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 2 - The Parajika Rules

Here these four Rules, concerning those acts which bring about Defeat[2], come into recitation.

1. Whatsoever Bhikkhu who has taken upon himself the Bhikkhus' system of self-training and rule of life, and has not thereafter withdrawn from the training, or declared his weakness, shall have carnal knowledge of any one, down even to an animal, he has fallen into defeat, he is no longer in communion[3].

2. Whatsoever Bhikkhu shall take, from village or from wood, anything not given—what men call 'theft[4]'—in such manner of taking as kings would seize the thief for, and slay, or bind, or banish him, saying, 'Thou art a thief, thou art stupid, thou art a fool, thou art dishonest,'—the Bhikkhu who in that manner takes the thing not given, he, too, has fallen into defeat, he is no longer in communion.

3. Whatsoever Bhikkhu shall knowingly deprive of life a human being, or shall seek out an assassin against a human being, or shall utter the praises of death, or incite another to self-destruction, saying, 'Ho! my friend! what good do you get from this sinful, wretched life? death is better to thee than life!'—if, so thinking, and with such an aim, he, by various argument, utter the praises of death or incite another to self-destruction—he, too, is fallen into defeat, he is no longer in communion[5].


4. Whatsoever Bhikkhu, without being clearly conscious of extraordinary qualities, shall give out regarding himself that insight into the knowledge of the noble ones has been accomplished, saying, 'Thus do I know,' 'Thus do I perceive:' and at some subsequent time whether on being pressed, or without being pressed, he, feeling guilty, shall be desirous of being cleansed from his fault, and shall say, 'Brethren! when I knew not, I said that I knew; when I saw not, I said that I saw—telling a fruitless falsehood;' then, unless he so spake through undue confidence he, too, has fallen into defeat, he is no longer in communion[6].

Venerable Sirs, the four Conditions of Defeat have been recited, of which when a Bhikkhu has fallen into one or other, he is no longer allowed to be in co-residence with the Bhikkhus. As before, so afterwards, he is defeated, he is not in communion[7].


In respect of them I ask the venerable ones, 'Are you pure in this matter?'

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

A third time I ask, '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 Pārāgikas.

Footnotes and references:


The whole of the following portion of the Pātimokkha, together with the ancient commentary upon it, is contained in the first book of the Vibhaṅga, also called the Pārājikam.


Childers (sub voce) follows Burnouf (Introduction, &c., p. 301) in deriving the word Pārājika from AJ with parā prefixed, taking that compound in the sense of 'to expel.' Dickson's translation 'deadly sin' rests upon the same basis. The Buddhist commentators refer the word to the passive of JI with parā. prefixed, in the sense of 'to suffer defeat.' So the Samanta-Pāsā.dikā: Pārājiko hoīti parājito parājayaṃ āpanno. Now the root AJ belongs to the Vedic dialect only, and is not met with in any Buddhist expressions, and even in the Vedas it does not occur with parā prefixed. The Buddhist forms of speech have quite different and settled terms with which to convey the idea of expulsion. On the other hand, there was a considerable group of words in use in the Buddhist community with which pārājika stands in close connection: parāji, 'to suffer defeat;' parājita, 'defeated;' parājaya, 'defeat.' We cannot therefore but think that the native commentators are right in associating pārājika also with this group, and that the word really means 'involving defeat.' This may mean specifically defeat in the struggle with Māra the Evil One; but more probably defeat in the struggle against evil generally, defeat in the effort to accomplish the object for which the Bhikkhu entered the Order, in the effort to reach the 'supreme goal' of Arahatship.


'Declared his weakness' refers to the permission (on the ground that it was better to leave the Order than to burn) for a Bhikkhu to acknowledge himself unfit for the discipline, and throw off the robe. 'Withdrawn from the training' is the formal expression for thus throwing off the Robes. See below, Mahāvagga II, 22, 3.


The Vibhanga (Pār. II, 3) takes theyya-saṃkhātaṃ as meaning 'with dishonest intent.'


The deviations here from Mr, Dickson's version will, we hope, justify themselves. There is no commentary on hāraka, though the Vibhaṅga (Pār. III, 3, 1) explains the different kinds of Sattha. Pāpaka must be 'sinful,' not merely 'poor;' the suggestion is: 'by destroying your life you will escape from the possibility of sinning.'


The extraordinary qualities (literally, 'superhuman qualities') are defined to be the Vimokkhas, Samādhis, the Samāpattis, the Ñāṇadassana, the having experienced the Noble Path, and having realised the Fruit thereof; that is to say, Arahatship and the highest forms of spiritual emotion and intelligence which can accompany Arahatship. They are in fact, therefore, superhuman only in the sense of extraordinary; as it is precisely human beings, and only human beings, who were supposed to be able to acquire these qualities.


The sentences which follow in the text, but are not here translated, and in which it is declared that all the following portions of the Pātimokkha have already been heard, do not occur in the Vibhaṅga. They are not part of the Pātimokkha; but only the form to be used, when the Pātimokkha cannot be recited in full, and all the remaining Rules are to be omitted. According to Mahāvagga II, 15, 1, 4 this abridged recital may be used in certain cases of danger.

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