Buddhist order rules

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The Pratimoksha ( skt .) Or Patimokkha ( pali ) is a list of rules for Buddhist nuns ( bhikkhuni ) and monks ( bhikkhu ) and the monastic life. It is part of the Buddha's first teaching basket , the Vinaya .

There are currently three intact Buddhist ordination lines:

It is accepted, claimed and believed within the Buddhist world that all three lineages go back to Buddha, were passed on through his disciples and spread to different places.

The lineage of the Pali tradition (Theravada)

This line is followed by the monks and nuns of Theravada . The Patimokkha contains the Buddhist rules for fully ordained monks ( bhikkhu ) with 227 rules and fully ordained nuns ( bhikkhunis ) with 311 rules, as well as female and male novices with 10 rules (+75 practice rules). The Patimokkha regulates personal life, community life and dealings with lay people. In the following, only a few are named, which can mainly be of interest to laypeople , especially when dealing with Buddhist ordinates.

Collecting alms

Buddhist ordinates should generally be satisfied with what they receive as a gift (dana) [Pacittiya 39]. You are only allowed to ask relatives or other people if they have invited the ordained to do so. But this invitation is only valid for a limited period. In emergencies, however, it is allowed to ask for certain things (e.g. if the clothes have been stolen). Everything else should be given to them without being asked. The fact that the ordained do not need to thank them in the opposite case is a widespread misconception, as can easily be read in Cullavagga 362. However, the ordained will not say “thank you” in a personal sense, but thank you with a kind of “blessing”. The laity donate all four basic requirements to the ordained, i.e. food, clothing, shelter and medicine - and try to achieve good karma in this way. Monks are not allowed to turn down an invitation to dine in order to accept an invitation made later [Pacittiya 33]. Monks are not allowed to accept money [Nissaggiya-Pacittiya 18 + 19], nor to accept or keep jewelry (valuables) [Cvg 245 + Pacittiya 84], not even raw food, therefore they do not cook themselves [Mvg 295]. They are not allowed to eat meat if they know or suspect that the animal was killed for them [Mvg 294]. The food that they have not eaten by 12 noon must be given away [Pacittiya 38]. You are not allowed to eat again until the next morning [Pacittiya 37]. Alcohol (all intoxicating substances) are not allowed [Pacittiya 51], not even if they are "only" partially contained in the food or drinks. The meal should consist of a "reasonable" mixture of vegetables (s) and side dish (s) [Sekhiya 29].

Protection of living beings

Monks / nuns are not allowed to kill living beings willingly or out of gross carelessness or cause someone to do it [Pacittiya 61 + 62]. Monks / nuns are also not allowed to incite (su) murder or provide someone with the means to do so. Even recommending an abortion is a disqualification if it is performed [Parajika 1]. They are also not allowed to mow the lawn, dig up soil or ask someone to do this [Pacittiya 10 + 11].


Monks / nuns are allowed to sleep together under one roof for a maximum of three nights with non-ordained persons, not at all with a person of the opposite sex [Pacittiya 5 + 6]. If a monk looks for a place to live that is generally dangerous or scary, he is not allowed to receive alms there, but has to get it himself [Patidesaniya 4].

Dealing with others

Unless there is a valid reason, ordinates are not allowed to leave the monastery (to the place) after 12 noon [Pacittiya 85]. Theaters, cinema, sporting events or parades may not be attended by ordained [Cvg 248]. Singing yourself or presenting the teaching in a singing tone is not allowed [Cvg 249]. Bathing is allowed, but no type of water sports [Pacittiya 53]. Monks / nuns are not allowed to serve members or ascetics of orders of other faiths [Cvg 261], nor to wear their type of clothing [Mvg 370–372]. Monks / nuns have to avoid any contact with criminals if they do not even walk the same route with them [Pacittiya 66]. The teaching is only to be presented to someone who shows respect [Sekhiya 57-72]. Monks are not allowed to act as traders [Nissaggiya-Pacittiya 20] or marriage brokers [Sanghadisesa 5].

Dealing with women

Seating area for monks in the former Bangkok Domestic Airport

Pali monks must be celibate. They are not allowed to touch women [Sanghadisesa 2] or to be with a woman in a secret or non-public place [Pacittiya 5 + 6, 44 + 45]. Sexual intercourse is an exclusionary offense, even if it is "only" with an animal [Parajika 1]. The presentation of the teaching to a woman is also only allowed in the presence of another man [Pacittiya 4]. In order to avoid contact with women, one or more rows of seats are usually reserved for ordained persons ("clergy") in public buses. In train stations, airports etc. there are sometimes separate, separate seating areas only for ordained persons.

The two lines of the Sanskrit tradition (Pratimoksha)

There are two Sanskrit sutras on Buddhist monastic discipline - also known as Pratimoksha Sutras . Pratimoksha is Sanskrit and means: Prati = personal / individual Moksha = liberation thus: "Vows of individual liberation".

The Sanskrit tradition is part of Mahayana Buddhism. He sees the Pali tradition as belonging to the Hinayana and sees the Theravada tradition as one of the 18 schools of Hinayana.

The two sutras that monks and nuns refer to in the Mahayana tradition come from the Hinayana tradition.

There are:

The line of Mahasamghikas first emerged in the 4th century BC. Mentioned. The line of the Mulasarvastavadins was first mentioned in writing in the 7th century AD (after Charles S. Prebish).

The line of the Mulasarvastavadins is mainly followed by Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. It goes back to Buddha Shakyamuni , Shariputra , Buddha's son Rahula, Nagarjuna and Shantarakshita . Its members include masters like Sakya Pandita , Lama Tsongkhapa and the Dalai Lamas .

More about the Mulasarvastavadin lineage (Indo-Tibetan Buddhism)

There are 8 types of ordinations:

  1. and 2. The vows for laypeople (women and men): Five Silas , possibly expanded to include the vows of celibacy
  2. The 8 lay vows for one day
  3. Vows for the novice nun (36 rules) (Getsulma)
  4. Vows for the novice monk (36 rules) (Tib.Getsul)
  5. Vows for the fully ordained monk (253 rules) ( Tib.Gelong )
  6. Vows for the fully ordained nun (364 rules) (Tib.Gelongma)
  7. Vows for the probationary nun

Someone who keeps the 8 vows for one day for their entire life is called "Venerable Lay Practitioner." As a rule, the day ordination or the nun on probation is not considered a real ordination.

For more information, see the book "Buddhist Ethics" (Treasury of Knowledge) by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye. It also contains the Mahayana ethics and the Vajrayana ethics. Since the Vinaya ethic of the Indo-Tib. Buddh. Ordained comes from the Mulasarvastavadin lineage, the section on Pratimoksha in this scripture applies to all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

From the writing of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye it emerges: At the time of the Buddha there were different ways of ordination. Shariputra and others were e.g. B. ordained simply by the Buddha saying, “Come here, monks!” By coming before the Buddha, they became monks. Today's ordination ceremony was introduced after the extinction of the original species. The current four-step procedure, the only one practiced in the Mulasarvastavadin Lineage, must be carried out by an assembly of 10 fully ordained monks in central regions or at least 5 fully ordained monks in remote regions. There are detailed explanations of who is actually eligible for ordination and who may be admitted. (e.g. religious extremists or people who hold religious extremist views are not allowed)

The following persons are considered to be ordained in the sense of renunciation:

  • (1) & (2) female and male novices,
  • (3) & (4) fully ordained nun and fully ordained monk and
  • (5) the nun on probation.

Laypeople are also ordained, but are not considered renunciated and therefore do not wear a robe .

The 36 novice vows are also summarized in 10 vows, the "four roots"

  1. not dead
  2. don't steal
  3. do not lie
  4. no intercourse

and the "six branches":

  1. not to drink alcohol
  2. don't dance, sing, play musical instruments
  3. do not adorn or perfume yourself
  4. not to use a high and wide bed
  5. not eating after noon
  6. Not to touch and own gold and silver

The main reason for making this summary is that people with less enthusiasm will not feel discouraged by hearing a number of 36 vows and may shy away from novice ordination.

Fully ordained monks (Tib. Gelong, Skt. Bhikshu) have 253 rules. The line of fully ordained nuns (Tib. Gelongma, Skt. Bhikshuni) with 346 rules was not transferred from India to Tibet, so this line does not exist in Tibetan Buddhism. But the Dalai Lama has commissioned research to reintroduce this line of fully ordained nuns.

The Dharmaguptakavinaya

In Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, bhikkhus have 250 rules and bhikkhunis have 348 rules.

See also


Pali line

  • Raimund Beyerlein (ed.): The Buddha and his order . Verlag Beyerlein and Steinschulte, Stammbach-Herrnschrot 2000, ISBN 3-931095-22-3
  • Maitrimurti, Mudagamuwe (transl.): The Mahâvagga of Vinayapitaka . Beyerlein and Steinschulte publishing house, Stammbach-Herrnschrot 2000, ISBN 3-931095-24-X
  • Nyanatiloka: The Buddhist Dictionary . 5th edition. Beyerlein and Steinschulte publishing house, Stammbach-Herrnschrot 1999, ISBN 3-931095-09-6

The Sanskrit lines

  • Charles S. Prebish: Buddhist Monastic Disciplin: The Sanskrit Pratimokksha Sutras of the Mahasamghikas and Mulasarvastavadins . Motilal Banarsidass, India 1996, ISBN 81-208-1339-1

Mulasarvasatavadin line

Nyingma line:

Study on the clergy in Tibetan Buddhism:

Bhikshuni vows of Dharmaguptakavinaya

  • Venerable Bhikshuni Wu Yin, Bhikshuni Jendy Shih (Editor), Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron (Translator): Choosing Simplicity . Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca 2001, ISBN 1-55939-155-3 (Vows of a fully ordained nun)
  • Rules for Nuns According to the Dharmaguptakavinaya by Heirmann, ISBN 81-208-1800-8

Web links

Pali tradition

Order of nuns