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) 3

Bi-Ss.3.1.1 BD.3.186 … at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time a nun who was a pupil of Bhaddā Kāpilānī,[1] having quarrelled with nuns, went to a family of (her) relations[2] in a village. Bhaddā Kāpilānī, not seeing that nun, asked the nuns, saying: “Where is so and so? She is not to be seen.”

“Lady, she is not to be seen (because) she has quarrelled with nuns.”

“My dears,[3] a family of her relations are in such and such a village; having gone there, look for her.”

The nuns, having gone there, having seen that nun, spoke thus: “Why did you, lady, come alone? We hope that you were not violated?”

“I was not violated, ladies,” she said. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can a nun go among villages[4] alone?” …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that a nun went among villages alone?”

“It is true, lord.”

The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying:

“How, monks, Vin.4.228 can a nun go among villages alone? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased … let the nuns set forth this rule of training:

BD.3.187Whatever nun should go among villages alone, that nun also has fallen into a matter that is an offence at once, entailing a formal meeting of the Order involving being sent away.

And thus this rule of training for nuns came to be laid down by the lord.


Bi-Ss.3.2.1 At that time two nuns were going along the high-road from Sāketa to Sāvatthī. On the way there was a river to be crossed.[5] Then these nuns, having approached a boatman, spoke thus:

“Please, sir, take us across.”

Saying, “I am not able, ladies, to take both across at once,” he made one cross alone with him[6]; one who was across seduced the one who was across, one who was not across seduced the one who was not across. These, having met afterwards, asked (one another): “I hope that you, lady, were not violated?”

“I was violated, lady. But were you violated, lady?”

“I was violated, lady.” Then these nuns, having arrived at Sāvatthī, told this matter to the nuns. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying :

“How can a nun go to the other side of a river alone?” Then these nuns told this matter to the monks. The monks told this matter to the lord. He said:

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that a nun went to the other side of a river alone?”

“It is true, lord.”

The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying:

“How, monks, can a nun go to the other side of a river alone? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased … let the nuns set forth this rule of training:

“Whatever nun should go among villages alone, or BD.3.188 should go to the other side of a river alone, that nun also has fallen into a matter that is an offence at once, entailing a formal meeting of the Order involving being sent away.”

And thus this rule of training for nuns came to be laid down by the lord.


Bi-Ss.3.3.1 At that time several nuns, going to Sāvatthī through the country of Kosala, arrived in the evening at a certain village. A certain nun there was beautiful, good to look upon, charming. A certain man came to be in love with that nun on account of her appearance. Then that man, appointing a sleeping-place for those nuns, Vin.4.229 appointed a sleeping-place at one side for this nun. Then this nun, having realised, “This man is obsessed[7]; if I come at night there will be trouble for me,”[8] not asking the nuns (for permission), having gone to a certain family, lay down in the sleeping-place. Then that man, having come during the night, searching for that nun, knocked against the nuns. The nuns, not seeing this nun, spoke thus: “Doubtless this nun has gone out together with the man.”

Then this nun, at the end of that night, approached those nuns. The nuns spoke thus to that nun: “Why did you, lady, go out together with the man?”

Saying: “Ladies, I did not go out together with the man,” she told this matter to the nuns. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can a nun be away for a night alone …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that a nun was away for a night alone? … let the nuns set forth this rule of training:

“Whatever nun should go among villages alone, or should go to the other side of a river alone, or should be away for a night alone, that nun also has fallen into a matter that is an offence at once, entailing a formal meeting of the Order involving being sent away.”

And thus this rule of training for nuns came to be laid down by the lord.


Bi-Ss.3.4.1 BD.3.189 At that time several nuns were going along the highroad to Sāvatthī through the country of Kosala. A certain nun there, wanting to relieve herself, having stayed behind alone, went on afterwards. People, having seen that nun, seduced her. Then that nun approached those nuns. The nuns spoke thus to that nun: “Why did you, lady, stay behind alone? We hope that you were not violated?”

“I was violated, ladies.”

Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can a nun stay behind a group alone?” …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that a nun stayed behind a group alone?”

“It is true, lord.”

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

Whatever nun should go among villages alone, or should go to the other side of a river alone, or should be away for a night alone, or should stay behind a group alone, that nun also Vin.4.230 has fallen into a matter that is an offence at once, entailing a formal meeting of the Order involving being sent away.”


Bi-Ss.3.5.1 Whatever means: … nun is to be understood in this case.

Should go among villages alone means: in making the first foot cross[9] the enclosure of a village that is fenced in, there is a grave offence. In making the second foot cross, there is an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order.[10] In making the first foot cross the precincts of a village that is not fenced in, there is a grave offence. In making the second foot cross, there is an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order.

Or should go to the other side of a river alone means: having covered up the three circles,[11] it is called a river BD.3.190 there wherever, as a nun is crossing over, the inner robe is made wet. In making the first foot cross over,[12] there is a grave offence. In making the second foot cross over, there is an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order.

Or should be away for a night alone means: at sunrise, if leaving a hand’s reach of a nun who is a companion, there is a grave offence. When she has left it, there is an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order.

Or should stay behind a group alone means: if she, in what is not a village, in what is jungle, is leaving the range[13] of sight or the range of hearing of a nun who is a companion, there is a grave offence. When she has left it, there is an offence entailing a formal meeting of the Order.

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.3.5.2 There is no offence if the nun who is the companion has gone away or has left the Order or has passed away or has gone over to (another) side[14]; if there are accidents; if she is mad, if she is the first wrong-doer.[15]

Footnotes and references:

1.

A pupil (or pupils) of hers mentioned also at Vin.4.268ff. Bhaddā Kāpilānī mentioned with Thullanandā at Vin.4.290, Vin.4.292. Her verses are at Thig.63Thig.66. Thig-a.68–69 says that, having gone forth under Mahāpajāpatī, she soon won arahanship. Called foremost of the nuns able to remember previous lives, AN.i.25. N.B. that, although nuns address her as “lady,” she otherwise lacks a descriptive title.

2.

Vism.91 distinguishes between ñātikula (as above), a family of relatives, and upaṭṭhākakula, a family of supporters.

3.

amma.

4.

gāmantaraṃ, defined at Vin.4.63=Vin.4.131.

5.

Cf. Vin.4.65.

6.

eko ekaṃ uttāresi. Cf. eko ekāya in the Aniyatas, Vin.3.187ff. meaning, the one (a monk) with the other (a woman); here meaning a man (eko) and a nun (ekaṃ). They crossed alone together. In Monks’ Bu-Pc.28 it is evidently thought safer to allow a nun to cross a river with a monk than to wait behind on the bank.

9.

atikkāmentiyā. Atikkamati is to go beyond, to pass over.

10.

Cf. Vin.3.52.

11.

I.e., the navel and the two knees.

12.

uttarantiyā.

13.

upacāra, literally precincts; cf. Vin.4.93.

14.

Cf. Vin.4.313 below, and Vin.1.60, where these four words occur. Of the last, pakkhasaṃkanta, Vinaya Texts i.178, n.1 says, “Buddhaghosa can scarcely be right in explaining it by titthiyapakkhasaṃkanta.” The commentarial explanation on the above passage is titthāyatānaṃ saṃkantā, gone over to members of another sect (Vin-a.913), a phrase which also occurs at Vin.4.217 (= above, BD.3.167). At the same time, I do not think that pakkha necessarily means “a (schismatic) faction,” as translated at Vinaya Texts i.178, although it undoubtedly has this meaning at Vin.3.173, Vin.3.175. For it can also mean another side or part of the Order, one of its sub-divisions, and in such cases does not imply any hostility, schism or dissension. At Vin.1.307f., we hear of people giving water and robes to one and the same pakkha or to different pakkha. In the former case the pakkha is said to be the owner, in the latter the saṅgha. Had the pakkha been regarded as schismatic, it would hardly have been considered entitled to receive these gifts.

15.

Cf. below, BD.3.353.