The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes the Patimokkha Restraint (samvara) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as how the Āṭānāṭiya Paritta came to be Taught. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Sakka’s Question (9-11): On the Pātimokkha Restraint (saṃvara)

Sakka now thought:

“The Bhagavā has made it very clear to me about pleasant sensation, unpleasant sensation and neutral sensation just as clear butter oil has been extracted out of a lump of butter. But this evidently is the result, magga-phala, the supramundane, for which there must be the cause by way of appropriate practice. Certainly, the supramundane magga-phala cannot be had merely by asking, like a bird soaring up the sky. There must be the practice that leads to the Supramundane. I shall now ask the Bhagavā the preliminary practice whereby arahatship is attained.”

So he asked the Buddha:

“Venerable Sir, in which way does a bhikkhu practise the Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint (Pātimokkha-saṃvara-sīla)?”

On being asked thus, the Buddha replied:

“Sakka, King of Devas, (i) there are two kinds of bodily conduct: that which should be adopted, and that which should not be adopted.

“Sakka, King of Devas, (ii) there are two kinds of verbal conduct: that which should be adopted, and that which should not be adopted.

“Sakka, King of Devas, (iii) there are two kinds of quests: that which should be taken up, and that which should not be taken up.”

(i) “Sakka, King of Devas, I have said: ‘There are two kinds of bodily conduct: that which should be adopted, and that which should not be adopted.” The reason for my saying so is this: should you understand that in adopting a certain mode of bodily conduct, demeritoriousness increases and meritoriousness decreases, you should not adopt such mode of bodily conduct. (Bodily conduct that tends to increase demeritoriousness and decreases meritoriousness should not be adopted. The same interpretation should be made in respect of the next two statements.)

Of the two kinds of bodily conduct, should you understand that in adopting a certain mode of bodily conduct demeritoriousness decreases and meritoriousness increases you should adopt such mode of bodily conduct. (Bodily conduct that tends to decrease demeritoriousness and increase meritoriousness should be adopted. The same meaning should be taken in respect of the next two statements.)

“Sakka, King of Devas, that is the reason why I said: ‘Sakka, there are two kinds of bodily conduct: that which should be adopted, and that which should not be adopted.’

(ii) “Sakka, King of Devas, I have said: ‘there are two kinds of verbal conduct: that which should be adopted, and that which should not be adopted.’ The reason for my saying so is this: you should understand that in adopting a certain mode of verbal conduct, demeritoriousness increases and meritoriousness decreases, you should not adopt such mode of verbal conduct.

“Of those two kinds of verbal conduct, you should understand that in adopting a certain mode of verbal conduct, demeritoriousness decreases and meritoriousness increases, you should adopt such mode of verbal conduct.

“Sakka, King of Devas, that is the reason why I said: ‘Sakka, there are two kinds of verbal conduct: that which should be adopted, and that which should not be adopted.’

(iii) “Sakka, King of Devas, I have said: ‘Sakka, there are two kinds of quests: that which should be taken up, and that which should not be taken up.’ The reason for my saying so is this: you should understand that in taking up a certain quest, demeritoriousness increases and meritoriousness decreases, you should not take up such quest.

“Of those two kinds of quests, you should understand that in taking up a certain quest, demeritoriousness decreases and meritoriousness increases, you should take up such quest.

“Sakka, King of Devas, that is the reason why I said: ‘Sakka, King of Devas, there are two kinds of quests: that which should be taken up, and that which should not be taken up.” “Sakka, King of Devas, a bhikkhu, who practises thus, is one who practises the Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint (Pātimokkha-saṃvara-sīla).”

When the Buddha answered thus, Sakka was delighted and said, expressing approval: “Venerable Sir, that indeed is so. O Well-Spoken One, that indeed is so. Having learnt the Bhagava’s answer, I have been rid of all doubts about this question: All uncertainties have left me.”

Note: In question six, seven, and eight, Sakka asked the practice that leads to Nibbāna through the cessation of illusory perceptions, and the Buddha replied by a discourse on the three kinds of sensation that are the fundamentals of the practice leading to Nibbāna. He distinguished between sensation that should be resorted to and sensation that should not be resorted to. Of those two types of sensation, the sensation that should not be resorted to is not the practice leading to Nibbāna; only the sensation that should be resorted to is the practice that leads to Nibbāna. Yet why does the Buddha discuss about the sensation that does not lead to Nibbāna? This is a likely question to be asked by one who does not see the Buddha’s purpose. However, the Buddha knows the disposition of Sakka such that if Sakka understands the need for abandoning the sensation that should not be resorted to, recognising it as a defiling factor, then he would be prepared to cultivate the sensation that should be resorted to, recognizing it as a cleansing factor. Thus, the discussing of both the types of sensation is conducive to Sakka’s understanding. The Buddha’s method helped Sakka to adopt the proper practice.

In the present question on Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint, (i.e. restraint that is the obligatory virtue for bhikkhu), the mode of bodily conduct that should not be adopted, the mode of verbal conduct that should not be adopted, and the kind of quest that should not be taken up, do not constitute Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint. Yet, only if one is able to abandon them, can one fulfil the practice of bodily conduct that should be adopted, verbal conduct that should be adopted, and the kind of quest that should be taken up because all of them are the factors that cleanse the mind. That is why the three defiling factors are discussed along with the three cleansing factors in pairs. This method, the Buddha knows, suits the disposition of Sakka in taking upon himself the proper practice.

Only when factors that ought not to be resorted to are made clear, would factors that ought to be resorted to become a mode of practice This is the reason for the Buddha’s discussion of the pairs of useless factors and useful factors in the present set of questions on the Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint, just as in the previous set of questions on sensation.

In the present set of answers, only bodily conduct that should be adopted, verbal conduct that should be adopted, and the kind of quest that should be taken up, constitute the Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint. The bodily conduct, the verbal conduct, and the quest that should not be resorted to are defiling factors, and they must first be seen as such by Sakka.

Regarding the kind of quest that should be taken up, it may be spoken of in connection with the course of action (kammapatha) or in connection with the prescribed form of training precept, i.e.,

(i) Bodily conduct that should not be resorted to are three evil bodily actions, namely, killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. This is speaking in terms of course of action. Physically committing the breach (lit. breach at the bodydoor) of the moral precepts laid down by the Buddha constitutes bodily conduct that should not be adopted. This is speaking in terms of precept.

Bodily conduct that should be adopted are: refraining from killing, refraining from stealing, and refraining from sexual misconduct. This is speaking in terms of courses of action. Physically restraining (lit. restraint at the bodydoor) from transgressing the moral precepts laid down by the Buddha constitutes bodily conduct that should be adopted. This is speaking in terms of precept.

(The same distinction should be understood in respect of verbal conduct.)

(ii) Verbally committing four evil verbal actions, such as lying, slandering, etc. is verbal conduct that should not be adopted. Refraining from transgressing the four evil verbal actions in one’s speech is verbal action that should be adopted.

(iii) Quest (pariyesanā) involves physical and verbal actions. It is covered by bodily conduct and verbal conduct, except that in defining the Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the eighth (Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla), a specific term “quest” needs to be mentioned because these Eight Precepts involve actions at the body-door and verbal-door (i.e. physical actions and verbal actions), and not without effort. Quest is essentially the effort needed in making the quest.

(iv) Quest is of two kinds, ignoble and noble. The two kinds of quest are described in the Pāsarāsi Sutta, Mūlapaṇṇāsa. The gist of the teaching is this: where someone, who himself is subject to birth, ageing, death and destruction, seeks things animate (i.e. wife, children, servants, cattle, poultry, etc.) and inanimate (such as gold and silver, etc.) which are also subject to birth, ageing and death, (i.e. arising, decay and dissolution) this amounts to ignoble quest (anariyapariyesanā), the quest that should not be taken up. If someone who is himself subject to birth, ageing and death, seeing the fault in seeking things animate or inanimate, and seeks the deathless dhamma (i.e. Nibbāna where no rebirth occurs) this is called noble quest (ariya-pariyesanā), the quest that should be taken up.

(v) Explained in another way: There are five ways of seeking gains that are not proper, (for bhikkhus) namely: (i) By scheming, i.e. creating a favourable or highly admirable impression of oneself on the lay supporters; (ii) By 'talking up' or extolling the lay supporters; (iii) By hinting at a suitable occasion for making offerings; (iv) By belittling the lay supporters for their alleged closefistedness; (v) By pursuing gain with gain, i.e., by making gifts to lay supporters with the expectation of receiving their offerings.

There are also six places which a bhikkhu should not resort to, namely, (i) a spinster’s house, (ii) a hermaphrodite’s house, (iii) a liquor seller’s house, (iv) a prostitute’s house, (v) a widow’s or divorcee’s house, (vi) a monastery of bhikkhunīs.

Not resorting to the five ways of seeking gains mentioned above, the six places described above, and the twenty-one ways that are not allowable quest (anesanā), all these make up the kinds of quest that should not be taken up (anariya-pariyesanā). Refraining from all these improper kinds of quest, and living on the food collected at the daily alms-round, is righteous way of seeking gains which constitute noble quest (ariya-pariyesanā).

Where a certain bodily conduct, etc. is not to be resorted to, if it is an act of killing, the conduct is improper right from the beginning, such as procuring of lethal weapons or poison, or any effort connected with it. In the case of bodily conduct that should be resorted to, all the actions connected with it are proper right from the beginning. If one is disabled to perform a deed that should be resorted to, at least the intention should be made, for that intention may be carried through if circumstances permit, bringing it to a successful conclusion.

Explained otherwise:

(i) Bodily conduct that can cause a schism in the Sangha, like Devadatta’s conduct, is improper conduct that should not be resorted to. Paying devotion to the Triple Gem twice or thrice a day, like the habit of Mahātheras Sāriputta and Mahā Moggallāna, is conduct that should be resorted to.

(ii) Verbal conduct as giving orders to kill someone, like that of Devadatta sending marksmen on a mission of assassination, is conduct that should not be resorted to. Extolling the virtues of the Triple Gem, like the habit of Mahātheras Sāriputta and Mahā Moggallāna, is verbal conduct that should be resorted to.

(iii) Ignoble quest, such as that of Devadatta, is quest that should not be taken up. Noble quest, such as that of Mahātheras Sāriputta and Mahā Moggallāna, is quest that should be taken up.

Whereas Sakka puts only one question concerning Bhikkhu Morality of Restraint, the Buddha’s answer is threefold—bodily conduct, verbal conduct and quest; the commentary speaks of it as three questions.

The Buddha’s concluding statement. “A bhikkhu who practises thus -----” purports to say that the bhikkhu who refrains from the bodily conduct, verbal conduct and quest that ought not be resorted to, and who takes up bodily conduct, verbal conduct and quest that should be taken up, is one who practises the supreme bhikkhu practice of morality, incumbent on a bhikkhu, which constitutes the necessary condition that precedes arahatship.

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