The Bhikkhus Rules

A Guide for Laypeople

by Bhikkhu Ariyesako | 1998 | 50,970 words

The Theravadin Buddhist Monk's Rules compiled and explained by: Bhikkhu Ariyesako Discipline is for the sake of restraint, restraint for the sake of freedom from remorse, freedom from remorse for the sake of joy, joy for the sake of rapture, rapture for the sake of tranquillity, tranquillity for the sake of pleasure, pleasure for the sake of conce...


The awakened mind has gone beyond greed, hatred and delusion. Yet for those of us who are still striving towards this end such unskillful tendencies have to be addressed. We need guidelines to help us become more aware of our actions and speech, so that we do not go off the Buddhas Middle Way. For a start there are the Five Precepts, then the Eight and the Ten Precepts, [see End Note 4] and then the 227 Paa.timokkha Rules of the bhikkhu.

The Five Precepts are basic human ethical standards — answering the fundamental questions of what do I do, what should I say? These standards are further refined by the Eight Precepts, which allow the lay person to live a life closer to that of the monk — even if temporarily.[1] This may then lead to the Ten Precepts of a novice (saama.nera) or of a dasasiila mata nun.

The Vinaya and Paa.timokkha rules were set down by the Buddha in response to specific incidents that occurred either within the Community of bhikkhus or through their interaction with the lay community. An explanation of the original circumstances that led to the formulation of a rule is usually included in the scriptural text as an introduction to that rule. The emphasis therefore is always on Dhamma practice with the Precepts or Vinaya as a vital guide and support.

When a bhikkhu takes up the training rules, he might find that past habits and tendencies still cause problems — especially in a non supportive environment. Of course, staying within a suitable environment will simplify this, which is a major reason for some rules. Therefore it is important to remember that the bhikkhu never practices in isolation and always needs the support and understanding of lay Buddhists. There is the need for mutual support and encouragement between the lay and bhikkhu communities. Knowing something of the rules should enable the lay person to appreciate this.

Footnotes and references:


Sometimes this is on the weekly Observance Day (see Uposatha, Appendix A), sometimes when spending longer periods at a monastery. In some places this forms a preliminary stage to becoming a bhikkhu. For example, at some monasteries in England, a candidate usually has to live under Eight Precepts and wear white as an anagarika (homeless one) before he will be considered for ordination.

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