Vinaya (3): The Cullavagga

by T. W. Rhys Davids | 1881 | 137,074 words

The Cullavagga (part of the Vinaya collection) includes accounts of the First and Second Buddhist Councils as well as the establishment of the community of Buddhist nuns. The Cullavagga also elaborates on the etiquette and duties of Bhikkhus....

Cullavagga, Khandaka 5, Chapter 3

1. Now at that time the Chabbaggiya Bhikkhus used to sing the Dhamma with the abrupt transitions of song-singing.

The people murmured, were annoyed, and became indignant, saying, 'How can the Sakyaputtiya Samaṇas [do so]?' The Bhikkhus heard (&c., as usual, down to) he addressed the Bhikkhus, and said:

'These five dangers, O Bhikkhus, befall him who sings the Dhamma with the abrupt[1] transitions of song-singing.—He himself becomes captivated with respect to the sound thereof.—Other people become captivated with respect to the sound thereof.—The laymen are shocked.—The meditation of one who strains after accuracy in the sound is broken.—The common people fall into heresy[2].—These five dangers, O Bhikkhus, befall him who sings the Dhamma with the abrupt transitions of song-singing. The Dhamma is not, O Bhikkhus, to be sung [in that manner]. Whosoever does so, shall be guilty of a dukkaṭa.'

2. Now at that time the Bhikkhus were afraid to make use of intoning[3]. They told this matter to the Blessed One.

'I allow you, O Bhikkhus, to intone.'

Footnotes and references:


Āyatakena gīta-ssarena. Compare āyataken’ eva papāto at Cullavagga IX, 1, 3.


Probably this is supposed to result because dhamma being sung and not said is not intelligible to them--a complaint often made against the singing of prayers among Protestant Christians. On pacchimā janatā, compare the closing words of V, 21, 2; and on the rest of the phrase, Puggala III, 10, 14 The translation of sarakuttiṃ is also very doubtful.


Sara-bhaññaṃ. So in the Mahāvagga we hear that Soṇa intoned before the Buddha a chapter from the Sutta Nipāta. The expression there used is sarena abhāsi, of which our word is used as the verbal noun, the roots bhaṇ and bhās being not only synonymous but interchangeable. (See, for instance, Vin. Pit. vol. iv, p. 353.) Perhaps 'recitative' would be a good rendering. I have several times heard the Dhamma thus recited by living Buddhists in accordance with the traditional interpretation of this passage, and their Sara-bhaññaṃ was precisely like the intoning of prose passages as practised in our cathedral churches (Rh. D.).

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