The Basket of the Discipline
Pitaka, the first division of the Tipitaka, is the textual framework
upon which the monastic community (Sangha) is built. It includes not
only the rules governing the life of every Theravada bhikkhu (monk) and
bhikkhuni (nun), but also a host of procedures and conventions of
etiquette that support harmonious relations, both among the monastics
themselves, and between the monastics and their lay supporters, upon
whom they depend for all their material needs.
the Buddha first established the Sangha, the community initially lived
in harmony without any codified rules of conduct. As the Sangha
gradually grew in number and evolved into a more complex society,
occasions inevitably arose when a member would act in an unskillful way.
Whenever one of these cases was brought to the Buddha’s attention, he
would lay down a rule establishing a suitable punishment for the
offense, as a deterrent to future misconduct. The Buddha’s standard
reprimand was itself a powerful corrective:
is not fit, foolish man, it is not becoming, it is not proper, it is
unworthy of a recluse, it is not lawful, it ought not to be done. How
could you, foolish man, having gone forth under this Dhamma and
Discipline which are well-taught, [commit such and such offense]?… It
is not, foolish man, for the benefit of un-believers, nor for the
increase in the number of believers, but, foolish man, it is to the
detriment of both unbelievers and believers, and it causes wavering in
— The Book of the Discipline, Part I, by I.B. Horner (London: Pali Text Society, 1982), pp. 36-37.
monastic tradition and the rules upon which it is built are sometimes
naïvely criticized — particularly here in the West — as irrelevant to
the “modern” practice of Buddhism. Some see the Vinaya as a throwback to
an archaic patriarchy, based on a hodge-podge of ancient rules and
customs — quaint cultural relics that only obscure the essence of “true”
Buddhist practice. This misguided view overlooks one crucial fact: it
is thanks to the unbroken lineage of monastics who have consistently
upheld and protected the rules of the Vinaya for almost 2,600 years that
we find ourselves today with the luxury of receiving the priceless
teachings of Dhamma. Were it not for the Vinaya, and for those who
continue to keep it alive to this day, there would be no Buddhism.
helps to keep in mind that the name the Buddha gave to the spiritual
path he taught was “Dhamma-vinaya” — the Doctrine (Dhamma) and
Discipline (Vinaya) — suggesting an integrated body of wisdom and
ethical training. The Vinaya is thus an indispensable facet and
foundation of all the Buddha’s teachings, inseparable from the Dhamma,
and worthy of study by all followers — lay and ordained, alike. Lay
practitioners will find in the Vinaya Pitaka many valuable lessons
concerning human nature, guidance on how to establish and maintain a
harmonious community or organization, and many profound teachings of the
Dhamma itself. But its greatest value, perhaps, lies in its power to
inspire the layperson to consider the extraordinary possibilities
presented by a life of true renunciation, a life lived fully in tune
with the Dhamma.
I. Suttavibhanga — the basic rules of conduct (Patimokkha) for
bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, along with the “origin story” for each one.
A. Mahavagga — in addition to rules of conduct and etiquette for
the Sangha, this section contains several important sutta-like texts,
including an account of the period immediately following the Buddha’s
Awakening, his first sermons to the group of five monks, and stories of
how some of his great disciples joined the Sangha and themselves
B. Cullavagga — an elaboration of the bhikkhus’ etiquette and
duties, as well as the rules and procedures for addressing offences that
may be committed within the Sangha.
III. Parivara — A recapitulation of the previous sections, with
summaries of the rules classified and re-classified in various ways for
The Early Vinaya Stand on Monastic Sexual Behaviour
(University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka)
< Islamic Perspective
John Paul II Chastity (1994) >
Part 1 - Theravada Vinaya Stand on Celibacy
Part 2 - Celibacy as an essential aspect of the practice
article is presented as something of a curiosity. While it contains
good information, it consists basically of a scholarly survey of
legalism in effect in certain monasteries. Missing is any discussion of
the “why” of celibacy - i.e., the effects of celibacy on energies in the
mind and body, and the use of celibacy to hermetically seal the mind
against undesirable mental states and intrusive thoughts. (There is no
discussion of the harmful effects of unnatural sexual acts.) The brief
philosophy of celibacy in Part II is given in general Buddhistic terms
such as craving, pleasure-seeking, suffering, and renunciation.
has been a key aspect of the Buddhist monastic life from the beginning.
In fact it has been prescribed for both householders and monks though
at two different levels. For the former, celibacy has been prescribed as
a part of their more intensive religious behaviour associated with the
observance of uposatha. [References Cited]
(Sanskrit: upavashatha) observance pre-dates Buddhism. It seems that
the practice was already there as a part of Indian religious life and
the Buddhists in fact adopted it partly on popular demand. [See Vinaya
II: Uposatha-khandhaka for details]
the gradual development of monasticism in Buddhism it seems that
specific modes of religious observance were evolved for the laity, an
important aspect of which was for them to spend a day in a monastery
undertaking to observe eight (attanga-sila) or ten precepts (dasa-sila),
a day during which householders are expected to undertake to observe
several more precepts than their regular five precepts.
the regular five precepts what comes as refraining from sexual
misconduct [kaamesu micchaacaaraa veramani] becomes, under this special
observance, equal to what is observed by the monks and nuns, namely,
refraining from non-noble behaviour [abrahma-cariyaa veramani]. Whereas
total abstinence from sex is only optional for householders, for the
monks and nuns it has been mandatory from the beginning of the Sangha
paper focuses basically on the practice of celibacy within the monastic
community, for it is in the context of monastic life that the full
import of the practice becomes clearly evident. In the monastic
discipline, Vinaya, rules and traditions related to sexual behaviour
become very important and hence one aspect of the paper will be to study
the mechanism of the Vianya rules associated with monastic sexual
behaviour. Since Vinaya receives its justification in the broader
context of the Buddhist religious practice aimed at attaining the
purification/liberation (visuddhi/vimutti) it is crucial for us to
understand the doctrinal justification of celibacy within the broader
paper will be organized in the following manner: the first part will
discuss the Vianya or the disciplinary rules related to monastic
celibacy. The second part will discuss the doctrinal foundations of this
practice. For the first section my main sources will be the Theravada
Pali Vinaya literature, namely, the Vinaya-pitaka and its commentary by
Buddhaghosa. More recent secondary literature will be cited for further
clarification. For the second the main sources will be in addition to
the Vinaya-pitaka,the Sutta-pitaka or the discourses in the Pali canon.
Although the title of the paper highlights the first parajika relevant
to the bhikkhu (male) sangha, the similar rules relevant to the
bhikkhuni (female) sangha and the other subsidiary rules associated with
the sexual relations between bhikkhu and bhikkhuni sangha will also be
I. The Theravada Vinaya Stand on Celibacy
is important to note at the beginning that the Vinaya rule connected
with celibacy is the very first of the rules counting among the most
severe in the degree of violation, and it is common for both bhikkhu and
bhikkhuni sangha. The four rules included in the first category,
namely, parajika, are so called for the particular violations amount to
the “defeat” of the offending member [of the monastery]. What this term
exactly means is given in the Vianaya: Like a person, whose head is cut
off, is unable to live with that mutilated body, a bhikkhu having
associated with sex becomes a non-samana and non-sakyan-son (i.e. loses
his monkhood and the membership among the Buddha’s sangha).
Paaraajiko hotiiti seyyathaapi naama puriso siisacchinno ababbho
tena sariirabandhanena jivitum,evam eva bhikkhu methunam dhammamam
patisevitvaa asamano hoti askyaputtiyo, tena vuccati paaraajiko hotiiti.
(Vinaya III p.28.)
shows that the sense of “defeat”, amounting to losing one’s monkhood,
has much stronger connotation than it would usually believed to contain.
By violating this rule one becomes “un-associable” (asamvaasa) by the
Sangha, which technically means that the Sangha cannot execute vinaya
acts having him/her as a member, cannot recite the Vinaya together and
does not share the same mode of training with the particular person any
Asamvaasoti samvaaso naama ekakammam ekuddeso samasikkhaa, eso
samvaaso naama, so tena saddhim natthi, tena vuccati asamvaasoti.
(Vinaya III p.28.)
first parajika rule has the main prohibition with two specifications.
The main rule goes as: whoever bhikkhu engages in sexual act becomes
defeated and un-associable [yo pana bhikkhu methunam dhammam patiseveyya
paarajiko hoti asamvaaso].
original rule was enacted due to sexual intercourse by the monk named
Sudinna with his former wife. It is known that the Buddha did not enact
vinaya rules until the conditions tha necessitated doing were there and a
tradition going back to the early period has that during the first
twenty years of the Sangha there were not any regulated vinaya rules,
but, instead the disciples were guided by the Dhamma itself. The
Sudinna’s case is considered to be first serious matter that arose
within the Sangha.
conditions under which Sudinna had to have sex with his former wife are
quite clear; he was the only son of a rich family not wanting to lose
their son and also not wanting see their vast property perished in the
absence of heir, they first tried their best to avert him from his
decision to join the Sangha, once it failed and when he visited his
parents at their house for the first time again they tried to lure him
back and having failed in both efforts the mother made a plea that at
least he should produce a heir to their family to which Sudinna had to
agree. Consequently he had sex with his wife with the intention of
impregnating her [an act which actually caused pregnancy].
this time there was no rule prohibiting the act of this nature. The
Vinaya says that he did so not seeing the disadvantages of the act
[apannatte vinaye anaadiinavadasso …] (Vinaya III. p.18). But his
subsequent behaviour characterized by remorse shows that he was not
“innocent” in his mind. I will come to this point later. When the Buddha
came to know the incident he enacted the rule prohibiting sexual
clauses, “at least with a female animal” [antamaso
tiracchaanagataayapi] and “having made commitment to the training of
bhikkhus, without giving up the training and without admitting the
weakness” [bhikkhuunam sikkhaasaajiiva-samaapanno sikkham apaccakkhaaya
dubbalyam anaavikatvaa] were added due to subsequent developments.
first had to be when a monk had sex with a female monkey thinking that
what is prohibited is only sex with humans, and the next was added when
some monks who got deprived by having sex wanted to return to the Sangha
confessing their subsequent admittance of wrong-doing. The second
specification allows that if a monk who had sex did so having distanced
himself from the training and having admitted his inability to conform
to the rule, he could return later to the Sangha.
case is clear for in fact by doing as indicated in the specification a
monk gives back his monkhood to the Sangha and thereby becomes an
ordinary householder, who is beyond the jurisdiction of the Vinaya and
whose behaviour consequently would not amount to violating the rule.
Such a person may return to the Sangha provided that he or she were to
display the proper attitude toward the Vinaya.
who did not fulfill this requirement should not be accepted if he or
she were to return. The Buddha clearly says that a person fulfilled the
requirement should be accepted and granted upasampadaa on return and one
who did not conform to it must not be given upasampadaa. (Vinaya III.
Pali word used here is “na upasampaadetabbo” meaning, “should not be
given upasampadaa” [full membership], and not “na pabbaajetabbo” meaning
“should not be given pabbajjaa” [initial leaving of household life],
which seems to imply that such a person still may be accepted as a
samanera [novice]. (Vinaya III. p.23). With the addition of two
specifications the complete rule on the first parajika reads as: whoever
monk, without giving up the training, and without revealing his
weakness, were to have sex even with a female animal becomes defeated
Yo pana bhikkhu bhikkhuunam sikkhaasaajiiva-samaapanno sikkham
apaccakkhaaya dubbalyam anaavikatvaa methunam dhammam patiseveyya
anatamaso tiracchaanagataayapi paaraajiko hoti aamvaso.
the specific context of the rule what is meant by the sexual activity
[methuna-dhamma] is sex between man and woman. However, the rule was
meant to be understood more broadly and more precisely. The phrase
“engages in sex” [methunam dhammam patisevati] has been described
defining what sex means and what engaging in sex means. Sex is defined
as “that which is improper phenomenon, uncultured phenomenon, lowly
phenomenon, lewd, requiring cleansing by water, covert, requiring the
engagement between two [people].
Methunadhammo naama: yo so asaddhammo gaamadhammo vasaladhammo
dutthullam odakantikam rahassam dvayamdvaya samaapatti, eso
methunadhammo naama (Vinaya III. p.28).
engagement in such act has been described as “inserting of the mark
with the mark or sex organ with the sex organ at least to the amount of
Patisevatinaama: yo nimittena nimittam angajaatena angajaatam
antamaso tilaphalamattampi paveseti, eso patisevati naama (Vinaya III.
the definition of sex, the fact that association of two people has been
given as a requirement is important for us to understand the nature of
sex referred to here. In the subsequent description of engaging in sex,
although involvement of two sexual organs and penetration are mentioned,
giving thereby an impression of heterosexual sex, in its technical
analysis what the rule specifies is not mere vaginal sex but sex in any
one of the three modes, namely, vaginal, anal and oral, the three modes
being referred to as “three paths” [tayo maggaa].
broadens the definition of the partner of sex, not confining to
heterosexual act but sexual act between any two partners, whether or not
belonging to the same sex. What really matters is whether or not sex
act involves any of the “three paths” and not sex of those who are
engaged in. In the technical analysis, following this convention, three
females are identified as human, non-human and animal females and three
males are identified as human, non-human and animal males.
the category of non-human may be taken as including all non human
members including animals, in the Pali usage “a-manussa” is usually
taken to mean only non-human counterparts in sub-divine, demon or
hungry-ghost spheres, and not even those who belong to the divine
the involvement of two people has been mentioned in the definition of
the sex act [as we above], an incident, mentioned in the “case studies”
[viniita-vatthu], of a monk who took his own member by his own mouth and
who inserted his own member in his own anus have been judged to have
violated the rule and guilty of parajika offence. Vinaya III. p.35.
Series of incidents involving dead bodies show that the rule applies
equally even if the “partner” is not alive.
next category of offences - which is called “sanghaadisesa”, for the
recovery process from the violation requires the participation of the
Sangha at the beginning and at the end [i.e., formal meeting of the
Sangha] - begins with sex that does not involve the “three paths”
mentioned above. It is important to note that this act is not described
as methuna-dhamma or sexual act, and consequently the violators are not
considered as “defeated”.
relevant rule goes as: intentional emission of semen, unless in a
dream, involves the sanghaadisesa offence. [Sancetanika sukka-visatthi
annatra supinantaa sanghaadiseso (Vinaya III. p.112)]. This rule covers
any sexual act not involving any of the paths, executed within oneself
or between two people.
origin of the rule is a group of monks who engaged in masturbation. The
case studies, however, refer to incidents between two monks but not
involving paths. The two conditions, having intention and emission of
semen both have to be fulfilled in order one to be considered guilty.
This means that if emission happens even in a sexually provocative act
or in an act motivated by sexual desire but emission is not intended or
in an act meant for emission but emission does not happen, the monk
concerned has been considered not guilty technically.
addition to this rule involving “second degree” sex, there are four
other rules belonging to the same category, related to sexual desire,
touching a woman’s body with a perverted mind (sanghaadisesa rule #2);
speaking lewd words to a woman with a perverted mind (rule #3);
speaking with a perverted mind, in the presence of woman, in praise of administering to one’s sexual needs (rule #4);
and functioning as a go-between carrying man’s sexual intentions to a woman or vice versa (rule #5).
these rules do not involve any direct sexual act in themselves, such
behaviour has been considered serious violations due to their obvious
unhealthy impact on celibate life.
is interesting to note that the parajika field for the bhikkhunis is
much broader that that of bhikkhus, in addition to their being bound by
the almost identical first rule related to having sex with a male
Yaa pana bhikkhunii chandaso methunam dhammam patiseveyya antamaso tiracchaanagatenaapi paaraajikaa hoti asamvaasaa.
rule is not completely identical for it does not have the clause
concerning giving up the training and revealing weakness, which is a
concession for those former bhikkhus wished to come back. [human,
non-human or animal] They have two additional parajika offences not
involving direct sexual intercourse but physical touch with a man, which
are as follows:
Whatever bhikkhuni overflowing with desire, should consent to the
rubbing or rubbing up against or taking hold of or touching or pressing
against, below the collarbone, above the circle of the knees, of a male
person who is overflowing with desire, she too becomes defeated, not in
communion. (rule #5)
Whatever bhikkhuni overflowing with desire for the sake of following
what is verily not the rule, should consent to the holding of the hand
by a male person who is overflowing with desire or should consent to
theholding of the edge of [her] outer cloak or should stand or should
talk or should go to a rendezvous or should consent to a man’s
approaching [her] or should enter into a covered place or should dispose
the body for such a purpose, she too becomes defeated, not in
communion. (rule #8 Translation from K.R. Norman in The Patimokkha, ed.
by William Pruitt, PTS, 2001.pp. 119 & 121.).
is covered by these additional two parajika rules [NB. bhikkhunis have
altogether eight parajika rules.] seems to have been included within the
category of the sanghaadisesa in the case of bhikkhus. What is
interesting to note is that there is no sanghaadisesa rule for the
bhikkhunis corresponding to the first of that category of rules for the
bhikkhus involving sex other than three paths.
the bhikkhunis sexual intercourse has been conceived solely as
heterosexual act involving a male partner. Although there is no evidence
in the Vinaya to suggest that it was aware of lesbianism involving two
women, precaution has been taken against bhikkhunis engaging in
activities generating self-stimulation.
addition to the rules concerning sexual acts or sexually oriented
behaviour there are good number of rules for both bhikkhus and
bhikkhunis that make sense only in the context of sexual behaviour. For
instance, in the case of bhikkhus, in addition to the parajika and
sanghaadisesa offences discussed above, there are following rules of
varying degrees of gravity:
i. Indefinite [aniyata]: two offences, one involving sitting with a
woman privately in a screened seat convenient enough for sexual
intercourse, and the other sitting in a place convenient enough not for
having sex but for addressing her with lewd words. These two are called
indefinite because the wrong-doing has to be determined on the word of a
female follower [upaasikaa] who is trustworthy and who brings forth the
chargeand the admittance by the person involved; accordingly the person
may be charged either with parajika or with sanghaadisesa.
ii. Offence entailing expiation with forfeiture [nissaggiya
paacittiya]: the fifth rule in this category prohibits a monk from
accepting a robe from bhikkhuni who is not related. He may do so only
when it is an exchange of robe.
involving expiation [paacittiya]: the following offences involving
expiation seem to be relevant for the present discussion:
sharing the same bed together with a woman [rule #6];
teaching Dhamma to a woman exceeding five or six sentences in the absence of a knowledgeable man [rule #7];
exhorting bhikkhunis without approval of the Sangha [rule #21];
even approved by the Sangha, exhorting after he Sun has set [rule #22];
exhorting a bhikkhuni having gone to her quarters except when a bhikkhuni is not well [rule #23];
giving robe material to a non-related bhikkhuni, except exchange [rule #25];
sewing a robe for or have a robe sewn by a bhikkhuni who is not related [rule #26];
setting out on the same journey, by arrangement, with a bhikkhuni
even to the next village except at the proper time [rule #27];
embark with a bhikkhuni, by arrangement, on a boat journey other than crossing over [rule #28];
eating knowingly food prepared by a bhikkhuni, other than by a prior arrangement with the householder [rule #29];
taking a seat with a bhikkhuni privately, one man with one woman [rule #30];
taking a seat with a woman on a screened seat [rule #44];
taking a seat with a woman privately , one man with one woman [rule # 45];
setting out on the same journey, by arrangement, with a woman, even to the next village [rule #67].
purpose of the rules seems to prevent any situation that could be
conducive for any mutual intimacy causing damage to one’s celibate life.
the case of bhikkhunis, in addition to the parajika rules, there are
subsidiary rules of varying degree of gravity hat can be made sense only
in the context of celibate life. They are as follows:
i. Offences entailing the formal meeting of the Sangha [sanghaadisesa]:
herself overflowing with desire, accepting with her own hand food
from the hands of a man overflowing with desire and partaking of it
instructing a bhikkhuni to ignore whether or not the man offering food
is overflowing with desire, but accept with her own hands such food and
partake of it since she herself is not overflowing with desire [rule
acting as a go-between conveying man’s sexual desire to woman or vice versa [rule #7].
There are no indefinite [aniyata] offences for bhikkhunis, and none of
the thirty offences of expiation involving forfeiture
[nisaggiya-pacittiya] seem to be relevant for the present discussion.]
ii. Offences entailing expiation [paacittiya]:
Slapping [genital] with the palms of the hand [rule #3];
using a wax-stick [for stimulation] (rule #4);
washing [genital] inserting the fingers more than two finger-joints (rule #5);
standing together or talking together, one woman with one man, in the dark of the night when there is no light [rule #11];
standing together or talking with a man, one woman with one man, in a screened place [rule #12];
standing together or talking with a man, one woman with one man, in an open place [rule #13];
standing together with or talking with a man, one woman with one
man, in a carriage or in a cul-de-sac or at crossroads or should whisper
in his ear or should dismiss the bhikkhuni who is her companion [rule
not giving up
keeping company with a householder or a householder son even when she is
advised against it by the other bhikkhunis [rue # 36];
entering into park with bhikkhus knowingly and without permission [rule # 51];
without having obtained permission from the Sangha or from the group
should sit together with a man, one woman with one man, make a boil or a
scab that has formed on the lower part of her body burst or break or
have it be washed or smeared or bound up or unbound [rule #60];
ordaining a trainee who keeps company with men, youths, who is a dwelling place for grief [rule #79];
making one’s bed with a man [rule #102];
teaching Dhamma to man more than five or six sentences [rule #103];
taking a seat with a man privately on a screened seat [rule #125];
and taking seat with a man privately, one woman with one man [rule #126].
study of the rules involving peripheral offences other than parajika or
sanghaadisesa directly involving sexual intercourse or behaviour show
how the tradition has strived to keep its monastic members right on its
focus. The discussion of this section may be summarized by highlighting
the emphasis put on limiting the heterosexual relations of bhikkhus and
bhikkhunis into non-sexual spheres.
II. Celibacy as an essential aspect of the practice - Soteriological significance of celibacy
need to understand the rationale behind the first parajikaa: why having
sex by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis has been considered to be so grave that
it was made the first of the most serious of offences.
a way, this is not hard to explain viewing the phenomenon from the
point of view of the crux of the Buddha’s realization, namely, the four
noble truths. The first two aspects of the teaching say that the people
in the world are suffering and that they undergo various forms of
suffering due to the “thirst” [tanhaa] they have for the pleasurable
Anguttara-nikaya, pp.1-2.objects [kaama-tanhaa], for becoming
[bhava-tanhaa]and for nonbecoming [vibhava-tanhaa]. The last two say
that cessation of this thirst is the end of suffering and the path to be
followed is the noble eightfold path.
root of the problem according to this diagnosis being the thirst for
pleasurable things, the other two aspects of thirst being dependent on
the first, the need to get rid of the thirst for pleasures is obvious.
pleasures in question are the ones associated with the five faculties,
forms, sounds, smells, tastes and contacts associated respectively with
eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The mental phenomena associated with
mind too are included in this category. It is believed that all the
basic five forms of pleasures are obtained in sexual relations. This is
emphatically stated by the Buddha when he said that he cannot see any
other form, sound, smell, taste or touch more attractive to a man than
those belonging to a woman and vice versa. This, of course, assumes a
universe where homosexuality or lesbianism was not fully identified.
gratification of senses, kaama-sukhallika-anuyoga as the very first
discourse of the Buddha puts it, has been described as “low, vulgar and
belonging to the ordinary”hiino, gammo, pothujjaniko.” Samyutta-nikaya
discourses are plentiful with calamities and the multifarious
sufferings associated with search for pleasures. For example, the
Mahadukkhakkhandha-sutta of the Majjhima-nikaya details so many forms of
suffering people undergo due to pleasures. The Buddha says:
With sensual pleasures as the cause, sensual pleasures as the
source, sensual pleasures as the basis, the cause being simply sensual
pleasures, kings quarrel with kings, nobles with nobles, Brahmins with
Brahmins, householders with householders, mother quarrels with the son,
son with mother, father with son, son with father, brother quarrels with
brother, brother with sister, sister with brother, friend with friend.
And here in their quarrels, brawls, and disputes they attack each other
with fists, clods, sticks, or knives, whereby they incur death or deadly
suffering. [Translation from Bhikkhu Nanamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi,
one among many young householders who left life full of pleasures for
monkhood, explains to King Koravya the reasons behind his renunciation
in the following words:
Sensual pleasures, varied, sweet, delightful
In many different ways disturb the mind
Seeing the danger in these sensual ties
I chose to lead the homeless life, O King.
Ratthapala-sutta, Majjhimanikaya 82. [translation from Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi 1995/2001. p.691].
could go on and on quoting texts to support this position. But how the
early Buddhist tradition identifies the cause of the problem is beyond
is only rational for those who perceived the problem in this manner to
adopt a life distanced from sensual pleasures, and naturally the
monastic life was considered ideal for the purpose. Putting it in the
words of very Ratthapala referred to above:
Venerable sir, as I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One,
it is not easy while living in a home to lead the holy life, utterly
perfect and pure as a polished shell. Venerable sir, I wish to shave off
my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth from the home
life into homelessness. I would receive the going forth under the
Blessed One, I would receive the full admission [Ibid. p.678.].
the monastic life is defined in this manner vis-a-vis the household
life characterized by gratification of senses it is natural to
understand the monkhood as defined by celibacy.
is in this context that the Vinaya remark about Sudinna that he did not
know the repercussions of his action when he did that becomes
unacceptable, as Dhirasekera, a distinguished scholar of Theravada
Vinaya, has pointed out:
It is difficult to maintain here that anadinavadasso means that
Sudinna did not know that his act was an offence against the spirit of
Buddhist monasticism. Two things preclude us from accepting this
position. Some time after the commission of the act Sudinna is stricken
with remorse that he had not been able to live to perfection his
monastic life. … He knows and feels that he has erred and brought ruin
upon himself. For he says that he has committed a sinful deed. …
Perhaps it would also have occurred to him that his act was in violation
of the item of sila which refers to the practice of celibacy. …
Therefore we cannot take anadinavadasso to mean that Sudinna did not
know that methunadhamma was an offence against monastic life. Nor does
he claim such ignorance anywhere during the inquiries held by his fellow
celibates or the Buddha. Secondly, even in the absence of any
restrictive regulations it seems to have been very clear to all members
of the Buddhist Sangha that according to what the Buddha had declared in
his Dhamma, the offence of methunadhamma contradicts the spirit of true
renunciation … .”
[Dhirasekera. 1981 pp.46-7]
admission of Sudinna to the Sangha, as described in the Vinaya, is
quite similar to that of Ratthapala, both being young and wealthy
householders who had to strive to persuade their households to get
permission for admission. It is difficult to believe that Sudinna did
not know about this received view. This point becomes further clear when
we examine the remarks by his fellow celibates on hearing the act
committed by Sudinna:
Isn’t it the case that the Buddha has taught the Dhamma in many ways
for detachment and not for attachment; for disengagement and not for
engagement; for non-grasp and not for grasp? … Isn’t it the case that
the Buddha has taught the Dhamma in many ways for detachment of
attachment, for non-intoxication of intoxication, for the control of
thirst, for the destruction of longing, for the cutting of circle, for
the extinction of craving, for detachment, for cessation, for Nibbana
[Vinaya III. pp. 19-20.]
remarks testify to the fact that celibacy was understood in the
tradition as an essential aspect of monastic life which follows from the
very logic of renunciation, i.e., ending suffering by eradicating the
thirst for pleasures.
intimate connection between monastic life and practice of celibacy
makes clear why a person found guilty of violation of the rule had to be
removed forthwith from the Sangha.
term used to indicate removal from the Sangha is “should be killed”
[naasetabba]. The origin of the metaphorical usage can be seen in the
Buddha’s discussion with the horse-trainer who classifies his methods of
training horses as mild and rough and failing in both, killing. The
Buddha responds to him by saying that he would followthe identical
methods in training his disciples. To the bewildered Horse-trainer as to
how the kind-hearted Buddha could kill any disciple the Buddha explains
that killing in his training his totally giving up and letting him/her
go from the Sangha. Thus “killing” in the context of training is a
metaphor for removing a person from the Sangha.
strong language, however, indicates how the tradition viewed the
situation. It also strongly suggests that the guilty person, who did not
conform to the condition stipulated by: sikkham apaccakkhaya, dubbalyam
anavikatva cannot be reinstated. Once removed from the Sangha how many
people wanted to reenter and how many succeeded are more historical
questions. Unless the particular group of the Sangha knew about the
person there does not seem to have had any other method of knowing the
situation of such a person as a new candidate. It is interesting to note
that among the questions that are asked from a prospective candidates
to judge his/her eligibility this particular question [whether he/she
was guilty of committing parajika offence as a former member of the
Sangha] is not included.
“As soon as the King had gone, the Lord said: The King is done for,
his fate is sealed, monks! But if the King had not deprived his father,
that good man and just king, of his life, then as he sat here the pure
and spotless Dhamma-eye would have arisen in him.”[Translation from
Maurice Walshe, 1987. p.109.]
from a broader ethical point of view adopted in the Dhamma one could
argue that violation of parajika offence is not strictly a evil action
[papa-kamma], and hence what one loses is only themembership of the
Sangha, which does not mean that he cannot attain magga-phala. In that
sense it is quite different from aanantariya-paapa [an evil action
producing effect in the next birth itself without fail], which, for
example, is believed to have committed by King Ajatasatthu by killing
his father. In the Sammannaphala-sutta the Buddha refers to this action
and says that if it was not for this reason, the King would have
generated “the eye of Dhamma” then and there at his encounter with the
Buddha, but it did not happen for this grave action committed by him.
nowhere has it been said that one will be born in an unpleasant birth
owing to this offence. It could happen if the offender pretends to be a
real bhikkhu/bhikkhuni and continues as one, which involves lying and
hypocrisy. But such a question would not arise for one who forthwith
leaves voluntarily or is removed by the Sangha.
in the case of an aanantariya-kamma, with violation of parajika offence
one is technically not barred from attaining the goal as taught in the
Dhamma.The parajika offence has to be understood more in the
organizational sense and the punishment for the offence being loss of
the membership of the Sangha.
however, leads to some other questions, for example, on the
significance of being a member [bhikkhu/bhikkhuni] among the sangha. If
it does not make any difference then one must easily be able to continue
as a samanera or householder and still pursue the path.
it is not technically impossible for a non-member of the Sangha to
attain the final goal, such a possibility is not borne by the evidence
we discussed above. While householder with his spouse and children is
bound by the worldly requirements, a samanera is not taken as a member
of the Sangha for it is only a preparatory stage for monkhood.
being a member of the sangha is regarded as the form of life most
conducive for the path of liberation, looking from this point of view,
losing monkhood cannot be regarded as a simple matter of losing the
membership of organization, for having membership makes such a big
difference in the pursuit of the ultimate goal.
there is somewhat a general question to be addressed: does the account
of gratification of senses, articulated in the context of the monastic
vinaya and represented by the first parajika offence, represent the
overall Buddhist attitude to it? If it does then every time an ordinary
non-monastic person engages in sex, or gratification of senses, s/he
must be engaged in something “lowly, uncivilized and out-castely.”
[hiina-dhammo, gaamadhammo vasala-dhammo]
need not produce all the wealth of material contained in such
discourses of the Buddha as Sigalovaada, Vyagghapajja, Vasala, Mangala,
Paraabhava, and many other discourses in order to prove that the Buddha
accepted the validity of the life of householder with its
householder-happiness [gihi-sukha] derived by matrimony, children,
wealth, property; working, doing business, investing, earning and
needs to be highlighted, however, is the often not clearly articulated
distinction between goals and purposes of monastic and householder modes
of living. As I mentioned at the very outset of this discussion one is
characterized by total abstinence of kaama [brahmacariya] whereas the
other is characterized by proper kaama [i.e. refraining from wrong
behaviour of kaama= kaamesu-micchaacaara].
need to understand that there are two goals for the two groups: sagga
or heaven for the householders and nibbana for the those who have
renounced household life, and there are two paths for the realization of
does not mean that one has necessarily to become a member of the Sangha
to attain nibbana, and there are examples to the contrary recorded in
the early literature. But what it shows is that those who attained
higher states of the path as householders had done their renunciation
while being in the context of household — although then they cannot be
considered as full fledged householders, which again proves the point
that there are two paths for the two modes of life.
first part of the paper tried to understand the “legal” mechanism of
the process of celibacy whereas the second part examined the philosophy
behind it. In a conceptual universe which identifies the physical sexual
attraction of men and women to be the hardest binding factor it is
quite natural and rational for it to uphold celibacy as an essential
aspect of its religious practice meant to unbind it. In that sense it is
internally coherent and consistent. Whether kaama really is the problem
or whether one should avoid kaama it even if it is the problem are
interesting matters to be debated but lying beyond the limits of the
project I have undertaken in this paper.
a more detailed presentation see: Enlightenment through Celibacy, or
Celibacy through Enlightenment?: (Link opens a 27 page PDF)
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