Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “morality of the shramanera” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Part 2 - Morality of the śrāmaṇera

Note: In its description of the ordination of the śrāmaṇera, the śikṣamāṇa, the bhikṣuṇī and the bhikṣu, the Mppś is directly inspired by the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1535) which contains an entire ordination ritual, a summary of which may be found in the Che song kie mo pi k’ieou yao yong, T 1439, p. 496 seq.

How do the śrāmaṇeras and śrāmaṇerikās take the precepts (śīlaṃ samādadati) when they leave the world (pravrajyā)?

The lay person who wishes to leave the world should find two masters: i) a preceptor (upādhyāya), ii) a tutor (ācaryā).[1] The upādhyāya will take the place of father for him and the ācārya, that of mother: since he is abandoning his natural parents, he must seek parents in the religious life.[2]

Having put on the yellow robes (kāsāyāni vatthāni acchādāpetvā) and having cut one’s hair and beard (kesamassuṃ ohārāpetvā), with his two hands he should grasp [161c] the feet of his upādhāya (upajjhāyassa pāde vandapeti).[3] Why grasp the feet? In India, it is the custom to grasp the feet as a sign of respect and supreme veneration (paramārcanapūjā).

The ācārya should teach (śikṣate) him the ten rules (daśaśikṣāpada)[4] according to the ordination rite (upasaṃpadādharma).

It is the same for the śrāmaṇerikā except that [in place of a bhikṣu] she has a bhikṣuṇī as upādhyāyikā.

Footnotes and references:


The novice then becomes the sārdhavihārin of the upādhyāya and the antevasin of the ācaryā, but we do not know what distinguishes these two teachers. The duties of the sārdhavihārin towards the upādhyāya (Pāli Vinaya, II, p. 222–231) are exactly the same as those of the antevāsin towards the ācaryā (ibid., II, p. 231). Nevertheless, the upādhyāya seems to have had more importance than his colleague: he plays the principal rôle in the ordination ceremonies (Vin., I, p. 56–57) and his responsibility therein is more binding (Vin. IV, p. 114–115). Buddhist scriptures have retained lists of upādhyāyas who followed one after another in the course of time (cf. Przyluki, Aśoka, p. 46–48), but have not transmitted the names of ācāryas to posterity. In Brāhmanism, on the other hand, the ācārya was more important than the upādhyāya (Manu, II, 145; Yajñavalkya, I, 35). – Cf. Oldenberg, Vinaya Texts, I, p. 178, n. 2).


Cf. Vin. I, p. 60: ācariyo bhikkhave antevāsikamhi puttacittaṃ upaṭṭhāpessati, antevāsiko āchariyamhi pitucittaṃ upaṭṭhāpessti.


Ceremony of pravrajyā which, in early times was confused with that of upasaṃpadā (cf. I, p. 22).


The ten śikṣāpada of the novice are well known in the texts: cf. Vin. I, p. 83–84). The novice must refrain from: 1) killing (pāṇāpāta); 2) theft (adinnādāna); 3) impurity (abrahmacariya); 4) falsehood (musāvāda); 5) intoxicating liquors (surāmerayamajjapamādautṭāna); 6) eating outside of the proper time (vikālabhojana); 7) attending worldly entertainments (naccagītavāditavisākadassana); 8) using unguents, perfumes and ornaments on the body (mālāgandhavilepanadhāraṇamaṇḍanavibhūsanaṭṭhāna); 9) sleeping on a high or wide bed (uccāsayanamahāsayana); 10) accepting gold or silver (jātarūparajatapaṭiggahaṇa).