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 VII - The Discipline and Development of the Mind

Inspite of the diversity of opinion regarding the importance of the Catupārisuddhisila one would readily admit that Buddhism attaches great importance to the inner development of the disciple as a part of his religious life. In its basic form this development would amount to the elimination of manoduccarita or evil traits of the mind and the cultivation of manosucarita as its opposite.

This obviously lay outside the pale of sila, for greed, hatred and wrong views (abhijjhā vyāpāda micchādiṭṭhi), the three items of dasakammapatha[1] which belong to the mind-group (manokamma) are not reckoned with under the sila.

The Suttas, on the other hand, repeatedly bring before us hosts of such vices or diseased states of the mind against which the disciples are constantly cautioned

(Evam eva kho bhikhave citte samkiliṭṭhe duggati pāṭikaṇkhā

-  M.I. 36.).

The Vatthupama Sutta gives a list of sixteen such evil traits of the mind which are referred to as cittassa upakkilesā.[2]

None of these have been brought up for correction under the category of sila. Commenting on these, Buddhaghosa hastens to add that these sixteen are not the only defiling traits of the mind (kilesa, upakkilesa) and suggests that in this manner all kilesa are taken into consideration.

(Na ca ete soÂas ' eva cittassa upakkilesā.
Etena pana nayena sabbe ' pi kilesā gahitā y ' eva honti ' ti veditabbā

- MA.I. 170.).

The monks are advised to purge their minds of these as a step forward in their spiritual progress.

(Yath ' odhi kho pana ' ssa cattam hoti vantam muttam pahinam paṭinissaṭṭham so buddhe aveccappasādena samannāgato'mhi ' ti labhati atthavedam labhati dhammavedam labhati dhammupasamhitam pāmujjam.

Pamuditassa piti jāyati pitimanassa kāyo passambhati passaddhakāyo sukham vedeti sukhino cittam samādhiyati

- M.I. 37.)

The Sallekha Sutta which is addressed to the monks as a plea for self-correction introduces us to a much larger list of forty-four evil ways or akusala dhamma. The Buddha reminds his disciples that every attempt to eradicate these by a sincere desire to cultivate their opposites is a commendable virtue

(Cittuppādam ' pi kho aham cunda kusalesu dhammesu bahukāram vadāmi.

Ko pana vādo kāyena vācāya anuvidhiyanāsu.

Tasmāt ' iha cunda pare vihimsakā bhavissanti mayam ' ettha avihimsakā bhavissaāmā ' ti cittam uppādetabbam

- M.I. 43.)

He calls this the way to peace and progress: uparibhāvapariyāya and nibbānapariyāya.

(Seyyathā ' pi cunda ye keci akusalā dhammā sabbe te adhobhāvaṇgamaniyā ye keci kusalā dhammā sabbe te uparibhāvaṇgamaniyā.

Evam eva kho cunda vihimsakassa purisapuggalassa avihimsā hoti uparibhāvāya......
Evam eva kho cunda vihimsakassa purisapuggalassa avihimsā hoti parinibbānāya

- M.I.44.).

The mental purge referred to above was always considered an essental feature in the religious life of a Buddhist disciple. The Suttas which deal with sila as the basis of the spiritual development of a disciple refer to this as the subsequent cleansing of the mind of the nivarana. Nivarana defile and disease the mind and thereby weaken the functioning of the intellect.

(So ime pañca nivarane pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalikarane...

M.I.412.) [3]

Thus the proper culture of the mind is a stage which must necessarily precede the perfection of wisdom or adhipaññā sikkhā. Without it, the mind can never be chanelled for the attainment of Arahantship

(Evam eva kho bhikkhave pañc ' ime cittassa upakkilesā yehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭham cittam na c ' eva mudu hoti no ca kammaniyam na ca pabhassaram pabhaṇgu ca na ca sammā samādhiyati āsavānam khayāya.

Katame pañca. Kāmacchando bhikkhave....

khayāya - S.V. 92.).

Every good disciple, therefore, was expected to strive for the elimination of these defilements.

Tatrā ' bhiratim iccheyya hitvā kāme akiñcano
pariyodapeyya attānam cittaklesehi pandito.

S.V. 24.

The Khaggavisāna Sutta specifies the defiling mental traits as cetaso āvarana, upakkilesa and sinehadosa :

Pahāya pañcāvaranāni cetaso
upakkilese vyapanujja sabbe
anissito chetvā sinehadosam
eko care khaggavisānakappo.

Sn. v. 66

On a careful analysis of these defilements which are referred to as

  1. nivarana,[4]
  2. cetaso āvarana,[5]
  3. cittaklesa,[6]
  4. upakkilesa[7] or
  5. samyojana,[8]

we discover that there are two constant and recurring items, viz. abhijjhā and vyāpāda. As a nivarana, abhijjhā is also referred to as kāmacchanda[9].

As a samyojana, it goes under both names of kāmacchanda and kāmarāga[10].

Thus it appears that in the mind-culture which is recommended to the Buddhist disciple, these two, out of the numerous evil states to which the mind was liableto descend, became the central target of attack. But we have already noted above that these two, together with micchādiṭṭhi, form the triad of manokamma in the list of dasa akusala kamma.[11]

Hence we may ask ourselves why then do abhijjhā and vyāpāda come to be specially stressed, almost to the exclusion of micchādiṭṭhi. But it should also be noted here that micchādiṭṭhi is not listed under the pañca nivarana which are the primary defiling traits of the mind.[12]

Nor does the Vatthupama Sutta mention it among the upakkilesa of the mind.[13]

This special mention of abhijjhā and vyāpāda has also a parallel when we consider lobha (rāga) and dosa which are referred to at times without any mention of moha which is the third item of the group.

The Samyutta speaks of a disciple's conquest of these two evils:

Evam mano chassu yadā subhāvito
phuṭṭhassa cittam na vikampate kvaci
te rāgadose abhibhuyya bhikkhavo
bhavattha jātimaranassa pāragā ' ti.

S.IV. 71.

The Majjhima Nikāya mentions lobha and dosa as the two evils which are to be transcended by pursuing the Middle Path

(Tatr ' āvuso lobho ca pāpako doso ca pāpako. Lobhassa ca pahānāya dosassa ca pahānāya atthi majjhimā paṭipadā cakkhukarani ñānakarani upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya samvattati

- M.I.15.).

However, it must be clearly borne in mind that in the final attainment of Arahantship there is no room for any trace of moha or of rāga and dosa. For nibbāna is the elimination of all the three evils of rāga, dosa and moha

(Yo kho āvuso rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo idam vuccati nibbānan ' ti

- S.IV.251.).

It is important to note that in this line of spiritual development sakkāyadiṭṭhi is regarded as one of the earlier mental failings which need to be remedied. For already at the early stage of Sotāpatti the first three samyojana (sakkāyadiṭhi together with vicikicchā and silabbataparāmāsa) are completely eradicated

(Tinnam samyojanānam parikkhayā sotāpanno avinipātadhammo niyato sambodhiparāyano ' ti

- M.I. 141.).

This achievement is further described as follows :

Sahā ' vassadassanasampadāya
taya ' ssu dhammā jahitā bhavanti
sakkāyadiṭṭhi vicikicchitañ ca
silabbatam vā ' pi yad ' atthi kiñci.

Sn. v. 231.

Beyond this, the further achievements of a Sakadāgāmin are only a reduction in rāga, dosa and moha

(yesam bhikkhunam tini samyojanāni pahināni rāgadosamohā tanubhutā sabbe te sakadāgāmino sakid ' eva imam lokam āgantvā dukkhass ' antam karissanti

- M.I.141.).

This makes it clear that inspite of the complete elimination of sakkāyadiṭṭhi at the stage of Sotāpatti, moha seems to survive beyond this. Even at the stage of Sakadāgāmin rāga, dosa and moha are only reduced in magnitude. An Anāgāmin is said to get rid of two more samyojana, viz. kāmacchanda and vyāpāda, for he is described as having purged himself by then of the five orambhāgiya samyojana.[14]

If we regard the two samyojana, kāmacchanda and vyāpāda as approximating to rāga and dosa,[15] then we discern this reduced element of moha as surviving even after the stage of Anāgāmin. The final extinction of moha (mohakkhaya) perhaps takes place in Arahantship, after the elimination of the five uddhambhāgiya samyojana.[16]

We find avijjā persisting as the last item of this group, and whatever meaning we may give to the term avijjā, it must undobtedly remain a form of moha. Buddhaghosa's definition of moha that it is the root of all evil (Moho.... sabbā ' kusalānam mulan ' ti daṭṭhabbo - Vism. 468.) perhaps emphasises this most enduring character of moha.

This failing, which seems to find expression severally as micchādiṭṭhi, sakkāyadiṭṭhi, moha and avijjā, implies error of judgement and deficiency of knowledge, presumably of varying degree, which can be rectified completely only on the attainment of perfect wisdom in Arahantship.

The other defiling traits of the mind which the Suttas enumerate are mainly related to fraud, pride, jealousy and anger, which may exist in varying degrees of severity. Besides their moral and ethical significance for the religious life referred to in the Vatthupama[17] and Sallekha[18] Suttas, they also have an essentially social character in that these failings cause friction and disharmony in the communal life of the monastic society.

The Anumāna Sutta calls them the dovacassa-karana-dhamma, or evil ways of monks which make them resent and reject good eounsel from fellow members. The Saṇgha would no longer trust such monks and would deem it unwise to advise or admonish them

(So ca hoti dubbaco dovacassa-karanehi dhammehi samannāgato akkhamo appadakkhinaggāhi anusāsanim.

Atha kho nam sabrahmacāri na c ' eva vattabbam maññanti na ca anusāsitabbam maññanti na ca tasmim puggale vissāsam āpajjitabbam maññanti

- M.I. 95.).

Therefore the monks are called upon to view from all angles the dangers resulting from these to the religious life as well as to the life in the community, and make therefore every effort for their elimination.

(i. Sa kho so bhikkhave bhikkhu abhijjhāvisamalobho cittassa upakkileso ' ti iti viditvā abhijjhāvisamalobham cittassa upakkilesam pajahati.

ii. Pare abhijjhālu bhavissanti mayam ettha anabhijjhālu bhavissāmā ' ti sallekho karaniyo.

iii. Tatrāvuso bhikkhunā attanā ' va attānam evam anuminitabbam yo khv ' āyam puggalo pāpiccho pāpikānam icchānam vasamgato ayam me puggalo appiyo amanāpo.

Ahañ c ' eva kho pan ' assam pāpiccho pāpikānam icchānam vasamgato aham ' p'assam paresam appiyo amanāpo ' ti.

Evam jānantena āvuso bhikkhunā na pāpiccho bhavissāmi na pāpikānam icchānam vasamgato ' ti cittam uppādetabbam

- M.I. 37.)[19]

It appears to be fairly clear from the statements in the Suttas that for the cultivation of the perfect character it was not only a life of renunciation that was desirable. The pabbajita, as a disciple who had given up all household ties, was further advised that solitary retreats would be conducive to a life of contemplation and spiritual perfection. We discover in the Suttas that it was nothing unusual for the early Buddhist disciple to resort to a sylvan retreat in order to develop his inner character

(So iminā ca ariyena silakkhandhena samannāgato ... 

santuṭṭhiyā samannāgato vivittam senāsanam bhajati araññam rukkhamulam pabbatam kandaram giriguham susānam vanapattham abbhokāsam palālapuñjam.

So pacchābhattam pindaptapaṭikkanto nisidati pallaṇkam ābhujitvā ujum kāyam panidhāya parimukham satim upaṭṭhapetvā

- D.I.71.).

The Buddha, in fact, recognises the existence among his disciples of monks

who lead such lives

(Santi kho pana me udāyi sāvakā āraññakā pantasenāsanā araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni ajjhogahetvā viharanti

- M.II. 8).

This mode of life of some of the early Buddhist monks seems also to have been well recognised as a regular institution as is evident from words ascribed to Vessavana in the aṭānāṭiya Sutta

(Santi hi bhante bhagavato sāvakā araññe vanapatthāni pantāni sensanāni paṭisevanti appasaddāni appanigghosāni vijanavātāni manussarāhaseyyakāni paṭsallānasāruppāni

- D.III. 195.).

In the Samyutta Nikāya we hear of the venerable Udāyi who reports back to the Buddha the progress he made under such conditions

(So khv ' āham bhante suññāgāragato imesam pañcupādānakkhandhānam ukkujjāvakujjam samparivattento idam dukkhan ' ti yathābhutam abbhaññāsim

- S.V. 89.).

At times the Budha is seen making direct reference to this in his admonitions to his disiples. ' Resort to the solitary retreats and be engaged in contemplative thought,' he tells Cunda, and adds further,

'Be quick and zealous, lest you repent afterwards.'

(Yam kho cunda satthārā karaniyam sāvakānam hitesinā anukampakena anukampam upādāya katam vo tam mayā.

Etāni cunda rukkhamulāni etāni suññāgārāni. Jhāyatha cunda mā pamād ' atthapacchā vippaṭisārino ahuvattha.

Ayam vo amhākam anusāsani ' ti

- M.I. 46.)

He is seen advising ananda with these same words.[20]

The Buddha is even more direct in his admonitions to Nanda who evinced a love of luxury and pleasure

(Evam kho te nanda patirupam kulaputtassa saddhā agārasmā anagāriyam pabbajitassa yam tvam āraññako assasi pindapātiko ca pamsukuliko ca.

Kāmesu ca anapekkho vihareyyāsi ' ti

- S.II. 281.).

Here the relevance of his remarks appears in clearer relief, for the very things that he seems to recommend to Nanda are some of those of which he refused Devadatta to make a general rule incumbent on all.[21]

It is evident that this mode of living, which is called a life of physical detachment or kāyavupakaṭṭha[22], soon came to be recognised in Buddhist monastic circles as a much praised virtue

(Etha tumhe āraññakā hotha araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevathā ' ti.
Iti kāyavupakaṭṭhe samādapetabbā nivesetabbā patiṭṭhāpetabbā

- A.III.138.).

The Pali texts make repeated attempts to show that both the Buddha and the venerable Mahā Kassapa practised this way of solitary living. They are said to have done so for their own comfort and peace of mind as well as for the purpose of setting a good example for the future generations. King Pasenadi Kosala praises the Buddha for this special virtue

(Yam pi bhante bhagavā digharattam āraññako araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevati imam pi kho aham bhante atthavasam sampassamāno bhagavati evarupam paramanipaccākāram karomi mittupahāram upadamsemi

- A.V. 66 f.).

Samyutta Nikāya informs us of Kassapa's preference for this mode of life

(Kim pana tvam kassapa atthavasam sampassamāno digharattam āraññako c ' eva araññakattassa vannavādi

- S.II.203 f.).

This is in fact made out to be the general pattern of conduct of the Buddha and his disciples.

(Ye kira te ahesum buddhānubuddhasāvakā te digharattam āraññakā c ' eva ahesum arannakattassa ca vannavādino

- Ibid.).

Udumbarikasihanāda Sutta goes so far as to make it an ancient and eternal order which governs the life of the Buddhas of the past, present and the future

(Ye te ahesum atitam addhānam arahanto sammāsambuddhā ....

evam su te bhagavanto araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevanti appasaddāni appanigghosāni vijanavātāni manussarāhaseyyakāni paṭisallānasāruppāni seyyathā ' pi bhagavā etarahi ' ti

- D.III. 54.).

The Aṇguttara Nikāya which gives five different reasons for the adoption of this way of forest-living says that one would take to it being impressed by the fact that it had been extolled by the Buddha and his disciples

(vannitam buddhehi buddhasāvakehi ' ti āraññako hoti

- A. III. 219.).

But the real reason, it goes on to add, should be that it provides an ideal setting to the man who has renounced the cares of the world and seeks to perfect his inner being

y ' eva nissāya santuṭṭhim
y ' eva nissāya sallekhatam
y ' eva nissāya pavivekam
y ' eva nissāya idam atthitam
y ' eva nissāya āraññako hoti

- Ibid.).

It appears from the above consideration that every attempt had been made to popularise this mode of life as the one that contributes most to the spiritual well-being of the disciple. It was deemed useful for the progress of both samatha and vipassanā. It is this idea of solitary and secluded life that is implied in the phrase bruhetā suññāgārānam which the Buddha addresses as an admonition

to his disciples.[23] The Papañcasudani brings both samatha and vipassanā within the aspirations of this solitary life in its comment on bruhetā suññāgārānam

(Ettha ca samathavipassanāvasena kammaṭṭhānam gahetvā rattindivam suññāgāram pavisitvā nisidamāno bhikkhu bruhetā suññāgārānan ' ti veditabbo

- MA.I.157.).

This love of the life of solitude in the forest is one of the seven conditions wich would arrest the decay of the monk (satta aparihāniyā dhammā). It would, on the other hand, be a stimulus to his spiritual progress

(Yāvakivañ ca bhikkhave bhikkhu āraññakesu senāsanesu sāpekkhā bhavissanti vuddhi y ' eva bhikkhave bhikkhunam pāṭikaṇkhā no parihāni

- D.II. 77.)[24]

It is also given as one of ten items which a disciple should constantly ponder over with a view to developing a love for it

(Kacci no aham suññāgāre abhiramāmi ' ti pabbajitena abhinham paccavekkhitabbam........
Ime kho bhikkhave dasa dhammā pabbajitena abhinham paccavekkhitabbā

- A.V. 88.).

However, it was recognised at the same time that mere residence in forest retreats or sdopting frugal and abstemious ways of life was not a virtue in itself, unless accompanied by a corresponding perfection of character. The Budha tells the venerable Sandha that unless the defiling traits of the mind are first eliminated they would overpower him even as he dwells in his forest residence and lead him astray in his musings

(Evam eva kho sandha idh ' ekacco purisakhaluṇko araññagato ' pi rukkhamulagato ' pi suññāgāragato ' pi kāmarāgapariyuṭṭhitena cetasā viharati kāmarāgaparetena.

Uppannassa ca kāmarāgassa nissaranam yathābhutam nappajānāti. So kāmarāgam....

vicikiccham y ' eva antaram karitvā jhāyati pajjhāyati nijjhāyati avajjhāyati

- A.V. 323.).

On the other hand, it has been very realistically pointed out that unless a disciple makes progress towards the attainment of the tranquility of mind which he is seeking, it would be difficult for him to relish forest-residence and delight in its solitude. The wilderness would whirl away his mind. In the Bhayabherava Sutta, the Brahmin Jānussoni expresses this view and the Buddha is found to be in perfect agreement with him

(Durabhisambhavāni hi bho gotama araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni.
Dukkaram pavivekam durabhiramam ekatte.
Haranti maññe mano vanāni samādhim alabhamānassa

- M.I.16.).[25]

In the early history of the Sāsana it was evidently this dread of forest-residence which prevented it from being widely accepted. The story of the Verañjābhānavāra seems to indicate that the reliance on this mode of life alone, without an alternative, was regarded as one of the causes that led to the alleged breakdown of the monastic institutions of some of the Buddhas of the past.[26]

Thus it is not difficult to see that while zealous monks like Mahā Kassapa and Upasena Vaṇgantaputta were regular forest-dwellers and always spoke in favour of it, there were, even in the earliest days of the Sāsana, others who probed into the spiritual qualifications of those who resorted to such a way of life and pointed out that it could be as much a source of danger to a monk as a life of pleasure.

Continuing to lead such a life without attaining the desired result of tranquility of the mind, it is pointed out, would lead a disciple to disastrous consequences

(Yo kho upāli evam vadeyya aham samādhim alabhamāno araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevissāmi ' ti tass ' etam pāṭikankham samsidissati vā uppilavissati vā

- AV.202.).

The commentary explains that in such a state of contradiction the mind of the disciple would be torn by thoughts of lust or hatred

(Samsidissati ' ti kāmavitakkehi samsidissati uppilavissati ' ti vyāpādavihimsāvitakkehi uddham pilavissati

- AA.V. 67.)

But those who took to this way of life supported it wholeheartedly. Mahā Kassapa led the way in this direction, both by example and precept

(Dve kho aham bhante atthavasam sampassamāno digharattam āraññako c ' eva araññakattassa ca vannavādi....

Attano ca diṭṭhadhammasukhavihāram sampassamāno pacchimañ ca janatam anukampamāno app ' eva nāma pacchimā janatā diṭṭhānugatim āpajjeyyum

- S.II.202.)

Upasena Vaṇgantaputta was such an ardent supporter of it that he would take none as his pupil unless he was willing to be a regular forest-dweller

(Yo mam bhante upasampadam yācati t ' āham evam vadāmi aham kho āvuso āraññako pindapātiko pamsukuliko.

Sace tvam ' pi āranñako bhavissasi pindapātiko pamsukuliko ev ' āham tam upasampādessāmi ' ti

- Vin. III. 230.).

However, even during the life-time of the Buddha we note that the araññakatta as a regular mode of monastic life was recommended with

certain reservations. According to a statement in the Anguttara Nikāya, the venerable Upāli informs the Buddha of his desire to live the forest-life

(Ekamantam nisinno kho āyasmā upāli bhagavantam etad avoca icchām ' aham bhante araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevitun ' ti.

- A.V. 202).

But he was immediately dissuaded by the Buddha who, in those same words of Jānussoni quoted earlier, told him of the hopelessness of forest-life for one who fails to gain tranquility of the mind.

It is somewhat difficult to understand here why Upāli, who later became such a distinguished disciple, was warned by the Buddha in this manner. We are thus inclined to ask whether these remarks implied any inherent weakness of Upāli against which the Buddha was anxious to safeguard him.

The next remark which the Buddha makes, dismissing almost with ridicule the idea that one could still continue to lead the forest-life without gaining any tranquility of mind, seems to be very emphatic about Upāli's inaptitude for such a life. The words with which the Buddha concludes his advice to Upāli crown the whole argument.

'Stay back, Upāli, in the midst of the Saṇgha and it will contribute to your own welfare.'

(Iṇgha tvam upāli saṇghe viharāhi saṇghe te viharato phāsu bhavissati.

- A.V. 209.).

The Commentary very readily solves this problem by pointing out that if Upāli was allowed to choose the way of forest-life, he would have only developed the holy life and missed the chance of learning the texts of the Vinaya. He would also thereby have lost the honour of being the chief exponent of the Vinaya. The Commentary says that it was in anticipation of the situation that the Buddha advised him against retiring to the forest.

However, it is clear that what the text tries to stress is something different.

We do not propose to probe further into this matter here. But the Bhayabherava Sutta and the story of Upāli in the Aṇguttara Nikāya yield us two interesting observa-tions. In the Bhayabherava Sutta, the Buddha who was told by Jānusssoni of the difficulties of forest-life explains that the disciple who on retiring to the forest assails the evil and corrupt ways of his life, gains with each victory greater and greater confidence for the pursuit of it.

It is in terms of his own life as the Bodhisatta that the Buddha makes these observations in the Bhayabherava Sutta

(Etam aham brāhmana parisuddha-kammantatam attani sampassamāno bhiyyo pallomam āpādim araññe vihārāya.

- M.I. 17.).

On the other hand, it is pointed out that to retire to the forest one did not need to wait for the perfection of his spiritual life. In fact, it was to achieve this end that one took to the forest life. But the forest-dweller had to be contilually inspired by his religious aspirations, i.e. the higher and higher states of spiritual development he could attain in succession

(Imam ' pi kho upāli mama sāvakā attanā dhammam samanupassamānā araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevanti no ca kho tāva anuppattasadatthā viharanti.

- A.V.207).

Once this spiritual earnestness was secured the results of forest-residence always proved to be heartening and the hardships of such a life recede to the background. Thus the thera Vakkali who was living in the forest, even though he suffered from cramps (vātarogābhinito), made his mind triumph over the body and thereby propelled himself to further and further spiritual attainments, ignoring the hardships of forest life.

Pitisukhena vipulena pharamāno samussayam
lukham ' pi abhisambhonto viharissāmi kānane.
Bhāvento satipaṭṭhāne indriyāni balāni ca
bojjhaṇgāni ca bhāvento viharissāmi kānane.

Thag. 351-2

With bliss and rapture's flooding wave
This mortal frame will I suffuse.
Though hard and rough what I endure
Yet will I in the jungle dwell.
Herein myself I 'll exercise :
The Starting-points of Mindfulness,
The Powers five, the Forces too,
The Factors of Enlightenment --
So will I in the jungle dwell. Psalms of the Brethren,


A similar story is told of the thera Nhātakamuni.[27]

The thera Ekavihāriya seems to look upon the wilderness as the one place of delight to the ardent disciple, the yogi.

Purato pacchato vā ' pi aparo ce na vijjati
ativa phāsu bhavati ekassa vasato vane.
Handa eko gamissāmi araññam buddhavannitam
phāsum ekavihārissa pahitattassa bhikkhuno.
Yogapitikaram rammam mattakuñjarasevitam
eko atthavasi khippam pavisissāmi kānanam.

Thag. 537-9

If there be none in front, nor none behind
Be found, is one alone and in the woods
Exceeding pleasant doth his life become.

Come then! alone I 'll get me hence and go
To lead the forest-life the Buddha praised,
And taste the welfare which the brother knows,
Who dwells alone with concentrated mind.

Yea, swiftly and alone, bound to my quest,
I 'll to the jungle that I love, the haunt
Of wanton elephants, the source and means
Of thrilling zest to each ascetic soul.

Psalms of the Brethren, 537-9

Therein he looks forward to the consummation of his religiouslife.

Ekākiyo adutiyo ramaniye mahāvane
kadā ' ham viharissāmi katakicco anāsavo.

Thag. 541

Lone and unmated in the lovely woods,
When shall I come to rest, work wrought, heart cleansed?

Psalms of the Brethren, 541

Armed for that purpose, he plunges into the forest, never to return until he has attained his heart's desire, the highest goal of Arahantship.

Esa bandhāmi sannāham pavisissāmi kānam
na tato nikkhamissāmi appatto āsavakkhayam.

Thag. 543

I 'll bind my spirit's armour on, and so
The jungle will I enter, that from thence
I ' ll not come forth until Nibbāna's won.

Psalms of the Brethren, 543

Perhaps the most glorious example of a thera who seems to have enjoyed every moment of his life in the forest, using these sylvan charms as a spring-board to higher spiritual attainments is the thera Tālapuṭa. To him, they have been a constant source of inspiration as he pursued this spiritual quest.

Kadā nu mam pāvusakālamegho navena toyena sacivaram vane
isippayātamhi vane vajantam ovassate tam nu kadā bhavissati.
Kadā mayurassa sikhandino vane dijassa sutvā girigabbhare rutam
paccuṭṭhahitvā amatassa pattiyā samcintaye tam nu kadā bhavissati.

Thag. 1102-3

O when will (break above my head)
The purple storm- cloud of the rains,
And with fresh torrents drench my raiment in the woods,
Wherein I wend my way.
Along the Path the Seers have trod before -
Yea, when shall this thing come to be?
O when shall I, hearing the call adown the woods
Of crested, twice- born peacock (as I lie
At rest) within the bosom of the hill,
Arise and summon thought and will
To win th' Ambrosial -
Yes, when shall this come to be?

Psalms of the Brethren, 1102-3

Similar ecstasies of the thera Tālapuṭa are also evident in the following verses ascribed to him:

VarāhaeneyyavigāÂhasevite pabbhārakuṭe pakaṭe ' va sundare
navambunā pāvusasittakānane tahim guhāgehagato ramissasi.
Sunilagivā susikhā supekhunā sucittapattacchadanā vihamgamā
sumañjughosatthanitābhigajjino te tam ramissanti vanamhi jhāyinam.
Vuṭṭhamhi deve caturaṇgule tine sampupphite meghanibhamhi kānane
nagantare viṭapisamo sayissam tam me mudu hohiti tulasannibham.

Thag. 1135-7

O (thou wilt love the life), be't on the crest
Of caverned cliffs, where herd boar and gazelle,
Or in fair open glade, or in the depths
Of forest freshened by new rain - ' tis there
Lies joy for thee to cavern-cottage gone.

Fair-plumed, fair-crested passengers of air
With deep blue throats and many-hued of wing,
Give greeting to the muttering thundercloud
With cries melodius, manifold; ' tis they
Will give thee joy whiles thou art musing there.

And when the god rains on the four-inch grass,
And on the cloud-like crests of budding woods,
Within the mountain's heart I 'll seated be
Immobile as a lopped-off bough, and soft
As cotton down my rocky couch shall seem.

Psalms of the Brethren, 1135-7

There seems to be very little reason to doubt that in the early days of the Sāsana when the majority of the Buddha's disciples chose the monastic life out of a deep-rooted conviction, realising its significance and its implications, the practice of frugality and contentment, and to some extent even austerity, was a reality in Buddhist monasticism.

Following the anagāriya doctrine of the Buddha, the disciples could not have conducted themselves in any other way if they were to be true to their convictions. It was not a mere non-existent ideal of the past, as is assumed by some, that was used as the criterion in commenting on the increasing laxity in monastic discipline.[28]

There was undoubtedly an established and recognised pattern of conduct which was jointly determined by both the Dhamma and the Vinaya in terms of which monastic conduct was judged and criticised.

It is clear from a passage in the Aṇguttara that it included perfection of personal character as well as observance of monastic propriety. Discussing the dangers that would befall the Sāsana in the future (anāgatabhayāni), it is said that monks of uncultivated character would confer higher monastic status on others whom they would not be able to instruct and discipline towards perfection of character on account of their own imperfections.

But these new members, inspite of their imperfect character, would in turn aspire to be leaders and teachers and thus subscribe to the continuous degeneration and corruption of monastic life

(Bhavissanti bhikkhave bhikkhu anāgatamaddhānam abhāvitakāyā abhāvitasilā abhāvitacittā abhāvitapaññā te abhāvitakāyā samānā abhāvitasilā abhāvitacittā abhāvitapaññā aññe upasampādessanti.

Te ' pi na sakkhissanti vinetum adhisile adhicitte adhipaññāya. Te ' pi bhavissanti abhāvitakāyā......

abhāvitapaññā. Iti kho bhikkhave dhammasandosā vinayasandoso vinayasandosā dhammasandoso

- A.III.106.).

We have already noticed in our study of sila that with the increase of offences and offenders in the monastic community rules and regulations for the guidance of its members became more rigorous and more comprehensive, and in the light of contemporary events, were made foolproof.

This battle against falling standards and increasing laxity in monastic discipline led to a number of interesting devolopments. The simple and basic monastic virtues of contentment with regard to food, clothing and residence, and the love of solitude, which were more or less assumed to be basic virtues in the early days of the Sāsana, begin to acquire more and more importance. It becomes a compulsory monastic procedure that every monk, soon after the conferment of Upasampadā, be told of the four Nissayas or the minimum of his requirements with which he is expected to be satisfied all his life.[29]

They are:

  1. Begged_food for a meal (pindiyālopabhojana),
  2. a robe made of bits of cloth collected from here and there for a garment (pamsukulacivara),
  3. residence at the foot of a tree (rukkhamulasenāsana), and
  4. putrid urine as medicament (putimuttabhesajja).

However, it was not binding on him to be confined within these narrow limits. If extra gifts were offered to him he was given the option to receive them. This principle of the Nissayas was laid down by the Buddha only as a safeguard against any possible complaints from monks regarding the scanty provision of food, clothing etc. by the laymen.

It is a forewarning against disappointment and disillusionment concerning the comforts of monastic life.

However, it was the Buddha himself who refused the request alleged to heve been made by Devadatta to make these virtues of simplicity compulsory for the monks.[30]

But the public at large, who inherited the ascetic traditions of India, show a partiality for austerity and asceticism in religious life. Even during the life time of the Buddha there seem to have been some who thought the monks who were austere and ascetic in their ways were, on that account, more worthy of honour and nearer to perfection. A householder of Nādika once told the Buddha that whenever he made offerings of food he always selected monks who were abstemious and austere in their ways

(Diyati me bhante kule dānam tañ ca kho ye te bhikkhu āraññakā pindapātikā pamsukulikā arahanto vā arahattamaggam vā samāpannā tathārupesu bhante dānam diyyati

- A.III. 391.).

Here, the Buddha hastens to correct the fallacy and states that susterity, without the perfection of character, would not be a virtue in itself. On the other hand, a monk who is less austere could be more worthy of honour on account of his perfect character

(Araññako ce ' pi gahapati bhikkhu hoti uddhato unnalo capalo mukharo vikinnavāco muṭṭhassati asampajāno asamāhito vibbhantacitto pākatindriyo evam so tena y ' eva gārayho...

Gahapaticivaradharo ce ' pi gahapati bhikkhu hoti anuddhato anunnalo acapalo amukharo avikinnavāco upaṭṭhitasati sampajāno samāhito ekaggacitto samvutindriyo evam so tena y ' eva pāsasmo

- Ibid.).

The existence among the popular values of the day of a preference for ascetic and austere living as a monastic virtue is indicated in a statement in the Anaṇgana Sutta. It is stated that the monk who lives in urban associations appears to suffer by contrast when placed against his forest-dwelling brethren. The Sutta, however, makes it clear that according to true Buddhist values what mattered more in the perfection of monastic life was the elimination of defiling traits of the mind

(pāpakā akusalā icchāvacarā). [31]

We notice, at any rate, that along with the choice of this solitary way of life in the forest there seems to have gone hand in hand a number of other practices which reveal frugality, abstemiousness and contentment. The Anaṇgana Sutta mentions three such practices, viz.

  1. forest residence (āraññaka),
  2. subsistence on begged food (pinda-pātika) and
  3. use of patch-work robe (pamsukulika).[32]

These seem to cover a disciple's residence, food and clothing. In the form they are presented here they constitute special ways of monastic life which are optional. They do not bear any longer the general and simple character of the Nissayas. As monastic observances they seem to have brought greater honour and respect to those who practised them, presumably on account of the austerity and sacrifice they implied.

It becomes more evident when we compare the opposites of these ways which seem to indicate, as it were, an easier way of life:

gāmantavihāra or residence in the proximity of a village, nemantanika or acceptance of invitations to meals and gahapati-civaradhara or use of garments offered by laymen.[33]

To these monastic practices which were becoming increasingly popular, tecivarikatta or reliance on a single set of three robes was sometimes added as a fourth.[34]

The Buddha recognises, however, that there can be a nominal practice of these austere ways without any corresponding spiritual progress. He brings to our notice the thirty Pāveyyaka monks. who inspite of the complete adoption of these austere ways, were full of defiling traits of character

(Atha kho bhagavato etadahosi. Ime kho timsamattā pāveyyakā bhikkhu sabbe āraññakā sabbe pindapātikā sabbe pamsukulikā sabbe tecivarikā sabbe sasamyojanā.

Yannunā ' ham imesam tathā dhammam deseyyam yathā nesam imasmim y ' eva āsane anupādāya āsavehi cittāni vimucceyyun ' ti

- S.II. 187.)

We also detect an attempt to idealise these practices and make them a part of the general pattern of Buddhist monastic life. This seems to herald the ascendency of asceticism as the hallmark of monastic virtue.

The Yodhājivavagga of the Aṇguttara Nikāya[35] which gives warning of a number of calamities that would befall the Sāsana with the lapse of time (anāgatabhayāni), refers to the practice of these ways of monastic living as though it was the order of the day. Here we see clearly an attempt to fix and establish the changing pattern of monastic living in a form acceptable to contemporary values.

We would not imagine that there was unanimity of opinion with regard to these values. However, it is certain that they were acceptable to a fair section of the community who were powerful enough to publicise and popularise their views among others.

There will come a time, says the text, when monks evincing a love of luxury with regard to food, clothing and residence would neglect the present austere practices of being pindapātika, pamsukulika and āraññaka respectively. They would give up the life of retirement in the forest and ' invading the urban districts ' indulge in all manner of unworthy pursuits for the sake of their requisites

(Bhavissanti bhikkhave bhikkhu anāgatamaddhānam civare kalyānakāmā te civare kalyānakāmā samānā riñcissanti pamsukulikattam riñcissanti araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni gāmanigama-rājadhānim osaritvā vāsam kappessanti civarahetu ca anekavihitam anesanam appaṭirupam āpajjissanti.

Idam bhikkhave paṭhamam anāgatabhayam etarahi asamuppannam āyatim samuppajjissati. Tam vo paṭibujjhitabbam paṭibujjhitvā ca tassa pahānāya vāyamitabbam

- A.III. 108 f.).

In a similar passage in the Samyutta,[36] the Buddha, in a conversation with the venerable Mahā Kassapa, is made to lament over this alleged decline in Buddhist monastic values and the effect it would have on the younger generation of disciples. Nevertheless, this tendency appears to have continued unabated.

Those who fought for laxity in discipline were equally vivacious and vociferous and are seen thrusting themselves against the orthodoxy with unyielding persistence.[37]

Footnotes and references:


Dasakammapatha are the ten modes of acting classified under thought (3), word (4) and deed (3).


M.I. 36.


See also M.I. 521; II. 226.


M.I. 60,144, 412.


Sn. v. 66.




M.I. 36; S.V. 92, 94,108; Sn. v. 66.


M.I. 361; III.275.


See D.I. 71 and 246.


M.I. 433.


Ibid. 47.


D.I. 71. The pa–ca nivarana are abhijjhā (kāmacchanda), vyāpāda, thinamiddha, uddhaccakukkucca and vicikicchā.


M.I. 36.


M.I.141,465. The five orambhāgiya samyojana are sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, silabbataparāmāsa, kāmacchanda and vyāpāda.


Note : As a samyojana, only one aspect of rāga, viz. kāmarāga (kāmacchanda) seems to be eliminated at the stage of Anāgāmin. Even under the uddhambhāgiya samyojana an aspect of rāga seems to linger on under the names of ruparāga and aruparāga. It is also sometimes referred to as bhavarāga.


The five uddhambhāgiya samyojana consist of ruparāga, aruparāga, māna, uddhacca and avijjā.


M.I. 37.


Ibid. 42.


Also M.I. 42, 97.


M.II. 266; III. 302; S.V.157.


Vin. III. 171.


A.III. 138.


M.I. 33; A.V.131.


Also. A.IV. 21.


See also A.V. 202.


Vin. III. 8.


Thag. 436-7


Rahula, History of Buddhism in Ceylon, p.199 f.


Vin. I. 95 f. This is the modified procedure. The original suggestion was that the Nissayas be made known before the conferment of Upasampadā. See Vin. I. 58. See supra. p. 42.


Vin. III .171.


M.I. 30-31.


M.I. 30.


Ibid. 31.


Ibid. 214; S.II.187, 202.


A.III. 108 f.


S.II. 208 f.


M.I. 438,440 f, 473; A.I. 230.

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