The Foundations Of Monastic Life
Sila, Sikkha And Sikkhapada
The complete spiritual development of the early Buddhist disciple who has voluntarily embarked on the life of brahmacariya seems to have been covered under the term sikkhā which means culture, training, discipline and also study.
All the rewards of monastic life including the final goal of Arahantship are therefore the result of sikkhā
(Tassa evam jānato evam passato kāmāsavā ' pi cittam vimuccati....nāparam itthattāyā ' ti pajānāti. Tam kissa hetu. Evam hi etam bhaddāli hoti yathā tam satthusāsane sikkhāya paripurakārissā ' ti
- M.I. 442.)
Similarly the respect in which sikkhā is held by the disciples
(sikkhā-gāravatā) is considered a cardinal virtue of Buddhist monasticism (ye pana te kulaputtā saddhā agārasmā anagāriyam pabbajitā.... sikkhāya tibbagāravā
- M.I. 32).
It is also one of six virtues which contribute to a disciple's spiritual stability.1
It is listed together with the respect for the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṇgha
(satthugāravatā, dhammagāravatā and saṇghagāravatā)
and two other virtues which vary in different contexts.2
Consequently the abandonment of the monastic discipline and the return to lay life was regarded as the negation of sikkhā
(ye pi samanassa gotamassa sāvakā sabrahmacārihi sampayojetvā sikkham paccakkhāya hināya āvattanti
- M.II. 5.).
This concept of sikkhā which brings within its fold the entire system of spiritual development in Buddhism is considered as being threefold in character. According to this classification the training of the disciple is divided into three successive stages of
2. samādhi and
3. paññā and goes under the name of tisso sikkhā
(Tisso imā bhikkhave sikkhā. Katamā tisso. Adhisilasikkhā adhittasikkhā adhipaññāsikkhā
- A.I. 235.).
It is reported in the Aṇguttara Nikāya that once a Vajjiputtaka monk who confessed his inability to abide by such a large number of rules which exceeded one hundred and fifty in number
and which were recited fortnightly at the Pātimokkha ceremony was told by the Buddha that it would serve the purpose of his monastic life if he could discipline himself in terms of the threefold sikkhā.3
All those rules, it is said, are contained within the threefold sikkhā
(Imā kho bhikkhave tisso sikkhā yatth ' etam sabbam samodhānam gacchati
- A.I. 231.).
These three items of discipline are also referred to as constituting the duties of monastic life
(Tini ' māni bhikkhave samanassa samanakaraniyāni. Katamāni tini.
Adhisilasikkhāsamādānam adhicittasikkhāsamādānam adhipaññāsikkhā-samādānam
- A.I. 229.)
They bring about the accomplishments of a recluse which make him a true samana. Buddhaghosa too, quoting the Aṇguttara Nikāya verbatim in his commentary on the Mahāassapura Sutta, reaffirms this view.4
These three stages of sila, samādhi and paññā, together mark the complete development of Buddhist monastic life which leads to the acquisition of true knowledge or aññā
(Seyyathā pi sāriputta bhikkhu silasampanno samādhi-sampanno paññāsampanno diṭṭheva dhamme aññam ārādheyya
- M.I. 71.).
Viewed negatively, it is said that self-training in terms of these three results in the elimination of lust, hatred and delusion
(tasmā tuyham bhikkhu adhisilam ' pi sikkhato adhicittam ' pi sikkhato adhipaññam ' pi sikkhato rāgo pahiyissati doso pahiyissati moho pahiyissati
- A.I. 230).
Thus the true endeavour to develop all these aspects is made the basis of all monastic aspirations. The akaṇkheyya Sutta gives it as a prescription for the perfection of monastic life. It is held out as the best code for the attainment of the highest good in religious life, including Arahantship.
(Akaṇkheyya ce bhikkhave bhikkhu āsavānam khayā anāsavam cetovimuttim paññāvimuttim diṭṭhe ' va dhamme sayam abhiññāya sacchikatvā upasampajja vihareyyan ' ti silesv ' eva ' ssa paripurakāri ajjhattam cetosamatham anuyutto anirākatajjhāno vipassanāya samannāgato bruhetā suññāgārānam
- M.I. 35f.).
Buddhaghosa establishes that the procedure described here is identical with the discipline of the tisso sikkhā.5
Nevertheless, it is clear from the evidence of the Suttas that out of the threefold sikkhā special emphasis was laid on sila as the foundation of all spiritual attainments. The Buddha himself is seen assuring his disciples of the efficacy of sila as the basis of spiritual progess
(yato kho tvam bhikkhu silam nissāya sile patiṭṭhāya ime cattāro satipaṭṭhāne bhāvessasi tato tuyham bhikkhu yā ratti vā divaso vā āgamissati vuddhi yeva pāṭikaṇkhā kusalesu dhammesu no parihāni ' ti
- S.V. 187.).
Once the monastic life is well established on the sila basis all else seem to follow in natural succession. The akaṇkheyya Sutta,in fact, begins with the Buddha's admonition to the monks to be mindful of their sila and to acquire thereby the necessary discipline
(sampannasilā bhikkhave viharatha sampannapātimokkhā pātimokkhasamvarasamvutā viharatha ācāragocara-sampannā anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvi samādāya sikkhatha sikkhāpadesu
- M.I. 33.).
The Sāmaññaphala Sutta gives a complete account of what ought to be and what probably was the proper conduct of the good monk
(Evam pabbajito samāno pātimokkhasamvarasamvuto viharati ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvi samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesu kāyakammavacikammena samannāgato kusalena parisuddhājivo silasampanno indriyesu guttadvāro satisampajaññena samannāgato santuṭṭho
- D.I. 63.)
An analysis and evaluation of the aspects of monastic conduct which are described here will be found in a succeeding chapter.6
For the present we shall only quote Professor Rhys Davids who in his study of the Sāmaññaphala Sutta makes the following observations regarding its distinctly Buddhist flavour in its reference to monastic conduct:
'Now it is perfectly true that of these thirteen consecutive propositions or groups of propositions, it is only the last, No. 13 which is exclusively Buddhist. But the things omitted, the union of the whole of those included into one system, the order in which the ideas are arranged, the way in which they are treated as so many steps of a ladder whose chief value depends on the fact that it leads up to the culminating point of Nirvāna in Arahatship - all this is also distinctly Buddhist.' 7
Getting down to the details of the above passage, however, the Sutta proceeds with an exhaustive analysis of silasampanno which is followed in succession by indriyesu guttadvāro, satisampajaññena samannāgato and santuṭṭho. When we compare the comments of Buddhaghosa on the above passage8 and the definition of silasampanno given in the Sekha Sutta9 it becomes clear to us that here too the first consideration has been the perfection in sila.
This prestige which sila enjoys in early Buddhism as the basic training in religious life has never been challenged in the centuries that followed in the history of Pali Buddhism. In the Milindapañha (circa first century B.C.), the venerable Nāgasena reiterates its impotrance with equal vigour
(Patiṭṭhānalakkhanam mahārāja silam sabbesam kusalānam dhammānam indriya-bala-bojjhaṇga-magga-satipaṭṭhāna-sammappadhāna-iddhipāda-jjhāna-vimokkha-samādhi-samāpattinam silam patiṭtham.
Sile patiṭṭhassa kho mahārāja sabbe kusalā dhammā na parihāyanti 'ti
- Milin. 34.).
In the fifth century A.C. Buddhaghosa is equally eloquent on it in the Visuddhimagga.10
Both Nāgasena and Buddhaghosa quote Canonical texts regarding the basic value of sila. The Samyutta Nikāya records in two places the following statement which is ascribed to the Buddha :
Sile patiṭṭhāya naro sapañño cittam paññañ ca bhāvayam
ātāpi nipako bhikkhu so imam vijaṭaye jaṭam.11
This stanza which emphasises the importance of sila is quoted by Nāgasena as an utterance of the Buddha
(Bhāsitam ' pi etam mahārāja bhagavatā sile patiṭṭhāya ....
Buddhaghosa does the same in the Visuddhimagga.
(Ten ' āha bhagavā sile patiṭṭhāya...
In the Ganakamoggllāna12 and the Dantabhumi13 Suttas of the Majjhima Nikāya, which deal with the development of the monastic life under the guidance of the Master himself, the main emphasis is on the idea that the spiritual development of the monk is a gradual process and is undertaken in successive stages
(anupubbasikkhā anupubbakiriyā anupubba-paṭipadā).
The first words which the Buddha addresses to his disciples on taking them under his direction are with regard to their perfection in sila and the consequent restraint which is associated with it
(Ehi tvam bhikkhu silavā hohi pātimokkhasamvarasamvuto viharāhi ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvi samādāya sikkhāhi sikkhāpadesu ' ti
- M.III. 2,134.).
The perfection in sila, no doubt, marks the first stage in the spiritual development of the Buddhist disciple and this advice of the Buddha to his disciples is found scattered in many places in the Sutta Piṭaka, sometimes addressed to single individuals and sometimes to the Saṇgha as a whole. It is thus clear that sila was the corner-stone of early Buddhist monasticism. First and foremost, the Buddhist disciple had to be silavā.
It meant that the disciple had to regulate his life in terms of what is recorded under sila as conditions of good monastic living, abstaining from what is indicated as unworthy and contradictory to his spiritual aspirations.
In the Sāmaññaphala Sutta, the term silasampanno is used as equivalent in meaning to silavā and under it are included forty-three items of sila which are subdivided into three groups as Minor, Middle and Major (culasila, majjhimasila and mahāsila).14
A number of Suttas of the Majjhima Nikāya,15 in describing the sila of the Buddhist disciple, include under the category of sila (silakkhandha) only the first twenty-six items which in the Sāmaññaphala Sutta are all grouped under culasila.
They include the three bodily and the four verbal misdeeds or akusalakamma and have in addition certain practices, like the acceptance of gold and silver, cattle and land, which are unworthy of a monk but are allowable in the case of laymen. There are also some others like the last three items of the culasila which include fraudulent practices, violence and atrocities which are neither good for the monk nor for the layman.16
Almost all the ten items under the majjhimasila are only further elaborations of some of the items of the culasila. The seven items of the mahāsila are only detailed descriptions of the different forms of ignoble livelihood or micchā ājiva which are improper for a monk.
These items of sila, in the Suttas where they occur, do not bear the impress of an order or injunction. The disciples of the Buddha are described as giving up akusalakamma through word and deed. Abstaining from these evils, the disciples develop their corresponding virtues
(Idha mahārāja bhikkhu pānātipātam pahāya pānātipātā paṭivirato hoti nihitadando nihitasattho lajji dayāpanno sabba-pāna-bhuta-hitānukampi viharati
- D.I. 63 ff.).
They also abstain from patterns of conduct which are deemed unworthy of a monk. This freedom and the absence of pressure in the regulation of the spiritual life which underlies the letter and the spirit of sila is very characteristic of Buddhist monasticism in its earliest phase. With those sincere and earnest disciples of the Buddha who gathered themselves around him at the inception of the Sāsana, no injunctions or restrictive regulations seem to have been necessary.
In the Kakacupama Sutta, the Buddha records his memory of the early days of the Sāsana when he needed no strict orders to determine the behaviour of his disciples. At a mere suggestion by the Master the disciples took to the good ways of life recommended as they did when they adopted the habit of one meal a day
(arādhayimsu vata me bhikkhave bhikkhu
ekam samayam cittam. Idhā ' ham bhikkhave bhikkhu āmantesim. Aham kho bhikkhave ekāsanabhojanam bhuñjāmi....
Etha tumhe ' pi bhikkhave ekāsanabhojanam bhuñjatha...
Na me bhikkhave tesu bhikkhusu anusāsani karaniyā ahosi sat ' uppādakaraniyam eva me bhikkhave tesu bhikkhusu ahosi
The incident referred to in the Kakacupama Sutta clearly indicates the manner in which the Buddha's early disciples received and accepted his recommendations regarding the way of life appropriate for the monk. The Buddha seems at first to have counted on the sincerity and spiritual earnestness of his early disciples for the success of his religious order.
It was his wish, no doubt, to manage with the minimum of restrictive regulations. But in the growing monastic community whose numbers were rapidly increasing, laxity in discipline was bound to appear before long. The Bhaddāli Sutta indicates a recognition of the relative strength of the Saṇgha at two different periods within one's memory
(Appakā kho tumhe bhaddāli tena samayena ahuvattha yadā vo aham ājāniyasusupamam dhammapariyāyam desesim. Sarasi tvam bhaddāli ' ti
The strength in numbers, the popularity of individuals or groups and the maturity of the members of the Saṇgha as it was becoming a long established institution, were among the causes of corruption.17
The Bhaddāli Sutta18 shows us how the once accepted monastic tradition of one meal a day which is recorded in the Kakacupama Sutta and which had also found for itself a place among the items of sila as a condition of good monastic living19 had to be reinforced with a restrictive regulation making it an offence to eat out of regular hours.20
These rgulations which are called sikkhāpada now provide, beside sila, an effective instrument for the furtherance of good discipline in the monastic community.
It is also probable that the Buddha has such rebellious disciples like Bhaddāli in mind when he speaks in the Kakacupama Sutta of the willing acceptance of the one meal a day recommendation by his disciples as a thing of the past. Inspite of the general agreement that abstinence from irregularity of meals was wholesome for the monastic life, yet certain laxities regarding this practice are noticeable in the early Buddhist monastic community. The incident which brought about the promulgation of Pācittiya 37 is such an instance.21
It was certainly an offence against sila, but since sila had no legal status the offender could not be prosecuted and punished under its authority. It is such situations as these which mark the introduction of sikkhāpada into the sphere of Buddhist monastic discipline. Thus, in the Buddhist Vinaya, the first offender who provokes the promulgation of a sikkhāpada is declared free, in a legal sense, from guilt
- Vin.III. 33. etc.).
His offence, at the time, is against an item of sila and he could not therefore be legally prosecuted for a pre-sikkhāpada offence. This role of the Vinaya, that it serves as an instrument of prosecution, is clearly indicated in the text of the Vinaya itself.22
In the introduction to Pācittiya 72, we diccover the fear expressed by the Chabbaggiya monks that if many monks are conversant with the text of the Vinaya that they are liable to be accused and questioned by those Masters of the Vinaya with regard to laxities in discipline
(Sace ime vinaye pakataññuno bhavissanti amhe yen ' icchakam yad ' icchakam yāvad ' icchakam ākaddhissanti parikaddhissanti. Handa mayam āvuso vinayam vivannemā ' ti
- Vin. IV. 143.).
Buddhaghosa too, explains the role of sikkhāpada on the same lines when he says that in the presence of sikkhāpada the Saṇgha could make specific references to the body of rules and make just and legally valid accusations.23
A careful analysis of the history of Pārājika I reveals the nanner in which the authoritative disciplinary machinery of the Vinaya came to be set up in gradual stages. The Suttavibhaṇga records that Sudinna committed the offence of methunadhamma (sexual intercourse) at a time when the sikkhāpada on this point had not been promulgated. It is said that he did not know the consequences it involved
(.... apaññatte sikkhāpade anādinavadasso
It is difficult to maintain here that anādinavadassao 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
(atha kho āyasmato sudinnassa ahu ' d eva kukkuccam ahu vippaṭisāro alābhā vata me na vata me lābhā dulladdham vata me na vata me suladdham yāvā ' ham evam svākkhāte dhammavinaye pabbajitvā nāsakkhim yāvajivam paripunnam parisuddham brahmacariyam caritun ' ti
- Vin. III. 19.)
He knows and feels that he has erred and brought ruin upon himself. For he says that he has committed a sinful deed
(Atthi me pāpam kammam katam
- Vin. III. 19.).
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
(Abrahmacariyam pahāya brahmacāri hoti ārācāri virato methunā gāmadhammā
- D.I. 63.).
Therefore we cannot take anādinavadasso 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 Saṇgha that according to what the Buddha had declared in his Dhamma, the offence of methunadhamma contradicts the spirit of true renunciation
(Nanu āvuso bhagavatā aneka-pariyāyena virāgāya dhammo desito no sarāgāya visamyogāya dhammo desito no samyogāya anupādānāya dhammo desito no saupādānāya
- Vin. III. 19.).
Similarly, the Buddha had repeatedly stated to the monks that gratification of sense desires was in no way permissible. Both the disciples and the Buddha remind Sudinna of this position
(Nanu āvuso bhagavatā anekapariyāyena kāmānam pahānam akkhātam kāmasaññānam pariññā akkhātā kāmapipāsānam paṭivinayo akkhāto kāmavitakkānam samugghāto akkhāto kāmapariÂāhānam vupasamo akkhāto
- Vin. III. 2.).
On the other hand, the sikkhāpada on methunadhamma, i.e. Pārājika I, which came to be laid down subsequently does no more than determine the gravity of the offence and the consequent punishment it involves. Therefore what the statement anādinavadasso here means probably is that abstinence from methunadhamma being one among the many items of sila, Sudinna did not fully apprehend the relative seriousness of his offence.
However, this passage receives a very different interpretation in the hands of Buddhaghosa. The commentator says that Sudinna committed the act of methunadhamma thinking that it was not wrong because he did not realise the consequences which the Buddha was going to indicate while laying down this sikkhāpada.24
It is abundantly clear that Sudinna did not know that he would have been expelled from the Order for his offence had he not been the first to be guilty of it, because this penalty came to be categorically stated only in the sikkhāpada which was laid down after the commission of the offence by Sudinna. But we are unable to agree with Buddhaghosa when he says that Sudinna did not know that he was doing something wrong and thought he was completely blameless
(anavajjasaññi and niddosasaññi).
This interpretation does not seem to be possible unless we say that Sudinna was completely ignorant of the Dhamma or we take the words vajja and dosa here in an unnecessarily restricted legal sense. This is obviously what Buddhaghosa does in his explanation of anavajjasaññi and niddosasaññi
(Anādinavadasso ' ti yam bhagavā idāni sikkhāpadam paññāpento ādinavam dasseti tam apassanto anavajjasaññi hutvā ...... ettha pana ādinavam apassanto niddosasaññi ahosi. Tena vuttam anādinavadasso ' ti
- VinA.I. 213.).
But it is the criteria of the Dhamma which both Sudinna's fellow-celibates and the Buddha adopt in chastising him.
Does not Sudinna himself admit that he has incurred a guilt
(Atthi me pāpam kammam katam purānadutiyikāya methuno dhammo paṭisevito
- Vin. III. 19.)
, and that therefore his monastic life has been a failure?
(.... yāvā ' ham evam svākkhāte dhammavinaye pabbajitvā nāsakkhim yāvajivam paripunnam parisuddham brahmacariyam caritun ' ti
Thus, this ignorance of the possible penalty cannot be taken as rendering the offender blameless.
It is possible to state at this stage that the sikkhāpada of the Vinaya Piṭaka have been evolved as instruments of prosecution with a monastic legal validity, against offences which in the general text of the Dhamma are put down as improper and unworthy of a monk, which sometimes are also applicable to laymen, or as being detrimental to the spiritual progress of the monk.
It is this particular character of the sikkhāpada of which the greater part of the Vinaya consists, which made the Vinaya
so obnoxious to quite a umber of rebellious monks even during the lifetime of the Master
(Sace ime vinaye pakataññuno bhavissanti amhe yen ' icchakam yad ' icchakam yāvad ' icchakam ākaddhissanti parikaddhissanti. Handa mayam āvuso vinayam vivannemā ' ti
The need for such legalised administration of the Saṇgha arose only with the lapse of time. It was already referred to above how the Buddha recollects with pleasure the golden age of the Buddhist Saṇgha when the good life according to the Master's bidding was practised at a mere suggestion.25
According to a tradition preserved in the Samantapāsādikā26, this sense fo responsibility and earnestness among the members of the Saṇgha lasted only twenty years. For twenty years from the enlightenment of the Buddha, says the tradition, no serious offence like a Pārājika or Saṇghādisesa was ever witnessed, and hence there was no provocation for the promulgation of Pārājika or Saṇghādisesa rules. Then there began to appear the need for legislation.
In course of time laxities in discipline and lawlessness among the members of the monastic community signalled to the Buddha that the time had come to lay down restrictive regulations for the guidance of its members
(Yato ca kho bhaddāli idh ' ekacce āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā saṇghe pātubhavanti atha satthā sāvakānam sikkhāpadam paññāpeti tesam y ' eva āsavaṭṭhāniyānam dhammānam paṭighātāya
- M.I. 445.).
In the Bhaddāli Sutta, the above quoted words of the Buddha to Bhaddāli that he lays down rules and regulations only as the need arises27 seem to come at a time when already a fair number of regulations had been laid down. This fact appears to be recognised in the words of Bhaddāli as he questions the Buddha with regard to the increase in the number of sikkhāpada
(Ko pana bhante hetu ko paccayo yen ' etarahi bahutarāni c ' eva sikkhāpadāni honti appatarā ca bhikkhu aññāya sanṭhahanti
- M.I. 445.).
The Buddha's reply to this is, in fact, in defence of the increase of regulations which is said to have been necessitated by the steady decline in morality
(Evam hi etam bhaddāli hoti sattesu hāyamānesu saddhamme antaradhāyamāne bahutarāni c ' eva sikkhāpadāni honti appatarā ca bhikkhu aññāya sanṭhahanti
- M.I. 445.).
In the Samyutta Nikāya, the venerable Mahā Kassapa is seen making the same observation about the increase in the number of sikkhāpada.28
On the other hand, the semi-historical introduction to the Suttavibhaṇga places these words of the Buddha regarding the promulgation of the rules in a different context.29
Here the Buddha Gotama, at the request of the venerable Sāriputta, discusses the success and failure of the monastic organizations of the six previous Buddhas from Vipassi to Kassapa and analyses in detail the causes which contributed to these vicissitudes. In addition to the exhaustive preaching of the Dhamma, the adequate provision of restrictive regulations and the institution of the monastic ritual of the Pātimokkha are considered vital for the successful establishment of the monastic order.30
It is further recorded that the venerable Sāriputta, getting wiser by the experience of the Buddhas of the past, requests the Buddha Gotama to lay down sikkhāpada and institute the ritual of the Pātimokkha for the guidance of his disciples. The Buddha then silences Sāriputta saying that he himself knows the proper time for it, and repeats the rest of the argument as is recorded in the Bhaddāli Sutta that rules and regulations would be laid down only as the occasion demands. However, there are two noticeable differences in these two accounts.
In the Bhaddāli Sutta, the Buddha tells Bhaddāli that he does not lay down sikkhāpada until they are really necessitated by circumstances and that with the appearance of signs of corruption in the Order he would lay down sikkhāpada for their arrest. In the Suttavibhaṇga, the institution of the ritual of the Pātimokkha is added to this as a further safeguard.
The absence of this reference to the Pātimokkha in the Bhaddāli Sutta does not entitle us to argue that the account in the Bhaddāli Sutta is therefore anterior to the institution of the Pātimokkha ritual. It may be that since sikkhāpada and their gradual increase was the main concern of Bhaddāli, the Sutta speaks about the promulgation of sikkhāpada alone and leaves from it any reference to the Pātimokkha ritual.
The second point is far more interesting. The Bhaddāli Sutta has five items as causes of corruption in the monastic order. The list begins with mahatta (greatness) and adds lābhagga (highest gain), yasagga (highest fame), bāhusacca (great learning) and rattaññutā (seniority).
The Suttavibhaṇga has only four items which run as follows: rattaññumahatta (greatness of seniority), vepullamahatta (greatness of number), lābhaggamahatta (greatness of gain) and bāhusaccamahatta (greatness of learning).
The first thing we notic here is that while mahatta was used in the Bhaddāli Sutta as a specific condition it is used in the Suttavibhaṇga as a general attribute. The yasagga of the former is also left out in the latter. In the Suttavibhaṇga list, rattaññumahatta which is the last item in the Bhaddāli Sutta takes precedence over all other considerations.
Consequently, mahatta which headed the list in the Bhaddāli Sutta takes the second palce in the Suttavibhaṇga under the new name of vepullamahatta. This change of position, and probably also of emphasis of rattaññutā is a significant one. For this attribute of rattaññutā, both in relation to the monastic community as well as to individual monks seems to imply their existence over a long period of time. Probably at the time of the Bhaddāli Sutta, rattaññutā as cause of corruption of the monastic community was only beginning to gather momentum.
It was to become a potent factor only in the years to come. Hence it would not have been in proper sequence if rattaññutā as a cause of corruption headed the list in the Bhaddāli Sutta. It is therefore rightly relegated to the last place. On the other hand, the increase in the number of monks was then a reality and was no doubt a constant cause of trouble.
The Buddha's remarks to Bhaddāli imply that the numbers in the monastic community at that time were not as few as they used to be
(appakā kho tumhe bhaddāli tena samayena ahuvattha yadā vo aham ājāniyasusupamam dhammapariyāyam desesim. Sarasi tvam bhaddāliti
- M.I. 445.).
On the whole, the Sāriputta episode in the Suttavibhaṇga regarding the origin of sikkhāpada, which undoubtedly is a part of the compiler's preface, lacks the historicity of the account in the Bhaddāli Sutta. Sāriputta's inquiries are based on the semi-legendary story of the Buddhas of the past.
According to the Suttavibhaṇga, Sāriputta's request to the Buddha to lay down sikkhāpada and institute the ritual of the Pātimokkha was prompted by an observation of the catastrophe that befell the monastic communities of the Buddhas of the past which were not adequately bound by restrictive regulations. This, we have no doubt, is historically based on what was actually taking palce in the monastic community of Buddha Gotama himself and is projected back into legendary antiquity.
This same tendency to seek traditional authority is seen in the Mahāpadāna Sutta where the biographies of the six previous Buddhas are modelled, more or less, on the main outlines of the life of the historical Buddha Gotama.31
In the Buddhavagga of the Samyutta Nikāya, Buddha Gotama's quest of enlightenment is similarly reproduced in relation to the Buddhas of the past.32
Furthermore, in the Suttavibhaṇga, the discussion on the promulgation of sikkhāpada in relation to the āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā or conditions leading to corruption which is placed at a time when there is no evidence either of the presence of āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā or the promulgation of sikkhāpada, appears to be far more theoretical than the account in the Bhaddāli Sutta which seems to analyse the situation in terms of what was actually taking place.
Thus the Suttavibhaṇga account appears to be, more or less, a romanticised version of what is recorded in the Bhaddāli Sutta.
A few points of interest seem to emerge from our earlier reference to the period of twenty years of good monastic discipline.33
While stating that during this period there was no provocation for the promulgation of Pārājika or Saṇghādisesa rules, the Samantapāsādikā goes on to say that during this period the Buddha did however lay down rules pertaining to the remaining five groups of lesser offences (pañca khuddakāpattikkhandha) as the occasion demanded
(Atha bhagavā ajjhācāram apassanto pārājikam vā saṇghādisesam vā na paññāpesi.
Tasmim tasmim pana vatthusmim avasese pañca-khuddakāpattikkhandhe ' va paññāpesi
- VinA.I. 213.).
This note of the Commentator on the history of the monastic regulations seems to create some problems of anachronism. Of the five groups of khuddakāpatti referred to here we note that Thullaccaya,34 Dukkaṭa35 and Dubbhāsita36 are generally derivative offences.
The Dukkaṭa has also an independent existence under the Sekhiyā dhammā.37
The Thullaccaya on the other hand is derived from a Pārājika or Saṇghādisesa offence. As such, it is difficult to push the Thullaccaya back to a period when the major offences themselves were not known to exist. In fact, there is evidence to show that this statement of the Samantapāsādikā was later challenged and not accepted in its entirety.
The Sāratthadipani Vinaya Tikā records the tradition of a line of scholars who contend that the five khuddakāpattikkhandha referred to here could only be what the Buddha laid down as regulations during the eight years which followed his rains-retreat at Verañjā in the twelth year of his enlightenment.
Apparently they do not concede the promulgation of any sikkhāpada anterior to this.
But the author of the Tikā himself supporting the orthodoxy of the Samantapāsādikā and wishing to push the first promulgation of the sikkhāpada of the lesser type to an earlier period, seems to reject this amendent
(Ke ci pana tasmim tasmim pana vatthusmim avasesapañcakhuddakāpattikkhandhe eva paññāpesi ' ti idam dvādasame vasse verañjāya vutthavassena bhagavatā tato paṭṭhāya aṭṭhavassabbhantare paññattasikkhāpadam sandhāya vuttan ' ti vadanti.
Tam na sundaram.
Tato pubbe ' pi sikkhāpadapaññattiyā sabbhāvato
- Sāratthadipani I. 401.).
But neither of these traditions seem to question the antiquity of the Thullaccaya over the two major offences of Pārājika and Saṇghādisesa. But there is no doubt that the Thullaccaya had already come to be regarded as one of the group of five offences. If we concede the existence of the fivefold group of lesser offences from the early days of the Sāsana, prior to the rains-retreat at Verañjā, then the request of Sāriputta to the Buddha during his stay at Verañjā, asking him to lay down sikkhāpada for the guidance of the monks becomes considerably incongruous.
The Sāratthadipani, confronted with this anomaly, explains it by saying that the request of Sāriputta was mainly concerned with regulations against grosser offences
(Paṭhamabodhiyam pañcannam lahukāpattinam sabbhāvavacanen ' eva dhammasenāpaissa sikkhāpadapaññattiyācanā visesato garukāpattipaññattiyā pātimokkhuddesassa ca hetubhutā ' ti daṭṭhabbā
- Sāratthadipani I. 401.).
But this turns out to be a very inadequate answer which only tends to disintegrate the ingeniously knitted episode of Sāriputta in the Suttavibhaṇga regarding the promulgation of sikkhāpada by the Buddha for the guidance of the life of his disciples.
Another instance of unwarranted distortion resulting from commentarial over-anxiety is found in Buddhaghosa's explanation of the conditions that lead to the corruption of the Saṇgha (āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā) in the Papañcasudani.38
Since it is said both in the Bhaddāli Sutta and the Suttavibhaṇga that the Buddha lays down sikkhāpada only at the appearance of signs of corruption in the Sāsana, Buddhaghosa tries to indicate some sikkhāpada from the extant Vinaya Piṭaka as resulting from those said conditions.
The result, however, is intriguing. Although the appearance of āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā has repeatedly been mentioned as prompting the promulgation of sikkhāpada, Buddhaghosa is able to bring before us as consequent sikkhāpada only about six Pācittiya rules and two regulations regarding Dukkaṭa offences. He has obviously missed the mark.
There is no doubt that through some tradition which he inherited he has too narrowly viewed these āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā and the conditions that lead to their appearance. Further, if as he has stated in the Samantapāsādikā,39 the five groups of minor rules had already been laid down previously, prior to the provocation for the promulgation of the major rules at the appearance of the āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā then it does not appear convincing to regard these minor offences which Buddhaghosa quotes without any reference to major ones as resulting from those conditions.
This unwarranted identification of Buddhaghosa has in no way contributed to explain or emphasise the point that the conditions mentioned both in the Bhaddāli Sutta and the Suttavibhaṇga tended to corrupt
the monastic organization, thus compelling the Buddha to set up a body of regulations and thereby arrest this decay. At this stage the instructions of the Dhamma proved ineffective and nothing without monastic legal validity would have compelled the offenders to submit themselves to correction and punishment.
We have now seen the introduction into Buddhist monasticism of restrictive legislation for the purpose of maintaining good discipline and furthering the spiritual progress of the disciple. Ten considerations are listed under Pārājika I as well as several other sikkhāpada as having motivated the Buddha to lay down sikkhāpada.40 The Buddha deelared that he lays down sikkhāpada to serve the following needs:
Saṇghasuṭṭhutāya : well-being of the Saṇgha.
Saṇghaphāsutāya : convenience of the Saṇgha.
Dummaṇkunam puggalānam niggahāya : restraint of evil-minded persons.
Pesalānam bhikkhunam phāsuvihārāya : ease of well-behaved monks.
Diṭṭhadhammikānam āsavānam samvarāya : restraint against the defilements of this life.
Samparāyikānam āsavānam paṭighātāya: eradication of the defilements of the life after.
Appasannānam pasādāya : for the conversion of new adherents.
Pasannānam bhiyyobhāvāya : enhancement of the faith of those already converted.
Saddhammaṭṭhitiyā : stability and continuance of the Dhamma.
Vinayānuggahāya : furtherance of the good discipline.
These seem to cover mainly the individual and collective welfare of the disciples, the relation of the disciples to the laymen on whom they are dependent, and the spiritual attainments for the sake of which the disciples take to the monastic life. However, it is clear to us from statements in Canonical Pali literature that these sikkhāpada did not, on their introduction, completely displace sila from its position as the basis of a disciple's monastic development.41
True to the spirit in which they were institued, they helped to augment sila. In a statement in the Sekha Sutta which enumerates the virtues which make a disciple to be one who is endowed with good living, i.e. silasampanno, sila still seems to hold its basic position while the discipline through sikkhāpada and other means are added on to it
(kathañ ca mahānāma ariyasāvako silasampanno hoti.
Idha mahānāma ariyasāvako silavā hoti pātimokkhasamvarasamvuto viharati ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvi samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesu
- M.I. 355.).
The Buddha appears to lay special emphasis on sila while speaking of the items which form the foundation for the spiritual development of the monk
(Tasmā ' t ' iha tvam bhikkhu ādim eva visaodhehi kusalesu dhammesu.
Ko c ' ādi kusalānam dhammānam.
Idha tvam bhikkhu pātimokkhasamvarasamvuto viharāhi ācāragocarasampanno anumatesu vjjesu bhayadassāvi samādāya sikkhāhi sikkhāpadesu.
Yato kho tvam bhikkhu silam nissāya sile patiṭṭhāya ime cattāro satipaṭṭhāne evam bhāvessasi tato tuyham bhikkhu yā ratti vā divaso vā āgamissati vuddhi y ' eva pāṭkaṇkhā kusalesu dhammesu no parihāni ' ti
- S.V. 187.).
According to the definition of silasampanno quoted above, further to sila, the sikkhāpada are drawn into the life of the disciple as providing the necessary guidance for his spiriual development. He is called upon to train and discipline himself in terms of the sikkhāpada
(samādāya sikkhāhi sikkhāpadesu).
The Vajjiputtaka monk who confesses to the Buddha his inability to conform to the complete monastic discipline admits his weakness that he cannot discipline himself in terms of the vast dody of sikkhāpada which are recited regularly every fortnight
(Sādhikam idam bhante diyaddhasikkhāpadasatam anvaddhamāsam uddesam āgacchati. Nā ' ham bhante ettha sakkomi sikkhitun ' ti
- A.I. 230.).
It is implied here that these sikkhāpada now form the main stay of the Sāsana for the maintenance of discipline in the Saṇgha. At this stage, with the largely increased number of sikkhāpada governing the life of the monk, there arose the need to draw a distinction between the young noviciate monks
called the sāmanera and the monks of senior status who on being twenty years of age have been elevated to the rank of upasampanna. The noviciates are given a code of ten regulations as items of compulsary training and the use of the word sikkhāpada is extended to cover these as well.42
Nine out of these sikkhāpada are traceable back to sila: nos.1-4 and 9-13 in the lists of sila recommended for the monk.43
The regulation regarding the use of intoxicants is introduced as the fifth item. It is also the fifth item in the lists of fivefold and eightfold sila laid down for the laymen. But this one relating to intoxicants had no place in the earlier lists of sila of the monk. Reference to the use of intoxicants is also conspicuous by its absence in the lists of satta and dasa kammapatha.44
Nor does it appear under dasa kusala or akusala kamma.45
On the other hand, it is in one of the regulations of the Vinaya Piṭaka that we discover the circumstances leading to the prohibition of intoxicants for the monks.46 It is based on the very sound common sense consideration whether one should drink or take in [the root / pā to drink being also used in the sense of - to smoke] anything which would make him lose his sense of judgement
(Api nu kho bhikkhave tam pātabbam yam pivitvā visaññi assā ' ti
- Vin. IV. 110.).
A more developed and elaborated account of this incident, coupled with a ' story of the past ' has found a place in the Jātaka collection.47
Of the ten sikkhāpada laid down for the sāmanera, the first five seem, more or less, inviolable. The sāmanera is liable to be expelled for the violation of any one of them
(Tasmā yo pānātipātādisu ekam ' pi kammam karoti so liṇganāsanāya nāsetabbo
Buddhaghosa further stresses this distinction between the first five and the latter five of these dasasikkhāpadāni when he says that the violation of the former leads to the expulsion of a sāmanera while the violation of the latter lead to the imposition of specific punishments
(Dasasu sikkhāpadesu purimānam pañcannam atikkamo nāsanavatthu pacchimānam atikkamo dandakammavatthu
It is these first five sikkhāpada which are also spoken of as the code of the laymen's discipline
(Te ārāmikabhutā vā upāsakabhutā vā pañcasu sikkhāpadesu samādāya vattanti
- M.II. 5.).
It has come to be the standardised pattern, for all times, of basic good living for the layman. It is said in the Dhammapada that a man, by the neglect of these considerations, brings about his own ruin in this very life:
Yo pānam atipāteti musāvādañ ca bhāsati
loke adinnam ādiyati paradārañ ca gacchati
surāmerayapānañ ca yo naro anuyuñjati
idh ' eva eso lokasmim mulam khanati attano.
A Cakkavatti king is also presented as upholding this fivefold code of lay ethics
(Rājā mahāsudassano evam āha pāno na hantabbo adinnam na ādātabbam kāmesu micchā na caritabbā musā na bhanitabbā majjam na pātabbam yathābhuttañ ca bhuñjathā ' ti
Perhaps the fact that these five sikkhāpada, with the adjustment of abrahmacariyāveramani or complete celibacy to read as kāmesu micchācārāveramani or chaste moral behaviour in the case of laymen's sila, were shared in common both by the laymen and the noviciate monks made them inviolable in the case of the latter.
The Suttas also record countless occasions on which the Buddha advises his disciples without any reference to sila or sikkhāpada, to conduct and discipline themselves in a specific manner
(evam hi vo bhikkhave sikkhitabbam).48
It is often said to be under the guidance of the Dhamma
(Tasmā ' t iha bhikkhave dhammam yeva sakkaronto dhammam garukaronto dhammam apacāyamānā suvacā bhavissāma sovacassatam āpajjisāmā ' ti evam hi vo bhikkhave sikkhitabbam
- M.I. 126.).
Not only did this form another source of discipline from the earliest times but also supplemented sila which regulated
discipline in terms of word and deed, by bringing within its fold mental discipline as well. This is clearly evident in the Buddha's advice to the Bhikkhus in the Kakacupama Sutta where they are asked to rid themselves of anger, hatred and ill-will and develop love and magnanimity
(Tatrā ' pi kho bhikkhave evam sikkhitabbam na c ' eva no cittam viparinatam bhavissati na ca pāpikam vācam nicchāressāma hitāmukampi ca viharissāma mettacittā na dosantarā tañ ca puggalam mettāsahagatena cetasā pharitvā viharissāma tadārammanañ ca sabbāvantam lokam mettāsahagatena cetasā vipulena mahaggatena appamānena averena abyāpajjhena pharitvā viharissāmā ' ti
In the passage cited above, although certain patterns of conduct are idicated to the monks, yet there are evidently no sikkhāpada. What is referred to here is self-acquired discipline : evam vo hi bhikkhave sikkhitabbam. We also notice that sikkhā in its most liberal sense, without the aid of sikkhāpada, not only thus regulated conduct but also urged the disciple to his highest culture, the attainment of wisdom
(Jarāmaranam bhikkhave ajānatā apassatā yathābhutam jarāmarane yathābhuta- ñānāya sikkhā karaniyā. Evam ....... catusaccikam kātabbam
We may now safely conclude that sila, sikkhā and sikkhāpada form the foundations of the life of brahmacariya in Buddhism. Not only do we find these perfectly co-ordinated but at times almost identified with one another. With reference to the dichotomous division of Abhisamācārika and adibrahma-cariyika, sila and sikkhā are used as though they were identical with sikkhāpada as their subject matter. The Aṇguttara Nikāya divides sikkhā into these two categories and includes under Abhisamācārikā sikkhā the regulations which determine the outward conduct of the monk in relation to the laymen on whose good will he is dependent
(Idha bhikkhave mayā sāvakānam abhisamācārikā sikkhā paññattā appasannānam pasādāya pasannānam bhiyyobhāvāya.
Yathā bhikkhave mayā sāvakānam abhisamācārikā sikkhā paññattā appasannānam pasādāya pasannānam bhiyyobhāvāya tathā so tassā sikkhāya akkhandakāri hoti acchiddakāri asabalakāri samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesu
- A.II. 243.).
The Commentary to the Aṇguttara Nikāya, in more than one place, defines Abhisamācārikā as vattavasena paññattasila or rules of propriety.49 The adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā, on the other hand, contributes towards the attainment of complete freedom from suffering which is the goal of the life of brahmacariya
(Puna ca param bhikkhave mayā sāvakānam ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā paññattā sabbaso sammā dukkhakkhayāya ..... sikkhāpadesu
- A.II. 243.).
Thus it is clear from both the text and the commentarial notes of the above two passages that Abhisamācārikā and adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā in Buddhism stood complementary to each other and that they did cover from the earliest times the social as well as religious aspects of Buddhist monasticism. Considering the importance which the Buddha attached from the very inception of the Sāsana to the good will of the lay public there is litle doubt that Abhisamācārkā sikkhā too, must have played an important part.
The Vinaya Piṭaka regards both these as two important aspects of training through which a teacher should put his pupil
(Paṭibalo hoti antevāsim vā saddhivihārim vā abhisamācārikāya sikkhāya sikkhāpetum ādibrahmacariyikāya sikkhāya vinetum
Vin. I. 64.).
In the Visuddhimagga, Buddhaghosa divides sila into Abhisamācārika and adibrahmacariyika, thus exhausting between them the complete monastic discipline and culture which leads up to the termination of dukkha. According to Buddhaghosa, the Abhisamācārika sila as the lesser of the two consists of all sikkhāpada which are designated as minor in character
(yāni vā sikkhāpadāni khuddānukhuddakāni ' ti vuttāni idam abhisamācārikasilam sesam ādibrahmacariyikam
- Vism.I. III f.).
The rest of the sikkhāpada form the adibrahmacariyika. Buddhaghosa makes the groups more specific when he divides the contents of the Vinaya into two categories as follows. The adibrahmacaryika consists of the contents of the twofold Vibhaṇga. The instructions of the Khandhakas form the Abhisamācārika, perfection in which assures the attainment of the other
(Ubhatovibhaṇgapariyāpannam vā ādibrahmacariyikam khandhakavattapariyāpannam abhisamācārikam.
Tassa sampattiyā ādibrahmacariyikam sampajjati
- Vism. I.12.).
In the Samantapāsādikā Buddhaghosa presents the latter classification as Khandhakavatta and Sekhapannatti
(Abhisamācārikāya sikkhāyā ' ti khandhakavatte vinetum na paṭibalo hoti ' ti attho.
adibrahmacariyikāyā ' ti sekhapannattiyam vinetum na paṭibalo ' ti attho
- Vin A.V. 989f.).
It is clear from what has been stated above that Buddhaghosa not only admits the higher role of the discipline brought about by the bhato Vibhaṇga, but also emphasises at the same time the important basic character, in his opinion, of the discipline brought about by the regulations of the Khandhakas. Thus we notice that both these items of Abhisamācārika and adibrahmacariyika are, according to Budhaghosa, products of the Vinaya Piṭaka.
The Vinaya Piṭaka in its codified and legalised form, was designed to safeguard the monsastic discipline and contribute thereby to the furtherance of the spiritual development envisaged in the Suttas. With the decline of morality and the waning spiritual earnestness among the members of the monastic community such rigorous and binding discipline as is evident in the Vinaya Piṭaka would have become indispensable.
The liberalism of the instructions of the Suttas had to become, ere long, a thing of the past. We come to a stage when not only the Pātimokkha but the entire discipline of the Vinaya Piṭaka is looked upon as the fundamental basis on which the Buddhist spiritual perfection of tisso sikkhā had to be founded.
According to this view Abhisamācārikā sikkhā which is perfected through the discipline of the Khandhakas had to be accomplished first before the perfection of sekha dhamma. On a comparison of commentarial notes we discover that this sekha dhamma is equated by Buddhaghosa to sekha pannattisila.
(Sekham dhamman ' ti sekkapannattiyam
- AA. III.228.)
In the Samantapāsādikā, Buddhaghosa defines adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā as sekhapannatti.
(adibrahmacariyikāyā ' ti sekhapannattiyam
- VinA.V. 990.)
Thus the sekha dhamma which can be perfected only after the Abhsamācārikā sikkhā is none other than the adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā. According to a statement in the Aṇguttara Nikāya, it is only after these two stages of Abhisamācārikā and adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā that the successive development through sila, samādhi and paññā are considered possible.
(So vata bhikkhave bhikkhu...
abhisamācārikam dhammam aparipuretvā sekham dhammam paripuressati ' ti...
sekham dhammam aparipuretvā silakkhandham paripuressti ti......
silakkhandham aparipuretvā samādhikkhandham paripuressati samādhikkahndham aparipuretvā paññākkhandham paripuressati ' ti n ' etam ṭhānam vijjati
Here we are led to take note of two different views with regard to the perfection of monastic life. On the one hand, the Abhisamācārikā and adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā are looked upon as exhausting between them the complete monastic discipline and culture leading up to the termination of dukkha.
(Note : Puna ca param bhikkhave mayā sāvakānam ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā paññattā sabbaso sammā dukkhkkhayāya
- A. II. 243.).
On the other hand, the adibrahmacariyikā sikkhā came to be narrowly defined, thus allowing for the integration of these two sikkhā, i.e. Abhisamācārika and adibrahmacariyika to provide a basis for the perfection of sila, samādhi and paññā which once existed independently as a system of monastic culture under the name of tisso sikkhā.
(Note : Sakkhasi pana tvam bhikkhu tisu sikkhāsu sikkhitum ...... tasmā tuyham bhikkhu adhisilam ' pi sikkhato adhicittam ' pi sikkhato adhipaññam ' pi sikkhato rāgo pahiyissati doso pahiyissati moho pahiyissati
We have thus witnessed in the above discussion the origin and development of Buddhist monastic discipline in terms of sila, sikkhā and sikkhāpada and the relation in which they stand to the threefold sikkhā and to the more codified texts of the Vinaya Piṭaka. They all contribute their share to the perfection of the spiritual development of the disciple and to the attainment of the goal of Arahantship which Buddhism, as a way of life, offers its followers.
first previous index next last
A.III. 330. Appamādagāravatā and paṭisanthāragāravatā 331. Hirigāravatā and otappagāravatā 423. Sovacassatā and kalyānamittatā
A.I. 230 f .
See Chapter V.
Dialogues of the Buddha I [ SBB.II.], p. 59.
. D.I. 63-69. Milindapa–ha too, recognises this threefold division. Miln. 399.
M.I. 179 f, 345 f.
D.I. 64 a. tulākuṭa-kamsakuṭa-mānakuṭa. b. ukkoṭana-va–cana-nikati-sāciyoga c. chedana-vadhabandhana-viparāmosa-ālopasahasākāra.
Vin.IV. 85 : Pāc. 37.
Supra p. 45 f.
VinA. I. 213.
Vin.III. 9 ff.
For a different type of Pātimokkha ritual which is said to have been adopted by the Buddhas of the past see Mahāpadāna Sutta. (D.II. 48 f) and anandattherauposathapa–havatthu (DhpA.III. 236 f.).
S.II. 5 ff.
Supra p. 48.
Vin.III. 30, 33 etc. under Pārājika I ; Ibid.116 under Saṇghādisesa I.
Ibid. 36 under Pārājika I ; Ibid.118 under Saṇghādisesa. I.
Vin. IV. II. under Pācittiya 2.
Ibid. 185 ff.
MA.III. 154 ff.
Vin.III. 21; IV. 9. See A.I. 98. for an enlarged list. Also see supra, p.17.n.1.
M.I. 33, 355; III. 2,134; A.II.14 etc.
Vin. I. 83.
See Sāma––aphala Sutta : D.I. 63 f.
See Pācittiya 51 : Vin. IV.108-10.
J.I. 360 f.
M.I.123 ff., 271 ff. ; II. 239.