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 XIV - The Disciplinary Code of the Bhikkhunis

Inspite of the numerous comments and criticisms which are associated with the founding of the Order of Bhikkhunis it is clearly evident that it soon became a recognised component of the religious organization of the Buddha.

Bhikkhu ca silasampanno bhikkhuni ca bahussutā
upāsako ca yo saddho yā ca saddhā upāsikā
ete kho saṇgham sobhenti ete hi saṇghasobhanā.

A.II. 8.

Virtuous monks and learned nuns,
Laymen and laywomen of great devotion.
These indeed are an ornament to the Saṇgha.
They do indeed adorn the Saṇgha.

The catuparisā or the fourfold assembly, which included both Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis together with laymen and laywomen, was the dynamic institution of Buddhism which gave the religion its vitality and its validity. In the Pāsādika Sutta the Buddha tells Cunda how the stability of the religion depends on the achievements of this fourfold assembly which includes both Bhikkhunis and laywomen, showing that women were by no means an appendix but an integral part of the corpus of the religion

(Santi kho pana me cunda etarahi therā bhikkhu sāvakā vyattā vinitā visāradā ...
therā bhikkhuniyo sāvikā ...
upāsakā sāvakā...
upāsikā sāvikā ....
Etarahi kho pana me cunda brahmacariyam iddhañ ca phitañ ca vitthārikam bāhujaññam puthubhutam yāva ' d ' eva manussehi suppakāsitam

- D.III.125 f.).

This significance of the Bhikkhuni Sāsana is further attested in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, where heedless of an anachronism, it is said that the Buddha, not long after his enlightenment, told Māra that he would not pass away into parinibbāna until his fourfold assembly, including the Bhikkhunis, i.e. Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, Upāsaka and Upāsikā, is well and firmly established

(Na tāvā ' ham pāpima parinibbāyissāmi yāva me ...
bhikkhuniyo na sāvikā bhavissanti viyattā vinitā visāradā ...
sappāṭihāriyam dhammam desessanti

- D.II.113.).

The presence of women in the monastic life is accepted as a reality and most admonitions which were addressed to the Bhikkhus were equally applicable to the Bhikkhunis as well

(Yassa kassaci bhikkhave bhikkhussa vā bhikkhuniyā vā kāyavaṇko appahino kāyadoso kāyakasāvo vacivaṇko...
evampapatitā te bhikkhave imasmā dhammavinayā seyyathā ' pi tam cakkam chahi divasehi niṭṭhitam

- A.I.112 f.).

However, there soon evolved a separate code of conduct for the use of the Bhikkhunis which took into consideration the differences not only of sex but also of temperament between the Bhikkhus and the Bhikkhunis.

In the study of the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha we have already observed how both the text and the ritual of the Pātimokkha grew out of the restrictive regulations which the Buddha had to lay down from time to time to discipline the monks who were leading the life of brahmacariya under him

(Yannunā ' ham yāni mayā bhikkhunam paññattāni sikkhāpadāni tāni nesam pātimokkhuddesam anujāneyyam

- Vin.I.102.).

As this first collection of the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha grew, associated for the most part with monks alone, some of its rules no doubt came to possess a peculiarly masculine relevance. Nevertheless, the Pātimokkha as a code meant to further the life of brahmacariya would have applied in its essence to the women as well when they sought admission to be ordained as Bhikkhunis under the Buddha.

Recognising the character of woman from diverse angles, both social and religious, the Buddha had to make relevant changes in the Pātimokkha of the Bhikkhus to make it acceptable to the Order of the Bhikkhunis. Yet it remained essentially the same, the guide to the monastic life of those men and women who renounced the world.

The evolution of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha out of the Pātimokkha which was laid down for the Bhikkhus seems to have confused some scholars considerably with regard to its size and contents.[1] We shall therefore first examine this phenomenon. The regulation of the discipline of the newly established Bhikkhunii Sāsana does not seem to have necessitated any structural alteration of the original Pātimokkha. The original classification of sikkhāpada into different categories is accepted in the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha, almost in toto, the group of Aniyatas of the Bhikkhu Pātikokkha being the only one to be left out in the latter.

On a closer examination, however, it would be discovered that these two Aniyata dhammas are themselves a further development out of the Bhikkhu Pācittiyas 44 and 45 which have been made applicable to the Bhikkhunis as well. On the other hand a number of individual rules which are peculiar to the male members alone had to be left out while a host of new rules came to be added to cover the special needs of the women in the monastic community.


The four Pārājikā of the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha are increased to eight in the code of the Bhikkhunis. Nos. 1, 2, and 4 of these additional rules[2] which are peculiar to the Bhikkhunis (asādhārana paññatti) pertain to sex life in some way or another and can therefore be looked upon as secondary rules deriving from Pārājika 1 of the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha. However, in the life of the Bhikkhunis, they are considered serious enough to be ranked under Pārājika.

Thus half the number of Pārājika rules laid down for the Bhikkhunis deal with sex. These sikkhāpada not only attempt to safeguard the chastity of the brahmacārini but also try to keep the whole body of Bhikkhunis above reproach. Unchaste behaviour of female mendicants was a reality in contemporary society[3] and seeing the possibility of similar incidents within his own monastic Order, the Buddha was prompted to provide these extra safeguards.

There is evidence of incidents in the history of the Sāsana in which Bhikkhunis were involved which were serious enough for public censure. The Mahāvagga records the incident of the sāmanera Kandaka who violated the chastity of a Bhikkhuni

(Tena kho pana samayena āyasmato upanandassa sakyaputtassa kandako nāma sāmanero kandakam nāma bhikkhunim dusesi

- Vin.I. 58.).

Provoked perhaps by the recurrence of such events the public also did at times make hasty and groundless accusations implicating Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis.

A widowed father who had taken to the monastic life along with his young son once became the target of such an accusation. The father was accused, as a Bhikkhu, of having had the child through a Bhikkhuni

(Abrahmacārino ime samanā sakyaputtiyā.
Ayam dārako bhikkhuniyā jāto ' ti

- Vin. I. 79.).

The Bhikkhunis were forbidden to indulge in frivolous behaviour with members of the opposite sex. A number of rules of the Bhikkhunis which supplement the contents of the Saṇghādisesa and Pācittiya groups of the Bhikkhus regulate the conduct of the Bhikkhunis with adequate caution so that they may not fall victims to the lustful desires of unscrupulous men.

The following rules of the Bhikkhunis deserve special mention here:

Saṇghādisesas 3, 5 and 6 and Pācittiyas 11-14, 36.

Saṇghādisesa 3:

No Bhikkhuni shall, alone, leave the village, cross the river and go beyond, shall stay a night out, or be out of the company of the group. Whoever does so shall be guilty of a Saṇghādisesa offence.

Vin.IV. 229.

Saṇghādesesa 5:

No Bhikkhuni shall, with lustful intentions, receive and partake of any food from a lustful man with similar intentions.

Ibid. 233.

Saṇghādisesa 6:

No Bhikkhuni shall tell another

'what ever will this man do unto you, whether he is lustful or otherwise as long as you entertain no such thoughts. Therefore accept and partake of whatever he offers you.'

Ibid. 234.

Pācittiya 11:

No Bhikkhuni shall, in the darkness of the night, at a place where there is no lamp, stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him. Whoever does so shall be guilty of a Pācittiya offence.

Ibid. 268.

Pācittiya 12:

No Bhikkhuni shall stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him in a secluded place.

Ibid. 269.

Pācittiya 13:

No Bhikkhuni shall stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him in an open place.

Ibid. 270.

Pācittiya 14:

No Bhikkhuni shall, in the street, in a blind alley or at the cross-roads, stay alone in the company of a man, coverse with him, whisper in his ear or send away the Bhikkhuni who is her only companion.

Ibid. 271.

Pācittiya 36:

No Bhikkhuni shall live in close association with a house-holder or a house-holder's son...........

Ibid. 294.

The other additional rule (No.3) in the Pārājika group of the Bhikkhunis makes it an offence for a Bhikkhuni to follow a monk who had been lawfully subjected to a boycott by the Saṇgha (ukkhittānuvattikā).[4] Such indiscreet partisan loyalties, whether on the part of the Bhikkhus or of the Bhikkhunis, would have made it difficult to maintain law and order and to ensure harmony within the monastic community.

Pācittiya 69 of the Bhikkhus warns monks against associating a miscreant Bhikkhu who had been lawfully subjected to punishment. According to the history of this sikkhāpada an act of boycott had been carried out by the Saṇgha on a monk named Ariṭṭha who held fast to a heresy, and the rest of the community were barred from seeking his company under the pain of a Pācittiya offence.[5]

In the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga, the loyalties of Bhikkhuni Thullanandā towards the same miscreant Bhikkhu Ariṭṭha assumes major proportions and leads to the promulgation of a Pārājika sikkhāpada.[6]

In contrast, it is worth noting that a Bhikkhuni who associates with another Bhikkhuni who had been subjected to a boycott under similar conditions is declared to be guilty only of a Pācittiya offence

(Yā pana bhikkhuni jānam tathāvādiniyā bhikkhuniyā akatānudhammāya tam diṭṭhim appaṭinissaṭṭhāya saddhim sambhuñjeyya vā samvaseyya vā saha vā seyyam kappeyya pācittiyam

- Bhikkhuni Pācittiya No. 147). [7]

Let us probe further into this apparent discrimination. Both in the Sutta and the Vinaya we come across a number of instances of Bhikkhunis who show strong emotional attachment to Bhikkhus of their choice. Such Bhikkhunis, who often happened to be of frivolous character, seem not only to dedicate their whole life for the service of their chosen comrades, but also to engage themselves actively in canvassing for them the patronage of the laymen.

This is clearly evident in the Bhikkhu Pācittiya 29 where Bhikkhuni Thullanandā underrates the greatness of Sāriputta, Moggallāna and other elders in the presence of a house-holder who had invited them. Here, she does so in order to exalt her own favourites like Devadatta, Kokālika and others whom she presents as the stalwarts of the Sāsana.[8]

We witness a further embarrassing situation in Pāṭidesaniya 2 where the Chabbaggiya Bhikkhunis personally supervised the feeding of their comrades, the Chabbaggiya Bhikkhus, and saw to it that they got the choicest dishes to the neglect of the rest

(Chabbaggiyā bhikkhuniyo chabbaggiyānam bhikkhunam vosāsantiyo ṭhitā honti idha supam detha idha odanam dethā ' ti. Chabbaggiyā bhikkhu yāvadattham bhuñjanti aññe bhikkhu na cittarupam bhuñjanti

- Vin.IV.177.)

This emotionalism of the Bhikkhunis appears to have gone a step further. In an attempt to defend their comrade monks and maintain their prestige, at times, the Bhikkhunis became pugnacious and

offensive. Bhikkhuni Thullanandā once abused the elder Mahā Kassapa calling him the erstwhile heretic because she took exception to his criticism of ananda.[9]

Thus the Bhikkhunis ventured to silence the critics and shield themselves and their erring comrades. The attitude of Moliyaphagguna towards the criticisms hurled at his favourite nuns with whom he used to mingle freely and similar reactions on the part of the nuns themselves show that these emotions which the Buddha referred to as being characteristic of lay householders (gehasitā chandā gehasitā vitakkā) would have been a menace to the healthy and harmonious life of the community.[10]

If this tendency of the Bhikkhunis was allowed to continue without restriction it would have served to support and encourage the rebellious dissentients in the Saṇgha. Evidently such Bhikkhus considered the ability to command and count on the support of the Bhikkhunis to be a great asset. Thus it is clear that the vissicitudes of the Bhikkhu Sāsana would have warranted the inclusion of this additional Pārājika of the Bhikkhunis (No. 3.)

'that no Bhikkhuni shall follow a Bhikkhu who had been lawfully subjected to a boycott by the Saṇgha and who subsequently had made no amends for it.'



The seventeen Saṇghādisesa rules of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha consist of seven which the Bhkkkhunis hold in common with the Bhikkhus (sādhārana paññatti), and ten additional rules which apply to the Bhikkhunis alone.

The Saṇghādisesa rules 1- 4 of the Bhikkhus deal with sex abuses or minor sex relations of a Bhikkhu with a woman and therefore have no relevance to the Bhikkhunis. On the other hand, we have already noted that cosiderations regarding the sex relations of Bhikkhunis with the male members of the lay society were relatively enhanced in gravity and included under the Bhikkhuni Pārājikas 1 and 4.

The other two rules of the Bhikkhu Saṇghādisesas (Nos. 6 and 7) which are left out of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha refer to the construction of dwelling places (kuṭi and vihāra).

Nevertheless, Pācittiya 19 of the Bhikkhus which also happens to deal with dwelling places of monks (vihāra) finds its parallel in the following Pācittiya rule of the Bhikkhunis:

'Mahallakam pana bhikkhuniyā vihāram kārayamānāya yāva dvārakosā aggalaṭṭhapanāya ālokasandhiparikammāya dvatticchadanassa pariyāyam appaharite ṭhitāya adhiṭṭhātabbam.

Tato ce uttarim appaharite pi ṭhitā adhiṭṭhaheyya pācittiyam.' [11]

With the omission of these six rules of the Bhikkhu Saṇghādisesa the Bhikkhunis are still left with seven sādhārana paññatti or rules which they hold in common with the Bhikkhus under the category of Saṇghādisesa.

The ten new rules which take their place under the Bhikkhuni Saṇghādisesas deal with a variety of themes.

No.1 forbids nuns from entering into hostilities with the laymen. (Yā pana bhikkhuni ussayavādikā vihareyya gahapatinā vā gahapatiputtena vā dāsena vā kammakārena vā antamaso samanaparibbājakenā ' pi ayampi bhikkhuni paṭhamāpattikkam dhammam āpannā nissāraṇiyam saṇghādisesam

- Vin. IV. 224.

Nos. 2 and 4 provide against the indiscreet admission of doubtful characters into the Bhikkhuni Order without proper investigation and the illegal reinstatement of a properly expelled nun. [12]

Nos. 3. 5 and 6 safeguard the nuns from the dangers of lustful men. [13]

Nos. 7-10 attempt to curb the rebellious and disruptive elements of the Bhikkhuni Order who operate either singly or in groups.[14]

These four new rules of the Bhikkhunis seem, more or less, to reinforce the Bhikkhu Saṇghādisesa 9 -13 which are also applicable to the Bhikkhunis and which deal with similar situations.Thus we see that with the establishment of the new Order for Bhikkhunis the code of monastic discipline is being made more and more comprehensive.

Nissaggiya Pācittiya.

Both the Bhikkhus and the Bhikkhunis have the same number of thirty Nissaggiya Pācittiya rules. But only the following 18 rules of the Bhikkhus are held in common by the Bhikkhunis as well. They are 1-3, 6-10, 18-20, 22, 23, 25-28, 30. The 12 rules of the Bhikkhus which do not apply to the Bhikkhunis are as follows :

Nos. 4 and 5 deal with engaging the services of a Bhikkhuni to wash or dye a robe and receiving a robe from a Bhikkhuni respectively.[15]

Nos. 11-17 are a set of very specific and circumscribed rules which deal with the making of rugs and coverlets out of silk and wool and their use.[16]

No. 21 forbids the retention of an extra bowl beyond ten days.[17]

This rule, however, finds a place among the Bhikkhuni Nissaggiyas in a stricter form.[18]

The new rule requires that no Bhikkhuni shall make a collection of bowls. This, in its context, is taken to mean that she shall not possess an extra bowl even for a single day. Buddhaghosa points out this difference between the two versions of the rule

(Ayam eva hi viseso. Tattha dasā ' ham parihāro ettha ekā ' ham pi natthi

- VinA.IV. 916.).

Commenting on the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga Buddhaghosa looks upon this rule of the Bhikkhunis as a new one which replaces the former.[19]

No. 24 specifies the time when a Bhikkhu should make a quest for a rain garment and the time when he should start wearing it.[20]

This together with the rule which deals with life in forest residences (No. 29) were apparently considered as having no relevance to the life of the Bhikkhunis.

No. 29 indicates a concession granted to the forest-dwelling monks regarding civaravippavāsa.[21]

The Bhikkhunivibhaṇga, on the other hand, has the following rules added to the rest of the Bhikkhu Nissaggiya rules:

No.1. The Nissaggiya Pācittiya group of the Bhikkhunis begins with this revised rule regarding the possession of bowls[22] to which we have referred earlier under Bhikkhu Nissaggiya 21.

Nos. 2 and 3 deal with faulty practices in the acceptance and distribution of robes.[23]

Nos. 4-10. This section details the abuse of offers made by laymen to provide the Bhikkhunis with their needs either individually or collectively to the congregation as a whole. The indiscreet behaviour of the Bhikkhunis in this direction had proved both irksome and embarrassing to the public.[24]

Nos. 11 and 12 which deal with the choice and acceptance of robes are closely allied to Nos. 2 and 3.[25]


Pācittiya is not only the largest of all the groups of sikkhāpada laid down for the Bhikkhunis as in the case of Bhikkhus too, but is also the group which has an overwhelmingly large collection of additional rules, amouting to ninety-six,[26] which is four more than the entire group of Bhikkhu

Pācittiyas. Of the ninety-two Bhikkhu Pācittiyas, the Bhikkhunis take seventy which they hold in common with the Bhikkhus. Thus the Bhikkhunis have a total of 166 sikkhāpada under the group of Pācittiya. The additional rules of the Bhikkhunis may roughly be analysed as pertaining to the following themes.

(a) Immodest and perverse sex behaviour.
Nos. 2-5, 21, 31, 32 .... ..... Total 7

(b) Relations with laymen which would impair the life of brahmacariya.
Nos. 11-14, 36-38, 60 .... .... Total 8

(c) Boisterous and quarrelsome habits.
Nos. 18-20, 33, 35, 53, 55, 76. .... .... Total 8

(d) Frivolous behaviour and lack of moderation in the
fulfilment of personal needs.
Nos. 1, 7-10, 41- 44, 49, 50, 77, 78, 84 - 93 .... .... Total 23

(e) Impropriety and unceremonious conduct.
Nos. 15 -17 .... .... Total 3

(f) Monastic regulations. The sikkhāpada of this category refer to essentially monastic considerations which apply to the institution of the Bhikkhuni Saṇgha. This group of sikkhāpada may be futher subdivided as follows:

i. Robes and garments peculiar to the Bhikkhunis on accunt
of their difference in sex.
Nos. 22-30, 47, 48, 96. .... .... Total 12

ii. Food.
Nos. 46, 54. .... .... Total 2

iii. Observance of vassāvāsa or rains - retreat and duties connected with it.
Nos. 39, 40, 56 -59 .... .... Total 6

iv. Obligations towards fellow-bhikkhunis : teachers and pupils.
Nos. 34, 68 -70 .... .... Total 4

v. Relations with Bhikkhus.
Nos. 6. 51, 52, 94, 95. .... .... Total 5

vi. Maintenance of law and order in the community.
No. 45. .... .... Total 1

vii. Correct monastic procedure in the conferment of upasampadā etc.
Nos. 61- 67, 71-75, 79 - 83 .... .... Total 17

We have already noted above that 70 rules of the Bhikkhu Pācittiya also apply to the Bhikkhunis. Of the twenty-two rules which are therefore peculiar to the Bhikkhus alone and do not apply to the Bhikkhunis, ten deal solely with relationships of Bhikkhus with Bhikkhunis (Nos. 21-30). Out of the bhojanavagga of the Bhikkhus which deal with food, four rules do not apply to the Bhikkhunis (Nos. 33, 35, 36, 39).

The Bhikkhu Pācittiya 41 which refers to the offer of food by a Bhikkhu to a naked ascetic, a male or female wandering ascetic, does not occur in the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha. The Bhikkhunis have in its place a new sikkhāpada which leaves out the reference to the naked ascetic and replaces it with a householder:

Bhikkhunii Pācittiya 46.

However, inspite of this change, these two sikkhāpada look very similar to each other.

Compare the Bhikkhu Pācittiya 41:

Yo pana bhikkhu acelakassa vā paribbājakassa vā paribbājikāya vā sahatthā khādaniyam vā bhojaniyam vā dadeyya pācittiyam

- Vin.IV. 92.

with the Bhikkhuni Pācittiya 46:

Yā pana bhikkhuni agārikassa vā paribbājakassa vā paribbājikāya vā sahatthā khādaniyam vā bhojaniyam vā dadeyya pācittiyam

- Vin.IV. 302

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the motives which led to the promulgation of these two sikkhāpada are different in each case. The Pācittiya rule of the Bhikkhunis (No.46) should be studied together with No.28 of the same group where both the motives and the persons concerned are identical, the only difference being that in one a robe instead of food is given away by a Bhikkhuni. Under both these sikkhāpada the Bhikkhuni concerned is guilty of bribing laymen, for the sake of personal gain or glory, with something belonging to the Bhikkhunis

(Ten kho pana samayena thullanandā bhikkhuni naṭānam ' pi naṭakānam ' pi ....
samanacivaram deti mayham parisati vannam bhāsathā ' ti

- Vin.IV.285).

The apparently corresponding sikkhāpada of the Bhikkhus (Bhikkhu Pāc. 41), on the other hand, has its origin in an incident which is considerably circumscribed. What appears to be quite a harmless act did unexpectedy subject some members of the Order to ridicule in the hands of the heretics.

In an attempt to safeguard against the recurrence of such incidents the following general rule, Bhikkhu Pācittiya 41 is laid down:

'No monk shall give, with his own hands, any food unto a naked ascetic, a wandering ascetic, male or female.'

The Bhikkhu Pācittiya 64 is left out of the Bhikkhuni Pācittiyas, perhaps because there is a similar ring in the second additional Pārājika of the Bhikkhunis (vajja-paṭicchādika). This rule of the Bhikkhunis, however, refers only to the concealment of Pārājika offences while the Bhikkhu Pācittiya 64 covers both groups of offences, Pārājika and Saṇghādisesa, under the term duṭṭhullā āpatti.[27]

No. 65 is covered under the new Bhikkhuni Pācittiya 71.[28]

Nos. 67 and 83 have relevance to Bhikkhus alone.[29]

No. 85 gives permission to monks to enter the village out of hours under specified conditions.[30] Perhaps we may infer that in leaving it out of the Bhikkhuni Pācittiya, it was intended that the Bhikkhunis were not to be given even a conditional entry except during proper hours.

No. 89. It is difficult to understand why this rule, which specifies the size of a nisidana (=a mat to sit on) for the Bhikkhus,[31] does not apply to the Bhikkhunis. The fact that nisidanas were recognised as part of the belongings of the Bhikkhunis as well is proved by the presence of the parallel of the Bhikkhu Pācittiya 60[32] under the Pācittiya of the Bhikkhunis (Pācittiya 141 in the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha).

Moreover, the parallel of the Bhikkhu Pācittiya 87,[33] which gives specifications about mañca (bed) and piṭha (chair), also find a a place in the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha (Pācittiya 173 in the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha).

No. 91 gives specifications of the size of the vassikasāṭika (=a cloth for the rains).[34]

This, as well as the Bhikkhu Nissaggiya 24 which also refers to the vassikasāṭika, do not apply to the Bhikkhunis.


The eight Pāṭidesaniya rules of the Bhikkhunis are extremely simple in character and seem in fact to be a splitting up of the single rule which bars a Bhikkhuni, unless she is ill, from obtaining by request and using ghee, oil, honey, molasses, fish, meat, milk and curd. The Bhikkhus, on the other hand, have four Pāṭidesaniya rules of their own which also deal with food but are wider in their scope.[35]

Nos. 1 and 2 determine the relations of Bhikkhus with Bhikkhunis at meals, and hence have no relevance to the Bhikkhunis themselves.

Nos. 3 and 4 refer to certain situations in which a monk who is not ill should not help himself to food.

No. 4 deals with it specifically in relation to forest residences. Therefore this rule would not apply to the Bhikkhunis.

No. 3 embodies an undoubtedly singnificant consideration. It prescribes against possible exploitation of pious lay patrons by inconsiderate monks, who while helping themselves to a meal, would fail to consider the economic stability of the people who provide them with food.

Here the Buddha decrees that the Bhikkhus should formally decide among themselves not to strain those families of devoted laymen whose resources are depleted. The Bhikkhus shall not call on them and accept food unless on invitation or in cases of illness.

Sekhiya dhamma.

Both Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis share the same set of seventy-five Sekhiya dhammas.

The Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha

The text of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha seems to have presented a number of problems to the scholars who ventured to examine it. Miss Durga N. Bhagavat who apparently approached it solely through the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga of the present Vinaya Piṭaka discovered therein only a fragment of it. She has erred so far as to mistake this abridged version for the complete text.[36]

The result of this has been obviously disastrous as has already been pointed out by Miss Horner.[37]

Miss Horner suggests that the Nuns' Vibhaṇga in its present form may be regarded as an abridged version of some more complete Vibhaṇga for nuns.[38]

In support of this she adduces as evidence the fragment of the Prātimokshasutra of the Sarvāstivādins published by Finot.[39]

The Bhikshuni-prātimoksha in it, it is pointed out, contains the end of one sikkhāpada and the beginning of another which are identified as Saṇghādisesas for nuns corresponding to Monks' Saṇghādisesa 8 and 9.

This leads us to the legitimate inference that there existed at some stage among the Sarvāstivādins a complete, unabridged Prātimoksha for the Bhikshunis. However, the earlier hypothesis of the existence of 'a more complete Vibhaṇga for nuns' is not necessarily established thereby, because there is evidence to show that the Prātimokshasutras which came to be recited fortnightly at the Uposatha meetings existed quite distinctly apart from the Vibhaṇgas, and very naturally in an unabridged form.

On the other hand, as we examine the early literary history of the Vinaya Piṭaka we discover evidence which point to the existence of a complete and unabridged text of the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga. Buddhaghosa, while describing the Vinaya texts which were rehearsed at the First Council, speaks of the Ubhato Vibhaṇga consisting of the Mahāvibhaṇga and the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga. These two texts, it is said, were gone through separately each in its entirety. The Mahāvibhaṇga, says Buddhaghosa, consists of 220 rules

(Evam visādhikāni dve sikkhāpadasatāni mahāvibhaṇgo ' ti kittetvā ṭhapesum

- DA.I. 13).

We should note here how precise Buddhaghosa is in not adding, as most scholars do when they speak of 227 rules of the Pātimokkha, the 7 Adhikaranasamatha dhammas to the list of disciplinary rules.[40]

The Bhikkhunivibhaṇga consists of 304 rules, and not 311 for the same reason.

(Evam tini sikkhāpadasatāni cattāri ca sikkhāpadāni bhikkhunivibhaṇgo ' ti kittetvā...


This shows that at least the tradition which Buddhaghosa inherited knew of an early reckoning of the contents of the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga independent of the Mahāvibhaṇga, and it leads us to surmise on the independent existence of a complete Bhikkhunivibhaṇga.

Further it is worth noting that Buddhaghosa, while speaking of the literary activity of the First Cuncil, does not speak of an independent rehearsal of either of the Pātimokkhas apart from the Vibhaṇgas, although he goes so far as to include both the Khandhakas and the Parivāra under the Vinaya literature rehearsed at the First Council.[41]

The two Pātimokkhas were apparently reckoned as being part and parcel of the two respective Bibhaṇgas at that stage. This is clear from the manner in which the elder Mahā Kassapa questioned the venerable Upāli from the first Pārājika onwards inquiring not only about the rule but also about the details connected with it.

Even as far as the function of the Pātimokkha was concerned, it is evident that in the early days of Buddhist monasticism much importance was attached to the meaning and interpretation, and all the implications of the sikkhāpada. It was also necessary for the proper enforcement of the law that those who were in authority knew all the circumstances leading to the promulgation of the various sikkhāpada. Therefore it is not unusual to find a monk being challenged regarding the authenticity of a particular item of discipline which he wishes to enforce.

Thus, the maintenance of acceptable good monastic conduct being the live function of the Pātimokkha, it was necessary for a monk, specially for one who was in authority such as a Vinayadhara or a Bhikkhunovādaka,[42] to learn both codes of the Pātimokkha in detail with all the explanations. Note the significance of the following observations:

'If a monk is not well-versed in both codes of the Pātimokkha with all their details and explanations, then if he were to be questioned as to where the Buddha has laid down such and such an injunction, he would not be able to give an answer.

Then there would be many who would advise him to first learn his Vinaya.'

(No ce bhikkhave bhikkhuno ubhayāni pātimokkhāni vitthārena svāgatāni honti suvibhattāni suppavattini suvinicchitāni suttaso anuvyañjanaso idam pana āyasmā kattha vuttam bhagavatā ' ti puṭṭho na sampāyati.

Tassa bhavanti vattāro ingha tāva āyasmā vinayam sikkhassu ' ti

- A.V. 80 f.).

There is no doubt, that all these requirements imply a thorough knowledge of the texts of the Vibhaṇga. Buddhaghosa, in fact, explains suttaso of the above passage as vibhangato.[43]

In the Samantapāsādikā, he explains the phrase vitthārena svāgatāni which also occurs in the above passage as implying a knowledge of the twofold Vibhaṇga

(Tattha ubhayāni kho pana ' ssa pātimokkhāni vitthārena svāgatāni honti ' ti ubhato vibhaṇgavasena vuttāni

- VinA. V. 990.).

However, it is clear that Buddhaghosa was aware of the existence in his own day of the two Pātimokkhas as independent literary works, besides the two Vibhaṇgas, in the Vinaya Piṭaka. In a general description of the Vinaya Piṭaka, Buddhaghosa adds to its contents the two Pātimokkhas as well, which now take their stand side by side with the Vibhaṇgas, the Khandhakas and the Parivāra.

(Tattha paṭhamasaṇgitiyam saṇgitañ ca asaṇgitaṇ ca sabbam pi samodhānetvā ubhayāni pātimokkhāni dve vibhaṇgāni dvāvisati khandhakā soÂasaparivārā ' ti idam vinayapiṭakam nāma.[44]).

He also makes it clear in this statement that not all the contents of the extant Vinaya Piṭaka were rehearsed at the First Council.

It is not possible to determine with any certainity the time when the Pātimokkha (of the Bhikkhus and the Bhikkhunis) were thus extracted from the Vibhaṇgas. All that we can safely infer from the statements of Buddhaghosa is that it certainly took place before his time, but at a date which does not go so far back as the First Council. Hence the absence in the Cullavagga of any reference to the Pātimokkha as a Vinaya treatise during the recital of the Vinaya at the First Council.[45]

The independent existence of the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha in their entirety, at least during the time of Buddhaghosa, is clearly evident in the Kaṇkhāvitarani of Buddhaghosa. We notice there that Buddhaghosa is familiar with an unabridged text of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha.

In commenting, however, on the sikkhāpada of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha, he recognises the items which the Bhikkhunis hold in common with the Bhikkhus (sādhārana paññattiyo) and refers back for their explanation to his comments on those identical sikkhāpada in the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha. He commences his Bhikkhunipātimokkha-vannnā with a comment on the first Pārājika, the first of the eight Pārājikas of the Bhikkhunis which incidentally also happens to be a sādhārana paññatti.

(Yā pana bhikkhuni chandaso methunam dhammam paṭiseveyyā ' ti vuttam tattha chandaso ' ti methunarāgapaṭisamyuttena chandena c ' eva ruciyā ca....

Kkvt. 157.).

Therefore he refers to the rest of the common sikkhāpada in the following terms:

'Here and in the instances which follow, the rest should be understood with the help of the explanations given under the common injunctions which the Bhikkhus share with the Bhikkhunis.'

(Sesam ettha itoparesu ca sādhāranasikkhāpadesu vuttanayānusāren ' eva veditabbam

- Kkvt. 157.).

That in the Kaṇkhāvitarani Buddhaghosa was commenting on a complete text of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha is further evident in the remarks which he adds after his comments on the first six rules of the Bhikkhuni Saṇghādisesas which are peculiar to the nuns alone.

Noting that the next three Saṇghādisesas, i.e. nos. 7, 8 and 9, are held in common with the Bhikkhus, Buddhaghosa says that their explanations are to be known in terms of what has been said about the triad which begins with the sikkhāpada on sañcaritta (sañcarittādittaye vuttanayen ' eva vinicchayo veditabbo - Kkvt. 165), and refers them back to the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha.

They were, nevertheless, reckoned as forming a part of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha, for Buddhaghosa proceeds to number the sikkhāpada which follows these three as the tenth (Dasame kinnu' mā ' va samaniyo ' ti - Kkvt. 165.). When Buddhaghosa, following this order, regards the suceeding sikkhāpada as No.11, the editor of the Kaṇkhāvitarani (P.T.S.) hastens to make the following comment:

'This really refers to the Saṇghādisesa 8 as given at Vin.IV.238 and not to No.11. There are only 10 in the recognised Pali Canon.' [46]

It should here be pointed out that this attempted correction is not only unwarranted but is also dangerously misleading. After Saṇghādisesa 13 of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha, Buddhaghosa is aware of the existence of four more sikkhāpada for the Bhikkhunis under the Saṇghādisesa which the Bhikkhunis share in common with the Bhikkhus (Saṇgha-bhedādisu catusu vuttanayen ' eva vinicchayo veditabbo - Kkvt. 166.).

Thus Buddhaghosa winds up his comments on the Saṇghādisesas of the Bhikkhunis with commendable accuracy, thereby establishing the existence of 17 sikkhāpada in that group.

Attention has already been drawn to the change of emphasis in the ritual of Pātimokkha at a time when the mere recital of the sikkhāpada at the assenbly of the Bhikkhus, without any evident probe into the incidents of indiscipline, constituted the ritual of the Uposatha. At such a function, it was obviously the text of the Pātimokkha rules that mattered.

The details of interpretation and application which were closely connected with the rules and thus formed an essential part of the Vibhaṇga would have been eventually left out. This, perhaps, explains the extraction of the rules of the Pātimokkha from the body of the Vibhaṇgas and the formation out of these of the two manuals of Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha, intended undoubtedly to be used for recital at the ritual of the Uposatha.

Thus it is the consequent independent existence of the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha, in its entirety, which in all probability, could have justified the abridgement of the text of the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga into the form in which we have it today. The Bhikkhunivibhaṇga was an abridged text even at the time of Buddhaghosa and the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha as well as the

Bhikkhu Pātimokkha had already acquired an independent position in the Vinaya Piṭaka.[47]

Thus in marked contrast to the Kaṇkhāvitarani which is Buddhaghosa's commentary on the two Pātimokkhas, Buddhaghosa commences his Bhikkhunivibhaṇgavannanā in the Samantapāsādikā with the first additional Pārājika of the Bhikkhunis which he treats as No.1, for he proceeds to the rest of the four asādhārana paññatti as dutiya, tatiya and catuttha, i.e. second, third and fourth respectively.

He follows the same method in the Saṇghādisesa as well as in the other succeeding groups of sikkhāpada. In the Samantapāsādikā we discover an implicit admission of Buddhaghosa that the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga which is before him is an abridged text containing only the asādhārana paññattiyo.

Commenting on the phrase uddiṭṭhā kho ayyāyo aṭṭha pārājikā dhammā he first refers to the four Pārājikas laid down for the Bhikkhus

(...bhikkhu ārabba paññattā sādhāranā cattāro

- VinA.IV. 906)

and offers four only as the contents of the Pārājika group of the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga (...ime ca cattāro ' ti - Ibid.).

Affirming as it were our earlier assumption that the recital at the ritual of the Uposatha was now the immediate and perhaps the single purpose of the Pātimokkha, Buddhaghosa says that the Pātimokkha recital brings before us the complete list of Bhikkhuni sikkhāpada

(...evam pātimokkhuddesamaggena uddiṭṭhā kho ayyāyo aṭṭha pārājikā dhammā ' ti evam ettha attho daṭṭhabbo

- Ibid).

This establishes beyond doubt the position that in Buddhaghosa's day there existed an abridged Bhikkhunivibhaṇga and an unabridged Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha.

Footnotes and references:


Miss D.N. Bhagavat, Early Buddhist Jurisprudence, p.164 ff.


The numbering of the additional rules of the Bhikkhunis here is in accordance with the abridged text of the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga (Vin.IV. 211-251) where only the asādhārana pa––atti are listed. Hence these numbers do not indicate the real position of the sikkhāpada in relation to the complete text of the Bhikhuni Pātimokkha.


M.I. 305.


Vin. IV. 218.


Ibid. 137.


Ibid. IV. 218.


This sikkhāpada is not given in the Suttavibhaṇga as it is only the Bhikkhuni version of a sādhārana pa––atti held in common with the Bhikkhus. Hence the number 147 is in terms of the complete text.


Vin. IV. 66.


S.II. 219 f.




The real position of this sikkhāpada in the complete Pātimokkha of the Bhikkhunis would be Pācittiya No.115. As this is a sādhārana pa––atti it is not listed in the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga.


Vin.IV. 226, 231.


Ibid. 227 f, 233, 234.


Ibid. 235-42.


Vin.III. 206, 209.


Ibid. 234-35.


Ibid. 243.


See Nissaggiya Pācittiya No.1 in the Bhikkhuni Pātimokkha. Looked upon as a new rule it is placed in the Bhikkhunivibhaṇga. Vin.IV. 243.


VinA.IV. 919.


Vin.III. 253.


Ibid. 263.


Vin.IV. 243.


Ibid. 246, 247.


Ibid. 248-54.


Ibid. 255, 256.


Ibid. 258-345.


Vin.IV. 127.


Ibid. 130, 327.


Ibid. 133,160.


Ibid. 166.


Ibid. 171.


Ibid. 123.


Ibid. 168.


Ibid. 172.


Vin. IV. 175-84.


Miss D.N. Bhagavat, Early Buddhist Jurisprudence, p. 164 f.


The Book of the Discipline, III. p. xxxii. n.1 and p. lviii.


Ibid. p. xxxi.


Journal Asiatique, 1913, p. 548.


B.C.Law, History of Pali Literature, I. 46-47, 49. Winternitz, History of Indian Literature, II. 24. N.Dutt, Early Monastic Buddhism, 1960, p. 152. S.Dutt, Early Budhist Monachism, p. 75. Miss Horner, Book of the Discipline, I. p.x. Rhys Davids, Buddhism, its History and Literature, 1896, p. 54. However, in The Questions of King Milinda he says that the regulations in the Pātimokkha are only 220 in number. See SBE 35, p. 203.n.1 (1890).


DA.I. 13.


A.IV.140, 279 ; V. 71.


AA.IV. 66.


DA.I.17 ; VinA.I.18 ; DhsA.18.


See S.Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, p. 73 f.


Kkvt. p.165.


DA.I. 17 ; VinA. I.18 ; DhsA.18

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