Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “morality of the bhikshuni” 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 4 - Morality of the bhikṣuṇī

Note: Cf. T 1439, p. 498; Bhikṣuṇīkarmavācanā, BSOS, I, 1920, p. 123–143; Pāli Vin. II, p. 271–274.

When a woman wants to take full ordination [which will make her a bhikṣuṇī], in the presence of the two assemblies (ubhayasaṃgha),[1] she must be furnished with the fivefold robes (pañcacīvara),[2] the begging bowl (pātra), a bhikṣuṇī as preceptress (upādhāyikā) and tutor (ācāriṇī), a bhikṣu as “master of discipline” (śīlācarya), etc., in accordance with the ordination ritual (upasaṃpadādharma).

Generally (samāsataḥ), the discipline of the bhikṣuṇī consists of 500 rules; in detail (vistarataḥ), of 80,000 rules.[3]

After the third official proposal (tṛtiyā karmavācanā) (see Appendix 2) she obtains the immense discipline (apramāṇasaṃvara) that makes her a bhikṣuṇī.

Footnotes and references:


Ordination must be sought from the twofold assembly, that of the bhikṣuṇīs and that of the bhikṣus; cf. Vin., II, p. 255: ubhatosaṃghe upasampadā pariyesitabhā. – An ordination is not complete if it has not benn conferred by the bhikṣu assembly; cf. Vin., II, p. 257: anujānāmi bhikkhave bhikkūhi bhikkhuniyo upasapādetum. – At the time of her ordination, the future nun, after having been received into the community of nuns, comes before the community of monks and says: “I, so-and-so, wishing to receive ordination from you, having already been ordained before the assembly of bhikṣuṇīs (ekatoupasampannā bhikkhunīsaṃgha) and having been declared pure of any hindrance, ask for ordination from your assembly”: cf. Vin., II, p. 273–274; Bhikṣuṇīkarmavācanā, p. 133.


The five robes of the bhikṣuṇī are: 1) the saṃghaṭī (coat), 2) the uttarāsaṅga (upper robe), 3) the antaravāsa (lower robe), 4) the saṃkakṣikā (garment covering the sides), 5) the kusūlaka (skirt). – Cf. Vin. II, p. 272; Bhikṣuṇīkarmavācanā, p. 130, l. 9–10; Mahāvyutpatti, no. 8922–8936; Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 29, p. 187c19; Mo ho seng k’i liu, T 1426, k. 30, p. 472b21–22; Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 48, p. 924c13–14; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 41, p. 296a5; Yi tsing, tr. Takakusu, p. 78–79.


Generally, it is accepted that the discipline of the bhikṣu involves 250 rules, that of the bhikṣuṇī 500 rules (see also P’i ni mou king, T 1463, k. 8, p. 850c15–16; Wei Annals, ch. 114); but these round numbers are not exact. According to Waldschmidt, Bhikṣuṇīprātimokṣa, the exact number of rules in the Prātimokṣa of the various schools is as follows:

Schools: Bhikṣuprāt. Bhikṣuṇīprāt.

Chinese Sarvāstivādin: 257 355

Sanskrit Sarvāstivādin: 263 —

Chinese Mūlasarvāstivādin: 245 354

Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivādin: 262 371

Mahāvyutpatti Mūlasarvāstivādin: 255 —

Mahīśāsaka: 251 380

Mahāsmaṃghika: 218 290

Dharmagupta: 250 348

Pāli: 227 311

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