CHAPTER VI The New Role of Sīla in Buddhist Monasticism
These refer to the various stages in the development of sīla or moral virtue in Buddhism, from the uninitiated disciple to the Tathāgatas. It is difficult to determine with any certainty whether the concept of pārisuddhisīla as the 'code of good living leading to purity' heralded the later classification of the Catupārisuddhisīla. However, it has already been pointed out that the aspects of monastic discipline contained under the Catupārisuddhisīla are of Canonical origin.2 Like sīla, they were considered among the necessary accomplishments of monastic life, and as such some of them stood beside sīla under their own name. Thus they were never reckoned as divisions of sīla. Nevertheless, with the lapse of time, we witness the expansion of the scope and function of sīla as it brings within its fold the entire range of monastic development which culminates in the attainment of Arahantship.3 Thus sīla, from its position of being the first and basic stage in the threefold training of a disciple (tisso sikkhā) came, more or less, to be identified with the complete concept of sīkkhā itself. The first clear indication of an adequate elaboration of sīla capable of accomodating the new element is seen in the Milindapañha where the venerable Nāgasena tells King Milinda that the sīlaratana of the Buddha consists of Pātimokkhasaṃvara, Indriyasaṃvara Ājīvapārisuddhi and Paccayasannissita sīlas as well as of the Cūlla, Majjhima, Mahā and Magga and Phala sīlas (Katamaṃ mahārāja bhagavato sīlaratanaṃ. Pātimokkhasaṃvara-sīlam indriyasaṃvarasīlam ājīvapārisuddhisīlam paccayasannissitasīlam cullasīlam majjhimasīlam mahāsīlam maggasīlam phalasīlam - Miln.336). It also occurs in a statement by King Milinda where he refers to the development of a disciple in terms of the four categories of sīla: catusu sīlakkhandhesu sammā paripūrakāri. Miln.243. Although the term Catupārisuddhisīla is not used here, there is no doubt that the fourfold classification had already gained considerable recognition, for the threefold division of Cūla, Majjhima and Mahā sīlas which is the Canonical classification is accorded here the second place after the enumeration of the four items of sīla which constitute the Catupārisuddhisīla.
This fourfold classification of sīla which evidently is one of post-canonical origin seems to have been a subject of great controversy in later monastic history. Even during the time of Buddhaghosa the Catupārisuddhisīla does not seem to have enjoyed an unchallenged position. Buddhaghosa who describes it in great detail in the Visuddhimagga also records elsewhere the disputes which seem to have arisen on this subject. According to him, a learned Buddhist monk of Sri Lanka by the name of Culābhaya Thera who was a Master of the Tipiṭaka [Tipiṭka Culābhaya Thera] refused to accept, in the absence of Canonical authority, the importance attached to Indriyasaṃvara, Ājīvapārisuddhi and Paccayasannissita as separate items of sīla. He challenged the view of his teacher, Sumana Thera of Dīpavihāra, who held that the term sīla was used in the Canonical texts to mean implicitly the wider concept covered under the fourfold classification. To Sumana Thera sīla meant something more than the discipline brought about by the Pātimokkha, although he was quick and ready to recognise the very significant part it played in the life of a monk. Commenting on the term sampannasīla in the Ākankheyya Sutta,1 Buddhaghosa brings to light these differences of opinion (Tattha sampannasīlā'ti ettāvatā kira bhagavā catupārisuddhi-sīlaṃ uddisitvā pātimokkhasaṃvarasampannā'ti iminā tattha jeṭṭhakasīlaṃ vitthāretvā dassesī'ti dīpavihāravāsī sumanatthero āha. Antevāsiko pana 'ssa tipiṭakacūlābhayatthero āha. Ubhayatthā'pi pātimokkhasaṃvaro bhagavatā vutto. Pātimokkhasaṃvaro y 'eva hi sīlaṃ. Itarāni pana tīni sīlan'ti vuttaṭṭhānaṃ nāma atthī'ti ananujānanto vatvā āha. MA.I.155)2
Even if we would agree with the learned Cūlābhaya Thera and argue that the recognition of such items as Paccayasannissita and Ājivapārisudhi as separate items of sīla is a matter of post-Canonical origin, Cūlābhaya Thera is himself liable to be accused of viewing sīla too narrowly by identifying it totally with the Pātimokkha. Sīla would thereby be robbed of its spirit to some extent and be made effective only by the mechanism of the Pātimokkha. However, the Pātimokkha was only an aid to the perfection of sīla and therefore the old stereotyped description of a sīlasampanno invariably mentions sīla first and then follows it with Pātimokkhasaṃvara etc. (Kathañ ca mahānāma ariyasāvako sīlasampanno hoti. Idha mahānāma ariyasāvako sīlavā hoti pātimokkhasaṃvarasaṃvuto viharati... M.I.355).
But with the increasing importance which the text and the ritual of the Pātimokkha gradually assumed in the early days of Buddhist monasticism we are not surprised to find in the Canonical texts themselves a virtual identification of the very comprehensive concept of sīla with the Pātimokkha. In doing so, at least theoretically, the scope of the Pātimokkha was considerably widened. A passage in the Aṅguttara Nikāya refers to the complete grounding in sīla simply as pātimokkhasaṃvara (Etha tumhe āvuso sīlavā hotha pātimokkhasaṃvarasaṃvutā viharatha ācāragocarasampannā anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvino samādaya sikkhatha sikkhāpadesū'ti. Iti pātimokkhasaṃvare samādapetabbā nivesetabbā patiṭṭhāpetabbā. A.III.138). On the other hand, we find in the Saṃyutta Nikāya a passage which describes the discipline of a monk with the rest of the above phraseology, leaving out the reference to sīla. However, the discipline so described is recognised in the end as the grounding in sīla (Yato kho tvam bhikkhu pātimokkhasaṃvarasaṃvuto viharissasi ācāragocarasampanno anumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhasi sikkhāpadesu tato tvam bhikkhu sīlaṃ nissāya sīle patiṭṭhāya cattāro satipaṭṭhāne bhāveyyāsi - S.V.187) Thus there seems to be a mutual identification of sīla and the Pātimokkha. Evidently, Cūlābhaya Thera found here a point in his favour and Buddhaghosa himself remarks that this establishes the superiority of the Pātimokkhasaṃvarasīla over the other sīlas in the fourfold classification.1 Cūlābhaya Thera argues that the other three items of this classification are never referred to as sīla and dismisses them as elementary considerations relating to the control of sense faculties and to the acceptance and use of a disciple's food and raiment.1 Nevertheless, Buddhaghosa is anxious to maintain that the Pātimokkha by itself does not complete the discipline of a monk.2 The Pātimokkha being essentially an organ of Buddhist Vinaya aimed at the correction only of word and deed. This is clearly stated to be the avowed purpose of the Vinaya Piṭaka as is borne out by the definitions of Vinaya given by Buddhaghosa.3 But the complete development of a Buddhist disciple included the discipline of his mind as well. As the Catupārisuddhi-sīla was meant to be the complete and comprehensive code of Buddhist monastic discipline, it was argued that the development of the mind of the disciple which the Pātimokkha did not take within its fold was brought about by the rest of these divisions of sīla.4 Thus Buddhaghosa would speak of the good disciples as being established in this fourfold sīla for the perfection of their religious life.5
This deficiency of the Pātimokkha, and therefore also of the earlier sīlakkhandha referred to in the Suttas, which is pointed out here had been remedied to some extent by the discipline of indriyasaṃvara which was closely coupled with sīla from the earliest times. Hence we would readily concede the elaboration of the indriyasaṃvara into a separate item of sīla which contributes to the mental discipline of a monk. But the formulation of Ājīvapārisuddhi and Paccayasannissita in their present form in the Catupārisuddhisīla seems more to hint at the concern over the behaviour of the growing monastic community.
It is of interest to note that while Buddhaghosa records the divergent evaluations of the Catupārisuddhisīla. he also makes a genuine attempt to place before us this fourfold classification with a definite note of recommendation. In the Visuddhimagga he shows us how these four items of sīla bring into play essential monastic virtues like saddhā, sati, viriya and paññā.1 It is also shown that they contribute towards a fourfold purification in the life of the monk: catubbidhā hi suddhi.2 In terms of the sīla which bring about these aspects of purification they are:
Desanāsuddhi : Pātimokkhasaṃvarasīla.
Saṃvarasuddhi : Indriyasaṃvarasīla.
Pariyeṭṭhisuddhi : Ājīvapārisuddhisīla.
Paccavekkhaṇasuddhi : Paccayasannissitasīla3
There is a passage in the Dhammapadaṭṭhakathā which in its comment on a verse in the Bhikkhuvagga,4 attempts to equate the Catupārisuddhisīla to the three items of pātimokkhasaṃvara, indriyagutti and santuṭṭhi of Canonical antiquity. In doing so it is constrained to accommodate both Ājīvapārisuddhi and Paccayasannissita sīlas under santuṭṭhi which is explained as contentment with regard to the four requisites.5 The Vimuttimagga6 seems to go a step further in that it tries to establish with finality the significance of the Catupārisuddhisīla in Buddhist monasticism by equating the four items of sīla to the three sikkhā of sīla, samādhi and paññā. In the light of all these observations it becomes clear that the Catupārisuddhisīla has acquired in Buddhist monasticism a validity and significance which cannot easily be underrated.
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