Vinaya Pitaka (1): Bhikkhu-vibhanga (the analysis of Monks’ rules)

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...

The various forms of address

Of the various forms of address recorded in Vin.3.1–194 (to which this volume of translation corresponds), the most frequent are bhagavā, bhante, BD.1.xxxviii bho, āyasmā, āvuso, ayya, bhagini. I will do no more now than briefly indicate them, leaving a fuller investigation to the Introduction to the final volume, when all the Vinaya data for modes of address will be before us.

Only Gotama is recorded to be addressed as bhagavā. This, therefore, is a very honourable term, which I have rendered by “lord.”

Bhante, one of several vocative forms of bhavant, is of very frequent occurrence. When Gotama is addressed as bhante, I have used the rendering “lord.” In order to preserve this appellation for him alone, when the named and unnamed monks who are his disciples are addressed as bhante, I have used the rendering “honoured sir.”

Bho (plural bhonto), another vocative form of bhavant, appears to be a more familiar form of address than is bhante, and is used as between equals, or from a superior to an inferior. It is of fairly frequent occurrence, sometimes being followed by another vocative, such as a proper name. I have translated bho as “good sir.”

Āyasmā is not a form of address. It is an honorific designation, and is the most usual way in which monks and theras are referred to in the narrative, followed by their proper name. I have translated it as “the venerable.” Nuns are never designated by this term, nor are lay-people.

Āvuso may be said to be the habitual mode of address used between monks. The only other word that they appear to use in speaking to one another is bhante.[1] They are also recorded to address laymen as āvuso, and this practice is sometimes reversed, although the laity seem more usually to have said bhante in speaking BD.1.xxxix to the monks, sometimes combined with ayya. I have translated āvuso as “your reverence” and “reverend sir.” Since āvuso is masculine in form, it was never used in addressing nuns.

Ayya and ayyo (nominantive plural used as a vocative) are frequently used in speaking of a person and in addressing him, both directly and obliquely. It appears to be more flexible than the other terms noted above, both with regard to those who use it and with regard to those to whom it is applied. I have translated it as “master” if followed by a proper name, and as “the master” if this is not the case. It is not infrequently combined with bhante. Ayya was an epithet in use among the laity, as well as between the laity and the monks. But in the part of the Vinaya translated in this volume it does not happen that a lay-person is addressed as ayya by a monk, or that any monk is so addressed by a fellow-monk.

Although monks did not address their fellows in the Brahma-life as ayya, nuns use ayye (feminine, “lady, noble lady”) in speaking to one another. Laywomen also use this form of address in speaking to nuns and to other laywomen. Monks, however, never appear to address either nuns or laywomen as ayye.

Bhagini, “sister,” is the most usual way in which monks are recorded to address both laywomen and nuns. Yet nuns do not, as far as is recorded, address one another as bhagini. Unluckily, in this portion of the Vinaya there are no records of intercommunication between nuns and laywomen, so we get here no indication of how they addressed one another.

From these short notes it will have emerged that the words bhikkhu and bhikkhuni do not occur as forms of address used between the two sections of the religious community, any more than that lay-people address monks and nuns with these terms. On the other hand, Gotama is sometimes recorded to address a BD.1.xl monk as bhikkhu, and also to refer to individual monks in this fashion. And there is a certain story (Vin.3.131 = BD.1.220 below) in which a female wanderer addresses a monk as bhikkhu. In the narrative, monks are ordinarily spoken of as bhikkhu, unless the personal name of the monk concerned has been recorded. If it has, it is usually preceded by āyasmā, and never, I think, by bhikkhu. On the other hand, the narrative, if referring to a nun, consistently calls her bhikkhunī, and this description precedes her proper name, if this has been recorded. In this part of the Suttavibhaṅga there are no records showing Gotama speaking with nuns, so we have no means of knowing how he usually addressed them. When speaking of them, he is, however, recorded to have used the word bhikkhunī.

Footnotes and references:


Franke in Journal of the Pali Text Society, 1908, holds that the Cullavagga Council reports were invented exercises to show ways of address. His argument is based on the decree of DN.ii.154, ascribed to the dying Gotama, after which seniors were to address juniors as āvuso, while juniors were to address seniors as bhante. The terms āvuso and bhante were also in use among the Jains, cf. Āyāraṃgasutta (P.T.S. edition), e.g. p.106.

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