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’ Expiation (Pācittiya) 15

Bi-Pc.15.1.1 BD.3.270 … at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time a certain nun frequented a certain family as a regular diner. Then that nun, having dressed in the morning, taking her bowl and robe, approached that family; having approached, having sat down on a seat, she departed without asking the owner (for permission). The family’s slave-woman, while sweeping the house, Vin.4.272 placed that seat inside a dish.[1] The people, not seeing that seat, spoke thus to that nun: “Lady, where is that seat?”

“I, sirs, did not see that seat.”

Saying, “Lady, give back that seat,” having scolded her, they stopped (her as) a regular diner. Then these people, searching[2] the house, having seen that seat inside the dish, having apologised to that nun, (re-) established her as a regular diner. Then that nun told this matter to the nuns. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying:

“How can this nun, having approached families before a meal, having sat down on a seat, depart without asking the owner (for permission)?” …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that a nun … the owner (for permission)?”

“It is true, lord.”

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

“How, monks, can a nun … depart without asking the owner (for permission)? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased … this rule of training:

BD.3.271Whatever nun, having approached families before a meal, having sat down on a seat, should depart without asking the owner (for permission), there is an offence of expiation.


Bi-Pc.15.2.1 Whatever means: … nun is to be understood in this case.

Before a meal means: from sunrise until midday.[3]

Family means: there are four (kinds of) families: a noble family, a brahmin family, a merchant family, a low-caste family.[4]

Having approached means: having gone there.

A seat means: it is called a place for sitting cross-legged.[5]

Having sat down means: having sat down on this.

Should depart without asking the owner (for permission) means: whatever man in that family is learned, without asking him (for permission but) in letting herself pass a place that is sheltered from the rain,[6] there is an offence of expiation.


Bi-Pc.15.2.2 If she thinks that she has not asked (for permission) when she has not asked (for permission) and departs, BD.3.272 there is an offence of expiation. If she is in doubt as to whether she has not asked (for permission) … If she thinks that she has asked (for permission) when she has not asked (for permission) … there is an offence of expiation. If it is not for a place for sitting cross-legged, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she thinks that she has not asked (for permission) when she has asked (for permission), there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she is in doubt as to whether she has asked (for permission), there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she thinks that she has asked (for permission) when she has asked (for permission), there is no offence.


Bi-Pc.15.2.3 There is no offence if she goes away asking (for permission); if it is one that is not movable[7]; if she is ill; if there are accidents[8]; if she is mad, if she is the first wrong-doer. Vin.4.273

Footnotes and references:

1.

This sounds odd, but we know little of the sizes of the dishes and vessels used. But if the āsana, the seat, defined below as “the place for sitting cross-legged,” was only a rush- or padded-seat for sitting on on the floor, it could easily be mislaid in quite a moderate sized bowl.

2.

sodheti can also mean to clean.

3.

This is the reverse of the definition of “wrong time” (for eating) at Vin.4.86 (BD.2.336). These two definitions together divide the day into two times for eating—the right and the wrong.

5.

pallaṅka must at some time have come to mean the thing sat upon, early on perhaps a simple mat. At Vin.1.192 pallaṅka is among various things which if used gives rise to a dukkaṭa offence; while at Vin.2.280 nuns incur a similar offence if they sit on one, a half-pallaṅka being “allowed” instead. This may mean, however, sitting half cross-legged—so as to give more room. At Vin.2.169 a pallaṅka is allowed to be used by monks if the hair is destroyed (bhinditvā), while at Vin.4.299 this same proviso (here chinditvā, cut out) turns the nuns’ offence of using a pallaṅka into no offence.” It is defined here as “made by bringing (horse-) hair for it,” but at DN-a.86 as “made having put figures of wild animals on the legs.” See Dialogues of the Buddha 1.11, n.5 for some interesting remarks.

6.

anovassaka. Cf. deso anovassako at Vin.2.211. Vin-a.927 says that in making the first foot cross (or pass), there is an offence of wrong-doing; in making the second foot cross, one of expiation.

7.

asaṃhārime; presumably meaning that she can go away of her own accord if she has not been given a pallaṅka or other movable seat.

8.

Vin-a.927 says that if they depart (pakkamanti, variant reading °ati) without asking (for permission) should a fire have broken out in the house or if there are thieves or similar misfortunes, there is no offence.

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