Karma Lekshe Tsomo

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:

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The prātimokṣa (Pāli: pāṭimokkha), the Buddhist monastic code of discipline, is a corpus of disciplinary rules to be observed by the monastic community: bhikṣu (fully ordained monk), bhikṣuṇī (fully ordained nun), śrāmaṇera (novice monk), srāmaṇerikā (novice nun), and śikṣamāṇā (female trainee [for full ordination]). Together with individual monastic constitutions, the prātimokṣa signifies the exemplary standard of pure conduct to be observed by the monastic community (sangha) as the foundation for achieving liberation. Etymologies of the term differ. Prāti means toward and mokṣa means liberation. Tibetan scholars define the term as individual liberation, commencement of liberation, and especially excellent liberation. Preceded by rituals of confession, the Bhikṣu and Bhikṣunī Prātimoṣa Sūtras are recited bimonthly in bhikṣu and bhikṣunī assemblies to restore the purity and unity of the sangha. The precepts include moral constraints, guidelines for disciplined behavior and harmonious communal living, and rules of etiquette. Over time, varying interpretations of the precepts led to different schools of vinaya, each with its own prātimokṣa. The Theravada school holds that the Pali canon was largely the work of the Buddha and his immediate disciples, collected at a council held shortly after the Buddha’s death. This is not supported by historical evidence. According to scholars, the precepts developed over a long period of time in response to specific instances of misconduct or impropriety, and were written down during the first century bce. There are seven categories of precepts, arranged according to the seriousness of the offense. The prātimokṣas of all schools include five categories of precepts that are common to both bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs: (1) parajika (defeats that entail expulsion from the sangha), (2) sanghavasesa (remainders that entail suspension), (3) nihsargika-patayantika (abandoning downfalls that entail forfeiture), (4) patayantika (propelling downfalls or lapses), and (5) saiksa (faults or misdeeds). There is one additional category for bhikṣus, the two aniyata-dharma (individually confessed downfalls), and one for bhikṣuṇīs, the eight pratidesaniya (offenses requiring confession). The seven adhikarana-samatha (methods of resolving disputes) are included in the prātimokṣas of both bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs. The four primary transgressions (pārājika, or defeats) for bhikṣus are killing a human being, taking what is not given, engaging in sexual intercourse, and falsely claiming to have attained supernormal powers. Bhikṣuṇīs have four further pārājikas, which vary in different schools of vinaya. The three main sangha rites to be observed by Buddhist monastics are the bimonthly purification of transgressions (upavasatha/uposatha), the commencement of the summer retreat (varṣopanāyikā/vassūpanāyikā), and the lifting of restrictions of the summer retreat (pravāraṇā/pavāraṇā). Transgressions were handled by confession, expulsion, penalties, forfeiture, or censure, in relation to the severity of the offense.

Article.  8126 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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