BuddhaSasana Home Page
Unicode VU-Times font
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,
Please note: VU-Times font (Pali Unicode) is used in this document.
The Nature of Offences and Punishment
Some monks’ attitude to rules
From canonical references both Vinaya and Sutta it is evident that all members of the Saṅgha did not much appreciate the promulgation of disciplinary rules. Though some disciplinary rules, often minor ones, were formulated on the request of monks, monks in general, especially those who were not sincere to their vocation, resented the formulation of disciplinary rules. For example, this dislike to observe some Vinaya rules is clearly reflected in the Bhaddāli Sutta. When the Buddha suggested that taking one meal a day is conducive to good health and the practice of the path, venerable Bhaddāli showed resentment. This venerable Bhaddāli was an elder disciple of the Buddha. However, venerable Bhaddāli was humble and modest enough to admit his transgression and make amends.
This Sutta states also that there were instances when such admonitions openly were resented and even resisted. It says;
"Here Bhaddāli, some bhikkhu is a constant offender with many offences. When he is corrected by the bhikkhu he prevaricates, leads the talk aside, shows disturbance, hate, and bitterness; he does not proceed rightly, he does not comply, he does not clear himself, he does not say: "Let me so act that the Saṅgha will be satisfied."
Venerable Bhaddāli who was an obedient monk then inquires from the Buddha as to why there are more rules now than before.
"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?"
"That is how it is Bhaddāli. When beings are deteriorating and the true Dhamma is disappearing, then there are more training rules and fewer bhikkhus became established in final knowledge."
The Aṅguttaranikāya shows that a Vajjiputtaka monk came out with his inability to abide by such a large number of rules which were over one hundred and fifty.
The culmination of these resentments came to forefront and more open after the parinibbāna of the Buddha. This is seen from the unbecoming behaviour of the monk called Subhadda who had entered the Order in his old age. As recorded in the Cullavagga this monk rejoiced at the passing away of the Buddha. He went further and urged other monks not to lament. His argument was that they were fortunate that the Buddha passed away, for when he was living he constantly admonished not to do this and that. As he had passed away, Subhadda felt a great relief. This sort of incident very clearly shows how much the monks disliked the strict observance of numerous rules.
In spite of such resentments and open expressions of disapproval and protest the Buddha promulgated disciplinary rules to prevent the Saṅgha from declining and falling into disrepute. As it is clearly evident the code of Vinaya Piṭaka, is a result of a gradual growth. These rules are formed following the lapses found in the Order. As shown before, there was a time when the numbers of disciplinary rules were just over one-hundred and fifty. Finally, it rose to two-hundred and twenty with regard to bhikkhus and three-hundred and four pertaining to bhikkhunīs.
Type of legal procedure
As already pointed out all these disciplinary rules were not either of equal importance or relevance to the attainment of the primary objective for the sake of which the sons and good householders (kulaputtā) renounce household life and adopt a life of homelessness. The Sekhiyā dhammās, which are seventy-five in number, are good examples to illustrate this fact. Of the remaining 145 rules applicable to bhikkhus and 229 rules applicable to bhikkhunīs, all are not of same gravity. That the offences concerning which rules are formulated were not dealt with through the same legal procedure. This is seen from the existence of four types of legal procedure to be followed. These four procedures (adhikaraṇas) are:
1. Vivādādhikaraṇa. These are disputes pertaining to specific issue related to the teaching (dhamma), discipline (vinaya), matters connected with practices or ordinances of the Buddha, or about the nature of an ecclesiastical offence.
2. Anuvādādhikaraṇa. Issues related to a member’s opinion, his moral character, conduct etc.
3. Āpattādhikaraṇa. Issues arising from the transgression of a particular disciplinary rule.
4. Kiccādhikaraṇa. Disputes pertaining to the mode of operation of the procedure.
Of these what is of greater interest to this research is the third procedural mode. This directly deals with breach not merely of discipline, but breach of disciplinary rules. Thus, breach of discipline could be on a very minor lapse which is not covered by any particular rule. Yet, it becomes an offence only if such a lapse amounts to breach of a particular rule formulated to prevent such a lapse.
Besides, all these offences or āpatti are not of equal gravity. Their gravity varies in relation to how these impact on the conduct of a bhikkhu and how these hinder the achievement of the goal. Their gravity is seen also from the punishments prescribed for the offences. All offences were thus not treated at the same level.
Categories of offences
Taken very broadly these offences can be gradually categorized into major (garu) and (culla) āpattis. And in this regard the gravest offences are the four Pārājika offences. As venerable Buddhaghosa defines, disciplinary rules are aimed at physical and verbal transgression though, when interpreted according to Buddhism this also covers disciplining the mind. This is because mind is the source or the focal point of all deeds. The Pārājika falls under āpattādhikaraṇa which includes offences coming under those listed in the Pātimokkha. Therefore, their importance is more with regard not only to personal well being and discipline of the disciple but also with regard to his spiritual growth. These four Pārājika offences are also found listed under the four Akaraṇiyāni (or deeds that should not be done) by a recluse belonging to the Buddhist Saṅgha. The four pārājika offences are:
1. Indulgence in sexual intercourse (methunaṃ dhammaṃ paṭiseveyya pārājiko hoti)
2. Taking by way of theft anything that has not been given (adinnaṃ theyyasaṅkhātaṃ ādiyeyya...)
3. Intentional killing of a human being (manussaviggahaṃ jīvitā voropeyya)
4. Uttering a falsehood about one’s spiritual attainment (anabhijānaṃ uttarimanussadhammaṃ attūpanāyikaṃ)
It is easily seen that these four offences are closely related to the first four of the five precepts, though not exactly same either in the order of enumeration or content. The five precepts are called natural virtues and hence, of universal relevance. They are very wide in the scope and application. The first four of these are a necessary feature of an individual who decides to commit himself to the practice of Buddhist path. These are mandatory precept for all Buddhists including the members of the Saṅgha community. This is clear from their enumeration under the ‘cattāri akaraṇīyāni’ as at Vinaya (I, 96-97) Sukumar Dutt considers these ‘cattāri akaraṇīyāni’ as the precursors of the four Pārājika offences. However, Jotiya Dhirasekera considers them to be "result of a fusion of the legal statement pertaining to the Pārājika from the Suttavibhaṅga with the general spirit of the sīlas from the Sutta Piṭaka.
Whatever their chronological sequence is, it is clear that the four precepts are at the base of the four Pārājikas. But as Pārājikas they have assumed specific forms and greater significance. This change of form and significance is due to the difference between ‘pakati sīla’ (natural virtue) and ‘paṇṇatti sīla’ (promulgated virtue). Thus, former is the common, natural virtue, which is wider in scope and general in application; the latter, as a legally promulgated rule, is limited in scope, and specific in application. The latter is applicable only to the members of the Buddhist recluse Order - bhikkhu and bhikkhunī.
Of the four Pārājikas the first enumerated is the one that deals with the prohibition of sexual intercourse. It is interesting to note that the under the five precepts this falls under the third precept namely, the one concerned with unlawful sexual conduct. Sexual intercourse is not taboo for the laity. They are admonished not to indulge in sexual relations with certain categories of women who are under the care, ward and protection of guardians. Laity could enjoy sexual relation with his wife, and the ideal relationship is, to be satisfied with one’s own wife.
But for monks the rule pertaining to sexual relation was very strictly applied. Sexual relations were considered a severe obstruction to spiritual culture. Perhaps, one of the reasons for the abandonment of household life is to prevent sexual relations. The members of the Buddhist Order are expected to follow total observance of celibacy. Hence, for the members of the Order the precept pertaining to sexual conduct is not ‘kāmesu-micchācārā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi’ but "abrahmacariyā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi." This according to commentarial explanation denotes abstention from all kinds of erotic behaviour. Observance of celibacy is fundamental to the Buddhist practice aimed at achieving emancipation. The ‘noble life’ that is expected to be followed by a renunciator is itself called ‘brahmacariyā’, which strongly suggests that celibacy is a must for any recluse. Perhaps, one of the main reasons for Buddha’s unwillingness to grant permission for women to join the Order was his apprehension that entrance of women would provide not only opportunities, but also urges for bhikkhus to indulge in sexual relations. It is possible to consider that the first of the eight major conditions (garu-dhamma) that the women, who sought admission into the Order, were subjected to was formulated with the intention of building up some sort of a barrier between the two sexes. From numerous canonical sources it is quite obvious that the Buddha considered the mutual attraction between males and females as a major obstacle to the successful practice of the path.
When a monk called Ariṭṭha held the pernicious view:
"As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, those things called obstructions by the Blessed One are not able to obstruct one who engages in them."
What things are called obstruction (antarāyikā dhammā)? The statement does not directly refer to sexual relations, but the context strongly suggests such a meaning. The commentary, too, supports such an interpretation. This is further established by the Buddha’s utter condemnation of this thought as a pernicious view. The Buddha in a strongly worded condemnation says:
"Misguided man, to whom have you ever known me to teach the Dhamma in that way? Misguided man, in many discourses have I not stated how obstructive things are obstructions, and how they are able to obstruct one who engages in them? I have stated how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them. With the simile of the skeleton... piece of meat... the grass torch... snakes head, I have stated how sensual pleasures provide little gratification,..."
Thus, from canonical Sutta references also it is very clearly seen that engagement in sexual relation was a grave danger to the perfect accomplishment of a recluse’s vocation. Therefore it is not surprising to find ‘methuna-dhamma’ being enumerated at the head of the list of offences, and that, too, under the most grave offences.
The section of the Vinaya Piṭaka leading with this Pārājika offence is formulated in a very wide manner to cover all kinds of sexual relations. It deals with indulgence in sexual relations not only with human females, but also with non-human females, three kinds of eunuch, and female animals. Besides, these, three kinds of eunuch, three kinds of males are also specifically mentioned. All details of the act, the mode of performing the act, all exceptions etc. are given in detail. These show the various ruses adopted by the offenders to transgress the basic rule. To escape the rule a monk had sexual intercourse while being naked in the hope that he could escape guilt, for he could claim that he was not wearing the robe while engaging in the act. The rule holds that the dress is immaterial, for law applies to the particular act that one should not perform while being a member of the Saṅgha community. The attempts to creep in through whatever loop-holes one could find, also suggest how intense this urge is.
Not only bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs too have been culprits. There are incidents recorded where bhikkhunīs are the real offenders, and sometimes the instigators. This justifies the Buddha’s thrice-refusal to grant permission for women to enter the Order. But the Buddha was careful and far-sighted to lay down that an offender becomes guilty only if he is a consenting party to such an offence. Thus, the Vinaya records an instance where monk had sexual relation with a woman, but in that case the monk was unaware of what was happening. The reference in this instance is to a certain monk who lay down in Mahāvana in Vesali. A certain woman seeing this monk got tempted, sat on his male organ and fulfilled her desire. When the monk awoke he found this woman standing by him laughing. But when this matter was brought the notice of the Buddha he found that the monk was unaware of this act, and he did not enjoy it. Therefore he exonerated the monk on ground of his unawareness.
This sort of incidents also reveal that just as bhikkhus were often perpetrators of these kind of heinous act, at least rarely they happened to be innocent victims of such acts. Sometimes such relations carried out through there ignorance made one guilty not of a Pārājika offence but of an offence of a lesser degree. The cases involving Supabbā and Saddhā two female devotees who voluntarily offered their service to satisfy monks are cases of this nature. A decisive factor on which depended the guilt is whether the offender ‘enjoyed’ the act. This shows that intention is necessary to make one become guilty of a Pārājika offence. Thus, dreaming of having sexual intercourse is not an offence. Such an incident is referred to concerning a Bhārukacchaka monk. As he felt guilty after having such a dream, he was mentally disturbed. When informed about this to venerable Upāli, he declared that there is no offence in that.
What is seen from these instances is that while some were without any scruples at all with regard to such grave misdeeds, some got extremely worried. These later instances show that there were monks, though unable to completely control their passionate emotions, who were genuinely committed to follow the path.
The rule regarding this first of the four Pārājika offences was promulgated concerning an act committed by a monk called Sudinna. As the Vinaya records this monk was coaxed by his former wife to have sexual intercourse so that she may conceive a child by him. Thus, he is mentioned as the first to violate the observance of complete celibacy. The words of admonition uttered by the Buddha bring out with what gravity the Buddha treated this offence. He said:
"It is not fit, foolish man, it is not becoming, it is not proper, it is not worthy of a recluse, it is not lawful, it ought not to be done. How is that you, foolish man, having gone forth under this Dhamma and discipline which are well taught are not able for your lifetime to lead the noble-life which is complete and pure... It was better for you foolish man, that your male organ should enter the mouth of a terrible, poisonous snake, than it should enter a woman... It was better for you... that it should enter a burning fire than that it enter a woman."
As Vinaya rules do not operate retrospectively Sudinna himself was not penalized, for there was no such rule for Sudinna to breach. But ever since then indulgence in sexual intercourse was considered as coming under Pārājika.
The second Pārājika involves theft, and the first named offender was Dhaniya. In this instance a bhikkhu called Dhaniya through a fraud, took some timber belonging to king Bimbisāra. When this was brought to the notice of the Buddha he inquired from another monk, who had formerly been a dispenser of justice (purāṇa vohāriko mahāmatto). Through him the Buddha came to know that the king considered theft a grave crime and meted out severe punishment. It is then that the Buddha decided to categorize this under Pārājika offences.
From the reasons given by the Buddha for considering Dhaniya’s act of theft as a crime serious enough to warrant it to be classed under Pārājika offence; it appears that it was so considered because it was an anti-social act. Undoubtedly theft, too, degrades the mind, and hence, hinders spiritual growth. But when compared to sexual intercourse, it appears lesser offensive and less adversely affecting the spiritual progress. It is true that both sensual lust and theft are basically prompted by desire or greed. But of these two, former appears to be more harmful to an individual committed to the practice of the path, for sexual intercourse strike at the very base of noble life (brahmacariyā). Of the ten reasons the Buddha gave as motivating factors for his promulgation of Vinaya rules in this particular instance he cites two namely, appasannānaṃ vā pasādāya pasannānaṃ vā bhiyyobhāvāya. Thus, more than anything else it was the disrepute and displeasure that such thieving cause that appear to have made the Buddha take a firm stand on this and group theft among the Pārājika offences.
Besides, this was theft of royal property, and that made matters worse. It is well known that royal support was very essential for the survival of the Saṅgha organization. As the Buddha had often point out the Saṅgha community is dependent on others (parapaṭibaddha), and in this context royal patronage was a must. The Buddha’s acknowledgement of the importance of royal patronage is well demonstrated by his acceding to requests from king Bimbisāra even to make certain Vinaya rules; for example non-granting of admission to army deserters and postponing observance of vassa. Perhaps, it may be that the theft of timber by venerable Dhaniya was taken serious note of because it involved state property. Cheating and defrauding royal officers is certainly a grave offence, and that would have certainly tarnished the image of the Saṅgha in the eyes of the most ardent supporters.
Besides, theft is a serious crime against the society. The Buddha could not have just ignored it or considered it a minor offence. The Buddha’s attitude becomes further clear when one considers that two of the reasons given by him for promulgating rules: well-being of the Saṅgha (saṅghasuṭṭhutā) and convenience of the Saṅgha (saṅghaphāsutā). Theft had been a feature in the life of the Saṅgha community that would have caused much problem to them. Though the Saṅgha did not have much possession, even the little they had had to be safe. In fact, safety of one’s possession is not only a basic human right, but also necessary condition for mental peace and calm. If a monk is forced to be concerned about the safety of his meager possession, then he would not be able to fix his mind on spiritual cultivation.
All such condition may have made the Buddha to seriously consider theft and take necessary preventive measures. This he had to do for the sake of individual members as well as for the sake of the whole Saṅgha institution. The presence of thieves in the Saṅgha naturally lowers the reputation of the Saṅgha as an institution. Besides, tendency to steal lowers one’s personal reputation, and standing in the Saṅgha community. So, the Buddha took the most reasonable and effective measure to safeguard the interest of the individual members as well as Saṅgha institution, and grouped theft under the category of Pārājika offences.
It is seen that subsequently the rule was expanded to cover a much wider area. Thus, taking of what is not given from either a village or a jungle was included under it; this rule says that an act to constitute ‘theft’ should have five conditions:
1. The article taken should be in the possession or belonging to another (parapariggahita)
2. Known to belong to another (parapariggahitasaññī)
3. Should be of some importance (garuka)
4. Should be of required value (parikkhāro pañcamāsako vā atirekapañca māsako vā)
5. Presence of the intention of stealing (theyyacittañca paccupaṭṭhitaṃ)
Only if these conditions are found an act of theft comes under Pārājika. Otherwise, such an act falls under the category of a lesser offence. This rule extends to cover theft of things belonging to the Order. Thus, it is seen that the Buddha clearly had in his mind the well-being of both the individual members as well as the institution as a whole when he promulgated this second Pārājika offence.
The third Pārājika offence is about intentional killing. Hence, it has some resemblance to the first of five precepts. However, the first of the five precepts covers very wide area and forms a part of fundamental Sīla in the Buddhist path. This abstention includes abstention from depriving life of ‘any’ living being. In the case of its application to monks or when observed as an aspect of higher Sīla this covers not only living beings but even ‘vegetation’ (bhūtagāmabījagāma). Sometimes, this is interpreted not only as referring to deprivation of life, but even to serious physical harming.
But as a Pārājika offence its scope has got much narrowed down. In this it refers to killing of a "human being". It is not difficult to understand why this is included under Pārājika category. Killing or murder by itself is heinous. When it is done by one who has undertaken to lead the life of non-violence, its gravity naturally gets increased. It goes beyond not being conducive to rouse the faith of non-believers and increase the confidence of believers. Simply, it leads to revulsion and total condemnation. On the face of it, it is even more heinous than sexual intercourse (methunadhamma), for its consequence to others is more serious and dreadful.
As in the other instances, in this case too, the rule is not applied retrospectively. One becomes subject to the rule only when one obtains higher ordination and becomes voluntarily binding by the rules to abide by them. Therefore, it is seen that murderers are not prevented from obtaining admission (pabbajjā) receiving higher ordination (upasampadā). This is seen even by the case of venerable Aṅgulimāla. By chance if a murder is found out, proved guilty and subject to some severe punishment such as whipping (kasāhata) or branding (lakkhaṇāhata) then he is not given admission. If not found out and meted out with severe punishment and happened to survive, he has the opportunity of entering Order.
The Pārājika rule appears as specifically focused on members of the Order who are found guilty of murder. Of course, murder of even those outside the Saṅgha community is covered by the rule. This rule is specially meant to assure the safety of co-resident of the Saṅgha community. Just as the second Pārājika rule guarantees safety of possessions, this third rule against intentional killing of human being assures the safety of life. Such assurance was very essential under circumstances in which monks led community life. If the first precept had significance and relevance in the society at large, the Pārājika rule intensified such significance and relevance within the limited Saṅgha society. This assurance of safety of life enables members of Saṅgha community to lead peaceful, fear-free lives and concentrate on their spiritual striving without being unduly concerned about their safety.
As it is well known the Saṅgha community is constituted of individuals coming from different regions, different ethnic backgrounds, previously holding different faiths and beliefs, and above all of different habits, way of thinking and temperaments. In such a mixed society in which members had to live closely knit lives opportunities for conflict, leading even to violence were many. Therefore, a rule of this nature must have been a necessity, though it was formulated only after the occurrence of an incident. In the Vinaya this rule was promulgated with regard to a monk called Migalaṇḍika who was not a murderer in the proper sense of the word but one who killed others at their own request. What he did was too "assist" in getting rid of their ‘life’ of which they are utterly disgusted. These are instances verging on euthanasia or assisted killing, or even mercy killing.
However, from the Buddhist ethical point of view intentional deprivation of life is a very grave offence. This is why even abortion is not permitted in Buddhism. Euthanasia is not approved in Buddhism, for it involves depriving someone of his life whatever the reason it is done for. All such deprivation of life is categorized under "intentional killing". Instance of euthanasia if allowed to exist in a society as that of the Saṅgha could be used to gain selfish motive. Migalaṇḍika himself consented to be a party to it because of the small personal gain he obtained. Such temptation would even lead some to encourage "assisted killing", so that their gain would be more.
Perhaps, it is after considering all these and more that the Buddha decided to formulate a rule to stop such killing which appears as ‘mercy killing’. The Buddhist position is that, if there is ‘mercy’ of any sort there cannot be killing. ‘Mercy’ and ‘killing’ are poles apart. To kill out of mercy in itself is a contradiction of terms. Thus, this comes under Pārājika, one of the four gravest offences a monk could commit.
The fourth Pārājika rule pertains to conscious lying of a specific nature. The fourth precept of the five precepts is wide and covers almost all forms of abuse of speech: But the fourth rule of Pārājika is concerned about consciously making false claims to supernormal spiritual attainments. Commentary on this however observes:
"The curious fourth Pārājika concerned with the offence of claiming a state of quality of further-men (uttari-manussa-dhamma) seems to have been fashioned in some different mould, and to belong to some contrasting realms of values. It by no means a mere condemnation of boasting or lying in general, for it is the particular nature of the ‘boast or lie which makes the offence one of the grave kind that a monk can commit; the boast of having reached some stage in spiritual development, only attainable after a long training in the fixed and stable resolve to become more perfect."
Horner also is of the view that this does not find any corresponding matter among the Sīlas. Perhaps, she has overlooked that the Buddha was very particular about the Sīla training of the bhikkhus. It is in this respect that sammā-ājīva of the Noble Eightfold Path becomes relevant to monks. Its significance becomes more striking when one considers the fact that the Buddha prohibited even the display of such super-normal powers for the mere sake of establishing one’s superiority and winning the respect of the laity. The Buddha does not prohibit an attainer declaration of his true attainment, not to publicized the matter but to make it known to his colleagues. This was done usually by way of an utterance of a eulogistic statement (udāna). In such instances there is no motive, to deceive anyone. It is done as making a mere statement of fact, whether in the presence or absence of his colleagues, and very often made as a self-utterance, expressing one’s own inner joy.
What is prohibited through the fourth Pārājika is making a "false-claim" to deceive others and obtain self-gain. Therefore, the Buddha is very right in describing such a false-claimant as a "worse thief". Such a monk is not merely boasting. He is consciously deceiving the devotees for his personal gain and benefit. The Pācittiya rule number 08 even makes such non-false claim an offence. How much more grave and damaging should be a false-claim made to consciously deceive the laity.
It is clearly seen that all these four offences, though of varying intensity and relevance to the successful accomplishment of the path, are serious enough to disqualify an offender from becoming a member of a community that has fervently pledged to follow the "noble life", the foundation of which is virtue. In a society where there were many religious Orders competing with each other for stability and popular support, it is virtue that first attracts the attention of the people. Reputation of any Order, especially of those that are dependent on the support of the laity, is founded basically on the virtuous conduct of its clergy members. Spiritual attainments certainly enhance such support. Yet, it is so only if such claims are true. A false claim will ultimately boomerang and ruin the whole Order bringing it into utter disrepute.
Thus, it is natural for the Buddha to categorize certain type of offences that are in total opposition to the vocation the members have chosen to follow as the gravest offences which are not remediable. The term Pārājika literally meaning, ‘defeat’ connote such offences that defeat one completely from the purpose for which he had set forth. No longer can he follow the noble life, for he has dug his own grave; he becomes guilty of breaching the most fundamental conditions necessary to qualify one for membership. When one is guilty of such a breach there is no way of rectifying the breach. The breach itself operates to disqualify an offender. So, the inevitable outcome of ‘breaching’ any of the four Pārājika rules is automatic loss of membership for life. This consequence is understandable both from the well being of the individual concerned and from the well-being of the Saṅgha institution. Such an offender will not be successful in his practice of the noble life; the presence of such an offender will be a taint on the institution. Therefore, removal from membership is the most appropriate consequence of such breach.
In the case of bhikkhunīs the Pārājika are increased to eight. Thus increase, perhaps, was effected as further safeguards to the Order. These show how concerned to the Buddha was about the purity of the bhikkhu-bhikkhunī Order. By increasing rules which are rather peculiar to women the Buddha attempted to close as many loop-holes as possible in the Vinaya. Most of these additional rules are in fact secondary to Pārājika in nature. Yet, for the good of the bhikkhunīs and the good name of their institution the Buddha categorized them under Pārājikā.
Besides, these four major offences there are a large number of lesser and even minor ones. They are so categorized as their impact on the practice of the path of the individual concerned as well as on the Saṅgha institution in general is lesser, or at times minimal. Next in gravity are the offences falling under the category called ‘Saṅghādisesa’. They are those offences that call for suspension of the offender, and these offences have to be necessarily decided only by a formal Saṅghakamma. There are thirteen rules under this category binding on bhikkhus and seventeen biding on bhikkhunīs.
A number of Saṅghādisesa offences are also concerned with sexual behaviour between bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. For example, one such offence is coming into close physical contact with a woman with lustful and perverted intentions. Even if a monk affected by lust and perversion speaks to a woman just as a youth speaks to a young woman, this comes under Saṅghādisesa offence category. Even if a monks happens to talk about sensual pleasures, praising them and sort of tempting a woman to engage in them is a Saṅghādisesa offence.
How much the Buddha was concerned about the monks’ and nuns’ vulnerability to fall victims to sexual desire is seen by these rules. The Buddha even went to the extent of prohibiting bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs acting as go-betweens among men and women. Such behaviour, the Buddha very rightly considered, would make the one who acts as the go-between finally fall victim.
That sex urge and ruses adopted to find ways to get relieved of this urge is a common offence. Talking about sexual matters was one such ruse. Some even resorted to masturbation. Thus, intentional emission of semen by a monk comes under the category of Saṅghādisesa offence.
It is seen that seven Saṅghādisesa rules are applicable to bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs in common (sādhāraṇa paññatti). Out of seventeen, ten are applicable to bhikkhunīs alone. As mentioned above sex abuses take precedence over other offence, even with regard to Saṅghādisesa. The first four rules of Saṅghādisesa of bhikkhu deal with sex abuses or related offence of a bhikkhu with a woman. These have no direct relevance to bhikkhunīs. Sexual relations of bhikkhunī with a male of the lay society are categorized under the pārājika, thus increasing the Pārājika offences into eight with regard to bhikkhunīs. Thus, bhikkhunī Pārājika number 01 and 04 deal with such offence.
There are two Saṅghādisesa rules related to the construction of a dwelling place (rules Nos. 06 and 07) and these are applicable only to bhikkhus. The ten rules of Saṅghādisesa specifically applicable to bhikkhunīs deal with variety of offences and theme of these No. 01 makes entering into hostilities with laymen an offence. Then there two rules Nos. 02 and 04 which prohibit haphazard granting of admission to entrants into the bhikkhunī Order. Nos. 03, 05, 06 are safeguard for nuns from possible trouble and danger arising from lustful men. The next four, Nos. 07-10 are rules made to prevent disobedience and rebellious behaviour of bhikkhunīs that would lead to the breakdown of discipline in the bhikkhunī Order.
Thus, these offences, though not as grave as Pārājika offences that are irremediable, are serious enough to call for ecclesiastical action. If left unattended these would naturally cause a total deviation from the accepted norms of bhikkhu/bhikkhunī vocation, and would ultimately bring about total disruption of the Order.
On one occasion a monk called Udāyin was discovered having a conversation with a married girl in a secluded place on a seat. The circumstances were such there was ample opportunity for any sort of sexual misconduct. He was not seen to be having any physical contact with her, yet the matter was brought to the notice of the Buddha who very precisely framed the following rule:
"Whatever monk should sit down together with a woman in a secret place on a secluded convenient seat , and if a trustworthy woman lay-follower seeing him should speak concerning a certain one of the three matters: either one involving defeat or one entailing a formal meeting of the Order or one involving expiation and the monk himself acknowledging that he was seated down, it should be dealt with according to one of the three matters: namely, as to whether it is one involving defeat, or as to whether it is one entailing a formal meeting of the Order, or as to whether it is one involving expiation that monk should be dealt with according to what that trustworthy woman lay-follower should say."
The other Aniyata is also of a similarly undetermined nature and Dhirasekera observes that "the two Aniyatas are themselves a further development out of bhikkhu pācittiya 44 and 45..." What is remarkable herein is the way the Buddha had dealt with this kind of ‘undetermined’, yet offences serious enough not only to force the follower of the vocation to wilderness but also cause the whole Saṅgha community to fall into utter disrepute and suspicion, thus losing its foothold in the patronage of the laity. Such acts would undoubtedly be extremely harmful to the existence of the Saṅgha community.
There are other categories of offences which are of lesser gravity: Nissaggiyas or Nissaggiya pācittiyas. There are thirty rules for both bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. However, only the following of the bhikkhu Nissaggiyas are common to both. They are Nos. 1-3, 6-10, 18-20, 22, 23, 25-28 and 30. Thus, the total of the common Nissaggiyas is 18; 12 are of those have no relevance to bhikkhunīs. Most of the Nissaggiya rules are related to issues arising out of use of robes, sheep-wool, gold, silver, bowl etc. Basically, these were framed to make the members of the Order abide according to the ideal for the sake of which the renunciators have vowed to strive.
The next come the Pācittiyas which consists of the largest group of rules with also a large collection of additional rules. Bhikkhus have ninety-two and bhikkhunīs one hundred and sixty-six. Seventy of the bhikkhu Pācittiyas are also common to bhikkhunīs. Of the twenty-two rules which are solely meant for bhikkhus, ten are concerned with the bhikkhu-bhikkhunī relationship (eg. Nos. 21-30). Out of the rules categorized under Bhojana vagga of the bhikkhus, that is rules leading with food, four rules do not apply to bhikkhunīs. (Nos. 33, 35, 36, 39). Bhikkhu Pācittiya No. 41 is not found in bhikkhunī Pātimokkha; instead there is another rule with slight modification (No.46). There are a number of such differences between bhikkhu and bhikkhunī Pācittiyas, which was necessitated by circumstances as well as on gender considerations.
There are four ‘Pāṭidesaniya’ offences applicable to bhikkhus. This is doubled in the case of bhikkhunī, and hence, they have to abide by not breaching eight such rules. Some of them deal with food, some with bhikkhu-bhikkhunī relations at meals. Some specifically relate to forest dwelling. Some specific rules coming under this category show how concerned the Buddha was about inconvenience caused by members of the Order who exploited the generosity and piety of the lay devotees. In this the Buddha very emphatically lay down that the bhikkhus should pay consideration to the plight of lay devotees and do nothing to worsen the condition of such devotees who are in rather dire economic states. In such instances the members of the Order are admonished not to visit such houses with depleted resources, but to go to them only if invited.
This sort of consideration must have immensely contributed to spread the good name of the Saṅgha-sāsana. This sort of rules makes it very clear that all Vinaya rules are not directly related to the final objective of the attaining the goal of Nibbāna. The Buddha, as the reasons he gives for formulating rules show, was also conscious of maintaining good clergy-laity rapport. These kinds of rules are mainly to achieve such harmonious relations and rapport between the members of the Order and the laity. The Sekhiyā-dhammās which are 75 in number and common to both bhikkhu and bhikkhunī, are also more related to etiquette of the members of the Order. The purpose of these also, as it has been often pointed out before, is to enhance the dignity of these members in the eyes of the public. These rules undoubtedly contributed in large measure to give the Buddhist Saṅgha-sāsana an identity of its own. Such a unique identity was essential when one considers the circumstances that prevailed in the religious milieu of that time.
The operation of these rules that were laid out in all minute details to cover all verbal and physical activities and much more certainly appear to have contributed to discipline the members of the Order in all their manifest behaviour. They served to curb all kinds of misdemeanor that were common among the members of Orders of other religious sects. These rules also reflect upon the fact that the Buddha was greatly concerned about the behaviour of the monks and nuns not merely from the point of their own individual well-being and success in achieving the goal they strived at, but also with regard to the Saṅgha-sāsana as a whole.
The clergy Order set up by the Buddha was a new one. There were numerous other Orders that were well established and held in high esteem. The Buddha very rightly realized that discipline is not only the foundation for successful spiritual growth, but also the launching-pad for popularity, respect and honour among the devotees. The method followed in framing those rules, as well as the promptness in which these lapses and offences are dealt with also show the multiplex purposes for which Vinaya rules were promulgated.
Punishment and Penalties
In this regard it is worthy of considering the punishments meted out to monks found guilty of committing these offences. Both Vinaya and Sutta mentions four types of circumstances that call for disciplinary actions that should be taken on legal bases. For the present purpose it is āpattādhikaraṇa that is of more importance, since legal proceeding against any commission of an offence comes under this category. The purpose of proceeding under this category is more relevant for personal well-being, whereas those coming under the other three categories are more related to the stability and purity of the Saṅgha institution.
It is very clear from the Vinaya that except the four or eight Pārājika offences (with regard to bhikkhunīs) all other offences are remediable. As the word itself suggests, an offender who is guilty of a Pārājika offence is ‘defeated’. This means the commission of any of the four Pārājika acts itself suffices to make one lose his membership in the Order. A Pārājika strikes at the very root of the vocation of bhikkhu or a bhikkhunī. Being cut at the root of recluseship, or in other words being completely uprooted, he loses his right to lead the community life. He loses his membership forever. This is called "asaṃvāsa-unfit to associate", and a member who is guilty of such a Pārājika not only loses his membership, he is debarred from ever regaining full-membership. He may obtain admission (pabbajjā), but not ever again receive higher ordination (upasampadā).
Thus, Pārājika is the gravest penalty in the judicial system promulgated in the Vinaya. This punishment could be understood when one considers the harm that would be caused by the presence of such offenders in the Order. If a member who is known to have committed a Pārājika offence were to retain his membership, the whole Saṅgha community will lose its dignity and honour. The only way by which the honour of the Saṅgha constitution could be safeguarded is by completely cutting of all connections with such miscreant members, and hence, the best penalty is ‘expulsion’ of such members, laying down strict rules that completely debar the re-ordination of such offenders. In fact the penalty is self-operative, for the moment such an act is committed, the offender loses his membership.
While the Saṅgha institution’s reputation is safeguarded in this manner, the right to membership in the Order of offenders who are found guilty of lesser offence is assured by meting out appropriate penalties to them. The Buddha deemed that some of these lesser offences, though grave enough to be dealt with severely by imposing penalties, do not call for expulsion from the Order. This is because these offenders could be rehabilitated by adopting corrective measures. The penalties imposed on some offenders very clearly show the Buddha’s general attitude to crime and punishment. Penalties meted out are never corporal punishment. A basic motive of imposing penalties was deterrence. In the case of those found guilty of Pārājika offences the question of deterring them does not arise. Their very presence is a stigma on the Order. The gravity of their offence is such that their undertaking, however genuine it may be, to abstain from future indulgence in them does not do any good either to them or to the Sāsana. So, imposing (asaṃvāsa) on them, they are completely alienated.
In the case those who are found guilty of Saṅghādisesa offence, the legal procedure adopted by Vinaya considers that yet there is room for rehabilitation of the offenders. But herein, too, Vinaya takes into consideration the aftermath behaviour of the offender and then mete out punishment accordingly. Thus, the Cullavagga makes clear distinction between such offences which are admitted on the day of commission itself and those which are kept unrevealed. Thus, it speaks of two categories of such offence the "unconcealed" (appaṭicchanna) and the "concealed" (paṭicchanna). The offence, if admitted without any attempt at concealing, is treated with some leniency, the penalty imposed on a guilty offender of a Saṅghādisesa that is promptly revealed is referred to as "Mānatta". This is a suspension of membership for a period of six days, and it is imposed on the offender, at his voluntary admission of the commission of the offence and request for appropriate penalty.
If the offence is concealed, then when it is discovered and admitted the penalty begins with ‘Parivāsa’ which is imposed for the same number of days up to which the offender had ‘concealed’ his offence. This is because Vinaya considers concealment of any offence as an intensification of the gravity of the offence. Concealment really invalidates the true effect of the Pātimokkha, and hence, such concealment is treated with severity. So, such an offender first has to undergo ‘Parivāsa’ and then become subject to ‘Mānatta’ which really is the penalty fixed for Saṅghādisesa offences.
The Khandhakas explain in detail the procedure in which these penalties are imposed. Both ‘Parivāsa’ and ‘Mānatta’ are penalties that entail some kind of humiliation to the offender and cause mental pain and regret in him. This is because the offender himself has to admit that he is undergoing such punishment; this publicity causes a lot of embarrassment to him. Once one is meted out with these punishments the offender loses a number of privileges which otherwise he would have been normally entitled to. For example, during that period he is not allowed to function as a preceptor for the conferment of higher ordination; not allowed to accept the services of a sāmaṇera; debarred from giving advice to bhikkhunīs; not entitled to issue disciplinary orders to others, not allowed to assume leadership in monastic function etc.
These and other deprivations of right normally enjoyed by a higher-ordained bhikkhu or bhikkhunī cause severe mental pain forcing the offender to pay attention and heed to his or her lapses and make up his or her mind to abstain from falling into lapse in the future (āyatiṃ saṃvarāya).
There are other minor offences which are not overlooked, but dealt rather leniently with the imposition of lesser penalties such as forfeiture (nissaggiyaṃ pācittiyaṃ) and confession in the case of pācittiya offence. What this shows is that the Buddha used penalties as a corrective measure and not as an act of revenge. Penalties are used for their deterrent effect on the offenders as well as would be offenders. Except in the case of those guilty of the four major offences (pārājika), the Buddha felt that other offenders are corrigible and should be provided with opportunities to rehabilitate themselves.
With this the Buddha was attempting to introduce a new legal culture to the society. The existing system, though nominally considered as just, was in operation more or less autocratic, and often a rigidly fixed system. Such a system did not allow fair-play, democracy and justice to operate. The Buddha, understanding the true human nature, adopted the law and legal procedure in a humanistic way. As it is always the case with the Buddha, when dealing with societal issue, herein too he held Dhamma – the Rule of Law – to be supreme. It is this approach to the application of Vinaya rules that made it possible for justice and fair-play to operate at its best. This completely blocked the intervention of such other consideration as social status, ethnicity, caste, religion and such other divisive forces. Vinaya, therefore, was able to ‘operate’ in a very impersonal manner; yet it was regulated in such way that there was a marked humanistic and democratic overtone in its operation.
The procedural law namely, the ‘satta-adhikaraṇa-samathas-seven law-suit settlements’ guided and regulated the working of the law-enforcing machinery. These procedural rules safeguarded both the interest of the individual and the Saṅgha institution and there is a fine blend in the manner in which these separate interests are safeguarded, without coming into any kind of compromise at the expense of one. The Buddha’s strong commitment to uphold "righteousness" is clearly seen in the operation of Vinaya rules.
1. M. I, 437 ff.
2. M. I, 442.
3. A. I, 230 f. refer to a time when there was lesser number of rules exceeding 150.
5. See Cullavagga, Pañcasatikakkhandhaka.
6. Vin. III, 164; also M. II, 247.
7. VinA: I, 19; DA. I, 17; Dhs A. 19: "Tasmā vividhanayattā visesanayattā kāyavācānañca vinayanato vinayoti akkhāto".
8. Compare Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, p. 19.
9. The Khandhakas refer to fivefold and sevenfold āpattis which are essentially included in the Pātimokkha. In fact the rules pertaining to these derive authority and validity from the Pātimokkha itself.
10. Vin. I, 96-97: "Anujānāmi bhikkhave upasampādetvā dutiyaṃ dātum cattāri ca akaranīyāṇi. There are methuna dhamma, adinnaṃ theyyasaṅkhātaṃ na ādātabbaṃ, sañcicca pāṇo jīvitā na voropetabbo, uttarimanussadhammo na ullapitabbo."
11. Vin. I, 21, 46, 70, 90.
12. S. Dutt, Early Buddhist Monarchism, p. 66.
13. Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, p. 83.
14. This is: kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇi sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
15. Vin. III, 139: These ten types of women are: "Māturakkhitā, piturakkhitā, mātupiturakkhitā, bhāturakkhitā, bhaginirakkhitā, ñātirakkhitā, gottarakkhitā, dhammarakkhitā, sārakkhā, saparidaṇḍā.
16. Sehi dārehiya santuṭṭho: it should be noted that in the society of the Buddha’s time visiting a prostitute was not taboo for the laity. But addiction to women (itthidhutta) is listed as one of the avenues for waste of wealth (bhoga-apāya-mukkha).
17. See the DA. On the Brahmajāla Sutta.
18. See Alagaddūpama Sutta (Sutta No. 22) of the Majjhimanikāya.
19. Ibid. for a good discussion on this see also Jotiya Dhirasekera, Parable of the Snake. A Translation of the Alagaddūpama Sutta, Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Research Studies Series I, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka, 1983.
20. The need for such enlargement of the scope of application of the rule could be easily understood when one considers the immoral practices in which some monks were engaged. See L.P.N. Perera, Sexuality in Ancient India.
21. Vin. III, 38: "Anāpatti bhikkhu ajānantassā ti".
22. Ibid. 39.
23. Ibid. loc.cit.
24. Ibid. 20.
25. See Ibid. 21.
26. Ibid. 45.
27. Vin. I, 138.
28. Aṅgulimāla Sutta, Majjhimanikāya.
29. Vin. I.
30. Vin. III, 71 ff.
31. I. B. Horner, the Book of Discipline, I, Intro. p. xxiv.
32. Ibid. loc.cit.
33. Oliver Abeynayaka.
34. Compare the case of Ven. Piṇḍolabhāradvāja.
35. See Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, p. 85 ff; Ananda Grero, Analysis of the Theravāda Vinaya... p. 98 ff.
36. Vin. IV, 211-251.
37. See Vin. II, 38 ff; III, 112, 185 f; IV, 110 ff, 225; A. II, 242 Vism – 22.
"Saṅghādiseso’ ti: saṅgho va tassā āpattiyā parivāsaṃ deti mūlāya paṭikassati mānattaṃ deti abbheti, na sambahulā na ekapuggalo, tena vuccati saṃghādiseso’ ti tass’eva āpattinikāyassa nāmakammaṃ adhivacanaṃ tena pi vuccati saṅghādiseso ti".
Thus, I. B. Horner observes: "This type of offences is next in gravity after pārājikas, because it can not be settled by many people or one man. It therefore has to be settled by the Order, which presumably has to be convened for that purpose"(The Book of Discipline, p. 195).
38. Vin. III, 128: "Yo pana bhikkhu otiṇṇo viparinatena cittena mātugāmaṃ duṭṭhullāhi vācāhi obhāseyya yathā taṃ yuvā yuvatiṃ methunūpasaṃhitaṃ saṅghādisesoti."
39. However, there is a Pacittiya rule that covers such an offence even by a bhikkhunī. See rule 19.
40. Jotiya Dhirasekera (Buddhist Monastic Discipline p.151) says: "These four new rules of the bhikkhunīs seem more or less, to reinforce the bhikkhu saṅghādisesa 9-13 which are also applicable to the bhikkhunīs and which deal with similar situations."
41. This reference is to one who has attained the fruit of Stream-entry (i.e. sotāpatti etc).
42. See I. B. Horner, Book of Discipline, I, p. 332.
43. Buddhist Monastic Discipline, p. 149.
44. Vin. IV, 258-345.
45. Vin. II, 88; III, 164; IV, 126; M. II, 247, cf. "Cattāri imāni Ānanda adhikaraṇāni katamāni cattāri? vivādādhikaraṇaṃ, anuvādādhikaranaṃ āpattādhikaranaṃ, kiccādhikaranaṃ."
46. Vin. III, 28: "Asaṃvāso’ti: saṃvāso nāma ekakammaṃ ekuddeso samasikkhatā, eso saṃvāso nāma. So tena saddhiṃ natthi, tena vuccati asaṃ vāso’ti."
47. Vin. II, 38 ff.
48. Cf. Vin. II, 38: "Vyattena bhikkhunā paṭibalena ñāpetabbo. Suṇātu me bhante saṅgho. Ayaṃ udāyi bhikkhu ekam āpattiṃ āpajji, sañcetanikaṃ sukkavissaṭṭhim appaṭicchannaṃ. So...mānattaṃ yācati."
49. Vin. II, 48 ff.
50. Vin. III, 195, 211 etc.
51. Vin. III, 59; IV, 122, 124 ect.
52. See the Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta of the Dīghanikāya in which the Buddha presents the ideal of good governance with Dhamma as its foundation. For an enlightening discussion see K. N. Jayatikeke ‘Dhamma, man and the Law’.
A Study of the Character Traits of Some of the Offenders
As already noted there are 220 disciplinary rules for bhikkhus and 304 for bhikkhunīs. Some of these deal with real offences, and a quite a large number is either breach of etiquette or breach of very minor disciplinary injunction. In dealing with most of them the Vinaya gives the particular incidents involving the breach of rules. Sometimes the offenders are identified and named with some
bio-data given; and at other times merely referring to the perpetrators as a certain bhikkhu (aññataro bhikkhu). Therefore, it is not possible to study and analyses the nature and character of all perpetrators involved.
Besides, whether all these incidents are real happenings is also arguable. While some incidents have a historical nature, many others appear to be what scholars refer to as ‘precautionary imaginations’. As it is now accepted the Vinaya Piṭaka is the result of a gradual process of growth. It took its present shape at the hands of redactors. It is possible that these redactors ‘made up situations’ in anticipation of possible lapses. Such an assumption goes quite well with emphasis laid on Vinaya as the "Life" of Sāsana by the Theravāda Elders.
As it is well known Saṅgha was a very open institution. It paid no consideration to class, caste, social status, creed etc. when admitting membership. At the beginning membership was open to all. It is only later, due to numerous circumstances that certain rules and conditions were laid down governing admission and conferment of higher ordination. Therefore, unlike the Brahmanic religious Order the Buddhist Saṅgha community also, just as other Śramaṇa religious organization, constituted of members coming from various strata of life. Some were refined and ardently committed to the practice and some were not at all. In such a mixed community it is natural to find members with diverse modes of behaviour.
Among them, as the Vinaya and sometimes also Sutta shows there were particular groups of monks who were generally delinquent by nature. These members seem to have taken their vocation as a past-time, and perhaps, even as an easy means of securing a comfortable living.
Chabbaggiya-bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs
One such oft-referred to group of recalcitrant members is the Chabbaggiya, so called because they formed a ‘group of six’. These six are: Assaji, Punabbasuka, Paṇḍuka, Lohitaka, Mettiya and Bhummaja. These six bhikkhus are said to have formed into three sub-groups: Assaji and Punabbasuka, Paṇḍuka and Lohitaka, Mettiya and Bhummaja. They seem to have been fairly popular, having their own followers who held them in high esteem. Nothing much is known about their lives. It is said that Assaji and Punabbasuka had headquarters at Kīṭagiri; Paṇḍuka, Lohitaka at Jetavana, and Mettiya and Bhummaja at Rājagaha.
The Samantapāsādikā says that they were all originally at Sāvatthī and were acquainted with each other. According to this same source they entered the Order as disciple of venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna in order to find an easy means of living. As they thought it’s better to live separately, they are said to have settled down in different places, each group having a fair number of followers. As they were not genuinely committed to the vocation, they often misbehaved, disregarding (bất chấp, coi thường) Vinaya rules. However, Paṇḍuka and Lohitaka are said to be comparatively better than the other four in discipline.
Assaji and Punabbasuka were by nature delinquent. In the DPPN account it is said that these two grew flowers, made bouquets and garlands and sent them to young girls soliciting sexual favors. They were also violent by nature and, therefore, the Buddha had to send a fair number of monks to assist venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna who were asked to mete out the Pabbājaniyakamma on them. It is said that these two not only refused to undergo the penalty but left the Order, and subsequently the Buddha withdrew the penalty as it served no purpose.
These two were highly critical of both venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna; also paid scant respect to the Buddha. There is no evidence to show that they ever reformed themselves.
Paṇḍuka and Lohitaka, though less corrupt than the rest, have been involved in numerous infringements of Vinaya rules.
Mettiya and Bhummajaka were rather vicious in their behaviour. It is said that they, on two occasions, framed false charge on venerable Dabba Mallaputta. This they did by persuading a nun called ‘Mettiyā’ to accuse venerable Dabba Mallaputta of violating her chastity. As the charge was found to be false, the nun was expelled. On another occasion they instigated a Licchavi householder to accuse Dabba Mallaputta of having an illicit affair with his wife. But, however, this Licchavi named Vaḍḍha finally admitted that the charge was false.
Their connection with Vaḍḍha, a Licchavi, suggests the possibility of their being of closely linked to Licchavi. And Licchavi monks were very often involved with events connected to infringement of disciplinary rules. It is to be noted, that there is reference also to a group of six bhikkhunīs who were also referred to as Chabbaggiya. They were, perhaps, followers and admirers of the Chabbaggiya bhikkhus and hence, their common designation. The nun called Mettiyā, referred to earlier as an accuser of venerable Dabba Mallaputta, could be one of the six members of this group of six recalcitrant bhikkhunīs.
Thullanandā, too, was a bhikkhunī of bad reputation, and is a rather notorious character for her misdemeanors. It is not certain whether she also belonged to this group of six. She is said to have been an admirer of venerable Ānanda, and she became rather harsh when Mahākassapa called venerable Ānanda "a boy". However, this appear to show more her dislike towards venerable Mahākassapa, who was a very strict disciplinarian, than her genuine admiration of venerable Ānanda.
With all her misbehaviour she seems to have been popular well-learned and a clever-preacher. Yet, she could not shine in the bhikkhunī Order because of her delinquent behaviour. She was greedy of possession. She desired male company and frequented cross-roads and streets so that she could enjoy male company.
Thus, by nature she was unrestrained and inclined towards sexual relations. The Cullavagga suggests that both the Chabbaggiya bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs often indulged in lewd speech (duṭṭhullā vācā). This is known as ‘coprolalia’ and it is a mental illness. This lewd speech is carried out as a means of obtaining sexual stimulation. The Cullavagga contains reference to Chabbaggiya bhikkhus making pornographic paintings in vihāras. Vinaya also records both Chabbaggiya bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs indulgence in group exhibitionisms in order to attract members of opposite sex.
All these suggest that Chabbaggiya bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs were suffering probably from some kind of sexual deprivation, and hence, constantly engaged themselves in different forms of sexual deviations. Perhaps, most of these monks and nuns were from upper social classes and hence generally given to ‘voluptuous life-styles’ with little regard to chastity and other accepted social restraints. In spite of their learning and irrespective of the vocation they voluntarily chose to follow, their inborn sexual urges and loose-behavioral life style appear to have compelled them to behave in the way they did.
Another notorious group of monks are the Vajjiputtakas, also called Vajjiputtiyā. They belong to Vajji clan and generally were residents of Vesali. It should be remembered that it was a group of Vajjiputtaka monks that presented the ‘Ten Points’ (dasa-vatthu), and agitated for relaxation of Vinaya rules one-hundred years after the Buddha’s parinibbāna. Vajjiputtaka monks generally appear to have been averse towards observance of Vinaya rules. Thus, the Aṅguttaranikāya records an incident where a Vajji monk complains to the Buddha saying that he is unable to recite a long list of Vinaya rules twice a month at the Pātimokkhuddesa.
Vajjis belonged to a confederate and were more liberal in their attitude and life styles. They were usually given to enjoyment of worldly pleasures, taking life in a rather relaxed manner. They were generally handsome and pleasure enjoying and are compared to gods of Tusita. They adorn themselves in beautiful, colourful attire. Most of the Vajji monks continued this life style even after entering the Order, with little concern for the rules and regulations of the Saṅgha institution.
Thus, their cultural and social upbringing was carried on into the new vocation. And this is much evident from the numerous incidents involving these monks in breach of discipline. The Vinaya make reference to numerous such events. Their carefree life-style and the evil consequences that resulted due to such corrupt life styles, and the remorse they finally underwent are well recorded.
If Vinaya records are taken as presenting a true picture, a majority of the Vajjiputtaka monks were of delinquent behaviour. Thus Vinaya (III, 23) says:
"Tena kho pana samayena sambahulā vesālika vajjiputtakā bhikkhū yāvadatthaṃ bhuñjiṃsu, yāvadatthaṃ supiṃsu, yāvadatthaṃ nhāyiṃsu,...ayonisomanasikaritvā sikkhaṃ apaccakkhāya dubbalyaṃ anāvikatvā methunaṃ dhammaṃ paṭiseviṃsu."
This unrestrained behaviour put them in great misery. Feeling utterly helpless they begged venerable Ānanda to intervene on their behalf and convince the Buddha to grant them re-admission and re-ordination by revoking the Pārājika penalty. But the Buddha did not consent to this plea. He said:
"Aṭṭhānam etaṃ Ānanda, anavakāso yaṃ tathāgato vajjīnaṃ vā vajjiputtakānaṃ kāraṇā sāvakānaṃ pārājikaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ paññattaṃ samūhaneyyāti."
This very clearly shows that the Vajji monks, in general were by nature a carefree, pleasure seeking lot. They were conscious of their recalcitrant, unbecoming behaviour. Yet, the urge in them to enjoy sensual pleasures was so intense that they were vulnerable to it, and often succumbed to it. It is only when things have gone beyond their control putting them in great misery that they thought of reforming. Yet, whether this desire to reform is genuine is also doubtful, for most of the Vajji bhikkhus have often demonstrated their inner urge to be more libertine in their behaviour. There are many such incidents involving Licchavis of Vesāli. The commentarial tradition is also that the Licchavis are generally given to libertine ways of life.
Perhaps, this was a part of general Vajji culture. They led more open carefree lives. Vajji is a name of a country and its people, and it is one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas. This constituted of the number of confederate clans, amongst which Licchavis were prominent. On one occasion one of the prominent Licchavi elders called Mahānāma is said to have complained to the Buddha:
"The Licchavi youths are quick tempered rough and greedy fellows;... they loot and eat; they slap the women and girls of their tribe on the back."
This sort of remark bears evidence to the carefree, unrestrained attitude of the Vajjis. In fact, such lose sexual behaviour seems to have created much problems in the Vajji society that a rule had to be promulgated to the effect that violation of chastity is considered a serious offence. In fact, one of the conditions laid by the Buddha in the Satta-aparihāniya dhamma is about abstaining from abduction of young girls. That they were rather relaxed and liberal in their attitude to sexual relation is seen also by the fact that they are very well known for the institution of gaṇikās (courtesans). It is also seen that it is the Vajjiputtaka monks, who belonged to Licchavis that considered offering of sex as the highest offering.
Bhikkhus Seyyasaka and Udāyin
Regarding these two monks who have been involved in the breach of a number of Vinaya rule not much bio-date is available. From scanty information found, it is seen that both of them were of passionate characters, being oversexed by nature. It is with regard to monk Seyyasaka that the first Saṅghādisesa rule, that is the rule pertaining to the willful emission of semen (sañcetanikā sukkavisaṭṭhi) was promulgated. It is really Udāyin, whom sometimes the commentarial tradition identifies with Lāḷudāyi, that is the real culprit and offender. That he is of extremely worldly nature is seen by the fact that he maintained a very luxurious and beautiful residence. Perhaps, he was from a Brahmin clan and Brahmin visited his residence. On one occasion a Brahmin female lay-devotee expressed her desire to see the interior of the monastic residence. While taking the couple to the inner section Udāyin very surreptitiously touched her privy parts. Of this she later complained to her husband and this created much commotion among the people.
Then again it is described (Vin. III, 127) how Udāyin engaged in lewd talk with women about the privy parts of their bodies, again this Udāyin is said to be engaged in marriage brokering (Ibid. 135). It is this very same Udāyin who is said to have encouraged bhikkhu Seyyasaka to engage in masturbation to find sexual satisfaction.
Bhikkhu Seyyasaka was a non-willing follower of the ‘Noble Life’. This made him dejected and unhappy, his complexion changing and body getting emaciated. It is at this point that he meets Udāyin who advises him to practice masturbation to find release, Udāyin, in order to convince Seyyasaka, confessed that he himself is in the practice of masturbation and that he finds it very pleasant.
Another incident records how Udāyin requests a Brahmin woman to have sex with him and when she willingly offers him her body, he refuses to have sex. What made him change his mind in a moment is not clear. Perhaps, the naked sight of the woman may have been rather repulsive to him. But this does not suggest the innocence of Udāyin, for he has been by nature perverted. He also was engaged in painting pornographic painting in robes and offering them to bhikkhunīs. His sexual perversion is further seen by the fact that on one occasion, in order to take some food to the Buddha on the request of bhikkhunī Uppalavaṇṇā, he demanded her inner robe as his fee. His sexual aberrations were such that he and his former wife, who at that time was a bhikkhunī, engaged in mutual exposure of their naked bodies, and engaged in further perverse acts (Vin. III, 205).
All these provide concrete evidence to prove that bhikkhu Udāyin was an oversexed monk, given to all kinds of sexually deviant behaviour and sexual aberration such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, frottage etc. it is this recalcitrant conduct of his that exerted evil influence over such other monks as Seyyasaka who were rather innocent and gullible. It is such behaviour that brought disrepute to the Saṅgha institution. Hence, the Buddha had taken stern action not only to safeguard the interest of such monks but also to maintain the good name of the Order.
Bhikkhu Sudinna is well known because of his involvement with the event that led to the promulgation of the first Pārājika rule. This Sudinna is said to have had sexual intercourse with his former wife (Vin. III, 1. ff). This, however, is not the only instance of a monk having sexual intercourse with his former wife. Yet, perhaps, this event is of special significance as this happened to be the first known instance of such a happening. Hence, this is given much importance as the incident leading to the promulgation of the first Pārājika rule.
Sudinna is a son of a wealthy family in Kalandakagāma, a village near Vesali, and hence, his full name Sudinna Kalandakaputta. This shows that he is also a Vajji. This does not mean that his misbehaviour is to be attributed to the usual laxity discipline among Vajji monks.
Sudinna entered the Order on his own with much dedication and sincerely followed the Noble life. He himself admits that he enjoys that life (abhirato ahaṃ brahmacariyaṃ carāmi, Vin III, 18). Yet, Sudinna falls into a grave lapse. This is very unfortunate when one considers the difficulties he had to undergo to obtain parental consent to leave household life. Having entered the Order under such condition and commitment, why did Sudinna fall victim to this sort of desire?
The commentarial tradition attempt shows some leniency on Sudinna over the commission of this sexual misdemeanour by saying that, he did not know the gravity of its consequence since there was no rule that prohibited sexual cohabitation with one’s former wife. But very rightly Jotiya Dhirasekera points out:
"Two things preclude us from accepting this position. Sometime after the commission of the act Sudinna is stricken with remorse that he had not been able to live to perfection his monastic life... Secondly, even in the absence of any restrictive regulations it seems to have been very clear to all members of the Buddhist Saṅgha that according to what the Buddha had declared in his Dhamma, the offence of methunadhamma contradict the spirit of true renunciation."
What appears from his behaviour is that he seemed to have succumbed under pressure from his mother who insisted on his engaging in sexual intercourse with his former wife for some valid reason. Here it should be rendered that Sudinna was the only son in the family. The family was a rich one with lot of property and wealth. Sudinna obtained parental permission to enter the Order with the greatest difficulty. Surely, he could not have failed to recollect the sacrifice the parents, especially his mother, made even reluctantly granting him permission to enter the Order. He very well understood that he was the cause of this trouble. So, it is not surprising to see his heart softening.
Besides, it was the mother who contrived the whole plan. She had a reason to do it. No sane person would like to see his or her private property being vested in the government for no fault of theirs. This mother had a son, and he is yet alive. She is not childless. The Vajji rule was that the properties of heirless families get vested in the government. She did not come under that childless category! So why should she suffer!
Besides, she was not demanding from her son to leave robes. She merely wanted a progeny from him to be heir to his family heritage. Being a Vajji lady she may not have been well aware of the importance of protecting celibacy so strictly by the members of the Order. She was merely asking his son to have intercourse with his own former wife. It is quite possible that she did not consider it a grave offence. This is more so because there was no Vinaya rule making it an offence of the severest type. So she had no reason to worry about.
One cannot definitely rule out that Sudinna, though first was unwilling and reluctant, and did not enjoy the act. It is said that he copulated thrice. This was in order to make sure that he properly planted the "seed", and that this will relieve him from future trouble. Yet, how could he be certain that having sexual intercourse thrice will assure conception? Had he never have had sexual intercourse with her in his lay life? Surely, he must have had, and definitely more than thrice!
This having intercourse thrice suggests that he, at least in his
sub-conscious, was enjoying the act. Perhaps, he may have relieved his former days as her husband. When the mother brought his former wife to presence and said:
"Idaṃ tāta sudinna, kulaṃ aḍḍhaṃ maddhanaṃ mahābhogaṃ pahūtajātarūparajataṃ pahūtavittūpakaranaṃ pahūtadhanadhaññaṃ, tena hi tāta sudinna bījakaṃ pi dehi, mā no aputtakaṃ sāpateyyaṃ Licchaviyo atiharāpeyyun ti"
Hearing this Sudinna readily agrees in a very business-like manner saying, ‘etam kho me amma kātum sakkāti’. And then he takes hold of his former wife by her hand, takes her deep into the forest and has intercourse thrice with her. That Sudinna was a man of strong character and will power is clearly seen from the way he behaved when he firmly resolved to obtain parental permission to enter the Order. On this occasion he does not display such character. Couldn’t he have resisted if he was really unwilling?
Though it cannot be assured with certainty, it is quite possible that he succumbed to an "inner urge" and this coupled with other circumstance made it easy for him to gloss over the gravity of the act he consented to commit. This may have made him feel gravely guilty subsequently. This is why he is shown as being highly dejected and full of remorse about his act. He was not aware that this amounts to an act calling for expulsion from the Order. Yet, he felt it is grave and contrary to the "spirit" of the vocation he had undertaken to follow.
Being pressurized on various sides and perhaps at the sometime being tempted through visualizing his former days in household-life, Sudinna appears to have fallen victim to his inner urge. Thus, Sudinna cannot be considered as an innocent victim. Judging from his character, and the strong will he displayed when he wanted to obtain parental consent to leave household-life it is reasonable to conclude that he knowingly committed this offence. This is the very reason for his subsequent remorse.
However, Sudinna was spared of being expelled from the Order. This was because these rules were not promulgated with retrospective effect. As there was no rule to this effect when Sudinna committed the offence, he could not be charged for any breach of rule. So, Sudinna escaped punishment. However, what was Sudinna’s ultimate fate is not known. There is no mention whether Sudinna managed to successfully complete his practice of Noble Life. If we go by his earlier commitment and the behaviour subsequent to the commission of the offence, it is possible to conclude that he was successful in mission.
In spite of Sudinna’s offence he is allowed to continue his membership in the Order. The reason adduced for exempting him from subjecting to punishment is that a rule prohibiting sexual intercourse was not in force when he committed the offence. If Sudinna, after committing this offence could continue in his pursuit of the goal of Nibbāna, it has to be concluded that sexual intercourse, per se is not a permanent bar for the realization of Nibbāna. According to the Sandaka Sutta of Majjhimanikāya it is only an Arahant who is incapable of indulging in sexual intercourse.
If so why was this offence regarded as so severe deserving expulsion from the Order? This is because it is totally in contradiction to the vocation one has undertaken as a member of the Order. "Abrahmacariyā veramaṇī", that is absolute protection of celibacy, is a fundamental requirement for the successful practice of Noble Life. Giving up of household life (pabbajja) itself symbolizes total abstention from sexual relations. Hence, this offence is considered most severe with regard to members of the Order.
Name of Dhaniya also occurs prominently with regard to the promulgation of Pārājika. It is concerning Dhaniya that the Buddha promulgated the second Pārājika rule and this pertains to commission of theft.
Dhaniya was a potter, hence, not of high class. It is in his potter-shed that the Buddha met Pukkusāti. It is through hearing Pukkusāti’s conversion and emancipation that he was inspired to join the Order. He is said to have lived in the slope of Isigili, in a grass hut made by himself. He spent the rainy season there, but continued to stay on even after other monks had left. On three occasions his hut was broken by women who had come in search of firewood. Being somewhat annoyed, Dhaniya made a beautiful hut of bricks and tiles. The Buddha considered this, too, lavish for a monk and chided Dhaniya.
Dhaniya, then made a hut of timber. But he appears to have obtained timber for this purpose in a rather surreptitious manner. He appeared before the guild-master who is in-charge of king’s timber-stores and asked for timber. The storekeeper made him understand that he could provide timber necessary if the king grants it. Dhaniya promptly said that the king had granted. The storekeeper of timber immediately gave the timber accepting Dhaniya’s declaration.
However, king’s chief minister discovered some stored-timber missing and made inquiries. The storekeeper informed him of Dhaniya. The chief minister was unhappy. He knew that some misappropriation had taken place. He informed the king about it. King ordered the arrest of the storekeeper. When Dhaniya saw the storekeeper being led before the king under arrest, he got perturbed. Dhaniya followed the storekeeper and went to the royal court.
When questioned by the king Dhaniya admitted taking the timber but pleaded that the king had already granted it for the use of the clergy. As evidence he said:
"Sarasi tvaṃ mahārāja, paṭhamābhisitto evarūpaṃ vācaṃ bhāsitaṃ: dinnaṃyeva samaṇabrāhmaṇānam, tiṇakaṭṭhodakaṃ paribhuñjantū ti".
However, the king pointed out that this particular provision pertained only to timber obtained direct from the forest and not from the royal-stores. The king severely warned Dhaniya and discharged him saying that ‘you have had narrow escape and don’t repeat this’.
This incident led to a big uproar. There was lot of criticism leveled against the Saṅgha. The Buddha, therefore, had to take serious note of Dhaniya’s act. In very strong terms the Buddha condemned Dhaniya’s act. Then he called a member of the Order, who had formerly been a minister of justice, ascertained how the king would have dealt with a case of this nature and promulgated this as pārājika offence.
When analyzing Dhaniya’s behaviour it appears that he was an honest person, who was truly committed to his monk-hood. He was a voluntary entrant into the Order. But, of course, being a potter he seems to have been rather artistically bent in his approach. His potter’s shed in which the Buddha and Pukkusāti met too could be an attractive place, even though it was a mere potter’s shed. The beauty of the wood-hut he built subsequently also demonstrates his aesthetic inclination.
That he was a sensitive man is no doubt. In the same vein, he was a person of very sharp intellect. This is seen by his bold declaration before the king, quoting one of the provisions the latter had made with regard to use of grass, wood and water by monks. However, this also reveals his stealthy attitude of mind when he told the royal timber storekeeper that he had the king’s permission to take the timber. He may not have really thought that taking some timber from the king’s stores for the purpose of building a hut for himself is such a grave offence. If not, he would not have been surprised when he saw the storekeeper being led under arrest. Besides, he did not try to hide his act or to implicate another.
This shows that he was a man of character; and this is proven by his attainment arahantship.
It is with regard to this monk that the Buddha proclaimed the third Pārājika rule. This monk is described in the Suttavibhaṅga (Vin III, 68) as a ‘Samaṇa-kuṭṭaka’ (bogus-monk), a hireling brought over by bowl and robes (pattacīvarehi bhaṭo). This monk is said to have assisted other monks to commit suicide. This he did for the sake of obtaining the bowls and robes of the monks who committed suicide.
This behaviour of his justifies the Suttavibhaṅga reference to him as a ‘Samaṇa-kuttika’ and ‘pattacīvarehi bhaṭo’. However, he too soon realizes his folly and begins to feel remorse, though it is rather late. It was in this account that the Buddha promulgated the third Pārājika rule. As it is the case with other offenders he also was not subject to the penalty of Pārājika, as the rule was not in operation at the time of the commission of this offence.
Besides, there are many other offenders. But there is not enough bio-data about them to make a character study of them. In most case it is seen that it is the usual human failings that have made the offenders commit these offences. As shown above in some instances, it was partly inability to understand and weigh the gravity of the contemplated action that made them commits some of the offences. Except in the case of Vajji monks and perhaps also with regard to Chabbaggiya monks there is not sufficient evidence to trace a relation between these offences and the collective cultural traits of the offenders. Very often it is personal weaknesses that appear to have pushed them to commit the offences. Many of these offenders, like Dhaniya, may have ultimately changed their ways and reached the goal for which they set out. This must have been the case of even Sudinna, though it is not clearly stated in texts. His commitment and his post-infringement behaviour strongly suggest that he must have successfully completed the mission.
Taken as a whole it is seen that these offences, for the most part, are not unnatural. All the offenders were mere ordinary members of the Order; in other words they were puthujjana-sāvakas. Therefore, there is no reason to be surprised about their lapses. In some instances the offending monks were those who were sincerely committed to their vocation. Yet, at moments human weaknesses over power them and force them to cross the red-line.
Of course, this does not mean that there were not monks who were recalcitrant and delinquent by nature. As shown above there were numerous recorded instances of monks very purposefully trying to circumvent the rules by adopting various ruses. But whether all these recorded instances refer to real situations cannot be ascertained with any certainty. This is mainly because these instances are too numerous and are presented in a somewhat hypothetical manner. It is this that had led some scholars to label these incidents as instances of ‘precautionary imaginations’.
1. Horner Book of Discipline, p.xiv. cf. ibid. p. xxi
Where she says: "It is perhaps not necessary to believe that each of the many and curious forms of unchastity, mentioned in Pārājika I, ever was actually perpetrated by a monk... It is possible, of course, that some of the delinquencies did occur while other did not, but we do not know. When viewed against this moderate view Rhys David’s view (ERE. III, s.v. Celibacy, (Buddhist), p.271 that "almost all the cases are clearly hypothetical and were drawn up with a view to having a recorded decision on every possible occurrence" seems to be not quite acceptable.
2. See DPPN under Chabbaggiyā and also under individual names.
3. Vin. II, 1,5,6.
4. Vin. III, 162, 1666.
5. S. II, 219.
6. Vin. IV, 254-256.
7. Ibid, 270, 273.
8. Vin. II, 262.
9. See L. P. N. Perera, Sexuality in Ancient India, p. 174 f.
10. Such paintings are referred to in the Vin. II, 151 f. as paṭibhānacitta. These paintings depict figures of men and women, perhaps in sexual postures or naked.
11. Vin. II, 262 ff.
12. The Cullavagga deals about this in detail – Vin. II, 294 ff.
13. A. I, 230 f.
14. See Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (D. II, ...): "Yesaṃ bhikkhave bhikkhūnaṃ devā tāvatiṃsā adiṭṭhā oloketha bhikkhave,Llicchavīparisaṃ avaloketha bhikkhave Licchavīparisaṃ upasaṃharatha bhikkhave Licchavīparisaṃ tāvatiṃsasadisanti.
15. Ibid, p.
16. Vin. III, 23.
17. Vin. III, 39 f.
18. VinA. 284.
19. However, see DPPN. s.v. Licchavi. In this it is pointed out that though Licchavis were prosperous and rich they did not indulge in undue enjoyment or idleness.
20. The Mahāparinibbāna Sutta says that these norms were taught by the Buddha himself to Vajjis at the Sārandada Cetiya. One such norm says: "Yāvakīvañca Ānanda vajji yā tā kulitthiyo kulakumāriyo, tā na okkassa pasayhā vāsessanti, vuddhiyeva Ānanda, vajjīnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā no parihāni".
21. (Aggadāna) Vin. III, 39.
22. Vin. III, 110.
23. See DPPN. s.v.v. Udāyi and Lāḷudāyi.
24. Vin. III, 119 ff.
25. Vin. IV, 60 f.
26. Vin. III, 208 f.
27. See Vin. I, 96,150; III, 23,34,36,67.
28. Vin. III, 11 ff.
29. VinA. 213: "Anādīnavadasso ti yaṃ bhagavā idāni sikkhāpadaṃ paññāpento ādīnavaṃ dasseti taṃ apassanto anavajjasaññī hutvā..."
30. Jotiya Dhirasekera, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, p. 47.
31. M. I, 154.
32. Vin. III, 45: "Yo pana bhikkhu adinnaṃ theyyasaṅkhātaṃ ādiyeyya yathārūpe adinnādāne rājāno coraṃ gagetvā haneyyuṃ vā bandheyyuṃ vā pabbājeyyuṃ vā coro’si bālo’si mūḷhosi theno’si, tathārūpaṃ bhikkhu adinnaṃ ādiyamāno ayaṃ pi pārājiko hoti asaṃvāso".
33. M. III, 237 ff, Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta.
34. Vin. III, 44: "Lomena tvaṃ mutto’si mā puna pi evarūpaṃ akāsī ti". See also DPPN. s.v. Dhaniya.
35. Loc. cit: purāṇa vohāriko mahāmatto.
The Saṅgha institution is as old as Buddhism is. Any institution generally has a set rules or some form of constitution that regulates and directs the conduct of its members. However, the Theravāda tradition is that there was no such constitution during the first twenty years of the Order. But it is seen that during these early stages there was an ‘undeclared’ understanding among the members of the order to conduct themselves in a way that suits their vocation. Besides, the Buddha whenever the need arose, made use of his discoursing to make the membership of the Order aware about the way in which they should conduct themselves. Once the formal promulgation of the rules began, the number of rules began to increase in rapid succession. As already shown, some members even openly showed their displeasure regarding this increase of rules. At fortnightly meetings whatever rules that had by then been collected were recited as a measure to make the members aware of the importance of observing them. As the rules grew in number this recital-list must have got expanded.
When the Tipiṭaka was compiled all what belong to Vinaya or discipline was grouped and put in the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Basket of Rules of discipline. Therevāda tradition considers Vinaya to be the very life (āyu) of the dispensation (sāsana). Therefore, strict observance of Vinaya and the operation of an effective machinery to implement this observance was a marked feature in early Buddhism. Penalties, depending on the gravity of the offence, were meted out to offenders who were legally found guilty of breaching rules. Though the system was not one-hundred percent successful in stopping indiscipline, it certainly served as an effective preventive measure and greatly contributed to arrest the decline of discipline among membership.
Venerable Buddhaghosa defines Vinaya as: ".......vividhanayattā visesanayattā kāyavācānañ ca vinayanato vinayoti akkhāto". This does not mean that the mind is totally disregarded. In Buddhism all deeds are connected to the mind. However, as the emphasis is on the discipline of bodily and verbal deeds Vinaya is closely related to "Sīla", virtue. "Sīla" is one of the Threefold Trainings (tisso sikkhā) which embraces the ‘Noble Life’ (brahmacariyā). The objective of recluseship (sāmañña) is the successful living of this ‘Noble Life’. Hence, observance of Vinaya is an essential feature in the life of a recluse. The Sāmaññaphala Sutta of the Dīghanikāya itself shows the prominent role ‘Sīla’ plays in the life a recluse. Hence, the observance of Vinaya by a recluse means his observance of ‘Sīla’ in the path, which is same as brahmacariyā. The Ākaṅkheyya Sutta clearly stresses the importance of the observance of ‘Sīla’ for the successful living of recluseship. Thus, it is clearly seen that Vinaya of a recluse is primarily founded on ‘Sīla’ and ‘Sikkhāpada’. It is seen that most of the Vinaya rules depict different aspects and facets of ‘Sikkhāpada’, adopted adjusted, amended and even expanded to suit the needs of this particular vocation of the Buddhism clergy.
Though Vinaya is primarily founded on ‘Sīla’, Vinaya as embodied in the Vinaya Piṭaka is wider in scope, application and even objectives. The Suttavibhaṇga itself presents a list of ten reasons, attributed to the Buddha himself, as motivating factors for the formal promulgation of Vinaya. These reasons clearly show that the observance of Vinaya was not for the sole purpose of successfully completing the ‘Noble Life’ and realizing the fruits thereof.
An important objective of observing Vinaya was to win new converts (appasannānaṃ pasādāya) and further stabilizing the already converted (pasannānaṃ bhiyyobhāvāya). There are yet other objectives. Two of them are well being, and convenience of the Saṅgha. Among these are also rules that are directly conducive to the proper cultivation of the ‘Noble Life’. For example, restraint against defilements in this life (diṭṭha-dhammikānaṃ āsavānaṃ samvarāya), eradication of the defilements in the next life (samparāyikānaṃ āsavānaṃ paṭighātāya).
That by their nature Vinaya rules are of multiplex purpose is clearly seen by the rules themselves. For example, Sekhiyās are mere rules of etiquette and has either remote or even no direct relation to the practice of Noble Life. Some are very minor rules which have little impact on the practice of Noble Life. This is why the Buddha himself suggested the possibility of amending or even annulling them, if the members of the Order desire so. It is also seen that a fair number of rules have been promulgated on the basis of social necessity and demand. Some rules have been made to accommodate customs and practices of certain sections of the society and religion groups. Some have been laid down to comply with request from rulers on reasonable grounds; yet others from the disciples as well as from members of the public. Most of these have no direct impact on the practice of "Noble Life".
Offences themselves are of varying nature; some are grave and some are trifle. Penalties and punishments also vary according to the gravity of the offences. It is very clear that these penalties are imposed to protect the interest of the Saṅgha institution as well as to safeguard the individual members. Penalties imposed are never corporeal. Penalties are imposed solely for their deterrent effect. Through the imposition of penalties it is attempted to rehabilitate the offenders and provide them the opportunity to strive hard to achieve the goal. Except for the four major offences (pārājikas) which are listed as irremediable, most of others are settled through the imposition of non-corporeal, rather benign punishments that provide the offenders the opportunity of reflecting over again and resolving to abstain in the future. Some are disposed of with very lenient penalties as forfeiture and confession.
It is seen that most of the offences that directly affect the practice of the Noble Life are sex-related ones. This, of course, is quite understandable as indulgence in any kind of sexual relation is in direct conflict with the practice of the Noble Life. Observance of celibacy is the core of Noble Life. In such a context it is natural to find all sexual activities being tabooed. It is not only sexual intercourse that is listed among such offences. The first of the four Pārājikas is concerned with sexual intercourse, but not limited to human male-female sexual intercourse. As with sexual intercourse between human male and human female also with regard to other sexual relations, references are made to various deviant forms of sexual behaviour.
These deviant modes of sexual relations are so numerous and unusual, there is a view that all such instances referred to in the Vinaya may not be reflecting actual happenings. Some suggest that these are imaginary situations presented to cover all imaginable sexual relations. These instances are referred to as ‘precautionary imaginations’, and they may be so. But what is noteworthy is the emphasis laid on the possible lapses on the part of members of the Order in this area.
In a majority of instances the offenders are clearly identified. In instances where the offenders are named and identified not much bio-data about them are available. Therefore, it is not possible to make an in-depth study regarding the relation between the character traits of the offenders and the particular offences committed. Some such broad identification could be made with regard to recalcitrant behaviour of the Vajji monks and also the Chabbaggiyas, who also appear to be close to Vajjis.
As it is well known Vajjis were generally liberal in their outlook and attitude, and often rather libertine with regard to sexual relations. It is seen that Vajjis are the main culprits with regard to breach of rules pertaining to sexual relations. This perhaps is fairly good evidence to show that Vajji culture which may not have been very strict on these matters may have had some impact on their recalcitrant and delinquent behaviour even as members of the Buddhist Saṅgha institution.
What is noticeable is that most of these sexual misconducts were due to personal traits. Some members have been oversexed, and hence, far too inclined to get involved in sexual enjoyment at the slightest opportunity available. Some of them, however, had the strength of character to reflect on their lapses and firmly resolve to abstain from falling into such misconduct in the future. It is mentioned that some of them rectified their lapses and successfully completed their mission, fulfilling the objective for which they adopted the life of a recluse. On this basis it could be reasonably surmised that even those who are found guilty of Pārājika offences and ‘excommunicated’, are not debarred from attaining emancipation. They irrevocably lose full membership in the Order. Yet, if they so desire, resolve and genuinely strive fully dedicating themselves to the practice of the ‘Noble Life’, they are capable of becoming ‘Liberated individuals’ as lay persons.
1. The Saṅgha institution begins with the admission of venerable Koṇḍañña and soon after his other four colleagues. Within a short period of two months the membership increased to sixty (Vin. I, 20).
2. See Bhaddāli Sutta (M. Sutta. No. 65).
3. This is what is known as Pātimokkha, and its recital is called Pātimokkhuddesa. This was recital at Uposatha meetings.
4. The commentarial definition of Vinaya Piṭaka is: "Tattha paṭhama-saṅgītiyaṃ saṅgītañ ca asaṅgītañ ca sabbampi".
5. VinA. I, 19; DA. I, 17.
6. S. V, 26: "Katamañ ca bhikkhave brahmacariyaṃ ayam eva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo..."
7. M. I, 33: "Sampannasīlā bhikkhave viharatha sampannapātimokkhā pātimokkhasaṃvarasaṃvutā viharatha ācāragocarasampannā aṇumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhatha sikkhāpadesu". Cf. S. V, 187 also.
8. Vin. III, 21.
A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
PRIMARY SOURCES AND TRANSLATIONS
Aṅguttaranikāya, Ed. R. Morris and E. Hardy, London, 1885-1900, 5 vols. The Book of the Gradual Sayings, 5 vols. Tr. F. L. Woodward and E.M. Hare, PTS, London, 1932-36.
Dhammapada, Narada Thera, Buddhist Missionary society, Malaysia, 1978
Dhammapada-aṭṭhakathā, Ed. H.C.Norman, 4 vols. PTS, London, 1906
Dīghanikāya, Ed. T.W. Rhys Davids and J.E. Carpenter, 3 vols. PTS. London, 1890-1911, Tr. T.W and C.A.F. Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha Sacred Books of the Buddhists, London.
Maurice Walshe, the Long Discourse of the Buddha, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1996.
Dīghanikāya-aṭṭhakathā (=Sumaṅgalavilāsīnī) Ed. T.W. Rhys Davids, J.E. Carpenter, W. Stede, 3 vols. PTS. London, 1932.
Majjhimanikāya, Ed. Y. Trenkner and R. Chalmers, 3 vols, PTS, London; Tr. R. Chalmers, Further Dialogues of the Buddha, (PTS).
I. B. Horner, Middle Length Sayings, 3 vols. PST. 1954 - 59; Bhikkhu Bodhi (Tr), the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1995.
Saṃyuttanikāya, Ed, L. Feer, 6 vols. PTS. 1884–1904. Tr. C-A. F. Rhys David and F.L. Woodward, The Book of the kindred Sayings 5 vols. PTS. Tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom, Publications 2000.
Vinaya Piṭaka, Ed. H. Oldenberg, 5 vols. London, 1879 – 83; Tr. T.W. Rhys David and H. Oldenberg Vinaya Texts. PTS. I – IV, Sacred Books of the East, vols. 13, 17, 20. Oxford, 1881 – 85; Trs. I. B. Horner, the Book of the Discipline PST. I – VI, Sacred Books of the Buddhists, vol. 10, 11, 13, 14, 20, 25, London, 1949 - 66.
Vinaya-aṭṭhakathā (=Samantapāsādikā), Ed. J. Takakusu and M. Nagai, 6 vols, PTS, London,1924 – 38; The Inception of Discipline and the Vinaya Nidāna, Tr. N. A. Jayawickrema, Sacred Books of the Buddhist, vol. 21, London, 1962.
Altekar A.S, The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization, Banaras Hindu University, 1956.
Bhagavat, N. Early Buddhist Jurisprudence, Poona, 1939.
Chakravarti C., Sex Life in Ancient India, An Explanatory and Comparative Study, Calcutta, 1963.
Chakravarti Uma, The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism, Munshiram Manoharlal, 3th Ed. 1996.
De G.D. Democracy in Early Buddhist Saṅgha Calcutta, 1955.
Dhirasekera, Jotiya, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, Ministry of Higher Education, Research Publication Series, Sri Lanka, 1981.
Dutt, S., Early Buddhist Monarchism, Revised Indian Edition, 1960; The Buddha and Five After-centuries, London, 1957.
Grero Ananda, C. An Analysis of the Therāvāda Vinaya in the Light of the Modern Legal Philosophy, Karunaratne Sons and Ltd, Colombo, 1966.
Hazra K. L. Constitution of The Buddhist Saṅgha B. R. Publising Corporation, Delhi, 1988.
Horner I. B. The Book of the Discipline Sacred books of the Buddhists, vols. 10, 11, 13, 14, 20, 25. London.
Law B. C. A History of Pāli Literature, Indica Books, Varanasi, India, 2000.
Malalasekera G. P. Dictionary of Pāli Proper names, (=DPPN), 2 vols. Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, Reprinted 2002. Ed. Encyclopaedia of Buddhism (= EB), Published by the Government of Sri Lanka.
Mejer J. J., Sexual Life in Ancient India, 2nd reprinted, London, 1953.
Misra G. S. P. The Age of Vinaya, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhe, 1972.
Oldenberg. H., Vinaya Piṭaka, 5 vols, London, 1879 – 83.
Pande G. C., Studies in the Origins of Buddhism Revised ed. 1995, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1995.
Perera, L. P. N Sexuality in Ancient India: A Study based on the Pāli Vinaya Piṭaka, Post Graduate Institute of Pāli and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, 1993.
Prebish Charles, S., A Survey of Vinaya Literature, Taipei, Taiwan, 1994.
Rhys Davids T. W., Buddhist India, Indian reprint, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1997.
Spiro, Melford, Buddhism and Society, Georg Allen and Uawin, London, 1971.
Tharpar R., Renunciation: Making of a Counter Culture: Ancient Indian Social History, Delhi Orient Longman, 1978.
Varma, V. P, Early Buddhism and Its Origin, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1973.
Wagle. N., Society at the Time of the Buddha, Bombay, 1966.
Wijebandara, Chandima, Early Buddhism and Its Religious Melieu, Post Graduate Institute of Pāli and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, 1993.
(Page numbers are not included in this Internet version)
Sincere thanks to Bhikkhu Giac Hanh for giving the digital files (Binh Anson, 06-2009).