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) 63

Bi-Pc.63.1.1 BD.3.364 … at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time nuns ordained a probationer who had not trained for two years in the six rules.[1] These[2] were ignorant, inexperienced, they did not know what was allowable or what was not allowable.[3] Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can these nuns ordain a probationer who has not trained for two years in the six rules?” …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that nuns … in the six rules?”

“It is true, lord.”

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

“How, monks, can these nuns ordain … in the six rules? Vin.4.319 It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased …” and having rebuked them, having given reasoned talk, he addressed the monks, saying:

“I allow you, monks, to give a probationer the agreement as to training[4] for two years in the six rules. And thus, monks, should it be given: That probationer, having approached the Order, having arranged her upper robe over one shoulder, having honoured the feet of the BD.3.365 nuns,[5] having sat down on her haunches, having saluted with joined palms, should speak thus: ‘Ladies, I, so and so, a probationer, under the lady so and so, request the Order for the agreement as to training for two years in the six rules.’ And a second time it should be requested … And a third time it should be requested. The Order should be informed by an experienced, competent nun, saying: ‘Ladies, let the Order listen to me. This (woman) so and so, a probationer, under the lady so and so, requests the Order for the agreement as to training for two years in the six rules. If it seems right to the Order, let the Order give the probationer so and so the agreement as to training for two years in the six rules. This is the motion: Ladies, let the Order listen to me. This (woman) so and so … requests … for two years in the six rules. If the giving to the probationer so and so of the agreement as to training for two years in the six rules is pleasing to the ladies, let them be silent; if it is not pleasing, they should speak. The agreement as to training for two years in the six rules is given to the probationer so and so, and it is right … So do I understand this.’

That probationer should be told: “Speak thus: ‘I undertake for two years not to transgress the resolution of abstinence from onslaught on creatures; I undertake … abstinence from taking what is not given … abstinence from unchastity … abstinence from lying … abstinence from occasions for sloth (arising from) fermented liquor and spirits[6] and strong drink[7]; I undertake for two years not to transgress the resolution of abstinence from eating at the wrong time[8].’

Then the lord, having rebuked these nuns in many a BD.3.366 figure for their weakness in maintaining themselves … “… And thus, monks, let the nuns set forth this rule of training:

Whatever nun should ordain a probationer who has not trained for two years in the six rules, there is an offence of expiation.”[9]


Bi-Pc.63.2.1 Whatever means: … nun is to be understood in this case.

Two years means: two years.[10] Vin.4.320

Has not trained means: either the training is not given or the training is given (but) is interrupted.[11]

Should ordain means: Bi-Pc.61.2.1 … and an offence of wrong-doing for the group and for the woman teacher.


Bi-Pc.63.2.2 If she thinks that it is a legally valid act when it is a legally valid act (and) ordains her, there is an offence of expiation. If she is in doubt as to whether it is a legally valid act … If she thinks that it is not a legally valid act when it is a legally valid act… offence of expiation. If she thinks that it is a legally valid act when it is not a legally valid act, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If she is in doubt as to whether it is not a legally valid act … If she thinks that it is not a legally valid act when it is not a legally valid act, there is an offence of wrong-doing.[12]


Bi-Pc.63.2.3 There is no offence if she ordains a probationer who has trained for two years in the six rules; if she is mad, if she is the first wrong-doer.

Footnotes and references:

1.

Cf. the sixth of the eight “important rules,” Vin.4.52, Vin.2.255. The six rules are given below. See also I.B. Horner, Women under Primitive Buddhism, 138ff.

2.

This refers to the probationers; one nun was enough to ordain a probationer, an Order or group not being necessary. The meaning here, and in similar passages below, is that several nuns each ordained one probationer.

3.

As in Nuns’ Bi-Pc.66, Bi-Pc.72.

4.

sikkhāsammuti, occurring also in Nuns’ Bi-Pc.66, Bi-Pc.72. Cf. other “agreements” at Vin.3.199, Vin.3.228, Vin.3.263, Vin.4.31, Vin.4.330.

5.

The word “senior” (vuḍḍha) which occurs in corresponding passages—e.g., in Monks’ Nissaggiyas, is rightly omitted here, for a probationer, being junior as regards ordination to all other nuns, should honour them all.

6.

See V.S. Agrawala, Maireya in Pāṇini, D.R. Bhandarkar Volume, 1940, p.291.

7.

Cf. DN.iii.62; AN.i.211f.; SN.ii.68 for these five sīlas.

8.

Cf. AN.i.212, and Monks’ Bu-Pc.37.

9.

The upasampadā ordination had to be conferred on nuns by monks as well as by nuns; see Vin.2.255, Vin.4.52; cf. Vin.2.257. The ordination proceedings are set out at Vin.2.271ff.

10.

vassāni … saṃvaccharāni. The former is also more specifically the rains, but the exegesis under “has not trained” suggests that the training had to go on uninterruptedly for two full years and not merely for two rainy seasons.

11.

kupitā, disturbed.

12.

Last clause should probably read “no offence.”