Buddhist Monastic Discipline

by Jotiya Dhirasekera | 1964 | 113,985 words

A study of Buddhist monastic code: its origin and development in relation to the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas. The Vinaya forms a part of a Buddhist disciple’s training method, particularly within Theravada Buddhism. This English thesis was completed by Jotiya Dhirasekera (Now Bhikkhu Dhammavihari)...

Chapter I - Introduction

It is well to begin a study of Buddhist monasticism with a brief reference to religious mendicancy in India in general. Both these are by no means unexplored fields of study and have engaged the attention of scholars for nearly a century. Among the more successful and recognised of these we would not fail to mention Max Muller, Monier Williams, Oldenberg, Rhys Davids, Mrs. Rhys Davids, E.J. Thomas, Nalinaksa Dutt, Miss Horner and Sukumar Dutt. The pioneers among them started their work during the last few decades of the 19th century and worked on relatively scanty material. However, we are glad to note that in our evaluation of their results, we have found some of these scholars of distant antiquity to be extremely reliable and trustworthy. Admittedly, they tried to work with perfect detachment but it cannot always be said, perhaps due to forces beyond their control, that they were free from bias of some sort or another.

We have attempted in the present study to analyse and examine such lapses wherever possible. It is our conviction that, barring the paucity of source material at a particular time, the following considerations contributed in some way or other to the origin and perpetuation of several erroneous theories:

Theroy (i) An unnecessary attempt to force into one single geneological tree many institutions of diverse origin. This is particularly true in the case of some scholars who begin their study of Indian religions from the Vedic schools and trace it down chronologically through the centuries. Here is Monier Williams attempting to see Buddhism in relation to Brahmanism:

'We perceive again the close connexion between Brahmanism and Buddhism ; for clearly the Brahmacāri and Sannyāsi of the one became the Srāmanera or junior monk, and Sramana or senior monk of the other.'[1]

But this is an unfortunate identification which is far from the truth. The Pali works keep the brahmacarya of the Brahmins distinctly apart from their own [brahmacariya]. In the Suttanipāta it is said that the orthodox Brahmins of old practised the life of brahmacariya for forty-eight years.

Aṭṭhacattālisam vassāni komārabrahmacariyam carimsu te
vijjācaranapariyeṭṭhim acarum brāhmanā pure. Sn. v. 289

The Aṇguttara Nikāya too, expresses a similar idea.[2] This distinction between the brahmacariya life of the Buddhist disciple and that of the Brahmins is clearly maintained by an independent observer in the person of King Pasenadi Kosala in the Dhammacetiya Sutta.[3]

[Idhā ' ham bhante passāmi eke samanabrāhmane pariyantakatam brahmacariyam carante dasa ' pi vassāni visatim ' pi vassāni timsam ' pi vassāni cattārisam ' pi vassāni.
Te aparena samayena sunhātā.... pañcahi kāmagunehi samaṇgibhutā paricārenti.


Theory (ii) An inadequate knowledge of Pali, the language in which one of the most reliable recensions of Buddhist texts is preserved. Some of the pioneers very naturally stumbled over in many places in their translations, mainly through their ignorance of the peculiarities of idiom. Greater disaster befell Pali studies when later scholars who followed in their wake placed implicit faith on the earlier translations and built far-reaching theories on them. Avery glaring instance of this is found in S.Dutt's reliance on Chalmers' translation of the Gopakamoggallāna sutta.[4] It is also possible to trace other instances of incorrect translations which result more from biassed thinking than from ignorance. Here are two such cases picked up at random :

(a) Bhavissanti dhammassa aññātāro (Vin. I. 21; M. I. 163.)

- translated as :

'Some when they learn will become (i. e. will grow). '[5]

It simply means:

'There would be some who would understand the doctrine.'

(b) Ariyassa vinaye yo accayam accayato disvā yathādhammam paṭikaroti....
āyatim samvaram āpajjati 'ti .[6]

- translated as :

' In these Rules laid down by the Venerable One, he who realizes his lapse to be such and remedies it according to law, obtains absolution at once.'[7]

Here, not only is this translation incorrect but the quotation itself is badly mutilated. The words vuddhi hi esā should be prefixed to the quotation. The translation should then read as follows :

'It is a sign of progress in this noble discipline if one realizes his lapse to be such and remedies it according to law and safeguards against its repetition in the future.'

Theory (iii) An unwarranted disregard for the subsequent commentarial traditions which merit more serious consideration.

It should be made quite clear that we do not make a plea here on behalf of the Pali Commentaries that they should be used as the sole criteria in the interpretation of Canonical texts. Far from it. But our contention is that more often than not, when Commentaries have been subject to criticism and ridicule, they have been misjudged and misinterpreted. We come across instances when modern scholars accuse commentators of being ignorant of etymology.[8]

But it is obviously unreasonable to imagine that every commentarial explanation of a word either had to be or was thought by the commentators to be an etymological one. It would certainly amount to fighting wind-mills to mock a commentator at a definition like samsāre bhayam ikkhati ' ti bhikkhu.[9]

This is by no means born of ignorance of etymology. Commentarial tradition is equally conversant with the definition bhikkhati ' ti bhikkhu.[10]

And there are numerous other definitions of bhikkhu.[11]

This commentarial trend is much more evident in the numerous definitions that have been successively added on to the word Pātimokkha. All these go to prove the fact that the commentarial tradition which legitimately goes back to the early days of the Sāsana, as far back as the time of the Buddha, did acquire in its long history a wealth of information which is invaluable in the study and interpretation of Buddhist ideas and institutions. Such information reveals something dynamic in their evolution. The connotations of words and the values attached to them are seen changing in course of time.

It would be interesting to study the various definitions of Pātimokkha in the light of these observations. In the Mahāvagga, in what is called the Old Commentary by Rhys Davids and Oldenberg, we have perhaps what may be regarded as the oldest definition of Pātimokkha: Pātimokkhan ' ti ādim etam mukham etam pamukham etam kusalānam dhammānam .[12]

One would search in vain here for an etymological definition. But one cannot ignore the light it throws on the scope and function of the Pātimokkha in the early history of the Sāsana. It is said to be the beginning, the source of all good activities. We have shown elsewhere how the Pātimokkha which began as a complement to sila in early Buddhist monasticism soon came to be regarded as sila par excellence. Thus we discover their identification in the Commentaries

[Pātimokkhasamvaro eva hi silam - MA.I.155; SA.III. 230.].

The cultivation and acquisition of virtue (kusalā dhammā) was the main concern of the monastic life[13] and soon the Pātimokkha came to be the sole guide in Buddhist monasticism for the attainment of this ideal. Hence, even in the Canonical texts, sampannapātimokkha or the perfection in terms of the Pātimokkha becomes a necessary adjunct of a silasampanna or one who is perfected in sila.

We are well aware of the fact that the spiritual earnestness of early Buddhist monasticism soon receded into the background. In its place, the slower process of perfection through samsāric evolution, subject to birth in good and evil states (sugati and duggati), came to the fore and gained greater prominence. This tended, to a certain degree, even to secularise the monastic ideal. The reward for the religious life of the monk differed from that of the layman only in the matter of degree. They both shared a life of bliss in heaven, the monk excelling the layman with regard to his complexion, glory and life-span.

Nave deve passantā vannavanto yasassino
sugatasmim brahmacariyam caritvāna idhāgate.
Te a — e atirocanti vannena yasasāyunā
sāvakā bhuripa — assa visesu ' pagatā idha.

D.11. 208.

However, there is no doubt that this was viewed as a departure towards something inferior. In the Aṇguttara Nikāya, the Buddha gives these same items of divine excellence as a cause for revulsion for those who seek the true fruits of recluseship

[Sace vo bhikkhave a — atitthiyā paribbājakā evam puccheyyum devaloku ' papattiyā āvuso samane gotame brahmacariyam vussati ' ti nanu tumhe bhikkhave evam puṭṭhā aṭṭiyeyyātha harāyeyyātha jiguccheyyāthā ' ti.
Evam bhante

- A.I.115.].

Some did, in fact, rebel against it. Evidence of this, though with a different emphasis, is found in the Commentary to the story of the Samana Devaputta of the Samyutta Nikāya who, due to no choice of his, found himself born in the heavenly world

[So chāyam disvā cutibhāvam — atvā na mayā imam ṭhānam patthetvā samanadhammo kato. |
Uttamattham arahattam patthetvā kato ' ti sampattiyā vippaṭisāri ahosi.

SA.I. 86.].

At this stage we are not surprised at the following definition of Pātimokkha given by Buddhaghosa : Yam tam atimokkham atipamokkham uttamasilam pāti vā sugatibhayehi mokkheti duggatibhayehi yo vā nam pāti tam mokkheti ' ti pātimokkhan ' ti vuccati.[14]

Apart from the new emphasis which is laid on the scope of the Pātimokkha, one thing stands out clearly in this definition of Buddhaghosa. Buddhaghosa is conscious of the paramount importance of the Pātimokkha as a body of sila : it is the atimokkham atipamokkham uttamasilam. Nevertheless, it is now valued more for its efficacy in warding off the possible dangers of sugati and duggati.

It is the security of the life after that is now sought. Yet another thing strikes us here. Whatever may be the purpose for which the Pātimokkha is used, the Commentator seems to be aware of the fact that the primary idea associated with the Pātimokkha is that of freeing, liberating and saving. It is as though he knows that the verbal notion in the word Pātimokkha is derived from the root /muc, giving such verb forms like muccati, muñcati, moceti which have the idea of free, release or liberate.

In the present study of monastic discipline we use the word ' monastic' primarily in the sense of 'pertaining to or characteristic of monks, nuns, friars and the like.' Any reference to monasteries is made only secondarily in association with the former. As a prelude to such a study three things should be viewed clearly in order that the problems of Buddhist monastic discipline may be analysed in their proper context.

They are:

  1. Pre- Buddhist religious mendicancy in India.
  2. Origins of Buddhist monasticism.
  3. Origins of Vinaya literature.

Extensive work has admittedly been done in all these fields of study. Very difinite ideas have been expressed on many problems connected with them. Nevertheless, we feel that there are numerous instances where modification and reconsideration of views already expressed is not only desirable but absolutely essential.

A great deal has been said about religious mendicancy in India before the advent of Buddhism. As early as 1889 Monier Williams said the following on the subject :

'Monasticism had always been a favourite adjunct of the Brahmanical system, and respect for monastic life had taken deep root among the people....Hindu monks, therefore, were numerous before Buddhism. They belonged to various sects, and took various vows of self- torture, of silence, of fasting, of poverty, of mendicancy, of celibacy, of abandoning caste, rank, wife and family. Accordingly they had various names..... Such names prove that asceticism was an ancient institution.'[15]

These remarks of Monier Williams about pre-Buddhist mendicancy are also borne out by the evidence of the Pali texts.[16] Oldenberg gives a very vivid account of the pre-Buddhist origin of Indian monasticism.[17]

Sukumar Dutt makes a very comprehensive study of the origin of shramana in India in a chapter entitled "The Primitive Parivrājaka — A Theory Of Their Origin".[18]

He has refreshingly new and interesting views to express regarding their origin. It would be out of place in the present study to quote these authorities at length on the history of pre-Buddhist religious mendicants. Suffice it to say that all evidence points to the wide prevalence and respectful acceptance of religious mendicancy in ancient India prior to the birth of Buddhism, and that what was most noteworthy about it was the diversity rather than the homogeneity of its character.

On the origins of Buddhist monasticism much more markedly divergent theories have been put forward since the beginning of this century. One of the distinguished pioneers in the field of Buddhist studies, Professor Rhys Davids, expressed the following view about Buddhist monasticism at a date as early as 1886.[19]

'It was a logical conclusion from the views of life held by Gotama, that any rapid progress in spiritual life was only compatible with a retired life, in which all such contact with the world as would tend to create earthly excitement and desires should be reduced as much as possible; and accordingly, from the first he not only adopted such a mode of life for himself, but urged it on his more earnest disciples.'[20]

In 1912 he was joined by his wife, Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys, in expressing the same view. In the unrevised editions of her Buddhism in the Home University Library series (pre-1934) she says the following about Buddhist monasticism:

'The monastic habit or practice of seclusion in the wild, common to Indian recluseship from time immemorial, and probably imported from India to Egypt and so to the newly Christianized Europe, was largely and systematically practised by Buddhists.

It was both practised by the founder himself, and recommended to the followers, as the best opportunity for cultivating detachment, spiritual calm, and thoroughgoing meditation on any given subject prescribed by the recluse's superior.'[21]

After a thorough analysis of the evidence of the Sutta and Vinaya Piṭakas we feel that this explanation of Buddhist monasticism is indisputably correct. The motive in renuciation as given here could not be any more near the truth.

But we lament the fact that, supported by her new discovery of "the growing vogue of the cenobitic monk and his peculiar ideals", Mrs. Rhys Davids abandoned her early ideas about Buddhist monasticism expressed earlier.[22]

In her Outlines of Buddhism published in 1934 she shows her new attitude to monasticism in Buddhism :

'I believe, that for the founder of Buddhism and their co-workers the business of the missioner was the main pre-occupation, and that, effectively to carry on this, it was necessary to give up the life 'of the world' as a tie which would nullify the worth in their work in religion. People would not have listened to the gospel taught by one who was sharing their life. He had to show that that gospel was the one thing in the world which mattered.'[23]

This is a very strange motive which is ascribed here to the pabbajita. This is as it were to show that pabbajjā and the life of brahmacariya have nothing in common. Mrs. Rhys Davids goes a step further. She undertakes the formidable task of simplifying, or oversimplifying we should say, the concept of brahmacariya in Buddhism. Of brahmacariya in Buddhism she says:

'It paraphrases Dharma as perfect conduct, in a word hitherto used for the life of a student under his teacher, resembling to some extent the life of a medieval youth in a collegiate cloister, but now applied to life as the "many-folk" might live if they chose to.'[24]

But this popularised rendering of the meaning of brahmacariya when it comes to Buddhism, unlike in the Caturāsrama Dharma, seems to be hardly justifiable except on the assumption that Buddhism, in its origin, was a religion for the "many- folk". In a chapter devoted entirely to this subject of brahmacariya, we show why we prefer to hold a different point of view on the evidence of the Pali texts (See Ch. III.). For the present we would place before the reader a very different evaluation of the life of pabbajjā and its relation to the practice of brahmacariya as given by Miss Horner:

'For one of the points of entering Gotama's Order was to learn control of body, mind and speech. This, it was thought, was essential to spiritual progress, and was extremely hard to attain unless the shackles of the household life had been laid aside. Then man, as monk, could more readily attain perfection and its fruit (arahattaphala), the goal of brahmacariya, the good, divine, holy or Brahma-life.'[25]

These remarks, whatever may be the interpretation of Brahma-life, savour truly of the contents of the early Nikāyas.

Monier Williams who completed his treatise on Buddhism in 1880 has made the following remarks on the origins of the Buddhist Saṇgha:

'What ought rather to be claimed for him (Buddha) is that he was the first to establish a universal brotherhood (Saṇgha) of coenobite monks, open to all persons of all ranks. In other words, he was the founder of what may be called a kind of universal monastic communism (for Buddhist monks never as a rule, lived alone), and the first to affirm that true enlightenment - the knowledge of the highest path leading to saintship - was not confined to the Brahmans, but open to all the members of all castes.'[26]

He adds further:

'The peculiarity about Gotama's teaching in regard to monachism was that he discouraged solitary asceticism, severe austerities, and irrevocable vows, though he enjoined moral restraint in celibate fraternities, conformity to rules of discipline, upright conduct, and confession to each other.'[27]

These obssevations of Monier Williams both with regard to the origins of Buddhist monasticism and the pattern of the consequent organization, we would regard as being commendably thorough and accurate. However, there is one single point on which we wolud like to seek futher clarification. He says that Buddhist monks never, as a rule, lived alone. It is difficult for us to determine the evidence on which he arrived at this conclusion.

Judging by his evident familiarity with the Vinaya texts, we wonder whether it is the apparent compulsory residence under a teacher for a prescribed period of time which is in the tradition of the Vinaya which led him to this remark. But we should observe here that the Vinaya itself gives many exceptions to this general practice.[28]

At the same time, forest-dwelling, solitary monks were as much a feature of early Buddhism as the resident, urban monks who lived in communities. This is the burden of the Khaggavisāna Sutta of the Suttanipāta. This aspect of Buddhist monastic life is discussed at greater length elsewhere (See Chs. VII & XII.).

On the other hand, Dr. Sukumar Dutt, obsessed as it were with the idea of itinerant mendicancy which he derives from the life of Parivrājakas, seems to be unable to conceive of any settled life in the early Buddhist community of Bhikkhus. Of their life he says:

'in its original condition of homeless wandering'.[29]

Was not the Buddha himself, even prior to his enlightenment, sufficiently acquainted with settled community life among his contemporaries who had renounced the household life? The institutions of alāra Kālāma, Uddaka Rāmaputta, Sañjaya and the three Kassapa brothers, all point to the existence of well settled communities of "homeless men". Such settled life did not come to be tabooed in Buddhism, either early or late. Itinerancy was not a compulsory injunction and was never implied in the Buddhist ideal of agārasmā anagāriyam pabbajati..

As we have pointed out elsewhere, it came to be adopted by some through personal preference, but this does not in any case imply any general change of attitude in Buddhist monasticism.

Life in the community and life in seclusion were undoubtedly in existence side by side even during the earliest phase of the Sāsana. But to affirm this is not to lose sight of the fact that both monasteries and community life in them grew in stature in the centuries that followed the establishment of the Sāsana.

In support of his theory of the exclusive eremetical ideal of early Buddhism, Dutt quotes the Mahvagga statement m ekena dve agamittha which he translates very correctly as 'let not two of you go one and the same way '.[30]

But we are surprised to find him use this statement thereafter to conclude that 'the Buddha insists on unsocial life in its extreme form.' Dutt seems to lose sight completely of the historical setting in which the remark was made by the Buddha. It was the Buddha's philanthrophy and magnanimity which made him dispatch his first band of sixty disciples who were of reliably good character to wander about in the country and the town for the weal and welfare of many. He wanted his meassage to reach as wide a circle as possible and he was confident of the calibre of his disciples.

That is what made him say the above, that no two disciples should go in the same direction. In those pioneering days of the Sāsana it would have been a tragic waste of man power to do so when every one of the disciples so dispatched was equal to the task. We would refer the reader here to the thoroughly accurate explanation which Miss Horner has given to the above injunction of the Buddha:

"These are the grandiloquent words which have come down to us. It is more likely that Gotama said something like

'Go out now to the villages near by, and as there are so few of you, no two of you should go by the same way. Speak of the new ideas that I have just been telling you about to any one who will listen'." [31]

Having postulated that the Buddhist Bhikkhus formed a sect of the Indian Parivrājaka community,[32] Dutt associates, ipso facto, an exclusive eremetical ideal with the early Buddhist Bhikkhus. But he seems to run into a number of references in the Canonical Pali texts which differentiate the Bhikkhus from Parivrājakas. As these obviously are contrary to his supposition he chooses to regard them as being of later orgin.[33]

It is difficult to detect the criteria which Dutt uses in underrating the evidence of some portions of the Pali texts as being unhistorical. The Gopakamoggallāna Sutta of the Majjhima Nikāya clearly does not support his theory of the early Buddhist eremetical ideal. He thinks this Sutta is unhistorical in its narrative contents.[34]

The solitary, retiring type of Bhikkhu who loved a life of peace and quiet and who for that purpose even penetrated into the forest depths was by no means the exclusive pattern of early Buddhist monasticism. While the great elders like Mahā Kassapa were respected as champions of this way of life, monks who lived in an urban setting (gāmantavihāri ) have won as much praise for their spiritual earnestness.

(Evam eva kho āvuso yassa kassaci bhikkhuno ime pāpakā icchāvacarā pahinā dissanti c ' eva suyyanti ca kiñcā ' pi so hoti gāmantavihāri nemantaniko gahapaticivaradharo atha kho nam sabrahmacāri sakkaronti garukaronti mānenti pujenti. Tam kissa hetu. Te hi tassa āyasmato pāpakā akusalā icchāvacarā pahinā dissanti c ' eva suyanti cā ' ti

- M.I. 31)

In the Gulissāni Sutta, the venerable Sāriputta shows us that the forest-dwelling monk needs as much to develop his virture as the monk who lives in the village.[35]

Both groups seem to have been known at a very early date and it also appears that their venue of residence was no major concern. In marked contrast to Mahā Kassapa, Sāriputta and Moggallāna mingled with their fellow brethren in large communities and worked for their upliftment.[36]

Dutt also tells us that

"the counterpart in practice of the 'rhinoceros' ideal is represented by the formula of the Four Resources (nissaya) of a Bhikkhu." [37]

Elsewhere he says the same in the following words:

'The eremetical ideal indicated here — a life of solitude and austerity — is that recommended in the so -called Four Nissayas.' [38]

Neither the nature of these Nissayas nor the incident which is said to have prompted the announcement of these make us believe that they have anything in common whit the solitary ideal of the Khaggavisāna Sutta.

They only constitute a sound attitude of mind towards the life of pabbajjā. They refer to the four requisites (catupaccaya) which a Bhikkhu expects to receive from the laymen. It is of paramount importance that a Bhikkhu who chooses on his own a life of renunciation should be able to live that life, without discontent, on the simplest of requisites which he would receive from others.

The virtue which is aimed at in this idea of the Nissayas is contentment. In a desire for more and better requisites the pabbajita shall not let a spirit of discontent overpower him and embitter him about his religious life. That is the warning struck in the admonition on the Nissayas : Tattha te yāvajivam ussāho karaniyo.[39]

It means 'In that holy way of living you should continue to strive all your life.'

Dutt's remarks on the Nissayas show signs of unnecessary distortion. He says:

'When a person has already been ordained as a Bhikkhu, an almsman professing to live for the rest of his life on alms, he is thus reminded in a formal exhortation of the other three nissayas, supposed to be the other resources of his mendicant life.' [40]

He appears to derive the idea that a Bhikkhu is 'an almsman professing to live for the rest of his life on alms' perhaps from the expression of the first Nissaya in the form 'Pindiyālopabhojanam nissāya pabbajjā '. But we do not see any justification for it. Nor do we feel warranted to make such a statement on the purely etymological definition of the word bhikkhu (bhikkhati 'ti bhikkhu).

This concept of the Bhikkhu as indicated by Dutt is obviously in the tradition of Devadatta who requested the Buddha to lay it down that a Bhikkhu should live on begged food all his life.

(sādhu bhante bhikkhu.... yāvajivam pindapātikā assu

- Vin.III.171).

Dutt goes even so far as to think that Devadatta's request to make rigid, lifelong habits of certain recommendations which also include the Nissayas was an unsuccessful attempt at reviving the old eremetical ideal.[41]

But what Devadatta attempted was more to toe the line with the champions of severe austerity, for Devadatta himself states that people generally have a greater regard for austerity in religious life - lukhappasannā hi manussā. But whether Devadatta did this out of genuine respect for austerity, or as the Vinaya texts put it, out of the sinister motive of discrediting the Buddha and his Order in the eyes of the people because the Buddha denounced severe austerities, is a different problem.

As Dutt himself points out, Devadatta's proposals accord more with Jaina practices.[42] In Buddhism, they strike a discordant note and consequently Devadatta appears more a dissentient than a revivalist. Dutt is apparently sorry that 'Devadatta got no credit for enjoining strictness with regard to some of them.' [43] But for very obvious reasons we are certainly not.

Dutt's historical sense has also led him to develop an evolutionary theory with regard to the concept of Cātuddisa Saṇgha. He begins by saying that " the word Saṇgha signified later on not the whole body of Buddhist ' Bhikkhus of the Four Quarters ', but only a particular cenobitical society resident at an āvāsa." [44] Elsewhere he is even more categorical about the use of the word Cātuddisa Bhikkhu-saṇgha. He says:

'The primitive Buddhist Saṇgha in Pali literature is designated by its founder the Cātuddisa Bhikkhu-saṇgha.' [45]

This identification of 'the primitive Buddhist Saṇgha' with the Cātuddisa Bhikkhu-saṇgha, in our opinion, is hardly justifiable. The Cātuddisa Bhikkhu-saṇgha, in the context in which it occurs, did not represent a distinct group as such. It implied, on the other hand, the bestowal of gifts to the 'Order as a collective organization'. The phrase was used in such context, from the earliest times, connoting the totality of the Saṇgha.

This undoubtedly was more a theoretical reckoning than a physical reality and was used for purposes of monastic administration, particularly in the acceptance and ownership of property. We reproduce below in full the instances cited by Dutt where the word Cātuddisa Saṇgha is used:

D.I.145. Yo kho brāhmana cātuddisam saṇgham uddissa vihāram karoti....

Vin.I. 305. Yam tattha garubhandam garuparikkhāram tam āgatānāgatassa
cātuddisassa saṇghassa avissajjikam āvebhaṇgikan ' ti.

Vin.II.147. Rājagahako seṭṭhi bhagavato paṭissutvā te saṭṭhim vihāre
āgatānāgatassa cātuddisassa saṇghassa patiṭṭhāpesi.

Vin. II.164. Tena hi tvam gahapati jetavanam āgatānāgata-
cātuddisassa saṇghassa patiṭṭhāpehi ' ti.

It should be clear from a study of the above statements that where the Buddha uses the word cātuddisa (of the four quarters) with reference to the Saṇgha, he does so for the specific purpose of enjoining the collective acceptance of gifts in the name of the Saṇgha in its totality. This is further clarified by the additional word āgatānāgata (those present and not present) which is sometimes used with the former implying that the physical presence of every member is not necessary at such a bestwal although the right of use of property so bestowed is shared by every member of the Saṇgha.

In the light of these observations we are unable to agree with the following statements of Dutt :

  1. The persistency with which the expression is used in reference to the primitive Buddhist Saṇgha seems to indicate that it was used originally not as descriptive phrase merely, but as a name.[46]
  2. In the Vinaya Piṭaka and in Ceylonese inscriptions dating back to the time of Asoka, it is used in contexts where no special signification of universality is intended.[47]
  3. The Saṇgha of the Four Quarters meant latterly an ideal confederation, which at one time had an historical reality.[48]

If we examine the Rādha Brāhmana episode of the Mahāvagga[49] we see a very early stage in the evolution of monastic administration. The right of admitting new converts to the monastic order through a formal resolution before the Saṇgha is introduced here for the first time. This was done by the Buddha himself to avoid the possible abuse of power by individuals to whom he

had already relegated the authority which he once held. In this transference of power from individuals to a corporation we see the recognition of the existence of such separate bodies which carried the designation of Saṇgha. They were real and active institutions which had a local relevance.

One would not deny that this instance of empowering Saṇghas for the conferment of Upasampadā is relatively early in the history of the Sāsana. Nevertheless one cannot confuse the Saṇgha who thus acts collectively at these monastic functions with the Cātuddisa Saṇgha, a concept which connotes something very different. These independent groups of Saṇgha, to begin with, were not necessarily residents of one single āvāsa or monastic residence.[50]

Sometimes the residents within a single village unit formed one Saṇgha as is evident from details of the Pātimokkha recital which is referred to in the Gopakamoggallāna Sutta.[51]

We shall now turn our attention to what has been said so far about the organization and discipline of this early monastic community. As early as 1880 Rhys Davids and Oldenberg jointly expressed the following view : 'It seems to us that Gotama's disciples, from the very beginning, were much more than a free and unformal union of men held together merely through this common reverence for their Master, and through a common spiritual aim. They formed rather, and from the first, an organised Brotherhood.' [52]

Speaking of the Buddhist monastic fraternity Oldenberg says :

'It appears from the very beginning to have been a society governed by law. The completion of a procedure prescribed by law was necessary to the reception of a postulant into the society. The law of the Order pointed out to him his course of action and of omission. The society itself as a court of discipline secured conformity to the ecclesiastical rules by keeping up a regular judicial procedure.' [53]

Based on independent observations we are in a position to say that what has been stated in both cases is thoroughly accurate. Let us now turn to Sukumar Dutt.

'It is unhistorical to presume that the entire corpus of the laws the Vinaya Piṭaka was drawn up at one time. From the beginning we hear of persons in the Buddhist Saṇgha, called Vinayadharas, who concerned themselves with the study and exposition of the rules of the Vinaya. The existence of such professors was the surest guarantee for conservation and consolidation of the laws from generation to generation among the Buddhist Bhikkhus.' [54]

are glad to say that these words too, constitute very sound observation. Note here Dutt's admission of the early existence of Vinayadharas in the Saṇgha and ' the study and exposition of the rules of the Vinaya'. He proceeds thereafter to strike a note of warning against possible lapses in this field of study.

'Through an inadequate appreciation of the complexities of the study, even learned writers on Buddhism have been betrayed into attributing to the historical Buddha rules and regulation of his Order, most of which did not emanate from him, but were adopted by his monk-followers from time to time under the aegis of the Founder's name. ' [55]

When and where these criticisms apply, we will leave the reader to judge. But where Dutt expresses his own ideas about the origins of Vinaya rules he seems to be obviously on slippery ground. Speaking of the role of the Buddha in the Vinaya Piṭaka he says :

' He is therefore set up rather as a judge than as a law-maker. He pronounces on the validity of acts done by the Bhikkhus and does not profess to prescribe general courses of conduct for them.' [56]

We feel that his remarks here are mixed up with a bit of legal jargon and they obviously miss the mark. As has been explained in detail elsewhere under the origin of sila and sikkhāpada,[57] he Buddha does not proceed as a law-maker, without any provocation. This is clearly stated to be so by the Buddha himself both in the Bhaddāli Sutta[58] and the Suttavibhaṇga.[59]

Judgement on a single wrong act done by a Bhikkhu marks the birth of a new rule. Nothing is further from the truth than his remark that the Buddha does not profess to prescribe general courses of conduct for the Bhikkhus. Here Dutt seems to fail to assess correctly the role of the Vinaya sikkhāpada. They are unmistakably generalisations based on specific instances. Collectively they determine the general course of conduct for the monks.

Whatever be the evidence of the Sutta and Vinaya Piṭakas, Dutt seems to have reached the conclusion that the Vinaya is a very late product in the Sāsana. But some of his remarks at times seem to contradict his own theory. We examine below some of his major postulates. He begins his argument regarding the origin of Buddhist Vinaya as follows :

'Each of these sects had a Dhamma, a body of doctrines, of its own, but whether it had an equally defined Vinaya, a special body of external rules, is another question which we shall deal with in Chapter III.' [60]

In Chapter III which is referred to here, he makes the following analysis :

'Considering this episode.....the conclusion is irresistible that the idea of the primitive Buddhist community was that the Buddha himself had laid down no regula for the Saṇgha.

The seeming inconsistency in the Buddha's saying later on in the same Suttanta " Yo vo Ananda mayā dhammo ca vinayo ca desito," etc.... vanishes if we regard Vinaya in this context as not signifying the rules of an Order,but those of right conduct.' [61]

But we are sorry to say, with all due deference to Dutt's critical attitude, we are not in a position to concede this manner of historical reconstruction which is based on misconceptions and is exeedingly misleading. Let us examine these statements more closely. The episode he speaks of refers to a statement said to have been made by the Buddha to Ananda.

It reads as Tathāgatassa kho ānanda na evam hoti aham bhikkhusaṇgham pariharissāmi ' ti. Kim ānanda tathāgato bhikkhusaṇgham ārabbha kiñcid ' eva udāharissati. [62]

Based on this, Dutt says that 'the Buddha refused to lay down any rule for the Saṇgha.' [63]

But to say this is no more than an act of wishful thinking, for by no stretch of imagination can we find any such idea in the above statement which is ascribed to the Buddha. Therefore we would call this the first false move of Dutt in consequence of which he ventures to ascribe to the primitive Buddhist community an idea which would historically be most unsound, viz. that the Buddha himself had laid down no regula for the Saṇgha.

It has been pointed out elsewhere that the cry came from more than one quarter of the Buddhist Saṇgha that the Buddha was laying down too many rules.[64] The first assumption of Dutt has led him to his second error of judgement where he suggests

a new meaning to the word Vinaya in the quotation Yo vo ānanda mayā dhammo ca vinayo ca desito paññatto...Note his remarks here:

'... if we regard the Vinaya in this context as not signifying the rules of an Order, but those of right conduct.'

Now we should point out that it is hardly fair that Dutt leaves out of his quotation the word paññatto which appears just after desito in the above statement. This, in effect, would be a distortion, for the word paññatto has a specific ring of codified law, and the word paññatti is used throughout the Vinaya Piṭaka with reference to the promulgation of rules of discipline. Further, Dutt himself does not fail to menṭion the fact that these remarks were made by the Buddha during his last missionary tour.[65]

In numerous sections of Canonical texts which can legitimately claim great antiquity the words dhamma and vinaya are used ascribing to both, as it were, equal prestige and importance. One only needs to analyse such statements as the following to be acquainted with such usage.

  1. āgatā ' gamā dhammadharā vinayadharā mātikādharā - D.II.125;M.I. 223.
  2. ayam dhammo ayam vinayo idam satthusāsanam - D.II.124; A. IV.143,280.
  3. abhidhamme vinetum abhivinaye vinetum -Vin.I. 64.
  4. abhidhamme abhivinaye yogo karaniyo - M.I. 472.

What justification is there then for regarding 'Vinaya in this context' as something very different from what it usually is in the references to Dhamma and Vinaya? Are we here called upon to imagine that the Vinaya in the last days of the Master was something much more diminutive than during his life time? Or are we expected to be so critical as to reject every other reference which does not support our hypothesis as being unhistorical and unacceptable?

Thus having set the stage according to his own inclinations, Dutt proceeds to build up his own theory as follows :

'There is no reason to suppose that the Buddhist Parivrājakas, who called themselves Bhikkhus did not abide by them. It seems, on the other hand, as the legend of Subhadda would seem to suggest, that the Buddha had enjoined strictness with regard to them. The followers of the great Teacher obeyed these rules of Parivrājaka life, as presumably did the other Parivrājakas.' [66]

We do not deny that the background of Buddhism did influence to some extent the evolution of the Buddhist Vinaya. But this interpretation of Subhadda's words is certainly far-fetched and appears to be calculated to support a pre- conceived notion. Dutt makes several bold attempts to establish this idea and makes several new interpretations of passages too well known. Note the obvious contradiction in what Dutt says about the proceedings of the First Council:

'In other words, its main object was to collect the rules of right conduct for the Bhikkhus which had been laid down by the Buddha at various times and, by giving them an authoritative Buddhist stamp, to convert them into special rules of the Buddhist Order.' [67]

If on his own admission the Buddha had laid down at various times rules of right conduct for the Bhikkhus, the question arises what then is the need to give them an authoritative Buddhist stamp? What of the redundant conversion into special rules of the Buddhist Order? How do we dismiss the references which point to the early existence of Vinayadharas? Many such problems would be reviewed in the course of this study.

We would now consider the evolution of the Vinaya literature which is preserved to us in the Pali Tipiṭaka. There too, on many problems, one discovers a diversity of opinion. Before we enter into any controversy we would like to name the works which are recognised as the contents of the Canonical Vinaya Piṭaka. They are :

  • Pātimokkha (Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni)
  • Vibhaṇga or Suttavibhaṇga (Mahāvibhaṇga and Bhikkhunivibhaṇga)
  • Khandhaka (Mahāvagga and Cullavagga)
  • Parivāra.

In our present study we do not undertake any serious study of the Parivāra as it does not make a really worthwhile contribution to the problems of monastic discipline. Considering the vital role of the Pātimokkha in Buddhist monasticism we would choose to begin our discussion with what has been said about the Pātimokkha. Rhys Davids and Oldenberg say :

'It (Pātimokkha) is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of the Buddhist text- books ; and it has been inserted in its entirety into the first part of the Vinaya, the Vibhaṇga.' [68]

As a result of extensive investigations made into early monastic history we are unable to concede the use of the description 'oldest text-book' with reference to the Pātimokkha. By Pātimokkha we mean the code of bare rules, without any details regarding the rules. Jugding by the nature and function of the early ritual of Pātimokkha in Buddhist monasticism we are convinced that if anything served as a text-book in the early days of the Sāsana, it should certainly be the Suttavibhaṇga, though not necessarily in the present form, yet as something more than the Pātimokkha itself.

Evidence in support of this view is examined in detail in a succeeding chapter (See Ch. VIII.).

Oldenberg who takes the Pātimokkha alone to be the older portion poses the following question.

'The question is, therefore, whether the ordinances originally appeared with the explanatory notes as in the Vibhaṇga, the Pātimokkha being subsequently extracted from it, or whether the Pātimokkha alone was the older portion, the additional matter of the Vibhaṇga being the work of subsequent revision.' [69]

He refers to Rhys Davids as holding a different view:

'Mr. Rhys Davids considers the Pātimokkha of more recent origin than the works which form the great complexus of the Tipiṭaka, and assumes that at the time when the latter works were collected, the Pātimokkha either did not exist or was of too recent a date to be admitted into the holy writings.' [70]

It would be seen in the course of the present study that we are in perfect agreement with Mr. Rhys Davids on this point.

But we are surprised to find Rhys Davids and Oldenberg push their argument too far and say the following regarding the place of the Pātimokkha in the Canon.

'... and indeed the work, as a separate work, is not considered among Buddhists to belong to the Piṭakas at all, and is therefore not included in the list of works of which the Piṭakas consist.' [71]

Winternitz too seems to hold the same idea. [72]

While we subscribe to the view that the Pātimokkha as an independent Vinaya treatise has been subsequently extracted from the Suttavibhaṇga, very probably before it reached its present form, we should point out here the inaccuracy of the statement that Buddhists do not consider the Pātimokkha as belonging to the Piṭakas. Buddhaghosa himself, perhaps backed by a contemporary tradition, includes the two Pātimokkhas under the contents of the Vinaya Piṭaka

(Tattha paṭhamasaṇgitiyam saṇgitañ ca asaṇgitañ ca sabbam ' pi samodhānetvā ubhayāni pātimokkhāni dve vibhaṇgāni dvāvisati khandhakā soÂasaparivārā ' ti idam vinayapiṭakam nāma

- DA.I.17 & VinA.I.18).

On the other hand we should also here take note of the Cullavagga account of the First Council (Vin.II. 287.). No attempt is made there to name any specific texts under the Vinaya recital, its entire contents being brought under the designation of ubhato vinaya

[PTS and Cambodian text reading.See p.79 n.3 ].

We presume ubhato implies 'of both Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni '. Vinaya here has to be taken to include both the Vibhaṇga (Mahā-vibhaṇga and Bhikkhunivibhaṇga) as well as the Khandhakas, possibly in their initial, rudimentary form. [We reject the Sri Lankan Buddha Jayanti Text reading vibhaṇge for vinaye which would totally exclude the Khandhaka Vinaya.] In the samples given here of the work recited under Vinaya we discover portions of the detailed work, the Suttavibhaṇga and not of the bare code, the Pātimokkha.

This core of the Suttavibhaṇga, on account of its association with the fortnightly recital called the Uddesa which had a specific religious disciplinary function, came to be known by the name of Pātimokkha. From the point of view of the recital it was also called the Uddesa. As the bare code, without any details, it was also designated as sutta. The Cullavagga distinguishes the two as follows : ....tassa n ' eva suttam āgatam hoti no suttavibhaṇgo.[73]

The Commentary on this statement brings out their relative values in the following remarks:

N ' eva suttam āgatan ' ti na mātikā āgatā. No suttavibhaṇgo ' ti vinayo na paguno.[74]

The knowledge of the suttas, without their details is only fragmentary learning. It is not Vinaya. The inadequacy of these bare regulations for the successful maintenance of monastic discipline is clear from this reference in the Vinaya Piṭaka. [75]

(Tehi ce bhikkhave bhikkhuhi tasmim adhikarane vinicchiyamāne tatra 'ssa bhikkhu dhammakathiko tassa suttam hi kho āgatam hoti no suttavibhṇgo. So attham asallakkhento vyañjanacchāyāya attham patibāhati

- Vin.II. 97.)

Speaking of the Uddesa Rhys Davids says:

  The completion of the recitation is therefore evidence that all who have taken part in it are pure in respect of the specified offences. And this is the origin of that second name, the Pātimokkha, which means the Acquittal, or Deliverance or Discharge.' [76]

Careful examination of available evidence has led us to conclusions not very different from the above. We have attempted a detailed study of the many problems connected with the Pātimokkha in a chapter specially devoted to it. [77]

Speaking of the origin of what now constitutes the Pātimokkha Rhys Davids and Oldenberg express the following view.

'Tradition even ascribes the first laying down of each clause to the Buddha himself. This tradition is of course very far from being conclusive. But neither should we hold it impossible that the Pātimokkha, either in its present shape, or at least in its most essential parts, can reach back to the Buddha's own time, or to that of his personal disciples.' [78]

Of these remarks, we shall say for the present that they are characterised by their sobriety and moderation. Evidence in support of the ideas expressed here, we shall furnish in due course.

Regarding the origin of the Pātimokkha as a ritual among the Buddhist Saṇgha, Dutt seems to base his investigations on two assumptions. First, he assumes that the disciples of the Buddha, at first, formed a loosely-strung group without any disciplinary rules of their own. Hence he concludes that they needed a bond of union and that Pātimokkha was therefore originally used in that sense and for that purpose.

Secondly, in spite of his perfect disregard for legend, Dutt is willing to treat the Mahāpadāna Sutta as a reliable bit of historical evidence.[79]

We have shown elsewhere that we take a very different attitude with regard to both these assumptions. It will be made clear that all available evidence prove more the contrary and we are compelled to reject the following statement of Dutt as lacking in historical support.

"But the Pātimokkha, the ' bond ' or the external token of union of the Bhikkhu-saṇgha, changed its character, shortly after the founder's decease, from a mere declaration of faith in the Dhamma to a discipline and rule of life." [80]

Speaking further of the Pātimokkha Dutt says:

'The existence of the Pātimokkha at first as a mere code and not a ritual is beyond all legitimate doubt.'

According to Dutt's idea stated earlier the Pātimokkha, upto the founder's decease, was apparently only 'a mere declaration of faith in the Dhamma'. From when does he then date 'the existence of the Pātimokkha at first as a mere code'? Besides, where does one get this original form as 'a mere code'? Does one find such a code divorced from the confessional meeting of the Uposatha and referred to by the name of Pātimokkha?

How does one ignore the references to the Uddesa, which mean the recital at the confessional meetings, which occur in the Suttas and in the Vinaya, including the Pātimokkha itself?[81]

If what Dutt means by 'the present ritual form of the Pātimokkha' is the presence of' the Introductory formular at the beginning and the Interrogatory Portions appended to each section' [82] in the text of the Pātimokkha, then one is compelled to point out that these 'later additions' should be as old as the days when Uddesa or the recital of the list of sikkhāpada, the confession of guilt by transgressing monks and the consequent punishment of offenders were the functions of the Uposatha. B

oth those portions of the text referred to above are essential to give the recital of the Pātimokkha a truly live function. We have shown that this was in fact so in the early days of the Sāsana. At any rate, one cannot speak of an original form of the Pātimokkha earlier than this. What did exist was the body of sikkhāpada.

It is lamentable that Dutt tries to discover a form ' Pātimokkhā ' in the plural and says that it ' cannot but mean the rules of law contained in the code'.[83]

But we have to point out that this assumed plural form is only the second member, mutilated from the compound sampanna-pātimokkhā. Hence we should understand the plural form here as belonging to the compound as a whole and not to the word Pātimokkha. Compare the similar use of the form ' sampanna-silā ' in the same context.[84]

It is also Dutt's idea that ' the Suttavibhaṇga in fact, regards the Pātimokkha as a mere code, while the Mahāvagga regards it as a liturgy. ' [85]

Whatever he means here by a 'mere code' and a 'liturgy ', let us repeat again what we have said earlier that the Suttavibhaṇga knows of the recital of the Pātimokkha at the confessional meetings of the Uposatha. [86]

As Dutt pursues his own line of argument he is led to the following observations regarding the exercise of disciplinary authority of the Pātimokkha :

'But there were graver offences for which confession would be no atonement. It is difficult to ascertain how these offences were dealt with before the Buddhist Order had attained to that stage when each Bhikkhu was regarded as member of a single corporate body, of a particular Saṇgha, subject to its disciplinary jurisdiction.' [87]

It would be clear at this stage that the above remarks result from Dutt's confusion of the connotation of Saṇgha and Cātuddisa Saṇgha in the early history of the Sāsana, The Buddhist Order had attained to that stage that he speaks of at a very early date.

Let us now turn our attention to the rest of the Vinaya Piṭaka with which we are interested, viz. the Suttavibhaṇga and the Khandhakas. Let us introduce the Suttavibhaṇga with the following remarks of Miss Horner whose unsurpassed familiarity with the Vinaya literature lends such maturity to her judgement on problems of Buddhist monastic discipline:

'The Vinaya, the Discipline, especially that portion of it called Suttavibhaṇga, appoints and decrees a definite standard of outward morality, comprised in courses of training laid down for the proper behaviour of monks and nuns. On the surface the Suttavibhaṇga is not much more than an attempt to restrain unsuitable behaviour; but in reality it also arrives, though in many cases by a long process of exclusion, at the kind of positive conduct to be pursued by the monk who wishes his life to be externally blameless, so far as his relations with his fellow monks, with the Order as a whole, and with the laity are concerned.' [88]

Here are the views of Rhys Davids regarding the Suttavibhaṇga:

'The book deals with each of the 227 rules in order and following throughout one set scheme or method. That is to say it tells us firstly how and when and why the particular rule in question came to be laid down. This historical introduction always closes with the words of the rule in full. Then follows a very ancient word-for-word commentary on the rule - a commentary so old that it was already about B.C.400 (the probable approximate date of the Suttavibhaṇga) considered so sacred that it was included in the canon.

And the Old Commentary is succeeded,where necessary, by further explanations and discussions of doubtful points. These are sometimes of very great historical value. The discussions, for instance (in the rules as to murder and theft), of what constitutes murder, and what constitutes theft, anticipate in a very remarkable degree the kind of fine-drawn distinctions found in modern law books.' [89]

In relation to the Suttavibhaṇga Rhys Davids comments on the Khandhakas as follows :

'It deals one after another with all those matters relating to Order which are not stated in so many words in the Rules of the Pātimokkha.' [90].

Winternitz puts it more directly when he says that

'the Khandhakas... (form a kind of continuation and supplement of the Suttavibhaṇga.' [91]

Speaking of the relation of Suttavibhaṇga to the Khandhakas in point of time Rhys Davids says :

'.... it follows that in all probability they were composed, or put into their present shape, at about the same period in the development of early Buddhism - it is even possible that both works arose in immediate connection.' [92]

E.J. Thomas expresses the same idea in the following :

'Besides these rules intended for the daily life of the individual monk, others were found necessary for the organization of the Order. These also in their essentials must have existed from the beginning. They are contained in the second part of the Vinaya known as the Khandhakas and in the Pali are divided into two series (Mahāvagga, Cullavagga).' [93]

We are in perfect agreement with the views expressed above. The nature and scope of the contents of the Pātimokkha being so limited the Khandhakas had, of necessity, to take up the rest of monastic discipline from the very outset. Further, the contents of the Suttavibhaṇga being necessarily based on the text of the Pātimokkha admitted of no additions beyond that. On the other hand, the Khandhakas had to envisage and accomodate evolutionary changes.

Thus the period of development of the whole of the Khandhakas must inevitably spread over a much longer period of time than that of the Suttavibhaṇga.

Oldenberg himself makes similar observations on the above subject:

'While the Vibhaṇga stands in the closest relation to the Pātimokkha, there was a new and wider circle of additions added to that same centre of the Vinaya- discipline -the Pātimokkha- most probably about the same time in which the Vibhaṇga originated, an endeavour was made to go beyond the more confined domain of that series of ecclesiastical offences as established of old, to give a coherent picture of the whole legal life of the Saṇgha.' [94]

It would be clear from what has been said so far that we are on the whole in agreement with the views expressed by Rhys Davids and Oldenberg, both jointly and severally, with regard to monastic discipline and Vinaya literature. One notable exception to this occurs in the ideas we hold regarding the text of the Pātimokkha and its place in the Canon. We hope we have succeeded in stating our position clearly in the light of evidence we have examined. On the other hand, the greatest disagreement is with the views expressed by Sukumar Dutt. We were compelled to make a detailed and exhaustive analysis of very many of his statements.

After careful consideration we have expressed our opinion about them. The present study is therefore undertaken in the belief that we could make our contribution to the elimination of such failings as the following which vitiate a fair and unbiassed examination and evaluation of the subject:

  1. Inadequate examination of all original source material.
  2. Misinterpretations resulting from ignorance of the language, i.e. Pali, and lack of familiarity with the subject.
  3. Misinterpretations resulting from a desire to force available evidence to fit into a preconceived pattern.

It is also our considered opinion that once these defects, which we have specifically pointed out in several works on the subject, are remedied it is also necessary to view the problems of monastic discipline from the wider angle of religion as a whole. For Buddhist monks are not a class of officiating priests.

They are not members of a purely administrative heirarchy who tend the flock. They are symbolic of the religious earnestness of those who choose to follow the teaching of the Buddha. Their life has to be fashioned to accord with the professed faith. It must be such as would necessarily lead them to the aspired goal. Thus we feel the necessity to study Buddhist monastic discipline based on the joint evidence of the Sutta and the Vinaya Piṭakas. Historically, there is no doubt that the Buddha had a message for the world, even before ' the group of five ' (pañcavaggiyā bhikkhu) thought of joning him.

One might call the contents of that message a philosophy or a way of life. One might therefore say with commendable accuracy that both the theory and practice of good living were contained in these early teachings which are in the domain of the Dhamma (or Sutta according to subsequent classification). Thus the seeds of monastic discipline are seen to be rooted in the teaching of the Dhamma.

With the spread and expansion of monastic life from the personal and the individual to an institutional group level we discover the problems of monastic discipline increasing in complexity. The efficacy of the ' early philosophy of life ' seems to lose its grip on the increasing membership and this marks the appearance of the new medium of monastic control and administration. This is the birth of the Vinaya literature. [95]

It is from this basic position that we propose to proceed on our investigations. Therefore our primary source of information consists of the Sutta and the Vinaya Piṭakas. These Canonical texts are read and studied with as much care as we could command with our present knowledge of the Pali language. Even where the meaning of texts is clear it has been our desire to probe further into the notes in the Commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā) and the Sub-commentaries (Tikā) for purposes of comparison and contrast. This has proved to be of immense value as would be shown in relevant places.

Owing to the vastness of the field of study we lave had to confine ourselves mainly to Pali literature. But in a number of places where we thought it extremely important we have ventured out into two further fields, namely Sanskrit and Chinese. In both cases our suspicions and speculation which prompted us to go to them have been amply rewarded. Considering the complexity of the problems of monasticism within Buddhism itself we have thought it wise to leave any references to Jainism completely out of the present study.

As a basic source of investigation our choice invariably falls on the Theravāda school which upheld the monastic ideals of the faithful disciple in Buddhism : saddhā agārasmā anagāriyam pabbajito. Monastic discipline is essentially their concern. At the same time it is clear from the evidence relating to the early history of the Buddhist Saṇgha that the first hundred years of the Sāsana knew of only a single body of disciples, more or less homogenous.

One does not discover at this stage any traces of groups with distinct names which indicate their partisan loyalties or sectarian teachings. Thus one is inclined to consider terms like Theriya (Theravāda) and Mahāsaṇghika as being obviously necessitated by the first schism in the Sāsana, the distinction between them being essentially relative.

However, disagreements and differences of opinion did exist within this apparently homogenous body of early sisciples. While a common Dhamma and Vinaya guided their destinies during this period, it becomes clear in our studies that the Dhamma begins to lend itself to diverse interpretations and the Vinaya comes to be challenged and criticised as being too stringent. Although it is not always possible to identify the men behind these moves, the portents are visible threatening a schism in the Sāsana, be it either on account of the Dhamma or the Vinaya.

Thus we are not surprised to find, on a comparison of the Prātimoksha sutras of the different schools, that the Theravādins and the Mahāsaṇghikas share the greatest measure of agreement, having coexisted so long close to each other during their formative years. It is with this common heritage that they part their ways and as they develop their own distinctive doctrines and traditions, the new schools which emerge align themselves with the one or the other.

However, it should be pointed out here that in the seven categories of ecclesiastical offences listed in the Prātimoksha sutra there is almost complete conformity among all the early schools with regard to the first six categories. These account for 145 out of the total of 220 rules. In the last category of minor rules dealing with etiquette, popriety and decorum called the Sekhiya Dhamma, however the new schools show an evident increase. While the Theravāda school lists 75 and the Mahāsaṇghika 66 under this category, the Sarvāstivādins go as far as 113. [96]

The reason for this agreement in their Vinaya literature between the Theravāda and the Mahāsaṇghika on the one hand and between these and the later schools on the other is more to be sought in the fact that these legal enactments of the Vinaya being stratified in a fixed form at a very early date and being shared unaltered by the earliest groups which appeared after the first schism, namely the Theriya and the Mahāsaṇghika, left little room for any changes or modifications.

But the weight of ideological changes and changes of tradition in the different schools is certainly felt in the less stratified historical records and in the instructions on procedure in the rest of the Vinaya literature, particularly the portions which correspond to the Khandhakas of the Theravāda Vinaya and portions of the Suttavibhaṇga.

These observations do not necessarily lead us to the conclusion that the Theravāda literature preserves completely the Buddha's teaching on monastic discipline, i.e. the Vinaya, in it s original form. However, comparing it as a whole with that of the Mahāsaṇghikas one cannot fail to be

impressed by the fact that the canonical texts of the Theravāda Vinaya show more coherence and continuity as well as a conciseness in the statement of ideas which entitle them to be considered closer to the time of the origin of the Buddhist monastic institutions.

We do indicate, at the same time, more than one instance in the Theravāda Vinaya literature where we suspect a violation of the spirit of the early traditions and injunctions. On the other hand, we do find the Mahāsaṇghikas to be more alert at times and more sensitive to such discrepancies. In such instances the traditions preserved or the modifications effected by the ' dissentients ' appear to us to be more orthodox than the Theravāda version.

Nevertheless, assessing the overall position we are led to use the Vinaya literature of the Theravādins together with their suttas dealing with the Dhamma, as the basis of this study. Evidence from other schools of Buddhism has been brought in from time to time both to investigate a doubtful proposition and to stabilise a tottering tradition.

Before we bring these prefatory remarks to a close we should make a few observations on Buddhist monastic discipline in general. As the teacher (satthā) who had a new message (dhamma) for the world, the Buddha was soon surrounded by a group of disciples who chose to follow him (uddissa pabbajitā). This placed him, as the Pali texts describe it, in the distinguished position of being the propounder of a completely new way (anakkhātassa maggassa akkhātā- M.III. 8.).

The disciples were the followers of that way (maggānugā ca pana etarahi sāvakā viharanti pacchā samannāgatā - ibid.). At this stage in life, the Buddha was making no experiments. As early as the First Sermon, he had known as to what should constitute the foundations of Buddhist monastic life. He himself had been through a life of mendicancy which led him to his enlightenment. He denounced both the life of sensual pleasures and that of extreme austerity as being unsuited for a Buddhist disciple

(Dve ' me bhikkhave antā pabbajitena na sevitabbā...


The life he enjoined on them steered clear of these two extremes.

Early Buddhist monastic life, which was thus one definite way for one definite purpose, admitted of no compromises. It would be shown in the relevant places that the Buddha was firmly opposed to those who rebelled against discipline and dealt with them with such strictness as worthy of a teacher who does not swerve from his ideals for the sake of popularity with his pupils. Additions and modifications to rules which did not violate their spirit were accepted and even initiated by the Buddha himself.

Constructive evolution of this nature did, in fact, bring the Vinaya Piṭaka into its present shape. Against destructive revolutionary trends, legislation was enacted and the very machinery of the Vinaya was geared against them. [97]

Thus Buddhist monastic life being what we have shown it to be, the content of its discipline had to embrace every aspect of life as viewed in Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life activity goes on through the three media of thought, word and deed. Progress or depravity are reckoned in terms of refinement or deterioration of these. Therefore the total content of Buddhist monastic discipline had to be in terms of thought, word and deed. Even in what appears to be a modified statement of old material Buddhaghosa clearly upholds this view.[98]

Of this threefold discipline, it is said that the Vinaya Piṭaka claims to concern itself only with two, viz. word and deed. They are the aspects of outward conduct

(Tasmā vividhanayattā visesanayattā kāyavācānañ ca vinayanato vinayo ' ti akkhāto.).[99]

Here we would also refer the reader to Oldenberg's very precise definition which describes the Vinaya Piṭaka

'as a collection of rules regulating the outward conduct of the Saṇgha and the Bhikkhu'.[100]

But true monastic discipline covers a little more. It embraces the discipline of the mind too. It has been our endeavour to relate this to the former and to show that any violation of the former would possibly produce serious repercussions on the latter.

Monasticism in Buddhism comes in the wake of the brahmacariya ideal which the Buddha preached from the beginning of his mission. Hence our present study primarily springs from the study of the life of brahmacariya in Buddhism. But even prior to the birth of the Buddha the notion of brahmacariya has had an appeal to the religious men of India. Each creed had its own form of Brahmacarya life leading to its desired goal, which was often termed emancipation, immortality or divine absorption.

In Chapter II we deal with the different forms of brahmacariya both in the Brahmanic and non- Brahmanic religious creeds.

Chapter III portrays the Buddhist concept of brahmacariya in marked contrast to the rest.

Chapters IV, V, VI and VII deal in succession with the foundations on which the life of pabbajjā is built.

In Chapter VIII we have attempted to show how the early basis of monastic life gradually changed its character from a simple system of advice and admonition to a complete code of monastic law.

In Chapter IX one witnesses the disciplinary machinery of the Saṇgha at work. Numerous factors are seen retarding its efficiency in course of time.

Onece the machinery of the Vinaya Piṭaka was set up it also became necessary to see that its operation was smooth and effective. Every attempt to put it out of gear was also guarded against. Thus, in the wake of the rules there also came provision for prosecution and punishment of those who violated them. We have made special studies of these aspects of the Vinaya in Chapters X and XI.

Besides all legislation and legal machinery, yet another factor played a very dominant part in the history of the Sāsana. It is the spiritual leadership which the members of the Order, individually and collectively, offered to the others and the integrated life in the community which contributed to its stability and well-being. See Chapter XII.

Whatever may be the verdict of the later generations on the role of Bhikkhunis in the Sāsana, there is no doubt that they distinguished themselves and fulfilled the mission of their monastic life with as much success as the Bhikkhus. Thus we have thought it fit to devote a part of this study to the establishment of this new division of Buddhist monasticism and the formation of the code of discipline for the Bhikkhunis. In Chapters XIII and XIV we have examined this development in relation to the Order of the Bhikkhus and lay society of the day.

We have also thought it necessary at his stage to probe further into two problems which we think are very much more controversial than they seem to be on the surface. It appears as though history has stratified them in such a way as to be unquestionably settled. But curiosity has spurred us into this venture of re-investigating them.

The two problems are :

  1. Legislation regarding the exclusion of a guilty monk (sāpattika) from the recital of the Pātimokkha. See Appendix I.
  2. The attitude of the Saṇgha of the Theriya Group towards the 'lesser and minor' precepts (khuddānukhuddakāni sikkhāpadāni). See Appendix II.

We have attempted to compare and contrast the evidence found in Pali literature with those we have been able to gather from Sanskrit and Chinese sources. If we have succeeded in indicating even to some extent the complexity of these problems we would feel more than amply rewarded.

The Simā also has been a subject of great interest in the history of Buddhist monasticism, both during the life time of the Buddha and in the centuries that followed. We have occasion to refer to it briefly in the study of the Pātimokkha ritual. But we feel that the subject needs more careful analysis and examination. Hence we have pursued the matter further and we present our observations to the reader separately in an appendix. See Appendix III.

It is our belief that this brief outline of the contents of the present study will enable the reader to view the problems of Buddhist monasticism from a fresh angle as he reads through this thesis. It is also hoped that he would be able to purge his mind of various misconceptions about the subject which have been created through mistakes of omission and commission of some of the pioneer work.

Footnotes and references:


Monier Williams, Buddhism., p. 75.


A.III. 224.


M.II. 120.


See S. Dutt, Buddha And Five After-Centuries, p. 66 and Further Dialogues, II. SBB. VI. p. 160.


Given by Mrs. Rhys Davids as occurring at Vinaya Texts, SBE. XIII (edition not given), p. 112. [ See her Outlines of Buddhism, p.74 where she has made use of this translation.]. But the 1881 edition of the text which we have used has the following translation which we consider to be reliably accurate : 'They will understand the doctrine.'


For the correct and complete quotation see D.I. 85; M. I. 440; Vin. I. 315.


S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 85.


Ibid. p. 72.


Vism. I. 3.


Vibh. 245.


Ibid. 245-46.




M.II.11. lists it under the four sammappadhāna. Ibid. pp. 95,128 list it under the five padhāniyaṇga.


DA.II. 479.


Monier Williams, Buddhism, pp.74-75.


M.I. 80,82,237f ; Ud. 65.


Oldenberg, Buddha, pp. 60-70.


S.Dutt, Ealy Buddhist Monachism, pp. 30-56.


Rhys Davids, Buddhism (Non-Christian Religious Systems) 1886, p.152. Note: This is a revised edition and is the earliest edition available to us.


Even the reprint which was made 26 years afterwards of this learned treatise has not witnessed a change of his view. See 1912 ed. p.152.


Mrs. Rhys Davids, Buddhism, (Home University Library) 1912 ed. p. 204.


See Mrs. Rhys Davids, Buddhism (Revised edition, 1934), p.198f.


Mrs. Rhys Davids, Outlines of Buddhism, p. 63. See her Buddhism, (1934 ed.) p. 201.


Ibid. p. 75.


Miss Horner, The Book of the Discipline, I. pp. xviii.


Monier Williams, Buddhism, p. 72.




Vin.I. 80f.


S. Dutt, Buddha And Five After-Centuries, p. 61.


S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 91. Rhys Davids and Oldenberg too translate it as 'Let not two of you go the same way ' at Vinaya Texts I, SBE. XIII (1881), p.112. But Mrs. Rhys Davids quotes SBE.XIII (edition not given) as translating this statement as ' Go not singly but in pairs.' (See Outlines of Buddhism, p. 74.). Neither the grammar of this sentence nor the spirit in which it was made would allow us to accept this latter translation.


Miss Horner, Women Under Primitive Buddhism, p.115.


S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p.113.


Ibid. p.110. n.84. and Buddha And Five After-Centuries, p.109. n.1.


S.Dutt, Buddha And Five After- Centuries, p. 66.


M.I. 469f.


M.I.24f, 95f.


S.Dutt, Buddha And Five after-Centuries, p. 69. The word nissaya is used to refer to the minimum requirements of a Bhikkhu on which he subsists. They include food (pindapāta), clothing (civara), shelter (senāsana) and medicaments (gilānapaccaya-bhesajja-parikkhāra) and are referred to as the Four Nissayas (cattāro nissayā). See Vin. I.58.


S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 92.


Vin. I.58.


S.Dutt, Buddha And Five After-Centuries, p. 96.


S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 96.


Ibid. p. 95. n. 23.


S.Dutt, Buddha And Five After-Centuries, p. 70.


S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p.13


Ibid. p. 67.


Ibid. pp. 67-68.


Ibid. p. 68.


Ibid. p. 69.


Vin.I. 56.


See S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 13.




Vinaya Texts I. SBE. XIII. xii.


Oldenberg, Buddha, p. 331.


S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p.13.


Ibid. p.29.


Ibid. p.23.


See Ch. IV.


M.I. 445.


Vin.III. 9f.


S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 36.


Ibid. p. 65.




S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 65.


Evam eva pana udāyi idh ' ekacce moghapurisā idam pajahathā ' ti mayā vuccamānā te evam āhamsu. Kim pan ' imassa appamattakassa oramattakassa. adhisallikhatevā ' yam samano ' ti - M.I.449.

Ko nu kho bhante hetu ko paccayo yena pubbe appatarāni c ' eva sikkhāpadāni ahesum bahutarā ca bhikkhu a––āya sanṭhahimsu. Ko pana bhante hetu ko paccayo yena etarahi bahutarāni c ' eva sikkhāpadāni honti appatarā ca bhikkhu a––āya sanṭhahanti ' ti - M.I. 445.
See also S.II.224.

Yo pana bhikkhu pātimokkhe uddissamāne evam vadeyya kim pana imehi khuddānukhuddakehi sikkhāpadehi uddiṭṭhehi yāvad ' eva kukkuccāya vihesāya vilekhāya samvattanti ' ti sikkhāpadavivannake pācittiyam - Vin.IV.143.


S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 64.


Ibid. p. 66.


Ibid. p. 67.


Vinaya Texts I, SBE.XIII, pp. ix-x.


Vin. I. p. xvi.




Vinaya Texts I, SBE.XIII, p. xiv.


Wiṇternitz, History of Indian Literature II, p. 24.


Vin. II. 96. It is important to maintain the distinction between these suttas (sutta) and the texts of the Sutta Piṭaka which are referred to as Suttas or Suttantas, and are viewed as belonging to a sphere outside the Vinaya and Abhidhamma Piṭakas. Note : Anāpatti na vivannetukāmo iṇgha tvam suttante vā gāthāyo vā abhidhammam vā pariyāpunassu pacchā vinayam pariyāpunissasi ' ti bhanati - Vin.IV.144.




Vin.II. 97.


Rhys Davids, Buddhism (American Lectures), p. 54.


Ch. IX. See also Ch.VIII.


Vinaya Texts. I. SBE. XIII. p. xi.


S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, pp. 81-84.


Ibid. p. 73.


M.II. 8; III.10; A.I. 230; Vin.I.102; IV.143,144.


S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 81.


Ibid. p. 74.


M.I. 33.


S.Dutt, op. cit. p. 75.




S.Dutt, op.cit. p. 85.


Miss Horner, The Book of the Discipline, I. p. ix.


Rhys Davids, Buddhism, (American Lectures) p. 55.


Ibid. p. 56.


Winternitz, History of Indian Literature, II. p. 24


Vinaya Texts I. SBE. XIII. P. xx.


E.J.Thomas, History of Buddhist Thought, p. 21.


Vin.I. p. xxii.


But it is our belief that these observations on the Dhamma and the Vinaya do not justify the following remarks of B.C. Law with regard to the relation of the Vinaya to the Sutta Piṭaka:

'The consideration of all these facts cannot but lead one to surmise that the treatises of the Vinayapiṭaka point to a sutta background in the Vinaya materials traceable in the nikāyas particularly in the Aṇguttara. The sutta background of the Vinaya texts is clearly hinted at in the concluding words of the Patimokkha. Ettakam tassa bhagavato suttāgatam suttapariyāpannam anvaddhamāsam uddesam āgacchati. *

This is far from beuing true.The word sutta in this context has been unfortunately misunderstood. What it means is that the contents of the Pātimokkha recital exists as a collection of sutta or rules (note the name Suttavibhaṇga) which the Buddha has laid down. As for the relation of the Aṇguttara to the Vinaya, it is the Aṇguttara which draws freely and extensively from the Vinaya. In places, the Aṇguttara looks like an anthology of Vinaya material. Law's own reference to A.I. 98-100 should prove a sufficient indication of this tendency. The Vinaya contents of the Aṇguttara show more signs of development and editing than in the Vinaya Piṭaka. The reasons for laying down sikkhāpada for the disciples as given at A.I. 98 total up to 12 while the standard lists in the Vinaya Piṭaka have only 10. (See Vin. III. 21.) The two additional items are: 1 . Consideration for laymen - gihinam anukampāya and 2. To break up the power of miscreant groups - pāpicchānam pakkhupacchedaya. These evidently are additions to the original list of the Vinaya Piṭaka.

* See B.C. Law, History of Pali Literature, I. p.19.


W. Pachow, Comparative study of the Prātimoksha, p.11 .


See Vin.IV.126,143,152,153.


SA.III. 230.


VinA.I.19; DA.I.17; DhsA. 19


Vin.I. p. xiii.

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