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...

Strictness And Blaming Others

Among the unenlightened, finding fault with others (rather than dealing with ones own problems) often seems to be one of our most damaging habitual tendencies. We are able to twist whatever we want to this purpose. (Including the book that you are reading.) For bhikkhus there are many cautions:

"... those [monks] who follow the Vinaya blindly... tend to be proud and arrogant, regarding themselves as better behaved and more strict than others, and despising other bhikkhus as inferior. This in itself is unbecoming and worthy of censure; and when such bhikkhus have to associate with others whom they feel to be deficient in observing the Vinaya, they do it grudgingly and with a sense of distaste, and thus bring even more trouble on themselves.

"As for the bhikkhu who behaves in the correct manner, he is bound to feel cheerful because he senses that his behavior is becoming." (OP p.11)

"One who knows the Vinaya well, knows just how far the Vinaya goes. He will thus know what is definite and what is open to interpretation. He will know that a monk who practices contrary to what is clearly stated in the Vinaya... is rightly called alajjii [shameless]. But he will remain tolerant and in perfect harmony with those who follow a different practice from his own on matters not clearly covered by the Vinaya..."


Disparate interpretations of the Vinaya rules can lead different communities into claiming that only their understanding is correct and everyone else is wrong. (See Disputes.) The Buddhist Monastic Code has this to say:

"There is, of course, a danger in being too independent in interpreting the tradition, in that strongly held opinions can lead to disharmony in the Community.... At the same time,... there are many areas on which the Vibha"nga [section of the Vinaya] is unclear and lends itself to a variety of equally valid interpretations. For proof of this, we need only look at the various traditions that have developed in the different Theravadin countries, and even within each country. For some reason, although people tend to be very tolerant of different interpretations of the Dhamma, they can be very intolerant of different interpretations of the Vinaya and can get into heated arguments over minor issues having very little to do with the training of the mind."

Venerable Thanissaro continues by emphasizing:

"...that any interpretation based on a sound reading of the [Paali] Canon should be respected: that each bhikkhu should follow the interpretations of the Community in which he is living, as long as they do not conflict with the Canon, so as to avoid conflict over minor matters in daily life; and that he should also show respect for the differing interpretations of other Communities where they too do not conflict with the Canon, so as to avoid the pitfalls of pride and narrow mindedness."

(BMC p.15)

In the modern West we find ourselves with the unusual (unique?)[1] situation of having Buddhist monasteries and temples of so many different countries and traditions so close at hand. We should appreciate this abundance and variety, deciding which establishment suits our needs and then not worry about the shortcomings of other places.

Footnotes and references:


"This is especially true now that monasteries of different nationalities are taking root in close proximity to one another in the West. In the past, Thais, Burmese, and Sri Lankans could look down on one anothers traditions without danger of causing friction, as they lived in separate countries and spoke different languages. Now, however, we have become neighbours and have begun to speak common languages, so it is best that we take to heart the writings of the Chinese pilgrims who visited India centuries ago. They reported that even after the early Buddhists had split into 18 schools, each with its own Tripitaka [Canon] and Paa.timokkha [Rule], and the Mahayanists had added their texts to the tradition, bhikkhus belonging to different schools could be found living together in the same monastery, practicing and conducting communal business in peace and harmony. Theirs is a worthy example. We should not let our minor differences become stumbling blocks on our way..." (BMC p.16)

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