A CELIBATE LIFE WITH LITTLE DESIRE FOR WORLDLY PLEASURES: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MONASTICS AND HOUSEHOLDERS: Origin and development of the Vinaya rules, the eight kinds of precepts, four defeats, the origin and meaning of the Pratimoksha Sutra and comparison between different Vinaya versions and schools (Day Four, 17th Karmapa teaching, August 2022)

The four parajikas (defeats) are rules entailing expulsion from the monastic community (Sangha) for life. If a monk or nun breaks any one of the rules he/she is automatically ‘defeated’ in the monastic life and falls from it immediately. S/He is not allowed to become a monk/nun again in his/her lifetime. Intention is necessary in all these four cases to constitute an offence. The four parajikas are:

1. Sexual activity, that is, any voluntary sexual interaction between a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni and a living being.” —First of the four defeats, mentioned in all the Vinaya texts

“The eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje said that the difference between householders and monastics is difficult to distinguish. You might think, can we distinguish them based on whether they know the the Dharma or not? No, because among lay people, there are many who know the Scriptures, Sutras and Tantras. One cannot say monastics know the Scriptures and laypeople do not. We also cannot say it is the robes that distinguish laypeople and monastics because in this degenerate time, many lay people wear the monastic robes and when you look at them, you think they are monastics who wear the monastic robes but in actuality they are householders merrily wearing monastic robes but that does not make you into a monastic. Similarly, reciting prayers and doing practice and meditation does not distinguish monastics because there are many laypeople who also engage in reciting prayers and meditating. So, one might think there is no way to distinguish householders from monastics, but there is a way to do that. Therefore, we must know the difference between a monastic and a layperson.”

“What we mean by a Rabjung (one who has gone forth) is that someone has turned their mind away from sensual possessions, has few desires and is content. They are people who  have some revulsion for the sensory pleasures of form, sound, scent taste and touch. People who do not have so much enthusiasm or excitement for those are people have few desires. People who are satisfied even with meagre food and clothing, who even if they have only bad food and bad clothing, think it is okay. That kind of person.”

—17th Karmapa

INTRODUCTION

In Day 4 of the current online teachings (video here), HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa continued with the theme of the development of the Vinaya rules for monastics and the Pratimoksha Sutra precepts. The teaching had two main themes:

  1. The difference between a monastic and a layperson

The first part of the teaching was an interesting discussion on the difference between a householder and a monastic. The 17th  Karmapa stated that it is not someone who wears monastic robes, who recites rituals and prayers or who is very knowledgeable about the Dharma, as there are laypeople who can do those things. [Note: for a speech in 2017 the 17th Karmapa gave on the importance of laypeople not wearing monastic robes, or even robes that look like a monastic see here.) The 17th Karmapa asserted that a monastic was someone who was content and who lacked desire for sensory pleasures:

“What we mean by a Rabjung (one who has gone forth) is someone who has turned their mind away from sensual possessions, has few desires and is content. They are people who  have some revulsion for the sensory pleasures of form, sound, scent, taste and touch. People who do not have so much enthusiasm or excitement for those, are people with few desires. People who are satisfied even with meagre food and clothing, who even if they have only bad food and bad clothing, think it is okay. That kind of person.”

Yet, surely one could also argue that there are laypeople who are like that? It is interesting and noteworthy that the 17th Karmapa did not mention the crucial (and very clear) difference of forbidden sexual activity for monastics. For example, the four defeats – four types of activity that require immediate and automatic expulsion for life from the monastic community, only apply to monastics and appear in all the Vinaya texts, which the 17th Karmapa briefly discussed. The first defeat is any kind of sexual activity. That would have been the most obvious difference to state in terms of accepted (and expected) conduct of a monastic vs a layperson.

In addition, not killing, or inciting others to deliberately kill sentient beings, is the third of the four defeats. Surely that would apply to anyone buying murdered animals to eat from a butcher? In which case, any monastics buying meat to eat should also be subject to automatic expulsion from the monastic community ,but they are not.

The question we need to then ask is why are the four defeats not being applied within monastic communities anymore? Is that the reason they are becoming so degenerate? Is it because so many monastics are breaching them that the number would drastically reduce if they applied the rules? However, one could argue that quality of monastics is more important than quantity.

2. The Vinaya Rules and the Pratimoksha Sutra – its meaning, origin, schools and editions

The second half of the teaching was a detailed piece of research on the origin of the Pratimoksha Sutra, that considered eighteen different texts from the individual Vinaya schools, and the Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivāda  tradition and the differences in number of vows, content and so on.

The 17th Karmapa, using the scholarship and research of Japanese scholar, Hirakawa Akira as the basis, presented detailed comparative tables on the Vinaya texts and precepts, and added the Mūlasarvāstivāda  tradition ones in himself.  It is the first time any head of a Tibetan Buddhist lineage has ever publicly taught and written about such a topic in such detail (that I am aware of). In that respect, it is extraordinary indeed and worthy of preservation and study and that is what I have tried to do here.

This transcript is based on the original Tibetan and English oral translation. I have tried to keep as close as possible to the 17th Karmapa’s words, and not miss anything out. Every word is valuable and edits can, and do lead to changes in meaning and tone.

Music? Ain’t Got No, I Got Life by Nina Simone, Celibacy Blues by Jill Scott, Be Thankful for What You Got by Massive Attack.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 2nd September 2022.

17TH KARMAPA’S TEACHINGS (AUGUST 2022)

DAY FOUR TRANSCRIPT

“Previously, I have spoken about two topics: the development and formation of monasteries, and secondly, of the sangha. Thirdly, the other day, I spoke a little bit in general about the understanding of the meaning of the term Vinaya. It is necessary to explain these three topics. Today I would like to speak about the origination of the Vinaya. 

HOW AND WHY THE VINAYA ORIGINATED – THE ‘KINDNESS’ OF THE BADLY-BEHAVED

IB Horner (1896 – 1981), an Indologist referred to by the 17th Karmapa

One topic I would like to speak about in relation to the origin of Vinaya, is how it is dependent on the kindness of those who did not observe the rules. That is to say, thanks to the people who didn’t observe the Vinaya, the Vinaya originated. What does that mean? There was an English scholar, around the 19th to 20th century, a  woman called IB Horner (1896 – 1981) who was very skilled in her research in Indian Studies. What she said about the topic of the Vinaya, and her way of thinking about  it is generally, according to the Vinaya within the Buddhist Sangha, there were many fully ordained monks and nuns who were lazy, careless and lustful and stories about this in the Vinaya. Also, there were those really enjoyed luxury and liked enjoying themselves. They also ended up creating disharmony amongst the Sangha community, and did various other things.  So, in the Vinaya we can see this clearly. 

However, we may think that because there are these people within the Buddhist Sangha mentioned in the Vinaya, that there are nothing but badly behaved monks and nuns who brought disgrace to the Sangha, and that the Sangha have great faults, in other words, who corrupted the Sangha. Thinking that would be to misunderstand the situation though. Of course, in the sangha of that time, there were people with rough, rowdy or bad behavior. Of course, there were incidents of bad behaviour of monastics and these events were recorded. But when you’re talking about the descriptions in the Vinaya,  they only speak about those that involve people who behave badly. So from one perspective, when people behaved well, they weren’t recorded down.  Yet, when they acted badly, they were recorded. The other thing is that they became well known for this and people spoke about it a lot when people behaved badly. 

So, when we speak about the stories from the Vinaya over over again, we hear a lot about the topic of the monks and nuns misbehaving, we might feel that most of the monastics must have been scoundrels. That’s not the way it actually was. If we ignore those situations, then we are not being honest, there were these people. Yet, if we think that all of them were like that, we would be ignoring and diminishing all of the many monastics at that time who were upright and faithful students of the Buddha.

Another thing we need to consider is that there were monastics who were well-behaved and had good characteristics. When they saw the Dharma friends, their dharma brothers and sisters misbehaving and behaving badly, they couldn’t bear to see it. They were very  ashamed of it. They couldn’t put up with it and were very embarrassed and dissatisfied.  We  pay  a lot of attention to the people who do the bad things, “they did this, they did that she did that”. Yet, we don’t see how much their good Dharma friends and monastics were at  that time. We don’t pay attention to that. That is another thing we need to consider. 

When we talk about corrupt behavior, and the badly behaved people, such people can happen anytime. There were such people during the times of the Buddha, and  even later,  2500 years ago, of course, there are continually people with bad behavior.   However. If we were to speak about it from a historical  perspective, from  Horner’s perspective she said we actually need to say thank you to all those monastics who behaved badly for their ‘kindness’. The reason is because of that we were able to develop the Pratimoksha Sutra (Sothar gi Do).  The Buddha made a rule for each of them. Thus, they have left us the Jewel of the Pratimoksha as a legacy because of their bad behavior. If everyone in the Sangha were  upright, well behaved and careful and living in chaste conduct, and were all diligent, then the Scriptures, the Vinaya, the Pratimoksha sutra  wouldn’t exist, because there would be no reason to make any rules, if everyone behaved really well and followed the rules diligently. 

If we did not have these records of the incidents in the Vinaya then we would not know how they lived historically. From a historian’s perspective It is very important and wonderful to have them.  This is what the scholar, Horner said.

THE BUDDHA AND THE GROUP OF FIVE – THE FIRST RULE ON WEARING ROBES

Buddha teaching the ‘Good Group of Five’ the first five disciples

I would like to add something to this.  According to the Tibetan Vinaya scriptures, the earliest sangha was the Good Group of Five (Khor Nga Zangpo). Before that group of five, one cannot say there is any Buddhist Sangha. It is only when the good group of five appeared, whom Buddha first taught the Dharma to, who gained realizations that the noble Sangha began. 

These five bhikshus originally wore their robes as they had before. Local householders who had faith in them saw them and thought this was strange. They said it is exactly the way merchants and rich people wear their robes. The fabric or cotton cloth that they wear was a rectangle cloth worn wrapped around oneself and  you walk around like that. So at that time, that is what we mean by the robe, it’s a question about how you fold and fasten and tie the knot. In Tibet, during later times, instead of being rectangular pieces of fabric, robes were sewn into a tube shape although they could originally be made according to the Vinaya. Some robes were not sewn entirely and there were empty parts.  However,  in the olden days in India, the lower robe, was something that was a fabric that you wrapped around and tied around yourself. It was not sewn into a tube. 

 In any case, local householders remarked that the Great Group of Five folded, fastened, and tied the knot of their robes exactly in the same manner as rich people and merchants. When this was mentioned to the Buddha, he told the Group of Five that from that day onwards, they would need to wear the robes wrapped around them in a way where it was even, with no longer or higher parts than others. So, “Wrap the robe around you” was probably the first rule the Buddha made. If we take the Tibetan Vinaya as a basis, I haven’t done a lot of research into this. This is just talking generally.

THE FOUR DEFEATS  – AUTOMATIC LIFE-LONG EXPLUSION FROM THE MONASTIC COMMUNITY

In the thirteenth year after the Buddha awakened to Buddhahood, Bhikshu Bhadra (Gelong Sanjin) engaged in sexual intercourse. Consequently, the first rule of defeat[i] was made. 

If we look at that, many of the important rules that were made  not during the initial phase of the Sangha, but quite a few years later. That is how it probably was. Before that, the Buddha did not make the rules about the four defeats. That does not mean that no one spoke about the four defeats, it doesn’t mean that at all. In general at that time, the culture was of various wandering mendicant groups of monastics and they were rules that everyone just naturally would have kept. Since no one had committed the four defeats, then there had been no need to make any rule about them. 

Later, in the Vinaya it says there appeared the Gang of Six badly behaved bhikshus and the Gang of Twelve badly behaved bhiksunis and did various things, so it became necessary to make quite a few different rules.  So, if we look at it from one perspective, all the bad things they did some monastics might resent nowadays, thinking ‘if they hadn’t behaved so badly back then, it would be better, we would not have so many precepts to keep and it would be easier to keep them’.  So from one perspective, it is something that we might resent. If we speak in English: ‘there are other people we can blame or complain about’. On the other hand, because of their bad behaviour, there exists a difference between householders and monastics. So that is their kindness for bringing that out. 

WHAT DIFFERENTIATES A MONASTIC FROM A HOUSEHOLDER?

Now, when you’re talking about the distinction between householders and monastics, from one perspective, it’s easy to make the distinction. From another perspective, it is not as easy to make it as we wish, it’s actually rather difficult to distinguish. The eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje  that the difference between the householders and monastics is difficult to distinguish. We might think,”can we distinguish them based on whether someone know the the Dharma or not?”  That is not the case. Because among lay people, there are many who know the Scriptures, sutras and Tantras. So you cannot say that it’s the monastics who know the Scriptures and the laypeople who do not. So that does not make the distinction.

We also cannot  say that it is the  robes that distinguish laypeople and monastics because in this degenerate time, many lay people wear the monastic robes and when you look at them, you think they are monastics who wear the monastic robes, but in actuality they are householders merrily wearing monastic robes but that does not make you into a monastic. Similarly, reciting prayers and during practice and meditation does not distinguish monastics because there are many laypeople who also engage in reciting prayers and meditating.   So one might think there is no way to distinguish householders from monastics, but there is a way to do that. Therefore, we must ask what it is we mean by “monastic”.  We give the name “Dharma practitioner” to various types of people but it’s possible that monastics who are like lay people are in fact worse than lay people.

For this reason, the main distinction between monastics and lay people is not made in terms of the view. Instead, it is made in terms of the fine conduct of the Vinaya. The fact there were badly-behaved bhikshus and bhikshunis therefore worked out well for us. In the Mahayana Sutras, it is even said that Udayi (one of the Gang of Six) and Devadatta were emanations of the Buddha. From a historical perspective it seems inappropriate to say they were emanations, but from the point of view of philosophy and practice, it is very beneficial to say so.

What we mean by a Rabjung (one who has gone forth) is that someone has turned their mind away from sensual possessions and has few desires and is content. They are people who  have some revulsion for the sensory pleasures of form, sound, scent taste and touch. People who do not have so much enthusiasm or excitement for those are people have few desires. People who are satisfied even with meagre food and clothing, who even if they have only bad food and bad clothing, think it’s okay. That kind of person.

It’s also people who are carefully holding their body and speech and mind with mindfulness and awareness. They are always being careful about misdeeds and non virtues which they know are easily committed. It is  like being mindful of a wound. Small children have a wound, then when they are doing all sorts of different things here and there and  touch their wound, or it gets hit by something that is really sharp, then naturally and immediately the child feels it, right? Like that, the monastics have always worry in their minds about committing negative actions and non virtues might happen. So, wherever and whenever, they are always worried about that and pay great attention to ihat.

Also a monastic has given up envying others and looking only for other people’s faults. This also means they are people who make great effort to pacify the afflictions, in particular the pride in one’s own mind. It also means someone whose conduct of body speech and mind is so excellent and  good that everyone, including the gods and humans, when they see you, say “you’re like a venerable person, a Master, a spiritual friend and so forth. If I don’t pay homage to you, who am I going to pay homage to? If I don’t go for refuge to you, who am I going to go for refuge to?  Please grant your blessings that I may be like you”. Basically they are someone  that inspires people in the world, someone whom they can place their hopes on. That is what we call a venerable person, a monastic, a practitioner. 

If they are not like that, we might give the names like a Dharma practitioner to various different people. However, it is possible there are monastics who are even worse than laypeople. For this reason, the main thing that distinguishes lay people from monastics is not in terms of the view or in terms of meditation but in terms of the excellent conduct based on the subtle rules of  Vinaya, we can distinguish between monastics and householders in terms of superior conduct. 

Now, if there weren’t such badly behaved people in the Vinaya texts, then there wouldn’t be any Vinaya rules and  there wouldn’t be such excellent behavior. For that reason, during the time of Buddha, having badly-behaved bhikshus and bhikshunis therefore worked out well for us. Likewise, it also says in some of the Mahayana sutras that the Bhikshu Udayi (Gelong Chagar) f22:16 rom the Gang of Six and even Devadatta, in some Mahayana Sutras are said to be emanations of the Buddha. I think that is a really an important point. If we think about it, from the historical perspective, it seems inappropriate to say that people are our emanations of the Buddha. That seems strange from historical perspective. However, from the view of our philosophy, and of practice it is important to understand and  very beneficial to say that they are emanations of the Buddha. 

THE MEANING OF PRATIMOKSHA (SO SOR THARPAI DO) – THE THREE EXPLANATIONS OF VIMALAMITRA

The  Pratimoksha Sutra (Prātimokṣa Sūtra, So Sor Tharpa Do/so sor thar pa’i do), in Pali is pātimokkha. In Sanskrit, they use the word Sūtra, but in Pali they do not use that word.  The Sutra of Individual Liberation, contains 250+ rules of the Vinaya but does not teach the rituals of actions that the sangha must perform. It contains all of the Vinaya rules.   There are  meanings of the term Pratimoksha (Pali: pātimokkha), as given in a commentary by Vimalamitra.

 Vimalamitra’s explanation of the meaning of the term Pratimoksha

Vimalamitra (དྲི་མེད་བཤེས་གཉེན་ Drime Shenyen) an 8th-century Indian Buddhist master.

When we talk about this word, Pratimoksha, it is a Sanskrit or an Indian word. When it is translated into Tibetan, what is the meaning of it? There’s a commentary on this by Vimalamitra (Drime Shenyen) who gives three different explanations of the term.

  1. Individual Liberation

He said that the word “Prati-” (So So) means individual, our own individual personal selves. Moksha means achieving liberation (tharpa). Combining these two means individual liberation, or personal liberation. This means an individual who is keeping vows to liberated themselves from the lower realms and samsara. They are keeping the discipline so they can protect themselves from the law from samsara. It is not like keeping it will protect someone else, liberate anyone else.  So, for that reason, if you are able to keep the discipline, then you can liberate yourself from the lower realms and samsara. 

2. First Liberation

The second explanation says, “prati-” refers to first or initial, and “-moksha” again means liberation. This means that ‘first liberation’ and that liberation occurs the first moment of receiving the vows.  Then you are liberated from the faults of previously having wrong vows. For example, if you were once a butcher, it means that you had decided and were committed and dedicated to killing animals. This commitment is what is called a wrong vow. Regardless of whether you actually killed an animal or not, you had a commitment to do so. Yet, the instant one takes the pratimoksha vows, one is naturally and automatically liberated from the non-virtue of having wrong vows. That is why it is called ‘first liberation’.

3. Method of Liberation

The third explanation is, “prati-” can refer to “method”. Therefore, the third meaning of pratimoksha can be the methods or the method of liberation. So, they can be called the vows that are methods of liberation. 

THE EIGHT CATEGORIES OF THE PRECEPTS

The Eight Categories of Precepts/Vows

The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya scriptures translated into Tibetan speak of the “five categories of downfalls” (Thungwa De Nga). In contrast, there is a division of all precepts into eight categories. Today, I would like to describe them as in the Pali Vinaya, where they are divided into eight categories. 

1. Defeats (Tib. phampar gyurwai cho ཕམ་པར་གྱུར་པའི་ཆོས།; Pali: pārājikā dhammā; Skt. pārājikā dharmāḥ). 

2. Sangha remainders (Tib. gendun lhagmai cho དགེ་འདུན་ལྷག་མའི་ཆོས།; Pali: saṃghādisesā dhammā or saṃghadisesa dhamma; Skt. saṃghāvaśeṣā dharmāḥ ). 

3.  Indefinite dharmas (Tib. ma nges pa’i cho མ་ངེས་པའི་ཆོས།; Pali: aniyatā dhammā; Skt. aniyatau dharmau). 

4. Downfalls with forfeiture (Tib. pangpai tungje ki cho སྤང་པའི་ལྟུང་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཆོས།; Pali: nissaggiyā pācittiyā dhammā; Skt niḥsargikāḥ pātayantikā dharmāḥ). 

5. Downfalls (Tib. tungje ki cho ལྟུང་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཆོས།; Pali: pācittiyā dhammā, Skt: pātayantikā dharmāḥ). 

6. Confessable dharmas (Tib. so sor shagparwai cho སོ་སོར་བཤགས་པར་བྱ་བའི་ཆོས།; Pali: pāṭidesanīyā dhammā; Skt. prātideśanīyā dḥārmāḥ). In all the vinayas, there are four for bhikshus.

7. Numerous training dharmas (Tib. labpai cho mangpo བསླབ་པའི་ཆོས་མང་པོ།’; Pali: sekhiyā dhammā; Skt. saṃbahulāḥ śaikṣā dharmāḥ). 

8. Dharmas for settling disputes (Tib. tsopa zhiwar jepai cho རྩོད་པ་ཞི་བར་བྱེད་པའི་ཆོས། ; Pali: adhikaraṇasamathā dhammā; Skt. adhikaraṇaśamathā dharmāḥ). 

These are the rules of the Vinaya in terms of eight different sections according to the Pali Vinaya. The Vinaya has many different rules but I will not speak about them all in front of a large group, as it is not very appropriate and also there is just not enough time to go through all of them.  

I am going to speak about  the Pratimoksha vows and how many precepts there are in each one.  These are not just the precepts of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. There is also a comparison of all the different precepts in the various different Vinaya from the different schools that are extant today and available for us to look at. So I thought if we speak about these, it would be very beneficial for us to consider a comparative study of these, which has been done based on eighteen different texts. Here I give an introduction to each of these eighteen different texts that are used as the basis for the comparison. 

THE EIGHTEEN DIFFERENT TEXTS – A COMPARISON

The eighteen texts mentioned are as follows. The first group is:

The Vinayas of each Individual School (Depa Re’i Dulwa: སྡེ་པ་རེའི་འདུལ་བ་)

1. The Pali “Pātimokkha”: This Pātimokkha is generally accepted to have been passed down from the Sthavira (Tib. Netendewa གནས་བརྟན་སྡེ་པ་) school. This is what is known as the Theravada (Skt. Sthaviravāda) school.

2. The Mahāsāṃghika Prātimokṣa Sūtra (Tib. Gendun Phel Chenpo’i Sor Do དགེ་འདུན་ཕལ་ཆེན་པོའི་སོར་མདོ་): For a long time this was only available in the Chinese tradition but later a Sanskrit text was found. It is from the Mahāsāṃghika school, one of the 18 schools.

3. The Prātimokṣa Sūtra of the Five Scriptures (Tib. Lung De Ngai Sor Do ལུང་སྡེ་ལྔའི་སོར་མདོ་): This contains the full Vinaya or ‘vibhaṅga’. It was passed down from the Mahīśāsaka school which was passed down from the Chinese translations.

4. The Prātimokṣa Sūtra of the Four Scriptures (Tib. Lung De Zhi Sor Do ལུང་སྡེ་བཞིའི་སོར་མདོ་ also contains the full Vinaya and is a Chinese translation. This is the Vinaya passed down from the Dharmaguptaka (Pali: dhammagutta, dhammaguttika) tradition.

5. The “Sūtra of the Discipline of Liberation” (Tib. Tharpai Tsultrimpai Do ཐར་པའི་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམ་པའི་མདོ་) only includes the “Prātimokṣa Sūtra” and does not contain the full Vinayavibhanga. It is extant only in Chinese translation. It descends from the Kāśyapīya (Pali: Kassapiyā, Kassapikā) school.

This group is the Individual Vinayas of each School. The Vinaya texts of each school as the basis.

The Sarvāstivāda Vinaya (Thamche Yo-mai Dulwa ཐམས་ཅད་ཡོད་སྨྲའི་འདུལ་བ་)

The next group  Sarvāstivāda is one of the 18 original schools. The different vinayas are the same in that they are sarvāstivāda vinayas, but there are different manuscripts.

6. One of these is an ancient manuscript of the “Prātimokṣa Sūtra” extracted from the Dunhuang Caves. This is considered to be the earliest translation of the “Prātimokṣa Sūtra” into Chinese.

7. “The Ten Recitations” (Tib. ཚིག་བཅད་བཅུ་པ་ :tshig che chu pai) [the 17th Karmapa did not explain this one.

8. The “Ten Recitations Vinaya” (Tib. འདུལ་བ་ཚིག་བཅད་བཅུ་པ་ tshig che chu pai) is primarily related to the long vinaya. Translated literally this means the Ten Verses.

9. The next is the “Bhikṣu Prātimokṣa Sūtra” of the Ten Recitations ( འདུལ་བ་ཚིག་བཅད་བཅུ་པའི་དགེ་སློང་: dulwai tshigche chupai gelong).

10. A Sanskrit version “Prātimokṣa Sūtra” was found by the Frenchman Paul Pelliot in Xinjiang and is very old. It was published in an edition edited by Finot in 1913.

These five scriptures belong to the Sarvāstivāda school. They are different manuscripts of the same school of Vinaya, but in different translations in Sanskrit and Chinese.

These scriptures are all of the same school but they are different manuscripts in terms of value. Whereas the previous texts there was one for each of the schools, so they each have the same value, but here these five texts are all different. They are the same Vinaya but with difference Sanskrit and Chinese manuscript translations.

The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya (གཞི་ཐམས་ཅད་ཡོད་སྨྲའི་འདུལ་བ་)

The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya is one of the eighteen, or some say twenty, different schools of Buddhism. This is the Vinaya we keep in the Tibetan tradition and there are several different manuscripts for this. We are using the following four for the basis of today’s comparison.

11. The Indian scholar A.C. Banerjee discovered an ancient Sanskrit manuscript of the Mūlasarvāstivāda “Prātimokṣa Sūtra”. The manuscript was inside an old stupa located in a region of Kashmir currently administered by Pakistan. This area, called Gilgit in Pakistan used to be a Tibetan region called Drusha (འབྲུ་ཤ་). The region was later lost to Kashmir for a reason I do not know. The manuscript was well-preserved and is complete.

12. The Tibetan translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda “Prātimokṣa Sūtra” is the one in our Tibetan canon and it is also complete with the full Vinaya.

13. There is also a Chinese translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda “Prātimokṣa Sūtra”. 14. The “Mahāvyūha” (Tib. Jedrag Togje Chenmo བྱེ་བྲག་རྟོགས་བྱེད་ཆེན་མོ་)is not a Vinaya text but was compiled at the time of the Tibetan emperors. It is like a dictionary that gives a list of different terms and the numbers of precepts in each category.

Other Texts connected to the Vinaya

The next texts are not actually Vinaya texts, they are mainly Sutras related to the Vinaya.

15. “Upāli’s Questions Ascertaining the Vinaya” (Vinayaviniścayopāliparipṛcchā) is extant in Chinese and Sanskrit translation. While not a vinaya text, it lists the precepts and the number of precepts in the “Prātimokṣa Sūtra”. The way they are presented here is slightly different than how they are in other vinayas. Some scholars therefore suspect it is probably from another school. For that reason, it is an important text.

16. “Twenty-two Clear Points About the Vinaya” (Dulwa Nyer Nyi: འདུལ་བ་ཉེར་གཉིས་གསལ་བ་) was translated into Chinese by the master Paramārtha (Yangdag Denpa: ཡང་དག་ལྡན་པ་). This is a commentary on the Vinaya from the Sammatīya (Pali, Skt.: Saṃmatīya) school.

17. The next is the “Sūtra of the Five Qualities of a Bhikṣu” (Gelong gi Cho Nga’i Do དགེ་སློང་གི་ཆོས་ལྔའི་མདོ་), translated into Chinese by the master Dharmadeva Tib. Cho gi Lha ཆོས་གི་ལྷ་).

18. The last is the “Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra”, a Mahayana sutra. All of the precepts of the Prātimokṣa are here so it was also included by the researchers.

Further Explanation

  • These 18 different manuscripts contain the Vinayas of eight schools, which are: the Sri Lankan Theravada; the Mahāsāṃghika; the Mahīśāsaka; the Dharmaguptaka; the Kāśyapīya; the Sarvāstivāda; the Mūlasarvāstivāda; and the Sammatīya (Pali, Skt.: Saṃmatīya). The Mūlasarvāstivāda is similar to the Sarvāstivāda, so if it is not considered as being separate, there would be seven schools. 
  • Then by adding “ Upāli’s Questions Ascertaining the Vinaya”, which as previously mentioned presents the precepts differently, to the above schools you could then say there are manuscripts of eight different schools. There are debates about what school it comes from, some say it probably comes from Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. Other scholars refute this because when you compare the Mūlasarvāstivāda to the other traditions, it’s a little bit different.
  • In addition, there is the Vinaya from the Mahāsāṃghika school. Other Mahāsāṃghika texts are extremely rare so this Vinaya manuscript is extremely significant.
 Comparative studies of the Vinaya 

What are the differences between these schools in terms of the precepts of the Pratimoksha, the number of precepts and the actual precepts?  Researchers have  looked into these topics and their results were published of which there are seven different works that I will introduce now.

1. In 1926, the Japanese scholar Dr. Makoto Nagai published a comparative study of different vinaya texts in the periodical “Religious Studies.”

2. In 1926, Waldschmidt published a comparative study of the Bhikṣunī Prātimokṣa Sūtras.

3. In 1927,  Japanese scholar Dr. Tetsuro Watsuji published “The Philosophy of Practice in Original Buddhism” in the periodical “Early Buddhist Philosophy“.

4. In 1928, the Japanese scholar Nishimoto Ryuzan published a table comparing the vinayas.

5. The Japanese scholar Akanuma Chizen (Japanese 赤沼 智善 1884 – 1938) wrote a textual comparison of the Prātimokṣa Sūtras (波羅提木叉の比較) .

6. In 1940, Akanuma Chizen published 诸部戒本戒条对照表, a correspondence table comparing the precepts of the various Prātimokṣas in detail.

7. In 1955, W. Pachow, a professor from a university in Ceylon, published the results of his comparative research.

Akanuma Chizen (Japanese 赤沼 智善 1884 – 1938)

COMPARATIVE TABLE BY HIRAKAWA AKIRA

Here is a comparative table based upon research completed by the aforementioned seven scholars and upon Hirakawa Akira’s “Research into the Vinaya Piṭaka .” Akira redid and improved upon six comparative tables they produced into this one table, I am showing here:

Looking at Akira’s final totals, it seems as though the number of precepts in different schools’ Vinayas are completely different. Even within the same tradition there can be different numbers. For example in the Sarvāstivāda there are two different traditions, and in the Mūlasarvāstivāda there are three. Therefore, it is not definite or certain.

This is the reason that many modern researchers have said that later generations may have added to the Vinaya precepts or decreased them. There are reasons why they say this and it is probably true, as there are many differences. 

The most differences are found in the number of trainings, also called the list of minor offenses, but those differences are slight.  However, if you total them up, in the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition there are 112, for example. The basic structure is the same,  but even though the structure is basically the same, when you total up the numbers, the total number seems different. So the different numbers did not happen because of a different structure. Generally, they are the same in number too, with only slight differences. So this Japanese scholar, Akira says that because the total number of precepts is in accord with the different traditions, they must have come from the same source.   If they had come from different sources, then most of the precepts would not be in accordance. Despite the differences,  the overall structure is the same.

THE EIGHT SECTIONS IN MORE DETAIL AND THE DIFFERENCES IN THE VINAYA

Now I will go through the eight different sections I mentioned before.  The first of these is the dharmas that are defeats (phampa). The names are subtly different in the Chinese, the Pali and Sanskrit, I will not speak about that. 

1. Defeats (Tib. phampar gyurwai cho ཕམ་པར་གྱུར་པའི་ཆོས།; Pali: pārājikā dhammā; Skt. pārājikā dharmāḥ). 

All the Vinayas say there are four defeats for bhikshus. There are no differences. I do not need to describe each of the four defeats. 

2. Sangha remainders (Tib. gendun lhagmai cho དགེ་འདུན་ལྷག་མའི་ཆོས།; Pali: saṃghādisesā dhammā or saṃghadisesa dhamma; Skt. saṃghāvaśeṣā dharmāḥ ). 

In all the vinayas, there are thirteen for bhikshus. There are no differences.

3.  Indefinite dharmas (Tib. ma nges pa’i cho མ་ངེས་པའི་ཆོས།; Pali: aniyatā dhammā; Skt. aniyatau dharmau). 

Even though here these are presented as a separate category, in our Tibetan tradition, these are not considered downfalls. Rather, they are situational defeats.   Here they are included as a separate category.  All the Vinayas say there are two for bhikshus. However, they are not mentioned in the “Sūtra Requested by Upāli” or the “Sūtra of the Five Dharmas of a Bhikṣu.”  

4. Downfalls with forfeiture (Tib. pangpai tungje ki cho སྤང་པའི་ལྟུང་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཆོས།; Pali: nissaggiyā pācittiyā dhammā; Skt niḥsargikāḥ pātayantikā dharmāḥ). 

In all Vinayas, there are thirty for bhikshus.  The main thing we are talking about here is the number. In terms of the content, there’s not a whole lot of difference, The number is the same.

5. Downfalls (Tib. tungje ki cho ལྟུང་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཆོས།; Pali: pācittiyā dhammā, Skt: pātayantikā dharmāḥ). 

Here there are different totals in three traditions. The first which is from the Pāli canon, the Mahāsāṃghika the “Sūtra of Upāli’s Questions,” and the “Sūtra of the Bhikṣu’s Five Dharmas,” has 92 downfalls.  The second, from the Dharmagupta, Sarvāstivāda, the “Clarification of the Vinaya,” and the “Sūtra of Liberation,” has 91 downfalls. In practice, in the Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, we say there are 90 downfalls. One can see in the table,  it says there are 91 in the Mūlasarvāstivāda, so we need to investigate whether it is mistaken. The difference in one or two downfalls might also be explained because the downfalls of destroying seeds and cutting down growing plants are combined as one rule in the Mūlasarvāstivāda but divided into two in other schools.

6. Confessable dharmas (Tib. so sor shagparwai cho སོ་སོར་བཤགས་པར་བྱ་བའི་ཆོས།; Pali: pāṭidesanīyā dhammā; Skt. prātideśanīyā dḥārmāḥ). In all the vinayas, there are four for bhikshus.

Now this confessional Dharma [also known as the four reprehensible acts in the context of the Pratimoksha vows] in all the Vinaya schools there are four for Bhikshus.

7. Numerous training dharmas (Tib. labpai cho mangpo བསླབ་པའི་ཆོས་མང་པོ།’; Pali: sekhiyā dhammā; Skt. saṃbahulāḥ śaikṣā dharmāḥ). 

These are what we call the minor offenses. All the different vinayas have different numbers. The Pali Vinaya has 75, the Mahāsāṃghika has 66, the “Sūtra of Upāli’s Questions” has 72, and the Mahīśāsaka and Dharmaguptika have 100. The Mūlasarvāstivāda and the Chinese have 96. The Prātimokṣa Sūtra found in Dunhuang has 107.  The Chinese translation has 106. The Tibetan translation and Sanskrit manuscripts have 108. The Tibetan translations of the Mūlasarvāstivāda have 112 but in the table 108 is recorded, so we must check whether there is correct or a mistake.

8. Dharmas for settling disputes (Tib. tsopa zhiwar jepai cho རྩོད་པ་ཞི་བར་བྱེད་པའི་ཆོས། ; Pali: adhikaraṇasamathā dhammā; Skt. adhikaraṇaśamathā dharmāḥ). 

All the Vinayas include seven for bhikshus. However, they are not mentioned in the “Sūtra of Upāli’s Questions,” “Clarifying Twenty-two Vinayas,” or the “Five Dharmas of a Bhikṣu.”

So I have explained the 18 different Vinaya texts.

THE NUMBER OF PRECEPTS IN THE DIFFERENT VINAYAS

Columns from left to right: 1st: Defeats. 2nd: Remainders. 3rd:Uncertain. 4th Downfalls. 5th Pratimoksha. 6th and 7th: Total. Rows from top to bottom: the different Vinaya schools.

Now I will show the number of precepts in a table (see image). In some, it is possible that the precepts are the same.  You might think that because the total number is the same, the content must be the same, that is not necessarily the case. 

Likewise, for the Pratimoksha, in the Pali texts, there are more trainings or more minor offenses than in the Mūlasarvāstivāda. When talking about the root, there are a lower number when you look at the commentaries, it is explaining it mentioning all the points mentioned in others. So if you say they are not there, that is not so, there are some things that are recorded in the explanations in the Pali Vinayas that are then actually listed as separate precepts in the other Vinayas. Here is what I would like to show you: 

According to Hirakawa Akira, in Pali there are 227 precepts for bhikshus and 311 for bhikshunis. In the Dharmaguptika tradition, there are a total of 250 precepts for bhikshus and 380 for bhikshunis. In the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, there are 263 and 364 respectively. 

Akira also says that there are differing numbers of precepts in the other vinayas, but for the important precepts of the defeats, the remainders, the forfeitures and the downfalls, all of the vinayas are in agreement. This shows that these precepts were clearly determined or formulated in the period of original Buddhism.

In the Pali vinaya, there are four defeats, thirteen remainders, two indefinites, thirty forfeitures, ninety-two downfalls, four confessables, five trainings and seven settling disputes for a total of 227.  Similarly, when you look at all these, I think you can see all these in the table, 

In the Sarvastarvada tradition these are primarily speaking about the ones that are in the Chinese tradition, as I mentioned before. There is the Vinaya of the 10 recitations that I mentioned before. 

SLIDE

In the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition for which there are the Chinese and Tibetan translations. Below that is the Mahavipyate (changes slide).  Then there are the 22 clarifications of the Vinaya, the Paranirvana Sutra and the Five Dharmas of a Bhikshu. 

So this is a  comparison of the 18 different texts related to Vinaya, presenting the total numbers of precepts given in each.  The numbers in the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition listed here are a little bit different. This is something that we would need to examine. Other than that the rest are primarily based on the comparative research of Hirawa Akira  and using his text as the basis for this table. 

In brief, according to Akira, in the Pali tradition, there are 227 for the Bhikshus and 311 for the nuns.  In the Dharma Gupta tradition, there are a total of 250 for the Bhikshus and 384 for the Bhikshunis. In our Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, we have 253 for the Bhikshus and 364 for the Bhikshunis. I have added that one, the rest are according to him. 

Akira also says that in the other vinayas,  there are differing numbers but for the important precepts, such as the defeats the remainders, the forfeitures, and the downfalls, all of the vinayas are in agreement. So what this shows is that these precepts were actually clearly determined, or formulated in the period of original Buddhism. They had been decided at that time, as he says. 

SAKYA PANDITA ON THE VOWS AND THE BANNING OF OTHER VINAYAS IN TIBET
Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen (ས་སྐྱ​་པཎ་ཌི་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན, 1182 -1251).

What I want to add here is that what we often say in the Tibetan, in Sakya Pandita’s Treatise on the Three Vows (Dom Sum Rab-je):

The different schools are all different,

At first, when taking vows,

In the middle, when keeping, restoring, and

Reciting Prātimokṣa,

In the end, when canceling the vows,

So they each refuted each other.

What this is saying about the 18 different schools and their Vinaya, is the way that the vows are taken, kept,  restored, recited in the Pratimoksha, and at the end, the way the vows are cancelled, are all completely different in the different schools. None of them are the same.  Likewise, what is prohibited in one, is allowed in another. That is what Sakya Pandita is saying. 

When I look at these eighteen different schools, I wonder if it is really this way. It is understandable that Sakya Pandita thought this way; during the time of the Tibetan emperors, it is said that translations of the Vinaya other than that of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition were prohibited. Whether it was actually prohibited or not needs to be investigated but Sakya Pandita explained that it was so. In any case, there was only the Vinaya of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, but not of any others. Consequently, it was difficult for Tibetan scholars to obtain manuscripts of other schools and to figure out what the differences were. I believe Sakya Pandita was probably following the sayings or the words of other older scholars. These days, we’re in a time when we can study and research Buddhism in many different languages. We can compare them and have many different opportunities. We do not need to merely rely on hearsay from past. We are able to now do our research by looking at different schools.”

We can actually take a look at the schools of the different schools.  I think it id important for us to do our research in this way. The reason for this is, in the past, we would say that our Mūlasarvāstivāda school is the authoritative school. Yet, in actuality, whether one is talking about 18 schools or 20 schools, to say that one is right and the other is wrong, is very difficult. 

For example, if we talk about the the luminous Vinaya descriptor of King Krikin’s dream, it says that all the ancient schools are the same and the true teachings of the Buddha. This is often said and I think this is a really crucial point. In the past, the ancient schools disputed each other and said to each other, “you’re not the true dharma, you’re not right, but I am.” There must have been many different debates. 

Je Atisha – said to be unbiased and non-sectarian on Vinaya traditions

For that reason, Lord Atisha for example, was said to be someone who was different, as he took care of the Vinayas and the practice of the four schools, as if they were the four angles of a square, meaning he had no bias for any particular school. At that time, many schools remained in India and yet Atisha was not partisan. He read all their texts and all the different schools, without bias. It is for this reason that in the Kadampa tradition, they say that he took the whole teachings of the Buddha and recognized all 18 schools as being the words of the Buddha, correct and true.

In general,  we can understand what the difference of the 18 different schools are, then there’s the benefit that we can understand what the practices of each school is, and to practice them properly. So in brief, as some Japanese scholars say, each of the rules the Buddha made was after some  incident. First there was some incident and because that incident, then Buddha made a rule. 

When we look at the background story of the Vinayas, the records of all the incidents in detail (which give the reason why each rule was made), we can understand how the lives of the sangha members in their ‘dwelling places’ and ‘pleasant groves’ changed, how monasteries changed, how the lives of practitioners changed, and what improvements and developments occurred in their lifetime. Likewise, when we look at various rituals of action, the sangha’s method of making internal rules, we can see the development of their livelihood. Basically, the benefit that came from establishing the Prātimokṣa rules is that the overall livelihood of the sangha became more organized. These rules were not made in a single day. They were added gradually over time. First there was one or two and then more and more precepts. The Prātimokṣa Sūtras were therefore like a collection made over time, not something that was made in a single day.

THE BUDDHA DID NOT APPOINT A SUCCESSOR AND THE SANGHA WAS DEMOCRATIC

The Buddha did not appoint anyone to be his successor or to be the leader of the sangha after passing away.  For that reason, there was not a single leader, a successor in the Sangha. So situations developed in a single place where two Sangha communities, might not look at each other. They didn’t really look at each other because they had the same seniority, or the same level. There were times when disputes occurred between them and there was the danger that there would be like a schism into two different schools of the sangha.

 So what was needed in order to to bring harmony to the Sangha is to have the sangha as rituals of actions. The way this is beneficial is that when you’re doing the ritual of action, when you’re tied to the ritual, the action means that all the Sangha members had to have a meeting. 

What was needed to bring harmony to the sangha was to have the sangha’s rituals of actions. This is beneficial because when doing the ritual of action, sangha members had to get together and have a meeting. Although we tend to think about “ritual of action” as coming together to recite, it was not like that. Ritual of action means meeting together to speak and have discussions, and in order to hold a ritual of action, the entire sangha would have to gather if necessary. Sometimes it was not necessary for all sangha members to be present, but when it was, everyone gathered and then they could make decisions by consensus. In the Vinaya tradition, if even one bhikshu objects, you cannot make a decision. Arriving at a consensus is therefore very beneficial for creating harmony within the sangha.

 Now, I will speak about who has the authority or leadership within the Sangha. During the period of original Buddhism, what was the leadership, who had authority?  The Indian scholar S.R. Goyal says during the Buddha’s lifetime the Buddha was recognized as the leader or the main member of the Sangha. What is the evidence for this? 

In order to gather for the rains retreat, going for refuge to the Three Jewels was the first thing one needed to do. If not, one could not enter the sangha community. In order to go for refuge to the Three Jewels, one needed to go for refuge to the Buddha. So Goyal says that naturally, the Buddha became the leader of the sangha. What is meant here by “leader”? At that time in India there were many religious groups. The differences between the leaders of other groups and the Buddha were that the leaders of other groups were considered supreme within their own group; they made rules for how their communities would lead their lives and for how they progressed about their business. Likewise, they also decided who would uphold their lineage and named their successors. This was the tradition within all the different religious groups at that time in India. For that reason, many people who were not members of the sangha asked who the Buddha’s successor would be. At that time, all the other religions had this custom of the leader appointing their successor. Only the Buddha and his sangha did not. 

There was the disharmony between the Buddha and Devadatta, who is often referred to as the “mara” (demon) Devadatta.  When I  was young, I thought Devadatta was like a demon and non-human. Instead, it turned out that Devadatta was human just like the Buddha! He was actually the Buddha’s uncle-son, or we can say the Buddha’s cousin. In any case there was a great disharmony between the Buddha and Devadatta because Devadatta hoped to be appointed as the Buddha’s successor. He also told the Buddha to give him his students and that he would take care of them. The Buddha, however, did not accept this. Not giving his students to Devadatta shows that the sangha community was going down a more democratic path and more democratic traditions. Previously in a royal or monarchical system, the ruler, that is to say an individual, would be in power and would the pass the power down themselves as individuals. Yet, in  a democratic system, the collective or the public has the power. For this reason, the Buddha did not accept Devadatta’s proposal.

According to Goyal, when we call the Buddha the Teacher, it means merely the one who gives advice about how to achieve the ultimate nature and what the ultimate nature is. It does not mean the one who gives commands to and exerts authority over the sangha. That is not what the Buddha said he was. This shows that the sangha primarily followed democratic procedures. Likewise, the Buddha said to the sangha, “You must be your own protector” and “You must take the true Dharma to be your protector and refuge.” He also spoke about how you should not go for refuge to some external successor.

 


[i] THE ‘FOUR DEFEATS’ THAT ENTAIL AUTOMATIC LIFE-LONG EXPULSION FROM THE MONASTIC COMMUNITY

The four parajikas (defeats) entailing expulsion from the sangha for life. If a monk or nun breaks any one of the rules he/she is automatically ‘defeated’ and falls from monkhood immediately. He is not allowed to become a monk again in his/her lifetime. Intention is necessary in all these four cases to constitute an offence. The four parajikas for bhikkus are:

1. Sexual intercourse, that is, any voluntary sexual interaction between a monk or a nun and a living being.

“In this rule, the term sexual act refers to all kinds of sexual intercourse. The Vibhanga classifies the various types of intercourse by the organs involved — the genitals, the mouth, the anus — and in any of the possible combinations (except for mouth-to-mouth, which is treated separately under Sanghadisesa 2, below), the sexual act has been performed when one organ enters the other even if just to “the extent of a sesame seed.” This means that a monk engaging in genital, oral, or anal intercourse is subject to this rule regardless of which role he plays. The question of whether there is a covering, such as a condom, between the organs is irrelevant, as are the questions of whether the monk is actively or passively involved, and whether or not any of the parties involved reaches orgasm.”

2. Stealing, that is, the robbery of anything worth more than 1/24 troy ounce of gold (as determined by local law).

3. Intentionally bringing about the death of a sentient being, even if it is still an embryo — whether by killing the being, arranging for an assassin to kill the being, inciting the beingto die, or describing the advantages of death.

“Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a being of life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): “My good man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,” or with such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is defeated and no longer in communion.”

4. Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a superior spiritual state, such as claiming to be an Arhat when one knows one is not, or claiming to have attained one of the jhanas when one knows one hasn’t.

“All conscious lies are forbidden by the first pacittiya rule, but knowingly to make a false claim to a superior human state is the most heinous lie a bhikkhu can tell, and so here it receives its own rule and the heaviest possible penalty.

The seriousness with which the Buddha regarded a breach of this training rule is indicated by his statements to the original instigators:

“You misguided men, how can you for the sake of your stomachs speak praise of one another’s superior human states to householders? It would be better for you that your bellies be slashed open with a sharp butcher’s knife than that you should for the sake of your stomachs speak praise of one another’s superior human states to householders. Why is that? For that reason you would undergo death or death-like suffering, but you would not on that account, at the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the bad bourn, the abyss, purgatory. But for this reason you would, at the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the bad bourn, the abyss, purgatory….Bhikkhus, in this world with its gods, maras, and brahmas, its generations with priests and contemplatives, princes and men, this is the ultimate great thief: he who claims an unfactual, non-existent superior human state. Why is that? You have consumed the nation’s almsfood through theft.”

For full translation/detail of the Four Defeats: https://www.nku.edu/~ken…/Buddhism/lib/modern/bmc/ch4.html

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