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Study of the Social Dimension of the Causes and Conditions
A Thesis Submitted in Fulfillment of the Requirements
of the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka,
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This introduction is focused mainly on three aspects:
a) The scope and objective
In modern times a considerable amount of research has been done on Vinaya by both Western and Eastern scholars. This is not surprising as Vinaya forms the foundation or the life of Sāsana or the dispensation according to the Theravāda tradition . In fact in the enumeration of the three "Baskets" or "Tipiṭaka" that comprise the Theravāda Tipiṭaka, Vinaya Piṭaka is mentioned before the Sutta Piṭaka which contains the "Teaching" or the Dhamma. This is, in spite of the fact, that Vinaya or to be more precise formal Vinaya, arose much after the Buddha began his missionary career of expounding the Dhamma. Even the old term used by the Buddha himself to refer to his Teachings is Dhamma-Vinaya , "Dhamma" being mentioned first.
Most of the researches on Vinaya are concerned about the origin and evolution of the Vinaya, which undoubtedly is a very important area of study. These researches have brought to light very valuable information regarding the first beginning of the Saṅgha Order, how it functioned originally without a formal code of disciplinary rules, and how, due to numerous reasons, the Buddha was compelled to promulgate a formal code of discipline.
These researches are, therefore, mainly focused in scope to the origin and evolution of Vinaya. There is not much attention directed to find out the social background of the time, of the members of the Order, especially those who were involved in misconducting themselves, the customs prevalent at the time in the society, the disciplinary codes adopted by the members of other religious orders etc. As there is no research especially focused on the sociological background that gave rise to the promulgation of Vinaya as well as to the religio-sociological context in which the rules were formulated it was felt necessary to engage in a research of this nature.
In scope, therefore, the focus of this research will be directed to the
religio-sociological aspect and its influence on the promulgation of the rules as well as the context of the rules. However, in doing this, the historical origin and the evolution of formal Vinaya will not be totally neglected. That aspect will also be dealt with as far as it is relevant to the main objective of the research. Hence, an attempt will be made to study the characters of the individuals involved in the formulation of rules, their social background, the relation between the rules so formulated and the goal aimed at by the members of the Saṅgha who were bound by these rules and such other related aspects.
This study will be based on textual evidence. When using textual evidence due attention will be paid to the chronological structure of the texts used. Though there is no total consensus regarding the chronology of the Theravāda canon, there are some generally accepted views on it. Many scholars have done research on the chronology of the canon. Some of them are:
1. Rhys Davids, Buddhist India
None of these studies are conclusive. Most of the views presented are hypothetical and subjective. Yet, these studies point to the fact that the Theravāda ‘Tipiṭaka’, as it exists at present, is not a compilation done within a short period; these researches show beyond doubt that the Tipiṭaka is the result of a fairly long process, running into a number of centuries, of redactions carried out collectively by monks well versed in the Dhamma-vinaya and approved at councils held for the purpose.
All these researches highlight the important fact that the Tipiṭaka contains both very old as well as comparatively late material. So, in using the Tipiṭaka as the primary research source for this study due attention has been paid to this early and late composition of the texts. In this research the primary literary source is the Vinaya Piṭaka which also contains early and late material. The Sutta Piṭaka which is similar in chronological composition is used to supplement whatever evidence that is gathered from the Vinaya Piṭaka.
With regard to the Sutta Piṭaka there is general agreement among scholars that the four major Nikāyas namely, Dīgha, Majjhima, Saṃyutta and Aṅguttara contain early material than most of the texts included in the Khuddakanikāya. The best known exception to this is the Suttanipāta, which contains very old material, especially in the Aṭṭhakavagga section.
These textual materials have been used with much care, keeping in mind the problem of chronology. The Abhiddhamma Piṭaka has not been used as it was found that this Piṭaka has no direct bearing to the subject of study. The relevant commentaries have been used wherever and whenever it was found necessary to provide further supportive evidence.
The method applied in sifting evidence from a vast mass of source material is selective, analytical and critical. No evidence has been accepted on its face value. The evidence has been analyzed, and weighed against the views presented by various scholars who have contributed much to this area of study, the Vinaya. Whatever interpretation adopted and whatever new interpretations suggested has been supported by evidence from texts.
c) Source material
As this is a research involving Vinaya the primary source material is the Vinaya Piṭaka, this is the first ‘Basket’ or ‘Piṭaka’ of the ‘Three Baskets’ or Tipiṭaka (Skt. Tripiṭaka), the term by which the canon of the Theravādin is known. This was the ‘Basket’ that was first ‘rehearsed’ at the First Council, held three months after the passing away of the Buddha. Venerable Mahākassapa chaired this Council or ‘Sangīti’ and the prominence given to Vinaya at this Council clearly suggests the dominant role played by venerable Mahākassapa at this Council and also the overall influence he appears to have exerted on the formation of what later came to be called Theravāda .
The emphasis paced on Vinaya in the Theravāda tradition, perhaps, is due to venerable Mahākassapa’s influence.
The Cullavagga account, in somewhat summary form, presents how, the First Council was held, how its activities were conducted and such other information. Though it is said that the Dhamma-vinaya was rehearsed at this Council and the five Nikāyas were settled, this is hardly acceptable. Scholars such as Rhys Davids (Buddhist India), Winternitz (History of Indian Literature, vol. II), G.C.Pande (Studies in Origin of Buddhism) and Norman (A Philological Approach to Buddhism) have proved, with irrefutable evidence that the Tipiṭaka, as it is extant now, is the outcome of a process of compilation, redaction, addition, deletion etc. that ran into a couple of centuries.
The Cullavagga very briefly says that venerable Mahākassapa posed certain question with regard to Vinaya. Venerable Upāli answered them in the same brief manner and that through this process the Vinaya Piṭaka was fixed. This account is not at all acceptable, for not only external evidence but even internal evidence disprove this. The Cullavagga gives also a brief account of the proceedings of the Second Council. This was held about one-hundred years after the passing away of the Buddha. If the Vinaya Piṭaka was fixed in the First Council, how could the Cullavagga contain information of an event that took place one-hundred years later?
This itself proves that the Vinaya Piṭaka, of which the Cullavagga is a section, was not fixed in its present format at the First Council. Besides, there is strong doubt about the compilation of the section called ‘Parivāra’. This seems to be a supplementary work. Scholars are unanimous in holding that this is a late work. Some among them strongly hold that this was compiled in Sri Lanka .
The Vinaya Piṭaka consists of the following sections:
Of these the, Suttavibhaṅga is the section about which the present study is more concerned and, hence, it would be dealt with in detail later. The Khandhaka is constituted of Mahāvagga and Cullavagga. The Mahāvagga, amongst other things, presents an uninterrupted account of the Buddha’s life from his enlightenment up to the conversion of Upatissa and Kolita who became the two chief disciples of the Buddha under the names Sāriputta and Moggallāna. Besides, the Mahāvagga presents also a wealth of information about the origin and growth of the Saṅgha Order. Other than these, it contains also details about the duties toward the preceptor (upajjhāya), the gradual evolution of the Higher Ordination (upasampadā), ‘uposatha’ recital of Pātimokkha etc. Promulgation of certain rules, as for example, the rule prohibiting granting admission to individuals suffering from specifically mentioned diseases is also contained in the Mahāvagga.
The Cullavagga, as the name itself indicates, is the minor of the two divisions. Its first nine chapters deal with disciplinary proceedings, various offences, their expiation, settlement etc. The tenth chapter deals with the duties of nuns. The last two chapters are about the two Buddhist Councils, the First and the Second.
This section is important with regard to procedural rules, for it explains in detail procedural methods that should be adopted in dispensing justice over ecclesiastical issues. Hence, it is of much significance for the study of the judicial system that was adopted in the Saṅgha. Besides, this section also contains rules laid down to regulate the day to day conduct of the members of the Order. Most of these rules are not directly concerned with the practice leading to the attainment of the final goal.
The Parivāra is described as a digest or a manual of instructions. Though Ven. Buddhaghosa says that Parivāra was rehearsed under Vinaya in the First Council , the commonly accepted view is that it is a later addition. It has nothing special other than serving as a kind of compendium to the Vinaya. Pātimokkha contains in summary all the monastic rules, and it is closely connected with the observance of ‘uposatha’ at which the Pātimokkha is recited (pātimokkhuddesa). This connection between the ‘uposatha’ and ‘pātimokkhuddesa’ appear to have made some to consider Pātimokkha as the origin of Vinaya, and that ‘Pātimokkha’ is the earliest specimen of Buddhist Vinaya literature . But it is clear that a large number of rules came into being after Pātimokkhuddesa came to be practised. Pātimokkha, therefore, was a list of a growing body of disciplinary rules and in its final form it may have been drawn from the Suttavibhaṅga itself.
With regard to monastic rules it is the Suttavibhaṅga that is of great importance, and for this research, also, it is Suttavibhaṅga that is of special significance. B.C Law commenting on the Suttavibhaṅga says:
The ‘Suttavibhaṅga’ means the explanation or expositions of the Suttas. The word ‘Sutta’ corresponds to the Sanskrit ‘Sūtra’ and literally means ‘thread’.
"It is applied to a kind of book, the content of which are, as it was, a thread, giving the gist or substance of more than is expressed in them in words. This sort of book was the latest development in Vedic literature, just before and after the rise of Buddhism (Rhys Davids, American lectures, Buddhism Its History and Literature, pp.53-54). Buddhism used this word to mean a discourse, or a chapter ."
This word ‘Sūtra’ in Sanskrit is very commonly used to refer to tersely worded aphorisms which convey wider and deeper meanings than what the words in the ‘Sūtra’ indicate. It’s compact and precise in meaning, very technical and formal in its format. It is by taking in this sense that the commentaries equate the term ‘Sutta’ with ‘Mātikā’, which are used in the Pātimokkha (and also in the Abhidhamma) to refer to longer lists or accounts it represents. It is a kind of ‘code’ language which when analyzed gives a fuller meaning than what it appears to give.
Thus, in the term ‘Suttavibhaṅga’ ‘Sutta’ is used to refer to ‘codes’ and ‘Vibhaṅga’ to the ‘analysis’ or detailed explanation of these ‘Suttas’ or ‘coded’ rules. Thus the ‘Suttavibhaṅga’ is a very detailed explanation of each rule to be followed by monks and nuns. Von Hinuber observes that the "structure of the Suttavibhaṅga is determined by the sequence of rules in the Pātimokkhasutta upon which is comment ." This suggests that Pātimokkhasutta is earlier than the Suttavibhaṅga. However, this view is not accepted by all .
The Suttavibhaṅga is a comprehensive analytical commentary on all Vinaya rules. Every rule is set out giving an introductory story (vatthu) narrating the cause that led to the laying down of a particular rule. This is followed by the promulgated rule itself (paññatti), with supplementary conditions (anupaññatti). Then comes the word by word explanation (padabhājaniya). Exception to the promulgated rules (anāpatti) is then given.
Often the introductory background story is derived from the particular rule itself. These are some others taken over from the other parts of the Tipiṭaka. These are instances where the introductory story does not fully accord with the particular rule promulgated.
The Suttavibhaṅga consists of two major divisions:
1) Mahāvibhaṅga which contains rules pertaining to the conduct of bhikkhus and bhikkhunī-vibhaṅga which, as the name denotes, contains rules pertaining to bhikkhunīs. This is the structured on the model of the Mahāvibhaṅga. The main difference between the two is the difference in the number of rules: two-hundred and twenty (220) for bhikkhus and three-hundred and four (304) for bhikkhunīs .
B.C.Law explains that the Suttavibhaṅga which analyses all the rules is broadly divided into two books:
These two books deal with all the rules, all 227 that is 220 substantive rules and 7 procedural rules. These 227 rules are grouped under eight separate heads:
1) Pārājika dhammā: deeds leading to loss of membership in the Order. These are 04 for monks and 08 for nuns.
2) Saṅghādisesa dhammā: deeds calling for a formal meeting of the Order for adjudication. 13 for monks, 17 for nuns.
3) Aniyata dhammā: rules pertaining to deeds whose nature in undetermined. 02 for bhikkhus only.
4) Nissaggiyā-pācittiyā dhammā: deeds involving forfeiture. 30 in numbers for both.
5) Suddha-pācittiyā dhammā: deeds calling to repentance. 92 for monks, 166 for nuns.
6) Pāṭidesaniyā dhammā: deeds calling for confession. 04 for monks, 08 for nuns.
7) Sekhiyā dhammā: rules pertaining to behavioral etiquette. 75 in all.
8) Adhikaraṇa samatha: procedural rules which are 07 in all.
These make up the 220 and 304 substantive rules for bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs respectively, and the seven procedural rules applicable commonly when adjudicating matters related to either party.
Of these Pārājika offences are the gravest. These briefly are:
1) Indulgence in sexual intercourse (methunaṃ dhammaṃ paṭiseveyya pārājiko hoti).
2) Taking or stealing what has not been given (adinnaṃ theyyasaṅkhātaṃ ādiyeyya yathārūpe adinnādāne).
3) Intentional killing of a human being (manussaviggahaṃ jīvitā voropeyya).
4) Intentional lying about one’s spiritual attainments (yo pana bhikkhu anabhijānaṃ uttarimanussadhammaṃ attūpanāyikaṃ).
These are so grave among deeds that they are considered as totally against the "Noble Life" a recluse avows to follow when he enters bhikkhuship. These affect the very core of recluseship and, hence, these are irremediable. One who commits any of these four offences automatically loses his membership in the Order. All these offences are totally incompatible with the conduct of an individual who has very sincerely committed himself to the practice of the "Noble Life" (brahmacariyā). Though those four have some relation with the ‘pañcasīla’, an analysis of the two sets will clearly show that as Pārājika offences they are grave in relation to the practice of brahmacariyā.
Saṅghādisesa offences, though lesser in gravity than Pārājika offences, are serious enough to call for punishments. These are thirteen in the case of monks and seventeen in the case of nuns. Some of them are related to sexual misconduct like willful emission of semen, touching a woman. There are yet other offences which are made offences because they adversely affect the unity of the Saṅgha community as well as its good name, for example; any act leading to a schism in the Order is a Saṅghādisesa offence. So in the leveling of a groundless charge is against a fellow monk.
Aniyatas, which are two in number, are also serious depending on the circumstances under which they are committed or undecided because the act itself does not make it possible to categorize it under Pārājika, Saṅghādisesa or Pācittiya. Its nature has to be determined after inquiry, and then legally dealt with.
Nissagiya-pācittiya are lesser in their gravity than the above three offences mentioned and, therefore, the usual punishment meted out is "forfeiture" (nissaggiya). Thirty such offences are listed in the case of monks and nuns and these are related to the use of robes and other items.
Suddha-pācittiya offences are even lesser in gravity and are ninety-two for bhikkhus and one-hundred and sixty-six for bhikkhunīs, this large number itself show that these are rather minor offences. These are all connected with day to day activities of the members of the Saṅgha community. They relate to minor lapses in behaviour such as that could take place when exhorting bhikkhus, taking more than a meal at one place or accompanying a monk for a meal to a neighbouring village or taking liquor or any strong drinks, sports in water etc.
Repentance for the lapse and sincere pledge to prevent repetition of such lapses is the remedy or the penalty for these offences. This penalty itself shows that these offences are not very serious when compared with what were described before.
There are four Paṭidesaniya for monks and eight for nuns. These are related to acceptance of alms, and partly to relation between monks and nuns in partaking alms. For example, a monk is guilty of a Pāṭidesaniya offence if he accepted and ate food given by a bhikkhunī who is not related to him. Similarly, if a nun gives direction with regard to serving a meal to a member of nuns and if bhikkhus fail to admonish her that too is a Pāṭidesaniya offence. These offences are expiated by confession which means admission and acceptance of the infringement of the rule and, of course, the resolve to refrain from committing such offences in the future (āyatiṃ saṃvarāya).
The seventy-five Sekhiyā dhammā are all regarding etiquette in day to day behaviour. For example, when laughing neither a bhikkhu nor a bhikkhunī should laugh aloud; they should not stand with their hands on the hips; should not swing arms body or head when walking; should not make noise when eating, nor should talk while eating. Such are the rules that come under Sekhiyā dhammā. All those rules have relevance to outward behaviour of the members of the Order. This was undoubtedly to present a separate refined and dignified identity to the members of the Saṅgha. In fact, it is such outward behaviour that initially contributed to arouse faith in those who had no faith and increase faith in those who already had faith.
Nikāya contains numerous references to expression of appreciation of such behaviour on the part of bhikkhus by kings, especially Pasenadī Kosala. The Kosala Saṃyutta of the Saṃyuttanikāya as well as the Bhikkhu-saṃyutta contain references to such refined and serene outward appearance of monks.
The last seven of the 227 rules are not substantive rules but rules about procedure that should be followed when conducting activities of formal ecclesiastical forums to decide on matters that are to be settled according to monastic law. These are seven in number and, hence, referred to as satta adhikaraṇa-samatha-dhammā. These are as follows:
1) Sammukhā-vinaya: the case to be heard in the presence of the offender.
2) Sati-vinaya: this is regarding finding out the intention of offender.
3) Amūḷha-vinaya: this pertains to the possibility of presenting a plea of insanity at the time of the commission of the offence.
4) Paṭiññātakaraṇa: is about the possibility of tendering a confession.
5) Yebhuyyasikā: is about the possibility of deciding a case by the majority vote of the jury.
6) Tassapāpeyyasikā: this is about handling an obstinate offender who attempt to escape punishment.
7) Tiṇavatthāraka: amicable settlement of disputes.
These procedural rules are not directly related to the present study, and hence, these will not be directly focused upon. In the Vinaya too, Suttavibhaṅga would be the prime source. Aṭṭhakathā will be consulted whenever needed. Similarly secondary sources regarding the Vinaya as well on the social conditions of the time also would be consulted as and when necessary to find more information about the social conditions of the time and to see what are the societal causes and conditions that influenced the origin of the Buddhist Vinaya.
Similarly, wherever information is available an attempt would be made to list the offenders and make a sort of a sociological study of their characters, and see whether their characters in any way influenced the promulgation of the Vinaya rules.
1. Theravāda School or Southern School or Original School.
2. D.II, 154.
3. T.W. Rhys Davids, Buddhist India, First edition London, 1903. A recent reprint in 1997 was done by Motical Banarsidass, Delhi.
4. B.C. Law, A History of Pāli Literature, Indica Books, Varanasi, India, 2000. This was first published in 1983.
5. G.C. Pande, Studies in the Origins of Buddhism. First Ed. 1957. Fourth revised Ed. 1995. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi.
6. Buddhism as it prevails at present in divided into two major divisions: Theravāda and Mahāyana. The origin of this division is traced to the Second Buddhist Council, at the conclusion of which the Saṅgha Order divided into two, making the first schism, as Theravāda and Mahāshaṅghika.
7. See B.C. Law, op. cit. p. 99.
8. DA. I, 13.
9. Vinaya Piṭaka Ed. Oldenberg, London, pp. xv-xvi.
10. B.C. Law, op. cit. pp. 69-70.
11. Oskar von Hinuber, A Handbook of Pāli Literature, p. 13.
12. Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, pp. 43-54; 91-107.
13. The Bhikkhunī-vibhaṅga is non-operative now in Theravāda Buddhist countries. This is because in these countries the bhikkhunī Order has become extinct. There are only ‘Dasa-sīla-mātās’ or those who observe the ten precepts.
Monastic Vinaya: Its Aims and Objective
Vinaya and Brahmacariyā
Just as there is one taste in the ocean, that is the taste of salt, there is one taste in the Dhamma, which is the taste of freedom or emancipation (vimutti-rasa) . The Buddha was eager to make his listeners taste this freedom. This is why, in spite of the initial hesitation to preach the Dhamma, he subsequently made up his mind to share this bliss of freedom with as many as possible . The Mahāvagga very clearly explains how the Buddha dispatched his sixty Arahant disciples on different directions, and he set out himself towards Uruvelā.
However, the Buddha was convinced that household life is a great hindrance to the practice leading to taste this freedom . This he realized before attainment of enlightenment himself. The Ariyapariyesana Sutta very graphically describes how the Bodhisatta, bent on his noble quest, renounced household life.
"Later, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with blessing of youth, in the prime of life, though my mother and my father wished otherwise and wept with tearful faces, I shaved off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness."
However, it should be remembered that the Buddha did not hold the view that only bhikkhus can partake of this ‘taste of freedom’ and the lay people are not qualified to do so. This definitely is not the Buddha’s position. Both clergy and lay people can realize emancipation. There is reference to lay people attaining Arahantship . But they are not many. This is because household life is not very conducive to the practice. The Dhammika Sutta brings this out very clearly when it says:
"Gahaṭṭhavattaṃ pana vo vadāmi
The Muni Sutta with a beautiful simile brings out the difference between bhikkhu and a lay person. It says:
"Even as the crested (peacock), the blue-necked (the bird) that soars in the sky never will reach the speed of the swan, even so the householder cannot emulate (to match) the monk, the sage (leading a life) of seclusion contemplating in the forest "
It is because of the numerous problems in the home life that the Buddha encouraged the converts to leave household life and enter recluseship. This life of a recluse is far more conducive to the practice of the Noble Life (brahmacariyā) set out by the Buddha. Thus, when any early convert expressed his desire to renounce, the Buddha readily agreed, for he knew that it will expedite the converts experiencing of the taste of freedom. For this he used the simplest method of granting admission to resluseship (pabbajjā) and conferment of higher ordination (upasampadā).
Thus, when the first person to get fully converted namely, Koṇḍañña requested for admission and higher ordination the Buddha granted the request by saying:
"Come O! Monk, well declared is the Dhamma, follow the Noble Life for the complete ending of suffering ."
This method of granting admission and higher ordination came to be known as the "Ehi bhikkhu pabbajjā ." From the above given formula of granting admission it is clearly seen that admission to the recluse life is an admission to a new way of living. This is called ‘brahmacariyā’, the Noble Life. Buddhism holds the proper living of this ‘Noble Life’ as the assured way for ending suffering (dukkha). This is clear from the Buddha’s injunction to the new converts when granting admission:
‘Cara brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāya’.
Leading this ‘Noble Life’ in the perfect manner is not a simple undertaking. It is not easily practicable for one in the household life. Therefore, all those who were sincerely committed to its practice desire to renounce household life . Then, it is seen that "renunciation" is an essential aspect of ‘brahmacariyā’. One who truly renounces after confirmed conviction does not again revert to home life.
What is this ‘brahmacariyā’? As the texts make it clear it is the Noble Eightfold Path . Noble Eightfold Path itself is constituted of a scheme of "Threefold training" (tisikkhā). This scheme is referred to in the Cūlavedalla Sutta . From this it is seen that to truly live the life of a recluse following the ‘Noble Life’ it is necessary to undergo systematic training. In the Suttas one finds numerous references to the effect that this course of training is a graduated one . Thus, in the Gaṇakamoggallāna Sutta it is said:
"When the Tathāgata obtains a person to be tamed he first disciplines him thus: "come, bhikkhu, be virtuous, restrained with restraint of Pātimokkha, be perfect in conduct and resort, and seeing fear in the lightest fault, train by undertaking the training precepts."
That in this disciplining virtue forms the foundation is abundantly clear from both canonical and post-canonical references. Thus, the Saṃyuttanikāya in the Jaṭā Sutta directly says that an intelligent man should establish himself in virtue and then culture the mind and wisdom. This is in a primary requirement of one who enters bhikkhuhood.
It is seen that this training in virtue or ‘sīla’ is one of the threefold training of the Noble Eightfold Path (aṭṭhaṅgikamagga). As pointed out in the Cūlavedalla Sutta (loc.cit.) this training consists of regulating three factors of the path: right speech (sammā-vācā), right action (sammā-kammanta) and right livelihood (sammā-ājīva). These three collectively represents an individual’s external behaviour. It is through behaviour that is through verbal and physical behaviour the defilements in an individual come to the surface. In Pāli this level of manifestation of defilements is called "vītikkama" . ‘Sīla’ is cultivated to check the defilements at this initial manifestation level through one’s behaviour.
Basically this appears to be the purpose of Vinaya that regulates the monks’ or nuns’ behaviour. That this is what is meant by Vinaya even according to the age old, long cherished Theravāda tradition is seen from the definition given to Vinaya by venerable Buddhaghosa in the Samantapāsādikā . Therein it is said that it is referred to as Vinaya in the sense of restraining physical and verbal actions in numerous, special ways. Thus Vinaya primarily is restraining an individual’s behaviour that gets manifest through his bodily and verbal deed. Yet, this does not however, mean that the restraining of the mind is not involved. Buddhism holds the view that all deeds have mind at their bases. Mind is the most important element.
In this regard Jotiya Dhirasekera quite rightly observes:
"The Buddhist monastic life being what we have shown it to be, the content of discipline had to embrace every aspect of life as viewed in Buddhism. According to Buddhism life activity goes on through the three media of thought, word and deed. Progress or depravity is reckoned in terms of refinement or deterioration of these. Therefore the total content of Buddhist monastic discipline had to be in terms of thought, word and deed. Even in what appears to be a modified statement of old material Buddhaghosa clearly upholds this view"
Thus, it is seen that the primary objective of monastic discipline is to check and restrain the behaviour of monks and nuns. This restraint operates at different levels. Some rules are focused on grave misdemeanors as for example to debar monks, nuns from engaging in sexual relations. Others are much simpler. For example, they are concerned with etiquette and manners. The whole of "Sekhiyās" running into seventy-five rules are concerned with such simple matters as how serenely and calmly a monk or nun should walk, sit, and eat and so on.
What is shown is that Vinaya naturally covers a very wide range of activities of an individual. The rules laid down clearly show how minutely the Buddha has paid attention to monks’ behaviour, both external and internal. This was very necessary because the Buddhist monastic Order was new and it had to formulate its own constitution to regulate the conduct of its members. Though the Buddha in setting up the bhikkhu Order, and perhaps, later in establishing the bhikkhunī Order was influenced by the prevailing monastic systems, he did not totally emulate any of them. There are many similarities between the Buddhist monks, nuns and members of other Orders and there are also marked differences between them .
Going through the Buddhist monastic code of discipline it becomes quite clear that the Buddha wished to have a separate identity for his Order. The dress he adopted the shaving off of head hair and beard, the use of the bowl, discarding of the trident, a symbol of Brāhmaṇas, something like the sling-bag usually carried by many wandering ascetics and such other features suggest that Buddha wished to have a particular, new identity for the members of the Buddhist monastic Order. In fact the Buddha himself gives ten reasons for officially formulating Vinaya rules. An analysis of these also help to understand the objective of laying such rules, and through it the nature of these rules.
The Vinaya Piṭaka gives the following ten reasons as the motivating factors for the promulgation of formal rules of discipline:
1) Well being of the Saṅgha (saṅghasuṭṭhutāya)
2) Convenience of the Saṅgha (saṅghaphāsutāya)
3) Restraint of evil-minded individuals (dummaṅkūnaṃ puggalānaṃ niggahāya).
4) For the comfort of well-behaved monks (pesalānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ phāsuvihārāya)
5) For the restraint of influxes that is here and now (diṭṭhadhammikānaṃ āsavānaṃ saṃvarāya)
6) For the destruction of influxes of next life (samparāyikānaṃ āsavānaṃ paṭighātāya)
7) For developing confidence in those who yet have no confidence (appasannānaṃ pasādāya)
8) For the increase of confidence of those who are already having confidence (pasannānaṃ bhiyyobhāvāya)
9) For the firm establishment of the good doctrine (saddhammaṭṭhitiyā)
10) To enhance discipline (vinayānuggahāya).
These ten reasons reveal that the primary aim of promulgation of formal rules was:
a) The firm establishment of the true doctrine and enhancement of Vinaya;
b) Comfort and well-being of the members of the Order, both in this life and next;
c) Facilitation of spiritual development;
d) Winning confidence of the public.
All these are valid reason for the promulgation of formal rules of Vinaya to regulate the conduct of the members of a newly established Order. As already shown, the main objective of the Buddha in encouraging converts to renounce home life and enter homelessness was to make them, as soon as possible, put an end to suffering (sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāya). It is seen that a fair number of major rules were focused to achieve this objective. For example, the emphasis laid on the four Pārājika offences show this. Strict observance of celibacy is crucial for one’s spiritual development. So are abstentions from sexual intercourse, stealing, killing and lying. One of the main purposes of formulating formal rules was for the restraint against defilements (kilesas) in this life and next life. Thus, it is not hard to see that by nature a fair number of Vinaya rules are meant to help a bhikkhu attain this purpose.
Naturally the Sāsana’s stability depends on the good behaviour of the members of the Order. So, it is understandable why, when the Buddha found that bhikkhus were rather loose in their behaviour, thought it proper to lay down formally rules regarding their behaviour. Besides, though Order started as itinerant group of recluses, soon it began to turn to a bad community life. When leading a community life it is very necessary that members of the community should be well aware of their responsibilities to themselves as well as to their fellow bhikkhus. Above this, all had to safeguard the interest of the Saṅgha institution as a whole. In doing this it was necessary to see that the rights of individual members were protected and at the same time these rights did not adversely affect the proper functioning of the Saṅgha institution. Many rules show that the Buddha had this, too, in his mind when he decided to declare disciplinary rules formally.
Another major reason was the consideration paid to public opinion. The ten reasons cited above contain two reasons directly pointing to this consideration. These two reasons are:
a) Developing confidence in those who yet have no confidence, and
b) Increasing the confidence of those who already have confidence.
When one considers the background in which Buddhism arose one would not fail to see the significance of these two reasons. India of the Buddha’s time was a beehive of activities in the sphere of religion. If one was to go by the account of religious and philosophical background given in the Brahmajāla Sutta , there were sixty-two widely known religious views and beliefs . Though it is generally assumed that there was total religious harmony, in actual practice this was not the true situation. There seem to have been much rivalry among different religionists, if not the religious leaders, to win converts and increase their members. On this point one writer makes the following observation:
"There was open rivalry between the two mainstream traditions as well as among different sections of each tradition. While having differences among themselves, the various sections of the Śramaṇa tradition were united against their common rival namely, the Brāhmaṇa tradition and were making a concerted effort to revile it. The Brāhmaṇa tradition neither lay low against these attacks nor remained indifferent. The Upanishadic teachings appear to be a vigorous fresh attempt to reorganize and direct the old Vedic tradition to withstand the scathing attacks levelled against it by some of the major Śramaṇa schools, especially the Materialists ."
In such competitive religious background it is natural that adherents of religions did their best to win the confidence of patrons, as their survival depended on the popular patronage.Different religionists adopted different methods to win popular support. The most common method adopted was to claim ability to perform miracles, for this was considered the hallmark of spirituality. It was one such incident that made the Buddha lays a rule prohibiting the display of miracles. This was with regard to venerable Piṇḍola Bharadvāja who went through the sky displaying his ability in performing miracles and taking the sandal-wood bowl placed on the top of high pole .
Naturally the Buddha was also fully aware of the public patronage for the maintenance of his Saṅgha community. In fact he often reminded the bhikkhus that they are dependent on the lay support for their sustenance and, hence, advised them to develop cordial relations . While admitting the importance of public support to maintain the Saṅgha community, the Buddha did not resort to mean methods of winning public respect and honour. Instead, what he did was to win over converts by good behaviour on the part of bhikkhus. It was because of venerable Assaji, a new bhikkhu in the Order, that Upatissa (later venerable Sāriputta) became attracted to Buddhism . Kings such as Pasenadi Kosala, Udayana were much impressed by the good behaviour of monks .
It is also seen that a fair number of Vinaya rules had been laid down on the request of lay supporters such a King Bimbisāra, female lay-patron Visakhā, the famous physician Jīvaka and so on. Thus, the observance of Uposatha, Vassāvāsa, and non-admission of individuals suffering from certain disease were incorporated as mandatory rules on the suggestions of such lay members . This is the remarkable feature in Buddhism that is this willingness on the part of the Buddha to listen to the views, opinions and suggestions of the laity in regulating monks’ behaviour. It is recorded that the Buddha even consented to adjust the date of Vassa in agreeing to a request by king Bimbisāra .
Such evidence clearly shows that Vinaya, though defined even by venerable Buddhaghosa as restraining verbal and physical deed for some ethical purpose, is not merely limited to controlling day to day activities of monks or nuns. It has a wider application and significance. As some of the above mentioned rules show nurturing of cordial relations with the laity, building up understanding with the royalty also were considerations for formulation of disciplinary rules.
Precedence of Vinaya over Dhamma
But certain rules are directly concerned with the fulfillment of the obligations of monks’ life aimed at realization of emancipation. The four Pārājika rules are such. These go to the core of the practice of the life of a recluse. Hence, they are very elaborately dealt with, paying attention to all minute details. Perhaps, it is such rules which are quite fundamental to the successful practice recluseship that really made Vinaya more important than a mere constitution applicable to the Saṅgha. This, perhaps, is why Vinaya, at a later stage came to be considered as the life of the Buddha’s Dispensation, and led to the belief as long as Vinaya remains intact the Dispensation will last.
In the Buddha’s own opinion it is the Dhamma that is more important than Vinaya. A hint to this effect is found in the Sāmagāma Sutta. In a discussion between the Buddha and venerable Ānanda regarding the conflicts that arose among the disciples of Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta after the latter’s demise, the Buddha asked venarable Ānanda:
"What do you think Ānanda? These things that I have taught you after directly knowing them - that is the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right kinds of striving, the four bases of spiritual power, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven enlightenment factors, the Noble Eightfold Path - do you, Ānanda, even two bhikkhus who make differing assertions about these things?"
"No, venerable sir, I do not see even two bhikkhus who make differing assertions about these things. But, venerable sir, there are those who live deferential towards the Blessed One who might, when he has gone, create a dispute in the Saṅgha about livelihood and Pātimokkha. Such a dispute would be for the harm and unhappiness of many, for the loss, harm and suffering of gods and humans."
"A dispute about livelihood or about the Pātimokkha would be trifling, Ānanda. But should a dispute arise in the Saṅgha about the path or the way, such a dispute would be for the harm and unhappiness for many, for the loss, harm and suffering of gods and humans ."
This suggests that the Buddha was more concerned about the Dhamma and its understanding, than about the misunderstanding about Vinaya. This is not to say that the Buddha disregarded Vinaya. He did pay heed to Vinaya. In fact as seen from Mahāparinibbāna Sutta the Buddha referred to his teaching as Dhamma-vinaya, giving equal importance to both the doctrine and discipline. But, at this stage Vinaya was not considered more important than the Dhamma. In fact, at this initial stage it was through the Dhamma itself that Vinaya was taught to disciples.
The Theravāda tradition found in the commentaries is that there was no formal promulgation of Vinaya at the beginning. In fact it is said that there was no formal declaration of Vinaya rules during the first twenty years of the Sāsana . What these suggest is that at the beginning there was not real need for the laying down of formal Vinaya rules. The text recorded instances where senior disciples like Sāriputta suggested to the Buddha to make formal rules . But the Buddha knew that there was not such necessity at that time. This was because the members of the Order at that time were fully dedicated to the practice and, hence, did not need any "goading" to lead them on the right path. Whenever the Buddha found even a minor lapse in the conduct of the monks, he warned them about it. Thus he did so not by laying down rules, but by persuading the monks, by way of advice, to behave in a way that is quite in keeping with the life of a recluse. For this the Buddha used his discourses or the Suttas. That is why it is often pointed out by scholars that the Dhamma served as the Vinaya also at the early phase of the Sāsana. It is to bring out this unitary sense of doctrine and discipline, not as separate entities but as one unit with two aspects that the Buddha used the term Dhamma-vinaya to refer to his teaching .
That this was the position during the earlier stages of the bhikkhu-sāsana is seen clearly from Suttas such as the Kakacūpama. This Sutta is occasioned by the behaviour of a monk called Moliya Phagguṇa who was in the habit of associating too closely with the bhikkhunīs. The Buddha in this instance, too, did not lay down a rule with regard to such behaviour on the part of monks. Instead, he advised them to refrain from such behaviour. Moliya Phagguṇa, however, did not pay heed to the Buddha’s advice and it is thus resistance on the part of particular bhikkhus that made the Buddha recall the good old days in which the bhikkhus were quite amenable to advice,
‘Bhikkhus, there was an occasion when the bhikkhus satisfied my mind. Here I addressed the bhikkhus thus: "Bhikkhus, I eat at a single session. By so doing, I am free from illness and affliction, and I enjoy health, strength and comfortable abiding. Come, bhikkhus, eat at a single session. By doing so, you will be free from illness, affliction, and you will enjoy health, strength, and comfortable abiding. And I had no need to keep on instructing those bhikkhus. I had only to arouse mindfulness in them ."
But this situation changed and there was much indiscipline in the Saṅgha community. This decline in discipline among the monks is well brought out in the Bhaddāli Sutta . In this Sutta the same advice regarding eating at a single session is suggested by the Buddha to monks. Immediately a monk called Bhaddāli rose in protest saying: "Venerable sir, I am not willing to eat at a single session, for if I was to do so, I might have wrong and anxiety about it." The Sutta makes it clear that Bhaddāli’s worry and anxiety was whether he would have the strength to carry on the practices of holy life. The Buddha suggested a relaxation to this saying: "Then Bhaddāli eat one part where you are invited and bring away one part to eat. By eating that way you will maintain yourself." Bhaddāli did not agree to this, also.
Then the Buddha laid it down as a formal rule . On this occasion Bhaddāli absented himself and kept away for three months of the ‘vassa’ period. Later, however, he realized his mistake and mended his way. Bhaddāli out of curiosity inquires from the Buddha:
"Venerable sir, what is the cause, what is the reason, why there were previously fewer training rules and more bhikkhus became established in the final knowledge. What is the cause, what is the reason, why there are now more training rules and fewer bhikkhus become established in the final knowledge?"
The Buddha explained saying:
"That is how it is Bhaddāli, when beings are deteriorating and the true Dhamma is disappearing, though there are more training rules and fewer bhikkhus become established in final knowledge. The Teacher does not make known the training rules for disciples until certain things that are the basis for taints become manifest in the Saṅgha."
Then the Buddha enumerates a number of taint generating causes:
1) Saṅgha reaching greatness
These causes were the result of the numerical growth and territorial expansion of the community of monks. As the members of the Saṅgha community grew in number, there entered into the Order many who were not genuinely interested in striving to attain the goal of completely ending dukkha (sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāya). Many sought entrance into the Order to find an easy living. Patronage by kings, nobles and even by average devotees made life in the Order more comfortable than in most homes of the poor and destitute. So, it is not surprising to find some seeking admission to have a comfortable living. Some sought asylum in the Order to escape from the army or to escape arrest. There were others who entered the Order to obtain free specialist medical treatment .
Besides, some who entered the Order were more interested in gain and fame in spiritual development. They were more concerned about great learning, seniority etc. and this led to unnecessary conflict. Thus, such shifts in the objectives made bhikkhus veer away from the true ideal for which individuals renounce household life and enter homelessness.
The establishment of the bhikkhunī Order also appears to have contributed to a great extent to shape the nature of Vinaya. Though, in sense, both bhikkhu Vinaya and bhikkhunī Vinaya are same, the mere fact of gender difference itself, to an extent, affected its content. This is seen from the increase in number of rules with regard to the case of bhikkhunīs. Whereas there are two-hundred and twenty rules for bhikkhus, this number got increased to three-hundred and four as regard bhikkhunīs. The four Pārājika rules themselves got increased to eight in the case of bhikkhunīs. The 13 Saṅghādisesas rose to 17; 92 Pācittiyas to 166 and 4 Pāṭidesanīya to 8. This naturally changed the nature of Vinaya.
As already shown all rules did not directly have a bearing on the attainment of the final goal. Though Vinaya is meant to help the practice leading to the ending of dukkha all rules are not directly concerned with that. There are many that have no relation to the goal. For example, most of the "Sekhiyās" are such. Rules restricting the admission of those suffering from particular type of diseases have no direct bearing on the realization of truth. Such rules were made more to prevent individuals seeking asylum enter the Order. When, compared to ‘Pārājika’ and some ‘Saṅghādisesa’ offences these rules appear even beyond the periphery of true Vinaya of recluse.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons for the Buddha’s declaration that if the bhikkhus so wished they could do away with the minor rules . These minor rules, though it is not fixed as to what these are, was not considered by the Buddha to be directly related to the practice. To these belong rules made at the request of individuals who were the patrons of Buddhism. This was done as the Buddha was quite well aware of the fact that devotees support is necessary for the existence of the Saṅgha community. Hence, he gives the two reasons:
1) Appasannānaṃ pasādāya
From the way the Vinaya rules are formulated it is clearly seen that the growth of a set of codified rules is the result of a process. If Sudinna’s case in considered as the beginning point in this formal promulgation, it is certain that it took sometime for the whole set of Vinaya rules as found in the extant Vinaya Piṭaka to evolve. As these rules began to be laid down they were put into effective form through the Uposatha-kamma observance at which the rules formulated up to a particular point in time were recited. This recital of the available rules known as ‘Uddesa (recitation)’ or ‘Pātimokkhuddesa’ became an important feature in monks’ life.
That the rules are the result of a gradual process is also seen from the Aṅguttaranikāya reference to the recital of one-hundred and fifty rules . As the Vinaya Piṭaka stands at present it contains two-hundred and twenty rules to which are added seven procedural rules called "Adhikaraṇasamathas." These procedural rules lay down what problems are to be adjudicated, and how these should be legally settled. Hence, these are also the result of gradual growth, through trial and error, calling for additions, deletions, amendments etc.
What all these suggest is that the codified set of rules as they appear in the extant Vinaya Piṭaka is the outcome of much editorial work done by the redactions of the Vinaya Piṭaka. This process of redaction had its beginning at the First - Buddhist - Council. This Council was chaired by venerable Mahākassapa. He, as evident from various incidents connected with his recluse life, was a strict disciplinarian .The emphasis laid quite rightly of course, on Vinaya by him speak for his great concern about the monks’ conduct. It was, perhaps, his decision to recite Vinayas ahead of Dhamma, thus giving precedence over Dhamma.
It was venerable Mahākassapa who advised the assembly of monks gathered for the "Saṅgīti" not to change even minor and subsidiary rules, though the Buddha had suggested that they could be changed. These rules were recited at the subsequent ‘Saṅgīti’ also. The present Vinaya Piṭaka, specially the Suttavibhaṅga, in which the proper formal code of disciplinary rules is included, is the outcome of such a number of recitals.
The Vinaya Piṭaka, extant at present, contains these following codified rules for the bhikkhus. The numbers differ in the case of bhikkhunīs:
As pointed out before the number of rules pertaining to the conduct of bhikkhunīs are 304, with increases in Pārājika, Saṅghādisesa, Pācittiya and Pāṭidesaniya offences. Of course, it has to be noted that as at present the code of rules for bhikkhunīs has no effective operation; this is because the bhikkhunī Order is non-existent in Theravāda countries.
1. A. I, 36; IV, 203.
2. The Buddha’s understanding of the true nature of reality was so novel that he thought that people might not accept what he teaches for many were firmly holding to tradition and, hence, unable to see clearly. However, he overcame this initial hesitation and decided to preach. This is clearly described in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta (No. 26) of the Majjhimanikāya.
3.Vin. I, 21: "Caratha bhikkhave cārikaṃ. Bahujanahitāya bahujansukhāya lokānukampāya atthāya hitāya sukhāya devamanussānaṃ mā ekena dve agamittha,"
4. D. I, 63: "Bahusambādho gharāvāso abbhokāso pabbajjā" (Full of hindrances in household life, like open air is the life of a recluse). Compare D. I, 250; S. II, 219, V, 350.
5. See Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Middle Length Discourses, p. 256.
6. See Bhikkhu Bodhi’s article on "The Jhānas and the lay disciple" in Essays in Honour of Prof. Lily de Silva, ed. P.D. Premasiri et.et. Dept. of Pāli and Buddhist Studies, university of Peradeniya, 2001, p.36 ff.
7. See Suttanipāta Text and Translation by N.A Jayawikrama, Postgraduate Institute of Pāḷi and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya 2001, p. 154:
"Now I tell you of the obligatory vows of a householder fulfilling which a disciple becomes commendable; whatever practice of a monk there is, in its entirety, is incapable of being fulfilled by one trammeled with household possessions."
8. See N.A. Jayawickrama, op.cit. pp. 83-84.
9. Vin. I, 12: "Ehi bhikkhū’ti bhagavā avoca, svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo, cara brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāyāti."
10. Encyclopedia of Buddhism, s.v. Ehi-bhikkhu pabbajjā. However, this underwent many changes, and the method now followed is referred to as "ñatti-catuttha-kamma".
11. M. II, 55 f: "Yathā yathāhaṃ bhante bhagavatā dhammaṃ desitaṃ ājānāmi nayidaṃ sukaraṃ agāraṃ ajjhāvasatā ekantaparipuṇṇaṃ ekantaparisuddhaṃ sarikhalikhitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ carituṃ. Icchāmahaṃ bhante kesamassuṃ ohāretvā kāsāyāni vaṭṭhāni acchādetvā agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajituṃ."
12. S. V, 26: "Katamañ ca bhikkhave brahmacariyaṃ. Ayaṃ eva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo..."
13. M. I, 301 f. This Sutta says that these three trainings are not included by the Noble Eightfold Path, but the Noble Eight fold Path is included by the threefold training. According to the account right speech, right action and right livelihood comprise virtue or "sīla". Right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration comprise concentration or "samādhi"; and right view and right intention constitute wisdom or "paññā".
14. M. III, 2 f. This Sutta says that the Dhamma and Vinaya consist of a gradual training, gradual practice and gradual progress.
15. Ibid. "Tathāgato purisadammaṃ labhitvā paṭhamaṃ eveṃ vineti: ehi tvaṃ, bhikkhu, sīlavā hohi, pātimokkhasaṃvarasaṃvuto viharāhi ācāragocasampanno, aṇumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhassu sikkhāpadesūti."
16. S. I, 13: "Sīle patiṭṭhāya naro sapañño cittaṃ paññañca bhāvayaṃ."
17. There are these phases: vītikkama pariyuṭṭhāna and anusaya. Which ‘sīla’ is antidote to the first phase, ‘samādhi’ and ‘paññā’ are antidotes to the next two phases.
18. VinA. I, "Tasmā vividhanayattā visesanayattā kāyavācānañ ca vinayanato vinayoti akkhāto." Compare DA. I, 17. Dhs A. 19.
19. Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, Ministry of Higher Education Research Publication Series Sri Lanka, 1981, p. 19.
20. See Chandima Wijebandara, Early Buddhism: Its Religious and Intellectual Milieu, Posgraduate Institute of Pāli and Buddhist Studies, 1993, p. 36 ff.
21. Vin. III, 21; IV, 9. For a little elaborate list see A. I, 98.
22. D. I. Brahmajāla Sutta (Sutta No. 01)
23. For a detailed discussion about this see Bhikkhu Bodhi, the All-Embracing Net of Views: The Brahmajāla Sutta and its commentaries (BPS, 1978).
24. See Sanath Nanayakkara, "Abbhakkhāna – Its effect on Buddhism" in Arcana Prof. M.H.F. Jayasuriya felicitation Volume, ed. Ven. Nawagamuve Revata etc. Arcana, Felicitation Volume Committee, Colombo, p. 202 ff.
25. Vin. II, 110 f, See also DPPN. s.v. Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja.
26. See the Dasadhamma Sutta of the Aṅguttaranikāya.
27. See DPPN. s.v. Assaji.
28. See DPPN. under respective names of these kings.
29. See Vin. I, 74, 101. See also Sanath Nanayakkara, "The Impact of Sicknesses, Deformities/Disabilities and Punishments on the Granting Admission (Pabbajjā) and development of Emancipatory Knowledge (Paññā)" in, Dhamma-Vinaya. Essays in Honour of Venerabhe Professor Dhammavihari (Jotiya Dhirasekera) Ed. Asanga Tilakaratne et. el, Sri Lanka Association for Buddhist Studies, 2005, pp. 141-152.
30. Vin. I, 138.
31. M. I, 245; See bhikkhu Bodhi’s trsl. p. 845.
32. D. II, 154: "Yo vo Ānanda mayā dhammo ca vinayo ca desito paññatto, so vo mam’ accayena satthā."
33. VinA. I, 213.
34. Vin. III, 9; See also S. II, 224.
35. D. II, 154.
36. It is recorded that this particular monk did not change his way and later reverted to lay life.
37. M. I, 124.
38. M. I, 437 f.
39. See Pācittiyā, 37. (Vin. IV, 35).
40. This is referred to also at Vin. III, 9-10.
41. Vin. I, 72, 76 f, 91 f.
42. See Pañcasatikakhandha of Cullavagga: ākaṅkhamāno Ānanda saṅgho mamaccayena khuddānukhuddakāni sikkhāpadāni samūhaneyyā ti.
43. A. I, 230: "Sādhikaṃ idam bhante diyaḍḍha-sikkhāpadasataṃ anvaddhamāsaṃ uddesaṃ āgacchati."
44. See DPPN. s.v. Mahākassapa.
A Critical Appraisal of the Social Dimension of Vinaya Rules
Relation between Saṅgha and Laity
Vinaya refers to the rules of discipline laid down from time to time by the Buddha himself to guide and regulate the life of the community of bhikkhu and bhikkhunī Saṅgha (monk and nun communities). This Saṅgha community represents a micro society so when compared with the general society which could be called the macro society. Though both are communities comprising of male and female human beings, these two communities are basically different on the basis of the vocation each follows. The Saṅgha community represents a society of "renouncers", that is those who have given up household life and adopted a life of homelessness (anagāriya); and naturally, of course, along with the giving up of household life, various responsibilities and encumbrances that are part and parcel of household life are also abandoned.
It is not, therefore, difficult to understand the use for a special ‘code of rules’ to govern the life of the Saṅgha of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. Though this is a different society from that of the lay people, yet it exists within the frame of the same time and space. Besides, it comprises of members drawn from lay life, members who have been following norms and customs prevalent in lay life. And further, though this renunciation of household life meant admission to a new vocation of recluseship this, however, did not bring about a total cutting-off of links between the recluse society and the lay society. There was a mutual dependence between them. The Saṅgha society given to the full-time practice of the path did not engage in any from of livelihood .Therefore, the Saṅgha had to depend on the lay for their sustenance. This fact is very emphatically stated in the Dasadhamma Sutta, wherein it is said that it should be constantly thought by a recluse that his sustenance is dependent on others, which means lay persons.
On the other hand lay people too depended on recluses for spiritual guidance, and hence, they were obligated to show gratitude by sustaining the Saṅgha community and paying them due homage. The Sigālovāda Sutta of the Dīghanikāya explains these mutual obligations and duties. It was Dhamma-dāna, giving of Dhamma that is spiritual advice on the part of the Saṅgha , and provision of basic requirement (paccaya) on the part of the laity.
At the beginning, numbers in the Saṅgha community being limited, and the members of the Saṅgha themselves being self restrained, there was no need for any formal rules to regulate this behaviour. But as time passed when numbers increased, the Order expanded territorially and also when the members with less commitment entered the Order, there arose problems. These developments made it necessary for the Buddha to lay down rules to regulate various aspects of these relations between the members of the Order and the laity.
The laity considered charity towards the members of the Order as an effective way of acquiring merit for well being here and herefater. Thus, the Seṭṭhī of Rājagaha volunteered to build houses for monks with the hope of acquiring merit, and besides, provision of residences came to be considered as a sublime offering to the Saṅgha. The Mahāvagga says that the people were overjoyed when they came to know that they could offer robes to monks. There are constant references in the Suttas to devotees voluntarily inviting the Buddha and his disciples for alms. The Mahāparinibbāna Sutta records how much the Vajjis tried to persuade the courtesan Ambapāli to allocate to them the opportunity she obtained to offer alms to the Buddha. The other basic requirement was medicine. The Buddha and the monks were well provided with medical attention and care. In fact the rulers were so considerate about the medical care of the Buddha and the disciples that King Bimbisāra assigned his royal physician Jīvaka as the physician to the Buddha and the Saṅgha.
This relationship between the Saṅgha community and the laity greatly contributed to the spread and establishment of Buddhism. But it also led to problems. Therefore, it became necessary to regulate this relationship between the two parties based on the discharge of reciprocal duties and obligations. As the monks and nuns increased in number, the laity had to bear a greater responsibility in maintaining them. Provision of meals may have become a problem. Some of the rules regulating food habits may be due to attempts made to ease this burden on the laity.
The rule which says that monks and nuns should have one meal a day may be, at least partly, promulgated to lessen this burden of maintaining monks that fell upon the laity. In fact many of the Vinaya rules relate to simplicity that should be observed by monks in leading their lives. This insistence on simple living is not only intended to help the monks to successfully follow their practice but also to reduce the burden the laity had to bear in providing the requisites for the monks and nuns.
Though the Buddha and the Saṅgha were patronized by the royalty and the rich elite of the time, the ordinary average devotees, too, contributed in no small measure in providing the daily requirements of the members of the Order, especially their food requirements. The Buddha as well as the disciples went on alms round in villages, townships and cities. With the laying down of the rule that monks could have only a single meal a day the lay devotees would have found it easier as well as convenient to serve alms to them. Not only did the burden become less, but there happened to be some regularity about the alms round. This regularity would have facilitated offering of ‘piṇḍapāta’, for the laity now knew when to be ready with the offering.
The special patronage shown to the renouncers specially to the members of the Buddhist Order, provided room for prevailing social inequalities to come to the forefront. With the patronage of royalty, the rich noble elite as well as the devoted general public the life in the Saṅgha became far more comfortable than in the average household at the time. Just as now, even at the time of the Buddha social inequality was rampant. The gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" was very wide. As clearly hinted at in Suttas such as the Aggañña, Cakkavattisīhanāda and even the Kūṭadanta, all occurring in the Dīghanikāya, there was economic inequality. Some rulers were insensitive to social problems of the people. As pointed out in the Kūṭadanta Sutta the rulers were interested in their own prosperity. They even celebrated their prosperity, being totally indifferent to the suffering undergone by the people. Some rulers had no proper economic planning. This made unemployment spread in the country, leading to poverty and finally to social unrest and upheaval, and some even being encouraged entering the Order for easy living.
In such a background the life in the Order was safe, secure and peaceful. Basic needs were provided; food, lodging, clothing and even medicine freely supplied to the recluses. So, it is natural to find a fair number individuals seeking asylum in the Order safely for the purpose of leading a life better than what they had in the household. Vinaya Mahāvagga clearly records how individuals, who were unable to obtain expert medical treatment for their serious diseases, entered the Order to get medical treatment. In such a social background seeking asylum in the Order was considered a reasonable option for a good life.
The devotees were charitable towards the recluses, for they considered it as meritorious and, hence, beneficial for happiness here as well as hereafter. But monks did not consider charity to the laity as their duty. So they complained to the Buddha about "asylum seekers". And consequently the Buddha had to lay down rules precluding such "asylum seekers" entering the Order. An analysis of the origin of such rules clearly shows that those rules were made necessary due to the prevailing social conditions of the time. Had there been better economic conditions for the life of laity, with job opportunities available and basic necessities accessible, they would not have resorted to such ruses as entering the Order to obtain the basic needs.
It is clearly seen that the members of the Buddhist Order opted out of new the general society and entered into a new society, the Saṅgha society. By doing so, they also abandoned certain norms, customs and practices in force in society of the time. But, this renunciation naturally had certain links with society, and as such they could not function totally ignoring certain norms and rules applicable to the members of the society in general. Though some scholars are of the view that the Saṅgha community being a different society could function, ‘above and beyond the conventional laws’, this in fact was not really so.
Monks as missionaries
From the nature of the Saṅgha community such total aloofness was not possible. As pointed out already, the Order of the Saṅgha which consisted of "renouncers", within two months of its inception took upon itself a new role. This is the role of Dhamma-dūtas – Dhamma missionaries. This was a social need of the time. Buddhism is not a religious movement operating in a vacuum; nor is it now, nor was it then. In fact, as the Ariyapariyesana Sutta of the Majjhimanikāya makes it clear the Buddha was concerned not only about his dukkha but of the dukkha of the others.
The Mahāparinibbāna Sutta also presents this concern for others as an important motive that urged to Buddha to engage in the ‘Noble Quest’ (ariya pariyesana), the search for a way out of dukkha. It is out of compassion for others, and with the intention of sharing with others that the Buddha in spite of the initial hesitation decided to preach his novel discovery about the real nature of things.
This compassion is clearly brought out in the Vinaya. Addressing the first sixty liberated beings, the Arahants, the Buddha said:
"O monks go on tour for the good and happiness of many, out of compassion, for the well being, benefit and happiness of the gods and men. Do not two of you go by the same route! O monk preach the Dhamma good in the beginning, middle and the end, make known, in its true meaning and spirit the noble life totally complete and fully purified".
Influence of Saṅgha-Laity links on Vinaya
Once this close link was set up between the laity and the recluse, it gradually got further spread and extended. And the result was that the recluses had to mould their own society in a way that is acceptable to the society which the recluse had already given up. This close relationship between the lay society and the Saṅgha society as well as their mutual dependence had much influence in moulding Vinaya rules. A fair number of Vinaya rules were formulated and promulgated on the requests and suggestions made by the laity who tried to make the bhikkhus’ conduct appealing to them. Just consider how the rule pertaining to the observance of Rains Retreat came to be laid down. As the Mahāvagga shows this practice of observing the Rains Retreat (vassāvāsa) was not prevalent among the monks at the beginning. The Buddhist monks were of the habit of touring in all three seasons: autumn, summer and the rainy season. Seeing this, the people agitated and protested against this practice of indiscriminate engagement in tours. They specially protested about monks’ touring in the rainy season as it affected the wholly growing flora and fauna and insect life.
In the predominantly agricultural society such a protest is natural and understandable. Besides, the other eremitical religious groups had already set precedent by avoiding touring during the rainy season. The public wondered why the Buddhist monks could not follow the same practice. When this was brought to the notice of the Buddha he approved the observance of Rains Retreat by his disciples, and one could see how a number subsidiary rules connected with this came into operation. For example, the rule, making observance of vassa mandatory on all came into operation in response to the Chabbaggiya bhikkhus refusal to observe vassa; relaxation of the original rule was a result of the protest lodged by the lay devotee called Udena.
Again the Buddha made a rule regarding the observance of the Uposatha on the request of king Bimbisāra. Non-admission of "army deserters" to the Order was also approved on such a request. The men in the army, for some reason or the other deserted, and entered Order. This created problems for king Bimbisāra. The commander in chief began to complain about this. Then the king had to approach the Buddha and request him not to admit such army deserters. Similarly, perhaps, it was on the initiative of king Bimbisāra that thieves who broke jail were debared from gaining admission into the Order (loc.cit). Similarly, those who escaped custody too were not to be given admission (loc.cit). Once again it was acceding to a request made by king Bimbisāra that the Buddha sanctioned the commencement of the ‘vassāvāsa’ observance from the second full moon.
This sort of instances showing the source of origin of certain rules is very significant. What is clearly seen from these instances is that the Buddha has been very accommodating in these matters. He has, wherever and whenever possible, tried to facilitate state administration by preventing the creation of opportunities that opened way and means to disrupt administration of the state. Unscrupulous individuals attempted to make use of the entrance into the Order as a means of escaping arrest by state officers. The king, out of his high regard to the bhikkhu Order, had declared that no one who has entered the Order should be arrested. Taking use of this some escaped custody and sought refuge in the Order. But with the recurrence of such instances the Buddha, on the request of the king, promulgated a rule prohibiting the admission of "escapees".
Even in the case of venerable Dhaniya who was involved in the second Pārājika the Buddha complied with the current law of the country. That the Buddha did not on his own whim and fancy, promulgate rule is very clearly seen in this instance. When he was informed of Dhaniya’s stealthy act he did not immediately pronounce a rule. What he first did was to consult one of his disciples who was a former Minister of Justice. This was for the purpose of finding out about the punishment that king Bimbisāra would mete to a thief.
This very well shows how keen the Buddha was to be in conformity with the law of the country, and how keen he was to help the administration of the country and maintain law and order. This the Buddha did with a clear and deep understanding of the necessity of royal patronage for the sustenance and efficient functioning of the Saṅgha Order. The importance of royal patronage becomes quite clear if one was to consider the plight of Buddhism if king Bimbisāra was not in favor. Had the king not been favorable towards Buddhism and not volunteered to donate Veḷuvana for the residence of the Buddha and the disciples, Buddhism would not have taken root with such ease. Had the king, by some turn of events, been antagonistic towards Buddhism, it would have suffered death at its birth itself.
Hence, under such circumstances it is not surprising to find the Buddha showing an attitude of accommodation towards the request from the king. However, in doing so, he did never compromise the interest and declared aims of the Saṅgha Order. In making rules on the request of king and authorities in power, therefore, the Buddha maintained a fine balance and always attempted to be within the accepted norm.
Such an attitude is quite in keeping with the Buddha’s purpose in promulgating rules of discipline for the Order. Among the reasons are:
1) For the increase in confidence of those who are not convinced.
2) For the increase of confidence of those who are already convinced.
Kings like Bimbisāra had initial confidence in the Buddha and this confidence had to be further cemented with regard to requests for promulgation of disciplinary rules for the members of the Order from the laity. In such instance, too, the Buddha did not forget the important fact that the Order is ‘others dependent’ for material sustenance. With this in view whatever reasonable requests made by the laity were acceded by the Buddha when making rules. The Buddha was much concerned about public opinion. An often repeated phrase with regard to promulgation of rules "manussā ujjhāyanti khīyanti vipācenti".
The Vinaya Piṭaka shows that whenever people saw monks behaving in an unbecoming manner they objected and openly showed their displeasure. On such instances the Buddha immediately took steps to remedy the issue. They very well knew that if such situations are not immediately remedied, the people would get disgusted and stop their patronage. Thus, it is seen that a considerable number of rules were made in response to such public protests.
Buddha’s concern about the dignity and stability of the Order
Besides, there was another reason that prompted the Buddha to make laws. As seen throughout his dispensation the Buddha was very keen to have a spiritually strong, ethically blameless and practically very effective Order of the community of monks and nuns. Though there was no formally promulgated rule at the beginning, this does not mean that the Buddha did not pay heed to discipline. It is seen that in the early state of the development of the Order the Dhamma (i.e. Sutta) itself served as the Vinaya. Already reference has been made to Suttas such as Kakacūpama (M.Sutta no.21) in which the Buddha in a very casual way presents advice for monks regarding the need to regulate their meals. The Mahāparinibbāna Sutta shows the expectations the Buddha entertained with regard to the bhikkhu – bhikkhunī sāsana. It records how the Buddha declined Mara’s request to pass away until he found that the Order is firmly established with its members well-equipped in all aspects that befit recluseship. Thus in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta the Buddha says:
"I shall not die. O Evil One! Until the brethren and sisters of the Order, and until the lay disciples of either sex shall have become true hearers, wise and well trained, ready and learned, carrying the doctrinal books in their memory, masters of the lesser corollaries that follow from the larger doctrine, correct in life, walking according to the precepts until they,having thus themselves learned the doctrine, shall be able to tell others, of it, preach it, make it known, establish it, open it, minutely explain it, and make it clear - until they, when others start vain doctrine easy to be refuted by truth, shall be able in refuting it, to spread the wonder-working truth abroad!"
From this it is very clear that the Buddha’s main concern was the establishment of a perfect Order of monks and nuns who could serve effectively the cause of the Dhamma and also communicate it correctly to the lay followers. This naturally made the Buddha become quite concerned about the admission-seekers to the Order. This concern is also reflected in the changes he brought about in the method of admission. At the beginning it was very simple. It was the method of proclamation by the Buddha himself by addressing the admission-seekers as "Come monk" (Ehi-bhikkhu).
But soon for various reason this method had to be changed. Then came "Saraṇāgamana" method and finally the very formal method, current even now, called "Ñatti catuttha kamma". There were also many other exceptions to this generally approved formal method.
A few more subsidiary rules, too, were promulgated to safeguard the purity of the Order. Thus, admission (pabbajjā) and higher ordination (upasampadā) were separated; a set of necessary qualification for entrance into the Order was listed; similarly a list of disqualifications was also listed.
It is clearly seen that such regulation were necessary to safeguard the good name of the Order and to maintain its dignified status. This was more so because there developed a tendency among some to consider the ‘Order’ as a comfortable "asylum" and adopt all type of ruses to obtain admission into it. There is clear reference in the Vinaya that certain ‘Bars to Admission’ were formulated to prevent asylum-seekers making the Order a haven for an easy and comfortable life.
Thus, the rules were laid down prohibiting the admission of individual suffering from particular diseases. This was carried out on the request of famed physician Jīvaka who complained to the Buddha that unscrupulous individuals suffering from certain sicknesses were entering the Order purely to obtain medical treatment from him. This list of "Bars to Admission" was further enlarged by including those individuals who were officially punished for various offences they had committed. Similarly, people who are handicapped and are deformed, too, had to be kept away, as many such individuals began to seek asylum in the Order.
Besides, some who were following other religious teachings and traditions also began to seek admission as they found the teachings of the Buddha far more conducive to religious well being. At the beginning such individuals were given direct admission. These individuals, being entrenched in different traditions, could not well fit into the Order immediately. This led to problems within the Order. Such situations necessitated the amendment of rules related to admission. A rule was laid down to the effect that such individuals coming from other religious traditions should be placed on "probation for four months".
Influence of prevailing practices and norms
Sociologically it was very important for the Buddha to adopt certain long cherished practices and norms followed by other religionists. This was more so because the Buddha also, in setting up his Order, primarily modeled it on the existing Samaṇa systems, mainly the Paribbājaka Orders. As these Orders were well established and were held in esteem by the public the Buddha also had to follow certain customs, practices and norms followed by them. When the public pointed out that such practices are not followed by the members of the Buddhist Order, the Buddha willingly adopted them and made their practice mandatory. Thus, the observance of ‘Vassāvāsa’, ‘Uposatha’ etc. were such adoption.
The Buddhist Order of monks and nuns clearly shows that even though it belonged to the Samaṇa group and though it accepted some practices generally agreed upon by the Samaṇa followers, the bhikkhu-bhikkhunī Order by itself had its own identity. The Buddha was keen on having and maintaining such a separated identity. He did not wish to be just another ‘group’ of Samaṇas. Both outwardly and inwardly he made this identity very clear. For example, the shaving off of head-hair and beard was mandatory, a bowl and an extra-robe were necessary. There was no shoulder sling-bag or any other receptacle, a trident was not used, and the robe was specially designed to bring out this separate identity very clearly.
However, what is noticeable here is that while adopting these norms, practices and traditions the Buddha did not merely adopt them bodily, but made necessary changes to suit the objective for which he established the Order. Thus in the case of adopting ‘Uposatha’ he did not merely follow the prevailing practice. He made this observance the occasion for members to personally reflect on their conduct. As the observance of ‘Uposatha’ brought together the monks of particular ‘āvāsas’ the Buddha considered it a very good opportunity to examine themselves and open up their ‘behaviour’ for other members’ scrutiny. This turned out to be an effective method of ‘checking’ misdemeanor on the part of individual members.
This the Buddha did by connecting "Pātimokkhuddesa" to ‘Uposatha’. Thus, he turned out the ‘Uposatha’ observance into a very effective method of "disciplinary assessment" of each member of the Order. Similarly, he by affixing ‘Pavāraṇā’ ceremony to ‘Vassāvāsa’, gave a completely new significance and meaning to the observance of ‘Rains Retreat’. This ceremony of ‘Pavāraṇā’ marked the end of ‘Vassāvāsa’ observance. In this too the main purpose was to make a self-analysis of one’s behaviour and confess any lapses that had taken place (seen, heard or apprehended. Elaborate rules were laid down regarding the procedure to be followed in the observance of ‘Pavāraṇā’.
It is of much interest to note how the ‘Vassāvāsa’ observance was oriented to bring about ‘harmonious living together’ of the members. The Mahāvagga (Vin. I, 157 ff) describe in detail how the members of the Order agreed to make use of this observance to lead an extremely co-operative way of life. This change in the procedure of the observance was effected by common consensus of the members themselves. This is a novel feature added to ‘Vassāvāsa’ observance to make it more meaningful to the progress of the Order and the unity of the members.
But in doing this they went to the extreme of following total silence, the observance of the practice Munis, the silent sages. The Buddha did not appreciate this. He cautioned the monks of following such a practice and admonished saying that this observance of the ‘dumb practice’ (mūgabbataṃ) followed by some other heretical groups should not be followed. The Buddha explained that the observance of such a practice would make people lose their confidence in the Saṅgha. Instead, he ordained that the Saṅgha should observe ‘Pavāraṇā’ by making self-assessment and confession of their conduct.
This makes it very clear that the Buddha in formulating Vinaya rules, though conceding to public opinion, did not become blindly bound by it. He made use of every opportunity to utilize Vinaya rules for the benefit and betterment of the Saṅgha, to make Saṅgha win the admiration of the public and also make them quite conscious of the need to be in blameless conduct. The primary aim of Vinaya was to make monks above blame and criticism; but at the same time the Buddha was aware of the need of adhering to long-cherished practices and customs. It was his far-sightedness that enabled the Buddha to blend these aims and evolve a very effective code of discipline that helped to maintain a very high standard of discipline that made the Saṅgha community the cynosure of all the other religionists as well as the public.
Writing on ‘Pavāraṇā’ Jotiya Dhirasekera clearly brings out how cleverly the Buddha made use of an old religion practice to help Saṅgha community win high esteem of the public.
The Pavāraṇā is the ritual which comes usually at the end of the third month of the Rains-retreat and is part of the observance of the Vassāvāsa. It is used like the ritual of Pātimokkha as a means of safeguarding monastic discipline. Pavāraṇā, as the name itself suggests, is the request which a Bhikkhu makes to the Saṅgha with whom he has spent the rains-retreat to judge his conduct and declare according to what the Saṅgha has seen, heard or suspected where he is guilty of any transgression.
Observing further he says: "the benefit resultings from this form of self correction are given as:
a) being agreeable to and tolerant of one another (aññamaññānulomatā)
b) making amends for the wrong done by safeguarding against their recurrence (āpattivuṭṭhānatā)
c) developing a regard and respect for the rule of discipline (vinayapurekkhāratā)".
The ‘Kaṭhina’ ceremony added yet another special dimension to the observance of ‘Vassāvāsa’. Though this has no direct relation to discipline, the ceremony, perhaps, was added to give more significance to ‘Vassāvāsa’ and ‘Pavāraṇā’ as well as to draw the attention of the laity to the importance of those ceremonies. Through ‘Kaṭhina’ ceremony the laity is also given an opportunity to make material contribution to the success of ‘Vassāvāsa’ ceremony. This, perhaps, was evolved for the purpose of further cementing of the devoted followers and drawing the attention of the not so devoted to the disciplined lives the Saṅgha community leads.
Among the number of purposes of laying down formal rules two are:
a) well-being of the Saṅgha (saṅghasuṭṭhutā)
b) convenience of the Saṅgha (saṅghaphāsutā).
Rules against miscreants
It is well known that individuals renounced household lives because it is full of obstacles (bahusambādho gharāvāso). The life of renunciation is expected to provide a far more congenial environment for the practice of the path. In this life there should be total peace of mind. The Saṅgha is of very few needs, just the minimum with regard to food, lodging, clothing and medicine. Hence, they had just a few possessions. These possessions had to be safe, for the basic possessions were needed for leading simplest form of life. So these few possessions had to be safe, and monks could not make a special effort with regard to their safety. However, as no society whether big or small, is totally free of miscreants, the Saṅgha community also was at times troubled by mischief-makers and wrong doers.
So, one could see among Vinaya rules some pertaining to misappropriation of other articles of use. Thus, the Vinaya (III, 265) refers to such misappropriation of articles knowingly by Chabbaggiyā bhikkhus. This kind of unscrupulous behaviour on the part of some naturally disturbed the harmony that is so vital in a society given to spiritual culture. Such behaviour not befitting recluses who are supposed to be of few needs (appicchā), had to be arrested and when the Buddha was informed of such unbecoming he formulated rules prohibiting such misappropriations.
Not only misappropriation of articles belonging to the Saṅgha (saṅghikaṃ lābhaṃ) but even the use of articles which are not suitable for the use of recluses was a problem. The use of the high seats and couches etc. were also considered as not suitable for the recluses who opted for simpler way of living. Naturally rules had to be formulated regulating the use of such articles, especially because the people complained saying that monks were turning out to be, too luxurious in their way of living. Naturally the lay-devotees must have detested the hypocritical life style of the monks which became more conspicuous when compared with the difficult lives led by some other ascetic groups.
Regulating bhikkhu-bhikkhunī relations
Another very important area which prompted the Buddha to take extra-precaution was the relations between the bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. The Buddha, as it is very clearly evident from numerous references in the canonical texts, did not wholeheartedly endure the establishment of the bhikkhunī Order. This was not because of any discriminatory attitude of the Buddha towards women. In fact the Buddha in no way did make any such discrimination. On the contrary Buddha, perhaps, is the foremost (trước tiên) among the religious teachers of the time who spoke on behalf of women against Bramaṇic discrimination against them. The Suttas are full of such references showing the Buddha’s attitude to equality. By his persuasive arguments the Buddha established that intellectually women are equal to men.
In this context, that is in the context of bhikkhu-bhikkhunī relationship the Buddha saw the problems involved and the consequences that would follow with the slightest lapse in such relationships. Even without bhikkhunīs, the behaviour of bhikkhus had declined. Undoubtedly other religionists were waiting for such lapses to blow them out of proportion to discredit the whole Saṅgha sāsana. In fact there are references to various ploys employed by heretics to discredit even the Buddha. The monks’ behaviour left much room for criticism.
In such a background it is natural to find the Buddha taking many precautions to prevent any kind of misbehaviour in the relationship between bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. This, therefore, served as a spring for many rules in the Vinaya piṭaka. Thus Jotiya Dhirasekera points out that, "There is yet another collection of 16 Sikkhāpadas (including rules from the Nissaggiya pācittiya and Pāṭidesanīya groups) whose purpose is to safeguard the mutual relations of the Bhikkhus and the Bhikkhunīs. Irregular performance of the monastic duties and excesses in personal relationships which are detrimental to the progress of the religious life also would provoke public censure and came within the purview of these regulations".
In fact Jotiya Dhirasekera (loc.cit) has given a classified list of such rules as follows:
- "Nissaggiya 4 and 17: monks engaging in the service of nuns.
- Pācittiya 26: Monks rendering services to nuns.
- Nissagiya 5 and Pācittiya 59: Monks accepting or using robes belonging to the nuns.
- Pācittiya 25: Monks giving robes to nuns.
- Pācittiya 29 and Pāṭidesanīya 1 and 2: Nuns expressing their personal attachment to the monks.
- Pācittiyas 21-24: Irregular performance of monastic duties by monks towards the nuns.
- Pācittiyas 27, 28 and 30: Irregular social relationships of monks towards nuns."
These rules were laid down by the Buddha not to undermine position of women, not to restrict their freedom but to help the Saṅgha sāsana as a whole to maintain its authority and dignity. This was very necessary at that time when there were groups working hard to defame and degrade the members of the Order. In fact the Buddha’s very progressive attitude towards women itself was considered by traditionalists as anti-social. The Brahmins did not at all appreciate the Buddha’s liberal approach towards women. The Buddha’s strong arguments urging the society to treat women as equal to men were detested by the orthodox Brahmins. In their view such teachings were against the prevailing customs and accepted traditions; they were merely undermining the supremacy of the male, which has been the normally accepted fact. So, such Brahmins, too, were waiting for opportunities to attack the Buddha, his Dhamma and the Saṅgha. The easiest way of attacking was to find lapses in discipline and then publicize them.
Such conditions made the Buddha become especially concerned about the bhikkhu-bhikkhunī relations. A careful analysis of the numerous rules the Buddha promulgated in relation to bhikkhunī discipline makes it quite clear that the Buddha was aiming both at safeguarding the honour and dignity of bhikkhunīs and also the good name and stability of the whole Saṅgha community. The increase in the number of rules for bhikkhunīs was for this purpose. When one examines the particular Saṅghādisesa rules applicable to bhikkhunīs it is seen that those rules had been laid down to save the bhikkhunīs falling victims to different rules adopted by unscrupulous men.
Thus, the Saṅghādisesa No. 3 says:
"No bhikkhunī shall leave the village alone, cross the river, and go beyond, shall be out in the night, or be out of the company of a group. One who does so is guilty of a Saṅghādisesa offence." (Vin. IV, 229)
Saṅghādisesa 5 reads as:
"No bhikkhunī with lustful intention shall accept and partake of any food from a man with similar lustful intentions." (Ibid, 223)
Saṅghādisesa 6 is:
"No bhikkhunī shall tell another, ‘whatever shall this man will do to you, whether he is lustful or not, as long as you have no such lustful thoughts. Therefore accept and partake whatever such a man offers." (Ibid. 234)
Given below are same of the Pācittiya applicable to bhikkhunīs.
"No bhikkhunī in the night, in darkness, where there is no lamp stay in the company of a man or talk with him."
"No bhikkhunī shall stay in the company of a male or talk with him in a secluded place."
"No bhikkhunī shall stay with a male or talk with him in an open place."
"No bhikkhunī shall stay in the company of a male in the street, in a blind alley or at cross-roads; converse with him, whisper in the ear or send away a bhikkhu her only companion."
"No bhikkhunī shall live in close association with a householder or a householder son."
These rules were laid down to remedy the living instances of misbehaviour that were brought to the notice of the Buddha. Hence, these should not be regarded as strictures on them or as restrictions imposed on them preventing them from acting freely. As said before, Saṅgha community is a micro society, and it is also the Buddha’s ideal society which he tried to make conflict-free and blame-free. To produce such a society a special constitution was necessary and this constitution had to be updated, expanded, and amended as time and circumstances demanded. The rules are the net outcome of such a long process. And, it is not surprising to see considerable number of these rules pertain to relations between bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. This is because this was a very vulnerable act.
1. Brahmin Kasībhāradvāja directly accuses the Buddha that he attempts to sustain himself without making a living. Of course, the Buddha replies: "I too, o brahmaṇa, do plough and sow and thereof." But this ploughing and sowing is used in an allegorical sense and not in the literal sense. See Sn. II. 76 ff.
2. Para paṭibaddhā me jivikāti pabbajitena abhiṇhaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ.
3. D. III, 180 ff.
4. See Dhp. V. No. 354 "Sabbadānaṃ dhammadānaṃ jināti."
5. Vin. Cullavagga, p.240.
6. Ibid. loc.cit. "Vihāra dānaṃ saṅghsassa aggaṃ buddhena vaṇṇitaṃ."
7. Vin. I, 298-299.
8. D. II, 966: "Ambapāli gives up this meal for a hundred thousand pieces." "Young sirs, if you were to give me all Vesāli, with its revenue, i would not give up such an important meal."
9. See Dppn. V.v. Jīvaka.
10. Vin. I, 72: This reference shows how individuals afflicted with certain sicknesses approached Jīvaka and asked him treat them. The latter said he was too busy as he had to attend on the Buddha and the Saṅgha. Then they thought: "Ime kho samaṇā sakyaputtiyā sukhasīlā sukhasamācārā subhojanāni bhuṅjitvā samaṇesu sakyaputtiyesu pabbajeyyuṃ."
11. See Tharpar, R, Renunciation: The Making of a Counter Culture, Ancient Indian Social History, Delhi, Orient Longman, 1978, p. 81.
12. M. I, 162.
13. D. II.
14. M. I, p. 167.
15. Vin. I, 21: "Caratha bhikkhave cārikaṃ bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya lokānukampāya atthāya hitāya sukhāya devamanussānaṃ, mā ekena dve agamittha, desetha bhikkhave dhammaṃ ādikalyāṇaṃ majjhekaḷyāṇaṃ pariyosānakalyāṃ sātthaṃ sabyañjanaṃ kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ parisuddhaṃ brahmacariyaṃ pakāsetha."
16. Vin. I, 137: "Manussā ujjhāyanti khīyanti vipācenti: kathaṃ hi nāma samaṇā sakyaputtiyā hemantaṃ pi gimhaṃ pi vassaṃ pi cārikaṃ carissanti haritāni tiṇāni sammaddantā ekindriyaṃ jīvaṃ viheṭhentā bahū khuddake pāṇe saṃghātaṃ āpādentā."
17. Vin. I, 137: "Anujānāmi bhikkhave vassaṃ upagantuṃ."
18. Vin. I, 138, 139.
19. Vin. I, 101.
20. Vin. I, 74: "Santi bhante rājāno assaddhā appasannā, te appamattakena pi bhikkhū viheṭheyyuṃ. Sādhu bhante ayyā rājabhaṭaṃ na pabbājeyyuṃ."
21. Vin. I, 138: "Tena kho pana samayena rājā Māgadho Seniyo Bimbisāro vassaṃ ukkaḍḍhitakāmo bhikkhūnaṃ santike dūtam pāhesi, yadi pan ayyā āgame juṇhe vassaṃ upagaccheyyunti. Bhagavato etaṃ atthaṃ arocesuṃ, anujānāmi bhikkhave rājūnaṃ anuvattitun ti."
22. Vin. I, 75: "Na bhikkhave kārabhedako coro pabbājetabbo."
23. The Vin. III, 45: "Purāṇa vohārika mahāmatta." Compare D. Bhagavat, early Buddhist Jurisprudence, p. v.
24. Ibid. loc.cit: "Kittakena kho bhikkhu rājā Māgadho Seniyo bimbisāro coraṃ gahetvā hanati vā bandhati vā pabbājeti vā ti."
25. Dasadhamma Sutta: "Parapaṭibaddhā me jīvikāti pabbajitena abhiṇhaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ."
26. Vin. I, 91, 102, 137 etc. "The people agitated, took offence and spoke disparagingly."
27. Trsl. From Dialogues of the Buddha, II, p. 112.
28. See ‘Higher Ordination’ in the Encyclopedia of Buddhism.
29. Vin. I, 72-73.
30. Vin. I, 69. However an exception to this rule was made with regard to the admission of Aggika Jaṭilas and Sakyan. They were exempted from this probationary period. The reason given for these exceptions are as follows:
"Ye te bhikkhave aggikā jaṭilakā, te āgatā upasampādetabbā, na tesaṃ parivāso dātabbo, taṃ kissa hetu. Kammavādino ete bhikkhave kiriyavādino. Sace bhikkhave jātiyā sākiyo aññatithiyapubbo āgacchati, so āgato upasampādetabbo, na tassa parivāso dātabbo. Imāhaṃ bhikkhave ñātīnaṃ āveṇiyaṃ parihāraṃ dammīti." (Vin. I. 71).
31. For a detailed discussion on this see Chandima Wijebandāra, Early Buddhism. Its Religious and Intellectual Milieu.
32. This attempt to maintain a distinct identity becomes further clear by analyzing the ‘Sekhiyā dhammā. More about this will follow.
33. Vin. I, 159: "Na bhikkhave mūgabbataṃ titthiyasamādānaṃ samādiyitabbaṃ. Yo samādiyeyya, āpatti dukkaṭassa. Anujānāmi bhikkhave vassaṃ vutthānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ tīhi ṭhānehi pavāretuṃ diṭṭhena vā sutena vā parisaṅkāya vā ti."
34. Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, p. 105.
35. See the Dhīta Sutta in the Kosala Saṃyutta of the Saṃyuttanikāya; compare also Somā thera’s bold answer to Māra recorded in the Bhikkhunī Saṃyutta.
36. The heretics employed a paribbājikā called Sundarī to discredit the Buddha. See DPPN. s.v. Sundāri.
37. See L.P.N. Perera, Sexuality in Ancient India.
38. Jotiya Dhirasekera, op.cit. p. 88.
Influence of Observance of Etiquetteon the Formation of Vinaya Rules
Influence of Paribbājaka system
The ‘Sekhiyā dhammās’ that form a section of the Vinaya also throws much light on the objectives the Buddha appears to have entertained when formally promulgating rules. It is an accepted fact that the Buddha when establishing his Saṅgha, took the prevalent Śramaṇa religious clergy organizations as the model. As the Vinaya Mahāvagga shows it was a rather informal organization at the outset. The most distinctive feature in it was renunciation of household-life and entrance into the life of homeless. The oft-recurring phrase "agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajitvā" clearly shows this. In fact the word ‘pabbajjā’ from the root vraj with prefix pa = (pra) is evidence for this. Paribbājakas, the wandering religious men of the Śramaṇa tradition were members of a well established religious institution of the time. This ‘going forth from household-life’ was the most salient feature of most of the Śramaṇa religions. This was in contrast to Brāhmaṇas who were "priests" religious men who discharged the role of "mediators" or ‘facilitators’ between gods and men. In contrast to these the ‘household renouncers (pabbajitas) were known by such designations as Paribbājaka, Pabbajita, Ajīvaka, Samaṇa, Nigaṇṭha, Muni etc. Some of these designations were common to many, whereas some referred to particular groups of religious men. But all of them shared one feature in common and that is, they all were ‘renouncers of household-life’ (pabbajitas), and hence, had no permanent dwelling place. They were all itinerant clergy-men, going from place to place, depending on begged or offered alms.
In fact it is this homeless-life which attracted the Bodhisattva who was quite convinced that the household-life is full of encumbrances and the homeless-life is like the open-air. There is much in common between a number of Śramaṇa school traditions and Buddhist monks’ way of life. And, certainly there is no doubt that the Buddha was influenced by this Paribbājaka institution when he established his own Saṅgha institution. Even subsequently, he adopted certain religious practices and observances from those followed by Paribbājaka group. The observance of Uposatha is one such practice.
Yet the Buddha did not adopt in totality the Paribbājaka way of life and practices. In fact he was to have a separate identity for his Saṅgha. This is seen from the practice he adopted with regard to the external appearance of the members of his Saṅgha. The shaving head and beard, the donning of a robe made from discarded pieces of cloth, doing away with a sling-bag usually carried by the Paribbājakas, the discarding of any kind of walking stick, instead carrying of a bowl and robe (patta-cīvaramādaya) are features distinctive of the outward appearance of a member of the Buddhist Saṅgha. In fact the Vinaya subsequently incorporated a number of rules regarding these.
Focus on external behaviour
The Buddha very rightly understood that the outward appearance or the manifest behaviour of the members of an Order had much significance in rousing faith and trust in devotees. This is what made him pay special attention to the external, manifest behaviour of his disciples. In a society in which many religious institutions were vying for popularity and acceptance by the masses this sort of external appearance was of special significance. From the numerous rules the Buddha promulgated with regard to the external appearance and manifest behaviour of his clergy, the importance attached to this aspect by him is clearly seen.
Significance of Sekhiyā dhammā
The Sekhiyās were formulated to regulate such manifest general behaviour. An examination of these rules will make it very clear they are neither directly relevant to nor have any special impact on the practices leading to the realization of emancipation. The purpose of these rules is to give the members of the Buddhist Saṅgha a distinctive appearance, so that they would cut a figure among the numerous members of diverse religious Orders. As it has already been pointed out that winning of confidence of those who are not yet convinced and the increase of confidence of those who are already convinced were two of the major motivative factors that made the Buddha finally formulate rules for the conduct of monks. The monks being dependent on others for their existence (parapaṭibaddha) had to conduct themselves in a way that is quite acceptable and attractive to the public. The Buddha’s concern about public opinion, as already discussed, had been greatly instrumental in prompting him to lay down the Sekhiyā dhammā.
Sekhiyā dhammās are seventy-five in number and are common to both bhikkhus and bikkhunīs. This, itself shows that those are of equal importance to all members of the Saṅgha community. The Sekhiya is from Sekha meaning, belonging to training. This is from the root sikṣ meaning to train. Thus, ‘Sekhiyā dhammās’ means aspects of training. All those ‘who are want of training’ are referred to in Pāli as Sekha (trainee). They are in need of training. Hence, those who have completed training or those who are trained in contrast called asekha, meaning ‘not needing training’. It is really the Arahants who are designated as ‘asekhas’ and, therefore, all below Arahants do need to undergo certain kinds of training. Thus, the perfection of the threefold training is also thus achieved only with the complete fulfillment of the path, which in the case of Arahants is not ‘eightfold’ but tenfold.
The Sekhiyā dhammās though connected with the first training of the ‘threefold training’ (tisikkhā sīla), as ‘Sekhiyā dhammās’ these are more concerned with etiquette of behaviour than with ‘ethics’ of conduct. Etiquette refers to accepted and often conventional rules of personal behaviour in a polite society. Ethics are more related to the moral quality of such behaviour, and hence, ethics are also related to the mind. But etiquettes have no such relation to the mind. These pertain to modes of behaviour acceptable to the society, or in keeping with a particular vocation followed by individuals. Ethics (sīla) have more broader application and in the practice of the Buddhist path, it is fundamental to the success of the practice. If one does not establish himself in morality first, in practising the path, he is bound to fail. Sīla is almost like the launching pad in one’s spiritual flight. But ‘Sekhiyā dhammās’ are not of such moral significance. They are more related to the charisma or in other words charm of behaviour that inspire admiration and devotion in the minds of others. This undoubtedly was and is a characteristic that enhance the position of a bhikkhu or bhikkhunī in the public-eye.
Possible reasons for formulating Sekhiyā-dhammā
The two extreme religious paths or practices namely, ‘attakilamathānuyoga (practice of self-mortification)’ and ‘kāmasukhallikānuyoga (practice of self-indulgence)’ popularly adopted by the religious men of the time made them incline towards some kind of extreme personal behaviour. Those who followed severe ascetic practices did not pay much care to personal appearance. Religious men with long-matted hair and unshaven, shabby beards were a common sight. They were indifferent to their dress and there was no uniformity in it, either from a mere loin-cloth just sufficient to cover the privy parts of the body to sheer nakedness; this was adopted by religious men as the accepted ‘attire’. Some shunned the use of water and, consequently, never bathed or even washed their bodies. Cleanliness or hygiene did not find a place in their day to day life.
There were some who understood the observance of peculiar vows to live like and to follow the behavioural pattern of goats (ajavṛta), cattle (govṛta), dogs (kukkuravṛta) etc. When observing such practices the life pattern had to be adjusted accordingly, and etiquette of life, as generally understood accepted in normal human society, was not valid for them. In fact observance of such etiquette would have been infringements of the vows undertaken by them. Perhaps, deliberately those practitioners disregarded the observance of normal behavioural patterns in order to safeguard their vṛtas.
There were others, as they led itinerant lives, who had to take along with them whatever little possessions they had. For this they had to carry a kind of a shoulder-bag or a sling-bag, which became an almost a hallmark of some Śramaṇa recluses. As they carried this kind of a bag, in their outward appearance they gave the impression of ‘possessors’, ‘hoarders’, though they in reality were total renouncers.
On the other hand, those who followed the extreme practice of self-indulgence led lives which rather appeared indisciplined to those who observed them from outside.
The Vedic Brahmaṇas, in spite of their religious vocation and commitment, led a life not very different from the ordinary lay. They, perhaps, were inclined to make their outward appearance appealing by paying extra-attention to adorn and decorate their faces and limbs. Because of their close association with lay peoples of different status they tended to behave more like the lay. The kings often lavished their generosity on important eminent Brahmaṇas, thus making them wealthy landowners. As they wielded power, authority and wealth they appeared a special class of clergy by themselves. Naturally, most of them indulged in excessive enjoyment of sensual pleasures, and behaved in a worldly manner.
So were the Materialists who advocated a totally materialistic philosophy, encouraging enjoyment of worldly pleasures denying ethics, rebirth, and next life etc.
They, too, led the itinerant lives of wandering ascetics. But their materialistic philosophy made them adopt a very worldly attitude to life, grossly engaging in all worldly pleasures. This attitude to life made them behave more lay-like than even the ordinary lay people.
In such a religious milieu the Buddha had to be very cautious about the external appearance and manifest behaviour of his clergy disciples. The ‘Sekhiyā dhammās’ were promulgated to invest the members of the Saṅgha community with a distinct identity befitting a community that has, in the true sense of the word, totally shunned the way of lay life.
Examination of Sekhiyā-dhammā
An examination of this twenty-five ‘Sekhiyā dhammās’ makes it clear that a majority of the rules pertain to alms, accepting alms and how to partake alms. There are thirty rules pertaining to this. This suggests that in general the clergy of the time did not accept and partake of food in a manner befitting the status of members of a religious Order. Some of the etiquettes to be observed in partaking alms food makes one feel that the Buddha had minutely observed the unacceptable ‘eating manners’ of same classes of recluses. Some of the rules are:
- I will not make up too large a mouthful.
For the Buddha to make rules of this sort related to etiquette of eating or in the modern parlance ‘table manners’, some recluses may have behaved in an improper manner when partaking alms. Perhaps, the laity may have disapproved and criticized their manners of eating. One can easily understand how ugly it would have appeared when a member of the clergy begins to talk while his mouth is full of food. Eating mouthful after mouthful, some seem to have been in the habit of just stuffing the cheeks with lumps of food. Some seem to have made too large mouthfuls of food and then opened out their mouths large enough to accept such large lumps of food. An ugly sight indeed!
Some seem to have been in the habit of shaking their hands vigorously while eating, thus scattering all round grains of rice and curry stuff. Another common misdemeanour in partaking of food appears to have been the habit of smacking lips while eating. This certainly would have looked extremely indecent. Yet others jutted out their tongues while taking mouthful of food, and this may have reminded the on lookers the eating habits of animals. So these are sekhiyā rules to say:
- I will not eat putting out the tongue.
This last mentioned rule of etiquette reminds one of the habits of licking fingers while partaking of food, a habit that could be seen even now among some in India. Perhaps, as now even then, this sort of licking of hands and fingers may have been common among certain sections (khu vực) of the society. The Buddha, coming from a cultured, well-to-do ksatriya or khattiya family does not seem to have condoned such habits. In his eyes these appear to have been signs of lack of culture and etiquette (gamma). Decent table manners are even today regarded as signs of good upbringing. Buddha seems to have considered such manners as reflecting culturedness of the individuals concerned.
To make undue noise while eating either chewing too loud or rolling tongue too noisily is a common bad habit that is observed even now. The Buddha pinpointed this and promulgated a rule to check this bad habit:
- I will not eat making a hissing sound.
The meticulous care with which the Buddha drew up these rules of etiquette is well demonstrated by the following:
- I will not accept drinking utensil while hands are soiled
Though minor, these pertain to cleanliness and general hygiene. Most of the Indians of the time may not have been of the habit of meticulously observing these. But the Buddha, who was much concerned about cleanliness and personal hygiene, paid attention to all these details and made the members of his Saṅgha community be role-models for the large society.
Then there are a number of rules regarding the way how a bhikkhu should conduct himself when he is visiting places, especially when he is on his alms-round. This is the time that a bhikkhu comes often into public scrutiny. This brings to mind the meeting between Upatissa (latter venrerable Sāriputta) and the recently ordained bhikkhu Assaji. The Vinaya Mahāvagga very graphically records this meeting. Describing how venerable Assaji set on his alms-round it says:
"Atha kho āyasmā Assaji pubbaṇsamayaṃ nivāsetwā pattacīvaraṃ ādāya rājagahaṃ piṇḍāya pāvisi pāsādikena abhikkantena paṭikkantena ālokitena vilokitena sammiñjitena pasāritena okkhittacakkhu iriyāpathasampanno."
This disciplined posture appears to have been very important and this was one way of asserting a distinct identity as a member of the Buddhist Order. It may be that many other recluses of different religious traditions did not pay any special attention to this posture. Such disciplined movements, bodily postures, movement of limbs certainly create an impression on the onlooker. This really is what happened to Upatissa. By this time the two Brahmin youths Upatissa and Kolita (latter venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna respectively, were living, the holy-life under a teacher called Sañjaya. These two friends were not quite satisfied with Sañjaya’s guidance. Therefore, they came to an agreement among themselves that whomsoever that meets a more competent teacher should inform the other. Upatissa happened to see venerable Assaji on his alms-round, taking measured steps with his eyes cast down. He was so impressed by venerable Assaji’s demeanour that he thought:
"Ye vata loke arahanto vā arahatta-maggaṃ vā samāpannā, ayaṃ tesaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ aññataro, yan nūnāhaṃ imaṃ bhikkhuṃ upasaṅkamitvā puccheyyaṃ."
This shows the strong impact such disciplined demeanour has on onlookers. Such behaviour, at it is rather unusual or out of ordinary, attract the interest and attention.
This reminds one also about an incident connected with Emperor Asoka’s conversion. It is said that Emperor Asoka was rather unhappy about the behaviour of bhikkhus. But one day he happened to see a sāmaṇera (novice) called Nyagrodha. Emperor Asoka was greatly impressed by the way this sāmaṇera walked in measured steps, with serenity and down-cast eyes that he invited the sāmaṇera to his palace. Tradition suggests that this was the turning point in Emperor Asoka’s conversion to Buddhism.
Thus, one can very well understand the importance attached to such disciplined demeanour of bhikkhus. The Sekhiyā-dhammās say:
"Well controlled I will go amidst the houses."
If this was the common practice followed by all recluses it is hard to understand why the Buddha taught it necessary to lay down these norms of simple etiquette for bhikkhus. The real situation could be the other way about. A majority of the recluses may have not paid special attention to these details of postures.
Often they may have walked about hurriedly, not paying much attention to the fact that such hurried and brisk walking is not quite compatible with the life of a recluse. Though these are rather very simple observances, undoubtedly these may have contributed to add distinction to the behaviour of Buddhist monks making them markedly different from most other recluses of different religious groups.
Rules of etiquette included among the Sekhiyā-dhammās as for example:
- Properly clad will I go amidst the houses.
clearly suggest that some recluses seem to have completely disregarded these minor manners. Otherwise the Buddha would not have had any reason to include these rules among the Sekhiyā-dhammās. The manner in which the robe should be worn was of special importance for the demeanour of the monks. It is interesting to note in this regard that that on one occasion venerable Sāriputta unwittingly wore the robe in such a manner that the fold of his robe hung down far too much touching the ground. A novice who noticed this politely requested venerable Sāriputta to drape the robe properly; venerable Sāriputta thanked the novice, and adjusted his robe.
What this shows is that even the novices in the Buddhist Saṅgha community were well aware of the proper way in which they should drape themselves with the robe. Dress undoubtedly is an important feature that affects one’s external appearance. If one is shabbily dressed that reflects very badly on him. So it is if one is not properly dressed. Draping robe properly therefore, was considered very important. In fact there are particular rules regulating draping of the robe. Thus the first of the Sekhiyā-dhammās is:
- I will dress with the inner robe all round me.
Draping the robe could not be done in a haphazard manner. It had to be draped properly, well covering the body. Thus, the above mentioned rule shows how the inner robe should be worn. Then there was the upper or the outer robe. That, too, had to be draped all round the body. This is in utter contrast to ‘digambara’ (naked) Jains, and some parivrajakas whose torso was left uncovered. When going out of the vihāra premises, proper draping of the robe was very essential. One meets with oft-recurring phrase: "Bhagavā pubbaṇhasamayaṃ nivāsetvā pattacīvaraṃ ādāya." The term ‘nivāsetvā’ meant the proper draping of the robe. All bhikkhus when they set forth from the vihāra drape themselves properly, for they had to look decently clad in the eyes of the public. Not only that, the bhikkhus had to drape the robes properly but also when going amidst people and sitting, they were expected not to lift up the robe unduly. This lifting of the dress while walking or sitting is more a lay habit and certainly not a very decent one at that. The Buddha was so particular to see that the bhikkhus appeared extremely decent in their demeanour, that he particularly instructed as to how they should manage the robe when walking or sitting.
From some of the Sekhiyā-dhammās it appears that certain recluses did not consider preaching a very serious affair. Perhaps, for most of them it was just a dialogue or giving some instructions at random. For the Buddha it was a very serious matter. The importance he attached to preaching is seen from the advice he gave to the first sixty Arahant disciples when he dispatched them on Dhamma-missions:
"Caratha bhikkhave cārikaṃ bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya lokānukampāya atthāya hitāya sukhāya devamanussānaṃ..."
This shows that Dhamma-preaching is a serious task, performed for a very noble purpose; therefore, it had to be done with all seriousness and commitment. There should be some decorum in the act of preaching, for its objective is to bring about happiness and well being of the listeners. And besides, the bhikkhus revered Dhamma the Buddha-vacana (words spoken by the Buddha himself) and hence, never did anything to demean its value. The Dhamma is what is well declared by the Fortunate One (svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo). Therefore, this Dhamma is not to be preached at random, in a haphazard manner, in whatever place, in whatever posture. The Dhamma being the Buddha-vacana had to be delivered with the respect and dignity it deserves. Hence, there are a number of Sekhiyā-dhammās pertaining to this area. These are worthy of note to understand why these are important as well as to understand the possible practices that prevailed during the time. Some of these Sekhiyā-dhammās are as follows:
- I will not teach the Dhamma to someone who is not
ill, yet carries a sunshade in his hand.
Preaching the Dhamma and listening to it was considered by the Buddha a very serious matter. The Buddha not only observed the mental level and condition of the listeners, but was also careful to communicate in a methodical way. So, he did not preach higher teachings immediately to all alike. There are numerous references in the canon showing how he structured his method of preaching. First he observed the mental level and the prevailing state of mind and then if he found that the listener or listeners concerned were not ready mentally to grasp the profound teaching, he carefully took steps to attune the mind. This he did by what the texts refer to as delivering the ‘graduated sermon" (ānupubbīkathā).
Thus Yasa came to the Buddha almost immediately after the latter had shown the ‘pañcavaggiyās’ the way to Arahantship. The Buddha at once realized that Yasa was in a confused state of mind not knowing as to what course of action he should take to pacify and calm himself. The Buddha realizing Yasa’s condition decided not to teach him anything deep and profound. Instead, he adopted a simpler approach. He assured Yasa, who was highly agitated and mentally disturbed, that he was safe and there is no reason for him to think otherwise. This assurance was very necessary to calm Yasa. Yasa as recorded in the Mahāvagga of the Vinaya, told the Buddha as soon as he saw him:
"Upaddutaṃ vata bho, upassaṭṭhaṃ vata bhoti"
The Buddha immediately responded:
"Idaṃ kho Yasa anupaddutaṃ idaṃ anupassaṭṭhaṃ"
This assurance was strong enough to calm down Yasa. And then the Buddha asked Yasa to sit down "Ehi, Yasa nisīdana." Then Yasa paid homage to the Buddha and sat on a side. These preliminaries are very necessary to build not only a good rapport between the preacher and listener, but also to rouse confidence and trust in the listener’s mind regarding the preacher. This paying honour quietly sitting on a side added solemnity to the occasion turning this conversation into a more serious affair than a mere talk or a dialogue. When Yasa was thus calmly seated the Buddha came out with his graduated talk:
"Dānakathaṃ sīlakathaṃ saggakathaṃ kāmānaṃ ādīnavaṃ okāraṃ saṅkilesaṃ nekkhamme ānisaṃsaṃ..."
This graduated talk was delivered to attune the mind of the listeners to receive the higher teaching. This shows that Dhamma talk is not something done at random. Before delivering the Dhamma talk it was customary to make the listener sit calmly on a side. Such a posture helped to settle the mind of the listener. If he is a newcomer to the doctrine, then it is necessary to gradually incline his mind towards religiosity. This could not be done without establishing the mind on correct view at least in the mundane level. The ‘ānupubbikathā’ (graduated sermon) helps to attain this mental level. It is subsequent to this, when the Buddha knew that the mind had become receptive to higher teaching that he delivered to the listener the ‘completely uplifting preaching of doctrine’ (sāmukkaṃsikā dhamma-desanā) which in other word means the preaching about the Four Noble Truths.
This, shows that ‘dhamma-desanā’ is a serious task and should not be done haphazardly. Both the preacher and the listener had to be seriously committed. Thus, it is easy to understand why the Buddha formulated the above referred to Sekhiyā-dhammās. There are a number of Sekhiyā-dhammās related to decorum in preaching:
- I will not teach the Dhamma to someone who is not ill and who has a weapon in his hand.
One should not carry a weapon when listening to the Dhamma, for it would appear utterly ironical if this happens. Even if the listener was to carry a weapon, once he begins to hear the Dhamma he has to lay the weapon down. Besides, listening to Dhamma is a very solemn act. The Buddhist – and the general Indian religious practice – is to removal all foot and head-wear when listening to Dhamma. In fact, removal of foot-wear and any hat or head-cover is mandatory when entering a vihāra. This is mandatory also when listening to discourses delivered in vihāras.
Of course, it is seen that there are a number of concessions made in the case of those who are ill, if the listener happens to be ill many of these ‘Sekhiyā- dhammās’ are not strictly applied. Thus, he could remain wearing sandals, head-cover etc. Normally the preacher is given a special seat to preach. It is usual for the preacher to sit on a higher level and the listener on a lower level. Special Dhamma-āsanas (pulpits) are made in vihāra for this purpose. Even otherwise it is the preacher-bhikkhu who alone sits on a chair vhile the listeners sit on the ground. If the preacher-bhikkhu is on a chair below the stage, the listeners may sit on the chair below the stage. But unscrupulous religious men seem to have at times disregarded this sort of decorum connected with preaching. Some of the Sekhiyā-dhammās clearly suggest the occurrence of breach of observance of decorum. Hence, the Sekhiyā-dhammās:
- "Having sat down on the ground I will not teach Dhamma
to someone sitting on a seat and who is not ill"
If this sort of incidents did not occur there is no reason for the Buddha to formulate Sekhiyā-dhammās of this nature. So the reasonable presumption is that at least some bhikkhus – for whatever reason it may be – acted without any concern for etiquette.
There are a few more rules which show carelessness of some bhikkhus with regard to preaching:
- I will not teach the Dhamma going behind to someone
going in front and not ill.
As it was shown earlier Dhamma was never preached by the Buddha while walking. The Buddha was always seated when he discoursed. The listeners also were seated. This is very clear from references in the Suttas to the Buddha’s preaching to a single person and large audiences. But, as the numbers in his Order grew, bringing in undesirable elements into the Order, there seems to have taken place some erosion in accepted practices and etiquettes. Hence, these Sekhiyā-dhammās were promulgated to arrest further decline in decorum.
There is a rule pertaining to passing of excrement and urine. Such calls of nature had to be attended to in a decent manner in sitting posture, if one is in good health. But some bhikkhus seem to have disregarded even such simple accepted norms of behaviour.
Two of the rules pertaining to passing of excrement and urine are also related to protection of environment. It is very well known that the Buddha was especially concerned with the protection of environment. The Buddha was much concerned about the environment, the flora and the fauna. There are quite a large number of other rules in the Vinaya that directly have relevance to the protection of environment. Thus, monks are prohibited to harm any kind of vegetation. As the Petavatthu points out the cutting of a branch of a tree that had provided shade is considered in Buddhism as an act of betrayal of friendship. Even the observance of Vassa was laid down to safeguard the newly grown grass and insect life. Thus it is not surprising to see two rules pertaining to passing of excrement and urine being specifically aimed at safeguarding environment; these Sekhiyā-dhammās say:
- I will not pass excrement, urine or spit if not ill on
One could easily understand why these rules of etiquette are relaxed in relation to those who are ill. In such circumstances the strict observance of certain Sekhiyā-dhammās are rather cumbersome on the bhikkhus. Therefore, these exceptions are allowed.
Besides, such relaxation in rules of etiquette was possible because the observance of these did not directly affect the main objective for which the Brahmacariya is lived. This objective is the complete ending of the dukkha.
But the observance of these Sekhiyā-dhammās had no direct relation to the achievement of this goal. These rules were more for the purpose of making bhikkhus better behaved. Such decorous behaviour that did not violate the good state of the public naturally contributed to give a distinct identity to the member of the Buddhist Saṅgha community and make them become highly esteemed by the devotees.
1. D. I, 63, 253: bahu sambādho gharāvāso abbhokāso pabbajjā.
2. See Chandima Wijebandara, ‘Early Buddhism: Its Religion and Intellectual Milieu’, regarding to the paribbajaka and other Śramana influences on Buddhist Saṅgha.
3. See Mahācattārīsaka Sutta.
4. See Jaṭu Sutta (S. II.) Sīle patiṭṭhāya naro sapañño cittaṃ paññañ ca bhāvayaṃ.
5. Whether this is same as Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta is doubtful evidence available suggests that this is another Sañjaya.
6. This incident is narrated with minor variation in the Dhammapada Aṭṭhakathā.
7. The Northern tradition calls this Sāmaṇera Upagutta.
8. This is found recorded in the Theragāthā commentary. See also DPPN.
9. Vin. I, 21.
10. Vin. I, 15 f. Similar instances are of frequent occurrence in the Sutta.
11. This is graduated talk and this deals with talk related to charity, development of virtue, heaven, the dangers, the defilements and low nature of sense pleasure, and the advantages in renunciation.
12. Petavatthu, II, 9; cf. Jātaka, IV, 352; V, 240; VI, 310, 375.
13. It is often said that the brahmacariyā should be followed for the utter ending of dukkha. Vin. I, 12: cara brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāya.
Sincere thanks to Bhikkhu Giac Hanh for giving the digital files (Binh Anson, 06-2009).