Jotiya dhirasekera


CHAPTER IV The Foundations of Monastic Life: Sīla, Sikkhā and Sikkhāpada



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CHAPTER IV
The Foundations of Monastic Life:
Sīla, Sikkhā and Sikkhāpada


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 eva jānato eva passato kāmāsavā'pi citta vimuccati... nāpara itthattāyā'ti pajānāti. Ta kissa hetu. Eva hi eta bhaddāli hoti yathā ta satthusāsane sikkhāya paripūrakārissā'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 anagāriya 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 Saṅgha (satthugāravatā, dhammagāravatā and saghagāravatā) 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 samaassa gotamassa sāvakā sabrahmacārīhi sampayojetvā sikkha paccakkhāya hīnāya 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 1.sīla, 2.samādhi and 3.paññā and goes under the name of tisso sikkhā (Tisso imā bhikkhave sikkhā. Katamā tisso. Adhisīlasikkhā adhicittasikkhā adhipaññāsikkhā - A.I.235.). It is reported in the Aṅguttara 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 (sādhika diyaḍḍhasikkhāpadasata) 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.1 All those rules, it is said, are contained within the threefold sikkhā (Imā kho bhikkhave tisso sikkhā yatth'eta sabba samodhāna gacchati - A.I.231). These three items of discipline are also referred to as constituting the duties of monastic life (Tīṇi' māni bhikkhave samaassa samaakaraṇīyāni. Katamāni tīṇi. Adhisīlasikkhā-samādāna adhicittasikkhā-samādāna adhipaññāsikkhā-samādāna - A.I.229.) They bring about the accomplishments of a recluse which make him a true samaa. Buddhaghosa too, quoting the Aṅguttara Nikāya verbatim in his commentary on the Mahāassapura Sutta, reaffirms this view.2 These three stages of sīla, 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 sīla-sampanno samādhi-sampanno paññā-sampanno diṭṭheva dhamme añña 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 tuyha bhikkhu adhisīlam'pi sikkhato adhicittam'pi sikkhato adhipaññam'pi sikkhato rāgo pahīyissati doso pahīyissati moho pahīyissati - A.I.230). Thus the true endeavour to develop all these aspects is made the basis of all monastic aspirations. The Ākaṅkheyya 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. (Ākakheyya ce bhikkhave bhikkhu āsavāna khayā anāsava cetovimutti paññāvimutti diṭṭhe'va dhamme saya abhiññāya sacchikatvā upasampajja vihareyyan'ti sīlesv'eva'ssa paripūrakārī ajjhatta cetosamatha anuyutto anirākatajjhāno vipassanāya samannāgato brūhetā suññāgārāna - M.I.35f.). Buddhaghosa establishes that the procedure described here is identical with the discipline of the tisso sikkhā.1

Nevertheless, it is clear from the evidence of the Suttas that out of the threefold sikkhā special emphasis was laid on sīla as the foundation of all spiritual attainments. The Buddha himself is seen assuring his disciples of the efficacy of sīla as the basis of spiritual progess (yato kho tva bhikkhu sīla nissāya sīle patiṭṭhāya ime cattāro satipaṭṭhāne bhāvessasi tato tuyha bhikkhu yā ratti vā divaso vā āgamissati vuddhi yeva pāṭikakhā kusalesu dhammesu no parihānī'ti - S.V.187.). Once the monastic life is well established on the sīla basis all else seem to follow in natural succession. The Ākaṅkheyya Sutta, in fact, begins with the Buddha's admonition to the monks to be mindful of their sīla and to acquire thereby the necessary discipline (sampannasīlā bhikkhave viharatha sampannapātimokkhā pātimokkhasavarasavutā viharatha ācāragocara-sampannā anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī 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 (Eva pabbajito samāno pātimokkhasavarasavuto viharati ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesu kāyakammavacīkammena samannāgato kusalena parisuddhājīvo sīlasampanno 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.1 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.'2

Getting down to the details of the above passage, however, the Sutta proceeds with an exhaustive analysis of sīlasampanno which is followed in succession by indriyesu guttadvāro, satisampajaññena samannāgato and santuṭṭho. When we compare the comments of Buddhaghosa on the above passage3 and the definition of sīlasampanno given in the Sekha Sutta4 it becomes clear to us that here too the first consideration has been the perfection in sīla. This prestige which sīla 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 (Patiṭṭhānalakkhaa mahārāja sīla sabbesa kusalāna dhammāna indriya - bala - bojjhaga - magga - satipaṭṭhāna - sammappadhāna - iddhipāda - jhāna - vimokkha - samādhi - samāpattīna sīla patitham. Sīle patiṭṭhassa kho mahārāja sabbe kusalā dhammā na parihāyantī'ti - Milin.34). In the fifth century A.C. Buddhaghosa is equally eloquent on it in the Visuddhimagga.1 Both Nāgasena and Buddhaghosa quote Canonical texts regarding the basic value of sīla. The Saṃyutta Nikāya records in two places the following statement which is ascribed to the Buddha:



Sīle patiṭṭhāya naro sapañño cittaṃ paññañ ca bhāvayaṃ
ātāpī nipako bhikkhu so imaṃ vijaṭaye jaṭaṃ. 2

This stanza which emphasises the importance of sīla is quoted by Nāgasena as an utterance of the Buddha (Bhāsitam'pi eta mahārāja bhagavatā sīle patiṭṭhāya... Miln.34). Buddhaghosa does the same in the Visuddhimagga. (Ten'āha bhagavā sīle patiṭṭhāya ... Vism.I. 4) In the Gaṇakamoggllāna3 and the Dantabhūmi4 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-paipadā). The first words which the Buddha addresses to his disciples on taking them under his direction are with regard to their perfection in sīla and the consequent restraint which is associated with it (Ehi tva bhikkhu sīlavā hohi pātimokkhasavarasavuto viharāhi ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhāhi sikkhāpadesū'ti - M.III.2,134).

The perfection in sīla, 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 Saṅgha as a whole. It is thus clear that sīla was the corner-stone of early Buddhist monasticism. First and foremost, the Buddhist disciple had to be sīlavā. It meant that the disciple had to regulate his life in terms of what is recorded under sīla 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 sīlasampanno is used as equivalent in meaning to sīlavā and under it are included forty-three items of sīla which are subdivided into three groups as Minor [26], Middle [10] and Major [7] - (cūlasīla, majjhimasīla and mahāsīla).1 A number of Suttas of the Majjhima Nikāya,2 in describing the sīla of the Buddhist disciple, include under the category of sīla (sīlakkhandha) only the first twenty-six items which in the Sāmaññaphala Sutta are all grouped under cūlasīla. 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 cūlasīla which include fraudulent practices, violence and atrocities which are neither good for the monk nor for the layman.1 Almost all the ten items under the majjhimasīla are only further elaborations of some of the items of the cūlasīla. The seven items of the mahāsīla are only detailed descriptions of the different forms of ignoble livelihood or micchā ājīva which are improper for a monk.

These items of sīla, 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 pāṇātipāta pahāya pāṇātipātā paivirato hoti nihitadaṇḍo nihitasattho lajjī dayāpanno sabba-pāṇa-bhūta-hitānukampī viharati - D.I.63ff.). 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 sīla 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 Kakacūpama 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 (Ārādhayisu vata me bhikkhave bhikkhū eka samaya citta. Idhā'ha bhikkhave bhikkhū āmantesi. Aha kho bhikkhave ekāsanabhojanam bhuñjāmi ... Etha tumhe'pi bhikkhave ekāsanabhojana bhuñjatha ... Na me bhikkhave tesu bhikkhusu anusāsanī karaṇīyā ahosi sat'uppādakaraṇīya eva me bhikkhave tesu bhikkhusu ahosi - M.I.124).

The incident referred to in the Kakacūpama 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 Saṅgha at two different periods within one's memory (Appakā kho tumhe bhaddāli tena samayena ahuvattha yadā vo aha ājānīyasusūpama dhammapariyāya desesi. Sarasi tva bhaddālī'ti - M.1.445). The strength in numbers, the popularity of individuals or groups and the maturity of the members of the Saṅgha as it was becoming a long established institution, were among the causes of corruption.1 The Bhaddāli Sutta2 shows us how the once accepted monastic tradition of one meal a day which is recorded in the Kakacūpama Sutta and which had also found for itself a place among the items of sīla as a condition of good monastic living3 had to be reinforced with a restrictive regulation making it an offence to eat out of regular hours.4 These rgulations which are called sikkhāpada now provide, beside sīla, 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 Kakacūpama 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.1 It was certainly an offence against sīla, 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 (anāpatti ... ādikammikassa - Vin.III.33. etc.). His offence, at the time, is against an item of sīla 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.2 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'icchaka yad'icchaka yāvad'icchaka ākaḍḍhissanti parikaḍḍhissanti. Handa maya āvuso vinaya vivaṇṇemā'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 Saṅgha could make specific references to the body of rules and make just and legally valid accusations.1

A careful analysis of the history of Pārājika I reveals the manner in which the authoritative disciplinary machinery of the Vinaya came to be set up in gradual stages. The Suttavibhaṅga 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 anādīnavadasso - Vin.III.18.). It is difficult to maintain here that anādīnavadasso 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 vippaisāro alābhā vata me na vata me lābhā dulladdha vata me na vata me suladdha yāvā'ha eva svākkhāte dhammavinaye pabbajitvā nāsakkhi yāvajīva paripuṇṇa parisuddha brahmacariya 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 pāpa kamma kata - Vin.III.19). Perhaps it would also have occurred to him that his act was in violation of the item of sīla which refers to the practice of celibacy (Abrahmacariya pahāya brahmacārī hoti ārācārī virato methunā gāmadhammā - D.I.63).

Therefore we cannot take anādīnavadasso 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 Saṅgha 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 visayogāya 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 kāmāna pahāna akkhāta kāmasaññāna pariññā akkhātā kāmapipāsāna paivinayo akkhāto kāmavitakkāna samugghāto akkhāto kāmapariḷāhāna vūpasamo 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 anādīnavadasso here means probably is that abstinence from methunadhamma being one among the many items of sīla, 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.1 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 (anavajjasaññī and niddosasaññī). 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 anavajjasaññī and niddosasaññī (Anādīnavadasso'ti ya bhagavā idāni sikkhāpada paññāpento ādīnava dasseti tam apassanto anavajjasaññī hutvā... ettha pana ādīnavam apassanto niddosasaññī ahosi. Tena vuttam anādīnavadasso'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 pāpa kamma kata purāṇadutiyikāya methuno dhammo paisevito - Vin.III.19), and that therefore his monastic life has been a failure (...yāvā' ha eva svākkhāte dhammavinaye pabbajitvā nāsakkhi yāvajīva paripuṇṇa parisuddha brahmacariya caritun' ti - Ibid.)? 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 number of rebellious monks even during the lifetime of the Master (Sace ime vinaye pakataññuno bhavissanti amhe yen' icchaka yad' icchaka yāvad' icchaka ākaḍḍhissanti parikaḍḍhissanti. Handa maya āvuso vinaya vivaṇṇemā' ti - Vin.IV.134.). The need for such legalised administration of the Saṅgha 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 Saṅgha when the good life according to the Master's bidding was practised at a mere suggestion.1 According to a tradition preserved in the Samantapāsādikā,2 this sense of responsibility and earnestness among the members of the Saṅgha lasted only twenty years. For twenty years from the enlightenment of the Buddha, says the tradition, no serious offence like a Pārājika or Saṅghādisesa was ever witnessed, and hence there was no provocation for the promulgation of Pārājika or Saṅghādisesa 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 saghe pātubhavanti atha satthā sāvakāna sikkhāpada paññāpeti tesa y'eva āsavaṭṭhāniyāna dhammāna paighātāya - 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 arises3 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 bhikkhū aññāya saṇṭhahanti - 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 (Eva hi eta bhaddāli hoti sattesu hāyamānesu saddhamme antaradhāyamāne bahutarāni c'eva sikkhāpadāni honti appatarā ca bhikkhū aññāya saṇṭhahanti - M.I.445). In the Saṃyutta Nikāya, the venerable Mahā Kassapa is seen making the same observation about the increase in the number of sikkhāpada.1 On the other hand, the semi-historical introduction to the Suttavibhaṅga places these words of the Buddha regarding the promulgation of the rules in a different context.2 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.3 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 sīkkhāpada 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 Suttavibhaṅga, 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 Suttavibhaṅga 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 notice here is that while mahatta was used in the Bhaddāli Sutta as a specific condition it is used in the Suttavibhaṅga as a general attribute. The yasagga of the former is also left out in the latter. In the Suttavibhaṅga 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 Suttavibhaṅga 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 ājānīyasusūpama dhammapariyāya desesi. Sarasi tva bhaddālīti - M.I.445).

On the whole, the Sāriputta episode in the Suttavibhaṅga 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 Suttavibhaṅga, 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.1 In the Buddhavagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya, Buddha Gotama's quest of enlightenment is similarly reproduced in relation to the Buddhas of the past.2 Furthermore, in the Suttavibhaṅga, 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 Suttavibhaṅga 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.3 While stating that during this period there was no provocation for the promulgation of Pārājika or Saṅghādisesa 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 ajjhācāra apassanto pārājika vā saghādisesa vā na paññāpesi. Tasmi tasmi pana vatthusmi 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,1 Dukkaṭa2 and Dubbhāsita3 are generally derivative offences. The Dukkaṭa has also an independent existence under the Sekhiyā dhammā.4 The Thullaccaya on the other hand is derived from a Pārājika or Saṅghādisesa 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 Sāratthadīpanī Vinaya Ṭīkā 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 Ṭīkā 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 tasmi tasmi pana vatthusmi avasesapañcakhuddakāpattikkhandhe eva paññāpesī'ti ida dvādasame vasse verañjāya vutthavassena bhagavatā tato paṭṭhāya aṭṭhavassabbhantare paññattasikkhāpada sandhāya vuttan'ti vadanti. Ta na sundara. Tato pubbe'pi sikkhāpadapaññattiyā sabbhāvato - Sāratthadīpanī.I.401.). But neither of these traditions seem to question the antiquity of the Thullaccaya over the two major offences of Pārājika and Saṅghādisesa. 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 Sāratthadīpanī, confronted with this anomaly, explains it by saying that the request of Sāriputta was mainly concerned with regulations against grosser offences (Pahamabodhiya pañcanna lahukāpattīna sabbhāvavacanen'eva dhammasenāpaissa sikkhāpadapaññattiyācanā visesato garukāpattipaññattiyā pātimokkhuddesassa ca hetubhūtā'ti daṭṭhabbā - Sāratthadīpanī.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 Suttavibhaṅga 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 Saṅgha (āsavaṭṭhāniyā dhammā) in the Papañcasūdanī.1 Since it is said both in the Bhaddāli Sutta and the Suttavibhaṅga 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,1 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 Suttavibhaṅga 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.2 The Buddha declared that he lays down sikkhāpada to serve the following needs:


  1. Saghasuṭṭhutāya: well-being of the Saṅgha.

  2. Saghaphāsutāya: convenience of the Saṅgha.

  3. Dummakūna puggalāna niggahāya: restraint of evil-minded persons.

  4. Pesalāna bhikkhūna phāsuvihārāya: ease of well-behaved monks.

  5. Diṭṭhadhammikāna āsavāna savarāya: restraint against the defilements of this life.

  6. Samparāyikāna āsavāna paighātāya: eradication of the defilements of the life after.

  7. Appasannāna pasādāya: for the conversion of new adherents.

  8. Pasannāna bhiyyobhāvāya: enhancement of the faith of those already converted.

  9. Saddhammaṭṭhitiyā: stability and continuance of the Dhamma.

  10. 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 sīla from its position as the basis of a disciple's monastic development.1 True to the spirit in which they were instituted, they helped to augment sīla. 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. sīlasampanno, sīla still seems to hold its basic position while the discipline through sikkhāpada and other means are added on to it (kathañ ca mahānāma ariyasāvako sīlasampanno hoti. Idha mahānāma ariyasāvako sīlavā hoti pātimokkhasavarasavuto viharati ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesu. M.I.355). The Buddha appears to lay special emphasis on sīla while speaking of the items which form the foundation for the spiritual development of the monk (Tasmā' t'iha tva bhikkhu ādim eva visaodhehi kusalesu dhammesu. Ko c' ādi kusalāna dhammāna. Idha tva bhikkhu pātimokkhasavarasavuto viharāhi ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhāhi sikkhāpadesu. Yato kho tva bhikkhu sīla nissāya sīle patiṭṭhāya ime cattāro satipaṭṭhāne eva bhāvessasi tato tuyha bhikkhu yā ratti vā divaso vā āgamissati vuddhi y' eva pāṭkakhā kusalesu dhammesu no parihānī'ti - S.V.187).



According to the definition of sīlasampanno quoted above, further to sīla, 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 ida bhante diyaḍḍhasikkhāpadasata anvaddhamāsam uddesa āgacchati. Nā'ha 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 Saṅgha. 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 sāmaera 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.1 Nine out of these sikkhāpada are traceable back to sīla: nos.1-4 and 9-13 in the lists of sīla recommended for the monk.2 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 sīla laid down for the laymen. But this one relating to intoxicants had no place in the earlier lists of sīla of the monk. Reference to the use of intoxicants is also conspicuous by its absence in the lists of satta and dasa kammapatha.3 Nor does it appear under dasa kusala or akusala kamma.4 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.5 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 one lose one's sense of judgement (Api nu kho bhikkhave ta pātabba ya pivitvā visaññī 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.6

Of the ten sikkhāpada laid down for the sāmaera, the first five seem, more or less, inviolable. The sāmaera is liable to be expelled for the violation of any one of them (Tasmā yo pāṇātipātādisu ekam'pi kamma karoti so liganāsanāya nāsetabbo - VinA.V.1014). 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 sāmaera while the violation of the latter lead to the imposition of specific punishments (Dasasu sikkhāpadesu purimāna pañcanna atikkamo nāsanavatthu pacchimāna atikkamo daṇḍakammavatthu. VinA.V.1012). It is these first five sikkhāpada which are also spoken of as the code of the laymen's discipline (Te ārāmikabhūtā vā upāsakabhūtā 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 pāṇam atipāteti musāvādañ ca bhāsati
loke adinnaṃ ādiyati paradārañ ca gacchati
surāmerayapānañ ca yo naro anuyuñjati
idh'eva eso lokasmiṃ mūlaṃ khaṇati attano.

Dhp.vv.246-47.


A Cakkavatti king is also presented as upholding this fivefold code of lay ethics [Rājā mahāsudassano eva āha pāṇo na hantabbo adinna na ādātabba kāmesu micchā na caritabbā musā na bhaitabbā majja na pātabba yathābhuttañ ca bhuñjathā'ti. D.II.173). Perhaps the fact that these five sikkhāpada, with the adjustment of abrahmacariyā-veramaṇī or complete celibacy to read as kāmesu micchācārā-veramaṇī or chaste moral behaviour in the case of laymen's sīla, 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 sīla or sikkhāpada, to conduct and discipline themselves in a specific manner (eva hi vo bhikkhave sikkhitabba).1 It is often said to be under the guidance of the Dhamma (Tasmā t' iha bhikkhave dhamma yeva sakkaronto dhamma garukaronto dhamma apacāyamānā suvacā bhavissāma sovacassata āpajjisāmā'ti eva hi vo bhikkhave sikkhitabba - M.I.126). Not only did this form another source of discipline from the earliest times but also supplemented sīla 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 Kakacūpama Sutta where they are asked to rid themselves of anger, hatred and ill-will and develop love and magnanimity (Tatrā'pi kho bhikkhave eva sikkhitabba na c'eva no citta vipariata bhavissati na ca pāpika vāca nicchāressāma hitāmukampī ca viharissāma mettacittā na dosantarā tañ ca puggala mettāsahagatena cetasā pharitvā viharissāma tadārammaañ ca sabbāvanta loka mettāsahagatena cetasā vipulena mahaggatena appamāṇena averena abyāpajjhena pharitvā viharissāmā'ti - M.I.129). 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: eva vo hi bhikkhave sikkhitabba. 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 [Jarāmaraa bhikkhave ajānatā apassatā yathābhūta jarāmarae yathābhūta-ñāṇāya sikkhā karaṇīyā. Eva ... catusaccika kātabba - S.II.131).

We may now safely conclude that sīla, 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 Ādibrahma-cariyika, sīla and sikkhā are used as though they were identical with sikkhāpada as their subject matter. The Aṅguttara 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 sāvakāna abhisamācārikā sikkhā paññattā appasannāna pasādāya pasannāna bhiyyobhāvāya. Yathā bhikkhave mayā sāvakāna abhisamācārikā sikkhā paññattā appasannāna pasādāya pasannāna bhiyyobhāvāya tathā so tassā sikkhāya akkhaṇḍakārī hoti acchiddakārī asabalakārī samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesu. A.II.243). The Commentary to the Aṅguttara Nikāya, in more than one place, defines Abhisamācārikā as vattavasena paññattasīla or rules of propriety.1 The Ādibrahmacariyikā 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 para bhikkhave mayā sāvakāna 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 Ādibrahmacariyikā 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 [Paibalo hoti antevāsi vā saddhivihāri vā abhisamācārikāya sikkhāya sikkhāpetu ādibrahmacariyikāya sikkhāya vinetu Vin.I.64).

In the Visuddhimagga, Buddhaghosa divides sīla into Abhisamācārika and Ādibrahmacariyika, thus exhausting between them the complete monastic discipline and culture which leads up to the termination of dukkha. According to Buddhaghosa, the Abhisamācārika sīla as the lesser of the two consists of all sikkhāpada which are designated as minor in character (yāni vā sikkhāpadāni khuddānukhuddakānī'ti vuttāni ida abhisamācārikasīla sesa ādibrahmacariyika. Vism..I. III f.). The rest of the sikkhāpada form the Ādibrahmacariyika. Buddhaghosa makes the groups more specific when he divides the contents of the Vinaya into two categories as follows. The Ādibrahmacaryika consists of the contents of the twofold Vibhaṅga. The instructions of the Khandhakas form the Abhisamācārika, perfection in which assures the attainment of the other (Ubhatovibhagapariyāpanna vā ādibrahmacariyika khandhakavattapariyāpanna abhisamācārika Tassa sampattiyā ādibrahmacariyika sampajjati - Vism.I.12). In the Samantapāsādikā Buddhaghosa presents the latter classification as Khandhakavatta and Sekhapaṇṇatti (Abhisamācārikāya sikkhāyā'ti khandhakavatte vinetu na paibalo hotī'ti attho. Ādibrahmacariyikāyā'ti sekhapaṇṇattiya vinetu na paibalo'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 Ubhato Vibhaṅga, 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 Ādibrahmacariyika 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 paṇṇattisīla. (Sekha dhamman'ti sekkapaṇṇattiya - AA.III.228). In the Samantapāsādikā, Buddhaghosa defines Ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā as sekhapaṇṇatti. (Ādibrahmacariyikāyā'ti sekhapaṇṇattiya. VinA.V.990). Thus the sekha dhamma which can be perfected only after the Abhsamācārikā sikkhā is none other than the Ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā. According to a statement in the Aṅguttara Nikāya, it is only after these two stages of Abhisamācārikā and Ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā that the successive development through sīla, samādhi and paññā are considered possible. (So vata bhikkhave bhikkhu ... abhisamācārika dhammam aparipūretvā sekha dhamma paripūressatī'ti... sekha dhammam aparipūretvā sīlakkhandha paripūresstī ti...... sīlakkhandham aparipūretvā samādhikkhandha paripūressati samādhikkahndham aparipūretvā paññākkhandha paripūressatī'ti n'eta hāna vijjati. A.III.15).

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 Ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā are looked upon as exhausting between them the complete monastic discipline and culture leading up to the termination of dukkha. (Note: Puna ca para bhikkhave mayā sāvakāna ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā paññattā sabbaso sammā dukkhkkhayāya. A.II.243). On the other hand, the Ādibrahmacariyikā sikkhā came to be narrowly defined, thus allowing for the integration of these two sikkhā, i.e. Abhisamācārika and Ādibrahmacariyika to provide a basis for the perfection of sīla, samādhi and paññā which once existed independently as a system of monastic culture under the name of tisso sikkhā. (Note: Sakkhasi pana tva bhikkhu tīsu sikkhāsu sikkhitu ... tasmā tuyha bhikkhu adhisīlam'pi sikkhato adhicittam'pi sikkhato adhipaññam'pi sikkhato rāgo pahīyissati doso pahīyissati moho pahīyissati. A.I.230.).

We have thus witnessed in the above discussion the origin and development of Buddhist monastic discipline in terms of sīla, 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.





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