Vinaya Pitaka (1): The Analysis of Monks’ Rules (Bhikkhu-vibhanga)

by I. B. Horner | 2014 | 345,334 words | ISBN-13: 9781921842160

The English translation of the Bhikkhu-vibhanga: the first part of the Suttavibhanga, which itself is the first book of the Pali Vinaya Pitaka, one of the three major ‘baskets’ of Therevada canonical literature. It is a collection of rules for Buddhist monks. The English translation of the Vinaya-pitaka (first part, bhikkhu-vibhanga) contains many...

Introduction to the translation of the Vinaya-Piṭaka

BD.1.v The present translation of the Vinaya-Piṭaka is based upon Hermann Oldenberg’s extremely careful edition of the Pali text of the Vinaya-Piṭaka, published in five volumes in the years 1879–1883. In the Introduction to Volume I of his edition, Oldenberg wrote (p.x) that he had been compelled to relinquish his original intention of adding a complete translation to the text. But in the years 1881, 1882, 1885 T.W. Rhys Davids and Oldenberg collaborated in the production of a partial translation, called Vinaya Texts, published in the Sacred Books of the East Series (Volumes XIII, XII, XX) in three volumes.

The detailed handling, exposition and analysis of many important, interesting, difficult and obscure points make of Vinaya Texts a work of remarkable scholarship. In addition, the erudition of one who had had opportunities of investigating contemporary monasticism in Ceylon has been bestowed upon it. Indeed, Rhys Davids’ and Oldenberg’s translation can admit of supplement in only two respects, while in all others I am aware that my attempt at a critical translation compares but unfavourably with theirs.

In the first place, what is now needed, both for its own sake and in order to bring the Vinaya into line with, at least, the Sutta-Piṭaka, is a complete, as against a partial translation into English. This is one of the two respects in which Vinaya Texts can be supplemented. Secondly, our knowledge of various aspects of Buddhism has doubtless increased during the fifty-two years which separate the appearance of Volume III of Vinaya Texts and the appearance of Volume I of The Book of the Discipline. During this time the Pali Text Society has been founded, and has published all the Pali Canonical “books,” practically all the BD.1.vi Commentaries and other post-Canonical “books”, together with a considerable number of translations, not to mention a Dictionary. This mass of material, not available to the original translators of the Vinaya, has made possible a comparison of passages, phrases and words occurring in scattered parts of the Canon, so that now a more definite and perhaps less tentative interpretation of the significance of some of them, as they appear in the Vinaya, can be presented. This is the second way in which Vinaya Texts can be supplemented. It is only by discovering what words and phrases signify in passages other than those with which one is at the moment concerned, that the general, and even the exceptional, meaning of those same words and phrases can be more or less accurately gauged. I have considered it desirable, in the light of the knowledge made accessible during the last fifty years by the issues of the Pali Text Society and certain books on Early Buddhism, to revise and remould some of the renderings in Vinaya Texts. Even so, one cannot fail to be impressed by the vision of the original translators, whose interpretations, sometimes no more than leaps in the dark, have often proved successful and unimpeachable.

There is reason to suspect that some words and phrases are peculiar to the Vinaya, or have a special connotation in it, but there can be no certainty upon this point, until the Concordance, which is being compiled under the auspices of Mrs. Rhys Davids, is brought to completion.

Since the study of Early Buddhism is admittedly still in its infancy, many of the rich and variegated treasures of its storehouse as yet await investigation. Hence, I am fully aware that The Book of the Discipline is nothing more than an interim translation, needed for the reasons given above, but in no way claiming to be final and definitive.