Vinaya (1): The Patimokkha

by T. W. Rhys Davids | 1881 | 17,356 words

The Patimokkha is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of all Buddhist text-books; and it has been inserted in its entirety into the first part of the Vinaya, the Vibhanga. The Patimokkha seems to have owed its existence to the ancient Indian custom of holding sacred two periods in each month, the times of the Full Moon and of the New Moon....

Chapter 1 - Nidana

May the Chapter[2], reverend Sirs, hear me!

To-day is the sacred day (of the full, or new, moon), the fifteenth day of the half-month[3]. If it be convenient to the Chapter, let the Chapter hold Uposatha, let it repeat the Pātimokkha. How is it with respect to the necessary preliminaries to a meeting of the Order? Let the reverend brethren announce their purity[4], and I will rehearse the Pātimokkha! We all gladly give ear and do attend[5]!

Whosoever have incurred a fault, let him declare it! If no fault have been incurred it is meet to keep silence!

Now, venerable Sirs, it is by your silence, that I shall know whether you are pure. As to each one question put there must be an answer, so, in such a meeting as this, each question is put[6] as many as three times. Then if any Bhikkhu, when it has been three times put, knowingly omit to declare a fault incurred, he is guilty of uttering a conscious lie. Venerable Sirs, the uttering of a deliberate lie has been declared by the Blessed One to be a condition hurtful (to spiritual progress)[7]. Therefore a fault, if there be one, should be declared by that Bhikkhu who remembers it, and desires to be cleansed therefrom. For a fault, when declared, shall be light to him.

Venerable Sirs, the Introduction is now recited.

Thus do I question you, venerable Sirs, 'Are you pure in this matter?'

A second time do I question you, 'Are you pure in this matter?'

A third time do I question you, 'Are you pure in this matter?'

The venerable ones are pure herein. Therefore do they keep silence. Thus I understand.

Here endeth the recitation of the Introduction.

Footnotes and references:


The whole of this Introduction, with the ancient commentary upon it (referred to above, in the Introduction), recurs in the Mahāvagga II, 3, where further notes will be found. The previous chapter in Dickson entitled the Pucchāvissajjana is not part of the ancient text of the Pātimokkha.


Saṃgho: of course not the whole Order, but those members then present, spoken of collectively.


Uposatho paṇṇaraso. See below, Mahāvagga, Book II, and especially chap. 14.


That is, their freedom from any of those disabilities which are declared below, Book II, to incapacitate a member of the Order from assembling at a formal meeting on the Uposatha day.


On sabbe 'va santā compare ubho 'va santā in the ninth Nissaggiya, and the Old Commentary loc. cit.


The spelling of the Pāli word in the text should be anussāvitaṃ, and so below, anussāviramāne. By 'the text' we refer throughout to Mr. Dickson's very careful edition, all the necessary corrections in which--they are mostly only misprints--will be noticed in the following notes.


See Mahāvagga II, 3, 7.

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