Vinaya Pitaka (2): The Analysis of Nun’ Rules (Bhikkhuni-vibhanga)

by I. B. Horner | 2014 | 66,469 words | ISBN-13: 9781921842160

The English translation of the Bhikkhuni-vibhanga: the second 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 acollection of rules for Buddhist nuns. The English translation of the Vinaya-pitaka (second part, bhikkhuni-vibhanga) contain...

Nuns’ Formal Meeting (Saṅghādisesa) 2

Bi-Ss.2.1.1 BD.3.182 … at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time in Vesālī, the wife of a certain Licchavi came to be an adulteress. Then that Licchavi spoke thus to that woman: “Please desist, else will we do you harm.” But being spoken to thus, she paid no heed. Now at that time a group of Licchavis were assembled in Vesālī on some business. Then that Licchavi spoke thus to those Licchavis: “Let the masters allow me power over one woman.”[1]

“What is her name?”

“My wife commits adultery, I will kill her.”

“Take your right,”[2] they said. Then that woman heard: “My husband wants to kill me,” and taking precious belongings, having gone to Sāvatthī, having approached members of other sects, she asked for the going forth.[3] The members of other sects did not wish to let her go forth.[4] Having approached nuns, she asked for the going forth. Neither did the nuns wish to let her go forth. Having approached the nun Thullanandā, having shown (her) the belongings, she asked for the going forth. The nun Thullanandā, having taken the belongings, let her go forth. Then that Licchavi, searching for that woman, having gone to Sāvatthī, seeing her gone forth among the nuns, approached King Pasenadi of Kosala; Vin.4.226 having approached, he spoke thus to King Pasenadi of Kosala:

“Sire, my wife, taking precious belongings, has reached Sāvatthī; let the king[5] allow me power over her.”

“Well now, good sir, having examined[6] (her), explain.”

“Sire, she was seen gone forth among the nuns.”

“If, good sir, she has gone forth among the nuns, BD.3.183 there is nothing to do against her.[7] Well preached by the lord is dhamma; let her lead the Brahma-life for the utter ending of ill.”[8]

Then that Licchavi, looked down upon, criticised, spread it about, saying: “How can these nuns let a woman thief go forth?”[9]

Nuns heard that Licchavi who … spread it about. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can the lady Thullanandā let a woman thief go forth?” Then these nuns told this matter to the monks …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that the nun Thullanandā let a thief go forth?”

“It is true, lord.”

The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying: “How, monks, can the nun Thullanandā let a woman thief go forth? It is not monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased … let the nuns set forth this rule of training:

Whatever nun should knowingly receive[10] a woman thief found to merit death,[11] without having obtained permission[12] from a king or an Order or a group[13] or a guild[14] or a company,[15] unless she is allowable,[16] that nun BD.3.184 also has fallen into a matter that is an offence at once, entailing a formal meeting of the Order involving being sent away.”


Bi-Ss.2.2.1 Whatever means: … nun is to be understood.

She knows means: either she knows by herself or others tell her or she tells her.

Woman thief[17] means: she who takes by means of theft (anything) having the value of five māsakas or more than five māsakas that has not been given—she is called a woman thief.

To merit death means: having done that for which she is condemned to death.

Found[18] means: she becomes known[19] by other people, thinking, ‘This one merits death.’

Without having obtained permission means: not asking (for permission).[20]

King means: where a king governs,[21] the king’s permission should be obtained.[22]

Order means: it is called an Order of nuns; the permission of the Order of nuns should be obtained.

Group means: where a group governs, the group’s permission should be obtained.

Company means: where a company governs, the company’s permission should be obtained. Vin.4.227

Unless she is allowable means: having set aside one who is allowable. Allowable means: there are two who are allowable: either she who has gone forth among members of other sects, or she who has gone forth among other nuns.[23]

If she thinks, “I will receive one, unless she is allowable,” and looks about for a group or for a female teacher or for a bowl or for a robe or if she determines a BD.3.185 boundary,[24] there is an offence of wrong-doing. As a result of the motion, there is an offence of wrong-doing. As a result of two proclamations, there are grave offences. At the end of the proclamations, there is an offence involving a formal meeting of the Order for the female preceptor, an offence of wrong-doing for the group and for the female teacher.[25]

She also means: she is so called in reference to the former.

Offence at once means: … therefore again it is called an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order.


Bi-Ss.2.2.2 If she thinks that she is a thief when she is a thief (and) receives her, unless she is allowable, there is an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order. If she is in doubt … offence of wrong-doing. If she thinks that she is not a thief when she is a thief … no offence. If she thinks that she is a thief when she is not a thief, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she is in doubt as to whether she is not a thief, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she thinks that she is not a thief when she is not a thief, there is no offence.


Bi-Ss.2.2.3 There is no offence if she receives her, not knowing; if she receives one, she having obtained permission; if she receives one who is made allowable; if she is mad, if she is the first wrong-doer.

Footnotes and references:

1.

ekaṃ me ayyo itthiṃ anujānātha.

2.

jānāhi.

3.

pabbajjaṃ yāci.

4.

pabbājetuṃ.

5.

devo

6.

vicinitvā.

7.

na sā labbhā kiñci kāṭuṃ, she is not a receiver of anything there is to do.

9.

The Licchavi appears to lose sight of his wife’s original sin in his effort to recover the property.

10.

vuṭṭhāpeti; cf. below, BD.3.361, and Introduction, p.xlvff..

11.

vajjhā.

12.

anapaloketvā, explained by anāpucchā, Old Commentary, below, and anāpucchitvā at Vin-a.910.

13.

Vin-a.910 makes out that this means a group of wrestlers and so on. But, preceded by saṅgha, it might have the usual Vinaya meaning of a group (of two to four monks or nuns). On the other hand, it is followed by two words that have no religious significance, and which denote associations of people “in the world.”

14.

pūga = dhammapūga, “a guild under dhamma” (?), Vin-a.910. Probably a guild governed by some rule or law.

15.

seṇi, a corporation, company or guild of artisans or traders following the same business or dealing in the same articles. Vin-a.910 says here it is a seṇi of perfumers, of cloth merchants. Number given as eighteen at Ja.6.22.

16.

kappā.

17.

Here feminine = Vin.3.47 (masculine).

18.

viditā.

19.

ñātā.

20.

= below, BD.3.360.

21.

anusāsati, to govern, rule, advise, give instruction.

22.

rājā apaloketabbo, or “the king should be asked for permission. But in spite of this grammatical construction, I think the two words, apaloketi and āpucchati, should be differently rendered.

23.

These may be ordained without asking for permission.

24.

See Vin.1.106 for prescribed method of determining a boundary.

25.

With this passage, cf. above, BD.3.13, and below, BD.3.362.