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Prātimokṣa


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(Pāli, Pāṭimokkha).

Also referred to as the Prātimokṣa Sūtra (Pāli, Pāṭimokkha Sutta), being a set of rules observed by members of the Buddhist Order (Saṃgha). The derivation of the term is uncertain, perhaps ‘that which should be made binding’, or ‘that which causes one to be released (from suffering)’. The rules are contained in the Sūtra Vibhaṇga, the first division of the Vinaya Piṭaka. The number of the rules slightly varies in each version of the Vinaya, be it Theravāda.Mahāsaṃghika.Mahīśāsaka.Dharmaguptaka.Sarvāstivādin.or Mūla-sarvāstivādin. In the Theravāda Vinaya the rules for monks number 227. Across all schools the rules for monks vary from 218 to 263, and for nuns from 279 to 380. The rules are not all ethical and deal mainly with the behaviour of the members of the order in respects of food, clothes, dwellings, furniture, etc. The rules are arranged in eight sections, in decreasing degree of punishment and therefore roughly corresponding to the degree of importance attached to their observance. These are (1) pārājika-dharmas (sexual intercourse, stealing, taking human life, lying about superhuman powers), the penalty for which is lifelong expulsion; (2) saṃghāvaśeṣa dharmas, involving temporary exclusion and probation; (3) aniyata dharmas, undetermined cases relating to sexual matters; (4) naiḥsargika-pāyantika dharmas, requiring expiation and forfeiture; (5) pāyantika-dharmas, requiring only expiation; (6) pratideśanīya dharmas, miscellaneous matters requiring only confession; (pāpa-deśanā) (7) śaikṣa dharmas, concerning matters of etiquette and deportment; (8) adhikaraṇa-śamatha dharmas, legalistic procedures for settling disputes. Besides the Prātimokṣa, the Sūtra Vibhaṇga contains an old commentary explaining the rules and a new commentary containing further supplementary information concerning them. The rules are divided into two sections: one for the monks (Bhikṣu-prātimokṣa) and the other for the nuns (Bhikṣunī-prātimokṣa). The rules are recited at the gatherings of members of the order in their respective districts on poṣadha (Pāli, uposatha) days (the fifteenth day of the half moon). After reciting each section of the rules, the reciter asks the members of the order who are present if any one of them has infringed any of the rules, if they have not they remain silent. The ceremony thus ensures the collective purity of the assembly.

(1) pārājika-dharmas (sexual intercourse, stealing, taking human life, lying about superhuman powers), the penalty for which is lifelong expulsion; (2) saṃghāvaśeṣa dharmas, involving temporary exclusion and probation; (3) aniyata dharmas, undetermined cases relating to sexual matters; (4) naiḥsargika-pāyantika dharmas, requiring expiation and forfeiture; (5) pāyantika-dharmas, requiring only expiation; (6) pratideśanīya dharmas, miscellaneous matters requiring only confession; (pāpa-deśanā) (7) śaikṣa dharmas, concerning matters of etiquette and deportment; (8) adhikaraṇa-śamatha dharmas, legalistic procedures for settling disputes.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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