittiya 74.
There is an apparent contradiction in the Vinita Vatthu concerning
the penalty for a bhikkhu who tries to kill one person but ends up
killing another instead. In one passage, it says that a bhikkhu who
means to kill X but kills Y instead incurs a parajika. In another
passage, it tells of a bhikkhu who gives medicine to a woman who
wants to commit an abortion near the end of a full-term pregnancy.
The woman takes the medicine but, instead of the fetus' aborting,
the woman dies and the infant survives. In this case, the bhikkhu
incurs a thullaccaya, presumably for the pain he caused the infant.
The Commentary tries to resolve this contradiction with an
illustration: A bhikkhu with a grudge against A decides to ambush
him. He sees B coming down the road and, mistaking him for A, shoots
him dead on the spot. Since his intention was to kill the person he
was aiming at, he incurs a parajika. We can call this a case of
mistaken identity. In cases of this sort, whether the "right" or the
"wrong" person dies is of no consequence to the offense.
If, however, the bhikkhu is a poor shot, takes aim at B but misses
him, and inadvertently kills C instead, he does not incur a
parajika, for he did not intend to kill C during any part of his
action. His only penalties are the dukkatas he incurs while
preparing for B's murder.
If a bhikkhu means to cause the death of any member of a group,
then when any member of the group dies as a result of his efforts,
he incurs a parajika.
Caring for the terminally ill. Some of the most highly charged
issues involving this training rule concern the duties of a bhikkhu
acting as nurse, and his accountability in the event that his
patient dies. Not a few controversies have arisen in the past when
highly respected teachers have died after an illness, for there is a
tendency to blame the nurse either for the teacher's death or for
being so intrusive in his care that he does not let the teacher die
in peace. Recent developments in modern medicine -- such as
professionally mandated care, life-support machines, and organ
transplants -- have further complicated the issue of exactly how far
the nurse's accountability goes. Fortunately, the texts are quite
clear on these issues -- applying rules where rules are called for,
and guidelines where rules would be inappropriate -- but to
understand their rationale it is necessary to have some historical
perspective on the subject.
Medical care in the time of the Buddha was primarily the
responsibility of the ill person's family. Subsidized health care
did not exist, and so families had a very real sense of the
exigencies -- their time, their resources, the wishes of the
patient, and the likelihood of his recovery -- that might force them
to provide less than state-of-the-art care, even for a loved one. At
the same time, the current Western system whereby one style of
medical care can establish itself as "standard" -- and can enlist
the help of the law to discredit alternative styles of treatment as
bogus -- also did not exist. Patients and their families had a wide
assortment of treatments to choose from and, given the means to make
a choice, might select a particular style for any number of reasons:
belief in the theory that lay behind it, trust in a particular
doctor, rapport with the means of treatment, etc.
As a result, there was none of the belief, current in some
circles, that outside professionals have the right to monopolize
medical care or to impose their standards of treatment on an
unwilling patient or his family. The choice of treatment was an
in-family matter. If a patient balked at a particular doctor's
treatment, the family was free to decide whether to honor his wishes
and forego the treatment, or to force the treatment on him for his
own good. On the other hand, if the patient's condition reached the
point where the family felt that the doctor's treatment was futile,
unaffordable, or otherwise no longer appropriate, it could dismiss
the doctor and attempt treatment on its own, doing whatever was
within its ability to offer moral support to the patient and
alleviate his pain and discomfort while waiting for factors beyond
its control -- such as the patient's present and past kamma -- to
decide the outcome of the disease.
The principal ethical constraints on this arrangement, ancient
medical textbooks show, were that doctors should not use their
knowledge to aggravate or prolong illness -- to do so would count as
malpractice -- and that no one should subject a patient to treatment
designed to bring on death faster than it would if the disease were
simply allowed to run its course: To defy this principle would count
This, in brief, was the accepted pattern for medical care in the
Buddha's time. The only change the Buddha introduced to the pattern
was to point out to the bhikkhus that, as they had no family to care
for them, they were to take on the role of family for one another.
If a bhikkhu falls ill, it is automatically the duty of his mentor,
his students (if he has any), or fellow students of his mentor to
care for him. These people are to stay with the patient until he
either recovers or dies -- although the Commentary to Mv.I.25.24
points out that they may leave him if they put him into the care of
another. If a bhikkhu happens to fall ill in a place where none of
these people are available, it is the duty of the Community in that
location to care for him. If it doesn't care for him, all the
members of that Community incur a dukkata (MV.VIII.26.3-4).
The Mahavagga contains guidelines for the ill bhikkhu and his
nurses to follow, so that the ill bhikkhu will be easy to care for,
and the nurses will be chosen from among those best suited to the
task. The ill bhikkhu ideally avoids any food, medicine, or activity
that would aggravate his disease; he knows moderation in the things
that will be conducive to his recovery; he takes his medicine; he
reports to the nurse his condition as it actually is; and does his
best to endure his pain (Mv.VIII.26.5).
The nurse ideally is one who knows how to prepare the proper
medicines; knows what is conducive and unconducive to the patient's
recovery; provides the patient with what is conducive and removes
what is not; tends the patient out of kindness, and not from hope of
gain; is not squeamish about cleaning up urine, excrement, sweat, or
vomit; and is competent at encouraging the patient at the
appropriate times with a talk on Dhamma (Mv.VIII.26.5).
There is no offense for a patient who does not live up to the
ideal guidelines for his behavior; and none for a bhikkhu who,
though lacking any of the ideal qualities of nurse, is pressed into
a position where he must care for the sick. The only penalties
mentioned in the Khandhakas are the dukkatas for those who neglect
to care for the ill when they are duty-bound to do so or who abandon
an ill person they are caring for before he recovers or dies.
The Vinita Vatthu to this rule contains only two basic cases in
which a bhikkhu acting as a nurse for an ill friend incurs a
parajika: one in which the friend dies after the bhikkhu gives him a
specific treatment with the purpose of killing him off; and one in
which the bhikkhu, feeling pity for a friend in severe pain, praises
the pleasures that await him after death so that he will give up the
will to live and speed up his death: The friend does so and dies as
a result of the nurse's instigation.
Aside from the parajikas for such cases of out-and-out murderous
action and intent, and the dukkatas for leaving the patient
helpless, the Canon imposes no penalties on a bhikkhu acting as
nurse who provides his patient with less than ideal care. Instead,
within the parameters of those penalties, it offers guidelines for
ideal behavior, together with the encouragement of the Buddha's
remark that, "He who would tend to me should tend to the sick."
(Mv.VIII.26.3) From there it leaves it up to the bhikkhu to exercise
his best judgment, in light of the Dhamma, as to what is most
fitting in his individual case.
A moment's reflection will suggest some obvious reasons for this.
If a particular standard of care were mandated, it would give rise
to countless questions stemming from the many uncontrollable
variables that can surround an illness, questions that rules are
ill-suited to answer: How much must one's resources be depleted
before one can say that a particular type of care is unaffordable?
How should limited resources be allocated when several bhikkhus fall
sick at the same time? What should one do if the patient says that
he does not want to undergo a treatment that a doctor is trying to
press on him? If one follows the patient's request is he assisting a
suicide? Should one follow the doctor's orders and thus risk
damaging the patient's psychological state? The list of questions
could go on, but it is obvious from even these examples that this is
an area less suited for rules than for guidelines that can be
adapted to suit particular circumstances. Decisions here should be
based on a reasoned and compassionate assessment of the particular
situation, rather than on fear of hard and fast penalties and rules.
The commentaries' treatment of the issue of a nurse's
accountability follows the same general pattern as the Canon's, but
we find Buddhaghosa's works -- probably following the ancient
commentaries -- bringing a little more precision to the discussion
by introducing a distinction between //timely// and //untimely//
death that the Commentary applies to the Vinita Vatthu cases. The
distinction comes from Ayurveda -- ancient Indian medical science --
although Buddhaghosa expresses it in purely Buddhist terms, most
fully in the Visuddhi Magga:
"//Timely death// comes about with the exhaustion of merit,
with the exhaustion of life potential (//ayu//), or with
both. //Untimely death// comes about through kamma that
interrupts [other, life-producing,] kamma.
"//Death through exhaustion of merit//, here, refers to the
death that comes about entirely through the finished
ripening of [former] rebirth-producing kamma even when
favorable conditions for prolonging the continuity of the
life potential may still be present. //Death through
exhaustion of life potential// refers to the death that
comes about through the exhaustion of the natural life
potential of human beings, which amounts to only 100
"//Untimely death// refers to the death of those whose
continuity is interrupted by kamma capable of causing them
to fall from their place [on a particular level of being] at
that very moment...or for the death of those whose
continuity is interrupted by attacks with weapons, etc., due
to previous kamma. All these are included under the [term]
//interruption of the life faculty....//" (VIII.2-3)
As we saw above, the Commentary's discussion of //cutting off the
life faculty// refers specifically to instances where one is
bringing about an untimely death. When it applies this point to the
case of the bhikkhu inciting his patient to give up the will to
live, it notes that the bhikkhu incurs a parajika if his act causes
the patient to cut short his/her life even by a moment through such
things as refusing to eat, etc. However, if the patient, not acting
on the bhikkhu's comments, simply dies in line with his/her natural
life potential and continuity, there is no offense.
It is important to note that the Commentary does not at any point
use the distinction of timely and untimely death to make a case that
mere negligence could be the cause of an untimely demise. Instead,
it restricts its use of "untimely death" to cases where the nurse's
care causes the patient to die earlier than he would have in the
absence of care.
From this point of view it is easy to see that the decision not to
have the patient undergo a particular death-delaying treatment would
not count as an offense, for such a decision would do nothing to
speed up the approach of a timely death. In terms of the factor of
effort under this rule, it would count as inaction and thus not
fulfill the factor. Thus if a bhikkhu sees that his patient is dying
and -- for reasons of the expense, the trauma, or the patient's own
wishes -- opts against having him undergo an operation that would
merely delay death, there is no grounds for offense.
In situations where the choice is not between action and inaction,
but between different courses of action, the Commentary's
distinction is helpful in gauging one's //perceptions// and
//intentions// when choosing among treatments. If a bhikkhu caring
for a terminally ill patient opts for an alternative, such as a
strong pain-killer, in hopes that it will weaken the patient's
system and make him die faster than he would otherwise, his aim
would fulfill the factor of intention under this rule. But if he is
presented with a number of alternatives and believes that none of
them would make the patient die before he would without any
treatment, he may choose any of them because neither the perception
nor the intention of bringing on an untimely death would enter into
his decision. Even if it turns out later that the treatment was
instrumental in bringing on the patient's death, the nurse would
still be without blame.
It may seem that the Vinaya is leaving the patient in an
unprotected position here, but we must remember that this is an area
where the Dhamma takes precedence over the Vinaya in providing the
nurse with guidance. Even a nodding acquaintance with the principle
of kamma should be enough to prevent the nurse from being callous in
his decisions. Even a modicum of maturity will make him realize that
the role of nurse provides an excellent opportunity to gain insight
into illness as a natural part of life, as well as training in such
valuable qualities as compassion, patience, mindfulness, strength,
sacrifice, and sensitivity to the needs of others.
As we noted in the Introduction, rules and standards serve
different purposes and are suited to different situations. The
authors of the texts, after using rules against murderous
malpractice and abandonment to delimit this area, were wise to
sketch in the remaining territory with standards aimed at inspiring
the best behavior in the nurse and his patient by appealing to their
Special cases. The Vinita Vatthu includes three special cases that
touch on this rule but inspired the Buddha to formulate separate
rules to deal specifically with them:
A bhikkhu, for the fun of it, throws a stone from a precipice and
accidentally kills a person standing below -- no penalty for the
death, but a dukkata for throwing a stone from a precipice in fun.
A bhikkhu, hoping to commit suicide, throws himself over a cliff.
Instead of dying, he lands on and kills a hapless basket-maker
standing at the foot of the cliff -- again, no offense for the
death, but a dukkata for throwing oneself from a high place.
A bhikkhu, sitting down hard on a chair without first checking it
carefully, kills a child lying in the chair and covered with a
blanket -- again, no penalty for the death, but a dukkata for
sitting down without first checking carefully.
Summary: Intentionally bringing about the untimely death of
a human being, even if it is still a fetus, is a parajika
* * *
4. Should any bhikkhu, without direct knowledge, boast of a
superior human state, a truly noble knowledge and vision as
present in himself, saying, "Thus do I know; thus do I see,"
such that regardless of whether or not he is cross-examined
on a later occasion, he -- being remorseful and desirous of
purification -- might say, "Friends, not knowing, I said I
know; not seeing, I said I see -- vainly, falsely, idly,"
unless it was from over-estimation, he also is defeated and
no longer in communion.
All conscious lies are forbidden by the first pacittiya rule, but
knowingly to make a false claim to a superior human state is the
most heinous lie a bhikkhu can tell, and so here it receives its own
rule and the heaviest possible penalty.
The seriousness with which the Buddha regarded a breach of this
training rule is indicated by his statements to the original
"You misguided men, how can you for the sake of your stomachs
speak praise of one another's superior human states to householders?
It would be better for you that your bellies be slashed open with a
sharp butcher's knife than that you should for the sake of your
stomachs speak praise of one another's superior human states to
householders. Why is that? For //that// reason you would undergo
death or death-like suffering, but you would not on that account, at
the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the
bad bourn, the abyss, purgatory. But for //this// reason you would,
at the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the
bad bourn, the abyss, purgatory....Bhikkhus, in this world with its
gods, maras, and brahmas, its generations with priests and
contemplatives, princes and men, this is the ultimate great thief:
he who claims an unfactual, non-existent superior human state. Why
is that? You have consumed the nation's almsfood through theft."
Superior human states. The Vibhanga lists a large number of
superior human states that the Commentary classifies into two broad
categories: //mahaggata dhamma//, those related to the practice of
meditative absorption; and //lokuttara dhamma//, those related to
the absolute eradication of the mental fetters that bind the mind to
the cycle of rebirth.
a. Meditative absorption -- the Pali term is //jhana// -- is of
two major sorts: absorption in a physical object or sensation
(//rupa jhana//) and absorption in a non-physical object or
sensation (//arupa jhana//). Both contain four levels and are
described in the discourses as follows:
"The bhikkhu -- quite withdrawn from sensual pleasure,
withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters and
remains in the //first jhana//: rapture and pleasure born
from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and
evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills
this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from
"And furthermore, with the stilling of directed thought and
evaluation, he enters and remains in the //second jhana//:
rapture and pleasure born of composure, unity of awareness
free from directed thought and evaluation -- internal
assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills
this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of
"And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains in
equanimity, mindful and fully aware, and physically
sensitive of pleasure. He enters and remains in the //third
jhana//, and of him the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and
mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' He permeates and
pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the
pleasure divested of rapture....
"And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain
-- as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress
-- he enters and remains in the //fourth jhana//: purity of
equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. He
sits permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so
that nothing of his entire body is unpervaded by pure,
bright awareness." (D.2; M.119)
The four levels of arupa jhana are based on the fourth level of
"With the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical)
form, and the passing away of perceptions of resistance, and
not heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, 'Infinite
space,' one enters and remains in the sphere of the
infinitude of space....
"With the complete transcending of the sphere of the
infinitude of space, thinking, 'Infinite consciousness,' one
enters and remains in the sphere of the infinitude of
"With the complete transcending of the sphere of the
infinitude of consciousness, thinking, 'There is nothing,'
one enters and remains in the sphere of nothingness....
"With the complete transcending of the sphere of
nothingness, one enters and remains in the sphere of neither
perception nor non-perception." (D.15)
The Vibhanga mentions only the four rupa jhanas in its list of
superior human states, but as the four arupa jhanas are based on the
fourth rupa jhana, the Commentary includes them in the list as well.
In addition to these states of absorption themselves, the category
of mahaggata dhamma also includes the intuitive powers (//abhinna//)
that can arise from them:
//iddhividhi// -- the ability to manifest one or more images of
oneself, to appear in a different bodily form, to create a
"mind-made" (astral) body, to pass through solid matter, walk on
water, levitate, etc.
//dibba-sota// -- clairaudience, enabling one to hear sounds both
celestial and human, far and near.
//cetopariya-nana// -- the ability to read the minds of other
//dibba-cakkhu// -- clairvoyance, the ability to see beings in
other realms of existence, and in particular to see them pass from
death in one level to rebirth in another.
//pubbe-nivasanussati-nana// -- the ability to remember previous
There are other occult abilities that are not based on jhana and
for this reason do not count as mahaggata dhamma: such things as
divination, giving protective charms, casting malevolent spells,
psychic healing, practicing as a medium, etc. The discourses list
these and other similar activities as //tiracchana-vijja//, bestial
knowledge, which -- as the name implies -- is far removed from
superior human states.
b. //Lokuttara dhamma//, in its fullest sense, refers to the
series of mental states, called paths and fruitions, in which the
fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth are eradicated;
and to the ultimate state of //nibbana//, or liberation.
The paths and fruitions occur in four pairs. In the first pair,
the path to and fruition of stream-entry, three fetters are
abandoned: self-identity views (//sakkaya-ditthi//), uncertainty
(//vicikiccha//), and attachment to precepts and practices
(//silabbata-paramasa//). In the second pair, the path to and
fruition of once-returning, two additional fetters -- sensual
passion (//kama-raga//) and irritation (//patigha//) are weakened,
only to be abandoned fully in the third pair, the path to and
fruition of non-returning. In the fourth pair, the path to and
fruition of arahantship, a final set of five additional fetters is
abandoned: //rupa-raga// -- passion for physical phenomena (e.g.,
the objects of rupa jhana); //arupa-raga// -- passion for
non-physical phenomena (e.g., the objects of arupa jhana); //mana//
-- conceit; //uddhacca// -- restlessness; and //avijja// --
unawareness. With the cutting of this last set of fetters, all bonds
with the cycle of rebirth are cut for good, and the mind attains
The term //nibbana// literally means extinguishing, like a fire.
The commentarial literature (Vism.VIII,247), derives the word
etymologically from //nir//, a negative prefix, and //vana//,
binding. Thus it means unbinding or liberation. In the physics of
the Buddha's time, fire as it burned was said to be in a state of
agitation, dependence, attachment, and entrapment -- both clinging
to and being trapped by its sustenance. Extinguished, it was said to
become calm, independent, and unattached. It let go of its
sustenance and was released. In the mind's extinguishing, or
unbinding, a parallel change occurs.
Nibbana is one; the paths and their fruitions, eight. Thus there
are nine lokuttara dhammas.
Aside from jhana, the other states mentioned in the Vibhanga --
such as the destruction of the mental effluents (//asava//), the
signless emancipation, the desireless emancipation, the emptiness
emancipation, and so forth -- are either synonymous with these
transcendent states or -- as in the case of the "wings" to Awakening
(//bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma//) -- conjoined with them.
The full offense under this rule has five factors:
1) //Effort//: One makes a direct claim
2) //Object//: to a superior human state
3) //Perception//: that one perceives as not present in oneself.
4) //Intention//: One's intention is to misrepresent the truth.
5) //Result//: One's listener understands what one is saying.
Effort. To make a direct claim means to say outright that one has
attained a superior human state, saying such things as, "I have
attained the first jhana," "I have seen the heavenly realms," "I
know my previous lifetimes," etc. Outright claims, here, include not
only spoken statements, but also written statements and physical
gestures. An example of a claim by gesture occurs in the Vibhanga: A
group of bhikkhus make an agreement that the first to set out from
their dwelling would, by that very gesture, be known to the rest as
an arahant. One of the group, who was not an arahant but wanted to
be regarded as one, set out first from the dwelling and was soon
known to the rest as an ex-bhikkhu from having committed a parajika.
//Indirect claims//. An indirect claim to a superior human state
is not grounds for a parajika. If it is a deliberate lie, it is at
most grounds for a thullaccaya. Such claims, which contain an
uncertainty in their wording even though the listener may feel no
uncertainty in understanding their import, may be uncertain in one
of two ways: uncertain as to the person and uncertain as to the
The Vinita Vatthu contains several examples of the first sort: a
bhikkhu states that whoever lives in a particular dwelling is an
arahant, the dwelling being the one where he lives; a bhikkhu saying
that all the disciples of his teacher are arahants, and so forth.
There is only one example in the Vinita Vatthu of a bhikkhu who
makes a claim "uncertain as to the attainment": a sick bhikkhu,
meaning to deceive the fellow bhikkhus nursing him, says to them,
"There is no way that this sickness could be endured by an ordinary
According to the Commentary, if the person to whom such indirect
remarks are directed understands them, the penalty for the speaker
is a thullaccaya. If he/she does not understand them, the penalty is
a dukkata. The factor of understanding is covered in the section on
//Claims about other people//. The original instigators of this
rule, instead of each making claims about his own attainments, made
false claims about one another's attainments. This case is not
mentioned in the Vibhanga or the commentaries and so is not an
offense under this rule, but it would come under Pacittiya 1.
Perception. Claiming a superior human state that one mistakenly
thinks one has achieved is no offense under this rule, although if
addressed to a lay person the claim would come under Pacittiya 8.
The same holds for a claim that is actually true.
If, however, a bhikkhu has attained a superior human state without
realizing it and then claims to have attained the state, thinking
his statement to be a lie, he commits the full offense under this
Intention. To fall under this rule, a claim to have attained any
of these superior human states must be a deliberate lie. "Deliberate
lying," according to the Commentary, requires the arising of the
intention to misrepresent the truth just prior to, and motivating,
the actual statement. When the intention to misrepresent the truth
is absent, the statement does not come under this rule. Examples
would include --
meaning to say one thing, but accidentally saying another
that comes out as a claim to a superior human state; and
innocently making a statement that someone else misconstrues
to be a claim to a superior human state.
Neither of these cases would involve an offense.
//Equivocation//. It is not uncommon for a bhikkhu to be put on
the spot by lay people asking him point-blank about his attainments,
and for him to respond by equivocating. The Vinita Vatthu contains a
number of examples of this sort. In one of them, the bhikkhu
responds by saying, "I have attained a state attainable through the
exertion of effort," which of course could mean almost anything.
Because his purpose was simply to avoid the question, he incurred no
penalty. Had he meant the statement as an indirect claim, he would
have incurred a thullaccaya.
Result. The Vibhanga, in discussing an obscure case, states that
when the listener understands a deliberate lie directly claiming a
superior human state, the bhikkhu making the claim incurs a
parajika. If the listener does not understand, the bhikkhu incurs a
thullaccaya. The Vibhanga mentions this condition only in the
context of a peculiar lie -- one in which the speaker intends to lie
saying one thing but actually states another lie -- but the
Commentary generalizes from this case to say that this condition
applies to //all// cases covered by this rule. Its explanations run
//Understanding//, here, means simply that the listener hears the
statement clearly enough to know that it is a claim. Whether he/she
understands the names for the states claimed -- jhana, clairvoyance,
clairaudience, or whatever -- is not an issue here. The same is true
of whether he/she believes the statement to be true or false. If the
listener to whom the remarks are directed does not understand them,
but a passer-by does, the penalty is still a parajika.
If the listener does not hear the bhikkhu clearly enough to catch
all he says, the penalty is a thullaccaya. If the listener at first
has some doubt as to what the bhikkhu said, but later realizes that
it was a claim to a superior human state, the offense is still a
thullaccaya. If the listener does not hear the bhikkhu at all, the
offense is a dukkata.
As stated above, if a bhikkhu states a deliberate lie in the form
of an indirect claim to a superior human state, he incurs a
thullaccaya if his listener understands that it is a claim, and a
dukkata if not.
According to the Vibhanga, there is a dukkata for a bhikkhu
sitting in solitude who states a deliberate lie directly claiming a
superior human state, and another dukkata if he is overheard by a
devata. The Commentary adds that the same penalty applies if he is
overheard by a non-human being or a common animal.
//Thus, to entail a parajika, the claim to a superior human state
must be a direct claim, a deliberate lie, and must be heard and
quickly understood by another human being//.
Special cases in the Vibhanga:
A bhikkhu, intending to make a false claim for one superior human
state, muddles his words and claims another: a parajika. The
Commentary explains this by noting that all the factors necessary
for a parajika offense are present: The bhikkhu makes a claim based
on the intention to tell a deliberate lie, and the listener
understands the claim. The fact that the intended claim and actual
claim are both superior human states is crucial; the fact that they
are different states is not.
In a series of cases, a person speaking with exaggerated faith or
politeness addresses bhikkhus of no particular attainments as if
they were arahants ("May the arahants come....May the arahants be
seated"). This puts them in a quandary, and so they ask the Buddha
how to behave in such a situation. His response: There is no offense
in accepting invitations such as these from a "speaker with faith"
-- the point being that there is no offense in coming, sitting,
etc., as long as the intention is just to accept the invitation and
not to imply a claim.
A bhikkhu, hoping that people will esteem him, engages in special
practices -- the example given in the Vinita Vatthu is living in the
jungle, but from it we can extrapolate to other practices such as
long periods of sitting, any of the ascetic (//dhutanga//)
practices, vegetarianism, etc., followed so as to impress other
people. The penalty: a dukkata.
Summary: Deliberately lying to another person that one has
attained a superior human state is a parajika offense.
* * *
A bhikkhu who violates any of these four parajika rules is
automatically no longer a bhikkhu. There is no need for him to go
through a formal ceremony of disrobing, for the act of violating the
rule is an act of disrobing in and of itself. Even if he continues
to pretend to be a bhikkhu, he does not really count as one; as soon
as the facts are known he must be expelled from the Sangha. He can
never again properly ordain as a bhikkhu in this life. If he tries
to ordain in a Community that does not know of his offense, his
ordination does not count, and he must be expelled as soon as the
truth is found out.
The Commentary, however, states that such an offender may "go
forth" as a novice if he wants to, although it is up to the
individual Community to consider the circumstances of his offense to
decide whether or not it wants to accept him.
Ignorance of these rules does not exempt an offender from the
penalty, which is why the Buddha ordered that they be taught to each
new bhikkhu as soon as possible after ordination (Mv.I.77). Because
the rules cover a number of cases that are legal in presentday
society (e.g., recommending abortion, proving to oneself how supple
one has become through yoga by inserting one's penis in one's mouth)
or that are common practice among people who see nothing wrong with
flirting with the edges of the law (e.g., copying computer software
for a friend, hiding an article subject to customs duties when
entering a country), it is especially important to inform each new
bhikkhu of the rules' full implications right from the very start.
If a bhikkhu suspects that he has committed a parajika, he should
immediately inform a senior bhikkhu well-versed in the rules. The
way the senior bhikkhu should handle the case is well-illustrated by
a incident reported in the Commentary to Parajika 2: Once a king
together with an enormous crowd came to worship the Great Stupa at a
certain monastery. One of the crowd was a visiting bhikkhu from the
South who was carrying an expensive roll of cloth. The commotion of
the event was so great that the bhikkhu dropped the cloth, was
unable to retrieve it and soon gave it up for lost. One of the
resident bhikkhus happened to come across it and, desiring to steal
it, quickly put it away before the owner might see it. Eventually,
of course, he became tormented by guilt and went to the resident
Vinaya expert to admit a parajika and disrobe.
The Vinaya expert, though, wouldn't let him disrobe until he had
found the owner of the cloth and inquired about it more fully.
Eventually, after a long search, he was able to track down the
original owner at a monastery in the distant South, who told him
that at the time of the theft he had given the cloth up for lost and
had abandoned all mental attachment for it. Thus, as the cloth was
ownerless, the resident bhikkhu had incurred not a parajika, but
simply some dukkatas for the preliminary efforts with intention to
This example shows several things: the great thoroughness with
which a senior bhikkhu should investigate a possible parajika, the
compassion he should show to the offender, and the fact that the
offender should be given the benefit of the doubt wherever possible:
He is innocent until the facts prove him guilty.
Finally, the Commentary concludes its discussion of the parajikas
by noticing that there are altogether 24, actual and virtual, in the
Vinaya. They are:
The four for bhikkhus.
The four additional parajikas for bhikkhunis.
The eleven disqualified types who should not be ordained in the
first place. If they happen to be ordained, their ordination does
not count, and once they are found out they must be expelled for
life (Mv.I.61-68). Thus they are virtual parajikas. They are --
a pandaka (essentially, a eunuch or a person born neuter -- see
a "non-human" being, such as a naga or yakkha, that can assume
a person who poses as a bhikkhu without having been ordained,
a bhikkhu who has ordained in another sect or religion without
first giving up his status as a bhikkhu;
a person who has murdered his father,
a person who has murdered his mother,
a person who has murdered an arahant,
a person who has sexually violated a bhikkhuni,
a person who has injured a Buddha to the point of causing him to
a person who has caused a schism in the Sangha.
In addition to the above actual and virtual parajikas, the
Commentary gives separate listing to the four //anulomika//
(derived) parajikas, which refer to four cases included under
Parajika 1: the bhikkhu with a supple back who sticks his penis in
his mouth, the bhikkhu with a long penis who inserts it into his
anus, the bhikkhu who performs oral intercourse with someone else,
and the bhikkhu who receives anal intercourse.
The 24th Parajika refers to the case of a bhikkhuni who, taking up
the role of a housewife, goes to live in a lay person's household.
This term means "involving the Community in the initial (//adi//)
and subsequent (//sesa//) acts." It refers to the fact that the
Community is the agent that initially calls on the bhikkhu who
breaks any of the rules in this category to undergo the penalty (of
//manatta//, penance, and //parivasa//, probation), subsequently
reimposes the penalty if he does not properly carry it out, and
finally lifts the penalty when he does. There are thirteen training
rules here, the first nine entailing a sanghadisesa immediately on
transgression, the last four only after the offender has been
rebuked three times as a formal act of the Community.
1.Intentional discharge of semen, except while dreaming,
entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community.
The origin story to this rule is as follows:
"Now at that time Ven. Seyyasaka was leading the celibate
life dissatisfied. Because of this, he was thin, wretched,
unattractive, and jaundiced, his body covered with veins.
Ven. Udayin saw that Ven. Seyyasaka was thin...his body
covered with veins; and seeing him, said to him, 'Seyyasaka,
my friend, why are you thin...your body covered with veins?
Could it be that you're leading the celibate life
"'In that case, eat as you like and sleep as you like and
bathe as you like; and having eaten, slept, and bathed as
you like, when dissatisfaction arises and lust assails the
mind, emit semen making do with your hand.'
"'But is it okay to do that?'
"'Of course. I do it myself.'
"So then Ven. Seyyasaka ate as he liked and slept as he
liked...and when dissatisfaction arose and lust assailed his
mind, he would emit semen making do with his hand. Then it
wasn't long before he became attractive, with rounded
features, a clear complexion, and very bright skin. So the
bhikkhus who were his friends said to him, 'Before, friend
Seyyasaka, you were thin...your body covered with veins. But
now you are attractive, with rounded features, a clear
complexion, and very bright skin. Could it be that you're
"'No, I'm not taking medicine, my friends. I just eat as
like and sleep as I like...and when dissatisfaction arises
and lust assails my mind, I emit semen making do with my
"'But do you emit semen making do with the same hand you use
to eat the gifts of the faithful?'
"'Yes, my friends.'
"So the bhikkhus...were offended and annoyed and spread it
about, 'How can this Ven. Seyyasaka emit semen making do
with the same hand he uses to eat the gifts of the
This rule, in its outline form, is one of the simplest to explain.
In its details, though, it is one of the most complex, not only
because the subject is a sensitive matter, but also because the
Commentary deviates somewhat from the Vibhanga in its explanations
of two of the three factors that constitute the full offense.
The three factors are result, intention, and effort: Emission of
semen caused by an intentional effort. When all three factors are
present, the offense is a sanghadisesa. If the last two -- intention
and effort -- are present, the offense is a thullaccaya. Any single
factor or any other combination of two factors -- i.e., intention
and result without making a physical effort, or effort and result
without intention -- is not grounds for an offense.
It may seem strange to list the factor of result first, but I want
to explain it first partly because, in understanding the types of
intention and effort covered by this rule, it is necessary to know
what they are aimed at, and also because result is the one factor
where the Vibhanga and Commentary are in basic agreement.
Result. The Commentary discusses the physiology of semen as it was
understood at the time, and in passing touches on the question of
whether the word //semen// refers to the clear liquid produced in
small quantities by the prostrate and Cooper's glands prior to
ejaculation, or to the seminal fluid released at orgasm (in its
words, "having made the whole body shake, it is released and
descends into the urinary tract.") It concludes that the latter is
what is meant here.
As for the Vibhanga, it devotes long passages to the various
colors and qualities that semen can come in, only to conclude that
the color and quality are irrelevant to the offense. This suggests
that a bhikkhu who has had a vasectomy can still commit an offense
under this rule, since he can still discharge the various components
that go into seminal fluid -- minus only the sperm -- at orgasm.
//Discharge//, according to the Vibhanga, refers to the point in
time when the semen "falls from its base." The Commentary explains
this as the point when the semen enters the urinary tract, because
from that point on the process is irreversible. Thus if the process
of sexual stimulation has reached this point, the factor of result
has been fulfilled, even if one tries to prevent the semen from
leaving the body by pinching the end of one's penis.
Intention. The Vibhanga defines //intentionally// as "having made
the decision knowingly, consciously, and purposefully." According to
the Commentary, "having made the decision" refers to the moment when
one "crushes" one's indecisiveness by taking an act. (These are the
same terms it uses to explain the same phrase under Parajika 3 and
several other rules. The meaning is that one has definitely made up
one's mind to start with the act and is not simply toying with the
idea.) //Knowingly// means that one knows that, "I am making an
exertion." //Consciously// means that one is aware that one's
efforts are bringing about an emission of semen. //Purposefully//
means that one's purpose is to enjoy the bringing about of an
This last point is where the Commentary deviates from the
Vibhanga's discussion of the factor of intention. The Vibhanga,
throughout its analysis, expresses the factor of purpose simply as
"aiming at causing an emission," and it lists ten possible reasons
for wanting to bring the emission about:
for the sake of health,
for the sake of pleasure,
for the sake of a medicine,
for the sake of a gift (to insects, says the Commentary),
for the sake of merit,
for the sake of sacrifice,
for the sake of heaven,
for the sake of seed (to produce a child -- a bhikkhu who gave
semen to be used in artificial insemination would fit in this
for the sake of investigating (to see what color it will be --
ancient medicine sometimes used this as a way of diagnosing
for the sake of fun.
Each of these reasons, the Vibhanga says, fulfills the factor of
intention here. Thus for the Commentary to limit the question of
"purpose" strictly to the enjoyment of the act of bringing about an
emission (numbers 2 and 10 in the Vibhanga's list) has no basis in
the Canon. And so the factor of intention under this rule is
fulfilled when one wants to cause an emission of semen, for no
matter what reason.
Given the way //intention// is defined, there is no offense for a
bhikkhu who brings on an emission of semen --
//accidentally// -- e.g., toying with his penis simply for the
pleasure of the contact, when it suddenly and unexpectedly goes
//not knowing that he is making an effort// -- e.g., when he is
dreaming or in a semi-conscious state before fully waking up from
//not conscious that his efforts are bringing about an emission of
semen// -- e.g., when he is so engrossed in applying medicine to
a sore on his penis that he doesn't realize that he is bringing
on an ejaculation;
or when his efforts are //motivated by a purpose other than that
of causing an emission// -- e.g., when he wakes up, finds that he
is about to have a spontaneous ejaculation, and grabs hold of his
penis to keep the semen from soiling his robes or bedding.
Effort. The Vibhanga defines four types of effort that fulfill
this factor: A bhikkhu causes an emission making an effort (1) at an
internal object, (2) at an external object, (3) at both an internal
and an external object, or (4) by shaking his pelvis in the air. It
then goes on to explain these terms: The internal object is one's
own living body. External objects can either be animate or inanimate
objects. The third type of effort involves a combination of the
first two, and the fourth covers cases when one makes one's penis
erect ("workable") by making an effort in the air.
The extremely general nature of these definitions gives the
impression that the compilers of the Vibhanga wanted them to cover
every imaginable type of bodily effort aimed at arousing oneself
sexually, and this impression is borne out by the wide variety of
cases covered in the Vinita Vatthu. They include, among others, a
bhikkhu who squeezes his penis with his fist, one who rubs his penis
with his thumb, one who rubs his penis against his bed, one who
inserts his penis into sand, one who bathes against the current in a
stream, one who rubs his preceptor's back in the bathing room, one
who gets an erection from the friction of his thighs and robes while
walking along, one who has his belly heated in the bathing room, and
one who stretches his body. In each of these cases, if the bhikkhu
aims at and succeeds in causing an emission, he incurs a
The Vinita Vatthu also includes a case in which a bhikkhu,
desiring to cause an emission, orders a novice to take hold of his
(the bhikkhu's) penis. He gets his emission and a sanghadisesa to
boot, which shows that getting someone else to make the effort for
one fulfills the factor of effort here.
In discussing the factor of effort, though, the Commentary makes a
slight change in the Vibhanga's definition -- that one makes an
effort //with// or //upon// one's own body, etc., rather than //at//
one's own body, etc. -- and adds an additional factor: that the
effort must be directed at one's own penis. If this is so, then a
bhikkhu who succeeds in causing an emission by stimulating any of
the erogenous zones of his body aside from his penis would incur no
penalty. The Commentary itself actually makes this point, and the
Sub-commentary seconds it, although the V/Sub-commentary says that
such a bhikkhu would incur a dukkata -- what it bases this opinion
on, it doesn't say: perhaps a misreading of the Case of the Sleeping
Novice, which we will discuss below.
At any rate, the Commentary in adding this last factor runs up
against a number of cases in the Vinita Vatthu in which the effort
does not involve the penis: the bhikkhu warming his belly, the
bhikkhu rubbing his preceptor's back, a bhikkhu having his thighs
massaged, and others. The Commentary deals with these cases by
rewriting them, stating in most cases that the effort somehow had to
involve the penis. This in itself is questionable, but when the
Commentary actually contradicts the Vinita Vatthu in the case of the
bhikkhu who warms his belly, saying that this sort of effort could
not involve an offense at all, even if one aims at and succeeds in
causing an emission, the commentators have moved beyond the realm of
commenting into the realm of rewriting the rule.
As stated in the Introduction, we have to go on the assumption
that the compilers of the Vibhanga knew the crucial factors well
enough to know what is and is not an offense, and were careful
enough to include all the relevant facts when describing the
precedents in the Vinita Vatthu in order to show how the Buddha
arrived at his judgments. Since the Commentary's position -- adding
the extra factor that the physical effort has to involve one's own
penis -- directly contradicts the Vibhanga on this point, the extra
factor cannot stand.
The question then is why the commentators added the extra factor
in the first place. An answer may be found in one of the cases in
the Vinita Vatthu: the Case of the Sleeping Novice.
"On that occasion a certain bhikkhu grabbed hold of the
penis of a sleeping novice. His semen was emitted. He felt
remorseful....'Bhikkhu, there is no sanghadisesa offense.
There is a dukkata offense.'"
The issue here is whose semen was emitted. Pali syntax, unlike
English, doesn't give us a clue, for there is no rule that the
pronoun in one sentence should refer to the subject of the preceding
sentence. There are many cases under Parajika 3 that follow the
form, "A stone badly held by the bhikkhu standing above hit the
bhikkhu standing below on the head. The bhikkhu died. He felt
remorseful." In these cases it is obvious from the context within
the story which bhikkhu died and which one felt remorseful, while
with the sleeping novice we have to look for the context in terms of
the other parts of the Vibhanga.
If the bhikkhu was the one who emitted semen, then perhaps there
is a contradiction in the Vibhanga, and the Commentary is justified
in saying that the effort must involve one's penis, for otherwise
the case would seem to fulfill the Vibhanga's general definition for
the factor of effort: The bhikkhu is making an effort at an outside
body and has an emission. Following the general pattern of the rule,
he would incur a sanghadisesa if he intended emission, and no
penalty at all if he didn't. Yet the question of intention is not
mentioned at all, and the bhikkhu is given a dukkata, which suggests
If, however, the novice was the one who emitted, there is no
inconsistency at all: The bhikkhu gets his dukkata for making
lustful bodily contact with another man (see the discussion under
Sanghadisesa 2, below), and the case is included here to show that
the full offense under this rule concerns instances where one makes
//oneself// emit semen, and not where one makes others emit. (Other
than this case, there is nothing in the rule or the Vibhanga that
expressly makes this point. The rule simply mentions bringing about
the emission of semen, without explicitly mentioning whose. This
would explain the bhikkhu's uncertainty as to whether or not he had
committed a sanghadisesa.) And the reason there is no mention of
whether or not the bhikkhu intended to emit semen is because -- as
it comes under another rule -- it is irrelevant to the case.
Thus, since the second reading -- the novice was the one who had
an emission -- does no violence to the rest of the Vibhanga, it
seems to be the preferable one. So if this was the case that led the
commentators to add their extra factor, we can see that they misread
it, and that the Vibhanga's original definition for the factor of
effort still stands: Any bodily effort made at one's own body, at
another body or physical object, at both, or any effort made in the
air -- like shaking one's pelvis or stretching one's body --
fulfills the factor of effort here.
One case that does //not// fulfill the factor of effort is when
one is filled with lust and stares at the private parts of a woman
or girl. In the case dealing with this contingency, the bhikkhu
emits semen, but again no mention is made of whether he intended to.
In any event, the Buddha lays down a separate rule, imposing a
dukkata for staring lustfully at a women's private parts. This
suggests that efforts with one's eyes do not count as bodily efforts
under this sanghadisesa, for otherwise the penalty would have been a
sanghadisesa if the bhikkhu had intended emission, and no offense if
he hadn't. And this also suggests that the dukkata under this
separate rule holds regardless of intention or result. The
Commentary adds that this dukkata applies also to staring lustfully
at the genitals of a female animal or at the area of a fully-clothed
woman's body where her sexual organ is, thinking, "Her sexual organ
is there." At present we would impose the penalty on a bhikkhu who
stares lustfully at a woman's private parts in a pornographic
Consent. A special contingency covered by this rule is mentioned
twice in the Vinita Vatthu for Parajika 1: A woman approaches a
bhikkhu and offers to make him emit semen by making do with her hand
(%). The bhikkhu lets her go ahead, and the Buddha says that he
incurs a sanghadisesa in doing so. The commentaries treat the case
as self-evident and offer no extra details. Thus, given the facts as
we have them, it would seem that consent under this rule can be
expressed physically simply by letting the act happen. A bhikkhu who
acquiesces mentally when someone tries and succeeds in making him
emit semen is not absolved from the full offense here even if he
otherwise lies perfectly still throughout the event.
Derived offenses. As stated above, a bhikkhu who fulfills all
three factors -- result, intention, and effort -- incurs a
sanghadisesa. One who fulfills only the last two -- intention and
effort -- incurs a thullaccaya.
People have sometimes asked how much of an effort is necessary to
incur a thullaccaya and, in particular, whether the thullaccaya is
only for cases where a bhikkhu tries to go all the way to an
emission but cannot have one for physical reasons beyond his control
-- e.g., he is unable to have an erection or to produce semen -- or
whether it also covers cases where a bhikkhu starts out trying to
cause an emission but stops short and changes his mind before the
emission can come.
The Vibhanga suggests indirectly that the penalty covers both
cases when it says simply that the thullaccaya is for one who
intends, makes the effort, but does not emit. If it had meant to
limit the penalty to those who //cannot// emit, it would have said
so and would have set some kind of standard for determining when the
bhikkhu passed the threshold from //does not// to //cannot// so that
there would be no doubt as to where the realm of non-offense ends
and thullaccaya begins. But it doesn't.
The Commentary is even clearer on this topic when it discusses the
case of a bhikkhu who, filled with his lust, grabs his penis with
the purpose of causing an emission but drifts off to sleep before an
emission occurs. The emission does occur while he is asleep, though,
and he incurs a sanghadisesa. Since efforts made during sleep do not
count (see below), this shows that the factor of effort does not
need to go all the way to ejaculation in order to count.
In discussing the case of a bhikkhu with fat thighs who develops
an erection simply by walking along, the Commentary mentions that if
one finds sensual "fever" arising in such a case, one must
immediately stop walking and start contemplating the foulness of the
body so as to purify the mind before continuing on one's way.
Otherwise, one would incur a thullaccaya simply for moving one's
legs. //Sensual fever//, here, probably refers to the desire to
cause an emission, for there are several spots where the Commentary
discusses bhikkhus who stimulate an erection simply for the
enjoyment of the contact rather than to cause an emission, and the
judgment is that they incur no penalty, even if an emission does
Aside from the thullaccaya, there are no other derived offenses
under this rule. A bhikkhu who has an ejaculation while thinking
sensual thoughts but without making any physical effort to cause it,
incurs no penalty regardless of whether or not the idea crosses his
mind that he would like to have an emission, and whether or not he
enjoys it when it occurs. However, the Commentary notes here that
even though there is no offense involved, one should not let oneself
be overcome by sensual thoughts in this way. This point is borne out
by the famous simile that occurred to Prince Siddhattha before his
Awakening and that later, as Buddha, he related to a number of
"'Suppose there were a wet sappy piece of timber lying on
dry ground far from water, and a man were to come along with
an upper fire-stick, thinking, "I'll light a fire. I'll
produce heat." Now what do you think? Would he be able to
light a fire and produce heat by rubbing the upper
fire-stick in the wet sappy timber...?'
"'No, Master Gotama. And why not? Because the wood is wet
and sappy, even though it is lying on dry ground far from
water. The man would reap nothing but weariness and
"'So it is with any priest or contemplative who lives
withdrawn from sensuality only in body, but whose desire,
infatuation, urge, thirst, and fever for sensuality is not
relinquished and stilled within him: Whether or not he feels
painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving (for
Awakening), he is incapable of knowledge, vision, and
unexcelled self-awakening.'" (M.36)
Non-offenses. In addition to the cases already mentioned -- the
bhikkhus who bring about emissions accidentally, not knowing that
they are making an effort, not conscious that their efforts are
bringing about an emission, whose efforts are motivated by a purpose
other than that of causing an emission, or who without making any
physical effort have an ejaculation while overcome by sensual
thoughts -- there is no offense for a bhikkhu who has an ejaculation
during a dream.
In the wording of the rule, the phrase "except while dreaming" is
expressed by an idiom that could also mean "at the end of a dream."
This second possibility, though, is ruled out by the Commentary,
which states that what happens in the mind while one is sleeping
falls in the bounds of the Abhidhamma, but what happens after one
awakens falls within the bounds of the Vinaya; and that there is no
such thing as a misdeed performed when one is in a "non-negligible"
state of mind that does not count as an offense. ("Non-negligible,"
according to the Sub-commentary, means "normal.")
In making the exception for what happens while asleep, the Buddha
states that even though there may be the intention to cause an
emission, it doesn't count. The Commentary goes on to say, however,
that if a bhikkhu fully awakens in the course of a wet dream, he
should lie still and be extremely careful not to make a move that
would fulfill the factor of effort under this rule. If the process
has reached the point where it is irreversible, and the ejaculation
occurs spontaneously, he incurs no penalty regardless of whether or
not he enjoys it. And as the Commentary quotes from the Kurundi, one
of the ancient Sinhalese commentaries on which it is based, if he
wakes up in the course of a wet dream and grabs hold of his penis so
that the ejaculation will not soil his robes or bedding, there is no
However, the case from the Commentary mentioned above -- the
bhikkhu who had the desire and made the effort towards an emission
before falling off to sleep -- suggests that the exemption for
emissions during a dream does not extend to cases where both the
intention and the effort occur while one is fully conscious, for all
three factors under this rule are fully present: One makes the
conscious decision to cause an emission, makes a conscious effort
aimed at causing the emission, and the emission occurs. Whether or
not one is conscious that it is occurring is of no account.
Summary: Intentionally causing oneself to emit semen, or
getting someone else to cause one to emit semen -- except
during a dream -- is a sanghadisesa offense.
* * *
2.Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind,
engage in bodily contact with a woman, or in holding her
hand, holding a lock of her hair, or caressing any of her
limbs, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the
This rule has sometimes been viewed as a sign of prejudice against
women. But, as the origin story makes clear, the Buddha formulated
the rule not because women are bad, but because bhikkhus sometimes
"Now at that time, Ven. Udayin was living in the forest. His
dwelling was beautiful, attractive, and appealing. The inner
chamber was in the middle, entirely surrounded by the outer
rooms. The bed and chair, the pillows and bolsters were well
arranged, the water for washing and drinking well placed,
the surrounding area well swept. Many people came to admire
it. Even a certain Brahmin together with his wife went to
where Ven. Udayin was staying and on arrival said, 'We would
like to admire your dwelling.'
"'Very well then, Brahmin, have a look.' Taking the key,
unfastening the lock, and opening the door, he entered the
dwelling. The Brahmin entered after Ven. Udayin; the Brahmin
lady after the Brahmin. Then Ven. Udayin, opening some of
the windows and closing others, walking around the inner
room and coming up from behind, rubbed up against the
Brahmin lady limb by limb.
"After a while the Brahmin exchanged pleasantries with Ven.
Udayin and left. Delighted, he burst out with an exclamation
of joy: 'How splendid are are these Sakyan contemplatives
who live in the forest like this! And how splendid is Ven.
Udayin who lives in the forest like this!'
"When he had said this, his wife said to him, 'What's so
splendid about him? He rubbed up against me limb by limb
just the way you do!'
"So the Brahmin was offended and annoyed and spread it
about: 'How shameless these bhikkhus are, how immoral and
hypocritical!...How can this contemplative Udayin rub up
against my wife limb by limb? It isn't possible to go with
your women-folk to a monastery or dwelling. If you go to a
monastery or dwelling with your womenfolk, the Sakyan
contemplatives will molest them!'"
There are two ways in which a bhikkhu can come into contact with a
woman: either actively (the bhikkhu makes the contact) or passively
(the woman does). Since the Vibhanga uses different terms to analyse
these two possibilities, we will discuss them separately.
//Active contact//. The full offense for active contact here is
composed of four factors:
1) //Object//: a living woman -- "even one born on that very day,
all the more an older one." Whether or not she is awake to
realize what is going on is irrelevant to the offense.
2) //Perception//: The bhikkhu correctly perceives her to be a
3) //Intention//: He is acting under the influence of lust.
4) //Effort//: He comes into physical contact with her.
Since the system of derived offenses based on the various
permutations of these factors is one of the most complex in the
Vibhanga, we will limit our discussion first to the full offense
before going into the permutations.
Of the four factors listed above, only two -- intention and effort
-- require detailed explanation.
Intention. The Vibhanga explains the term //overcome with lust//
as meaning "impassioned, desiring, a mind bound by attraction."
//Altered//, it says, can refer in general to one of three states of
mind -- passion, aversion, or delusion -- but here it refers
specifically to passion.
The Commentary adds a piece of Abhidhamma analysis at this point,
saying that //altered// refers to the moment when the mind leaves
its state of pure neutrality in the //bhavanga// under the influence
of desire. Thus the factor of intention here can be fulfilled not
only by a prolonged or intense feeling of desire, but also by a
The Commentary also tries to limit the range of passion to which
this rule applies, saying that it covers only desire for the
enjoyment of contact. As we noted under Parajika 1, the ancient
commentators formulated a list of eleven types of lust, each
mutually exclusive, and the question of which rule applies to a
particular case depends on which type of lust provokes the bhikkhu's
actions. Thus if a bhikkhu lusting for intercourse touches a woman,
it says, he incurs only a dukkata as a preliminary to sexual
intercourse under Parajika 1. If he touches her from his lust for an
ejaculation, he incurs a thullaccaya as a preliminary to causing an
emission under Sanghadisesa 1. Only if he touches her with the
simple desire to enjoy the sensation of contact does he incur a
sanghadisesa under this rule.
This system, though very neat and orderly, flies in the face of
common sense and, as we noted under Parajika 1, contradicts the
Vibhanga as well, so there is no need to adopt it. We can stick with
the Vibhanga to this rule and say that //any// state of passion
fulfills the factor of intention here. The Commentary's discussion,
though, is useful in showing that the passion needn't be full-scale
sexual lust. Even a momentary desire to enjoy the sensation of
physical contact -- overwhelming enough that one acts on it -- is
enough to fulfill this factor.
Effort. The Vibhanga illustrates the effort of making physical
contact with a list of activities: rubbing, rubbing up against,
rubbing downwards, rubbing upwards, bending down, pulling up,
drawing to, pushing away, seizing hold (or pinning down --
//abhinigganhana//), squeezing, grasping, or touching. The Vinita
Vatthu includes a case of a bhikkhu giving a woman a blow with his
shoulder: He too incurs a sanghadisesa, which shows that the
Vibhanga's list is meant to cover all similar actions as well. If a
bhikkhu with lustful mind does anything of this sort to a living
woman's body, perceiving that she is a woman, he incurs the full
penalty under this rule.
Derived offenses. Each of the factors of an offense allows a
number of permutations that admit for different classes of offenses.
Taken together, they form a complex system. Here we will consider
each factor in turn.
//Object//. Assuming that the bhikkhu is acting with lustful
intentions and is perceiving his object correctly, he incurs a
thullaccaya for making bodily contact with a //pandaka//, a female
yakkha, or a dead woman; and a dukkata for bodily contact with a man
(or boy), a wooden doll, or a female animal.
//Pandaka //is usually translated as eunuch, but eunuchs are only
one of five types of pandakas recognized by the Commentary:
(1) An //asitta// (literally, a "sprinkled one") -- a man who
finds sexual fulfillment in performing fellatio on another man
and bringing him to climax. (For some reason, other homosexual
acts, even though they were known in ancient India, are not
included under this type nor under any of the types in this
(2) A voyeur -- a man who finds sexual fulfillment in watching
other people have sex.
(3) A eunuch -- one who has been castrated.
(4) A half-time pandaka -- one who is a pandaka only during the
waning moon. (! -- The Sub-commentary's discussion of this
point shows that its author and his contemporaries were as
unfamiliar with this type as we are today. Perhaps this was how
bisexuals were understood in ancient times.)
(5) A neuter -- a person born without sexual organs.
According to the Commentary, the Mahavagga's statement (I.61) that
pandakas cannot receive ordination refers only to the last three
types, and to the half-time pandaka only during the waning moon.
As for female yakkhas, the Commentary says that this also includes
female deities. There is an ancient story in Chieng Mai of a bhikkhu
who was visited by a dazzling heavenly maiden late one night while
he was meditating alone in a cave at Wat Umong. He couldn't resist
touching her and, as soon as he did, went immediately out of his
mind. The moral: This is one thullaccaya not to be taken lightly.
Also from the Commentary:
(1) The thullaccaya for lustfully touching female corpses applies
only to those that would be grounds for a full offense under
Parajika 1, i.e., those with an anal, oral, or genital orifice
intact enough for one to perform the sexual act. Female corpses
decomposed beyond that point are grounds for a dukkata here.
(2) The dukkata for lustfully touching wooden dolls (mannikins)
applies also to any female form made out of other materials, and
even to any picture of a woman.
(3) Female animals include female nagas and other half-animal,
half-woman species as well.
According to the Sub-commentary, the dukkata for lustfully
touching female animals also applies to male animals.
For some reason, male yakkhas and deities slipped out of the list.
Perhaps they should come under "men."
//Perception//. Misperception affects the severity of the offense
only in the cases of women and pandakas. A bhikkhu who makes lustful
bodily contact with a woman while under the impression that she is
something else -- a pandaka, a man, or an animal -- incurs a
thullaccaya. If he makes lustful bodily contact with a pandaka while
under the impression that the pandaka is a woman, a man, or an
animal, the penalty is a dukkata. In the cases of men and animals,
misperception has no effect on the severity of the case: Lustful
bodily contact -- e.g., with a male transvestite whom one thinks to
be a woman -- still results in a dukkata.
//Intention//. The Vinita Vatthu contains cases of a bhikkhu who
caresses his mother out of filial affection, one who caresses his
daughter out of fatherly affection, and one who caresses his sister
out of brotherly affection. In each case the penalty is a dukkata.
The Vibhanga does not discuss the issue of bhikkhus who
intentionally make active contact with women for purposes other than
lust or affection -- e.g., helping a woman who has fallen into a
raging river -- but the Commentary does. It introduces the concept
of //anamasa//, things carrying a dukkata penalty when touched;
women and clothing belonging to a woman top the list. It then goes
into great detail to tell how one should behave when one's mother
falls into a raging river. Under no circumstances, it says, should
one grab hold of her, although one may extend a rope, a board, etc.,
in her direction. If she happens to grab hold of her son the
bhikkhu, he should not shake her off, but should simply let her hold
on as he swims back to shore.
Where the Commentary gets the concepts of //anamasa// is hard to
say. Perhaps it came from the practices of the Brahmin caste, who
are very careful not to touch certain things and people of certain
lower castes. At any rate, there is no direct basis for it in the
Canon. Although the concept has received universal acceptance in
Theravadin Communities, many highly-respected Vinaya experts have
made an exception right here, saying that there is nothing wrong in
touching a woman when one's action is based not on lust but on a
desire to save her from danger. Even if there is an offense in doing
so, there are other places where Buddhaghosa recommends that one be
willing to incur a minor penalty for the sake of compassion (e.g.,
digging a person out of a hole into which he has fallen), and the
same principle surely holds here.
There is no offense in touching a being other than a woman if
one's intentions are not lustful, although tickling is an offense
under Pacittiya 52.
//Effort//. Acts of lustful but indirect bodily contact with a
woman one perceives to be a woman and a pandaka one perceives to be
a woman carry the following penalties:
For the woman: Using one's body to make contact with an article
connected to her body -- e.g., using one's hand to touch the hem
of her dress, a rope, or stick she is holding: a thullaccaya.
Using an item connected with one's body to make contact with her
body -- e.g., using the edge of one's robe or a flower one is
holding to brush along her arm: a thullaccaya.
Using an item connected with one's body to make contact with an
item connected with her body: a dukkata.
Taking an object -- such as a flower -- and tossing it against her
body, an object connected with her body, or an object she has
tossed: a dukkata.
Taking hold of something she is standing or sitting on -- a
bridge, a tree, a boat, etc. -- and giving it a shake: a dukkata.
For the pandaka one assumes to be a woman, the penalty in all the
above cases is a dukkata.
These penalties for indirect contact have inspired the Commentary
to say that if a bhikkhu makes contact with a clothed portion of a
woman's body or uses a clothed portion of his body to make contact
with hers, and the cloth is so thick that neither his body hairs nor
hers can penetrate it, the penalty is only a thullaccaya, since he
is not making direct contact. Only if the contact is skin-to-skin,
skin-to-hair, or hair-to-hair (as might be possible through thin
cloth) does he commit the full offense. Thus a bhikkhu who fondles
the breasts or buttocks of a fully-clothed woman would incur only a
thullaccaya since the contact was indirect.
While this contention might be true in a technical sense, two
points from the Vibhanga indicate that its compilers did not have
this sort of thing in mind when they mentioned indirect contact.
(1) In its discussion of passive contact, the Vibhanga divides the
factor of effort into two parts: effort and result. The result
necessary for a full offense is that the bhikkhu detects contact.
The important word here is "detect" (//pativijanati//): The Canon
uses it to refer to cases where one perceives something that may not
be readily apparent, and here it seems specifically designed to
cover instances where the contact may not be skin-to-skin, but still
can be felt as bodily contact. Thus if the contact is such that the
bhikkhu could feel the presence of the woman's body through his or
under her clothing, direct contact has been made. If this much
contact is enough for a full offense under passive contact, there is
good reason to assume that it should also be enough under active
contact as well.
(2) The Vinita Vatthu contains the following case:
"Now at that time, a certain bhikkhu, seeing a woman he
encountered coming in the opposite direction, was infatuated
and gave her a blow with his shoulder. He was
remorseful....'Bhikkhu, you have committed a sanghadisesa
As mentioned in the Introduction, we have to go on the assumption
that the Vibhanga compilers were careful enough to include all of
the relevant facts in describing the cases in the Vinita Vatthu. Now
if the Commentary's assertion were true -- that the amount of cloth
between the bodies of the bhikkhu and the woman is important in
determining an offense -- the compilers would have mentioned this
factor at least indirectly, saying, for instance, that the encounter
took place in the monastery, where he might have had his shoulder
uncovered, rather than outside of the monastery, where he should
have had it covered; or that he had neglected to cover his shoulders
when leaving the monastery; or that he was wearing a very fine robe
that allowed his hair to pass through. But they say nothing of the
sort, and their silence here suggests that such questions are
The only cases of indirect contact mentioned in the Vinita Vatthu
refer to contact of a much more remote sort: a bhikkhu pulls a cord
of which a woman is holding another end, pulls a stick of which she
is holding the other end, or gives her a playful push with his bowl.
Thus in the context of this rule the Vibhanga defines "object
connected to the body," through which indirect contact is made, with
examples: things that the person is //holding//. The Vinaya Mukha
adds things that are //hanging// from the person, like the hem of a
robe or a dress. In this context, contact made through cloth that
the person is wearing, if the contact can be detected, would be
classed as direct. This would parallel Parajika 1, in which the
question of whether there is anything covering either of the organs
involved in intercourse is completely irrelevant to the offense.
Thus the concept of direct and indirect contact here would seem to
follow general linguistic usage: If a woman is wearing a
long-sleeved shirt, for instance, grabbing her by the arm and
grabbing her by the shirt-sleeve are two different things, and would
receive different penalties under this rule.
According to the Vibhanga, if a bhikkhu feels desire for contact
with a woman and makes an effort but does not achieve even indirect
contact, the penalty is a dukkata.
//Passive contact//. The Vibhanga's analysis of passive contact --
when the bhikkhu is the object rather than the agent making the
contact -- deals with only a limited number of variables.
Agent: either a woman the bhikkhu perceives to be a woman, or a
pandaka he perceives to be a woman.
The agent's effort: any of the actions that fulfill the factor of
act for the full offense under active contact -- rubbing, pulling,
pushing, squeezing, etc.
The bhikkhu's aim. The Vibhanga lists only two here: the desire to
come together and the desire to escape (%). The Sub-commentary
explains the first as desiring the pleasurable feeling of contact.
Effort. The bhikkhu either makes a physical effort or he doesn't.
The Commentary includes under this factor even the slightest
physical movements, such as winking, raising one's eyebrows, or
rolling one's eyes. At present we would include such things as
inviting a woman to caress one, or deliberately placing oneself in a
crowded entrance to a store so that women would have to make contact
with one as they walked past.
Result. The bhikkhu either detects the contact or he doesn't.
The most important factor here is the bhikkhu's aim: If he desires
to escape from the contact, then no matter who the person making the
contact is, whether or not the bhikkhu makes an effort, or whether
or not he detects the contact, there is no offense. The Vinita
Vatthu gives an example:
"Now at that time, many women, pressing up to a certain
bhikkhu, led him about arm-in-arm. He felt
conscience-stricken.... 'Did you consent, bhikkhu?' (the
'No, Lord, I did not.'
'Then there was no offense, bhikkhu, as you did not
The Commentary mentions another example, in which a bhikkhu, not
desiring the contact, is molested by a lustful woman. He remains
perfectly still, with the thought, "When she realizes I am not
interested, she will go away." He too commits no offense.
However, if the bhikkhu desires the contact, then the offenses are
The agent is a woman, the bhikkhu makes an effort and detects
contact: a sanghadisesa. He makes an effort but detects no contact:
a dukkata. He makes no effort (e.g., he remains perfectly still as
she grasps, squeezes, and rubs his body): no offense regardless of
whether or not he detects contact. One exception here, though, would
be the special case mentioned under "Consent" in the preceding rule,
in which a bhikkhu lets a woman -- or anyone at all, for that matter
-- make him have an emission and he incurs a sanghadisesa under that
rule as a result.
The agent is a pandaka whom the bhikkhu perceives to be a woman,
the bhikkhu makes an effort and detects contact: a dukkata. All
other possibilities -- effort but no detected contact, detected
contact but no effort, no effort and no detected contact: no
Counting offenses. According to the Vibhanga, if a bhikkhu has
lustful bodily contact with //x// number of people in any of the
ways that constitute an offense here, he commits //x// number of
offenses. For example, if he lustfully rubs up against two women in
a bus, he incurs two sanghadisesas. If, out of fatherly affection,
he hugs his two daughters and three sons, he incurs two dukkatas for
hugging his daughters and no penalty for hugging his sons.
The Commentary adds that if he makes lustful contact with a person
//x// number of times, he commits //x// number of offenses. For
instance, he hugs a woman from behind, she fights him off, and he
strikes her out of lust: two sanghadisesas.
The question of counting sanghadisesas, though, is somewhat
academic, since the penalty for multiple offenses is almost
identical with the penalty for one. The only difference is in the
formal announcements that accompany the penalty -- e.g., when the
Sangha places the offender under probation, when he informs others
bhikkhus of why he is under probation, etc. For more on this point,
see the concluding section of this chapter.
Non-offenses. There is no offense for a bhikkhu who makes contact
with a woman --
//unintentionally// -- as when inadvertently running into a woman
in a crowded place;
//unthinkingly// -- as when a woman runs into him and, startled,
he pushes her away;
//unknowingly// -- as when, without lustful intent, he touches a
young tomboy he thinks to be a boy; or
//when he doesn't give his consent// -- as in the case of the
bhikkhu led around arm-in-arm by a crowd of women.
Summary: Lustful bodily contact with a woman whom one
perceives to be a woman is a sanghadisesa offense.
* * *
3.Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind,
address lewd words to a woman in the manner of young men to
a young woman alluding to sexual intercourse, it entails
initial and subsequent meetings of the Community.
"Now at that time Ven. Udayin was living in the forest. One
day many women came to the monastery to admire his dwelling.
They went to where he was staying and on arrival said to
him, 'Ven. Sir, we would like to admire your dwelling.' Then
Ven. Udayin, showing the dwelling to the women and referring
to their genital and anal orifices, praised and criticized
and begged and implored and asked and quizzed and advised
and instructed and ridiculed them. Those of the women who
were brazen, shameless, and sly giggled at Ven. Udayin,
exclaimed to him, laughed aloud, and teased him; while those
of the women who had a sense of decency complained to the
bhikkhus as they left: 'It is improper, Ven. sirs, and
unbecoming! Even from our husbands we wouldn't like to hear
this sort of thing, much less from Master Udayin.'"
The K/Commentary lists five factors for a full breach of this rule:
1) //Object//: a woman, i.e., any female human being experienced
enough to know what words are and are not lewd.
2) //Perception//: The bhikkhu perceives her to be such a woman.
3) //Intention//: He is lustful. As in the preceding rule, we can
take the Commentary's definition of lust here as the //minimum//
amount of lust to fulfill this factor: He wants to enjoy saying
something lewd or improper.
4) //Effort//: He makes remarks referring to her genitals, anus,
or to her performing sexual intercourse.
5) //Result//: The woman immediately understands.
The only factors requiring detailed explanation here are intention
Intention. The minimum level of desire required to fulfill this
factor means that this rule covers cases where a bhikkhu simply gets
a charge out of referring to a woman's genitals, etc., in her
presence, without necessarily having any desire actually to have sex
The Vibhanga makes clear that this rule does not cover statements
made in anger. Thus any insults a bhikkhu may direct at a woman out
of anger rather than playfully in desire -- even if they refer to
her genitals, etc. -- would come under Pacittiya 2, rather than
Effort. The Vibhanga states that to incur a sanghadisesa under
this rule when one is speaking to a woman, one must refer to //her//
genitals, anus, or performing sexual intercourse (%).
The Commentary goes further and says that to incur the full
penalty one must make direct mention of one of these three things,
or accuse her of being sexually deformed in a way that refers
directly to her genitals. Otherwise, if one refers lustfully to
these matters without directly mentioning them, there is no
sanghadisesa, although the Sub-commentary quotes ancient texts
called the Ganthipadas as assigning a dukkata for such an act.
All of this contradicts the Vibhanga, which lists the ways of
referring to the woman's anus, genitals, and sexual intercourse that
would entail the full penalty under this rule -- one speaks praise,
speaks criticism, begs, implores, asks, quizzes, advises, exhorts,
or ridicules -- and many of the examples it gives, although
referring to the woman's private parts or to her performing sexual
intercourse, do not actually mention those words: "How do you give
to your husband?" "How do you give to your lover?" "When will your
mother be reconciled?" "When will you have a good opportunity?"
Although all of these statements refer to sexual intercourse, and
people in those days would have understood them in that light, none
of them actually mentions it.
Thus the Vibhanga's examples seem to indicate that if a bhikkhu is
referring lustfully to the woman's private parts or to her
performing sexual intercourse, then whether or not he directly names
those things, he fulfills this factor.
None of the texts mention the case in which a bhikkhu talks to one
person about another person's private parts, etc.
Derived offenses. The factors of effort, object, perception, and
result permit a number of permutations that result in lesser
offenses. As for the permutations of intention, see the section on
//Effort//. A bhikkhu speaks to a woman he perceives to be a woman
and refers lustfully to parts of her body -- aside from her private
parts -- below her collarbone and above her knees, such as her
breasts or her thighs: a thullaccaya. If he refers to parts of her
body outside of that area, such as her face or hair, or to clothing
or jewelry she is wearing: a dukkata.
//Object//. A bhikkhu speaks to a pandaka (in this and the
following cases we are assuming that he perceives his object
correctly) and refers lustfully to his private parts or to his
performing sexual intercourse: a thullaccaya. He refers lustfully to
other parts of the pandaka's body, his clothing, etc.: a dukkata.
A bhikkhu speaks to a man (or boy) and refers lustfully to any
part of his listener's body, clothing, etc.: a dukkata. The same
penalty holds for speaking lustfully to a common animal about its
body, ornaments, etc. (%). (This is a point with interesting
implications, but unfortunately the Commentary is silent. Perhaps
nagas would be included here, or perhaps the Vibhanga compilers had
in mind cases where one mentions such things to an animal within
earshot of a human or celestial being.)
The texts make no mention of speaking lustfully to a woman/girl
too young to understand what is and is not lewd. We might argue from
the cases included in the Vinita Vatthu, though -- where bhikkhus
make punning references to women's private parts, and the women do
not understand -- that a bhikkhu incurs a thullaccaya for referring
directly to her genitals, anus, or performing sexual intercourse in
her presence, and a dukkata for referring indirectly in her presence
to such things.
//Perception//. A bhikkhu speaking to a woman whom he perceives to
be something else -- a pandaka, a man, an animal -- incurs a
thullaccaya if he refers lustfully to her genitals, anus, or
performing sexual intercourse. If he is speaking to a pandaka, a
man, or an animal he misperceives -- e.g., he thinks the pandaka is
a woman, the man is a pandaka, the animal is a man -- he incurs a
dukkata if he refers lustfully to those topics.
//Result//. As mentioned above, the Vinita Vatthu contains a
number cases of bhikkhus speaking to women and making punning
references to the women's genitals that the women do not understand.
In one case the penalty is a thullaccaya, in the others a dukkata.
The thullaccaya case is the only one in which the bhikkhu uses a
word synonymous with genitals (//magga//, which also means road, the
meaning the woman understood). Thus we might argue that if a bhikkhu
makes direct reference to the genitals, anus, or sexual intercourse
-- and this includes slang expressions and euphemisms -- and the
woman doesn't immediately understand that he is referring to those
things, he incurs a thullaccaya. If he makes indirect mention of
those things, and she doesn't immediately understand what he is
referring to, he incurs a dukkata. If it so happens that she
understands later, the penalty remains the same.
Counting offenses. A bhikkhu making remarks of the sort covered by
this rule to //x// number of people commits //x// number of
offenses, the type of offense being determined by the factors
discussed above. Thus for lustful remarks to two women referring to
their breasts, he would incur two thullaccayas; for lustful remarks
to three men concerning their bodies, three dukkatas; for teasing a
group of twenty old ladies about how their time for sexual
performance is past, twenty sanghadisesas.
Non-offenses. The Vibhanga states that there is no offense for a
bhikkhu who speaks aiming at (spiritual) welfare (//attha//), aiming
at Dhamma, or aiming at teaching. Thus, for example, if one is
talking in front of women and has no lustful intent, one may recite
or explain the training rules that deal with these matters or go
into detail on the topic of the loathsomeness of the body as a topic
of meditation, all without incurring a penalty. The Commentary here
adds an example of a bhikkhu addressing a sexually deformed woman,
telling her to be heedful in her practice so as not to be born that
way again. If, however, one were to broach any of these topics out
of a desire to enjoy saying something lewd to one's listeners, one
would not be immune from an offense.
A bhikkhu who, without intending to be lewd, makes innocent
remarks that his listener takes to be lewd, commits no offense.
Summary: Making a lustful remark to a woman about her
genitals, anus, or about performing sexual intercourse is a
* * *
4. Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind,
speak in the presence of a woman in praise of ministering to
his own sensuality thus: "This, sister, is the highest
ministration, that of ministering to a virtuous,
fine-natured follower of the celibate life such as myself
with this act" -- alluding to sexual intercourse -- it
entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community.
"Now at that time a certain woman, a widow, was beautiful,
attractive, and appealing. So Ven. Udayin, arising early in
the morning, taking his robe and bowl, went to her
residence. On arrival, he sat on an appointed seat. Then the
woman, approaching him, paying him homage, sat down to one
side. As she sat there, Ven. Udayin instructed, urged,
roused, and encouraged her with a talk on Dhamma. Then the
woman, instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged with a talk
on Dhamma...said to him, 'Tell me, Ven. sir, what would be
in my power to give you for your welfare: Robe-cloth?
Alms-food? Lodgings? Medicines for the sick?'
"'Those things aren't hard for us to come by sister....Give
just what is hard for us to come by.'
"'What, Ven. sir?'
"'For your welfare, Ven. sir?'
"'For my welfare, sister.'
"'Then come, Ven. sir.' Entering into an inner room, taking
off her cloak, she lay back on a couch. Then Ven. Udayin
approached the woman and, on approaching, said, 'Who would
touch this foul-smelling wretch?' And he departed, spitting.
"Then the woman was offended and annoyed and spread it
about...'How can this contemplative Udayin, when he himself
begged me for sexual intercourse, say, "Who would touch this
foul-smelling wretch?" and depart spitting? What's wretched
about me? What's foul-smelling about me? In what am I
inferior to whom?'"
At first glance this rule might seem redundant with the preceding
one, for what we have here is another case of a bhikkhu advising,
begging, or imploring a woman to perform sexual intercourse.
However, some facts about language and belief in the Buddha's time
might have led some people to feel that this was a special case not
covered by the previous rule; so -- to prevent this misunderstanding
-- it gets separate treatment here.
"Giving," in the Buddha's time, was a common term for having sex.
If a woman gave to a man, that meant that she was willing to have
sexual intercourse with him. Now, Buddhism was not the only religion
of the time to teach that gifts -- of a more innocent sort -- given
to contemplatives produced great reward to those who gave them, and
ultimately somebody somewhere came up with the bright idea that
since sex was the highest gift, giving it to a contemplative would
produce the highest reward. Whether this idea was first formulated
by faithful women or by clever contemplatives is hard to say. There
are several cases in the Vinita Vatthu to Parajika 1 telling of
bhikkhus approached or attacked by women professing this belief,
which shows that it had some currency: that sex was somehow seen as
a way to higher benefits through the law of kamma.
Since the preceding rule gives exemptions for bhikkhus speaking
"aiming at (spiritual) welfare (//attha//), aiming at Dhamma," some
misguided souls who did not comprehend the Buddha's teachings on
sensuality might believe that welfare of this sort might fit under
the exemption. Even today, although the rationale might be
different, there are people who believe that having sex with
spiritual teachers is beneficial for one's spiritual well-being.
Thus we have this separate rule to show that the Buddha would have
no part in such a notion, and that a bhikkhu who tries to suggest
that his listener would benefit from having sex with him is not
exempt from an offense.
The K/Commentary lists five factors for the full offense here.
Object: a woman experienced enough to know what words are and are
Perception. The bhikkhu perceives her to be such a woman.
Intention. He is lustful. According to the Sub-commentary, this
means that he wants to enjoy saying something lewd or improper. This
point is borne out by the origin story, where Ven. Udayin addressed
his remarks to the young widow apparently just to test her reaction.
As in the preceding rules, we can take the Sub-commentary's
definition to stand for the //minimum// amount of lust needed to
fulfill this factor.
Effort. The bhikkhu speaks to the woman in praise of her
ministering to his sensual needs, making reference to sexual
intercourse. The Commentary maintains that his remarks must directly
mention sexual intercourse for this factor to be fulfilled, but the
example in the rule itself would seem to contradict its assertion.
Result. The woman immediately understands.
Derived offenses. The only factors having permutations leading to
lesser offenses are object and perception.
//Object//. A bhikkhu, motivated by lust, makes such remarks to a
pandaka: a thullaccaya. To a man or animal: a dukkata.
//Perception//. A bhikkhu, motivated by lust, makes such remarks
to a woman he perceives to be something else -- a pandaka, man, or
animal: a thullaccaya. To a pandaka he perceives to be something
else: a dukkata.
Counting offenses. Offenses are counted by the number of people
one makes such remarks to.
Non-offenses. The no-offense clauses in the Vibhanga, in addition
to the blanket exemptions mentioned under Parajika 1, read simply:
"There is no offense if he speaks saying, 'Support us with the
requisites of robe-cloth, alms-food, lodgings, or medicines for the
sick.'" Thus there is apparently no way that a bhikkhu in his right
mind may speak in the presence of another person in praise of that
person's ministering to his (the bhikkhu's) own sexual desires,
without committing an offense.
Summary: Telling a woman that she would benefit from having
sexual intercourse with oneself is a sanghadisesa offense.
* * *
5. Should any bhikkhu engage in conveying a man's intentions
to a woman or a woman's intentions to a man, proposing
marriage or paramourage -- even if only for a momentary
liaison -- it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the
There are essentially two factors for a full offense under this
rule: effort and object.
Effort. The Commentary says that to "engage in conveying" means to
take on the role of a go-between. This includes helping to arrange
not only marriages and affairs, but also "momentary associations"
that, from the way it describes them, could include anything from
appointments with a prostitute to arrangements for X to be Y's date.
The Vibhanga sets the component factors of a go-between's role at
1) //accepting// the request of one party to convey a proposal;
2) //inquiring//, i.e., informing the second party and learning
his/her/their reaction; and
3) //reporting// what one has learned to the first party.
The penalties for these actions are: a dukkata for performing any
one of them, a thullaccaya for any two, and a sanghadisesa for the
full set of three. Thus a bhikkhu acting on his own initiative to
sound out the possibility of a date between a man and a woman would
incur a thullaccaya for inquiring and reporting. A bhikkhu planning
to disrobe who asks a woman if she would be interested in marrying
him after his return to lay life would incur a dukkata for
The penalties are the same if the bhikkhu, instead of acting as a
go-between himself, gets someone else to act for him. Thus a bhikkhu
who agrees to convey such a proposal but then gets a lay follower or
another bhikkhu to do the inquiring and reporting, would incur a
sanghadisesa all the same.
If a group of bhikkhus are asked to act as go-betweens and they
all accept, then even if only one of them takes the message, all
incur the penalty for his actions.
"Result" is not a factor here, and so the Commentary mentions that
whether or not the arrangements succeed has no bearing on the
"Intention" is also not a factor, which leads the Sub-commentary
to raise the issue of a man who writes his proposal in a letter and
then, without disclosing the contents, gets a bhikkhu to deliver it.
Its conclusion, though, is that this case would not qualify as an
offense under this rule, in that both the Vibhanga and the
Commentary define the action of conveying as "telling": Only if the
bhikkhu himself tells the proposal -- whether repeating it orally,
making a gesture or writing a letter -- does he commit an offense
Object. The full offense is for acting as a go-between between a
man and a woman who are not married to each other. If, instead of
dealing directly with the man and woman, one deals with people
speaking on their behalf (their parents, a pimp), one incurs the
full penalty all the same.
There is no offense for a bhikkhu who tries to effect a
reconciliation between an estranged couple who are not divorced; but
a full offense for one who tries to effect a reconciliation between
a couple who are. "Perception" is also not a factor here, which
inspires the Commentary to note that even an arahant could commit an
offense under this rule if he tried to effect a reconciliation
between his parents whom he assumed to be separated when they
actually were divorced.
A bhikkhu incurs a thullaccaya for acting as a go-between for a
pandaka; and, according to the Commentary, the same penalty for
acting as a go-between for a female yakkha or peta. (!)
Non-offenses. The Vibhanga states that, in addition to the usual
exemptions, there is no offense if a bhikkhu conveys a message from
a man to a woman or vice versa dealing with "business of the
Community, of a shrine, or of a sick person." The Commentary
illustrates the first two instances with cases of a bhikkhu
conveying a message dealing with construction work for the Community
or a shrine; and the third with a case where a bhikkhu, acting on
behalf of a fellow bhikkhu who is sick, is sent by a male lay
follower to a female lay follower for medicine.
The Sub-commentary adds that any similar errand is also exempt
from penalty as long as it is not a form of subservience to lay
people (see Sanghadisesa 13, below).
Summary: Acting as a go-between to arrange a marriage, an
affair, or a date between a man and a woman not married to
each other is a sanghadisesa offense.
* * *
6.When a bhikkhu is building a hut from (gains acquired by)
his own begging -- having no sponsor, destined for himself
-- he is to build it to the standard measurement. Here the
standard is this: twelve spans, using the sugata span, in
length (measuring outside); seven in width, (measuring)
inside. Bhikkhus are to be assembled to designate the site.
The site the bhikkhus designate should be without
disturbances and with adequate space. If the bhikkhu should
build a hut from his own begging on a site with disturbances
and without adequate space, or if he should not assemble the
bhikkhus to designate the site, or if he should exceed the
standard, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the
"At that time the bhikkhus of Alavi were having huts built
from their own begging -- having no sponsors, destined for
themselves, not to any standard measurement -- that did not
come to completion. They were continually begging,
continually hinting: 'Give a man, give labor, give an ox,
give a wagon, give a knife, give an ax, give an adze, give a
spade, give a chisel, give rushes, give reeds, give grass,
give clay.' People, harassed with the begging, harassed with
the hinting, on seeing bhikkhus would feel apprehensive,
alarmed, would run away; would take another route, face
another direction, close the door. Even on seeing cows, they
would run away, imagining them to be bhikkhus."
This rule and the following one concern the procedures a bhikkhu
should follow when he wants to build a dwelling for his own use. The
following rule deals with cases where he has a sponsor to provide
him with funds and materials. This rule deals with cases where he
doesn't. The Vibhanga and Commentary define the words //hut// and
//dwelling// in these rules in such a way that they apply only to a
limited range of structures, but the Commentary's discussion of what
a bhikkhu may and may not beg for when building anything at all,
guarantees that even in cases not covered by these rules he is not
allowed to be burdensome to the people he asks for help. In
discussing this rule, we will first cover what kinds of begging are
proper and improper in connection with //any// kind of construction
work, and then go on to treat the particular case coming under this
Begging. A bhikkhu may ask for people to give labor in any
situation. Thus he may ask stone masons to carry stone posts to his
construction, or carpenters to carry boards there. If, after he has
asked them to help with the labor, they volunteer to donate the
materials as well, he may accept them without penalty. Otherwise, he
has to reimburse them for the materials.
As for tools, vehicles, and other things he will use in the
process of construction, he may ask only to borrow them from other
people and may not ask for them outright. If the tools get damaged,
he is responsible for getting them repaired before returning them to
the owner. The only things he needn't return to the owner are light
articles (//lahubhanda//), which the Sub-commentary identifies as
things like reeds, rushes, grass, and clay -- i.e., things having
little or no monetary value at all.
In effect, this means that unless a bhikkhu is going to build his
dwelling out of reeds, etc., or out of thrown-away scraps, he may
not ask for any of the materials that will actually go into the
dwelling. Keep in mind that these rules were made during a period
when wilderness was still plentiful, and solid building materials
such as timber and stones were free for the taking. At present,
unless a bhikkhu has access to unclaimed wilderness of this sort, to
unclaimed garbage, or has enough funds on deposit with his steward
(see NP 10) to cover the cost of materials, his only recourse if he
wants a solid structure is either to rammed earth or to hinting.
The Commentary notes that while hinting is not allowed with regard
to food or cloth, it is allowed with regard to construction
materials. One example it gives is asking, "Do you think this is a
good place to build a hut? An ordination hall?" Another example is
staking out a construction site in hope that someone will ask, "What
are you planning to do here?" If people get the hint and offer the
materials, the bhikkhu may accept them. If they don't, he may not
ask directly for any materials except the "light articles" mentioned
From this it should be obvious that even in cases not covered by
this rule -- i.e., the dwelling he is building doesn't qualify as a
"hut," or he is building something for other people to use -- a
bhikkhu engaged in construction work is not allowed to be burdensome
to the laity. This is an important point, as the Buddha illustrated
in a story he told to the bhikkhus at Alavi. A certain bhikkhu had
once come to him with a complaint, and he reports the conversation
"'Lord, there is a large forest on the slopes of the
Himalayas, and not far from it is a broad, low-lying marsh.
A great flock of birds, after feeding all day in the marsh,
goes to roost in the forest at nightfall. That is why I have
come to see the Blessed One -- because I am annoyed by the
noise of that flock of birds.'
"'Bhikkhu, you want those birds to go away for good?'
"'Yes, Lord, I want them to go away for good.'
"'Then go back there, enter the forest, and in the first
watch of the night make this announcement three times:
"Listen to me, good birds. I want a feather from everyone
roosting in this forest. Each of you give me one feather."
In the second watch...In the third watch of the night make
this announcement three times: "Listen to me, good birds. I
want a feather from everyone roosting in this forest. Each
of you give me one feather"....(The bhikkhu did as he was
told.) Then the flock of birds, thinking, 'The bhikkhu asks
for a feather, the bhikkhu wants a feather,' left the
forest. And after they were gone, they never again returned.
Bhikkhus, begging is unpleasant, hinting is unpleasant even
to these common animals -- how much more so to human
The hut. Now we turn to the particular case covered by this rule.
The Vibhanga defines a hut as "plastered inside, outside, or both."
It also states that this rule does not apply to a //lena//, a
//guha//, or to a grass hut. A lena, according to the Commentary, is
a cave. A guha it doesn't define, except to say that guhas may be
built out of wood, stone, or earth. And as for a grass hut, it says
that this refers to any building with a grass //roof//, which means
that even a dwelling with plastered walls but a grass roof would not
count as a hut under this rule (although a hut whose roof has been
plastered and then covered with grass //would// count as a hut
The Commentary goes on to stipulate that the plastering mentioned
in the Vibhanga refers to a plastered //roof//, that the plaster
must be either clay or white lime (plastering with cow dung or mud
doesn't count, although cement would probably come under "white
lime" here), and that the plastering on the inside or outside of the
roof must be contiguous with the plastering on the inside or outside
of the walls. Thus if the builder leaves a gap in the plastering
around the top of the wall so that the plastering of the roof and
the plastering of the walls don't touch at any point, the building
doesn't qualify as a hut and so doesn't come under the rule.
The Commentary's stipulations on these point may seem like
attempts to create gaping loopholes in the rule, but there is
nothing in the Vibhanga to prove them wrong. Perhaps in those days
only fully plastered buildings were considered to be finished,
permanent structures, while everything else was considered makeshift
and temporary and thus not worth the fuss and bother of the
procedures we will discuss below.
At another point in its discussions, the Commentary adds that any
building three sugata spans wide or less is not big enough to move a
bed around in and so does not count as a hut under this rule. The
Commentary itself defines a sugata span as three times the span of a
normal person, which would put it at approximately 75 cm. More
recent calculations, based on the fact that the Buddha was not
abnormally tall, set the sugata span at 25 cm.
The procedures. If, for his own use, a bhikkhu is planning to
build a hut as defined in this rule, he must chose a site, clear it,
and ask for the local Community to inspect and approve it before he
can go ahead with the actual construction.
//The site//. The site must be free of disturbances and have
"Free of disturbances" means that the site is not the abode of
such creatures as termites, ants, or rats who might do harm to the
building, or of those such as snakes, scorpions, tigers, lions,
elephants, or bears who might do harm to its inhabitant. The
Commentary states that the Vibhanga's purpose in forbidding a
bhikkhu from building on a site where termites and other small
animals have their home is to show compassion to these and other
small creatures like them by not destroying their nests. As for the
stipulation against building where snakes and other dangerous
animals live, this also extends, it says, to the areas where they
regularly forage for food.
In addition, the Vibhanga says that a site without disturbances is
one that is not near any places that will disturb the bhikkhu's
peace and quiet. Examples it gives are: fields, orchards, places of
execution, cemeteries, pleasure groves, royal property, elephant
stables, horse stables, prisons, taverns, slaughterhouses, highways,
crossroads, public rest-houses, and meeting places.
"Adequate space" means that there is enough room on the site for a
yoked wagon to go around, or for a man to carry a ladder around, the
proposed hut. The question arises as to whether this means that all
trees within that radius of the hut must be cut down, or whether it
simply means that there must be enough land around the hut so that
if the trees were not there, it would be possible to go around the
hut in the ways mentioned. The Sub-commentary states that the
stipulation for adequate space is so that the hut will not be built
on the edge of a precipice or next to a cliff wall, and the Vinaya
Mukha notes that the Vibhanga here is following the Laws of Manu (an
ancient Indian legal text) in ensuring that the dwelling not be
built right against someone else's property. Both of these
statements suggest that there is no need to cut the trees down.
The Vinaya Mukha maintains further that the procedures for getting
the site approved are concerned basically with laying claim to
unclaimed land, and this has led many Communities in Thailand to say
that the need to have the Community approve the site does not apply
to places where the Community already owns the land, such as in a
monastery. If a bhikkhu in such Communities wishes to build a hut
for his own use on monastery land, he need only get the approval of
the abbot. The ancient texts say nothing on this point, so it is an
area where the wise policy is to follow the views of the Community
to which one belongs.
//Clearing the site//. Before notifying the local Community, the
bhikkhu must get the site cleared -- so says the Vibhanga, and the
Commentary adds that he should get it leveled as well. In both
cases, he should arrange to have this done in such a way that does
not violate Pacittiyas 10 & 11. Again, the question arises as to
whether clearing the site means cutting down the trees on the spot
where one proposes building the hut. In the origin story to the
following rule, Ven. Channa caused an uproar by cutting down a
venerated tree on a site where he planned to build, which led the
Buddha to formulate the rule that the Community must inspect and
approve the site to prevent uproars of this sort. This suggests that
clearing the site here means clearing the underbrush. Only after the
Community has approved the site should the necessary trees be cut
//Getting the site inspected//. The bhikkhu then goes to the local
Community and formally asks them to inspect the site. (The Pali
passages for this and the remaining formal requests and
announcements are in the Vibhanga.) Either the entire Community will
go to inspect the site or it will select two or three of its members
to go and inspect the site in its stead. The Vibhanga says that
these inspectors should know what does and does not constitute a
disturbance and adequate space, and requires that they be chosen by
a formal motion with one announcement. The Commentary, for some
reason, says that they may also be chosen by a simple declaration
The inspectors then visit the site. If they find any disturbances
or see that the site has inadequate space, they should tell the
bhikkhu not to build there. If the site passes inspection, though,
the bhikkhu may go on to the next step.
//Getting the site approved//. The bhikkhu returns to the
Community and formally asks them to approve the site. The formal act
involves a motion and one announcement. Once this has passed, the
bhikkhu may start construction.
The size of the hut. As the rule states, the hut may be no more
than twelve spans long and seven spans wide, or approximately 3 x
1.75 meters. For some reason the Vibhanga states that the length of
the hut is measured from the outside (excluding the plastering, says
the Commentary), while the width is measured from the inside. The
Commentary adds that neither of these measurements may be exceeded.
Thus a hut ten by eight spans wide, even though it has less floor
area than a twelve by seven span hut, would exceed the standard
width and so would be a violation of this rule.
Offenses. The Vibhanga allots the penalties for building a hut
without a sponsor, for one's own use, without regard for the
stipulations in this rule, as follows:
an oversized hut -- a sanghadisesa;
a hut on an unapproved site -- a sanghadisesa;
a hut on a site without adequate space -- a dukkata;
a hut on a site with disturbances -- a dukkata.
These penalties are additive. Thus, for example, an oversized hut
on an unapproved site would entail a double sanghadisesa.
The wording of the training rule, though, suggests that building a
hut without a sponsor, for one's own use, on a site with
disturbances and without adequate space would entail a sanghadisesa;
but the Sub-commentary says -- without offering explanation -- that
to read the rule in this way is to misinterpret it. Since the
penalty for a multiple sanghadisesa is the same as that for a single
one, there is only one case where this would make an appreciable
difference: a hut of the proper size, built on a designated site
that has disturbances or does not have adequate space. This is a
case of a formal act of the Community improperly performed: Either
the bhikkhus inspecting the site were incompetent, or the
disturbances were not immediately apparent. Since the usual penalty
for improperly performing an act of the Community is a dukkata
(Mv.II.16.4), this may be why the Vibhanga allots penalties as it
As we noted in the Introduction, in cases where the Vibhanga is
explaining the training rules that deal with formal acts of the
Community, it sometimes has to deviate from the wording of the rules
so as to bring them in line in with the general pattern for such
acts, a pattern that was probably formulated after the rules and
came to take precedence over them.
Getting others to build the hut. If, instead of building the hut
himself, a bhikkhu gets others to build it for him, he must inform
them of the four stipulations mentioned in this rule. If he neglects
to inform them, and they build the hut in such a way that it does
not meet any or all of the stipulations, he must either have it torn
down (to the ground, says the Commentary) and have it rebuilt in
line with the stipulations, give it to another, or face the full
penalty for each of the stipulations they violated that he neglected
to mention to them.
For example: He tells them to build a hut of the right size, but
neglects to tell them to have the site approved. They build it to
the right size, the site is without disturbances and has adequate
space but is not approved. Unless he has it torn down or gives it to
another, he incurs a sanghadisesa.
If the bhikkhu mentions the proper stipulations, but learns that
the builders are ignoring them, he must go himself or send a
messenger to reiterate the stipulations. Not to do so incurs a
dukkata. If, having been reminded of the stipulations, the builders
still ignore them, the bhikkhu incurs no penalty; but they -- if
they are bhikkhus -- incur a dukkata for each of the three criteria
regarding the site that they disobey. As for the standard
measurement, they are not bound by it as they are building the hut
for another's use.
If a bhikkhu, intending it for his own use, completes a hut that
others have started, or gets others to complete a hut he has
started, he is still bound by the stipulations given in this rule.
Preliminary offenses. The penalties in the preliminary steps are
as follows: If the hut is such that when finished it will entail a
sanghadisesa or two, each act in its construction entails a dukkata,
until the next to the last act, which entails a thullaccaya. Once
the hut is completed, and the bhikkhu incurs the sanghadisesa(s),
the dukkatas and thullaccaya are nullified.
Non-offenses. The no-offense clauses mention, in addition to the