The Vinaya Pitaka
The Vinaya Pitaka, the first division of the Tipitaka, is the textual framework upon which the monastic community (Sangha) is built. The Vinaya contains the code of rules by which monks and nuns
are to conduct themselves individually (the Patimokkha), as well as the rules and procedures that support the harmonious functioning of the community as a whole.
Altogether, there are 227 Patimokkha rules for the bhikkhus (monks) and 311 for the bhikkhunis (nuns). As the rules were established one by one, on a case-by-case basis, the
punishments naturally range widely in severity, from simple confession (e.g., if a monk behaves disrespectfully) to permanent expulsion from the Sangha (e.g., if a monk commits homicide).
The four divisions of the Vinaya Pitaka
This section includes the complete set of rules for the Sangha, along with the "origin story" for each one. The rules are summarized in the Patimokkha, and amount
to 227 rules for the bhikkhus, 311 for the bhikkhunis. The Patimokkkha rules are grouped as follows:
Selections from the Suttavibhanga:
This includes several sutta-like texts, including the Buddha's account of the period immediately following his Awakening, his first sermons to the group of five monks, and stories about how some
of the Buddha's great disciples joined the Sangha and themselves attained Awakening. Also included are the rules for ordination, for reciting the Patimokkha during uposatha days, and various
procedures that monks are to perform during formal gatherings of the community.
Selections from the Mahavagga:
- Upatissa-pasine (Mv I.23.5) -- Upatissa's (Sariputta's) Question. The young Ven. Sariputta asks Ven. Assaji, "What is your
teacher's teaching?" Upon hearing the reply, Ven. Sariputta attains the fruit of Stream-entry. (This is one of the suttas selected by King Asoka (r. 270-232 BC) to be studied and reflected upon
frequently by all Buddhists, whether ordained or not.) [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, tr.]
- Vinaya-samukkamsa (Mv VI.40.1) -- The Innate Principles of the Vinaya. The Four Great Standards by which a monk can determine
whether an action would or would not be considered allowable by the Buddha. (This is one of the suttas selected by King Asoka (r. 270-232 BC) to be studied and reflected upon frequently by all
Buddhists, whether ordained or not.) [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, tr.]
- Kucchivikara-vatthu (Mv VIII.26.1-8) -- The Monk with Dysentery. In this touching story the Buddha comes across a desperately ill
monk who had been utterly neglected by his companions. The Buddha leaps to his aid, and offers a teaching on those qualities that make patients easy (or difficult) to tend to and those that
make caregivers fit (or unfit) to tend to their patients. [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, tr.]
- Dighavu-kumara Vatthu (Mv X.2.3-20) -- The Story of Prince Dighavu. This is surely one of the most dramatic stories in the Pali
Canon -- a tale of murder, intrigue, and revenge -- which teaches the wisest way to "settle an old score." [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, tr.]
This section includes 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. Also included is
the story of the establishment of the bhikkhuni Sangha, plus detailed accounts of the First and Second Councils.
Selections from the Cullavagga:
- Vatta Khandaka (Cv VIII) -- Collection of Duties. This chapter concerns the duties that govern the day-to-day life of the bhikkhus. Many of the
duties outlined here are more subtle than the strict rules laid out in the Suttavibhanga, and call on the bhikkhus to cultivate a respectful and well-mannered
sensitivity to others in the community. Although this text is principally intended for monks, laypeople will find in it many useful hints for the mindful cultivation of good habits and manners,
even in the midst of a busy lay life.
A recapitulation of the previous sections, with summaries of the rules classified and re-classified in various ways for instructional purposes.
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