Principles to be respected
Principles to be respected
Chapter 2 of Bhikkhu Sujato’s book Bhikkhuni Vinaya Studies
The garudhammas are a set of rules, which, according to the traditional narrative, were laid down by the Buddha as the pre-conditions before he reluctantly consented to the ordination of his aunt and foster mother Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī as the first bhikkhuni. The garudhammas as such do not appear in the list of pāṭimokkha rules, being outside the normal framework of the Suttavibhaṅga. My White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes examines the narrative background in some detail. Here I would like to look more closely at the rules themselves. The rules vary slightly between the traditions, but I focus on the Mahāvihāravāsin version, referring to the others in important cases. A detailed treatment of all variations in the dozen or so versions of these rules would be ponderous and unnecessary.
The term garudhamma has suffered much in the hands of modern translators. Garu literally means ‘heavy’, and in some places in the Vinaya ‘heavy’ offenses are contrasted with ‘light’ offenses.50 So modern scholars have called these the ‘heavy’ or ‘severe’ or ‘strict’ rules. Countless interpreters have seen the garudhammas as an imposition of control by monks over nuns. The idea that the garudhammas are essentially about control seems to be influenced by the Christian virtue, in both monasteries and weddings, of ‘obedience’. Obedience is an appropriate virtue in an ethical system founded on ‘Thou shalt’, issued by a Lord on High. Buddhism, however, is based on the ethical principle ‘I undertake the training …’ This assumes a mature, responsible relationship with one’s ethical framework, and does not rely on a relationship of command.
The word garu, when used in the Vinaya, normally has quite a different meaning: respect. And the garudhammas themselves says this ‘rule (dhamma) should be revered, respected (garukatvā), honored, and worshiped for the rest of your life, not to be transgressed’. Clearly, garudhamma means ‘Rules to be Respected’. This is confirmed by the standard Chinese rendering, 八敬法 (ba jing fa), literally ‘eight respect dhammas’. The rules themselves primarily relate to the ways that the bhikkhunis should pay respects to the bhikkhus.
The Mahāvihāravāsin Vinaya does not have a detailed analysis (vibhaṅga) of the garudhammas. Hence we must seek out contexts from elsewhere that might help to illuminate the problems raised by the rules. Certain Vinayas, such as the Lokuttaravāda, do offer detailed analyses of the rules; but by the very fact, and the nature of those analyses, the text is considerably later than the Pali, so must be used with caution.
Though a bhikkhuni be ordained for a hundred years, she should bow down, rise up, make anjali, and behave properly towards a bhikkhu ordained that very day.
This rule startles with its abruptness, its immediate and total exclusion of the possibility for any other way in which the male and female monastic communities might relate to one another. It stands in stark contrast with the Buddha’s reasoned and balanced approach throughout the rest of the Vinaya, where he refuses to lay down a rule until it is needed. This is why we respect the Vinaya and wish to follow it: it is reasonable, a contingent and pragmatic means for people to live in community and develop good behavior. When the Vinaya appears unreasonable, we must ask ourselves: is this our problem, or the text’s? Must we abandon our ‘modern’ conditioning, see through the way that ‘feminism’ has twisted our perceptions, and realize that this rule is no less than an expression of Awakened Wisdom, the authoritative decree of the Buddha, issuing from his incomprehensible grounding in the Unconditioned? Or does the problem lie somewhere else entirely? Is it possible that our ancient texts do not issue unsullied from the penetration into perfect wisdom, but result from a lengthy and complex historical process, a process that involved both good and bad, wisdom and folly, compassion and cruelty?
Unlike most of the other garudhammas, this rule lacks a direct counterpart in most of the pāṭimokkhas. That is to say, in most of the Vinayas, the rule only appears here, and has no independent corroboration. We shall look at the exceptions to this later.
There is, however, another passage in some Vinayas that reinforces the message of this rule, and which extends it to a general principle that monks should never bow to any women. The Mahāvihāravāsin Vinaya elsewhere in the Khandhakas has a group of 10 avandiyos (those who should not be bowed to), which includes women.51 But the context the rule appears in raises doubts as to the formation of this passage. It follows the well-known story of the partridge, the monkey, and the elephant, where the three animals lived harmoniously by respecting the eldest among them.52 This story is found in all Vinayas.53
However the different Vinayas each follow this story with a very different text. The Pali appears, on purely internal criteria, to be an originally independent passage. It changes from the specific list ‘bow down, rise up, make anjali, and behave properly’ mentioned in the story, to the general term ‘not bow’. Not only that, but the content sends a completely different message: the whole point of the three animals story is that we should respect elders, but now we are being told to not respect women, even if they are elder. Taken together, these suggest that the sequel is not intrinsic to the story.
The Dharmaguptaka follows the story with a long section, listing quite different individuals than the Pali, although also including women.54 For example, the Dharmaguptaka includes a matricide, patricide, arahant killer, schismatic, etc., none of which are mentioned in the Pali. The Dharmaguptaka also lists those to whom different people such as novices, trainees, etc., should pay respect, and adds that one should also pay respect in the same way to their stupas; the emphasis on stupas is characteristic of this Vinaya, and evidence of the lateness of this section.55
The Mahīśāsaka,56 Sarvāstivāda,57 and Mahāsaṅghika58 all say nothing in this place regarding bowing to women.59 Thus the fact that the injunction against paying respects to women in this case uses a different terminology from the preceding passage; that it is based on a principle of gender rather than age; that it is absent from most of the Vinayas in this place; and that where it is present in the Dharmaguptaka it speaks of stupas, all adds up to a clear conclusion that the passage is a late interpolation.
Returning to the garudhamma and the specific injunction not to bow to a bhikkhuni, the Mahīśāsaka and Dharmaguptaka Vinayas include the rule as a pācittiya (‘expiation’—a rule which, when transgressed, can be cleared through a confession), and the Sarvāstivāda has a related rule. Here is the rule from the Sarvāstivāda Vinaya Suttavibhaṅga.
The Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī. Now at that time the Elder Mahākassapa, putting on his robes before midday, taking his bowl, went to a householder’s home for almsround. Then at the place he stopped there was a layman’s wife. Seeing Mahākassapa in the distance, she got up and greeted him. But Thullanandā was at that place first. Seeing Mahākassapa in the distance, she did not rise to greet him. Then that layman’s wife bowed with her head at the feet of Elder Mahākassapa. She washed her hands and taking his bowl, offered plenty of rice, with curry over it. Mahākassapa received it and left.
The lay woman went to Thullanandā and said: ‘Are you aware that was the Elder Mahākassapa, the Buddha’s great disciple, who is greatly revered by the deities as a virtuous field of merit? If you were to rise and greet him, what harm would come of that?’
Thullanandā said: ‘Mahākassapa was originally practicing another religion, [i.e.] Brahmanism. You greatly reverence that, but I do not respect it.’
The lay woman was annoyed and scolded: ‘These bhikkhunis say, “If you do what is good you will get merit”, but when they see bhikkhus coming they do not rise, as if they were women from another religion.’
When the bhikkhunis of few wishes, contented, keepers of ascetic practices heard about this they were not pleased. They went to the Buddha and told him everything. For that reason the Buddha summoned the two-fold Sangha together.
Knowing, he asked: ‘Is it true that you did that thing, or not?’
She answered: ‘It is true, Blessed One.’
The Buddha for this reason in many ways scolded: ‘How can this bhikkhuni see a monk coming and not rise?’ Having in many ways scolded for that reason, he said to the bhikkhus: ‘For the sake of ten benefits, I lay down this precept for bhikkhunis. From today onwards that precept should be taught:
‘Should a bhikkhuni, seeing a bhikkhu coming, not rise, this is an offense of pācittiya.’
‘Pācittiya’ means: burn,60 boil, smear, obstruct. If not confessed, it will obstruct the path. This is the offense: if a bhikkhuni sees a bhikkhu and does not rise, this is a pācittiya; straightaway seeing and not rising, straightaway at that point there is pācittiya.’61
A few notes are in order. Thullanandā (Fat Nandā) was Mahākassapa’s nemesis, and accordingly, a great fan of Ānanda. Her misbehavior and, in particular, animosity towards Mahākassapa are well attested in the Suttas and Vinaya, and elsewhere she repeats her allegation that Mahākassapa had previously been a non-Buddhist.62 Thus her behavior on this occasion is just deliberate rudeness towards a revered Elder. Notice that this rule concerns only rising for a bhikkhu when one sees them, and does not mention bowing and the other acts mentioned in the garudhamma. We also notice that the criticism by the laywoman specifically invokes the accepted cultural standards of conduct expected of women. In context, then, this rule is perfectly reasonable, merely formalizing the respect due to Elders of the community. However, when the garudhammas extend this to form a rule requiring that all bhikkhunis must rise for bhikkhus, the reasonable context is lost, for respect should also be shown to the bhikkhunis for their practice and wisdom.
Let us look now at the second appearance of this rule in the i>pāṭimokkhas, this time the Vinaya of the Mahīśāsakas. The rule here is similar to Dharmaguptaka pācittiya 175, but in that case there is no proper origin story. It is merely said that the Buddha laid down the rule (as a garudhamma) while at Sāvatthī, but the bhikkhunis did not keep it, so he laid it down again as a pācittiya.63 The Mahīśāsaka offers more detail, so we will use that version.
Now at that time bhikkhunis did not bow to monks, did not greet them, did not receive them, did not invite them to a seat. The bhikkhus were annoyed, and did not return to teach. Then the bhikkhunis were foolish, without knowledge, and not able to train in the precepts. The senior bhikkhunis saw this, looked down on it, and scolded in many ways. The matter was therefore told to the Buddha. For that reason the Buddha summoned together the two-fold Sangha.
He asked the bhikkhunis: ‘Is this true or not?’
They replied: ‘It is true, Blessed One.’
The Buddha in many ways scolded them: ‘Did I not already teach the eight garudhammas as suitable etiquette regarding bhikkhus? From today onwards, that precept should be thus recited:
‘Should a bhikkhuni, seeing a bhikkhu, not rise up, bow down, and invite him to a seat, this is an offense of pācittiya.’
For trainees and novices, it is an offense of wrong-doing. If sick, if previously there is anger and suspicion, with no shared speech [recitation?], there is no offense.’64
Here there is no developed story, only a formulaic background that is very similar to the backgrounds for several of the other pācittiya/garudhammas we shall see below. There is no common ground between this origin story and the Sarvāstivāda version, and hence no basis to infer that either of them have any genuine historical source.
There is a valid reason for the rule in the context: it is a good thing to respect one’s teachers. This rule is not an arbitrary imposition, but came from a genuinely problematic situation. One might question whether the monks were being a little precious in refusing to teach; but any teacher knows how hard it is if the students don’t display a positive attitude. In ancient India, as indeed throughout Asia today, bowing to one’s teachers was a simple and universally observed sign of respect and gratitude. It is, however, true that the rule as it stands does not specifically mention teaching. Like the previous example from the Sarvāstivāda Vinaya, the context of the background story has been extended beyond its reasonable application. A rule requiring bhikkhunis to rise and pay respects to their teachers would have been justifiable, but as it stands the rule is a straightforward example of discrimination. One might have expected, in fact, that it would be more important to establish a rule requiring bhikkhunis to respect their own bhikkhuni teachers; in traditional societies today, nuns will habitually defer to monks, and it is hard to convince them to respect other nuns in the same way. It should also be noted that monks should not give the teaching desiring worldly benefits such as receiving homage, and it is an offense (pācittiya 24) for a bhikkhu to accuse another bhikkhu of doing this.
The story refers to the garudhammas as already existing. There is, however, no question of an offense arising from them. It is as if the status of the garudhammas at the time this rule was formulated was of some recommended trainings in etiquette, like, say, the sekhiya rules, with no specific penalty attached. Our discussion of garudhamma 5 will address the problem of the penalty arising from the garudhammas.
Now that we have discussed these pācittiya offenses related to the first garudhamma, let us return to our discussion of the garudhamma itself.
The Pali version of the garudhammas describes the acts of respect that must be shown by the bhikkhunis to the bhikkhus in this way: abhivādanaṁ paccuṭṭhānaṁ añjalikammaṁ sāmīcikammaṁ, which I render as ‘bow down, rise up, make anjali, and behave properly’. This phrase occurs twice elsewhere in contexts crucial for understanding the garudhammas. First is when the Sakyan princes, including Ānanda, asked for Upāli, the former barber and Vinaya expert-to-be, to ordain first, so they can reduce their Sakyan pride by ‘bowing down, rising up, making anjali, and behaving properly’ to him.65 Elsewhere, we are often told of the problems caused in the Sangha by the Sakyans and their pride: Nanda, who famously went forth on account of 500 pink-footed celestial nymphs, and who wore make-up as a monk; Channa, the Buddha’s incorrigible charioteer, who on the Buddha’s deathbed was given the ‘Supreme Punishment’ (i.e., the silent treatment); Upananda, who constantly harassed the lay supporters for fine requisites; and of course Devadatta, who tried to kill the Buddha. Tradition says that pride caused the Sakyans to grievously insult Viḍūḍabha, king of Kosala, who in revenge destroyed the Sakyan republic and scattered the clan. Thus the Sakyan pride has become a byword in Buddhist culture. This suggests that the purpose of emphasizing bowing in the garudhamma, just as for the Sakyan princes, was to reduce pride. Given that it was Mahāpajāpatī and the Sakyan ladies who were seeking ordination, we might be forgiven for thinking that it was specifically Sakyan pride that is at issue here.
The second time this phrase is relevant for understanding this garudhamma is even more specific. In the Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Sutta the Buddha says to Mahāpajāpatī that it is not easy to repay one who has given the gift of Dhamma through ‘bowing down, rising up, making anjali, and behaving properly’.66 This was part of a discussion that arose when Mahāpajāpatī approached the Buddha and tried to offer him a set of robes. He suggested that rather than offer them to him personally, she make the offering to the Sangha as a whole, going on to explain that offerings to the Sangha were of greater benefit than an offering to any individual, even the Buddha. The message is clear enough. Mahāpajāpatī, who is still a laywoman, is personally attached to the Buddha, her son, and has not learned to respect the Sangha. We now have two contextual reasons for creating this rule: the curbing of Mahāpajāpatī’s Sakyan pride, and her personal attachment to Siddhattha.
Mahāpajāpatī herself confirms that this particular rule was hard for her to keep. After accepting the garudhammas, she says she will treasure them like a youth would bear an adornment offlowers. Hardly has she gone, however, when she exhibits yet another womanly weakness, changing her mind and getting Ānanda to ask a special privilege from the Buddha: that they forget this rule, and allow paying respect according to seniority. The Buddha refuses.
Now, the Buddha is supposed to have said that the acceptance of these rules was Mahāpajāpatī’s full ordination. Sometimes what is omitted is ignored, and yet may have a decisive importance, so I must bodily lift the next fact into consciousness: nowhere in this narrative are the bhikkhunis explicitly told that they have to keep these rules. The rules are laid down for Mahāpajāpatī. It is true that the rules are phrased in the general sense of all bhikkhunis, and elsewhere the Vinaya expects the bhikkhunis to keep these rules. But in the core of the primary narrative, it is never directly said that these rules are a part of general bhikkhuni ordination. Nor is the adherence to these rules a part of the ordination procedure in the Mahāvihāravāsin Vinaya, or indeed the procedures of other Vinayas. Since the text explicitly says that the garudhammas are intended to be Mahāpajāpatī’s ordination, and since there are plausible reasons why they should be relevant for her, there seems every reason to think the garudhammas were originally laid down for Mahāpajāpatī alone.
When the Buddha refuses Mahāpajāpatī’s request to rescind this rule, he explains, rather oddly, that other, badly expounded religions do not allow paying respects to women, so how could he?67 If badly taught religions do not allow respect for women, I would have thought this was a good reason for well taught religions to encourage it. In any case, it seems the Buddha was quite correct, for this exact rule is in fact found in Jain scriptures. The following is taken from the Yuktiprabodha with the Svopajñavṛtti of the Svetambara Upadhyāya Meghavijaya. Dated from the 17 century, this presents an argument on the status of women between the two main Jain sects. The work is from the Svetambara perspective, although here we hear the voice of the Dīgambara opponent. The work that is quoted, the Svetambara text Upadeśamālā, appears to date from around the 8 century:
#18: Moreover, when nuns and other women greet a monk, a blessing is uttered by him in such words as: ‘Let there be meditation; let your karmas be destroyed’; they do not engage in the etiquette of mutual reverential greeting that takes place between monks. If indeed, as you believe, nuns do assume the mahavratas [great vows], then how is it that between your monks and nuns there is no mutual reverential greeting of one another according to rank [as there is between monks]? Indeed, this has been prohibited even in your scripture. As is said in the Upadeśamālā:
“Even if a nun were initiated for a hundred years and a monk were initiated just this day, he is still worthy of being worshiped by her through such acts of respect as going forward in reverential greeting, salutation, and bowing down.”’68
The identical wording makes it obvious that here we are seeing not just a generic similarity but a direct copy. While Jainism is older than Buddhism, the Jain texts are, as here, typically younger; so it is not easy to decide whether this rule, as it stands, was copied by the Buddhists from the Jainas or vice versa. Nevertheless, the main point remains: this rule is one that, as claimed by the Buddha, is found among other Indic traditions. The key thing to notice is that the Buddha specifically invokes contemporary social conventions to justify his position, in exactly the same way as the laywoman in the Sarvāstivāda Vinaya story.
This raises the contentious issue of the degree to which Vinaya rules and procedures may be adapted according to time and place. As a practicing bhikkhu, I believe that, in general, the essential aspects of the Vinaya remain as true and relevant today as they were 2500 years ago. I do not think we should use, as a blanket excuse, changes in social customs to justify abolishing or ignoring Vinaya rules, even if they may be inconvenient, or we don’t understand their purpose. But in instances where the text specifically invokes contemporary social conventions to justify the rule, and where that convention has demonstrably changed, we must question whether such a rule should be kept. And when, in addition, the rule causes unnecessary suffering, I think it’s unjust and cruel to insist on keeping it.
Here we would do well to remind ourselves of the fundamental ethical principles embodied in the United Nations ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’:
Article 1: Discrimination against women, denying or limiting as it does their equality of rights with men, is fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offense against human dignity.
Article 2: All appropriate measures shall be taken to abolish existing laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women, and to establish adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women …
Article 3: All appropriate measures shall be taken to educate public opinion and to direct national aspirations towards the eradication of prejudice and the abolition of customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women.
This garudhamma, and some others, are manifestly ‘laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women’. Discrimination against women is ‘fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offense against human dignity.’ If bhikkhus wish to maintain the ethical standards expected in our international community, they must take ‘all appropriate measures’ to abolish these practices.
There are those who would wish to argue that such provisions are a ‘Western’ imposition on Buddhist cultures, and do not represent the values of Buddhist peoples themselves. But when Buddhist peoples are given the chance, they too show that they adhere to such values. For example, here are some excepts from the draft Thai Constitution of 30 April, 2007.
Part 2: Equality
Section 30: All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.
Men and women shall enjoy equal rights.
Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of the difference in origin, race, language, sex, age, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education, or constitutional political views, shall not be permitted.
Part 3: People’s Rights and Liberties
Section 37: A person shall enjoy full liberty to profess a religion, a religious sect or creed, and observe religious precepts or exercise a form of worship in accordance with his or her belief.
Chapter IV : Duties of Thai People
Section 70: Every person shall have the duty to defend the country and obey the law.
According to this document, Thai people, including all Thai monks and Western monks living in Thailand, have the duty to obey the law of Thailand.69 The fundamental law of the nation, superseding all others, is the Constitution. Under the Constitution, men and women have equal rights, and unjust discrimination, such as that expressed in garudhamma 1, is illegal. Thai women have the right to ‘observe religious precepts’ in accordance with their beliefs, which includes taking ordination as bhikkhunis and practicing the bhikkhuni Vinaya as they see fit. In addition, Thai monks, according to this constitution, are permitted to practice their religion according to their beliefs, and this would include performing ordination for bhikkhunis. Prohibiting Thai monks from performing bhikkhuni ordination would transgress one of their basic rights according to the Thai constitution.70
Perhaps this is why, despite the widespread belief that bhikkhuni ordination is forbidden in Thailand and opposed by the Thai Sangha, the Council of Elders who rule Thai Buddhism (Mahatherasamakhom) have not made any pronouncement regarding bhikkhunis. The Thai Sangha Act defines its sphere of concern as the bhikkhus, and has no jurisdiction over bhikkhunis.
So now the rude shock of this rule has been softened a little. This garudhamma, if it is authentic at all, is best seen in context as a curb for the pride of Mahāpajāpatī. The status of this as a rule in general for the bhikkhunis is dubious, since it is only occasionally found in the pāṭimokkhas, and where it is found it is in very different forms and settings. But those stories do at least demonstrate a reasonable context within which such a rule might have arisen. In the current form, however, the rule is clearly discriminatory and contravenes accepted national and international principles of equity. Following the basic Vinaya principles that the Sangha should not act in ways that contravene the laws and customs of their culture, and should not act in a way that leads to harm, this rule should be rejected by the contemporary Sangha.
A bhikkhuni should not spend the vassa [rains residence] in a monastery where there are no bhikkhus.
This rule is equivalent to the Mahāvihāravāsin bhikkhuni pācittiya 56. According to the background story for that rule, some bhikkhunis spent the vassa without bhikkhus, so were unable to get teachings. The good nuns complained, and the Buddha responded by requiring they spend vassa with bhikkhus.
There is no mention that this rule had already been laid down as a garudhamma. If the garudhamma was already in place, the text would say the case should be dealt with ‘according to the rule’, which is the standard procedure in such cases. Since this clause is lacking, we can only conclude that the relevant garudhamma did not exist at the time this pācittiya was laid down. It must therefore have been added in the Mahāpajāpatī story at a later date. A similar logic applies to the other cases where a garudhamma is found in the pācittiyas; that is, garudhammas 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7.
‘Living without bhikkhus’ is defined by the Mahāvihāravāsin Vinaya as ‘not able to teach, or not able to go into communion [for the fortnightly uposatha]’. This suggests that the bhikkhus need only be close enough for the bhikkhunis to travel to them for teaching. In pre-car days, this would have been a few kilometers, but now it would apply over a large distance. A more liberal interpretation would allow for a contact via phone or email, since this would still allow the essential teaching to be transmitted.
As always, there is no offense for the first offender of the pācittiya rule, confirming the point we made earlier: when the pācittiya was laid down, the garudhamma did not exist.
Each fortnight the bhikkhunis should expect two things from the bhikkhu Sangha: questioning regarding the uposatha [observance], and being approached for teaching.
This is identical to Mahāvihāravāsin bhikkhuni pācittiya 59. There, the origin story is merely a back-formation from the rule. This time it is the monks who complain. The Dharmaguptaka Vinaya origin story says that the nuns had heard that the Buddha had laid down a rule requiring the fortnightly teaching.71 Just below, the same thing is said of the requirement for the invitation at the end of the rains residence.72 Obviously, then, these rules cannot have been laid down at the start of the bhikkhuni order. As always, this is confirmed when the text says that there is no offense for the first offender.
This rule, like the previous, was intended to ensure the proper education of the bhikkhunis: it is about what the monks should do for the nuns. We have already seen that this was one reason given for the paying respects to monks, so that they would return to give teaching.
There is a corresponding rule in the monks’ pācittiya 21.73 This was prompted by the group of six who, for the sake of gains, went to teach the bhikkhunis. But after just a little Dhamma talk, they spent the rest of the day indulging in frivolous chit-chat. When asked by the Buddha whether the teaching was effective, the nuns complained about the monks’ conduct (as shown below, this is just one of many places that show that the bhikkhunis were quite able to criticize monks, despite the garudhamma that apparently forbids admonition). The Buddha then laid down a rule ensuring that the bhikkhu who was to teach the bhikkhunis was competent, especially noting that he must also be liked and agreeable to the bhikkhunis.74
The various Vinayas differ greatly in what they understand ‘teaching’ to involve in this context. The Vinayas of the Vibhajjavāda group75 and the Puggalavāda 76 agree in defining ‘teaching’ as the garudhammas. Apparently the most edifying thing these Vinayas can imagine for the bhikkhunis is that they be told, again and again, of how they must be subservient to the bhikkhus. According to the Pali, only if the bhikkhunis are already keeping the garudhammas are they to be taught anything else. Bhikkhunis who do not toe the line have their access to Dhamma knowledge switched right off. However, the Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya says that the instruction should be regarding Abhidhamma or Vinaya;77 the Mūlasarvāstivāda says it should be on ethics, samadhi, and wisdom;78 and the Sarvāstivāda Gautamī Sutra says the bhikkhunis are to learn ‘Sutra, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma’.79 As an example of correct teaching, the Lokuttaravāda gives the famous verse known as the ‘Ovāda Pāṭimokkha’:
‘Not doing any evil,
undertaking the skillful,
Purifying one’s own mind—
This is the teaching of the Buddhas.80
The bhikkhu is then supposed to inform the bhikkhunis that they are to have some discussion about this teaching. Whoever wishes may stay and listen. In all of these cases, the bhikkhunis are expected to obtain a full education, not just into the basics of etiquette, but in the subtle and advanced details of Buddhist philosophy.
If we were to take this rule literally as interpreted by the Vibhajjavāda group, we would expect that the monks would be approaching the nuns each fortnight and telling them to bow to monks. Surely this constant activity would have left some remnant in the texts. But what does the evidence tell us? The Nandakovāda Sutta features Venerable Nandaka going for the fortnightly teaching of the nuns.81 When he gets there he tells them that he will teach by questioning. If they understand, they are to say so, if they do not understand, they are to say so. The respectful manner in which the teaching is introduced, which is similar to the Lokuttaravāda, reminds us that this was meant for the benefit of the nuns, not for their subjugation. The nuns are happy with this mode of teaching, so Nandaka proceeds to give a profound exposition on the six senses. The nuns are delighted, and so is the Buddha: he tells Nandaka to return and teach the nuns again. Nandaka is so clever at teaching the nuns that he is appointed the foremost in that category.
This is, so far as I am aware, the only passage in the Pali Suttas that depicts the fortnightly exhortation. Other occasions when the nuns were taught include a time when Ānanda visited the nuns and they didn’t wait for a teaching, but told him of their success in satipaṭṭhāna meditation.82 Another time he taught four things to be abandoned: food, craving, conceit, and sex.83 On a further occasion, Ānanda recalls having been approached by a bhikkhuni named Jaṭilāgāhiyā, who is unknown elsewhere. She asks him regarding a samadhi that is neither led astray nor led back, not actively constrained, freed, steady, content, without anxiety: of what is that the fruit? Ānanda replies that it is the fruit of Awakened knowledge.84 Another time, Mahākassapa teaches the nuns, the subject is not specified, but it is a ‘talk about Dhamma’ rather than Vinaya.85
These are the only examples I can find in the Pali Suttas of the monks teaching the nuns, and the garudhammas are conspicuously absent. So it would seem that the Mūlasarvāstivāda preserves the most reasonable tradition on this point: the bhikkhunis are to be taught ethics, samadhi, and wisdom. When this definition of the exhortation is changed to the eight garudhammas, a rule intended to ensure support for bhikkhunis’ education becomes trivial, if not repressive.
This is one case where the cultural context is clearly relevant. Traditional cultures usually make little provision for women’s education, and some, like certain of the Brahmanical scriptures, prohibit it. Even today, nuns in many traditional Buddhist countries are often illiterate and uneducated. Thus this rule can be seen as an ‘affirmative action’ provision to ensure that the bhikkhus share their knowledge with the bhikkhunis.
It should not need emphasizing that the cultural circumstances have changed dramatically. In many countries today, women have education levels that are equal to those of men. In our monastery, the monks can barely muster up a tertiary degree between them, while most of the nuns have a Master’s or a Phd. To insist on maintaining the old educational norms in such an environment is obviously inappropriate. The rule would be better formulated in non-gender terms: those members of the Sangha who have education and knowledge should share this with the less fortunate members of the Sangha. In the context the Buddha was working in, the division between educated and non-educated would have coincided to a large degree with the line between men and women; and in the case of uneducated monks, they could be expected to pick up learning from the other monks, which was difficult for the separate nuns’ community. In any case, no matter what one might think the rule should mean, the reality will be that nuns will take their rightful place of equality in the field of Buddhist education.
After the vassa, the bhikkhunis should invite [pavāraṇā] both Sanghas regarding three things: [wrong-doings that were] seen, heard, or suspected.
This rule refers to the pavāraṇā ceremony that is held at the end of each rains retreat. Instead of the usual uposatha, the Sangha gathers in harmony, and invites each other for admonition regarding any wrong-doing that may be in need of forgiveness. This is a way of clearing the air among those living in close community. The bhikkhus perform this ceremony among themselves, but the bhikkhunis are expected to do it both in front of the bhikkhus and the bhikkhunis.
The garudhamma is equivalent to Mahāvihāravāsin bhikkhuni pācittiya 57. The origin story echoes pācittiya 56. Again, the rule is laid down in response to the bhikkhunis’ complaints. There is a non-offense if they seek but cannot find [a bhikkhu Sangha to invite].
In addition to its inclusion in the pācittiyas, this rule is also found in the Bhikkhunikkhandhaka, together with various cases and a description of the procedure.86 Another origin story is given; but this time the Buddha declares they should be dealt with ‘according to the rule’. This is a stock phrase referring back to an already-established rule, in this case presumably the pācittiya.
This rule establishes a link between the two Sanghas, based on the humility of requesting guidance. It only occurs once a year, and is usually treated in a formalistic manner. It is not so much the actual ceremony that matters, as the attitude of mind it engenders. While the rules as they stand are clearly unbalanced, still there is no rule preventing the bhikkhus from inviting the bhikkhunis to admonish them.
On transgressing a [heavy offense], a bhikkhuni must undergo mānattā penance for a half-month before both Sanghas.
This is not included in the pācittiyas. I put the offense itself here in square brackets, as there are crucial differences between the traditions. It is an important statement, since the performance of mānattā is a serious and inconvenient penalty, involving temporary suspension from one’s status, exclusion from normal activities, and requiring a Sangha of 20 for rehabilitation. Normally mānattā is the rehabilitation procedurefor saṅghādisesa, which is the second most serious class of offense. The Mahāvihāravāsin here, however, says that a bhikkhuni must perform mānattā if she has trangressed a ‘garudhamma’: thus this rule appears to be saying that the garudhammas are equivalent in weight to saṅghādisesas. In this respect, the Lokuttaravāda is in agreement,87 as is the Puggalavāda.88 But the Dharmaguptaka,89 Mahīśāsaka,90 Sarvāstivāda,91 and Mūlasarvāstivāda92 Vinayas all say in this rule that a bhikkhuni should perform mānattā if she commits a saṅghādisesa. These rules say nothing of a disciplinary procedure for one who has transgressed a garudhamma. The Mahāsaṅghika, on the other hand mentions both saṅghādisesa and garudhamma.93 In addition, two other (probably Sarvāstivāda) Sutta versions of the story, the Gautamī Sūtra at MĀ 116 and T 60,94 also say saṅghādisesa. One Sutta of uncertain affiliation just says ‘transgressing precepts’, without further explanation.95 Thus the overwhelming weight of tradition here has it that the bhikkhunis must be rehabilitated from saṅghādisesas before both communities, which is the normal situation for nuns in the saṅghādisesa procedure. The important consequence of this conclusion is that there was no penalty for breaking a garudhamma, as suggested by the fact that pācittiya rules often cover the same ground as the garudhammas.
There are a few places in the Vinaya that mention a bhikkhuni who has transgressed a garudhamma, and who therefore must undergo mānattā.96 This would seem at first sight to confirm that mānattā is indeed the appropriate penalty for a garudhamma. But a closer examination leads to the opposite conclusion. In the Vassūpanāyikakkhandhaka, a list of reasons is given why a bhikkhuni may need to request the presence of bhikkhus to come, even though it is the rains retreat. These include if she is ill, suffering dissatisfaction, etc. One of the reasons is if she has transgressed a garudhamma and needs to do mānattā.97 But, although our passage is evidently striving for completeness, there is no mention of the case where a bhikkhuni has fallen into saṅghādisesa and requires bhikkhus for a mānattā. This glaring omission would be easily explained if garudhamma had been substituted for saṅghādisesa.
Indeed, the use of garudhamma here for the bhikkhunis is nothing but a copy of a passage, a few paragraphs previous, which declares that a bhikkhu who has fallen into a garudhamma must do the parivāsa penance, which is the standard procedure for a bhikkhu who has fallen into a saṅghādisesa offense.98
This usage recurs occasionally in unrelated Vinaya passages where it refers to bhikkhus. For example, there is a case where the upajjhāya (mentor) has transgressed a garudhamma and is deserving of probation.99 Here again, garudhamma obviously refers to a saṅghādisesa.
It seems that garudhamma in this sense is a non-technical term that would occasionally substitute for saṅghādisesa; the usage probably fell out of favor with the rise of the more specialized use of garudhamma to refer to the eight rules of respect for bhikkhunis. But this would explain why there is an ambiguity in the garudhammas themselves as to the meaning of the term.
A trainee must train for two years in the six precepts before seeking full ordination (upasampadā) from both Sanghas.
This is parallel to Mahāvihāravāsin bhikkhuni pācittiya 63. The origin story speaks of nuns who ordained without training and were therefore unskilled and uneducated. The good bhikkhunis complained, and so the Buddha laid down a two year training period. While all the schools include a similar training allowance, they differ considerably as to the content of the ‘six rules’.100 In the garudhamma itself the six rules are undefined. Since they are not a standard group, appearing nowhere but in this context, how could the nuns have known what was meant? Clearly, the laying down of the garudhammas was dependent on the explanation as provided in the bhikkhuni pācittiya vibhaṅga, and hence could not have happened at the start of the bhikkhuni Sangha.
If this rule was really followed as usually understood in the garudhamma story, ordination would have been impossible. The nuns need to train for two years, and then receive ordination; but if they are all trainees, from whom can they get ordination? This rule clearly presupposes the existence of a bhikkhuni Sangha, and a developed ordination procedure, neither of which is possible if the rule was really laid down at the start of the bhikkhuni Sangha’s existence.
We will be examining the historical provenance of this rule more closely in chapter 7.
Bhikkhunis should not in any way abuse or revile bhikkhus.
Equivalent to Mahāvihāravāsin bhikkhuni pācittiya 52. The origin story is at Vesālī. An elder of the group of six nuns dies. They make a stupa for her, and hold a noisy mourning ritual. Upāli’s preceptor, Kappitaka, who was living in the cemetery, was annoyed at the sound, and smashed the stupa to bits—somewhat of a distasteful overreaction, one might think. Anyway, the group of six nuns say: ‘He destroyed our stupa—let’s kill him!’ Kappitaka escapes with Upāli’s help, and the nuns abuse Upāli, thus prompting, not a rule against noisy funerals, or smashing stupas, or attempted murder, but against abusing monks. Other Vinayas tell the story differently. Again, the end of the rule specifies that there was no offense for the original transgressor.
This origin story has much of interest, and has been exploited by Gregory Schopen in his essay ‘The Suppression of Nuns and the Ritual Murder of Their Special Dead in Two Buddhist Monastic Codes’,101 an essay which delivers almost as much as the title promises. It should be noted that abusive criticism of anyone by a monk or nun is already covered by bhikkhu pācittiya 13, which would seem to make this rule redundant.
This rule is similar to the next, and evidently the Mahāsaṅghika/Lokuttaravāda tradition has collapsed the two together, and created an extra garudhamma to make up the eight: the bhikkhus should get the best lodgings and food. This development is typical of the generally late character of these Vinayas.102
From this day on, it is forbidden for bhikkhunis to criticize bhikkhus; it is not forbidden for bhikkhus to criticize bhikkhunis.
This rule appears to have no counterparts in the pācittiyas of any school. It also appears to be absent from the garudhammas of the Mūlasarvāstivāda, unless this is their garudhamma 5.103 It is, however, found in the garudhammas in most of the Vinayas, as well as the Sarvāstivādin Gautamī Sūtra.104
The operative word here is vacanapatha, which I have translated as ‘criticize’. It is often interpreted as ‘teach’, and in Thailand and other places it is assumed that a bhikkhuni can never teach a monk. But this has no basis whatsoever. I find it difficult to believe that any Pali scholar could actually think that vacanapatha meant ‘teaching’, since it is never used in that way.
Etymology is of little help here: vacana means ‘speech’ and patha literally is ‘path’, hence ‘ways of speech’.
But the usage is clear and consistent, and allows us to easily understand the purport of the garudhamma. Vacanapatha appears in only a few passages, the most common being a stock list of things that are hard to endure. Here is a typical example from the Vinaya:
‘Monks, a person of less than 20 years of age is not able to accept cold, heat, hunger, thirst, contact with flies, mosquitoes, wind & sun, creeping things, abusive & hurtful vacanapathas, arisen bodily painful feelings that are sharp, racking, piercing, displeasing, unenjoyable, deadly; he is not the type that can endure such things.’105
A similar usage is found, for example, in the Lokuttaravāda Vinaya, where a Paccekabuddha is abused while on almsround.106
In the Kakacūpama Sutta,107 the monk Moḷiya Phagguṇa was accused of associating too much with the bhikkhunis, so much so that whenever anyone criticized them (avabhāsati) he was angry and attacked the one who was criticizing. Later on, the Sutta explains five vacanapathas, hearing which one should endeavor to practice loving-kindness: vacanapathas that are timely or untimely; true or untrue; gentle or harsh; associated with the good or not; spoken with a heart of love or with inner hate. The structure of the Sutta clearly refers these vacanapathas back to the initial criticism that so upset Moḷiya Phagguṇa, so we are justified in equating vacanapatha with avabhāsati, i.e. criticism.
The formulation of this garudhamma in the Lokuttaravāda/Mahāsaṅghika reinforces the association with this Sutta. This rule is a little confusing, for this school does not have an equivalent to the garudhamma prohibiting a bhikkhuni from abusing bhikkhus. Rather, they seem to have collapsed that rule into the present one, so while the rule formulation seems to deal with criticism, the explanation deals more aggressively with abuse:
‘It is not allowed for a bhikkhuni to aggressively speak to a bhikkhu, saying: ‘You filthy monk, you stupid monk,108 you childish monk,109 you wicked,110 doddering, unintelligent incompetent!’
The rule itself, in clear distinction from the Pali, says that a bhikkhuni is forbidden to criticize a bhikkhu about what is true or untrue (bhūtena vā abhūtena vā), while a bhikkhu is forbidden to criticize a bhikkhuni about what is untrue, but may criticize about what is true. The terms ‘true or untrue’ clearly link up with the Kakacūpama Sutta.111 While the phrasing of the rule clearly discriminates against the bhikkhunis, the rule explanation mitigates this, for the actual explanations of how criticism is to be done by monks and nuns to each other is effectively the same. Both are permitted to admonish a close relative in a gentle and encouraging way, but are not permitted to use abusive language.112
While vacanapatha, then, occurs fairly infrequently, the usage is consistent and relevant in the garudhamma context. It is something whose main aspect is that it is hard to
endure; thus it would seem to be stronger than ‘admonishment’. On the other hand, it may be done fairly and kindly, so it is weaker than ‘abuse’. This justifies my choice of rendering as ‘criticism’.
The fact that this rule starts with ‘from this day on … ’ is most curious. This is the only garudhamma to be formulated in this way. It is scarcely possible to make sense of this without accepting the implication that before this time it was allowable for bhikkhunis to admonish bhikkhus. But of course, if this was the case, there must have been bhikkhunis to do the admonishing, and so once again the origin story of Mahāpajāpatī cannot represent a literal history. There is, however, no mention of ‘from this day on’ in the Dharmaguptaka,113 Mahīśāsaka,114 or Sarvāstivāda.115
The Mahāsaṅghika abbreviates the story of Mahāpajāpatī’s request, then prefaces the detailed description of the garudhammas by having the Buddha declare that: ‘From this day forward, Mahāpajāpatī sits at the head of the bhikkhuni Sangha: thus it should be remembered.’116 This again seems highly unusual, without precedent that I am aware of in the bhikkhu Vinaya. Who was sitting at the head of the bhikkhuni Sangha before this? If Mahāpajāpatī was the first bhikkhuni—as the traditions assert, but which I do not believe—then it would be assumed she was always sitting at the head of the bhikkhunis.
The mainstream position of the Suttas and Vinaya on admonishment is that an admonisher should be seen as a gem; one should always follow them and never leave. The two aniyata rules found in the bhikkhu pāṭimokkhas establish a protocol enabling a trustworthy female lay disciple to bring a charge of serious misconduct against a bhikkhu, which must be investigated by the Sangha and the appropriate punishment levied. This protocol is only established for the female lay disciples, not the male. Are we to believe that the Buddha made one rule supporting admonishment by lay women, and another prohibiting it by nuns?
saṅghādisesa 12 lays down a heavy penalty for bhikkhus or bhikkhunis who refuse to be admonished, saying: ‘Thus there is growth in the Blessed One’s following, that is, with mutual admonishment and mutual rehabilitation.’117 Garudhamma 8 directly contradicts this, and stands in sad contrast with the broad stream of the Buddhist teachings on admonishment.
Nevertheless, though we cannot ethically acquiesce with this rule in any form, it is possible that its original meaning was much more restricted. We have seen that the bhikkhunis were to approach the bhikkhus every fortnight to request teaching, and that this should be seen as a pro-active measure to ensure the nuns received education. When they came to the bhikkhus, they did so as students. Perhaps the bhikkhus, if they knew of offenses of the bhikkhunis, were to formally inform the bhikkhunis of these, and were to leave the bhikkhunis to carry out their own disciplinary measures. Thus it may be the case that this rule was meant to apply solely to a formal procedure within the Sangha, whereby the experienced bhikkhus could bring necessary matters to the attention of the nuns. If the bhikkhunis were so unscrupulous as to not clear up their offenses as required each fortnightly uposatha, this would show they did not have the proper attitude necessary to receive the teaching.
There seems little evidence that Buddhist communities through history felt that it was wrong for a bhikkhuni to teach or even justly criticize a bhikkhu. I have elsewhere gathered a series of stories that present nuns as criticizing monks in various ways, and nowhere is this rule brought up.118 While these stories may not all be strictly historical, they tell us about how Buddhist monastics interpreted the rules at different times. Given the nature of actual relationships between groups of people, the rule prohibiting admonishment of bhikkhus by bhikkhunis can never have been anything other than a dead letter. That the rule books tell a different story is unsurprising. Rule books, ancient and modern, tell us what the rule-writers wanted, not what was actually done. What is perhaps more remarkable is that I cannot find a single example where a nun is criticized or disciplined for admonishing a monk. The conclusion seems inescapable that either this rule was an alien interpolation, or its original scope was very narrow. In any case, the mainstream of the traditions tells us that it is perfectly okay for a bhikkhuni to teach, exhort, or admonish a bhikkhu in a way that is gentle and kind. In doing so, she will be not merely keeping the letter and the spirit of the Vinaya, she will be fulfilling her practice of right speech as part of the noble eightfold path.
The Garudhammas—an Assessment
Bearing in mind our serious reservations about the rules regarding bowing and admonition, these ‘heavy rules’ are not as heavy as all that. They are either simple principles of good manners, or procedures for ensuring the proper education and support for the nuns. They are certainly not a charter for domination of the nuns by the monks. The nuns are left to rely on their own discretion in making most of their everyday lifestyle choices: how to build their monasteries; when to go for alms; how is the day structured; what meditation to
pursue; and so on.
The garudhammas make provision for points of contact between the bhikkhu and bhikkhuni Sanghas at key Vinaya junctures: upasampadā, saṅghādisesa, pavāraṇā, vassa, and uposatha. None of these occasions give the bhikkhus authority to control the bhikkhunis. Both the bhikkhus and the bhikkhunis are under the overarching authority of the Vinaya, and the Vinaya determines what happens at these times. No power of command is involved, just a shared responsibility to respect and follow the Vinaya.
The Vinaya is an ethical system requiring the mature and responsible co-operation of the members of the Sangha. There is, as a rule, no power of command by any individual over another. And so, when the Vinaya omits to grant the bhikkhus power of command over the bhikkhunis, it makes a clear statement, which starkly transgresses against the norms of ancient Indic culture.119
There is, however, one passage in the Bhikkhunikkhandhaka that might seem to grant this power of command, especially if one were to read it in I.B. Horner’s English translation. The bhikkhunis are forbidden from stopping the bhikkhus’ uposatha, and pavāraṇā, from making savacanīya, from anuvāda,120 from taking leave, criticizing, and reminding [bhikkhus about their faults]. The bhikkhus, however, are permitted to do all these things to the bhikkhunis. Obviously this passage is discriminatory, and it is hard to imagine how it might have applied in practice. The list of acts is stock, and is part of the things that are prohibited for a bhikkhu who has undergone various formal acts, such as (tajjaniyakamma),121 dependence (nissayakamma), expulsion (pabbājanīyakamma), or suspension (ukkhepaniyakamma).122
Unfortunately, Horner has chosen to render savacanīya as ‘command’ and anuvāda as ‘authority’.123 But when we look closer, these translations are either incorrect or at best of limited application. Savacanīya only seems to occur in this context, and is never explained in the text. The commentary, however, says it is speech that is intended to prevent a bhikkhu from leaving the monastery until the dispute is settled, or to summon a bhikkhu to go together to find a Vinaya expert to settle the matter.124 It is unclear to me whether the commentary’s opinion of the meaning of savacanīya should be followed, as it seems likely that this is just another term referring to ‘criticism’ or ‘rebuke’, rather than specifically involving the notion of ‘command’. There is no need to resort to the commentary to define anuvāda, as it is one of the four kinds of ‘legal issue’, where it is said to be ‘censure’ (anuvāda) regarding a defect in virtue, conduct, view, or livelihood.125 Neither of these cases have anything to do with a general power of ‘command’ or ‘authority’. Rather, they apply in the specific, limited context of arisen legal issues.
Returning to the procedures outlined in the garudhammas, we must bear in mind that, while these are significant Vinaya procedures, they do not happen very often. Upasampadā normally happens once in a bhikkhuni’s life; saṅghādisesa happens rarely if ever in the career of most monastics; pavāraṇā and vassa happen once a year; uposatha is once a fortnight.
Taking these rules as the entrance point, most writers have concluded that the bhikkhuni Vinaya is generally discriminatory against the nuns. But a closer look reveals that this is not the case. Yes, the nuns have many more rules. But many of these rules are required for the monks also, except they are not counted in the pāṭimokkha, so the appearance of extra rules is largely illusory. This is the case, for example, in the ordination regulations. Or take the pāṭidesanīyas, where the four rules for monks are expanded to eight for nuns. But these eight are simply a prohibition against asking for eight kinds of fine foods, except when sick. Similar rules apply elsewhere to the monks. But the monks’ pāṭidesanīyas don’t appear to apply to the bhikkhunis. Thus while the bhikkhunis appear to have more pāṭidesanīyas, in practice they have less.
More important are saṅghādisesas 3 and 4, which are serious offenses for lewd speech. The bhikkhunis do not have any corresponding rules. There is instead a special pārājika offense for bhikkhunis for speaking lewdly with a man: but in that case, both the bhikkhuni and the man must be overwhelmed with lust, which presupposes a much more advanced stage of developing an intimate relationship. A bhikkhu, on the other hand, can fall into a saṅghādisesa simply through an offhand lewd comment provoked by lust. Another example is the first bhikkhus’ saṅghādisesa, for masturbation, which is treated much more mildly as a pācittiya in the nuns’ Vinaya.
Some of the bhikkhunis’ rules which are understood as draconian may be questioned on the textual evidence. This is clear, for example, in our discussion of the saṅghādisesa rule regarding travel for a nun.126
In addition to these, there are several other rules that deal with particularly feminine issues, such as pregnancy and menstrual hygiene. Others provide for the safety and education for the nuns.
Several of the bhikkhus’ rules, moreover, are not for the exploitation, but the protection of the nuns. For example, it is an offense for a bhikkhu to treat a bhikkhuni as a domestic servant, having them sew and wash robes, and so on. It is also an offense for a bhikkhu to accept food from a bhikkhuni, a rule that was prompted by the difficulty for women to get alms. Curiously enough, many modern Theravāda nuns spend most of their days cooking, shopping, cleaning, sewing, and washing for the monks. Despite the bhikkhus’ avowed commitment to the Vinaya, and insistence that this is the real reason for opposing bhikkhunis, for some reason most bhikkhus don’t seem to see this as a problem. This is, however, not always the case, for some respected Theravādin teachers, such as Ajahn Chah, insisted that the monks actually practice these rules, and not treat the mae chis (eight precept nuns) as domestic servants. Such care for the well-being of the nuns is a sign that balanced perspective of the four-fold Sangha is not entirely lost to Theravāda, and that a movement towards equality may have already begun.
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50 E.g. Pali Vinaya 1.68: … lahukaṁ āpattiṁ na jānāti, garukaṁ āpattiṁ na jānāti …
53 See FRAUWALLNER,Earliest Vinaya, pp. 122-3 for references.
54 T22, № 1428, p. 940, b1: 一切女人不應禮
55 T22, № 1428, p. 940, b7: 如是等人塔一切應禮
56 T22, № 1421, p. 121, a25: 如是奉行
57 T23, № 1435, p. 242, c13-17: 有三人不如。何等三。一切未受大戒人。不如受大戒 人。一切下座不如上座。一切受事說非法人雖作上座。不如下座。不受事人說如 法者。一切受大戒人。勝不受戒人。一切上座勝下座。佛勝眾聖
58 T22, № 1425, p. 446, c2-3: 若見上座來。不起迎和南恭敬者。越毘尼罪
59 Incidentally, although this rule is sometimes said to be a ‘Theravāda’ rule, the ‘[Yogacāra] Bodhisattva Precepts’ say one should pay respects to neither a woman nor a lay person. T40, № 1814, p. 683, c15-16: 不應禮白衣。一切女人不應禮
60 This explanation is derived from a folk etymology connecting pācittiya with pacati, to cook. Unfortunately, this play on words is sometimes interpreted literally, and students are informed that if they break pācittiya rules they will burn in hell. Needless to say, the early texts contain no trace of such an idea.
61 Sarvāstivāda Vinaya, bhikkhuni pācittiya 103 (T23, № 1435, p. 324, b29-c22).
62 SN 16.11/ SĀ 1144/ SĀ2 119.
63 HEIRMANN, Rules for Nuns, p. 955.
64 Mahīśāsaka Vinaya, bhikkhuni pācittiya 179 (T22, № 1421, p. 97, c20-28).
66 MN 142.4.
68 JAINI, chapter 6 #18. The Yuktiprabodha, as well as insisting on the ritual humiliation of women, argues that they cannot be enlightened because of their wanton, crooked nature, as well as the vile impurities of their bodies, especially menstruation.
69 This was emphasized by VAJIRAÑĀṆAVARORASA: ‘Although monks are already subject to the ancient law contained in the Vinaya, they must also subject themselves to the authority which derives from the specific and general law of the State.’ Quoted in MCDANIEL, p. 103.
70 The tension between a progressive social movement and conservative religious forces is negotiated in various legal contexts. For example, the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (amended 6 July 2009) section 56 provides a blanket exemption for religious bodies from the anti-discrimination laws that apply to everyone else. The fact that such an exemption was considered legally necessary implies that if it were not present the discriminatory practices of the Church could be considered illegal and subject to prosecution. Here is the relevant section.
Section 56 Religious Bodies. Nothing in this Act affects: (a) the ordination or appointment of priests, ministers of religion or members of any religious order, (b) the training or education of persons seeking ordination or appointment as priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order, (c) the appointment of any other person in any capacity by a body established to propagate religion, or (d) any other act or practice of a body established to propagate religion that conforms to the doctrines of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion.
71 HEIRMANN, Rules for Nuns, p. 869.
72 HEIRMANN, Rules for Nuns, p. 873.
74 Pali Vinaya 4.51: yebhuyyena bhikkhunīnaṁ piyo hoti manāpo.
75 Pali Vinaya 4.52; Dharmagupta T22, № 1428, p. 649, a1-2; Mahīśāsaka T22, № 1421, p. 45, c8.
76 T24, № 1461, p. 670, c8-9.
77 T22, № 1425, p. 346, a23-24.
78 T23, № 1442, p. 798, b1.
79 T01, № 26, p. 606, a17: 比丘尼則不得問比丘 經律 阿毘曇. The mention of the Abhidhamma implies its developed sense as one of the three baskets of the Tipiṭaka, and hence is a clear sign of lateness.
80 ROTH, p. 67 § 99.
81 MN 146/ SĀ 276.
82 SN 47.10/ SĀ 615.
83 AN 4.159/ SĀ 564.
84 AN 9.37.
85 SN 16.10/ SĀ 1143/ SĀ2 118.
87 ROTH, p. 17 § 13.
88 T24, № 1461, p. 670, c9-11.
89 T22, № 1428, p. 923, b10-11.
90 According to HEIRMANN (Rules for Nuns, pp. 97-8 note 12) the term 麁惡罪 used in the Mahīśāsaka here (T22, № 1421, p. 185, c27), though ambiguously meaning ‘heavy offence’, probably refers to a saṅghādisesa.
91 T23, № 1435, p. 345, c10-12
92 T24, № 1451, p. 351, a20-22.
93 T22, № 1425, p. 475, a8-13. HEIRMANN, Rules for Nuns, p. 97-8.
94 MĀ 116 is Sarvāstivāda; T 60 is of uncertain affiliation, but it is so similar it may well be an alterative translation of the same text.
95 Zhong ben qi jing, T4, № 196, p. 158, c27-29: 七者比丘尼。自未得道。若犯戒律。 當半月詣眾中。首過自悔。以棄憍慢之態
97 Pali Vinaya 1.144: Idha pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhunī garudhammaṁ ajjhāpannā hoti mānattārahā.
98 Pali Vinaya 1.143: Idha pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhu garudhammaṁ ajjhāpanno hoti parivāsāraho.
99 Pali Vinaya 2.226. Sace upajjhāyo garudhammaṁ ajjhāpanno hoti parivāsāraho.
100 ‘Six Precepts’ (https://sites.google.com/site/sikkhamana/6rules). See discussion in chapter 7.10-18.
101 SCHOPEN, Buddhist Monks and Business Matters, pp. 329-359.
102 See my ‘Mahāsaṅghika—the Earliest Vinaya?’
103 ROCKHILL, pp. 61, 62.
104 According to HEIRMANN (p. 96, note 8) this rule is absent from the Pali, Mahāsaṅghika, Lokuttaravāda, and Sarvāstivāda Vinayas. Here, however, she has gone astray, for the rule is in fact found in most or all of these texts.
105 Pali Vinaya 4.130; cf. MN 2.18, AN ii.117, AN v.132, etc.
106 ROTH, p. 132. Other references in EDGERTON’s Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary, Vol. 2, under dur-āgata, p. 266.
107 MN 21.
108 ? Reading avaidya. HIRAKAWA adopts the meaning ‘doctor’ [quack].
109 Cūḷa = Pali cūḷa small; but also the tonsure performed on boys of 1-3 years of age; see MONIER-WILLIAMS, p. 401.
110 Following ROTH, p. 23, note 22.6; except he has misunderstood the next term mahalla, for which see STRONG, The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, pp. 68-69.
111 Indeed, given the similarity of the themes, and the rare involvement of the bhikkhunis in a mainstream Sutta, one might be forgiven for wondering whether this rule is in fact derived from this Sutta.
112 See HIRAKAWA, p. 82-83; ROTH p. 58-61 § 83-8.
113 T22, № 1428, p. 923, b6-7: 比丘尼不應呵比丘。比丘應呵比丘尼
114 T22, № 1421, p. 185, c25-26: 比丘尼不得舉比丘罪。而比丘得呵比丘尼
115 T01, № 26, p. 606, a20-21: 比丘尼不得說比丘所犯。比丘得說比丘尼所犯
116 T22, № 1425, p. 471, a27-28: 從今日大愛道瞿曇彌比丘尼僧上坐。如是持
117 All the Vinayas agree on this point. Here, for example, is the Dharmaguptaka: 如是佛 弟子眾得增益。展轉相諫。展轉相教。展轉懺悔 (T22, № 1429, p. 1016, c20-21).
118 ‘How Nuns May Scold Monks’.
119 The Brahmanical Dharmaśāstras repeat, almost every time they speak of women, that a woman must never be independent, that she must always be subject to her father, her husband, or her son. E.g. VāśIṣṭHA 5.1-2; BAUDHāYANA 188.8.131.52-45; VIṣṇU 25.12-13; MANU 9.2-3.
120 Pali Vinaya 2.276: Tena kho pana samayena bhikkhuniyo bhikkhūnaṁ uposathaṁ hapenti, pavāraṁ hapenti, savacanīyaṁ karonti, anuvādaṁ pahapenti, okāsaṁ kārenti, codenti, sārenti.
123 Book of the Discipline 5.381.
124 Samantapāsādikā 6.1163: Nasavacanīyaṁ kātabbanti palibodhatthāya vā pakkosanatthāya vā savacanīyaṁ na kātabbaṁ, palibodhatthāya hi karonto ‘ahaṁ āyasmantaṁ imasmiṁ vatthusmiṁ savacanīyaṁ karomi, imamhā āvāsā ekapadampi mā pakkāmi, yāva na taṁ adhikaraṇaṁ vūpasantaṁ hotī’ti evaṁ karoti. Pakkosanatthāya karonto ‘ahaṁ te savacanīyaṁ karomi, ehi mayā saddhiṁ vinayadharānaṁ sammukhībhāvaṁ gacchāmā’ti evaṁ karoti; tadubhayampi na kātabbaṁ.
125 Pali Vinaya 2.88: Tattha katamaṁ anuvādādhikaraṇaṁ? Idha pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhū bhikkhuṁ anuvadanti sīlavipattiyā vā ācāravipattiyā vā diṭṭhivipattiyā vā
126 Chapter 3.
Venerable Thubten Chodron
Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.