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’ Forfeiture (Nissaggiya) 1

Bi-NP.1.1.1 BD.3.213 These thirty rules, ladies, for offences of expiation involving forfeiture come up for recitation.

At that time the enlightened one, the lord, was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time[1] the group of six nuns made a hoard of many bowls. People, engaged in touring the dwelling-place and seeing (this hoard), looked down upon, criticised, spread it about, saying: “How can these nuns make a hoard of many bowls? Will these nuns do a trade in bowls or will they set up an earthenware shop?”

Nuns heard these people who … spread it about. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can this group of six nuns make a hoard of bowls?” …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that the group of six nuns made a hoard of bowls?”

“It is true, lord.”

The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying: “How, monks, can the group of six nuns make a hoard of bowls? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased … this rule of training:

Whatever nun should make a hoard of bowls, there is an offence of expiation involving forfeiture.”


Bi-NP.1.2.1 Whatever means: … nun is to be understood in this case.

Bowl[2] means: there are two (kinds of) bowls: an iron bowl, a clay bowl. There are three sizes for a bowl: a BD.3.214 large bowl, a medium-sized bowl, a small bowl. A large bowl means that it takes half an āḷhaka measure of boiled rice, or[3] a quarter of that quantity of uncooked rice or a suitable curry. A medium-sized bowl means that it, takes a nāḷika measure of boiled rice, a quarter of that quantity of uncooked rice, a suitable curry. Vin.4.244 A small bowl means that it takes a pattha measure of boiled rice, a quarter of that quantity of uncooked rice, a suitable curry. (A bowl) greater than that is not a bowl, (a bowl) smaller (than that) is not a bowl.

Should make a hoard means: what is not allotted, not assigned.[4]

It is to be forfeited means: it should be forfeited at sunrise. It should be forfeited to an Order or to a group or to one nun.[5] And thus, monks, should it be forfeited: That nun, having approached an Order, having arranged her upper robe over one shoulder, having honoured the feet of the senior nuns, having sat down on her haunches, having saluted with joined palms, should speak thus: ‘Ladies, this bowl is to be forfeited by me, a night having elapsed. I forfeit it to the Order.’ Having forfeited it, the offence should be confessed. The offence should be acknowledged by an experienced, competent nun; the bowl forfeited should be given back (with the words): ‘Ladies, let the Order listen to me. This bowl of the nun so and so which had to be forfeited is forfeited (by her) to the Order. If it seems right to the Order, let the Order give back this bowl to the nun so and so.’

That nun, having approached several[6] nuns, having arranged her upper robe over one shoulder … having saluted with joined palms, should speak thus: ‘Ladies, this bowl is to be forfeited by me, a night having elapsed. BD.3.215 I forfeit it to the ladies.’ Having forfeited it, the offence should be confessed. The offence should be acknowledged by an experienced, competent nun; the bowl forfeited should be given back (with the words): ‘Let the ladies listen to me. This bowl of the nun so and so which had to be forfeited is forfeited (by her) to the ladies. If it seems right to the ladies, let the ladies give back this bowl to the nun so and so.’

That nun, having approached one nun, having arranged her upper robe over one shoulder, having sat down on her haunches, having saluted with joined palms, should speak thus: ‘Lady, this bowl is to be forfeited by me, a night having elapsed. I forfeit it to the lady.’ Having forfeited it, the offence should be confessed. The offence should be acknowledged by this nun; the bowl forfeited should be given back (with the words): ‘I will give back this bowl to the lady.’


Bi-NP.1.2.2 If she thinks that a night has elapsed when it has elapsed, there is an offence of expiation involving forfeiture. If she is in doubt as to whether a night has elapsed … If she thinks that a night has not elapsed when it has elapsed, there is an offence of expiation involving forfeiture. If she thinks that it is allotted when it is not allotted … If she thinks that it is assigned when it is not assigned Vin.4.245 … If she thinks that it is bestowed when it is not bestowed … If she thinks that it is lost when it is not lost … If she thinks that it is destroyed when it is not destroyed … If she thinks that it is broken when it is not broken … If she thinks that it is stolen when it is not stolen, there is an offence of expiation involving forfeiture. If, not having forfeited the bowl which had to be forfeited, she makes use of it, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she thinks that a night has elapsed when it has not elapsed, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she is in doubt as to whether a night has not elapsed, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she thinks that a night has not elapsed when it has not elapsed, there is no offence.


Bi-NP.1.2.3 BD.3.216 There is no offence if before sunrise it is allotted, assigned, bestowed, lost, destroyed, broken, if they tear it from her, if they take it on trust; if she is mad, if she is the first wrong-doer.[7]


Bi-NP.1.3.1 Then the group of six nuns did not give back a bowl that was forfeited. They told this matter … to the lord. He said: “Monks, a bowl that is forfeited is not to be given back. Whosoever should not give it back, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”[8]

Footnotes and references:

1.

Cf. Monks’ Bu-NP.21 (BD.2.113f.) where, however, the offence is to keep an extra bowl; and also Monks’ Bu-NP.1 (BD.2.1f.).

3.

Omitted, probably rightly, at Vin.3.243. It does not occur in the other cases either here or there.

4.

Cf. definition of “extra robe,” “extra bowl” at BD.2.7, BD.2.114.

5.

ekabhikkhunī balancing puggala, individual, in the Monks’ Nissaggiyas.

6.

sambahulā, meaning a gaṇa, group of two to four monks or nuns.

7.

Cf. BD.2.116f., and BD.2.10f. (a robe).

8.

Cf. BD.2.116f., and BD.2.10f. (a robe).

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