Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “morality of the shikshamana” 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 3 - Morality of the śikṣamāṇā

Note: Cf. T 1439, p. 497a.

The śikṣamāṇā pledges to observe the six rules (ṣaḍdharma) for two years.[1]

Question. – The śrāmaṇera, possessor of the ten precepts (daśaśikṣāpada), is able to directly take the full discipline of the bhikṣu (paripūrṇaśīla) [without passing through an intermediate stage]. Why must [the śrāmaṇerikā], in the career of the bhikṣuṇī, go through a stage of śikṣamāṇā in order to take the full discipline [of the bhikṣuṇI later]?

Answer. – When the Buddha was in this world, the wife of an eminent man (śreṣṭhidaharā), unknowingly pregnant (garbhiṇī), left the world and took on the full discipline [making her a bhikṣuṇī]. Subsequently when her pregnancy became noticeable, all the nobles blamed (jugupsā) this bhikṣuṇī. Because of that, it was established that, for two years, women should practice the discipline (śīlaṃ śikṣ-) by taking the six precepts [of the śikṣamāṇā] and only after that could they take the full discipline of the bhikṣuṇī.[2]

Question. – But if she is blameworthy, why does not the śikṣamāṇā wipe out the blames [in the same way as the bhikṣuṇī]?

Answer. – Because the śikṣamāṇā has not taken the full discipline. She is like a child or a servant whom people do not blame even if they misbehave. In the śikṣamāṇā, this is the taking of the six rules.

There are two kinds of śikṣamāṇā: i) those who take the six rules when they are young girls of eighteen years of age (paripūrṇāṣṭadaśa kumārikā); ii) those who take the six rules when they are women having ten years of married life (gṛhoṣitā daśavarśā).

Note on the two types of Śikṣamāṇā:

In the Pāli Vin, the 71st and 72nd pācittiya condemn those who confer ordination on a girl less than twenty years of age (ūnavisātivassaṃ kumāribhūtaṃ vuṭṭhāpeyya) or who, being already twenty years old, has not followed, for two years, the six rules imposed on the śikṣamāṇā:

(paripuṇṇavīsativassaṃ kumāribhūtaṃ dve vassāni chasu dhammesu asikkhitasikkhaṃ vuṭṭhāpeyya).

Cf. Pāli Vin., IV, p. 327–328, and for the other Vinayas, Waldschmidt, Bhikṣuṇīprātimokṣa, p. 140–141.

In the same Pāli Vin., the 65th and 66th pācittiya condemn those who give ordination to a woman with less than twelve years of married life (ūnadvādasavassaṃ gihigataṃ vuṭṭhāpeyya) or who, having been married for twelve years has not, for two years, followed the six rules imposed on the śikṣamāṇā:

(paripuṇṇadvādasavassaṃ gihigataṃ dve vassāni chasu dhammesu asikkhiasikkhaṃ vuṭṭhāpeyya).

Cf. Pāli Vin., p. 322–323.

Thus there are two kinds of śikṣamāṇā according to whether it is a matter of a girl of less than eighteen years or a married woman who has been married less than ten years. Since the śikṣamāṇā stage lasts for two years, it follows that one can become a bhikṣuṇī at twenty years old if it concerns a girl, after twelve years of married life, or if it concerns a married woman. Actually, the Sanskrit fragment of the Bhikṣuṇīvācanā published by C. M. Ridding and de La Vallée Poussin, in BSOS, I 1920, p. 133, l. 2 distinguishes two kinds of bhikṣuṇī, namely, the gṛhoṣitā dvādaśavarṣā and the kumārikā paripūrṇaviṃśativarṣā.

Footnotes and references:


The six rules of the śikṣāmaṇā are the same as the first six śikṣāpada of the śramaṇera. Thus the śikṣāmāṇā vows to refrain, for two years, from killing, stealing, impurity, lying, intoxicating frinks and eating outside of the proper time. Cf. Vin. IV, p. 319.


The story of the pregnant bhikṣuṇī is told in Pāli Vin, IV, p. 317; Mahīśāsaka Vin. T 1421, k. 12, p. 92a–b; Dharmagupta Vin. T 1428, k. 27, p. 754b; Mūlasarvāstivādin Vin., T 1443, k. 18, 1005c. According to the latter text, it concerned the bhikṣuṇī Sthūlanandā, known in the Vinaya for her breaches of all kinds of disciplines. See E. Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke des Bhikṣuṇī-Pratimokṣa des Sarvāstivādins, 1926, p. 135.

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